Saturday, July 1, 2017

THE PULL LIST: Comics pre-ordered for September 2017

Well, it's finally happened, after 45-plus years of actively collecting comic books, I've made the decision to consciously move out of buying new comics. Yeah, that's kind of a big deal.

As most of you who've read these Pull List columns before will know, my monthly comic book budget has changed very little over the decades. As a kid and a teenager I spent everything I had on comics. That was generally a $5/week allowance, but, hey, comics were only 40¢ each back then. Once I turned 18 and ventured out on my own, I generally allowed myself up to $20 per week, depending on what I had going on for a job at the time. Then, sometime around the turn of the millennium, when regular DC and Marvel comics broke the $2 barrier, I bit the bullet and upped it to $25 per week — or $100 per month, since by then I was ordering my comics one-month at a time from my local comics shop, Zimmie's, in Lewiston, Maine. There have only even been about a half-dozen comic books stores in the entire state of Maine, and Zimmie's became my regular haunt from the time I moved to the Lewiston area in 1997, or so. I've stuck with, even though I now live 40 minutes, each way, away from the shop.

Finally, when the state of Maine for the first time instituted a sales tax on periodicals, I went hat-in-hand and got an extension of my credit line from the First National Spouse. Since then, the budget has been $120 per month, or roughly $30 per week.

But for September 2017, my pre-order is back down to $100 — the least I've spent on new comics in any one month for the past 20 years!

The reason? Simple: It's not because I'm against diversity (hack, half of the comics I buy feature a female lead, something that would have astonished my 12-year-old self, I assure you), and it's not because I'm distracted by other media. And it's not because of the economy. Sure, I was forced to quit buying comics altogether for a two-year period from early 2010 when the Sainted-Wife and I hit a particularly rough-patch, must more recently the ship has been righted enough that I've managed what is, really, my only bit of discretionary spending.

So, no, the issue isn't any of that. The problem is that comics today are: 1) just too damn expensive, and, 2) they are mostly just not that good.

Most of that is in the mechanics of how comics are drawn and scripted these days. When I was a kid, a comic book page had an average of 5-6 panels per page, with plot and script dense enough that the typical 17-20 page story would take 20-25 minutes to read. Add in supplementary material like the letters column, or promotional material, like the Daily Planet/Bullpen Bulletins pages, and you almost never spent less than 30 minutes with a comic book. And that was just on the first read. It was not at all unusual for me to want to go over a comic at least a couple of more times before I filed it away.

And, keep in mind, that while sub-plots and themes might carry over, the main story was generally complete in a single issue, maybe two. A main story almost never went on for more than three of four issues.

Contrast that with today when stories for on for six, eight, ten issues, which are written in such a way that most single issues have no beginning or end. nothing introduced or resolved, just a bunch of stuff in the middle. I have a very strong suspicion that most writers and editors today have no more than the vaguest idea how a story will end when the first issues are published, because the usual pattern is for stories to go on and on and then wrap up suddenly, and most often unsatisfyingly, in the final chapter. The formula is 1-interesting set-up, 2-deepening of the probem, 3-more stuff happens, 4-mostly filler, 5-pure filler with massive cliffhanger, 6-dues ex machine aaaaaand DONE.

And where DC editor Julius Schwartz once had a rule of no more than 40 words in any one balloon, comics today often have fewer than 40 words on an entire page, while the average number of panels per page is often closer to three. The result of all this, along with the banishment of almost all editorial material outside the main story, is that most comics are only in my hands for 7-10 minutes, tops. At $4 a pop that works out to better than 55¢ per minute!

As some of you have heard me joke before, phone sex is a better value for my entertainment dollar!

But, here's the thing — I find I can score Very Fine or better condition comics from the Bronze and Copper Ages quite easily for $1.50, each, or less, on eBay and other online auction sites. I just landed 53 issues of The Warlord in VF/NM for less than 40¢, each, and that included the postage. A 29-issue run of Starslayer in the same condition set me back a mere 60¢, each. And for filling smaller gaps in the collection, I've got one eBay seller I like who starts items at $1.49. Often no one else bids, and BOOM, happy moi.

So, yeah, even with postage, I am able to get comics I find to be much more enjoyable than new offerings, and at less than half the price to boot!

Now, usually, I go through the Previews catalog marking everything I want and have to pare that first draft back to what will fit in my $120 budget. But for some reason, the first pass through this month's catalog only rang to just over $100, and that was with one book costing $8 all by itself! I was going to go ahead and find some things to add, but then I thought, you know what, Sainted-Wife Sheila has been getting a little testy with my lately for my bonus back-issue buying. And she's right, I have been going a little kinda buts lately, spending $25-50 per month on eBay.

So, I said to myself, "Self," I said, "You know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna go ahead and reset my monthly budget for new comics at $100, and plow the other $20 into back issues." And, if new comics continue to piss me off and alienate me as a reader, I'll just go ahead and adjust that new-to-old ratio. Heck, I can foresee a day in the not too distant future when I will have bailed on new comics entirely — because, hey, most stuff ends up in $1 bins eventually — and I'm only buying back issues.

At this point, you're probably saying to yourself, "Okay, Duke, so what made the cut for September?" Well, that is the point of these Pull List columns after all, so away we go . . .

Having skipped BATMAN NIGHTS: METAL #1 last month I give an immediate and hard pass to it and all associated tie-ins this month. I'm sorry, DC, but I'm just not going to pay $5 for a 32-page comic. Not gonna happen. I can still remember back in the day swearing I'd never pay more than $2.95 for a comic book, and as detailed above, the time has come to not only draw a line in the sand, but set it in stone.

I resist temptation on all of the new offerings, although it most cases that was not a tough call to make. Garth Ennis runs hot and cold for me, and the Hanna-Barbera re-imaginings mostly cost, so DASTARDLY & MUTTLEY was a no. I linger a bit over the HARLEY QUINN 25th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL — yeah, it's a $5 book, but at least its 48 pages — but I dropped the regular title a while back, so why bother? I almost bite on the WONDER WOMAN/CONAN book, mostly because of artist Aaron Lopresti. What kills it at $4 is writer Gail Simone. Yeah, I know, according to the internets I'm supposed to fawn all over Gail and love her work because she has a va-jay-jay, but she's always been just kind of, meh, for me.

Everything else from DC this month is stuff I'm either already buying, stuff I have no interest in, or stuff I was buying but have dropped. The lone exception is SUPERGIRL, which I've jumped on as a Legion of Super-Heroes fanatic just for the Emerald Empress storyline. But ASTRO CITY skips a month, so it's an even swap.

For what it's worth, DC series I've dropped since Rebirth include: ALL-STAR BATMAN (too much money for what I was getting per issue), BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY (killed by the price bump from $3 to $4), BATMAN (Tom King is touted as the next wunderkind, but I sadly find most of his stuff utterly incomprehensible), BLUE BEETLE (price hike), HARLEY QUINN (I find I just don't like it as much when Amanda Conner isn't drawing it), NEW SUPER-MAN (just wasn't any good, IMHO), SUPERWOMAN (only bought in for Phil Jimenez, but the whole thing was kind of a disaster and I dropped it when he left), BOMBSHELLS (just wasn't that good), SCOOBY APOCALYPSE (interesting idea, poorly executed), DOOM PATROL (oh, my God, SO bad), CAVE CARSON (better, but not worth $4 per issue), and SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL (just not for me, I guess).


I've had event fatigue and $4 cover price frustration with Marvel for a while now, so I've been locked into regular buys only with few if any add-ons for about a year now, letting each series fall away as it is canceled, or the favored creative team changes, and replacing it with nothing. But, as always, there are exceptions to every rule.

Now, I have less than zero intention of buying into Marvel's upcoming Legacy event, but I do swallow hard and plop down for MARVEL LEGACY #1. Despite it being a $6 book (albeit for 64 pages), there is, I admit, something of a slowing-to-stare-at-the-accident-scene morbid curiosity factor. But mostly the reason is Jason Aaron. Okay . . . it's ALL Jason Aaron. If I were TPTB at DC, I'd poach this guy stat! And, since he's proven a adept touch at both demi-gods and magic users, I'd put him on Wonder Woman, New Gods, Zatanna, and Phantom Stranger.

I also add the GENERATIONS: CAPTAIN MARVEL & Ms MARVEL one-shot, and, again, it's because of the writer. I'm not 100 percent sure if what I'm enjoying is G. Willow Wilson or the Kamala Kahn character. I expect it's a mixture of both. So, since this book has both, why not?

It's worth noting, I think, that I only bought into the new Ms MARVEL because it was a $3 book at a time when most everything else Marvel was publishing was $4. Had the series launched at Marvel's usual $4 price point, I'm certain that today I'd be, like, "G. Willow Who??"

AND THE REST . . .  

Just the usual, please. I consider the new HELLBOY/B.P.R.D. limited series, and the preview page helps, but it ultimately fails to make the cut to keep under $100. And I do have to admit I have evey AMERICAN GODS issue published so far still sitting in my to-read pile, so that could get cut soon, Gaiman or no, once I actually dig into the damn thing. 

All I generally buy here are the Disney books, and all but one of my regular purchases skips this month. DUCK TALES #1 was actually on the first draft of my order, but got cut when I realized I'd missed the last issue of the BATMAN/SHADOW limited series.

Once again, Image launched about a ga-zillion new #1s this month. The two that look most interesting to me are ANGELIC and, to a lesser exent, THE REALM. I might have taken a chance on either one had Image included some interior pages in its solicitations. But then, preview pages have, more often than not, been what's shooed me off of a new Image title, so that may be why the company doesn't do that kind of thing anymore. I decide I'll check out each when they come in, if my retailer has ordered any extra copies for the stands, and can always add them to future pre-orders if quality warrants.

Apart from that it's just my regular series, although PAPER GIRLS takes a month off, saving $3 for something else. 

Just the two series I've already bought into here. I do consider SHEENA #1, having ordered the 25¢ zero issue last month, but I don't really expect much from this series. It has a female writer, so I imagine it'll be better than the T&A title it appears to be, but Marguerite Bennett has not impressed me much so far. She's another one of those "young guns" at DC, like King and James Tynion IV, that leaves me scratching my head and thinking, "Okay, this has to be a who-you-know thing, right?"

Beyond that, MOTOR GIRL from Abstract Studios takes a month off, and I've decided I'm just not getting my money's worth out of new ARCHIE. So, that saves some dollars. And I just don't find anything among the so-called independent publishers that interests me, or isn't something I've dropped already.

My one luxury purchase is THE CHARLTON ARROW, published by Mort Todd's Charlton Neo but issued for Diamond Distribution purposes via AC Comics. This is something I've been watching for a while online, where it's up to it's 5th or 6th issue, I think. I've considered sampling an issue, and I admit it's mostly for the nostalgia factor, being characters and, in many cases, creators I remember from my youth. But the artwork previewed online has looked good, and I suspect this batch of creators, new and old, either retains or adheres to the storytelling sensibilities I favor. And there's at least the promise of most stories being complete and not just the beginning of endless serials. The problem has been the price point, already high, which exploded to totally unreasonable, I thought, when adding in postage. 

I'm not totally for sure if this Arrow #1 is a re-publishing of the previous #1, or if it's all-new material. I suspect the former, but, again, it'll be new to me. And, yes, $8 is too much for  44-page book. I'm practically positive that, once I get this first issue, I won't be willing to shell out near that much for subsequent offerings. But I am curious. So, good fishing Mort, I grab that worm and tug, hard!

All right, so here's the final run-down of what new comics I'll be buying in September. Take it as my advance recommendation of the best the industry has to offer this fall:

DC COMICS (15 books)
• THE FLASH #30-31

• Ms MARVEL #22

IMAGE COMICS (3 books)



That's 31 comic books (down from 37 last month), which rings up to a retail total of $120.69. After my 20 percent discount from my LCS for pre-ordering, and the add-on of 5.5 percent Maine sales tax, I come in a tickle over the new budget at $101.86

When these issues come in, I'll be reviewing 'em right here, so be on the lookout fanboys (and girls)!

In the meantime, tell me, what will you be buying?

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