Archive | The Full Bleed

Non-Bay Area related content.

Safe Spaces for Comics Fans

There’s a new Tumblr worth checking out called “Safe Spaces for Comics Fans.” The Tumblr is an effort to document shops that are committed to being a positive and inclusive environment for every type of comics fan.

Comic shops are notoriously hit and miss when it comes to being inclusive of women, lgbt, PoC, and other minority comics fans. This tumblr is for you to share your positive or negative comic shop experiences, so that fellow comics fans can find friendly local comic shops, and be warned of which shops to avoid.

So far there’s only one Bay Area shop on the list (Dr. Comics and Mr. Games), but I can’t think of any shops in the coverage area of this website that aren’t inclusive (FWIW, I haven’t visited all of them yet).

Amusingly, there are very few shops on the master list with a strike-through which indicates an “unsafe space.” One of those few shops happens to be Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. I can’t say this is a surprise. I’ve watched two episodes of Comic Book Men and had to stop, because the employees are poor ambassadors of our fandom perpetuating and reinforcing an increasingly outdated stereotype.

Thought Bubble: Johnny Depp as Doctor Strange

Johnny Depp being cast as Doctor Strange is still a rumor. Other news outlets have suggested it could be John Hamm (and some outlets not only suggesting it’ll be Hamm, but loudly declaring with exclusive certainty). Some think it might be Justin Theroux. I heard it’ll be Chriss Angel (this is a lie…or is it?).

The reception to the Depp rumor has been met with a mostly positive response, but there is some hand-wringing in the typical corners of the every-casting-rumor-is-an-end-to-my-world fandom. I saw some of this on a friend’s Facebook wall after he’d posted a link to Total Film’s “20 Reasons Johnny Depp will be a great Doctor Strange.” The list is a decent defense, but there are some additional strengths to having Depp as Doctor Strange that aren’t mentioned.

This is probably one of the more important films for creating an expanded Marvel cinematic Universe. If it flops you can bet “magic” will be blamed and everything in the Marvel cinematic Universe will continue to be explained solely by science and technology. It could additionally cause Disney to second guess digging deeper into the Marvel character pool for solo films leaving fans stuck with Thor and Iron Man films ad infinitum. As with Guardians of the Galaxy this movie needs to double it’s money.

One of the most common levies against Depp is that he plays himself. This isn’t an accurate or fair criticism. In the last decade he’s often been typecast to play characters who are wacky and eccentric, but I don’t think when Depp plays Jack Sparrow or Tonto that’s who he is in real life.  If you look at his filmography as a whole he’s shown much greater depth by playing intense and serious. Some standout examples include From Hell, Sleepy Hollow, and more recently Public Enemies.

The other thing about Depp is he matches the Marvel strategy to give these films worldwide appeal. There’s a very good reason Marvel has started filming scenes that only screen in China. If you look exclusively  at domestic box office numbers the argument could be made that Depp’s name on a film doesn’t sell it (Pirates being an exception). However, in the foreign cinema market he has sustained drawing power and that’s where the majority of his films make a profit. The Tourist and Dark Shadows were both flops in the states, but were huge overseas.

There may be better actors for the Cloak of Levitation, but Depp may be one of the best bets if fans want a stepping stone that will give magic a starring role in the the MCU.

I can’t personally make a case for John Hamm. I haven’t seen any of his work beyond half a dozen episodes of Mad Men to make a fair judgment.

Superior Spider-Man: Do we need Peter Parker?

Why wonder if there's a you when that you could be you?

Why wonder if there’s a you when that you could be you?

My willingness to see flagship characters die and “remain dead” likely comes from growing up as a Green Lantern fan and being forced to accept the death of Hal Jordan. While 1993 saw headlines trumpeting the death of Superman it was insignificant when held up to the eventual fallout of Superman’s return. The original Superman returns, after only seven months “dead,” to find Jordan’s Coast City in ruins thanks to the combined forces of Cyborg Superman and Mogul. Jordan had been away from Earth during the destruction and finding the city destroyed begins a descent into madness. He seeks the power to restore Coast City by slaughtering the Green Lantern Corps. After taking their rings he becomes the villain Parallax for three years. His death finally comes in 1996 when, as Parallax, he sacrifices himself to reignite the Sun in “The Final Night.” Jordan remained dead until his soul returned as The Spectre in 1999 and eventually returning to his power ring in 2004.

Ten years is a longtime for such a well-known hero to not return to his namesake title (possibly topped only by Barry Allen).  Prior to Peter Parker being purged from his body by Doctor Octopus at the end of 2012 the most recent gamble by Marvel was the death of Steve Rogers as Captain America in April of 2007. Impressively, Rogers stayed “dead” (he was actually frozen in time) for more than two years and when he did come back it wasn’t certain how soon he’d return to the shield. It was the first time since the death of Jordan that a major character known for carrying a title had been sacrificed for more than a year. Batman doesn’t count, because when DC “killed” Bruce Wayne at the end of 2009’s Final Crisis issue six it was only one week of wondering if he’d eventually return to the cowl (Wayne, much like Rogers, was also sent hurtling through time).

This is why the death and eventual return of Peter Parker is significant. Much to the chagrin of those calling for Dan Slott’s head Superior Spider-Man continues to be one of Marvel’s best-selling titles (you can read my previous defense of SSM here). It begs the question, do we need Peter Parker? That’s a hard question for me to write. Spider-Man was the first hero I ever made a monthly commitment to when my mother let me subscribe by direct mail to Web of Spider-Man in the late 80s. It’s difficult to comprehend a generation growing up without Parker and all of his idiosyncrasies behind the mask.

If we decide Peter Parker doesn’t necessarily need to come back it can’t be Otto Octavius forever. While he’s been taking strides to become a better person, including very noble advocacy on behalf of little people, he did kill Peter Parker and deserves to get his comeuppance. Who should take his place?
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Tim Draper proposes California Hunger Games

TechCrunch is reporting that technology investor Tim Draper is proposing a ballot initiative that would see California broken up into six states. His plan, called “Six Californias” and available to read on TechCrunch, is currently lacking meat on the bone. One of his main points is the plan would break up monopolistic power: “Competition is good, monopolies are bad. This initiative encourages more competition and less monopolistic power. Like all competitive systems, costs will be lower and service will be better.”

That statement seems counter-intuitive to how he’s proposed the state be fragmented. The proposal would create state monopolies through concentration of industry. It sounds rather Hunger Games-esque with each state being a district with a specialization. Generalizing, we’re looking at the Bread Basket State, the Entertainment State, the Tech State, the Timber and Marijuana State, the Wine State, and the Warehouse and Distribution State.

While Draper’s proposal suggests the plan will result in “lower costs” it doesn’t address the added cost associated with intrastate vs. interstate commerce. For example, what will happen when the Bread Basket State, which currently provides a great deal of the food and dairy for California, no longer receives the significant tax support that comes from other regions?

Dead Universes: Kickstart the “compiler”

Well, this is certainly a timely Kickstarter for my current Dead Universe habit.

One of the most difficult parts of collecting a Dead Universe is all of the floppies. Most Universes meet their demise before they have the opportunity to publish in trade formats and so few of us are skilled in bookbinding. Alex Rodriquez is providing the perfect solution in the form of the the “compiler comic binder” (hat tip, Comics Alliance).

Unlike library binding, this is non-permanent, non-destructive and reversible. Take comics in and out at will. Comics are held in place by a wire that snaps at the top and is attached at the bottom of the post (no small pieces to lose). The cover is a translucent flexible cover so that you can see the contents. In addition, the spine includes a spot for a label so that you and others can see the contents at a glance.

Rodriquez has completed the prototype for the “compiler” and the Kickstarter will allow him to produce the first batch of compilers. More details at the Kickstarter page.

DIY Comics: Conversion rates of crowdfunding

Independent comic creators turning to crowdfunding to get projects off the ground has become common. Results tend to be mixed with some striking their goal and flat-lining, some barely getting out the gate and failing, and the rare few that go viral and raise mountains of cash above and beyond the goal.  As a regular contributor to crowdfunded projects I’ve developed a fairly good sense for what will fail and what will be successful. Knowing the trends is important, because even if a project does receive all of the requested funding that doesn’t mean it’ll be successful.

In addition to supporting projects I’ve been on the other side by successfully launching a project using a lesser known crowdfunding platform called StartSomeGood. Making the decision to choose SSG wasn’t easy. At the time it was very new to the crowdfunding game, so it didn’t have the reach of Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. We knew that if we chose SSG the success would be completely contingent on our ability to get the word out. Our final decision to choose SGG was due to two reasons. First of all, their mission was specifically targeted at nonprofits and we were raising these funds as a nonprofit. It was a good fit in that sense. The clincher was the “tipping point” model. In order to build the foundation for what we wanted to do we knew we needed to raise at the least $3500. If we raised a dime less than that the funding would have been pointless. We also knew that in order to completely fund the project and go above and beyond we’d need $10,000 and we wanted people to know that. SSG makes the tipping point and ideal funding goal posts very visible.

We were able to raise $1501 beyond our tipping point goal which was more than we needed to get started. I have nothing but good things to say about my experience with SSG. The team behind the site constantly provided input on how to make the campaign most successful and we’re quick to respond to queries. One of the founders even contributed to our campaign, which meant a great deal to me.

Knowing I’ll likely be doing a new crowdfunded project in the future I keep an eye on the trends, especially when it comes to determining which site will be the best to use. If I’m raising money for freelance journalists again I’d likely return to SSG. However, if I’m doing something more personal, like trying to fund a comic, I’d probably go with either Kickstarter or IndieGoGo.

This morning Compete released a study comparing the conversion rates of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. The study shows that Kickstarter, being the current market leader with the highest traffic rate, is also the best when it comes to visitors completing the pledge process. IndieGoGo, with half the traffic of Kickstarter, has been closing in on the more popular sites conversion rate. IndieGoGo could be doing much better and the studies author deduces “if I were Indiegogo, this would be the most concerning. Although a 58% abandonment rate is on track with ecommerce averages, it is nowhere near the 35% abandonment rate their direct competitor is seeing.”

Why is IndieGoGo’s abandonment rate so high?
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Dead Universes (Part IV): Defiant Comics reading order

defiantOf the four Dead Universes I’m currently collecting the death of Defiant was the most disappointing. Valiant had a long enough run that it didn’t feel premature when it died. Marvel did a great job sucking all of the satisfaction out the the Ultraverse after they purchased it from Mailbu, so it didn’t feel like a great loss when it finally folded in on itself. Comics’ Greatest World never quite grabbed me. Defiant, however, was something special that never had the opportunity to reach its full potential. The Defiant universe, much like Valiant, stood apart from the other universes, because it didn’t build itself on the foundation of tired comic book tropes. The Defiant universe didn’t have analogues for Superman, Batman, or the X-Men. Many of the characters that kicked off the universe felt fresh and inspired.

The launch title for Defiant was Warriors of Plasm and it started the reader off not on Earth, but instead a hungry, living, and very alien planet. The planet gives the inhabitants everything they need from itself and therefore it needs to constantly feed. This is done by conquering planets. A rift in the Universe opens and Earth is discovered and it’s this discovery that leads to a quintet of Earthlings receiving powers.

Of those titles starting the universe, and the one that brought me back to this dead universe, was Dark Dominion. Steve Ditko, who only penciled part of the first issue before walking away, deserves a great deal of credit for inspiring what Jim Shooter would eventually create. According to Shooter:

He wanted a character who wasn’t bitten by a radioactive anything, or from another planet, or injected with chemicals. Whatever the character could do that was special, if anything, he wanted to be the result of his own efforts, his own thinking. If empowered, empowered in some novel, creative way by his own mind. And why does it always have to be a young guy? Why not an older man? Steve also didn’t want another muscular bodybuilder type. No mansions, no Batmobiles, no costumes. And no “official” super hero name. A real, regular person name—though he allowed that others who didn’t know his name might call the guy by some more dramatic appellation.

What Shooter produced was a 54-year-old superhero named Michael Alexander who spent his life working to overcome human fears. Pushing his fears aside granted Michael access to the “Quantum Substratum” where he could see the “Dark Dominion.” Stepping into this world allows one the ability to see the true form of fears and how they unknowingly latch onto humans.
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Dead Universes (part III): Reading order

ghostDeciding how to read a Dead Universe informs the best way to collect a Dead Universe. Do you read it series-by-series, as it came out when originally published, or in some sort of chronological order? Knowing this will help determine how to invest in Dead Universes.

Chronologically

Reading a Universe in chronological order is tempting, especially if the publisher had taken time to plot out a rough skeleton of the timeline. This is easiest with Defiant due to less than 60 issues being published thanks to Marvel’s company killing lawsuit. The website ShooterWorks.com has posted notes from the never published universe-wide crossover event, Schism, which helps establish a solid reading order. Using those notes and my own reading of the titles I’ve built a preferred chronology.

The original Valiant universe (VH1), on the other hand, had a long and healthy life before greed drove the universe into the ground. Due to that long publishing life putting the whole thing into a chronological reading order would be a bit of a bear. Thankfully, Joshua Eves at ValiantFans.com enjoys wrestling bears and did the heavy lifting to establish a timeline. While it would definitely be interesting to read the universe in this order it would require waiting until all of the relevant issues have been collected. Putting that collection together will take time and money, because it isn’t very often someone puts up for sale an entire lot of all published Valiant issues.

Series-by-Series

Steve Englehart, one of the founding fathers of the Ultraverse, has said the intention was “from the outset to share the playground and join in each other’s games,” so there’s a great deal more crossover in the Ultraverse than some of the other Dead Universes. That makes a chronological reading enticing. However, if you include everything published, including after the accursed Marvel buyout, there are nearly 800 single issues in the Ultraverse. Subtracting the issues after the Marvel takeover you’re still looking at more than 500 single issues. It isn’t as many as the Valiant Universe, but it would still take a great deal of work to figure out the rough chronology. Of course, there’s far less time jumping in the Ultraverse than in Valiant, so arguably someone could read the issues as they initially hit the market and probably come close to a chronology.

I’ve decided to read Malibu’s Ultraverse series-by-series based on when that series started. As an example, Prime, Hardcase, and The Strangers were first to market in June 1993, so I’ll read those all the way through starting with The Strangers which is considered the launch title of the universe. Next would be Freex and Mantra which both came out in July 1993. Those would be followed by Exiles and Prototype (August 1993), The Solution (September 1993), Sludge and Night Man (October 1993), so on and so forth. It’ll be interesting to first see the Ultraverse evolve entirely through the eyes of Prime and then see how it all connects through the perspective of Night Man.
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Dead Universes (part II): Best Practices

Marvel's ad after they bought out Ultraverse.

Marvel’s ad after they bought out Ultraverse.

Thursday I kicked off what’s intended to be a long running series dedicated to the exploration of Dead Universes. Today’s post is dedicated to looking at some of the ‘best practices’ for individuals who think they may want to get into reading or collecting Dead Universes.

1. Have a game plan. Know what you want to collect in advance and how you’ll go about doing it. I haven’t jumped into the original Valiant Universe yet for two reasons. The first is I have a substantial number of Valiant titles in my long boxes, which are 2000 miles away. It’ll be cheaper to mail them across the country over Christmas than to buy duplicates of the first 20 issues of Magnus, Solar, Harbinger, and Archer & Armstrong. The second is I haven’t quite figured out how much of the Valiant universe I want to read. I know I’ll stick through Jim Shooter’s run, but will I seek out everything up until Acclaim tried to turn the company into a video game promotional unit?

For Ultraverse, my demarcation line is roughly Godwheel. That’s when Marvel heroes first started coming into the Ultraverse and when the quality of the titles started to decline significantly.

2. Buy complete runs when possible. This is a bit of advice I wish I’d known going into my quest to acquire Ultraverse titles. Sure you might be able to get Prime 1-10 for $5, but you’ll have a harder time completing the rest of the series. Readers tend to decline the longer a series goes on (which is why Marvel and DC keep canceling and restarting titles), so there are fewer of the later issues in the resale marketplace.

3. Shop around. There’s a vendor on ebay currently selling a complete run of Freex for $45, which is much too high. One month ago I purchased a complete run for $15 ($20 with shipping). I have a rule to never pay more than the number of issues in the run, so essentially $1 per issue. It’s worth repeating that I’m collecting for the stories and not potential future value, so if you want an all near mint line you’ll likely be pay more.

4. Don’t be afraid to wait. If you’re unhappy with the price results coming back don’t be afraid to wait. My generation, the one that grew up during the comic Universe boom of the 90s, is getting to an age where many of us are embarrassed to have junk in our parent’s basement or we need to sacrifice long boxes to make space in our homes for baby cribs.

Next week I’ll take a look at “reading orders” of Dead Universes.

Dead Universes (part I): Reading Dead Universes

defiantA few years ago I had an itch to reread the Dark Dominion series from Defiant Comics. Not having my original issues readily available I went to ebay to see if I could get them at a reasonable price. Plugging “Defiant Comics” into the search led me to a vendor selling not only every issue of Dark Dominion, but nearly every single issue published by Defiant between 1993 and 1994 for $30. My pulse quickened as I realized I could own a nearly complete universe. He was only missing the two issues of Prudence & Caution and the Warriors of Plasm and Dark Dominion zero issues.

It was easy enough to track down Prudence & Caution, but the zero issues come as a series of trading cards that puzzle together when placed in order in a binder. There were vendors on ebay selling the fully collected trading cards complete in binders, but while searching I came across someone selling six boxes of Warriors of Plasm cards and four boxes of Dark Dominion cards. The price for all 10 unopened boxes was $20 which at the time seemed like a smart purchase.

When adjusted for inflation everything I purchased (not including the multiple boxes of trading cards) would have cost me more than $220 in 1994.  I only had to spend a little more than $50 so I could read the storyline of an entire shared universe. Having this revelation I realized if I could do it with Defiant I could very likely do it with the other mothballed universes from the 90s.

Some quick googling showed me I wasn’t alone. There’s a vibrant forum dedicated to Dead Universes at Valiantfans.com and a number of blogs documenting efforts to collect entire universes. The magnitude of collecting universes varies. Some collectors are only seeking to have a complete storyline. Others are trying to acquire all of the variant covers and ashcans. On the more extreme end are collectors collecting everything related to the publisher’s universe from action figures to promotional swag to television pilots.

Personally, I’m mostly interested in collecting for the purpose of reading the stories of these universes. Tragically, most have never been collected into trades and in many cases legal kerfuffles make the likelihood they ever will slim at best. That means mining ebay and long boxes at comic shops for the lowest priced floppies.

Of course, Dead Universes stretch all the way back to the Golden Age. For my own personal sanity I’ve limited my current reading to universes that were launched and started to fade between 1991 and 1995. This includes, but is not limited to, Defiant, Malibu’s Ultraverse, Comics Greatest World, and Valiant.

Read Dead Universes Part 2: Best Practices

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