Saturday, September 15, 2018

Comics Lust 9/15/2018

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/Bibi Ji enthusiast Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Criminy, Denizens. We bigged it up last night by going to the amazing Bibi Ji restaurant, where I had the “Chef’s Tasting” along with the beer pairing. It was so much amazing and spicy Indian food, that I left the restaurant both floating on an endorphin rush and dragging from the volume of amazing food and beer I was able to sample. So, forgive me if I seem a little slow today. Anyhow, be kind to each other, mind your health and sanity, eat some tacos, keep your pets safe, cherish the ones you love, hydrate, and read some great comics. Thank you for reading!


*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.


Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

Five Furious and Fast: Warren Ellis (Part 1)


When I talk about my all-time-favorite comic book series, say my top 25, or the books that would make life bearable on a deserted island, three of those series would be written by Warren Ellis. But if you take a look at say my top 50 or 100, you’re going to find a whole mess of other books by the prolific writer that are positively must-read material. Looking at just five? Yeah, seems kind of criminal, but don’t worry, we’ll return to the works of Ellis more than a few times in the near future. For now, let’s start with one of those three books I can’t live without.


Stormwatch V.1 #37–50, V.2 #1–11

(Written by Warren Ellis; illustrated by Tom Raney, Oscar Jimenez, Bryan Hitch; originally published in 1996 by Image Comics)
Aside from owning the random early issue or two of this early Image series, I never really paid attention to Stormwatch. But then, a few years later, I saw the cover of the fourth Stormwatch trade paperback by Warren Ellis called “A Finer World” featuring two new superheroes: Apollo and the Midnighter. They looked pretty cool. Then I saw them on the cover of some comic called The Authority. I needed to know more, but I had to do this right by starting from the beginning, or rather Ellis’s beginning. The story begins with a massive team of superheroes being called together by their commander, Henry Bendix, the Weatherman. The Weatherman promptly fires nearly all of the characters, not just from the team but from the series itself. In the pages of his first issue, Ellis then adds new characters of his own creation and sets up three strike teams of three people each: Stormwatch Prime to handle superhuman threats in warlike situations; Stormwatch Red to display the greatest destructive capabilities in an effort to deter hostile forces; Stormwatch Black for covert operations. Prime consists of Winter (Russian energy absorber), Hellstrike (a green, sentient gas energy projector), and Fuji (a Japanese, sentient energy powerhouse in a massive robotic suit). Red has Fahrenheit (fire creator), Flint (superstrengh and invulnerability), and Rose Tattoo (deadly assassin with a history clouded in mystery). And finally, Black consisting of Jenny Sparks (controls and projects electricity), Jack Hawksmoor (his strength and powers increase based on the size of the city he occupies), and Swift (winged, aerial tactician). I hammered through that first trade and quickly bought and read the other four, loving every exciting page as Ellis’s commentary on politics, the US government, and international relations set amidst an action/adventure/horror backdrop carried me into the even more amazing The Authority. The best way to catch up on these issues is through the fairly recent Stormwatch Volume One and Stormwatch Volume Two collections.


Global Frequency #1–12

(Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by various artists, originally published in 2002 by Wildstorm Comics)
There are 1001 anonymous members of the Global Frequency, an intelligence agency designed to stop the machinations of malevolent individuals and organizations located around the world. The Global Frequency targets terrorists, cults, the paranormal, rogue operatives, and everything in between. Ellis wrote all 12 standalone issues of the series with each issue featuring a different artist. Global Frequency was supposedly written to be like a crime procedural show where you could pick up any single issue and be able to follow along with no problem, which is probably why this thrilling series has seen multiple attempts to bring it to the living room screen. The best way to read this amazing series is with the Vertigo Global Frequency collection. This has jumped to the top of my reread list.


Fell #1–9

(Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Ben Templesmith, originally published in 2005 by Image Comics)
This one is going to hurt, Denizens, I’m not going to lie. You see, there are nine issues of this slow burn, creepy-as-hell, crime drama and that is all. Heck, I only recently learned of the existence of the ninth issue, as the solitary Fell collection contains only the first eight. Issue nine also came out over a decade ago with no progress on the concluding seven issues as a hard drive crash destroyed the scripts for the final six issues of the series and Image refused to print issue 10 unless Ellis and Templesmith also had completed scripts for issues 11 and 12. Fell was an experiment in producing a cheaper comic with a lower page count and received two Eisner Award nominations back in the day. The story follows homicide detective Richard Fell, who was banished to Snowtown, a city plagued with crime, poverty, and a police force of three and a half (you’ll have to read the book to get the joke) that has practically given up on their duties. Fell decides to fix Snowtown and vows to uncover the story of a strange, stocky person dressed in a nun’s habit and who wears a Richard Nixon mask while always appearing around areas they shouldn’t be in. The story is a dark, creepy, noirish, crime and character drama that saw the first issue go into six printings. I am dying to see how it all ends, but to be honest I don’t know if the series will ever finish. Don’t let the lack of an ending dissuade you, though, from checking out the glorious issues that have been released. Regardless of whatever happens, I will be here waiting patiently on the off chance we do get more.


Hellstorm: Prince of Lies #12–21

(Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Leonardo Manco, originally published in 1994 by Marvel Comics)
I’ll start by saying that issues 1–20 weren’t all that bad. In fact, I quite enjoyed them, but things definitely kick into high gear once Ellis makes his American Marvel Comics debut with issue #12. The series follows that ’70s darling, the Son of Satan himself, Daimon Hellstrom. Heaven and Hell. Demons and the Gargoyle. Ex-wife Patsy “Hellcat” Walker. A series of mage murders. A mysterious woman named Jaine Cutter who has armor forged of iron from the River Styx and has a weapon called the Breathing Gun. Hellstorm: Prince of Lies has it all. Gone are the days of red and yellow tights and capes, and hair gelled up into makeshift horns. In are the days of true horrors and conflicts of light and darkness. As great as Ellis’s run was, it wasn’t enough to keep the series from being canceled with issue #21. If you don’t feel like back issue bin diving for these damn-fine issues, then you can pick up the Hellstorm by Warren Ellis Omnibus, which commands a prohibitive $75 retail price tag given that it contains only 10 issues of Hellstorm. Even the inclusion of the four issues of our next book might not be enough to prompt you to sell your soul to get ahold of a book that ought to only cost about half of what they’re charging. That even shorter-lived series is…


Druid #1–4

(Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Leonardo Manco, originally published in 1995 by Marvel Comics)
Following the demise of Hellstorm: Prince of Lies was Druid, a comic that was originally meant to be a series, yet ended up only making it thru issue four, where it was wrapped up much too fast for my liking. This does not mean you shouldn’t read this horrific tale of a man who, tired of being a sorcerous joke, taps into a far greater power to become a major player—briefly—in the mystical Marvel U. In these four issues, we see Druid’s disturbing transformation into a taloned, tattooed, skinny, bearded powerhouse of nature who fights monstrosities of unseen worlds and demons and monsters only to fall into madness in his quest for ever more power. Yes, I was disappointed to see this chilling series brought to an early conclusion, but what we did get was simply magical. Seek these out as soon as you can, but if you do decide to pick up the Hellstorm by Warren Ellis Omnibus you can lessen the blow of the steep price tag knowing that the collection also contains two issues of the unpublished Satanna comic series by Ellis that never made it to a store shelf.


That’s it for this installment, Denizens. Now, go forth, collect, and read! Also, don’t worry, we’re not even close to being done with Mr. Ellis, so there’s more to come. See you next time!


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Saturday, September 8, 2018

Comics Lust 9/8/2018

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/frantic furry friend Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Howdy, Denizens. Even though I had Monday and Tuesday off from work this week, I kind of paid for it over the past three days. Boy howdy, did I pay for it…come to think of it, I still am as I prepare to do some more work. Such are the ways of the digital age. At least the puppy executive team and I work like a well-oiled machine together and we will continue to maintain our status as a Fortune 320,000 company. Anyhow, keep cool, be kind to each other, mind your health and sanity, eat some tacos, keep your pets safe, cherish the ones you love, hydrate, and read some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.


***Possible Spoilers Below***

Comics Lust

Everythinged…The Writer-Artist: Superhero Comics (Part 3)


I’ve always been fascinated by those who both write and draw comics. I have personal experience with multiple steps in the creation process, and I know that doing just one of the necessary duties can be incredibly time-consuming. Whether you write, draw, ink, flat, color, letter, design and layout, or publish, each of those vital steps takes a degree of skill in order to create something that is truly remarkable. But when you find someone who can both script and dialogue a comic as well as illustrate it, you have that rare someone who is worth celebrating. With these amazing people, you have what I like to call an “Everythinger.” And every once in a blue moon, you find a unicorn, that certain someone who does it all. For instance, take…


Copra

(Everythinged by Michel Fiffe, originally published in 2012 by Copra Press)
I’m a little late to the birthday party on this one, but that just means I get to hammer through the whole shebang without having to suffer through waits between issues. And what painful waits those would have been as Copra is a fantastic, thrilling superhero comic. Now, when I say everythinged by Fiffe, I literally mean “everythinged!” This guy did it all. He even put out some trade collections of his books—with the help of Bergen Street Press—which is going to create a couple of problems for everyone wanting to read these damn-fine comics: the print runs were low, and finding issues is not gonna be easy. That said, if you have to, do what I did and buy a bunch on ComiXology. At the time of this writing, I bought the first 25 issues and I’ve read up to issue eight; I should have bought up through issue 31 as well as the two volumes of Copra Versus. My goodness! I love this series! Basically, Copra is a love letter to DC’s Suicide Squad and even goes so far as to have a character named Lloyd Flawton who bears a striking resemblance to a certain character from said Suicide Squad. The homages don’t end there with characters clearly influenced by the flip side of the Big Two coin with various Marvelesque additions to the story. Where Fiffe’s story differs is when the Copra team faces off against their superweird villains such as Vitas and Dy Dy: a pyramid-headed, jester-looking, faceless creature; and a massive brain in a bowl atop a bio-mechanical carriage and with glued-on lady eyes and a pretty bow attached to the bowl. Fiffe’s writing is engaging, his storytelling compelling, and the overall look and feel of Copra is that of indie professionalism with stories enjoyable by even the most steadfast of Big Two fanatics. Visit his site at www.michelfiffe.com to pick up some amazing comics and see what you’ve been missing. Now, I need to get ahold of his recent Bloodstrike: Brutalists run over at Image Comics. I think we’re just getting started with this ultra-talented everythinger.


The Black Beetle

(Everythinged by Francesco Francavilla, lettered and designed by Nate Piekos of Blambot, originally published in 2012 by Dark Horse Comics, Inc.)
I don’t feel like I mention Francavilla as much as I should. I was originally introduced to his work in the pages of Detective Comics with writer Scott Snyder (collected in the must-own, must-read Batman: The Black Mirror) and then in the exceptional-yet-eternally-delayed Afterlife with Archie. I then started seeing his cover art everywhere and I found many posters of his work that had long since sold out and were unobtainable—that said, I did get a Chilling Adventures of Sabrina poster of his featuring Madam Satan that I am looking at as I write this. But in between comics about the Dark Knight and zombified Archie characters, I found a series that belonged strictly to Francavilla and I fell in love. It wasn’t just his impeccable storytelling prowess, but also his stunning, mostly-flat coloring style. As for the book, the Black Beetle is the mysterious, masked protector of Colt City and he stalks the seedy mobsters, neer-do-wells, and costumed villains who seek to endanger his city’s inhabitants. We know little about the hero known as the Black Beetle and I kind of hope it stays that way as the mystery behind this character is part of the allure. What I can tell you is that the character is what you get if you mix one-quarter Batman with three-quarters pulp hero and fold him gently into a film noir setting with a dash of the supernatural. Thus far, you can read two collected hardcovers of this character, both of which demand your attention: The Black Beetle: No Way Out and The Black Beetle: Kara Bocek (a prelude that explores how the Black Beetle found his greatest weapon).


Daredevil

(Everythinged by Frank Miller, inked by Klaus Janson, originally published in 1981 by Marvel Comics)
Growing up, I always had a handful of Daredevil comics laying around, but to be perfectly honest, my brother was the die-hard Daredevil fiend. He was the one who pulled me from the pages of whatever other great comic of the ’80s I was reading and told me I should check out the issues that Frank Miller had recently started writing. Don’t tell my brother I said this—we don’t want him to get a big head about it—but he was so very very very right! Miller began illustrating Daredevil with issue #158, but it wasn’t until eleven issues later in the landmark #168 that he began both writing and illustrating and began his steady rise to greatness. Not only did Miller create what would become one of the most influential and greatest of runs for Daredevil, he also created Elektra and introduced the threat of The Hand, a menacing group of ninjas. Miller made the Kingpin a viable threat, Bullseye a terrifying maniac, The Hand formidable, Elektra a complex friend/foe, and he also gave us the occasional guest-appearance with the likes of The Punisher and Black Widow. Damn, this series is great on all fronts and with good reason, it appears on most all “Essential Comic Book Series” listings, including mine. The best way to read Miller’s seminal everythinger run is through the three volumes of Daredevil by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson or through the massive Omnibus.


Batman: Ego and Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score

(Everythinged by Darwyn Cooke, originally published in 2000 and 2002 by DC Comics)
We lost one of comicdom’s greatest creators in 2016. Thankfully, I got to see him in 2007 at the San Diego Comic Con, but I wish I had taken the time to meet him, thank him for his work, and to support him directly with a purchase of some kind. Cooke originally worked for DC Animation but vaulted to prominence in the comic book world with Batman: Ego, a prestige one-shot that featured a psychological tale about Bruce Wayne and the Batman talking about their lives and the repercussions of their various choices. Cooke’s style is the perfect bridge from the animated world of Batman: The Animated Series to that of comics. Following up such a great everythinged comic as Batman: Ego is no easy feat, but Cooke—in my opinion—surpassed it with the stunning Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score, an everythinged graphic novel that served as a prequel to the four issues of the amazing Catwoman series he worked on with Ed Brubaker. Thankfully, you don’t have to hunt around for the individual graphic novels. Instead, you can get them both in one fell swoop with the beautiful, Batman: Ego and Other Tales.


Shade the Changing Man

(Everythinged by Steve Ditko, co-written by Michael Fleischer, originally published in 1977 by DC Comics)
Okay, I know. This one wasn’t completely everythinged by Ditko, but he did have a credit as a co-scripter on this short-lived, eight-issue series. I distinctly remember having issue #2 and #5 in my collection as a kid and having no idea what to make of the craziness within those pages. I had seen the adverts for the first issue in the various DC comics I was reading at the time, but I unfortunately never got ahold of it. The issues that I did manage to find blew my socks off with Ditko’s strange, psychedelic worlds and trippy villains. Even the lead character, Shade the Changing Man, was a tad bit frightening when he powered on his “M-Vest” and got totally weird. I have to say, Denizens, reading a Ditko illustrated comic was the closest thing this seven-year-old got to experiencing hallucinations outside of a really bad fever. Dang, now I’m jonesing for a hit of this groovy series, which we can all do by picking up The Steve Ditko Omnibus Volume 1.


That’s it for this installment. Next time, we’re taking a break from the everythingers for a bit and going on to a different topic. See you then!


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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Comics Lust 9/1/2018

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/four-day tranquility hound Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Greetings, Denizens. We have a four-day weekend ahead of us and have to get running to…to…to do nothing. Nothing?! Yes, nothing! No commitments, no travel, and nowhere to be is simply glorious. Because of this, Tulip, Reverse Obie, and I are scheduling up some fresh obligation: get tacos at Corazón Cocina, beer at The Garden, comics reading, movie watching, and maybe a stressfree walk around the neighborhood or something. Yes, indeed, the only obligation is to relax and enjoy life for a change. We’re going to…oh, no…that’s the doorbell. No one move, no one make a sound. Hopefully, whoever it is will go away. Anyhow, keep cool, be kind to each other, mind your health and sanity, eat some tacos, keep your pets safe, cherish the ones you love, hydrate, and read some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.


***Possible Spoilers Below***

Comics Lust

Everythinged…The Writer-Artist: Superhero Comics (Part 2)


Most comic book creators either write or they draw, but when you find someone who can do both, well…that’s something worth celebrating. Those writer-artists are what I call everythingers—the comic book equivalent of a unicorn— and they are a rarity. Many everythingers are found in the realm of the indie comics scene, but they occasionally find their way in the more mainstream comic offerings as they make their mark on the world of superheroes. Of course, no superhero comic written and drawn by the same individual is greater than the industry-altering and defining Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, but everyone should already be familiar with this seminal work (if not, get out there, buy it, and read it immediately) so I’m not going to retread that well-covered ground. What I am going to bring to your attention are some of the not-as-explosively-successful superhero comics stemming from the writing and illustrating of one person.


Alpha Flight

(Everythinged by John Byrne, originally published in 1983 by Marvel Comics)
Hot dang, Denizens, My brother and I were so amped for this comic when it first debuted in the early ’80s that we snatched it up the day it appeared on the new release table at Andromeda Bookstore (RIP, good buddy) and stuck around for a good long while afterward. We were huge fans of The Uncanny X-Men and the issues that introduced the various members of the Canadian group Alpha Flight—especially where they teamed up against the Wendigo in issue #140—were among some of our favorites. So, when the bold, yellow cover showing Vindicator, Sasquatch, Snowbird, Puck, Northstar, Aurora, Shaman, and Marrina pushing aside Marvel’s stable of heavy-hitter superheroes, we knew we had a book we could not pass up. It was exciting to get in on the ground floor of something exciting from an artist we already knew and adored, but then to find out he could build new worlds and write a compelling as hell series sealed the deal. Within the pages, there were heroes, monsters, myth and magic, villains, allies, and adventure abound. We were even teased with other divisions within the Canadian government program: Beta Flight and Omega Flight which had us salivating for more. Whether you read this series back in the day or you recently read one of the collections, the Byrne issues more than stand up to the test of time as some truly great comics. Hey, there’s even an Omnibus if you don’t want to deal with the trades.


Fantastic Four

(Everythinged by John Byrne, originally published in 1981 by Marvel Comics)
Although Byrne had illustrated many issues of Fantastic Four, issues I still love to this day, it wasn’t until 1981 that he took up both scripting and illustrating on what would become a much-lauded five-year run. It is also a run for which I have far too many gaps. You see, this was before I had discovered my first LCS and my comic buying was limited to whatever I found on the newsstands and spinner racks at the grocery store. So, yeah, there were a lot of holes in my FF reading; something I still need to fix in the near future. That said, the few issues I did have were tremendous. I actually find myself getting pumped just thinking about the Galactus/Terrax issues and the time Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny fought the Shiar Imperial Guard and…and I think I need to remedy this reading gap right now! An updated Omnibus comes out in September and if you search you can find eight volumes of the Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne lurking out in the wild. Best snatch ’em up before I do.


The Sensational She-Hulk

(Everythinged by John Byrne, originally published in 1985 and then 1989 by Marvel Comics)
You should already be well aware of my love of the Marvel Graphic Novel line of oversized, standalone tales that rocked my world in the early ’80s, and The Sensational She-Hulk is one that I…never picked up. I know, I know, but we can’t buy and read all the books, can we? Well, I guess we can certainly try and I intend to pick this up in the very new future. I also intend to pick up the Byrne everythinged issues of the series that popped up four years later. Hey, Jennifer Walters, the She-Hulk, figured prominently in Byrne’s historic FF run and the fact that he gave her a graphic novel and bunch of issues in her own series says there must be some exciting She-Hulk stories to tell. I can’t wait to dive in with the two trades.


Namor the Sub-Mariner

(Everythinged by John Byrne, originally published in 1990 by Marvel Comics)
Another one that I sadly did not pick up on the regular was Byrne’s run on Namor the Sub-Mariner. This series saw the misunderstood and complicated undersea dweller portrayed as an environmental hero seeking to protect the ocean from the perils of pollution by stopping the offending companies in the best way possible: from the boardroom of his own company, Oracle. Don’t let this trick you into thinking Namor won’t strip off the suit and tie in favor of his green-scaled Speedo because when he’s not toiling over mission statements, he’s out punching fools in the face and riding the supervillain known as the Griffin. There’s also some craziness involving Iron Fist who has supposedly been resurrected—wait, he died?! Just kidding, I knew that—that I am very interested in checking out. Byrne, the Sub-Mariner (one of my favorite anti-heroes), Iron Fist (one of my favorite superheroes), the Griffin, fighting pollution and corporate greed? I’m in 100%! You can get these issues in two Namor Visionaries: John Byrne volumes.


The Man of Steel

(Everythinged by John Byrne, originally published in 1986 by DC Comics)
Five everythinged superhero comics by Byrne?! Yup, you bet your bottom dollar. At least this one is from a publisher other than Marvel, and what a comic it is. Hot off the heels of the tremendous Crisis on Infinite Earths is Byrne’s updating and modernization of DC’s most beloved superhero: Superman. I remember buying the entire six-issue series and finding it to be a bit more than I could handle as a kid at the time, but I respected what was being done with the character and I absolutely loved all of the art; it was just a bit wordy for someone who wanted more punching of bad guys. Now, I better understand what Byrne was doing and I now absolutely love this mini-series. What I did like was the Superman series written and illustrated by Byrne that followed The Man of Steel and had more of the bad guy punching I was looking for. On top of all of this, and a comic that I was sadly not buying, was Byrne’s everythinged run of Action Comics that began with issue 584. Get a load of this, Denizens: Byrne was writing and drawing both Superman and Action Comics at the same freakin’ time! The best way to pick up these monumental Superman books is to get the Superman: The Man of Steel trades. You’ll be happy you did.


I know it seems like John Byrne wrote and drew all the superhero comics back in the day, and he practically did, but next time we’ll look at some other everythingers and their great takes on superheroes. See you then.


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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Comics Lust 8/25/2018

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/frantic panic Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Greetings, Denizens. Birthdays, weddings, and no time to write, oh my! It’s another jam-packed weekend—dang, I’ve had a lot of those lately—so Tulip and Reverse Obie pulled a couple of posts from over 500 entries ago that they thought would be a great interlude between talking about comic books. Most of us have fond memories of walking into our first LCS and getting struck by the comic bug. I’m incredibly nostalgic for those hours upon hours spent in that store, so why not talk about my first greatest of enablers: Andromeda Bookshop. Anyhow, be kind to each other, mind your health, keep your pets safe, cherish the ones you love, hydrate, and read some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.


***Possible Spoilers Below***

Comics Lust

My First LCS (An Interlude)


As a kid living in Akron, OH, I always had comics around from a very young age. I’m not completely certain where they had come from, whether my mom or dad bought them for me, or maybe they had been lugging some around for some reason, I’m not sure. All I know is I had quite a collection. Of course, I had your typical Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, The Fantastic Four, The Legion of Superheroes, and The Avengers—the usual superhero fare—but I also had some titles most adults would consider worthy of contacting child protective services.

Would you let your
six-year-old read this?
Yeah, this six-year-old loved to read himself some horror funny books. Weird War Tales, Werewolf By Night, Tomb of Dracula, Man-Thing, Godzilla, The Unknown Soldier, House Of Secretsand House of Mystery all of which completely rocked my world. I recall the odd Richie Richor Casper the Friendly Ghostor Hot Stuff (which I liked…y'know…a devil baby, c’mon) titles kicking around my collection, but for me, the creepier the comic, the better. It’s no surprise Swamp Thing #10 is the issue that solidified my love of comics.

Of course, I wasn’t exactly reading the issues way back then, mostly I flipped through and enjoyed the monster mash show, but that one issue of Swamp Thing…dang, I just could not get enough of it. Swamp Thing made me love comics, but I still only bought my books on occasion off of spinner racks at convenience stores and grocery stores. That was until the day I bought my first issue of The Micronauts—cue the “Hallelujah” chorus from Händel’s Messiah. The amazing Micronauts toyline had utterly consumed me for some time, but the day I saw The Micronauts #2 sitting on the rack at the newsstand, it seized my eyeballs as I seized 35¢ from my mom to buy it up. On the cover, there’s Acroyear, Space Glider, and my soon-to-be-favorite character, Bug, who I prayed would someday be made into an action figure—I’m still waiting. One read through this sci-fi adventure with gorgeous art by Michael Golden, I had suddenly changed from a kid who bought comics willy-nilly, to a monthly buyer and collector.

Oh my gosh!
Deep breaths. Breathe!
My poor parents. I kind of feel sorry for them at this point. Not only did I beg to go to the toy store at the mall, but more so I wanted to go to the newsstand a couple times a week, just on the off chance the latest issue of The Micronauts had arrived. My love and devotion to this series followed me from Ohio to California, where I was still able to find all my new issues at the grocery store, 7-11, and K-Mart. I was happy as could be until the day Micronauts #37 arrived to shatter my world. The death knell of buying comics at grocery stores and newsstands had sounded. The Micronauts was one of the first series to go to the magical realms known as “comic specialty stores” and “select retail outlets,” which made zero sense to my 11-year-old mind. I then entered into what I call The Micronauts Void, a time of uncertainty, panic, and dread that one of the things I loved with my whole heart would forever be beyond my reach.

VICTORY!!!
This period lasted roughly a year and a half until by some weird miracle I found out about Andromeda Bookshop. The first time I set foot in this L-shaped store, I was initially disappointed by the overstuffed shelves of sci-fi and fantasy books, but once you walked further in and hung a right…glory. Before me was a large, square room with cubbies full of comics behind the counter on the left and back walls and new comics on racks to the right. There was also a table in the center that held the week’s new releases, and multiple bundled series climbed the right wall toward the ceiling; we won’t go into the XXX books crammed into the corner. I had found it, my own pirate’s treasure trove. I had entered Olympus itself, and it bore riches beyond my imagining. More importantly, there sitting upon the Andromeda comic racks was that which I coveted beyond all else: a new issue of The Micronauts, #50 to be exact

Dave Sim signing
I have tried to find pictures of Andromeda for
years and finally found one. I was not here for
this event, 
but this is the room. Photo by Ted Mills.
I was back in business. Not only could I buy new books, I could also fill the many gaps in my collection—once I had saved up enough allowance, of course. This would take some time, as new and what would become legendary comics—Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Miracle Man, Watchmen, The Saga of the Swamp Thingand so many more—were dropping like joyfully dark rain upon the gritty concrete streets of darkly dark nights of darkness…hey, it was the theme of the times.

Over at least two summers, my brother and I made the couple-times-a-week walk from our house to the comic store downtown (4.25 miles round trip) so we could torment the employees by making them drag out all The Micronauts, Daredevil, Uncanny X-Men (the Claremont issues, by golly) back issue stacks, so we could marvel at the covers, and bemoan the out-of-our-price-range costs. These journeys were in addition to our mom driving us to Andromeda every Saturday once we had been paid our $2/week allowance. We were obsessed.

Nerds are cool and all, but this nerd
prefers Volcano Rocks.
Admittedly, the walk downtown wasn’t just about the comics; although that was the primary force for making the trek. We also got to stop by the State Street Video Game Arcade to play Bagman, Joust, and Crystal Castles. Then there was a quick visit to the game store inside the Piccadilly Square mall, not to mention spiced potato logs, lime Slush Puppies, and Willy Wonka Volcano Rocks at Fernando’s Market on the way back home…if we had any money left over, which we rarely did.

A few years later, in the mid-eighties, a Goleta Andromeda Bookstore opened on Calle Real and although half of the store was for books, the other half was devoted strictly to comics and was almost as good as the downtown store. It was here that I met Mike Baron, Stan Lee, attended a comic book auction, and discovered Neil Gaiman's Sandman. I loved the store, but to be honest, it could not compare with the downtown location, which was closer to our house, not as humongous in square footage, and had more of “Santa Barbara secret” feeling about it; it was our store. Unfortunately, the Goleta Andromeda did not last very long and closed it's doors a year or two later—it was just too big and too generalized in its product scope.

Andromeda on De La Guerra, eventually shut its doors as well so that it could open a new location on the ever-costly and local-business-crushing State Street. This store was great and had a lot of space as well, but looking back, that was probably working against it; non-negotiable square-footage lease rates are usually Kryptonite to our local businesses that actually need to turn a profit to survive as opposed to writing off the losses as marketing expenses as I suspect is the case of the big chains that litter the downtown area. Also working against the store was the comic implosion of the nineties, where, like the housing market crash a few years ago, gamblers—sorry, I meant investors—snatched up droves of variant and gimmicky covers of really bad comics amidst a flooded comic book market in the hope of becoming rich overnight, which did not happen for the vast majority of people.

Another contributing factor to Andromeda's impending demise was that Metro Entertainment opened a few blocks up the way—off of State Street—and with what I assume was a much cheaper lease; Andromeda finally closed up shop in the early nineties thanks to high rents and the ’90s comic crash. Months before Andromeda shut down, I had already defected over to Metro after visiting the new store on its opening day. It felt more like the friendly neighborhood comic store I had loved so much as a kid and even though the store has since moved across the street, I am still shopping there twenty years later, and despite the uncertainty of the digital age of comics, I hope to still be shopping there for twenty years to come.

I still miss Andromeda, tucked away in its little nook at a time before downtown had morphed into the multinational, high-rent, chain-store soullessness it is today, but thankfully Metro Entertainment came along and I have been shopping there ever since. I also miss the twice a week, 4.25-mile walk downtown with my brother, but now I drive to my LCS and I have big boy money to spend, which given current comic book prices means I can roughly buy about the same number of books as I could back when I was a kid. Goodbye Andromeda, I will never forget you or the fact that you introduced me to some of the best comics ever created. Thank you for the good times and the fond memories.

*note* At one point in Andromeda's history, one of the founders Ralph Holt split from Andromeda to open his own store in Ventura called Ralph's Comic Corner, which is also a GREAT comic shop. I usually make it down there once or twice a year just to look around. Definitely worth a visit.


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