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Pipeline, Issue #524

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Pipeline, Issue #524

STORAGE WOES

I’m moving my stored comics to a new facility right now, and it’s a major undertaking. I’ve had a 10 foot by 5 foot storage room at a local place for about three years now, I’d guess. Every year, the rates go up. Not too long ago, the state of NJ decided to start taxing the fee, too. And then I got married and moved a little further away and wanted to cut back on the money I throw down the drain every month to save thousands of comics I’ll never look at again.

I’m a sucker, but an honest one.

I spent last week calling all the self-storage locations in the area. Go to your phone book sometime and check out the “Self Storage” section. I bet there are more in there than you might have thought. EVERYONE has lots of junk today, and we’re all keeping it. With that business opportunity, a new business model was formed and all sorts of people are getting into it. Some are garage-sized; some are closet-sized. Some are climate-controlled; others are subject to the whims of excessive heat and cold. Some are family owned and operated; others are parts of growing chains of self-storage facilities. It’s interesting to watch them pop up like sightings of D-list sci-fi celebrities in the back corners of comic book conventions.

I settled on one that just finished construction about a month or two ago, is ten minutes up the road, and costs about a third less than what I was paying at the previous location for the same size room.

You’d think fifty square feet was a lot of space. It’s not, really. I haven’t done a count of how many boxes that holds, but I’d guess it’s about two dozen long boxes, ten short boxes, and a dozen file boxes filled with comics. I use the latter to store the graphic novels and trades that accumulate. I’d need half a house to line up walls with bookshelves to properly display them all.

OK, so I have too many comics. I’ve been at this for 18 years now. These things happen. You keep taking them in, but never pushing them out.

I’ve been making one trip a night after work from the old place to the new, toting one car-load full of boxes with me each time. That’s about eight long boxes, or ten copy paper boxes. Something like that. I’ve done three of those trips so far, and I guess I’m halfway done as I write this on Sunday night.

The problem is, my new 50 square feet of space is laid out differently. Whereas I used to have a space ten feet wide and five feet deep, now it’s five feet across and ten feet deep. The original shallower depth meant I could fill the entire floor area with boxes, stand outside the room, and still access everything. Now, I need to store all the boxes and leave a small strip of room to walk to the back in.

So it’s time to rethink some things. I’ve already thrown out a couple of boxes. Don’t worry, comics fans. Those weren’t comic boxes. Those were boxes of VHS tapes I once recorded TV shows on for posterity. I’ve since come to the realization that I’ll never watch them again, I don’t own a VCR anymore, and that the shows are now available on DVD. Why keep the old tapes around? Am I interested in the historical significance of the commercials during those shows? No, not really.

I’m starting to have similar thoughts about the comics, though. I came across a short box half-filled with John Byrne-era FANTASTIC FOUR issues that I picked up in bargain bins at conventions over the years. It’s not a complete set. Now, too, there are trade paperbacks collecting nearly all of that material. The new printings may not look as good as the original newsprint, but I don’t really need both, do I? I set those comics aside, and they might eventually find a landfill or a giveaway here in Pipeline. (I have no interest in eBay’s nickel-and-diming me to death.)

The more boxes I pore through, the more I find myself wanting to stop and read things. On the other hand, there are boxes I groan over as I take them away, wondering why I ever bought them in the first place, or how overrated they were when I bought them in the first place. Two eras of Superman comics fit into those descriptions today. I didn’t throw them out, though. I kept them. There’s some nice artwork in those comics from artists I tend to follow, even if the stories are forgettable, years removed.

The biggest problem is still that there’s not enough room to fit all these boxes. I had long boxes stacked four high. I need to go up higher. That’s when I realized my answer: DrawerBoxes! You can stack those puppies up to six high or so. Even thought they hold just slightly less than a conventional long box, I can make up for that by going vertical. I have 15 of them, including five I’ve put together and only half used, and five I haven’t even folded up properly yet.

During this week of moving comics, I’ll also be transferring them from old long boxes to fresh new DrawerBoxes. They’re not cheap, I grant you, but they’re an investment that’s going to save a chunk of my comics collection for a day somewhere in the undefined future when I’ll have a house with a spare room for more of them.

Theoretically.

I’ll give you an update next week on how this all goes. I have until the end of the month to move out of the old place. I need to get all these things moved quickly.

NEAT PUBLISHING TRICKS

Marvel is making THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN into a book that publishes three times a month, while doing away with the other two monthly Spider-Man titles.

You’re not overthinking it to believe that this is mostly a cheap publishing stunt. I don’t mean “cheap” in a condescending way. I mean it in a very real way: it won’t cost Marvel any more to keep the same number of creators around to produce the same number of books each month. In the end, slapping the same title on the cover of each book is a big win for their bottom line.

Marvel will sell more comics, overall. I’m sure they’re working on a way to divide the work and the continuity so that the book flows seamlessly from one story to the next. They’re going to make a show of NOT just printing three books a month in a seemingly-random order with the same title. (They do have some sense of shame, after all.)

But, in the end, it’s a cheap marketing trick. Marvel will make more money. Retailers will likely make more money. And readers will read more Spider-Man comics.

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. So said Henry Mencken. The man was clearly a genius. Because if the creators on the new AMAZING SPIDER-MAN had been doing three separate Spider-Man books, only one set of creators — those on AMAZING — would benefit from the blind adherence of fandom.

I can’t blame Marvel for playing the hand they’re dealt here. It’s just silly and insulting, as a comics fan, that it’ll work so well.

What fools we mortals be.

Across town, DC is doing something very interesting with THE FLASH.

Don’t get me wrong; I like the idea of soliciting comics you will never publish for the sake of keeping a secret. The last time I saw it done was at Malibu in the Ultraverse Days, when they did it with the fourth issue of EXILES. It’s a cute gag, and the kind of thing that’s almost a necessity given how early secrets leak out these days.

But there’s something DC is doing here that just doesn’t add up, and I suspect it’s done to save a couple of bucks.

FLASH #13 is the end of the line for the series. Featuring a fairly significant (and disappointing) death, they’re going back to the original series numbering this fall, complete with Mark Waid’s return to the character.

The solicitations for FLASH #14 and #15, you’d think, would be canceled. Nope. They aren’t. DC is carrying over the orders from FLASH #14 to their ALL-FLASH one-shot in September, with FLASH #15’s orders going towards FLASH #231 in October.

Put yourself in your retailer’s shoes. Do you think your sales on Mark Waid’s return to THE FLASH will be the same as they would have been on FLASH #15? Nothing against Marc Guggenheim, but I emphatically doubt it. Even the one-shot is going to have to be ordered different from the 14th issue of an on-going series. (Some people only buy the series; others only buy specials; some won’t care for the creative teams or stories, etc.)

Retailers will need to adjust all of their orders, anyway. I’m not sure what the rule will be about returnability in light of the difference between the originally solicited product and the shipped product.

In the end, carrying the numbers over from one solicitation to the next is a foolish waste of time. I can only imagine Diamond spares DC some fees for this. Cancelling a solicited title costs the publisher something. Resoliciting it is cheaper, right?

Penny wise, pound foolish.

ASTERIX WITH EYES WIDE OPEN

I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about ASTERIX because nobody cares, but I can’t help myself. It’s too much fun.

Read ASTERIX AND THE SOOTHSAYER this past week. If there is such a thing as “verbal schtick,” then this volume would win an award for it. It doesn’t require much of a knowledge of a specific culture to get all the jokes, as volumes dedicated to Belgium and Britain do. It’s just a fun tale of the village rebelling against Asterix when a Soothsayer comes to town and everyone believes him except Asterix. Also, the Romans act crazy. The scenes between the Romans and the Soothsayer, alone, are worth the price of admission. If you like logic puzzles and “Who’s On First,” there’s some back-and-forth here that will make you chuckle out loud. You can attempt to follow the logic if you want, but don’t let it hurt your head.

(For starters, if you want to prove you’re not a soothsayer, here’s a tip: When someone asks you to guess the total for the roll of two dice, don’t pick 7. That’s the most common sum.)

In any case, the pacing and the overall mayhem in the book carries the day. This isn’t high drama by comparison with other Asterix volumes. In fact, the overall plot is weak, with easily-solved situations and no real sense of danger, even for an ASTERIX tome. But if you like crazy dialogue, I think you’ll find a lot to like here.

Uderzo’s art is prime, though the reprinting doesn’t always show it. There are lots of pages where the thinnest of black lines go missing, sadly, but I suppose it can’t be helped with forty-year-old material. Still, he pulls out a few extra tricks in this book for the Soothsayer, some of which invite comparisons to EC Comics. The long shadows, the silhouettes, and the dramatic lighting all step outside of the ASTERIX norm for something special.

This is the 19th volume of the series.

I followed up that with a rereading of ASTERIX IN BELGIUM, volume 24. It’s still a personal favorite of mine, just due to the Belgium connection, but the early parts of the book were disappointing. Goscinny experimented with breaking the fourth wall on the series with this book, which seems forced and unnecessary. It’s not clever at all. I don’t know how much this has to do with my more modern sensibilities; maybe it seemed more clever in the 1960s than it does today, 20 years after John Byrne’s SHE-HULK did all the best gags for comics in that style.

Overall, though, it’s still a funny book with references to Tintin, lace, beer, and French fries. Clever stuff.

That’s about it for now. Next week we’ll take a look back in the Pipeline time machine to see what was going on a few years back, and have some fresh reviews for you, as wel.

The VandS Tumblr has the quickest blog entries a boy could make.

The regular blog, Various and Sundry, had full coverage of this weekend’s crazy HDTV installation at Casa De Blieck. Oh, what fun it was!

I also Twittered the installation on Friday.

The Pipeline Podcast page will give you links to subscribe to the podcast in a variety of places.

I still have a MySpace page and a ComicSpace page, though I don’t hang out much on either of them. I check my messages at both places, so you won’t be ignored.

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

More than 700 columns — maybe even 800 — are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They’re sorted chronologically.

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