On with Superversive + Sneak Peek at Badaxe!

I was on with Anthony Marchetta and Ben Wheeler of Superversive on Sunday. It was a pretty long podcast, but we had a lot of fun! Anthony in particular had a lot of great things to say about Teel James Glenn’s Tiger, Tiger, which was our Winter Cover Story.

As you ought to know by now, we’re taking pre-orders for our Spring 2021 issue. One of the features of 2021 is we’ll be reprinting Paul O’Connor’s epic Sword and Sorcery Comic, Badaxe, which has been digitally restored by Michael Tierney. Below is a sneak peek.

Want more? Back the Spring 2021 issue on Kickstarter now!

Cirsova 5th Anniversary Highlight: The Artomique Paradigm

One of the showcase items of 2021 will be Michael Tierney’s newest Wild Stars novel, The Artomique Paradigm.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cirsova/cirsova-5th-anniversary-issue

What are the Wild Stars?

Aeons ago, Earth was nearly destroyed by an alien invasion. Refugees were led to the stars by a powerful immortal being from another universe, known only as the Ancient Warrior. These refugees became the Wild Stars. From time to time, they have revisited Earth, checking on humanity’s progress.

Now, after two centuries of modern man exploring and colonizing the stars, humanity’s Wild Stars cousins have re-established relations with Earth and her colonies.

Who are the Artomique?

The Artomique are refugees from a now-destroyed timeline where fascist Germany had nearly conquered the world.

They are led by Achilles Hister, the son that timeline’s equivalent of Adolf Hitler, and have worked in the shadows to attempt to restore their timeline. Failing that, they have worked to establish a new Artomique supremacy using stolen Wild Star technology and become one of the dominant political factions on Earth.

A Very Brief Outline of the Wild Stars

  • Exodus from Earth following the Marzaanti invasion. (Wild Stars IV: Wild Star Rising)
  • Erlik, son of the Ancient Warrior, wins the Icarus stone (and with it custodianship of Earth) from Carthage. Carthage allies with the wolf-like Brothan and Artomique to wage war against earth. (Wild Stars: Book of Circles)
  • While the Brothan have lost the war, Carthage exacts revenge on Erlik’s family, leading them on a wild goose chase through time. The Artomique begin a secret arms race using stolen Wild Stars technology. Hyper-intelligent dinosaurs get their hands on a Marzaanti space probe which accelerates their evolution. (Wild Stars II: Force Majeure)
  • Terraformers begin discovering evidence of Wild Stars presence on worlds thought to have been uninhabited. Space pirates have orchestrated a large-scale mind-control coup against humanity. Extra-dimensional monsters are unleashed in a tear in the fabric of the universe. (Wild Stars III: Time Warmageddon)
  • The Ancient Warrior returns, having laid the foundations of an aeons-long plan to rescue Phaedra from the prison of the God-Father and his knights in the heart of a super-massive black hole. (Wild Stars IV: Wild Star Rising)
  • The Wild Stars have revealed themselves and are prepared to reunite humanity among the stars, except the Artomique have been developing new weapons in secret while their leaders have achieved a sort of immortality using stolen Wild Stars cloning technology. (Wild Stars V: The Artomique Paradigm)

Quick Post-mortem on Shuriken Cold Steel

When I got a bunch of issues of Caravan Kidd to fill in the gaps in my collection, I also picked up the last three issues of Shuriken: Cold Steel to complete my set.

I’ve talked at length about the different Shuriken series, and Cold Steel was easily the worst, but I wanted to see if it turned around before the end [because the series after Cold Steel by the same writer WAS good].

Well, it didn’t.

Start to finish, Kyoko is kind of a cold, self-centered bitch, drastically unlike her characterization in the original Byers runs. The art from Christopher Taylor never gets better and maintains a serviceable-but-generic B&W Indie aesthetic that doesn’t jibe with the IP. Cold Steel also feels like S.A. Bennett trying to back-door his own superhero team book through the then-popular Shuriken. And his superhero team isn’t terrible, but it’s not what I would’ve picked up a Shuriken book for.

Cold Steel didn’t publish many letters in its short run, and the few they did more or less like the new title, but at least one person who had previously been a fan unloaded on the shoddy writing.

Cold Steel is the one Shuriken book that’s just plain bad. Bland and no charm at all, which is a shame. I really wondered what happened between Cold Steel and Shuriken Vol. 2–whether it was an editor stepping in, Bennett taking the character more seriously and trying to understand her, or maybe he got into some weeb stuff and figured out how to write a Shuriken story, he goes from having written one of the worst Shuriken books to what may be one of the best Shuriken books.

Anyway, that’s it. That’s all I have. If Cold Steel was the first Shuriken book I’d read, I probably wouldn’t have read any others. As it is, it gives me something to gripe about in context of some more enjoyable titles.

This cover is about the only good thing to come from Cold Steel

Now all I have to do is find the Hellbender one-off…

Who Are the Best DC Superheroines?

Was playing Mortal Kombat vs. DC with GF last night and we got to talking about Wonder Woman.

Now, I don’t hate Wonder Woman, but let’s face it–she’s kind of a garbage-tier hero that everyone pretends is A-list for ReasonsTM.

She’s not that interesting, outside of Greek Gods, her only memorable villains are the furry cat girl and the Chinese egg. A lot of her clout comes from being part of the DC Trinity: stick anyone with Batman and Superman, and they’ll feel important. But on her own? Wondy is kind of eh… That’s me, though. Other than War of the Gods, I can’t think of any meaningful Wondy events. [No, Death Metal is not a Wonder Woman event, no matter how much the writers insist otherwise.]

My girlfriend also thinks she’s kind of cringe and rolls her eyes at the “she’s so empowering!” reasoning most folks will give for liking Wondy. She’s not really into cape comics that much, and was wondering “aren’t there better ‘female role model’ characters in comics than Wonder Woman?”

I thought about it a bit, and while the answer is “Yes”, I realized a lot of them are overshadowed by Batman, because a lot of the best ones I’m familiar with are from Bat-books, and she hadn’t heard of most of them:

  • Katana [this is the only one she knows, because I actually collect Katana merch–I don’t have a lot, because there’s not much merch for her]
  • Spoiler
  • Orphan/Black Bat
  • Huntress
  • Oracle
  • Zatanna [I know, she’s not really ‘from’ Bat-books, but that’s mostly where I’ve seen her]
  • Montoya [okay, I don’t actually like her in the comics that much]
  • Bat-Woman [not exactly a ‘role model,’ but Kate Kane, at least in the books I’ve read, is a fascinating and tragic character, moreso maybe than Batman, because her problems are mostly her own creation yet she proceeds under this Calvinist shadow of doom]

So, what have you got? Who are your favorite DC ‘Best Girls’ who you like for reasons other than ‘teh sexy’?

We would especially like to hear from some of the women in the audience–who are your favorite women in DC comics?

Or can you convince us that Wonder Woman has better bona fides than just being a character with roots in the Golden Age and being the Silver Age Justice League’s Smurfette?

What Was Missing From DCEU? Dinosaurs!

When it first came out, the Suicide Squad movie was universally critically panned. DC fans, however, lapped it up and supported it, if for no other reason than to ‘own’ the critics. The problem, however, was that Suicide Squad just wasn’t very good.

Suicide Squad, for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on, felt like an inferior sequel to a movie that was never made. It ran an ‘enemy within’ storyline for a cape-team with no buildup, and Task Force X was just a shaggy dog in the DCEU.

Suicide Squad was where Warner Brothers first really tried to open the DC film franchise into a universe with the breadth of the MCU. Despite fan support, it failed miserably to liven up an already stalling cinematic universe, and I think I know why. Never mind that the rest of the DC movies range from mediocre set pieces that borrow the emotional gravitas of the Nolan films via the Zimmerman scores to just plain trash. No, the real reason was there were no dinosaurs!

The first Suicide Squad move should have been about Rick Flag fighting dinosaurs and kaiju during the Cold War.

BRAVE & BOLD 38 VG SUICIDE SQUAD November 1961

The DCEU lacked a Captain America–everybody, even Superman, was super grim and super serious. Captain America: The First Avenger was a lynchpin film for the first wave of Marvel movies–it captured an idealistic soldier bravely fighting against unadulterated and unquestionable evil, and allowed Cap to be sort of a moral core of the Avengers.

In Suicide Squad, Rick Flag is tossed into a group of villains who create more problems than they solve and really is just kind of there while his girlfriend goes crazy and becomes the big bad of the movie.

Instead, imagine, if you will, a movie that starts in America’s heyday, where a War Hero, his beautiful not-girlfriend, and two pointdexters protect the earth from the kaiju menace in an age before supermen [yes, there were supermen back then, but not in the DCEU].

People were still into kaiju cuz they still liked Pacific Rim, the Jurassic Park franchise was making a comeback, and Americans are [or were] always up for some jingoism. So, before everything goes to hell after the death of Superman and gets even worse with Waller in charge, brave normal men stood between America and the deadly dino menace! It could’ve made for a real blockbuster that could have saved the DCEU and given it somewhere to go.

[Nah, it would never work.]

Anyway, I recently picked up the Silver Age Suicide Squad omnibus for a song at Ollie’s. I’d read one of the stories before in one of the 70s Brave and Bold digests that Mike Barr edited, but this is the first time I’ve read all of the original run of Suicide Squad.

I’ll admit, I don’t like the Star Spangled War Stories Suicide Squad as much as Brave and the Bold. In War Stories, Suicide Squad became a catch-all for ‘soldiers fighting dinosaurs.’ B&B SS didn’t JUST fight dinosaurs, and when they did, the stories relied more on classic sci-fi monster movie stuff than just WWII + dinosaurs.

Anyway, I think that Warner Bros. missed a huge opportunity to cash in on a Silver Age Suicide Squad flick–the time was right for it. But instead, we got uwu trashgirl Harley and Will Smith-desperately-trying-to-rebuild-his-action-hero-brand Deadshot in one of the messiest films I’ve seen in years.

Shuriken!

Misha Burnett’s Endless Summer has 17 days to go! In the meantime, enjoy this piece that is probably the longest anyone has written on Reggie Byers’s Shuriken in years…

One of the weird indie comic title I’ve gotten into fairly recently has been Reggie Byer’s Shuriken.

Shuriken #1

The basic concept is that a young Japanese woman is a professional bodyguard for a firm that offers special protection and assassination services–she has moral qualms about killing, only opting for protection gigs, and this ultimately puts her at odds with her organization.

From what I’ve gathered, Shuriken was a pretty successful and well-loved property as far as indies go. The main thing it had going for it was that it was one of the first Amerimanga [it was written and drawn by a weeb who was also working on a licensed Robotech title]–when more Japanese manga and better Amerimanga became more readily available in the late 80s and early 90s, Shuriken was probably easily overshadowed.

It’s hard to say “Shuriken is good” today and really mean it, even though I really enjoy it. Byer’s art is not great [though it’s certainly middle-of-the-pack to above average when it comes to B&W indies if you look at them as a whole], and his writing serviceable at best [though miles above some of today’s superstars… looking at you, Bendis!]

The first two Shuriken series by Byers have a certain charm, though. It may be the sort of cringy charm that comes from it literally just being an OC of an 80s weeb with just enough talent to pull it off, but it has a charm nonetheless.

Blade of Shuriken #1

Really, I think the main appeal of Byers’s Shuriken is that, setting everything else aside, Kyoko is someone that you would like to know and enjoy spending time with: she’s cute, fun, and a good, caring friend–SHE is charming, and that’s kind of enough to carry it.

After Byers sold the rights to Malibu/Eternity, Shuriken gets farmed out–Volume 1 [Victory Comics] peters out [there’s a cover for a Shuriken #9 and an entry at MyComicShop, but they’ve confirmed that in the 15 years they’ve kept track, they’ve never come across a copy], Blade of Shuriken [Eternity] ends after its first real arc with issue 5, and the cliffhanger in Shuriken Team-Up #1 is never resolved.

Shuriken #9
This comic probably doesn’t actually exist!

Shuriken relaunches with the Shuriken: Cold Steel series. While the art is better in most objective senses, it abandons the Amerimanga style and loses much of the charm and emotion that Byers’s rough designs conveyed. The writing [S.A. Bennett], while marginally better, feels like a more generic 80s action comic–it loses its weebness, and at the same time, Shuriken loses her warmth. After the events of Blade of Shuriken, she’s turned into a surly layabout who’s managed to alienate her friends and blow through her wealth. She’s a very different Kyoko from the loving, caring woman who is there for her friends and family to laugh and cry with. Frankly, she’s kind of a bitch.

The third issue has a guest writer, and Shuriken plays a small role in a team story [feels like a backdoor pilot?], and I haven’t read the second half of the series yet, so maybe it gets better?

Shuriken Cold Steel #3

Ironically, one of the first letters in the letters column of Cold Steel complains to Eternity about starting a new Shuriken series with so many of of their other series [including two of their Shuriken series] left unfinished.

Cold Steel cites the last arc of Blade of Shuriken in its continuity, obviously throwing out the never-to-be-finished Shuriken Team-Up series whose first issue ends with Shuriken being thrown out a window by a demon after some other guy staked two succubi with the wooden legs of a chair he’d smashed. [The Team-Up book was actually not bad, and I can see why people were miffed it was canned].

Shuriken Team-Up #1
“Wow, I haven’t seen that book in 30 years!” – Jimmy Palmiotti

After Cold Steel, Eternity offers Shuriken Vol 2, the 4th or 5th series, depending on how you count them.

Shuriken #1

Honestly, this is the first Shuriken book I would call legitimately good. This title goes back to a manga style [Eternity’s internal solicit brags “It’s manga!”], though not Byers’s Amerimanga style. Both the art [Wes Abbott] and the story [S.A. Bennett] are reminiscent of the pre-GitS Masamune Shirow whose work was gaining traction in the west through publication of books like Dominion and Black Magic via Eclipse just a year or two before.

Bennett seems to have a bit better grasp on the character [at least in the first issue] than he did at the start of Cold Steel, but she still doesn’t feel like the same “go to the carnival and win a Cerebus the Ardvark doll” Kyoko. Still, I’m curious to see where he goes with her in the remaining issues of the last Eternity run.

Despite her appeal, both Shuriken and Byers’s stars rose but briefly–in his hands, Shuriken was a charming, if mediocre, IP; out of his hands, she was just another martial arts character in a sea of martial arts characters at a time when the trope was falling out of vogue and better “authentic” manga titles were becoming available to comic readers. The sad saga of Shuriken ultimately ends with Marvel buying Malibu and killing the IP in favor of introducing their own character Shuriken in their Malibu UltraForce series.

Anyway, if this post made you curious to check Shuriken out at any point, you can find most of it available at MyComicShop.com.

Update: Issue #9 DOES exist! https://www.zipcomic.com/shuriken-issue-9

Thinking Critical Interview with Michael Tierney

Michael was on with Wes of Thinking Critical to talk about the closure of his retail fronts and the state the comic industry.

He also confirms that he IS working on the next installments of Wild Stars, which we are planning on serializing next year alongside Paul O’Connor’s Badaxe comic, Jim Breyfogle’s Mongoose & Meerkat, and more!

Now is as good a time as any to support Michael in his transition to being a full-time writer! Catch up on ALL of the Wild Stars in one go in the 35th Anniversary Omnibus or read the Individual Volumes.

Why I Like Duck Comics

I swear that it is a coincidence that I started getting into Duck Comics around the same time as Jon Del Arroz, but now is as good a time as any to get into them.

I always loved Duck Tales as a kid, and rewatching them on DVD as an adult recently, I found they held up really well. Except, maybe for the Gizmoduck stuff, which kinda dragged… I had a few Duck comics as a kid, and I remember I liked them, but I don’t remember anything about them [except that Scrooge sells a steam calliope to a hermit in the mountains]. Haven’t had any in years.

Well, over the last few months, during Covid, to support Michael’s store, I hit the back-issue boxes hard. One of the 50-cent finds was a readable copy of Don Rosa’s Return to Plain Awful. It was a lot of fun! I ended up grabbing one or two others here and there, and enjoyed those as well. Then I started grabbing any I could find at flea markets, because a)they were cheap, b) they were really good!

Duck Comics have been teaching me to abandon a lot of autistic collector habits, like looking for consecutive runs, filling in gaps, worrying about continuity, etc. With one or two exceptions, most of what I have are 70s reprints of 50s stories. The weak cover game on most disney comics was a bit of a hurdle at first [they are almost always generic covers featuring one of the characters against a plain background], but I learned to not worry about it and trust that whatever was inside was good.

One great thing about Duck comics is that, for the most part, each issue has several short stories, each some kind of exciting adventure in a strange or exotic place, or there’s some nutso scheme that Scrooge is trying to pull, or Donald is trying to get a job with disastrous results. The average Duck comic is basically like an issue of The Wide World Magazine, only with Donald or Scrooge instead of some mustachioed British expat.

So, here is a silver-age Duck Comic I picked up at the con for $3 [an amazing find and an amazing bargain, really.]

Image

Weak cover game, right?

The first story is Donald Duck has a snow-mobile and he wants to be a mailman. He’s promised a job, but only as a back-up mailman for if there’s enough mail to go the island in the middle of a frozen lake. So, to help out, his nephews send all sorts of crazy crap in the mail.

Image

Well, the white rats chew their way out and start gnawing the ropes holding all the mail down. Then things go full-on Final Destination as the gas tank gets punctured and lighter falls out.

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Of course, there’s a [somewhat] happy ending–Donald survives and even finds steady employment!

Image

Every multi-page story is about as weird and crazy, but the best part is that they’re unpredictable. The Ducks don’t ‘have to win’ every time. If they’re looking for treasure, sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t. If Donald’s looking for a job, sometimes he gets it, sometimes he doesn’t. If Scrooge has a wild business plan, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. You never really know going into it, so the stories keep you on your toes. The writing is also miles above and beyond contemporary cape comics; it bucks the trend of silver age writing that’s just endless words, narration, and the characters describing what’s happening on top of everything.

Plus, you can take just about any page and you can find shitpost / reaction meme grade material.

In short, read some Duck Comics!

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Central Arkansas Comic Stores Closing Their Doors

It’s with a heavy heart today that I picked up my consignment copies of Cirsova from The Comic Book Store on Treasure Hill Road in Little Rock.

After nearly 40 years, Michael Tierney is closing his shops.

He’s sold his Collectors Edition property on JFK in North Little Rock, the lease is up on The Comic Book Store at the end of this month, and he’s found a buyer for all of his inventory.

While this is very sad for his many loyal customers, in many regards it’s a blessing for Michael who is moving into a highly active retirement. He’ll still be fulfilling comic mail orders for subscribers, engaging in his duties as a city councilman, and working very diligently on his writing. If all goes according to plan, he should have a new Wild Stars novel read for next year among myriad other projects.

If you’re in Central Arkansas, now is the time to swing by his shops before it’s too late.

If you’re not in Central Arkansas but want to support Michael, now would be a great time to check out his Wild Stars series published through Cirsova.

For more information about Michael’s stores, the future of his pullbox customers, the Wild Stars, and more, visit http://thewildstars.com/.

I’ll be at Saline County Comic Expo in Benton, AR over the weekend and will have a handful of Wild Stars stuff with me, including the 1st editions of Wild Stars III. If you stop by and pick some up, be sure to swing by The Comic Book Store on Saturday afternoon, and Michael will sign them for you for free!

Some Thoughts on Retail-Markdowns, Wholesale Rates, Returnability and Comics

The other day, after talking with Michael Tierney about getting into stores as indies, I found myself thinking about my own experience experimenting with “cheap” and returnable product and the Alterna Comics experiment.

These days, I always recommend writers publishing books minimize the retailer markdowns and avoid returnability.

You can set your book at 55% or 30%.

I tell people “Always mark down for as little as you can and still be available for purchase on platforms that people buy books.” Anything else is just handing money to the platform selling your book, and you don’t actually increase orders or sales, because all stores order and stock to market. If you’re returnable, you risk losing your shirt if your books don’t sell and get stripped.

With Alterna Comics, the gimmick, we’ll call it, was that they are incredibly cheap to produce [Alterna prints on newsprint], so they could be offered to retailers at incredibly cheap rates [their SRP is $1.50; wholesale is probably 50 cents]. The problem is, retailers order and stock to market.

Just like Barnes & Noble isn’t going to see that your book is 55% off wholesale or more and say “we’ll order a ton of these and push them because we can order them cheaply!”, comic retailers aren’t going to order a ton of issues to stock just because the SRP is low and it’s “low risk”.

For independent comics, just like independent books, you’re largely looking at a market that serves existing fan niches. Copies are fulfilled when people who want to buy them ask for them to buy, whether it’s through Amazon or through a LCS retailer.

Even shops that go heavy on indies might buy one of any title just to check it out, whether it’s a $1.50 book or a $5 book. But they’ll order as many as people ask for. Just like if my book is only 30% off, Amazon will still order as many as people pre-order.

So, the solution is not to minimize unit costs in ways that appeal to retailers, but to effectively market your product to readers so that they’ll demand it from platforms. And if there’s demand on the platforms, you can charge a reasonable rate that will make you money.

I’d be remiss to leave out at the end of this that the new Cirsova is out through Amazon this week! [Both in softcover and eBook]

Summer Special 2 2020 cover 0.03 Front Only