The horror of the second speculator era of comics

First of all here’s a nice video giving a basic rundown of the first big speculator era back in the 90s.

It was a glorious time for a while. Comics published a day or two ago would be hitting 50 quid and higher by the weekend. Massive amounts of money was spent by speculators and dealers, while publishers pumped out masses and masses of shite, much of it being utterly unreadable.Market went BOOM and overnight dealers and companies were dropping like flies.

Fast forward to 2021 and the market now is bloated with variant covers not to mention speculators pushing the prices of comics to the level where they’re unaffordable to most people. At least in the 90’s a ‘key book; would be expensive but you didn’t have to have a Swiss bank account to look at one. Added to the horror of slabbing comics it means vitally important, major comics will never, ever be read which destroys the purpose of what a comic is. It is to be read, and if you want, collected so you can read it again.

A mix of the Covid pandemic, a lack of conventions/marts and Youtube channels like Comictom101 are pushing this agenda at the expense of the medium. Speculation doesn’t help grow the medium or improve the quality of mainstream comics, or stop creators writing purely for their Netflix deal. It just creates a bubble and that bubble is unsustainable for collectors which is going to be dismal for the industry overall. But yet the bubble grows.

What worries me is the POP when the bubble bursts.The industry as a whole for your mainstream Marvel/DC title is not anywhere near as secure as the 90s, nor are there the same quality of creators, especially now Substack has signed consistantly selling Big Two creators leaving Marvel and DC with not an awful lot. So we shall see, but I dread the worst in a few years time once superhero fatigue kicks in.

The strange politics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

I’m watching What If.. which is enormous fun as it takes the non-canon joy of the original 1970s run of comics and translates it to a new, younger audience. It’s the most fun Marvel have had since they went Emo in the few years around Endgame, and it is nice to see Marvel fully embrace the comics instead of keeping up with the idea they can ‘ground them in reality’ which is bollocks.

What If… is the latest example of the MCU’s exceptionally odd internal politics. For example, at the start of Falcon and Winter Soldier, Sam is working for the American armed forces rescuing soldiers who were doing something dubious in the Middle East but the rest of the series never comes back to that, so we never really deal with the fact that Sam has serious power in this world but yet his family is broke. Unless capitalism collapsed we’re to take this at face value?

Then there’s the Avengers who are essentially a fascist organisation, though they do good we see unchecked power. Now this is a subject Marvel did try to deal with but quickly dropped like a hot potato once it started getting complicated, as is making the likes of Loki a hero even though in the continuity of the TV series he’s got the blood of thousands of New Yorkers on his hands. This is the problem when you take kids power fantasies and throw them into the ‘real world’. You have to then deal with the massive contradictions of having these characters in our world mixed in with the politics of Disney which means everyone also has weird sexless relationships in worlds where even no matter what happens, there’s careful product placement.

What I’m basically saying the Marvel Cinematic Universe may be entertaining, but there’s some strange, sometimes dangerous takes on politics of all kinds and that’s mainly down to not embracing the silliness of the source material or having a studio owner willing to investigate the logical outcomes of this world.

The curious tale of Dan Lee

Stan Lee is dead. His vague lookalike, Dan Lee is not and you can get his autograph at a show in Florida.

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Yes, that’s right. You can get Dan Lee’s sig easily as he’s not dead.

Dan Lee Is The Stan Lee Lookalike Appearing At A Comic Con Near You

There’s nothing illegal here going on, but it is pushing the limits of what is acceptable however the fact is Dan Lee (the not dead one) will be easier to get an autograph than Stan Lee (the dead one) if you’re really into having things signed by someone essentially cosplaying at someone who was famous.

It is just on the right side of being a con, it’s just I hope there’s someone out there called Zack Kirby who feels the need to make a few quid on the side.

The theft of Jack Kirby

Most comics fans with even a passing interest in the medium and its history will be aware of how badly the industry has suffered from people stealing original art from publishers and selling it to collectors. The most famous case being that of Jack Kirby who throughout his career must have seen hundreds of pages ‘vanish’ only to have them reappear on the secondary market. There’s an excellent blog here detailing the issue, and it is one which a number of people really, really, really fucking hate talking about for all the reasons in the world popping in your head right now.

Jack Kirby original art for Captain America #197 | Jack kirby art, Jack  kirby, Kirby

There was a few conventions in the 90’s in London where dealers from the US would have piles of art from the likes of Kirby, plus Neal Adams, Gil Kane, Steranko, and loads more for not insane prices compared with what any of those pages would go for today. The feeling at the time was many of these pages were stolen, or passed on from the original theif as after all, this was a goldmine of comics history being sold for a bargain. Just what you’d do if you want to shift hot goods quickly.

As mentioned before, this is barely spoken about because it involves picking a scab and what might come from it isn’t good. We know some artists,writers, editors (I’m not naming names, but the likes of Howard Chaykin have often over the years) and all and sundry would help themselves (struggling with rent? Grab a few pages, sell them to collectors and you’re back on track) so when Kirby had his art returned to him by Marvel, hundreds of pages ere missing. Other artists have seen pages for sale that they were told was lost while every now and then you’ll hear rumours of a black market of art thought lost but being traded by rich collectors. There’s a serious business now in collecting original art, and as everything is a one of a kind, there’s the fact it’ll never be replaced so next time you see a load of art on sale wonder where exactly that art came from and also ask if the artist/s are getting a penny from it?

Cancelling Frank Miller

If you ask people one of those who changed how comics are seen as a medium since the 1980s then Frank Miller is going to be high on the list of names given as his Daredevil work for Marvel, then Dark Knight and Batman Year One for DC being given as examples. Dark Knight is one of the best selling mainstream comics of all time. Also people may mention Sin City or 300, but Miller from 1980 through to the late 90s produced a body of work few creators since have matched let alone got near.

Since the late 90s his work has been, well, sketchy. After watching his hometown being attacked on 911 he appears to have went off the rails a tad, but if you’ve had to live by breathing air containing soot, smoke and atomised human then perhaps the horror of that day might have got to you. All of that does not excuse Holy Terror, a thinly vieled Batman booked where he tortures and kills a lot of stereotypical Muslim terrorists in a work that is toxic, angry, awful and unforgiveable all at once.

Holy Terror (graphic novel) - Wikipedia

It’s a work which really shouldn’t exist. Miller in more recent years seems not exactly proud of it, even apologetic for it, which to be honest he should be because it is every bit as terrible as it sounds.

Anyhow, Miller has turned his hand to helping make average comics for DC these days but his part in making comics what they are today is untouched, so as a guest at a comic convention you’d expect Miller to be not just a huge draw but to go down well? Not in the case of Thought Bubble, who’d invited Miller over as guest, who announced today that he was no longer coming due to complaints from other creators who felt ‘unsafe’ had he been present. The full story is here at Bleeding Cool.

The idea that Miller being in the same area is essentially making the area ‘unsafe’ would hold water if after Holy Terror he’d carried on producing the same sort of work, which he didn’t. If anything it provides an opportunity to discuss the book with Miller in a way that hasn’t been done publicly. Instead a boycott is threatened, the organisers back off some people feel worthy, and nobody learns anything. There’s no sign that people change or contain a complex set of thoughts and feelings, good and bad. Instead it’s do right or do one, and if you don’t like it the hive will come after you.

Life is about living with different types of people of a variety of different opinions and thoughts. Sure, fuck full on actual racists but I don’t beleive Miller is one, and it would have been fascinating to see someone who has fought hard for free speech and against censorship in comics to discuss this with people in a con setting.

Miniver Cheevy: Frank Miller on the Comics Code Authority

So instead we get this. Thought Bubble were in a no win situation, neither was Miller, but the organisers of the boycott feel like they’ve won a victory but it’s a sad time for the UK comics scene when a creator as important as Miller to the mediums history is ‘cancelled’ like this. The only shining light is that if one sets themselves up as morally pure then they’d better be careful not to drop these standards or do something others might find offensive or they’ll be the purity guard after them. This sort of rightous authoritarianism always leads to a bad place.

And next year Thought Bubble should book Howard Chaykin just to fuck all the right people off.

What I thought of Black Widow

The main thing I thought about this film is that it is at least five years too late, not because Marvel dragged their feet in releasing a female led film before 2019’s meh Captain Marvel, but because narratively it serves a few purposes, few of which deals with Scarlett Johansson’s character who is dead in the ongoing soap opera of the MCU.

It does however tease a trilogy of Bondian spy thrillers we could have had over the last decade, in which we’ve had two very meh Ant Man films, a terrible Spider Man film and Thor: The Dark World. Instead we have a film with a paper thin plot designed to introduce Florence Pugh’s new Black Widow, Yelena Belova. This bit works wonderfully as Pugh nails the mix of seriousness and self-mockery needed as the MCU spends god knows how many films and TV series setting up the next Avengers film so Black Widow serves a purpose for that. Otherwise things are pretty average with the scenes of Nat’s ‘family’ being the highlights.

The problem is the Marvel films work on action scenes years before a film is made or a director or writer is brought on board, so we end up with uneven films like this where we have a family drama play out one minute, then ten minutes later a CGI Black Widow is dancing on debris falling from a exploding secret base in the sky. The action scenes are becoming increasingly detatched from helping tell a story, or in the case of Marvel’s TV shows, they’ve been filmed to look like arse.

But everything is building up again though I’m still not sure the Marvel films are going to have the crossover appeal in the future. Sure they’ll still make gazillions, but Endgame for many people was it. Will enough people care about Shang Chi or The Eternals to push the MCU on? Time will tell.

So Black Widow is perfectly fine, uninspiring fare with some great performances (let us not speak of Ray Winstone) plucked out of a poor script which is all there to introduce a new character for the next decade of the MCU. Job done I suppose.

Come to sunny Paisley this weekend and buy comics!

The comics marts are coming thick and fast now, with this time the sunlight land of Paisley welcoming us all to the town for a comic (and toys, etc)at the Paisley Centre. Lots and lots of wonderful comics will be getting sold, so get yourselves down and give me your money!

BGCP Comic and Toy Market Tour: Paisley

Come buy comics from me at the Rutherglen comic con

Next up in the new socially distanced world of comic conventions is Rutherglen, this Saturday the 19th at 10am, finishing at 4pm in the Rutherglen Exchange Shopping Centre.

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After the last show I’ve decided a more trimmed down display works just as well as dragging 30 boxes around for a one-day show, plus the trimmed down display made me as much money for a small show. Just got to get the right stuff, so come along this Saturday and see just what I’ve got in store for you…

Comic cons are back, sort of…

Last weekend I set up shop in sunny Cambuslang for the first comic con/mart since Feburary 2020, and in this case it was in the socially distanced spaces of the shopping centre which from my view over the weekend is set in 1985.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting much though I had a minium amount I needed to take to make it worthwhile, and I couldn’t take watching mates hump 20 odd boxes up and down stairs so I trimmed down stock to a minimal amount (eight boxes and a couple of back ups) for the weekend.

Lo and behold things were busy, surprisingly so for what was a small town show, not to mention most of Scotland is in Level 2 Covid restrictions which meant a lot of people will still be inside, however the weather was splendid and people did turn out. One of the things I was worried about was how Covid had affected the market and in this outing, it seems that collectors are coming out of lockdown looking to spend money so I was selling some insane stuff, including stuff I’ve lugged around for years. The Sunday was excellent and that’s the worst day normally.

But the event was more about breaking myself back into the world not to mention learning how to stand again without feeling like jelly. Today I feel like I’ve been beaten up but in a good way.

So one down, Rutherglen is next up…

When comic book speculators get scammed…

I have an odd relationship with speculators in that I don’t mind them buying my stuff, but I do have issues with the larger speculators who are inflating a bubble so alike the 90s one that when it bursts will be the first ones crying they have tens of thousands of comics, many slabbed, worth vastly less than what they paid for them.

Take as an example Comictom on Youtube. In the video below be details how he was scammed because he was buying a slabbed copy of Wolverine #1 from 1988 for $1000. This is a book which sells for 40-50 quid. He says he paid this money to stop himself missing out when the boom hits (which I’ve done, and indeed, still do) but I don’t inflate the market by spending so much over the odds.

I should feel sorry for him but I can’t. This sort of rampant stupidity sees comics priced out of the range of the average collector and takes an artform meant to be read into just another rich person’s way to ‘invest’ their money by inflating the market. This means for most new collectors the idea of owning a decent run of silver let alone bronze age is next to nothing which means the actual next generation of fans could be put off the medium because it costs too fucking much just to buy what used to be average or low value comics.

We have a responsiblity to ensure the hobby and the medium continues and it won’t if people are daft enough to pay a grand for a comic worth 50 quid!