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Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

On the TV, me and nellorat

July 24th, 2014 (08:44 pm)
current mood: comical
current song: "Don't Change", INXS

While we were gone at DetCon1, I got an e-mail from Drew Breese Beebe, a reporter at Bloomberg TV, who had been assigned to do an article on comics to tie in with Comic-Con International (aka the Sandy Eggo Comic-Con). He had come across my name in a Bloomberg Business Week article from last year about comics fans my age discovering that their collections were, in fact, almost worthless. He wanted to do a piece about comics collecting, with some discussion of the financial aspects but ranging over as many subjects as I felt comfortable discussing.

Given that I am an attention whore whose primary mode of discourse is the lecture, I was happy to oblige, so Tuesday night we rendezvoused at Carmine Street Comics, my Friendly Neighborhood Comics Shop and the store that has the portion of our collection that is for sale. We talked and filmed for about 4 hours, at Carmine Street, in his car, and within Valentine's Castle. Most of the discussion at home was me solo in my study, but nellorat joined us in the basement to show off the comics-filled filing cabinets.

I will confess that I had some fear of being made ridiculous (well, more ridiculous than usual), but Drew called back on Wednesday with a follow-up question about the collapse of the industry in 1994-95 that he would only have asked if he were serious about the subject.

The piece went live on Bloomberg TV this morning and I'm very impressed at how it came out. It's really well-edited, both in the sense of finding many of my most interesting and concise statements and in the juxtapositions of words and image when it's not just my talking head.

nellorat points out that the article doesn't convey the degree to which we are also drowning in books, fanzines, stuffed toys, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, though he did manage to work in a reference to the ratties!

Go, enjoy.

Footnotes: It is in fact very unlikely that I have spent $100,000 (net) on comics, even if you lump in things like traveling to comics conventions. However, the figure is closer to $100K than I care to admit. Of course, we moved to New York so that I could pursue a job in comics which never materialized; that cost quite a lot of money. Deathmate, which triggered the collapse of the comics industry in the 1990s, finished in early 1994; the Marvel bankruptcy was about 2 years later, not quite as immediately as I implied. I did not woo nellorat with Swamp Thing; she had rediscovered that on her own (though I did, many moons later, get her a copy of #20, Alan Moore's first issue, which precedes "The Anatomy Lesson").

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the publication of the first Batman story

July 23rd, 2014 (10:27 pm)

current location: Park Row, Gotham
current mood: hopeful
current song: "Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)", Tom Waits

I remember nellorat once saying words to the effect of, “Christianity would be much better if it focused on the image of La Pietà instead of obsessing on the Crucifixion.”

I feel the same way about “There Is No Hope in Crime Alley” vis-à-vis The Dark Knight Returns.

Happy Batman day, Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff, Denny O’Neil and Dick Giordano, for all we, the superstitious and cowardly lot.

(This is not the most pretentious thing I have ever written about comics.)

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Stuff to read on Marvel Unlimited

July 17th, 2014 (11:54 pm)
current location: Detroit, for Detcon1
current mood: comical

Marvel Unlimited is Marvel's subscription-based digital comics service. It has an astonishing range of back issues available (as well as more recent issues) in an all-you-can-eat format.

What are the indispensable runs at Marvel? In rough order of importance, here are my top 10:

  • Ditko/Lee: Amazing Spider-Man #1-38, Annual #1
  • Kirby/Lee: Fantastic Four #1-51, Annual #1-2
  • Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne: X-Men, Giant-Sized #1, #94-150.
  • Gerber/Brunner/Colan: Howard the Duck #1-27, #29, Annual #1, and the 2 short stories from Giant-Sized Man-Thing #4 and #5
  • Simonson (w/Buscema): Thor #337-372
  • Starlin's Warlock: Strange Tales #178-181, Warlock #9-15, Avengers Annual #7, Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2
  • Englehart/Brown et al.: Avengers #105-141, Giant-Size Avengers #2-4
  • Miller (w/Jansen) Daredevil #168-191
  • Steranko's Nick Fury: Strange Tales #151-168, Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D #1-5,
  • Priest/various artists, Black Panther #1-62

(I'm trying not to repeat characters or creators or else easy inclusions would be Ditko/Lee's Doctor Strange in Strange Tales; Gerber's Defenders and Man-Thing; Stern/Romita's Amazing Spider-Man; or Lee/Romita's Amazing Spider-Man. I'm also very partial to Peter Gillis's run on Doctor Strange, which spanned the final issues of the first Dr. Strange series, the 1980s Strange Tales split-book, and the first few issues of the second Dr Strange series. The Moench/Gulacy/Day/et al. Master of Kung Fu absolutely should be in the list, but it's not available through Marvel Unlimited.)

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Best Graphic Novel Hugo suggestions for 2013

March 30th, 2014 (12:37 am)
current mood: wore out
current song: "I Shall Be Released", Bob Dylan

I'm sure I'm the last person to prepare a nominating ballot, but here are 19 18 sf/f/h comics stories that were completed in 2013 that I suggest to your memory:

Alabaster: Wolves, Caitlin Kiernan & Steve Lieber
Archer & Armstrong: Far Faraway, Fred Van Lente & Pere Perez
BEDLAM vol. 1, Nick Spencer & Riley Rossmo
Chew: Bad Apples, John Layman & Rob Guillory
Colder, Paul Tobin & Juan Ferreyra
Dial H: Exchange, China Mieville & Mateus Santolouco
Doctor Who: The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who, Paul Cornell & Jimmy Broxton
Empowered Volume 8, Adam Warren
Glory: War Torn, Joe Keatinge & Ross Campbell
Leaving Megalopolis, Gail Simone & Joe Califiore
Locke and Key: Alpha and Omega, Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
Mind MGMT: The Futurist, Matt Kindt
Morning Glories Season 1, Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma
Prophet: Empire, Brandon Graham & Simon Roy
Saucer Country: The Reticulan Candidate, Paul Cornell & Ryan Kelly
Storm Dogs, David Hine & Doug Braithwaite
Uber vol. 1, Kieron Gillen & Canaan White
Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship that Sank Twice, Michael Carey & Peter Gross
You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, Tom Gauld

(The Tom Gauld is actually a collection of single-page cartoons, but I'm pretty sure it still qualifies.)

ETA: I forgot about the Doctor Who comic because, although it came out on December 31, I didn't read it until the following week; thus it wasn't in my list of comics I read in 2013.

ETA again: I guess the Gauld isn't a "story" in any meaningful sense, so I'm nominating it for "Related Work" instead.

Going to be tough narrowing that down to 5.

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Also, NYRSF 300

August 27th, 2013 (10:22 pm)
current mood: giftish
current song: "I'm Free", The Who

We made it to issue 300, which is available free at our online publisher Weightless Books. Go get a copy, and please spread the word. Thanks!

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Texas, so far

August 27th, 2013 (10:18 pm)
current mood: traveled
current song: "The Bullet & Big D", Bishop Allen

My grandmother had a younger brother, Manny, who (with his lovely wife Katrina) had seven children. Five of my cousins* live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and have been asking me to come visit them for, I exaggerate not at all, 27 years. Well, I'm finally here.

*Strictly speaking, they are my first-cousins-once-removed, but screw that. Cousins it is.

I am staying with cousin Wanda and her husband Ken in Southlake; they took me out for some superb BBQ at Feedstore BBQ on South White Chapel Blvd, which apparently really was a feed store that sold BBQ on the side until they realized where their strengths really lay. The ribs are among the best BBQ ribs I've ever had, and the fries and fried okra were very strong as well.

Today, my cousin Sylvia and her husband Roy took me to the one tourist attraction I really was not going to miss: Dealey Plaza. We spent about 15 minutes walking the site--the locations of the limousine on Elm Street are helpfully marked with Xs, and there were information hobos helpfully pointing out interesting things like the rail switching tower from which Lee Bowers thought he saw smoke behind the wall atop the Grassy Knoll. I stood by the pylon from which Zapruder made his film and realized that if someone HAD been shooting from there, he would have had to have known--he was, like, 5 feet away from the wall himself. So that was informative. Then we took the tour of the Sixth Floor Museum, which was surprisingly great. Besides the thrill of morbid authenticity of seeing the sniper's nest and the approximate view a shooter there would have had (you can't look out sniper's window, but you can look out an adjacent one), the museum itself is an extremely well-made JFK retrospective, covering his entire life, death, and legacy as well as the rounds of examination of the assassination. Display objects are well-chosen (e.g., cameras like those carried by the various witnesses; actual teletype rolls); the descriptions on the objects are well-written and fair; there are several extremely good short films on the subjects.

The exhibit doesn't flinch from the assassination; in one of the best pieces of the museum, a short hallway has stills from the Zapruder film on one wall and stills from another film from a reverse angle on the opposite wall. (I think this is the Nix film.) The exhibit presents a wide variety of alternate interpretations respectfully, if briefly. All in all, time and money very well-spent, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to one and all.

Tomorrow we are going to Fort Worth's landmark Mexican restaurant Joe T. Garcia's, and then I'm taking a bus to Austin. I'll be there overnight and then head down to San Antonio on Thursday for Worldcon.

My cousins are wonderful hosts, and it has been great spending many uninterrupted hours in their company, getting more of a sense of them as individuals. I highly recommend sharing ancestors with them.

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

A note about the first Iron Man film

July 9th, 2013 (12:15 am)
current mood: why am I up this late?
current song: "Particle Man", TMBG

While writing a long comment to Marc Singer's very perceptive short essay on Man of Steel, I made this aside:

The first Iron Man movie made me realize that I have exhausted my tolerance for superhero stories where the good guy wins just by being a little more gooder, or more strongerer, or because the story has to be shaped that way.

Note that Singer's essay and my comments both have some discussion of significant plot surprises for MoS.

To elaborate on that aside (massive spoilers ahead for Iron Man):

In Iron Man, the big fight has two climaxes: Tony Stark leads Obadiah Stane into the stratosphere, where Stane's suit ices up, an established problem with the early generation of the suits. Stane appears to die, but shockingly surprises Tony on the ground; Tony manages to fuddle his way through the fight until Pepper blows up the rooftop reactor at Stark Industries, killing Stane and nearly killing Tony.

The script gets the two climaxes of the fight scene in exactly the wrong order. Blowing up the reactor should have come first, with Stark and Stane miraculously both barely surviving with badly damaged armor. THEN Stark should have lead the chase into to the stratosphere that iced up Stane's suit; Stane falls, inferior suit shatters, Stane dies. Stark could even try to save Stane as he falls, but oops, the fight has left his suit so badly damaged that he just can't catch him. In this ordering of events, Stark wins by virtue of his defining trait--he's the best inventor in the world--and Stane dies of his own malice.

By the way, I'm still alive and posting frequently on Twitter. (@womzilla).

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Another Medical "Vacation"

April 27th, 2013 (04:32 pm)
current mood: still somewhat sore, but better
current song: "Still Alive", Jonathan Coulton & Sarah Gavin

Last Friday, I started noticing occasional pain in my left ribcage and shortness of breath. For reasons I've explained at length before, these are worrying symptoms, but they were so intermittent that I didn't reach the obvious conclusion. I was also occasionally coughing.

Well. By Wednesday evening, the pain and the shortness of breath were much more undeniable and were accompanied by thoughts of impending doom--the embolism trifecta. So when I got home--after a very uncomfortable train ride from Grand Central--I informed supergee & nellorat that I needed to go to the emergency room. I had intended to drive myself, but Nellorat said, "Call an ambulance--I'm not going to have you stopping breathing on the way."

The ambulance was there pretty quickly. I walked in, laid down on the stretcher, and they gave me oxygen and asked me questions. The key question, that hadn't occurred to me, was "Does it hurt when I touch you here?"--with "here" being a muscle group immediately to the left of my left nipple. Holy shit, did it ever! And it was clearly muscle pain, not pain within the lung. Which, frankly, solved the entire question, as far as I was concerned.

On Monday last (April 15), my ear/nose/throat doctor gave me a steroid shot in the hope that it would reduce my allergic response. I'm strongly allergic to aspergillum mold and mildly allergic to rat urine. The injection was quick and painless, but I've been sore at the injection site, my left triceps, ever since.

What I hadn't realized was that the pain was spreading to other muscles on my left side, especially in the shoulder and the chest. When the EMT touched the muscle (pretty sure it's the pectoralis major), he made me realize exactly how much pain I was carrying through the surface. I was in pain, yes, and breathing shallowly as a result.

But by that point, I had started down the ER path, and it wasn't really possible to step off. N. met me at the hospital, for which I'm eternally grateful. I was checked in, put on a bed in a hallway, and then basically ignored until midnight, at which point I told N. to go home, since it was clear that no one, including me, thought I was in any real danger. The night dragged on; there were several screaming children over the course of my stay, and I can barely even recreate how horrible it must be to be in screaming pain and too young to communicate about it. But at least the screaming covered up any snoring I engaged in as I dozed on my hallway bed.

I eventually got an ultrasound reading on my legs and (far later) a CAT scan with iodine contrast, pretty much the same diagnostics I got during my last embolism scare. There was absolutely no sign of unwanted clotting, so I was finally released around 5:30 AM on Thursday with a prescription of "take a lot of Naproxen right now and then a lot of ibuprofen over the next few days while the pain persists."

Lessons learned:

A) Steroid shots: don't just blindly accept them.
B) If possible, don't go to an ER in the evening.
C) If I think I have an embolism, tell them to do a full-body CAT rather than letting them waste time with an ultrasound. If there's a clot in my legs, the CAT will find it.
D) Bring a mass-market paperback rather than a heavy trade paperback. My left arm was very sore from the muscle problems, my right arm was sore from the IV, and my phone battery ran low long before I was sent home, so I had nothing to read for long periods.
E) Everyone should have a pussycat to keep them company. Oh, wait, I knew that one already.
F) I am so glad I have health insurance. I hate living in a country where that's an issue.

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Food at work: An IM exchange

April 7th, 2013 (02:45 pm)
current mood: not hungry, but mmm, onions
current song: "Je Cherche un Homme", Eartha Kitt

Because of attrition at my office, I work some distance from anyone else on my floor. However, my cubicle is immediately adjacent to the door from the equities trading floor. So, every now and then, one or another trader will stop and look over the wall to find out what I'm eating that smells so damn delicious.

Last week, after one particular trader had expressed delight in the smell of my fajita, I had this conversation with her over instant message:

kjmaroney: I realized today that the meals that I eat that are most likely to make you stop and say, "Wow, that smells good!"...
kjmaroney: are basically fried onions with hot sauce on them
kjmaroney: burrito/fajita bowl, greek truck gyro....
jaci: oh shoot thats true
jaci: i was going to say something w/hispanic flair
kjmaroney: sounds like the perfect meal, actually
jaci: w/some rice! mmmmm 100% agree
kjmaroney: Who should I talk to about doing an IPO for my new francise HOT MEATY ONION SHOPPE?
jaci: we should start a food truck just called 'MEAT WITH HEAT'
jaci: ticker MEAT
kjmaroney: I think that we've just written the only prospectus it needs
jaci: we're on to something here

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Price points and comics Kickstarters

April 2nd, 2013 (10:39 pm)
current mood: tired and apparently a bit cranky
current song: "To The End of the Day", The Kinks

Here's a comics Kickstarter project that showed up on The Comics Beat today. It looks like an interesting project--pretty colored pencil work with a decent visual storytelling sense.

I doubt I'll be backing it.

Most of the Kickstarter projects I back are games, comics, or books. The books and games I back are almost always competitively priced with professional publications--because a lot of them are professional publications, from established companies using KS as a risk mitigator, or from new companies that have really thought through the business implications. Books likewise.

Comics, though--it really seems like the prices are chosen by "I'd like to make $X on this comic, let's just set the price wherever we want and hope for the best."

I groused a few days ago about how overpriced many comics Kickstarters are. This one--Elysia--looks like a poster-child for that. #25 ($38) plus #8 ($12) shipping for a 100-page, magazine-format, paperback color GN? That's INSANE, even before you take into account the fact that the creators are receiving approximately 90% of the cover price as opposed to the 50-60% they'd be receiving if they went through a distributor--in other words, they're making as much per copy as if it were an $55 book.

I don't expect a small press to be able to compete with the economies of scale available to Image or Dark Horse, let alone Marvel or DC. But an original 100-page color GN from Dark Horse would cost in the $25-30 range, and they aren't getting paid up front!

How do these prices make any sense at all?

Well, as I write this, Elysia is about 75% of the way to funding. Only 112 people have backed packages that concentrate on the comics themselves; about half of the funds come from another 14 buyers who have backed packages that include custom art, original art, Tuckerization, or a full customized story. (This is the big Magilla--at #5000, this one customer constitutes one-third of the funding so far.) The low-end rewards are for digital editions, which come closer to reasonable pricing, at #10 ($15) for the 100-page first chapter.

Maybe that's the problem? They're pricing the PDF high enough to not completely undercut the possibility of paper sales, but then they have to price the paper versions even higher because of the substantial printing costs, which leads to them leapfrogging themselves out of price competitiveness. But still, it's just too much money.

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