Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mortar Combat

The comic shop, as we know it, is a strong and mighty thing.

So was the record industry. And much like the record industry, digital downloading threatens to take a substantial bite out of the industry pie.

We've heard the arguments:

"Comics cost too much."

"They're doing too many crossovers. Who can afford to keep up with them all."

"Comics haven't been very good lately. Why should I pay for something I may not want?"

Sure, alot of the blame could and SHOULD lay at the feet of the comics publisher but you know what? I've never published a comic so I can only talk about what I know: selling comics in a comic book store.

With bookstores, online subscription services and digital downloading more prevalent, the comics shop as we know it, is on notice and doesn't seem to know or care.

I think the idea of the comics shop needs a lot of tweaking. Too many comic shop owners hold onto a model of “If we open the doors, people will come in.” Maybe they will but can you make them WANT to stay? Only in the comic book business model does the usually customer EXPECT to get “fair” to “middling” service on a weekly basis. Too many comics shops run like extensions of an owner's basement. Televisions blaring, product remaining unorganized, their friends hanging out. You walk in and usually you're asked if you can be helped, all said in a way that infers they'd rather be doing anything but. This is no way to run a business. The brick and mortar experience, in some stores, isn't anything you'd want to experience. In order to combat this, here's my advice to any comic shop wanting to do better:


You sell other's ideas, some of these ideas have been done to death. There's nothing you can do about that. All of the other comic shops have access to the same Previews order forms and the same product that you do. There will never be anything you can do about it.

You can't change the product so here's what you do:

You change the customer.

You have them expect SERVICE.

You bother to memorize their names. They walk in having CHOSEN to do business with you. This is what you call a “business relationship.” Box numbers are for soapbox racers, not customers.

Greet them as they walk in. You don't know what type of day this person is having. Your store should be their own little “Fortress of Solitude” each and every time they walk through the door. Don't kill that buzz, encourage it. Treat your shop as a their haven. This is how you keep a customer by building community and reputation one customer at a time. Encourage that.

Keep in mind that with your actions, the first time someone walks into a comics shop could be their last time. You don't want to be the cause of that.

Make yourself obsolete. When I say this, I don't mean it in the sense of, "Fire yourself." No, train your employees. Train them to be knowledgeable. Don't keep them ignorant. Enable them. Encourage them. A good employee will work as hard while you're gone as they would when you're there. The greatest compliment I ever got was from a customer who called to let me know he didn't know I was on vacation.

If I request something, don't give me an "I don't know." Any business that follows that up with a "...but let me find out for you," will likely keep me as a customer.

Order as if you were a new customer. This should be a no-brainer but keep comics & trades in stock. Don't think that because someone bought DC: The New Frontier Volume One your job's done. Ask yourself, while you're waiting for that person to come back and purchase Volume Two, did you lose a new customer by not re-ordering Vol. One?

Don't arrange your sections according to some sort of logic that only you can understand. Alphabetically by book title usually works for me.

Be quick to make it right. Screw-ups happen. Diamond may have screwed up your order but you know what? The customer really doesn't care. Instead of making excuses, make it right. Do whatever you need to do remind that customer why they chose your business in the first place.

Try to order a few titles outside of your comfort zone. Not everyone's in love with superheroes. Stock your store as if you were a customer on the hunt for something new and exciting. Treat your store as if it were a treasure chest. Try a new Oni Press title every once in a while. If it doesn't sell, lesson learned. There is no sweeter sound than a customer shocked that "They have this!?"

Have a favorite title? Try and keep it that way. Books get canceled due to low sales. Sell a book as if its life depended on it. When I worked at a certain place, I would scream from the rafters the glories of Blue Beetle, Local and Manhunter, we took our numbers from single digits to doing “mid-tier” X-Men title numbers. All on word of mouth. Use your words to sell your comics.

Always remember that your doors literally open to some of the greatest stories ever told. Under your roof, gods battle for control of the universe, redheaded teenagers in their 70's stay young and alive, aliens invade on a weekly basis, animals stand upright and do whatever it takes to make you laugh, Superman fights “The Never-Ending Battle,” crime wars are waged on top of rooftops and giant typewriters and stories about ordinary lives thrown into extraordinary circumstances unfold on the comics page.

These are the things an online subscription service can't offer the consumer, that sense of adrenaline you can feel on a new glorious Wednesday. This is the thing only you can offer them.

A "New Comics Day!"

If the idea of that doesn't excite you then, man... you're in the wrong business.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Getting To Know...Us: The Anwers pt. 2

So here it is - part two!!

What's the worst ending to a comic book series ever? Including mini, maxi, and open-ended series?

JC: Civil War #7. Like that was the first time Cap noticed collateral fucking damage? Christ.

DS: Civil War #7. Captain America gave up because the civil service turned against him, my ass.

BH: Again, it is hard to come up with a something terrible. I will say that I was wholly disappointed with the recent Action Comics Annual. With the series having progressed so far and Chris Kent back in his adoptive parents’ arms, the ending felt out of place and lame. They should have just left it in the can.

MP: Countdown. It wasn't counting down to anything.

"What happened?"

DS: Are we talking about “What happened, happened?”

I'm going to remain a gentleman and simply say that things didn't work out. I would have liked to stay but it wasn't meant to be. Hindsight being what it is, I'm grateful for the experience. I have a quality of life now I couldn't have had had I stayed. Others may have gotten the house but in a sense, I got to keep the kids.

BH: First, my Mom and my Dad met because she was my older brother’s teacher. Hmm, this could take a while. So let’s fast forward. Now I am sitting in my boxers writing answers to these questions.

JC: Devon beat a nun to death on the steps of a church, I don't know.

MP: I wouldn't know. I'm kind of an A-Hole.

DC's recent handling of Kirby: Homage or Hubris?

MP: Homage. Even if the writing hasn't been great, the intent is to honor, not to defame. Besides, Morrison's Seven Soldiers was pretty awesome, and that excuses a lot.

BH: You know what homage sounds like? Fromage – man, I love cheese.

DS: Morrison on New Gods is a definite homage. That is what he does, after all.

JC: I stopped reading Countdown and all attached to it a long time gone; I gather they killed the New Gods so as to replace them with Morrison versions thereof - that's probably an okay idea. Digging up Kamandi and OMAC is more silly than anything. It'd be an homage if they didn't, like, own all the stuff he did and hubris if... actually, I'm not a hundred percent on what they could do with it so as to constitute hubris.

This last year of comics... what's up with that?

BH: When I was in sixth grade I hit myself in the face with a metal pole. You know, gripped it like a baseball bat and cracked it into my forehead. As joke, I might add. That was what the last year of comics has been like.

JC: DC totally lost me and Marvel either got way more interesting or I got way more desperate.

DS: Somewhere along the line the companies realized they can keep getting your money through weekly comics and big, dumb events that go nowhere. As the numbers bear out, we let them and they continued to do so. We have no one but ourselves to blame.

MP: The good has been good and the bad has been bad. But if you'd asked me a year ago what my favorite books would be in a year, I never would've said "Blue Beetle" and "Booster Gold."

This next year of comics... will it make up for it?

DS: I truly don't know. Comics themselves seem to be going to this place where there can be no middle ground. Either you're with it or against it. I'm anxious to see what Final Crisis brings as I think it'll truly be a defining moment in a lot of customers' future comics buying habits.

JC: Secret Invasion's been fun so far. Final Crisis will more than likely be... frequently late, I guess, but it should be an interesting ride. I'm too much of a cynic to guess right now, but DC's going to have to throw me up a Hail Mary to get me back on their boat. That was a massively mixed metaphor.

MP: I know everybody's on about Invasion and Crisis. But Terry Moore's Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane mini has me giddy like a schoolperson.

BH: In this year we have already had Blue Beetle #25, Immortal Iron Fist #13, Checkmate #25, some really great tie-ins for Secret Invasion, and one month of amazing lead-ups to Final Crisis. I am not big on counting chickens but I am going to say yes.

Which of the big two is doing it better as of this writing?

JC: Well, Hell; should've read 'em all before answering. Marvel.

DS: Marvel. From the films to the comics, they just seem to know exactly what their fanbase wants, whether know they even it themselves. DC has more diversity with Vertigo, Minx & Jonny DC lines but the output from there hasn't been exactly burning the roof off the mothersucker lately. And, as far as the movies go, well... enjoy The Dark Knight 'cause that's all you're getting for a while.

BH: Can my answer be neither? I think for the best writing you have to turn to the smaller presses like Oni. It is the smaller presses that don’t have years of expectations and millions and millions of dollars riding on a comic that allow them the freedom to tell truly inspiring stories. Not that you can’t great writing from the big two, it is just more of good writing within a standard as opposed to just great writing within the comic medium.

I guess that doesn’t really answer the question. So I am going to say DC because I am a loyalist.

MP: DC... they may have hung themselves with Countdown, but they have so many books that fly under the radar that are really solid right now (see also: Birds of Prey, Supergirl).

When is the Second Printing Podcast starting? When it happens will you get use than one microphone?

MP: That reminds me of the time we were podcasting, and Jon Carey was like "Here's the microphone" and I put my hand around it and then I was like "Whoa, that's not the microphone," and then Carey was like "I know..." and then... what was the question?

BH: A Second Printing Podcast is not in the works. Frankly, we can’t afford the equipment. I know we could do it for super cheap but we’ve tried that before and it sounded terrible. The idea of buying the stuff has been batted but we are not ready to make a full swing yet. Let’s get a couple of months of good blog work under our belts.

JC: Buy us some recording equipment, and we'll talk.

DS: I know where there's a $300 mixing board collecting dust. So...

Which character in Fiction do you most identify with?

DS: Hawkman. I'm smart, shirtless a lot and like to hit things.

BH: Flounder from The Little Mermaid. I am a stout, short, and sort of a moron. I have no beef with it though.

JC: John Yossarian, probably.

MP: Probably the annoying redheaded kid from the Mighty Ducks.

Which do you wish you were more like?

BH: Mary Anne from "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel". That steam shovel might not have been the fastest or the most modern but she had gumption and just kept digging. That’s all I aspire to – just keep going.

MP: Hulk. I've always wanted to smash.

DS: Superman. One of his greatest gifts is patience. I have none.

JC: Captain America. Why not?

What's your superhero name?

MP: Hmmm... I think it would be fun to be called Dough Boy, but I don't know what my powers would be.

BH: I was going to say The Amazing All-You-Can-Eat but then my wife said that made me, “Sound like a huge comic nerd.” So I am going to say The Narcoleptic.

JC: I once had a dream that I was a speedster named The Pedestrian. We'll go with that.

DS: I think I was born with one, actually. “Agent of S.H.E. I. L.D” sounds pretty good behind Devon Sanders, don't you think?

Most improved character of recent history?

DS: Immortal Iron Fist. Proof positive that every character, no matter how worn or dated, has stories left to tell.

BH: Sinestro.

JC: Nova.

MP: Supergirl

Most tarnished character of recent history?

BH: Bishop. That is the thorn in my paw right now.

DS: Nightwing, the fact that writers and editors don't know what to do with arguably, the fourth most important hero in the DC Universe, just disgusts me. Although, current writer Peter Tomasi is definitely on the right track.

JC: Iron Man was getting pretty hosed in every book but his own for a while, there, but they've been making him less Satan-y of late.

MP: Not a character so much but I think the overall brand of the Justice League is in the tubes thanks to the weak sauce they put out after Infinite Crisis and One Year Later.

How do you each combat the so-called "humans" among us who try to persuade you that only small children and the deeply retarded read comic books?

JC: Christ, dude, I watch pro wrestling. Comics are the least of my problems.

BH: Dress nicely and stay well groomed. For real, I mean it. It is hard for anyone to talk shit about your pastimes and hobbies if you are decked out to the nines and your hair and stuff isn’t all jacked up. As I sport jeans with holes in them and stained T-shirts I can’t speak from it personally. But I have seen the look of, “Huh, maybe I am wrong” on people’s faces when one of my styling friends admits they read comics to non-readers.

DS: I don't. I honestly think most people aren't sophisticated enough for comics. Comics asks of you contemplation of an idea, then asks you to hold it for a month or longer, re-examine it and move on. Comics reading takes thought, commitment, patience and above all else, an appreciation of art and the written word, things we don't encourage enough in today's society.

MP: I remind them of the rich and important history of comics and the pivotal role that comics and comic book characters have played in the overarching American narrative. And if that doesn't work, I hand them Scott Pilgrim.

So that's it. I hope you guys have had fun reading these answers and have learned a little bit about each of us.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Getting To Know...Us: The Answers Pt. 1

So you asked and we have answered. Actually we had such fun answering the questions that we are splitting the responses up over two days. So without anymore introduction:

Devon: it is rumored that thou errest not, and in fact I think you even predicted that Superboy Prime was responsible for Infinite Crisis long before anyone else did, so I guess the rumors are true. With that in mind, can you give us five startling predictions about upcoming DC events?

Devon Sanders: I have no clue. The DC Universe is a very disjointed place right now and things point to it staying this way for a while.

Three Legions really don't help this along either.

Worst comic or trade paperback you've ever read?

Jon Carey: Mighty Mutanimals. I don't know if y'all remember this, but it was a Ninja Turtles spin-off starring all the other non-turtle mutants and, oh my golly, even Very Young Jon knew it was bad news.

Ben Hatton: Usually when something is the worst my brain tends to block it out like it never existed. But if I had to dredge something up it would have to be Ultimates 3 #1. That comic was without redemption and I love Joe Madureira’s art. I don’t know if it just was the contrast with the rest of the line but I really hated that book.

DS: I can't remember what it was but it was one of those Rob Liefeld “Awesome Comics” titles and it was written by Warren Ellis. It was so awful that I tore it to shreds for being so bad.

Mike Pellegrino: Green Arrow Showcase vol. 1... he's my favorite character and it's still like watching a car accident in slow motion.

Best comic or trade paperback you've ever read?

DS: Daredevil: Born Again. I break it out at least once a year to re-read. The most perfect example of “The Hero's Journey” I've ever read. Joe Kelly's Superman story “What's So Funny About Truth, Justice And The American Way” is another favorite as well.

BH: Mage by Matt Wagner, both “Hero Discovered” and “Hero Defined” are amazing. To this day I attribute that and the “Quiver” storyline by Kevin Smith that got me back into comics after three or four years of not reading.

JC: Whatever issue of Starman had Ted Knight's funeral in it. I can't recall the number offhand, but it's choked me up like a little girl every single time.

MP: Hard question... but the issue of Planetary about Superman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman... well, let's just say it gets to me.

Favorite Fiction novel?

BH: Changes daily, but right now it is Death of Sweet Mister.

JC: Catch-22.

DS: The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead. It is the perfect first novel. My favorite short story is “Eve's Diary” by Mark Twain. It let's you known that if you ever adored someone you've truly lived.

MP: The Razor's Edge.

# of long boxes/short boxes owned?

BH: 15 drawer long boxes. That’s right, I said drawer boxes. You may be acceptably jealous.

JC: Four-ish? I don't know. A solid amount of my books live in not-long-boxes in my parents' house, so I really haven't the foggiest.

DS: 18, down from 24. I hope to have it down to 10 by the end of the year.

MP: 5 Long but I just started collecting again in 2005. I have stuff at my mom's house rotting away in drawers and shoe boxes.


MP: I am the Danica Patrick of Mario Kart Wii... except that I'm not a hot chick.

BH: Wii. I have clocked an almost marriage ending number of hours in Super Smash Bros. Brawl recently.

JC: I have a GameCube, a half-functioning PS2 and my girlfriend's old DS.

DS: I have neither. I suck at every video game I've ever played. From Pong to Mario Kart, I suck. Wanna laugh? Watch me get upset as my seven-year old nephew runs up and down the field on my ass in Madden. Oh, he laughs and laughs. I did get a perfect score singing “Creep” by Radiohead on Rock Band but I do have the voice of an angel so that may not count.

Gorilla Robots or Gorilla Ninjas?

JC: I have absolutely no idea what you're getting at.

BH: Orangutan Cowboys

DS: Grant Morrison.

MP: Nazi Gorilla Vampires

Zombies or Werewolves?

DS: Is this Robert Kirkman again?

BH: Mummies

JC: Are zombies passe yet? Could they be? I guess werewolves, but only because I'm so sick of Goddamn zombies.

MP: Werewolves. Zombies can't fetch.

Transmetropolitan: Love it or just "meh" about?

MP: Only read the first trade... but I did love it.

BH: Love it. I don’t read it too often because it makes me want to go out and start some shit. That and get a tattoo on my head.

JC: Love it.

DS: I've never been a big fan of gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson or dystopian futures so...”meh.”

Emerald Twilight story, worst idea ever or BEST?

JC: I am wholly indifferent. Never been a big Latern fan, even though I'm apparently the Earth Prime Hal Jordan.

BH: It was the best of storylines. It was the blerst of storylines.

DS: It was what it was. No one was paying any attention to Green Lantern at the time anyway and you know what, it got people's attention. We got Kyle Rayner out of it and got some really good stories that lead up to the eventual return to greatness of Hal Jordan and The Green Lantern Corps. So, yeah, I'd say Emerald Twilight was definitely for the best.

MP: Honestly? Never read it.

Have any of you paid over 35 bucks for a single issue of a comic? If so what was it?

BH: The Amazing Screw On Head by Mike Mignola. When I bid on Ebay I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that I was paying in pounds. Stupid British currency.

JC: I think I paid twenty for the first appearance of Cloak and Dagger back in the day, thanks to a shady comic shop guy snookering a young me out of a gift certificate. That's probably the most I've paid.

DS: No, but if you did I'd like to invite you over to my apartment where I have thousands of comics going for just $35 a piece.

MP: No...most I paid was 12 bucks for the second issue of 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow'... it was not near mint as advertised..

Ted Kord: For or against his demise?

BH: Totally for, everything good that has come out of DC has been because thought of giving a B-list character an important death.

JC: Whacking him was sort of a cheap ploy, but there're few things I enjoy more than nerdly wailing and gnashing of teeth, so I guess I'm pro-death in the long run.

DS: I'm sorry to say it but Ted Kord, in the way that he died, said more about the way he'd lived. He died a hero and we sort of forgot that while living for his next “BWA-HA-HA!” So, “for.”

MP: If the only good thing that ever came from his death was the last issue of 52, it would be enough. And that's not a knock against Ted.

First comic you ever read?

BH: I have no idea. My guess it was like a Tintin, Bugs Bunny, or Uncle Scrooge story or something. As for the first comic I remember reading and being like, “Holy Crap! I am a comic fan.” It would have to be the Lobo’s Big Babe Spring Break Special for obvious reasons.

JC: Some random issue of Batman, I'd wager.

DS: I don't remember the first comic exactly but I do remember the first one that left an impression on me, Daredevil #166, DD vs. The Gladiator. My first exposure to Frank Miller. It was the first time I ever felt “wild-eyed” while reading a comic.

MP: Issue of X-Men from my cousin's collection... it was from the 'In the Power of Proteus' storyline.

Last comic you just finished reading?

JC: Hand to God, an issue of Rom. The one where the Dire Wraiths punch a hole in the sun. Ditko was totally phoning it in by then, but his finish penciller was Jackson Guice, and that's such a bizarre combination that it blows my mind.

BH: Robin #174. Read below for my response to it.

DS: Amazing Spider-Man #560, my first Spidey in nearly 4 years and only because of the Marcos Martin artwork. One loses a love for Spidey once he realizes he's older than Peter Parker.

MP: The most recent issue of Robin. Spoiler Alert! (Ba-dum-ching)

Digital comic distribution vs brick and mortar comic stores: Thoughts, opinions?

BH: I buy my comics on the web now. It is just super, super cheaper. I am kind of an all or nothing sort of guy. I am buying everything or I am buying none. The discounts of DCBS allows me to participate in the pastime as I want to but without breaking the bank.

JC: The idea of an online comic shop interests me, but I end up snap-judging so many books on the fly and walking out with crap I'd never've thought I'd pick up that I think I'm pretty much stuck with a brick and mortar for the time being.

DS: To me, nothing will ever replace the tactile nature of the comic book. I have a ritual where I keep them near the bed and read them until sleepy. I can't see myself doing this via laptop.

Although with the average comic pricing out at nearly $3 and the comics companies' need to tack on more and more “must-have” tie-ins surrounding “event” books and lot of us feeling burned on them, I can see why people are turning to downloading to fuel their habit.

Doesn't make it right though.

The companies and retailers themselves really aren't doing anything to further their own cause right now.

THAT is another post for later this week, actually.

MP: I miss having a local comic book shop a lot. It was nice to have something special to look forward to every Wednesday. I miss socializing with friends and so on, and I'd be lying if I said I kept in touch with everyone from my old shop. But I spend a lot less money using an online service, and I have a community of comic book geeks that I still socialize with. But ultimately, the 'Cheers' aspect of a good LCS is irreplaceable, so if you've got it, hang onto it and do what you can to make it better.

Who is more powerful? Mork from Ork, Jeanie, or Samantha.

DS: Benson.

BH: Samantha. The Orkians are goof balls and Jeanie is basically by herself. But an army of crotchety witches backs Samantha.

JC: Samantha replaced her freaking husband with a more different guy and nobody ever noticed. Winner.

MP: I wouldn't know because I'm not freakin' old!

And on that note we are done for today. Come back tomorrow for PART TWO.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

On Appreciation…A Musing

Before I start I just want to say that everyone who is really into the happenings in the DC Universe should go out and buy The Flash #240 and Birds of Prey #118. I do not know exactly what is going on but it is apt that it begins with the kids of the DCU and with Flash’s kids specifically. I love a legacy.

And now, loyal Second Printers, I have a SPOILER WARNING. That is right, I am doing something I do not usually do and am giving away a key story point. So if you have not read Robin #174 – you might want to STOP READING.

In the last few years I have been to a fair amount of comic conventions: a few Wizard World Philadelphias, all three NYCCs, two or three Baltimores – you know doing my best to run the gamut, to experience the experience as it were. For me, conventions are all about panels and I have gone to my share of talks on DC Nation, Final Crisis, Countdown, 52, etc, each which ran at least an hour. So you have to figure over the last three years I have spent close to a day’s worth of time in DC panels and there has not been one panel – one damn panel – where someone has not brought up Stephanie Brown, her death and her memorial. Not one damn panel. You add to the Blogpshpere going bat crazy over it and I would say that a large portion of my comic experience since 2005 has revolved around Spoiler’s demise. Hell, I half expected to see a freaking candlelight vigil in her honor.

Well now she is back as Spoiler. Not resurrected Jason Todd style, she just never died. What do the pitchfork waving, torch sporting, Stephanie Brown fans have to say about it? Nothing. Not a damn thing. Believe me, I have been scouring the big blogs and news sites for some sort of reaction and have come up wanting. So I am calling bullshit on you all. There needs to be some thanks given.

Let me backtrack, I do not hate Spoiler. I just never cared about her death or what was being done in her memory. Now that she is back, I also do not care. It was not the cause I chose to champion. However, if it was, you can guarantee I would be flipping my shit and you would be seeing a ton of “She’s Back” posts. Here is the thing, like our grandparents, comic companies do not have to dick for us. They do not have to bring back Manhunter or Amazing Spider-Girl. They do not have change Superman back to his normal self from red and blue. They do not have to keep Peter Parker Spider-Man instead of Ben Reilly. They do not have to do any of that. So, when we complain and shout and they choose to listen, to play into our whims and wants, we should be appreciative.

If Dan Didio came out and said, “We don’t care about sales, John Rogers and Rafael Albuquerque are going to take Blue Beetle to one hundred issues,” I would kiss him on the mouth. In fact, I would devote the rest of my time here on Second Printing to how I would kiss him on the mouth.

If the big two don’t see our appreciation, don’t see their sales spike and all that, then they will stop listening. That means Kate Spencer rides the sidelines, May Day Parker floats in limbo, and Stephanie Brown stays beaten to death. Come on comic fans prove that we are not just a bunch of PCU Causeheads, who only look for things to bitch about. Show that we can celebrate when our hard fought battles are won. Show that we can say thank you.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Going Home Again

Warning: This post is inspired by my viewing of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. I’ll try not to reveal and salient plot points or spoilers per se, but I will talk about themes and characters. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t read movies reviews in the paper, come back and read this after you see the movie. Otherwise, continue.

The gods of fanboyism are angry and fickle, and nowhere is this truer than in my thoughts today. Having seen an opening night show of the latest Indiana Jones installment, I’m full of strange feelings and memories, but I can’t seem to nail down any specific emotion as either joy or dismay.

This has been happening to me a lot recently. I finally got around to seeing Rocky Balboa a few weeks ago, and while I certainly didn’t love it, I couldn’t bring myself to hate it. What is it about the narrative of our youths, re-imagined as fan fiction, that causes such an emotional stir? Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull is a solid, action packed, and fun movie, a summer blockbuster to be sure. But it didn’t recreate that same feeling I had as a kid when my dad first showed me Raiders of the Lost Ark on VHS, and it would have been unfair and unreasonable for me to expect that. So why the hell did I?

Is it the pedigree of the creators? I doubt it. No objective observer could doubt that Spielberg and Lucas have declined as filmmakers. They’ve become far too dependent on special effects and clearly put less effort into the finding those great shots and crafting the iconic moments that make their creations the stuff of legend. But I made my peace with that after Revenge of the Sith, and neither of the previous Indiana Jones sequels matched the filmmaking brilliance of Raiders, so my expectations on this front were reasonable.

Is it the character himself? As the ongoing Indiana Jones epic migrated out of the pre-World War II era of declining colonialism and Nazi occult fanaticism and was recast in the light of the Cold War and McCarthyism, my knee jerk, fanboy instincts kept telling me, ‘This isn’t Indiana Jones.’ But as a friend said to me, ‘This movie takes place at a later point in time. He’s not the same guy.’

Now, that’s a hell of a good point. Newton’s Laws apply cruelly to narrative; characters in motion stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force (see: Spider-Man: One More Day). Even the ones that don’t age in any real way still accumulate experiences, loves, lost loves, joys and tragedies. And it’s all just more bricks and mortar into the monument of pop culture mythology, and if it’s a good story, maybe it’s more concrete in the foundation. Sometimes, Superman has to die and Batman has to break his neck. It may not be the story we want to see or read, but it’s canon and only erasable by forces outside the panel.

But I understood all that going in. I knew I wasn’t getting a do-over of Raiders and an Indiana Jones frozen in time. Harrison Ford is no spring chicken, and all the CGI in the world isn’t going to change that. Truthfully, I think my issue has less to do with the changes to Indiana Jones and more to do with the changes within myself. By most measures, I’m a full-grown adult, and that wide-eyed wonderment with which I beheld all things as a child has given way to a necessary cynicism about the world. Spielberg didn’t make another Indiana Jones movie to help someone who was barely a year old when Raiders came out travel back in time and feel like a kid again. He did it, firstly, to make money, but also to give Indiana Jones to a generation of kids who weren’t around even 19 years ago when Indy ‘chose wisely’ in the Last Crusade. It’s for the same kids for whom the Star Wars prequels, anathema to Gen X-ers, have opened up whole universes of joy and imagination.

I was back home not so long ago at a large family gathering, and the kids were running around with light sabers. They weren’t pretending to be Luke and Darth Vader. They were pretending to be Annakin and Count Dooku. I was reminded of the countless adventures I experienced in my own mind as a kid, when I would tag along with Indiana Jones to rough up restless natives, Nazis, or, for one particularly geopolitically aware youth, Iraqis. No matter how many Indiana Jones or Star Wars movies they churn out, that’s a place to which I can never return. My dissatisfaction is not with the quality or content of the movie but with the unbearable fact that it will remain, for all time in my consciousness, just a movie.

So fanboys and fanboyettes, here’s some advice. When you go to see Indiana Jones, which if you’re reading this blog is very very likely, know that it will most likely not unlock your imagination like the previous installments. But look around the theater and see how many kids are in the theater with their parents, and, for a moment, imagine the way the synapses must be firing for those kids. Think about the places their minds are already taking them, and remember for a moment that while we can still enjoy Indiana Jones on the big screen, the biggest screen of all is those young imaginations.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Devon Vs. Checkmate #26 And The Bear Wins And Other Stories - Updated

Wanna know why comic shops do some of the (asinine) things they do? Maybe I can answer that having worked in several over nearly thirteen years.

Did you know that Ben is a school teacher? Ask him where milk comes from. That's a good one.

Wanna know what a Kentucky Bengal is? Can one really get lucky in Kentucky? Ask Mike.

Wanna know how to find a man on Craigslist? Ask Carey.

Again, ask us anything, we are men of experience.

Well, don't forget to leave your questions for yesterday's Getting To Know... Us: The Questions. It's a wonderful opportunity to ask us the questions your parents never wanted you to know the answers to.



"Fan service," thy name is Robin #174.

So... remember when I said I was going to drop Checkmate with issue 26?

There's a guy fighting a bear in it...

...and Asian villages smashed under giant monster feet. It's like they know my heart.

Damn you, Bruce Jones. You may have won this battle, you WILL NOT win this war.


Finally finished reading Jason Aaron's Wolverine run (62-65) and damned if that wasn't the Wolverine I've been missing for over a decade. Total bad-ass through and through. A stone cold killer past, present and future. Throw in butt-naked shenanigans from Mystique and you pry $11.96 out of my pockets every time.

13's usually considered an "unlucky" number. Not with The Brave and The Bold #13, with one "Yes, sir" and a smile from an old hand, I was reminded of how awesome of a place the DC Universe can be.

"Why don't we call it "The Star Chamber."

Dear DC Comics,

Re: Justice League of America #21

Please, stay out of Justice League of America writer Dwayne McDuffie's way. When he comes up with an idea for a Legion of Doom story arc, don't undercut him again by making him tell the story in two issues just so you can do something wacky like Salvation Run. Call me "wacky" but I think your greatest heroes deserve to take on your greatest villains in an appropriate title such as... Justice League of America. This issue's what his run shoul've been from the get-go.

When this man gets to tell stories without someone else's backstory getting in the way, you have gold on your hands. When McDuffie has Superman, Batman (Who is hilarious in this issue, by the way) & Wonder Woman sit down in "The Lounge" and just talk, it's infinitely more exciting than any two issues produced of them fighting The Suicide Squad. The other side effect of this issue? It actually makes me excited for Trinity and Final Crisis and future JLofA issues.

Justice League of America #21 had something that's been missing for a while now. It felt special. It was excellent. Let's keep it so.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Getting To Know…Us: The Questions

So we have hit the one month here at Second Printing. I hope you will agree that it has been a pretty good month. Interesting posts, great responses from you guys, it has been awesome. Super fun to write and, I hope, super fun to read.

So I was thinking, what would take Second Priting up a notch? I thought it was a little presumptuous to start marketing the Ben, Devon, Mike P, and Jon bobble heads, maybe just a tad early. So in lieu of that, we decided to give you a chance to find more about us as people. It is that human connection that really makes the blogosphere work. It is those digital hands that reach out and meet in a friendly high-five of ones and zeros that take this global, computerized landscape, uh, well, you get the picture.

So loyal Second Printers, ask away. You want to know what comic made us cry? Ask it. You want to know whom we favor in a butler fight between Alfred and Jarvis? Ask it. You don’t just have to stick to comics either. You want to know what we bowl? Ask it. You want to which of us sports boxers, briefs or have ventured into the mystical land of the boxer-brief? Ask it.

Just keep posting questions from now until Friday and we will take this glorious long weekend to answer said questions. THEN come back next Tuesday to see just what makes us tick (this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come back tomorrow for another amazing post by one of us).


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The End Run

What If... DC Comics decided to end Batman once Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane had left?

Would we have gotten Batman: The Dark Knight Returns?

What If... Vertigo decided to not end Sandman with Neil Gaiman?

Would we have gotten something akin to Nancy Collins' Swamp Thing following Alan Moore's heralded run?

What If... DC Comics had continued Starman after James Robinson's departure?

Would his have have remained the "definitive" Starman run?

With writers John Rogers and Greg Rucka leaving the titles Blue Beetle and Checkmate, respectively, I'm left with this question:
"Is there really anything left for anyone else to say?"

Let me elaborate, new comic launches are a risky proposition nowadays. With the market being what it is, in order for a book to survive a new superhero launch has to be...

A. An extension of an already popular title or character i.e. Supergirl or a Robin.

"From the pages of..." a popular event such as what DC did to launch Blue Beetle after Infinite Crisis.


C. A very specific vision on the creator's part.

Books such as Sandman, Starman and John Ostrander's Spectre were considered to have fallen into the category of "C" and allowed the rare liberty to end as the writer saw fit. These runs have gone on to be heralded as classics of our storytelling medium. Whereas, comics such as Swamp Thing were allowed to go on, eventually petering out under the weight of the respective legacies their "definitive" writers left behind.

The above mentioned were uniquely creator-driven comics.

Comics such as Blue Beetle, Checkmate & Matt Fraction's Immortal Iron Fist, to me, fall into the C category, as well.

Blue Beetle and The Immortal Iron Fist are two of the quirkiest comics to have hit the stands in years and in much the way I just cannot imagine anyone other than Keith Giffen writing Ambush Bug, I just can't see anyone bringing as unique an energy to these two characters. It was because of this particular energy that we came and maybe stayed in the first place. Without that particular vision to guide it gone, will these titles be able to sustain themselves independent of their roots?

That said, the next few months will find me at the crossroads.

On one front, I'll most likely stick around for Matt Sturges' Blue Beetle run. I adore the character and Sturges seems to love it as much as anyone. Sturges is great on Jack of Fables and I really enjoyed his first issue of House of Mystery. Here's the "but."

He's not Grant Morrison. Who is? Only someone with the stature of a Geoff Johns or a Morrison can sustain a low-selling title such as Blue Beetle. He shows up, readers show up. Sturges, while an excellent writer, can't sustain a title, not just yet any ways.

Checkmate had Rucka's handprints all over it: a love for all things procedural, an adoration of the interconnectivity of the DC Universe and pacing that unfolded as the story saw fit. Checkmate was heaven for a Rucka/DC fan. Next month finds this title written by Bruce Jones, a man known, in my circles, as "an excellent jumping-off point." Nothing against the man but everything I've read by him lately has left me cold. After reading Nightwing for nearly a decade, his run was what made me finally drop the book. I hate to say it like this but I believe they should have canceled Checkmate outright rather than let it come to the end I see for it, imminent cancellation.

The Immortal Iron Fist? I just don't love the character that much. Matt Fraction on the hand...

Characters like Superman and Batman can sustain themselves due to their iconography and the fact that once popular they, by necessity, had to become a collaborative effort. Nowadays, with every comic rapidly being swept up in "events" it's truly refreshing to see comics such as a Blue Beetle or an Immortal Iron Fist, comics that aren't necessarily directly tied into an editorially, bottom-line driven agenda. Essentially, these comics were allowed the space to grow and tell their stories, essentially becoming comics with a vision.

These are the comics that I love to read.

So, my question is two-fold:

"Will you still read a comic once a certain creator leaves?" and...

"Should more titles become "retired" once a creator's told the story they set out to tell?"

Monday, May 19, 2008

What If... This Blog Was a Hipster T-Shirt?

Thunderbolts #120 is the best use of Norman Osborn since Amazing Spider-Man #121. This is, in fact, hard Science, and is thus indisputable. If you haven't read it yet, it's about seven-tenths crazy person monologue and one hundred percent gold.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Lost and Not Found

I am feeling a little gloomy today. It must be the weather.

So I have not organized my comics in like eight or nine months. I have huge piles of comics in my house, towering stacks of twenty-two page booklets ready to topple onto me in some sort of shower of paper cuts. As I boarded, bagged, taped, shuffled and alphabetized I realized something. I realized that I am missing lots of comics I know I once owned. It is an occurrence that I think most of we comic collectors have experienced. Perhaps we lent an issue to a friend, perhaps our mother threw them out, or perhaps it has been a few months since we put away comics and we have some piles lying around the house and we have a cat with a spraying problem – ahem. Well, whatever caused you to lose a comic it is gone and that is a total bummer.

I once owned a copy of Marvel Super-Heroes #8. Not the cool 1960’s series of Marvel Super-Heroes, I am talking the 1990’s fifteen-issue bit. It is a pretty uneventful issue, Iron Man fights Dr. Doom, blah, blah, blah – oh wait – it is also the first appearance of Squirrel Girl. That is right, #8 is the first time Doreen Green came bounding onto the page. The first time she showed her knuckle blades and one big tooth. The first time we saw the utility belt full of mixed nuts. The first time Monkey Joe, her squirrel companion, ever popped up that cute head of his. I loved that comic.

Then some years ago I was going through my stuff and realized I had lost it. It still bums me out. It took me years to really get my act together when it came to taking care of my stuff so I have a million of these stories. The thumbtack I put through a sketch of Elfquest’s Cutter that I had done by Richard Pini when I was like ten or eleven. Which of course I ripped later on and then tossed in the garbage. It is a long list.

The thing is ever if I were able to get another copy of Marvel Super-Heroes #8 it wouldn’t be the same. Merely a replacement for something I had when I was younger, like a fifty-year-old man who gets the car of his teens because he misses it. So on this rainy day in our nation’s capital (it’s like the fourth day this week of rain) I ask you, our loyal Second Printers:

What Have You Lost and Not Found?

Go ahead, pull a chair and pour yourself a drink.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Just Can’t Stop Reading Supergirl

I wish I knew how to quit you...

And I might be the only one. Sales numbers for the book appear to have leveled off, but they’re probably not where DC wants them to be. The book as gone from bad (Loeb) to controversial (Kelly) to somewhat redeemed (Amazons Attack) to… well... marginal. And in a way, that makes me sad.

I’ve been following the book since the relaunch, and in a previous blogging life, I defended the Joe Kelly run as an honest view of a teenager with no sense of her place in the world. But I’m beginning to see how that piece of the new Kara Zor-El’s story and evolution is a part of a larger context.

In my humble opinion, Supergirl, dating all the way back to her original Silver Age incarnation, has had one primary foil: Herself. She is, in many ways, her own rogues gallery. She’s always battling those inner-demons of uncertainty and self-doubt that Superman can barely even sympathize with because he was raised by the Kents and is almost universally adored. I think there’s a reason that, back in the day, she was among the first DC characters to get older, go off to college, and transition to adulthood. Her personal, internal struggles were so important to who she is that putting her in a new home or new environment was like introducing a new villain for any other hero.

And, love it or hate it, the current incarnation of Supergirl is true to this tradition. Joe Kelly’s run was a little angsty for some folks, and I get that. But I have the whole series of ‘My So-Called Life’ in my DVD collection, so a few issues of teen angst really doesn’t phase me anymore.

The ongoing Kelley Puckett run is a different kind of struggle against self. She’s put a lot of the whiny teen stuff behind and realized that it’s time to grow up, but she’s beginning to learn that good intentions aren’t enough. In the most recent issue, she breaks a dangerous villain out of jail to try to save a young boy with cancer. The art in the issue is pretty good, and the writing is pretty reductive, as it has tended to be under Puckett. In terms of overall production quality, the issue is middle-of-the-road.

But its contribution to the overall story of Supergirl is important and compelling. She learns the hard way why superheroes don’t run around trying to cure cancer and create a utopia in the style of the Justice Lords (also in my DVD collection, just so you know it’s not all angry teen stuff). She learns why Superman’s greatness is a product of his judicious use of power, not just the power itself, and that the line between hero and villain is often drawn in those judgments.

Supergirl is not the best book on the shelf. I will admit that. As far as I can see, it’s not building towards Final Crisis in any meaningful way. Other than the title character and her cousin, it rarely features any characters I’ve ever heard of, and the combination of visceral art and overly-concise writing makes it a little hard to follow. But as has been the case since the series was launched before Infinite Crisis, it’s building a character. It’s a slow build, and it’s sometimes an annoying build. Kara bugs the hell of me as often as she makes me say ‘Hell Yeah!’. But at this point, I’m content to know that with each issue, I’m watching a young hero grow up, just like Supergirl readers got to do in the Silver Age. And I guess that’s enough for me. Because I just can’t stop reading Supergirl.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why Aren't You Reading: Batman: Death And The Maidens

Presenting a new feature exclusive to Second Printing!!! One that could only be called "Why Aren't You Reading..."

An immortal dies.

Had DC Comics let it, the death of Ra's al Ghul could have been a new beginning.

2003 and Greg Rucka returns to the Batman Universe after an extended absence. His assignment?

End Ra's al Ghul, for good or bad, the most significant Batman villain created since The Riddler.

Ra's, created in 1971 by Batman writer Denny O'Neill, is an immortal international terrorist and assassin with his eye on world domination. Ra's has access to The Lazarus Pits, pools of rejuvenating chemicals that restore life to the dead and vitality to the living. The one man that stands in his way... The Batman. At this point in 2003, Batman and Ra's have been dancing this dance for some 22 years.

It went something like this:

Ra's: "I'm gonna end the world."

Batman: "I won't let you."

Ra's: *sigh* "Wanna bang my daughter, Talia?"

As awesome as this all sounds, it got a little tired after a while. Someone realizing this, decided that one of Batman's greatest villains needed and extreme makeover. Only question was:

"How do you kill an immortal?"

With another. Enter Nyssa.

The Lazarus Pits have been systematically destroyed and the once powerful Ra's al Ghul finds himself near death and with but one request, one he believes only The Batman can grant:

"I want you to stop murdering me."

Elsewhere, Nyssa, a daughter seemingly long lost, enslaves one long beloved, systematically using a Lazarus Pit to bring her sister to heel.

Deep inside Wayne Manor, Bruce Wayne is tripping on alchemy (acid) and blowing both our minds.

You read that right.

Batman's on acid.

The only words more terrifying than "Batman's on acid" are "Joker and Dick Cheney's Shotgun Sodomy Dance Team-Up."

Now if that weren't enough, you get Rucka providing some of the richest characterization of ever laid down in four-color, resulting in an end for one "Demon's Head" and a re-birth for another.

Included in the deal is some of the best fleshing out of the early Batman mythos using none other than the long-dead Martha Wayne as Bruce's spirit guide.

What you also get is some beautiful art by Klaus Janson and no one is more shocked than I. Janson has never been hailed as the strongest of pencillers but on "Death And The Maidens" he brings his all to the page.

In the end Nyssa takes up the mantle of "The Demon" and walks off with all in control of all that was once Ra's'. From there we should have had story upon story featuring Nyssa as the new Ra's al Ghul. What we should have gotten was a new status quo where a once-smitten Talia, acting as Nyssa's Ubu, becomes the Batman's deadliest foe in word, heart and deed. Instead what we got was... not much.

Here's the rub shortly after Batman: Death And The Maidens was announced so was the film Batman Begins featuring, you guessed it, the decidedly "has-a-penis" Ra's al Ghul. DC Comics, always wary that its fans can't tell an elbow from a piehole, relegated Nyssa to smallish guest appearances in second-tier Bat-Books where all she did was stand around in robes and spout Machiavellian.

Batman Begins made tons of money for Warner Brothers and in response Nyssa was killed off in a car explosion in the pages of Robin, opening the door for the return of the original Ra's al Ghul.

In 2007, Ra's returned to the DCU and was quickly defeated, locked up in The Arkham Asylum for The Criminally Insane, another Denny O'Neill creation (Get it?), where he remains drugged up under a false ID, all provided by the Batman.

What a waste.

Had Nyssa been given a chance, we could have gotten stories full of wrath, intrigue and a new dynamic featuring a true femme fatale in The DC Universe.

Will we ever see Nyssa again? When last we heard her name, the always-lying Lady Shiva declared her "dead." In comics, dead hopefully means "in a Lazarus Pit..."

...on acid.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wherein Jon Applies Science To Nerdery

By now, I have no doubt completely missed whatever storm of nonsense and malarkey that accompanied the now over-a-month-old Secret Invasion #1, as I have been busy being the kind of hermit that doesn't sit online all day and night. Which would make me basically the opposite of a traditional hermit, but, then, I've always been a bit of an iconoclast.

Anyway, simply because I didn't immediately jump onto the internet and register my opinions by way of electronic text does not mean I did not read the book, no. Actually, I rather liked it, which is a near-miracle as, and you might remember this if you used to read my old blog or listen to the now-utterly-covered-in-cobwebs-and-tears podcast, I don't really like all that much. Especially event books. Man, they drive me crazy.

But this one was solid, I thought. Pretty; reasonably well-written; also, there are dinosaurs in it. Can't ask for much more. I got to thinking, though, that maybe it was an impenetrable mess to people who don't have twenty- or thirty-odd years of comic book readin' under their belts.

And so I conducted an experiment.

My long-suffering girlfriend has been made to read some comics before - she's read all of Y in trade, is about halfway through the collected Fables, and really likes Empowered - but doesn't touch too much superhero stuff. I had her read Invincible Iron Man #1 the other night, as she saw and enjoyed the movie, but other than that, whatever she knows about superheroes, she's either picked up from cartoons, movies, and the horrible form of osmosis that is Listening To My Beardy Ass Talk About This Stuff Constantly. This, I thought, made her the perfect control group.

Also the fact that she was handy and I'm lazy.

I told her to read it and ask me whatever questions wandered into her little noggin, and I would answer them to the best of my ability. Below you will find highlights of the transcript of the conversation.

Her: 'Secret Invasion' sounds like a bad porn title.
Me: Really?
Her: Like it should be about buttsex, or something.
Me: It's... not about buttsex.

Page Four, Panel One:

Her: Elektra? Daredevil-Elektra Elektra? She's an alien?
Me: Yes.
Her: So where is Elektra?
Me: I don't know. That's kind of the point, I guess.
Her: But if the alien is Elektra, who is Elektra?
Me: Elektra is. The alien pretended to be her.
Her: But then, who is Elektra?

(Ed. note: This descended into a Who's On First sort of routine for a while. )

Page Four, Panel Two:

Her: Who're these people?
Me: You know Iron Man. The other ones are Reed Richards -
Her: Oh, fishguy.
Me: Fishguy? No, that's... wait, what?
Her: The guy that plays him, he has a fishface.
Me: Fair enough. Okay, so Reed Richards and Hank Pym. Hank Pym's Ant Man, Giant-Man, Yellowjacket... Hank Pym is a lot of guys. He can shrink. Also grow.
Her: That's stupid.
Me: Kinda, yeah.

Page Five, Panel One:

Her: What's SWORD?
Me: SHIELD, but for space. It stands for... something stupid. Sentient Worlds something something.
Her: That's dumb.
Me: Actually, it's... yeah, it's kinda dumb.

Page Five, Panel Five:

Her: The Savage Land?
Me: It's a jungle. In Antarctica. With dinosaurs.
Her: Why?
Me: I don't know. Comic books. Roll with it.

Page Eight, Panel Three:

Her: Wait, Spider-Woman?
Me: She's... complicated.

(Ed. note: And here is where I had to explain the difference between the New and Mighty Avengers, and also the fact that Spider-Woman is bafflingly important apparently entirely because Brian Bendis really likes her.)

Page Nine, wherein I had to explain Echo, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Ronin, as the girlfriend knew them not. Ronin was easy, as she knows about my weird Hawkeye crush, but the others are veritable cyphers to non-superhero-readers, I guess.

Page Ten, Panel Five:

Her: Hah hah, "bonk."
Me: Sound effects really get you, huh?
Her: Why'd he throw nunchucks?
Me: I think he just doesn't know how to be a ninja, so he throws crap. It cracks me up, though.

Page Eleven, Panel Three:

This is just commentary by me, but, Jesus Christ, Echo is so totally not deaf.

Page Fifteen, Panel One:

Her: Who's Ka-Zar?
Me: Like Tarzan, but with dinosaurs.
Her: Is he affiliated with any of the teams here?
Me: Nah, he just lives in the jungle. I don't think he even appears in the issue.
Her: Than why mention him?
Me: I think sometimes they mention stuff like that to prevent people like me from going "they should've called up Ka-Zar; I mean, he freaking lives there."

Page Twenty, Panel Five:

Her: He Loves You?
Me: I think the Skrull god? I don't know.
Her: So hat-guy is a Skrull?
Me: Dum Dum Dugan. Yeah.

Page Twenty-Two, Panels One-Four:

Her: The butler?! Oh no! (Ed. note: She was utterly serious, here; Jarvis turning heel got to her, for whatever reason.)

Page Twenty-Two, Panel Five; Page Twenty-Three, Panels One-Four:

Her: Why's [an alien computer virus] hurt Iron Man?
Me: The armor's connected to his nervous system.
Her: So?
Me: Well, if I rip my pants, I don't poop.
Her: What?
Me: I don't even know. I just say things.

Two Page Ad for Some Car Talking to a Parrot:

Her: Hah hah, I thought this was part of the comic.
Me: God, just keep reading.

Page Thirty:

Her: Who's he?
Me: Captain Marvel. He's (ed. note: I attempted to explain Captain Marvel here. Her eyes glazed over and she admitted that she stopped paying attention two sentences in. Captain Marvel is both confusing and a little boring.)

Page Thirty-Four, Panel Five:

Her: Is he a Skrull, too?
Me: No, it's the Human Torch. He's just on fire.
Her: Oh.

Page Thirty-Seven:

Her: Oh, no! They're all Skrulls! (Ed. note: For the record, I had to tell her who Skrull-ship White Queen, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Mockingbird and Ms. Marvel were.)

Pages Thirty-Eight and Nine:

Her: Are [the stranded-in-space SWORD agents] all going to go glug glug gel?
Me: Or burn burn atmosphere, I guess, yeah.

Page Forty, Panel One:

Her: I like how it says 'Stark Laboratory - Location Confidential.' Like we're going to tell.

Page Forty, Panel Five:

Her: Hah hah, [Hank Pym's] head is GIGANTIC.

So, yeah, there you go. People who don't read Marvel comics can read and enjoy Secret Invasion, but they probably won't recognize several Bendis pet characters, an organization Joss Whedon saddled with a ridiculous pun name, Captain Marvel or the Savage Land. She read the second issue, too, and her combined review was "they were good, but they both felt like they were only one scene long." Which is entirely true - unless there's a major jump forward at some point in the series, the whole run is going to end up covering about seven hours at this pace.

Also, midway through the big fight setpiece in the second issue, she asked me if the point of this was to reunify the Avengers, and I gasped a little, choked back a manly tear, and said "yes, that's the most prescient thing you've said this entire time, well done, dear."