Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best/Worse of the Comic World in 2009

Bitterfanboy's call

Best Comic Books for your buck in 2009:

The Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham. The first story arc of this team blew me away. It’s what a comic series of a beloved, longstanding franchise should be…stories that are familiar and surprising at the same time. Not only does this team capture the magic of the FF in the days of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but also the feel and look of the FF in ‘70s when creators like Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman and George Perez told great adventure stories at a breakneck pace.

Ultimate Avengers Relaunch by Mark Millar and Carlos Pacheco. Carlos is and has been once of todays best pencilers. He’s the second coming of Alan Davis and deserves to be showcased on today’s top titles. Here he finally lands that big screen-like project with Mark Millar at the helm. Millar has always been a writer who can reinterpret yesterday’s heroes for today’s audiences but recently has had trouble telling a focused, strong tale. With this new Ult Avengers book Millar once again locks it in and gives us blockbuster film in a comic that would be better than any Avengers film could be realized on the silver screen. An action packed tale with a jaw dropping twist of the Red Skull being the son of the Ult Universe Captain America leaves the reader wanting nothing but more with each issue.

Green Lantern by Geoff Johns and various artists. Years and years ago, DC killed Hal Jordan for no other reason than the fact that lazy editors and writers ran out of good ideas for the hero. Then along comes Johns who proves that what Neal Adams used to always say is true: “There are no bad characters, only bad writers”. Johns not only restored Hal, the Green Lantern Corp and his title to glory for years now but Hal's ongoing story is also is the focal point of almost every large scale event in the DCU since his return. Green Lantern is THE most consistantly good book in the DCU and has been for some time now.

Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth by Victor Gischler and Bong Dazo. I have no idea who these creators are. It doesn’t matter. This title is a big, dumb, silly romp that is a blast to read. Amazingly, unlike Marvel’s problem with Spider-Man, all the of the many Deadpool spin offs so far are fun to read. Not all are must haves but this title in particular strikes the right tone with this character and also co-stars the Deadpool Zombie head from the Marvel Zombies dimension. Stupid? Yes. Fun? Hell yes!

Power Girl by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner. Like with Deadpool, this title is my guilty pleasure monthly. Its fun, it’s witty, it can be sexy and it’s another great example of a talented team of creators taking a lower tier character and making him or her popular by simply telling good stories. Connor’s simple, animation-like style grows on you. I still hate PG’s costume redesign though. Why the giant shoulder pad? That kind of useless item on the outfit is straight out of the Rob Liefeld school of costume design. Palmiotti is DC's New York, in-house golden boy currently who can be relied upon to turn in smart and fun scripts. Don't be surprised to see DC offer him an editor chair soon like Marvel wisely did with his old partner Joey Q years ago.

Invincible by Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley. The main storyline in 2009 was titled the “ Invincible War” and it was another blockbuster packaged in as a comic book. Ryan Ottley proved he could draw big, in-your-face action sequences like the best of ‘em along with quiet, dramatic moments that hang with you after the book has been read. Kirkman understands why anyone of any age wants to read a comic book and feeds great storytelling to you by the spoonful on one page then with a cannon to your face on the next. The character of Invincible is the best of old school Spider-man and Superboy stories wrapped up in a 21st century package.

Worst books that I spent money on in 2009 and now want a refund:

Hulk by Jeph Leob and various artists. Holee crap are we getting screwed on this title. The great “Who is the Red Hulk?” mystery…I’ve read 17 issues of this book and the plot has not moved forward in all this time. Yes, there has been action and guest stars and numerous splash pages but that’s about it. Nothing happens in this book! Ever! Leob doesn’t have a great plan here except to have whatever Marvel U characters he has an urge to write for jump thru the title, yell something, punch someone and then be on their merry way. A complete waste of any reader’s time and cash.

Spider-Woman by Brian Bendis and Alex Malev. For years Bendis kept teasing Marvel fans about a Spider-Woman title that was going to be so great the creators and editors had to take years to develop it for the great unwashed. Hell, even Apple was on board to help create and promote a new motion comic book that could really help usher in a new wave in online entertainment. It finally debuts in late summer ANNNNND it’s the most boring and ugly book Marvel currently publishes. Bendis is one creator that has lost his touch in 2009 and is now taking even longer to tell comic stories than he used to but this…this will absolutely put one to sleep at night. And while I typically have liked Malev’s work in the past, this has to be the ugliest interpretation of Jessica Drew since Carmine Infantino used to draw her in the ‘70s. This book won’t last 12 issues unless maybe the team changes. Ugh.

Batman & Robin by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely then other artists. So this title starts off great then Quitely quickly jumps ship and since that loss a parade of artists begin to line up to soldier the book on. Sorry DC, once an artist like Quitely leaves a crazy Morrison storyline, the party is over. It’s like switching the lead cast members of a film one third of the way in. What the hell ever happened to these publishers stocking up on completed issues with problem artists before a title is launched?

All Superman and Batman titles by any current creative DC team. Let’s take both Clark and Bruce out of all their main monthly titles for a year or so and to boost sales! DC takes the two icons that hold the house up and remove them at the same time. This will go down as one of the dumbest ideas in comic publishing history. As the 2009 month to month sales figures show, this was a colossal blunder by editorial. We are at the end of a year of the mess and still have not found the bottom in monthly order numbers for any of the family of titles. It’s also a big problem DC refuses to face and doesn’t plan to course correct for at least another 6 or 8 months. Both storylines are so awful and dragged out that I can’t care enough to recap specifics here. I’ll go read older, better Supes & Bats stories again until the whole mess blows over. Fuck you Didido.

The Jury is still out on:

New/Dark Avengers by Brian Bendis and various artists. Great storyline at first but overly padded in 2009. Throughout all the crossovers, one-shots and mini-series tied into the Dark Avengers saga, all we have really come to learn in the past year is…'gasp!'...Harry Osborn is evil and crazy. Really hope this goes somewhere interesting very soon. Btw, dump penciler Mike Deodato and all his assistants off of Dark Avengers. The guy is awful at laying out a story and I’m sick of him tracing Tommy Lee Jones photos for Norman Osborn’s face. On New Avengers, really happy to see artist Stewart Immonen kick it up to the next level. His recent work on the book has been great. Surprisingly so since I can recall how dull his work on Superman in ‘90s was. Currently, he’s a keeper.

Flash Rebirth: Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver. Look, I am one of the few still reading comics who have followed the history of both the Barry Allen Flash and Wally West Flash for decades and I can’t tell what the hell is going on. I have a soft spot for Barry as the Flash and want this series to be great. So far this does not feel like it’s going to pay off as well has Hal Jordan’s Rebirth did. The other disappointment so far is Van Sciver’s poor artwork. He’s become progressively worse as the issues pass by. His figures are ugly and he’s forcing himself to make too many poor panel/page layout decisions. Forcing small panels with too many tiny figures or action within them. It hurts the storytelling. And my eyes. All the Flashes legs are about as long as most people’s bodies.

Blackest Night by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. DC editorial finally figures out a way to get Zombie heroes and villains into the DCU. The build up to this saga was strong, the first issue was cool, surprising and drawn oh so well…but since then, again, a lot of padding has filled the recent issues. The storyline hasn’t moved forward in the past two issues. It feels like in the end, this will be at least a good storyline but the bad habit of padding is getting to be too much to take. Not telling clean stories with momentum is a serious problem both publishers have exhibited throughout all of 2009.

So DC, Marvel, here's a New Year's resolution for you: start moving these big storylines along in 2010. At $4 a book now, stop fucking with what readership you still have hanging on and tell more focused and less drawn out stories. Keep it moving!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Stan the man is 87 years young today


No shit 87 years old. The guy was writing comic stories by candle light early in his career! Pretty sure the most iconic and prolific comic book creator of the 20th Century actually has a super power. Longevity. His own personal fountain of youth power pack.

Wish I knew what the secret was...love to be that active and fun at 87.

Happy Birthday Stan.

The Bittergeeks 2009 Best/Worst of list begins

Because everyone loves to publish ‘Best/Worse of’ lists this time of the year, here’s one that came to mind while the Bittergeeks reflected upon their shopping experiences of 2009.

Worst Toy Retailer of 2009: Target


It’s difficult to call the exact point that Target ran off the rails this past year. For years Target was THE mass market retailer producing year after year market share gains in toys for most brands and vendors. They were also the undisputed first stop for toy collectors. The exclusives alone in brands such as Star Wars and Transformers were always innovative and exciting ‘must haves’ for any collector. These exclusives always seem to sell through quickly and continue to find life on the secondary market. They also had a good handle on chasing inventory for the more popular toys and compared to other retailers, managed turnover in action figure assortments well throughout the year. This important feat needs to be carefully managed quarterly in the bread and butter collector lines such as die-cast vehicles like Hot Wheels and Disney/Pixar Cars as well as in action figure lines such as Star Wars or GI Joe to name a few. In 2009, Target seemed to loose just about all of these skills.

Summer movie tie ins (Wolverine, Transformers & GI Joe) were lack luster. Slow sales caused stale assortments to pile up for too long. Exclusives were overall boring and included a lot of repainted toys we previous purchased. Bad decisions to carry poor performing brands such as Star Trek and Terminator were made despite a long history that confirms otherwise. (Although all retailers made that mistake. Buyers are too young and don't look back on historical data. Too much work. Still, they were bad calls.) We also understand from industry pals that Target lost market share to it's competition in several toy categories it once easily dominated.

We’d have to guess the fall of the Target toy team started at the last Toy Fair in February where Target’s buyers passed on the offering of Zhu Zhu Pets. How do you pass on cute hamster toys that also perform tricks and retail under $9.99? Especially in the girls plush category that really hasn’t had anything interesting since Webkins died off. How is that even a risk? Not only did they pass on it, they didn’t pick them up until well after the fall transition in July when both Toys-R-Us and Wal-Mart had been garnering free press coverage and brisk sales while they had been already selling them for a few months. By the time someone in the buying dept at Target finally convinced themselves they needed to be on board with the hamsters, it was far too late to lock up any significant inventory for the majority of the Christmas shopping season. They had empty shelf space dedicated to the line starting in October if for no other reason than be able to say to guests: “Oh we carry them too, we just don’t have any right now...”. Meanwhile both TRU and Wal-Mart had been placing orders for the fall season all along.

Pricing issues and control plagued the Target toy aisles in 2009. Target’s own exclusive line of DC Universe super-hero figures under the Justice League Unlimited banner started off the fall transition with a major blunder. What should have been a $19.99 6-pack set of figures rang up at $4.99. Well below even Target’s cost. They sold the initial order’s inventory within a week as collectors were quick to take advantage of the mistake. Later, not only would the Target buying team correct the mistake, they then raised all the retails of all scales of the struggling DC Universe lines significantly even though they were sitting on dead inventory they already couldn’t sell off at the old retail prices! This move, as always, then halts the need to order new inventory which of course means fresh assortments the collectors are waiting for, rarely arrive. This is a delicate dance in the industry Target’s team lost its edge on in many key brands and not just the DCU. They had to drive a lot of toy industry brand managers at companies like Hasbro and Mattel crazy all throughout 2009.

The great Holiday retail price wars are another battle Target lost. I’d like to say fought and lost but it was clear early on that Target was not going to take an aggressive stance on capturing the consumer’s attention early in the most important quarter of the retail year. Short and simple: Wal-Mart, Toys-R-Us and even Amazon.com kicked Target in the nads, then kicked them again when they fell and took money out of their coffers while they were down. This isn’t just blame that the Target toy team should take as all areas of company clearly had a failed strategy to not get involved in the pricing wars until it was too late. I don’t know how they thought they could navigate any season without being super competitive when the previous year’s history should have taught that same lesson. But Target was the major player that posted a negative comp in November against the same time last year. Think about that…a negative number in Nov 2009 against the worst November in decades when the economy had just tanked and all of America was griped in fear and panic. Retailers not only had a full year to recover from that nightmare but adjust all aspects of doing business and attract the consumer through the doors. Every retailer was ready with strategy, pricing, inventory and marketing. Well, almost every retailer.

Speaking of marketing…our last example is a doozy and pretty much exemplifies just how flawed, no wait… stupid is a more accurate term…how stupid the current leadership of Target really is. Target’s TV commercials were pretty awful again this year. Once again going for a cute theme over actually trying to convey any reason why shoppers should spend money with them rather than anyone else. You know, they type of message Wal-Mart was hammering home successfully all year. Price, family, entertaining, sick children, quality brands, etc. Unlike the Target spots showcasing buffoons. You’ve seen them, spots that confuse you upon first viewing. Typically some couple is having a disagreement about gifts they purchased for Christmas, cannot assemble properly or some such nonsense. Of this series, there was one spot featuring a couple of parents on Christmas Eve discussing how there really is no Santa Clause. This spot ran all over prime time and was seen by countless children who then turned to question their dumbfounded parents. Target’s guest service center lit up after a few of these spots ran and that specific commercial was pulled off the rotation.

How does this happen? You are a major retailer who makes the majority of your sales of the year based partly on the myth of Santa Clause delivering a shit load of gifts to children everywhere. It should be a theme baked into the DNA of any marketing team any retailer uses during the Christmas season: "Do not let on that there is no such thing as a Santa Clause!" So here comes Target, too cute for their own good shooting themselves in the foot. Again.

I would not want to be any team within the company recapping the past quarter as they try to figure out what happened and where they need to go next. As in any large, overblown corporate culture, we imagine a lot of finger pointing will be going on within the bullseye right now and for the next few months.

Better luck in 2010 gang. You obviously need it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The party is over for the rodents and the scalpers

By now everyone knows the runaway hot toy of Christmas 2010 has been the Zhu Zhu Pet Hamsters.

Every year the media, mass retailers and ebay scalpers need at least one in-demand toy to drive interest and profits. And every time one is crowed the season's hottest of hot toys, there is always an endless army of dumb parents and grandparents that are willing to pay way too much on the secondary market just to have both the item itself and a story to tell their friends and family about how difficult or expensive it was to land the prize. Or the toy is gifted with the misguided hopes that this grail will provide a life altering moment for a kid who will most likely play with the mass-produced hunk of plastic and faux fur for maybe an hour on Christmas day then disregard it for their Wii games and ipods.

In the meantime, the hot holiday toy is a profit center primarily for the professional toy scalper (yes, there are pro toy scalpers, thousands of them), or any informed shopper with an ebay account who gets lucky enough to come across the rare prize on a store peg hook. During the heart of the shopping season, a Zhu Zhu Pets hamster that costs an average of $10 apiece, easily netted a ebay sale price of $50 or more. Beyond the profitability, you could sell the item and be paid within minutes of listing it online. It's the greatest example of supply and demand in U.S. consumerism.

Here in the final week of shopping week prior to Christmas, everyone is learning the other side of the lessons of supply and demand as Wal-Mart, Toys-R-Us and even Target are finally flooding their stores with Zhu Zhu Pets inventory. A quick visit to my local Target this morning confirmed a large supply of hamster inventory on their shelves. And while the toy section was busy, no one was making any mad grab for the rodents. While standing there I did a quick check on ebay with my phone and confirmed secondary market prices have crashed back to earth. Completed auction searches confirmed the rodents were not even selling for a few dollars mark up over store prices. Now that they can found with little effort, few actually need them anymore. Another example of scalpers driving demand more than those who want to buy the toys as gifts.

So another Christmas toy fad abruptly and officially ends. Everyone will begin to find Zhu Zhu Pets and accessories all over the place and store inventory will begin to pile up as all the scalpers who stayed at the table and gambled too long now discover they cannot make a profit much less any investment back will return the toys in droves on Dec 26th when retailers return policies are more lax. Now the realization will be made, as it is every year, that the "hot toy" was not really in demand because it was something children actually wanted, it was a only easy money for ebay scalpers and driven by a lazy media who repeat the same ‘hardest to find’ toy story weekly all during the season.

Of course by next November this lesson is forgotten, the next hot toy is crowned and the dance begins all over again.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Matt-tarded


Mattel and their collectors site, Mattycollector, continue to go from strength to strength in terms of pissing off their customers, and the most recent Matty offering (on December 15th) has taken the crown as the worst offender ever from the previous record-holder, August.

Please note that August was only 3 months ago, so expect more shenanigans in the near future – like on, say, December 23rd when their first fake Mego and the real site-crasher, DCU 11, goes on sale.

So what happened this time? Well, first the site went to shit within minutes of the noon EST launch time. Customers couldn’t check out, quantities greater than one weren’t being recognized, error messages were the norm and many encountered what has become affectionately known as RSOD or the “Red Screen Of Death.”

15 minutes into this clusterfuck the Matty Facebook page was updated with a message that stated they knew there was a problem and were working on it. Then, nothing.

Customers were forced to spend upwards of an hour trying to place orders that should take seconds to complete. Many had to order each item individually as a workaround to the uncooperative shopping cart, incurring extra shipping charges (and why does Matty charge tax to everyone, even when they do not operate in every State?).

By the time the problem was fixed (about two hours in) the message boards were on fire with horror stories and the re-release of Skeletor was sold out, which further aggravated already pissed-off customers who had wasted two hours trying to simply buy Mattel product.

The comments ranged from Mattel apologists on one side to enraged customers who vowed to quit the lines.

How did this happen? Good fucking question.

Mattel has been running this site for nearly a year, and it has been plagued with issues the entire time. In August, lots of orders were lost, cards were charged and customers were left frustrated trying to get a response, many of which remain unanswered.

Mattel’s e-commerce partner, Digital River, is a huge company whose slogan is “Nobody Offers More Ways To Build Your E-Commerce Business.” Apparently, Mattel chose the "shitty" option from the Digital River menu.

Certainly Digital River deserves plenty of blame, but Mattel is the real problem.

First of all, after nearly a year of class-a clusterfucks, why are they still using Digital River? Of course Mattel has a contract with DR, but this can easily be broken if the partner fails to deliver, unless they signed the worst contract ever, which, considering the way Mattel has operated over the last few years, may be the most likely answer.

Second, after nearly a year of class-a clusterfucks, why are they making their largest product offering ever without solving the problems first? We’re not even taking into account that Mattel was planning to offer DCU11 and the Green Arrow Mego on the same day - until they suddenly realized that either a) they would not have product in time (the official story) or b) that shipping is a profit center and that they could improve their margins with two offerings in one month, causing the same customers to place twice as many orders and pay twice the shipping (our guess).

Of course Matty knob-polishers like Julius Marx and his ilk (who would never criticize the company because their free product pipeline might get cut off) failed to address the issue at all in their toy news sections although their message boards were on fire with angry customers who rightly called it like they saw it.

Speculation ran rampant, mostly focused on cart issues. Did scalpers buy up all the Skeletors because the cart wasn’t functioning properly (not honoring the limit of 10 pcs per customer)? Did the cart artificially tabulate a higher number of sales, meaning that there really were fewer sold than the faulty cart indicated?

Instead of addressing the disaster, Matty & his human nerd puppet “ToyGuru” were busy “answering” fan questions on various collectors websites, an exercise that makes as much sense as eating twinkies while working out. And why not? After all collectors don’t want you to tell them if their money has been hijacked when they could be getting informative answers like these instead:

“Q4. Is there any chance we might see small villain groups for the DCUC line such as Royal Flush Gang, Brotherhood of Evil or Fearsome Five? Each of these have a build-a figure character potential (Ace, Mammoth, Monsieur Mallah & the Brain) that would be awesome to see 4horsemen style!

A4: Definitely a chance, but nothing we can confirm right now.

Q5. Whenever the Legion of Super-Heroes are released for the DCUC line can we expect to see them have a whole wave like wave 8 was for JSA or will they be peppered into other waves?

A5: We have some great plans for LOSH but it is too early for us to get into these specifics. “

While he was busy not answering questions (under the guise of answering questions), ToyGuru was ignoring the growing anger of his disenfranchised customer base.

Finally, the Facebook page was updated with a message stating that Mattel hadn’t gotten their full allotment of Skeletors from the factory and that the figure would be re-offered in the spring.

What???!!

Mattel has been crying foul on production issues for three years now. Initially this was justified as Chinese factories closed and product and parts vanished without notice. This cost Mattel a small fortune and sent the company scrambling for excuses as they pissed off vendors and fans by failing to address the issue in a timely manner.

But they have been re-using the excuse to cover up other failures and passing the cost of the loss onto their customer base by increasing the price of their products by 30%. Other companies suffered similar issues at the same time and were able to overcome them, why not Mattel?

It’s difficult to imagine that this Skeletor shortage was a surprise to Mattel unless they are even more incompetent than they have demonstrated themselves to be over the last few years. It’s hard to imagine with a bar set this high, but certainly not implausible.

So were they trying to meet a year end number to justify the ongoing Mattycollector site experiment? Are they, as has been whispered in El Segundo, looking for an excuse to throw ToyGuru out on his inexperienced ass?

It’s impossible to know, because, as usual, Mattel remains tight-lipped and unhelpful in addressing any of their ongoing issues that affect their dwindling customer base, but they plan more releases through this frustrating and ineffective system.

Clearly they are in over their heads on a number of levels, including manufacturing, distribution and line management. It’s too bad that this potential profit-center is being destroyed by poor execution.

PS: Look for our long-in-the-works upcoming series “Why Superhero Toys Suck Part One: Mattel” coming soon!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday Baby! Better known as Ugly Shopper Day!

Man I love the madness that is Black Friday.

If you ever want to sample a glimpse of what the apocalypse in America will look like, all you need to do is venture out among the masses that rise before the sun once a year to push, pull and scream their way through discount shopping.

Also, next to a state fair, this is the largest gathering of ugly people in one place. And mass retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy know how to dangle cheap carrots in front of the consumer's faces.

Check out this woman with the white jacket and black sweats (the walmart shopper choice in dress sweats): "Haw, haw, toys fall down, go boom. It Funny."
This is a Target...and the end of a long line at the back of the store waiting to check out!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mattel's DCU Failure at Mass Retail


Mattel's most recent round of product updates on their Mattycollector facebook site confirmed that for the first time ever, an entire upcoming wave of DC Universe action figures would be available for purchase via thier own online store.

On the surface this is fabulous news to long suffering hardcore collectors who are tired of the runaround and poor distribution of nearly every wave of this brand over the past year. As we've recounted here in this blog many times, Mattel's team handling this brand have done nothing but a piss-poor job getting this line to retailers and thereby into the hands of the collector.

But while this news of online sales may seem great on the surface, consider the larger picture and fate. Why would Target or Wal-Mart bother to invest in a line of toys when the main repeat customer in the toy aisles, the collector, can simply sit home and order them directly from the vendor? Outside of desperate retailers like Toys-R-Us, the other big boys don't have the time of day for that kind of a deal. As a toy buyer, how do you justify giving up the valuable space on the shelf or dealing with the constant headache of inventory controls when you now know a good percentage of your customer will buy directly form your vendor who is now a COMPETITOR for the same sales?

The answer is that they won't. Mattel has already caused the main retailers plenty of trouble this year with the brand. If Target hasn't already told Mattel it's done messing around with the DCU (which is our bet and why Mattel is announcing this online route now), then they absolutley will soon enough.

The DCU brand is not strong enough to support itself longterm with only online sales and reduced mainstream retail distribution. Proof? Show us any Mattycollector.com DC Universe exclusive that has yet to sell out in thier store.

Yes, the online route will be great in 2010 and will save the Bittergeeks just as much frustration as anyone out there trying to track these figures down. But we know better and can see the bigger picture and ramifications long term. The brand is severely damaged and now limping home to a likely demise.

And all because Toyguru and his team blew it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How to gain easy blog hits with one post


An easy post in order to gain search engine hit results!

Hey, just practicing the same standards as Newsweek here is by selecting this photo of Palin for their cover out of hundreds of thousands of choices. Sales go up and credibility comes down.

Nice legs though for a politician!

DC Direct and their Homosexual fixations


Newly solicited for 2010...aside from the fact that the costume and colors are all wrong for an iconic look...does anyone possibly think poor Aquaman here looks anything other than totally gay?
Thanks for destroying my childhood memories of the Super Friends George Brewer (Head of DCD).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hasbro has the Micronauts AND JJ Abrams wants to do a film?!


If true as currently reported, I'm in! Wow. As always when it comes to Hollywood and the Toy industry, what's old is new again. I have fond memories of this Mego toy line of the late '70s. All those kids from the swingin' seventies and early '80s now grown up and running around Hollywood are constantly strip-mining those eras lately for potential easy cash cows in the 21st century. So yes, potentially a very good move for both groups.


We are very interested to see where this development leads. We're sure Thundercats and Rom, Spaceknight can't be far behind.

Snooze you loose fanboys

The 4-DAY PASSES FOR THE 2010 SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON ARE NOW SOLD OUT!

Holy Shit!

No one even really knows what's going on during next year's event. You are going to see record scalper prices for these passes next summer on ebay.

Single day passes will likely go on sale very soon but look for those to now sell twice as fast. Especially the Friday and Saturday badges first.

Thankfully the Bitter Geeks obtained their badges!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

GI Joe: Rise Of Cobra Blu-Ray & GI Joe Resolute DVD Reviews



Against my better judgement, I bought this blu-ray (only $19.99 pre-order from Amazon) after thinking it was pretty limp in the theatres. Nursing a horriffic cold, I only managed to stay awake for about painful 20 minutes before dozing off, mercifully regaining conciousness as the credits rolled. Here are the original notes from my first (theatrical) viewing of the film:

Minuses:
* Fake snake
* Holograms have audible footsteps?
* Wayans awful
* Quaid awful
* Dialogue awful
* Acting awful
* Accelerator suit double awful
* Montage training = world police
* Turning invisible allows you to escape?
* How much did double bubble gum pay for product placement?
* Cobra G3 hummer? Weak.
* Cold breath in arctic is the weakest cgi I've seen outside of syfy
channel
* Cobra commanders mask falling off
* Oh wow! Everyone knows each other!
* Oh wow! Another flashback!
* Shock ending telegraphed so bad

Plus:
* Sienna Miller

It's hard to say this without breaking down into a giggle fit, but Stephen Sommers is no Michael Bay.

Prior to going comatose with the live action film, I watched the "adult" Joe cartoon, "Resolute" written by Warren Ellis, who is clearly not only a whore, but is also losing it. Nothing here that we haven't seen a million times before in the Joe comic book, and why is it "for adults"? Because they kill Bazooka and say "Hell"? An episode of Ben Ten has more drama than this.

A self-congratualtory "extra" featuring a bunch of in-house Hasbro hacks yakking about how ground-breaking this mess is only serves to illustrate how arrogant and out of touch the company is when it comes to their properties, a sin of pride that cause both this cartoon and the feature film to fail miserably.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Holiday Price Wars off to a blazing start...thanks to Amazon.com

You just knew all the major retailers were primed to battle it out this Holiday season for the shrinking budgets of the almighty American consumer. Especially after the majority of these peddlers took it on the chin in the Holiday bloodbath of 2008. The really savvy retailer knows you have to make a big splash early in the game. As soon as Halloween ends, the kid gloves come off. In the past week alone I think our household has received at least a dozen different shopping catalogs each packed with promises of deep discounts and free shipping.

Last year while nearly every retailer suffered shocking losses in the make or break fourth quarter, only Amazon.com saw not only an increase in year to year sales but profits as well. So while it's no surprise to see very good bargains on Amazon early here in November, it's absolutely jaw-dropping to see them pre-selling many of this year's summer blockbuster films IN THE BLU-RAY format well under $20. It's always a good deal when you find new releases on DVD around or just under $20 but up until this year it's just been unheard of in the Blu-Ray format.

Examples as of November 4th:

Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince: List Price is $35.99, Amazon preorder price is $16.99!

Terminator Salvation Director's Cut: List Price is $35.99, Amazon preorder price is $16.99!

Even a Disney/Pixar title like UP! that originally listed at $45.99 is currently $19.99. For a FOUR DISK Combo set. No way Target or Best Buy will beat deals like this in their circulars.

If anyone has been on the fence about Blu-Ray because of cost, this is clearly the Holiday season that excuse will end. Already, Wal-Mart is advertising they are about to offer reliable brand Blu-Ray players for under $150.

Even if you are not interested in purchasing any Blu-Ray product the point is that these offerings are indicative as to how crazy the price wars are about to become and Amazon.com is determined to lead the way. Amazon and Wal-Mart are both clearly ready for the war. Target, Best Buy and the rest better have learned from last year's mistakes and have some tricks up their sleeves.

It's going to be a fun year to shop and even more fun to watch. Best deals of the season are always offered in November when they need YOU. By the second week of December, YOU need them as the final shopping days for Christmas count down.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

SDCC 2010 4 Day Passes Almost Sold Out...IN NOVEMBER!

The calendar says November 3rd, 2009. Comic-con begins July 22nd and apparently the geek world is abuzz over the news that all available four day passes (not single day passes) for the event are nearly sold.

WTF?

Can we say now officially this show is no longer for or about the comic nerds? Comic fans have never been that hardcore about purchasing passes to any related event this far in advance.

This is now a total Hollywood love festival. When you have thousands of teenage GIRLS spending several nights sleeping in front of the San Diego Convention Center to get into a COMIC BOOK CONVENTION so they can wet themselves attending a 45 minute Twilight cast panel then you have a completely new event.

The Twilight sequels are planned one a year back to back which means another cast panel at the event in 2010 and 2011. No matter if New Moon completely sucks or is the biggest film of the year, you can bet all those girls that attended the con in 2009 are already buying up passes and planning their invasion for 2010.

The Twilight army is not the sole reason the con is selling out so fast for 2010 but they are a prime example of what is now the inevitable evolution of the San Diego Comic-con.

Prediction: If Comic-con International remains in the San Diego Convention Center for years to come, the show will need to split into two separate events. One for Comic Book publishers, creators, dealers and fans and one for everything else the show is evolving into. The pressure to raise exhibition rates will be too much for the average comic dealer and publisher to bear. There are many pop culture, Hollywood, mass retail, tech based would be participants with fistfuls of cash pounding on the convention center door dying to set up.

If you plan to attend the show next year for the full four days, buy ‘em soon or you’ll be crying in yer long box if you wait to buy your tickets in 2010.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fucking Piece of Shit


It’s almost the end of the month and I’ve only posted once in October, not because I haven’t been writing, but because nothing has seemed pressing/exciting enough to spur me to post.* Until today, when I read the most pathetic excuse for a Marvel comic since the original Clone Saga dragged on and on for months and months. In this book, a top-tier Marvel character, The Punisher, is put through a ridiculous plot twist that is so ill-conceived that it is likely to destroy his popularity.

Let’s be clear; I’m a Marvel guy before a DC guy, and I’ve been pretty happy with Marvel in the Joey Q era. I’m really happy that Marvel has recognized their latest event is interminable, and they’ve decided to shorten their events in the future, as well as confining them to fewer books. It’s a very good sign, because as strong as some of these event premises have been, they’re spread so thin on the ground that issues are designed to be nothing more than placeholders reiterating statements that all readers already have accepted as gospel (“Norman Osborn is bad” being the main one).

Bendis has been running loose over this editorial for a while and I’m a tired of the self-congratulatory tone he’s been taking lately, but in his defense, his books are largely above average and his predilection for praising BMB, while unflattering, isn’t entirely undeserved.

One of the failures of the current Dark Reign storyline is the breakdown of the overarching story into smaller arcs, like the current one “The List”. The premise here is that now Norman is firmly in charge, he’s made a list of things to do to super people.

Really?

He’s a few months into taking over Marvel Universe and NOW he’s making a list? Everything up to now was just winging it? I have a list of things to do every day and I’m no evil genius planning to take over the Marvel U. Of course I’m not a homicidal lunatic either, and maybe homicidal lunatics don’t make lists unless they get really, really crazy. Let’s be frank, the conceptual glue that’s holding this “List” arc together is ill-conceived at best, and a shining example of dragging a storyline out too long by creating & labeling arcs within arcs.

The List arc started a few weeks back with a typically strong Daredevil issue and since then a few more have come out, including this week’s “Wolverine: The List”, which, while nicely drawn, feels exactly like the kind of placeholder one-shot that adds nothing to the overall story, but meets some sales threshold requirement.

I referred earlier to the 90’s Clone saga in the Spider-man books, widely regarded as the most ridiculous, sprawling and pointless story in modern memory. Fanboys were so upset about its diabolical length and incoherence that they made a stink that hasn’t been rivaled since. The only thing close has been the hubbub over “One More Day”, which seemed to me like the best way to resolve a lot of plot incoherence that had built up in the Spider-man books over the prior ten-plus years. If we all had to take a spoonful of nasty tasting cod liver oil to purge our system and improve our overall health moving forward, the result was worth the cure.

Like the Clone Saga, this is a bad idea that is completely out of control. If this had happened during the aforementioned 90’s Punisher tailspin, we all could’ve written it off as a fitting end to a well-conceived but horribly mishandled character whose time had seemingly come and gone.

In the wake of an amazing (and long) Garth Ennis run that returned the character to his roots AND made him a major player in the MU, followed by the completely unexpected (and almost unheard of) successful handoff of Frank Castle to new writers who respected the core material and maintained the quality readers had come to expect, it was inevitable that Punisher fans were living on borrowed time. Since what had come before was so well-done, this issue is even more of a travesty.

Rick Remender has been a fine writer in my book and his Punisher writing to date has been fine stuff, if not quite up to Ennis standards. But here he has completely lost the plot.

You may have seen the ads for an upcoming Punisher arc called “Frankencastle”, which depict a sewn together and presumably reanimated Punisher. It looks intriguing, but I assumed the image was a non literal “shock” image designed to portray a psychological state rather than a physical one.

Nope.

In this miserable trainwreck of a comic, Daken, the ridiculously overused “son of Wolverine who is posing as Wolverine”, is sent to get Castle (presumably so Norman can check an item off of his list) and in the ensuing battle the Punisher is literally cut to pieces. Not in the “I literally shit my pants” use of literally that drunk college kids use, but in the “holy shit I can’t believe they cut the Punisher into chunks of flesh & bone (including decapitation), so they can do this stupid Frankencastle story”. Yes, they are going to take the pieces of the Punisher and sew them back together, resurrecting him as a reanimated corpse, complete with stitches and tubes, etc, etc.

How do I know the Frankencastle story will be stupid? Besides the obvious, there’s a preview of a good chunk of the first issue of the Shelley-inspired arc. It’s even worse than this one-shot story would indicate.

The art is by John Romita Jr., whose typical clear, blocky style is compromised here by an uncertain and perhaps disinterested Gene Colan-esque whispy-ness. The styles don’t mesh well, leaving the colorist to hold the art together.

I am baffled as to how this story got approved by editors. It’s unimaginable to me. This is the first sign that the second wave of Punisher popularity is over, a real tragedy for Marvel considering he’s one of the few post- Stan & Jack era characters that has resonated with the general public (and is something of a licensing powerhouse as well).

The Punisher is not a superhero in the traditional sense; he has no powers, he doesn’t really wear a stereotypical superhero costume. He isn’t designed to be rebuilt as a monster anymore than he is to join the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Yes, he has died & returned before - Ennis brought Frank back from the dead with fitting gruffness and brevity, forsaking a drawn out multi-issue storyline that teases and depicts the method of his return, opting instead to explain it all with a couple of deft, in-character lines of dialogue. From there the Punisher dove headlong into action against lowlife mobsters, drug dealers, rapists, slavers, etc. It was if years of headbands, Marvel Edge issues and angelic/demonic (re)incarnations had been washed away in just a few panels.

Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon have another Punisher series in the works. No doubt it will be fine and (I assume) will consist of more traditional Punisher stories, but how can it avoid being tainted by this storyline, the resolution of which is destined to be a cop-out? I don’t want to hear about the different iterations of the Punisher on various Marvel Earths – that’s fine for an FF story or a DC continuity reboot, but it doesn’t work for a dark and gritty character that is best rooted in reality.

I’m not sure how this vile Punisher One-Shot will be rationalized away in the future, but if I were the editorial and creative teams, I’d get working on something yesterday, because this is far and away the worst Punisher book ever published, and that’s saying something in the wake of some really evil shit cranked out during his slide into overexposure back in the 90’s.


* I’ve been working on a long piece about how Mattel, DC Direct and Hasbro are killing American Superhero toys that will go up sometime soon, I promise/hope.

Friday, October 9, 2009

DC Direct suckage drives neutral toy site over the edge!


Now I've seen it all. One of the best toy news sites out there, Cooltoyreview.com, lost it's cool this week. Driven to rant on the keyboard by another action figure line misfire delivered by DC DIRECT.

We love Cooltoyreview, they are one of the top sites out there with connections to most of the main toy vendors and the collector community. They work hard and are on the spot with news daily. But like many of these kinds of sites on the 'net, they have always remained very neutral when delivering photos of new product or the B.S. many of the toy companies spew in Q&A sessions. These sites would never dare comment on or criticize any information delivered for fear of jeopardizing their relationship with the Mattels, Hasbros, Sideshows or even DC Directs of the toy world.

Of course that's where this blog comes in.

But low and behold the guys at Cooltoyreview lost their shit while assembling a photo archive of DC Direct's newest 'History of the DC Universe' wave of action figures. This is the first figure line in DCD's history where they actually tried to add multi-point articulation. Specifically they were attempting to copy the sculpting and articulation of Mattel's superior DC Classics line. Apparently DC failed miserably and Cooltoyreview wasted no time driving the point home.

Amazing that after all these years and countless toy issues to comment on, this was the line that finally broke their silence. The critique is absolutely justified of course but we still can't believe they did it. There isn't nearly enough of this type of commentary on the main toy sites. I applaud the Cooltoy guys for finally stepping out. How do you expect improvement if you don't let the folks behind the scenes producing collectibles know what the collector actually wants?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mattel's TOYGURU...marketing whiz


Really? First time?! Oh, hell FOR SURE Grandma will drop Batman in the aisle for this treasure!

Mattel's resident fuck-up, TOYGURU, the guy in charge of (destroying, we think) the popular DC Universe brand of action figure lines, must have thought long and hard about how to market the GUARDIAN figure in DC Classics wave 9.


Now in the pecking order of comic heroes, it's hard to imagine you can find a handful of hardcore comic nerds who even know who this character is much less give a shit if he was ever made into a plastic figure.

But Guardian was a smooth body figure that Toyguru found and ol' Toyguru loves to re-use smooth body figures so he won't have to spend any sculpting money on 'em. But apparently 'Guru, knowing a peg-warmer when he sees one, must have decided that this figure needed that certain pizzazz to move him off of the pegs in the toy aisles. And unlike the shit he over shipped to the poor retailers all year like Captain Cold and Gay Blue Aquaman, he determined that this potential loser would need the extra push. So even though the tag means nothing to the moms or kids or even the collectors (they need to buy him anyway) the sticker for the shout out was made!

"FIRST TIME IN 6 INCH!"

Oh! Well is there an 8" version? 3"? 12"? 5.5"? Um, no. But who cares. Wave 9 of the series isn't making it to retailers anyway.

Another example of 'Guru wasting time in the wrong places with this brand. How the idea for such a wasted sticker wasn't laughed out of El Segundo, we'll never know. How does Mattel find 'em?

Matty Sucks: We Interpret The Latest BS From Mattel

Here's the latest Q&A from Mattel's Boys Action Team that was released yesterday. These are fan-submitted questions (designated by the Q), with responses by Mattel (designated by the A). And our interpretations of their responses (designated by the BG). Enjoy!

Q1. Question(s) about the newly announced DCUC 12 C&C Darkseid. A. How big is he? B. Is he the same sculpt as before with a bigger head and a death glove? C. Is the glove removable with an alternate hand? D.
Any possibility of a cape ala Super Powers for him?
A1. He will be 9 inches tall with an alternate hand, but will not include a cape.
BG: We are too cheap to put a cape in. Of course he will be as big as the other BAFs, idiot. We are ignoring the rest of your questions because we need to get back to writing excuses for our mind-boggling incompetence.
Q2. Why are there two different Battle Axe Batman figures in B:TBatB?
They have different SKU numbers, different package art, different axes and one has a new sculpt with chest armor while the other is just a regular figure.
A2. It is a running change to the figure. There is a great image up on Facebook showing this insert!
BG: We fucked up so bad on that one that instead of just telling you we'd fix it in a running change, we actually DID FIX IT!! I know, it's a surprise to us too, and we did it!

Q3. So what IS happening with JLU in 2010? Will it still be at Target? There are a lot of rumors about JLU flying about, it’s death or continuation, at Target, on Mattycollector, or elsewhere. A lot of fans are waiting with baited breath to get news on its fate. Any news that you can share to ease our suffering? Anything? Assurances? Hints?

A3. We cannot announce our 2010 plans yet. Make sure to check out the JLU 4 packs on MattyCollector.com.
BG: Our plans are this; there are no plans. No retailer in his right mind (so that still leaves TRU) would touch this line after we clusterfucked it out of existence. Now please buy some of the figures we have for sale so Toyguru isn't eating this shit for breakfast for the next ten years. that stuff is starting to stink up the warehouse!

Q4. Several people received this email from BigBadToyStore.com concerning their pre-orders for DCUC Wave 9:
"Hi – we unfortunately have received bad news from Mattel on the DC Universe Series 9 assortment. They have informed us that they grossly under-produced this wave and that only about 25% of our order will be filled. Many other stores also apparently have suffered the same huge shortage, and the product is short across the entire market. We were extremely upset with Mattel for this news and have relayed to them how upset our customers will be as well.
At this point, we unfortunately do not expect any more shipments from Mattel. For those of you who ordered between February 13th and 14th, it is possible that your orders=2 0will fill due to cancellations and non-payment of orders from people who ordered before you (their cancelled orders will move to the next people in line automatically).
If you ordered after these dates, it is very unlikely we will have any inventory, and we suggest that you purchase these figures anywhere else you may be able to find them. (You can view the date you ordered your product by logging into your BBTS account and viewing your preorders) We have heard reports they are showing up at mass market stores, and some should also be on ebay. We absolutely hate not being able to fill your order, but Mattel has really screwed up this wave and there is not anything we can do about it. We are hoping that some sort of future production run of DCU 09 can be negotiated, but at this point there is nothing worked out. We will keep your preorders open in our system until we can determine if Mattel will produce more in the future or not. We will email you with any further news as we hear it from Mattel, hopefully something will be resolved. The sales manager at Mattel did assure me that DCU waves 11, 12, and 13 would not suffer from the same issues, so we do not anticipate any shortages on those waves."
Can you speak to what happened with wave 9? Was it under produced? Did the larger big box retailers end up with a larger allocation of that assortment? Should collectors be worried about finding this wave?
A4. Sorry, but we cannot comment on the production run of any figure line.

BG: Are you serious? "Should collectors be worried about finding this wave?" Shouldn't collectors be worried about finding ANY wave of DCU? Why would this series be any different? We have to go and figure out how to kill this line a little quicker. Your thoughts are welcome. ***Seriously, why did they even include this question if they weren't going to answer it? Did they want to make sure everyone that wasn't pissed at them already had a reason to be angry?***

Q5. What will the new case pack outs be on the next round of JLU 3 packs ? Talking about the Batman Beyond,Cheetah, Blackhawk and Flash 3 packs. How many of which ones to a case maybe just rough numbers?

A5. There will be three new sets per case, 2 of each set.

BG: Not that it matters because you'll never find them, loser. We only shipped 4% of what Target ordered of the new assortments, but if you need that Question 3 pack, now's your chance because we shipped them a bunch of those instead.

Q6. Do you have more DCUC 5 packs planned? And why is the current Walmart 5-pack called "The Gotham City 5?" when it has Superman and Lex in it?
A6. We do have more 5 packs planned, but not for 2009. The set was originally an all Bat pack, but Superman and Lex were added late in the game.

BG: We are so lazy!!! We didn't even bother to change the text on the box, which would take about five seconds in photoshop!! Ha-ha-ha!!! Yes, we're planning more five packs, but with a little luck, we'll get this line cancelled before they can be released.

Q7. We have seen a lot of characters from the classic CRISIS maxi-series appear in DCIH. Any chance that some of these characters would make into DCUC over the next year? I would love to see the ’80s Supergirl in the DCUC line. It would also be a nice nod to Super Powers since she was considered for that line at one point.

A7. We can’t comment on unannounced figures, but yes, all of these figures could be put into the DCUC line. Stay tuned!
BG: For those of you thinking we would actually answer your questions, blow us!! Ha -ha ha!!

Q8. Sigourney Weaver is fair game for the Ghostbusters line, what about Rick Moranis? Any chance of Ghostbusters going monthly next year? At this point the guys won’t be complete until May…what about the oft mentioned variants? and figures such as Unslimed Egon and Peter? Every other month for 2 years is only 12 figures…any insight?

A8. We do have rights to Rick Moranis’s character, Louis Tully, for the line. We have rights at this point to all of the major characters and many of the minor ones as well. It should be clear sailing with a robust line available on MattyCollector.com.

BG: Please note the use of qualifier "it should be". This will be referred to later when we fuck up the line and it is cancelled after releasing Louis Tully and two of the Ghostbusters.

Q9. How much do you take into consideration the poll results when it comes to making new figures in the JLU line? Is it the new sculpts required for of some of these figures (Toyman, STRIPE, Kalibak, etc.) that has kept them from being made up to this point?

A9. We do look at lots of poll results and fan requests for all of our collector lines. There are many figures we did in 2009 that were specific fan requests.

BG: We will not sculpt anything new if it can possibly be avoided. If fans would like to submit lists of characters that are smooth all over, we will consider them as there might be one or two we have missed.

Q10. MOTUC – Female Body Sculpts – Can Mattel provide an update on whether or not the female MOTUC figures (including Adora (January
2010)) will have an ab-crunch or waist-twist point of articulation (or some other articulation allowing movement/posing in the torso area)?
A10. The females will not have ab crunch.
BG: We will continue to reduce articulation across all lines until the figures are as static as McFarlane figs, but without the detailed sculpts. Thanks you - please send more questions that we won't really answer so we can do this again soon!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Matty Can't Ship Toys (or spell)

Here's the latest from Matty's facebook, where apparently Mattel lets ToyGuru make an ass of himself and irritate their customers and vendors in public, without letting the mktg or sales departments review it in advance (Caps emphasis is ours):

"Hey He-Fans,

Since a few fan sites are doing reviews of Teela, I wanted to point out a few details on this awesome fig!

First off, she goes on sale Oct 15th, only on MattyCollector.com (along with bonus figure Zodak on the same day!)"

(then Blah blah blah about the details of this figure until finally:)

"Also, a lot of fans are asking about Zoar's armor and pertch. We do have plans for both in the future in all the necessary colors. Stay tuned!

See ya in the aisles,

Matty"

Go get on your pertch, berd! I'll make it out of bertch! If you don't, you'd better go to Chirch before Matty leaves you in the lertch!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mattel DCU Classics 9 Epic Fail: Get Em While You Can (or if you can)!

From Mattycollector:

"Hey DCU fans,

A lot of fans have written in about some canceled DCU Classic orders for Wave 9.

Mattel always does its best to fulfill product on shelves and we’re currently working on shipping as much of Wave 9 as possible. We will work with all of our customers to fulfully as many orders as possible. It is also possible we will go back into production of Wave 9 down the line due to greater demand. But nothing is set in stone yet. Still working on this.

In the future, we will be working even more in advance with retailers and online e-tailers to get orders in early for DCUC to ensure all orders can be filled.

Doing all we can do on this - you have my word!

And to clarify, we will not be selling Wave 9 on Mattycollector.com. Although we reviewed this option a few months back, because online and brick and mortar retailers needed Wave 9 product, we released what we had hoped to sell on Mattycollector to these customers. We're hoping that by Wave 11 we can indeed offer DCUC on Mattycollector.com and fill all customer orders too. We'll have more details if they are available and if this goes forward. Again, nothing set in stone right now.

Matty"

Hey ToyGuru, why are you trying to crank out five/six assortments a year when you can't even manufacture to meet pre-orders, nevermind re-orders?

Friday, September 11, 2009

DiDio firing watch update - DC Comics restructuring


Oh Dan, with the new restructuring of DC Comics moving under the Warner film division's wing we can only conclude that your remaining days as EIC of DC Comics just got a lot shorter.

Our prediction: DiDio will be asked to leave the editor chair and take up a new position within the new DC entertainment structure once the ducks are in place. More than likely heading up the inevitable digital comics initiative the new boss Diane Nelson wants to get moving on quickly.

A blind person can see DC Comics editorial needs a reboot and this restructuring will be the perfect opportunity shake things up and still save face for a lot of the current regime's failures responsible for the mess it's in.

Disney and Marvel and the annoyance of the 'net

Ok, despite an avalanche of material posted online to date about the entertainment deal of the year, here's what we all know by now about the deal between Disney and Marvel Entertainment...

NOTHING other than Disney bought Marvel Comics and will attempt to do great things with the brand in the future. End of story, for now.

The most annoying aspect of this story and how it's covered online? The clip art mash ups of Disney characters and Marvel heroes. Please stop. It's lame, it's embarrassing and face it bloggers, there is no unique way at this point to post a "funny" image of Mickey's head on the Hulk's body. Just because your PC came with a low end image program that allows you the ability to cut and paste artwork "borrowed" off others websites, that does not mean you need to showcase your "talent" every time you post an article about the story.

I'm begging you please, enough guys and gals, enough.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More proof Sideshow Collectible's order process needs an overhaul

Ah Sideshow...what will it take before you realize the way you offer your products up for sale is woefully overdue for review at least and an overhaul at best. I guess getting screwed over by collectors on your site that never intend to follow through on pre-ordered purchases is a good start. Each newsletter that Sideshow ships out weekly is a laugh riot with tales of previously sold out items that are magically available for sale. Even despite the fact that there are potential buyers lined up on an item's wait list.

This week the San Diego Comic-con Star Wars exclusive Luke & Han as Stormtroopers 1/6th scale two pack is once again available for sale. First come, first served. Another "SOLD OUT" Sideshow wonder that is really not sold out after all. And in truth, never was.

This scenario happens again and again with just about everything Sideshow throws up for sale. Especially within the last year as the economy went south. A new offering sells out the day it's released and despite even filling a wait list, these items are almost always available suddenly months later. Not only that but Sideshow practically begs collectors to buy the newly discovered inventory and asks the affiliate websites to continually get the word out for them.

Look Sideshow, you clearly have a problem with too many wannabe collectors ordering on your site whose eyes are bigger than their bank accounts. At the same time, you have a significantly less legitimate collector pool committed to buy your wares. You need to create a new process to weed these deadbeats out of the pre-order process and allow the real paying customer to place an order without all the B.S. Personally, I'd be happy if you just fully charged us out of the gate for any pre-order. I get that purchase done and out of the way and I don't have to worry about getting blind-sided by you in the fourth quarter when you decide to ship a year's worth of pre-orders on top of each other. But I understand the liability issues of charging someone for an item that won't show up for probably two years.

The other answer is just as simple. Create some sort of elite level of membership on your site. Charge a nominal yearly fee but this status allows guaranteed access to pre-order your new products. You charge the fee to weed out deadbeats and pay for the technical tweak to tie an account to the elite status. Charge $40 or $50 but to make everyone feel good about it and reduce online bitching, you could then offer those paid accounts discounts later on. Maybe it's a discount on specific merchandise like only your SDCC exclusives or a refund of sorts at the end of a paid year or even $10 coupons quarterly.

Just do SOMETHING new for god's sake. Honestly, as a business aren't you tired of dealing with that deadbeat run around while also pissing off your best clients that can't be at their computer every hour of the day to place an order before it "Sells Out"?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

No SNL in new Marvel Essential TPB

By far the new trade release of the week is volume three of Marvel Comics ESSENTIAL MARVEL TEAM-UP. Reprinting issues 52 through 75 along with Annual #1. This volume is maybe the best collection of issues in this series featuring Spider-Man team-up stories from the late '70s.

What you will find: The classic creator partnership of Chris Claremont and John Byrne on several issues in this volume. Chris and John's MTU stories were produced right around the time both creators historic work on the Uncanny X-Men was just taking off. This is when Claremont could tell a fast paced, dramatic and cohesive story in just a couple issues and when Byrne's pencils were raw and organic. Classic comic gold. There is a mulit issue story arc by these two in here that remains one of my very favorite comic storylines to date. It starts in issue 59 and wraps in issue 62 where Spidey teams with the likes of Yellow Jacket & the Wasp, The Human Torch and Ms Marvel. In turn the heroes take on a new villian named Equinox and the Super Skrull. Here you will find some of the best John Byrne art of the day. And we love his '70 sideburns on Power Man in issue 75. Dig it!

What you won't find: Issue 74 in the series is missing. The reprints in the volume skip right over it from 73 to 75. The reason? Issue 74 was a crazy cross promotion featuring Spider-Man teaming up with...the '70s cast of Saturday Night Live.

That's right. Marvel Comics partnered with the NBC late night TV sketch comedy because...uh, we have no idea why. Most likely it was a deal done between certain individuals in a noisy disco in NY and under the influence of recreational drugs and alcohol. Regaurdless, all these decades later, Marvel either didn't want to pay the fees to NBC or perhaps the red tape to secure rights to each performer's likeness was too much trouble so they just decided to omit the reprint.

We won't loose any sleep over it. This is still a gem of an Essential collection. Highest recommendation for fanboys everywhere.

Review: Comics Journal #299


Today is new comic book day and I budget my time to include little work so I can enjoy the week’s releases. Typically I return from the local store with my purchases and tear into my favorite titles, but this week I started with the Comics Journal #299, the centerpiece of which is a long piece about an ambitious comic book project from the 70’s that started life as a 20 page Rolling Stone supplement then ballooned into a 500+ page international omnibus that was subsequently shelved when a publisher couldn’t be found.

Called "The Someday Funnies", the list of artists that would’ve been included therein reads like a who’s who of top comic talents of the day (Wood, Adams, Eisner, Kirby, Barry Smith, etc) but also encompasses high profile outsiders like Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones and William Burroughs. The story recounts failed attempts to engage Dali, Dylan, Lennon and Steinam, among others.

It’s a well-written and engaging article that was written with a great deal of support from the man behind the book, Michel Choquette, a Canadian who was an early contributor to the National Lampoon (a favorite subject of mine).

The story is incredible, although somewhat one-sided. Choquette appears a well-meaning, sensitive fellow with a completion anxiety that rivals my own. He seems to have really believed in the project, but let it get out of control. Reading between the lines, this seems to have ultimately derailed the publication.

The article is must-read stuff for any comics fan with an appreciation of history and lost work, much of which is reprinted here, albeit in very small scale.

The author mentions that googling the book only produces one result, which is crazy considering the list of contributors and the multi-year ordeal involved in assembling the work. Here’s hoping the book is finally published as a result of this story.

That said, the rest of the issue has some solid stuff, but this is clearly the centerpiece. A large section reprinting pages and pages of early animator Myron Waldman’s “Eve” drawings ought to have been published as its own book, as the pages just seem jammed in here, and take up a lot of space as well.

Sadly, the Journal continues it’s tradition of overwrought and overwritten articles that provide more fuel for its detractors. This issue has an article called “World, Soul, Psychetypes, Psychoecology – A New Logic of the Psyche. 3 – The Secret Language of Ineffable Self”. Seriously, fuck off.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

DC Classics Wal-Mart Exclusive Box Set is out

At last! Mattel finally ships something of the DC Universe Classics line to retail. Wal-Mart stores are currently re-setting their toy aisles for fall and some new items are showing up. Today I came across the new Wal-Mart exclusive Gotham City 5 boxed set of DCU figures.

This set was first shown recently by Mattel during the San Diego Comic-con. At first glance I didn't think much of this offering because it appeared packed with so many re-decoed figures previously released. But up close the set proves to be a must have for collectors of the line.

The best and completely new figure in the set is '70s look Lex Luthor. Lex sporting his most familiar outfit best known as worn often in the old Super Friends animated series. The Superman sculpt in this set has been used several times by now but this is the first time we get a basic and classic Superman figure to display. The previous releases included the lame Super-Mullet hair style and a two-pack version were Supes' eyes were painted solid red to simulate the use of heat vision. It's amazing it took this long to finally get a basic Superman in this line.

The other figures in the set are re-tooled or decoed Bat-Universe characters. Like with Superman in this set, we finally also get a basic and modern Batman in the black and grey. The head and cape are new sculpts, different from the previous blue and grey incarnation of the character in the line. The mask's ears are taller and the cape forms around his neck instead of hooked onto his shoulders. Again, a most welcome and long overdue version. The Catwoman figure is simply a purple paint job over the previous release of the character in the older Mattel DC Super-Heroes line that pre-dates this current DC line. For me the look is out of place with his outfit but I know a lot of collectors have been begging for a Catwoman and had a hard time finding the previous version years ago so I understand Mattel's choice here.

The lamest figure in this set is Two-Face. This figure is a hack job. Mattel is using a Clark Kent body (again previously found in the DC Super-Heroes line) and sculpted a new head and left hand. The new head just sucks. Even to a blind person, the head is too small for the body and has limited pose range. It cannot pivot up or down. Besides the shitty head, the biggest miss on this character is absence of a coin in one of his hands. Seriously Mattel, if you are going to go through the trouble of sculpting up a new, scarred left hand, at least have it posed holding a coin, Two-Faces' signature accessory and trademark. How much could a detail like that have possibly impacted this set? A lazy oversight.

The set retails for just under $55. Not a terrible deal. Single figures average $12.00 at retail these days and Mattel confirms that price will likely be rising by end of the year. It's a set worth picking up for Luthor and better versions of Superman and Batman alone. You can place this Catwoman and Two-Face in the back of your DCU display on your shelves.