Your not-at-all-regular reminder that we’re living in the Golden Age of Comics

I went to the comic book store on Wednesday, 5 December, as I do almost every Wednesday. I did not buy my comics the previous week (I still went to the store, because it’s fun to hang out) because I had a good-sized stack and, as it was the end of the month, I didn’t have as much money as I usually do, as we get paid on the first of the month. So I left my stash and combined it with the stuff I bought this week. It’s a very good cross-section of why comics are awesome and why we’re living in a Golden Age.

I probably buy more comics than anyone else who writes for us, even though most of us have bought comics in the past and still read them. Some of our writers are older than I am and have turned into curmudgeonly old men, ranting about how comics were better when they were kids and everyone should get off their lawn. So that’s probably one reason some of us don’t buy as many comics as they used to. Price is certainly another consideration. Marvel and DC have some nerve charging 4 dollars for their flimsy product when they’re printing money at the box office, but they don’t really care about comics except as an IP generator, so it’s not surprising they haven’t even thought about trying to reverse the ghetto-ization of the product, even with more people interested in superheroes than ever. So comics are too expensive for many people, and I wonder if that’s also a reason people here don’t buy them as much. Time to read is an issue, as is storage. All of this means that it’s hard to collect as much as we once did, and I get that. But we’re still living in a Golden Age. Yes, the stories might not have as much impact because we’ve seen it all before and DC and Marvel won’t let their IPs change at all. I get that. But the access to creating comics is greater than ever, we’re getting more and more interesting voices creating comics, and the breadth of the kinds of comics you can find is astonishing. With that in mind, I thought I’d simply list everything from the past two weeks that I bought and show why it’s such a Golden Age. It’s not just the current stuff, of course, because we’re also in the Golden Age of Reprints! Let’s check it out:

Single issues (which I still buy, even though I’ve moved away from them a lot, because it’s ridiculous when everything is collected, but I do like to support some creators through single issues and some are just one-shots, so why not?):

Albert Einstein, Time Mason #2. A goofy science fiction book starring a young Einstein as a dude trying to save the time stream from villainous villains. It’s a fun book. It’s published by Action Lab, which is usually good at collecting things, but I met the writer a few years ago at the Phoenix Con and bought issue #1, so I kind of feel the need to support the book in single issues. MSRP: $3.99

Cinema Purgatorio #16. The terrific anthology from Avatar, with Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill telling creepy tales at a movie theater. The other three serials are excellent, too, and Kieron Gillen (who writes one of them) told me in June that they’ll keep publishing it as long as Moore wants it to go on, so here’s to Moore wanting it to go on! MSRP: $6.99

DC’s Nuclear Winter Special. A bunch of twisted Christmas stories. DC usually gets good talent for these anthologies, and they have some here, so I don’t mind plunking down the ducats for it. At least it’s good content! MSRP: $9.99.

Die #1. Kieron Gillen’s latest series, about kids playing a game that’s, I’m sure, nothing like Dungeons & Dragons at all and releasing something evil, and how they deal with it as adults. Yes, it’s been done, but Gillen is one of my favorite writers, and one of the few whose work I will buy in single issues (his independent work, that is – when he writes for the Big Two I can wait for the trade). It’s also Stephanie Hans on art, and her art is beautiful, so I don’t feel bad about picking up the singles for this. MSRP: $3.99.

Die! Die! Die! #3-5. This is Robert Kirkman’s annoying quasi-spy thriller, which is fun to read and beautifully drawn by Chris Burnham. Why is it annoying? Kirkman refuses to put it in Previews, because he wants you to have the 1980s experience, when you showed up at the comics store without knowing what was coming out and you could find a gem like this. It’s annoying because it’s not the 1980s anymore, Kirkman, and I can’t pre-order this and I don’t know when it will show up and if my retailer doesn’t get enough copies, I might miss it. So that’s why I got three issues in one week, because they hadn’t been showing up and then he went and ordered them. Stupid Kirkman! MSRP: $3.99 each.

The Green Lantern #2. I’m so in the tank for Morrison that I will pay DC’s exorbitant prices to get this in single issues. By the time it’s done, I will have paid $48 for something that will be in trade for $20-25. Yes, I’m a sucker. But I’m also a Whorrison, so that’s they way it is. Liam Sharp’s art is amazing, too. MSRP: $3.99.

House Amok #3. I’ve bought some of the Black Crown stuff in single issues and some in trade. I don’t really have a system. The art in this is by Shawn McManus, whom I dig, so maybe that’s why I got it in single issues. I do want Black Crown to succeed, though – it’s very interesting. MSRP: $3.99.

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #40. Lapham just keeps on keeping on, and it’s impressive how he can do a book in which so much happens but the characters never move forward with their lives. We’re stuck in 1982, and it looks like we’re going to be their for the rest of our lives! MSRP: $4.99.

The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion #3. I thought it was safe to write about The Umbrella Academy because I figured Gerard Way would never get off his bony butt and write another series, and what do you know – scant months later, here’s another arc! (I don’t like writing Comics You Should Own posts about things that aren’t finished yet.) Stupid Gerard Way! (I have no idea if Way has a bony butt or not. I also find it humorous that my daughter has gotten into My Chemical Romance a little bit, and she was a bit flummoxed when I told her I knew who the lead singer was. My daughter doesn’t care about being cool among her peer group – she listens to ABBA, for instance – but I do think she thought she had me stymied with that one. Little did she know!!!!) MSRP: $3.99.

The Wicked + The Divine #40. The beginning of the final arc. I don’t love WicDiv (sigh, yes, that’s what the fans call it) as much as some Gillen and McKelvie comics, but I have a feeling I will like it a lot more once I read the entire thing, because there’s a lot going on that I’m sure I’ve missed. We’ll see. MSRP: $3.99.

The Merry X-Men Holiday Special. This is fairly interesting – it’s structured like an advent calendar, with each day of December taking up one page, and various creators writing a one-page story. Some of them are simply character studies, but others are actually stories – of course, they’re one-joke stories or such, but still, it’s a neat idea. So I thought it would be fun to read. MSRP: $4.99.

Collected editions and graphic novels:

Aquaman: The Search for Mera Deluxe Edition. Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo on Aquaman, yeah! This collects issues #40-48 from 1968-69, and I imagine the plot is about Aquaman searching for Mera. HOW DID I KNOW?!?!?!? This looks great – really nice Aparo art – and I’m looking forward to reading this. MSRP: $34.99.

Cloak and Dagger: Shades of Grey. This is one of those digital-first stories that Marvel prints as a nice collection. It’s written by Dennis Hopeless and drawn by David Messina, so it’s a good team, and who doesn’t dig Cloak and Dagger? I just can’t deal with the name of it. DIDN’T WE FIGHT A REVOLUTION SO WE COULD SPELL “GRAY” AND OTHER WORDS THE WAY WE WANT TO?!?!?!?!? U! S! A!!!!!!! MSRP: $19.99.

Eternity Girl. Magdalene Visaggio has some good ideas, but I’m not yet convinced she’s a good writer. Still, Sonny Liew’s art is neat, and I figured I’d give this a shot. MSRP: $16.99.

Galaktikon. This is about a galactic hero whose life falls apart and he tries to put it back together. It’s a comedy! I got this solely because Steve Mannion draws it, but I did pick up the first issue and it was pretty good, so I waited for the trade. MSRP: $17.99.

Green Arrow volume 6: Trial of Two Cities. Benjamin Percy’s run on Green Arrow is solid – not great, but entertaining – and I think this is the final collection of it (I could check, I suppose, but I don’t feel like it right now). He’s also had some good artists on the book, beginning with Otto Schmidt, but probably the only reason I picked it up was because Juan Ferreyra drew a good amount of it. See below for another instance of that! MSRP: $16.99.

The Highest House. I’m not as jazzed by Mike Carey and Peter Gross’s collaborations as most people seem to be, but I like to give things that sound interesting a chance, and this book about a kid in a medieval kingdom sounds neat. We’ll see. MSRP: $24.99.

Kismet, Man of Fate. Kismet is widely regarded as the first Muslim superhero – he debuted in 1944 – and A. David Lewis brings him into the modern age with Noel Tuazon on art. Lewis is a very interesting writer – he doesn’t write a lot of comics, but those he does are quite good – and Tuazon is a good artist, so I’m looking forward to this. Plus, it’s published by A Wave Blue World, and its boss man, Tyler Chin-Tanner, is a hell of a nice guy. MSRP: $19.99.

Lip Hook: A Tale of Rural Unease. David Hine and Mark Stafford have done some terrific horror comics together, so when I saw they were doing this, I had to pick it up. It looks very creepy! MSRP: $22.99.

Marvel Universe by John Byrne volume 2. Lots of weird stuff in here – Marvel Chillers, Ghost Rider, Bizarre Adventures – plus the complete Byrne run on Iron Fist (which I already own) and the complete Marvel: The Lost Generation, and some issues of Star Brand, as well! I got it for everything, but I was really pleased to see the She-Hulk graphic novel, which I don’t think has ever been reprinted. This is a monster volume, checking in at over 1250 pages, but it’s quite nicely put together, and it hasn’t been recolored, which is a plus! MSRP: $125.00.

Mazeworld Collector Edition. This is a 2000AD story from the late 1990s, and I had never heard of it until I saw it offered in Previews. I like Alan Grant, though, and I like Arthur Ranson’s art, so I figured it would be a good book. It looks superb. Of course, as Diamond has trained marmosets working in their warehouses, it was packed weirdly into their box and came out with an ugly bend in the cover, but I’ll live. MARMOSETS ARE ADORABLE BUT SHOULDN’T BE WORKING IN WAREHOUSES!!!!!! MSRP: $29.99.

Old Man Logan volume 9: The Hunter and the Hunted. Ed Brisson is a pretty good writer, and for a book with cranky Wolverine, I imagine he’s perfect, but I bought this because Juan Ferreyra draws three issues in it. The first two issues actually look pretty good, too. But Marvel’s trades are getting ridiculous – this is five issues long and it’s about as thick as a communion wafer. Come on, Marvel! MSRP: $15.99.

Paper Girls volume 5. This just keeps chugging along. Gorgeous art from Cliff Chiang! MSRP: $14.99.

RoboCop: Citizens Arrest. Whatever you might think of him, Brian Wood writes good comics, and this sounds pretty neat (citizens can now use an app to make an arrest and get paid for it), plus Coelho is a good artist. I just wonder if there ought to be an apostrophe in that title. Yes, this is what I worry about. MSRP: $19.99.

Silver Surfer Omnibus. I bought the first couple of trades of the Slott/Allred run, but fell behind for some reason. I like having them all in one giant book, anyway. Marvel can still do some weird stuff when they feel like it! MSRP: $75.00.

Teen Titans: The Silver Age volume 2. Let’s look at the credits here … Bob Haney, Irv Novick, Nick Cardy, Lee Elias, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Mike Friedrich, Gil Kane, Wally Wood, Neal Adams … How could you not want to read this?!?!? MSRP: $34.99.

This Nightmare Kills Fascists. Another Wave Blue World book, this is an anthology that’s apparently … a horror book about politics? Okey-dokey, I’m on board! It looks pretty keen, even if I don’t know many of the contributors! MSRP: $19.99.

A Walk Through Hell volume 1: The Warehouse. It’s Garth Ennis doing his thing, with excellent art by Goran Sudzuka. Cops find creepy shit in a warehouse, mayhem ensues. You know the drill! MSRP: $14.99.

So that’s what I got. As you can see, it’s a pretty wide cross-section. Because I tend not to buy superhero single issues, people often think I’m weird, but that’s just myopia. I think buying yet another iteration of the same story in Spider-Man or Batman or Superman or Captain America is weird, man! My haul includes superheroes or superhero-esque stories, creepy horror, action-thriller, gritty noir, historical epics, and cosmic adventure. I have old-school comics with old-school superheroes, deadly serious books, and comedic books. I have all kinds of art styles, too. It’s a Golden Age!

People can complain about the state of comics all the want – that’s their right! But my point is, if you can’t find comics to read these days, you’re probably not trying hard enough. So much fun stuff is out there!!!!

23 Comments

  1. tomfitz1

    You know, I was wondering about something – if Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill plan on retiring from comics after the last issue of LOEG: The Tempest, what will happen to Cinema Purgatorio?

    Will the title continue without the Moore/O’Neill strip?
    If so, what is the last issue to be? # 24?

    1. Greg Burgas

      Well, I call bullshit on them retiring – I’ll believe it when I see it. But I imagine if they really plan on it, they’ll let the other creators know to wrap their stories up, because I doubt if the book will go on without Moore and O’Neill. But that’s all just speculation.

  2. Eric van Schaik

    Savage Dragon and Stray Bullets are my last monthly titles. I’ll get LOEG in trade.
    Walk through hell looked nice. Thanks for pointing out John Byrne volume 2. How is his Iron Fist run? Can anyone convince me about the Silver Surfer omnibus. I like Alfred art but how are the stories?

    Comics are slow for me the last few months. This was a good thing because of all the dating. Now it’s steady and we try to meet each other twice a week. I go to her place so no cooking :). The weekend after this one will be the first time she’ll see my place. I hope my comic collection won’t scare her. πŸ˜‰

    I agree with this being a golden age. Nice oversized collections. Yesterday I finished the first library edition of Hellboy. So much nicer with bigger pages. Maybe I’ll start with the Absolute All Star Superman this weekend.

    Most of us on this site are weird πŸ™‚ and that’s a good thing with all the bs in the world.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Eric: I really like Iron Fist. Beautiful art, and Claremont before he became “Claremont,” so the stories are tightly plotted and hella fun to read. Good stuff! And I thought the first part of the Silver Surfer run was excellent. Interesting premise – Surfer takes an Earth girl off to see the universe – and some very clever ways to tell the stories, too.

      Good luck with your lady friend! If she doesn’t flinch at your collection, you’ve found a winner! πŸ™‚

      The Library Editions of Hellboy are phenomenal. I have them all!

      1. Eric van Schaik

        Strange how things can change in just one day.
        She suffers from fear of commitment so i’m afraid she will not see my comicbook collection. πŸ™
        I have the compleet set of library editions of Hellboy too.
        I will take 2 omnibuses in consideration.

  3. Glad I’m not the only one who enjoys Silver Age Teen Titans. I think it helps that I wasn’t a teenager when it came out (or American) so the slang didn’t faze me β€” as far as I knew, it was exactly how American kids talked.
    Search for Mera is good, though it feels like Dick Giordano, who’d just taken over as editor, set it up to keep her out of the action (his first issue as editor had her get into an argument and swim off leaving Aquaman free to flirt with an alien beauty).
    I don’t buy single issues (occasionally off ebay) but between rereading and TPBs I read more each week than I did a decade ago.

    1. Greg Burgas

      frasersherman: Haney is a freaking nut, so I love that he’s trying so hard to write teenage slang.

      That’s funny about Mera. Even 50 years ago comics creators couldn’t figure out how to write a happy relationship, so they had to contrive to break people up!

  4. Edo Bosnar

    That Byrne collection – *heavy sigh.* There’s some stuff in there I wouldn’t mind having (esp. the She Hulk graphic novel), and I’ve been wanting Marvel: Lost Generation to get collected forever, but since – like you – I already have all of the Iron Fist material elsewhere – there’s no way I’d throw down even close to that much cash for that book. As it is, last time I was visiting the US earlier this year, I bought the Lost Generation single issues quite cheaply on eBay and then had them bound when I got home. Basically, I have a custom-made HC (with letters pages) at a fraction of the cost.

    Otherwise, though, no arguments about this being a golden age for both new material and reprints. Even so, the cost of new single issues is outrageous – I’m definitely on the side of those who believe something really needs to be changed in that regard.

    1. There’s a Bronze Age Joker Omnibus coming out and I’d love to get it for the unpublished Joker #10. But not when I have almost everything else in it (and the Joker comic wasn’t the Clown Prince of Crime’s best work by far).
      I love Lost Generation. Probably the recent comic I’ve reread the most times. A shame Marvel has done so little with it since.

      1. Edo Bosnar

        I love Lost Generation. (…). A shame Marvel has done so little with it since.

        QFT. It’s a better series than, say, X-men: Lost Generation, which came out at about the same time and has been reprinted *twice* (as standard TPBs and Panini digests – I have the latter).
        Anyway, not to go too far off on a tangent, but I just looked at the Amazon listing for this Byrne omnibus, and it reminded me why I thought “hard pass” to myself when I first saw the solicit. I love Byrne’s art as much as the next guy (probably more, actually), but I’m a story guy as much as an art guy, and I hate that they contain single issues like, say, Marvel Chillers #6, which is just one part of a longer Tigra story (by Tony Isabella). The same applies to the Ghost Rider, Iron Man and Champions issues (in the latter case, I also don’t know they were split between the two volumes, i.e., issues 11-15 are in the first, and just 17 in the second). That kind of stuff just drives the completist in me nuts.

    2. Greg Burgas

      Of the new Byrne collection, I’m fairly certain I ONLY have the Iron Fist, so while it was spendy, I pulled the trigger! It would have been nice if Marvel had collected some of the other stuff in a separate trade – like Lost Generation – but I can deal with it.

      frasersherman: I think we mention the new Joker collection in our latest Previews post, but I’d have to check. I don’t own all of it, but I know the actual Joker series wasn’t the greatest, so I’ll probably pass on it. But it’s neat that DC is collecting it!

  5. pete doree

    Hi Greg, completely agree, we’re absolutely living in a Golden Age right now, in fact it’s almost like we’re living in a reboot. Maybe we should start calling it The Golden Age Redux or something.
    Not only do we have a vast array of comics, but with the movies and TV shows, we’re now in a position to able to say ‘ I like comics ‘ out load, without people looking at us like we’ve grown antlers. If that ain’t a golden age, I don’t know what is.
    I should fess up and say I am one of those old fans who thinks things were better back when ( I mean, I do a blog AND a strip about how great ’70’s comics are ), but I do buy new stuff as well, honest!
    Currently, I’m buying Daredevil, Green Lantern, Heavy Metal, Dynamite’s Barbarella, Usagi Yojimbo, Strangers In Paradise and The Walking Dead so, y’know, not all hope is lost for me.
    I’ll check through your recommendations here also to see what else I should be reading…
    Oh, and you’ll love Skeates & Aparo’s Aquaman. It’s great!

    1. Greg Burgas

      Pete: Well, some people I know still look at me funny when I say I read comics, but I’ve ignored them for 30 years, so I’m not going to start worrying about them now! πŸ™‚

      That’s a pretty good current list, I must say!

      I like a lot of comics from the olden days, even though some came out before I was born and others during my childhood when I didn’t read comics. I have no problem with people liking all that stuff. But there was a lot of crap then, and there’s a lot of crap now. I think the problem is that a lot of the crap now is the same stuff that was really good then (mainstream superhero comics, generally), so it’s harder for people to wrap their heads around it. At least, that’s my theory! πŸ™‚

  6. pete doree

    Theodore Sturgeon, of course, came out with the classic line: ‘90% of EVERYTHING is crap.’
    But it’s a tricky one. I long ago gave up on all that ‘Yearly crossover event that’ll change our universe permanently and forever – till next year’ rubbish from the big two, yet I still buy Daredevil because he’s my favourite character, but I haven’t been excited by the book in years. Every time I finish an issue, I just think: Well, that was alright, it didn’t offend me, and it’s nice to see DD every month.
    I’ve read every DD story ever, so that’s about the best I can hope for.

    The successors to the individual voices of the ’70’s which, past the obvious nostalgia, make it my favourite decade ( McGregor, Gerber, Starlin, we can all do the list ), aren’t going to come from the mainstream, they’ll come from the indies.
    That’s why I buy Usagi & Strangers, which I think are breathtakingly well written, up there with any comic from any era, and do genuinely excite me as a reader.
    If only because, after reading one of them, I invariably go: Wow, I wish I’D thought of that!’

    1. Greg Burgas

      Pete: I always hated that Sturgeon quote. I don’t necessarily disagree, but you can find good things in crap all the time. So much of art is collaborative, so finding a good story with crap art or vice versa is easy, finding a good acting performance in a terrible movie is easy, and so on. It’s too general, I guess is my problem.

      I still buy a good amount from the Big Two, but it’s more based on creators than it used to be, when it was cheap enough for me to buy every Batman book (’cause I love me some Batman). So I get Daredevil because I like Charles Soule, and I’m not getting the next one because I’m not as big a fan of Chip Zdarsky. But it’s definitely based on the creators.

      That’s a good point about where the creators are. I think a lot of people who have been reading comics for a long time are peeved because the best creators are working in indie comics, but creators have figured out that they’d get screwed by Marvel and DC, so why should they create new characters for them? Back in the day, those creators didn’t have much of an outlet nor did they think the characters could make them millions of dollars, so they created more for the Big Two. Then they started getting screwed out of money and they found different outlets. I wish the big-name creators would be more creative for Marvel and DC, but it’s not worth it to them, so I just follow them to indie comics!

  7. Peter

    In terms of variety of material, access to great stuff from any time period and any country of original publication, and visibility of comics in general pop culture, it is easy to argue that this is a golden age of comics. However, very similar to TV, the huge amount of stuff that is out there kind of takes away part of the magic of the good old days when a great comic or a TV show could become a “coin of the realm” more easily – i.e. there were some works which virtually everyone who was reading comics or watching TV would know about and which they would want to discuss. Now, there are just too many great things coming out for me to keep up with and knowing that a friend is a comic reader doesn’t guarantee that our tastes overlap even slightly. That’s not a bad thing, but there is something a little less special about popular media today.

    The only other quibble I have with today’s comics is that I want to support great titles as single issues, but the art of serialized storytelling is dying. A lot of writers do write for the trade – and they do it well – but it can make single issues less satisfying. Of course, since single issue sales are still big drivers of profitability, unsatisfying single issues can prematurely sink the chances of a series continuing long enough to be satisfying in collected form. Also, it drives me crazy that there are a bunch of writers who are great at serialized storytelling – but then publish super erratically when they are free of the editorial reins of the Big 2 (looking at you, Hickman, Fraction, and Spencer). This tends to make a great story’s momentum evaporate. It’s not a new concern for indie comics – it’s a tale as old as time – but it’s somehow more irritating in this day and age when there’s more crossover between indie publishers and the Big 2 and I know that some of these writers can hit a deadline when there’s an external motivator (Lapham and Gillen are pretty remarkably steady, though).

    Last but not least – that Slott/Allred Surfer run is awesome. Truly a gem of a book.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Peter: I’ve seen that idea a lot, that there’s nothing that unifies everyone like the M*A*S*H finale did (to use an easy example). I get it, but it’s never really bothered me too much. A little, but not too much.

      One of the reasons I wish Marvel and DC would stop doing single issues is because of the fact that so many writers write for the trade. I like that Marvel has these new collections – the Cloak and Dagger one I cite above, the Jessica Jones one, some others – where they’re digital only in single issues and then the collection gets published. I wish they would move toward that model. It’s probably never going to happen, but I agree that the art of single-issue stories is dying. And I’m peeved at the tardiness of some creators – Hickman and Fraction especially, because I’m fans of their work – but I also get the financial problems involved with working outside the Big Two. It’s tough, and I wish it could get worked out, but such is life.

  8. Terrible-D

    The mention of Byrne’s Sensational She-Hulk reminded me to ask, have you ever been to All about comics, Greg? The selection there was amazing. I found a handful of the original Marvel Graphic Novels, all priced at $5.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Terrible-D: I have not been to All About. A dude who shops at my store used to work there, but I’ve never been up there. I rarely get to that area of Phoenix – I live down in Chandler – so it’s a decent drive and I hardly ever just shop for back issues. Now I’ll have to check it out. Did you have a good time while you were here?

      1. Terrible-D

        I did. Actually visited your shop as well. I was able to replace my copy of Fantastic Four 352 for under $3. After a weekend of weather in the high 60’s, it was great to come back to the grey skies and freezing cold of Minnesota.

        1. Greg Burgas

          Terrible-D: Yes, I’m sure you missed the weather in Minnesota! πŸ™‚

          Hey, that’s cool about Greg’s. I’ll have to tell them I sent you over. When were you there? Perhaps I was there too, and we never knew!!!!!!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.