Monday, September 26, 2022

CGC to (Finally) Recognize Newsstand Variants in Their Grading

There was a period of decades where differentiation was made with comics (especially on the cover) about if they were meant to be sold in comic stores (direct market) or at newsstands, drug stores, and so forth (newsstand). At one time, newsstand comics outnumbered direct market copies, but for a lot of years--as the market for comics outside of comic shops shrunk--newsstand variants became less common to outright rarely published. Some people like to specifically collect newsstand variants and depending on the era they are from and their rarity, newsstand variants can command a bit extra value. 

CGC, the most popular grading company, has rarely acknowledged newsstand variants unless there is another thing special about them (like a unique price variant). The biggest grading competitor, CBCS has noted newsstand variants for some time, making them sometimes the preferred company if someone really wants to highlight a comic is a newsstand variant. Well, CGC has finally gone and done it where they'll acknowledge on their slabs if a comic is a newsstand variant. It's about time!

A part of me is happy CGC is finally doing this and another part of me wonders if they know it'll get them some extra funds as plenty of people who already got their comics graded will now send them in for a new case that denotes the newsstand variant--and pay a fee for it. Still, I guess we shouldn't like a gift horse in the mouth. Oh, it is also worth being aware that special, "Multipack," comics will be noted too, although that's arguably an even smaller niche than newsstand collectors. CGC took their time getting to the point of actually noting all newsstand variants, but at least now they're starting to do it.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Mad Magazine Will Return From the Dead--Briefly--to Celebrate its 70th Birthday!

"Mad Magazine," has for all intents and purposes been dead. Anthologies of past material still were coming out but the publication ceased putting out new monthly material in its 67th year of existence. For its 70th birthday, we have a nice surprise in the form of Mad rising from the grave like a zombie or a Jesus who waited 3 years instead of 3 days to return (an edgy joke I thought of that would be at home in Mad as it could have some good biting humor). There will be articles by celebrities celebrating the magazine, some comics, and I'm just happy to have some new, "Mad Magazine," content. The new issue should hit shelves on October 4th and will feature, "70% new material," for $5.99. I know I'll be wanting a copy!

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Mountain Dew Purple Thunder is a Massive Disappointment

I like to try random soda flavors. I am sometimes quite impressed and other times disgusted. Mountain Dew has put out an assortment of unique mixes over time and the quality has varied immensely. We haven't had a grape-flavored Mountain Dew for a while but there is currently kinda-sorta one exclusively for sale at Circle K gas stations. Called, "Purple Thunder," it can be bought in bottles or from the fountain. My wife and I had high hopes for Purple Thunder and its berry-plum taste but were let down horribly.

Purple Thunder lacks much of any oomph. When I first sipped it I wondered if the drink was flat. I shook the bottle up and it was good and fizzy, however, so the soda just lacks much of any excitement. It has a weak berry vibe and the taste sensation just kind of shows up, does the bare minimum, and leaves anyone who drank it disappointed. I had hopes for a new Mountain Dew that at least tried to give me some grape sensations, but all my optimism was clearly in vain as Purple Thunder is a disinterested shrug of a soda. Don't bother making a special trip to Circle K to get one, this is a drink you can easily pass on. At least it is barely better than the Flamin' Hot flavor.

1 out of 5 stars.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Flashback Friday: "Annihilator," Really Was a Snazzy Comic

When folks discuss the works of the great Grant Morrison there are a lot of works to consider. You've got their massively popular stuff such as, "All-Star Superman," "Animal Man," a run on, "Justice League," a bunch of, "Batman," "Invisibles," "Multiversity," a brief tenure at Marvel with the fantastic, "New X-Men," and plenty of other well-regarded projects. There are somewhat-known works that are also fantastic such as my all-time favorite comic, "The Filth." Then you've got deeper cuts that seem to get overlooked such as his mini-series with artist Frazer Irving, "Annihilator." Long since collected in hardcover and trade paperback, the comic follows the story of a screenwriter named Ray Spass as he deals with a terminal diagnosis at the same time as he attempts to finish writing a big blockbuster film starring fan-favorite character Max Nomax. Then Nomax suddenly appears in the real world and things only get stranger.

I quite enjoyed, "Annihilator," when it was coming out and rated the last issue (and basically the series overall) a solid 4 out of 5 stars. It was by no means the absolute best thing Morrison has written, but it was a damn fine comic. I was reminded about the series with a recent article by D. Emerson Eddy of Comicsbeat that had me dig out my old copy of the hardcover. Thinking back on it now I am intrigued it remains a lesser-known work by two fantastic creators. I'd definitely recommend seeking it out if you like when Morrison gets all trippy and weird or enjoy the artistic stylings of Irving.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The First Issue of, "Vanish," is an Entertaining Hodgepodge of Ideas

Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman had a quite successful run on, "Venom," and as a creative team gained a lot of fans. They must have enjoyed working together as now they're bringing us a creator-owned series from Image titled, "Vanish." It is a combination of a ton of ideas that throws everything at the wall trying to see what sticks. It works for the most part although whether it sustains the kitchen-sink approach or falls apart will be seen with future issues. 

This first issue brings us a school of magic in a mystical and technologic wonderland, makes fun of the, "Chosen one," trope, involves superheroes, reveals a dark truth about the superheroes, and gives us a villain who is actually kind of a hero to a foole populace. Basically, the comic what you could get if you jammed, "Harry Potter," "The Boys," "Spawn," "Star Wars," "Invincible," and other stuff I didn't immediately feel the vibe of in a blender and mixed it into a weird but somewhat tasty smoothie.

Oliver Harrison is the aforementioned chosen one who saved the day a long time ago but has been on the lookout for evil forces that still remain. Those forces disappeared forever ago so now he's mostly just miserable and washed-up. It turns out (spoiler) that the heroes in the city are actually the viallins that tried to destroy everything years ago but now in hiding, so its time for Harrison to kill these baddies who vanished all those years ago.

Stegman's art gives off strong 90's Image vibes as other websites observed too. The way the panels are set up, everyone is swearing or edgy, and the heavy uses of chains as a weapon really drives home the retro (I guess the 90s are retro now) sensation. It works though! You'd think so many ideas and story concepts smashed together would be a nasty and formless sludge, but the many turning gears manage to work together and give us an entertaining debut issue. I run hot-and-cold on Cates but I'm hopeful, "Vanish," can continue to use its mish-mash of ideas in a manner that tells a cohernet story. I know with Stegman involved it'll at least look good whether it stays focused or goes off the rails.

4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Dark Horse Comics to be Distributed by Penguin Random House

Times are changing. DC left Diamond back in 2020 and went with the newly-created Lunar. Later on, Marvel went and signed with Penguin Random House to distribute their comics with Diamond only able to be a wholesaler. Then IDW did it with PRH too. Now, Dark Horse will have its comics and trade paperbacks exclusively sold via PRH starting in 2023, as was announced this morning. It is wild to think before the pandemic hit that Diamond was the sole distributor of single-issue comics and now we've got DC exclusive with Lunar (and smaller publishers with Lunar and Diamond) and Dark Horse joining Marvel and IDW with PRH.

Wildly enough, when Dark Horse switches to PRH in June of 2023 that will make Penguin Random House the biggest distributor of comics in the Direct Market. Diamond will still have a hefty presence in comic and hobby shops thanks to its sales of toys, collectibles, trading card games, and the like, but their monopoly over the comic industry they held so long fell from power shockingly fast. The distribution wars are back with a vengeance--I guess the 90s really are in style again.

Happy 21st of September, a Very Musical Day!

"Do you remember, the 21st night of September?" Well, that'll be happening today. We all know about the song, "September," thanks to the fantastic musical group Earth, Wind, & Fire. It has been covered by a variety of artists to varying success, but for my money, the original is best. Here it is below:

Make the most of this special day!

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

"Moon Knight: Black, White, & Blood," Was a Decent Little Mini-Series

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am a huge fan of, "Moon Knight." The current series has been fantastic and after some other characters received the, "Black, White, & Blood," treatment, Moon Knight finally get it too. As for what, "Black, White, & Blood actually is," Wolverine, Deadpool, and Elektra all got their own mini-series where the gimmick is how everything is just black-and-white or red before my man Moon Knight. As this is an anthology series there generally are three stories per issue and the quality can vary widely--which is precisely what happened with this series.

Every issue at least looked good as Moon Knight lends himself well to black-and-white with splashes of red when he's being particularly violent. Only two stories really stuck out to me from everything, however. In the first issue, Jonathan Hickman and Chris Bachalo have a bonkers story about a Moon Knight in the future that is so full of crazy ideas and artwork that it really grabs one's attention. In the fourth and final issue, Christopher Cantwell and Alex Lins give us a tale about a surreal and weird, "Game," Moon Knight seems to play many nights.

Those two stories are great, but nothing else sticks out to me as especially great or awful. I think the issue is some of the tales are busier only taking advantage of the unique color scheme to the degree the story suffers, or have the opposite problem where a decent enough story is told but the specifically black, white, and red artwork feels like an afterthought. I don't mean to sound overly harsh on this anthology comic as it was enjoyable enough, but it just goes to show how hard it is to have an anthology title because when you combine a bunch of shorter stories, some are bound to be solid and others are mostly forgettable.

"Moon Knight: Black, White, & Blood," gave us an enjoyable four issues of stories even if most of them failed to really astound. There are two strong tales at least and the whole thing looked quite beautiful. Worth reading if you're a die-hard Moon Knight fan or enjoy seeing artists play with the form thanks to the unique color scheme, but not at all absolutely required reading. I'd rate this overall mini-series...

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Chapter Two of, "Reanimator Incorporated," is Another Stupendous Issue!

I read and quite enjoyed the first chapter of, "Reanimator Incorporated." Written by Andrew Perry with art by Lyndon White, the series follows a large corporation in the somewhat-near future trying to figure out how to bring back the dead and make a profit from it. At the end of the last issue, Dr. Herbert West's son, Michael, died in a lab accident. This issue spends most of its time between Dr. Herbert West and Dr. Dan Cain trying to figure out how to bring him back and keep him stable as well as Michael in a nether realm of sorts attempting to find his way back to his body.

This issue has a lot more supernatural elements with Michael somewhat undead and something else evil trying to infiltrate his body and come alive. The surreal stuff balances nicely with the sci-fi as Perry and White give us a fascinatingly thoughtful and at times creepy story. This series draws from the HP Lovecraft story, "Herbert West: Reanimator," but stands alone as its own superb tale--one I highly recommend.

5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

"Grand Theft Auto VI," Has a Massive Hack and Leak Right as I'm Getting Back Into the Last Game's Online Mode

I hadn't played, "Grand Theft Auto V," since it was a PlayStation 3 game. I was able to pick it up for cheap for the PS5 and dipped my toe into the online mode. It was fun even if it was also overwhelming with the sheer amount of stuff you can do. Back when I first played GTAV the online mode felt absolutely undercooked, now its the big selling point. I figured I'd dip my toes back into GTAV as while it was revealed a sixth entry was in the works, it was still a good way off. I didn't think we'd get much of any information about, "Grand Theft Auto VI," for at least another year if it wasn't due to release until 2024 at the earliest. Then a massive hack and leak occur.

Somebody did a virtual break-in of sorts and got access to the Slack app account of Rockstar and the developers making GTAVI. This person used this opportunity to get a bunch of gameplay videos, possible source codes, and all kinds of sensitive information. What they did is no doubt illegal, but lots of folks don't care and just want to see the videos even if in the end,, as Catherine Castle at RPS puts it this, "...benefits precisely no one." This is true, all we are seeing is a bunch of in-development data and no-context gameplay clips. It is exciting in a way to witness something we, "Aren't supposed to see yet," or even view at all, but what was the point? 

The leaked videos show a clearly in-progress game.

Everyone knows GTAVI is in the works, who is this for? Those of us curious about how development is going? People just wanting the thrill of getting a looksie at stuff? It's just an unfortunate mess, like when the source code leaked for, "Half-Life 2," back in the day, but development will carry on, and eventually, we'll get GTAVI to enjoy.