Lots to catch up on…

Sorry about that, folks. Life happened again for a minute. I’ve been sick for most of this calendar year, but I seem to finally be getting better, knock wood. I did some things other than play Skyrim for 260 hours this winter (I’m horrified and amused by this number), while I was convalescing. I’ve even managed to leave the house a few times this month, and of course got into plenty of trouble when I did, so let’s examine the trouble I found both from my house and out in the world!

I bought one more single pack of ’18 Topps on one of my Target runs. Anyone need either of these two inserts?

\

This may not look like a Holy Grail comic book to some, but this issue of Adventure Comics completed a run of issues 425-490 for me that I’ve been working on since childhood. In that run is every issue of the original Adventure Comics that happened post-Legion of Super-Heroes and post-Supergirl, but pre-the last 13 issues, which were done as reprint digests. There’s all kinds of great stuff in this run: among others, you’ve got Black Orchid, The Spectre, The Creeper, Deadman, Justice Society of America, The New Gods, Dial “H” For Hero, and all three of the gentlemen featured on this cover.

I got it in the damnedest way, too. I’ve been looking very pointedly for this book for a few years (since I realized it was the last one I needed), trying to get it for a price I felt reasonable (some of the bigger online comics dealers wanted a bit too much for it), especially in bins that flea market and comic show dealers had out, and whiffing on that. So, I’m reading a post on a Facebook comic group I’m in where a guy found a pretty early issue of Adventure (in the 30s numbers-wise), and some wise guy chimes in with “I’ve got #476 if anyone wants that”, totally figuring no one cared. I was instant messaging him so fast, it made his head spin. Because he didn’t want to gouge me too much on shipping, and because he had some other comics to unload, I grabbed a couple more from him…

Mmmmm, first Paul Smith X-Men. I don’t hear this from other people too often, but Paul’s probably my favorite X-Men artist. I’m giving thought to trying, very slowly, to put together a run of Uncanny X-Men from as close to #94 and Giant-Size #1 as I can get (my earliest right now is #107, but I’ve got a run from #128-143, and I’ve also got #109 and #121), through to maybe #200, because that would cover the first year I read it as new issues, during which I found that I didn’t enjoy the current book as much as I did issues #175-back. (I’m of the mind that X-Men started to lose its footing right around where most current fans started to love it, which would be post-#200, so I’m kind of an X-Men hipster. If any of you have ever read Uncanny X-Men #177, I would’ve ended the series right before Mystique gets to Nightcrawler.)

I also got this. In another collecting project (and to let y’all know in advance my comics projects usually go way, way more slowly than my card ones have over the past decade) I’m working on all 4 “team-up” books (The Brave And The Bold, DC Comics Presents, Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-In-One), because they were really fun comics that I was always drawn to as a kid. Let’s see how Batman ends up hanging out with Black Lightning, before he ended up hanging out with him a lot! Superman and Sgt. Rock? How’s that work? Aunt May and Franklin Richards hanging out with Galactus? Sign me up! The Thing and The Sandman drinking in a bar? SOLD.

2 more games for if I ever finish Skyrim and don’t just decide to start over to beat the game “the right way”. I’ve been hearing about both Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus for close to 2 decades, so I snagged the first reasonably priced used copy of this collection that I could find. I don’t have a PS4 yet, so I can’t play the latest remaster of Shadow of The Colossus yet.

With Syndicate? I played the hell out of the Atari Jaguar version (an idea that probably horrifies people who played it on PC, but I think the 3DO version was probably even more of a nightmare to navigate), and while the reviews haven’t been great for this update, I’ve been curious, and it was $5 new.

From there, I hit a comic and card show, and while I passed on getting a pic and autograph from Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (who still looks great, and seemed to be a nice guy, especially to the kids he met), I did scour a bunch of cheapie bins for fun stuff.

These two finished my Top 10 run!

Can you tell that I’m an anthology book junkie?

I’m about two-thirds of the way through a complete All-Star Squadron run now. Earth-2 is also kind of a thing for me.

Onto the cards…

I liked everything I saw from this kid in the postseason. I always hesitate a little to add young, current players to my player collections, but I think he might end up sticking.

Another Dontrelle relic. Cool color scheme. Not the greatest condition, but it was a buck.

#puigyourfriend

If only we’d all known, 5 years ago, that you’d be able to get Puig relics for $2! This is a fun one, too, from those winter cards.

I didn’t get Ricky Steamboat’s auto for $20 (or the $30 pic and auto package combo), but I got a friggin’ Homer Bush autograph for a buck!

Finally gettin’ on the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. board. (Yeah, I know what I said about Bregman, but he’s not second-generation from one of my favorite players of all time.) By most accounts, the kid has a very bright future ahead of him. Let’s hope it works out that way!

From a 5 for a dollar bin? Sure, why not.

Also from the 5 for a dollar bin. Can you believe these monsters vandalized what’s otherwise a pretty decent condition ’71 Topps card? Of course you can. This is available for trade. No, I’m not replacing the Ron Fairly in my set with this one.

Needed this for my ’70 set. To paraphrase Springsteen, it ain’t a beauty, but ‘ey, it’s alright…

I don’t know if I had any Inception baseball before this. Happy to start with a Scherzer.

I am such a sucker for these 2000s legends sets that were really just filler cardboard for autograph chances, but looked pretty nice while doing that. These got me over a third of the way through this one. Especially like Raines, Cey, Santo and Staub in this batch.

And, finally, I got the complete set of these (1991 Comic Images Silver Surfer cards) at my local comic book store. Scanning does absolutely no justice to how insane, psychedelic and 1990s-tastic these cards look, but I’ll show you 3 of my favorites, anyway.

First issue cover!

I still have a very run-down t-shirt with a version of this image on it.

You have to love psychedelic extreme close-ups of Thanos with shiny, shiny teeth.

That’s been my February so far. How’ve you all been?

Abbott!

Big-time “buy this and read it” heads up: BOOM! Studios’ Abbott #1 is a terrific, terrific book. Written by Saladin Ahmed (who’s been writing the terrific Black Bolt for Marvel over the past year), drawn by Sami Kivelä (whose other work I’m not familiar with, but I’m told he draws a book called Beautiful Canvas for Black Mask Studios, and the art in this preview looks equally terrific, so I’ll have to check that out), and colored by Jason Wordie (and yes, his colors are gorgeous).

If you didn’t end up following the publisher link above, here’s the elevator pitch they announced the series with:

“BOOM! Studios is excited to announce ABBOTT, a new, original comic book series launching in January 2018 from Hugo Award-nominated writer Saladin Ahmed (Marvel’s Black BoltThe Crescent Moon Kingdoms novels) and artist Sami Kivelä (Black Mask’s Beautiful Canvas) about a female journalist of color in 1970s Detroit named Elena Abbott who investigates a series of grisly crimes the police have ignored—crimes she recognizes to be the work of a dark magical force—the same force that murdered her husband 10 years ago. As she looks for clues, Abbott puts herself in the crosshairs of a mysterious power out for more blood, all the while navigating a harsh social environment that’s structured to protect the powerful, and prevent access to change.”

Yes, it’s as cool as it sounds, and then some. Go get it!

Some Recent Comics Stuff

As I’m sure some of you have noticed, I have a list of the the current comics I’m buying in my sidebar. It only tells part of the story, though, because it doesn’t include mini-series, one-shots or standalone graphic novels, all of which do play a role in my comics buying and reading.

Here’s a few of the books along those lines that I’ve been reading of late, all from DC, interestingly (though this is in no way reflective of my overall buying habits, particularly where mainstream DC books are concerned; I really don’t go near most of those, though I do read Batwoman because my partner picks it up).

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles
DC/Hanna-Barbera

DC’s been doing some extraordinary things with their Hanna-Barbera properties in recent years, dating back as far as the first Ariel Olivetti Space Ghost series they did, but they’ve put a concerted effort into making a great line of books out of them for about the past 2 years. Mark Russell (who writes the Flintstones book that I’m sadly pretty behind on) is a big part of that, and his latest is the long-anticipated “Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles”. While the first issue is a very dark book (I’ll tell you very little about it beyond that, but it is grim), it begins a brilliant re-examination of the character, and continues on Russell’s path of poignant, biting societal criticism. Highest recommendation.

Wonder Woman/Conan
DC/Dark Horse

I’m really glad this one made the schedule before Marvel got the rights to Conan again. Gail Simone, who is a national treasure, it should be said, tells a terrific story here that’s faithful to both characters, and Aaron Lopresti’s art is gorgeous. They’re an issue from finishing (#5 came out on Wednesday), but if you’re a non-digital reader and have trouble finding single issues, or just prefer the collected format, the trade should be out soon enough.

Mystik U
DC

Despite a lot of other attempts happening simultaneously, Mystik U is perhaps the most classic Vertigo-feeling and Chris Claremont’s X-Men-feeling book on the stands right now, and another nice re-imagining of some great characters. (We’re seeing a lot of that happening these days, including the next book I’m going to cover, but thankfully it’s more in the way of recontextualization, and less deconstructionism.) It’s nice to see Mike Norton art on this, too, as I enjoyed what I read of his Battlepug. 2 issues in (out of 3, I believe; it’s one of the few books in DC’s line that’s supposed to be a limited series, but doesn’t actually tell you how many issues it’ll be, I think because they may extend it if it’s selling well), so you may be able to get ahold of it in first run without paying SPACE GHOST RIDER prices for back issues. (Yes, if you missed it, Space Ghost Rider is a thing now. Don’t get me wrong here, a thing I enjoy, but a thing.)

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands
DC

I’ve been reading Black Lightning (and, by proxy, his co-creator Tony Isabella) since perhaps the beginning, having bought at least one issue in first run at a very young age. (I’m on like my 3rd copy of Vol. 1 #1, and I *might* have gotten my first when it hit 7-Eleven in the ’70s.) This is a somewhat New 52-ish attempt to place Jefferson Pierce (who was very much a product of the 1970s, and has aged through other books in his fictional history) in modern continuity as a younger hero, with the issues of the modern world around him. That description makes it sound less appealing than it actually is, admittedly, and if you’re a long-time fan, don’t let it scare you off. I’m enjoying this, because Tony Isabella continues to write Black Lightning stories with a lot of heart, and you never feel, as you’re reading, that the character you’re reading is anything but Black Lightning (a problem that a lot of reboots, even sometimes ones by original creators, have). The stories are still being told in Jefferson Pierce’s voice, no matter how his surroundings or some of the details have changed. As issues with treatment of black people by police are so firmly on peoples’ minds in recent years, it’s a lot of the story here, just as it is on the television show that started airing this week (and while I don’t think the show’s perfect, and it ultimately does a different thing than this comic does, it should still be said that I am really excited that there’s actually a live-action Black Lightning television show). The handling of it isn’t ideal here, but I feel like Tony does his best, and with the best of intentions, on a tough subject for a mainstream super-hero book to cover. This isn’t genre-redefining stuff, don’t get me wrong (and I don’t need everything I read to reinvent the wheel, either; I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of Captain America and Catwoman in my day, both of whom ran in place for decades at a time on occasion), and it has its moments of awkwardness because both the lead character and the writer wrestle a bit with the subject matter, but for someone who’s been with a character for probably over 40 years now, it’s good to have my old friend, who still sounds like my old friend, around in any capacity. It’s a few issues in now, but for better or worse, it probably won’t be too much trouble to track down, even with the TV show having launched. If you report back to me that you can’t find it, I’ll be pleasantly surprised, and you can grab the trade when it comes out.

How To Enjoy Your Hobbies When The World Is On Fire, Part II

When we left off, I still had 5 comic books to read. I just finished reading ’em (and doing my Previews order for April), and here’s how I did…

Brilliant every month, and some of the best reading you’ll ever do in the super-hero genre. Ta-Nehisi Coates has done an amazing job on this book so far.

…but wait, there’s more! Coates is also doing this book with Roxane Gay, and right now, the story’s focused on the origins of the Midnight Angels from the main Black Panther book. It’s very good, but with this and a third Black Panther book coming in April now (The Crew, focusing on Black Panther’s team; Ta-Nehisi Coates is also at least co-writing this one, and Butch Guice is drawing it), I’m concerned that Marvel’s trying to make me broke in the short term, and in the longer term, that they’re going to get me invested in characters in books that they’ll cancel once the promotion of the Black Panther movie is done. (See also: Ant-Man.) If you’re not sweating all of that, and just looking to read a good story, this is a solid book.

Remember when I said there were three Jeff Lemire books in my pull? Thanos is the third. This started off slow, aside from the “hey, I haven’t seen this character in the supporting cast in a while” factor, but it feels like it’s building up some speed now. If you’re a cosmic Marvel junkie, you’re probably already reading this or at least waiting for the first trade. Mike Deodato’s on art here, and while I haven’t paid really close attention to his career, I enjoyed his Wonder Woman a bunch, and this is of the same quality, even if the feel isn’t exactly the same.

You’d think that, with me being a pre-Crisis DC nerd, I’d have been all over this book, but the “Give Gerard Way his own line and let him get weird with characters I love” factor made me a skeptic going in. When I read the title of the book, and the initial promo copy for it, it felt like a bad case of “trying too hard”, but that’s a pretty good argument for not reading ad copy, and that’s about it. I flipped through it after passing on it initially, and ended up grabbing it right away. The book itself has been a lot of fun. This wasn’t been the best issue of the book (kind of a “middle of the story” feel to it), but the characters have been fun, the art’s the right kinda weird, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it all goes.

Last, but not least, Future Quest has been awesome. I was also really skeptical about this latest attempt by DC to do something with their Hanna-Barbera characters (to the point where I completely passed on The Flintstones, which was a huge mistake on my part), and while it’s true that some of the line (Scooby-Doo Apocalypse and Wacky Raceland) is a mess, this is not in that category. It’s an ambitious attempt to link most of the early Hanna-Barbera super-heroes (Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, The Herculoids, Birdman, Frankenstein Jr., The Impossibles, Mightor, and I’m actually probably forgetting a few in there), and while it’s a lot to keep up with at times, this is one of those issues where it REALLY works and comes together. There are 3 more issues after this one, and then I guess we’ll see what they do with the line in year 2 from there, but give this a look in trades if you missed picking it up initially.

So, I did it. I did a bunch of stuff I enjoy doing, despite the world being in the process of going to seed as I did it.

How do I feel? I’m still pretty distracted, exhausted and nervous all the time, and was even as I was going through the cards and reading the comics. Life is super unstable on a global level right now, so that’s understandable. I still think it is pretty important to keep doing the things you love at these times, even if you don’t get as much joy from them as you normally would, just to stay in practice on being a human being instead of a husk. So, even if I’m only half-enjoying what I used to fully relish, I’m going to try to keep at it, as should any of you reading this. The people who are doing the bad things want us to forget how to enjoy ourselves, and they’re pretty good at making joy difficult to access. This is just one more thing that we should not let them win on. They’ve gotten their way far too often already.

How To Enjoy Your Hobbies When The World Is On Fire, Part I

To tell you the truth, I haven’t had an answer for that one lately, but let’s see what I can do. I’m going to scan and write as I experience these things, and see where it takes me.

Oh hey, look, it’s 2017 Topps! Finally made it out to a store that had it, so I bought a hanger box (most base cards for your buck), and we’ll take it for a spin.

Upon pulling the cello pack out of the much-harder-to-open-than-I-remember hanger box (Did they switch to glue this year?), this was the first thing I saw. We’ll see how it turns out at the end of the pack.

The first new card of 2017! You know, last year, I liked the design way more before I saw it in person. This year, it underwhelmed when I saw pictures, but I think I like it better in person. At least on first impression! I would still like them to un-blur the crowds, though. I’m guessing someone sued Topps for being visible in a baseball card or something. But no, even with the amount of space the silly design takes away from the picture, this is an improvement over ’16 flagship, I think.

Baseball Reference killed the card back star!

Anyway…Arcia didn’t have a Twitter or Instagram handle at press time, so that’s some wasted space. Really, I see a lot of wasted space on the back, but it is colorful enough. I’ll also take that it’s legible and has a large card number on it. My eyes are going on me, and reading card backs can be a real chore sometimes.

Let’s look at some more cards…

Unfortunately, most of it is stealth advertising, but there’s a lot going on here. Ellsbury looks like he’s doing the crane technique from “The Karate Kid”, and it also looks like he’s got lightning comin’ out of both ends of ’em. Worth asking, since I don’t recognize the park: which spring training park is this? I don’t think it’s an MLB park.

These red Jays unis are whack. Good picture of Stro, though!

Y’all. Gaylord Perry’s supposed to be on “Then & Now” cards. Not Stephen Strasburg.

Sorry. I know that was a little melodramatic. Moving on…

Parallels! Parallels! Get your parallels, or they go in the “send to COMC” box!

Hey, Night Owl, look! (Yeah, it’s one of those ad cards. I should see how many reprints I have of ’56 Jackie, though.)

Goddamn it.

You’re gonna see his cards all over the place this year, with people saying about the same thing as I just did every time, but…goddamn it. Such a senseless waste.

OK, back to having fun and not spending as much time in the real world…

Whew. Got this out of the way.

And this.

 

Picked this kid up in fantasy late in the year. Came with good reviews from the minors, but he exceeded expectations, as I remember it. His team’s gonna be a mess this year, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next.

…and we’re at the end of the pack. These are weird. I mean, I have a long, established love-hate relationship with 1987 Topps cards, which I’ve owned more of than any other cards except maybe 1988 Donruss. The homage to the design looks sharp, save for the gloss (that’s just weird). The picture of McGwire they used makes his head look 3 times bigger than his body, though, and that’s not a great look. I’m probably not collecting the whole run of these, where I might’ve fallen for it in years past, but I will probably peruse the checklist and see who’s in it.

So, I’m through the box! (I should probably mention that my exclusive Silver Slugger cards were Trout and Trumbo, but they weren’t really visually interesting enough to scan.) I’ll probably do with ’17 Topps what I’ve done with ’14 and ’16 (and ’12 Heritage), which is accept them in trades, maybe pick up a pack here and there when I’m bored. They’re better than I thought they’d be, but they’re still not ’11-’13 or ’15. I’ll checklist what I got and put it on my want list sometime this weekend (it’s also officially time to move ’16 to the back catalog now).

Not a ton of players I was hoping to get (no Sanchez, which is kind of in the Bryant “gotta pull it so I don’t have to pay a premium” category), but I got a Story, I got Stroman, I got that Strasburg insert, and as depressing as it is, I got the Fernandez card. I haven’t looked at the main checklist yet to see who’s in Series One, though. Yeah, I’ve been that far out of the loop. Still, it’s good even as “get away from the news” practice to spend time doing something I enjoy.

Onto the next thing I enjoy…comic books! Had a big stack waiting for me at my local shop, as I had bills to pay in January and hadn’t been able to pick up for a few weeks. So, I’ll read ’em, and let you know what I think now.

I’ve gone back and forth on Jeff Lemire’s Moon Knight a bit (this is the first of I think 3 Lemire books I have in tonight’s pile), but this is one of the good issues. If you’re not reading it yet, without giving away too much (I think they’re about 2 trades in on this run), Jeff’s exploring Marc Spector’s mental illness pretty deeply in the storylines. He’s using a lot of flashbacks, because that’s what Jeff Lemire does. He’s also used multiple artists along the run to visually differentiate Spector’s different personalities, which was hit-and-miss. He’s back to just Greg Smallwood on pencils for the current run, though, so it’s not as page-to-page jarring as it was for me. I’ll stick with it a while longer. As Moon Knight’s one of my favorite characters, it’s pretty hard to get me to bail on a book of his.

 I’ve really enjoyed the first 3 issues of Josie And The Pussycats, but #4, I dunno, maybe overreached? Could be that Marguerite Bennett finally took the references to “Scott doesn’t get it”-level (I got about 2/3 of them), could be that the story had too much going on and plot points that I thought would have a slow burn to ’em got rushed, but it all kinda came apart for me a little. One issue isn’t usually enough to tank a series (though a few have tried over the years), but this one was kinda rough.

Lemire book #2, and the one that I think has been his best for a while (he writes a LOT of books at the moment, but it feels like he saves the good shit for Descender). This issue was sorta chase-sceney, but still good.

It’s gonna seem like I’m grouchy about every book I’m reading (“decent, but…”, and “not quite as good as the last few” and “hit-and-miss” and such), but the Black Cat storyline they’ve been on for a few issues in Patsy Walker, A.K.A. HELLCAT! (“That’s me!”) was dragging on a bit. Thankfully, they did a really nice job of wrapping it up. Felt good to see a book that had me sorta on the fence for a few issues turn it around.

I have 5 more books to read, but I need a snack and a break from reading. I’ll do part II a little later. It’s been good so far, though, just focusing on one thing as I’m doing it.