Motormouth: Paul's nattering about this and that.

I tend to get carried away. I get involved in stuff, be it just a random thought or a response to an enquiry, and what starts as a sentence or two becomes a book. Considering that I've written the pieces anyways, and they tend to be inappropriate for Astronotes, and this IS my website, I figure I'll post them here, just in case anyone might be interested. I suppose it might be a sort of a blog, but it's probably going to be more of collection of essays than a thing with links and pictures and daily thoughts, so you can call it what you will, I'll call it Motormouth.

Feb. 18th, 2016

My latest rant:

Rachel Maddow is an MSNBC host and political commentator  much vilified by right-wing elements of the political spectrum

          She was recently interviewed in the “no pictures” issue of Playboy, and in that interview, she hit the nail on the head in  explaining why I  hang out  on a  right-wing internet forum when she said

“I’m a liberal but the thing that interests me most in American politics is center-right to far-right  politics because it’s …a laugh a minute…”


Well, one thing very dear to the hearts of the right is the Second Amendment, and woe betide anyone who brings up the subject of guns unless it’s  announcing “Free Ammo Day” down at Bangin’ Birdie’s Gunshop.

Stirring the grey matter around a bit, I’ve  come up with something I think might just mollify the gun nuts and make the streets (or at least schools and institutions)  a bit safer in the future That, and a cure for baldness!  Okay, maybe not baldness;  Gun Control.

TThe idea doesn’t eliminate guns,  no registration requirement beyond what’s already in place, no turning in or confiscation. In fact, it doesn’t  even make them harder to get, but going forward, it  should make them safer, by virtue of  exposing them,  and making it harder for a miscreant  to get away with  using them for criminal purposes, at least in public.

I say “going forward” because the idea doesn’t touch any weapons in current circulation.: They should gradually  fade away through  wear and attrition.

Simply pass a law   (as if there’s such a thing as “simply” passing a law)  that requires all new guns  imported into or sold in the United States to have RFIDs embedded  in their frames.  To work a gun without a frame, you might as well just stick a bullet in a piece of pipe and smack the primer end with a hammer. Not the most efficient way to  commit murder, let alone mass murder..

RFIDs are in pretty common use these days, from  “tagged” merchandise setting off  shoplifting alarms when leaving a  drugstore ,  for fast inventory counting,  for  “smart” toll roads and  even  to identify stray livestock and pets.

If there’s an RFID chip in every gun, and a scanner/reader at every airport, school  or government building entrance,  security can be instantly alerted whenever someone with a gun enters the edifice.

Scanners that detect the things  have become so inexpensive (as low as around $500)  that virtually any enterprise should be able to afford them, and staff  at  ones like banks and gas stations  can seal their  wickets immediately upon a  gun entering  the premises. At a gas station, the scanners can be at the pump. No need to wait for entry before tightening up security.  Furthermore, the RFID chips themselves are pretty cheap: Most can be had for under a buck.  Adding  one or two dollars to the base cost of a gun  shouldn’t bleed out as a significant price jump  on the retail level.   If someone’s ready to spend  $00-$1000 on a Glock or AR-15, an extra $10 isn’t  too likely to break the bank.

So. There’s a chip in every new gun in use.   If a bank or gas station has a scanner at the door,  cashiers can be automatically alerted whenever a gun enters the place, and the cashiers can simply seal  their  wickets, protecting themselves from any harm.  Or, if the scanner reads “police weapon”   (they can be  coded to do this),  staff can probably relax a bit,, not just because  they know they’re not likely to be held up, but also in knowing there’s a professional “good guy with a gun”  on site who can intervene in case someone else causes trouble.

And,  if a  gun is used in  a robbery and  is identified by the chip,  Scanners can be (I understand) quite easily    programmed  to respond when that chip  is read by another machine.

Chip # H3H-M1, “wanted” in a holdup at the  ESSO station on the corner of  Oak & Elm Streets twenty minutes ago?   It’s by  the Shell gas pumps on the corner of  Birch and Maple right now. Send a patrol car.  This call can be made  to police by an alert employee inside the  gas station, or even better, by  the  scanner itself, via the internet, the same way an interact machine communicates with your bank when you buy a loaf of bread at  a  convenience store.

Any number of  scanners can be programmed to be on the lookout for weapons “wanted” in crimes, and to notify police should they show up.

Similarly, scanners at entrances to schools can notify authorities of any weapons  coming in,  whether “wanted” in crimes  or not.  Interior doors can be  electronically locked by an  outside door scanner, preventing   actual entrance. Mind you I doubt that this particular application comes all that cheap. Still, what’s the cost of sending a SWAT team even on a  “no problem” mission like there was in San Diego a little while back? If the guy with the gun  just turns around at the door and leaves, chances are the  situation’s  resolved without  any extra attention.  Come to think of it, what’s the cost of even several scanners compared to that of just one funeral?

“Entry blocking scanners” wouldn’t likely stop attacks like Paris or San Bernardino , because they  took place pretty much outdoors. Mind you,  if random scanners detect a “flow “ of several weapons towards a particular  place,  rapid  deployment of an anti-terrorist squad could have prevented (or at least reduced) the bloodshed.

 That’s  presuming the terrorists use local, legal weapons rather than smuggled chip-free ones. Not exactly a safe bet.

Kimveer Gill, who shot up Dawson College (one dead, 15-20 wounded) ,  started his rampage outside, but   couldn’t have gotten inside, where he  killed  one student, and  wounded several others.  Similarly, Valeri Fabricant couldn’t have gotten his guns into Concordia University (four dead, a handful wounded), nor  Marc Lepine into  Ecole Polytechnique (fourteen dead).   Not with doors that lock at the approach of a firearm.

          Neither Lepine,  Fabricant, nor Gill were terrorists, with their weapons supplied by  ISIS , Al-Queda, Black September, whatever.   I don’t know, but I’m guessing they got their weapons at the same type of sporting goods stores as target shooters and hunters.

          A final note on prevention: We’re all seen how  cautiously  cops approach  cars they’ve stopped for traffic violations.   That’s because they’ve been too often  been hurt or killed when the driver turned out to be a freak with a gun.  A hand-held scanner would tell the officer if the guy has a gun in his car or not.

I’m wondering if something as simple as wrapping a gun in tinfoil can block RFIDs like a “Faraday cage”. I haven’t been able to find out (my Google-ability isn’t that good), but I’ll tell you the tnfoil in my hat does a fine job of stopping those pesky Martian space rays…

It’s a shame this isn’t an immediate  fix,  doesn’t feature the  instant gratification that so much of society has come to demand. It will take a long time to become fully effective, but wouldn’t it be nice to know that in twenty years we could go to a community party (or school) without even the slightest likelihood that killers  might get us in their sights?  And wouldn’t it be better to know our kids or grandkids might never  even know the  unease that we might sometime feel   attending such things?

Note that that as far as I can tell, RFIDs would in no way infringe on nor impede a citizen (or  “well-regulated militia’s”)  bearing arms, they just point at them. There’s no conflict with the US Constitution’s Second Amendment (although there  could be a quibble with the “reasonable search” one.  A court could decide that one fairly easily, with no great societal upheaval.  I can’t  see how even the NRA could squawk, although they, of course, will.

You know, I’m neither a gun-grabber nor a gun- lover.   I like the things, as I  like a lot of no-frills efficient machinery. In my younger days there was a period when I enjoyed hunting for a little while, and  I’ve also spent a fair amount of time on target ranges.  I was pretty good with a handgun or shotgun, not so hot with a rifle.

But those days are gone for me. Hell, it won’t be that long before all days are gone for me.  Big deal.   Sic vadit.

If you feel this is an idea worth developing, please spread the word- get it to go viral.   Just stick it up on your blog  or Facebook page and forget about it.  I would appreciate a passing mention of having had some input- sort of enhance my  image of being nothing more than an  old crippled commie  curmudgeon.

Physical note: I figure just about any gun frame could easily take a ¼” x  ½” hole drilled in it, with a rice-grain sized RFID dropped in and glued in place.  Prevent the chip from being drilled out by booby-trapping the thing? Maybe the “rice grain” nesting inside a capsule with other contents (like white phosphorus) that explode on contact with heat and air? Some  would-be butcher kills  himself by trying to (criminally)  drill the “serial number” out of his booby-trapped weapon? Tough luck,  Bub.


Nov. 8th, 2014

Here We Go Again

I notice (with some dismay) that DC has resumed putting US and Canadian prices on their TPBs.

It was supposed to have been settled back in 2008 (at the last DC RRP) that they weren't going to futz around with the "$2.99US/$3.75CAN" stuff anymore. A $14.99(US) TPB would just say $14.99US.

Well, the latest batch of books from DC show a 20% exchange rate, while the real (at the bank) rate is around 15%.

They can't keep up with floating currencies. The only publisher that ever did was Image. The big boys, both Marvel and DC, especially considering the kind of inventories they stock on bound volumes, just have to hope that retailers don't get butchered too badly if the Canadian dollar drops, and we end up buying (in US funds, which is the only way Diamond sells) a book exchanged on the cover at (say) 10% while Diamond charges us 15 or 20 or whatever might be current when we get it. So the Canadian retailer was protected as long as the publishers kept those rates on the cover high-high-high. I even recall a publisher (Innovation I think it was) that exchanged at 50% when the dollar was at 20. But that's okay, because we retailers are protected, right? And you consumers? Tough patooties.

Except, except, except... That's just not fair. So I decided that if I had to buy in US at prevailing exchange rates, I was gonna sell the same way. So you didn't have to pay $4.50 Canadian for a $3US book. You'd pay $3.60. Okay, so by not grabbing the extra $5-600 a week it would have amounted to, I didn't get rich that way, never could afford that Porsche. Tough luck for me. And that's the way it's gonna continue. We don't care what delusion driven Canadian price shows on the cover. What the Bank of Montreal says is the proper rate is what we charge.

So if you've noticed the publishers have started going berserk again with the Canadian prices, don't sweat it: It won't make any difference to you at all.

Sept. 27th, 2014

Yar! Oddsblood but ye disappoint me ye lubbers! Or something.

Anyways, a couple of Fridays ago I had an idea for a stunt that felt like it might be a bit of fun: Spend five bucks, say the magic word, and you get a little something appropriate to the day.

What magic word? Well, it was "Talk Like a Pirate Day", so "yarr, lubber, even "aye" would do. But very few people tried, and nobody won.

And what was the prize? We don't even have a surly Roger hanging about, let alone a jolly one. Plenty of other surly folk, but no Rogers, so we couldn't give out any pirate flags. Didn't even have a galleon suitable for cruising the Spanish Main, although at one time we did have an actual Spaniard. And the closest we get to galleons is the gallons of coffee we guzzle each day. So we tried to give away doubloons.

Doubloons? How so? Easy: A one dollar coin is a loon (or loonie), right?
So a two dollar coin (Let's see... multiply by the square root of 3659, add x + n + a times the hypotenuse of triangle "J" = ...Two! Exactly double a loonie: A Doubloon!

And that would have been yer booty for just having the thought "Shiver me timbers, it's talk like a pirate day! "Hand me me bounty ye scurvy mountebank!"

Better luck next time, if there is one...

Sept. 9th, 2013

Did You Know...

That Ste.Catherine Street is open again?

After about a month of traffic misery thanks to that sinkhole on the corner of Guy and Ste.Catherine that closed off the street from St.Marc to Mackay (or beyond), it's open again as of Friday (Aug 30). There's even parking allowed on our block, although I'm not sure about in front of the Faubourg. It was very strange coming in today and finding at least 6 parking spots near the store.

Considering how nasty it's been for us just getting into work these past few weeks, it's quite understandable that lots of you guys have been avoiding the area.

Well, it's safe to come back now, things have pretty much returned to normal.
Except at Astro. "Normal" has never played much part in describing this joint.

Speaking of which, I want to hire someone. Someone in tune with the place- someone named "Abraham, Norman, or Addington: They'd naturally be Abnormal Abe, Nearly Normal Norman, and Addled Addie. Stupefied Stewie or Bain-Fried Phil probably wouldn't cut it.

Enuffa dis. Lemme find some actual work to do...

June 12th, 2013

How about a fan letter?

This past weekend (June 8-9) and the weekend before, CTV had a new guy as the weekend anchor on the 11:00PM national news. His name is Todd Vanderheyden, and we were very happy to see him take over the "Sandie Rinaldo spot".

Why were we happy? Two reasons: He did a very nice job on it without much in the way of facial/body language editorializing. A lot more Lloyd Robertson than (say) Stephane Giroux.. And second, Todd's an unabashed comics fan. He was a customer of ours for many years, only leaving us when he made the big jump to Toronto. Even so, an acquaintance recently mentioned that he'd heard Todd on the radio, saying that when he was living here he got his comics at Astro.
He gave us a plug, and it's only fair that we reciprocate, right?

Now look, I'm not trying to organize any sort of mass write-in campaign here: I'd just suggest that you keep an eye open for Todd on CTV newscasts, and if you like what you see, let them know. Can't hurt to give a local boy (and kindred spirit) a bit of a boost, right?

I don't know if Todd took over the anchor desk just for those two weekends, or if he's being prepped for a stable slot- obviously we're hoping for the latter.


June 5th, 2013

Listen my children, and you shall hear,

Happens I had a conversation this morning that reawakened memories of a couple of long ago freakouts. Here' s one of them:

For over 40 years I half-remembered a poem that was part of our grade 9 mid-term English exam. We had to discuss "The Tide Rises" by Longfellow. It was a "cold" reading / dissertation, we had not studied the work in class. It was only a few years ago that Cliff Biggers, a retired English teacher (and current comic store and CSN proprietor) from Georgia cleared up the mystery of what the poem actually was:

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveler hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveler to the shore.
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

It's about how anyone's imprint that they make as they pass through life is limited, right? Time, with the inevitability of the tide, washes away their footprints, traces of their presence are effaced.

The freakout came upon leaving the exam room to hear the news that John Kennedy had been shot and killed even while we were writing the test on a poem about the transience of man. By the way, this is my mnemonic for remembering what year I was in what grade: I was in 9th grade on Nov 22, 1963. Kindergarten 1954/1955.

It comes to mind now, because a conversation this morning reminded me of a Time magazine cover that freaked me out around June 6 of 1968:

The issue on sale May 28-June 4 1968, had a cover featuring a comic book-ish caricature of Robert Kennedy, with a flash behind his head. The day after its week on the stands was over, a real flash behind the real Robert Kennedy's head left him dead.

Christ. 45 years after Bobby, and fifty years after John Kennedy was killed, and I m still immersed in comic books? Will I never grow up?

May 8th, 2013

"A book Review (Kinda)"

Howard Chaykin is not my favorite comics creator by any means. I very much disliked what he did with Blackhawk in that three or four part Blackhawk prestige series back in the 80's, and subsequent works just seemed to be incomplete without the gratuitous Chaykin blowjob scene. I can manage to enjoy a comic book without a BJ panel, thank you.

Nonetheless, giving the devil his due, he is a very talented writer and artist. Certainly American Flagg (and several other things that I can't remember at the moment) proved that.

I recently came across a piece of his from the Los Angeles Review of Books that's less an obituary for Carmine Infantino than a reminiscence/rant about the relationship between artists like Infantino, Gil Kane, Jack Kirby, and so on. A very insightful piece (albeit highly opinionated), but Chaykin was there with them in the mid 60' when these guys were in their heydays, so you're getting eyewitness stuff, not just "somebody told me" s' .

Now I was never a great fan of Alex Toth. I first came to recognize his work in CarToons, a B&W magazine sized thing about the hot rod culture of the early 1960's when I was just crazy about cars. Pete Millar's work I liked, Gilbert Shelton's I loved. I hated Dennis Ellefson, but Toth was just, he's okay. Even when I got into ECs, it was John Severin, Jack Davis (the last one of that crew still alive), Will Elder, and Wally Wood. Krigstein, Kurtzman and Toth were ...okay. Mind you I still have (and occasionally admire) his cover for Frontline Combat #2. Chaykin mentions that particular piece in his review of a recent book about Toth:

How can anyone possibly not read an article that starts out with:

"I AM AND HAVE BEEN for many years an avid admirer of the work of Alex Toth. I knew him-not all that well, but well enough to realize at a certain point that avoiding contact with Alex Toth was a positive and healthy lifestyle choice."

Notwithstanding that, Chaykin is so filled with praise for both Toth's work and the book "Genius Isolated", that it makes me want to read it myself. Fortunately (I just checked Diamond's inventory) I see it's still available. I'm sooo tempted. Sales pitch: If you want one (it's $50), we can get it, with pleasure.


April 3rd, 2013


In an effort to bring in moolah on Tuesdays (traditionally the quietest day of the week in comics shops, movie theatres, restaurants, etc.), and in the hopes that a bit more action will help keep the staff more-or-less awake, we present:


EVERY Tuesday, starting April 9 2013, and continuing until we get tired of doing it, it'll be 20% off all new TPBs, and GNs from the hundreds and hundreds of titles we keep in stock

The caveats are simple: Come in, browse, grab, throw bundles of cash at us, go home, enjoy your latest literary (alliterative "L" word that means discovery). No layaways, 'cause that's not a good "L" word. Also layaways are a pain in the lower lumbar location.

Look, we were having fun witing wike Tweety Bird with the "twades on twenty-twosday" stuff, but this alliterative L business is getting to be a drag. If you like "Ls" that much, just buy a Superman comic, okay?

Speaking of ol' Supes, ever notice that aside from his well-known double L thing (Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Lex Luthor etc.), his family name is also "L"? (Spelled "El" in the comics, but Kryptonians just have to make everything soo complicated...)

Anyways, come in and save money on TPBs and such. Every Tuesday.

We eagerly await the plentiful pennies emerging from your purses. Beyond pennies, we also accept nickels, dimes, quarters, loonies, twoonies, fives, tens twenties, debit cards, credit cards, and so on. Maybe Canadian Tire money, but don't push your luck.


March 20th, 2013

About those "golden tickets"

Well, as far as we can see, the idea ends up a loser:

We had hoped the idea of a little reward would encourage people to keep their accounts in good shape, but it really hasn't had much impact. We've been running it for close to five months now, and all we've discovered is that the number of eligible people has fluctuated up or down by 20 or so each week, much the same as it did before we started doing it. And punching in the numbers every Saturday has become a bit of a drag:

"C'mon- it's Saturday night, I wanna go home. Do we have to do this?"

Naw, enough's enough, so effective Wednesday May 1, we're just going to knock it off. Whoever gets the ticket that day gets the last one.

And that's the name of that tune. Don't worry, we'll come up with some other idea to drive us all a little nuts.


January 7th, 2013

You could be a Whiner Winner!

So I was thinkin' the other day: When Jason went to get the supplies for the Watermelon Festival, did he make the proper request of the sales guy who sold him the stuff?(By the way, the guy wasn't the second son of HRHesses Chuck & Di [That's a hint].)

(What is the abbreviated plural possessive of his & her royal highness, anyways?)

When I asked Jason, he replied "Huh?" BUT I have great faith in you wonderful (and avaricious) folk out there: Tell us what Jason's proper request should have been and if you're the first person with the correct answer, you get a free TPB of your choosing ($20 max) from our vast selection!

Hints: If you were here for the watermelon fest, it helps, just 'cause you know what he got. If John, Paul, George and Ringo formed the band in Tel Aviv rather than Liverpool, they'd be _____ ___... Say it again. Say it again.

Now here ya go- last hint: Six words that Jason should have said:

_ _ _ e.. _ _ _ _ _ _ .. _ _ l l _ _ _ _ .. _ _ l l _ .. _ e .. _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Enough of this- now I want to go home.


October 12th, 2012

The Carrot

Okay, I know it's customary to say "The carrot and the stick", but last time around I called it "The Hammer", so what should it be this time? "The Mango"?

Here's the thing: Raf calls this the "Golden ticket". It's his idea, so we'll call it whatever we damn well please. "Golden ticket" sounds nice- a little grandiose, maybe, but nice. We actually did something like this about 20 years ago, and here we go again. Kinda
Each week, on Saturday night, just before we start the weekly billing, we'll generate a list of all cash accounts that have ten bucks or more in them. We'll pick one (at random). If you're the one, in the coming week's bag, you'll find a "golden ticket" that says we'll add $10 to your account.

Either you get ten bucks or a shot at some special "stashed in the back" thing we might have, a free incentive book or something... Whatever-

Your choice.

Just pull the ticket out of your bag, hand it to whoever' s helping you, and say "Gimme the bonus bucks." or "What kinda neat stuff you got?"
Don't get all hot and bothered about the "stashed" stuff: We haven' t quite figured that part out yet, but we'll get it together soon enough. Worst comes to worst, even if we never get the "stuff" part together, if you're a weiner [sorry- winner], you get ten extra simoleons!

And look- this isn't a raffle or a lottery or anything like that. All you have to do is keep your account in good shape (which you should be doing anyways) and the Astro librechauns might just drop a small pot of gold in your lap. Wear a jock, just in case.

Of course, this thing isn' t available to anyone who works here. Tough patooties for us.

Oh, jeez: Raf, this doesn't mean we have to actually go out and buy a package of gold (or yellow) paper, does it? We can print the golden tickets on regular white stuff, right? Raf? Right?


September 24th, 2012


Time to put the screws to ya.
Just today, at the senior centre where I go twice a week for physio, someone wondered what the deal was with Clint Eastwood. They'd seen his speech at the recent Republican convention, and "WTF?"

What could I tell them- "Clint's a cranky old geezer, and he just did what cranky old geezers do: Set the record straight. And ramble off in different directions, forgetting the odd thing here and there, adding the odd thing as the thought strikes."
Well, Eastood may be 20 years older than me, but that still makes me a geezer, and I'm feeling kinda cranky these days, too.

See, every Monday we update the "call sheets", the record of calls made to people whose comic accounts have gone negative. This updating takes a couple of hours.

Hmm. just received a spam email. At first glance I thought the word in the subject line was "vagina", but a closer look shows it's actually "viagra".
Funny how similar those words are: replace the "r" with an "n", stir it around a wee bit, and presto chango! I wonder if they planned it that way when they were thinking up a name for the pill- kinda fits, doesn't it?

Anyways, I sit here week after week, pounding the keyboard and wondering how much time Ray, Raf, and Jason are putting in trying to squeeze money out of some people. Lots of time, when they could be doing other stuff like arranging the shelves, maybe tidying up the place, or staring out the window, checking out all the pretty ladies passing by.

So here's where it gets nasty: You guys know what the deal is supposed to be, you get the discount because you prepay. And you know what the deal really is; you get the discount even if your balance has gone negative. We're pretty easy- we tend not to take any action (like stopping an account) unless repeated attempts to get the situation cleaned up have failed. And "killing" a list tends to be a bit traumatic for everyone. So here's what I've come up with: You get the discount provided you prepay.
We keep records of deposits forever, but specifically records of "gone negatives" and calls for twenty weeks. Here's a clip of what one of those records looks like:

990 (AU29): WENT NEG: $- 7.28 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 22.72 RM
986 (AU01): WENT NEG: $- 7.14 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 49.00 MW
990 (AU22): WENT NEG: $-17.65 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 32.35 MW
988 (AU15): WENT NEG: $- 8.01
985 (JY25): WENT NEG: $- 4.46 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 20.54 RM
984 (JY18): WENT NEG: $-18.83 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 16.17 MW
982 (JY04): SGND LOW: $  5.47
980 (JN20): WENT NEG: $- 1.22 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 53.78 JO
972 (AP25): WENT NEG: $-14.08 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 45.92 RM

I've chopped out the parts that show who the customer is, and the notes of what phone calls or e-mail results were. (They mostly look like "Will be in this week" or "In Botswana will be back Octember 12th", etc.

This guy, whoever it is, isn't really a problem. Sure there's the added work of making the call, and noting the out/in on the call sheets, but most of the time whoever it is goes into the new week's distribution with money in his account, so it's not so bad, no big deal.

Well, we have a dozen or so people like him, and in a few weeks, they're probably going to be unhappy.
Too bad. We don't like being nasty. We prefer playing it straight with people, but these guys don't. So we're going to be mean, too. Here's how:

In a few weeks (when we get around to it) when we do the Monday update of the call sheets, and we see someone consistently abusing the system like the guy below, we're not going to put his account on hold (as we're sometimes forced to do), but the discount on that account will drop to zero. Simple as that. Want to get the discount back? Just abide by the terms: Keep your account balances positive (at least most of the time).

Frankly, I don't know if this will work. I hope it does, and I hope we'll use it as sparingly as we do the "stop picking" thing, which is maybe once or twice a month.

Here's a bad guy- we're always chasing him to get him to be as nice (and fair) as most of you:

This guy, on the other hand, is a pain. See how his account's in arrears more than half the time?
Now he's a guy we probably considered cutting off around week 986/987, but kept picking for on the basis that "He's slow, but he does come in eventually...

988 (AU15): WENT NEG: $-19.35 PAID TO NEWBAL $20.65 JO
987 (AU08): WENT NEG: $-16.06
986 (AU01): WENT NEG: $-10.40
985 (JY25): WENT NEG: $-10.40
984 (JY18): WENT NEG: $- 7.05
983 (JY11): WENT NEG: $- 7.05
982 (JY04): WENT NEG: $- 4.54
981 (JN27): WENT NEG: $- 1.15
976 (MY23): WENT NEG: $-13.58 PAID TO NEWBAL $40.00 JO
971 (AP18): WENT NEG: $- 7.70
970 (AP11): WENT NEG: $- 4.41
969 (AP04): WENT NEG: $- 1.96

Now how about this guy- comes in regularly, just about every three weeks, but every week requires calls and notes and whatnot, and rarely deposits enough money to cover more than a week. Not worrisome, but a continual annoyance.

990 (AU29): WENT NEG: $- 9.54 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 6.46 MW
989 (AU22): WENT NEG: $- 6.93
988 (AU15): WENT NEG: $- 3.85
985 (JY25): WENT NEG: $-52.89 PAID TO NEWBAL $12.11 RM
984 (JY18): WENT NEG: $-38.16
983 (JY11): WENT NEG: $-29.08
981 (JN27): WENT NEG: $-23.73 PAID TO NEWBAL $16.27 RM
980 (JN20): WENT NEG: $- 3.69
976 (MY23): WENT NEG: $- 0.47
975 (MY16): WENT NEG: $- 6.59 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 3.41 JO
974 (MY09): WENT NEG: $- 3.60
973 (MY02): WENT NEG: $- 1.58

Here's someone who's no problem at all. Might blow a week here and there, but nobody's perfect. If you recognize this as your account (whoever you are) Thank you!

990 (AU29): WENT NEG: $-24.03 PAID TO NEWBAL $25.97 RM
989 (AU22): WENT NEG: $- 4.80 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 5.20 RM
988 (AU15): WENT NEG: $- 7.46 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 8.35 RM
987 (AU08): WENT NEG: $-12.65 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 7.35 RM
985 (JY25): WENT NEG: $-46.85 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 9.55 RL
984 (JY18): WENT NEG: $-32.52
983 (JY11): WENT NEG: $-20.82
982 (JY04): WENT NEG: $-35.01 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 4.99 RM
981 (JN27): WENT NEG: $-23.30 PAID TO NEWBAL $22.51 JO
976 (MY23): WENT NEG: $-11.34 PAID TO NEWBAL $ 8.66 RM
973 (MY02): WENT NEG: $- 4.50 PAID TO NEWBAL $15.50 RM

Okay, I just chopped off a few pages of "went neg / paid to". I'm sure you get the idea of some of what's needed to keep track of this stuff.

So here it is- no target date, but very soon, if we see someone continually abusing the system, the discount gets eliminated. Not pleasant, but not as bad as not getting your books at all, right?
Oh, and when we see someone's been keeping back on the straight and narrow, we'll just put that discount right back on.


June 25th, 2012

Yet Another Dumb Stunt



It's like this:  July 14 2012 is the 25th anniversary of our opening this store.

Sure, we had one store in Lachine, and one on Decarie before this (going back to May 1, 1984), but we've been here 25 years. And that's a Silver  Anniversary, right?

So here's the stunt: On July 14  2012, come in and deposit (or spend) beaucoups de bucks. If you give us pre-1968 Canadian dimes  and quarters (real silver Canadian money), we'll credit your account twice what you give us!

That's right- a roll of pre-'68 quarters will be worth $20!

No, this isn't some kind of scam: If we get any, we're not gonna take them down to the U.S. to be melted down for the bullion value. I doubt that a quarter has 50¢ worth of silver in it anyways. We're just gonna stick 'em in the bank, or give them out as change in subsequent days.

Come to think of it, you have to go back to around the 1948 dime before even the numismatic value of a "brilliant uncirculated" Canadian coin has doubled face. (Last I saw, maybe 30 years ago, a '48 dime was worth about $6, so if you have one of those I'd suggest you find a coin dealer. Good luck with that.)

Oh, and look: Someone could always put a roll of quarters in his account, get credited the $20, and then ask to take money out. NO FAIR. We're trying to be nice here. Someone could do that, sure, but don't worry: We'll figure out a way to screw ya back.  

So enough of this. You wanna do it? Just clean behind those sofa cushions,bring in those dimes and quarters. On July 14.

Anybody wanna guess how much is brought in? I'm hoping for at least 25¢, maybe even a whole dollar!


June 2nd, 2012

About Posters

I notice we're getting a poster in for a customer this coming week. I found it remarkable because while we once had a bit (not much) of a thing happening in posters about fifteen years ago, that trade has dwindled to the point where seeing one on the invoice sparked an immediate "What the hell?" reaction.

Now here's the thing: It's an $8.99 poster. We pay about half of that (say $4.50), and the customer will pay $6.75.

But (big but) it's going to cost us an additional $5.50 for freight. So we're going to make a profit of minus $3.25 on the thing. With profit margins like that we can't pay the rent, for Ray, Jason or Raf's salaries, or for Betty's Porsche.

What's done is done. On this one, the customer gets it at the usual 25% discount, which means $6.75. A couple of bucks ain't gonna kill us -once. But if the poster biz continues at all, please be warned: You'll be charged at the usual discount, but plus freight. If there happens to be one poster in the box, that'll be $5.50. If there's ten, it'll be 55 cents each. Luck of the draw. Presume the worst. (Why now?) Because it used to be that poster boxes cost less than half the regular $5.50 rate. It's only because of what appears to be a new rate from Diamond that we're changing ours.

Now back when we carried posters, we were getting enough of them that the per box charge was always split amongst a dozen or two items, so that wasn't bad. One thing that was lousy was that out of any ten pieces, we could expect six or seven of them to be damaged. We had to eternally go through the expense and loss of time involved in claiming for a damage, tracking the (mandatory) replacement order, and paying the freight again each time a replacement was shipped (often only to be received damaged again). It would be nice if there were such a thing as a freight credit, but Diamond wouldn't go for that, so tough luck for our hopes of at least coming out even. Of course, in the future, if we bill you cost & freight for a poster and it comes in damaged, you'll get credited for both. Let's just hope that the bozos packing this stuff have learned to be a bit more careful over the years.



June 2nd, 2012

Rain, Rain Go Away

So this past Tuesday Montreal was hit by a torrential rainstorm. It approached the storm of July 1987 in ferocity. As bad as this one was, it wasn't quite as bad as that one 25 years ago (which took place the day after we first opened here on Ste. Catherine St. My wife recalls coming out of our Snowdon store, crossing part of Decarie, and seeing cars stalled in the expressway, with water up to their windows. In fact, one poor fellow drowned on Decarie that day, when he fell and sank getting out of his car. We had an acquaintance who came home to his house in Outremont, and opened the front door to find all the contents of the house in the basement: His roof drain had clogged, and the weight of the water collapsed the roof, crushing the floors below into the cellar. There was a Jean Coutu right next door to us at the time, and I heard they lost a quarter million dollars worth of inventory when their basement flooded.

While there are many reports and stories about Tuesday's storm, at least there don't appear to be any fatalities.

Close to home, one of the Ste.Catherine Street businesses that suffered in the flooding was Capitaine Quebec: One of our guys (Jason) told us that the Cap had a serious amount of water in the store, and what (at a glance) looked like a fairly extensive wipeout of the week's new book shipment.

I really don't know: We're not the kind of folk who take pleasure in picking at other people's miseries, but while we're not buddy-buddy with Myles and his crew, we've been cordial neighbour/competitors for the twenty-odd years that it's been since he moved in across the street. We were happy to hear that he was open and operating by Thursday.

Anyways, we wish Capitaine Quebec a speedy recovery from this mess, and have little doubt that they'll be back to normal in virtually no time (if they're not already), and we hope none of our customers and friends had too rough a time either.


May 10th, 2012

Complete Flaming Shitheads:

A bit unusual for a topic heading in a comic shop blog you say? Well, yes, but but the time you're through reading it, I hope you'll agree with my assessment of some "protestors" who are active in Montreal right now.

A couple of weeks ago, someone set off a smoke bomb in the Atwater metro. The story at the time was that it was somehow tied to the student tuition hike protests.. Protest, fine. Way back when I carried the odd sign myself. But I never did anything as criminally vicious and stupid as setting off any kind of bomb (not even a stink bomb) in an enclosed public space.

You know, I've long been interested in history:

In 1911 there was a fire in a garment factory in New York City. Just Google "Triangle Shirtwaist" and you'll see the story of how a simple fire caused the deaths of close to 150 people, most due to either smoke inhalation or by being crushed in the panic of people trying to escape. 40 were killed just from jumping from the windows.

A little closer to home, there was once a movie theatre on Ste.Catherine St.E near Papineau, called the "Laurier Palace. When I was a kid in the 1960's, we couldn't get into movies in Montreal if we didn't have fake I.D. Except for under carefully supervised conditions, people under age 16 weren't allowed to go to the movies in Montreal between 1927 and 1967, because of the Laurier Palace.

In 1927, a fire, more smoke than flames started under the stage in the Laurier. In the panic that followed, 78 children died, very few from burns, most, just as at Triangle, by being crushed or asphyxiated, trapped by the locked doors.

Ever hear the old saying "You can't yell "Fire!" in a crowded theatre"? Some things are axiomatic, some things become axiomatic with just a little knowledge. You don't yell "Fire" in a crowded theatre, You don't yell "Fire" in a crowded subway station.

Not unless you're a sociopath with brains the consistency of dog turds.

Those couple of weeks back, in passing by, we saw fire trucks, and someone being carried out of the Atwater Metro on a stretcher. Smoke bomb. Heart attack. (The victim survived.)

My son, Joseph, just got home from work. He got to work a bit late this morning because he was evacuated from the Snowdon Metro this morning when it was hit by a smoke bomb. He said there was no panic, Montrealers being naturally cool people nowadays, and the announcement stating that there was no danger, just smoke.

A while back Betty mentioned that she was so happy to be a Canadian. If the calm, orderly evacuation Joseph experienced this morning is typical of the breed, I'm glad Joseph's a Canadian, too. And if we can presume that whoever' s setting off these smoke bombs is also a Canadian, well, there is such a thing as Canadian garbage too, and that's what they are. Human garbage.


April 25th, 2012


Cash mobs seem to have become a bit of a fad over the past year, and boy, we'd like to have one. Not so much because we're fun people, but because, like just about everyone, we could use the extra bucks (and exposure) they bring. Here's the problem: None of us are net-savvy or promotional savvy to set one up. It all seems to be Facebook related, and we've never even gotten the hang of that. (Hell, we can't even get anywhere with Craigslist.)

Anyone care to volunteer? Set up a cash mob for us, and Betty promises to be not quite so bitchy the next time you come in. I'll hide in the back, Mary will be pleasantly oblivious, and Ray will act like a giant puppy dog. That's right- we all promise to do virtually nothing that might be disturbingly abnormal.

Oh why are you being so cruel? Nobody's volunteered yet. Okay, maybe that's because I haven't even finished typing this thing, let alone posting it, but still...



January 8th, 2012

Marvel's Coupon Promo:

Some of you (particularly Newsarama and Bleeding Cool readers)may be aware that Marvel is offering a special promotion tied in with their digital comics. I'm not fully conversant with it, but here's the gist:

For a limited time, a 99 cent Mavel comics download will lead you to a PDF (I guess) that you can print out and take to your nearest comic store to exchange for $5.00 worth of hard copy Marvel comics or TPBs. That's a great deal for you, because it means you're effectively getting six bucks worth of Marvel stuff for a dollar:
It's good for retailers too, because it sends shoppers into our stores who might not otherwise be coming (or even know we exist). For every $5.00 coupon a retailer takes, Marvel will give him $4.00 in credit on a later invoice.
That sounds kind of nasty, like we're only getting $4 for a $5 book, but it's really okay: See, most of us would only have paid Marvel $2.50 for that $5.00 book, which means we're still making a buck- and- a- half.
Of course we can expect some retailers to complain, contending that immediately after creating the world, God gave us a personal guarantee that we'd make $2.50 on every blessed "Iron Man Annual" we sell. Well that's just bullshit as far as I'm concerned. Anybody who's seen our discount program is already well aware that the "keystone principle" of markups just doesn't fly around here.

There's caveats of course: Marvel could have told retailers about it before they told the public, but of course they didn't, On the other hand, by now we should all be well accustomed to Marvel's standard "mushroom treatment".

For the consumer, the coupons can only be redeemed at the store named on the coupon (which will be the store closest to the consumer's zip code. The coupons only work in the U.S.A. They won't even show stores in Canada, France, Burkina Faso or wherever

Anyways, it looks like a very nice promotion, and kudos to Marvel for coming up with it.



December 30th, 2011

A Do It Yourself Kit

That's what Astronotes/Previews is for January 2012: We're not doing suggestion sheets this month, for the simple reasons that:

1) Even after going through the catalogs three or four times, we just can't find anything that fits in with people's customary tastes.

2) We can use the break. The holiday schedule is particularly disruptive this year, and it's more important to keep the books moving through the pipeline.

3) By January 1, aren't you guys just a little tired of merchants shoving stuff down your throats? Don't you deserve a break too?

So treat this month's Astronotes/Previews as a "D-I-Y" kit. Browse the things yourself, and let us know what you want. There's some pretty good looking new stuff in there, we just can't figure out who to flog it to.

Winston Churchill is reputed to have once said: "Only a pedant would say 'Ending a sentence with a preposition is something Up with which I shall not put ."

Speaking of Churchill, you'd think he'd be the no-contest winner of any "Britain's greatest PM of the 20th Century" poll, and yet he wasn't: When just such a poll was conducted, Brits overwhelmingly chose Clement Atlee, Churchill's successor, who beat Winnie in the 1945 election.
While it's pretty easy to think of a couple of Churchill quotes ("This was their finest hour", and of course "we shall fight them on the beaches and on the landing grounds... We shall never surrender."), it's kind of hard to remember Atlee even existed, let alone recall anything he said. Go try to come up with anything Harold Wilson (or for that matter, Margaret Thatcher) ever came out with.
Anyways, Atlee, the architect of Britain's national health-care system, was very much a progressive, and a free thinker: When asked during his time as Prime Minister if he were a Christian, he replied that he did "embrace the ethics of Christianity but had no use for the mumbo-jumbo." Can you imagine any Western leader getting away with a statement like that even today, let alone 60 years ago? Another reply of Atlee's that I've liked for quite a while was his perfect response to a reporter's asking "Are you an agnostic?" He said "I really don't know." What else could an agnostic say?

One more long-gone politician quote: US President Calvin "Silent Cal" Coolidge was approached by a debutante at an inauguration ball. She said, "Mr. President, my friend here bet me I couldn't get you to say three words to me, but I think she's wrong. What do you say?" "You lose." Coolidge replied.

Not a politician, but my favourite figure from American political history, Alice (Roosevelt) Longworth was President Theodore Roosevelt's daughter, and possessor of a nasty wit: It was said that she quite possibly drew just enough votes away from Thomas Dewey to cost him the presidency in 1948 when she said "I could never vote for Dewey. He just looks a bit too much like the little man on top of a wedding cake."
Alice sometimes referred to Leon Czolgocz, William McKinley's assassin as "the founder of the family fortune".
Her father, who became President upon McKinley's assassination, once said "I can control the country, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both."

Okay. Looks like I lied about that "one more" quote thing, and I think I've just proven yet again that I'm no Calvin Coolidge, and that "Motormouth" is indeed an appropriate title for this blog. Start off writing about a comic catalogue for 2012, and end up quoting a couple of US Presidents' offhand remarks from almost 100 years before. Ah well, my mind always did wander about in random directions.

And provided the comic-book publishers give us something to sink our teeth into next month, those pfui beloved suggestion sheets will be back clawing at your wallets next month!



November 6th, 2011

October 2011 Pie Pieces

Diamond has posted the October 2011 comic market share figures, and to me (at least) the results are pretty shocking

We figured that part of DC's big gamble on "New52" was to not just close the gap between themselves and Marvel, but maybe, just maybe, take the lead. Well, last month, we saw DC take that lead, with about 5% more units sold than Marvel, and a slim advantage in dollars.

October's a different story: DC still has both first place positions, but the totally astounding thing is that they account for 50.97% of the units sold, versus Marvel's 30.29%! This in a marketplace where for the last 40 years or so, Marvel's traditionally been #1 at around 35-40%, with DC second at 25-30. Frankly, I doubt that any publisher's ever had 50% of the market, unless it was DC (or maybe Dell) back before Fantastic Four started around 1961. This is kind of akin to the Liberal Party wipeout in the last federal election, except that while the Libs have been dominant for the past 50 years, they'd still win some, lose some. I mean we did have the Conservative governments of Harper, Mulroney, even Clark and Diefenbaker in there, but during all that half-century, while the "beggars changed places", Marvel never moved from being the one on horseback. Until now.
Question is, can DC hold this position, or can Marvel come up with a stunt just as bold and audacious to restore things to their "rightful" order?

Over the past couple of decades, DC seemed to take the old Avis rent-a-car slogan of "We're #2- We try harder" to heart. If you wanted innovation from the big guys, DC was the place. Most of the alternate models (like Helix, Paradox, CMX and even the Archie line) failed, while Vertigo and the nurturing of the TPB formats were the only real successes, but at least they tried. It's going to be fascinating watching what happens when Marvel, the sleeping giant, wakes up and realises it must come up with enticing approaches, not just go on claiming to be the "house of ideas".
It's said (inaccurately) that there's a Chinese curse that goes "May you live in interesting times." Well, this topsy-turvy situation in comics should lead to some interesting times in the business, and you know, it's probably gonna be a lot of fun seeing what kind of interesting stuff happens in the four-colour universe over the next few years.



November 5th, 2011

Speaking of rude...

Okay, the last post "rude beast" was a reference to another Yeats poem, "The Second Coming" , but there's another "Rude" in the comics news these days: Steve Rude, who, it seems, got into a beef with his next door neighbour (something about a barking dog and kids' toys landing where they shouldn't. Anyways, it evolved into a shouting/shoving match, with the neighbour ending up with a torn shirt, being shoved backwards until he fell, and Rude now under arrest for assault.
Anyway, Steve's wife, Jaynelle, (who's no Roz Kirby or Vijaya Smith, that's for sure) is now trying to dump lots of Steve's artwork on eBay, to help cover lawyer's fees,. She seems inordinately concerned about Steve not having to do any more "hard time", as she puts it. Apparently he spent one night in police custody awaiting the arraignment/ bail hearing. (He was arrested Tuesday evening and was out on bail Wednesday morning.). Hopefully Steve takes trial dates a little more seriously than he did comic shipping dates.
Someone's already asked if the CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) is going to get involved. Somehow I doubt it. This isn't a First Amendment issue (which is the basis of the CBLDF's mandate), and as far as I recollect, Steve's never done any work for Top Shelf.



November 2nd, 2011

A rude beast just popped in to say:

Well, our pals down in the Excited States are already getting all hot and bothered about the upcoming elections. The right has been yammering about what a lousy President Obama is since just about the day before he was elected, while the left has been pretty quiet, not really having anything to either crow about or bemoan. With political silly season upon us, I just thought it might be nice to share my all-time favourite poem with you. It' s called "The Great Day" , it's by the early 20th Century Irish poet, W.B.Yeats, and it says everything that really needs to be said about politics of any stripe:

The Great Day

Hurrah for revolution and more cannon-shot!
A beggar upon horseback lashes a beggar on foot.
Hurrah for revolution and cannon come again!
The beggars have changed places, but the lash goes on.

~William Butler Yeats

Keezotso Compy!


October 23rd, 2011

All Those dreary English Lit classes pay off (in a small way):

A while back, we asked folks to send in a review, and if we "published" it, they'd get a free TPB as a thank you. Well, nobody bit.

As it happens, though, our attention was called to "Bruno's Blog" , and I agree with Betty's recommending it in her Bettybyte section. It's good. You'd never guess that Bruno's mother tongue is Klingon.

Anyways, currently up on his blog is a review of the new Catwoman series, encased within an overview of the whole DC relaunch, and it's one of the best pieces of comics related commentary I've come across in many years. Bruno was even nice enough to mention us a couple of times, and include a link to this site. Well, Bruno, it's like this: I know you weren't vying for a book, just expressing your thoughts, but you really do deserve some reward. As our thank you, we'd like you to give you a free TPB the next time you stop in.

Oh, and folks? Our "write a review offer still stands: E-mail us a review of an available book (or series), and if we "publish" it on the website, you get a free ($20max) TPB of your choice.

That's it!


October 18th, 2011

Shonen Jumps Ship

Viz Media announced at the NYCC this past weekend that the April 2012 issue of Shonen Jump will be its last American hard-copy edition. In January , they will be making the magazine available on-line, with translated installments happening just two weeks after the initial Japanese publication.

That's it!


October 11th, 2011

A Good American Heritage Essay

One of my favourite websites is American Heritage. Not surprising, I suppose, given my proclivity to yammer on with little anecdotes (some would replace "little" with "interminable") about this, that, or the other event that took place anywhere from last week to 500 years ago. Anyways, for several years I even had a subscription to "AH", letting it lapse only when I felt it was turning into little more than an endless series of tourist brochures. Some time back, they ceased doing a print version, switching to on-line only, then after a year or so resumed publication of the magazine itself. I don't know of any other example of a print publication that's gone digital and then returned. Okay, AH has a story currently up on-line that just blew me away:

"King, Obama, and the Great American Dialogue" By Clayborne Carson is a masterful piece of writing. I've excerpted the first page below. One of the points I appreciate about Carson's piece is that he notes that even in his own lifetime, Martin Luther King Jr. was somewhat marginalized by more radical elements of the civil rights movement, his credo of nonviolence being overshadowed by the attitudes of people like Huey Newton and H.Rap Brown. But as much of a "lion in winter" as Dr. King may have become by that horrible day in Memphis, since his martyrdom he has proven to be a giant, perhaps without peer, in American history. I doubt that anyone can point to any single person who has caused more societal change than Dr.King.

Unfortunately, while our proclivities towards ethnic repression have been somewhat reduced since King's time, our love of murder and brutality in general doesn't seem to have dissipated one bit.

Anyways, I hope some of you might follow the link to the full essay. Don't worry about it disappearing too soon: Throughout its 60-odd year history American Heritage was, at its most frequent, a quarterly.


Standing in the cold with 2 million others near the Capitol as Barack Obama delivered his inaugural address, I couldn't help but recall another crowded day 45 years earlier, when I heard Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" oration at the other end of the National Mall, in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

A 19-year-old college student at the time, I was moved by his words but had no idea that his speech would soon rank as one of the greatest oratories in American history. My view of King and his rhetoric would be profoundly affected in unexpected ways by the changes the march had set in motion. I wondered how Obama's speech might affect the lives of the many young people that I saw in the crowd at the Capitol but appreciated how difficult it is to predict the enduring impact of even the most moving oratory Nonetheless, my study of King, especially since becoming editor of his papers, has convinced me that King's and Obama's distinctive oratorical qualities are related in important ways. Indeed, the new president seems to personify King's dream that his children would live in a nation capable of judging people on the basis of character rather than skin color.

In 1963 King's dream seemed a fantasy. The continuing reality of racial discrimination and segregation made me dubious about King's visionary rhetoric, his faith in American ideals, and his mode of charismatic leadership. King critics such as Stokely Carmichael, Bob Moses, and other organizers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had convinced me that black advancement would come not through the guidance of national civil rights leaders such as King but through militant grassroots activism. The landmark civil rights legislation that followed the march failed to transform Mississippi "into an oasis of freedom and justice," as King had envisioned. During the era of Black Power and the Black Arts Movement, the idea that Americans of all races one day would join hands and sing, "Free at last, free at last," seemed far-fetched. Malcolm X and the Black Power firebrands pushed King from prominence as they revived an alternative black nationalist oratorical tradition that offered a compelling explanation of the escalating racial violence and police repression of the late 1960s. During the last year of his life, King himself spoke of his dream turning into a nightmare; in his 1967 antiwar speech at New York's Riverside Church, he labeled the American government as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

As black militancy and white repression spawned ever more deadly violence during the late 1960s and early 1970s, I gradually came to understand the wisdom of King's message of nonviolence and reconciliation. Although I remained skeptical of the notion that great oratory in itself could change the course of history I began to see that King understood the radical potential of the traditional religious and political ideals that many Americans shared and that his commitment to social justice was at least as firm as that of his black critics. While I regretted that King's provocative speeches of his last years earned little of the attention lavished on the final passages of his "Dream" oration, I did see that King's vision of a transformed nation was, for Americans of all races, "deeply rooted in the American dream."

The genius of King's "I Have a Dream" speech lay not in his originality but in the way he expressed ideas better than those from whom he borrowed.

Especially after 1985, when Coretta Scott King asked me to direct the King Papers Project (now part of Stanford's King Institute), I began to see the speech not as an isolated instance of skilled oratory, but rather as a remarkably cogent contribution to a continuing dialogue about America's destiny King spoke not only to those gathered but also to "the architects of our republic" who had written "the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence" and thereby signed "a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir."

Of all of King's many speeches, the address at the March on Washington best represented the transformative ability of oratory to infuse familiar ideas with new meanings. In his 16-minute speech, King linked the aspirations of African Americans to the widely shared but unrealized ideals of the American republic. Although he prepared much of the speech in the days preceding the march, he impulsively extended his remarks to incorporate ideas drawn from almost two centuries of American black-white relations, hearkening back to Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers who spoke of "inalienable rights" while holding slaves. King's concluding evocation of his dream was extemporaneous, but he had been preparing these remarks for most of his adult life.


That's it


October 10th, 2011

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and DC

There's "big" news going around about how Barnes & Noble has announced that it will no longer carry 100 of DC's top backlist TPBs in its stores, in retaliation for DC going exclusively with Amazon's Kindle (as opposed to B & N's "Nook") for e-delivery. That's playing hardball indeed, and although my sympathies tend to lie with B & N over the "great Satan" Amazon, I have to wonder if it might be a blessing in disguise for DC:

There have been stories floating around for quite some time about Barnes & Noble experiencing financial woes. Maybe not as grim as the now-bankrupt Borders, but serious problems nonetheless. So, presuming that B & N doesn't currently have a huge backlog of debt to DC, the announcement means that they won't be building one, either.

It' s not unusual for big bookstores to order books in case lots (it' s easy to order plenty when unsold goods is returnable): Let' s say there' s 100 hot $20 T PBs in a box, and each of the 700-odd B & N stores orders a case only of the top ten TPBs. That's $1.4 million at retail just for the top ten. Of course DC doesn't charge B & N full retail, only about 50%. Still, if B & N became unable to pay for them it would still be a 700k kick in the teeth for DC. Less, really, because DC doesn't pay the printers what they charge B & N, so their exposure would be considerably less than that $700k, they just wouldn't get it. They're only really out what the books actually cost them. Still, peeling away all the onion's layers is a drag, and who needs any kind of a hit, anyways? With e-books, there's really virtually no production cost (it's all editorial/creative), and "sales" will be pretty much found money. Plus, of course, there's Amazon's reputation as a reliable company, and most importantly, as a capable company. Why take a chance on something shaky when a solid alternative is available?

Oh, and by the way, those ICV2 September figures are in: "DC's dollar win was narrow, at 35.74% vs. Marvel's 35.37%, but the unit share win was over 5% (43.04% vs. Marvel's 37.88%)."

You know, I cant remember any company having over 40% of the "pieces of pie" . Maybe Marvel when X-Men #1 shipped, but certainly no-one since, until now.

That's it!


October 9th, 2011

Once More, With Fielders

Back in early June, I speculated that DC's "Nu52" event was an attempt to (at least) get a toehold on the top of the market share slots. DC has since said that it isn't about beating Marvel, it's just about good storytelling.

Let it be about whatever it may be, but I bet that just about now it's hard to hear anything said around the DC offices because of all the noise being made by hands slapping high fives.

You see, the news is out there that DC has beaten Marvel in both piece and dollar count for September. Early reports have it that DC was ahead by something like 1/2% in dollars, and a full five percent in pieces. The semi-official ICV2 numbers should be published next week. (There's no such thing as a genuine official number in this business.) As it happens, I was speaking to an in-the-know Diamond guy the other day, and he mentioned that JLA #1 had a 187,000 copy (first) print run, with 10,000 second prints, and 30,000(!) third prints. I have no idea if those numbers are accurate or not, but the point he made was that Diamond hasn't seen that kind of volume for anything in years. Come to think of it, that increased Diamond workload may well be a simple explanation of why we've experienced a huge increase in the number of shortages and damages over the past month or so- the faster you have to work, the more mistakes you make.

Oh well, there's something to be said in favour of being short 20% of 1000 in preference to getting 100% of 500. That's actually a bit of a specious statement, because perfection rarely adds stress to one's life (and believe me, stress is a major concern around here). And those shortages and damages, big as they are, don't even amount to two percent of our average shipment, let alone twenty.

Anyways, back to the DC/Marvel rivalry: Some people (Warren Ellis among them) are sort of sniffing at the event, saying things like "but DC was running fifty-two new titles, while Marvel has nothing really special (except Fear Itself *yawn* going on. For DC's lead to be meaningful, it would have to be a lot bigger than it is". Well, as far as I'm concerned, a win is a win: A few weeks back there was a baseball game that decided the American League championship, and who gets to go to the World Series. As I recall, it was the Boston Red Sox versus the Tampa Rays. The Rays were down by something like 9-2 going into the 8th inning, and scored eight runs in the inning, taking the game (and the championship). The Sox are now on vacation, while the Rays are still playing. A win is a win, with a come-from-behind victory always looking that much more impressive. Now, one World Series victory doesn't make a dynasty, and one month of DC preeminence doesn't wipe out forty years of Marvel domination, it just says that they can be beaten, just like Lewis Hamilton and Tiger Woods. And that's a pretty big statement itself.

Oh, and DC's 52 titles versus Marvel's "nothing"? Well in July (for September shipping), Marvel listed 101 comic book titles, while DC listed 70. So despite DC's alleged glut, there were still about 50% more Marvel titles available. One of the "who won" criteria is who shipped the most dollars, and DC's apparently very slightly ahead in this category. In counterpoint to the "big deal sayers", some pundits have commented that most of DC's books are priced at $2.99, while Marvel's are $3.99. Valid point I suppose (although I haven't checked that $2.99/3.99 claim). Ultimately, I guess it really doesn't mean squat to us. I mean, who of us really cares if Bill Gates or Warren Buffet is richer? Who's providing the most enjoyable entertainment is all that matters to readers. And by the way, are we having fun yet?

Well, I've run out of steam, so I'll end this particular rambling, inconsequential Motormouth right about here.

That's it!


August 15th, 2011

Hot Dog!

Here's something a little different (from me, anyways): A recommendation for a hot dog place! It's in the Faubourg Ste.Catherine (between Guy & St.Mathieu), second floor/food court, at the east end, near Dollarama.

Now, I'm an old-time Montrealer, and like all of us, over the years I developed my own preferred hot dog joints. There used to be hundreds of them, my favourites being a nameless one just north of St.Viateur on St.Laurent, or maybe Dino's, again on St.Laurent, a block south of Jean Talon. Unlike Mayor Jean Drapeau or Premier Robert Bourassa, I was never a huge fan of the Montreal Pool Room, which I believe is still down there on the lower Main near La Gauchetiere, pushing out those cabbage covered tube steaks in vast quantity. Decarie Hot Dog, just south of Cote Vertu in Ville St.Laurent (and one of the last "old-timers" still around) has recently hooked one of my sons: Apparently he loves patates so greasy that your hands get slippery just looking at the bag. And "patates" they are: Not fries. We're Montrealers. Maybe we might call them "frites", but "fries" is a McDonald's word, and we're supposed to be gastronomes.

Speaking of industrial grub, I'm not a huge fan of Lafleur (although the one on Notre Dame near highway 25 ain't bad) or Belle Province. (I actually did like the Bellpro on DeSalaberry near Sources, which I think was the original, when I stopped there a few times back around 1982.)

Oh yeah, I mentioned Robert Bourassa, who was Premier of Quebec throughout a good part of the 1970s: He had an office in the Hydro Quebec building on St.Urbain, and it was not uncommon for him to walk over the couple of blocks to St.Laurent for lunch, he was quite well known for heading on over to the Montreal Pool Room on a regular basis. Mayor Dtrapeau, ever the autocrat, used to send his chauffeur over for the reqeuisite "deux all dress". Speaking of autocrats, Pierre Trudeau once dismissed Bourassa as a low-class "mangeur de hot dog". Stung by the slur, Bourassa was reported to have never again had his favourite lunch. I was never much of an admirer of Bourassa, although I was of Trudeau, but I always felt a little sorry for BouBou, while Trudeau lost a bit of my respect. It was a hurtful thing to say, and for no particular reason. I imagine Trudeau also lost himself a few votes amongst all the rest of us Montreal "mangeurs".

Anyways. What about this place in the Faubourg?

Well, it's called "Hot Dog Guys", and if you can imagine a hot dog being worth $4.50 (I think that's what they charge), this is almost it. Almost- I mean it's still only a hot dog, and there's no way anyone should charge $4.50 for one of them. But you know, I don't really mind the price all that much- they're that good (and loaded- one hot dog really is a meal in itself). Sort of like an improved Nathan's dog, but without the burpburpburp four hour aftertaste.

The only problem with these guys is that they seem to close at random times. I think they're supposed to be open until 7PM, but if things are slow they'll close early.

So look: If you're in the neighbourhood and feeling peckish, give them a try. Great taste, and it's extra nice to get food these days that doesn't seem to have been measured out with either a gram scale or a shovel. Oh, and their burgers (something like $5) are also quite nice.

Just in case you want it for some reason, I happen to have their phone number: (514) 935-7781

Here's hoping you try, and enjoy!

That's it!


July 17th, 2011

Oh, one more thing:

Coincidental digression right off the bat: We had a customer stop in just this week who used to call himself "Columbo", because he'd forever discover there was yet another back issue he was missing. He'd start his e-mails with Peter Falk's signature "Columbo line, "Just one more thing..."

Anyways, his visits are always a bit of a treat, because he's a nice fellow, and lives waaay out in the hinterlands, so he can't get in all that often.

Okay, so the "one more thing":

We've had a few people add some DC "11R" titles to their lists, with instructions that say "stop after #4". I'm guessing that what they really want is just to try the higher discount issues, but I'm not sure. After all, with Jim Lee involved in JLA for example, #4 could come out in May of 2014, and the extra discount program is geared towards a January 1 2012 date. Doesn't matter if #4 shipped in December 2011, or they somehow crammed in the books so that #6 is already out.

So if you just want to try out the cheaper promo issues, that's cool, just tell us, please. We'll note something like "Stop after Jan 1 2012" on your list (or maybe "Stop after promo").

That's it!


June 30th, 2011

Our Latest Stunt

Okay, maybe you're a bit anxious about DC's relaunch. Everybody's anxious, all the way through the industry.

Well, I figure what's an industry event without us pulling some sort of stunt in reaction to it?

Here's what we're gonna do: For a trial period of four months, September-October-November-December (2011), All the "11R" books that we invoice to "C" reserve customers will get a 40% discount instead of the current 25%. Come January 2012, things will revert to normal. We hope that after a decent tryout period, you' ll be so satisfied with the direction DC's going in, that you'll just keep on going. Up, up, and Away!

So what does this mean to your wallet? Not playing with exchange rates (the Canadian dollar's been hovering within a penny or two of par for the past little while and looks like it's going to stay in the neighbourhood) , a $2.99 (cover price) book currently costs you $2.25. During the test period, that $2.99 book will be $1.80- an additional saving of 45 each. Hey- if you went for all 52 titles (dream on), you'd end up paying just $373.15 for all 208 issues that should come out during the test period.(4 x 52 x 2.99 x 60%.). By the way, the cover price for all those would add up to $621.92, so your potential saving is almost 250 bucks!

Not to mention tax. (You ever notice that whenever someone says "not to mention" something, they always immediately say whatever it was they weren't going to mention?

Okay, because you're paying less for the books, you're paying less tax, too. In fact you'll end up saving just about $35 on tax alone, so overall you could end up spending $285 less than expected! Gee, wouldn't it be nice to go into your friendly neighbourhood Mr. GoodWrench, and find that what you figured would be a $300 repair bill only amounted to fifteen bucks? Dream on about that happening.

Have I blathered enough this time around? Of course. Don' t I always? It is called "Motormouth" , after all.

So that's the deal: For a limited time only (4 months), it's 40% off DC relaunch "11R" titles. That' s not TPBs, hardcovers, statues, whatever, it's relaunch comics. And yes, the deal does apply to those "value packs" (or whatever DC calls them) with the online code in them- I think they run $4.99 each. And look, I don't expect to carry many (if any) of those things on the rack, so if you want them, please be sure to let us know in advance, so we can order them for you. Besides, if you can find them on the rack they're $5. In your bag they're $3. So that's a no-brainer...

'Nuff said & Excelsior and all that.



June 17th, 2011

About that DC relaunch (again):

I' m in touch with a whole bunch of retailers (about 200 worldwide, but most in the U.S., and of course just about everyone has an opinion about how stupid DC is for pulling this stunt.

One retailer down in Arizona has commented on icv2 that one of his customers complains turning Barbara Gordon back into Batgirl completely trashes "Killing Joke", turning it into little more than an Elseworlds time-waster. Funny, but Killing Joke, which to me was a fairly pedestrian story with beautiful art, itself negated a thirty-odd year old part of Batman continuity.

Well, DC does do the odd misguided thing from time to time, but one thing they've tried endlessly and invariably failed at is straightening out the DCU's continuity.

To me, continuity, while an interesting part of the assorted comic book universes, is also the aspect that puts the worst shackles on creativity. "Superman can't do that because it was established in a 1965 3-page story in which Bat Mite did something..."

I mean, come on- it's fiction. Comics are entertainment. They might make a statement here and there, but there's no need for them to be studied as seriously as the principles of thermodynamics. Real people change- even Mahatma Gandhi acted in support of the British in the Boer, Zulu, and first World wars. For him to be associated with the British side in any conflict (let alone a colonial conflict) is almost inconceivable, and yet at times he was. He was human, and people change depending on age and circumstance. For the first 100,000 or so years of human existence, we couldn't fly, but now we can. Circumstance changes too. At one time it was believed that (say) cows and trees were of the same nature of entity because they're both brown. Grass and traffic lights are essentially the same things- both green.

One of the most frequently heard complaints about the DC relaunch is that it means that readers 'investments' in knowledge of the DCU is now worthless. Investments? I'm by no means a scholar of belief systems, but a Zen or Sufi parable comes to mind: A man decides to learn how to walk on water. He practices night and day for 20 years, and accomplishes the feat. The Zen or Sufi master says "very nice. Now you can walk across the river, but tell me: Couldn't you have just taken a boat? And does walking across put food in your bowl? Wouldn't you have been better served spending all that time and energy growing rice or fishing?" A sand mandalam takes an enormous amount of concentration and effort to make. Once it's complete, it's destroyed. The point of the exercise is to satisfy mankind's need to accomplish, while recognizing the inherent impermanence of everything: A tree grows, it dies. A new tree grows from the original tree's seeds. The DCU grows, it dies, a new DCU grows from the old one's "seeds" . It's the great cycle of life, Littlefoot, let' s go find some tree stars...

Of course there' s also the criticism that by scrapping the history of the old DCU, DC has effectively stripped all their already published works of their collectible monetary values. This could be true enough, I suppose, but really, who buys DC comics for investment purposes? Aside from short-term, in-and-out eBay type speculation, offhand I can't think of a single DC book that has retained a guide price of over 5-10 dollars since around 1972! Throwing a bomb into a marketplace that's been empty for forty years is hardly some heinous act of vandalism. And I somehow doubt that we'll be seeing the price of Action #1 or Detective #27 drop to ten bucks any time soon. Gertrude Stein once said "A rose is a rose is a rose." Well, no matter how much messing about they might do with the character, Superman is Superman is Superman, a worldwide icon, and tomorrow's version should no more affect the prices on Golden Age appearances than John Byrne's 1986-87 version did. "Tribute bands", "next ones" and "today's..." may come and go, but there's still only one true Elvis, one true Beatles, one Wayne Gretzky, and one Babe Ruth, and neither their value to world culture nor the prices of their original ephemera have diminished due to the proliferation of replacements.

That Bruce Springsteen didn't turn out to be the actual "next Dylan", and Lemieux wasn't the next Gretzky didn't stop us from appreciating and enjoying their performance one bit. And who knows- the "11R" versions of Supes, Flash et al might just be enjoyable in their own right, too. It's not like trying a few issues is the same kind of commitment that volunteering for experimental drug testing. At best, we've found an enjoyable bit of entertainment. At worst, we've thrown away a couple of bucks on a lousy comic.

Anyways, DC recently sent us an e-mail giving all the solicitation slugs for the 52 "new" books. They'll probably all be in Astronotes #192 (July 2011), but I'll at least list them, and what we'll call them below.

From time to time over the past 20-something years, people have asked us why we use our sometimes ... odd titling styles on comics

For example, "Detective" isn't "Detective" for us, it's "BM Detective", and "Action" is "SU Action" - Why?

Couple of reasons: One is that we kind of try to group "families" of titles: BM is a Batman book, SU Superman, SP Spider-man, SW Star Wars, and XM X-Men based. An XM1, SP1, BM1 etc. means that it's a mini-series or one-shot. Just plain SU or SP or whatever says it's an ongoing series. So if you want to know what Spider-man titles are on your list, just glance down to SP: You don't need to know that there's an Amazing Spider-man, a "Web Of", an "Astonishing Spiderman & Wolverine. No searching all over the place- it's all pretty much in one spot. This also makes it easier for us to locate all of a title type in the order database.

We also tend to truncate titles in odd ways. Something Marvel might call "Incontinent X-Men VS the Brotherhood of Intergalactic Pirogy Priests" we might call "XM1 Incontinent Pirogy". Marvel and Diamond don't do this, so why should we?

Our reserve/order system was built back around 1990, when 8088 processors were fairly standard, and our 40 meg hard drive was considered pretty decent. Of course the database program (dBaseIII+) was an msDOS system. With so little space and memory available in those days, we had to be very frugal in our allocation of space for anything. Every byte using up some of that limited capacity, we learned and developed in a very penurious fashion. The system worked, worked well, and, aside from the odd tweak here and there, is essentially the same today as it was twenty years ago. I'm one of those people who lives by the dictum "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and even if ours is twenty years old, it still works just fine. Sometimes you need a Ferrari, and sometimes a bicycle. Try driving through Westmount Park in a Ferrari sometime, and see how that works. Well, we're somewhere between the park and LeMans- say around the Monaco F1 circuit right now. The "next step" solutions I've seen and sometimes tested all lead me to the same conclusions: They cost a lot of money (Diamond's own RMS/Comic Suite system is something like $5k, and as, I suppose is to be expected, even after a few years in operation is reported to still be pretty buggy.) And what costs us money is gonna have to cost you money too, one way or another. I'd prefer to avoid squeezing customers for extra bread just so we can look prettier. In the mean time, things can be done with dBase working in conjunction with msWord5.5 that are simply impossible working with Excel, Access, or the current Word (I call it paperclip guy) version. The only upgrade I'd really love to see right now is a USB flash drive that could work in DOS, because those old 3.5" floppies are getting harder and harder to come by.

Okay, okay. Back to DC and the future. One thing that DC's learned over the past 40-odd years is that something is broke- Marvel's beaten them time after time since the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup. (Ask your grand dad- he might recall that the Loafs actually did win the Cup back around the time when fire was invented.) Anyways, there's a lot of people at DC who live in the hopes that once again they'll be top dogs. They really love what they're doing, love the characters they're working with, and desperately want them to shine with the glory they once had. Sometimes desperate needs call for desperate measures, and without completely trashing the characters themselves, a massive relaunch like this is about as desperate a move as anyone's ever likely to see. People love it when other people appreciate their doings, and the folks at DC are no different: They have all the franchise properties anyone could ever want- all they're missing is the deep and abiding love that only Spider-man, Disney ducks and EC comics still enjoy amongst comics readers. They still get some, but everyone always wants more, and at this moment it looks like DC is poised to earn your love back.

Enough of that. As a closer, I just came across an article by Michael Breakfield of Lone Star Comics (a chain down in Texas) that nicely sums up my general feeling about the relaunch. If we can get the link to work, here's where you might want to take a look:

Now really, that is enough of that. Below you' ll find a comprehensive list of the "new" DC titles, and what we'll be calling them. If an obvious title (like, say JLA or Batman is already on your list, we'll automatically "update" them to JLA 11R or BM BATMAN 11R as of when the first issue of the '11R' series ships, unless you tell us to stop when the old series ends. There's no "automatic follow" for titles like Aquaman or Firestorm, Hawkman, Resurrection Man, or even Justice League International, so you' ll just have to tell us to add them if you want to give them a tryout. Life is just so complicated sometimes...

Animal Man

Will Become



Will Become



Will Become


Batman Incorporated

Will Become



Will Become



Will Become



Will Become


Birds of Prey

Will Become


Captain Atom

Will Become



Will Become


Demon Knights

Will Become



Will Become



Will Become


Frankenstein, Agent of Shade

Will Become


Fury of Firestorm

Will Become


Green Arrow

Will Become


Green Lantern

Will Become


Green Lantern Corps

Will Become


Green Lantern: New Guardians

Will Become


Hawk & Dove

Will Become


Savage Hawkman

Will Become


Justice League

Will Become


Justice League Dark

Will Become


Justice League International

Will Become


Legion Lost

Will Become


Legion of Super Heroes

Will Become


Mister Terrific

Will Become



Will Become


Red Lanterns

Will Become


Red Hood and the Outlaws

Will Become


Resurrection Man

Will Become


Savage Hawkman

Will Become


Static Shock

Will Become


Swamp Thing

Will Become


Teen Titans

Will Become



Will Become



Will Become


Wonder Woman

Will Become


And remember, kids, each one starts with a fabulous #1 "Collector's item!"


June 10th, 2011


From June 10, 2011

Marvel has announced that Uncanny X-Men #544, out this October, will be the last issue of the longest-running X-Men title. The ending flows out of the X-Men Schism storyline, which Marvel has compared to Civil War in its far-reaching effects.

The title will wrap up at the same time as Fear Itself, which Marvel says is no coincidence. The final issue will be written by Kieron Gillen with pencils and covers by Greg Land. X-Men Schism launches in July.


June 1st, 2011

On DC' s Latest gimmick Innovation:

Many of you have probably already heard some rumours/news about DC preparing to re-start the numbering for all their titles come September. Well, it' s pretty well true, if they publish a total of 52 titles, which is how many they confirm will be re-numbered.

Frankly, this is an annoyance, but not a big deal: If someone has (say) JLA on their reserve list, we' ll just be changing the name to JLA (2011). We' ve found that doing this sort of thing keeps stuff nice, neat, and accurate in databases, and causes minimal disruption. We' ve certainly had to do it often enough over the past few years, since Marvel seemed to decide that re-numbering was something that should be done every fifteen minutes or so.

Why is DC doing this? All I can guess is that the stats must be pretty well entrenched that a new #1 boosts sales on a title by something like 50% the first month, 35% (over what should have been) the second, then drifting downward until a fairly fixed natural level is reached around issue #15.

But given that DC actually passed Marvel in piece or dollar sales (I forget which) this last December, it showed for one brief moment that Marvel' s forty year stranglehold on the top spot is a target within reach under the right conditions, and even if they do only manage an unsustainable hop to the top, it just maybe, maybe, might possibly be a lead that can somehow be held.

Anyways, my take on it is that it' s less a ploy to suck money out of your wallet (although that' s always the #1 goal), than it is a ploy to redirect some of that money that might otherwise be spent on Marvel books into DC' s coffers in the hopes that a) You might actually be willing to take a stab at, and turn out liking some ' new' tryout title (like, say, ' JLA' ), and, b) DC' s editorial honchos might keep their jobs a while longer. Nothing like beating the competition to make you a marketing wizard...

One thing I do infer from DC' s letter to retailers is that 'continuity freaks' are likely to go nuts over what happens: It' s pretty obvious that editorial intends remaining true to the 'spirit' of each character' s canon, while we can expect forgotten or lost bits of 'experience' here and there.

This kind of reminds me of Marvel's "Heroes Reborn" - "Heroes Return" thing from what- 15 years ago or so, and come to think of it, that shook up a pretty stolid editorial path, and worked out pretty well, so maybe something similar will happen with DC. Might not turn out to be a big event, but it looks like it will be an interesting one...


April 16th, 2011

One Time Customer's Stolen Comic Found - Maybe

A one-time customer of ours, Nicholas Cage lost his high-grade copy of Action Comics #1 back in 2000. Now, police in the San Fernando Valley of California think that it might have been recovered, when a copy turned up in a public storage locker sale. The dealer who originally sold the book to Cage has examined photos/scans of the recovered copy, and believes they're the same book.

How can he tell? Well, when you're talking about memorable books, each imperfection, tiny though it might be, sticks in your mind, even if it isn't noted anywhere. For example, I have a "Frontline Combat #2 around somewhere that has the tiniest little dimple on the spine about an inch up from the bottom staple. Not even a bump or a crease, the spine's just a bit depressed at that point.

Now, Frontline's not a "big" book: The last time I checked, it was around $400 in Overstreet - peanuts compared to Action #1 (I've only ever seen one of those), and the last time I saw it was at my brother's house when he lived in Candiac, but I remember it well: A beautiful copy from what, in my opinion, was the best comic title ever published.

Of course there are other ways to tell if a book's one you previously handled: A customer came in one day in the early 1990's: He showed me his copy of Fantastic Four #1, saying that he'd bought it around 1970 in a store on Decarie. It looked familiar, looked like the copy that I'd sold to that store (Snowdon Pocket Novels & Comics) when I unloaded my comic collection to Archie around 1968. Sure enough, looking through it, we found that I'd filled in one of those sendaway coupons. That's a bit of a tell: When you've actually written your name in a book it makes it pretty easy to be sure that it's one you handled when it shows up again in 10-15-20 years. I suppose that, just to be responsible, writing your name (or anything else) on a collectable of any sort is a really, really bad idea. Back when I owned that FF, I bought it from Archie for 6 (half cover), and sold it back to him a few years later for 3. Oh well, so it goes.

Oh, and by calling Cage a "one time customer", I do mean one time. He shopped in our store once; when his movie "Snake Eyes" was filming nearby.



April 15th, 2011


I'm a bit of an etymology buff: Word (and name) origins have fascinated me for many years. This ties in well with my interest in history. I'm not a "deep" historian by any means, but I am endlessly amused by little bits of this & that picked up over the years. A couple of recent examples:

Prince William, currently the British "royal pop star" due to his impending marriage, should he become king, will be the first British monarch descended from Charles II, who ruled from 1661-1685. and who became king upon the restoration of the monarchy, after Cromwell's execution of his father, Charles I. He was a wee bit of a playboy: He had no legitimate offspring to inherit the throne, but had at least a dozen bastard children by an assortment of lady friends. The crown, passing only to legitimate heirs, has been handed down only to other descendents of Chuck II. One of those descendents was Diana Spencer, the current Prince Charles' ex-wife, and the mother of our boy Willie. One of the duties of a monarch, of course is to produce a legitimate heir, something that Charles II didn't quite manage to do, despite his enthusiasm for swiving. II' s father, James I (he of the "King James Bible" ) did manage the task, despite the fact that all evidence points to him having been gay. "Lie back and think of England" and all that...

By the way, all this yammering of mine came about simply because I idly wondered if the present Prince of Wales would become Charles III. Seemed like an awfully long time between Chucks, but then it was a good few hundred years between Elizabeths I and II

My idle wondering brings me back to etymology: Most of us know the late warmongering Emperor of Japan, as Hirohito. It seems that when he croaked, he was officially renamed "Showa" , and he, and his reign, are now referred to in Japan as "Showa" . There' s probably an accent missing over the 'w' or something, but who cares? Anyways, Showa he may well be in Japan. And Japan, (along with the Pushwar parts of Afganistan, Iranians and Cimmerians (Yes, there really is a real "Cimmeria" - it' s part of the Ukraine, and Armenia), even some Incas, are said to be remainders of the so-called "ten lost tribes of Israel" . Who knows, maybe we're all actually driving cars made by the Toyoddawitz family, and that really should be "Cohen the Barbarian".

Anyways. Of late, the trendy way to refer to the holocaust is "Shoa". This (according to Steven Spielberg who went a long way in popularizing it), is the Hebrew (or maybe Yiddish) word for "catastrophe" . Now wouldn't that be a neat (too neat) connection? Hitler causes a shoa, with the support of his buddy, Showa, who himself might be a descendant of one of the lost tribes that Ol' Adolph was so intent on obliterating...

OK, maybe that' s stretching credulity a bit too far- much too far, really, but Showa was certainly complicit in creating a little shoa or two of his very own. He may have been left on the throne by the Americans after WWII, but that was a pacification effort that worked in Allied interests: Kept the Japanese people relatively quiet and happy while Tojo and his gang took all the blame for events like the rape of Nanking, the Bataan death march (and all the other Pacific area WWII goings-on), and, of course, creating the need for little Japanese-specific shoas like the firebombing of Tokyo, along with opening the door for 'fat man' and 'little boy', the 'instant urban renewal crew' of Hiroshima and Nagasaki



March 12th, 2011


Some years ago, out of idle curiosity, I asked a customer who hails from Regina or Saskatoon what the term is for someone from Saskatchewan. Apparently it's "Saskawanian". Not exactly a huge matter of concern, but for some reason just today it led me to wondering: It used to be plain old Newfoundland", and no matter whether someone came from Twillingate or Gander, he was a "Newfoundlander". Nowadays, the province is officially "Newfoundland and Labrador" . Does that mean there are Labradorians or Labradites or some such out there? After all, there are both Trinidadians (or Trinis) and Tobagans, so why not Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for our own double-barreled provincial name?

Come to think of it, while many cities have had these little ceremonies where long established (and often far apart) cities discover some cultural or societal link, declare themselves "twins" (which to me has always seemed like nothing more than an excuse for one city's mayor to be wined and dined at the other's expense), there are only two "real" North American cities that I know of, cities that grew up together, and they are Minneapolis and St.Paul Minnesota. So what do people from there, who don't particularly identify with either town call themselves? Twinkies?



March 5th, 2011


Does everyone know what CSN is? No? Well, Comic Shop News (CSN) is a weekly newspaper with reviews and art samples of upcoming comics projects, the odd creator interview or serial story, and yes, news about comics. Cliff Biggers and Ward Batty have been putting it out weekly for about 25 years, now. It's a professional paper, valued as an information source by many, and best of all, it's free! (To you, anyways.)

We carried CSN about 15 years ago, and frankly, the mess greated by copies falling out of one of those giveaway newspaper racks, combined with really obnoxious griping by people who insisted that it be included in their reserves, and were then dissatisfied because the free newspaper they got "wasn't mint" just left us disenheartened and we stopped getting it. But I've always regretted not having it- it's one of those things you just kind of feel you "should" have.

Now we're trying it again. Every two weeks (if I do my ordering right), we'll be getting a bundle of the things. In an attempt to prevent a mess, we'll keep them at the counter. If you'd like the latest issue, just c'mon in and ask for it. There's a fresh bundle every other Wednesday, and we should be getting more than enough, at least at the beginning. So just come and get 'em, for free! (While supplies last, of course.)

Oh, and if you want an in-between issue, well gee, we're sorry, but that's just tough luck. For one thing, reorders are very rarely available, and even if they are, we have to buy a bundle of 75 at a time, and they cost close to a quarter a piece. But reorders? I'll tell you: Cliff and I are on the same retailer forum, and every once in a while he'll pop up asking if someone can spare a copy of CSN #xxx, because his archival copy got lost or trashed, and he can't get a reorder from any of his distributors. Stuff happens.

Anyways, next time you're in, just ask for it, and we'll be more than happy to give you a copy of the most recent issue.

Happy reading! .


February 16th, 2011

DC Cancels a Bunch of Titles

ICV2 ( reported February 15 that a handful of DC titles will be getting the axe over the next few months, to allow DC editorial more time to focus on their big summer event, "Flashpoint".

Here's a clip:

"DC Comics released its May solicitations today providing official confirmation that five on-going comic book series are being cancelled. A check of ICv2' s Top 300 indicates that Batman and the Outsiders, Doom Patrol, Freedom Fighters, R.E.B.E.L.S., and JSA All-Stars are near the bottom of the list of DC' s titles, though there are several lower-selling titles than JSA All-Stars that are evidently still continuing.

These five titles join Azrael, Batman: Streets of Gotham, and Batman Confidential, which are ending in March. The canceling of eight series over the three-month period certainly will allow DC to focus more resources on its Flashpoint event, which kicks off full bore with Flashpoint #1 in May and will encompasses over 50 titles over several months."



January 29th, 2011

Sic transit Wizard

Well, cats & kittens, looks like the predictions of Wizard's demise have come to pass, at least according to this press release posted ion robotsix: Other sources speculate that the new gigital "Wizard World" will replace the traditional magazine itself, although there's nothing in the press release that actually says that




New York, NY (January 24, 2011) Gareb Shamus, recently appointed President and CEO of public company Wizard World, Inc. (" Wizard World" ) (OTC: GOEE.PK), today announced that the Comic Con Tour, which consists of pop culture conference events that provide high visibility marketing opportunities to pop culture brands and companies in multiple venues throughout the year, is now being produced by public company Wizard World. The Wizard World Comic Con Tour intends to cover 12 cities in 2011, including major cities such as New York City, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Austin and New Orleans. The Tour will include sponsors ranging from major movie studios and TV networks to gaming and toy companies to content publishers

In addition, Wizard World plans to launch in February 2011 an all-new digital magazine called Wizard World that will appeal to pop-culture fans, the same audience to which Mr. Shamus has catered to, for over 20 years. Wizard World digital magazine will provide coverage of the world of comic books, toys and superheroes, and the personalities behind them.

'This is a very exciting day for Wizard World and the industries it serves,' said Shamus. Having the Tour produced by a public company provides additional opportunities to expand and grow the Tour. The new digital magazine Wizard World will give consumers the content they want in a magazine format with which they are familiar, but distributed in a form that is always available at any time on any device. It is a natural evolution for us in this market.


Heidi MacDonald at "The Beat" hsd her own commentary, and included this interview with a Wizard ex-employee:

Former Wizard Employee: "Actually its pretty screwed up what they did. They gave everyone off on Friday (very strange) then last night at 6:30 PM (right before kickoff [of the Jets/Steelers playoff game]) they called me and told me the magazines were no longer in publication. I was asked to go get my personal belongings and they told me the office was closed and moved to a different location and they would let us know when it was okay to get them. When I asked about severance or unemployment they shrugged me off and quickly dismissed me..."

**************************************************************** For us (and many retailers) Wizard's been on a continuous downhill slide since they went from comic to magazine size, and dropped the price guide (which was apparently the only reason many people bought the mag).

For us, we peaked at around sixty copies a month, which has declined to a puny ten the past several months. Oddly enough, most retailers of my aquaintance have reported that they'd be happy if sales were even 10% of what they once were- some have gone from 35-40 copies to zero!

Anyways, looks like this might actually be the end of the line for a mag that folks said "would never last" back when it started some 20-odd years ago..



January 9th, 2011


For many years, we have had a cutoff of Mondays for any changes to customer comic reserve lists to be effective for the following Wednesday's shipment and distribution.

Effective the second week of January 2011, due to a major change in Diamond's distribution schedule, we have to change our cutoff to Sunday. This means that if (say) a book you want is coming in Wednesday Octember 12th, the latest you can add it to your list will be Sunday Octember 9th. This might sound like it's a bad change to Diamond's distribution method, but it really isn't:

We, along with hundreds of other retailers have lobbied Diamond and major publishers for over a decade to deliver books before the on-sale day, allowing us to do a better, less stressed-out job on shipment quality control and count verification. This request was always refused as being "impossible" for various reasons.

During 2010, I developed and presented a proposal which Diamond finally understood would enable the "impossible" to become reality. They call it "Day Early Delivery", and that's exactly what it is: For a reasonable price, Diamond will now deliver our shipments on Tuesdays instead of Wednesdays. We, and (I understand) well over 1,000 other retailers throughout North America have signed up for this service.

We will be receiving on Tuesdays, but books will only go on sale (or be available for consumers to pick up) Wednesdays, same as they've been for the past fifteen years or so. Effectively this means nothing to the consumer. Books will be available same time as always (or maybe a little earlier in the day- we'll have to see as any kinks in the system that show up get ironed out).

One thing that is hidebound: Even if we have them already, nobody showing up on a Tuesday will be able to pick up (or even see) the following day's new stuff. Policing the "universal release date" was the biggest sticking point in getting day early delivery, and considering the amount of time and effort I put in solving the conundrum, I'm hardly the one who's going to violate what's essentially my own contract. So sorry, folks, it's "business as usual" for you guys, at least for the forseeable future. You shouldn't feel any change at all, aside from your friendly neighbourhood retailer (whoever that might be) being a bit more cheerful and a lot less ...tense on Wednesdays. .


December 31st, 2010


For what it's worth, here's an internal memo we circulated just before New Years. There's nothing really "confidential" about it, it's just posted here to keep people abreast of things, and to give folks a bit more insight into how we think.

As of Jan 1,2011, provincial sales tax is going up, by 1%, to 8½%. Of course the government is spinning this as "only" 1%. Well, looking at it one way, it is "only 1%", but if you consuder it as one more percentage point on the already existing 7%, it's a 13.3% increase on the rate itself. Anyways- they always spin it as "only 1%", and it is "only 1%" of the overall cost. Not a huge impact- for example, a $2.99US comic with a 25% discount, exchanged at (say) 5% will work out to $2.68 CDN net in the new year, while it would have been $2.66 in 2010. I don't think two cents is going to kill anyone, and if a customer does bitch about it, our best spin might be to point out that it is only 2¢, and while it may seem like the government is tearing yet another chunk out of our hides, in reality they're just nibbling us to death, like the rats that they are.


November 8th, 2010


Well, thanks to Mike Sterling's "Progressive Ruin" hightlighting a couple of books from the November 2010 Previews so prominently, I couldn't help but notice these little gems. The first, from IDW, is


(W) Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning (A) David Messina (C) Gabriel Rodriguez, J.K. Snyder III

It begins here! The first-ever IDW event, which affects the Transformers, G.I. Joe, Ghostbusters, and Star Trek universes! This dimensions-spanning storyline begins with a specially priced 40-page story by Abnett & Lanning (The Thanos Imperative) and David Messina (True Blood). Something goes horribly awry in the Zombies vs Robots universe, threatening to tear many of IDW s biggest realities asunder! Don t miss the IDW event ten years in the making! 2 regular covers will be shipped in a 1-to-1 ratio. FC " 40 pages " $3.99

Isn't that just wonderful? Zombies, Transformers, GI Joe, and Star Trek all wrapped in one nice little package. What's the term? "Nerdgasm"?

And then there's this little delight, from Antarctic:


(W) Fred Perry (A) Ben Dunn

Sarah Palin  politician, author, commentator... maverick. She's on the way to meet her dream job. But to get it, she's got to defeat some of the nastiest opponents in the country. From career politicos to "gotcha" media men to secret service agents, they all want some control of her dream. Has she got what it takes to beat the world? You betcha! 32pgs, B&W $3.99

The cover art (at least) looks like it was traced straight off a copy of "Scott Pilgrim" V1, and, given the title, it's obviously intended as an homage to O'Malley's tour de force, but somehow I have this gut-level dislike for Dunn, Perry, Normura and company. Back around the time of "Tigers of Terra" and "Warrior Nun Areala", I had a brief interest in their some Antarctic books, but I developed the realisation that these guys really seem to think that German Nazis and the soldiers of imperialist Japan were actually kind of cute (if misunderstood). Tell that to the people of Lidice and Nanking. I still think that while Admiral Halsey was somewhat over the top (and not such a great commander), "Bomber" Harris and Paul Tibbets had the right attitude, and I just don't like Antarctic's politics, no more than I do Elizabeth Moon's.


July 13th, 2010


As a long-time fan of Harvey Pekar's work, I was saddened today to learn of his passing (at age 70). Not really all that surprising, considering that he never was all that robust, as his book "Our Cancer Year" can certainly affirm. Anyways, here's a very nice obit from EW:


Harvey Pekar, a great writer, comics innovator: His splendid American life is over by Ken Tucker.

Harvey Pekar was one of the most important, idiosyncratic, and eccentric writers that the comics medium has ever produced. He ushered in a new age of autobiographical realism to comic books and graphic novels, writing scripts that were illustrated by artists such as R. Crumb, Gary Dumm, Dean Haspiel, Drew Friedman, and Rick Geary. He enjoyed a brief period of TV stardom as an occasional guest on David Letterman' s NBC talk show, and his comic-book series American Splendor inspired a 2003 film of the same name starring Paul Giamatti as Pekar. In 2003, he contributed a periodic comic strip, " Harvey Pekar' s Lost and Found," to Entertainment Weekly.

Rolling through Pekar's pop-culture credits, however, does not come close to describing what Pekar achieved. He spent most of his adult life working a civil-service job as a filing clerk in Cleveland, Ohio, writing comics scripts in his spare time. He loved jazz and collected vinyl albums from thrift sales and used record- and bookstores, a passion that he shared with one of his most sympathetic artist-collaborators, R. Crumb.

When Pekar began publishing American Splendor in 1976, the title was both blazingly ironic and ferociously sincere. Pekar was not living a splendid life, by any means. (There aren' t many comic books that would contain a story entitled "Awaking to the Terror of the Same Old Day." ) A lower-middle-class laborer who found solace and inspiration in the literary depiction of the working-class, Pekar put on a pugnacious front. He suffered from a common trait of the self-taught, the autodidact: He at once yearned to be accepted as a writer and critic (he wrote lots of music and book reviews), yet felt closed out looked-down upon by those in the publishing world.

He liked the comics as proletariat culture, accessible to nearly everyone. Yet he also disliked the notion of comics as (in Art Spiegelman' s phrase) "kid culture," and pretty much despised the super-hero genre. Knowing he possessed no great talent as an artist, he wrote meticulously detailed stories about his life in Cleveland, and enlisted artists who appreciated his form of social realism to draw them. Pekar was demanding and stubborn things had to be drawn the way he wanted them. But the result was a formidable body of work.

Staffers at David Letterman's show brought American Splendor to the host's attention, and he was booked as a guest. Thus began a series of appearances that Pekar, on his end, saw as an opportunity to sell his comics, and which Letterman, on his side of the desk, saw as a chance to spar with a non-star.

The relationship with Letterman soured as Pekar grew more political and less willing to mug and play the clown; he was gradually erased from the host's guest list. But after the success of Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus, published in hardcover in 1986, the rise of the "graphic novel" as a commercial genre helped Pekar to continue publishing Splendor with a variety of publishers, including one of the biggest, DC Comics and its Vertigo imprint. (I am proud to say that I made a cameo appearance in one of the comics Pekar wrote for DC/Vertigo.)


July 8th, 2010

"Devil's Due's problems ":

Looks like my mention of Devil's Due's problems back in December was (unsurprisingly) a portent of things to come: They recently sent out a release to retailers on their e-mail bumf list, and here's the bulk of it:


"CHICAGO: Devil's Due Publishing has pulled its distribution of comics and graphic novels from Diamond Comic and Diamond Book Distributors, effective today. The Publisher will soon be announcing its new book store distribution partners, and will offer product direct to comic book retail outlets, as well as distribution through Haven Comic Distributors.

"For almost over a year Devil's Due has been in an unwinnable situation wherein Diamond garnishes our revenues to pay back returns and fees it claims are owed from 2008 and 2009, making it impossible for us to keep up with payments to talent, printers, and other expenses while maintaining a stable business," said Josh Blaylock, president of Devil's Due, who was forced to wind down the company's publishing rather than ramp up as it originally planned to do when hit with a rough econom in 2008. "We've exhausted every resource to get on track, with a primary focus on catching up with talent payments first and formost, but when Diamond controls the money flow, that becomes impossible."

"The decision did not come lightly, adds Blaylock, "Of course this is the last thing a company wants to do in the Diamond dominated comic book industry, but it is necessary if we are going to be able to ever again be able to turn the money faucet back on. I am hopeful that we will be able to work something out with Diamond in the future. Until we verify a number of questions regarding sales from late 2008 through the present, DDP will be utilizing other avenues of distribution to move back stock, as well as limited releases of select new material."


February 18th, 2010

"Chase Variants (CV)" or "Incentive Comics (IC)":

Fairly often, publishers offer "chase variant" covers (or whole comics) on the basis that if a retailer orders (say) 10 copies of a particular title and issue, he can also order one copy of a variant. In this case, that's called a "1/10" (one variant per ten regular) ratio. Sometimes the ratio is 1/15,1/25, etc., and that can go all the way up to 1/1000! Generally, these ratios have at least some grounding in reality- I mean 1/10 (or even 1/100) Batman isn't all that much of a stretch for many retailers, but 1/500 Red Sonjas? That's just a little crazy. These things are actually sometimes (but very rarely) free from the publishers, but they add a huge risk factor to ordering: Let's use a 1/200 Red Sonja as an example: We typically order about 20 copies of this title, because that's what we figure we can sell. To go for a 1/200 means we have to buy an extra 180 copies that we think we won't be sellable in our market, and we have to hope that somewhere in the world there's someone willing to pay at least $250 for the IC, just to cover our extra costs. Not too bloody likely, that.

We've actually been selling CVs on eBay for years, and recently began putting them out for sale in the store. People seem to like them, but of course they don't have the same wide-based appeal that the regular books enjoy. Because of the greatly increased risk we do charge a premium for them, but people whose collecting focuses on ICs tell us that we're generally pretty much in line with the market pricing, or even slightly below it. So here's what we' re going to offer: We will now accept reserves for chase variants provided you tell us exactly which ones you want: Sorry, but "All Batman 1/10 ICs" won't do it: We need (say) "Defective #738 1/10 Larocca IC". We've found that most of the folks who are into these things are well aware of exactly what they are, and therefore being specific means that you don't need some special "insider" knowledge, you just have to be aware of what's going on in your chosen enthusiasm.

OK, it's bottom line time: First the prices:

1/10 CV: $10U.S. less your normal discount, plus the usual exchange and taxes

1/15 CV: $15U.S. less your normal discount, plus the usual exchange and taxes

1/20 CV: $20U.S. less your normal discount, plus the usual exchange and taxes

1/25 CV: $25U.S. less your normal discount, plus the usual exchange and taxes

And so on & so forth.

Notice a trend here? Well, it's partly based on market, partly based on ease of handling, it being just a bit easier to remember that a 1/100 IC is invoiced at $100US, rather than doing the whole "put it up on eBay" thing (where, as I recall, we sold a recent 1/100, "Batman & Robin #1", for $165. By the way, we still have plenty of copies of the regular book left over, if you happen to need one or two. Or ten.

I mentioned ease of handling: One little feature of ICs is how often they arrive damaged, or were left out of the box at Diamond's warehouse. This is a common complaint that I've heard from retailers all over the globe. Well, we do usually get shortage/damage replacements, it just takes a bunch of extra processing both in actual handling and in paperwork, so anything (including standardised pricing) that smoothes out the process is a help.

So order away, and by all means, please order early. The earlier you order, the better we know to order more by the monthly Diamond deadline than we normally might, just to satisfy our "CV"customers, and, as usual, we operate on a "first come first served" basis. By the way, ICs are sometimes more "iffy" than regular books; publishers seem a lot more prepared to cancel an incentive, leaving the retailer stuck with all the extra copies of the regular book he wouldn't normally have ordered. This is also a common complaint of many retailers, greeted with the publishers' traditional shoulder shrug and "Customer concerns? Why are we supposed to care about them?" query.

Ok, finish on the upbeat: More than 99% of the time, we get the stuff, which means that you get the stuff, and we get your money. So everybody's happy, right?

So what are you doing just sitting there reading? Send us your orders! Operators are watching TV right now, but they are prepared to process your order as soon as they get around to it. Don't delay, do it today! And tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after. And the day after. And the day after. And the day after. And the day after. Life is so exciting...


January 15th, 2010

Here's a bit of Comic Industry news:

The big Spiderman news these days, according to the New York Post, and other sources, lies not with the comics themselves, but other media: There was a Spiderman Broadway musical scheduled to open in February, but apparently due to cost overruns and the director being distacted by other endeavours, it's been delayed for an unspecified time. It seems that backers have already sunk over $50million into the project, and it would have to be a mega-hit, playing to sold out houses for over four years(!) to turn a profit.

On the movie front, Spidey 4's been delayed indefinitely. It was due for a summer release, and they haven't even started filming yet. Both director Sam Raimi and star Tobey McGuire are off the project... The one comics-based movie that seems to be starting to generate a bit of heat is "Scott Pilgrim". Here's hoping for another one of those sneaky little "surprise hits".


December 27th, 2009

Here's a little bit of trivia I recently came across:

Back in the 1940s-1950s, when radio was king, and TV had not yet captured the entertainment world, there was a hit radio show called "The Great Gildersleeve", which was a spinoff from the big hit show, "Fibber McGee and Molly". "Gildersleeve" itself was popular enough to spin off its own TV show, as well as four feature movies.

I'm not a fan of old time radio, but googling Gildersleeve led me to an OTR site with a show or two available, and you know, it was good!

So much OTR is so seriously outdated that it's unlistenable, but Gildersleeve was still enjoyable and funny.

Although he wasn't the originator, a writer named John did the scripting for several seasons. Cut forward about 50 years, and we find his son, Tom, as the head writer on the TV show, "Deadwood".

John Whedon's grandson, Joss, is also a writer of some repute- you might recognise him as the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


December 11th, 2009


Here's a story that's just run (Dec 10th) on Heidi MacDonald's "Beat" blog. I've just copied the part that she seems to have gotten from a press release or newspaper report:

"Alfonso Frank Frazetta, 52, of Marshalls Creek was arrested by state police at Swiftwater and charged with burglary, theft by unlawful taking and criminal trespass." "According to the police report, Frazetta, with the help of an accomplice on a backhoe, broke through the museum door and took about 90 paintings on Wednesday afternoon."

Sad news, especially for us Astro folk who are Frazetta fans. Particularly for one of us, an original art collector, who went down to the museum several years back, and was charmed by Frank's wife, Ellie, who passed away a few months back.


December 10th, 2009

Comic Industry News:

The big news in the comics biz over the past couple of days involves DC, Devil's Due, and Dabel Brothers. To start with, Dabel's been acquired by Dynamite Entertainment, the same people who bring us books like "The Boys". You might think that it's no big deal, and at least in one way that's true: Dabel's been kind of floating around for years, sometimes under their own name, other times as an imprint of allied companies (like Marvel). With an outright buyout, especially from a stable company like Dynamite, we could expect to see a, well, stabilizing impact on Dabel production.

A huge indication of this possibility lies in the news that Dynamite has already started taking steps to do something that Dabel (by reputation) is hesitant to do: Pay the creators for their work. Non-payment has been rumoured for years as the reason for delays on Dabel's titles. Publisher's Weekly has it that Dynamite has already instituted payment scheduling, not just for future work, but also (in a proposal) to take care of creators who were never paid for past works. This is purely a sign of Dynamite's inherent decency. They're under no obligation to cover any of Dabel's outstanding debts; they just seem to be trying to do it because it's the right thing to do.

Now, I've never been a big fan of Dynamic Forces/Dynamite's love of variant covers, exclusives, and so on, but nobody's forcing us to buy every variant there can possibly be. They're there if we like that kind of stuff, and that's that. What I do like about Dynamite is that outside of a few problems with getting a couple of hrdcovers produced, they've always come through on what they promised at solicitation. The buyout of Dabel appears to be a complete takeover, an opportunity to both correct past mistakes, and to profit from Dabel's superior licence aquiring capabilities.

On to Devil's Due, and while the news is kind of upbeat for Dabel, that's not the case for DDP: Big cheese Josh Blaylock has confirmed that the company is having financial problems, which he blames on "hundreds of thousands" of bookstore returns in 2008-2009: See, outfits like Borders, Chapters, Amazon, even Wal-Mart, can (unlike DM comic shops like us) simply return what they don't sell for full credit. Now a TPB that retails for $20 or so costs the publisher $1.50-$2.00 from the printer (plus creative costs, of course.). The publisher sells it to Barnes and Noble for $12.00. Pretty good, but when you ship 10,000 copies to B&N, and they return 6,000, the publisher is out the $9-$12,000 that it cost to print them.

It's not the first time a comics publisher has been taken unawares by bookstore returns. That's what was supposed to have killed First Comics back in the early 1990s. What's surprising is that DDP apparently never considered the possibility of massive returns: That's a phenomenon that's increasingly played havok in the publishing industry in general over the past 25 years or so. I've never really understood book publisher numbers: What's amazing is the amount of pure waste that's considered good: Conventional wisdom had it that 35-40% returns meant a book was a winner, and profitable(!), while once the returns start hitting 60-65%, it can be a death sentence for the publisher.

On to DC: They've announced the imminent appearance of a new line of OGNs, running parallel to the traditional comic book format. This new line is described by pundits as "DC's long awaited version of the Marvel "Ultimate" universe. There's no info yet on price, size, or frequency (beyond maybe a new volume every six months or so) Of course, retailers are already complaining about this, whatever it might be. Lack of knowing what we're talking about will never keep us from adverse commentary. Facts? We don' need no steenkin' facts... The other big deal at DC is War of the Supermen", their big 2010 event kicking off with an FCBD book. Kickoff looks nice- let's see how they play it on the field. We were all waiting for DC to clean up their continuity, right?


December 6th, 2009

On the condition of magazines and such:

We've recently gotten a complaint or two about what we considered as the acceptable condition of a new magazine. Naturally, we gritted our teeth, credited the unhappy customer, tried to get a replacement, and that was that. I'm a bit perturbed with this: As with everything else, we examine magazines as they come in, and if we feel the condition is reasonable, that's that.

Admittedly we are a bit stricter with comics, TPBs, toys, statues, prints, and so on (because they're all collectible, and condition/grade is so important with collectibles), magazines are a different story. They're basically for reading, then disposal. They may end up as part of someone's library, but aside from esthetics, condition isn't really all that important. That's not to say condition's unimportant. Unless it was the last copy available, I wouldn't buy a heavily folded copy of Time Magazine from a newsstand, and I don't expect anyone to buy a folded copy of CBG or Protoculture Addicts from us.

That said, please be aware that I've given the crew instructions not to be quite so accomodating when it comes to condition complaints: They are to ask themselves; "would I buy this at a newsstand for full price?" If the answer's "yes", then the customer is likely just a bit extreme in condition conciousness, and should have the complaint dismissed. If our crewmember wouldn't buy it, then there's no question- do whatever you can to appease the customer.

Look- we're not trying to pull a fast one here, nor are we lowering our standards. It's said that you can't please everyone all the time, and that's pretty much true. There's always someone who's just a little more particular than you are, someone whose taste in literature makes them feel justified in sneering at yours. I'm telling my crew that if they feel a customer is being unreasonable, don't accept it. In front or in back, make every possible effort to make sure the customer gets an acceptable product at the lowest possible price. If need be, be prepared to lose an overwhelmingly difficult customer's sale. Not a desirable circumstance, but sometimes hard choices must be made.


October 5th, 2007


My bit this month concerns the Canadian dollar.

So it's reached par with the US dollar, and there's been a fair number of consumer-oriented articles about how American goods still cost more in Canada, seemingly unjustly so.

Well, we can take the moral high ground here. As our reserve customers well know, we've been ignoring the egregiously inaccurate exchange rates printed on comics for many many years now, running on the US cover prices plus the prevailing over-the-counter exchange rate at the bank.

Prices fluctuate from week to week by a penny or two, but the exchanges are accurate, not some publisher's fantasy.

This past week, our customers paid $2.18CDN (plus tax) for a $2.99US comic. Pretty damn good, especially when you consider that a few years ago they were paying $2.93CDN for the same thing.

But, but, but...You'd figure that if we were effectively buying and selling in US all along, the dollar fluctuation wouldn't mean anything to us, but it does.

You see, say when the dollar's even, that $3US book costs us $1.50US (and CDN), and we sell it for $2.10CDN. Our profit (y'know, the stuff that goes to pay the rent and salaries and stuff) is 60¢. When there's a 20% exchange rate, the book costs us $1.80CDN, and we sell it for $2.50 - 70¢ towards the rent.

A dime is only a dime, but on the $5,000 worth of books we get a week (that's our cost, folks), a 20% gain in the Canadian dollar means we're left short about $400 a week- $20,000 a year.

And that's a 20% drop. Over the past five years, the US dollar's dropped forty percent.

Yes, the cost of comics has risen. In 1992 a copy of X-Men was $2.25US, today it's $2.99. That's a 33% increase, but along with the exchange shortfall, I also have to deal with other cost increase - labour, rent, taxes - pretty much the same things you have to deal with.

I dunno. I guess this is the peril of running close to the bone. If, all these years, I'd been basing myself on Canadian cover prices, and shoving the extra 20-30% in my pocket, I'd be able to afford to hold the line. You guys would be a lot poorer, true, but that's your problem, isn't it? Your problem, but not my way. Other guys might have taken the money and laughed, but I couldn't.

Buuuut, it looks like something I've been resisting for a couple of years might have to come to pass. Will have to come to pass - a discount reduction.

As usual, I'll be doing it in an arcane fashion - by "grandfathering" your lists. Simply put, if a title's on your list by the end of 2007, it'll remain at our current, standard 30% discount. As of January 2008, new additions will get a 25% standard discount.

So your best bet is not to give up on Batman or Superman just yet - ride it out - if they get better again, you'll save in the long term. You can also add titles - that's a good plan too! But if you want to wait, the impact shouldn't be all that nasty - that $2.99US book that costs $2.18CDN with us today will be a big 15¢ more if you add it in the new year.


March 16th, 2007


We're doing it again, it's May 5th.


Don't ask him to reserve any FCBD comics for you.

We did this one year, the year Marvel hijacked the day to match the Spiderman movie. We were not participants that year, but we did special orders for people, because I felt it wasn't fair that my customers should miss out simply because I was making a political statement.

It's come to my attention that the past couple of years Ray's been reserving this book and that book for people- a sort of mini-reserve system. Give the guy a break! He works hard as hell as it is, he's not SUPPOSED to reserve any comics (that's not in the spirit of the day) yet he's been doing it anyways.

And y'know, there's potentially about 700 "just this ones". That's a LOT of work that Ray has to sneak by me.

So give the guy a break. Come in on FCBD and get your books in person.



January 5th, 2007

Deconstructing Lichtenstein

I'm hardly an art critic. My studies of the subject are 3/4 forgotten, and were largely concerned with sculpture anyways, but still...

There's a website that's gained a bit of popularity/traffic in the comic community lately, called "Deconstructing Lichtenstein". I checked out the website, and was struck by what a disservice it does to Lichtenstein's work. "Deconstructing" is a rather odd title for it, but I suppose it is a little sexier than "The Source"...

Thing is, painting, sculpture, any art, is rarely intended to be viewed through a magnifying glass, and that's all that "Deconstructing" does.

The comic book images are presented pretty close to natural size, but slightly enlarged. Aside from the Sekowsky/Dr.Light panel, they lose some of their ...grace by being taken out of context, out of perspective- they were meant to be viewed surrounded by other images, remotely lit, at half arms-length or so.

Similarly, Lichtenstein's work, so heavily reduced, has lost an enormous amount of detail, and lost all perspective- they were meant to be viewed from several feet away, even from across a room, and sitting in clear space. I was never much of a fan of Lichtenstein (still am not), but I did come to a clearer ...understanding of what he was about, a much greater acceptance of his work, in seeing it as it was meant to be seen- in person, hanging on a wall. (I had much the same reaction to VanGogh and Picasso, by the way.)

All art is a re-presentation of an image in altered form. Leaving aside the pre-photography "recording of an event" or comics' storytelling aspects, ALL art is a representation of an artist's impression of a scene (or, in severe abstract, a feeling). Winslow Homer and James Whistler were "copying" real life, just as were Rembrandt and Constable before them, but released from the bounds of pure representation, they were able to impart a greater sense of the spirit of the places and people they portrayed. VanGogh followed Homer as naturally as Picasso followed Whistler- moving farther away from "pure' reproduction to impressionism and abstraction.

Impressionism and abstraction can only go so far before they become completely internalised to the artist. You can catch Brancusi's intent with his endless columns or "Bird In Space", but what can you see in something by Barnett Newman or Jackson Pollack?

In the fifties and sixties (give or take a decade or two), there was another "school" developing; "Magic Realism". (Andrew) Wyeth sort of led the way, but Hoffman, and Colville are perhaps the most "hard core" artists associated with it.

Pop art, to an extent, is part of magic realism, but it (to me) was more an effort to find the essence of the mundane. These artists were growing up in a new civilisation, in the flowering of mass production, of mass communication, of fleeting fame. Warhol and Lichtenstein are the most often mentioned of the pop artists, because they captured the spirit perfectly- ubiquitous but fleeting. Preservation of the ephemeral.

Marilyn Monroe and comic books. Everywhere, then gone.

Who's run out of steam.

November 6th, 2006

T.O. commuters told Stephen Harper 'eats babies'

Here's a little CTV news item that I found hilarious. Had to repeat the whole thing, because it has bits o' boffo all the way through...

Updated Tue. May. 2 2006 11:17 AM ET News Staff

Bemused Toronto commuters were repeatedly informed that "Stephen Harper eats babies" after a hacker tampered with advertising signs on city trains.

The scrolling electronic signs that usually carry transit updates and advertisements on Toronto's westbound Lakeshore GO Transit trains carried the messages Thursday, Friday and Monday after the hacker used a remote-control device to re-program the wording and mock the prime minister.

Thursday, Friday, Monday. Did the trains take the weekend off? In any event, the signs were running for five days before anyone objected? Or noticed?

The ingenious hacker made sure that suburban commuters in at least five different cars continued to get his or her subliminal message.

Yes. Scrolling light-up signs. Very subliminal.

Commuter Gerry Nicholls said he thought he was hallucinating as he relaxed in his seat for the 35-minute GO train ride between Toronto and his Oakville home.

Every three seconds, the scrolling electronic sign read: "Stephen Harper Eats Babies. Stephen Harper Eats Babies. Stephen Harper Eats Babies," Nicholls told the Toronto Star.

"No one seemed to be reacting to it." said Nicholls, who happens to be vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, the same conservative think-tank formerly headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"No one seemed to be reacting to it." Of course not. People react to surprising news. The best this should get is a shrug and a "figured as much."

"I kept waiting for the kicker,'' he said. "I thought, there's got to be something to this. It's a joke, it's an ad for baby food or something like that. It just kept going over and over again and I realized that this is something that could be pretty serious.

"I wasn't even sure when I got off the train. Was I hallucinating?"

Why am I disconcerted about an influential think tank's VP presuming that he was hallucinating rather than thinking "The sign is broken. Someone must have tampered with it."? Unless this guy regularly hallucinates, there's a logic jump there that is kind of worrisome.

The case of "electronic vandalism" prompted red-faced GO Transit officials to pledge the insults would never happen again.

To do so, they will have to power down all the signs on their cars and use special software that is being couriered from the United States to password protect the digital signs, a process that is expected to take three days.

That process sounds pretty gruelling, doesn't it? Three days!

Day one: Order the thing.
Day two: Overnight UPS.
Day three: Install.

Mind you, it might actually be gruelling. Apparently these people have never heard of downloading files. But then, they also never seem to have heard of password protection either...

"Unfortunately it's a slur, it's an offensive message," GO Transit spokesperson Ed Shea told the Star.

"We regret it happened and we're sorry if anybody was offended, including the prime minister."

Nice of them to include the Prime Minister. Y'kmow, just in case he was offended, rather than, say, pissed off that someone found out...

However, a digital security expert told The Globe and Mail this kind of digital tampering is as easy as buying a $23.95 gadget -- and more of it should be expected.

"There's actually a whole slew of ways to hack into these signs," said Ryan Purita, a forensic examiner with Totally Connected Security Ltd. in Vancouver.

"If people don't think those things are connected to the Internet, they're wrong," Purita told The Globe.

Is this whole article a joke? Mr.Purita of "Totally Connected Security" in Vancouver?

It's a Toronto story- why didn't they just call up the Alarm Force guy? And what is this "Totally Connected Security" outfit? A division of "Totally Awesome Security", a unit of "No, Really, This Is The Real Thing Security"?

And I guess I'm wrong because I never thought those signs were connected to the internet.

I just kinda figured that those signs were wirelessly connected to a keyboard somewhere, and some clerk just punched in new messages and sent them out by microwave or carrier pigeon or something.

I also kind figured there was some sort of security, otherwise we'd be seeing traffic alerts along the Decarie Expressway about SUV eating bats at the Jean Talon exit...

Dimitris Soudas, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, described the hacker's actions as "inappropriate and disrespectful."

Meanwhile, when asked about his time with Harper at the National Citizens Coalition, Nicholls said: "I worked with Stephen Harper for five years and never once did he, in that time, eat a baby."

See Gerry Nicholls: Hallucinatory tendencies. Is he sure that was just a ham sandwich?


July 17th, 2006


I'm not a fan of Wal-Mart, but I don't think they're the Great Satan either.

I very much admired Sam Walton. He was just a five-and-dime owner who recognised that times were changing, recognised that efficiencies were becoming more attainable, and jumped on every innovation he saw as useable. But Sam's dead. It's a different outfit today.

I'll criticize them for labour treatment. I know they're brutal towards any thought of union. On the other hand, they're hardly the first. They're not Henry Ford with machine guns at the Rouge, but their style is much like W.H.Smith or McDonald's: You want a union? Fine with us. Oh how unfortunate, your store's unprofitable, it's closing. Both Wal-Mart and McDonald's have pulled THAT stunt here. W.H.Smith pulled it with a whole CHAIN of Montreal stores they bought.


Killing towns? Yeah, I suppose, but they're hardly innovative there either. I remember Plattsburgh, with its thriving downtown in the Fifties and Sixties. Then Highway 87 went in, and a store called Grand Way (dry goods division of Grand Union) opened up as anchor of a strip mall out on Highway 3, a sleepy little route, the road to Dannemora.

Grand Way- Plattsburgh's first big box. Inside of two years downtown was dead. JC Penny, Montgomery Ward, Kresge's, Woolworth's, and all the indies along Margaret street had either closed, or built new boxes of their own out on 87. What difference does it make if it's one store called Wal-Mart, or one Champlain Mall? The local businesses were killed, as the malls created the environment in which Hickory Farms and Fannie Farmer and all the other specialty chains were comfortable.

And y'know, Highway 3 became the new main street. Nobody WALKED along it of course, but it was/is the main drag of Plattsburgh. There's even a Wal-Mart there now- one of hundreds of stores.

And fast-food joints. When I was a kid, the nearest A&W was in Burlington. Food in Plattsburgh was the lunch counter at Fishman's or WT.Grant, or diners. There were LOTS of diners. There's two diners left. Lots of fast-food chains. They sprouted up along Highway 3, and the diners on Routes 9 and 22 disappeared.

Towns die. Traditional old-line businesses die. Could be a Wal-Mart, could be a new highway, could be a demographic shift, but towns (and districts) die, and they've been doing it for a thousand years.


Hell, I've been a victim of a demographic shift. I opened a store on Sherbrooke St.W. many years ago, a relatively genteel, if a bit run-down area. About six months after I opened a police crackdown in another area drove drug dealers and their ilk to new pastures. Sherbrooke St.W. $2,000 net net a month (about $2,700 gross) for five years, and after the seventh month I never did more than $2,000 a month in SALES. Changing demographic. Killed the district. It wasn't Wal-Mart.


Towns die. Areas die. I've given two examples, a new highway, and a change in population. There's other reasons. The mine dries up. The steam locomotive is replaced with deisel, and the tank town isn't needed anymore. The mills along the Winooski River are packed up and relocated to Appalachia because labour's cheaper there. (That's what happened to Burlington.) Hell, air conditioning's invented, and the mills no longer HAVE to be in cooler states. Hello Atlanta, hello Memphis. The Cold War ends- goodbye Plattsburgh Air Force Base. The St.Lawrence Seaway is opened, and ships can run from Europe to Duluth without transshipment in Montreal. THAT hurt this town. More than separatism.

Towns die. Wal-Mart is just a current hot target as a town killer.


Wal-Mart's Asian thing- taking jobs away from Americans and sending them to China, just in the interest of lower prices.

Yeah, well, I'm old. I keep bringing that up. My father was importing cheap clothing from Korea in 1950. That ended when the war began, but growing through the fifties and sixties was the "cheap Japanese imitation xxx". Going offshore isn't new.

Finding the cheapest labour isn't new. That's why the Chinese built our railways.

What's relatively new is that immigration, the traditional source of cheap labour, has dried up. The last big influx for us was Hong Kong in '97. For you guys? BIG influx. The early part of the 20th Century? Second generation doesn't want to work cheap. Third generation won't.

So if we can't bring the slaves to us, we'll bring the work to the slaves. Primarily thanks to the increased security of container shipping, but also thanks to air travel, thanks to satellite-based communications, it really makes little difference where head office is, and where the plant is.

Back in the early eighties, I was a traffic manager. One thing I did was co-ordinate this process: On behalf of a customer in Montreal, we bought leather in Brazil, had it shipped to a half-dozen different makers in Korea, who manufactured leather garments that didn't have buttons. The makers shipped the semi-finished garments to us in Los Angeles, where we consigned it to a subsidiary of our Montreal customer, who sewed on the buttons, and shipped the garments to a store in Minneapolis. No secrets here, the store knew exactly what the routing was, but they needed that "Made In USA" label to mollify the rubes, and in those days, sewing on the buttons was good enough.

We had a similar deal with another outfit, but higher quality coats. For these, the routing was Buenos Aires - New York by ship, to Montreal by truck, the leather finished in our tanneries, the US retailer would send an inspector to Montreal to check quality, thence by rail to Seattle, APL ship to Busan, made into buttonless coats, back to Los Angeles, on with the buttons, and off to the stores. Made in the good ol' USA.

This was in the early eighties. This was before FAX, never mind e-mail. Communication was by phone or Telex/TWX. And even featuring crap like my $1,800 a month phone bill (only 3rd highest in the company!) it was still more profitable to cart stuff all over the world than it was to make it locally.

Communication and transportation. The town was now the world.

And this was before China and Vietnam and Indonesia and Thailand were developed as even cheaper sources of labour than Korea or India.

But it was after the container was invented. That was the key to overseas manufacture. As much as goes overboard these days, I read somewhere that it's less than a tenth of what used to disappear when everything shipped breakbulk. The only reason manufacturers needed to be near the end-user was because of transportation, and shrinkage that grew with each transshipment. No longer a problem.

And you know, for decades we've sold our action figures and statues and swords and tchotchkes made in China and India, sold our books printed all over the Orient, sold our comics, printed in Montreal, and so on. Wal-Mart's selling Nikes made in Indonesia by slaves that are interchangeable with the slaves used to manufacture the products we sell.

I'm not saying what's going on is right. I'm not certain it's wrong. I'm just thinking that when throwing bricks at Wal-Mart for practises we've used for decades, we should consider that our own houses are pretty transparent...


To me, Wal-Mart's a pretty lousy store, but it's only evil in the same way that most of mankind is evil. Industries whose sales rely on (and cause)the death and destruction of people and planets are evil. Wal-Mart's just like the rest of us- greedy.

That's enough for now- just reminiscence and observation.


May 31st, 2006

Lost Girls at "Lying In The Gutters"

As anyone who reads Astronotes is aware, I'll often quote Rich Johnston. Well, this week Rich is quoting me, amongst a whole bunch of people commenting on "Lost Girls", Alan Moore's "Big Book Of Porn".

Although I'm always fascinating, of course, I'm not just steering you to the column to see how clever I am. It's an interesting situation- you'll notice I devoted a whole page of this month's Astronotes (#131) to it.

Rich's column gives you some deeper levels:


May 8th, 2006

Basic Discount for "C-Type" Reserve Customers

Our basic discount is 30% for printed matter- comics, books, magazines, TPBs, etc.

To get this, you must have at least one ongoing title on your list. By "ongoing", we mean a title that ships with a meaningful regularity. "Batman" or "X-Men", obviously, but also manga like "Naruto" or "Rebirth". They may run on a three-month schedule, but they do ship on a regular basis. Books like "Love & Rockets" or "Astonishing X-Men TPBs" don't count, because they ship at random.

That doesn't mean you don't get a discount on those kinds of books when they do ship. You get the same 30% discount, no matter if it's ongoing, infrequent, or even a one-shot. We just need an ongoing to cover our costs on maintaining an account.

We charge based on US cover, exchanged into Canadian at the prevailing over-the-counter bank rate.

We charge GST and PST as applicable.

As of this writing, a $2.99US comic costs our Quebec customers about $2.77CDN, discounts and taxes included. We don't care if the publisher says the Canadian cover price is $3.75 or $4.00 or $62,000. They can go as crazy as they want, we base on the US price.

I said "Quebec customers". Customers outside of Quebec are not charged Provincial sales tax. An Ontario resident would pay about $2.58CDN, while one in Pakistan (yes we have customers all over the world) pays about $2.41CDN. The reduction in taxes goes a long way towards covering postage costs for our mail-order people. In fact in most cases it more than covers the cost of postage.

There is a caveat to that 30% discount: Every once in a while there's a book or comic that's "short discounted" at Diamond. Now, while we're nice guys and all, we do have to pay the rent. When we get short discounted, so do you. The discount drops to 25%. You are notified of this when you place the order. We don't like springing nasty surprises on our customers. Frankly, this short discount thing isn't that big a deal, I'm just mentioning it because it's part of reality. It mainly hits DFE-type signed stuff, very rarely anything mainstream. Right now, a quick survey of our database shows just 72 outstanding short discount items. That's out of 14,597 listings.


April 3rd, 2006

Another "Motormouth" entry, torn from the pages of Ellis' Engine. This one was my response to Craig (Wahoo Morris) Taillefer, about

Why Diamond Won't Ship Adult Books To Canada

To me, it's a case of Diamond acting very responsibly to themselves, their Canadian customers, and to their suppliers.

Each week, Diamond brings all of Canada's books in on one truck.* If this truck is stopped for inspection, all of Canada's stores are out of luck until the truck is released, and that can take days, depending on how fast customs moves, how long it takes to locate and inspect the suspected contraband, and whether, upon inspection, customs feels that there's reason to inspect all the contents of the truck.

It's not as simple as customs saying "show me the shipment for customer X". For one thing, that might be in the nose of the trailer- the whole unit has to be unloaded before it's found. More importantly, Diamond is the importer of record. All Canadian shipments are manifested under one B3, which means that a seizure of one is a seizure of all. There are myriad forms, reasons, intensity and procedures for inspection and/or seizure- too many to describe, but suffice to say that in an industry built on regularity, the impact of a disruption of this type can be severe.

I mentioned that Diamond is the sole importer. This is absolutely neccessary. To do otherwise would neccessitate Diamond delivering to a sufferance warehouse, at which point it would be each store's responsibility to effect clearance, and arrange onward shipment. Very costly, very slow, very cumbersome. The alternative would be for Diamond's customs broker (Tower Group) to have power of attorney for every store, and do the clearances when the truck hits the border. Again, very costly and slow. A clearance takes (say) a half-hour. Be it one box with 200 comics, or one truck with 200,000, it takes the same half-hour. Consolidation is the cheapest and most efficient way.

Now customs has a very important job to do. They're protecting us. I'm not being sarcastic, here, they are protecting us. They are enforcing the laws that protect us. They do this using the same bag of tricks that any law enforcement agency might use: Informants, random inspections (legal in importation), reputation of the importer, and the individual inspector's "feel" for the situation. The guys at the border points are very, very good. They have hundreds of trucks waiting to cross at any given moment, and they're out there making snap decisions on who gets passed, and who gets inspected. A lot of stuff gets through, but a lot gets stopped too.

The easiest way to get passed without delay is to be consistantly clean. To carry nothing that will attract attention. To be very stringent about obeying the law, even more stringent than customs is itself. And to do it over and over again, every week, shipment after shipment.

And that's what Diamond does. That's why Diamond won't ship Horny Biker Sluts into Canada, why they'll shut down anything that might be dodgy. They simply can't take a chance with everyone's shipments for the sake of a tiny portion.

That doesn't mean they won't sell adult material to Canadian stores. They're quite prepared to set up separate accounts at US drop points, and there are any number of stores (and at least one distributor) that does this. They "receive" their goods at a US border town, and importing it into Canada is at their own cost and risk.

Craig mentioned Diamond getting "fed up having their shipments seized". This happened only once to my knowledge, and that was about a year ago. It was not a seizure, the shipment was held for inspection- there's a big difference. Diamond moved Heaven and Earth to get the shipment released, and although they warned us that we might be looking at Thursday or even Friday delivery, they did get the books to us on time.

So they hardly have anything to be "fed up" about. They just got caught in a random spot check, and passed with no problem, at least in part because of their sterling reputation. Again, no sarcasm. They do have a reputation for law abiding conduct.

Yes, we can get books that are quite raunchy at stores coast to coast, some of them of domestic manufacture, some imported. These books are distributed by companies in the adult materials trade. They know the laws, they specialise in handling this type of material, they know what will pass inspection and what will not. They are experts in their field. Diamond is prepared to leave that field to them- it's just not worth it. Yes, the odd book loses, but a "Persepolis" wins 1,000 times for each Melody loss.


*I believe- certainly all of Ontario and East- there may be a different West Coast arrangement.

March 24th 2006

On Narwain (et al)

This was a response to a creator on The Engine, who asked about our reactions to Narwain- he has a story in one of their anthologies. As I wrote the response, I realised it reflected a certain change that's come over my ordering habits this past while...

I'm sorry but Narwain isn't a publisher that enjoys much support from me.

I've tried a few titles, the most successful has been Free Fall (at 4 copies!), but it's also a title that's running late.

I'll generally try a couple of copies of just about anything, but Narwain somehow sounded a bit too ...imitative.

It started with a clump of titles, and just somehow felt like the latest go-round of publishers putting together a couple of faded stars, a bunch of never-quite-made-its and unknowns, a copy of a publishing formula that has failed so often over the past few years.

It's kind of annoying to order from a formula- chrome covers or zombies or whatever might be the hot ticket of the day. I know that whatever it might be, this latest imitation is a fifth, sixth, seventh generation copy of the thing that was the hit. I guess an example is Claw/Red Sonja- trading on the Red Sonja spinoffs, trading on Red Sonja itself, which in turn is trading on the Conan spinoffs, which trade on the success that started it- the Conan (main) series. Each new title a bit smaller than its precursor, each one diluting the field.

Narwain somehow feels that way as a publisher. They may be absolutely wonderful, but they feel too much like the latest in a string of "musical chairs" publishers- a temporary home for random titles, following the example set by Speakeasy and Alias, and an endless string of these guys going back to Defiant and beyond... Trouble is, that model never started with a hit. Each generation is a "dilution" of something that wasn't very much to begin with.

Nowadays I'd rather "wait for the trade" with these guys. Wait to see if they establish a trade, become a publisher like Oni or even Crossgen, one with a certain amount of solidity. Roll out small with the possibility of growth, and I'll support a new publisher. Roll out big, and chances are very good these days that I'll be very leery of writing orders.


March 10th 2006


There was a recent enquiry about what percentage of orders go to Marvel and DC, and whether or not the big two are crowding other publishers off the racks. So I sat down and did a little analysis, and here's what I came up with- The way our February 2006 order breaks down:

(DD: average for January orders per Diamond Dialogue -March 06)

Retail per piece average:
$3.89 DC
$3.45 MVL
$5.47 OTHERS

Percentage of order by piece:
35.2% DC (DD: 37.4%)
39.0% MVL (DD: 42.2%)
25.8% OTHER (DD: 20.4%)

Percentage of order by dollars:
33.1% DC (DD: 35.3)
32.7% MVL (DD: 36.8)
34.2% OTHER (DD: 27.9)

Percentage of order by TITLE:
16.7% DC
15.6% MVL
67.7% OTHER

The most interesting little chunk here is the last one- percentage by title. Leaving aside different formats for the sake of brevity, a stack of comics occupies 7"x10" of wall or floor space. Doesn't matter if the stack is 2 deep or 20, it takes the same amount of space.

Between them, DC and Marvel get only 33% of prime display, despite them representing 75% of product. After knocking out subscribers, I find that I will be displaying about 10% each of the DC and Marvel books I buy, and 20% of the others. Given that I'll be stocking deeper on books like "Identity Crisis" or "Avengers", the square footage of display skews heavily in favour of publishers other than the big two. That 1/3-2/3 ratio looks pretty solid.

This (at least in my store, which runs fairly close to the Diamond averages) completely shoots down any thoughts of DC and Marvel "crowding other publishers off the racks".

The last time that idea worked was back in the fifties, when DC prevented Marvel from getting rack space by virtue of DC being the distributor. The last time it was seriously TRIED was in the mid nineties, when it was Marvel's stated policy to squeeze out the competition, and that had to be one of the most disastrous marketing moves of all time- it destroyed the concept of "Marvel Zombies", people who would buy every Marvel title, every month. There used to be lots of them, but when "Heavy Hitters" and "Barkerverse" and "Marvel UK" started showing up, the zombies found that there was just too much to buy, and the new stuff was of pretty low quality. They started by chopping the ancillary lines, then, once they realised they were no longer completists anyways, they started chopping into the core titles that they had been buying "just because".

But that's another story. I sort of wonder if those people who talk about DC/MVL "crowding" might not be a bit ...unobservant. If there's 99 superhero books on the wall, and one stack of "Eightball", at a glance it's pretty easy to presume that it's a superhero store. It's a tiny step away from that to presume it's a Marvel/DC store. After all, aren't their names synonymous with superheroes? Yes, but they're not the only superhero publishers. At a glance, it's hard to tell if a book's from Marvel or Speakeasy or DC or Image or Alias or Devil's Due or Dynamite. There's enough diversity in the big two's appearance that virtually any other publisher's books HAVE to have similarities with Vertigo or Max or Marvel Main. Hell, even Bongo kinda looks like Looney Tunes. It's only by checking the coliphons that you realise that DC and Marvel are nowhere near as hegemonous as a casual look would indicate.