Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Silver Age

When I heard that Google was getting into the web-shopping business by instituting Google Checkout, I wondered how they hoped to make any progress against the firmly-entrenched eBay/Paypal service. Then I'd heard they made a deal to be an alternate method of payment for, which bought them a lot of visibility, but still I wondered why anyone would choose to add an additional level of complication to their web purchase.

Then I heard that Google Checkout would offer a $10 discount for any purchase over $30. I have no idea how they could afford to do that ("We lose money on every sale, but we make up for it in volume!"), but it certainly did get my attention.

Somewhere around the same time I heard that The Absolute DC New Frontier was available from at a discounted price.

It's hard for me to describe DC The New Frontier, and its impact on me. In the unlikely event anyone reading this doesn't know: It's a six-oversized-issue miniseries released back in 2003, story and art by Darwyn Cooke (best known until recently for doing character design and storyboarding for the Batman Beyond animated show). It was a retro look at the late 1950s and early 1960s, the period of time after the cancellation of All-Star Comics (featuring the Justice Society) and before the publication of the first adventures of the Justice League in The Brave and the Bold. It was a love letter to the Silver Age of Comics, and it contained everything that made that time special for a generation of readers like me.

I bought the 48-page ad-free "floppies" because I had to, but I knew that if this ever came out in a collected edition, I would have to have it. When it finally did, it was two separate paperback volumes, a decision that a lot of the collected-edition fans (including me) didn't care for. Loved the comic: It won awards and inspired many long rambles like this one, almost becoming a genre of comics all by itself. But I hated the idea of buying it in two softbound volumes.

Then I heard it was coming out in a massive single-volume hardcover, in a format DC has chosen to call "Absolute" (perhaps, with all the Essential, Masterwork, Archive, Chronicle, Perfect, Showcase and Omnibus editions flying left and right, the industry is running out of superlative words). Many of the Absolutes list for around $100, which is a little steep for me. Absolute New Frontier was released with a cover price of $75, which was better but still, sadly, too much.

But then announced that discount, 37% off list. Let's see, that's... $47.25. Still a hard hit for the wallet, but then the comics had cost $41.40, this would only be $5.85 more. And the "Absolute" format, in addition to being hardbound, is a page size larger than original publication size, almost the size of the original art. And they had a reputation for being very well produced.

I tried not to think about the fact that I was seriously considering spending almost fifty dollars to buy a story I already had. That I would have spent $88.65 total on this story. Is any comic book that good? At least shipping was free.

I was at this point in my deliberations when Google Checkout announced that $10 discount on purchases. The Absolute New Frontier would now cost me $37.25, $4.15 less than the original floppies had cost.

I hit the "confirm purchase" button almost before I knew I'd done it. What the hell, I can probably sell the original comics on eBay.

Two weeks went by, and another, and another, and still the package did not arrive. Finally, about a month after the projected delivery date, I brokenheartedly reported the shipment missing and allowed / Google, the unholy alliance, to refund my money. By now it was too close to Christmas for me to justify spending this much money on myself, so I put Absolute New Frontier at the top of my wish list knowing no one would touch it.

And no one did.

On December 26, I looked at the possibility of placing the order again. Unbelievably, in the interim had discounted the book's price again, to $42.53, only $1.13 more than the comics had cost. Less $10... But now, Google Checkout was offering a $20 discount on purchases of $50 or more. And this would be the final day for either Google discount. Was there some additional item I wanted that would push my purchase past the magic threshhold...?


DC's new "Showcase" line of trade paperbacks are black-and-white collections of material that DC reckons wouldn't sell in the pricey full-color Archive format. Showcase Presents The Superman Family contains the first 22 issues of the mid-fifties comic Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, plus the contents of 1957's Showcase #9 starring Lois Lane. Almost six hundred pages of Silver Age goodness, almost all of it pencilled by Curt Swan (still the only artist who draws the Superman cast right), for a list price of $16.99 -- discounted by to $10.40.

So I add $10.40 to get at $10.00 discount, making my final price $32.93 for both books (list price $91.99), over 900 pages of comics that cost $43.70 new (though that's deceptive, since the Jimmy Olsens would cost quite a bit more than that now in a comic shop, assuming they were findable in the first place).

The box from arrived today. Cliche though it may be, my hands were actually trembling when I opened it.

These books are gorgeous. I mean, stunning, drop-dead gorgeous.

If you don't hear from me for a week or two, it's because I'm lost in 1954.


Anonymous said...

OK, but what's it _about_? The cover looks Rory Rammerish -- and I'm an obvious sucker for that sort of thing.

Daniel said...

According to Wikipedia:

It sought to tell a story which bridged the gap between the end of the golden and the start of the silver age of comic books in the DC Universe.

New Frontier is set in the late 1950s (with a cameo by President Eisenhower and references to the atomic testing of that era) and presented Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and their contemporaries as active since the late 1930s and early 1940s, when their original stories were first published.

During the course of the story, these now much older characters encounter the new 1950s generation of heroes, such as the Barry Allen Flash and the Martian Manhunter.

The star of the story was the young pilot Hal Jordan, who by the end of the series had become the new Green Lantern.

The plot of the series concerns the mounting threat of an alien presence on Earth, with the final issue featuring dozens of characters from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s eras of DC Comics teaming up to defeat the threat.

Adam Barnett said...

I hate to be a party poop, but I read New Frontier about 2 weeks ago and it did nothing for me. I tried to sell the two TPB's on ebay for half price - both volumes for $14.99. No one bid :-(