Wednesday, January 31, 2007

You'd rather celebrate Social Security?

(The first Social Security check was issued on this date in 1940.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Read it slowly. Savor it.

If you're looking for the wacky, 1960s Jimmy Olsen, this is not the collection for you. There are no Giant Turtle Men in this collection, no Elastic Lads, no crossdress-disguises.

In most of the first two-thirds of the book, Superman shows up only to watch and muse, "You know, Jimmy's handling it himself pretty well." They are, by and large, charming stories of a teenaged reporter who has earned his place on the Planet, and the biggest discontinuity between this "world" and that of the George Reeves television show is that Jimmy Olsen is occasionally treated with respect, not just by Clark but by Lois and even Perry White.

All of the Olsen pencils are credited to Curt Swan. This series would have been, in effect, his "try-out" for being the primary penciller on the main Superman title. The crisp black-and-white reproduction is probably the best these stories have ever looked.

Volume two, if and when, will be another thing entirely. Jimmy will be well into his goofy stage by then, and he'll be sharing this volume with Lois Lane's solo series (which has an unhealthy fixation on marrying Superman, uncovering his secret identity, or both).

But in this volume, it doesn't seem so odd that Jimmy Olsen would have a fan club.

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.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Triumphant return

Zook is back. It's a little jarring to see him next to the all-new 2007 J'onn J'onzz, but who cares!

That means all those early adventures in Detective Comics "really happened" (let's not get into an argument over what that means in a comic book). The movement to reclaim every character ever published by DC continues. Does Police Chief Liza Warner know Captain Maggie Sawyer or Patrolwoman Diane Meade?

And I thought a universe in which Kathy Kane and "Kate" Kane (does she know Sawyer?) both exist was odd. I can hardly wait for the first Zook / Lobo / Thorn team-up.

Talk about an infinite crisis.