Markley’s Fever Brain: Hello I Must Be Going

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

In the world of comics, titles come and go all the time. DC recently announced a number of titles are coming to an end and Marvel is also supposedly going to end a number of books this summer. So I thought I would look at a few books I am going to really miss as they have been ended recently. I am also going to look at the best-selling comic in a very long time, but I am afraid it is also a sign of the past repeating itself. So I am going to step onto my soap box and rant about comic fans and retailers and the publishers that take advantage of their passions. So, this blog overall is a bit more negative than usual, but do not let that deter you from enjoying it and discussing it here at the Westfield web site or on Facebook.

Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 4

Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 4


For many years, Marvel was releasing a series of books called Marvel Essentials. These were oversized, (around 500 pages) collections reprinting their comics in sequential order in black and white. These were also the inspiration for DC’s Showcase collections, which are still coming out. Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 1 reprinted the first 20 issues and the first Annual of the Fantastic Four. Most of these Essentials were twenty dollars or less and were a cheap way to get and read Marvel history. They did Essentials of almost everything from all the major superheroes – FF, Avengers, X-Men, Wolverine – to more obscure stuff like Monster of Frankenstein, Tales of the Zombie, and Howard the Duck. Alas, Marvel has ended these collections (and the prices are now rising on Amazon as they go out of print) and Marvel is slowly replacing them with their new Epic Collections. I have raved about the Epic Collections for a while now, so just for those who may be unaware, Epic Collections are full color large reprints of Marvel titles in sequence. Most Epic Collections have 20 plus issues in them and are very nice looking. They have bright paper, colors that look good, and the content is great. While I was never a big fan of the black and white aspect of the Essentials, the price point was nice. The Epic Collections cost almost twice as much as the Essentials did ($35-$39.99), but you are getting much better quality paper and the stories in full color the way they were intended to be. One other thing though is the Essentials reprinted stories in orders, so the stories in volume two followed the stories in volume one, etc. The intent of the Epic Collections is the same, but what Marvel has been doing is issuing the Epics at random points. For example, they have issued four Iron Man Epic Collections. Vol. 1 one has the earliest stories from Tales of Suspense. The other Iron Man volumes reprint stories from all over his history. The stories they reprints are all in sequence, but they do not follow the prior volume. On the back of each volume there is a volume number, so the earliest Iron Man appearances are in Vol. 1, the newest volume that collects Iron Man #215-232 is Epic Collection #13. So in theory, if Marvel sticks with this, you will eventually have the entire Marvel library available with each title in these numbered volumes. Coming soon from Marvel will be Star Wars Epic Collections which I only mention because I discuss Star Wars a little later, and because in these Epic Collections they are going to collect the Dark Horse Star Wars comics in chronological order as stories would have unfolded, not in the order they were published, which at times was confusing.

Iron Man Epic Collection Vol. 1: The Golden Avenger

Iron Man Epic Collection Vol. 1: The Golden Avenger


As a quick aside, Marvel has also ended their paperback reprinting of the Marvel Masterworks. They were reprinting the original Masterwork hardcovers in paperback on bright white paper and they were a lot of fun to read these classic stories. But as with the Essentials, the Epic Collections make these reprints redundant and they came to an end with volume 70, Warlock. I believe that Marvel is making these changes due to book store sales. The higher priced Epic collections which are in color are more appealing to the book store market, and as they issue these Epic collections and clean up the art and coloring, they are then ready for digital sale online and if they recoup their money with the Epic sales, then the digital sales are just extra income. Very smart.

All Star Western

All Star Western


Jonah Hex and All Star Western have both been cancelled by DC Comics. This makes me very sad but it is based on sales so it is understandable. I have been a big Jonah Hex fan since his first appearance in All-Star Western #10 (1971). Over the years, the character evolved into one of the most fascinating characters in comics. From his days fighting for the South in the Civil War to roaming the American West bounty hunting to his death in one of what I thought was one of the greatest comics’ stories ever by Michael Flesher and Russ Heath. I would even allow the not so great short lived Hex series (where Jonah was send to the future) as passable only because it was part of the Jonah Hex cannon. When DC launched the New 52, they launched Jonah Hex as All-Star Western with the same writers who had done the previous 70 issues of Jonah Hex (Volume 2), Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. This second run of Jonah was almost as good as the original run. It featured a variety of artists, from Russ Heath to Jordi Bernet to Darwyn Cooke. It was a great book that truly kept the feel and style of the original series. When the New 52 title was re-launched as All Star Western, Jonah was moved to Gotham and hung out with Amadeus Arkham. Once again the writing was by Palmiotti and Gray, but the book always seemed as if they were grasping at straws to improve sales. They eventually moved Jonah to the present day, guest starred Superman, Jonah had his scars removed, he was sent back to the past, and in the greatest sin of all, they undid the death of Jonah story. Of the original Jonah Hex run, there are two Showcase collections so far. Of the new Jonah, all of the 70 issues have been collected into trade paperbacks, even though a number of them are now are now out of print. All of the All Star Western issues have been collected into trade collections. As much as I hate what they did to Jonah at the end and his legacy, I must admit that the stories are well done and are worth reading.

Star Wars #1

Star Wars #1


Marvel just released their new Star Wars #1 last week. It was a huge seller, selling over a million copies in pre-sales and selling out a second printing before the second printing was even printed. Quite an impressive feat. The book itself is a good read. All the characters sound like you would expect to from the original films and the dialogue is snappy and sharp. It is written by Jason (Thor, Southern Bastards) Aaron and he does a very nice job. This first issue is mostly set up and introduces the cast but it does lay out the future issues nicely. The art is by John Cassidy and it is very pretty. All the characters look like their movies versions and it flows very smoothly from page to page. My only complaint about the art is it is a bit stiff. By this I mean the characters look like they were images copied from photos and lack a sense of style or form. It is very pretty art, but it is so stiff looking I found it distracting.

Star Wars #1 Alex Ross Variant Cover.

Star Wars #1 Alex Ross Variant Cover.


I would also like to address a different aspect of the book, and that is the marketing of the title and the reaction of the direct comic market to it. When Dark Horse was publishing the Star Wars books, which they did for over twenty years since Marvel gave up the license, the books always sold a set number of copies. There were exceptions as the Lucas Draft did better than the average books, and Dark Horse did tons of titles over the years, including over 50 miniseries of Star Wars characters. None of these books over the years sold 10% of what Marvel’s number one of Star Wars did. Part of this was Marvel’s name on the property brought a much brighter spotlight to the name Star Wars in the mind of comic fans and retailers. On the other hand, Marvel catered to the basest of collectors by doing over 68 (at last count) different variant covers of Star Wars #1 and made the ordering levels for the variants extremely high, where retailers had to order 150% of one of Marvels best selling series in recent years (Original Sin) to get a number of these variants. Marvel also did a number of variants for specific stores (Mid-Town Comics, Mile High Comics, Emerald City Comics, etc.). I have read that the minimum for these store exclusives was 5000 copies per store. On top of that there are a number of Dynamic Forces variants and other retailer variants. The first issue sold out immediately, but due to the requirements to get the variants you can get the regular edition (and a number of the variants) for very low prices currently on eBay. I say this because as with any book that gets mainstream attention, Thor #1 with the female Thor example, we see lots of people in Westfield’s retail store we never have seen before, or after, because they say on the news that these is this “hot new” comic out. Star Wars was the same. Also, with Star Wars, what sold out first and the quickest was the variant covers, which we had far less of than the regular cover, but from a percentage view, still sold far greater than the regular cover which points to people looking for an investment. I see this as X-Men #1 by Jim Lee or Spider-Man #1 by Todd McFarlane or X-Factor #1 all over again. This book is a good book, it has a strong and loyal following for many, many years, but Marvel and the retailers/fans have fallen back into the same game that drove the comic market to crash in the 1990s. I hope I am wrong, but this is an example to me of history repeating itself and I would hate to see the same results as the last time. My bottom line is, if you like Star Wars, buy the book. It is a good read, do not buy it or multiple copies because you think you are going to sell if for a huge profit ten, twenty, years down the road. If you want to spend money, there are lots of great books you could read rather than buying multiple copies of the same book. Now I will step off my soap box.

As always, everything written here, including my rant, is my opinion and in no way reflects the thoughts of opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. What books that have been cancelled do you miss? What books would you like to see cancelled? Am I wrong about the return of the speculators? What do you think? I would love to hear from you and I welcome your opinions, thoughts, or suggestions at MFBWAY@AOL.COM. As always….

Thank you.

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