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My Free Comic Book Day 2018 Results: The Best and the Least Best

Maxwell's Demons!

A boy and his toys go to war. From Maxwell’s Demons #1, art by Vittori Astone.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on May 5th I once again had the pleasure of once again observing Free Comic Book Day, the least fake holiday of them all, that annual celebration when comic shops nationwide offer no-strings-attached goodies as a form of community outreach in honor of that time-honored medium where words and pictures dance in unison on the printed page, whether in the form of super-heroes, monsters, cartoon all-stars, licensed merchandise, or entertaining ordinary folk. Each year, America’s remaining comic book shops (and a handful in the UK that can afford the extra shipping charges) lure fans and curious onlookers inside their brick-and-mortar hideaways with a great big batch of free new comics from all the major publishers and a bevy of smaller competitors deserving shelf space and consideration.

This year my Free Comic Book Day involvement took on a different form. My local shop offered a special deal that sounds crazy on the face of it: for a fair sum of money, we could pre-purchase a bundle of all 52 Free Comic Book Day comics that their stores planned to order. Normally these would all be free, but you’d look like a schmuck for casually walking in, picking up all 52, and walking right back out. Instead they set aside copies of all those comics, bagged ’em up, and let buyers pick them up late Saturday afternoon, once all the furor and hubbub had subsided. I went for it. I liked the idea of playing the role of patron, donating extra cash to help facilitate Free Comic Book Day for other folks in town, in a way that would help my shop offset the costs.

I spent the rest of Saturday night and nearly all of Sunday reading all 52 and then posting my impressions on Twitter after each comic, along with photo excerpts from every single comic. I took photos rather than scans because (a) our scanner sometimes ruins the hard work of comics colorists, (b) I wanted to capture the feel of comics on actual physical paper, (c) I wanted to test my new phone, and (d) snapping pics was faster than scanning. This reading/photography project took until 11:30 p.m Sunday night to complete, and would’ve taken until sometime Tuesday if I hadn’t cut corners somewhere. I had to put this entry off for a few days because I needed a break after spending so, so much time with them all.

This entry, then, is a condensed version of that epic-length tweetstorm: my ranking of the twenty best books of the bunch, followed by my six least favorites of the entire stack. I never trust a comics reviewer or website that shares nothing but relentlessly glowing opinions — nor, conversely do I trust a critic who hates all comics and can’t be pleased — so this is my way of not becoming that which I disparage.

Up first: that happy Top 20. On with the countdown!

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Happy Free Comic Book Day 2018!

Free Comic Book Day!

One-third of this year’s FCBD reading pile.

It’s that time of year again! Today marked the seventeenth Free Comic Book Day, that annual celebration when comic shops nationwide offer no-strings-attached goodies as a form of community outreach in honor of that time-honored medium where words and pictures dance in unison on the printed page, whether in the form of super-heroes, monsters, cartoon all-stars, licensed merchandise, or entertaining ordinary folk. It’s one of the best holidays ever for hobbyists like me who’ve been comics readers since the days when drugstores sold them for thirty-five cents each and Jean Grey had never died before.

Each year, America’s remaining comic book shops (and a handful in the UK that can afford the extra shipping charges) lure fans and curious onlookers inside their brick-and-mortar hideaways with a great big batch of free new comics from all the major publishers and a bevy of smaller competitors deserving shelf space and consideration. It’s easy to remember when to pin it on the calendar because it’s always the first Saturday of every May and virtually always coincidental with a major movie release. Some folks were concerned about a break in tradition when Avengers: Infinity War moved up a week, but millions of psychologically devastated viewers still have it fresh in mind and haunting them to this day, so there’s no danger of anyone forgetting about superheroes in the near future.

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C2E2 2018 Photos, Part 5 of 7: Comics Creators Cavalcade

C2E2 Books!

This year’s new C2E2 reading pile. Part one.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The ninth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″) just wrapped another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous cons in larger, more popular states. My wife Anne and I missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team.

In this special miniseries I’ll be sharing memories and photos from our own C2E2 experience and its plethora of pizzazz…

…which as always includes the densest Artists Alley in the Midwest. Eleven double-length rows of writers, artists, cartoonists, painters, print makers, button sellers, novelists, professionals, amateurs, up-‘n’-comers, elder statesmen, internet sensations, and quiet ones you gotta watch. Diversity fans could find something to their tastes in virtually every conceivable corner of the medium. I tried to walk it twice per my annual ritual, and saw every table at least once — with or without their assigned artist at them — but had to bow out a few rows before the end of the second run-through when exhaustion and budgetary conscience both began tearing me down.

Many talented creators put up with my wife and me within the space of a valuable moment of their time at C2E2 in between finishing commissioned sketches and other, more desirable endeavors. I made a point of throwing money at them and once again added several pounds to my reading pile and our convention bags. Anne did what she could to help me out when my back began failing under the accumulated weight, but now I owe her a new bag for the damage done. Next year I need to remind myself to wait till the end of the day before splurging on any hardcovers.

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Comics Update: My Current Lineup and 2017 Pros & Cons

Comics A-X!

All my 2017 singles divided and alphabetized from A to X but skipping V.

[WARNING: This entry turned out several leagues beyond epic-length and may be the wordiest entry in MCC history, but I wanted it out of my system, and all at once in a single-take infodump. And now it is. Mission accomplished.]

Comics collecting has been my primary geek interest since age 6, but I have a tough time writing about it with any regularity. My criteria can seem weird and unfair to other fans who don’t share them. I like discussing them if asked, which is rare, but I loathe debating them. It doesn’t help that I skip most crossovers and tend to gravitate toward titles with smaller audiences, which means whenever companies need to save a buck, my favorites are usually first on the chopping block. I doubt many comics readers follow MCC anyway, so it’s the perfect place to talk about comics all to myself. Whee.

2017 certainly hasn’t been a boring year for discussions. In addition to undergoing a light-handed version of the anti-sexual harassment revolution that’s sweeping Hollywood, the comics field has seen DC’s Rebirth initiative still going strong on the learning curve from the “New 52” misfire. Meanwhile, the “Marvel Legacy” campaign — their fifth line-wide restart in eight years or so — was founded on the assumption that old folks like me and the Kids These Days are dying to watch comics regress to the ’70s and ’80s. So far they’ve been wrong and sales have nosedived on a number of titles. The cancellations that made room for this ploy have been followed in short order by still more cancellations of their usurpers. I’m still finding Marvel-labeled reading to my tastes, but I’m glad they’re not the only choices at my local comic shop.

For reference and maybe unconscious oblique insight, here’s what I’m currently buying every Wednesday at my local comic shop, series and miniseries alike, budget permitting, broken down by publisher as of the very end of December 2017:

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My 2017 in Books and Graphic Novels, Part 2 of 2

Leguizamo  + Gordon!

Library trip, 9/2/2017. Also, two of my favorite books of the year.

Time again for the annual entry in which I remind myself how much I like reading things besides monthly comics, magazines, and self-promotion from internet users who have me muted. Despite the lack of MCC entries about my reading matter, I’m always working on at least two books at a time in my ever-diminishing reading time. I refrain from full-on book reviews because nine times out of ten I’m finishing a given work decades after the rest of the world is already done and moved on from it. I don’t always care about site traffic, but when I do, it usually means leaving some extended thoughts and opinions unwritten due to non-timeliness.

Presented over this entry and the next is my full list of books, graphic novels, and trade collections that I finished reading in 2017, not entirely in order of completion. As I whittle down the never-ending stack I’ve been stockpiling for literal decades, my long-term hope before I turn 70 is to get to the point where my reading list is more than, say, 40% new releases every year. That’s a lofty goal, but I can dream.

As with last year’s experiment, every book gets a full capsule summary apiece, because 28 years of reading Entertainment Weekly have gotten me addicted to the capsule format. The list is divided into a two-part miniseries to post on back-to-back evenings in order to ease up on the word count for busier readers. Triple bonus points to any longtime MCC readers who can tell which items I bought at which comic/entertainment conventions we attended over the past few years.

Once more: onward!

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My 2017 in Books and Graphic Novels, Part 1 of 2

books! graphic novels! yay!

39 of this year’s 51 books read. My MIA selections were borrowed. As a getaway from online political wartime, Anne and I found ourselves looking to the library for leisure a bit more often this year.

Time again for the annual entry in which I remind myself how much I like reading things besides monthly comics, magazines, and self-promotion from internet users who have me muted. Despite the lack of MCC entries about my reading matter, I’m always working on at least two books at a time in my ever-diminishing reading time. I refrain from full-on book reviews because nine times out of ten I’m finishing a given work decades after the rest of the world is already done and moved on from it. I don’t always care about site traffic, but when I do, it usually means leaving some extended thoughts and opinions unwritten due to non-timeliness.

Presented over this entry and the next is my full list of books, graphic novels, and trade collections that I finished reading in 2017, mostly but not entirely in order of completion. As I whittle down the never-ending stack I’ve been stockpiling for literal decades, my long-term hope before I turn 70 is to get to the point where my reading list is more than, say, 40% new releases every year. That’s a lofty goal, but I can dream.

As with last year’s experiment, every book gets a full capsule summary apiece, because 28 years of reading Entertainment Weekly have gotten me addicted to the capsule format. The list is divided into a two-part miniseries to post on back-to-back evenings in order to ease up on the word count for busier readers. Triple bonus points to any longtime MCC readers who can tell which items I bought at which comic/entertainment conventions we attended over the past few years. Onward!

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