Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Support your local comic shop: A cautionary tale

Thank God for the Internet and the U.S. Postal Service, without which those of us living in small, comic book shop-less towns would be severely limited in our ability to acquire new comics. For me personally, I generally have to wait for either what publishers and creators send me for review, or to wait until I visit the nearest, comic shop-having town. Or I can order graphic novels through a certain online book-seller that I now patronize on a monthly-ish basis.

In the past I never really liked to spend money on that particular vendor, or any of its competitors, because I'd rather my money stay in my community and go to local businesses...which is no longer an option. My experiences doing so have generally been fairly positive, but since I've been ordering more books through this online vendor this year, I have had a few negative experiences, ones which could easily have been avoided had I attempted to purchase all of my comics from a local (preferably locally-owned), brick and mortar comic shop or bookstore.

1.) I read Ghost Rider: Hell Bent & Heaven Bound, the first volume collecting Jason Aaron's run on the title about a year ago and really liked it, and had long been planning to read the rest of it. In March of this year, I finally got around to ordering the second and third volumes, The Last Stand and Trials and Tribulations.

Trials and Tribulations arrived within a week or so, and I had to set it aside until the previous volume, The Last Stand arrived. Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into a month. And after weeks of a trade collection of a comic book series about a flaming skeleton who rides a flaming motorcycle and whips people with chains just sitting there unread, unable to be read, the online seller of books sent me an email letting me know that they were unable to find a copy of the book to send to me.

So now I have Ghost Rider Vol. 3, but I do not have Ghost Rider Vol.2, which prevents me from reading the volume I do have! Woe!

Obviously, if I were in a comic shop, I would be able to see with my own eyes that they didn't have a copy of Vol. 2 on the shelves, and would have passed on purchasing Vol. 3 at the time.

2.) I love Papercutz's reprints of Peyo's Smurf comics, and have been gobbling them up almost as soon as they become available. I ordered the last two, The Smurfette and The Smurfs and The Egg, online, and was shocked by what showed up. The former was in the paperback format, but the latter was a hardcover. I have paperback versions of the previous four, but the fifth one is a hardcover, which means it's also slightly larger than the other Smurfs books, which means now they look like this on my book shelf:Aaaaa! Look at the clash in sizes! Such discord! That will literally upset me for the rest of my life—not, like, constantly, but every time I glance at that portion of that book shelf.

I should note that it's just as likely that it's my fault that I got the hardcover instead of the trade version of The Smurfs and The Egg that it is that someone put the wrong book in the box headed for my house. And yeah, I'm sure I could easily have repackaged it and sent it back and got the paperback in return, but that's too much work. Easier to try and live with mismatched books on my bookshelf forever than to screw around with trying to exchange it for one that doesn't stick up a fraction of an inch higher than the other volumes.

Such a mistake would have been impossible had I picked that volume of The Smurfs comic up off of a shelf in comic book store.

3.) Worried about the fate of the Robert Langridge-made, Boom Kids-published Muppet comics now that the license has gone to Disney-owned Marvel—especially since Marvel announced a reprint in a different format—I finally got around to ordering the last three trades collect Langridge's The Muppet Show Comic Book, On The Road, Muppet Mash and Family Reunion.

It wasn't until they arrived in the mail that I realized the third of those, Family Reunion, only features a script by Langridge. Amy Mebberson draws it.

Now Amy Mebberson if a fine artist, and the only strike against her work is that it's not Langridge's. He has a very specific take on the characters and their strange existence as believably lifelike drawings of life-like puppets seen through a television screen. Langridge's Muppet characters at once resemble the Muppets from the TV show and comic book characters. It's a very difficult feat to pull off.

Mebberson does it really well with Kermit, but most of the other characters are simply well-designed, well-drawn comic book versions of the Muppet characters, and lack that dual reality vibe Langridge was somehow able to achieve.

I like her art just fine, but I probably would have passed on purchasing this volume if I knew it was devoid of Langridge's art (well, save for the cover). And I would have known that if I had bought it off the rack of a comic shop, where I would have taken the opportunity to flip through it before buying it.

So, in review: Please patronize your local comic shop over various Internet sellers of books if you are in a position to do so.


Those Muppet Show comics are all pretty, great, by the way.

Muppet Mash was my favorite of the three, and the one I'd recommend to anyone curious about the series (That, or the very first volume, Meet The Muppets).

Family Reunion is by far the weirdest one, and not simply because of the change in art style. In it, Waldorf and Statler are presented a bit like the Greek gods in Clash of the Titans '81, wearing robes, hanging out on the clouds and playing chess with game pieces shaped like the other Muppets, controlling their fate. Their "game" has rules slightly more complex than those of Calvin Ball, but essentially they introduce new characters to see the effect on the cast.

The most notable is Scooter's sister, introduced on the presumably non-canonical 1984 Muppet Babies cartoon to add a second female to the cast of characters on that Saturday morning take on the franchise (now that I think of it, why didn't they just use Janis?). She's a weird character to even think about, as is the whole Muppet Babies concept, since it is set in the late eighties, but features the characters as toddlers, when they were adults in the late seventies! Also, they all knew each other as babies? That doesn't jibe with much that came before!Oddly, the back of the book champions "The Return of Skeeter!" , but she's never referred to by name in the comic itself, only as "Scooter's sister" and other various vagaries.

The really dumb pigs from Muppets Tonight are also introduced, and I rather enjoyed their inclusion, as I knew very little about them (Muppets Tonight occurred when I was away from TV for a pretty long time; I do like that Pepe fellow I've seen in the movies though...I even read his book, which wasn't very good).

Skeeter is actually a good example of Mebberson's art on the books, since, likeMebberson's Scooter, she's very un-puppet-like. Her personality is pretty much what I remember from Muppet Babies: Athletic and gymnastically inclined and rival to brother Scooter (whom she calls a nerd) and other girl Piggy. Interestingly, she wears green-striped leggings, like Nanny, the headless adult who tended the nursery full of anthropomorphic Muppet Babies.

While I might have passed on this due to its lack of Langridge art, it's actually not bad, and there's some pleasure to be found in seeing how different artists approach the same characters (I always flip through all of Boom's Muppet comics just to see how everyone is designed, although I generally only read The Muppet Show one) and in seeing how Langridge and Mebberson fit characters from beyond The Muppet Show into the cast and premise.

Also, Every Day Is Like Wednesday gets blurbed on the back.


Oh, and before I close, I should probably note that according to Blogger, this marks my 2,000th post on EDILW. Sorry I didn't do anything better or more anniversary related, seeing as how--Wait, 2,000?! I've written 2,000 posts about comic books on this blog, give or take a few dozen on children's books or movies? 2,000 posts? Oh my God, what am I doing with my life?!


Aki Alaraatikka said...

I think you`re writing a blog. And reading comic books. And working, eating, sleeping... WOW! 2000 posts! I can`t believe it!
Eh... nothing else to say right now. Or write. Gosh, my comments are weird aren`t they?

Joe Hennes said...

Janice did appear on Muppet Babies (though only once): http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Baby_Janice

And if you're interested in more Muppet comics, the Muppet Snow White trade is fantastic.

And congrats on 2000!

Anthony Strand said...

I agree with Mr. Hennes - if you decide you want to get one of the Muppet adaptation comics, Snow White should be it. Muppet Peter Pan (with Mebberson art) is a lot of fun also. The rest aren't much good at all.

I also agree with your assessment that "Muppet Mash" was the peak of the series. I really hope Marvel lets us read the unpublished "Four Seasons" arc at some point.

Caleb said...

Thanks for the Muppet Babies trivia—that image of Baby Janice is truly horrifying!

Funny you guys mentioned Muppet Snow White. I was extremely skeptical of it based on the first issues of the other Muppet adaptation books I'd sampled—Robin Hood, King Arthur, etc.—but I read the first issue last night and it was really great.

I'll second--well, third--recommendations for it, if I never get around to writing a review of it.

Ryan Roe said...

I seem to remember hearing or reading in an interview with Langridge or Mebberson when they started the Family Reunion arc, Boom or Disney or somebody wasn't sure Skeeter was included in the rights for the Muppet Show license, as she wasn't a character on that show, so they wanted to be vague to be on the safe side. And then I guess they eventually figured out nobody was going to sue them for using her name.

Muppet Snow White and Muppet Peter Pan were great, but I always thought it would be more fun to have some kind of "Muppet Adventures" comic as the second title... a series featuring stories that took place outside the Muppet Theater, but with the characters playing themselves.