The Simple Comic Newsletter!
Issue 24 - September 13th 2000

Table of Contents

 01. What Makes a Great Comic, Great?
 02. Portable Comic Museum!
 03. Commonly Asked Questions About Comics on my Site
 04. The Floodgates are Opening!
 05. Bargain Bin Bonanza
 06. Sites of the Month
 07. Silent Jury
 08. Conclusion

 

What Makes a Great Comic, Great?

If you think about some of the timeless comics, did you ever think about what makes them so great and has allowed them to survive the test of time? Sure, great art and stories do contribute to the success of a comic book, but there is more. There is something deeper that really separates the good comics from the truly great ones. Below I took some of the most popular and known comic books and put my reasoning on why they are special. What makes these books continue to captivate readers, while others have come and gone.

1. Incredible Hulk-Sure he is a big, ultra-powerful and extremely violent creature, but so were many others in comics. But what made the Incredible Hulk so popular while other equally powerful and violent characters gone to the wayside? It isn't the Hulk at all, rather it is Bruce Banner. While we may thrill at the mighty battles the hulk has with the Rhino or Juggernaut, it is the deep sympathy we feel for Bruce Banner. Here is a man who is doomed to never have a normal life. Things we take for granted, like raising a family and growing old with someone special are out of his grasp. He is instead, forced to walk the earth as a loner, trying to keep the beast that rages inside of him at bay.

How many of us have felt alone in the world? All of us have at one time or another and we can relate to his solitude. While we would love to possess the incredible power of the Hulk, we do not want the baggage that comes with it. The cost is too great as you need to give up your humanity. This is a burden that no one, real or imagined should have to contend with.

2. Amazing Spiderman-While his wisecracking and web-spinning are as much a part of the book as is the red and blue costume, once again it is his alter ego that really makes the book shine. Peter Parker, in the early days of the book was essentially a nerd. He was the smart kid in the class that was a social pariah. The one the girls turned down for school dances and that football players picked on. But when he gained his powers, he could have changed all that. He could have easily became the best football player in the country and the envy of every guy and the apple of many a girl's eye. But he didn't and for this we can respect him. He did what we all hoped we would do in such an extraordinary circumstance, the right thing. Sure he fumbled along the way, with the death of Uncle Ben and other problems, but that made him all the more likeable. He was super powered, but he was still a flawed as the rest of us.

One area that really shined in the books was the character interactions. Not only was there the classmates that he dealt with, but also the people at the Daily Bugle as well as the smothering Aunt May. Peter had to deal with all kinds of problems that we all could relate to. Excessive homework, lack of funds and an awkwardness with the opposite sex are things we all dealt with at one time or another. These were real problems and it made Spiderman feel like a real person and not just some sketches on a piece of paper.

3. Batman-While he had the good looks and all the money and material possessions, he did not have peace. The Batman was a person driven by the demons of the past and no matter how many villains he defeated, it was not enough. It never was enough. While few of us can relate to Bruce Wayne, the person, we could with the Batman. The biggest attraction was that with alot of training, we could be the Batman. While most of us would be killed or beaten within an inch of our lives on our first attempt to stop crime, in our minds and our hearts we feel that we could be the Batman, if we just had the motivation, the burning desire that fuels him.

This false illusion is what attracts us to Batman. this belief that being the caped crusader, really is within reach. I know that I donned a homemade cape as a youth and pretended to be the Dark knight, as I am sure most of you have at one time or another (who knows, some of you may still be doing it). But how many of us, swam around the pool, saying they were Aquaman? But the Batman we can relate to.

4. Superman-While Batman is someone we believe that with a ton of training, we could be like, Superman is the person that we would become if we ever came in possession of a magic lamp. He is the symbol of our wildest dreams. He is what everyone would love to be, even if just for one day.

Superman has all the powers a person could desire and then some. From a dream of many people, the ability to fly, to the power that most adolescent males would love to have (and probably some females), X-Ray vision. The thought of being practically invincible, powerful beyond belief and faster than any person has a right to be, it would be a dream come true.

The other reason that Superman is so popular is his connection with everything that was right about this country. He stood for truth, justice and the American way and in some regards, has become a symbol of our country. He even wears the traditional red and blue colors of our flag.

5. Uncanny X-Men-Of all the super groups out there, this is the one group that really stands out. When you break down the JLA or the Avengers, they are more of a collection of heroes than a real unit. They change members frequently and most of the characters were established as individuals before they ever became team members. But the X-Men are different, they have a bond, a sense of unity that comes from self preservation and mutual trust, something the Avengers or JLA can never have.

While the X-Men have super powers and are essentially super heroes, they are also mutants and with that comes the fear and paranoia of being different. Alot of readers can sympathize with this alienation. While the Avengers and the JLA live in the spotlight and are treated as royalty, the X-Men have to keep under wraps as they are as much hated as many of the villains they try to protect us from.

Another difference between the X--Men and other super groups is their powers come with a price. They impose on their way of life and can greatly affect them and their interaction with others. Cyclops has the powerful beams, but he cannot control them without his ruby lenses. He is always a risk to others. Rogues inability to touch others without hurting them, Nightcrawler's appearance, etc... So they not only have to cope with being a mutant, but it comes with the knowledge that your powers have some very negative side effects that must constantly be kept under control.

Portable Comic Museum


(Just one of the many gorgeous covers found in the book.)

A few weeks ago, I received a very large package in the mail. As I took it home and examined it, I found it to be a very nice looking coffee table book about comics. It was titled "Comic Book Culture" and was done by Ron Goulart. As I read the introduction, it told how this was a book about pictures. I would like to argue that point. This book is like a Comic Book Museum in a portable format, hence the name of this article.

This book features comic covers from the 1930's to 1940's and does a wonderful job of covering all the different genres from funny animal to superhero to sci-fi. There are over 400 covers on display and each one is in gorgeous full color. If this book was nothing but pictures of these wonderful covers, it would be a deal at the $39.95 cover price. But with all the well thought out text, describing the different covers and the artists behind them, it is a steal! There is alot of information in these pages and when you finish the book, you will come across with a greater appreciation for the comic medium and the great artists of the era.

The chapters are broken down into a variety of chapters that deal with either different genres like Superheroes and books about World War II to ones that deal with different artists. This really helps to put the sheer amount of comics into some sense of order and adds to the enjoyment of the book. It is nice to see the works of the "masters" together, side by side for mutual appreciation and comparison.

The pictures of the comic covers (only covers were used), range in size from 1/16 page size to full page pictures of some of the more appealing covers. All of them are easily to see and very appealing. This period of comics, the Golden Age, featured some of the most imaginative and downright attractive covers in the history of comic books. These are works of art and this book does a good job of conveying that feeling. Instead of seeing them as mere entertainment for kids as they were originally thought to be, you see them as a piece of our culture and works of art that could just as easily be displayed in a museum.

If you are a fan of classic comic books and want so see some of the best covers that were ever done, then check out this book. Both the pictures and the accompanying text are both top notch and together make an incredible package. It can be ordered by calling Collector's Press at the following number:  1-800-423-1848.  The number can be called 24 hours a day, 7 days a week toll free!

Commonly Asked Questions About Comics on my Site

I decided to put together a list of questions that I get asked repeatedly and answer them. I will post this in a section on the website also.

1. Is this a comic store?
No, this is a website that sells comics and classic games. I do not have an actual store.

2. Do you sell new comics?
Sorry, but I do not sell them. With the discounts some sites offer, I could not compete and make any money. Only back issues are sold here.

3. If you don't have a comic store, where do you get your inventory?
Comic shows are the biggest source for new inventory. I attend every comic show within driving distance and look for bargains. I have also made arrangements with some local comic shops where they buy collections, take out the books they want and sell me the rest for a fixed amount.

4. I am leery about the condition of the comics, are your books mint?
My site is set up for collectors and not investors. If you are overtly worried about condition, then shop elsewhere. While most of my books are near mint, I don't stress condition as I believe this is one of the things that has hurt the industry. Once people become more interested in the shape of the book, instead of the story inside, then the industry is in trouble.

5. Why don't you reserve comics?
Because of the internet and the ability to be remain anonymous, some people feel that they don't have to honor deals they make. So I end up with alot of wasted time and possible lost sales because someone changed their mind or because they forgot about the books. Because of this, unless I have payment in hand, I do not pull comics.

6. Why is there a $10.00 minimum order?
There is a certain amount of time invested in pulling, packing and shipping the order, not to mention updating the site. Because of this, I have a $10.00 minimum order policy. I do not feel that this is that high an amount. Plus, I got tired of people who wanted to order one comic book for $0.50.

7. Why is your shipping so high?
My prices are very reasonable for the service you get. I ship all my books in the US by priority mail. This is the fastest, most reliable way I have found to ship them. With the free boxes they provide, it makes for very secure shipping and I don't get any complaints about the condition of the books or the time to ship them. When I started out, I used to offer book rate shipping, but had alot of problems with it. I kept getting emails complaining about the time it took, so I switched to priority mail and now I almost never get any complaints.

8. Do you special order?
Sorry, but the stuff on my site is all I have for sale. While I am always looking for new books to add and ones to replace sold ones, I cannot special order. Because I sell my books so cheap, I couldn't find many items for the price that I sell for and still make any money.

9. Do you sell any Golden Age comics?
While most of my books are from the 1970's-1990's, I do occasionally get some older books. While these are few and far between, I do get some. But, because I deal in affordable reading, you will rarely see them.

10. Why do you sell your books so cheap?
I get this question all the time. It is quite simple, I buy low and sell low and still turn a good profit. I found out that there is a good sized audience for affordable comics that are a good read. Most of the comic web sites out there sell either older, expensive comics or newer, hot comics. But few sell the other comics or if they do, they charge a fortune for them. I make no secret that I get most of my comics at comic shows from the bargain bins. There are lots of great books that most people may not have an interest in, but there are still many people out there that are interested in them. I look for stuff that I can get cheap, say a quarter and then sell for $1.00 or more. This way, people get some good deals, I make a nice profit and the dealers get to sell stuff they have trouble getting rid of.

I have found that the majority of the books that I sell, are not hot enough or sell for enough money for most dealers to bother with. They would rather deal with the hot new comics or the higher priced silver and golden aged comics. There is alot of time involved in buying, sorting and inputting all these comics and it is more work than most people want to deal with. So this leaves the market pretty wide open for me and I keep going and finding more and more books at shows for people who want good comics at a great price.

11. You have a diverse selection, are there any comics you don't sell?
While I will try to carry anything that I feel will sell, there are a few comics that I won't carry. I will not carry any of the X-rated comics. This is because I cannot check a person's age on the internet and because I think the books are garbage and refuse to support the trash. I will also not carry or restock some of the slower moving titles like any DC Impact titles, many of the Marvel UK titles, Continuity and some of the other titles that are dead weight. Most any Marvel and DC and most independent comics will be carried here.

12. Do you buy comics?
I sometimes do buy from people on the internet, but not too often. As you can see by my prices, I sell comics for very low prices, so I need to buy for even less. Most people are not willing to sell this low and when you add in shipping costs, it usually makes it unprofitable to buy comics this way.

13. Do your books come bagged and boarded?
Some do, some don't. It depends if they were bagged and boarded when I bought them. I do not add boards to ones that don't have them. But with the sturdy priority mail boxes, your books are safe.

The Floodgates are Opening!

With the success of the X-Men movie, the floodgates have opened up! Now all those Marvel based comic movies are going into production! Soon we will see a plethora of movies based on your favorite heroes! Here are some of the ones you may see soon:

Amazing Spiderman-The finally cast Spiderman and the script is being done. Look for it out by 2002.

Blade 2-With the success of the first one, the sequel is in the works. Wesley Snipes returns for another action packed episode!

Daredevil-The blind superhero is coming to the big screen. Look for it to be much better than the cameo appearance in the Hulk made for TV movie.

Fantastic Four-A new version is in the works, with a budget!

Ghost Rider-The people who brought you Blade has secured the rights to everyone's favorite undead motorcyclist.

Incredible Hulk-Just think how cool the transformation can be with a real budget! Sorry, but no Lou Ferrigno this time.

X-Men-The cast has been signed for two sequels. I cannot wait!

Also, Marvel isn't the only company that is sending its heroes to the big screen. DC also has a new Superman and Batman movies in the works. There is talk about Brad Pitt playing Batman, but right now it is just speculation. There is also talk of possible Green Lantern and Flash movies, but nothing concrete at the moment.

Bargain Bin Bonanza

I was always a sucker for books that poked fun at serious comics.  There was always the wonderful "Not Brand Ecchh", but that one is hardly one you will find in the bargain bins.  Sure Mad had some very funny parodies of comic books, but they were few and far between.  But if you want a funny book that is quite affordable, then you cannot do better than "What The?"!

While "What The?" offers many laughs, one of the most surprising things about it is the amount of talent who worked on it.  You would think a parody based series like this would get the leftovers, but this one had some good talent.  Granted, some of the talent wasn't real known then, but they were still talented.  Check out this list of names; Kurt Busiek, Kyle Baker, Fred Hembeck, John Byrne, Todd McFarlane, Dale Keown, Jim Lee and others.  It reads like a Who's Who of comic artists and writers for the 1990s!

This is also the place where you could read the exploits of Peter Porker, the Sensational Spider-ham!  If that wasn't worth the price of admission, what is?  The artwork ranged from simple to some pretty sophisticated.  The covers usually poked fun at popular Marvel comic covers.  

If you are looking for a very enjoyable read and see some of comics biggest names, doing comedy, then this is the series for you!  The price is low and the laughs are high!  What more can you ask for in a comic book?

Sites of the Month

Upstart Comics
This site has alot of flash and is adding more and more substance!  It has some info on comics, a few interviews and lots of razzle dazzle!  If you have a fast modem, you can really take advantage of the site!  

The site also offers a newsletter, sent by email!  There is also a bunch of comic reviews, some fan art and more!  This is a site to keep an eye on, so go and check it out!

http://www.upstartcomics.com/

Periodic Table of Comics
This has to be one of the strangest sites that I ever encountered.  It has one of the most exhaustive and bizarre features I has ever seen.  You can go along the Periodic Table of Elements (you remember those from high school, what do you mean you were busy reading comics in class?) and click on any element and it will give a list of comics with that featured in it.  Very bizarre!  

The site is very, very nice and features all kind of stuff that will dazzle the eye.  You have morphing, changing pictures and alot more!  Do take a look as you will be astonished, amazed and dumbfounded, all in one sitting.

http://www.uky.edu/Projects/Chemcomics/index.html

This is a story that I had on the site, but when I was doing some remodeling (and after I found that I was running out of space) and I removed all the stories from my site.  But I didn't want to see it just vanish, so I thought I would run it in this newsletter, a chapter at a time.  Since I have the first seven chapters done, it will be easy for me.  Also, since it is super hero based, it fits perfectly!  So enjoy and let me know what you think!

CHAPTER ONE: THE FATHER I NEVER KNEW
Sometimes you don't realize just how little you know about a person until it is too late. That day came for Robert Vanderpool II shortly after his father died. As he watched the casket being placed into the ground, he began to think about all of the stuff he wanted to ask his father. He always assumed there would be time when he finished college. Then after he did finish it, he figured once he settled down and found a good job, he could become closer to his father. Well, fate has a way of destroying the best intentions. One car accident later and Robert begins to realize all the missed opportunities. What he doesn't know is that there is even more about his father that he is going to find out about real soon. As the funeral ends, he is consoled by his aunts as they try their best to comfort him. As he leaves, he looks back and notices a stranger dropping flowers into the grave. The older black gentleman pauses for a moment and then quietly walks away. For a moment, Robert wonders who the man is. While his father wasn't prejudice, he never knew of any black friends. Guess that is just one more thing Robert didn't know about his father.

A few days later, Robert gets a strange call at his father's house. He has moved in since the death. Part of it is because it was willed to him along with all of his father's possessions. The other part is the sense of comfort he feels by being closer to his father, at least in spirit. As Robert answers the call, he is apprehensive. Since his father's demise, he has gotten a deluge of calls from deadbeat relatives and charities. His father was quite wealthy and everyone wants a piece of the estate. "Hello" he politely says, expecting to hear some sales pitch. "Robert, I am a friend of your father's" the voice says. "I don't care what charity you represent or what you want, you aren't getting it, so save us both some time and leave me alone" he yells instinctively into the phone. There is a short pause and then the voice continues "I am sorry to bother you, but I don't want anything. I actually have something for you that your father has left in my care." he quietly responds. "Is this some kind of scam?" Robert asks in a very skeptical voice. Once again there is a pause and then the now familiar voice quietly, almost in a whisper answers "The best way is for me to show you. If you could meet me, I could explain everything to you. Please, I am just trying to fulfill a promise to your father". Realizing that he probably will never get rid of this guy, he agrees to meet him at the War Memorial Statue in the public park. This way they are in a public place, so nothing should happen. Not that Robert is worried as his father saw to it that he was trained in boxing, and wrestling from a very young age. Plus, when you stand six foot three inches and weigh in a very healthy two hundred and twenty pounds, you don't fear too much.

Robert arrives the next day to the War Memorial. He gets there a few minutes early, in hope to get this nonsense finished as soon as possible. As he stands there waiting, a voice calls to him "Robert, my how you have grown". As Robert turns around, he sees a familiar face. It is the man from the grave, the one he had never seen before. The man extends his hand and Robert reluctantly shakes its. "So what's this thing you wanted to show me?" The man smiles and replies "Just as impatient as your father." Before Robert can comment, the man adds "Just come with me and we will go there. A strong young man like yourself has nothing to fear from an old man like me, do ya?" Robert just looks at him with bewilderment. He cannot figure out the guy's angle. What is it he wants? His curiosity is getting the better of him and he nods his head in agreement. They then walk over to Robert's car and get in and drive off.

After a half hour drive into a rougher part of the city, they pull over to an abandoned school. As Robert parks his BMW, he thanks heaven for that alarm system he almost passed on. As they exit the vehicle, Robert looks at the boarded up school and starts to guess that the guy will hit him up for a loan to reopen the school. He knew it was some kind of scam. He stops and contemplates getting back into the car and driving off, but the old man goes over and unlocks the doors to the school and motions for him to follow. Like a cat, Robert's curiosity gets the better of him and the thoughts of caution are thrown to the wind. He heads into the dark, deserted school with extreme caution. He sticks his hand in his coat and grips the can of mace he brought as a precaution. He begins to curse his hatred of guns, knowing now the security one could have brought him. As his eyes slowly adjust to the lack of light, he sees a light turn on down the hall. The bright glow from a doorway begins to fill the hall and works as a beacon for him to follow in the darkness. He slowly moves so not to trip over anything that may be hidden in his path. As he enters the room, he realizes it is a janitor's closet. The man pulls up what appears to be a light switch and underneath is a panel of buttons. He quickly punches in a code and the far wall slowly opens up. Where once was a wall, now is a descending stairway. He turns on a light and walks down to the bottom, where he turns on a bunch of lights. As Robert descends down the stairs, the door behind him closes. This prompts him to pull out the can of mace and be prepared to use it. As he reaches the bottom of the stairs, he is greeted by something he would never have guessed in a million years.

Instead of some thugs ready to jump him or some sales pitch on the importance of this school, he sees a room full of computers, monitors and other stuff. It looks more like a war room at the Pentagon or something out of a James Bond movie. "What is all this stuff and how is it connected to my father?" he says in amazement. "This Robert is your father's legacy, a legacy he wanted you to continue." the man proudly says. "Legacy? I don't understand? Was my father some kind of spy or something?" Robert questions, trying to guess the need for so much expensive and high tech equipment. "No, nothing like that. Your father was a hero of sorts. He tried to make life a little better by righting the wrongs of society. I wish your father was here, he was so much better at explaining this" As Robert stands frozen in amazement, the man moves over to a large metal locker. He pulls a remote control like item out of his pocket and punches a few buttons and the doors slowly open up. Robert walks over behind him to see what he is up to and sees something that is right out of a comic book. Inside, encased in glass is a body suit that looks like some kind of science fiction armor. It looks part space suit, part weapon and totally illegal. What the heck is this and what does it have to do with him rushes through is confused mind. While there are some superheroes in the world, the are few and until now far away. Robert has read about them in the newspaper, but always dismissed them as freaks who just crave the attention the press lavishes them with. There really is no world wide threats that require the attention of superheroes. But here Robert was staring at a super suit of armor and totally confused to why. "What is this and what does it have to do with me or my father?" he asks hoping the answer has something to do with Halloween. "This Robert is what your father wanted to show you himself before his death. It is special armor he wanted you to wear as you follow his footsteps" he responds with some pride in his voice. "Follow in his footsteps? I don't follow you?" Robert says in a puzzled voice. The man smiles and answers "Your father was part of the Silent Jury and wanted you to revive the legacy." "The Silent Jury? You mean those law breaking vigilantes whose total disregard for the law has made a mockery of the legal system?" Robert yells as the realization of the situation hit him with the force of a ton of bricks. "Those vigilantes as you call them have done alot of good for the city of North Harbor." the man yells back. Seeing a no win situation, Robert begins to walk off. But before he leaves, he responds "I have no idea how or why my father funded this, but I'm telling you right here and now that it is over. I want no part of this." As Robert heads towards the stairs, the man grabs a book and runs over and hands it to Robert. "Wait, before you go, here is your father's journal. Please read it before you judge your father." he pleads with Robert who reluctantly grabs the book and heads up the stairs. As he disappears out the door that the man opens despite his wishes, the man returns to the suit of armor and begins to cry. "Rob, I'm sorry I let you down." he then sits down and lays his head in his hands and sobs.

Conclusion

Well another issue done!  The summer is finally done and with it the big demands on my time.  I hope to keep the newsletter coming out on a more frequent schedule, but I cannot make any promises.  I will do my best to keep the simple comic newsletter going as it reaches a milestone next issue, the 25th issue!  So come back and enjoy another issue of the newsletter that covers the comics everyone else doesn't!

Tom Zjaba