Wednesday’s Reviews May 18 – Take One

After a hectic work week, I hath returned to bring you reviews beyond your wildest imagination!

Or something like that.

I’m still on a Thor high, alright?

Avengers

Avengers #13
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Chris Bachalo (pencils, colours), Tim Townsend, Wayne Faucher, Jamie Mendoza & Al Vey (inkers), Clayton Cowles (letters), Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Javier Rodriguez (cover). $3.99

“Fear Itself” hits the Avengers with. . . nothing happening. In fact, this issue takes us back to Fear Itself #1 with the end of the book showing Stark announcing the Avengers promise to rebuild Asgard. Needless to say, the book really does not pick up much steam and simply holds one constant tone of nothing-happening-at-all throughout. When the action that takes place is Spider-Woman crossing her arms or Thor laughing, you know you’re in for a thrill-ride.

The story does show a bit of promise. We’re given little tidbits of information that something has gone wrong, or currently is. It’s not too clear. The readers are teased about the events of Fear Itself in this book with an unknown interviewing each Avenger separately. But like I’ve mentioned before, Bendis is yet again doing his panels in the most repetitive way, which I’d like to now trademark as the “Block Page.”

. . . It’ll take off. Just you wait.

As for plot, we’re given a sense that Hawkeye and Spider-Woman are going to form a relationship, and Volstagg has no chance with Ms. Marvel. We’re also given plenty of giggle moments with Rulk and Spider-Man from time to time which made up for some of the Block Pages.

But thank god for Chris Bachalo and his rag-tag group of inkers (which came with him after his X-Men run). If it wasn’t for his fun-filled artwork, I think my eyeballs would have melted from seeing another Romita-Block Page. Bachalo shakes things up with some fun in the colour department too. A great spread of the Avengers in the ruins of Asgard definitely shine as one of the highlights to this issue. However, minor issues like Thor suddenly having a beard for a panel and Beast looking like Dark Beast are a bit unnerving for me.

Avengers #13 becomes a story that really fails to launch yet fortunately has some saving grace from Bachalo and friends.

Grade: 5/10

Alpha Flight

Alpha Flight #0.1
Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente (writers), Ben Oliver & Dan Green (pencils, inks), Frank Martin (colours), Simon Bowland (letters), Phil Jimenez & Frank D’Armata (cover). $2.99

Alpha Flight is back as Marvel’s #0.1 series brings you a good-sized introduction to the team. If you haven’t read about Canada’s superheroes before, now is the best time to jump on!

What’s most interesting is that the team is split up for the majority of the story. Sasquatch, Marrina, Shaman, Vindicator and Aurora are off in the St. Lawrence River fighting Citadel, while the remaining team fight Persuasion (Purple Man’s daughter and ex-member of Beta Flight) in Montreal. Both stories eventually tie in together with a “Fear Itself” angle at the conclusion of both battles. By the end of the story, Alpha Flight is whole, while Northstar questions whether or not he should join.

Building a set-up for the Fear Itself series tie-in, only little bits of the team are fleshed throughout the book. Surprisingly, given Northstar is the only member who didn’t die and has been seen in X-Men; he was given a lot of development with his relationship while the rest of Alpha Flight seems neglected. Also surprising is that there is no mention that Aurora is his sister. In fact, Sasquatch and Marrina hardly gets any time in the story at all.

The art leaves me skeptical. Although the brilliant colours really bring out the life of the story, the actual characters seem stiff. A lot of scenes seem like character poses, while particular face close-ups seem like photo references or possible traces. I could be wrong, but its definitely the vibe I feel from the art.

Despite the peculiar set-up for our Canadian heroes, Alpha Flight does what its supposed to do with a 0.1 issue of Marvel. Let us just hope the eight-issue series gives the team some justice.

Grade: 6/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Classic Comic Fridays: X-Men – God Loves, Man Kills

The first Friday of each month, I will review a classic comic from my own personal collection.

God Loves Man Kills

I’ve been doing something a bit different with these past few CCF reviews. To keep that going, and to celebrate its release on trade paperback earlier last month, comes Marvel Graphic Novel #5: X-Men – God Loves, Man Kills. I really wanted to speak about it because of it’s overall message.

The story is a turning point in the world of the X-Men. It’s probably one of the most in-your-face stories without trying to hide behind some super villain like Magneto, or huge robots like the Sentinels. This is a story which is very plausible. The results are anything less than astounding.

X-Men God Loves Man Kills

Marvel Graphic Novel #5: X-Men – God Loves, Man Kills (December, 1982)
Chris Claremont (writer), Brent Anderson (pencils, inks, cover), Steve Oliff (colours), Tom Orzechowski (letterer). $5.95

I’m sure you’ve heard of William Stryker. You remember the main villain in the movie X2: X-Men United – the one guilty for giving Wolverine his adamantium skeleton? The one guilty for the Weapon X project? Well this is where Stryker first appeared. But he was nothing of what he was in the movie.

Here, in God Loves, Man Kills (GLMK), William Stryker is a reverend, and we see early in the story that he hates mutants and wishes them all to be cleansed from the earth. In fact, he has a team of religious fanatics called the Purifiers (which you may of heard in X-stories already) who do Stryker’s mutant assassination for him. All of this is done in the name of god. Stryker believes mutants are indeed the “homo superior”, but are not “homo sapien.” Thus, they are products of the devil and must be destroyed.

Stryker’s seems nothing like how he’s portrayed in the second X-Men movie, is he? Neither is the story.

This story is blunt with its readers by contrasting humans and mutants with racial subjection. Within the story’s first few pages, a black family is killed in cold blood – not because of colour – but because the parents bore a son who was a mutant. Then the mutant son and human daughter are executed in the first two pages, then strung up on a swing set for the rest of the world to see. A sign posted on the boy reads “Muties.”

Cut to Kitty Pryde fighting a boy at Stevie Hunters dance studio. She’s fighting because the boy’s family supports Stryker’s endeavors. The boy is unaware of Kitty’s powers, so Stevie jumps in to stop the fight and tells Kitty to back down before she uses them on the boy. Despite knowing that Kitty’s a mutant, Stevie talks to Kitty to calm her down:

God Loves Man Kills

These blatant comparisons to real-life issues are what the basis of the X-Men grew to be. Lately, there have not been many comparisons between racism and mutants, but it is stories like in GLMK which bring us a wake up call by a slap to the face.

GLMK is not a story about hate upon religion. It is definitely not a spite against god, either. It is the idea of hate reaching out and becoming ever-engrossing by shielding itself behind an ideal to be justified. GLMK successfully shows us this with its story.

Stryker becomes so powerful with his rhetoric that he gets to speak at a stadium to preach his word on behalf of god. There, he faces a final showdown with the X-Men with quite a surprise twist.

That twist, too, is a perfect example of how society operates. Without spoiling it, the end recedes what Claremont built up in the entire story. In a way, GLMK becomes a story of Good versus Evil versus Good. It implies the analogy of grass being green on the other side and shows that there is still a continuous loop to what is defined as both good and evil.

I cannot talk about the moral of the story without mention of Brent Anderson’s moody pages. As a graphic novel, these stories get a lot more attention to than regular comic books. It shows.

Immense time and effort was placed into crafting a grim story amongst a fearful backdrop of hate and despair. Anderson successfully hits every mood with every turn of the page. Even when the climactic ending comes into play, the positive feeling the reader should get with the falling action is narrowed by Anderson’s art. As both the drawer and inker, Anderson has no boundaries to how he makes wonderful sketches seem downright terrifying.

Steve Oliff’s colours hit the mark. Rarely are pages splashed with colours to give any sort of hope to the mutants. Even on a sunny day, Oliff works the panels to still suggest danger afoot. Even with the image above between Stevie and Kitty, Oliff’s use with white, red and black tones really separate the different feels in each panel.

GLMK is a phenomenal story which I would suggest is deeply prevalent, even today. With the recent reactions and discussions from the public on the death of Osama bin Laden, it is somewhat frightening that thirty years later, GLMK could still a possible and harsh reality.

A story that never stops teaching is a story always worth reading.

Grade: 8/10

As a side note: I went to the midnight viewing of Thor. I would definitely say it was the most accurate portrayal of a Marvel character, and I was quite happy with the film. It is certainly worth seeing a few times. Tons of love and screen time was given to Sif and the Warrior’s Three – which is something I was not expecting. There’s also tons of little tidbits added into the film for Marvel fans to enjoy – so stay sharp!

Don’t forget to stay after the credits.

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Comic Book Video Games: A Brief Run Through

I’ve been playing a LOT of The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction for my Xbox 360 as of late. Yes, it’s the game based off of the Edward Norton movie, however, it’s actually pretty good.

To elaborate on what the game is like, imagine you’re playing Grand Theft Auto 3, but you’re the Hulk.

Incredible Hulk: Ulimate Destruction

I’m not kidding! (And take THAT, Bi-Beast!) The Hulk game features the actual landscape of Manhattan – landmarks and all – for you to destroy. It’s a vast improvement on other superhero video games, and I’m always drawn back to it because it’s open-ended, mindless destruction, yet constant fun. It’s sort of mind-boggling how well the game is crafted despite it being based off of a movie, as usually movie-based games are garbage. It’s far-superior to Eric Bana’s movie-based game, simply called Hulk, and of course, it is much more dimensional than the original Sega Genesis game. And no, not just more “third-dimensional.”

But I do believe that Batman: Arkham Asylum is the best superhero video game ever created. (Awaits the Billy Madison references). It captures everything which is Batman in a brilliant and exciting game. There’s no doubt about it, Arkham Asylum nails the board on the head when it comes to make a great game. Although it does not have much replayability, it triumphs in excellent gamepaly. It did such a great job in fact, that Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was trying to imitate the scope of the game.

Now that I have myself thinking. . .

Spider-Man Game Boy

Let’s go back to when these games really started to rise. I obviously cannot talk about EVERY game, but I’ll try to hit the main ones on the head. Most importantly, ones I’ve played.

The earliest superhero game I can recall playing was The Amazing Spider-Man on my Gameboy, back in the 90’s. Look at those sweet graphics. You can almost tell it’s Spider-Man from them! All I can remember was always being out of web-fluid. Man, being Spider-Man IS hard. With no power came tons of responsibility to beat this game.

Silver Surfer Nintendo

But the game was not as hard as the Silver Surfer. This game would have me screaming at the television, while throwing my Nintendo controller away, freezing my console and possibly wrecking a vase or three. I’m sure you’ve all heard by now the notoriously difficult struggle this game was to everybody who played it. If you made it past the first stage on any level, you’ve gone further than I have. I mean, look at Mephisto’s face there. He’s scary as heck, and he wants me to get through his level without touching anything? You ask the impossible, sir.

X-Men Spider-Man Arcade's Revenge

Does anyone else remember The Tick? He was fun! He was a breath of fresh air after the mind-numbing game play of Silver Surfer. In fact, him and Spider-Man/X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge were a blast! A large variety of characters to chose from: Spider-Man, Cyclops, Storm, Gambit, and Wolverine – each with their own levels. Oddly, Cyclops had his X-Factor costume in-game, but I’d just be looking like a real nerd if I’m reaching for continuity in a Nintendo game. I still remember seeing the commercials for this game back on my VHS copy of the X-Men pilot episode “Pryde of the X-Men.”

That’s right. I own it – Australian Wolverine and all.

Incredible Hulk Sega Genesis

Lucky for me, after X-Men another great game came out: The Incredible Hulk for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. I remember paying $50 back in the day for this game at a local independent video game retailer. Yeah! Those existed too! You started off as Bruce Banner and had to get beaten up to turn into the Hulk. And man, it was a blast! Villains like Rhino, Abomination and Tyrannus were such thrills to fight – but challenges too. I always had a hard time beating Tyrannus – who was the second-last boss, next to the Leader.

Spider-Man Maximum Carnage

Since Marvel was kicking so much butt in the video game business, why not release something else crazy? Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage was probably one of the most exciting video games to be released in that day. With a large roster of villains, an over-abundance of cameos, plus playing as Venom – this game was a child’s dream! Cloak and Dagger! Hooray! Too bad that the game was SO FRIGGEN’ HARD! I was always to happy to play it, but once you get into that second stage, climbing the building, it was all over. I hate you, Shriek!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

Fortunately at this time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade fell into my lap. Suddenly everything became brighter. I don’t think I need to say much about this game. It was, and still is the best TMNT game in existence. It surpassed the first game immensely, while made us laugh at how repetitive the third game was. This is what defined side-scrollers to me at such a young age. This game was, and still is, relentless fun. Unfortunately, the fun of side-scrollers were about to fall into the gutters again, when I played X-Men for the Sega Genesis. I just couldn’t win, could I? Faulty game play, plus ridiculously difficult levels made for a frustrating series of questions like, “Why did they make this game?” or “Why did we rent this again?” Ah, as kids, we didn’t know what we were doing.

X-Men 2 Clone Wars

Well X-Men learned from its mistake, as X-Men 2: The Clone Wars came out with not only a great game, but had such an effective first-level song that I still play on it my bass guitar every-so-often. I can still remember teleporting with Nightcrawler becoming tremendously more fluid than that of its parent game while the controls also smartened up. Beast was fun to play as, while Psylocke also made a great player. No one ever plays as Psylocke. I did! She rules. Result!

Batman and Robin Sega Genesis

Speaking of results, The Adventures of Batman & Robin was another great game. Based from the animated series, this DC game triumphed where Batman Returns failed, and Batman Forever was going to fail. Not to mention, it just looked really sharp and clean in comparison to Batman Returns.

With the release of the PlayStation, the world was lucky to retrieve my favourite Spider-Man game to-date, aptly called, Spider-Man. With the original voice actors from the ’90s cartoon series for Spider-Man, Doc Ock, and Black Cat, this game was a sure-fire hit for me. Bonus marks were awarded to this game with incredible alternate costume selections, including Captain Universe, plus a great alternative gameplay: What If? mode. I can remember countless hours of my life going into this game as it was probably one of my favourite releases for the PSX. The game was released on the Nintendo 64, however the What If? mode was removed for it. Lamesauce. The sequel wasn’t too bad either. Y’know, Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro?

Spider-Man PlayStation

Speaking of lame, remember Superman for Nintendo 64? It was probably one of the worst games I’ve ever played. Nothing says “Superman” like literally flying through hoops for points. Aquaman GameCube Not to mention, the graphics were beyond sub-par for a game of its caliber. There was really no excuse for this mess. And to continue this mess from DC, none were as atrocious as Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis for the Nintendo Gamecube. What’s that? You didn’t hear of it? Neither did the rest of the world. Lucky them.

Much like the first X-Men game which improved with a sequel was the X-Men Legends series with X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse. The first game was a bit of a flop with graphical issues and camera angles ultimately ruining the gameplay, but the sequel was mind-blowing fun. X-Men Legends 2: Rise of ApocalypseOnline multiplayer, mixed with a great roster of characters, Marvel and Activision went all-out with an incredible game and tons of nerdy tidbits for X-Men fans from all over.

Shortly after Legends 2 release, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction cames out, and still, I’m having a blast rampaging throughout Manhattan. Whatta rush!

But no! Another Marvel mutiplayer-based game comes out, and pummels away with another great sequel: Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2. The first game featured a unique storyline about Dr. Doom taking over the world, and also features over 140 Marvel characters throughout the entire game. A well-paced, well-rendered game with monumental cut scenes left my jaw dropped to the floor. Its sequel featured stories from Marvel’s Secret War and Civil War storylines and added in quite a hefty amount of Marvel’s B-listers, showcasing how vast the Marvel Universe is. Although the story was not nearly as exciting as the first game, action and excitement lurked every corner. Not to mention the game made me feel terrible after I beat up Patriot for the first time. The second time – not so much.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

Following Marvel’s run of great games, DC fought back hard and rocked the boat with Lego Batman: The Videogame. If anyone has played any of the Lego-based games thus far, you know how much fun they are. Simply put, the Lego games bring out the child in all of us, while Lego Batman brought out the fanboy. Mixed characters from all over the Batman universe appeared and made for excellent gameplay.

Batman Arkham Asylum

And with DC’s Batman, up next could only be the greatest superhero game in existence: Batman: Arkham Asylum. ‘Nuff said.

With Batman: Arkham City coming out shortly, plus Marvel’s new games, Thor, X-Men Destiny and Spider-Man: Edge of Time coming out, we’ll be riddled with plenty more superhero games and more memories to be made. P.S. Edge of Time is written by X-Factor’s Peter David. I’m really excited for that!

And don’t worry that I hadn’t mentioned EVERY single game out there. I’m purposely forgetting games like X-Men: Mutant Academy, Marvel: Rise of the Imperfects, Marvel vs. Capcom series (as it’s not 100% comic hero), Marvel vs. Street Fighter, Spider-Man: The Movie, Fantastic Four, X-Men Origins, X-Men: Arcade (“Welcome to die!”), Astro Boy, Iron Man: The Movie, plus various X-Men and Spider-Man Game Gear games, etc., solely because they’re forgettable.

Since I can, I suppose my top-five favourite superhero games are as followed:

1. Batman: Arkham Asylum
2. Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
3. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
4. Spider-Man (PSX)
5. X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse

What are yours? Did I miss anything really crucial that I should have covered? Am I entirely wrong with some of my discussions? Do I just really suck at The Silver Surfer? Fire some messages below!

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’.

Oh. And The Fantastic Four. PC. 1985. Don’t you forget it.

Fantastic Four PC

Comic Animation and Boobs: Taking Women Back 50 Years

Women in Comics

As a kid in the ’90s, there was one thing on my mind – action! I loved watching the ’90s Batman, X-Men, and Spider-Man cartoons. I gathered myself around the television daily to witness the sheer brilliance these cartoons possessed.

On this site, you may have read my views on how Body Images are seen in comics, or how poorly Women are Portrayed in comics. It wasn’t until I sat down and watched DC/Warner Bros. newest animated film, Superman/Batman Apocalypse, did my mind erupt with frustration.

I am well-aware the movie is based off of a comic book run by Jeph Loeb & Michael Turner. I am also quite aware that the animation in the film is very similar to that in the comic. What I am shocked over is how blatantly awful the film was for younger viewers. From the camera angles chosen, to how much physics breasts were given, it was completely over-the-top.

Taking the Cake

Now to be fair, looking back at the X-Men cartoon in the ’90s, Rogue wasn’t really a conservative girl, nor was Wolverine a regular looking guy – he was shirtless in plenty of episodes. However subtle those instances may have been in the X-Men cartoon, Superman/Batman Apocalypse take the cake.

I will also mention that Superman/Batman Apocalypse is rated PG-13. However, if you have a kid in a video store and you see a Superman cartoon movie for them to watch, the last thing you check for is the rating. It’s a cartoon movie based on a beloved world icon – what could go wrong?

Yet, if this is only for teenagers to watch, what kind of message is it giving them?

Supergirl Middrift
The first thing I’d do when I crash land on a different planet is show as much skin as possible.

The basis of the movie is that Supergirl, or Kara, came to Earth and is trying to fit in with society and find herself a home. For the uninitiated, Supergirl is Superman’s cousin. Without really going into the story, there’s a montage where Supergirl takes women back to the Stone Age.

“What is like to be a girl in the city?” Kara asks Superman.

Cue montage of Supergirl getting her nails done, shopping for clothes, and being the stereotypical “rich girl” while good ‘ol handsome-boy Clark Kent pays the bills. Ah, being a girl is sweet, isn’t it? That is, as long as you have a strong, rich man to pay for everything.

Supergirl Changing
“Don’t you like my new bathing suit, cousin?”

Ah, Kara Zor-El. Welcome to Earth. Learn our archaic ways.

Is Supergirl Dressed
Isn’t she like, 14?

For those familiar with the story, you will also know that Kara gets kidnapped by Darkseid to become the leader of his army. Superman and Batman get Wonder Woman and Big Barda to help out with the rescue. Of course, when they ask Barda to help, she just took a shower. How inconvenient for the viewers.

Bare Barda
“Thanks for stopping by. Don’t mind me. I won’t get changed.”

And once the team travels to Apocalypse to save Kara, Wonder Woman and Barda get caught up fighting the Furies. Thanks to some particular camera angles, we can see why the Furies want to fight them. They’re jealous of Diana’s “attributes.”

Diana Double Ds
Tons of thought goes into these camera angles.

Luckily, Superman knows where Darkseid has hid Kara, so he’s goes in to save the day – only to find out that Kara is now mind controlled by Darkseid. AND! She’s changed wardrobes too, ’cause, y’know. Less clothing makes you more evil.

A New Supergirl Costume
Is this legal to watch?

So you can probably see some of my conundrums with this film. Of course, there’s tons more to show. The movie is riddled hyper-sexualized women.

I am aware that this isn’t the first movie or comic book to do so. If you looked at my previous entries I linked at the beginning of this blog, you’ll notice that I’m ragging on Marvel very hard for what they’ve done before.

And while, sure, the movie art matches how the comic was drawn, by no means did it need to be done this way. By no means do the particular camera angles chosen NEED to be there.

Taking Women Back 50 Years

I’ve shown you the physical proof of what the movie provided. What stuck to me is the lasting effect it would leave upon others.

Arguably, comics are directed towards young boys. Obviously, showing women the way they are in this movie would definitely drive those sales. What is wrong is the movie takes one limp forward and multiple steps backwards.

For sure, Kara learns a lesson in this film about finding herself. But at what cost?

If I were a young boy watching this movie, I’d be excited for the action, and even more blown away by how attractive all of the women are. Kara is just being a young girl, barely old enough to be allowed to watch the movie she is starring in. Men on the other hand are the strong and mighty. Although women can fight, they’re not nearly as cool as Superman or Batman. All they like to do is shop or get kidnapped and wait for men to rescue them. Your typical hero story.

Wonder Woman may be considered an exception as she “owns” an Amazon Army. However, the army loses a battle and Superman is left to save the day.

Now if I were a young girl watching this movie, I would notice that shopping is a lot of fun. I would love to look as good as Kara in those clothes and it would be even better if I didn’t have to pay! Wonder Woman has her own place, but cannot defend it unless Superman is there. Then the Furies fight Barda and Wonder Woman, I would be bombarded by breasts, hips and lack of clothing. By the end of the film, I would be happy that Supergirl found her way, but still be left to feel empty. There would be no reason for me to re-watch that movie and the images shown would be imprinted in my psyche forever.

In fact, the movie insults the strength of the already-strong female characters as men save the day.

Wait. What did she just say?

I know that comics can never really change. They will mostly be marketed towards boys, and that’s just how it is. But what can change is a mindset on how women should be portrayed.

Comic panels do not need to have massive breasts on every female character, nor does a movie need to shift camera angles to show particular features to its characters.

If you’re looking to impress boys, you do not have to do it by taking women back years of progress. But by doing so, you’re preventing a female audience from even caring, while still being damaging in the process.

It’s not a double-edged sword unless you make it to be one.

Keep on Space Truckin’.

Classic Comic Special: Comics, Covers, and Barcodes!

I usually use my Classic Comics feature to review a comic book. However, I’m going to do something different and talk comic book barcodes. What are comic book barcodes for? Why do some have pictures of Spider-Man’s head instead of the barcode? How and why did they affect comic book covers of Marvel and DC from the late 70s and early 80s? Let’s delve in.

Barcode Strikeouts

What are those? Let’s take a look!

For comics coming out at a time when technology didn’t move so fast, there had to be assurances for companies like Marvel and DC. But more on that soon.

Here’s my copy of X-Men #126 from October of 1979. By all means, I invite you to click on the image to see it larger. Please pardon the quality of my old camera.

XMen

Let’s take a closer look at the bottom-left corner of the comic.

BarcodeStrike

I remember when I first started collecting, I had no idea why someone would put black strikes through the barcodes. Eventually, it dawned on me how the strikes only seemed to have affected a particular era of comics. In fact, the strikes they weren’t drawn on but actually printed over top of the barcode. I wanted to know what it meant (and I’m sure you do too)!

Three of the following X-Men comics I have featured strikes up until X-Men #130, from February of 1980.

XMen

Then issue #131 – a month later – it didn’t have a barcode at all!

XMen

Instead of a barcode, I see. . . a picture of Spider-Man? But I’ve seen issues of X-Men #131 with a barcode! What happened?!

Direct Edition vs. Newsstand Edition

A crossed out barcode means the comic book is a Direct Edition. So what’s that?

In a nutshell, there are two “types” of editions: Direct and Newsstand. A Direct Edition is sent to the comic book store and sold there. A Newsstand Edition is something which a newsstand would carry (seems obvious, right)? However, this was not just exclusive to newsstands, as malls, convenience stores, and drugstores could also receive Newsstand Editions.

A Direct Edition comic is crossed out due to a variety of things. One is because it tracks sales for the publisher, while another reason is to stop the store owner from returning the comics they did not sell. A crossed out barcode means the barcode could not be scanned into inventory for the publisher to accept as a return.

Obviously, that means the Newsstand Editions could be returned back to the publisher.

Arguably, Direct Edition comics are more sought-after because they would have been treated more carefully. They were less likely to have been placed in spinner racks, for example, and more likely to have been bagged and boarded. Direct Editions were also bought by the dealer at a lower price presenting another reason why dealers were unable to return them.

That being said, do you remember The Amazing Spider-Man #36? It was called the “Black Issue” as it was a tribute to the events of 9/11. I personally own a copy of that comic. Comic book dealers would have received one without a barcode on the cover at all. I bought mine at a local variety store which did have a barcode on the cover.

Believe it or not, if you have a good quality copy of that book WITH a barcode, it’s actually WORTH MORE because it is considered rare to find good-quality copies of Newsstand Edition comics. That “rule” really only applies to key issues of books, for the most part. Ultimately, it depends on the buyer.

Interestingly enough, Direct Edition dealers/comic book store owners were usually unable to scan the comics they brought in as most Direct Edition carriers did not have scanners for barcodes at the time. The technology simply wasn’t there yet or was too expensive for the comic shop owner to take on!

Due to the lack of technology from many of the comic dealers, Marvel replaced the Direct Edition barcodes with things like the Spider-Man head, or DC with Batman. On top of that, it was a way to promote extra little tidbits. Who doesn’t remember “50 Years of Captain America”, or “Spider-Man’s 35th Anniversary”? It was printed on every comic where the barcode should be. It made more sense to put those on Direct Edition books anyway as the readers would be more familiar with what’s happening in their comic book universe rather than a random person purchasing a book at a corner store.

Nowadays, since everyone is mostly on par with technology, barcodes have returned and comics just state whether or not they are Direct Editions. For example, here is a picture of Uncanny X-Force #1 from October of 2010. What does it say right next to the barcode?

Until next time folks, keep on Space Truckin’! If you’d like, you can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram!



UPDATE May 18th, 2020 – What if there’s LITERALLY NOTHING to go on?

This barcode blog has certainly been one of the most-viewed pages on my site. I’ve had many people message me both on here or through private messages to help find information on their books and clarify the understanding of barcodes. However, a recent inquiry piqued my interest and prompted me to update this post.

I completely forgot about the comic books that do NOT have barcodes. And no, I don’t mean the Spider-Man head barcodes.

I had Benn from the UK message me. He sent me a couple of photos of his book and its lack of a barcode – and lack of a back page, of all things!

His issue was Spider-Man #3 – from Todd McFarlane’s run. This issue was “Torment Part 3” from 1990.

Looking at the cover, there’s red flags abound! There’s no barcode, no pricing, and no issue number! The information on the book’s cover are entirely stripped away. To make matters even stranger, the background colours are also different.

Benn also sent me a photo of the back of the book:

There’s no tearing or obvious removal of a back cover. The staples are intact. If you look closer, the cover actually wraps around to the back page. The book simply didn’t come with a back cover!

What gives? Benn’s book instantly reminded me of a Spider-Man giveaway series we saw here in Canada back in the early nineties.

I personally had Spider-Man’s “Chaos in Calgary” and “Hard Ball” issues. They were part of a five-issue Spider-Man promo/giveaway from Marvel which was targeted to Canadians to have them read more Spidey books. Unlike Benn’s book, these books had both their prices and issue number on them. However, there was no barcode at all, let alone a spot for one on the cover.

Based on my prior experience on a few books without barcodes, and because Benn’s book featured a colour variant, I have to assume it was a reprint of some sort. Due to a lack of barcode, it must not have been scanned into stores – similar to the Direct Edition Spidey-head barcodes. I also could not find any information in the Overstreet Guide or Comics Price Guide, as if Benn’s book wasn’t actual “comic books” per se. Without a barcode, if Benn’s book was free or offered as a promotion like “Chaos in Calgary,” it would not get scanned into inventory at all – tracking wasn’t important because the book would have had no inherent value at the time.

What Benn’s book reminds me of are the Comic Packs of the 90s. I remember one in particular which clearly had no barcode on the cover:

The Shadows of the Empire comic from Dark Horse all but confirms to me Benn’s book would have been part of a toy pack. Like Benn’s book, there’s no issue number, barcode, or price. Unlike Benn’s book however, the Shadows of the Empire book wasn’t necessarily a reprint because it hadn’t been published before. Benn’s book is a reprint for sure, but considering it to be from a toy pack, it may explain the lack of a back cover as the back would have been more expensive to print. The book would not have had a barcode because the barcode was on the packaging of the toy, not the book. It may also explain why I could not find any information of the “book” in either the Overstreet Guide or Comics Price Guide – because this may – and I’m using this term very loosely here – be labelled as a “toy” not a comic.

Personally, I’m not sure what it could be labelled as. Due to COVID-19, I certainly cannot go to any comic book or toy conventions to ask the dealers there.

Benn’s book leaves a lot of unanswered questions with it: was the book actually part of a toy or just a giveaway? Benn’s from the UK and certainly distribution and rules for it would have been different than in the Americas – does that play a factor to why there’s no numbering on it? Would you classify the book as a “toy?” If so, would “Chaos in Calgary” get a pass? Does packaging define the product? I’d argue Benn’s book is a comic book. Looking into the Overstreet guide, it doesn’t recognize Dark Horse’s Shadows of the Empire toy pack books. However, the Comics Price Guide does.

Unfortunately I am unable to offer Benn a true answer to his book. It certainly is a unique piece though! If you know of any action figures that may have sold with Benn’s Torment #3, please let me know!

Happy collecting, everyone!

Wednesday’s Reviews: Wolverine, Jubilee and Legacy

A new week with new reviews. There were only a couple of comics out this week, so there isn’t much to review. However, next week, I’ll have my hands tied. With over 15 comics on my pull-list coming out, including the death of a Fantastic Four member, I can guarantee next week will be the most exciting for reviews thus far.

For this week, we got the premiere issue of Wolverine and Jubilee, followed by the on-going X-Men Legacy – the issue before the Age of X.

Wolverine and Jubilee

Wolverine and Jubilee #1
Kathy Immonen (writer), Phil Noto (penciler, inker, colours), Clayton Cowles (letters), Olivier Coipel and Morry Hollowell (cover). $2.99

Falling out of the third series of X-Men comics, Jubilee is now a vampire. With vampirism comes fighting with the thirst, plus multiple anger issues she has to deal with. Due to the lack of a cure, the science team found a temporary fix by inducing her with Wolverine’s blood, thus giving her a small healing factor and blood fix. The book deals with Jubilee integrating herself back into Utopia while other mutants try to help her out. After snapping on a few, she heads downtown and is met by a mysterious woman. By the end of the book, Wolverine and Rockslide find Jubilee in a storage crate littered with bodies.

From front to back, the only thing I could feel was sorry for Jubilee. She lost her parents, then her powers after M-Day, and now has lost her humanity. Quite literally, this is a story of tragedy. Kathy Immonen definitely portrays all the emotions Jubilee feels as she mingles with different mutants on Utopia. Then of course, with Wolverine being Jubilee’s father figure, we’re left to see him try and find ways to make Jubilee feel better, while also trying to defend her against prejudice. Little humour from Wolverine too, such as calling Santo “Sanchez” purposely is subtle enough to be placed in such a serious story and is very welcoming.

Last week I credited Phil Noto for his excellent cover on Widow Maker #3. Now he has the entire book to himself – doing everything, from inks to colours. His dynamics in this book really excel as sceneries change greatly from underground cells, to a sunset on Utopia, to a night club in downtown San Fan. Quite literally Noto does it all – while still making Jubilee look like an Asian-American. Too often is that forgotten when drawing her. Meanwhile, the cover by Coipel and Hollowell absolutely stuns me. The cover was also talked about in great detail at 1979 Semi-Finalist if you want to see the cover discussed in a bit more detail.

Overall, the story is strongly well-paced and it seems to me like Wolverine really has his hands full already. I really hope the best for Jubilee.

Grade: 8/10

X-Men Legacy

X-Men Legacy #244
Mike Carey (writer), Harvey Tolibao (penciler), Sandu Florea (inker), Brian Reber (colours), Cory Petit (letters), Joy Ang (cover). $2.99

On Utopia, Blindfold is having bizarre premonitions again. The last time she had ones this bad was before the Second Coming event and led to the ghost of Proteus attacking the X-Men on Muir Island. Fortunately for Blindfold, this time she’s on Utopia with friends. However, Blindfold is not the one narrating the story, and it seems to be someone watching all of the X-Men’s events.

Rogue as the now-undeclared-psychologist on Utopia, talks to Ruth to figure out what it all means. Unsure, Rogue goes to Cyclops, Emma Frost, and Madison Jeffries for help. While Rogue asks questions, Blindfold looks for answers. Eventually, she wanders off and is attacked by a creature left from Emplate’s dimension (back in X-Men Legacy #228). Rogue fights it off and saves Blindfold. However, the narrator of the story seems to fly over Utopia in some massive ship, glared out by the sun. So begins the Age of X.

I’ve always enjoyed Carey’s work. He’s been doing X-Men Legacy for quite some time now – which is before Messiah CompleX (late-2006), so he’s really sure on a ton of characters. Rogue has been the main focus for him for the past twenty-or-so issues, and he’s still doing an excellent job with her. She’s still refreshing to read about and speaks with everyone on Utopia. But given how the last-issue ended, I’m surprised this was not more about Hellion. With Blindfold’s unanswered questions, I’m left confused on what Age of X really is, thus leaving me with confusion. I am unsure of that’s a good thing.

Paul Davidson has been replaced with Harvey Tolibao for pencils and the quality level is noticeably different. Although Davidson is not a bad artist, Tolibao’s details and many full-body shots definitely ups the action in the story. However, Rogue’s breasts are again the focal point for many panels. I do not know why she would even wear a jacket like she does. To top it all off, is Rogue wearing grease on her breasts? I mean, there’s literally shiny reflections off of those things. It’s absolutely bizarre.

Bright colours by Reber are definitely welcomed. I do not even recall when I’ve seen so many bright colours on a page. Rogues green is really green. The demon in Gambit is really menacingly grey. Emma Frosts lips are. . . black? Okay, so there’s a few things which seem off, but mostly, the colors are jaw-dropping. Page 5 and 6 are really great from an inker’s perspective with everything properly balanced.

It wouldn’t have been a bad kick-off for the Age of X if I knew what was going on. Oh, and breasts don’t glitter.

Grade: 5/10

Next week! Keep on Space Truckin’! No wait.

Seriously. What the hell is going on here? Where did she get that grease from?

Rogue One

Rogue Two

Oh, and pardon my camera.