Good Idea/Bad Idea: DC Hits the Reboot Button

And by “reboot,” I do not mean they’re in the Net.

No, DC Comics did something drastically yesterday. They announced that all of their superheroes comics will be rebooted to #1. This is massive news as writers will be shifted around as these new adventures unfold. In fact, it seems as if DC will be looking for new writers to jump on board for their characters.

But what about Batman and Superman? They’ve all shared their fair-share of different origin stories with Superman: Earth One is a recent example. But how far will these reboots go?

I also do not mean to be a worry-body, but isn’t a few months till launch seem like too short of a time to find new writers for some of these comics? I’m definitely no Comic Book Engineer, but I do know comics take months in advanced to produce a story. How will the quality appear? What about crossovers? Retcons?

One thing I should also mention is – although this is a drastic overhaul for DC Comics – this is not “new” by any means. Remember in the early 90’s when Marvel did this to a majority of their comics? It bombed big-time. In fact, it upset people so much that they rebooted Fantastic Four TWICE just so that the numbers could sync up. Here’s the cover of Fantastic Four, Volume 3 #71. Or is it Volume 1 #500? Look at the number on the top left of the cover and decide for yourself.

Fantastic Four 500

Amazing Spider-Man was rebooted into a second volume in 1999. It ran for 58 issues before turning into #499. So for the record, Amazing Spider-Man Vol 2 #1-58, was actually Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1 #442-499.

If it didn’t work for Marvel – the bigger of the two companies – why would DC jump on to the same failboat as before?

The Joe Shuster Awards blog has an excellent discussion of some pros and cons with the change in DC. I highly recommend you check it out.

What are your thoughts on what DC is doing? Did Marvel just not do it at the right time? Will DC succeed? Will you drop books when they get renumbered?

Will you keep on Space Truckin’?

Wednesday’s Reviews: Part 2 – Fantastic Four, Avengers, and more X-Men!

As promised, here is part two of my reviews for this week.

Fantastic Four Final Issue

Fantastic Four #588
Jonathan Hickman (writer), Nick Dragotta (pencils, inks), Paul Mounts (colours), Rus Wooton (letters), Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Javier Rodriguez (cover). $3.99

The final issue of the Fantastic Four.

I don’t think any amount of words could capture what both Hickman and Dragotta put into this issue. The amount of raw emotion really draws the reader into the story with no words. Quite literally, there are no words spoken until the final page of the book.

The book goes over the immediate moment when Johnny dies, up to a month of mourning with the Fantastic Four and Marvel family.

Gut-wrenching moments with Dr. Doom arriving at the funeral, while Thing unleashes anger upon the Hulk and Thor – all are breathtaking moments which had my own eyes swelling up.

The secondary story involving Spider-Man and Franklin Richards places Spider-Man as the face of helping, reasoning, and understanding.

I really don’t think there is anything bad to say about this book. It’s a wonderful, sad, yet optimistic way to conclude the series.

Grade: 10/10

Avengers

Avengers #10
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), John Romita Jr. (pencils), Klaus Janson & Tom Palmer (inks), Dean White & Paul Mounts (colours) Cory Petit (letters), John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson & Dean White (cover). $3.99

Despite the this cover and the last one, there has really been zero action between The Hood and the Avengers. The majority of the story is the members of the Illuminati gathering the Infinity Gems from their hiding spots. Namor, Thor, and Red Hulk go into the furthest depths of the sea to gather a gem, while Professor X and a large band of Avengers encounter the Danger Room to retrieve another. Iron Man and friends go to Area 51 – a place which Tony Stark apparently owns, to get the third – but The Hood is already there. He snatches the gem and teleports to the next closest one – that being in the possession of Thor.

And that’s really the book in a nutshell. Pages are dedicated to unlocking, swimming, and finding the gems. I am aware that they are to show the importance of how secretive of places the gems were in – but it felt like watching the doors opening in Mystery Science Theater 3000 – only this was about 20 pages of it.

Admittedly, there was a fight in the Danger Room, but it really lacked oomph and trailed quickly into a who cares what happens because there didn’t seem to be any threat from the machine.

Another lull appeared in the story where for I believe, for the fourth time, we see faces bunched up on a page like this. It’s pretty bad when I’m able to start counting on these things in these issues.

A slow story from Bendis with half-decent art from Romita drags this current issue into the ground. Definitely a step-down from last-issue.

Grade: 4/10

X-Men Serve and Protect

X-Men: To Serve and Protect #4 of 4
Chris Yost, Kathryn Immonen, Jed Mackay & James Asmus (writers), Derec Donovan, Stuart Immonen, Sheldon Vella, Eric Koda, Sandu Florea & Miguel Munera (pencilers), Wade Von Grawbadger, (inker), Andres Mossa, Jesus Aburto & Jeremy Cox(colourers) Dave Sharpe (letters), Guiseppe Camuncoli & Marte Gracia (cover). $3.99

In the final issue of the X-Men: To Serve and Protect anthology, four very-different stories wrap up the series. The first involves Rockslide and Anole versus Mr. Negative and the Serpent Society. This story spanned all four issues and grabbed the attention to the reader in each book. Coincidently, it was written by Chris Yost, making the two unknown X-Men really stand out as both relevant and hilarious characters. Great cartoonish art and colours was also portrayed by Donovan and Mossa.

Kathryn and Stuart Immonen run the second story involving both Gambit and Hellcat – on a date! Hilarity ensues as Gambit’s frustration of Hellcat’s care-free attitude make for an interesting night. Kathryn’s storytelling, as far as I can see with her shorts as well as Osborn and Heralds, are beyond-witty and really excel at true storytelling in a limited space. Kathryn shines as one of Marvel’s best writers.

The third story by Mackay and Vella was probably the weakest story out of the bunch, but arguably one of the oddest stories in the whole series. Dazzler, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing act as a super heroine trio, “Dazzler and Her Radical All-Girl Roller Death Squad!” Indeed. They fight M.O.D.O.R.D. (The Mental Organism Designed Only for Roller Derby), as well as Armadillo, Klaw, a Sentinel, Whirlwind, and even Doctor Bong. The three find that Chadmaster (or the Grandmaster in disguise), is letting her fight so she can have cosmic powers. Of course, she beats up Chad because she’s a mutant pop star that roller blades. What else could she want?

The final issue by Asmus, Koda, Florea, Munera and Cox features Psylocke and Hercules defeating the Griffin. After winning, Herc offers Psylocke a chance to “union” with him. We’re then taken to a flashback where the two met before in London above a beaten Crimson Dynamo. There, Herc asks her the same question. Flashing forward to the present, Herc innocently asks, “so. . . did we?” followed by a sock in the face by Psylocke. Brilliantly executed and dramatically simple, the final story was my favourite to the entire series (and not because Psylocke is a favourite of mine).

A great mash up of stories by a group of immensely talented writers – X-Men: To Serve and Protect concludes its series very strong.

Grade: 8/10

Godspeed, and keep on Space Truckin’!

A New Year Shall Begin

I have to apologize for this blog’s neglect. With Christmas, New Years, work, and comics coming in late due to our supplier (not Diamond – the people who actually deliver the comics), I cannot supply reviews for this week. I also did have planned a “Best/Worst of Marvel in 2010” feature planned, but time is not long enough. On the other hand, it is almost the new year, so I can start absolutely fresh coming next week!

One thing to mention is that I am ABSOLUTELY excited for Marvel’s conclusion to the Fantastic Four. I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, as it has been on the news that the comic is coming to an end as the death of one of the FF will mark the end of the series.

Marvel has just released the final cover for Fantastic Four #588, so I figured I’d share for you the cover for #587 (where a member dies), and #588 – the final issue.

Fantastic Four #587 & Fantastic Four #588
Fantastic Three Fantastic Four's Final

Until then, I hope you all had a great holiday and have a Happy New Year!

Godspeed, and keep on Space Truckin’!

What’s a CGC?

Hey, folks! First I’d like to say I’ll be a few days late on my Wednesday reviews because I’ll be off to Toronto for the evening. I apologize for any inconvenience this may or may not cause.

Secondly, as promised, here is my explanation of the CGC!

I was fortunate enough to be able to deal with the CGC when I met Stan Lee in Toronto last August for Hobbystar’s FanExpo event. In a nutshell, it’s Canada’s version of the San Diego ComicCon (or SDCC).

I was one of the first people in line to have something signed by Stan Lee – that being my copy of X-Men #15 from December of 1965. It was a dream come true – to meet my childhood idol AND to have him sign something he actually created.

While in line, CGC had a sign there stating that they would be taking submissions for their signature series. Someone from CGC (actually it was someone who was licensed by the CGC, Desert Wind Comics) was present to witness the signing.

Here’s where you ask, “Wait. How can you prove the book is signed? Why does it matter?” Enter the CGC.

What is the CGC?

The Certified Guaranty Company, also known as the CGC, is a company dedicated to the grading, acting, consistency and commitment to comic books and their collectors. They are, by all means, the largest unofficial-official “authority” in comic book collecting. But more on that later.

What does the CGC do?

The CGC will grade your comic book with a scale from .5 to 10.0. To be fair, it also goes through three stages of grading. The Restoration Detection Expert, the Pre-Grader, and the Grading Finalizer. Hefty, eh? Each person does their own job and makes notes about the grading. Once all three graders have finished grading, they will “average” out the scores they give to make a final score. If there are disagreements, they will be discussed until a final answer is made.

CGC Labels
Have you ever been to a comic book store or a comic book convention and witnessed books in plastic with numbers above them? That’s totally CGC’s fault. But what do they mean?

Let’s explain the label first. Here’s a CGC graded copy of Avengers #4 I pulled from the world wide web. Click on it for a larger view or open it in a new window.

Firstly, notice the big 9.8 on the left. That is the grade which CGC gives the book for its quality. Following to the right, we see the book information. So Stan Lee wrote the story, followed by the artists, Jack Kirby and George Roussos. In the middle, we have the name of the book and the date. If there were any “problems” with the book, such as the discolouration over time, it may say “Cream to off-white pages” or something under the date.

To the right of the date we will see if there is any relevance to the story at all. For this, we see that this is the first issue appearance of “Silver Age Captain America” and “Sub-Mariner appearance.” To the far right is a holo-foil CGC label.

The barcode in the center is the CGC Certification number. You can plug that into their website to see some information/verify your book.

That’s not all to the grading process. There’s still colours!

Blue (Universal): Much like that issue of Marvel Premiere #3 above, the colour blue is the most common of the gradings. Blue means it is a standard book. Any book you would hand in, whether it be brand new or from the 1930’s, will be given a blue label.

Purple (Restored): This colour means the book has been restored in some way or another. It is noted how the quality of the restoration is done as well, where A is amateur and P is professional. Next to those, it will suggest if the restoration was slight, moderate, or extreme – telling how much restoration has been done. It will also say what was done underneath the date of the book.

Green (Qualified): A green colour means there is a defect in the book which must be noted – under the date on the label. This comes into play where a signature may not be authenticated or a price sticker has been placed over the book. A book can still reach a high grade with a sticker on it, so it still does not hurt to get it graded.

Yellow (Signature Series): It is simply a book which has been signed a notable person, has not been restored, and the signature was witnessed by an employee of the CGC. One thing to note is that if the signature is by someone who did not write the book, it will still get a yellow tag – as long as the name is authenticated by a member of CGC. Unfortunately, that means comics you may have signed by legends like Jack Kirby or Carmine Infantino will never be able to be authenticated. Recording devices, testimonials, pictures, etc, do not count. Only CGC approved staff does. The date of the signature will be noted underneath the date the book was published.

Yellow/Purple (Signature Series/Restored): I think this one is pretty self explanatory.

Does it Change the Price?

Since getting my X-Men #15 signed and graded at a 4.0, the NUMBER ONE thing I’ve been asked is, “How much is it worth now?”
The answer: It varies.

Why?

Some people like to collect comics without them “harmed,” regardless of the signature. Although, arguably, an authentically signed comic should be worth more, that does not always reflect how much someone will pay for it. For example, in my eyes, I could not put a value on that comic. If I did, it would be astronomical in price. This goes with absolutely every comic signed everywhere.

Let’s take an example here:
Going from the comic book database Comics Price Guide, Fantastic Four #5 – the first appearance of Dr. Doom – with an assumed 9.4 grade from its seller would go for $16,000. However, currently based on the site, a 9.4 CGC grade should go for $40,000. Yet, a CGC 9.4 sold for $47,977 a couple of years before in 2008. Is the price guide wrong? Would someone be ripped off buying the book for $40,000 instead of $47,000? If it was signed, does it become more expensive or less because the cover was “ruined” with a signature?

Problems with the CGC

Although they are known world-wide for their reviews, of course some may differ on opinions. Take for example a professionally restored comic with a purple label. Arguably, that would be the comic restored in its original form. However, to some, that would destroy the quality of the comic – much like a signature series would be looked at. Thus, would a purple label diminish the comic quality for the owner?

Then of course you have opinions. While the example of the Fantastic Four #5 is one, you may also consider that your comic quality is still better than what CGC grades it. I had a discussion with my local comic book shop owner, and we both agreed that it does boil down to opinion. Although they are “official,” they are still a self-created grading company with their own in-house professionals. Much like the Watchmen, who oversees the CGC? Or are we all complicit for them to make the decisions for us?

Conclusion

Given all you have read here, you may find yourself asking, “do the CGC seem qualified or unqualified to be doing what they’re doing?”

As for some other general questions to think about, ask yourself: Does a signature, even by a comic great ruin the quality of the book? Are restored comics worth less, despite more money being put into them to make them better? Do CGC gradings make comic prices unfairly inflated?

Generally speaking, the comic book collecting community (CBCC?) is fine with how CGC does their reviews and grading. Most conventions use CGC as their go-to grader. Other companies like PGX Comic Grading Services also provide a nice alternative to CGC.

If there are any other questions you have, feel free to comment below. I’d love to generate some discussion based off of this. Also check out the CGC and Comics Price Guide websites off to the right of this blog for more information.

Until then, keep on Space Truckin’!

Classic Comic Fridays: Fantastic Four #45

Like every Friday, I will review a classic comic from my personal collection. For this week, I managed to find a decent-quality copy of a comic at my local comic store. I absolutely loved the story and art, so I figured that I should review it.

Fantastic Four #45

The comic, if you haven’t read the title already, is Fantastic Four #45 from December of 1965. It’s a classic, and one which was the first appearance of the Inhumans! Yes, Black Bolt, Crystal, Lockjaw, Triton and Karnak all get their first appearance in this early issue of F4. And you better believe that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were the two on the helm for writing and penciling credits, while Joe Sinnott was on-board for inking. Needless to say, this is a classic comic done by the legendary comic artists which we all revere today, and I’m absolutely excited to have read it and to be reviewing it now.

Titled, “Among Us Hide the Inhumans,” the book opens up with the F4 minus Sue, trapped under rubble. After a battle with Dragon Man, the three were defeated, and Dragon Man kidnapped Sue. Johnny goes after her and confronts Dragon Man. Sue realizes that Dragon Man has child-like mind and tries to get Johnny to stop his attack. However, Johnny uses his Nova Flame power, and knocks out Dragon Man, saving Sue.

After defeat, Sue tames Dragon Man, working with his child-like mind and convincing him that the F4 were just scared and would not actually hurt him. Convinced, the three, Johnny, Sue and Dragon Man, return back to the Baxter Building to meet Reed and Grimm. They all decide to keep Dragon Man in the building for the time being, so they make him a room.

Johnny takes a break and calls his girlfriend, Dorrie Evans. Because of Johnny always putting her second for the Fantastic Four team, she says she already has another date that night and cannot go out. Upset, Johnny goes for a walk and finds some red-haired woman hunkered in an alley. Perturbed by her, Johnny walks in to see what she is doing when all of a sudden a huge gust of wind lifts him up in the air. By the time he drops down, she is gone.

Johnny returns to the Baxter Building to see that the rest of the team are having a tough time trying to get Dragon Man to sleep. Sue ends up sedating him, while Ben reflects hard on himself on how he is a monster, too. Poor Ben.

Air-Jet Cycle

Johnny decides to go back out and hunt for the red-haired woman – which he finds with ease (somehow). However, she tries to escape, stating he wouldn’t understand her world. Johnny then turns on his powers, prompting the woman to realize she may not be alone. Lockjaw appears behind Johnny, somewhat startling him, and takes both him, and the now revealed woman to an underground base under Manhattan.

The woman reveals herself as Crystal, and introduced Johnny to Karnak, followed by Triton and Crystal’s sister, Medusa. Johnny, scared, knowing Medusa was part of the Frightful Four (and meeting in an earlier F4 comic), and Karnak accusing Johnny of tricking Crystal, Johnny panics and escapes, creating a “4” signal in flames in the sky.

The rest of the team join up with Johnny – arriving by the F4’s Air-Jet Cycle (being its first appearance) – and they are attacked by Karnak from behind. Ready to fight, the book ends with Black Bolt literally crashing down onto the scene.

There is definitely a lot going on in this one comic, yet it does not feel rushed. Actually, by the end of the book, I was asking myself, “it’s over already?” Lee’s great dialogue and character development creates a world on its own. Tied in with Kirby’s brilliant art and Sinnott’s inks, the book to me felt ahead of its time. Of course, that was arguably put Marvel ahead of most comic companies. Rich character development mixed with brilliant art.

Black Bolt's First Appearance

The cover of the issue, also done by Kirby and Sinnott, even seems menacing looking. There’s great dread right on the cover. I love Sinnott’s ink on the F4 directly. The Thing’s body is greatly drawn with shading accenting his body. I love it.

Another great thing about this comic – which is outside of the story – is the M.M.M.S., the Merry Marvel Marching Society which Stan Lee invented for Marvel fans. Gone are the times where fans would have pages dedicated to letters, and a box-out for newer members – one even from my home province of Ontario.

Of course, Stan’s Soapbox was placed in the comic as well. In it, he made a prediction too. He said that he knew the Inhumans would take off with a life of their own. He was excited to give the readers their backstories, and was thrilled to continue writing with them.

All-in-all, the book itself was brilliant. Albeit, one moment in the dialogue, Reed snaps at Sue and says to “stop sounding like a wife,” which to me was a shock to see in comics back then. But I mean, that’s how these characters are to develop!

Grade: 10/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!