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Free Comic Book Day 2022

I don’t even remember when Free Comic Book Day started…though I’m thinking offhand it was 2002, making this year’s ‘event’ the 20-year-anniversary, and the 21st FCBD. Buuut I could be off by a year or two; though I vaguely recall my senior year of college (spring 2003) being at least the SECOND FCBD, so…yeah. I could google it I’m sure, but this is an off-the-cuff rambling/stream-of-consciousness post.

As I’m typing this, I’m more or less planning to let this BE my "post for the week," as I don’t have any great expectations of getting the next Eclipso: The Darkness Within issue read AND written up in time; so this first "haul" post since losing Dad will take its place, and I’ll get back to "real" content next week, hopefully!

On to Free Comic Book Day 2022!

Met up with an old friend after too many years–made for some good catching up, shared time, and of course–comics!

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Plenty of other folks have posted stuff on the branded "FCBD" comics, so I’ll skip those.

Took advantage of a couple sales to knock out MOST OF the rest of Uncanny X-Men that I’ve been working on for yeeeeeears. Thanks to this, I’m now–as of this typing and according to my records–only missing #532 from having #s 139-544!

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Happened across these two mini-comics and couldn’t pass them up. I’m sure I had them as a kid, and MIGHT still have them SOMEWHERE (if so, likely in a box of ephemera I haven’t really dipped into since my last move in 2016) but if my originals are indeed lost to time, I knew darned well I’d kick myself for passing them up!

As best I can tell/recall, these would have been pack-ins with the VHS tapes from Pizza Hut in 1993 (1 had the 2-part Night of the Sentinels and 2 had Enter: Magneto and Deadly Reunions–the first four episodes of the X-Men animated series.

On the whole, definitely more than I’d planned to spend for the weekend, but I do feel like it’s helping whittle away at my missing-X stuff, and it’ll be nice to "complete" a phase of Uncanny X-Men. Get that last issue and I’ll pretty much be casually looking for LOW-grade/reader-copy "raw" (non-‘slabbed’) copies of the title, working backward with the Dark Phoenix Saga and then just see how far back I eventually go. It’ll complete my most recent intent of filling in to have #141-the end (544), but having snagged several of the Dark Phoenix issues already, I’m inclined to just keep going back on occasion. As I’m looking for low-grade copies and everyone seems to deal with graded and/or high-grade slabbed stuff, we’ll see what happens!

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Chris Claremont Signing

Falling amidst my lengthy hiatus from blogging, back in August for Free Comic Book Day, Cleveland comic shop Carol and John’s was able to have Chris Claremont out for a meet & signing!

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Plenty of loads of other pieces online can fill you in on Claremont and his importance in a more formal way. But here’s my "story."

I was introduced to the X-Men in 1992. While specific dates and numbers may be slightly off–we’re talking nearly 30 years ago and plenty of life since then, after all–I remember a friend having me borrow an issue of The Uncanny X-Men from him. I don’t remember the story, I don’t remember all the characters…but I do remember his "quizzing" me on the characters after, and as I recall it right now, three of them were "Wolverine," "Bishop," and Storm. As this was likely earlier-’92, and Bishop wasn’t in that first October 1991 issue, this was PROBABLY Uncanny 285 or 286 or so. Move ahead a few months and there was some new cartoon debuting on Fox Kids. Along with watching the couple of episodes there (Night of the Sentinels), this same friend sat me down and we watched an older cartoon episode–Pryde of the X-Men.

…which gave me a bit of deja vu, even then. I recognized it! Turned out that I had seen that one before–some (presumably Saturday-morning) or such, it had been on and I caught it, there was never anything else, so I forgot it. But I clearly remembered that theme song proclaiming "X-Men! X-Men! …come-ing-your-way!"

ALSO in there among stuff, another friend was following the The X-Cutioner’s Song event–the polybagged-with-a-card crossover event in the various X-books. So I was aware of the titles, even though I wasn’t getting them myself. (also late-1992 saw The Death of Superman, Vengeance of Bane and Batman: Sword of Azrael, dabbling in speculation with Bloodshot #0, getting in "at the beginning" with the likes of The Batman Adventures #1, Spider-Man 2099 #s 1-3, Guy Gardner #1, early issues of Batman: Shadow of the Bat and so on. A friend was getting The Infinity War and had some other Marvels so again, I was aware of that side of things.

Probably thanks to Wizard magazine and other promotional stuff as well as friends being interested, plus the cartoon and such, 1993 saw me start getting X-Men comics myself…my first X-Men comic being Uncanny X-Men #300. I initially missed #s 301 and 302 (filling the gap in not long later) but managed to snag each issue from #303-onward. By then had also dabbled in other titles with the Fatal Attractions event (X-Factor #92, X-Force #25, then Uncanny 304 before some time later getting X-Men #25 and Wolverine #75 on the same night….that’s another story).

But by 1994, the X-Men were a "thing" for me, though it was NINETIES’ X-MEN that were my thing. Despite those issues of Uncanny, I’m pretty sure the first issue of X-Men "adjective-less" for me was #24–the Rogue/Gambit date issue. (If you know it, you definitely know the cover!). It wasn’t long after X-Cutioner’s Song, BUT it WAS a couple years removed from the Claremont era.

Fast forward a few more years, and I’d definitely learned OF Days of Future Past. I still have a kids’ chapter-book version of a "novelization" of the story…the only way I got to read the story for a time! Somewhere over the years I got that skinny 2-issue "prestige format" "collection" of Uncanny 141-142. Otherwise, I think my introduction to Claremont‘s stuff was his Sovereign Seven from DC, though I got into that for it being a #1 and a new team…I had no conscious connection of him to X-Men. Ditto later for his run on Fantastic Four in early 1999 or so.

Yet somewhere, somewhen over the years, I made the conscious connection. And came to recognize his run for what it was, and its grand import to comics, and the X-Men, and so on. And some of that probably runs up right to the last few years or so. I’m far more aware OF his work than familiar with it. I’ve yet to read the vaaaaast majority of his X-Men stuff, or really any of his New Mutants (I read the original graphic novel in college 20-ish years ago from the university’s library), or his X-Treme X-Men and such.

And while I hadn’t realized it until a couple years ago…he was in rarified air for me, on the "bucket list" of "people I’d want to have ‘met’" or such. Up there with Stan Lee (‘met’ in 2012), Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Jim Lawson, Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Dan Jurgens


So a couple years ago–I don’t remember exactly when, but I think it was December 2019–when Carol & John’s announced that they’d have Claremont out for Free Comic Book Day 2021, I knew immediately that I’d "have to" be there. I knew by then that he doesn’t make many appearances, I had the impression he was rarely in the US at all (I’m probably highly wrong, there), but to have him at a signing at a store less than an hour’s drive from me…it was an exciting no-brainer!

But then 2020 happened. So the event was pushed off. I won’t get into assumptions/thoughts.

I was glad to hear earlier this year that it was "on" again and made plans to be there.

I didn’t know details or logistics. Floated plans, made tentative plans, but ultimately ended up there by myself.

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Claremont being who he is…I had to go beyond my usual "couple token issues" to get signed. Up until the evening before the event, I wasn’t absolute on what I wanted to get signed.

While I was happy in 2012 to pay the $40 for a photo op with Stan Lee, I’d otherwise never paid more than $5 for a signature…while I may budge on it some, overall I don’t like paying for signatures when it’s stuff for ME or for friends. I get why creators charge, but that’s where I typically fly by "live and let live." If they’re charging what I don’t want to pay, then their signature and meeting them obviously isn’t "worth it" to me for that.

I believe with this signing, the first signature was free, with subsequent ones being $10. Hearing stories of other creators charging upwards of $50+ per…that sounded absolutely fair to me!

I knew I wanted to get Uncanny #142 signed. I’d hunted for–and failed to find–an original #141, so went with a Marvel Legends reprint edition I’d managed to get. Not as good as the original, nor as good as a "facsimile edition" would be, but fit my purposes. I’d acquired #142, and as part of the 2-part Days of Future Past, that was a given…same reason I wanted 141. Then there was #266…Gambit’s first appearance. And while I was at it for Gambit, I’d also snagged Avengers Annual #10, so wanted to get that signed…first appearances of both Gambit and Rogue. But plenty of other stuff. I decided Uncanny X-Men #274–the Savage Land issue with Rogue and Magneto–was a "key" to me with some fair bit of sentimental value. And while I doubt I’ll ever get to, with the possibility of someday also meeting Jim Lee, decided on 1991’s X-Men #1.

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I ended up arriving right about 8:57am or so…noted the time because of some health stuff I was dealing with and having to be sensitive to the time. I believe "the event" was to "start" about 10 or 10:30 and had known going in that getting there early was gonna be important. Even that early, there was already a significant line…but nothing compared to what soon built up behind me!

One of the workers handed me a sign–I was the back of the line, and requested I hand the sign back as others showed. I had the sign for a few seconds before getting to pass it to another, and he to someone else, and no longer a concern to me. Wound up spending the ~3 hours in line with the guys that showed up behind me–Mike and Rob–also there solo. While I wasn’t overly talkative–as an introvert, the entire thing took a lot out of me–it was enjoyable, and interesting, and quite memorable. Just being surrounded by other people whose lives were impacted by the work of one man’s writing!

We got to the head of the line right about Noon…and it was sounding like Claremont was gonna be getting whisked off for a lunch break and such, and I was suspecting that was gonna happen after the family that was juuuuust ahead of us/me. That ended up not being the case, though. I think I’m thankful for that–but caveat being that I certainly hope it was NOT to Mr. Claremont’s detriment!

In the foyer, CNJ had a huge poster/mural up based on the cover of Uncanny X-Men #141, and I was able to get one of the guys to take a couple photos of me with it.claremont_signing_friends_books

Also got to get a photo with the man himself! While not a professional/portrait type thing (as with Mr. Lee in 2012) still a "key" photo of me, for me!

Back to the issues I was getting signed: I had my 6, but also had several issues for friends! As a fellow X fan and friend, while I’d been unsure of what issue to get, I ended up getting a copy of a facsimile edition of Uncanny X-Men #266 signed for Chris (find him at chrisisoninfiniteearths.com, @acecomics on twitter, etc.!). Also had acquired an ‘extra’ Avengers Annual #10, so got that signed for Bridgett (knowing Rogue to be just about her favorite character) and another facsimile Uncanny #266 for her husband Stephen (knowing Gambit to be one of his). (you can find them at Seraphim Entertainment, Bridget at Euphoria).

I had several other friends who were unable to make it…and I feel bad not having been able to get stuff signed for them. Had I known they weren’t gonna make it, would have made those arrangements!

That said…going in, I had sticky-notes on the issues with names, intending to get the signatures "personalized" (remember, I’m not in it for reselling and such!). However, came to realize Mr. Claremont was just doing straight signatures, so I let it be…MUCH more interested in hearing anecdotes and other such than trying to be annoying about requesting personalization if he didn’t seem concerned about it. I do remember that he commented on the Uncanny 266s, something about if anyone had any extras, he’d be glad to have ’em. (Which, coming after a tease from that site that bleeds coolness) seemed to be to confirm he’s got something going on with Gambit…


And…well…that was that. 3 hours in line, 9 books signed, and a memorable experience (for me) on the whole!

I defffffinitely preferred this to a convention…while I’d have been way happier with NO LINE…that’s just not gonna happen! But for spending 3 hours in line for a couple of minutes of time with the guest of honor…this whole thing sure beat spending a similar time/line/etc. at a convention with paid admission and skipping other events while in line.

This post is a good 4 months or so LATE, so I do apologize for that, as well as being SO all-over-the-place. Much of this has been stream-of-conscious writing…I’m not going back through to edit overall, and if I second-guess myself TOO much I’ll NEVER get this posted.

So feel free to chime in in comments, here on the blog itself, or on twitter if I’ve posted a link, or on facebook with the same. I’ll gladly follow up on some half-finished thought, clarify where I’m clear as mud, etc.

Otherwise…bringing this post to a close, for now!

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Comic Con "Haul" from 4/11

Over the weekend, I wound up going to the Canton Comic Book, Toy & Nostalgia Convention in Canton, OH putt on by Harper Comics.

It was a little over an hour’s drive for me, and a $4 admission price. I’d given up on a similar event in Cleveland a few weeks ago so this one was a sort of "consolation prize" or such. Further from Cleveland so presumably less crowded, AND I didn’t leave to get there til about 2pm rather than around 10:30 (show hours were 10-4) so had NO trouble getting IN this time around.

But it seemed a lot smaller than I expected, while not exactly being tiny or anything. And it was basically exactly what I expect from a Harper show: a "dealer room." And that’s a huge part of why I go: no frills. I go for comics.

This one was a bit disappointing to me; didn’t have nearly the experience I had at the Cleveland one back in October with "finds," and for the most part merely checked off several "missing issues" from my pre-Hickman X-books.

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Found $12.50 in issues at one booth, though I believe she ended up asking $10 for the 3 issues…either way, better price than modern comics. Snagged the Marvel Legends edition/reprint of Uncanny X-Men #141 just because it’s bugged me seeing that it exists but for MUCH higher pricing online. $2.50 asking price was a virtual "given" for me! But I’m still after the actual original edition, albeit aiming for the $50ish or under range. Uncanny X-Men #143 I’d SWEAR I already had, but I’m pretty sure that’d be why I didn’t already have it before: I thought I did so passed on it and then discovered I was still missing it. For $6, even in less than pristine condition, I’m happy with it: it’s the issue. I have the actual issue in my collection. Doesn’t have to be "Near Mint" or whatever; the important factor to me is merely having the issue. Where condition and what I’m willing to spend on it intersect. ANd then $5 for Wolverine #27 that I suspect may simply be such a "key"-ish issue or otherwise hard to find and typically "expensive" solely for being a Jim Lee cover. [insert eyeroll-emoji]

Then at another booth, found $12 in issues that I believe the guy also ended up only asking $10 from me for the three. Uncanny X-Men #s 455 and 481 are simply "two issues I was missing still." This leaves me with Uncanny X-Men #s 142-459 as a solid run. I’m (now) presently missing #s 460, 464, 467, and 489 from having #142-507. My aim is to go back to #141, but may slowly go backward from there. And with Wolverine #32 paired to the aforementioned #27, I’m left with only Wolverine #s 10, 30, and 37 missing from having the original 4-issue mini-series and complete 189-ish issue first ongoing series.

So I suppose when it comes down to it…it was as a convention should be. No real hassles getting there or getting in; a number of dealers with good prices and deals to be had; found some comics that I didn’t already have and haven’t found at local shops (or for prices I’m willing to pay when I’m there and notice the issue(s)).

But it wasn’t exciting. I didn’t get an issue that I went in specifically wanting in and of itself. No "keys," as the 141 is a reprint and not the original. No spectacular, memorable, singular purchase. No "completion" of a series.

As I type this, it occurs to me that I probably should’ve looked through some of the cheapo stuff for X-Man #39, or Quicksilver 4/7/8/9, some Maverick or Ka-Zar or Generation X issues or District X #2 or such. But my heart’s just not really "in" "The Hunt" lately for stuff. I just want to trade money I have for comics I want and then kick back and read and enjoy having the things. I know my price points that I’m willing to pay with certain conditions (conditions on price and/or conditions OF the issues).

I know darned well that 4 hours into a 6 hour show of people who know comics themselves I’m obviously NOT going to "luck into" finding DC Comics Presents #26 in a $1 bin, or Incredible Hulk #181 for $5, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 for under $100 or such. So I"m at a point where I feel like screw getting a deal and just give me a fair market price that leaves both me and the seller happy.

Y’know?

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The ’90s Revisited: Uncanny X-Men #303

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uncanny_xmen_0303Going Through the Motions

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Special Guest Artist: Richard Bennett
Inks Pgs. 8, 14-18: Dan Green
Editor: Bob Harras
Cover Date: August 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

My first issue of Uncanny X-Men that I got off the shelf was #300…partly BECAUSE it was #300. Big, round number…shiny, foil sparkly cover…a group shot of a bunch of characters I recognized from the animated series…it was a great attention-grabber. (Even if right now, I wouldn’t be able to tell you 27 years later what that issue was ABOUT/what its plot was).

I then missed several issues, picking back up with #304 (Fatal Attractions) and found a newsstand copy of #303 (at least as I recall offhand).

And it was #303 that really stuck with me. I always remembered that it was an issue that actually moved me to tears…it hit hard. And it was a character death that then informed several key things going forward for a few years into 1999’s The Twelve and onward.

When I decided to re-read it as a random "grab an issue from a stack of recent quarter-bin hauls" I recalled the emotional impact…but figured since I knew what was coming, knew where things had gone, character arcs and returns…SURELY this time through would be a clinical thing for me to analyze and consider the issue in terms of reading as an almost-40-year-old versus having read at age 12 or so.

But wow, was I wrong on that front!

The issue opens on Jean Grey entering Professor X’s ready room to check on Jubilee, to see how she’s doing after what just happened. Jubilee puts on a tough front, but as she and Jean talk–and we as readers see the flashbacks–that front cracks, as we see Jubilee open up and begin to accept the enormity of what she’s just seen unfold. Namely, that despite the Professor and Moira doing everything they could…they were unable to SAVE Illyana. Meanwhile a squad of X-Men including Colossus–Illyana’s older brother–was on their way back. Jubilee had bonded a bit with the visiting Kitty Pryde, and through Kitty’s translating, found out that she–Jubilee–had actually been having a positive impact on the dying young girl. But then things ‘blew up’ as Illyana went into respiratory failure, and though they eventually were able to stabilize her physically…she was left comatose, unlikely to regain consciousness. Leaving consideration to be had of what the young girl would (have) want(ed). We get this from Jubilee’s self-deprecating point of view as she considers herself and how dumb it was to say, place Illyana’s Bamf doll in her arms, while "the adults" argued over what to do going forward.

And then she recounts Peter’s arrival after–his getting off the X-jet and asking why no one was looking after his sister and if they couldn’t be trusted to look after her, should he ever leave. Only for Xavier to break down, having to tell Peter that his sister was gone, that they did everything they could. She was alive when he left, and alive when the group had last communicated, but now, arriving home, his beloved little sister was gone (and he hadn’t gotten to say goodbye…he wasn’t there in time, he wasn’t able to save her, etc.)

Which is–there–some of my projecting. And I actually laid the comic down and pushed it away, failing to hold my own tears in check.

Because this one hit close to home. Really close to my heart. Easy to project, easy to put myself into the situation. To see from Jubilee’s side, her coping mechanism. To see the anguish in the others–in Xavier and Moira. To imagine being in Peter’s position, being told of the passing of a loved one when–even if it was expected as a chance coming up, wasn’t prepared for FOR THAT PARTICULAR MOMENT.

The writing is quite good. It carried a strong authenticity to it–from Jean going after Jubilee and just being there for her, to Jubilee and her reactions to events as they’d unfolded (in flashback) as well as her after-it-all tough front and eventually breaking down. While I don’t relish the death of a child or anyone…this left an impact on me 27 years ago and it ripped into my heart again this time. This is the sort of issue that made me a fan of the franchise. Not some big globetrotting adventure or 6-issue battle with or for Magneto, not some culmination of years of subplots and rumors of a legendary group destined to rise up and defeat a villain, nor the identity revealed of some secret traitor.

Just a (relatively) "quiet" issue involving the characters just being PEOPLE, being a family, being…"normal." Being RELATABLE.

And there was certainly some impact from the bulk of the issue being flashbacks. There’s a sense of trepidation as the issue opens, and as Jean and Jubilee begin to talk and it becomes obvious that something really important has happened. To become increasingly aware of what it was, and that it has already happened–there’s not that "will they or won’t they" wondering, and not even that "hope" of some last-second save. Just the details unfolding and dealing with the loss this family–immediate and extended–has suffered.

The art is good, but in a way, it’s almost forgettable. Not in a bad way, mind you–but in that it has no particular problems or such to distract from the story itself, and so the story is just experienced. For me, it’s also that the dialogue and the fact of what’s happened that drives the issue…the artwork is there because it’s a comic book, a visual medium. But it’s the characters’ interactions, what they have to say to each other about stuff that matters more. And there’s nothing for some big double-paged splash scenes missing dialogue. That the art "disappears" into the "story" makes it a strong positive to me.

The events of this issue come out of then-recent plot elements in the X-titles, particularly out of the crossover event The X-Cutioner’s Song. If I’m recalling correctly, Illyana’s death was the first from the Legacy Virus…before the virus had even been named. It heavily influenced immediate changes such as Colossus first defecting to Magneto for a time and then eventually spending some time overseas with Excalibur before ultimately returning to the X-Men and then dying himself to activate a cure for the Legacy virus…and later both brother and sister resurrected and so on to where-ever the X-books and all the characters are in 2020 preset-day.

The issue stands along pretty well the way it’s written. And as the cover proclaims–"If you read only ONE X-Title this month–this issue MUST be it!" If you find this issue in a bargain-bin: 25-cent, 50-cent, even $1 or so…it’s well worth the read, and without even really NEEDING much context. But having read it will lend contextual value to most anything else X-related to be read that was published from 1993-2000/2001 or so in particular…including the (in?)famous Age of Apocalypse.

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A 100-Issue Goal Extension and a Grail

Last month with a rare day off of work, I was able to dig into some quarter bins at a shop outta my usually weekly reach. And had a few good finds that led into a HUGE (for me) find. And then just over a week later, got a Grail comic that I’ve been after for years.

Let’s dive on in…

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I’m a sucker for older TMNT stuff. I need to get my list(s) re-updated to be sure of what I do and don’t still need. I’m pretty sure this Turtle Soup issue is a duplicate, but for 25 cents, not one to pass up. I also hadn’t realized how damaged the TMNT Adventures issue was…but it’s a newsstand edition of one of the first issues I ever got, off a spinner rack in Waldenbooks. A couple of Atari Force issues caught my eye…as did Invasion! #s 1-3 and the Wonder Woman tie-in.

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Then G.I.Joe/Transformers 1-4 (the complete mini-series) for only $1 was a no-brainer. Ditto the Contest of Champions mini and Thor #400.

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Though not quite in order, I realized there was a run of early Marvel Comics Presents, and rather than "cherry-pick" the #1, I snagged the "run." 8 issues…

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…and then the next 8. For less than the price of an issue of the new iteration of the title in 2019, I snagged the first 16 issues of the original.

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One of my earliest #1 issues back in the ’90s–one that was a point of "pride" to me–was Classic X-Men #1. Back when a #1 was actually a fairly big deal and really meant something. It was how I first read the introduction of Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and so on. Finding several of the earliest issues, I figured I’d grab ’em–I’m pretty sure I’d gotten another small run of the title recently, whether this duplicates or enhances that, I’m not sure offhand. And then the two-issue X-Men/Alpha Flight mini is a great find for only 50 cents!

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Continuing on, I thought it was cool to find the 4-issue X-Men and the Micronauts series. And the X-Men/New Teen Titans special! Then a small run of several of the old Annuals. #s 5-7…

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…and on up to #12.

But then I happened on one of the more significant finds (for me)…

A huge run of Uncanny X-Men itself. Beginning with #144 (only a couple issues off from the infamous Days of Future Past from #s 141-142!) and short only 6 issues from giving me 144-238! And I already knew I had #239-onward into the 400s, maybe early 500s, minus #266 (the first appearance of Gambit). So with this 90-ish issue run, I’m only a handful of issues off from being able to push all the way back to Days of Future Past–something I never really considered (Since pulling together all of my X-stuff back in 2012ish, I’ve been aiming for a complete run of Uncanny X-Men from Inferno-onward to the end of "volume one"!)

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And then, after a lotta years’ patience and being determined to find the issue at a certain price point and being completely unwilling to pay "top dollar" for it, since I just want the issue as part of this run…when I walked into the shop only a week after the huge haul, I was informed that a copy of #266 in my price range had (finally!) shown up.

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Then another week later, at an evening "pre" Free Comic Book Day event, I was able to get three of those missing 6 (albeit at a "premium" but still half-off their marked price)!

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$3.50/issue for "key" issues that I specifically wanted, that "mean" more to me for filling in this particular run was a very good price! AND also significantly (to me) cheaper per issue than "just any" brand-new issue I’d get off a new comics rack! #s 171, 198, and 200.

So now, short those other three issues–#s 158, 201, and 221–I’m pretty sure I now have #144-500ish. Which means it’s high time I pull stuff again and get my X-books sorted out again so I can be sure of what I’m still missing from that Uncanny run and decide what my next "grail" book(s) will be to hunt down that may actually be attainable. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1–at $3000+ is significantly out of my reach, though it’d be an amazing acquisition. With the earliest issues of the Mirage series, I’m content with later printings to plug the gaps.

Perhaps the original Image edition of the actual Image run of TMNT–though those are largely a moot thing with IDW publishing the series again; and using the "original" covers, even.

I do think I’ve largely decided that I’ll likely push back to Days of Future Past itself–certainly the 2nd half–as I believe THAT was even where the title "officially" went from the words "The Uncanny" being a tagline to being part of the title itself (a distinction that allowed for the 1991 and umpteen other "adjective-less" #1s of X-Men.)

Time shall definitely tell!

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The Weekly Haul: Weeks of January 16 & 23, 2019

Looks like these Weekly Haul posts are becoming more of a biweekly thing than weekly, despite best of intentions otherwise. And broken record as I feel on saying that.

Here are the previous couple of weeks’ worth of new comics…with another new week now just a couple days away!


Week of January 16, 2019

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Detective Comics is really ramping up toward the 1,000th issue! I was amazed at how quickly the first two chapters of this story read, and this one itself seemed a pretty fast read. Loving the art, but the story makes it seem like it’s going to be so much better as a singular "graphic novel" in collected form.

Superman finally–about nine months in–gives us the story of the "missing" time and we now have a mid to late teens Superboy in Jon…which really is not my cup of tea. Perhaps it’ll be undone by the end of this current arc, but I doubt it…we’ll see where it goes, though!

Then we have Supergirl and the TMNT issue of IDW‘s series of 20/20 special issues celebrating the publisher’s 20th anniversary. This TMNT 20/20 jumps forward 20 years, and proved a too-quick read with too little space to really do any justice to the story…and there’s loads of potential here!

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The DC Walmart-exclusive 100-page giants seem to have thrown the 2-every-2-weeks schedule out the window, and are landing all-4-at-once again…right about the 4 week mark since the #6s! And it turns out that #7 is the final issue for both the Justice League of America and Teen Titans iterations…they’re being replaced with Wonder Woman and Titans respectively, starting with new #1s while adding Swamp Thing and Flash to the lineup (apparently Batman and Superman get to continue with their existing numbering.


Week of January 23, 2019

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The most recent week of new comics brings us a non-Black-Label issue with Batman and Constantine; I need to catch up on reading this title, and really look forward to reading this issue! I snagged the second issue of Geoff JohnsShazam! title, even though it’s several weeks late. I have yet to read the first issue, and as my usual trap seems to be…I get a subsequent issue so when/if I finally get to reading one issue, I’m not "stuck" having to "hunt down" another issue.

I lucked out and the local Target had the DC Primal Age exclusive issue. I had a rude surprise in thinking it was going to be like the Walmart issues at $5, but this one was $10! Still, that’s in line with DC‘s own non-Walmart such issues, so…c’est la vie. At least it’s DC and not Marvel

TMNT hits its 90th issue; and we get the third issue of GI Joe: A Real American Hero – Silent Option. And for the heckuvit, I opted to try the IDW 20/20 issue of Jem and the Holograms. It’s a one-shot, and given my own age, I figure it might be interesting to read about the characters 20 years older than "usual," as it puts them into my own real, current age range.

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Despite swearing off of the latest Uncanny X-Men iteration due to pricing, frequency, and event-orientation (with Age of X-Man and such) I couldn’t quite bring myself to pass up this Annual given the focus on–and return of–Cyclops. And I was firmly set on NO MORE DARK HORSE Aliens minis due to variants and the like…but when I recognized Tristan Jones‘ art on this variant…I gave in and got it, since it IS #1, so at least it’s not just another variant-on-any-old-issue-nothing-special. Maybe I’ll suck it up and buy the rest of the mini…especially or at least if he’s got variants on the whole thing.

I snagged this free Isola Prologue issue cuz hey…"free." And we have the weekly Comic Shop News, this one focusing on Age of X-Man: Alpha…something playing on nostalgia (1995’s X-Men: Alpha). If Marvel does some sort of omnibus for the event, has a single-volume of Uncanny X-Men 1-10 and such and I can get then for a decent price…I might snag ’em. Otherwise I’ll wait for conventions later in the year and see if the singles can be had for half price for standard covers…if reviews and word of mouth bear ’em out as worthwhile.

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I’m not actually sure anymore what IDW‘s schedule is for print and digital releases as it almost seems like they’re releasing stuff early digitally with print coming the following week. And I’m not sure how I feel about Spawn Kills Everyone 2 being $3.99 an issue for a 4-issue mini-series…but I threw in with Spawn several years ago, and have decided to at least "stick it out" through the 300th issue. And that includes this mini, given the original special a year or two ago, whenever it was.


All in all, not a huge haul for new comics for the couple weeks…though some other stuff I bought more than made up for the comics spending. Buuuut I’ll get into those as the week progresses!

And as usual…here’s to hoping the new week of new comics is small-ish…

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The Weekly Haul: Weeks of November 14 & November 21, 2018

Time keeps on flying..! It’s amazing how busy life can get and be, especially this time of year!

Here’s stuff from the past couple of weeks!


Week of November 14, 2018

November 14 was an interesting week…with some unplanned purchases!

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Superman, Supergirl, and Mister Miracle were "givens."

I am extremely disappointed at Dark Horse losing Buffy, Angel, and ESPECIALLY Firefly/Serenity to Boom! I refuse to buy anything from Boom thanks to their crap with Power Rangers #0, and sadly, that includes even Serenity. So I was all the MORE interested in "supporting" Dr. Horrible since it’s still from Dark Horse!

Sticking with GI Joe: A Real American Hero; this title progressing from #155 1/2 to #200 and on to #250 and now #257 without renumbering leaves me HOPE that IDW might ACTUALLY allow Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to go past #100!

And though I was NOT going to, I ultimately "gave in" and bought Uncanny X-Men #1 (it’s missing a rather prominent "The" in the title!) though I’ve opted to pass on subsequent issues–$3.99 is too much; weekly is too many issues; especially with extra-priced/extra-sized issues BOOKENDING this initial launch of the title coupled with at LEAST a 25-some-issue Age of X-Man commitment already being pushed before #2 hit…

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I’d been looking forward to–and thought I’d actually MISSED–this issue of Back Issue magazine. So it was a bit of a surprise, but seeing it, I grabbed it immediately!

And of course, the usual Comic Shop News.

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I’d backed Ursa Minor awhile back on Kickstarter due to Dirk Manning‘s involvement, and that issue came in! I had actually lost track of the time, so was (pleasantly) surprised when a mystery package arrived with my name on it!

And Comic Heaven had Apama creator Ted Sikora in for a signing that day, so I picked up the first issues of Apama: The Undiscovered Animal and Tap Dance Killer. I do get the feeling 2019 MIGHT be a fairly "big" year for me delving into "indie" stuff, as I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with the likes of Marvel and even DC

And speaking of: there was also Local Comic Shop Day where DC especially ticked me off with a limited-to-500-copies-only foiled The Green Lantern #1. Long commentary aside, it’s caused me to opt out of the series–I refuse now to buy #s 2-onward–in vote-with-my-wallet-for-real "protest" over the crappiness of the ultra-limited stock. (See also: 40 months I’ve refused to buy anything Valiant, and 34 months I’ve refused to buy anything Boom–I can’t bring myself to drop DC as a whole (particularly Batman and Superman/Action Comics) over The Green Lantern, but I can sure as heck drop THAT title!


Week of November 21, 2018

This past week was another HUGE week overall, thanks to Black Friday stuff added on to the usual…plus the Walmart comics!

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Here we have Batman #59, Nightwing #53, and TMNT: Urban Legends #7.

Then the spin-off GI Joe: A Real American Hero mini-series Silent Option #2. And the ONE Marvel title I’ll still buy–Mr. & Mrs. X, as I am a fan of Rogue and Gambit, so a title starring the two of them (married or otherwise) gets my money.

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This week also had the Christmas extra issue with Comic Shop News.

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Finally, despite just getting the holiday issue a couple weeks earlier, ALL FOUR of the Walmart titles from DC hit at the same time.

I was able to get these before Black Friday, so avoided whatever damages remaining issues wound up with from people checking them out in their poorly-placed area in the pop culture cards aisle by the self-checkouts.


While I might detail more in a later post, Black Friday stuff saw a lot more expense than I’d intended going in, including TMNT toys; all 3 TPBs of the weekly Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman: Trinity series; Superman in the Sixties (completing my set of 40s/50s/60s/70s/80s); Keyforge stuff; several Hordes minis packs (Skorne); some DVD seasons; and some other stuff.

I’m hoping the next couple weeks are rather light…though I suspect December will be rather screwy with Christmas and New Year timing for shipping…so we shall see!

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The ’90s Revisited: The X-Men Collector’s Edition #1

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Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Andrew Wildman
Lettering: Rick Parker
Inker: Steven Baskerville
Colors: Jim Hoston
Editor: Glenn Herdling
Published by: Marvel Comics & Pizza Hut
Cover Price: "$1.50 Value"
Cover Date: 1993

Back in 1993, the X-Men were an extremely "hot property." Their comics were at a definite high, they had a new cartoon series, they had trading cards, they had action figures, they had all sorts of merchandising going on…they were Marvel‘s Merry Mutants and all that. And one of those merchandising deals was with Pizza Hut. For whatever the price of a kids’ thing, you got a pizza, a plastic cup (If I recall correctly), and one of four comic books, commissioned specifically for this promotion. (I believe available for purchase separately were two VHS tapes, each with two episodes of the still-new Animated Series (Night of the Sentinels parts 1 and 2 OR Enter: Magneto and Deadly Reunions); both of which contained a brief roundtable interview with then-current creatives on Marvel‘s X-Men and Uncanny X-Men titles and such.

Where it would have surely been simple to just slap a new art piece and title logo onto something with a reprint of X-Men #1 or X-Men Adventures #1 or such, new cover, new art, and a new story was produced across essentially a 4-issue mini-series; an all-new original adventure exclusively for Pizza Hut.

We open on the X-Men in the Danger Room as Professor Xavier calls them to his meeting room. He explains that something’s happened with Cerebro (the computer that allows the X-Men to make first contact with new mutants before the villains can recruit them) that endangers the machine’s continued functionality. To repair it, various things are needed…which results in the X-Men being broken off into several teams to each get or accomplish something necessary to the whole of repairing Cerebro. Starting off, as X-Men Rogue and Gambit attend to dealing with in-house wiring, the Danger Room is activated with sentinels from "a dark future" (that many readers will recognize to be intended as the future revealed in Days of Future Past). After the two eventually overcome a trio of these killer giant robots (the scene powers down), we get a brief glimpse at a shadowy figure watching all the X-Men in their current endeavor…suggesting some secretive, behind-the-scenes operator working against the mutants!

The art for this issue is what I would consider typical 1990s fare. It’s not bad, but it’s not wonderful. The X-Men are all in their "Jim Lee costumes," the familiar outfits they were in (I believe) as of late-1991’s X-Men #1, also the looks used for the Fox animated series. Everyone is very recognizable as who they are, though the details of the art aren’t my favorite take. This definitely goes on the notion of a "house style" (as opposed to the artist of whatever book simply giving us "their take" on characters). Like a number of "fringe" titles/issues, this both looks like an actual Marvel issue while carrying a sort of generic feel that sorta/kinda/mostly fits with what was being published at that time without being entirely beholden to it nor affecting/impacting any of the "real" stuff.

Story-wise, this is pretty basic, simple stuff. Open on the X-Men in action. Show off one-liners and two-dimensional "character beats" to remind us of attitudes or such, "establishing" these as the characters that were being showcased in the animate series. Split the characters into separate groups to pad out several issues’ worth of content while allowing for "extended spotlights" on characters in manageable chunks. Showcase "key" expected stuff associated with the franchise/highlight all the characters and "locations" of the franchise.

So we get that–from Cyclops vs. Wolverine, to Wolverine’s random outburst, Jubilee’s snarkiness, Xavier having this dire situation but disappearing "to let" Cyclops and Storm handle stuff, to (particularly for this issue’s focus) Rogue and Gambit flirting, etc. The "characterization" in the issue seems generic and surfacey…but I don’t think it’s meant to be anything else. As something that would be reaching (primarily) kids for whom this might be their first/only experience with actual comics, it was important to give them stuff they recognized, both in the characters’ appearance and their behaviors. So the "character shorthand" stuff is prevalent; showing this mini time-capsule of stuff about them at the time, but not really building, changing, or directing anything new about them.

I fondly remember this period of the X-Men; and this promotion (I still have the VHS tapes and recall really enjoying the round table interviews, and those four episodes are particularly ingrained in my memory from this time). I even have one of the large promotional pieces that someone got ahold of for me some years back.

In and of itself, though, there’s nothing special about this issue, or this mini-series; it’s generic, surfacey stuff that doesn’t particularly draw from any deep continuity (despite the "references" to Days of Future Past), and it certainly doesn’t add anything TO the continuity. I certainly appreciated some of Gambit and Rogue’s flirting in this issue, and was surprised at one comment that certainly was "over my head" in 1993 that got a "Wow, they went there?? They said that ON PANEL?" reaction from me in 2018.

This is a fun novelty thing…hardly essential, but fun to have. I have the original copies I got from Pizza Hut in 1993, and I’m pretty sure I’ve come across these just a couple times over the years in bargain bins (maybe twice or so); the copy I read for this post came from a convention dollar-bin, I believe. So you’re not missing out on anything whatsoever in this issue or any of the other three, and I would not consider them to be "worth" anything much except for nostalgia. For that, they’re certainly worth $1-$2ish each. I don’t feel these are typical quarter-bin fare, not seeing them often…but they’re by no means anything high-ticket or worth $5+ an issue idly.

The cover states these are "A $1.50 value," representing the then-standard cover price of Marvel single issues. With a double-gatefold cover and interior cover, being full-sized issues both in dimensions and page count, written by one of the actual regular writers…this is a fun issue to have, and worth getting; though definitely most satisfying as part of a full set of all 4 issues.

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The cover is a double-gatefold; four "panels" including the front cover. When unfolded completely, this is the full image.

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And the flipside of the double-gatefold, viewed from the inside is this image, spotlighting Rogue and Gambit.

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X-Men: Grand Design #1 [Review]

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Cartoonist: Ed Piskor
Editor: Chris Robinson
X-Men Group Editor: Mark Paniccia
Editor in Chief: Axel Alonso
Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
President: Dan Buckley
Executive Producer: Alan Fine
X-Men Created by: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February 2018
Cover Price: $5.99

I crab about Marvel comics all costing $3.99+ and virtually always put back even curiosities once I “confirm” that they’re $3.99+ for the issue held in-hand. I’m down on much of what Marvel has published for the last few years at least, and have had extremely mixed feelings on what stuff I have picked up.

This issue is $5.99.

And I barely thought anything of it. The issue FEELS thick, and heavy, and quite possibly THE single best value in a single issue that I have come across from Marvel in a long, long time.

It took me three sittings to get through this issue. Granted, I had other stuff going on, but I also hadn’t mentally “budgeted” a long time to stay put and read, used to even the extra-sized issues being pretty quick reads.

I’m not actually sure what I expected from this issue. I think initially I thought it was going to be a book that was text-only; when I realized it was actually a comic after all, I decided to give it a shot. What I got out of it is that whatever the length of the finished product, it’s like this detailed “history” of the X-Men, in comic format–using new art and narrative but covering existing material.

The page design includes coloring to make these glossy, higher-quality-paper pages look like old newsprint; the coloring to the story/art itself lends to that effect, giving this the appearance of a classic 1960s comic book or such. While there’s a little bit of “panel creativity” and “white space,” by and large the page layouts are tight and dense, modular classic panels–squares and rectangles with actual borders and gutters in a way that seems to have been largely jettisoned in “modern” comics. The dense visuals share space with dense text–plenty of caption boxes, speech balloons, and thought bubbles; the art is there, the art shows plenty, but there are no full or double-page splashes. The art serves the narrative, rather than some limited text serving up an excuse for big, flashy art.

Story-wise, I didn’t really feel like there was anything “new” or “fancy” or such here. Nothing particularly stood out, nothing was singularly memorable. But then, I was not expecting such. What the story is, what the writing is, is basically a straight-forward narrative, in chronological order, from the beginning of Marvel Comics into the 1960s and the beginning of the original X-Men issues. Things that were revealed in flashbacks a few issues in or 30-something YEARS’ worth of issues in, it’s here in order, unfolding as events unfolded–NOT in the order that details were doled out to readers as the actual issues were published. And this is presented as a tale from Uatu, the Watcher…giving a good context to things now being told in order.

In many ways, I’m sure a lot of people would consider this a boring read, and a re-tread, and probably a few other negative connotations to stuff. Me? I thoroughly enjoyed this. Part review, part history lesson, part summary, and part condensed revisitation of classic stories. I totally appreciate comics in general and the nature of them; the occasional “new reveal” or such, new flashbacks revealing previously-unknown information, the introduction of a character from someone’s past who just happened to not have been mentioned or relevant til “now” in the story that sheds new and different light on past events. But there’s something cool and refreshing about just following a single, one-directioned narrative pulling in everything–from information we got in X-Men #1, to stuff brought up/shown into 2009, 45-some years after X-Men #1.

X-Men: Grand Design (sample 2 pages' layout)

Pages seem to have 5-9 panels each, some more…making for plenty of room to cram a LOT of story into small space. No half, full, or double-page splashes to “cheat” or anything!

For my $5.99, three “sittings” to read, and sheer amount of time spent to read this whole thing, this is the best value in time-to-money I’ve found in years. As I got to the end of the issue, I wondered if this was monthly, or if I’d have to wait up to TWO months for the next issue…but then saw the next issue is supposedly in a mere two weeks.

At $5.99 an issue, and biweekly, and I’m very much looking forward to the next issue? Anyone reading much of my writing of late ought to realize that alone should speak to the quality I see in this. Again–this will not be for everyone. That said…I highly recommend it, especially to anyone who is or was a fan of the X-Men, particularly the 1960s “early days” OF the X-Men.

Showing off the Shelves: X-Men January 2017

Today, I’m showing off my current X-Men shelf configuration, with some volumes "weeded out" for present, possibly permanently, or to be added back in once I expand my shelving, which my collection has pretty much outgrown at the moment.

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One of my earliest collected volumes ever was that original The Essential Uncanny X-Men 1 that I bought right before leaving for college back in 1999. Obviously, my X-collection has grown significantly in the last 17 1/2 to 18 years!

I have stuff largely in chronological–or near-chronological–order, moving through the franchise’s history, with this first shelf pretty much covering 1963-1994-ish.

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Picking up in 1995, this second shelf pretty much takes us through the later ’90s, early 2000s, Morrison, Whedon, and up to 2010 or so.

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And moving beyond Second Coming and the Fraction run, a bunch of the miscellaneous/skinnier volumes taper off the X-Men proper, and get into other stuff…primarily Wolverine and X-Factor.

Of course, with Marvel discontinuing the Essential line in favor of the Epic line, I may eventually be swappign out some of the Wolverine and X-Factor stuff, or pay inflated prices to fill the Wolverine run in. Time will tell!

The X-books are–next to Superman–the most significant part of my entire collection, and certainly out-do the rest of my Marvel collection; while not exact, I’d say these account for at least 35% of my entire Marvel collection.

Impressive as they can be…knowing the "gaps" in content from the various X-Men oversized hardcovers and omnibus volumes…I find it kinda hard to imagine sticking just to the omnibus/OHC format…there’s so much more to be had by combining the formats. That said…I’d be interested in the Inferno and Inferno Crossovers volumes if I could get them relatively cheaply…though more immediately I’ll probably be content to just get the paperbacks as those’ll be much cheaper, period, and there are several other paperbacks that I want that do not (to my knowledge) have hardcover counterparts…including several Gambit volumes!

But that all gets off on other topics (like "wishlists")…

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