Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thank Goodness for Whores and Crazy People!

I have laryngitis. When you talk as much (only out of necessity, of course!) as I do, that's bad. But I can still type. Which means I can still post this:

Marvel is a whore. And people are crazy.

Now, I'd been intending to start a post with those words as a complaint. But after today, I'm not certain that those aren't words of gratitude.

Which, naturally, is why I have laryngitis. This morning, I just had a sore throat. But I spent all day, pretty much non-stop, talking at Big Monkey, until my voice simply stopped.

What was I saying? The same thing, over and over, again. "Yes, it came out today. No, we can't hold a copy for you. Yes, it's only $3.99. No, it's sold out. No, he's on the second cover, not the first one. Yes, we can order it for you for next week if you pre-pay."

I've talking, of course, about Amazing Spider-Man #583. At first, I was keeping count of the number of calls and drop ins asking about it. But I quickly became too busy for that. Really, I don't think we'd even get these many inquiries about a comic book if it had been proven and publicized to cure acne and halitosis. Or, perhaps I underestimate the level of self-awareness of the average fanboy...?

In any case, this comic book, which doesn't cure any known ailments (which the possible exception of sickly sales at comic book shops) has generated almost... disturbing levels of interest. Almost as if Stan Lee has stumbled across the anti-life equation scrawled on the back of an old manuscript he stolen from Jack Kirby, and used to simply compel people to buy it.

Have you ever stolen a toy from a dog, or seen a small child drops its ice cream cone, or had to tell your patient that the cancer is inoperable? Well, then you have an inkling of the looks of the faces of people when they're told, "I'm sorry, we're sold out of Amazing Spider-Man #583... ." DC Comics, forget about Enemy Ace and Prometheus (since the rest of us have already): if you want to do a "Faces of Evil" series, base it on the faces of first-time comic shop visitors when they discover that Amazing Spider-Man #583 is not available in limitless supply.

Sure, we'd ordered extra copies. Didn't everyone? But we didn't really understand the breadth of Obama-mania. Did anyone? People called us from California.

Now, granted, we are in the Nation's Capital, and things sell here that don't really sell well anywhere else (like, say, C-SPAN). But, really: we sold only about 15 copies of the comic that was ABOUT Obama. Today, before I had to stagger out of the store at about 5PM, speechless, we took orders for 350 copies of Amazing Spider-Man #583. Heaven knows how many more will be taken in the rest of the evening.

I don't usually write about comics from the perspective of a store owner (it's not an especially interesting vantage point, usually, and gives little in the way of extra literary insight to the meaning and delights of comics themselves). So, as a reader, I had been planning to bitch about how, frankly, whorish Marvel is in throwing together a quick back-up story and stapling it awkwardly on end of Spider-Man's current storyline.

It's such a blatantly tawdry grab at borrowed spotlight, and so in keeping with the Marvel's utter lack of dignity. And the "story" itself? I hesitate to do it the honor of calling it "slapdash". In fact, I hated the story the first time I read it, over 20 years ago (which was in Booster Gold #8, in case you're curious). Really, how bad is it when you're stealing plots from the original Boo$ter Gold series? And is the Chameleon thinking basketball is played with helmets supposed to be... funny?

And people are falling over themselves to buy this story. It's... crazy. And maddening! There are some many good comics. And this isn't Marvel-bashing; there are plenty of good Marvel comis to be reading. In fact, until this month, I would have put Amazing Spider-Man at the top of that list. Why aren't people reading Blue Marvel, PistolFist, and Invincible? For that matter, if their interest is in Obama and not comics per se, why didn't they buy the comics that actually help you understand how impressive he and his rise are? That's a way to honor the man, not this cheap walk-on publicity stunt.

Yet...

This "publicity stunt" worked. Many people came to our store for the first time today. I got of a lot of people to leave with copies of Blue Marvel, PistolFist, and Invincible. Comic books reasserted their relevance today; even if they don't always deserve it, comic book still, in basic cultural ways, matter. That only happened because "Marvel is a whore" and because "people are crazy".

So I suppose I should just shut my trap and be grateful for it.

13 comments:

farsider said...

Almost as if Stan Lee has stumbled across the anti-life equation scrawled on the back of an old manuscript he stolen from Jack Kirby, and used to simply compel people to buy it.

Scipio. Sometimes you are so good it's scary.

The Thing That Walks Like A Man said...

The havoc at comic shops today can only be explained by one phenomenon...and that's an infestation of magical imps from the 5th Dimension.

Three words: Mopee is back.

When you get a chance to read your weekly books, you'll know I'm right.

The Estate of Tim O'Neil said...

"There are plenty of good Marvel comics to be reading."
- Scipio Garling, 1/14/09

As if we needed more proof that Anti-Life has rewritten the world in its own, twisted image.

Andrew said...

Y'know, I didn't like the story much either, but I still damn sure bought it. Spider-Man is awesome and Obama is awesome and a Spider-Man/Obama teamup has enough inherent awesome to carry the weaksauce story across the finish line.

SallyP said...

Meh. I haven't been buying Amazing Spider-Man for quite some time, and I saw no reason to change my mind,so I passed up the chance to pick up the Obama cover, and I'm now feeling pretty darn smug about it.

But I DID buy Booster Gold, and enjoyed the heck out of it.

Scipio said...

Yes, they did a good job of making Booster Gold work in the context of Enemy Ace; no easy task.

TotalToyz said...

OK, so that makes two times in my memory that the amazing Spider-Man has teamed up with "real world" people. The first was the original cast of Saturday Night Live, including John Belushi and Gilda Radner. And now this.

Billy said...

totaltoyz,

just a few months ago he teamed up with Stephen Colbert. Granted, it was the character "Stephen Colbert" and not the real person Stephen Colbert, but it was still Stephen Colbert's likeness in the book.

Billy said...

and that can't be any different than Spider-man teaming up with the SNL persona of "John Belushi" rather than the real John Belushi.

Accursed Interloper said...

"Why aren't people reading Blue Marvel, PistolFist, and Invincible? "

Limited resources of money, time, money, interest, money, patience, money, and money, mostly.

"Almost as if Stan Lee has stumbled across the anti-life equation scrawled on the back of an old manuscript he stolen from Jack Kirby, and used to simply compel people to buy it."

I'm still pretty sure David Astroturf Axelrod DID do that.

Billy: "it was the character "Stephen Colbert" and not the real person Stephen Colbert"

No such "real person" exists.

McK said...

"OK, so that makes two times in my memory that the amazing Spider-Man has teamed up with "real world" people. The first was the original cast of Saturday Night Live, including John Belushi and Gilda Radner. And now this."

My God... that was... 30-odd years ago! How will we ever reconcile the continuity??

TotalToyz said...

OK, so the story in Marvel Team-Up: Spider-Man and Obama wasn't very good or original. But at least there was an attempt at a coherent story, which was more than can be said for the last comic book that brought droves of people into the comic book shops who wouldn't normally enter them. I speak, of course, of the issue where Superman "died", which was nothing more or less than a 17-page fight scene.

Siskoid said...

The "last comic" that did that is actually Captain America's death, no? Or maybe that wasn't quite "droves".