Thursday, December 28, 2017

It's Been That Kind Of Year, Alright

Earlier this week, between the Christmas and New Year's holidays here in the U.S., Diamond Distributors has finally given an official announcement of the cancellation "by the publisher" of the first ever trade collection of Rachel Pollack's DOOM PATROL stories. The announcement came nearly a month after it was reported by Newsarama on November 30th, shortly after Diamond posted their monthly cancellation announcements for December. That made this week's January 2018 Cancellations the earliest outlet to make it a matter of record.

Given a provisional title of "Book 4" when it was solicited last spring, it would have included #'s 64-74, plus ANNUAL #2 and the Doom Patrol story from VERTIGO JAM (1993). It would have had ISBN# [978] 14012-7451-X [or 1], but also would have had nearly 400 pages for $39.95. The page count of the Annual and the short story averages out to about two normal issues, so the remaining uncompiled issues (#75-87) would fill a hypothetical second volume (provisionally called "Book 5"?) roughly the same size and price. According to the Newsarama account, the title will not be resolicited. It's just my own speculation that the price might be intimidating. Whatever the actual reason, DC likely wasn't committed to the project since the Amazon page for the book still has the cover of Pollack's first issue (#64) complete with March 1993 cover date and $1.75 price clearly visible in the upper left hand corner standing in the place of whatever cover art the book would have had. It wouldn't have been a bad idea for the trade paperback to use the same Brian Bolland art used for the cover of #64, but DC never bothered to use a reproduction without the comic's now 25-year old trade dress.

I'm hoping that the reason it "won't be resolicited" is that the followed the reasoning I suggested eight years ago in this blog, recommending a three-volume configuration, which would likely mean each costing $29.95. Three books for $90 versus two books for $80 might, counterintuitively, get higher orders. People always pay more in installments. Call it a mortgage. See the break down here:
DP05-AA Pollack Period synopsis

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

History Is An Angel Being Blown Backwards Into The Future

(...with apologies to Laurie Anderson.)

There were two pieces of good news today. On the Diamond Comics Distributors website, the New Arrivals for November 22nd, 2017 included DOOM PATROL #9 and there were no Doom Patrol issues noted in the Shipping Updates. The other piece of good news is that the Young Animal/Justice League crossover annuals were included in the February 2018 solicitations. You can get the details where I got them, from the excellent My Greatest Adventure 80 blog .

In the previous post I was concerned that the current arc of DOOM PATROL wouldn't end in time for the crossover, which had earlier been announced to run in January and contain events that would introduce new conditions for both the Young Animal titles and mainstream DCU. As things stood, the last issue (#12) would be released in the middle of the crossover, raising the possibility that the crossover would reveal spoilers on the main series. I say "stood" because, having waited since April for the first three issues of the arc, I was skeptical about getting the last three issues in the remaining three months. So, ignoring their absence on the Shipping Updates, I checked their individual pages. Every item confirmed to ship has one, with the cover art (if available), capsule description, rudimentary credits and a few other specs, including the slated arrival date. Well, they all had new dates.

  • #10 is now expected to ship on January 24th
  • #11 is now expected to ship on February 21st
  • #12 is now expected to ship on March 21st
For the record, the last issue of BUG! is still due next month.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Silver Threads Among The Gold

Casual readers could be forgiven for assuming that the current DOOM PATROL series written by Gerard Way had been cancelled. It hasn't, just to be clear on that. There are four solicited issues which have been delayed several times. Since the first story arc ended in issue #6 (in direct market locations Apr. 26th earlier this year), the trade collecting it appeared May 31st, and the next two issues followed on Jul. 26th (#7) and Sep. 6th (#8). Those two issues were in the shadow of an announcement from the San Diego Comic-Con on July 21st that once the second arcs of the various Young Animal titles end, there would be a mini event in which each of the four core titles would release an annual in January 2018, forming a four part crossover that would establish that the characters under the Young Animal imprint will interact with mainstream DC heroes. DOOM PATROL's Annual would have the Justice League co-star, for instance. This would be the opposite of the policy for characters removed from the DCU to form Vertigo, 25 years earlier. Needless to say, they're not going to make the Silver Anniversary of the Vertigo launch, which will be the first week of January.

The last issue of SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL (#12) arrived with DOOM PATROL #8 and the last issue of CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE (#12) followed two weeks later along with the most recent issue of the mini-series BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER (#4) on Sep. 20th. Next came the final two issues of MOTHER PANIC on Sep. 27th (#11) and Oct. 25th (#12). Aside from the two remaining issues of BUG! and four of DOOM PATROL, there have been no other comics solicited under the imprint. Trades collecting those books that have been published, yes, but no new comics. Diamond Comics Distributors has announced all of the January titles and not only do the annuals not get a mention, but the JLA titles each ship twice for that month. That means that whatever the ramifications of combining the imprints were intended to be, the larger DCU isn't waiting around to see what they were.

The larger, unintended problem is that we not only have three other creative teams standing around, resentfully tapping their feet waiting for who knows how long to continue on to their third arcs, but when those issues of BUG! and DP do come out, they will be the only ones on the racks under that imprint. The whole point of having an imprint is that readers who enjoyed one title are implicitly referred to the other titles. It's a short-hand way of communicating the feel and outlook of a narrative style and other subtle and nuanced kinds of information that are difficult to convey in a blurb. This worked beautifully for Vertigo, mostly because the line was created with six existing titles that had each been published for 30+ issues and had cultivated reputations that distinguished them from most other DCU titles, but also because they added one or two titles (including ongoing, minis and one-shots) every month for a year. Facing a market that is smaller generally, Young Animal chose, wisely I think, to start with a sharper focus. It became feasible for more people to follow the entire imprint every month than it had been for Vertigo. But you don't get cross-recommendations from other titles if you've put the other titles on hiatus.

Ultimately, five years from now when these stories are only available as trades or downloads, it may seem like a moot point when the individual issues did or didn't ship. My point is, by the time the current DP arc ends and proceeds to the annual crossover, the three other titles could have completed a third arc apiece. If the point of the crossover is to bring these other titles into your own title's continuity, then these delays mean that there were three trades that could have been part of your continuity but now do not exist. More importantly, there could have been eighteen individual comics out there, any one of which could have led readers to the others and/or DP. It would have meant quadrupling the imprint's share of rack space for a six-month period. As a fan, I'm just jonesing for my DOOM PATROL. But in cold, hard business terms, it means that in comics specialty stores, which are usually small, operator owned businesses that rent their retail space and get their comics on a direct market basis (meaning unsold copies aren't returnable for credit), provide you with a little sliver of their rack/wall/floor space for each of your publications. They pay for both the space and the comic occupying it. The cover of the comic serves as an advertisement for itself, of course, but the more comics that appear under the same logo and the stronger their sense of collective identity, the more so that the cover serves as an ad for other publications under that imprint/logo. It means the retailer is not only advertising the rest of the line beyond that comic, but doing it every minute of every day they're open and paying you (at least in part) to do it. And every title on the rack at the same time doesn't just increase the visibility geometrically, but exponentially. Consequently, when you reduce the number of titles the effect diminishes logarithmically.

Anyway, the new dates for DOOM PATROL were announced this week:

  • DOOMPATROL #9, originally solicited for June 28 then cancelled and resolicited for September 27, should now be arriving on November 22.
  • BUG! #5, originally solicited for September 13 then cancelled and resolicited for November 8, should now be arriving November 15.
  • BUG! #6, originally solicited for October 11 then cancelled and resolicited for December 13, has not yet been rescheduled further.
  • DOOM PATROL #10, originally solicited for October 25, should now be arriving on December 20.
  • DOOM PATROL #11, originally solicited for November 22, should now be arriving on January 17.
  • DOOM PATROL #12, originally solicited for December 27, should now be arriving on February 24.
And let's not forget that while the first week of January is the Silver Anniversary of the Vertigo launch, the end of next summer is the Golden Anniversary of the death of the original Doom Patrol. Let's hope there's something out there by which to commemorate that.

Friday, October 13, 2017

News on new series delays (and a sad note)

Earlier this week Diamond Comics Distributors announced on their website, yet again, that the forthcoming solicited issues of the current DOOM PATROL series have been delayed slightly further.

  • Issue #9 (originally solicited for June 28th, cancelled and resolicited for September 27th) has now been rescheduled for November 8th. Of this year, for the record.
  • Issue #10 (originally solicited for October 25th) has now been rescheduled for November 29th.
  • Issue #11 (originally solicited for November 22nd) has now been rescheduled for December 20th.
  • Issue #12 has recently been solicited for December 27th, but obviously that will probably be addressed next week if it hasn't been already.
Before that announcement, though, was another news item that only had a tangential relationship to DOOM PATROL. On Wednesday 27th, 2017, an actress named Anne Jeffreys passed away. American audiences today might know her best, if at all, for the 20 years she spent on the soap opera "General Hospital" and its spin-off, "Port Charles". Hard core comics fans might remember her as Tess Trueheart in the first two post-WWII "Dick Tracy" feature films (which replaced the pre-war "Dick Tracy" serials). But during the 1950's she played Marion Kerby opposite her real life husband Robert Sterling playing Marion's husband George Kerby on the television series "Topper". 

The original novel "Topper" was written by Thorne Smith and published in 1926. It was followed by a sequel in 1932 ("Topper Takes A Trip"). After Smith's death in 1934, the books were adapted into feature films in 1937 and 1938 respectively. A third movie, "Topper Returns" (1941), introduced a new ghost to bedevil Topper, and a radio series followed in 1945. The TV series returned to the original concept of George and Marion and lasted two seasons (which, back then, translated to 78 episodes, or about three or three and a half seasons on broadcast network television today).

It would be a heck of a coincidence if the George and Marion of the Topper franchise weren't the inspiration for the Bandage People George and Marion who lived in a house full of SRS (Sexually Remaindered Spirits) in the Rachel Pollack run of the DOOM PATROL from 1993-1994. Although their origin would eventually reveal that they weren't technically ghosts themselves, they were after all frequently teasing the bodiless head of The Chief-- a literal 'topper'-- who moved into their house.

It's also worth mentioning that right before publishing the second "Topper" book, Thorne Smith released "Turnabout" (1931), a book in which an ancient Egyptian god causes a bickering modern American couple to switch bodies and live as each other's genders. Given that gender identity and fluidity were recurrent themes during her tenure on the book, it's reasonable to expect that she was aware of popular earlier novels such as "Turnabout" and Virginia Woolf's "Orlando" long before she began writing comics.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Happy 100th to "Waiting For Doom"!

If you haven't been listening, you should. The podcast "Waiting For Doom" has reached 100 episodes and they celebrate with an extra-long episode including special guest Richard Case, most frequent artist of the 1987-1995 version of DOOM PATROL and primary artist during the Morrison Period. All 100 episodes are available in their archive and highly recommended.

You can start with their 100th here: "Keeping the Love Alive"