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An Accidental #NCBD with Walter Simonson

I hope @Midtowncomics doesn’t get angry with me. I heard the price for disloyalty is banishment.

I did a bad thing today, but it turned out to be a good thing.

I went to Jim Hanley’s Universe (JHU) today, at their 32nd Street location–on a side note Matthew Rosenberg suggested I had bought a signed copy of ‘We Can Never Go Home’ at JHU (you can read about that adventure here). I did not, but it was probably that episode that subliminally seeded my mind with the idea to head out to JHU today.

I used to go to the  33rd street location across the Empire State Building many years back, to browse or pick up a TPB, whenever I happened to be in the NYC midtown area. The most recent time, I remembered prior to today, that I headed down there, was around late 2012, when I was starting to get back into collecting comic books regularly, and I was looking for Matt Fraction Hawkeye back issues, to no avail.  I ended up ordering most of that stuff online, and at a premium.  So from there on end, I bought my books @MidtownComics (GC location); and if I missed something, or needed a back issue, I’d search for it online. I’ve gotten lazy with the Internet, and I’m not sure if that is a good thing.

Today, life took a different turn. There were two key books I was looking forward to this week. One was 451 Media’s S6x, penned by George Pelecanos (former writer of HBO’s The Wire) & Andi Ewington, and Gail Simone’s Clean Room No. 2.

Both were shorted @MIdtownComics.  I wanted to get both the original and alt’ covers for S6x, but only the original was available (of which I picked up two copies if anyone wants to trade: original for alt’ if you need it).

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Only Original Cover for Me

They had no copies of Clean Room No. 2. I repeat, they had no copies of Clean Room No. 2.  

The #psychonerd in me took over; even though they promised to hold it for me when it came in (and yes, I am grateful for their superb customer service).

However, I have a long work commute together with the benefit of working from home off and on to help maintain some sort of life balance–trust me it’s one of those things that sounds way cooler than it actually is–and I was probably not going to be back in the NYC til maybe early next week.  I did not want to wait til next week to get, and read, my latest copy of Clean Room.clean room 2

I then decided to go to JHU after work, around 5:30 PM to get a copy–in retrospect I should’ve called ahead to make sure they had it, but I was exhausted and working on impulse.

Of course Murphy’s Law prevailed, and I ended up in a work meeting til about 6:05 PM. Now, I had to decide: do I hoof it to East 32nd via shoe leather express, knowing I probably won’t get back to Grand Central til about 8PM, and in turn not get home til about 11PM, give or take a a half hour (for the record I ended up getting home at 11:13 PM)?

I decided to miss dinner, get a one dollar slice of pizza, walk to JHU, and enjoy the warm November night for a change.  Upon arrival, I noted a visibly long line stretching near to the end of the shop.

I asked one of the guys on queue what was going on. He told me Walter Simonson was there to sign copies of his new Hardcover: Ragnarok Last God Standing Vol. 1 (IDW).

I’ve been a huge Walter Simonson fan since his run on Marvel’s Thor back in the 80’s (Beta Ray Bill, Marvel’s Ragnarok, Balder the Brave, Star Slammers, Fantastic Four, Elric with Michael Moorcock, etc…); and today I subscribe to his newer, creator-owner, IDW Ragnarok title (I get both the regular cover and subscription cover @MidtownComics).

I was both elated and disappointed at the same time.

I was ecstatic because Walter holds a special place in my heart. In the 80s, while growing up in the projects in East New York (Boulevard Housing to be specific), it was Thor (together with Alpha Flight, but that’s a different story) that pushed me to a more serious form of comic book collecting. Back then, I’d have to walk to a Starrett City strip mall grocery store to meet my comic book needs. My first adventure searching for back issues began with Walter’s run on Thor. Why?

For starters, comic book deliveries to the grocery store were erratic, and there was no guarantee I would get the very next issue.  Also, the Owner/Grocer had this annoying countermeasure graphical system to combat comic book thievery (admittedly a pernicious problem in the ‘hood). Whenever you bought a comic from him, he would marked it with a small ‘S’ in the UPC box in the lower left.  If he caught you outside his shop with a comic book sans the annoying ‘S’ (and he was pretty much in the right, since it was the only store in the ‘nabe that sold ’em), back to the rack it went.

I never did find out what the ‘S’ stood for. Probably ‘Sold’; but me and my friends always joked it stood for ‘Sh!t’.

 

Thor 349 with S Stain

‘S’ Stained Thor No. 349 from 1984 – Can you see the ‘S’ Stain in the Lower Left UPC Box

 

Now, the only way to keep up regularly with this new run–and to own ‘S’ free copies–was for me to go to the direct comic book market.  But back then there weren’t too many comic book stores (and no Internet neither, only the Arpanet for exclusive use by the US military); and the few that existed could only be described as “shady”–Forbidden Planet didn’t make to NYC until the 90’s.  Still, via the Yellow Pages (no GOOGLE back then), I found a half decent shop in the Flatbush area that I could get to by bus; but that meant less funds available for comics, a hobby I supported on my own working part-time at a local Key Food store, while still in high school– that’s right, I’ve been working since I was 14 years old, through college and adulthood, pretty much non-stop (except for a short six month layoff in 2009). I’ve got a big SSI check coming my way in a few years.

Now fast-forward to the present ( and the reason for the slight disappointment). If I had known, that I was going to meet Walter Simonson today at JHU, I would have brought all my ‘S’ stained Thor books from the 80’s, so that he could gracefully cover over the blemishes with his artful signature.

Alas, it was not meant to be (not today at least).

However, I did get a beautiful, signed copy of the new Ragnarok Last God Standing Hardcover Vol. 1 (the art gallery in the back pages alone is worth the price of admission).

 

Ragnarok

 

Plus I was able to pick up a back issue of Thor No. 349 for three bucks to add to my collection–a new and improved version, with  no ‘S’ stain, Walter Simonson was kind enough to sign for me.

 

Thor 349 Signed

New and Improved Thor No. 349 – Compliments of Walter Simonson

 

I doubt Walter Simonson will ever read this post (he’s got a million better other things to do), but I want to say a heart-felt Thank You to him.

Thank You for the marvelous stories and art over the years that have kept me out of trouble (and still do).  You, and many others, filled my mind with wonder and awe, distracting me from a  world that destroyed many young lives.  I was lucky to meet Walter thirty years ago in print, and again today in person (at the signing, I told him I waited twenty years to meet him; I lied but not on purpose; just bad math, it was actually closer to thirty years).

Either way, I hope we meet again; and next time I’ll have those ‘S’ stained copies for you to sign.

p.s., this is my fourth signing since I started blogging. I’d like to say I kept my composure, but I geeked out. I wasn’t expecting to meet him today. Still I got a good pict, and a smile from Walter Simonson.

This will be one of the most memorable #NCBDs for me.

WalterSimonsonSigning2

Thanks, again, Walter!!!

Gail, George & Andi, I am tired now. It’s 2 AM in the morn, I’ll read your books tomorrow.

Good night 🙂

 

 

 

Reading in the Present – Sandman Overture (Hardcover Signing)

This evening was a cliche walk down memory lane, as I headed back to Brooklyn where I was born. I could have driven, but I chose to take the train (via Metro North), and the subway out of Grand Central station. It’s been a good ten or more years since I last went down to the Flatbush/Prospect Park area–I went to High School at Brooklyn Tech in nearby Fort Greene, so I was familiar with the area.

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Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza

I grew up in East New York, but I left for college at the age of sixteen (yes you read that right) and never looked back (you can click on the link for Wikipedia’s take, but here’s a quick preview: “East New York has had some of the highest crime rates in Brooklyn, and is considered by some to be the borough’s murder capital, alongside Brownsville”). I was fortunate to find a better life, and pass that along to my children.  I’m not where I would like to be–are we ever–but I am happy for the good things I do have, and the opportunities thrown my way–like being able to go to these types of events.

This is my third book signing, and it was by far the most entertaining. The show Junot Diaz and Neil Gaiman put on was uplifting and humorous. The signing was mechanized, but with close to 2,500 people in attendance at the Beth Elohim temple, I don’t see how it could have been otherwise–plus Gaiman had to catch a flight out West.

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They touched on themes of what makes for good story telling, mythology, death, family, and diversity. An amusing anecdote was revealed when Gaiman spoke of his refusal to sell the Anansi Boys novel’s movie rights to a potential buyer, because they refused to use black actors.

At the end of the interview, Gaiman’s wife regaled us with a touching tribute to Metalllica’s Sandman with a ukulele (and their cute two month old baby), followed by a Happy Birthday song and cake for Gaiman–whose birthday is on November tenth.

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Happy Birthday Neil Gaiman!!!

I had already read the Sandman Overture comics, and knew that it was a prequel.

Sandman Overture

According to Gaiman it sits somewhere before Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes and the other Sandman related books about the Endless. It fills some of the gaps that were left unexplained in the original series. I suspect this was Gaiman’s way of meeting the demand for more Sandman stories, without taking on a possibly degrading sequel–something he alluded to in his conversation with Junot, where he mentioned his distaste for disappointing sci-fi sequels to classics.

I found the Overture not as dark as the original Sandman Books. The storytelling was fantastic, overladen with Gaiman’s psychedelic and mythological storytelling, and Williams’ lush, kaleidoscopic visuals. Sandman Overture is another sublime addition to the Sandman mythos.

Here are some quotes:


“She is singing a song without words, a slow mournful song of forgetting and regret.”

“There is always war. It is a big universe and people want things.”

“The VOICES are distant, and old. The words they recite are dry, but they are from the Dawn of time, when the WORLDS paid more attention to WORDS …”


Reading In the Present – Monstress

Normally I go into the city three to five days a week; but this week that bumps up to about six.  I normally don’t go into NYC on Sundays, but this week Midtown Comics was having a signing with Marjorie Liu to celebrate her new Image Comic series début, Monstress, at their downtown site near Fulton Street.  I already had my two copies since it was already added to my pull list, and picked them up this past Wed at Midtown Comics’ GC location.

This début wasn’t what I expected. For a comic book, it reads more like some of the world building fantasy novels I’ve read in the past (Lord of the Rings, Sword of Shannhara, and stuff like that).  It’s very dense (as it should be at 66 pages for $4.99), with allusions to Latin-Greaco mythology and World War II; fused with Asian Kaiju themes, and augmented with a steampunk-anime environment. Liu and Takeda (whose artwork is amazing and highly detailed) have imagined a vast world of magic, slavery, and extreme violence. Within its pages you will find a coven like matriarchal society: The Cumaea (which I am certain is an allusion to the Cumaean Sibyl, the priestess who presided over the Apollonian oracle at Cumae, an ancient Greek colony located near Naples, Italy). They hold power over the city of Zamora, and it’s hierarchical class-based society. They experiment on, and feed off magical creatures to produce Lilium (another allusion to the Latin etymological origin of the flower name Lily, a symbol of purity).

At its center is a strong female protagonist named Maika Halfwolf (who is not be underestimated, and has a yet to be unveiled destructive power).  Also, I might be stretching it a bit here, but Maika is a French variant on Micah: Hebraic name meaning “who is like Yahweh” or “who is like God” (but with the whole Latin-Graeco and Solomonic Flowers of the Lily thing, I might be onto something here).  There is definitely a lot of symbolism here, and I am picking up on some subtle social commentary.

This series is to be taken in slowly, and so far has proven worth it.  Pick up your copy if you haven’t already.

Monstress Signed

This is my second signing so far (see my post on Gabriel Ba’s and Fabio Moon’s Two Brothers’ for my first).  I’ve always been a loner and introverted, so going out to these type of events is a new thing for me.  You can see my awkwardness in the photo-op below,

Monstress Pict

Hopefully, after a few more of these, I’ll loosen up a bit.  Still, for me it was really cool, and Marjorie was extremely friendly, and made it easier for me. I’m gonna continue with it.  

Tomorrow I meet Neil Gaiman ( I’m a big fan since the Original Sandman Vertigo days and I got lucky; I signed up early, and got a ticket to this event for Sandman Overture) at Beth Elohim (near Grand Army Plaza) in Brooklyn–my place of origin. I was born in Brookdale Hospital, grew up in East New York, and went to Brooklyn Technical High School, so I am familiar with the Flatbush/Park Slope area; but it’s been several years since I’ve last been in area. I’ll post about it tomorrow.

Here are some quotes from Monstress:


“Too bad people don’t rebuild themselves so easily.”

“Here’s something the poets say: ‘There’s more hunger in the wold than love.’


Reading in the Present – Matthew Rosenberg’s We Can Never Go Home (Mystery Solved …)

Which is better: an unsigned first printing or an autographed third printing? Why I ask this question will be clear in a few.

I have one of those #NerdConfessions to make. I have what can only be described as a lackadaisical approach to boarding and bagging my comics. Usually what happens is that I wait until a pile gets about a foot high, and then I get motivated to bag and board ’em before an accident happens–and yes, unfortunately, they do.

So yesterday I decided to take a break from my weekly comic book readings, and do some bagging; plus I figured I might get some ideas for future blogs. As I worked down the pile I hit my copies of ‘We Can Never Go Home,’ issues 1 – 4.

I am sad to say that I missed this one when it first came out–it happens to the best of us. It wasn’t until about issue 3 that I got wind of this, and got stuck with the only options of buying second and third printings for issues 1 and 2. I hated that.

Also, I usually bypass reprints, and hold out for the trade; but I heard this was really good, so I caved in for the buy. Not only that, I have some sort of compulsive disorder that compels me to double up on issue 1s and 2s when I think something is gonna be really good–something to do with an innate fear of losing or damaging one copy, so I need a backup (yup, I am ripe for #PsychoNerd Analysis).

I was glad I bought ’em. Anything with an 80s setting, pretty much easily wins my heart; plus this was really good.

But, ’nuff said, an extraordinary read! Pick it up if you haven’t. You won’t regret it.

Now back to the bagging and boarding episode:

Right after I bag my first copy of issue one, I grab the second, and notice what appears to be an ink stain on the bottom left. Now I am like, “WTF, how did that happen.” However, upon closer inspection–my aging eyesight just isn’t what it was–I make out the ink stain to actually be two signed initials ‘M’ and ‘R’ with a number ’15’ right next to them. Immediately, this makes me feel better, but only a bit. Why?

I exclusively buy my comics from Midtown Comics in NYC (except for the occasional back issue miss that they no longer have in stock); and any one who shops there, knows that when they sell signed copies, they bag and board them with a shiny certificate of authenticity. Now I’m like, “Oh man … I got gypped. WTF, where’s my certificate of authenticity?”

Next, this Friday morning, I go to work. Then around 11:00 AM, I take a coffee break, head to Midtown Comics to clear up this most important matter, and to pick up a few things I missed.

At the shop, I grab my back issues, head to the counter, and ask the always helpful and friendly Midtown Comics staff (no names since I’m not sure if they are cool with me revealing their secret identities), “Dude, did you have a Matthew Rosenberg signing here not too long ago?” He looks down at me, and says, “Uh, nope.” Then I say, “Well I got a signed copy of the third printing of ‘We Can Never Go Home’ issue number 1, and I didn’t get a certificate.” He then goes, “Can’t help you, he never signed any here.” Then the other Midtown Comics guy pipes in, “You know some of these writers sneak in their signatures when they stop by to browse. They just grab a few off the rack, and sign away without telling us.”

So now I don’t know if what I have is genuine. My only course of action is to tweet Matthew Rosenberg, and hope that he will confirm or deny the sig. If, and when, I find out, I’ll update this post.

p.s., as I continued my conversation, the Midtown folks told me that back in the day, before Scott Snyder was big, he used to come in and sneak in his sig on the Detective Comics he penned. Can I be so lucky? Probably not, but I’m checking anyway.

p.s. again, confirmed around 1:30 AM this morning on 10/10/15.  It’s the real deal.  And NO, I ain’t selling it!

Confirmed


And lastly, some quotes (after all that is the main purpose of this site):

“If you want to be a real dick, sometimes you have to beat up a few nerds. It’s a hard lesson to learn.”

“I am not going to go fight people while wearing a bathing suit and fishnets.”

“I think we got in a fight, I left for two hours, and you drank all our beer, and fucked a hooker.”


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