Friday, February 27, 2009

Collectors selling toys, comics, and more to pay their bills

On the heels of the news that a rare copy of Action Comics #1 is going up for auction, the Indianapolis Star has released a report stating that many comic book, toy, and memorabilia collectors are parting with their collections because they need the money. So, not only are some collectors cutting back on their purchases to make ends meet, some are also having to sell off what they've spent years (and a lot of money) to obtain.

Unfortunately, there's also a problem in that potential buyers are in short demand, because they're having the same types of financial problems. Economists have been saying that it's a "buyer's market" out there -- but that really only works if there are enough people out there with money to spend on these types of items.

I myself cleared out a whole bunch of my comics last summer, primarily in the interest of conserving space. I did get some money for parts of my collection, but not a lot -- and, truth be told, I didn't really expect a lot. It's one thing to say, "Oh, this comic book is worth such-and-such according to the buyer's guide" -- but it's quite another thing to find someone willing to PAY that amount. People want bargains, no matter what's being sold (GOLD being one rare exception). That seems to be another big problem a lot of collectors are experiencing now.

Yet another problem is, the market for comic books and toys is ALWAYS volatile (reprints tend to bring down the value of many originals, for example). Right now, comic books, in particular, are like stock options -- Items that were once worth an impressive sum aren't necessarily worth that anymore.

Based on that, it doesn't really seem worth it to try to sell off a collection in the interest of earning some cash, unless the collector in question is REALLY in dire straits (losing one's home is NOT GOOD), or the collector has something that would truly attract buyers (but, really, just how many of us have copies of Action Comics #1 lying around?). Also, collectors who are renting space to store their treasures may want to seriously consider selling off enough to eliminate the need for that space -- storage rental can soak up a lot of cash from your coffers over the course of a year.

Things will get better, eventually. So, I think the main thing now is to NOT part with the items you truly love (but go ahead and weed out the things you can definitely do without) -- because when the economy DOES get better, you'll have an awfully hard time getting some of those things back.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Artist Ivan Reis is LEAVING Green Lantern!?!

Apparently, once the "Blackest Night" storyline wraps up later this year, artist Ivan Reis will no longer be illustrating the Green Lantern comic book.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Franz Kafka vs. 8th Grade Algebra

The BBC’s list of 100 books has reminded me of my experience involving yet another author, and book, missing from the list.

Somehow, when I was about 13 years old, I heard about author Franz Kafka and his most famous work, The Metamorphosis, in which the protagonist wakes up one morning to find he’s somehow turned into a giant insect (some say cockroach). Never mind that the story is supposed to be a metaphor for the human condition and human suffering; my 13-year-old self decided she just HAD to read it because, hey, stories about people turning into giant bugs are COOL. However, the fact that the book was also considered a classic certainly wasn’t lost on me.

My dad, fortunately, had a battered paperback of the story among his stacks of books. I eagerly grabbed it and stuffed it into my backpack one morning on my way to school. I hated quite a few of my classes, and I was sure the book would make the time pass faster until I could get to the classes that I DID like.

It was common practice for kids to hide things they WANTED to read in their textbooks. The bigger and thicker the textbook, the easier it was to hide things like comic books, joke books, and small novels inside of it. All one had to do was prop up the textbook so that it was open and facing the reader, with the contraband reading material also propped up and open, and hidden inside. Employing this method, my preferred reading material was a comic book. Comic books were so thin that all I had to do was turn a textbook page when the teacher walked by in order to hide my comics. However, I just HAD to read The Metamorphosis despite the fact that it would be harder to hide.

By the time I got to my Algebra class that afternoon, I was halfway through The Metamorphosis, and I was enthralled. I couldn’t wait to sit down at my desk and prop open the book inside my math textbook. I hated math, anyway. Even though, at that point, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life (still don’t, actually), I just KNEW it wasn’t going to involve math. As far as I was concerned, math was going to be out of my life forever once I graduated from school.

My math teacher, Mr. George, was normally a very pleasant man. I liked him even though he taught the hated subject of Algebra. It’s probably why I let my guard down and didn’t really notice when he walked by my desk and saw me reading what definitely wasn’t math text. Devouring every horrific word in front of me, I was completely oblivious to Mr. George’s presence –- until he snatched The Metamorphosis out of my math book, marched to the front of the class, and chucked it into the wastebasket.

Now, in my family, books were sacred. It was okay to give them away and even sell them, but one NEVER threw away or deliberately damaged books. Besides, it was Kafka, and Kafka was classic!

Filled with righteous indignation, I stood up in the middle of class and very loudly yelled, “Do you realize you just threw away KAFKA?!?!”

I was handed a pink slip and shoved out the door, with instructions to march my smart-ass self to the principal’s office. I’d never been to the principal’s office before. Oh, I was by no means a perfect child. It’s just that I either usually didn’t get caught, or when I DID get caught, it was over minor annoyances that didn’t merit attention from a higher authority. So, I should have been scared to death about being sent to the principal’s office. Instead, I was just mad. He threw my book away! How could anyone DO something like that?!

Upon arriving at the principal’s office, I handed my pink slip to the secretary, who then marched me in to see the big guy. He asked me what happened.

“Mr. George threw my book away!” I said.

“Was it a book you were supposed to be reading?” he asked.

“No,” I admitted, “but he threw it in the trash! It wasn’t trash!”

“What were you reading?” the principal then asked.

The poor man probably expected me to say something like “Teen Beat” or “Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane.” Instead, of course, he heard, “Franz Kafka. Metamorphosis.”

For a moment, the principal looked VERY surprised, and he just stared at me. I can still see the expression on his face -- an expression that more or less said, “I know she’s supposed to be paying attention to her Algebra lessons –- but, DAMN, she’s reading Kafka!”

“Are you reading this for another class, or for the fun of it?” he finally asked me.

I considered lying and saying it was for a class, but I admitted it was for fun.

He then asked me to sit in a chair outside his door and wait. I did so, watching the office clock until it ticked to about five minutes past the official end of my Algebra class. Then the principal came out of his office and asked me to follow him. We walked all the way back to my Algebra class, which was now completely deserted. The principal then walked up to the wastebasket and pulled my book out of it.

“Is this your book?” he asked, handing it to me.

“Yes!” I replied, very happy that the trash hadn’t yet been emptied. I muttered a "thank you" and stuffed the book safely into my backpack.

“Just make sure that from now on, you read what you’re SUPPOSED to read in this class,” the principal said.

I promised I would and thanked him again -– silently vowing to hide only comic books in my math textbook from then on.

Thirty-one years later, I’m a book editor -– who edits math books. ARGH!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

So, just what does a book editor read?

Saranga over at Pai has posted a list of 100 books that, apparently, the BBC has released under the speculation that most people have read only about six books on the list.

Granted, it's probably easy for most people to say they've read six of these books, just going by school reading requirements -- a LOT of these books have shown up on various school curriculums over the years. That's probably what the BBC assumed when posting this list.

I do find the list interesting. As someone who HAS to read books for a living, I always run into people who assume I've read just about everything because, well, as an editor, I must LOVE to read, right? Well, that's true, to an extent. I DO love to read. However, I love to read what I WANT to read. The grand majority of the books I publish are not necessarily things I WANT to read -- I merely edit and publish them because they SELL. Sad, but true.

And, no, I HAVEN'T read everything. I just don't have time, for one thing. These days, reading books for leisure often takes up time I need to spend doing things like grocery shopping or taking care of my daughter. Besides, after days and days of reading through manuscripts about annuities and business valuation, the last thing I wanna do is curl up with a thousand-page novel.

(I have a very good friend, Georgette, who just can't seem to wrap her brain around the fact that I haven't read everything that's ever been published. She always looks sweetly perplexed whenever she asks me if I've read something and I inevitably answer "NO." Hey, let's face it -- because I have to read for a living, usually the last thing I want to do when I get off work for the day is MORE READING!)

I think, by default, I DO read more than the average person. However, these days, my leisure reading usually involves blogs and certain Web articles, because they're (mostly) quick-and-easy reads whenever I need a break at work. Oh, and I read comic books and graphic novels, primarily because I love the artwork. I don't get to view a lot of artwork in the types of books I publish (though I have had the pleasure of working with some truly talented artists).

Despite all this, I have a rather large library of classics that I actually have read at some point in my life. I'm even very fond of many of these books.

So, let's see how my reading history stacks up against the BBC's list. For anyone else who wants to test their own reading history against the list, here are some tracking rules that I also picked up from Saranga:

1) Look at the list and put an ‘X’ after those you have read.
2) Add a ‘+’ to the ones you LOVE.
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.

Okay, here goes:

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen X -- and I’ve disliked Jane Austen’s stuff ever since. Yes, yes, I know –- I’m a heathen.
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien X
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte X+ -- Love this book.
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling X+
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee X
6 The Bible -- Haven’t actually sat down and read it. However, I HAVE read the Bhagavad Gita. Probably another sign that I’m a heathen.
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte X
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell X
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman X
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott -– Tried to read it once. Couldn’t stand it.
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller –- No desire to read it – I dislike its reputation as a “baby boomer bible.”
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare X –- The complete AND “compleat” works!
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien X –- Still my favorite Tolkien book.
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger *
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger X
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot X -– In school. Can hardly remember it.
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell X
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams X
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky –- I’ve been trying to read Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov for thirty years. I’ve decided that I’m not going to finish reading it until very old age – because at this point I’ll probably croak upon finally reaching the last word!
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck X
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll X* -- AND Through the Looking Glass.
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame X*
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens X*-– Complete, unabridged, and for the FUN of it.
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis X
34 Emma - Jane Austen X
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis X* -- The only book in the series that I actually liked. The others bored me to tears – and the last one gave me a headache.
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne X* -- Loved these stories, and Mighty Mite’s crib has classic Winnie the Pooh sheets!
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell X
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown X
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood X
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding X
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel X
52 Dune - Frank Herbert X
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens X -- and The Old Curiosity Shoppe.
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon X
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck X -- and The Red Pony.
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas X
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville X
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker X
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett X
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce X
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray X
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens X
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle X
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad *
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery *
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams X
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas X++++++++ -– ALL of the Three Musketeers books, and I have antique hardback volumes of every last one of them. My favorite book series of all time.
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare X* -- My favorite Shakespeare play.
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl X –- but I liked the Willie Wonka movie better. Yes, yes, another sign that I’m a heathen.
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo – NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! The broadway musical is good enough for me, thanks!

So, out of a list of 100 books, I've read about 44 of them. Well, that's better than six. It also looks like I don't have plans to read very many of the ones I haven't read. Interesting.

Hey! Where’s Don Quixote!?!? That’s one of my favorite books of all time, and it ISN’T for wimpy readers! It deserves to be on the BBC’s list more than that stupid Catch 22 book! Other gripes:

- Why the heck did the BBC list series AND individual books from series, such as the Narnia books? Seems to me that space could have been left open for other works.

- There are NO Mark Twain books on this list. I know the BBC is British, but c'mon! Jonathan Swift is also absent, as are Hemingway, Wilde, Kipling, London, and many other notable authors.

- Frank Herbert is listed, but not Isaac Asimov?

Grrrr, grrrr, grrrr!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Okay, FIRE has finally been added to the Green Heroes list

After a lot of agonizing, I finally decided to add Beatriz Bonilla Da(Corvalho)Costa (Green Fury – Green Flame – Fire) to my list of "Green" comic book heroes. The reason I agonized is because, unlike the other heroes on my list, Bea is no longer “Green” -– that is, she started off as a hero with “Green” in her name, but she is no longer named that way (unlike, for example, Green Ghost, who didn’t start off “Green” but is “Green” now). However, I figure she was “Green” long enough to qualify. Besides, it’s nice to add a woman to the list. Heck, I even added her (as the Green Fury) to my blog banner!

Believe it or not, Bea actually made her debute in the original Superfriends comic book (issue #25, 1979). Originally called the Green Fury, Bea’s powers were primarily due to her breathing a mystical green flame. She could even fly by shooting flames through her nose. Eek!

Thank goodness her powers have evolved to become much less embarrassing!

Anyway, Fire is on the list now. If anyone runs across any other "Green" heroes -- past or present -- that belong on the list, let me know!

Friday, February 13, 2009

To Squee Or Not To Squee

Squee: (Interjection) An exclamation of happiness, most frequently used in situations in which one would squeal in delight ("squee" is derived from the word squeal).

So just remember, boys and girls -- a Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 A.D. comic-book robot is a very happy and delighted comic-book robot.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why some alarm clock designs are (or aren't) good ideas

This post over at the Good Old Days blog has reminded me of an alarm clock I used to have -- one of the most effective, HATED, and ultimately ABUSED alarm clocks I've ever had. The alarm clock in question looked a lot like THIS (but digital, not analog):

For those of you who don't know, THAT, boys and girls, is a DALEK. Daleks are the greatest bad guys in the history of the long-running British science fiction TV series Doctor Who. In fact, it's safe to say that without Daleks, Doctor Who may not have survived the 1960s and become the global pop-culture phenomenon that it is today.

Don't let the silly salt-shaker exterior and plunger arm fool you. Daleks are DAMN scary! A big part of what makes them scary is the voices -- nasty, distorted, gravely, demanding voices that scream things like, "YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED!!" Or, "YOU WILL OBEY!!!" And, brother, when the Daleks scream things like that, they MEAN it.

So, the alarm clock. A friend of mine thought I'd really like this alarm clock, given that I've always been a Doctor Who fan. I admit the clock WAS very cool. However, neither my friend nor I took into account just how traumatic it would be to be woken up by a Dalek.

I had the thing set, ready to wake me up for school. It was sitting on my nightstand, right next to my pillow. The lousy thing went off at 6:00 in the morning, screaming VERY loudly:



My survival instincts kicked in, and my fist came down on that Dalek like a sledgehammer. Damn near broke a finger doing that. Oh, sure, I was awake, but I was PISSED, and IN PAIN. Not only that, I'd just broken my present from my friend. Little gray plastic pieces were everywhere. My new clock lasted less than 24 hours after I received it.

I haven't owned anything Dalek since.

Oh, but now I have a much WORSE (or BETTER) alarm clock than the Dalek. It's one of those old ones that plays a CD, and you can program the clock to use a specific track from the CD when the alarm goes off. I once programmed it to wake up Mr. Sea with Frank Yankovic's Greatest Polka Hits. Amazingly enough, the clock survived!

Monday, February 9, 2009

My Pal Itty -- meets the Atom

I'll have you guys know, it was very BRAVE of Mr. Sea to agree to illustrate this joke, because Spider-Man is his favorite super-hero EVER.

Here's a thought -- Itty really did have this ability in the comics. How many times do you reckon Hal was hit in the head before he finally figured out that Itty was trying to warn him of danger?