Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nerd Central

Folks, I found a comic book store in Tasmania. It’s called Nerd Central, and what an eye opener this visit was. Remember when I said comics were ridiculously expensive in Australia because of shipping costs? I thought readers in Melbourne had it bad! Here are a few examples to give you an idea of what the Tasmanian reader faces:

1 Pack of 100 Current Size Bags = $9.50
1 Dark Horse One-Shot Comic = $7.20 (Cover price $3.50 US)
1 King Bender Action Figure = $24.99 (That’s actually a really good price…)

Even though comics are cheaper on the mainland of Australia, so is toilet paper. And video games ($65 for a USED copy of Mariokart DS? Thanks, but no thanks, EB Games). For that reason, I don’t think this store is overpricing their books. As for the toys being more affordable, I suspect they get them through a different distributor than the comics, which sadly cannot be ordered through anyone but the stateside monopoly of Diamond Distributions.

It’s hard writing about this store without sounding critical – grateful as I was for having found a store within the whole of Tasmania, I’m still ridiculously spoiled by American convenience. Understandable as it is for a small store, I was disappointed to learn that Nerd Central only orders new books once a month to save on shipping (and we were there three weeks after their latest shipment). Even though I’m having my books pulled at home, I was still hoping to see the latest issues, maybe take a chance on a new series. But there wasn’t much on the shelves I hadn’t seen at the beginning of November. I ended up getting Sugar Shock, a Joss Whedon penned Dark Horse one-shot from the MySpace Presents Dark Horse Comics online series.

Despite missing out on a chance to scope some new books, it was still a fun shop to visit. Just walking into a comic book store gave a familiar jolt of excitement that made the hour long drive worthwhile. They also had a decent selection of trade paperbacks to choose from (no Scott Pilgrim though), and some really awesome toys, too. I think Nerd Central is going for a comic book / American novelty store angle, which seems smart since most casual readers in Tassie probably won’t shell out big bucks for individual issues of comics. There were loads of American candies to choose from, and you could buy Kool-Aid packets and Dr. Pepper. Even though paying $20 for some bags, 1 comic, and some Twizzlers hurt my unemployed stomach, it still felt good supporting a business that is working against the odds to offer a rare product to its customers. Visiting this store made me wonder if I would have started reading comics if I had to face the same economical and geographical obstacles as the average Tasmanian teenager. From what the employee at Nerd Central told me, they are one of two stores left in the whole state. But I’ll definitely be coming back to Nerd Central, and next time, I’ll try to catch the monthly shipment.

(Check out that sweet LOEG banner.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Updates from the comic book desert....

My hefty stack of recent purchases from the US is quickly running low...and I've only been in Tasmania for two weeks. I think there is a direct correlation between how much I'm reading and being unemployed. Running out of comics means I'm also getting back into actual books (you know, comics without pictures?), specifically my Hugo / Nebula Award challenge. These are the anual awards given to works of science fiction each year. Some of my favorite authors have won this award including Frank Herbert and Joss Whedon (they have a Nebula award for screenplays, too). I made a challenge for myself to read every single book that has won the Hugo or the Nebula Awards. I decided to start with the 18 novels that have the prestigious honor of having won both titles. Here's what I've read thus far:

Dune by Frank Herbert
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K. LeGuin
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling (just the Hugo)
Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (another Hugo only)
and I've recently finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Next on my list is The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon. It's not surprsing the overlay in the world of science fiction and comics. There's currently an Ender's Game series being released by Marvel, a publisher that has done other Card adaptations in the past such as The Red Prophet. There's a Philip K. Dick adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? being relased by Boom! Studios, which is 24 issues long and contains much of the text from the original novel. Obviously Neil Gaiman is a familiar name to comic readers, and Michael Chabon's critically aclaimed bestseller The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay centers on two Jewish comic book creatures during the Golden Age. These are just a few recent "crossovers" and don't even take into account science fiction shows and movies that currently have comic book series (Battlstar Galactica, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.) It's a shame there aren't more original science fiction comics out at the moment. I could name some great original fantasy books, crime books, noir books, action and adventure books of course, but science fiction? I'd be hard pressed to name one. I'm definitely open to suggestions though....

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Isn't he glorious? More pictures (of people and other objects) to come soon....

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Favorite Book Alert

Before my departure from the states, I made one last visit to the comic book shop, bought my books on hold, and picked up a few extra comics to hold me over while I’m in Australia. I took a chance on a series that has flown under my radar for months. It’s not one that I’ve heard many people talking about, positive or negative. But boy am I glad this jumped out at me from the shelf, after months of walking by and thinking “meh, can’t be that good.” WRONG. Oh so wrong. I’m talking about Detective Comics. Yes, the same one that has been coming out for 60+ years.

If you are reading any DC title right now, you’re well aware, the Caped Crusader = dead and gone. And how did the smartest man alive meet his end? A lightening bolt? Helicopter crash? Death by sloppy writing? If you read Final Crisis and got a clear picture of how he died, please enlighten me. What I did get was Superman holding the crispy remains of Batman at the end of Final Crisis 6, and the Flash and Green Lantern remembering the fallen hero while standing at his unmarked grave in Blackest Night 0. Those are some visuals that are easy to comprehend.

Currently DC has various characters filling in for Bruce’s titles until his triumphant return from the beyond (it’ll happen sooner rather than later). For this very reason, I have been staying clear of the Batman books. I truly resent when huge, central characters are killed off with the intention of bringing them back shortly after. It’s a tacky way of getting attention to drum up sales (Helloooo Death of Superman). Even when the resulting storylines are well written (see the current Captain America series) it just feels cheap, like reading it is pointless since the book will return to the status quo as soon as sales are down and the editor needs something to bring wayward readers back in. That being said, I am already annoyed that Detective’s current direction is a temporary venture.
Lately it seems that my favorite titles have been superbly well written, with some good artwork to boot. Good, but not great. Currently, Detective has some truly spectacular and noteworthy artwork. Like holy moses, this book could be written in Latin and I’d still love and understand it. Being well written by Greg Rucka is just an added bonus to this book! I don’t even know what J. H. Williams III has drawn before, but I fear he will go the way of James Jean (of Fables cover art fame) and eventually leave comics for more lucrative illustration work, he’s just that darn good. And Williams is doing the interiors folks, not just the covers! I will say too, Dave Stewart is the colorist on this book, and he really adds that extra something that pushes the book into “work of art.” Am I making you the least bit curious? I sure freaking hope so. If not, I’ve got a few examples as evidence to my point. I’m going to lobby DC to put this run in a giant, absolute edition; it really deserves the over-sized treatment. This is the kind of fervor the book has inspired, and I’ve only read the first issue (Detective #854)!

As you can see from the included sample pages, Batwoman has taken over Detective. There was some hoopla a while back about her becoming a lesbian, but besides that, she really hasn’t been a major player in the DCU. Well Greg Rucka, congratulations good sir, you have made me care about an otherwise ignorable character. Not only that, but Rucka has taken something that has been missing from the Batman books of late and showcased it beautifully here. I’m talking about relateability. Recent years have shown the character of Bruce Wayne as more bat than man. When was the last time he dated someone who wasn’t a criminal, related to a criminal, or simply wasn’t aware of his identity as Batman? His life has been so deeply entrenched in the world of “Batman” that it has been easy to forget the man behind the cowl. What Rucka shows us now is Kate Kane, a person struggling to balance a normal life with the duties of Batman. Her girlfriend, unaware of her late night crime fighting, assumes her tardiness and obvious sleeplessness means she’s been “tomcatting around town.” I don’t know if Batman’s girlfriends would ever accuse a sleep deprived Bruce of cheating. See included an image from part of this confrontation, as well as a delicious exchange between the new Batman and Bat Woman as their paths cross on the patrol.

Well, I think I’ve done my best to sell this book to you all. If not…I don’t know if there’s much else to say that would convince you otherwise (there’s an additional Question story in the back of each issue?). You’re either rushing to get this book now, eager to drink in a full issue of the beautiful artwork and follow the struggle of this character; or you’re just patiently awaiting the return of Batman. If his return is as muddled as his death, I suggest you get out there and enjoy this fantastic book while you can. It may not be nearly as interesting once Bruce is back in town.