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Tony's Online Tips
Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Saturday, August 7, 2004

Marvel Family 38

THE GRAND COMICS DATABASE PROJECT [www.comics.org] remains one of the most spectacularly useful - not to mention fun - resources available to online comics fans. It's a rare day that doesn't find me visiting the site several times, often for no other reason than wanting to see the latest cover which has been added to over 60,000 currently available there. On my first visit there today - the day I'm writing this - it was THE MARVEL FAMILY #38 [August, 1949]. A few minutes later, it was the cover of an issue of a MAGNETO mini-series from the year 2000.

The aim of the GCD is stated in its charter:
We are building a simple database that will be easy to use and understand, easy to add to, and easy for people to contribute to. We will include information on creator credits, story details, and other information useful to the comic book reader and fan. If we are able to take this to its ultimate conclusion, this database will contain data for every comic book ever published.
The website's stats change constantly as data and covers are added to the site. When I checked this morning, the GCD had data on the following:

1,958 Publishers/imprints
10,742 series
152,205 books
(74,367 indexed)
(375,515 Story objects)
(well over 1 million credits)
60,082+ covers (55,612+ hi-res)

If you visit the GCD now, those stats will almost certainly be higher. The work continues and, with recent improvements to the site, data is being added at a downright ferocious rate. If I had to name the "Seven Wonders of the Internet," there is no doubt in my mind that the GCD would be on that list.

There are so many terrific folks adding information to the GCD and keeping it running smoothly that it would be impossible for me to list and thank them all. But I want them to know that, day in and day out, I appreciate all their hard work.

They make me proud to be a comics fan.

******

COVER STORY

The cover of THE MARVEL FAMILY #38 was pencilled and inked by the legendary C.C. Beck. The comic was edited by Wendell Crowley. Inside the issue, in addition to teaming up in the lead tale, each of the Marvels had solo adventures.

Here are the contents.

The Marvel Family: "The Extinct Instincts" (10 pages, written by Otto Binder, drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger)

Lazy Lee (1-page humor filler)

Captain Marvel, Jr.: "The Mad Muscle Man" (7 pages, writer and artist unknown)

Boxcar Benny (1-page humor filler)

Mary Marvel: "Science Wonderland" (7 pages, written by Binder, artist unknown)

"The Tornado" (2-page text story)

Headline Harry: "Music Time" (4 pages, written and drawn by Howard Boughner)

Captain Marvel: "The Tycoon of Darkness" (8 pages, written by Binder, drawn by Beck)

THE OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE puts the book's worth at $260 in near-mint condition while THE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOK pegs it at $135. A quick check of completed eBay sales didn't find a copy of this issue, but a fine/very fine copy of the previous issue sold for $103 to its only bidder.

******

ARCHIE COMICS IN NOVEMBER

Jughead with Archie 198

Christmas is the favorite holiday of the Riverdale High crowd and, as always, you'll find lots of seasonal stories in the Archie Comics titles shipping in November. Everything from a bump on the head changing Veronica's dad from Scrooge to Santa in ARCHIE #553, to Betty working as a personal shopper in BETTY #143, just to name two examples.

Looking for stocking stuffers? I recommend Archie digests for good little boys and girls of all ages.

I'll have more Archie news in future editions of TOT.

******

TONY'S MAILBOX

I often consider the "bang for your bucks" factor in reviewing comic books and other items. DAVID M. HARSZLAK, one of my COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE readers, had quite a bit to say on that subject and I'm pleased to share his comments with you:
I feel compelled to respond to the remarks you made at the beginning of your "Tony's Tips" column in CBG #1596 [posted online July 31, 2004]. I have stopped collecting comics because I felt I was no longer getting a good "value" for the amount of money I was shelling out each month for my comics "fix.".

Until last year, I had been collecting comics steadily since the early 1970's. I have amassed a rather huge collection over the years, and most of those comics were bought out my love for them, not for speculation or in some misguided attempt to make money in the future.

I've loved comics since I was a kid, and it would please me to no end to keep collecting comics, but the financial reality is that I just can't afford to collect comics anymore. At $2.99 a copy for a mere 20-22 pages of story each month, I'm not getting good value. Most of today's comics don't have letters pages, so they even have a page or two less of editorial content on that score.

The comics of today may be printed on higher quality paper, and the coloring may be state of the art, but oftentimes I find the artwork and story mediocre to terrible. There's also a tendency by today's creators to simply ignore what has gone before, or simply "wipe it out" and do everything over again. After awhile a person gets tired of such constant "rebooting." This has contributed to my current unhappiness with the comics industry.

I want more "bang" for my money. If I spend $2.99 for a comic book, I want at least 40 pages of editorial content. If I have to shell out such an outrageously high price for a comic, I want it to feature multiple strips.

With the current crop of people running the comics industry that isn't going to happen, so I did what I always do when I feel I'm not getting good value for the money I spend...I quit spending it on that item.

Last year in May, I quit buying comics.

It isn't just comics I stopped buying. I think magazines have also become ridiculously expensive, so I've stopped buying most of them as well. I still subscribe to one or two magazines, but, with renewal rates of over $100 annually, I can't justify spending that kind of money for a "quick read" that, 90% of the time, will end up in the trash when I finish it. I didn't renew my subscriptions to Entertainment Weekly, Macworld, PC Magazine, Scientific American, Sky & Telescope, and Time. Now I only subscribe to CBG & Astronomy magazine; if their rates get too expensive I'll stop subscribing to them as well.

I stopped buying paperback books when they reached an average price of $9.99 a copy. Many sell for $14.99 or more, and, guess what, I don't buy them...no matter how much I might want to read a particular book.

When CDs hit $16.99 a copy, I stopped buying them. The music industry got the message, because I wasn't the only one to stop buying CD's at that price. CD's are back down to a more affordable $9.99-$12.99 price range, and, guess what, I'm back buying CDs again.

If and when the comics industry gets the message, and if they begin to give me more pages for the money spent on their comics, then and only then will I start buying comics again. Otherwise, tough. They dug their own grave as far as I'm concerned.

As you wrote in your column, Viz routinely prints SHONEN JUMP at 300 pages for $5.00 each month...and it's not a sales failure. Marvel and DC should take a lesson from that. If that means you get a combination of new and old material, fine...as long as you get more than one new strip. If that means the comics are printed on cheaper quality paper, that's fine, too.

Where is it written that every new comic has to be printed on "high quality" paper anyway? Save those high quality formats for special projects that deserve it...and give readers and collectors more "bang" for their bucks.

If Marvel and DC were to go to a format of 40 pages per title each month for the current cover price, with three strips per title (a 20 page lead and two 10 page back-up features), I would probably continue to buy one or two titles a month.

But, at $2.99 a copy for 20-22 pages each month, sorry, guys I'm done. Finished. Kaput. I'll spend what little money I have these days on something else.

I guess I pretty much said what I wanted to say, so take care and keep reminding the publishers in your column that many of us out here are dissatisfied with their product. Feel free to print all or part of this letter in your column.
Thank you for writing a good chunk of my column for me, David. Now I can take a long lunch!

Seriously, it seems to me that, unless you only enjoy DC and Marvel comic books in the traditional format, you already know the solution to the "bang for your bucks" problem. You seem willing to pay around eight cents a page for comics.

Let's do some quick math here.

Figuring eight cents per story page, you would be willing to pay over $24 for an issue of SHONEN JUMP, which, not counting its dozen pages of editorial material, offers over 300 pages of comics each and every month. Yet it sells for $4.99.

A typical non-double Archie digest has approximately 80 pages of comics. At eight cents per page, that would come out to $6.40. These digest sell for $2.39.

They break your multiple strips condition, but the paperback-size collections of manga offer just under 200 pages of comics. At eight cents per page, that's $16...or six bucks more than the usual $9.99 cover price.

All this math is making my head hurt, but I suspect the Marvel Essentials volumes and the company's paperback-size collections of books like SPIDER-GIRL and RUNAWAYS would also come close to, meet, or come in under your eight cents per page guideline. Basically, if your interest in comic books isn't confined to either a specific format or genre, you *can* find great bang for your bucks.

There are other ways comics readers can bring down the cost of buying comics.

Look for comic-book shops and mail-order subscription services that offer discounts. They are definitely out there.

Are you attached to your old comic books? If not, you could sell them and use the money to buy new comics. For example, if you had paid a dime for the issue of MARVEL FAMILY at the head of this column and sold it for the $103 it sold for on eBay, you could buy 34 new comics at three bucks a piece. That translates to a minimum of 680 pages of comics for your original dime and the 38 pages that dime originally bought you. It's hard to imagine a better trade, and I have a pretty vivid imagination.

Finally, if you're just dead set against spending money on any new comics of any kind, check out your local libraries. Odds are you'll be able to find a wide variety of comics in trade paperback form...and maybe even traditional format comics

Consider the options, David. When you do, I hope you decide to give comics another chance.

That's all for this edition of TOT, my friends. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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THE "TONY" SCALE

Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

Tony
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TonyTony
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

TonyTonyTony
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

TonyTonyTonyTony
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

TonyTonyTonyTonyTony
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.



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