Not Your Father’s Comic Book Box or Something Clever About Cardboard

First Published 28 January 2018

I got one of BCW’s new comic bins for my “Good Stuff.” Here’s a few impressions.

The bin is just slightly too tall for my shelves (designed for long boxes) and not quite wide enough for comics in mylar sleeves. Neither of those things was unexpected, but a pleasant surprise would have been nice. If BCW markets a magazine-sized bin, I’ll probably pick one up.

The bin wasn’t too hard to assemble, but the on-line video was little help; it was pretty vague and didn’t address the things that weren’t intuitively obvious. I would have preferred printed directions. I noticed there was a certain amount of static electricity present and that attracted dust. The next one gets assembled in the cat-free comic room.

The removable dividers are ideal for keeping your books upright even when the box is not-quite-full.

Once assembled, the bin feels sturdy and looks nice. A set of them would give you good storage that uses space efficiently. It’s not airtight, so I don’t think condensation is likely to be an issue.

A set would likely be cost-prohibitive for a large collection, but I think a few bins for high-end books would be a good investment.

 

The Credit Where it’s Due Department: Why no Byrne Variants?

A happy mail call today. I got my Alex Ross variants of the new Fantastic Four #1. These look great. Both honor one of the most iconic covers of all time; the first FF #1 from 1961. I’m not usually one to be enthused about variant covers, but I’m really happy to get these. It’s a fitting tribute to Lee and Kirby who created the team and set the standard for everything that came after that first book. It’s also nice to mark the occasion of the FF’s return to the Marvel Universe with something special. That’s a big deal to me and I think it’s a big deal to a lot of people.

But I seems to me that this variant nonsense has kind of gotten out of hand. There are literally something like forty different versions of this book. Many different artists, homages to many different eras. Lots of them look great. Many of them don’t. The anatomy in some of the artwork makes me cringe. They metaphorically raised Mike Weiringo from the dead so he could have his own variant.

Don’t get me wrong. Mike Weiringo deserves his own cover. More than almost anyone else whose artwork was featured. As I said, I’m not really one for variants, but I want one of those too.

But here’s the thing: in the last 57 years, there have been three really well regarded runs on the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine. The first was Lee/Kirby. The third was Waid/Weiringo. The second? John Byrne. Byrne took over FF after a long run of inconsistent creative teams; the quality had been uneven and interest in the book had waned. Byrne almost singlehandedly reinvigorated the title as writer, artist and inker and returned the FF to both popularity and importance.

So why isn’t there a John Byrne variant of the new FF #1? Did Byrne refuse? Is there bad blood between Byrne and Marvel? Is he just too hard to work with or was this an intentional slight? I for one would like to know. Eschewing a Byrne variant is a strange and indefensible oversight. It’s especially strange given that the same thing happened with Action Comics #1000. A Byrne variant there would seem to be a no-brainer, especially with Schuster and Swan unavailable. Byrne’s impact on Superman was significant. But once again in a sea of uneven variants, Byrne gets overlooked. I wonder if he’ll even be asked back when NextMen gets revived. I think Byrne and his fans deserve better.

How do you prove a conjecture is false?

First posted to Quora on Friday, 7 September 2018

That depends on the nature of the statement.

If you have a universal statement, which is to say a statement that all of the things in some category share some property, you merely have to provide a counter-example.

So if you wanted to disprove the statement, “all prime numbers are odd” you’d merely have to point out that 2 is even and the statement cannot be true.

Disproving an existential statement is usually more work. These statements say that there is at least one thing that has a particular property. To disprove an existential statement, you need a general argument that that property can never happen.

So to prove that the statement “There is a pair of even integers whose sum is odd” is false, you must prove that the sum of any two even integers must be even.

Those are the cases “all” and “some.” The cases “none” and “some are not” are similar.

To disprove a statement like “None of the items in set A have property B” you simply have to find one that does. If you want to show a statement like “Some of the items in set A do not have property B” is false you need a general argument that everything in A has property B.

In any case, disproving a statement is equivalent to proving its negation.

 

Renovating an Old Comic

This was first posted on 11 July 2018

——-

IMG_8899I just finished up a fun project that I thought I’d share.

I got a coverless copy of Avengers 23 from my LCS (thanks, Jared Aiosa) last month. I decided to renovate it, so I:
* Found a scan online and recreated the cover.
* Printed and trimmed it.
* Attached it to the book.
* Trimmed the book a tiny bit and flattened it under some dictionaries.
IMG_8904I’m pretty pleased with the results.  With a bit of practice, I bet I could get much better at this.

It’s pretty obvious that the result isn’t a mint condition book.  Not only is the interior clearly an older book that has a lot of wear, the cover is printed on standard 24 lb. bond paper and is not glossy, although you get some gloss from the ink.  The paper is also too white to have been attached to newsprint for nearly 50 years.

Despite all of that, he cover is clearly marked as being a replica, which I believe is an essential step for a project like this.

You can check out the finished project here.

Coming soon… how to videos.

Coming Attractions and “Old Guys Who Like Old Comics”

In the next few weeks, I’ll be finding some things I first posted in other places and adding them here.

One of the places I’ve been posting things is on the (closed) group Old Guys Who Like Old Comics on Facebook.

Nice people, nice group, well moderated.  It never descends into anarchy or trollery, even with 13,000 or so members.

“Old” is defined very broadly; it’s a state of mind.  Ditto with “guys,” everyone’s welcome. “Old Comics” on the other hand is closely monitored.  Nothing after 1986.  If you know comics, you know that’s a bright clear line.  Dark Knight, Watchmen… comics were never the same after 1986 for better AND for worse.

If you like comics and you’re on FB, it’s worth checking out.

Here We Go! Or, in the words of Adm. Stockdale, “Who am I? Why am I here?”

Hi, Everybody!

Holy crap, that sample introduction that WordPress gave us was a pretentious mess.  Luckily it’s gone including that picture of the sunset or whatever the hell that was.

I’m Joseph Kolacinski, a mathematics professor at Elmira College.  I’m interested in all sorts of nerdy things: mathematics, star trek, comic books, science fiction, vexillology, voting theory, politics, rock music.  Also cats.  I like cats.

IMG_3931What do you actually need to know about me?  Probably nothing.  Feel free to skip on to the posts that happen to interest you, whenever those start appearing.

I’m “Joseph” or “Dr. K.” as the students call me, to my face anyway.  If you call me “Joe” I’ll be immediately suspicious.  No one’s called me “Joe” since 1991, except for a few old friends who haven’t gotten the memo.

I own more comic books than any sane person should be allowed to have.  That’s what happens when part of your brain thinks that, if you possess objects labeled 1, 2, 3 and 5, you must, using any means necessary, seek out and possess the object labeled 4.  And that part of your brain can scream much louder than the rest of your brain.

I maintain, as I’ve stated in the past, that David Letterman is the greatest living American.  That whole thing with the affair was pretty disappointing though.

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for a while now.  The original concept was called “Blogging the Marvel Universe.”  I would start in November 1961 and trace out the history of the MU, reading, reviewing and analyzing the comics as they came out.  I realized that would quickly start to feel like homework and I’d get bored.  But in the meantime, I’ve been writing reviews and publishing them on Facebook and more recently I’ve been answering things on Quora.  I’d like a single place to archive the stuff that’s worth preserving, and here we are.  But don’t kid yourself.  Far more than just the stuff that’s worth preserving.  You have been warned.

UPDATE: Already a fail on the not-feeling-like-homework thing as the original version of this post disappeared with an accidental click.  That was possibly the greatest piece of prose ever written in the language of Shakespeare.  Now you have this.  Sorry.

Carefully Reconstructed Nostalgia; All in Color for Forty Dimes

A Review of Fantastic Four #1 Facsimile Edition(2018),
by J. F. Kolacinski ©2018

I was excited yesterday to pick up a copy of the new facsimile edition of the original Fantastic Four #1. It was honestly amazing to hold this comic in my hands, to read and enjoy without having to worry about all the concerns that come with handling a 57-year old collectible.

IMG_3908It would be redundant to summarize the story here, but a couple of things are apparent as you read the book.

I’m far from the first to point this out, but the early influences of Marvel were far closer to the monster comic genre than to the distinguished competition’s superhero stories. This traces back to Marvel Comics #1; those initial appearances of the original Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner are starkly different from your run of the mill superhero story and this influence permeates FF #1 from Ben’s first appearance to Johnny’s destruction of the race car and to the design and feel of the Mole Man’s creatures.

Once you’re used to reading modern comics, revisiting this comic makes it easy to see how the industry has changed over the years.  When Marvel returned to this story to reimagine it for Ultimate Fantastic Four in 2004, it took 6 issues to cover the same ground as FF #1.  Six issues that were, to me, inherently less satisfying. There’s a lot to the argument that the industry no longer writes comics; it writes trades which get split into individual issues.  I think that’s part of the reason Individual comics are not as enjoyable as they once were.

As for the physical comic, there were a lot of nice features.

The cover is a sturdy piece of card stock.  I wish modern Marvels would get closer to that on a regular basis.

The cover art has been restored to the original, or at least more painstakingly reproduced.

Here’s a scan of the original cover:

IMG_3916

For years reproductions of the cover to FF #1 seemed to be variations of the cover to the Golden Record reprint from 1966.  This omitted the figure closest to the police officer and had a redrawn figure on the far right.  The signage is also absent from the buildings.  Here’s the new cover side-by-side with the Golden record reprint.

IMG_3904

That this is the source seems clear if we look at the cover reproduced on the first printing of the FF Marvel Masterworks.  This image is also recolored and omits the police officer.

IMG_3905

In addition to restoration of the cover, the original interior coloring has been restored or reproduced. Here’s a pair of original pages.

IMG_3917And here are the corresponding pages from the Marvel Masterworks reprint.

IMG_3906

This coloring is consistent with my recollection of reprints and retellings from the 70s and 80s.  The coloring from the facsimile edition matches the original closely.  It’s interesting to notice that even the ads are colored consistently with the original.

IMG_3910

IMG_3918It’s a much nicer effect.  The older reprints had more of a paint-by-numbers feel while the original coloring seems more careful and more nuanced.  It’s also an integral part of the artwork, underscoring certain dramatic moments.  Returning the original flight suits to the dark blue and white color scheme also gives some historical context to the so called “negative uniforms” that John Byrne introduced in issue 256.  This is all very well done, but it’s worth noting that the corrected cover and coloring dates at least as far back as the version of FF #1 that appeared on Marvel.com in 2009.

Despite the clear effort that was expended making this a genuine facsimile of FF #1 there are some distinct differences, both intentional and unavoidable.

The intentional:IMG_3920

  • The cover price is $3.99, carefully done to match the style of the original.
  • The cover date reads “Aug” rather than “Nov.”
  • A modern “Marvel” logo and UPC code appear on the lower right-hand side of the cover.
  • A collection of original essays follows the reproduction of the original back cover.This is nice addition; it gives the book some original content and is appropriate to the occasion,  namely the return of Marvel’s first family to the Marvel Universe proper.
  • A painted version of Kirby’s original artwork is used as the back cover.

IMG_3907The unavoidable:

  • It’s a modern book printed on modern presses; it is consequently slimmer than the original.
  • The paper is distinctly different from the original pulp paper. It isn’t glossy but it’s whiter than pulp paper was traditionally and this gives a different feel to the book.
  • The printing is also modern. This helps on the cover, I think.  The shading isn’t as dark as on the original which gives a nicer effect.  In the interior, the small dots of color that indicated color combinations on vintage books are undetectable.  On the original the colors are more muted and warmer.  On the new edition, the effect of the original coloring with the whiter paper and the brighter colors is ever-so-slightly harsh.

Still, it’s clear that the folks at Marvel put a good deal of effort into making this an experience that’s as close as it could be to reading an original Fantastic Four #1 from 1961.  For me that effort paid off.  If you’re interested in such a thing, I recommend that you pick up a copy.

Sources:

  • CoverBrowser.com
  • git corp.The Complete Fantastic Four (2005)
  • Fantastic Four #1 Facsimile Edition (2018)
  • Marvel Masterworks Volume 2 (11/1987)
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four issues 1-6 (2004)
  • Brown, M., “Unstable Fashion Sense Part 1: The History of the Fantastic Four’s Costumes in the Comics,” comicbook.com, (1/2015)