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Dredd 2D

Longbox Graveyard #66

Judge Dredd is back!

Judge Dredd returns to movie screens this week in a hyper-violent, slow-motion action picture that promises to deliver 3D thrills … if your idea of thrills is getting splattered with gore in the front row of a movie theater.

But before this new Karl Urban take on the ultimate urban cop fantasy … a dozen years before Sylvester Stallone nuked the character for a generation with his turgid 1995 star vehicle … back before the closest you could get to a Judge Dredd movie was a Robocop and Dirty Harry double-feature … I was already a Judge Dredd fan.

And I was still late to the party!

Judge Dredd was new-to-me when Eagle Comics brought his adventures to American shores with Judge Dredd #1 in 1983, but he was already old news in the United Kingdom, having headlined the weekly 2000 A.D. in merry ol’ England since his debut in 1977. A distinctly-British cocktail of violence, action, farce, science fiction, and social commentary, Judge Dredd was one of my favorite comics of the era, and along with Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Watchmen, highlighted a brilliantly creative “British Invasion” of the superhero comics field.

Here I was, an American comics fan all up my own backside puzzling out the monthly continuity of characters like Captain America and Batman, only to have these Brits come along and take the piss on the whole superhero field.

It was great!

So before we indulge in Dredd 3D … let’s take a look back at “Dredd 2D,” which is still one of the finest, funniest, and most entertaining comic book runs of all time.

Judge Dredd tells the story of an uncompromising lawman who patrols a dystopian future where survivors of atomic war have crowded into massive American “Mega Cities” that sprawl along the entire coastlines of the continent. It is a fast-paced, funny, and uncompromising look at an American culture of celebrity and violence run amok.

Dredd himself is a no-nonsense futuristic lawman, literally empowered to be judge, jury, and executioner in one man. Armed with this Lawgiver pistol and super-macho Lawmaster motorcycle — as well as an infallible and encyclopedic knowledge of Mega-City One’s many bizarre laws and regulations — Judge Dredd, as he is fond of reminding us, is the law. A paragon even to the lesser Judges of Mega-City One, Dredd strikes terror into the hearts of criminals everywhere, not least because of his direct approach to his job.

I bought this thirty-five issue Eagle Comics reprint run as it came out in the 1980s, and went into them with no knowledge of Dredd and zero expectations. I loved the world that revealed itself in each issue — the familiar surprises; the stupid, celebrity-obsessed society unearthed layer by layer through stray dialogue or a road sign in the background; and of course the weird and twisted citizens of Mega-City One, fighting off their ennui with extreme cosmetic surgery or propping up their bloated guts with belly wheels. It was a sarcastic, vitriolic take on America by acid-tongued Brits, refreshing and insightful and fun. Judge Dredd seemed something new while simultaneously harkening back to Golden Age crime comics or EC Horror stories — with it’s past-tense captions, thought balloons, and expository dialogue — or (especially) EC’s original run of Mad, with its dense visual humor and a sight gag lurking on every page.

Having no background in the series, I didn’t mind that Eagle’s reprints jumped around in Dredd’s timeline, cherry picking the best stories for American audiences. The first few issues were all by John Wagner and Brian Bolland, and they were a good launching point for the book — the original series art and design by Carlos Ezquerra might have more properly been introduced first if the books were sticking to the Dredd canon, but I would require time to admire Ezquerra’s style, and might have bounced off the side of this series if he’d been my introduction.

Carlos Ezquerra’s Judge Dredd

So, too, is the timeline all scrambled up — for example, Dredd’s robot servant, Walter, is introduced in issue #2’s “Let The Land Race Begin,” while that character’s earlier origin would not come to our shores for a year, when “The Robot Wars” was reprinted in Eagle’s Judge Dredd: The Early Cases #2.

But so what, really? After a misspent life obsessing over comic books, I’ve come to regard continuity as over-rated, and at times a deadly impediment to creativity and the joy a fresh take can bring to entrenched comics properties. There is a history here if you want to tease it out — and the text features accompanying these Eagle reprints do a nice job of mapping in the blanks — but for the most part I was happy to go along for the ride with a series that had so much to show me that I would have been frustrated by a sequential storytelling in any case.

death to continuity!

Further supporting the “greatest hits” approach of Eagle’s Judge Dredd was another aspect of lost comics craft — the single-issue story. Originally published in Britain’s 2000 A.D. weekly, Judge Dredd stories concentrated on one-and-done tales, and these early Eagle reprints often have two or three unconnected stories. Dredd would have its longer runs — and epic, continuing storylines like The Apocalypse War and the Cursed Earth are high points in the series — but the backbone of the book are these shorter stories, made stronger for concentrating on the weird science-fiction concepts of the society of Mega-City One, and only indirectly illuminating our hero, who reveals his core tenants by doing things like threatening a suicidal jumper with arrest for littering the sidewalk, or ticketing a citizen for driving too slow.

There’s a throw-away reference to the Judge Cal war in issue #1, and other threads of trailing continuity here and there, but rather than confuse the narrative they served to sharpen my attachment to this crazy new world, promising that there were depths and histories to explore in each new tale. Maybe it wasn’t wise to lead off with Judge Death in the very first issue — a story that might require some knowledge of Judge Dredd and his world to fully appreciate — but I was still hooked, mesmerized by Brian Bolland’s awesome pencil work and hey, zombies are always welcome!

(And that the supernatural menace of Judge Death is arrested, however temporarily, by application of “Boing, The Miracle Spray” is our first and earliest indication that this series is playing by its very own rules). Frankly, I loved the book, and I think the series was more exciting for me in that it was all over the place and kind of sloppy, rather than being locked down, pre-packaged, and all singing off the same sheet.

For me these comics are inextricably interwoven with the 1980s, and the movies roughly from that era — I think of Judge Dredd and pictures like Robocop, Terminator, The Road Warrior, and The Hidden all-in-one, and as the red shift of memory sets in I’ve expanded that frame to include earlier pictures like Logan’s Run and Death Race 2000, too. Of course Dredd came to his own sad end in the Slyvester Stallone film of 1995, a profoundly disappointing misfire that nailed the look and feel of the comics, then perversely wasted it all on a story that concentrated on less interesting aspects of the franchise, and almost entirely excised a vital aspect of Judge Dredd — the biting sense of black humor, replaced by Stallone’s action-star muggings and Rob Schneider schtick that still sets my teeth on edge.

IYAMDALAW!

I remain cautiously optimistic for the new film opening this week, but the lack of humor in the trailers is a concern, as if the filmmakers took the wrong lesson from that earlier failure. Dredd shouldn’t be slapstick, but neither should it be all grim and serious, and while the comics found the right mix, in this case film seems unable to capture that more nuanced view.

(Strangely, Stallone was closer to getting it right in 1993’s Demolition Man, a largely-forgotten future cop science fiction movie that works better for Dredd than did Judge Dredd — at least it got some of the humor and tone, with a politically incorrect cop from the past running riot through a hermetically uptight society of the future, and an appropriately psychopathic villain in Wesley Snipes who could have walked right out of Mega-City One).

splash screen for the Demoltion Man videogame, which I helped design, back in the day

It is that sense of humor that best distinguishes Judge Dredd, and is just so darn hard to get right, in film or in comics. Dredd himself is not funny — he’s the ultimate straight man — but his unrelenting grim and serious approach is itself funny, such as the matter-of-fact way that he tells telepathic Judge Anderson he is without guilt in “The Coming of Judge Death” …

… or how he can without a trace of irony shoot a man through the head, then place him in suspended animation until his wounds can by cured by future medical science and the “perp” revived to serve his sentence in “The Forever Crimes.”

Throughout the series the citizens are bizarre, the culture is fractured, and the bloodshed is extreme (though rarely gory). When criminals attack the Moon’s Luna-1 with Tranq Gas in “The Oxygen Board,” 53,000 citizens are killed, but both we and the judges shrug it off, and the story is more memorable for it’s conclusion — when the bad guys are suffocated by an indifferent lunar oxygen utility for failing to pay their bill — than for its body count.

This casual indifference to life and the ever-present menace of mayhem is key to Judge Dredd’s world — all that matters is being right. Winning the day, or correcting a social dysfunction is of no consequence to Judge Dredd. He seems physically bulletproof in the books, but he’s just as emotionally and intellectually invulnerable, harboring no illusions about the nature of the society he polices. Dredd sticks to the playbook, does his job, and upholds the law. He is the law! It is left to the reader, and the occasional viewpoint character, to question the wisdom and morality of that law, and wonder at the virtue of protecting a society so desperate, arbitrary, and dysfunctional as the one we witness in these stories.

just another tricky day in Mega-City One

In the meantime, Judge Dredd sleeps like a baby. (Probably with his helmet on.)

There’s no telling if this subtext will make it onto the screen in the newest film version of Dredd, and if I am alarmed that there’s little trace of it in the trailers, I have fortified myself against disappointment by re-reading this remarkable comics series, re-familiarizing myself with Umpty Candy, Block Mania, and Psi-Judges. Truly there are rich grounds for a franchise here, and I hope this new Dredd picture gains traction with movie audiences, if only so we can visit Mega-City One beyond the single Block that seems central to Dredd 3D, and maybe experience some of the series’ sardonic shades of grey.

But even if this movie is another one-and-done, I hope you will book time to patrol those future streets with Judge Dredd in this superior comics series, which can be purchased in any number of formats, including the remarkably inexpensive back issues I’ve reviewed here. The second half of this Eagle run dips a bit in quality, but even second-rate Judge Dredd is worth reading. If this will be your first encounter with The Angel Gang, Satanus, Ugly Clinics, and Sob Story, then I envy you the adventures in your future, and if you are returning after decades away from Judge Dredd, then take my word for it that these books are just as good the second time around (and maybe even better).

Now all that remains is to hope Dredd 3D doesn’t break my heart the way Conan the Barbarian and John Carter did. Hope springs eternal!

Here we go again!

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #67 Guide To Comic Books On Pinterest

Top Ten Manliest Superheroes!

Longbox Graveyard #54

Comic book heroes are usually rendered in an impossible physical ideal, but today’s superheroes go beyond Olympian physiques and into some crazy realm where even their muscles have muscles. Trying to pick the fittest and strongest amongst them is a mug’s game. Even Forbush Man looks like he’s been working out!

Manliness is something else entirely. You need a lot more than a square jaw and chiseled abs to join this particular club — you need a manly attitude, too. And since we’re talking comic books, we’re looking for exaggerated manliness, while stopping short of being — ahem — too manly. Stubbly chins, stogies, and gravelly voices all count for a lot. So does pimp style, womanizing, and a tendency to think with their fists.

It also helps to be kinda sorta a regular guy, or at least as regular as you can get while infused with gamma radiation, cosmic rays, or a super-soldier serum.

Who is the manliest superhero of them all? Joining me for today’s oh-so-serious nerd debate are Tom Mason, comic book scholar extraordinaire (and when he isn’t doing more important things, you can find him over at Comix 411). Also here is Chris Ulm, last seen at Longbox Graveyard as a part of my WonderCon panel, and also my co-host for the blog I did on Deathlok several weeks ago (and it occurs to me that Deathlok is pretty damn manly, too, but dead men are excluded from consideration).

(Both of these gentlemen will join me at my upcoming Comic-Con panel, so if you don’t like their choices below, c’mon by our panel and throw rotten fruit at them).

Our goal is to come up with a list of the ten manliest superheroes, but knowing these guys, it’s going to be a chore to stay on target …

PAUL: Who gets an honorable mention before we get to the list?

ULM: Aquaman might get my vote — the fact that he has the sheer swinging stones to show up riding a seahorse and spends his time talking to sea-spiders says a lot about his confidence — he obviously doesn’t give a crap what anyone thinks — not even Batman.

PAUL: Not Aquaman, no — not since he went sitcom on us. Plus he let his wife push him around during that family RV vacation. No one can be hectored by his spouse and make the list. That’s the reason Spider-Man doesn’t make it — Gwen Stacy, MJ, and Black Cat are the holy trinity of comic book girlfriends but Peter’s a mommas boy and he’s whipped.

TOM: Everyone knows Flash and Atom are whipped.

PAUL: Flash is SO whipped! I spent half a review column on Iris bugging Barry about being late and not the man Flash is and blah blah blah. It goes beyond the Lois Lane trope into some kind of power exchange fetish play.

TOM: Flash has never appealed to me because of this weird henpecked way they wrote him in the Silver Age. I like strong female characters, but they made Iris some kind of naggy harpy and turned Flash into a guy who was constantly fretting about getting in trouble. The whole recurring “Barry’s late again” with Iris standing in a doorway checking her watch is just too much. All those 60s DC editors, especially Weisinger and Schwartz, always put out comics with these bizarre male-female dynamics that seem mean-spirited and misogynistic and out of touch with reality.

And the Atom, the Ray Palmer one, is another weird 1960s domestic drama, with a guy who has the powers of a man but’s just six inches tall. I’m not buying it and no one else is.

ULM: Speaking of little guys, Ant Man has to go to bars explaining that he’s … Ant Man. And he STILL nailed the winsome Wasp. That’s MANLY. If he had manned up and just stayed Ant Man, he’d definitely get my vote. After all, he did create Ultron in his spare time. But since Henry Pym keeps changing his name like a giant pussy (“Oooh, check me out: I’m YELLOWJACKET! I’m GIANT-MAN now!”) he’s off my list.

plus, being a dick does NOT make you manly!

TOM: How about a lady’s man like The Spirit?

PAUL: The Spirit is interesting. Because of the femme fatales?

TOM: I think yeah because of the femme fatales. He’s got chicks falling all over him – most of them are evil and trying to kill him and he doesn’t catch on until it’s almost too late, but they keep a’coming. And he likes it. After fifteen beautiful women have tried to kill you, you might get suspicious of #16, but The Spirit welcomes her with open arms. That’s a special kind of guts, or the biggest lack of self-awareness for at least seven pages of every eight page story.

PAUL: By that criteria we’d have to include Daredevil. He notched up Black Widow, Electra, and pre-crackwhore Karen Page. Plus he holds his own with crap powers, and wears a costume only a blind guy would think is cool (and pulls it off).

TOM: What about Green Arrow? No powers, but he took stupid equipment and made it work. He’s got some manliness/sexist issues that often threaten to overwhelm him, but for awhile he had a love arrow for Black Canary.

PAUL: Good one, it crossed my mind, I suppose every case I make for Daredevil would apply here too.

TOM: Exactly. Plus, Green Arrow has very strong opinions about a lot of life issues and isn’t afraid to point his finger into anyone’s chest for emphasis. It takes a special kind of man to make an arrow with a boxing glove on it. Oliver Queen is always ready for a fight.

PAUL: All right, I’ll put The Spirit, Daredevil, and Green Arrow on the list at number ten. It’s my list and I can break the rules!

10) The Spirit, Daredevil, Green Arrow (half-mad chick magnets)

If stupid gear is going to score manly points, how about Guy Gardner? Moe haircut. Bad attitude. Jerkwad. But no way is anyone manly enough to pull of a Green Lantern costume.

Anyone else?

TOM: Fawcett’s Capt. Marvel is like the Tim Tebow of super-heroes. He gets the job done, but he’s not going to clear out the biker bar in the middle of the night.

PAUL: How about that other big boy scout — Superman?

ULM: Superman technically should get credit for being manly because one can only imagine the damage a swarm of super-sperms could do to Metropolis. That alone should give him high standing in the manly sweepstakes. However, as an alien, technically he’s not a man, so forget it.

PAUL: Superman’s seemed a little limp to me since that Brandon Routh picture. I don’t much like Zack Snyder but if anyone is going to give Superman a testosterone injection, he’s the guy. Though I expect he’ll go all 300 and make Superman just a little … too manly.

TOM: Superman’s now this wistful nostalgic character content to sit atop tall buildings, smell flowers and pick out shapes in the clouds. He’s like Dr. Manhattan in the early parts of Watchmen. He’s like Xanax in a cape now. At least in the old days, Jimmy would turn himself into a giant turtle or Lois would throw herself out the window to make his life interesting.

ULM: Since you mention Jimmy …

PAUL: We didn’t. C’mon, I need someone for number nine.

TOM: How about Lobo?

PAUL: Never read Lobo. Whaddya think?

TOM: Lobo is technically some kind of alien freak biker badass. He doesn’t take crap from anyone and doesn’t fight fair. He’s manly in the same way that a Hell’s Angel is manly at 2am Sunday. He would totally own Burning Man and those people would follow him anywhere.

PAUL: I’d put him on the list but Ulm’s already disqualified Superman for being an alien. And if a motorcycle was enough to get you in I’d pick Ghost Rider. With that flaming skull head, he’s like a living tattoo on the back of a mass-murderer’s neck. Leather. Hotline to Satan. Charter member of the Legion of Monsters. Problem is that Nick Cage has played him twice and he’s also a charter member of the Champions, the lamest superhero team of all time.

TOM: How about Wildcat? My understanding is that he is/was a boxer. He’s got no super powers except brute strength and a mean right hook, so he’s a little like Batman in that regard (but without any gadgets). I’d say it’s manly for a guy to put on a cat costume to fight crime. That’s the nine lives of brass balls.

PAUL: Plus I think in one of DC’s innumerable reboots, Wildcat is the guy who taught Batman how to fight. OK, I don’t know if he belongs or not, but we’re not making a lot of headway so he goes on the list.

9) Wildcat (are YOU going to tell him he’s NOT manly?)

Wildcat seems like a regular guy, too. Like Ben Grimm. Ben’s got the stogie and you could drink beer with him and he’d pay. He’s got the New York street kid gang thing going on. Test pilot. He’s approachable but too much like your uncle to make the list.

ULM: The manliest super-hero is Thundra. You know she has penis, but maybe you’d still date her for the story …

PAUL: Sorry, you need to have a Y chromosome to make the list.

Thundra is NOT amused!

OK, since this is going nowhere fast I’m going to just start putting names on the list. Like … Black Panther. So, so cool. African king. Many wives. Pimp style and for awhile he was a hip hop guy (maybe still is). Downside: Token Avenger.

8) T’Challa (but you can call him Black Panther)

If pimp style counts, then we have to consider Sub-Mariner. Goes to work in his underwear (and when he doesn’t he wears the Pimp Suit and pulls it off). Perpetually pissed off. Royal blood. Has a giant octopus for his wingman. Fought Nazis AND the Japanese. Attacked New York a bunch of times. Downsides — Shares many of Aquaman’s negatives, he’s a Pretty Boy, plus couldn’t steal Sue Storm from Rubberman and he’s a fish. And if being a fish or an animal knocks you out, then there goes Howard the Duck, who has a stogie and no pants, but there was definitely something happening with Bev.

And it’s apropos of nothing, but I think we have to include Thor. Divine hammer. Muscles out to here. Can drink the whole mead hall under the table, got the whole viking thing going on. Downside: Cute little wings on the helmet and talks funny. Pretty. But I thought the movie last year did a decent job of making Thor seem like a regular guy, that he wouldn’t cockblock you or make you feel like a sidekick. He’s got those Warriors Three always hanging around and they don’t seem any worse for it.

7) Thor (long hair, thees and thous, but still manly)

I guess Gods are in, while aliens are out. Any other edge cases I’m forgetting?

ULM: What about Black Bolt? He is the ultimate version of the tall silent type. Apart from the occasional tear slowly crawling down his cheek, he keeps his lips zipped and only opens his mouth to destroy ancient Kree cities.

PAUL: Not sure I’d pick him over someone like Orion of the New Gods. He’s heir to the throne of a deathgod. Bad dad issues. Messed-up face and wants to fight everyone. But all the New Gods are kind of sissified — not as bad as Seraphim, but still …

How about someone more down-to-earth. Like Luke Cage! First, he’s Luke Cage! Should have been played by Samuel L. Jackson, but now he’s too old. Defends the ghetto and has a steel chain for a belt. Curses by saying “Christmas!” Downside: Curses by saying Christmas!

6) Luke Cage (Christmas!)

Who am I missing?

TOM: Judge Dredd?

PAUL: Dredd definitely, completely forgot about him. He’d in the running for #1 if he had even one lady on his dance card. His one-dimensionality holds him back, if you consider being the fifth manliest superhero being held back. He wears that helmet to bed, you know. Not sure if that helps or hinders his case.

5) Judge Dredd (he is the Law … which means no time for the ladies)

And if ladies are part of the equation, then you have to give it up for … Iron Man. Fought the Commies, and he’s a merchant of death.

ULM: Iron Man. Heart condition. Drinks. Smokes. Womanizes. Builds cool shit in his garage. Drives fast cars. Hangs out with thunder gods, super-soldiers and Nick Fury. Most importantly, Tony Stark has man-servants like Happy Hogan to do his taxes and drive him around to bang super-models. C’mon — is this really a contest? Think about what Bruce Wayne does in his spare time — obsess about crime and train young men to be his “ward.” NO CONTEST.

PAUL: Yeah, but there are some drawbacks, especially as he compares to Batman. Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are a push on the millionaire playboy thing, but Batman scores points for working without a net. How manly do you have to be to take on bad guys in what is essentially the battlesuit version of an F-15? Plus, Batman has the stubble while Tony has that pencil-thin mustache. And he can’t hold his booze.

Still:

4) Iron Man (manly enough for this room)

But technology only gets you so far. Guts counts for more than gears, and Wolverine gets points for the stogie, the hair, the tortured past, and the chip on his shoulder — more than enough to make up for the showtunes thing.

3) Wolverine (despite the Hugh Jackman thing)

Keep the stubble and the attitude, remove the Canadian thing, and add a whole bunch more women and you get …

2) Batman (despite the Val Kilmer thing)

Man points up for the gravelly voice and stubble (when Jim Lee draws him at least). Major playa with disposable starlets and supervillainesses like Cat Woman. Put a bun in the oven with Talia al Ghul, and probably Talia Shire too. No real powers. Loses points for hanging out with Robin.

manly pajamas

ULM: Really, all this stuff is just throwing you off the track. The real manliest man is JIMMY OLSEN. Yes, the alter ego of multiple super-heroes through the years including (but probably not limited to) Mr. Action, Giant Turtle Boy, Elastic Lad, Flamebird, Speed Demon, Insect Guy, Morbidly Obese guy, Gorilla, Viking guy, etc.

When not solving crimes in one of these guises, Jimmy has to always be on call and kowtow to a his “best friend,” a homoerotic alien fixated on a crazy woman desperately climbing the office ladder of a two-bit newspaper. Non-stop drama with no escape in sight. The fact that Jimmy Olsen is not swinging over a drain makes him, by far, the manliest super-hero in any universe.

PAUL: Sorry, Ulm, I’m not buying it. Maybe you could squeeze Jimmy in at number ten with that kind of logic but you missed your chance. We’re talking about numero uno now, and that means just one person …

1) Nick Fury (Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

He’s number one and it’s not even close. Eye patch. Stubble. Stogie. Actually IS played by Samuel L. Jackson. No super powers but he’s still The Boss. Pretty sure he nailed Madame Hydra and he had that tragic lost love in the old Sgt. Fury comics.

played by Samuel L. Jackson AND the Hoff? THAT’S Manly!

TOM: Also, Nick fury has the Infinity Formula so he will live forever.

Nick’s got a special kind of manliness. He fought Hitler, founded a secret agency, built a secret base that hovers in the air, he gets to boss around the superheroes despite having no actual powers, and he carries a gun, even when he’s on his giant secret hovercraft base. I’ll say it again: He bosses around the Avengers, and they like it.

PAUL: Damn right they like it. And you know why? Because Nick is MANLY, that’s why, manlier even than Giant-Sized Man Thing!

And that’s the list! Thanks to Tom and Ulm for their wise contributions (notwithstanding the whole Jimmy Olsen bit).

Agree, disagree …? Sound off in the comments, below!

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #55 — The Amazing Spider-Man

LONGBOX GRAVEYARD TOP TEN LISTS

Longbox Soapbox (Summer 2012)

Longbox Graveyard #52

How do you write nearly 100,000 words on old comic books?

One. Week. At. A. Time.

With this fifty-second installment, Longbox Graveyard marks one year of weekly and uninterrupted Wednesday publication. Pause for a creepy slow golf-clap while I turn a solitary little victory lap in the isolation of my garage-bound comic book Accumulation.

As was the case twenty-six issues ago, I’ll use this anniversary moment to blog about blogging with an editorial overview of Longbox Graveyard itself — where it’s been, how it’s doing, and where it’s going. If you came here looking for superheroes and this is all too self-referential, then please skip to the end of the column, take my survey, leave a comment to let me know you’re breathing, and then check back here next week for your regularly-scheduled comic book review!

comic book popularity is everything I dreamed it would be

Statistics & Hits

I already wrote in detail about which blogs attracted the most attention this past year, and the trends are broadly clear. Aside from the anomalous success of blogs about Young Justice and Operation Ajax, the bread-and-butter for Longbox Graveyard are my comic book reviews, which will continue to appear once every other week. A review every week might be nice, but I can’t maintain that pace, so you’ll continue to get comics culture and other stuff (like Panel Galleries) in the off-weeks between reviews.

When I last did a Longbox Soapbox, my best month was about 2,200 hits — this past May, Longbox Graveyard did nearly four times better than that. The blog has been pushing 300 views per day these past few weeks, fueled largely by hits on my Avengers-themed posts published when the movie came out. Time will tell if this growth is sustainable.

It’s been a slow climb, but now with a year of accumulated content, Longbox Graveyard is seeing significant traffic from Google Image Searches looking at my legacy posts. The size of this blog now provides a baseline of consistent daily traffic regardless of the day of the week or the popularity of my latest post. There are a lot of people out there looking for superhero images — almost as many as are looking for Chris Hemsworth Naked, Chris Evans Naked, Jason Momoa Naked, and Jennifer Lawrence Naked! Unfortunately, a lot of that search traffic is running the tap with the drain open, and it’s unlikely I’m converting regular readers from those sources.

A once-weekly, wall-of-words blog about old comics is always going to have limited appeal, but I am trying to find readers in other places. My personal Facebook page generates referrals each week, but I’ve given up my half-hearted attempt to maintain a Longbox Graveyard page on Myspace. My Twitter account is approaching 1000 “Followers,” but I’m unclear how many of those people read the blog. I do keep up a pretty constant conversation on Twitter, though, and I consider it as much a part of Longbox Graveyard as this blog. I’ve been posting to Google+ for about a month, without great results — I’ll keep it going for awhile but I think I agree with reports that Google+ is a ghost town. I did recently start a Facebook page for Longbox Graveyard — I’m not crazy about Facebook, but you have to fish where the fish are. If you’re on Facebook, please visit my page and throw me a “Like.”

Longbox Graveyard on Pinterest

My most recent experiment has been with Pinterest. There are a lot of pinnings and re-pinnings going on over there, my Follower numbers are growing, and I’ve struck up few conversations, but again it is difficult to determine how many people track me back to Longbox Graveyard. I think I will stick with Pinterest, as it provides a nice place to archive all the images I’ve excerpted for the blog (including some images that I never published here), and is just generally an interesting site in its own right, although it is heavily skewed towards handbags and hairsytles. Please check out my boards and join the site if you like what you see.

The Accumulation

I am still buying books faster than I get rid of them, but I feel like I’ve hit a kind of base camp in my assault on the Accumulation. I am better organized than ever, and I can lay hands on most books within seconds. I need to do one more triage of the pile of books out in the garage, to round up some strays and maybe opt another book or two into the Collection, but for the most part I think I’ve circled around the books I want to collect. Once I fill in a few more Tomb of Dracula and Fantastic Four numbers I will take a deep breath and decide what comes next. I’m feeling a hankering for the old Marvel Logan’s Run, and Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar. I’ve also been thinking about collecting Iron Fist and Marvel Two-In-One but I need to confirm what I already have first. You can see my up-to-date collection and wishlist by clicking here.

rather than collect Iron Fist AND Marvel Two-In-One, maybe I should just get Marvel Two-In-One #25, featuring Ben Grimm and Iron Fist!

I’ve finally made some progress selling my books, which you can track on my Departed page. I’ve had excellent luck with a few private sales, but eBay continues to disappoint. It is a buyer’s market over there, and by the time you deduct for eBay fees, Paypal fees, postage, and bags and boards, I feel like I might as well be throwing my comics in the street. One particularly painful transaction saw me lose thirteen bucks out of pocket selling the Squadron Supreme mini-series. I don’t expect big profits from selling my books but having to pay to give them away is the definition of insult to injury.

Check my For Sale page for comic book treasures direct from the Longbox Graveyard collection! When I sell direct I save a lot of fees and hassles, and my prices reflect those savings. Only a fraction of my books are listed here, so if you don’t see something you want, be sure to ask. If it’s a Marvel or DC book from 1975-1990 or so, there’s a good chance I’ve got it. One Twitter pal recently scored an excellent deal on the first seventeen issues of Nova just by asking if I had them for sale. You can reach me through a comment here on the blog or via email at longboxgraveyard (at) gmail.com.

think of my For Sale page as your own personal spinner rack and time machine, all in one

Reading

I am still reading a lot of comics, and still not reading much of anything else. At times the reading has felt like a grind and I need to guard against that. A big shift in my habits has grown out of the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited subscription I got for Christmas — I have read hundreds of old Silver Age books through that service, which has changed the focus of Longbox Graveyard from re-visiting books in my collection to looking at classic Marvel runs of the past. This has expanded the scope of this blog project and delayed some of the reviews I’d planned to do by now — like Master of Kung Fu, and more Tomb of Dracula and Thor — in favor of a lot of books I missed as a kid.

it’s been fun revisiting classic Avengers via my Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited subscription

It’s been fun to knock off an issue or two of classic Avengers on my lunch break. There would certainly be more DC content in this blog if they had a similar digital archive service. And I’d do even more Marvel reading if their subscription service ran on my iPad! Regardless of the interface, I am largely converted to digital at this point and have slowed down on back issue purchases.

The Boys

A year of leaving breadcrumbs between my boys’ bedrooms and my comic book collection has yielded pretty much zilch — I think I need to accept that while the lads are superhero fans to one degree or another, they lack the comics gene and this particular obsession is going to die with me. S’okay. Jack accompanied me to the Marvel Movie Marathon and has since gone back to see Avengers a couple times, so he has the inside track on inheriting my books, even if he won’t know what to do with them (hopefully he won’t lose too much money by unloading them on eBay). Miles will continue to get a big graphic novel every Christmas whether he wants it or not. Neither boy has the slightest interest in visiting comic shops, though they’re good for a day at Comic-Con once a year. They regard Longbox Graveyard as a quaint obsession and will talk about comics with me every now and then, which is probably good enough. Jack might yet come around. He showed a momentary interest in the Infinity Gauntlet graphic novel. A candle burns in the window.

proof that Jack reads comics (sometimes)

Finances

Longbox Graveyard itself still operates in the red — I do pay for hosting and domain mapping, which is nowhere near offset by my Amazon Store, MyComicsShop.com referrals, or my donate button (which has yet to collect a nickle). I’ve started running ads on the blog as part of a Worpress.com beta, but I doubt my traffic will result in many sales. Click them a time or two to send me fractions of a penny! I did sell some big-ticket X-Men books a couple weeks ago so Longbox Graveyard is yielding an indirect income.

Money is neither here nor there with Longbox Graveyard, but if you’re going to make a back issue purchase, or you’re shopping on Amazon, please consider going to those sites through my links to the left. It will push some income my way, which won’t make me rich, but helps to further validate my efforts on this blog.

Community

The Longbox Graveyard community continues to grow. Once comments were a rarity, but now I can count on pretty much every column attracting a comment or two. Your feedback is invaluable and goes a long way toward making me feel more like a columnist and less like a crazy man making a castle in the desert out of Pontiac hubcaps. To everyone who has commented on one of my posts, or engaged with me on Twitter or recommended my content — thank you.

thank you … yes, YOU!

The blog has had an unexpected side-effect of getting me out of my shell a little bit. I hosted a panel at WonderCon, and I have another panel coming up at San Diego Comic-Con (Thursday, 2-3PM, Room 32AB, to discuss Malibu Comics with the company founders). The success of Longbox Graveyard has also led to interviews and podcast appearances (two of them!), and some guest blogging, like the T-Rex Beatdown I did with my pal Matthew over at Mars Will Send No More, and my monthly Dollar Box column that debuted at StashMyComics.com last week. I will also be doing a monthly Longbox Graveyard podcast for We Talk Podcasts — the first episode should be up in about a week. I suppose there is some conflict saying I can’t maintain a pace of weekly reviews here at Longbox Graveyard while at the same time working for other sites, but it is flattering to be invited to contribute to other venues, and in the long run I hope those opportunities will drive readers back to this site. You can find links to all my extracurricular blogging activities on my Longbox Graveyard On The Web page.

The Road Ahead

You can always take a peek at what’s coming up on my Checklist, which extends into the future as well as the past, but it’s worth setting out some goals for the months ahead. I’m going to lay up a little and only pledge to continue Longbox Graveyard for another six months, getting me into mid-December for issue #78. I will almost certainly continue the blog past that point (the lure of one hundred issues will be difficult to resist), but it is by signing little contracts with myself that I am able to continue this effort. There’s no way I would have committed to doing this blog for a year back in June of 2011, but here we are.

One week at a time.

Judge Dredd is coming — both to the movies, and to Longbox Graveyard

My view of the blog is cloudy past July. I will do a column on Judge Dredd to coincide with release of the under-the-radar feature film, about which I remain cautiously optimistic (this from the guy who carried a flame for Conan and John Carter!). I will eventually blog about the Collectorz.com comic book software I’ve used to track my Accumulation, and I suppose I will someday put all my hard-won eBay knowledge about buying and selling comics down in one place. I will return to Tomb of Dracula at Halloween, and the next six months must certainly see my long-delayed Master of Kung Fu review come to light. Mostly I will be making it up as I go along, and I certainly welcome your suggestions for future Longbox Graveyard columns.

I will be here, one way or the other, for the next twenty-six Wednesdays (he said, knowing that stating your plans is one way to hear God laugh).

Survey

In my last Longbox Soapbox, I asked how you read this blog. This time I’d like to find out the kind of content you prefer here on the blog. I’m going to assume that reviews are the most popular feature, but if I’m not doing a review, which of the following categories of post do you prefer?

Comments!

And thus closes another Longbox Soapbox! Thanks for sticking with me this past year, and I hope you will stick with me in the year ahead. As was the case six months ago, if you are a reader of this blog, I hope you will post a comment below, even if you are a habitual lurker. Think of it as signing a guest book — it helps me know who has been here. You don’t have to be clever … just say hello.

please comment below!

Thanks for reading. See you again next Wednesday — and every Wednesday — for more Longbox Graveyard!

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #53 Thanos & The Infinity Gauntlet

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