January 30th, 2011

Hitch-hiker's Guide

A Farewell To Arms

Oberhausen, Germany, is home to the Sea Life Aquarium.  All aquariums like to have some kind of star.  America's Sea World has Shamu.  I don't remember the details, but I believe an aquarium in Clearwater, FL is home to Winter the dolphin, who has a prosthetic tail after being rescued from a crab trap.  And on YouTube, there's an aquarium with otters that have been trained to play basketball.  Not five on five, they just take the ball and put it in the basket.  I'll take them over the Clippers and the points.

Oberhausen was home to Paul The Octopus.  Paul shot to fame when, as a gag, they put two cases in his tank.  Each contained a mollusk and a flag for a team competing that day in the World Cup.  Whichever one Paul opened first was forecasted to be the winner.  Paul correctly pegged all seven teams.  But octopi only live about a year once they reach maturity.  When their eggs hatch, that literally starts the countdown and nothing can stop it (source:  Sound Waves  #4.  Ha ha yourself).  Paul died peacefully in octopus luxury in October.  So, no, it wasn't a mob hit paid for by Vegas bookies.

The only prediction Paul got wrong was who would host the World Cup in 2018.  (Cheap shot coming.)  Paul predicted England, but it went to Russia instead.  (Cheap shot imminent.)  Everyone should have known that -- when's the last time England won anything involving the World Cup?  (Pause for big laffs.)

So Paul The Octopus sleeps with the fishes.  * grin *  Because soccer here in the US is not that big a game, it's easy to forget the fanatical hold it has on the rest of the world. Fans deluged the Sea Life Aquarium with emails asking for a memorial to Paul The Octopus.  Well, they complied.

You know, I've had nightmares like this.  Is there something wrong with me when I look at this picture and expect a bird to hatch out of the ball?

Okay, so what we have here is a six foot tall plastic sculpture.  Paul's ashes are in an urn inside the ball.  So if you ever go to Germany and find yourself in the area, you too can have your picture taken with the Paul The Octopus memorial.

Beats the hell out of the world's largest ball of twine.

Most In Need Of A Humanities Class, Jan 2011

"People are stupid and evil.  There's something wrong with us.  Some hideous flaw..."
--Dr. Delia Surridge
V For Vendetta

Kids suck.

I say that because I was a kid myself.

I don't mean that as in I did cruel stuff.  As far as I recall, I was not one of the cruel ones.  I was the one picked on.  I came to Illinois in the third grade, when the kids already had their little social circles set up.  So I was always an outsider.  Combine that with my general preference for solitude over socializing and the fact that, always an individualist, I didn't hide away the things that made me seem odd, and I was a ripe target.  My view of other kids became one of anger and cynicism because I saw the worst behavior.  It's no surprise to me that I didn't go to prom, didn't hang out, hell, I didn't even lose my virginity until I was well rid of high school and that group of idiots.

Now, I wasn't picked on all the time, just when I was a convenient target.  There were a lot of kids that were better targets for their hazing and their hatred.  Because of my grades, I got stuck in classes with the preps.  They would raz me once in a while during class downtime.  The important thing about public humiliation is getting the crowd on your side.  I knew I'd never get these stuck-up dipshits to see my side, so I just ignored them and went back to drawing my cartoons (the classes I had with the normal kids?  They loved my cartoons and couldn't wait to see what I was drawing and what jokes I was making.  Great crowd).  It sucked, but it was managable.  Other kids got far worse.  I remember one kid was subject to a "Be Nice To (Whoever)" Day.  They told him that they weren't going to pick on him that day and that day only.  He didn't look so good, knowing that any kindness and consideration was not only phony, but it would be back to the harsh treatment in 24 hours.  I think he would have prefered the harsh treatment just because it was honest and not condescending.

Treating people with dignity is a lost art.  It's something kids just don't know and appreciate when they are the big names.  This is why South Park is so great in my mind.  No other show on TV captures the childhood mindset so accurately.  South Park proved it again when they did an episode in 2005 called "Kick A Ginger Day."  Unfortuately, kids don't get the satire of the episode, and Facebook has been rife with invitiations to kick a redhead on a certain day.

Peter G's Rule #1 -- People who want to hate will seize on any excuse to lash out.  Vestal High School in New York apparently doesn't have many redheads, because the students declared a "kick a Jew" day.  37 students are being investigated and could be suspended.  Apparently, the mistake was not sticking to Gentile students.  The school didn't seem interested in investigating that.  The students, in fact, had "kick a blond" and "kick a redhead" and nothing happened.  And this is coming from one of the parents of a kid being investigated and suspended.  (Which also means he did nothing when his kid was kicking anyone until now, because despite the justification of the earlier kick days, he says what his kid was wrong and he should be suspended now.  Wrong is wrong no matter when.  Some parent.)

Students were claiming the kicking was done "in jest" or "in fun."  Yeah, that's easy to believe when you are in no danger of retaliation.  Try that shit on the jocks, you dipshits.

These are the parents raising the next generation.  And that generation will be raising the next.

God, I'm glad my life is half over.

Snap Judgments -- The Godzilla #1 variant cover

Hello, and welcome to another instalment of Snap Judgments, where I look at something coming out and based on sketchy information and attempts at logic, try to arrive at a poorly informed theory as to whether or not something is going to work.

In the Chicago area, there is only a handful of comic book store chains.  I am aware of only Amazing Fantasy and Graham Crackers (Graham Crackers was where I did my first official comic book signing, so I have a very warm spot in my heart for them).  Graham Crackers, I clearly recall, had special variant comic book covers exclusively for their stores.  I'm guessing it didn't do all that much, since I don't really see them anymore.  You are far more likely to find special convention covers than Graham Crackers covers.

Maybe they just aren't thinking big enough.

IDW is starting a new Godzilla comic book series.  Not interested, Americans have NEVER done Godzilla right (am I really supposed to believe a home pregnancy test will work on a radiation mutated lizard?  I heard the explanation, but all I could think was, "Seriously?").  IDW is readying some REAL variant comic book covers.

Here's the deal -- if your shop orders at least 500 copies of Godzilla #1, they will get a special variant cover that shows Godzilla smashing the comic shop.

As you can see by these images bookending this portion of my blog, they actually work to equate the facade of the building and the logo is nice and prominent.  This is actually a clever marketing gimmick.

The question is, who is the gimmick for?

We're talking 500 copies here, so let's do some maths.  Indie comics are priced different from the Marvels and DC's.  So $4 per copy is standard.

Question #1 -- will this be handled by Diamond or no?  Given Diamond's monopoly (I'm pretty sure IDW is signed as a Diamond exclusive, so doing this themselves is breach of contract), that means you order through them.  Diamond buys books from publishers at 40% of the cover price and sells them to the stores at 60% of the cover price.  So, for a $4 book, the retailer is paying $2.40 per book.

Everybody with me so far?  That's good!

So, 500 copies times $2.40 each == $1200.  There are not many comic chains with that kind of positive cash flow.  Now, some chains are taking IDW up on this offer, but it's not going to be a mom and pop store.  There are two kinds of stores that will carry this --

1)  Chains that can sell at least 300 copies of these books.  At $4 per issue, that is how many they need to move to break even.  That's a LOT of books, given that lots of stores don't stock many copies of the books they order.  They underorder instead of overorder because they have to warehouse that overstock.  We're talking enough books to fill a short box, and they have to sell 60% of them.  That's too risky a proposition.

2)  Stores that will write the expenditure off as advertising.  They can give them away as premiums in the store or at movie theaters when comic book movies like Thor, Captain America, and Green Lantern come out.  I just don't see demand that high and they're going to be giving them away.  And that's a LOT to give away.

Given print on demand, that number can be flexible.  500 copies is very expensive per unit with a pro printing press.  You still need seperate covers even if the insides are the same.  The extra headache is added to the cost.  Of course, if there's some loophole that enables IDW to handle this themselves, there are lots of cheap alternatives.  There are printers in China that will do full colors for $0.50 a book, but the lead time is huge and you are hoping and praying they don't screw up the order or delay things, because who are you going to complain to?  And that assumes the savings are passed on to the stores.  If IDW sells the books at cost (which is HIGHLY unlikely), that's $250 for the books, and you still need to warehouse the ones that don't sell.

This sounds like a cool idea but completely impractical.  If the minimum order was lower, I'd say it's a good idea.  But 500?  I see a lot of books in quarter boxes and being given away free to people who aren't interested in comics and are unlikely to enter the comic shop.  I don't think this is going to work out all that well.
Peter G

It's Never Easy

So, I'm looking over the guest lists for C2E2 and WizardWorld to see what I'm dealing with.  As I have made everyone aware, The Bruce, Bruce Campbell, will hit the ChicagoCon in August.  I was trying to decide what I would take for my precious two guaranteed signatures.

Maybe a change of plans.

I might need to find an Evil Dead movie poster.

There's a sort of Evil Dead reunion happening.  Besides The Bruce, there will be Betsy Baker, Hal Delrich (a.k.a. Richard Demanincor), Ellen Sandweiss, and Teresa Tilly (a.k.a. Sarah York).

Now, I'm totally on board with mornblade's suggestion of Brinke Stevens.  There's a bunch of B movie stars going to be there this year.  Ironically, it will make it the most fun at a comic con.

Oh, and if we ARE going for B movie stars, John Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes).  And see if you can nab Angus Scrimm (Phantasm) while you're at it.