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Episode 315: SPX 2013 Reviews

Oh boy, did we buy a lot of books! Oh boy, did we read a lot of books! Oh boy, did we review a lot of books! Oh boy! Here is a hopefully comprehensive list of creators we discussed from our pickups at SPX. Included are links so you can check them out and find out how awesome they are!

Runtime 1 hour 3 minutes 12 seconds


Creator of books we picked up include:

Lamar Abrams
Sam Alden
Carolyn Belefski
Sam Bosma
Box Brown
Joe Carabeo
Michele Chidester
Jared Cullum
Farel Dalrymple
Eleanor Davis

Patrick Dean
Nick Drnaso
Henry Eudy
Sean Ford

Charles Forsman
C Frakes
Monica Gallagher
Lee Gatlin
Nicole J. Georges
Alex Kim
Joe Lambert
Roger Langridge
Laurel Lynn Leake
David Mack
Chuck McB
Melissa Mendes
Pranas T. Naujokaitis
Robert Newsome
Flynn Nicholls
Ed Piskor
David Plunkert
Jim Rugg
Vanessa Satone
Katie Sekelsky
Katie Skelly
Jamie Tanner
Sara L. Turner
Drew Weing
Joey Weiser
Runner Runner (anthology)
Secret Prison No. 7 (anthology)

Episode 315: SPX 2013 Reviews


Comic Reviews: Nowhere Man & Rebetiko

 Nowhere Man: You Don’t Know Jack

     Let me start by saying I love receiving books by small publishers.  Nothing makes me happier to get to see what kinds of titles are being produced outside of the mainstream.  And I really love it when someone takes an old idea and gives it a fresh spin.  Nowhere Man: You Don’t Know Jack by Jerome Walford is the story of an NYPD detective using super powers he got in a mysterious accident trying (perhaps just a little too hard) to live up to the long shadow that his father left In the police department.
     What starts out as a routine case quickly spins out of control leaving Detective Jack Maguire in the middle of the biggest conspiracy of all time.  All that’s been done before in other books but what I like is that the lead character is black.  He’s not a walking stereotype but a real 3-D person with the kinds of problems that all men have and that works to the book’s favor.
     The problem is how do I give an in depth review what is essentially only the first  chapter of 40 pages of a longer story?  What kind of accident gave Jack his powers?  How long has he had his powers?  What happened to his father to make him try to hard?  What is the conspiracy about that we start to learn of?
     The book kind of starts with no back story and then just stops with no real ending.  I know that this is the first of at least 3 volumes and I wish that the author had waited until he had the 120 or so pages finished to release all at one time as I felt I came into a movie 5 minutes after it started and walked out after 30 and tried to write a review.  I would like to know what’s going to happen next but this is a tough book for me to recommend.

     First off, I want you to click on this link and listen as you read.  As I may have mentioned before, I am a student and lover of history.  Every continent in every time period has fascinating stories just waiting to be told.  Rebetiko by David Prudhomme has been referred to as his masterpiece and I wish I could agree.  I wanted to enjoy this book.  I really did but the experience felt like trying to run through a swamp.  I would slog and slog and then hit a patch where the author really nailed it and I was off and running for a little bit until I again had to wade through the next slow patch.
     Rebetiko refers to a kind of bluesy, jazzy Greek folk music popular in the 1920’s and 30’s.  The book itself follow the lives of a group of musical rebels who fill their days with smoke, drink, women, settling debts, and of course the music itself and their story is told against a backdrop or a repressive military dictatorship.  A clear parallel can be made, I think between Rebetiko music being a cry from a repressed people and poor African Americans in the delta almost needing to create the blues as a way of giving voice to their hopelessness.  The irony, of course, is that repressed people are often the ones in a society with the most freedom to express themselves.
     As many problems as I may have had with the story his art is never less than amazing.  Prudhomme has a painted style in this book that is very reminiscent of poster artwork of that time further grounding it in that time period.  I also was fascinated by his use of shadows.  Day or night, there are the shadows.  People are sitting in them, walking through them, or casting them on the walls behind them.  It is a subtle trick he uses that helps to convey not only the oppression that the Greek citizens lived under but also I think signifies the shadow of suspicion these artists and their music had cast on them by the ordinary citizens.
     All this comes down to if I can recommend it.  Let me say this, comics are a marriage of art and words.  If you removed the art you’d be left with a book.  Remove the words and you still have a comic.  And while the words might not be all I had hoped for the art is incredible and worth looking just for that if nothing else.




Episode 314: Baltimore Comic Con and SPX 2013 Recaps

This year, for the first time ever, the Dollar Bin got to attend back to back conventions (actually, it was back to back to back including the Ashville Comics Expo) in Maryland, Baltimore Comic Con and SPX.  How did they go?  Listen in with special guests, Tee, Brad McGinty, and J Chris Campbell to find out.

Runtime 1 hour 7 minutes 27 seconds

Episode 314: Baltimore Comic Con and SPX 2013 Recaps


Cheap Trade Hunting Grounds

     Times are tight and we all want to stretch our buying power just a little bit.  I made the switch about 5 years to trades only.  No floppies, singles, monthlies, or whatever term is now being used for the monthly fix.  So far this year I have bought 157 graphic novels with a face value of $2153.00 for only 387.00; which means I am paying only slightly under 18% of the face value or an 82% discount if you wish.  How do I know this?  Well I am one of those collector’s who are anal-retentive when it comes to my comics.  I keep a spreadsheet with the date and location of the purchase, the title, what I paid, and the actual cover price.  This way I can monitor my purchases and see which places are best to go back to.
     If you are a slave of the Big 2 and will only read full-color capes and tights books then you find this article to be less useful as oddly enough even though the Big 2 produce more trades I find books by smaller publisers at a rate of 4:1.  However, if you are looking to scratch that comic itch cheaply then please continue.
     I know, this one seems obvious, right?  I find that these days book stores just consider graphic novels to be another genre they have to carry and really place no special emphasis on them.  MyTrust me, all 35,000 feet is like this. personal favorite used book store is called Piccolo’s Used Books in Long Beach, which is located inside an old Borders Book Store.  Let me just say they are not the neatest of places but the dig is half the fun.
     When you go into a used book store ask if there is a graphic novel section or a comics section and start there.  If you don’t find anything look in the children’s section (where I found 6 Hardy Boys trades), the Fantasy section (where I’ve found two Elfquest trades), and believe it or not the video game manual section.  (where I found 4 Marvel graphic novels including The New Mutants and The Death of Captain Marvel).  All of my finds above were $1.00-$3.00 each.
     Most used books stores, especially the larger ones, are staffed by young high school or college students who most likely are not comic readers and honestly probably aren’t interested in reading period so when they sort through a box they rarely look inside the covers and just sort them by what they appear to be and not what they actually are so you have to think a little outside the box when you go in.
     Everyone is familiar with that sell trades for 40% off but we are here for the real bargains.  Have you heard of  They sell all their graphic novels for $5.00 and routinely have sales of $3.00 trades and every quarter or so will email you $5.00 off coupons for orders of $50.00 or more (and no sales tax).  I am sure there are a lot of other websites out there I haven’t heard of whose prices might be better, if so let the rest of us in on it.
     Most big box stores have a bargains section on their website.  For example Barnes and Noble has a Bargain-Priced graphic novel section where books are often 65% off or more.  Amazon also has sellers looking to sell their used books for as little as a penny (PLUS shipping of course).
     Craigslist can also yield some great results.  In fact as of right now I could go pick up the first 18 trades of Fables for $5.00 each from some guy who lives only 10 minutes from me.  The problem is that you have to be specific about the terms you use.  It treats trade paperback and trade paperbacks as two entirely different searches so you need to try every common misspelling.  You also need to check it every day if possible as things are listed and gone the same day, first come, first served.
     Again, this is a no-brainer, right?  But the really good bargains are found in the last 2-3 hours of the This aisle alone had 3 dealers selling $5.00 trades.last day.  Vendors are wanting to get rid of as much inventory as possible and will be ready to cut deals.  One trade isn’t too bad but when you combine it with a few hundred of it’s closest friends that a lot of heavy boxes and dealers would rather sell that book instead of boxing it up and paying to ship or haul it back to their stores.  At the WonderCon a couple of months ago one dealer was having a blowout of $2.00 trades and $4.00 hard covers.  I was looking in another dealer’s space when I saw the guy put out his sign with two hours left.  I walked out of there with 20 books with a face value of $314.00 for only $40.00!  I picked up all three trades of The Pulse, three consecutive volumes of HawkGirl, and 5 trades of J Michael Straczynski’s Spider-Man run among others.
     As I mentioned before I’ve noticed that graphic novels are so popular now that people have started to see them as just another book and nothing special.  And with so many graphic novels out there many find their way here.  I have yet to go to a flea market or swap meet or anything similar where I didn’t walk away with at least one book.  At my local Cypress Swap Meet a month ago I walked away with two Deadpool trades for $2.00 each, a copy of Will Eisner’s The Building for a buck, and two trades ofCan you not smell the bargains and all the people who haven’t showered in two days? Strangers in Paradise for $1.50 each.  And like at comic shows if you can wait until the end of the day prices are usually cheaper. 
     I am luckier than most in that I live in Southern California where cities literally run into each other so I have more libraries to check out.  Most libraries of any size have a used book section for .50 to a couple bucks each.  And if they don’t there is usually a volunteer Friends of the Library Store located somewhere inside.  
     So far this year I found 10 Star Wars trades (including 5 in sequence volumes of The Rogue Squadron) for $1.00 each, a copy of Watchmen for a buck, and a hardcover of Marvel’s adaptation of a crime novel from the TV show Castle for fifty cents!
And every library has a yearly book sale where they unload all of their donations through the year for a buck or two a piece.  At the Cypress library’s book sale I found a copy of the first Owly trade and a wonderful little book called Celador for $1.00, and if I liked it, a WHOLE LOT of Manga for a buck a pop.
     This one will require some effort but it’s worth it in the end I think.  First, get yourself a blog site or website and start reviewing graphic novels.  Build up a track record to show off.  Next thing you want to do is do a google search for press release agencies and sign up at as many sites as you can to receive them.  They are free to receive and you get to pick the keywords you are interested in so most of the ones I get are exactly what I am looking for (then again I also get invites to attend the film set of most of the XXX parodies so it doesn’t always work………….or does it?).  
     These press releases are going to be coming almost exclusively from smaller publishers trying to make a name for themselves and they are willing to send you copies of books that are just being released, and in a lot of cases books that will not ship for months in exchange for reviewing the book they send you.
     If you don’t want to go the press release route then go to your LCS and take a look at the smaller publishers they carry to make a list and contact their publicity/marketing department directly.  Make sure in your email to include several links to your previous reviews so they know you are legitimate.  
So far this year I have received over $340.00 in books absolutely free in exchange for reviews.
     Remember though, you are making an agreement with the company that in exchange for free reading material you will write a good review in a timely manner.  By good I don’t mean you just rubber stamp each book as being the greatest thing you‘ve ever read that wasn‘t written by Alan Moore, by good I mean a well-thought out review and not just three or four sentences.  Usually two well-written paragraphs will do it but feel free to go longer if the subject strikes you.  And when you’ve posted your review make sure you contact the agent who sent you the books and give them a link to the review so they know you’ve read the book and who knows, you might even find yourself quoted on the cover one day.
     Again, I cannot stress enough how important it is you live up to your end of the deal.  If you write and post a review 6 months after the book has been out then there is no advantage for them to send you more books when they come out with new stuff.

      There you go, almost all of my hunting secrets.  I can’t give it all away can I?  Now get out there and get to hunting!


Comic Reviews: Boxers & Saints



In the late 1890’s China was a weak country.  European nations moved in and began to carve up the country among themselves similar to how they did in Africa and South America.  And with these nations came Christian Missionaries who felt they were doing the right thing by converting the native Chinese and eliminating their culture in favor of a more European kind of culture.  This did not sit well with a growing number of young Chinese men who started forming small groups and these small groups joined together to form The Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist (or commonly known as Boxers), a group dedicated to driving out the “foreign devils” and more importantly protecting Chinese culture.  The group believes that by following a ritual they gain the powers of the Chinese Gods in their war against the “invaders”.

The book Boxers follow a character called Little Bao from a small village who kind of falls backwards into leading a group of Boxers whose ultimate goal is to march on the capital city of Peking to drive out the “foreign devils” from their strongholds and cleanse China once and for all.
If you have seen Apocalypse Now you know that the further up the river Benjamin Willard journeys to find Colonel Kurtz the more he loses his humanity until madness threatens to take him.  In a similar way the closer Little Bao gets to Peking the more of his humanity is lost.  He begins his journey as a humble peasant who starts out killing only to protect other Chinese from marauding foreigners, to ordering the killing of a few Christians on a train, and then ordering the slaughter of everyone in a church to ultimately ordering the burning of the great library of Peking to gain access to the Western section of the city.  In doing so he has destroyed most of the written history of his country and in doing so has in a way destroyed that which he had hoped to save.  

The internal conflict within Boa between staying true to his principles and the growing feeling that perhaps those same principles are what is keeping him from doing what he feels he has to is the core of this book and the writer/artist Gene Luen Yang deftly combines carefully chosen words and powerful images and I feel that the reader cannot help but sympathizes with Bao.  This is remarkable since this book is published and will undoubtedly be read by a largely white, Western audience and the fact that I could not help but cheer on Bao is testament to the skill Yang has with his craft.

Unfortunately the book has a few problems that bothered me.  Yang felt the need to craft on a lot of supernatural elements that I felt detracted from the story.  Apparently Bao learns the ritual to harness the powers of the Gods through a mystical teacher and that was not really needed.  The representation of each of the warriors as a God was interesting but I am still not sure why Yang felt it necessary to give a supernatural source to this.  The other thing I was disappointed in was the scope.  In the fight scenes when Yang should have given himself license to cut lose and open up his art and show the scope of the battles he chooses to still keep it intimate and ultimately I think this goes to cheapen the smaller scenes since there is no real balance.  If you are going to attempt an epic story parts of it need to be, well, epic.

So, it always comes down to should you spend your time and money on this and I think the answer is yes.  Yang is a masterful story-teller no matter if the subject matter is grand in scope of personal.  And speaking of personal stories…..  

Much like Boxers; Saints follows the life of a single individual during the Boxer Rebellion.  The Chinese culture Four-Girl grows up in is harsh; involving beatings for not knowing her place and in fact is worth so little she is not even given a proper name.  The hopelessness of her situation is so that when she is introduced to Christianity we understand how she can grab on to it not only as a way to save her soul, but to salvage her life as well.   
Throughout the book Four-Girl sees a vision of a young lady who she learns from her teachers is Joan of Arc.  At periods in her life that mirror the trials that Joan went through Four-Girl is visited by Joan and provided guidence and reassurance that her life is on the right track. Unfortunately Four-Girl is ignorant of French history and so does not see that if she is not careful her life could end horribly the same as Joan’s.

Much like Clint Eastwood did with Flags of our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima; Saints is not really a sequel to Boxers but is instead a companion piece that gives us the point of view from the other side of the Boxer Rebellion.  One of the most interesting things of this book is that the author chose to release both volumes at the same time.  It doesn’t matter which one you read first as Bao makes an appearance in Saints and Four-Girl makes an appearance in Boxers so the two stories intertwine very well.  You do not need to read the other for each one to make complete sense but I recommend that you purchase both and read them back to back.  If you want to know the real final fate of Bao you must read Saints and only by reading Boxers will you ever know if Four-Girl becomes a champion to the Christian Chinese she so desperately wants to protect.  I will not spoil the endings except to say they are some of the msot powerful images I have seen in comics form and while sad are ultimately inevitable.

Taken as individual experiences both books are well-researched, thoughtful works but taken together these two books make for a single powerful experience that I feel in some way the author has been working towards his entire life.  The only question I am left with is what he could possibly do to top this. 




Episode 313: Prepping for SPX 2013

This week we listen in as Adam talks SPX strategy with Tee.  We are through Baltimore and gearing up for SPX, so this is a quick one.  We’ll be back next week (hopefully with interviews) to wrap up our trip to the back to back Maryland shows, so keep a look out for that.

Runtime 21 minutes 12 seconds

Episode 313: Prepping for SPX