Variant Covers: Harlan Ellison Has A Comic Out This Week. ‘Nuff Said.

Greetings, Earth Dwellers. Or perhaps, interstellar beings, butting into our infostream trying to surmise what the human race is all about. We are humans, and we’re primarily concerned with fucking, fighting, and building. I hope we’ve passed your litmus test, and you see fit to not obliterate us with your laser beams and annihilation strobes. This is Variant Covers, the weekly comic book joint where I sound off on the funny book releases for the forthcoming Wednesday. Should you choose not to vaporize us, I’ll see you next Tuesday.


Harlan Ellison’s Phoenix Without Ashes #1
If you don’t know who Harlan Ellison is, then you probably need your Geek Card revoked. Actually, that’s a bit draconian. You’re going to receive a three-week suspension and promise of having it returned to you after completing a program that lasts throughout duration of the suspension. He’s one of the Jesus Christ Wunderkinds of science fiction. A progenitor, straight-up pimp, and controversial motherfucker. It makes sense then, that the comic book droppin’ this week with his nomen upon it arrives with a serious amount of controversy surrounding it.

Buckle up, this is an amusing tale.

Back in the year 1971, Ellison developed a TV show under the title of The Starlost, whose pilot was called Phoenix Without Ashes. Apparently it was several shades of asstacular, and Ellison demanded he be credited under Cordwainer Bird. Yeah, guy wasn’t particular happy with the show. Cordwainer Bird? Interesting.

Anyways, following in 1975, the shit got novelized, by Edward Bryant. And here we are, some thirty-five years later, where it’s receiving the funny book treatment courtesy of “Harlan Ellison” and Alan Robinson.

I have no idea if Harlan is directly responsible for converting this son of a bitch into Panels and Narrative Boxes, but it interests me none the less. Any time that one of the godfathers of science fiction is contributing something to the annals of comic book history, I have to take a peek. See what’s going on. It’s what, four dollars? That’s like, three and a half Diet Mountain Dews. I can afford to take the risk.

You know, if they have the comic book. At my local store.

I’m doubting it.


Bulletproof Coffin #3
Bulletproof Coffin #3 also drops this week. It’s the third issue of an eccentric take on both the current age, and past ages of comic book. Take that shit, wrap it up in some oddity and mix in the familiar but enjoyable trope of examining the glimmer of your past in contrast with the dull sheen of your present existence. But with dead zombies and children holding guns and other insane happenings.

It’s awesome. And if you can find a place to pick it up, it’s worth your space bucks. Your imperial credits. If you’re an alien reading this column, deciphering it for clues pertaining to our existence, you guys can probably walk into the comic book shop and just walk out with it. The fat guys and the bespectacled dorks running the joint are going to be too busy orgasming at the proof of extraterrestrial life to stop you.

Go on, get your theft on. If you’re going to be about our culture, your best bet is to ingratiate yourself into our behaviors as well. Theft is a good place to start.


Amazing Spider-Man #640
Perhaps you’ve already undergone this, aliens. The movement from tangible to intangible objects. The decline of purchasing tenable objects in your civilization. But I’m having a hard time suffering that, in conjunction with the slow, miserable death of the comic book industry. You see, despite the fact that I’m pretty amped up for this week’s latest issue of Amazing Spidey, I’m more excited for the two aforementioned titles. The esoteric, less marketable bullshit. Less marketable, but perhaps even more enjoyable.

I’m struggling more and more lately with the fact that the shit I want to read, isn’t found on the shelves of my favorite comic book store. Ever since I said to myself, “Drinkwater, you got places in your heart for things beyond the realm of Capes and Telekinesis”, I’ve been branching out into Esoteria. But with that evolution of interest, I’m met every week with similar results. I walk into my comic book store, hoping to find say, Bulletproof Coffin, while silently resigned to the notion that I shant.

I walk to the shelf, and amidst Deadpool Explosi-Core #15 and Utterly Invincible Albeit Uncanny X-Force, there ain’t much for someone looking for the different.

And the worst part is? I can’t blame my comic book store.

Azrael #11
The dudes who run my comic book store are solid guys. So actually, maybe you shouldn’t rob them, Interstellar Visitors. Okay? More than that, they’re just trying to get by in a market that is dwindling. And getting by means ordering comics that you think are going to sell, not just sit on the shelves and rot. For while I may be into Bulletproof Coffin, they ain’t going to get much interest for it other. They don’t order enough issues of Shadowland sometimes, and I fear it is because they play it conservative.

I can’t blame them.

I probably would to.

As I said, they’re solid dudes, just trying to continue to eek out an existence. They’re a niche market in the print world, and as the entire print world contracts, they’re bordering the precipice.


Hellcyon #3
But for myself, this poses another problem. I’ve been searching for an answer to it for the better part of the year, as I searched for new material. Where do I go? Where do I take my business? I don’t want to leave them, having visited the same shop for years, for having forged a rapport with the pack of dope guys who run the joint. But? But I’m constantly finding a lack of titles I want to procure on dem shelves. Don’t get me wrong, everything I want, they could order for me. The problem is that I’m not searching weeks ahead of time to find out what’s interesting that’s droppin’. I check week-of, and I generally scour the lists.

I ain’t checking December’s releases so I can ensure I get Bulletproof Coffin #5 or whatever. It’s just not happening.

The solutions seem obvious, though unpalatable. I could order online from something like Midtown Comics. They have a refuckulous selection, and they’d be shipped to my door. Even contemplating that alternative though, I feel like a traitorous piece of refuse. And then there’s the digital option that’s becoming more and more enticing. Should I actually own an intergalacticPad, I could begin downloading these sons a bitches right into my tablet.

And with day and date releases becoming more common, I wouldn’t even have to wait. Wouldn’t even have to leave the door. Sittin’ right here in my Dark Knight boxers shorts, covered in crumbs and unwashed. It’s enticing. If I noticed something that caught my eye as I browsed a release list, I wouldn’t have to ask it to be ordered, I’d simply ship it down the fat pipes from online source to plastic tablet of funny books.


Fables #97
However, both solutions promote an acceleration of the death of my favorite independent comic book store. Sandwiched between the two worlds – Getting The Comics I Want and Not Killing My Local Shop, I’ve sort of waded through the year not getting comics and supporting my shop whilst becoming increasingly more frustrated. Resentful, while knowing there’s ways for me to get my funny books du jour. Or week. I don’t know how to say week in French.


What do you guys do about this? Do you order the comic books ahead of time? Are you awaiting the Tangibility Apocalypse in resignation? I’m interested to hear what other purveyors of the Images & Words have to say about this conundrum that is continually becoming more apparent to us comic book fans.