my black friday finds

I mentioned yesterday that my one and only Black Friday destination is Half-Price Books. I’ve always loved used bookstores and living within a five-minute drive from one has been one of the perks of moving to Ohio. When I lived in New York, I frequented dozens of used bookstores a month, from destination stores like The Strand to tiny hole-in-the-wall establishments.

The problem with being a NYC book snob was that there are SO MANY that finding those diamonds in the rough was a most formidable challenge. A guy I used to know who turned scouring thrift stores and used bookstores into a sizable source of income once told me that there were New York City collectors who literally pay people to “cover” certain used bookstores, keeping their eyes out for certain books. I’ve never been sure whether to believe that or not, but the idea of it always tinged my enjoyment of digging through the shelves and stacks.

No such problem here in Southern Ohio, at least to my knowledge. Again, I’m not finding literary treasures beyond compare; usually they’re just comic book collections or used paperbacks I like.

Anyhow, I do a lot of “stocking” shopping at HPB on Black Friday, but I always make sure to pick up a book or three for myself. This is what I grabbed today. Keep in mind, I only spent around $10 bucks.

DC Comics Classics Library: Justice League of America by George Perez

This is something I wouldn’t buy in a million years unless the circumstances were right. So… here are the circumstances:

1. I had a $5 dollar gift certificate.

2. Half Price Books’ Black Friday sale also allowed you to take off an additional 20% off all books

2. It’s a $40 dollar book, but instead of being marked down to $20 dollars… it was marked down to $10. I paged through this thing about a dozen times and I can’t find anything wrong with it.

The DC Comics Classics Library is a line of hardcover collections of classic storylines from the company that brings you Superman and company every month. The word “classic” seems a little misleading to me, as a quick look at the line’s Wikipedia page leaves me scratching my head. I mean, I’m a longtime comics fan and while some of these stories are inarguably classics (Superman’s “Kryptonite Nevermore”, Captain Marvel’s “The Monster Society of Evil”) some of them are strange. The Batman annuals are classics? I own a couple of them and I didn’t realize that.

Anyhow, this Classics Library collection contains six early issues of Justice League of America, pencilled by superhero comics’ superstar George Perez. Perez is one of my favorite superhero artists, a guy who’s famous for piling on the characters with whatever comic he’s drawing at the time. I mean, for those that don’t read these types of books, let me put it in perspective- an artist is paid to draw a comic book. You can draw a comic with a solo hero… say, Batman. You only have to remember the details on one costume… maybe two, somewhere along the line. For the same money, you could be paid to draw a TEAM book like JLA… where you may have to draw five or eight characters. That’s a headache, I’m sure.

Perez is well-known to “go for broke” when he draws his team books. Instead of five characters… you’ll get fifty. I remember when the guy was on Marvel’s Avengers comic, the first issue was double sized and he drew EVERY Marvel character who had ever been an Avenger… and then in the second issue, he drew them all, but he freakin’ changed their costumes to suit a time travel story! The guy’s amazing and definitely why I picked this book up.

Let me point out one of the really cool things about this hardcover- the paper stock. I know that’s a strange thing to spend time thinking on, but here me out: comics printed before the late 1990’s were printed on HORRIBLE paper. It’s one of the reasons I love old comics- they’re ultimately disposable entertainment. As comics as a medium have transitioned toward respectability, the production quality on books has gotten better and better. A problem arises in collecting older comics in a modern format. They just don’t look nice or feel right on slick, glossy paper. The DC Comics Classics LIbrary has come up with a nice solution here. I don’t know what kind of paper this is, but it’s far more representative of years gone by, with a nice tooth to it and a really nice saturation of the colors.

The book looks cool and I’ll put it on my nightstand for some leisure reading somewhere down the line.

Zorro: Year One by Matt Wagner and Francesco Francavilla (this is not the trade paperback cover, just an image I liked from the series)

I normally steer clear of licensed comics; there have been some good ones, but by and large they’re a dumping ground for awkward likenesses and dubious writing. A few years ago however, I picked up two trades featuring The Lone Ranger from Dynamite Studios. Dynamite publishes a LOT of licensed properties; off the top of my head, I know they do Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, The Terminator, and tons more.

I got Dynamite’s take on The Lone Ranger off of Swaptree; I think I swapped an old Stephen King paperback or something. I was not expecting much. I therefore found myself completely surprised by how much craft and care was put into the comic company’s take on John Reid and Tonto. Taking a real “back to basics” approach to the characters, you could see that instead of leaning on a fan base who was already familiar with every facet of the characters and their history, Dynamite encouraged a more modern take… but keeping with what had gone before.

I picked up this collection of the first eight issues of Zorro for something around $4 dollars; it normally retails for $20. I figure that’s a safe enough bet.

Writer Matt Wagner is probably best known for his original creations Grendel and Mage- I grew up reading Grendel comics although I can say with 100% certainty that I never quite knew what the hell was going on in them. I’d find one random comic in a longbox at a flea market… buy it, read it, and then NEVER find the next issue. Wagner later went on to do a lot of superhero work for DC, mainly dealing with Batman. His short run on Legends of the Dark Knight came out right around the time the 1989 Batman movie was ripping through theaters and we all know how Bat-crazy I was at that time. I’ve not read much of his solo writing, although I’m anxiously awaiting a bunch of trades from his Sandman Mystery Theater run to my classroom sometime next week.

Francisco Francavilla is on art duties and what a find this guy is. He’s credited as “artist” so I’m assuming he does everything on this book to make it look so classy. Francavilla is an artist I’m mainly familiar with for his contributions to Comic Twart, a sketch blog from an assortment of wonderful genre artists. He has a very simple, classic style, reminiscent of Alex Toth (who, not coincidentally, did a bunch of Zorro work in his career) but with a greater depth of inks and washes. The art in this book is simply gorgeous.

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