Thursday, August 17, 2017

Retro Marvel: Star Comics Magazine #1 - 3 and 5

In the summer of 1983 the final Star Wars episode in the original trilogy was released and there were no plans to make more theatrical movies.  For a few years in the mid 1980s, Star Wars content after Return of the Jedi was marketed at children.  After that brief time, the Star Wars brand went dormant until the revival of the franchise in the early 1990s.  Two child friendly brands were the main focus during that active period, Ewoks and Droids.  The Ewoks, featured prominent in the final half of the last movie, were clearly designed with kids in mind and received considerable attention.  The main Ewok which most of the content revolved around is Wicket, the first Ewok that Princess Leia encounters on Endor.  The Droids, C-3PO and R2-D2, easily two of the most recognizable characters from the trilogy were also accessible to children, although not strictly created with kids in mind.  Of the two brands, the Ewoks proved to be the more popular and lasted the longest.

The Ewoks received momentum when Lucasfilm made two made-for-television movies, The Ewoks Adventure in 1984 followed by Ewoks: The Battle for Endor in 1985.  These movies have high production values despite their aim at younger audiences.  The movies spawned an Ewoks cartoon in 1985.  For the first season, the Ewok episodes were paired with a Droids cartoon for an hour of television.  Unfortunately, Droids only lasted the one season for a total of 13 episodes while the Ewoks went on to enjoy a second season.  The Ewoks series ended in 1986 with 35 episodes.

Much of the Star Wars merchandise available also tied into the two brands.  Kenner released Ewoks and Droids action figures and accessories and the Ewoks were even used as a line of preschool toys.  Children's books were published although a majority of the books are for the Ewoks.  Marvel published an Ewoks title beginning in 1985 that ran for 14 issues.  A Droids title came later in 1986, but only ran for 8 issues.  Both titles were part of Marvel's all-age Star Comics imprint.  With regards to foreign editions, there are far more Ewoks comics available as many countries did not even publish translations of the Droids issues.

Marvel published a digest-sized anthology reprinting various Star Comics issues and only the Ewoks title was included and only for four issues.  Star Comics Magazine ran for 13 issues with #1 - 3 and 5 containing Ewoks reprints.

Star Comics Magazine #1a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (December 1986)
reprints Ewoks #1
Star Comics Magazine #2a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (February 1987)
reprints Ewoks #2
Star Comics Magazine #3a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (April 1987)
reprints Ewoks #3
Star Comics Magazine #5a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (August 1987)
reprints Ewoks #5
Heathcliff is the headliner for Star Comics Magazine and Wicket represents the Ewoks on the covers.  Unfortunately, the Ewoks stories reprinted in this anthology are properly placed with these other stories featuring Heathcliff, Care Bears, Top Dog, and Muppet Babies.  They really were written for kids and offer very little for adults.  I suspect that, despite the intent, the premise was too sophisticated for most kids who read these comics and that is why Ewoks only appears in four issues.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Retro Foreign: Marvel Star Comics #17

Kabanas Hellas is a Greek publisher from 1975 to 1992.  Kabanas Hellas is known to foreign comic collectors because it is the first company to translate Marvel comics for Greek readers.  Their longest running title is Spider-Man which ran for 589 issues from 1977 until the company ceased published comics in 1992.  For Star Wars comics fans, they are best known for publishing a 9 issue series from 1978 to 1979.  Less known are their translations of Marvel's Ewoks issues in the Marvel Star Comics title.  The title contains Greek editions of comics published in Marvel's all age imprint, Star Comics.  Issue #17 contains the Greek translation of Ewoks #2.

Marvel Star Comics #17a - Kabanas Hellas, Greece (1986)
contains Ewoks #2
The cover art for Marvel Star Comics #17 is the same used for Ewoks #2.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Doctor Has Left the Citadel

Comichron released the July 2017 estimated sales today and the news for Star Wars titles is both good and bad.  The good is the main Star Wars title is still Marvel's top selling ongoing series and the Star Wars titles compare very well to other comics with all seven Star Wars comics ranking in the top 100.  The bad news is, overall, sales are down with Marvel sales being down the most compared to a year ago.

TitleIssueMonthly RankEstimated SalesLast Estimated SalesPercent Change
Star Wars33774,96970,184+6.82%
Darth Vader31259,52266,416-10.38%
Darth Maul51357,80558,240-0.75%
Doctor Aphra94238,20950,216-23.91%
Doctor Aphra104537,48138,209-1.91%
Poe Dameron175934,25034,826-1.65%
Rogue One49323,82628,256-15.68%

Interestingly, the main Star Wars title saw a modest sales increase post-Screaming Citadel and is the only title in July to do so.  Star Wars #33 has a rare standalone story, but there was not a lot of promotion for the story, so it is unclear why there was a bump in sales.  It is astonishing that for nearly three years Star Wars has remained Marvel's top selling ongoing title, even with the decline in its sales over that time.  It does feel like that reign is about to come to an end; Marvel is relaunching many of their superhero titles with Marvel Legacy in September which promises renewed focus on their core superheroes.  It will be interesting to see if Star Wars is still on top at the end of the year.

Darth Vader sales fell over 10% and the title is selling about where it would be selling if the first series had continued.  I understand with the change in creator, focus, and timeline why Marvel decided to end the title and start over again with a new #1, but Marvel would have actually sold more books during that 6 month hiatus if they had changed directions with the title in-flight.  Every issue of this second series has gone back to print and it looks like retailers are still under ordering this title.  I know I said this last month and it did not happen for issue #3, but I suspect we will see higher number for the fourth issue.

Doctor Aphra had a double ship month, shedding all the gains it made during the Screaming Citadel plus some more and it is back to within 3000+ units of Poe Dameron's sales which has seven more issues under it's belt.  Issue #10 sold 3,000 less issues than issue #6 just before the event.  Darth Vader is featured prominently on the covers for issue #12 and 13, so hopefully the potential reunion of these two characters gives this title another sales boost.  I know my interest in the title is low due to disliking the whole Ordu Aspectu and Rur story line, so I'm hoping they wrap it up soon and give Aphra more promising adventures.

Poe Dameron #17 saw a slight loss in unit sales but it is still selling better than the lowest selling issue #15.

Darth Maul #5 also saw a slight loss in unit sales and this series has held its numbers better than any of the other mini-series so far.  Since these character-focused mini-series are doing so well for Marvel, expect to see more of them.  I'd like to see Cad Bane, Aurra Sing, Boba Fett, BB-8, and R2-D2 receive the mini-series treatment.

Rogue One #4 tumbled another 15.68% and one has to wonder if Marvel will even bother with a mini-series adaptation for the next movie.  I suspect they make up for these low sales when the collection(s) are released.  You'll notice that Marvel does not published variant covers for their lower selling issues, including Rogue One #4, presumably to save money on the production costs.

In August IDW's all-age Star Wars title, Star Wars Adventures, begins.  We should also have numbers for Mace Windu #1 and Doctor Aphra Annual #1.

The following table shows the total number of Star Wars units sold per month since January 2015 along with the average number of sales per issue.

Month/YearTotal Estimated Sales# IssuesAverage Sale per Issue
January 2015985,9761985,976
February 2015526,4513175,484
March 2015596,2994149,075
April 2015537,8124134,453
May 2015324,8353108,278
June 2015396,931499,232
July 2015597,0235119,404
August 2015430,241586,048
September 2015551,8805110,376
October 2015953,2891095,329
November 20151,003,9548125,494
December 2015507,545684,591
January 2016465,698593,139
February 2016288,355472,088
March 2016355,554571,110
April 2016533,9765106,795
May 2016299,189474,797
June 2016545,833690,972
July 2016359,166571,833
August 2016322,499564,500
September 2016174,420358,140
October 2016339,778567,956
November 2016269,975553,995
December 2016303,886475,972
January 2017161,014353,671
February 2017262,889465,722
March 2017214,603453,650
April 2017274,262554,852
May 2017285,363647,560
June 2017495,588955,065
July 2017326,062746,580

The average sale per issue of 46,580, the lowest so far, would rank 29th on the top 300 chart for the month of July.  Star Wars trade paperbacks, reprint titles, and reorders are not accounted for with these numbers.  The Star Wars trade paperbacks are strong sellers.

Take a look at the Star Wars Sales Estimate Chart and please read the blog posting July 2017 comics order estimates online: Dark Days: The Casting moves 128k, Monstress Vol. 2 tops 10k.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Darth Vader #4 Goes Back To Print

Darth Vader #4 will be getting a 2nd print due out on September 13th.  So far, every issue of this title needed to go back to print.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Star Wars Remains Marvel's Top Selling Ongoing Comic in July

Issue #33 shipped in July and, despite numerous new #1s from Marvel monthly over the past few years, Star Wars remains Marvel's top selling ongoing comic, an accomplishment it has achieved for nearly 3 years now.  Granted, from month to month, the new #1s will rank higher than Star Wars (in July, Astonish X-Men #1 is ranked 2nd while Star Wars #33 is ranked 7th), but in subsequent months, those titles drop below Star Wars in the unit sales ranking.  What makes this astonishing is the Star Wars title has been losing unit sales over time, which is not unusual for a title finishing up its 3rd year of publication.  With only 33 issues, Star Wars is still one of Marvel longer running titles being published because of Marvel's constant rebooting and renumbering of their superhero offerings.  Could the Star Wars title's resilience be attributed to the idea that it has not been rebooted since Marvel reacquired the license?  Is rebooting now harming a title's chance for success more than if the title was allowed to continue, albeit with a different creative team, a different direction, or both?

Comichron released the July 2017 preliminary numbers for July in their post Dark Days top comic as July fails to match 2016's Rebirth-charged numbers; year-to-date orders fall to 2014 levels.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Retro Foreign: Indonesian Rachman: Petruk Gareng dan Scooby Doo dalam Pengembaraan Ruang Angkasa

Indonesia has a rich history of wayang, or shadow puppet theater, that dates back to medieval times.  In one style called wayan kulit, the dalang, or puppeteer, tells stories by lighting the puppets from behind casting a shadow on a white cloth.  A popular family of characters called Punkawan, or clown servants, would usually appear in the 2nd act of a these plays.  The Punkawan are composed of a father, Semar, and his three sons, Gareng, Petruk, and Bangong.  They usually act as advisers to the hero of the story and their appearance in plays is highly anticipated by audiences due to their comedic relief.

Two of these characters, Petruk and Gareng, were modernized and adapted to comics starting in the 1960s by a prolific Indonesian artist, Indri Soedono, who worked on these comics into the 1970s.  Other artists would also work on these characters and one of the more prominent is Tatang Suhenra (Tatang S.) who worked on the characters in the 1980s when the comics were very popular with school children due to the slapstick nature of the stories.  Petruk is tall and gangly with a long nose and Gareng is his shorter companion.

I acquired a digest-sized Petruk and Gareng comic, published by Gultom Agency, and drawn by Rachman which has a rather bizarre lineup of pop culture characters although I suspect this is normal for a Petruk and Gareng comic based on my research.  The title is Petruk Gareng dan Scooby Doo dalam Pengembaraan Ruang Angkasa or Petruk Gareng and Scooby Doo in a Space Odyssey.  In the story, Petruk is wearing a shirt that looks very similar to the Star Trek uniform worn by Jame T. Kirk in the original Star Trek television series minus the Starfleet badge.  Gareng is wearing an outfit that has a helmet very similar to those worn by the characters in the cartoon G-Force and his uniform has a giant G on the front chest.  They are flying a spaceship that looks like the Millennium Falcon while another more traditional rocket ship has the Scooby Doo gang, including Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and of course Scooby Doo.  They all land on a planet where they meet a character that looks like Big Foot, but is actually Chewbacca who actually talks to them!  Along with Chewbacca are Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Obi-Wan Kenobi; Obi-Wan only appears in one panel and Han disappears from the story after appearing in a second panel.  Chewbacca and Luke join the others on a trip to yet another planet flying their own spacecraft.  On the other planet, they meet Bruce Lee, fight some creatures and meet a Princess that looks nothing like Princess Leia.  As Luke and the Princess are eyeing each other, Gareng drop kicks Luke, I'm not kidding here, and other high jinks ensue.  In the story, Scooby Doo, Luke Skywalker, and Bruce Lee are named.  Even Star Wars is mentioned, making me believe there is some awareness by Petruk and Gareng of the characters they are meeting.

Rachman: Petruk Gareng dan Scooby Doo dalam Pengembaraan Ruang Angkasa a
- Gultom Agency, Indonesia (1980s)
On the cover are several characters from the story.  The two in the lower left hand corner are Petruk and Gareng, both wearing Star Trek style shirts, and next to them are Shaggy, Velma, and Scobby Doo.  Behind Velma and Scooby Doo is Chewbacca.  The character next to the UFO in the middle of the cover is Bruce Lee.  I applaud the writer for being able to concoct a story that has such a diverse lineup of characters.

The Petruk and Gareng stories published by Gultom Agency are known for containing 2 panels, one on top of the other, per page, so while the publisher is not identified, I think it is safe to assume this issue is from that publisher.  There is an unrelated 2nd story in the comic which looks like it takes place during the medieval ages.

As I am learning more about these Indonesian comics, several items are becoming apparent.  The artists of the stories was important to selling the comic and many times their names are shown first on the cover.&bnsp; Additionally, it is possible not every comic with the same cover contains the same two stories on the inside.  (Most of these digest-sized comics contain 2 stories.)  This hasn't been proven yet, but there is anecdotal evidence of this from comparing these comics with others who have the same issues.  This could be due to a lack of quality control at the publishers or some other way that they used to package the content.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Modern Joe Books: Star Wars: Rebels - Spark of Rebellion Cinestory Comic

Joe Books is a Canadian publisher that was founded in 2014 by the former Vice President of Boom! Studios, Adam Fortier.  To date, they have published only licensed material comprised mostly of comics and mostly for Disney.  Their first published offering is a Cinestory adaptation of the Disney movie Frozen.  A Cinestory comic is Joe Books' brand name for a fumetti, which is a particular type of comic which used photographs or stills and marries them with word balloons to tell the story.  Tokyopop had published fumetti's for the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies as well as a Clone Wars issue under the brand Cine-Manga which Dark Horse published in the U.S. in 2007 and 2008.  Joe Books started out publishing Cinestory comics based on Disney animated properties and collections of previously published Disney comics.  In 2016, they began publishing original content comics for several Disney properties.  In 2016, they also published several text novels based on Marvel superhero characters.  In July 2016, they solicited a graphic novel, Star Wars: Rebels Cinestory Comic, but that graphic novel never materialized and orders were canceled.

It turns out Joe Books still had plans to release the Rebels Cinestory comic, they just were slow on getting it ready for publication.  (Apparently, this is a common problem with Joe Books.)  Just this month, they published Star War: Rebels - Spark of Rebellion Cinestory.  It is a massive 378 page softcover graphic novel and measures 6 inches by 9 inches which is slightly smaller than the dimensions of a standard comic.  This book adapts the first five episodes of the Rebels animated series to comics and more Rebels Cinestory comics are planned.

The book is priced at $14.99 and you learn why such a massive book has this low price when you see the content.  The pages are in color, but the transfer of the stills from the cartoon to the pages produces a very muddy look and the bright colors found on the television show are lost on the page.  The panels are dark and grainy and on many pages you wouldn't know the comic was printed in color.  I love the idea behind these Cinestory comics, but it is a shame that such a colorful show could not be captured better on these pages.  Still, for only $14.99, it is not a terrible way to recapture the animated episodes and hopefully the printing process improves with subsequent issues.

Star Wars: Rebels - Spark of Rebellion Cinestory Comic a - Joe Books, U.S. (July 2017)
Star Wars: Rebels - Spark of Rebellion Cinestory Comic a - Joe Books, U.S. (July 2017)
back cover
Interestingly, Joe Books is now the fourth publisher of comics in the United States after Marvel, Disney-Lucasfilm Press, and IDW.  Unfortunately, the graphic novel was not re-solicited by Discount Comic Book Service, so I had to purchase my copy off of Amazon.  In addition to more Rebels Cinestory comics, Amazon is soliciting both a softcover and hardcover Cinestory comic of the original Star Wars movie.