Recorded June 6, 2017
Matty and Shaun Schapira are back this episode to talk more about comic books. Particularly, the duo take a look at some of the better titles from the top two publishers.
Comic books have become a more prevalent member of pop culture in thanks to the successful adaptations presented by Hollywood. New eyes on the comics’ infamous characters can sometimes bring forth new eyes to the book in which the characters originated. Orlando, Florida provides any comic book enthusiast with a chance to find whatever book he or she desires. From it’s multitude of comic books shops, to the downtown library—Orlando is a comic book fan’s shopping center.
Recorded June 6, 2017
Welcome back! MLP welcomes Special Guest, Shaun Schapira—a local comic shop retailer at A Comic Shop in Orlando, Florida. He and Matty discuss the “Cosmic” landscape of Marvel Comics, as well as elaborating on the current DC Rebirth/“Who is Mr. Oz?” situation.
The comic book shops in Orlando, Florida are all unique in different ways. Gods & Monsters, located on 5421 International Drive, provides customers with plethora of merchandise and spirits. Two years ago, this comic shop/bar/comic book community center opened to rave reviews in the, now former, Artegon Marketplace. Over the past few months, G&M has relocated to the Orlando Crossings Plaza—a better fit for the comic book retailer.
Todd Fisher and Anna Young, co-owners of Gods & Monsters, welcome customers new and old into the newly condensed store. In a short period of time, Fisher manages to allow customers to have an immersive experience shopping for memorabilia in the genres of pop culture, comic books, and toys. Young specializes in the orders and visualizing elements of the store coinciding with new comic book events and merchandize on the way. Due to relationships born within the retail industry, Fisher and Young sell original art work from known artists to artists yet-to-be-discovered. G&M takes all of the highlights of “Orlando’s Comic Strip” and rolls them together to present a comic book shop like no other.
The sales of merchandize to new customers drives Gods & Monsters. The store’s set up separates products just enough to where every inch of the store feels like you’re stepping into a different aspect of genre retail. Some comic shops simply jam everything they offer on shelves and hope customers find what they’re looking for. That’s not the case at Gods & Monsters. The store provides customers with titles both new and old. All publishers’ products neatly line the walls and displays cases so the customers know what publisher’s or designer’s “section” they’re perusing.
Gods & Monsters opens daily at 11AM and closes at 7PM Sunday thru Thursday and 9PM on Fridays and Saturdays. The shop’s bar, “Vault 5421,” opens in the coming months. Check out www.facebook.com/godmonsters for more information on the shop and its merchandize.
Why, hello friends! I feel like the past months and a half flew by. Maybe it did. (It did.) I’m staying busy down here in sunny Orlando. The weather is starting to heat up. Last week, I planned on dropping a blog but I stayed out by the pool way too long. So long, in fact, that I had not seen that hue of red upon my skin in years. Seriously, I was afraid I really overdid it. Fortunately, the discomfort has subsided and I am now less “ah-peeling.”
[EDITOR’S NOTE:] Oh, you reached for that quip.
Sit tight, “Ed.” There’s plenty more where that came from.
As some of you may have noticed, articles I’ve written are popping up on the site. These stories are part of my work toward my journalism Master’s degree. (I graduate in Oct.) Expect to see more in the months to come. I’m now in the middle of figuring out my “thesis,” more-or-less. Wish me luck. Surprisingly enough, it’ll revolve around comic books. Somehow.
And speaking of comics, boy, have I been reading a lot. I often speak of my love for famed X-Men scribe, Chris Claremont. Up until a few weeks ago, I owned, but never read, Claremont’s introduction to Madripoor in the first Wolverine on-going volume (second, technically). Following The Fall of The Mutants, the X-Men were considered dead to everyone on Earth. A TV news station (maybe CNN, I can’t remember, look it up) broadcasted the “death” of the X-Men. The world witnessed it—in reality, the X-Men traveled through the Siege Perilous with help from Roma. The “dead” X-Men scattered all over the world (like Dragon Balls after a wish). Some of them couldn’t remember how they arrived in their new settings (See: Colossus and Callisto). Wolverine, however, was aware of where he’d been.
In Madripoor, to help conceal his identity—no thanks to an encounter with a few nasties including the likes of Roughhouse—Wolverine adopted an eye patch. The locals gave him the nickname “Patch,” so, Logan naturally went with it. I know you’re asking yourself, “How could they NOT tell that “Patch” is actually Wolverine.” Simple. Back then (1988), Wolverine still wasn’t a household name. Not a lot of characters outside of the X-Men universe saw Wolverine without his mask. Besides, the X-Men always used their psychics to create a blur when photographed or videotaped. Trust me, it works.
Since the book’s release, Madripoor Nights had been on my radar. This collection consists of Marvel Comics Presents #1-10, Marvel Age Annual #4, and Wolverine (1988) #1-16. I loved MCP as a kid. That title, as well as Marvel Tales, were essential to me getting a grasp on the Marvel Universe as a kid. MCP usually consisted of three to four 6-10 page stories featuring characters that were: popular, but not enough for their own book, or, unknown characters that needed fleshing out (like Devil-Slayer). Claremont’s Save The Tiger was the set-up for Wolverine’s first ongoing series. In a way, MCP became Wolverine’s “2nd” ongoing series. After the Save The Tiger run, Wolverine would return to the book around issue #39—which is in and around the time I started flipping through comic books in general.
Madripoor is my favorite “fake” city in all of comic books. I find it unfortunate that none of the Wolverine films take place in the most dangerous city in all of Marvel—yes, worse than Hell’s Kitchen. For a better glimpse of “Lowtown,” check out Madripoor Nights. It’s essential Wolverine reading, and no one writes Wolverine better than Claremont—well, Morrison’s is good, but y’know what I mean. It’s not the definitive Wolverine—but it’s a great story.
Since I’m on the subject of X-Men, I’ve been super-happy with X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue. I had my druthers about ResurreXion—I’m still not sure if it’s an event, or—yeah, I dunno. Gold already made waves within the comic book community for all of the wrong reasons, but the story itself is excellent. It’s basically a three-part ruse. Kitty Pryde is well-established as the leader. “Old Man Logan” doesn’t evoke eye rolls. Mesmero returns. It’s fun! For my money, this first story feels like a filler story from Uncanny X-Men’s heyday in the early 80’s.
X-Men Blue is pretty neat as well. The out-of-time, “All-New X-Men” are working out of (where else?) Madripoor. Jean Grey is running the show—not sure how I feel about that with Cyclops playing second fiddle. Cyclops should be the leader. That’s like making Duke from G.I. Joe a grunt. It wouldn’t work. So, I’m interested how long Cyclops will play the wall before he either steps up, or dies. Another interesting caveat to this title is Magneto playing the role of “Professor X” once again. That usually doesn’t end well.
I’ve also read Jean Grey #1, which came out last Wednesday. After one issue, I see what Dennis Hopeless is doing with the character. Hey, it’s tough to be Jean. The previews of the next few solicits see characters like Prestige (Rachel Summers), Hope Summers, and Quentin Quire appearing in the book. It’s no secret what ties all these characters together. With the recent goings on in books like Mighty Thor and Thanos, the Phoenix is soon returning to the forefront of the Marvel Universe. I hope whomever it is that decides the Phoenix’s fate knows that the entity isn’t about “Death and Destruction.” The Phoenix is all about “Birth and Rebirth.” With Marvel Legacy rumored to be Marvel’s “DC Rebirth,” it would make sense if the Phoenix is partially responsible for reshaping the entirety of the Marvel comic book universe.
Ah, with all of this talk about some of the things I’ve read recently, let’s take a look ahead at what’s on the docket for today.
PULL LIST FOR 5/10/2017
When I visited Star Wars Celebration weekend, I attended the Marvel Comics panel which featured Charles Soule and Phil Noto. One of the comics they introduced was Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel. They sold it to the crowd as a Star Wars horror comic—an interesting concept. I’m also excited to read this series because it crosses over the Star Wars ongoing title written by Jason Aaron and the Doctor Aphra series written by Kieron Gillen—who writes the Screaming Citadel one-shot. This is the second time Marvel has given the Star Wars comics a crossover event (see: Vader Down). I thought the first one was a successful adventure. Let’s hope Screaming Citadel is a freak show.
Oh, man. Renato Jones: The One% is my favorite series from 2016. Season Two begins today and I’m super-stoked. If you’re a rich scumbag doing stereotypical “rich scumbag” things, Renato Jones will find you at the worst possible time, and then he’ll likely kill you with his sick knife-gun thing. Kaare Andrews’s landscape is a perfect fit for this style of storytelling. The world of Renato Jones is not nice. He’s not necessarily a “good guy.” There are no white hats worn. He’s like the Punisher—but he starts “inside” because, in reality, Jones is a one-percenter much like his victims, and not a war-torn psycho hell bent on seeking vengeance for everything. Check it out.
Two of the steadiest comics in the game currently are Action Comics/all Supes titles and Amazing Spider-Man. Dan Slott’s run on Amazing is like retaining a Netflix/Amazon Prime/WWE Network/CHIKARAtopia subscription. It just rolls over. You don’t think about it, but every month, there it is. No questions asked. These services are a part of life for people in 2017. Slott’s Spidey is the definitive Spider-Man, and thus, a part of my life. He’s taken all of the stories from the past and managed to find a place for them in this age of comics. Sure, some people aren’t a fan of Slott personally, but that shouldn’t discredit the thread, or, web he’s weaved over all of these years.
The current state of Amazing is as good as it has ever been, in my opinion. I love the Green Goblin. Since the Dark Reign/Siege storyline, we haven’t seen a lot of “Normie” for several years. Leave it to Slott to build up to Osborn returning to make Spidey’s life miserable. Where’s Norman Osborn been? Oh, just leading an Eastern European nation. Where else? Like we really know how many countries have popped up in Eastern Europe for the past 20 years. Silver Sable also just recently returned for the “dead.” I’m usually cool with a “dead is dead” policy, but if a character is returning that I like, I don’t have a problem with it.
Let’s hope Wolverine gets the same treatment. Soon. Please.
Write to you soon.
During the C2E2 expo in Chicago, Marvel Comics announced their next attempt at rebranding their comic books. Marvel Legacy is essentially going to be their answer to the successful Rebirth campaign produced by their competitors out west, DC Comics. Over the years, both companies made multiple attempts to “reset” their respective continuities. Some failed, while some were somewhat successful.
Rebranding is a giant risk. Not only is it a risk to the comic book companies, but it’s an even greater risk for retailers. Al Rodriguez is the owner of Epic Comics in Orlando, Florida. He’s experienced the highs and lows that comes with the companies’ bi-annual rebranding or revamping of their respective characters and continuities. Rodriguez says that Marvel “is focusing on more quality and less quality” in the way the creators tell their stories. He further states, “[Legacy] should be a way for Marvel to refresh their characters, get their icons back [to the status quo, and] getting back to basics. You can still tell good stories with iconic heroes.”
Back in the 1980’s, DC made the first bold attempt at rebranding following the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event. The origins of DC’s major players like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were all altered to match a more modern era of comic book storytelling. While Batman and Wonder Woman comics improved, the Superman comics’ stories fell off. It’s taken almost 30 years for some of DC’s once-renowned heroes and villains to receive their proper resurgence. Readers currently argue that, as whole, DC Comics in 2016 are better than they’ve ever been thanks to the Rebirth storyline.
The same goes for Marvel. They too tried something different in the 1980’s by introducing an entire new line of comics outside of the then-current continuity. It wasn’t a rebranding, but one could surmise that if lightning had struck with the New Universe, then the other books would follow the same rebranding. Fortunately, Marvel cancelled the NU line of books. At the turn of the millennium, Marvel found the right time to intro a new line in the Marvel Ultimate Universe. These books featured well-known characters, but gave them all a modern feel—like what DC did “post-Crisis.”
The last time Marvel tried to majorly revamp their continuity came during 2005’s House of M series. The main consequence—in the story—came when Scarlet Witch magically took away the powers of 98% of Marvel’s Mutant population. At the time, X-Men books were top-sellers. Since that event, like (most of) the Superman comics of the 90’s through 2015, the “X-titles” haven’t recovered.
While there’s a big risk in rebranding, the cyclical way comic books recover is inevitable. Fans are going to continue to read comic books. Readers can always find another corner of the vast comic book community to roam if the stories they subscribe to are frustrating or too convoluted for whatever reason. Rodriguez is hopeful. “Comic books are [now] the [potential] source for what will become a movie or a TV show… [comics] should be the inspiration for everything.” Hopefully, Marvel Legacy will do just that.
For comic book enthusiasts, one of the best vacation destinations in the world becomes the land of “so much to do and so little time.” Orlando, Florida is home to, not only internationally known retailers, but home to over a dozen comic book shops all within 30-45 minutes of one another (depending on I-4 traffic). Utilize Google Maps and see that there are definitive “loops” natives and visitors can take in and around Orlando.
The “fastest” loop in the city could start at the northern most point and work in a “J-configuration” all the way down to Universal Orlando. Or, make a “loopy J” and end up inside a mall that has an upstairs movie theatre. Look at it this way: each of these comic shops are a 15-minute drive from one another. There aren’t many places on Earth where you have as many comic book shops in such close vicinity. Unless this article is about “Planet Comic Books.” Unfortunately, this little piece of information is not because a planet of only comic book shops could only exist inside of Ready Player One.
Orlando is really close, though.
The “definitive loop” begins in the city of Winter Park, which is one of Hulk’s incredible leaps away from Orlando-proper. A Comic Shop is located at 114 S Semoran Blvd. This narrow retailer provides its customers with the most recent issues of comics and memorabilia. It’s located across the street from Full Sail University and proves to be an excellent retailer for the school’s on-campus students and faculty.
About three miles south is Sci-Fi City. This store focuses more on tabletop gaming and all of the different games’ components. The store also provides customers with new comics as well as a heavy stock of back issues and out-of-print graphic novels.
Geographically, this is where the adventurist must make a crucial decision. Either go back a little way from which the adventurer came, or, head toward downtown Orlando. The latter could possibly be a bit monotonous, or a better word: monopolized. For the sake of making the tightest loop possible, the adventurer takes the road back from which he or she came.
Another two-mile trek from Sci-Fi City rests Hudson’s Comics, located at 200 N Semoran Blvd in Orlando. Here, customers will find new and old comics and toys. This store also specializes in the sale of rare statues from companies like Sideshow Collectibles and Bowen Designs. The store’s best feature is its inventory of Funko Pop vinyl figurines.
Next, a few miles back up Florida State Road 40 is Orlando Fashion Square. Inside is one of six locations for Coliseum of Comics in the central to southwestern region of Florida. (Hence: “monopolized.”) If you’re someone who reads the more recent comics and nothing years before, A Comic Shop is the choice retailer for new readers, and reader of weekly comics. “CoC” is for everyone else. It’s hard to argue that another store in this loop, or in the entire Central Florida area, has more to offer for comic book enthusiasts new and old.
Comics, games, models, toys, posters, and t-shirts are just a few of the items that Coliseum of Comics sells. The store inside of Fashion Square Mall features a gaming station in the rear corner of the shop of tabletop gamers. Resting on the tables are massive, intricately designed 3-D maps to give the gamers the most realistic scenarios as possible.
The CoC sitting a couple hundred yards from the Mall at Millenia specializes in their assortment of statues that range from varying degrees of height and detail (and price). This store also displays many classic back issues that are going up in price, or older, lesser-known books that have somehow found a way to climb back up in value—usually due to the book’s story or characters tied to the most recent comic book film.
This brings this loop to somewhat of a close. Orlando also features Living Dead Comics, Mike’s Comics, Epic Comics, Gods & Monsters, and the massive Acme Superstore in Longwood. A comic book fan could spend an entire day driving around Orlando and it’s small, neighboring communities visiting comic shop after comic shop. For comic book enthusiasts visiting Orlando for the first time, be sure to plan ahead. There are comics, shops, and diverse showrooms to be seen.