Category Archives: Underrated

Underrated: Batman And Robin. Yes, The Movie. No, I Am Not Joking

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Batman And Robin.


You all know the general reputation of this movie. So bad that it ended the original run of Batman films. Nipples on the Batsuit and enough ice puns to chill a bottle of whiskey.

And let us not forget the Bat-credit card.

The last of the movie series that began with Tim Burton’s Batman is not thought of fondly, but I want you to think about a couple of points regarding the movie next time you want to hate on the only George Clooney Batman appearance.

  • It paved the way for Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy
    Alright, so this isn’t necessarily a good thing about the movie, but at least the follow up Batman flick led to one of the strongest movies featuring the Dark Knight we’ve had yet.
  • It’s the only film in which Batman does purposefully or accidentally kill somebody.
    When I say accidentally kill somebody, I mean those moments where he doesn’t seem to care what happens to criminals after he’s run them off a bridge. Or shot their vehicle with missiles. Or left a man on a train.
  • Think of it as a continuation of the Adam West Batman.
    All of a sudden the movie takes on an entirely new look when you see it as being an homage to the biffing and powing of the 60’s.
  • Once you accept it’s not a great movie, it’s surprisingly fun.
    This will never place highly on any comic fans order of Batman movies – at best it might be in the bottom two or three – but it’s always going to place high on the silly and goofy list. Sometimes, after imbibing some mind altering substances, that’s exactly what you want. Don’t take this movie seriously, and you’ll find it a very ice film.
  • Arnold’s ice puns are awful.
    Seriously, they’re very uncool. And yet… you can’t help but laugh at the sheer delight Arnold has in delivering them.
  • It really is so bad it’s great.
    There’s only a few movies that are so shit that you enjoy them, and this is the best of the ones featuring Batman.

You didn’t really think I’d claim this as a good movie, did you? It’s awful. But it’s so awful that it’s really enjoyable (unlike the theatrical cut of Batman V Superman which is considerably worse than the extended version). So enjoyable that it’s almost an underrated gem – which makes it the perfect movie to rewatch when you’ve got a spare moment and want a laugh.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Thrud the Barbarian

This column is a rerun from late 2018. Enjoy!

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week:  Thrud the Barbarian


Another week, and yet another case of “Alex bought something for Underrated without knowing anything about it beforehand,” or it would be had Alex not received Carl Critchlow‘s Thrud the Barbarian  a few years  ago from the now defunct Comic Bento. Published by Titan Comics, the trade paperback collects the original Thrud the Barbarian five issue miniseries, as well as a couple of single page shorts from White Dwarf magazine, and was originally published in 2013. If you missed this when it first came out, don’t be surprised – I’m not sure it was ever released on a large scale outside Britain.

Thrud the Barbarian is what I’d consider a quintessentially British comic; it blends in equal parts the violence , chaos and destruction that one would expect from a Conan parody with the silliness and tongue in cheek humour that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Monty Python skit. But with a lot more smashed heads and limbs flying free of bodies. The Titan Comics collection consists of five stories that can be read independently of each other (seven if you’re counting the bonus strips), or in one go – which is what I did when rereading it recently.

Honestly, I reread it because I was reorganizing my bookcase and saw the cover again and wanted something fun, easy and not too deep or involved to read. Thrud was certainly that, and I loved every irreverent thought, every stunningly painted cover, and the computer coloured artwork. It was exactly the kind of book that I needed to read after a busy week, a book that I am glad I own, and one I am even happier that I noticed on the shelf.

Thrud2

As a fan of heroic fantasy books, I loved Critchlow’s send up of the genre; the visualization and sight gags and some brilliant punchlines across all the stories in in the collection. I loved every aspect of this book; the sound effects, the dumb-as-a-post hero just wants his beer and the cartoon-like hyper violence that ties it all together in such a lovely package.

Without a doubt this is one of my favourite books I’ve ever written about for this column, even if I did forget I owned it for a little while.

And yet, had it not been for the Bento box, I would never have heard of this book. Which is easily one of the best aspects of the online blind box subscription thingies – the introduction to new and exciting books and comics you otherwise would never have been exposed to. Consequently, this is a book I don’t see getting the love it deserves – that’s why the book is Underrated.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Comics Not In Diamond’s Top 100 For August ’19

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Comics not in Diamond’s top 100 sellers for August 2019


This week we’re going to be looking at a list of comics that are all pretty good, but don’t get the attention that they deserve. Now I’m not even going to pretend to have a definitively exhaustive list of underrated comics here, because we’re hoping  that you decide to check at least one of these series out next time you’re looking for something new either online or at your LCS, and giving you a huge list to check out would be counter productive to that. Instead, you’ll find four to six comics that are worth your attention that failed to crack the top 100 in sales. The only hard stipulation for this week: not one of the comics made it into the top 400 (yeah, I went for books that hardly any of you have read for whatever reason) for this month’s comic sales, according to Comichron, which is why they’re Underrated.


Banjax #3 (Action Lab)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 426/996
Why You Should Read It:
Selling less than a thousand copies is a criminal shame for this comic. Telling the story of a disgraced hero on a last quest to clear up crime in his city before his body succumbs to the cancer that resulted from the use of his powers, Banjax isn’t a comic with a happy ending, and writer Rylend Grant always seems to have another twisted angle on what could be a straight forward story to keep you guessing.

Grumble #9 (Albatross)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 396/1,285
Why You Should Read It: 
I feel like I’ve talked about this series quite a bit over the last few months… but it still remains (to my mind) one of the most underrated books out there. The mix of magic, dark humour and the underdog story just ticks every box for me.

Livewire #9 (Valiant)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 289/3,843
Why You Should Read It: 
Although we’re nine issues in, this comic kicks off a new arc that finds the titular hero address her PR problems (I mean accidentally killing hundred and thousands of people is more than a PR problem, but go with me here) in much the same way those running for public office tend to do. Making this a topical, and very interesting book.

The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #6 (Valiant)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 271/4,558
Why You Should Read It:
I usually try and avoid two series from the same publisher in the same column of sales numbers, but The Life and Death of Toyo Harada was the culmination of Joshua Dysart’s work with the character across multiple series and around 50(ish) issues of story. It’s a phenomenal miniseries, and while you don’t need to read the build up, it certainly helps (especially with how good those books are). .

Image Firsts: Oblivion Song #1 (Image)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 240/5,949
Why You Should Read It:
Oblivion Song‘s setting is brilliant, a post apocalyptic world mixed with a near future’s reaction to such an event. If you were ever curious about the series, this $1 comic is an ideal place to sate your curiosity.

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Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover more comics that aren’t cracking the top 100.

Underrated: Valiant Masters Editions

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Valiant Masters Editions.


Ever since I’ve started to collect Valiant comics, I’ve been picking up the hardcover deluxe editions here and there as a way to catch up in bulk on some of the series I’ve missed. A few months ago I did a cost analysis as to whether it was worth buying the deluxe editions verses the softcover trades or single issue floppies at cover price; generally the savings were negligible depending on the size of the book (less than $5, I think) between the hardcovers and soft covers, but the difference between the hard covers and cover price floppies varied greatly depending on how many books were collected (and it didn’t factor in the cost of the floppies after they’ve been on the market for a while, as they can fluctuate higher or lower depending on different trends).

This is relevant only because the Valiant Masters hardcovers generally contain the first eight issues of the original Valiant series (either 1-8 or 0-7 depending on the stories within), which means that for $25 you end up paying about $3.25 a comic. Whether that’s a good price for the early Valiant books depends on which book you’re looking at; I’ve paid $20 for the first appearance of Rai, $6 for the first appearance of Ninjak and around $1 for others, so it’s largely a crap shoot, but for the most part the individual issues collected in the Valiant Masters are going to be cheaper than the hardcover itself.

But the hardcover is going to be so much easier to find, and it’ll look so much nicer on the shelf.

I’ve long forgotten the point I was going to make with the above paragraphs if I’m honest. It probably has to do with the fact that if you’re patient and dedicated you can find most of the comics in the seven Valiant Masters hard covers (Bloodshot, Harbinger, H.A.R.D. Corps, Ninjak, Rai, Shadowman and X-O Manowar), but some will be far harder and more difficult to find for a decent price (Harbinger, Rai and X-O Manowar from personal experience). So if you want to read the early stories featuring these characters then these are a great option for you. They also look pretty damn good on the shelf, too.

Perhaps my favourite aspect of these Masters editions is in comparing what I know about the characters from their 2012 relaunch and the versions that appeared in the 90’s.

There may only be a limited number of folks left who, like me, want to explore the original Valiant comics of the 90’s that haven’t already done so, but these hardcover editions are a brilliant gateway to the past, and great encouragement to go hunting for the comics that haven’t been collected – and may never be at this point. That’s why I think these books are underrated; because so few of you will be looking for them. Which is a shame because those early Valiant stories are fantastic.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: The Rocketeer

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: The Rocketeer.


After watching The Phantom last week, I had a hankering to watch another movie from the same era; The Rocketeer.

Based on a character created in 1982 by Dave Stevens as an homage to the matinee heroes in serials from the 30’s to the 50’s, the character is both a racing and stunt pilot in the late 30’s who finds a jetpack. The rest, as is often the case in these types of situation, is history.

The character has been published intermittently over the years, and so it was that I was first introduced to the character through the 1991 movie The Rocketeer. In a strange twist for this column, I’ve never really been able to get into the comics, though I am sure that has as much to do with their lack of availability for me as a kid and even now (though they are far easier to get now online than ever before, I just don’t feel as inclined to do so), but the film?

As a kid, I remember loving the film.

It had all the things in a movie that I was looking for; humour, effects that made me believe a man could fly, a terrifying bad guy and a super suave bad guy, and a rugged hero who just happened to stumble onto an evil plan that only his fists could solve. I have no idea how many times I watched this movie as a kid, but I know it was one of only a few films that we had on VHS growing up that hadn’t been recorded from the television (I can honestly count those on one hand), and it was a movie I loved to watch.

My parents were more than happy for me to watch it given that it was a family friendly movie.

A few years ago I picked the movie up on Blu-ray, hoping that I’d still be able to find some enjoyment from a film that had been such a key part in my childhood background; two of the others, Hook and Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, were also frequently on the VHS – and though Hook holds up magnificently, I haven’t brought myself to watch the other in twenty years. So it was with some trepidation that I pushed play on the movie after more than two decades (which reminds me I am old).

Would I still love the cheesy humour? Would the old school special effects feel too dated? Would the story be anything more than a good yarn, one that was good then but is average at best today? Would I watch the credits roll crushed as my childhood evaporated before my eyes.

It didn’t take me long to realize that while I remembered the movie differently, what I was watching was still pretty damn good. My nervousness at it’s quality was unfounded – though watching the things I loved about the movie with adult eyes did give me an interesting perspective. I found myself asking how the hell nobody noticed that the Rocketeer was wearing Cliff Secord’s clothing, and then decided that it didn’t matter.

Which is about how I reacted anytime my suspension of disbelief started to question the movie’s events, whether it was the utter obliviousness to the clothing of the hero or how easy non-authorized personnel seemed to be able to get to places they shouldn’t. Because the movie never does it in a way that you feel is hamfisted or forced. It happens because the plot needs it to, much like it usually does in movies of that era and before.

Once I let go of that, essentially finding the inner child who just wanted to love the movie again, I realized that any of the things that should bother me didn’t.

And you know what? The movie still holds up.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: The Phantom

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: The Phantom.


First appearing in newspapers on February 17, 1936, the Phantom was the first character to wear the skintight costume that has become emblematic of the superhero (inspired, it turns out, by stage productions of Robin Hood). He was also the first character to wear a mask with no visible pupils; the Phantom’s creator, Lee Falk, explained  that Ancient Greek busts inspired the idea of the not showing the Phantom’s pupils when he was wearing his mask, incorrectly believing that the statues had no pupils, when instead it was just that the paint had faded over the centuries. But Falk felt the pupil-less eyes gave the statues an inhuman, awe-inspiring appearance – ideal for the Ghost That Walks.

The Phantom has been in continuous publication since he debuted as a newspaper strip in 1936, with Lee Falk continuing to write the character until his death in 1999 (let that sink in for a moment. That’s sixty three years on the same character), although before he died, Falk dictated his final Phantom story to his wife from his death bed.

The essence of the Phantom is that he is an undying ghost destined to protect the fictional country of Bengala, located in Africa, from the evil Singh Brotherhood – originally a gang of pirates, though they manage to evolve with the times. The Phantom’s reputation as The Ghost That Walks comes from his longevity – Bengala has been protected by the Phantom since the early 1500’s, but it hasn’t always been the same man. Son takes over the mantle from father, over and over, giving the impression of immortality to his enemies (establishing the character as the first true legacy hero in comics).

The reason I’ve gone in to such detail about the character is because I have finally found the 1996 movie on DVD from Amazon. I say finally because I’ve been looking on and off for this movie for quite some time. It hasn’t been on any streaming service that I subscribe to, and it comes and goes from online stores – usually for more than I want to pay for a Blu-ray. In the end, I needed to bulk up an Amazon order for free shipping, and the DVD was $7* or so – well worth the price for the movie.

*(Before you ask, my wife has Amazon Prime, so I could have gotten free shipping, but for some reason the item I wanted, a low end drawing tablet, gave me a coupon and not her so in the end the DVD was closer to $2 – which is an absolute bargain).

It had been nearly twenty years since I had seen this movie, and after the glut of big budget super hero films, and so I was curious as to whether it would hold up as more than a nostalgic diversion or whether it would still be a good film in its own right. Billy Zane’s performance is solid enough, though the script doesn’t give him much to do; Treat Williams commands the screen as a wonderfully camp comic book villain with just enough of a sinister bent to make you nervous; Kirsty Swanson and Catherine Zeta Jones are both able to play strong, if fairly one dimensional characters; and James Remar is James Remar – an actor who will never give a bad performance (you may see a bad movie with him in it, but it wasn’t bad because of him).

You might think that I’m going to start ragging on the movie, but I genuinely enjoyed it. It was exactly what I hoped it would be, and indeed remembered it as; a good movie that stuck to the core concepts of the Phantom (as I remembered them); the Phantom doesn’t shoot to kill, his horse and wolf are in the movie, the stunts and effects haven’t aged brilliantly, but they’re still not terrible (the only time that you really notice anything is anytime a vehicle crashes into a ball of flames; everything else is forgivable or still holds up).

Yes, it’s a kitschy movie, and the Phantom isn’t the one man wrecking machine that super heroes have become in movies today – which oddly keeps the flick pretty grounded – but it is a really fun film.

I am absolutely going to watch the movie again. And again.

If you’re curious about the Phantom in the comics, well although the character has been in continuous publication in newspaper strips from the 30’s, The Ghost Who Walks has also appeared in several comic books throughout the last few decades – the most recent of which was Dynamite Entertainment’s The Last Phantom, a fantastic 12 issue modern take on this legendary character that I highly recommend. You can find the issues collected under The Last Phantom: Ghost Walk and Jungle Rules


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: A Once Crowded Sky

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: A Once Crowded Sky


It’s no secret how much I love comics. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

While most pretty much all of the comics I read can, to varying degrees, be placed on the superhero side of things, sometimes I’ll pick up the odd non-superhero comic.  I’m a big fan of the modern comic book re-imaginings of the early pulp heroes such as The Black Bat, The Spider, and The Phantom, although one could argue their closeness to the superhero genre renders the example moot, so let me be blunt; the point I am poorly trying to make is that I love superhero stories (of all varieties) in my comics more than any other type of story. 

Amazingly enough, I also read books.

If you look at my book shelf you’ll see a lot of fantasy, sword and sorcery, and historical fiction. There isn’t much set within the last one hundred years or so that I tend to pick up and read. I can think of, maybe, twenty books (or series) that I’ve read in the last fifteen years or so that are set within the last century, and only a handful of them were based around superheroes. One was an average Wolverine tale I read on Kindle, one is the hugely enjoyable Dresden Files series and another was A Once Crowded Sky by some dude named Tom King, which  is the subject of today’s column.

Although the story wasn’t quite mind blowing, it was remarkably well told, and had some incredible ideas within its pages. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the book is actually the way it is told. In a book with multiple point of view characters, each character’s point of view is laid out like a comic book; the book is set up like a text version of a collected comic book tie-in event across multiple issues. It’s a brilliant way to tie in the obvious influence and homage to the four colour medium, as is the occasional comic book page within the book itself.

A Once Crowded Sky is a relative anomaly for me; it’s a superhero story that I read, and enjoyed, that wasn’t in a comic book. Now, my sample size of superhero books is obviously incredibly small compared with that of superhero comics, but the thing I must stress here is it isn’t that I’ve had no access to superhero books, it’s that I simply have no desire to read about superheroes in any other medium that isn’t a comic book, and I have no idea why.

Maybe it’s because up until A Once Crowded Sky every superhero book I’ve looked as has been hard to justify the price tag. I found A Once Crowded Sky for $3 on a table of reduced hardcover books at a chain book store – it’s easily worth four times that amount, but would I have looked at it for more than $3? Seeing as how it took me two days to decide to pick the book up even for about the price of a comic, well, then probably not. Maybe I don’t like superhero books because they lack the visual nature of comics, which probably does have something to do with it, but I’m more then happy reading the Dresden Files novels and graphic novels, but then the Dresden Files and superheroes occupy two different genres. Maybe, and most likely, it’s because there simply hasn’t been much buzz about any superhero books.

So what’s A Once Crowded Sky about, and why should you read it?

“The superheroes of Arcadia City fight a wonderful war and play a wonderful game, forever saving yet another day. However, after sacrificing both their powers and Ultimate, the greatest hero of them all, to defeat the latest apocalypse, these comic book characters are transformed from the marvelous into the mundane.

After too many battles won and too many friends lost, The Soldier of Freedom was fine letting all that glory go. But when a new threat blasts through his city, Soldier, as ever, accepts his duty and reenlists in this next war. Without his once amazing abilities, he’s forced to seek the help of the one man who walked away, the sole hero who refused to make the sacrifice–PenUltimate, the sidekick of Ultimate, who through his own rejection of the game has become the most powerful man in the world, the only one left who might still, once again, save the day.”

Tom King’s debut novel has some lofty ideas, and some great presentation ideas that more than out weigh the at times overly wordy moments as King at times loses himself in backstory and internal monologues. There are flashes of his later brilliance in this 2012 novel, and it’s fascinating to see how he’s grown as a writer since this book. Despite having some rather interesting names for his characters (no, that’s not food – that’s my tongue in my cheek), it’s not hard to identify where their inspiration came from. Soldier of Fortune and Captain America do bear more than a slight similarity, after all.

But by using his own versions of these characters we’re all so familiar with, King is able to tell the story he wants without worrying about the guiding hand of either of the big two publishers impacting his story.

What we’re left with at the end of the day is a solid, and very enjoyable superhero novel written by a man who would go on to write some utterly fantastic comics. This book isn’t on that level, but it’s still well worth checking out should you come across it.

Someday, hopefully soon, superhero books will have their own section in the book store and when they do, that’s where you’ll find me.

Underrated: Comics Not In Diamond’s Top 100 For July ’19

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Comics not in Diamond’s top 400 sellers for July 2019


This week we’re going to be looking at a list of comics that are all pretty good, but don’t get the attention that they deserve. Now I’m not even going to pretend to have a definitively exhaustive list of underrated comics here, because we’re hoping  that you decide to check at least one of these series out next time you’re looking for something new either online or at your LCS, and giving you a huge list to check out would be counter productive to that. Instead, you’ll find four to six comics that are worth your attention that failed to crack the top 100 in sales. The only hard stipulation for this week: not one of the comics made it into the top 400 (yeah, I went for books that hardly any of you have read for whatever reason) for this month’s comic sales, according to Comichron, which is why they’re Underrated.


Knights Temporal #1 (Aftershock)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 201/9,789
Why You Should Read It:
Time travelling knight fights across the years. It’s got great art, and a really interesting hook that this blurb does no justice to (but seeing as how the entire first issue is dedicated to setting that up, I refuse to give it away here). You missed out if you missed this.

Killers #1 (Valiant)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 264/7,949
Why You Should Read It: 
Former British spies are being hunted. That these spies are also super powered ninjas is irrelevant. As engaging a read as you’d hope for, this book is utterly wonderful.

Crow Hack Slash #2 (IDW)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 279/5,330
Why You Should Read It: 
An unabashed love of James O’Barr’s original story and the movie it spawned means I’ll generally check out anything Crow related. More often than not I’m left a touch disappointed. Not in this case.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves #2 (Dark Horse)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 357/2,704
Why You Should Read It:
Although it’s no secret I enjoy Disney comics, or it shouldn’t be, even I was surprised at how much I’m enjoying this classic Disney story in comic book form.

Grumble #8 (Albatross)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 430/1,489
Why You Should Read It:
Perhaps arguably my favourite comic on this list, the mix of magic, dark humour and the underdog story just ticks every box for me.

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Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover more comics that aren’t cracking the top 100.

Underrated: Marvel’s Facsimile Comics

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Marvel’s Facsimile Comics.


Recently Marvel Comics have been releasing what they call Facsimile Editions of some of their key issues, which essentially just reprints those issues for (modern) cover price. The cynical person would say that this is just a cash grab from a publisher looking to take advantage of people who want to own a copy of those stories in print, whereas I’m looking at it as a great opportunity to own an exact copy of Giant Size X-Men for less than a fraction of the actual cost.

Before you say that it’s available on Marvel Unlimited, I don’t care. Mainly because I don’t have Marvel Unlimited, but mostly because it allows me to read a print version of the story – something I haven’t yet been able to do.

Yes, I understand that some of us may have a copy of two of the original story already, but are those copies exact to the original printing?

Probably not.

(It should be said at this time that I have never been able to touch an original of any of the comics that the Facsimile Editions reprint, much less actually read one, so I have no way of actually verifying this myself but at least that’s the idea).

Because most of us will never get a chance to view an original copy of many of the original comics, these Facsimile Editions are a great alternative to seeing the original comic (not the stories, because you can find those in a multitude of other place – I own several versions of Incredible Hulk #181, just not an original), including the ads. It’s a recreation of a piece of history in much the same way a reproduction Velociraptor claw is. Which exactly how I’m looking at it; there’s no way I would ever read an original copy of Giant Size X-Men #1 or Incredible Hulk #181 if I was ever lucky enough to find one for a non-exorbitant price, but I sure as hell will read these Facsimile Editions.

Because I’m the kind of nerd who loves looking at old comics; the ads, the commentary… it’s a snapshot of where the industry was at the time, and in many ways the older comics mean more for that than the story inside (because those I can read elsewhere).

That’s why these books are underrated.


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover something else next week.

Underrated: The Impact Of Comic Book Television Shows And Movies

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: the impact of comic book TV shows and movies (outside of the Big Two).


Last week I reran a column for Underrated about The Death Defying Doctor Mirage as I had lost track of time Saturday morning, when I usually write the column, because I was watching the four episodes of The Boys on Amazon Prime that I had left after slowly picking away at the series during the week.

It was then I realized that adaptations of comic books in an episodic format are strangely underrated. Even the comic book movies, to some extent, also fall under that umbrella. Now, to be clear when I say these things are underrated, my tongue is not in my cheek; I am well aware that comic book movies are a multi billion dollar industry, and that some of those films are critical darlings – and rightly so. But I’m not talking about the movies per se, but rather their impact on comics. Not how the comics change over time to better reflect the movies, because that does happen, but rather the impact that the movies and television shows have in driving people to comic shops.

Yup.

Without the comics obviously these shows and movies wouldn’t exist in the same way (if at all). I mean you may end up with something like Heroes (remember that show from the mid-2000’s?), but there’d be no real guarantee that it’d take off. No, without the comics there’d be no live action adaptations.

But it’s not just a one way street.

I see it first hand when working at my LCS that the shows do drive purchases of the trades. To a lesser extent the floppies also sell, but in my experience that tends to be what people assume to be the key issues more than anything else; not always, and obviously it’s going to be different in different shops. It’s also important to note that the majority of the shows that push the comics aren’t always the ones I expected; shows like Doom Patrol and others that are also based on lesser known properties tend to generate more interest than the big ticket superhero movies. Personally, I think that’s because we all know who Batman, Spider-Man et al are, but even among comic book fans, few have read things like The Boys, Happy and Umbrella Academy.

It’s those adaptations that seem to have the higher impact on people wanting to circle back to the comics. Whether that’s because the people asking are already readers of comics, just not those comics, or because the idea of a smaller world to discover is less intimidating that trying to find your way into the X-Men (though the last few movies haven’t been great), the Avengers or Shazam comics.

The older a property, the more chance you’ve got at picking up a crappy story.

Now this two way street I’m seeing may be a localized trend. Your shop may have noticed something entirely different; maybe your shop has seen a surge of Avengers comics after folks have experienced the MCU, or maybe there was a sudden rush for Shazam books. Maybe the impact of the adaptations hasn’t been felt in your shop, and that sucks.

The impact of comics on television and cinema is undeniable. But there is a feedback from movie goers and others who binge Daredevil back to comicdom. It’s a small, and often underrated trend, but it is there. It’s turning the folks who wander in to a shop for the first or second time on to their new favourite book that’s the real challenge (though if you’re passionate about comics and can articulate that well, it shouldn’t be a huge hurdle).


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover something else next week.

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