Monday, March 28, 2005

Kryptonian Astrophysics 101

I've got a new post up at Suspension of Disbelief, my first lengthy analysis of something other than the law. This time, it's a look at the astronomy presented in Mark Waid's Superman: Birthright.

Check it out.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

DC: Defying Cancellation

Here's another observation from the ICv2 listings for February. Starting from around #200 and going up, these are the DCU titles and their statuses.

#182 Bloodhound (Cancelled)
#170 Monolith (Cancelled)
#154 Richard Dragon (Cancelled)
#140 Breach (second issue)
#132 Manhunter
#115 Gotham Central
#113 Doom Patrol

Meanwhile, the lowest Marvel Universe ongoing is at #111, the last issue of the cancelled Alpha Flight series. DC has traditionally had a lower cancellation threshold than Marvel, but these aren't great numbers. All of the non-cancelled books slipped from the previous month, too.

Between Bloodhound, Manhunter, and GC, it's just not a good time to be a law enforcement officer in the DCU.


Marvel's press junket shifted into overdrive to promote the new Black Panther series, hyping the first issue and then further hyping that issue selling out. Regular newspapers (like my local Atlanta Journal-Constitution) ran substantial articles about this hit new series, and how it was flying off the stands. You'd think that a black comic character had never sold so well.

Now the ICv2 rankings are in. Black Panther #1 came in at #27, with an estimated sale of 50,490 copies. (We'll have to wait and see the numbers on the second printing.)

So how does this compare with the last Black Panther #1, from 1998? According to this list, Priest's first issue sold 54,500 copies. Strangely, however, Marvel didn't call the Associated Press to share that number and hype that series.

Then again, Marvel's under different management these days. Maybe they decided to rectify what they saw as a mistake. But it remains true that the numbers on the new series aren't that different from the numbers on the old one.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Pity Poitier

A look inside the minds of the folks at Columbia Pictures:

"Remakes are big. Alfie, The Ladykillers, The Manchurian Candidate..."

"Didn't all of those underperform at the box office?"

"Well, yes. But that's not important. Remakes can get press coverage that original films can't, and they attract audiences based on familiarity alone. From a marketing standpoint, they're great."

"So what did you have in mind?"

"Comedy remakes. Steve Martin's Father of the Bride did gangbusters. Just take an old classic, do the whole "bringing it into the 21st century" thing to it, and voila...instant script."

"Any comedy in particular?"

"We take the other old 'Spencer Tracy as frazzled dad' movie, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and we switch the races. A black daughter brings home a white fiance, and hijinks ensue."

"Hijinks? I don't think the original Guess Who's Coming to Dinner had hijinks."

"But the original was dull. It was all about race relations and prejudice. We're past all that. A remake needs more physical humor like, I don't know, go-cart races and stuff."

"I can't imagine Sidney Poitier in a go-cart."

"What do you mean?"

"Sidney was a distinguished actor. His character in the movie was educated and well-spoken. He didn't do physical gags."

"Then we'll go another route. Cast a different type of actor."

"So who do you see in the Poitier role?"

"Ashton Kutcher."

"You want the kid from Dude, Where's My Car to remake a Sidney Poitier character?"

"Why not? He's funny, he loves physical comedy, and he'll play off the dad well."

"I suppose you also think it'd be a good idea to remake In the Heat of the Night with Sidney's role going to Jamie Kennedy or somebody like that?"

"Ooh, and Cedric the Entertainer could play Rod Steiger's role. I love it."


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

WizardUniverse Woes

I've had one buying experience with the online WizardUniverse store. I'll never make that mistake again.

Back on New Year's, I learned that Wizard was selling a set of the new Muppets Series 9 figures from Palisades for $20. An amazing deal. So I ordered that plus an older Muppet figure and a copy of The Escapist #1 (which was on sale for $1).

Then I waited. A toy order I made at another website was delivered, but no word from Wizard. I made eBay purchases and received them, and still no word from Wizard. My credit card had been charged on January 7, but no package appeared. I started e-mailing them on the 15th.

On the 21st, I received my first reply from Wizard, telling me that the Series 9 set was out-of-stock. It said I'd be refunded that amount, and the rest of my order would be processed. A couple of days later, my credit card showed a $21 refund. Unfortunately, this meant I was now paying $5 shipping for a figure and comic, instead of $6 for five figures and a comic. Not the ratio I anticipated when I ordered.

But time continued passing, and no package materialized. More e-mails were sent. I finally got a personal reply on January 31, apologizing for the delay, and telling me that my shipping charges would be refunded and an extra copy of The Escapist would be included.

And guess what? The package still didn't come, and the shipping wasn't refunded. I sent more e-mails, but got no replies. I gave them a deadline, and warned them that I'd file a complaint with the FTC if I didn't get a package and shipping refund. The silence from Wizard was deafening. So I filed a complaint with the FTC.

Before I filed a credit dispute, I figured I should at least try a telephone call. I left a voicemail with customer service on a Saturday, but received no callback on Monday. I tried a second time on February 14, but left another voicemail when I couldn't get a live person. I made another call later on the 14th, when I finally spoke to a live person.

Unfortunately, she wasn't a customer service person, so she couldn't answer all my questions. She seemed to suggest that the comic was out-of-stock, and they were waiting for a new shipment of the figure (which was originally released a couple of years ago). Take note, this is over six weeks after I placed my order. The next day I got an e-mail saying that my order was shipped in January (which I thought suspicious, since I was never sent notice that my package shipped, and no mention was made of a shipped package in the customer service e-mail of January 31).

On February 16, I got an e-mail notice that my package had been shipped. It arrived by week's end. But it contained only the action figure, and no comic. And my shipping refund, promised three weeks earlier, had yet to show up on my credit card. Another e-mail was sent, asking where these things were and when I could expect them.

Finally, on February 24, my online credit card account showed a $6 credit from Wizard, refunding both the shipping charge and the $1 cost of the comic. So after almost eight weeks of haggling, I finally got one of the three items I ordered, and got a refund for the remainder. The only nice thing I can say about Wizard is that they offered the shipping refund as a gesture, but it still took me three and a half weeks to get them to follow through on that promise.

I'm never ordering from WizardUniverse again. Actually, there's one exception. If that Series 9 set shows up in their store again at a higher price, I plan to ask that my original $20 order price be honored. I informed them of this intention back in January. Will they oblige? A good merchant would, but I'll have to wait and see.