Friday, December 30, 2005

Bye Bye '05--- Hello '06!

FLYING COLORS will be open on Saturday December 31 from 11am-5pm.
We will be CLOSED on Sunday January 1, 2006 for NEW YEAR'S DAY.
We'll re-open Monday at 11am.

Our regular operating hours are:
Monday through Saturday 11am-7pm
Sunday Noon-7pm

Every week on "New Releases Day" FLYING COLORS is open until 8pm.
The next "New Releases Day" is Thursday January 5.

Special Deal for readers of "The View from Flying Colors"---
Come in Wednesday January 4 --- *WITH THIS BLOG ENTRY PRINTED OUT* --- and we'll give you 20% off the trade paperback of your choice!
Good only on wednesday January 4, 2006. Limit one per person. In-store special only!
(I'm curious how many regular store visitors will take me up on this.)


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Happy Birthday, Stan!

Today is Stan "the Man" Lee's 83rd birthday.

Stan, for the very few of you who don't know, is the co-creator of most of the Marvel super-heroes, including Spider-Man and Doctor Strange (with Steve Ditko) and the Incredible Hulk, Thor, and the Fantastic Four (with Jack Kirby). Since Stan is a large part of the reason I'm in the comic book business, that makes it a good day to blog about some of my experiences with him.

I first talked with Stan in late 1985 when he called to tell me he was behind my efforts to have Stockton, California officially recognized as the "birthplace of the Fantastic Four." Stan wasn't involved in the day-to-day publishing of Marvel Comics then, but he could tell a good media story when he saw one. So when the well-respected features' reporter from the Los Angeles Times, Charles Hillinger, called Stan to get his take on my little campaign, Stan was all for it. Paraphrasing what he said, it went something like "We save universes as a part of our daily business, so when a fine city such as Stockton seeks the aid of Marvel, the least we can do is come to their rescue."

Shortly after the L.A. Times piece ran, Stan called me at my KJOY-AM office to tell me not only would Marvel agree to my request, but that he would come to Stockton in person to bestow the honor on our fair city.

In February '86, Stan and Spider-Man hit Stockton and a media circus ensued. I'm pretty sure every TV news outlet from San Francisco and Sacramento was represented at the event on the steps of Stockton City Hall. The Convention & Visitors Bureau had a 50 foot banner welcoming Marvel and Stan. He got a singing telegram from a scantily clad young woman, and a key to the city (which also doubled as a bottle opener---never let it be said that Stocktonians aren't at the very least utilitarian!)

After a crowded signing at Al's Comics on Pacific Avenue in Stockton (still going strong after all these years!), I took Stan (and Spidey) out to lunch. Finally, Stan was "off-stage" and could relax a bit. He told me "That was a lot of fun. Nice job!" And I told him if he ever needed someone for a public relations' job to please call me.

I was shocked about six months later when Stan did call and ask me to do some P.R. for his wife Joan who was having her first novel published, a steamy romance novel about love on a cruise ship called "The Pleasure Palace." The publisher had too many books coming out that month, so Stan wanted to help get her novel some publicity---and he called ME!

Almost every day for the next three months, I'd talk with Stan and Joan on the phone about the media contacts I was making and the interviews I lined up for them. For this long-time Stan-fan, life was good!

As a result of that gig, the group of Bay Area retailers that was about to start WonderCon got me involved doing advertising and promotion for their stores first, then for the convention. That led to my involvement with the Bay Area comics' community, which in turn led to my looking at getting into comics professionally.

I first tried to syndicate a radio feature about comics and pop culture. I had my pal and (then) KJOY DJ Jerry Fuentes put together a very impressive demo package of the show I called "Graphic Details." Probably twenty rejection letters later, I went in another direction and tried to get some interviews with comics' publishers and distributors. I interviewed for the Marvel West Coast sales rep position---only to be rejected because I had no publishing experience. I interviewed for any job I could get in the marketing department of DC Comics--- no dice. I tried for the Marketing Director position at Bud Plant's comic distribution company--- all to no avail.

Finally, I figured I had to make my own experience, so I looked at opening a retail comic book store. Nearly two years of research later, with the help of Libby and my three young daughters, along with help from her family, my family and my meager radio pension--- and that's how Flying Colors was born (short version).

Back to Stan. It's his birthday, right? That's what we're celebrating here. Sheesh!

Anyway, on October 3, 1988, when Flying Colors opened for our first day of business (and we did all of $63 business that day---that was scary!), Stan Lee left a message on our answering machine wishing us well on the launch of our new venture. Pretty darn thoughtful, if you ask me...

Nearly two years later, Stan visited the store when he was in town as my guest at WonderCon. That photo to the left shows a much younger me with Stan (who has always seemed ageless to me) and the Spidey cardboard stand-up, which Stan signed "Stan Lee Presents Flying Colors!" How cool is that?

When he came to town for that WonderCon, I picked him up at the Oakland Airport and was his offficial bodyguard for the weekend. As we drove around, I'd ask him non-comics questions. I found out that he liked to play baseball when he was a kid---second base was his favorite position. I found out, to little surprise, that Stan loves show-tunes, especially those sung by deep-voiced baritones like Howard Keel (who starred in many a post-war musical like Show Boat, Annie Get Your Gun and others). During that WonderCon, I had the privilege of introducing Stan to a young artist by the name of Jim Lee (How cool is that!?).

In the years that followed, I've talked with Stan and Joan many times, mostly at comic industry events, including the launch party for his first internet venture. He graciously wrote the intro piece to our "Flying Colors 10th Anniversary Special" in '98. And if you click on "Views" you can read the intro speech I wrote for Stan when he was inducted into the Cartoon Art Museum's Hall-of Fame with a "Sparky" Award (named for Charles "Sparky" Schulz) five years ago. All through my career in comics, Stan has been there and been a positive influence.

When I was a kid, Stan was one of my idols. He wrote my favorite comics, he kibitzed with his readers on the letters' pages, and he gave us some simple life lessons in his "Soapbox" columns. Who knows how many zillions of readers he has influenced over the years? He has entertained comic fans for more than 60 years! Some even think that without his breakout success at Marvel in the early '60s (the "Marvel Age of Comics!"), there might not even be a comic book business today. Consider that!

So however you choose to do it, today's a great day to lift a toast to Stan "the Man"!

Happy Birthday, Stan--- and while we're at it: Exclesior!

Nil Nisi Optimus!


Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Eve Update!

FLYING COLORS COMICS & Other Cool Stuff will be open Saturday, December 24, Christmas Eve, from 10am - 6pm.

We're ready to help you with a ton of last minute cool gifts.
Flying Colors' Retailing Brigade members Mike and Andy will be on hand all day, and I will, too. Jenny will be here mid-day (Noon-4pm).

We all have our own specialties at Flying Colors, so if you want to request some special help, here are a few clues:
* MIKE loves and really knows STAR WARS and all sci-fi, along with the classic art of Alex Raymond, Al Williamson and the rest of the old EC crew. I know one of Mike's big gift picks is the COMPLETE CALVIN & HOBBES (as of right now, we have just two copies left in stock!).

* ANDY can tell you all you need to know about collectible card games, Dungeons and Dragons and our vast MANGA section. He'll be happy to steer you in the right direction.

* JENNY recommends a wide variety of graphic novels. If you are a comics' fan, but your "significant other' is not--- Jenny's the one to talk to. Let her suggest a gift or two for the readers on your gift list!

* JOE knows a lot about comics, but less every day! One of the best parts of this job is nurturing new comics' readers--- of virtually all ages, and a well-placed holiday gift may be just what's needed to make a reluctant comics' reader a full-fledged regular.

(Joe also highly recommends the ROCKY & BULLWINKLE Holiday Ornaments Set. He'll even give you his fairly accurate vocal impression of Bullwnkle J. Moose--- but don't let that scare you away!)

So please let FLYING COLOLRS assist you with finding the appropriate gift for everyone on your last-minute list. In many cases, we will make our recommendations with "full satisfaction" guarantees because we want all of readers to keep coming back for more cool stuff every week!

Pax Vobiscum!


(We will be closed Sunday December 25, Christmas Day--- and then we'll be back in action on Monday December 26, open from 11am-7pm.)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Easy Ideas!

As we count down the shopping days (hours, really), I thought it would be a good idea to post a few easy gift ideas for the cool people on your list. So with the help of Santa Spidey, here are a few easy ideas available from FLYING COLORS.

* How about sharing your favorite graphic novels with those on your gift list? It might be a great way to give something unique and also give something you personally enjoy. You might create a new graphic novel/comic book fan in the process.

* We have a wide range of back issues, including some very nice holiday themed comics from the 1950s, featuring classic and fun characters like Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Woody Woodpecker and Bugs Bunny. Many if these are reasonably priced below $20, too.

* Our deep selection of comic strip books will appeal to anyone who reads newspaper comics, from classics like Prince Valiant, Krazy Kat, Peanuts and Tarzan to more contemporary strip like Foxtrot, Zits, and Calvin & Hobbes.

* Trading cards make great little stocking stuffers--- how about SMALLVILLE, Batman Begins, MAGIC the Gathering, YU-GI-OH or some baseball, football and basketball cards (some even still have bubble gum!). Also new: trading card packs from the TV hit series LOST!

* Did you know that manga fit pretty well into Christmas stockings?

* Sometimes the easy ideas are the best ideas! That means it's time for FLYING COLORS Gift Certificates. Available in any amount!

We hope to see you soon!
Whatever way you celebrate these holidays, we wish you happiness and peace!


Monday, December 19, 2005

Cool Stuff without the Mall Hassles!

It's been more than a week since I last posted here. yes, I've been out shopping (a bit), but I've also been hit with a case of bronchitis that has me sounding more like Barry White than my regular old self.

'Tis the season, I suppose...

So I've got a spare moment here for a bit of last minute pitching. If you'd like to avoid the crush of crowds at the big box stores and the malls, I invite you to FLYING COLORS for a still-comfortable shopping atmosphere. We're not running Christmas music from open to close, either--- a little here and a little there, but not 24/7.

And we still have a store full of really great gifts---and several more shipments of godies yet to come in this week. Here are a few things that would make for some cool little stocking stuffers:

THE BEST OFTHE SPIRIT by Will Eisner and others. DC Comics is still publishing Eisner's classic SPIRIT series in its classy ARCHIVES editions. Well, here at last is a great introduction to this terrific character. Here's our offer: When you buy THE BEST OF THE SPIRIT trade paperback here---and you love it so much that you'll want to step up the hardcover SPIRIT ARCHIVES, simply bring the BEST OF back and we will credit you for the fullpurchase amount toward one of the SPIRIT ARCHIVES. Cool deal, huh?

WIMBLEDON GREEN: GREATEST COMIC BOOK COLLECTOR IN THE WORLD by Seth. The cartoonist behind PALOOKAVILLE tells a tale from his sketchbook that will illuminate some of the idiosynchracies of collectors and their collecting passions. It's a graphic novella that's sure to be up for a number of comic art awards in the coming months.

FLYING COLORS has a good selection of comics-related t-shirts in stock and ready for gift-giving. Two of the newer styles are XAVIER INSTITUTE FOR HIGHER LEARNING, emblazoned with the familar X shield and the DAILY BUGLE staff reporter t-shirt. These are great looking shirts even for those who may not be aware that the XAVIER INSTITUTE is where new mutants are trained and that the DAILY BUGLE is famous as the place where Peter Parker's photos of Spider-Man were first published. In adults sizes S, M, L, XL (all $17.95) and XXL ($20.95).
Lots of other cool shirts in stock, too!

And of course we have a lot of holiday themed comics ready to be dropped into stocking this week! some of the titles include the most recent issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED (pictured here), WALT DISNEY'S CHRISTMAS PARADE (featuring Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse), SANTA: MY LIFE & TIMES (a beautiful book that likely won't fit into a stocking!), IMAGE HOLIDAY SPECIAL (some very fun stuff here!) and the MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL and GLX-Mas SPECIAL (also from Marvel).

As for hoilday themed "other cool stuff", we have Batman, Superman and Green Lantern ornament sets, with Rocky and Bullwinkle ornaments coming in this Wednesday.

There's a big load of cool new comics coming in this week, too. Here are just a few highlights---
* JUSTICE #3 by superstar artist Alex Ross and friends.
* SPAWN Collection Volume One from Todd McFarlane, a compilation of the first several SPAWN stores from the early '90s.
* ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VS HULK #1. What makes this one stand out is this is the first comics work from the creator of TV's "LOST", Damon Lindelhof!

Open hours:
Tuesday 12/20 11am-7pm
Wednesday 12/21 11am-8pm (New Releases Day!)
Thursday 12/22 11am-7pm
Friday 12/23 11am-7pm
Saturday 12/24 10am-6pm

Hope to see you soon!


Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Uncle Joe I Didn't Know...

That's my great uncle Joe Bowman in the photo to the left.

He was a Major League pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates and several other teams, from 1932-1945. He continued to play for another couple of years after his major league career, doing a stint with the San Diego Padres in the Pacific Coast League (he also played for the Portland PCL team in the early '30s). He went on to a second career as a successful baseball scout, most notably for Charlie Finley and Uncle Joe's hometown Kansas City A's. Joe's scouting career lasted into the Oakland era of the A's, and into the 1980s when he worked for the Baltimore Orioles. Joe signed Tony LaRussa to his first pro contract--and he also signed 20-game winner Mike Boddicker for the Orioles, among many other players.

I found out about the LaRussa signing when Tony came to shop at Flying Colors in late '98. As he shopped, I started a conversation with him about the '98 season and Mark McGwire's 70 home run season. I then worked in a mention of my great uncle---and it really surrpised Tony. He said something like "Who'd ever think that I'd stop in here to get my daughter a few comic books and wind up meeting a guy related to the man who signed me to my first pro contract?"

I've spent a little spare time here and there researching Joe Bowman's career. He wasn't a tremendously successful pitcher---he's even mentioned in a book called "The Worst Major League Pitchers of All Time" because he did lose 20 games one season. But to have a pre-expansion major league career that lasted nearly a dozen years of active service, he had to be quite a talented player. One thing I do know--- he was a very good hitting pitcher. He was used as a part-time outfielder and pinch-hitter for a few years. One year he even hit .344.

Among great Uncle Joe's "claims to fame" is that he was the starting and losing pitcher in the first night game in Major League history, a 2-1 game his Philadelphia Phillies lost to the host Cincinnati Reds. He knocked in his team's only run, he had a hit and a stolen base, he gave up only four hits in seven innings---and he still was hung with the loss.

When my father's father succumbed to tuberculosis in 1933, my dad was only 10 years old. His uncle Joe, having made it to the big leagues, became my father's idol. One season, probably 1937, Uncle Joe left an autograph book in the dugouts of opposing teams as he traveled around the National League. It was signed by close to 40 future Hall-of-Famers. As late as 1988, I was occasionally adding more autographs to the book, teaching my nephew Matt how and where to score the best autographs at the Oakland Colisseum. That is probably the only autograph book with sweet-swingin' Billy Williams autograph next to pre-integration Cubs' players like Gabby Hartnett. In the '60s, I had SF Giant great Orlando Cepeda sign the book on the same page as Bill Terry and Frankie Frisch, two Hall-of-Fame NY Giants' mainstays of the '30s.

I didn't know much about the relationship between my Dad and his uncle when I was a kid. I know that my father's father died from tuberculosis when my dad wasn't quite ten years old in 1933, so after his father's passing, his Uncle Joe Bowman became his idol. Also, for many years, my younger brother and I would get some nice baseball gifts from the Bowmans (his wife Mary was my grandmother's sister). When we played catch with my Dad, my brother and I usually played with real American League baseballs.

I believe I only met Uncle Joe in person once when I was probably four years old. And I can't recall that meeting, if it even did happen. As the years grew on, my family and his would exchange Christmas cards, but that was about it.

In the early '80s, I got the idea to write a baseball book about the era Joe Bowman played in--- from the perspective of an average major league player. We'll always get stories from the superstars, but when do we ever hear from just a "Regular Joe"? Of course, I wanted to include things about my father's family, my Dad's relationship with his ball-playin' uncle and how the tradition of baseball is so strong and important to the fabric of life in America.

So I wrote Uncle Joe a letter, asking if he'd be up for the task. I got a very short letter back from him in Kansas City on Baltimore Orioles' stationery, telling me he had no interest in such a project.

Not too long after that, my Dad suffered the first of his heart attacks, leading to ten years of trips in and out of the hospital. Joe Bowman died on Thanksgiving Day in 1990 at the age of 80. Joe Field, my father, passed away the day before Thanksgiving in 1998 a month before his 75th birthday.

At this point, I have yet to meet anyone on that side of the family to give me more perspective on Joe Bowman's career or my dad's relationship with his. There are precious few former major leaguers still alive from the era Bowman played. What I do know is that Joe Bowman was one who instilled a love of baseball in my Dad, who then instilled it in me and my brother....and probably in many others, too. And we're there to keep it going with our families.

Nine weeks left 'til pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training '06.

For more info about Joe Bowman's career, go HERE!

Peace, y'all!


(Updates on this story can be found in the Flying Colors 20th Anniversary Special comic book (2008), available for sale at Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Stranded in Dana Point

I took the photo you see here at the beach house my in-laws had at Dana Point in Orange County, California sometime in the mid- '80s.

Their beach "house" was actually a trailer home they owned and parked on a leased space on the cliffs over-looking Doheny State Park beach in a development called The Dana Strand. It's one of my favorite places on earth and it also serves as the desk-top screen saver on all three of my Macs. This is the place I go to in my mind when I need a mental vacation.

Sadly, in the late '80s, the land owners of this glorious stretch of coastline kicked out all the trailer owners with designs on building a luxury hotel. Environmental impact reports and politics have delayed the new development for the past 16 years, leaving a blighted dump look to what once was a wonderful little community. Progress--- ugh!

Now that I've figured out how to post pictures to this blog (thanks, Alan!), I'd thought this oasis would be a cool place to start.

More comics' news soon!

Surfer Joe

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Wonder Years of Comics

A special request came in today for this blog subject. One of our long-time Flying Colors' faithful asked me to tell a story from my early days of getting into comics. Here it is:

For many years, comics were found primarily at grocery stores, candy shops and newsstands. Prior to the late 1960s, there were only a very few stores specializing in comic books. After my pal Steve Holmes really got me into comics in the summer of '67, we were always on the prowl for new places to get more, more, more comics!

Our regular spot for new comics was Charles Drug Store in the Rheem Valley Shopping Center in Moraga (read more about: "A Tale of Two Hang-Outs"). Very early in the morning every Tuesday and Thursday, a truck would throw bales of new magazines and comics to the front of Charles' store.

Since the store didn't open until 9am, we knew if we were able to get there by 8:30, we'd have the first pick of all the new releases. But Charles' store didn’t get all the comics we wanted because comics' distribution was very spotty then. I remember starting on the Stan Lee/Gene Colan Daredevil title with issue #31, but I didn't see another new DD issue at Charles' Drugs until #34! That meant we had to search other places to fill in the gaps...

The two comics I started with that summer, gifts from my pal Steve, were Amazing Spider-Man #51 and Fantastic Four #65. Both had plots that were continued from previous issues. Yikes! In the case of Spidey, issue #50 was the instant classic "Spider-Man No More!" story. I didn't hold a copy of that comic in my hands for more than a year after I started buying comics because there was no place else to get old comics. Rarely, I'd find some used comics for a nickel each at the St. Vincent DePaul thrift shop in Pleasant Hill, but for an 11 year-old me, Pleasant Hill was about as easy to get to as the dark side of the moon.

The following year, word spread that there was a store selling old comics in Lafayette, just three miles away from my home in Moraga. At 12, I could sneak a bike ride down twisty Moraga Road to get to the comics’ Nirvana called "Bob's Books."

Run by a guy named Julius... I almost had you there! Of course it was run by Bob, what were you thinking?

Bob's was located in the middle of the parking lot in the shopping area known as LaFiesta Square, off the road from Mount Diablo Boulevard. Nowadays, that's a ritzy little center with high-end specialty shops, restaurants and boutiques. Back then, LaFiesta Square was pretty much known as the place behind the old Lafayette Drug Store and Soda Fountain, a place that also sold some comics. Rarely the ones we ever needed--- but still a great place to get a hand-drawn root beer float after getting our treasures from Bob's!

Bob's Books was a shack, really. Consisting of two rooms, maybe 300 square feet total (though that may be pushing it) we'd walk up a half-dozen creaky stairs, pull open an even creakier door and enter into the pristine past. Old paper!! Paperbacks featuring Doc Savage and James Bond, older pulps featuring The Shadow and The Green Hornet, some older baseball cards in a very well-used display case. It was 12 year-old pre-hormone heaven.

And then there were comics. Old comics, at least to us. You see, in those days, old comics were really any comics that we hadn't seen before. So "old" could mean 1967 even if the present was only 1968.

Even still, I was limited by my meager budget, so Bob's became a place to look more than a place to buy much. On one early visit there--- I may have been with Steve or maybe I was with Eric, but this next part I do remember distinctly--- it was the first time I ever saw a copy of the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man.

"How much for the Spidey number one?" I asked.
Bob didn't even have to look to know the answer. "Five dollars."
And that's when my broke 12 year-old self said defiantly, "Five bucks?! I could by 40 new comics for that! I'll NEVER spend five dollars for any comic book!"

Famous last words, indeed.

Did I mention we have a great selection of Silver Age Amazing Spider-Man comics ranging in price from, ulp, five dollars up to hundreds of dollars each?



Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"If I had a nickel..."

As the saying goes, "... for every time I heard someone say..."

In the comics' business, I get to hear every story about how "Mom threw away my comics when I was away at college" or some variation. The story-teller, almost despite how old they are, will then say something like "And I had ALL the first issues--- the very first appearances of Superman, X-Men, Spider-Man and Batman."

Considering the first issues of Superman and Batman were in 1939 and 1940, while Spider-Man and X-Men first issues were in '63, what I've realized is that the memories associated with the times surrounding the comics are probably more vivid than memories of the comics' themselves. The sweet innocence of childhood is remembered, mostly in the haze of lazy summer days, lounging around with nothing to do except vicariously live the lives of our favorite heroes. But the specific comics that were in hand at the time may be a detail only the most die-hard fans would remember. Most people who tell me this comment seem to be lamenting the value of what they think their old comics might be worth today, rather than missing some fun and important piece of their childhood. Our cherished memories are always worth more than gold...

I'd also love a nickel for every frustrating time I've heard a parent tell a younger child "I'll buy you comics when you learn to read!"

I've heard this one way too many times! The parent's voice is usually embarrassingly loud and often comes off as a put-down. I know from experience comics are a medium parents can enjoy with their younger kids while also using comics as a tool to help along pre-literates.

With that in mind, I want to pass along some recommendations of comics for parents to read with their younger kids. These feature some classic characters and some relatlvely easy vocabulary.

• BONE by Jeff Smith. There are nine volumes in this series in black & white. There's also the BONE "ONE" Volume, a massive edition with 1000+ pages of the complete BONE saga. Scholastic Books has also published the first two volumes "Out from Boneville" and "The Great Cow Race" in separate volumes in full color for the first time. BONE can best be described as "Looney Tunes meets Lord of the Rings." Filled with action, humor, suspense and a little romance---and characters kids and parents alike will love!

• Ultimate CASPER the FRIENDLY GHOST. Many parents were probably raised reading the old Harvey Comics line, featuring Wendy the Good Little Witch, the Ghostly Trio and other familiar characters. Simple stories and art---and lots of fun for early readers.

• Marge's LITTLE LULU. There are now several volumes available of these classic stories featuring the irrepressible LITTLE LULU, along with her supporting cast including Tubby, Alvin and Witch Hazel. I highly recommend these stories for read-aloud fun for kids and parents. Lots of laughs, lots of inventive stories and lots of memorable times await you when you share this series with new readers.

• OWLY. We now have two volumes of the mostly text-reduced (mostly silent) comics featuring this soon-to-be star in comics. OWLY and his friend Wormy are, to no one's surprise, an owl and a worm. Their adventures together are sweet and fun and gentle. With text-reduced comics, kids can learn reading skills by verbalizing the story they see flowing from panel to panel. As we live in a highly visual culture, this is a good skill to give to any new reader!

• We also have a good stock of very popular comics done for readers of all ages featuring characters from other media, including movies and cartoons--- SPIDER-MAN, TEEN TITANS, JUSTICE LEAGUE, FANTASTIC FOUR, POWERPUFF GIRLS, SCOOBY-DOO, BETTY & VERONICA, SABRINA, LOONEY TUNES.

(These recommendations would all make for some fun gifts this holiday season. Hint, hint.)

While the average age of comic book readers is now in the late 20s, there are still lots of titles to explore at Flying Colors for new and younger readers. For more info on the power of comics as a tool to teach younger readers, go to the "Education" page at

Parents: You give your children an amazing gift when *you* encourage their love of reading. Don't wait for them to learn how to read--- help teach them the love of reading by doing it with them.

I'd love to hear your comments!


Monday, November 28, 2005

In store Wednesday 11/30

If you were in the store over the last week or so, I may have told you that the shipment of comics would be delayed by the Thanksgiving holiday. Well, I want to tell you that is not the case---we WILL be receiving our regular shipment on-time and we'll be ready to go with some cool stuff on Wednesday at 11am.

Here's a few new and cool items that'll hit the comic racks at Flying Colors on Wednesday November 30 ---

• THE AMERICAN trade paperback from Dark Horse Comics. If you're a fan of the SMALLVILLE TV series like I am, some of the credit goes to the writing prowess of Mark Verheiden. THE AMERICAN is a compilation some of Verheiden's early work in comics. Good storytelling here!

• IMAGE COMICS Hardcover. Get ready for the earth to open up and swallow us all--- it's finally here! This is what was originally called the IMAGE COMICS 10th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL--- if it would have come out on time more than three years ago. Well, it's still full of good stuff for fans of the founders of Image Comics. There's the final fate of CyberForce by Marc Silvestri, the future of ShadowHawk by Jim Valentino, the origin of Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen--- and get this, a new Spawn story, hang on now--- actually drawn by creator Todd McFarlane!

• WALKING DEAD Volume 4. Everyone's favorite zombie epic is collected in a new trade paperback called "Hearts Desire."

• MARVEL MASERWORKS FANTASTIC FOUR Vol. 9. Nearing the end of the classic Lee-Kirby run on this seminal title, comics just don't get a whole lot better than this!

• NEW AVENGERS #13. Finally the identity of the Ninja is revealed. Maybe not the stunning turn of events some had hoped for, but this title continues to be a fun read.

• WONDER WOMAN #223. An INFINITE CRISIS tie-in, as Wonder Woman tries to save Paradise Island from an attack of OMACs (for a translation of this fan-oriented synopsis, go to and click on "Crisis Counseling").

Lots more stuff coming in---be sure to ask us for some recommendations!
And remember, we do gift certificates!

Peace 'n' Comics!


Saturday, November 26, 2005

New Flying Colors TV Ads!

The new Flying Colors TV ads are now posted on our site. Click on the "TV Ads" link on the left side of the screen to get to the page.

A couple of things about the ads:
•I want to thank all those who gave us testimonials on Free Comic Book Day to use in the ads. FCBD is always a lot of fun here and shooting the TV ads sure is a part of that fun.

• I want to thank Adams Digital Video at for doing the production. If you have a business in the Contra Costa area and are interested in doing some cable TV advertising, give Paul Adams a call.

• I particularly want to call attention to spot #4 featuring my daughter Jenny....and some of the gals who get their comics regularly at Flying Colors. We have a lot of comics gals of all ages and interests enjoy---several of them are cover-featured on Jenny's TV ad, so we hope you'll take note of them and check 'em out on your next visit to Flying Colors. Just ask Jenny for some great recommendations! This spot is currently playing during Cartoon Network's anime programming and on Adult Swim, by the way.

• I also want to thank my web-master, Alan Alvaro at for doing the work to get the web-site looking so good. Alan can do the same for you if you give him a call!

Repeat after me---
"When it happens in comics, it happens in FLYING COLORS!"

Peace, y'all!


Friday, November 25, 2005

Giving thanks...

Had a lovely and relaxed time with my family yesterday on Thanksgiving.

My wonderful wife Libby did most of the cooking but we did spend a good part of the day in the kitchen together. One small revelation about Thanksgiving and the traditional cooking of the turkey and preparation of the rest of the meal--- it takes time and care to put together a feast like the one we enjoyed.

Along with that time, though, are pieces of time that were open. Between turning the bird in the oven every half hour or so, between the time the turkey goes into the oven and when the final touches are put on the feast with the mashed potatoes, gravy, veggies (did I tell you just how amazing Libby's turkey stuffing is) and the pouring of the wine--- there are short stretches of open time.

I happily filled that time by talking with Libby and my daughters Jenny and Cindy. I filled the time by relaxing and reading some comics, by noodling on my piano and keyboard a few minutes here and there. I didn't stare at football games that are meaningless to me, I didn't plot my Black Friday early-morning-dark shopping tour (no way!) ---I simply enjoyed the rare day off with those I love the most. And I missed those who couldn't be present.

Happy Thanksgiving, All!


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

New & Cool (and Another Anonymous Question!)

Time once again for the Flying Colors' Retailing Brigade to sound off with this week's staff picks:

JOE: Ultimate Casper Vol. 1--- Beautiful reproductions of Harvey Comics from the '50s. Also featuring Wendy the Good Little Witch, Spooky, and the Ghostly Trio, this is a sweet trip down memory lane. recommendation: this book is a good candidate for parents to read aloud with younger children.

MIKE: Jew Gangster: A Father's Admonition --- A stunning graphic novel by the legendary Joe Kubert!

BRIAN: Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #1. With a creative team of Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke, this is a no-brainer for all-out action and weirdness!

JENNY: Y the Last Man, Volume 6. This Vertigo title is consistently one of the most engaging reads on the market today.

CINDY: Fade from Grace trade paperback. An excellent selection for those wanting to try something cool and a bit out of the ordinary.

ANDY: Perhapanauts #1--- A new adventure series from Dark Horse by the creative team of writer Todd DeZago and artist Craig Rousseau. Give this one a look!

ED: Down #1 --- From Image/Top Cow Productions, this is the new series from writer Warren Ellis and artist Tony Harris.


Well, it seems as though at least one person is regularly reading "A View from Flying Colors"! With the cryptic name of "Anonymous", I have received another question about what makes Flying Colors tick. Here 'tis---

"One of the great things about Flying Colors is the wide selection of material in stock. How do you determine which items (and how many) to stock so that you do not overextend yourself financially?"

I'm a good guesser?

OK, Nonny, there's more to it than that. Every month, we get the Diamond PREVIEWS catalogue featuring more than 4000 items due to arrive in-store anytime from six weeks to several months down the road. The catalogue includes comics, toys, statues, manga, anime, t-shirts--- you name it. If it's remotely associated with the explosion of media, it's probably listed in PREVIEWS.

So every month, we collect orders from a few (but we'll always welcome more!) of the Flying Colors Faithful and that gives us a small idea of what some people are looking forward to. Putting together a monthly order from PREVIEWS takes me close to 20 hours of work just to make sure everything fits within our budget while also fitting within the kinds of things we feel good about actively selling.

(SPECIAL NOTE: We always have a "store copy" of PREVIEWS available for you to look through---and hopefully place orders for items you just don't want to miss. Ask us about it next time you visit Flying Colors.)

OK, back to our show---
We also keep pretty copious track of what we sell. Even though we are not set up with high-tech scanners and other inventory control systems, you might notice when you're in the store that Flying Colors' staff have clipboards in hand to take your special requests, to count what inventory we have on hand and to give me information about what's selling so I can re-order items we've run out of.

There *are* times when it is a financial strain to buy stock hoping it will eventually sell. The diciest part of my job is buying back issues since that's the part of the market going through the most upheaval right now. Sometimes I make the mistake of buying by my heart rather than my head, since I still love the old stuff (and that means "old" to me, rather than "old" to you). Sometimes, I royally goof and drastically over-order new items--- or totally neglect to order something at all. It cuts both ways, actually.

But more often than not, we get it pretty close to right. That's one of the bonuses of lasting in this business for more than 17 years. There's *history* here. Sales history, for one, but also a history of knowing the kinds of things regular and casual buyers respond to.

Here's one of the key secrets of the way that I order merchandise---
There are so many comics-related items licensed to so many different companies these days, but I look for cool l'il chotchkes that have the most timeless appeal.

Anything that looks like it's frozen in current continuity will have a short "shelf-life", so I order accordingly. For instance, there are a lot of licensed items currently available with the long, curly haired Superman of the mid-'90s. Uh, they don't sell well at all. But a classic looking, spit-curl Superman item looks far more timeless and thus has appeal to a wider audience.

I'm also a pretty good guesser.

Happy Thanksgiving, my fine Flying Colors friends!


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Questions & Answers

I've been away for several days---this time no comics' biz work was involved!

Libby and I went to Las Vegas to celebrate her birthday (mark your calendars---coming December 5!). We took in two shows: the Moody Blues at the Mirage on Friday night (one of our favorite classic rock bands, especially love their early stuff. "Question" is one of my all-time favorite songs...does that surprise anyone given my previous blog entry?.) On Saturday night, we went to an oh-so-very-Vegas show, seeing (*ulp* out the window goes my cool-cred) Barry Manilow at the Vegas Hilton. It was a fun show, complete with dancers, a mini- big band, light show and tons of oozing schmaltz. Still can't figure how those light sticks work, though...

So I'm back in action to answer the questions I received from my last blog entry. "Anonymous" asked the following:

"How do you make Flying Colors such a wonderful place to shop?"

This is where you got it a bit wrong. Everyone who comes into Flying Colors makes it such a wonderful place. Without you coming in, we wouldn't hear what you like about our store, we wouldn't respond to what we hear---and we'd all be sadder for it.

A quick story: My sweet wife Libby is a credentialed teacher. One of her old favorite teacher books was called something like "The Classroom I'd Like" and it went into ways teachers can personalize their classrooms and turn their visions of productive, fun, learning environments into reality. Flying Colors began as a kind of vision--- not only mine, but also Libby's and my daughters' visions, too. Between 1986 and 1988 (when we opened), as a family we visited something like 40 different comic shops, making notes of what we liked and didn't like, in the hopes of creating "The Comic Shop We'd Like". My daughters were between the ages of 4 and 8 when Flying Colors opened, so their unique perspective was invaluable to me. I looked at comic shops as a total fan-addict--- they wanted an accessible, light and open place. We all got what we envisioned.

"And where do you find your staff? They are incredibly helpful and very friendly. Half the fun of comix collecting is visiting the store every week and chatting with the employees."

Wow! Thanks for the nice compliment. Again, I've been a very lucky guy. Back before the store opened, I wondered how I'd find the right people to fill out the Flying Colors' team. One of my mentors in this business, the late great John Barrett of Comics & Comix fame (the good old C&C, not the lame company it was under its final criminal owner) , told me simply "Good people find good people." So I've tried to be good to everyone who comes into the store and along the way I've found good people to work here. "Anonymous", you are right--- it really is fun to hang out each week and talk comics here at Flying Colors.

"And why are you so fair to your customers? You treat everyone with honesty and respect, as if they are a part of your family."

Oh, man, this is gonna sound like an Olive Garden commercial, but--- when you are here, you *are* family. You help to support my family and allow me to continue doing something I really love. We all share a common interest in loving a powerful medium of entertainment and artistic expression (that's fancy talk for "we like comics!") I also like to sleep well---and I wouldn't be able to do that if I treated anyone poorly, especially those who come in every week and give me money in exchange for bags full of comics and other cool stuff!

OK, I'm ready for more questions!

Peace 'n' Comics!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What goes around...

Man, it was fun to be in the store today! I love Wednesdays with tons of new comics to talk about with everyone who comes in. In my blog yesterday, I posted a bunch of the #1 issues that came in today. When I thought about it more, I realized this is the first week I can remember that each of our Flying Colors' Retailing Brigade "Picks of the Week" are all first issues.

If you haven't been by the store recently, it's a great time to come in and check out all the great stuff going on across the comics' spectrum. You've been officially invited!


OK, about today's blog title "What goes around..."

I was a notoriously inquisitive kid, asking tons of questions of everyone I'd come in contact with, probably just to hear the sound of my own voice in some cases. I asked LOTS of questions--- whether it was to the produce guy in the Safeway, my old friends Ma  and Len who ran the pool hall in Moraga, and especially the guy who ran the pet store in the Rheem shopping center.

Well, what goes around comes around, as they say. So I find myself in a position where I get asked tons of questions each and every day. Mostly comics' related and most of those are easy.

• What are my all-time favorite comic books?
Easy. The first two I started with were Amazing Spider-Man #51 ("In the Clutches of the Kingpin") and Fantastic Four #65 ("From Beyond This Planet Earth" is the story title, but everyone knows it as the Ronan the Accuser story).

• When was the first appearance of the Punisher?
Shortly after the first time I did something really wrong...

• Who'd win a fight between Superman and Thor?
Easy again. DC and Marvel.

You see how this goes, right?
So during the rush of fun that is another New Releases' Wednesday here today, one of the the regular readers of this blog suggested I put out a general call for questions to everyone.

Anything you'd like to know about Flying Colors?
Want to know more about the excitin' life of a comic book retailer? Really?
Got some real curiosity about any little thing?

Then respond to this by clicking on the comments link. I'll try to answer every question I get, although it may take me a few days to get to the answers--- and the answers may be about as straight as the ones above. But you'll never know until you ask.

After asking so many questions in my younger days, it's now all coming back to me. It's my penance for having been precocious---and it's your duty to ask away!

With great power and all that....


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Great Week for #1

A quick look at some of the debut issues hitting the racks at Flying Colors Wednesday morning---

• LOCAL #1 --- Brian (DEMO, DMZ) Wood's new series from ONI Press. Jenny (and the rest of the staff) will not let you leave the store without picking up this one!

• ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #1 --- Grant Morrison. Frank Quitely. In my estimation, this is where the run-up to the Summer '06 release of the new SUPERMAN movie starts.

• BATMAN & THE MONSTER MEN #1--- Matt Wagner writes. Matt Wagner illustrates. We all get something new and cool to enjoy.

• BOOKS OF DOOM #1--- Writer Ed Brubaker (GOTHAM CENTRAL, SLEEPER, LOWLIFE, CAPTAIN AMERICA) continues his emergence as one of Marvel's go-to writers. Really nice stuff.

• MAD KIDS #1 --- More than 50 years ago, Havery Kurtzman and Bill Gaines launched MAD MAGAZINE. Today, we get a new first issue from MAD---one that will still rankle parents with gross out humor and parody.

• THE THING #1--- From Marvel, everyone's favorite member of the FANTASTIC FOUR finally gets a new on-going series, written by Dan (SHE-HULK) Slott, dripping with funny stuff amid the action.

• TOMORROW STORIES SPECIAL #1--- OK, this one stretches the point of being a new first issue a bit, but it features excellent work by Alan Moore, Cameron Stewart and Kevin Nowlan, so you know it's going to be a good read.

• X-MEN DEADLY GENESIS #1--- The cover of the first issue of his series is a take-off of GIANT SIZE X-MEN #1 from 1975, so the message is this title will shake things up as much as that classic comic from 30 years ago. Definitely worth a read.


Another short thought after DC's Retailer meeting in Montreal:
At Flying Colors, we really don't push our subscription service (the FLYING COLORS' SUB CLUB) all that hard, since we usually have a good stock of new comics and we're constantly re-ordering. But looking again at my notes from the meeting I just attended, I'd like to invite you to consider getting into the SUB CLUB.

There will be so many amazing new titles coming out in the next year that, frankly, I'm not sure if we'll order all of them right. To avoid quick sell-outs on popular titles---and to make sure to receive many of the lower-selling (but still amazingly good) titles from ALL publishers, take another look at the SUB CLUB. You can download all the info and a sign-up sheet at under "Advance Orders".

Lots of great stuff is coming soon, so don't miss a thing!

Peace 'n' Comics---


Monday, November 14, 2005

Back from Montreal!

Did you check in here over the last week only to notice I hadn't posted anything new to "The View from Flying Colors"?

I was in lovely Montreal, taking in DC's Retailer Representative Program. The RRP is a semi-annual retreat in which DC sales and marketing pros work with comic book retailers to improve DC's lot in the direct market. The event is usually every year to 18 months, but it had been close to three years since the last one. It's a sometimes intense, always informative and invigorating focus group lasting four days.

Without going into surprises I can't tell you about yet---and ones you'll probably hear about on the comic news' sites beore I blog about them here, anyway--- I can tell you it's going to be an incredibly fun ride for readers of the DC Universe titles over the next year or so. DC's plans are ambitious, to say the least, and I'm happy to report this premier publisher is definitely putting back into comics some key ingredients that have been for the most part missing in super-hero comics in recent years.

Some of those ingredients are:
• A cohesive universe and characters that make sense from one title to the next.
• Story surprises that will keep us all coming back for more every week.
• No "waiting for the trade paperback" anymore! Look for a solid rejuvenation of the periodical format with tight attention to story-telling and value in every comic book.
• Each of us will HAVE to read the periodical comics because the new DC is about the "hyper-serial"--- the kind of story-telling that if you blink, you may miss something very cool. It's like the "never look back" attitude of LOST, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and BOSTON LEGAL story-telling with the addition of capes and super-powers.

There's so much more that came from the Montreal RRP. Vertigo, Wildstorm, some potentially exciting Free Comic Book Day news, lots of great comraderie with many great retailers. I'll get to some of that as the days roll on. All I ask is for you to get ready for a good ride from DC--and to be here for the action.

Like the guy says on TV: "When it happens in comics, it happens in Flying Colors!"

Up, up and awaaaayyy!


Monday, November 07, 2005

New & Cool this Week!

Another week with lots of fun stuff coming in! Be here Wednesday November 9 to check out these "New & Cool" items:

• DMZ #1. The first issue of Brian (DEMO, Channel Zero, Jennie One, etc) Wood's new series from VERTIGO. Wood is a very unique voice in comics. Definitely good buzz on this one.

• MYTHOLOGY: The Art of Alex Ross. Now available in softcover for $24.95, Ross's art is always a visual treat. He's the Norman Rockwell of the comics' biz!

• SIMPSONS Wacky Wobblers! Homer, Duff Man, Apu and Moe. D'oh!

• WIZARD presents "Best of Basic Training: Heroic Anatomy" A nice guide to drawing super-hero comics.

More "Buzz" Comics & Books:
• JLA #122
• INCREDIBLE HULK #88 (I've heard this is the start of something major. "PLANET HULK"!)
• Michael Chabon Presents THE ESCAPIST #8
• DANGER GIRL: Back in Black #1.

See you soon!


Saturday, November 05, 2005

Vast Projects: Thinking Aloud

"Don't start vast projects with half-vast ideas."

I don't know who gets credit for that fitting play on words, but I know I've used it enough to feel like I owe royalties for it. For the last three years or so, I've been wanting to do a relatively small re-modeling project here at Flying Colors. New carpet, some new fixtures to go with a revised layout. I even paid the contractor a down payment (last year!) to get the job rolling, but it's all been bogged down by me. The bucks may go there, but they sure as heck stop right here!

Turns out it very difficult to re-model a store and keep it open at the same time. Sure, we could do the bulk of work late nights and early mornings---and that seems to be my only viable option. But clearing the calendar and, more importantly, being sure of the precise changes I want to make, have slowed my "project" for the last year. Other things have gotten in the way, too, but enough with the excuses!

Part of remodleing is asking some tough questions:
• What will the comic book business look like in five years?
• What will the back issue part of the business look like in a few years?
• How long do I want to keep running Flying Colors? (Answer: I still LOVE my job!)
• How much is wise to invest in the project?
• Could those funds be better used elsewhere?

Some of the seemingly minor things we've been doing around here lately are leading up the bigger changes, though. Those include re-organizing our inventory of trade paperbacks and back issues, donating some books to local libraries, etc. And really crystalizing my vision for what I want this store to look like and feel like when the whole process is done. (My retailer friends reading this are doubled over laughing now. No store project is EVER "done"!) As always, I'm interested in any feedback you might be willing to give me (but I do remember most free advice is worth what we pay for it).

Too late to finish it in time for holiday shopping here, so my goal now is to make it happen in earnest in early in '06.

Keep me on my toes, will ya?

Health & Happiness!


Friday, November 04, 2005

Remembering My Friend Eric

It's been a busy week here, so I haven't blogged regularly. I've been hitting my other deadlines, though. The big deadline was uploading the Diamond Previews' order for items shipping in December. That catalog is massive and more confusing than ever, but it's our one tool to show off all the upcoming comics, graphic novels, toys, statues, and "other cool stuff" to everyone who comes into Flying Colors.

Jammed with more than 4000 items on 500+ pages, we are more than happy to advance order any items from Previews for you. Please ask us about it next time you're in the store. Another deadline come and gone was getting my next column ready for Comics & Games Retailer magazine.

Honestly, having that deadline every month for the last seven years gives me renewed appreciation for what all writers go through to get their work to market. I've often been told I should write a book about comics' retailing, but every day I feel like I've learned more, but know less. Maybe I should just write a book about my experiences in comics. Lots of stories there...


Yesterday was November 3. Fifty years ago yesterday, one of my closest childhood friends was born.

We lost him much too soon when he was killed in a car wreck in the summer of '98. Eric and I met at the wee small age of two when his family moved in next door to my childhood home in Moraga CA.

We were close friends from then on. We played on the same Little League baseball teams (King's Nursery and Cracker Barrel Delicatessen, to name a couple) in the old Lafayette Youth Association (before it became the Lafayette/Moraga Youth Association).

We didn't go to the same schools until junior high since I attended Santa Maria parochial school in Orinda for six years while Eric was at Rheem Elementary in Moraga.

Eric was six months older than I, so he was always one year ahead in school. But even when his family moved across town, we still found the time to get together.

Eric was a big comics' fan, too. He was very quiet about it, though. He was the first person I remember who bought comics through the mail from early dealers like Robert Bell and Howard Rogofsky. When I spent the night at Eric's, we'd stay up until all hours drawing and reading comics--- and we were often joined by Eric's brothers, Mark and Paul (Eric was in the middle), and by Eric's dad, who was also my family doctor. We had a wonderful childhood and our friendship stayed strong through high school, girlfriends, college, careers, marriages and our own kids.

I still think of my friend often, I still miss him and will never forget how blessed I've been to call him my friend. Peace! Joe

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

New & Cool for 11/2/05

Each week at FLYING COLORS, we post a list of recommendations from the whole staff here, so it's time for the Retailing Brigade to "Sound off!"----

Joe: Simpsons' COMIC BOOK GUY'S Book of Pop Culture! (He's not me, I'm not him, but this IS funny!)

Mike: EXCALIBUR: The Sword is Drawn trade paperback (Classic Chris Claremont/ Alan Davis work)

Brian: JONAH HEX #1 ( Looks to be the re-launch of the year! Also check out SHOWCASE Presents Jonah Hex)

Jenny: SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED #12 (The first time Jenny has picked a super-hero comic, but this one is special---featuring one very moving story written by TRUE STORY SWEAR TO GOD's Tom Beland!)

Cindy: CATWOMAN: WHEN IN ROME Hardcover (Another wonderful work from writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale!)

Andy: WILDSIDERZ #2 (Don't over-look this one, it's a very fun book!)

Ed: POWERS #14 (Ed says "If it's Bendis, it's worth reading!")

Now, you'd think that would be enough in the recommendations' column. But there's so much more good stuff hitting the racks tomorrow, I have to tell you about a few more:

• Complete PEANUTS Volume 4, 1957-1958. Simply a must!
• AVENGERS Ultimate Guide, from DK Publishing. Spolier warning: if you are a current reader of NEW AVENGERS, please be warned that the surprise identity of the NINJA is revealed first in this book!
• LIBERALITY FOR ALL #1. Maybe you heard about this from Hannity & Colmes on FOX News...
• HOUSE OF M #8 The final chapter of the Marvel universe-changing series!

We've got your cool stuff right here--- in FLYING COLORS!

Comics Guru

November's Busting Out All Over...

Have you checked our stellar selection of comics-related statues and busts lately? Lots of great stuff from BOWEN Designs and DC Direct, including these new items on sale Wednesday November 2----

• Justice League Unlimited BLACK CANARY Maquette (DC Direct)
• Marvel's SANDMAN bust (Bowen)
• Absorbing Man bust (Bowen)
• Spider-Woman bust (Bowen)
• X-Men's PSYLOCKE bust (Bowen)

Also new this week:
• Convention Exclusive Marvel Select SHE-HULK action figure
• RESIDENT EVIL series 4 action figures
• Todd McFarlane's SPAWN Series 28 action figures
• MARVEL HEROES Chess Pieces (Very cool! In mystery-box packaging.)

Make it a cool day!


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Grim Grinning Ghosts!

"When the crypt doors creak and the tombstones quake
Spooks come out for a swinging wake
Happy haunts materialize
And begin to vocalize
Grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize..."
--- from Disneyland's Haunted Mansion ride.

NEW & COOL This Week at Flying Colors!

• HAUNTED MANSION #1--- spinning out of the Disneyland theme park ride and the 2003 movie, Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics are behind this groovy new comic book. Disney fans as well as fans of Johnny and Squee are gonna dig this one!

• Barry Windsor Smith's THE FREEBOOTERS over-sized hardcover. Finishing the serial story from the '90s Dark Horse series STORYTELLER with new material, it's great to have more Barry Windsor Smith art to marvel at. Still avaialble: BWS' OPUS Volumes 1 & 2. Amazing stuff!

• LITTLE LULU Vol 6: Letters to Santa. I know it's a bit early to feature anything with Christmas content, but that's only a small part of this great new volume of John Stanley and Irving Tripp's classic Little Lulu comics, originally published by DELL. These are fun, funny, inventive stories that are great for parents and kids to read aloud together.

• LOVELESS, published by DC/Vertigo. Brian Azzarello is the comics' equivalent to Sergio Leone, a knuckles and guts writer of action and intrigue with the backdrop of the Old West. Uh, most definitely NOT for parents and kids to read aloud!

• MARVEL VISIONARIES: JOHN ROMITA JR Hardcover. JR JR is one of the top artists---and one of the nicest guys--- working in the comics' biz these days. His career now spans more than 25 years (actually, his first credit was way back in Amazing Spider-Man #78 in 1969 as the co-creator of The Prowler!), so it's about time to honor this great talent with a hardcover collection of some of his best stories. Thanks for so many memorable stories, JR!

• SOLO #7, published by DC COmics. Showcasing the sweet stylings of artist and Madman creator MIKE ALLRED! This one is a beauty! Lots of Allred quirkiness in and around the DC Universe, featuring "Batman A-Go-Go", "An Hour With Hourman", "Fourth World Wager" and "Doom Patrol vs Teen Titans!". In four-color, natch!

Lots more great stuff hits the racks tomorrow morning---and we'll be here from 11-8, so make it a point to drop by!

Keep those four colors flyin'!


Monday, October 24, 2005

A Secret of this Life!

Hope LanCarte has worked at her family-owned Fort Worth, Texas Mexican restaurant Joe T. Garcia's for 60 years!

She tells people she's "never had a job," explaining that "a job is something you do when you'd rather be doing something else". Hope doesn't feel she's created jobs for her family and employees, she has created work for them---please note the difference--- and she feels that work is enjoyable, worthwhile and is its own reward.

That's a primary secret of this life, folks. Enjoying your work life and then enjoying going back home at the end of the day is a huge secret to a happy and healthy life.

After 17 years doing this Flying Colors' gig, I know I'm a lucky guy. I still love coming to Flying Colors---and I still look forward to my time at home at the end of the day.

So, thank you!



Friday, October 21, 2005

Kinda Sketchy....

Besides having the best selection of new and old comics in this area, Flying Colors Comics also features several departments not always found in other comic book stores. One of the treasure spots in our store is our Art/Reference/History section, with tons of books for those who not only love their comics, but also love to know more about the artists who make the medium so wildly creative.

A few new addtions to the art section include:
• "RGK: The Art of Roy G. Krenkel"
• "Spies, Vixens & Masters of Kung-Fu: The Art of Paule Gulacy"
• Frank Frazetta's 2006 wall calendar

We carry a number of small press sketchbooks usually only found in limited quantities at comic conventions.
These currently include sketchbooks by:
• Neal Adams
• Tony De Zuniga
• Dan Brereton
• Eduardo Risso
• Liam Sharp
• Ray Lago

Flying Colors also has a comprehensive selection of comic art bigraphies and sketchbooks from publishers such as Vanguard and TwoMorrows, featuring artists from the Golden and Silver Ages, including artists John Buscema, Jim Steranko, John Romita, Murphy Anderson, George Tuska, Nick Cardy, Alex Schomburg, Curt Swan, Carmine Infantino, Michael Kaluta, Gil Kane, Bernard Krigstein, Gene Colan and others.

Whew! And I didn't even start with the Reference/History section!

If you get a chance, why not reply to this blog and tell us about your favorite comic artists of all time?

Peace, y'all----


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Random Notes

ITEM: Did you see the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle today? The headline read

"Frozen body in Sierra believed to be WWII airman"
I'm sure the article is up at .

Comics fans, it looks like they've found the real Captain America! Can the Avengers be far behind?

ITEM: "Netscape No More!" Aaaarrgghh!! I haven't been able to write e-mail recently because my antiquated Netscape mail/browser program keeps crashing...usually when I try to respond to you e-mail. So if you've e-mailed me hoping for a response, please be patient.

ITEM: This week we've been buried in a couple of other projects here at Flying Colors. One of them is our re-seeding the back-issue bins with a lot of good stuff. We have a terrific selection of old comics here, so please come in and have a look.

More soon!


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Holy Toledo! Bill King, 1927-2005

Bill King, one of the greatest radio sportscasters of all time, passed away yesterday. He was 78. King's career included announcing Golden State Warriors basketball (1962-83), Oakland Raiders football ('66-'92) and Oakland A's baseball (1981-2005).

Bill King was a part of the soundtrack of my life. I think I stopped following football when King ended his Raiders' tenure and when his colleague and great friend Lon Simmons ended his run with the cross-Bay 49ers. I'm a huge baseball fan, so I know I've been listening to Bill King on the radio since he was the third man in the SF Giants' booth (behind Hall-of-Famers Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons) in 1962.

As some of you may know, I worked in the sales department of KJOY-AM (Stockton CA) from '78-'88. We carried University of Pacific football and basketball games. When they were nationally ranked, we even carried some UOP Women's Volleyball! Anyway, a number of very talented sportscasters came through KJOY to do UOP games.

Jon Miller, now the voice of the San Francisco Giants and ESPN's lead TV baseball announcer, was once the voice of the UOP Tigers. So was Joe Angel, former Giants' announcer now with the Baltimore Orioles. Wayne Hagin of the St Louis Cardinals, too. But the one who did the most UOP games while I was there was a good guy named Will Watson. Will worked with me in the sales department when he wasn't off doing play-by-play.

Late in Bill King's run as the Warriors' play-by-play man, he contracted a mean case of laryngitis. The search for a fill-in came to Will Watson who worked next to a near-voiceless King during one of the most exciting basketball games ever. The Warriors were down some 10 or 12 points with less than two minutes to go---and then the team went on an incredible run to win the game at the buzzer. Will called it all with the dean of basketball announcers at his side, with King unable to get in more than a croak or two during the broadcast. Not one "Holy Toledo!". Not one jump down a ref's throat.

I remember talking with Will upon his return to Stockton after that amazing game. Bill King told him he did a great job. Now I don't recall if Will ever did more NBA broadcasting, but to get a compliment from the best basketball announcer of all time was no doubt the highlight of Will's broadcasting career. Vicariously, it was also one of mine.

In the mid-'80s, I got press box passes for a late season Oakland A's game. My dad was a die-hard A's fan, so I was thrilled to get him into the press box for his first and only time. Right next to the press box, through a window, was the radio broadcast booth with Bill King and Lon Simmons.

Now the press box was where the writers did a lot of things then---they smoked, they ate, they wrote---but they didn't talk a lot. And they sure as heck didn't root---at least out loud, anyway. So Dad, usually a very vocal and sometimes boisterous fan, kept quiet. The A's got down early to the Texas Rangers and by the 7th inning the score was something like 6-0. The A's looked just terrible that night. In the bottom of the 7th, the A's finally managed to squeak in a run. In a fit of sarcasm, Dad, in the relative silence of the press box, clapped loudly twice, stood up and then exclaimed "It's about damn time!"

Several sportswriters started laughing. One even said "It's nice to have a fan in here." Next door, in the broadcast booth, Bill King watched Dad's antics, smiled and gave him the "thumbs-up" sign.

That's as close as I ever got to meeting Bill King. But I listened to him for so many hours over so many years, starting when I was a child and Dad would have the games on in the car or on the transistor at home, that I felt I did know him, at least a little.
Dad passed away in '98, but whenever I listened to Bill King do the A's, I still felt like Dad was there listening with me.

The best will always be missed.

In comics, artist Jack "King" Kirby will always be missed---and will always be the creative genius others can only aspire to be. Bill King is to sports broadcasting what Kirby is to comics. One of a kind, brilliant and creative--- and very, very memorable.

Bill King will always be a part of the soundtrack of my life. I hope he's finding out just how holy Toledo really is right about now.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Life as a Mix-CD

Sometimes film reviewers shouldn’t be allowed to review certain films.

When it comes to genre films, especially comic book adaptations, film reviewers usually don’t get it. Negative reviews may stop some film snobs from seeking out good popcorn entertainment, but few fans are ever dissuaded from going to see a movie because a reviewer looked down upon it.

So here I am, about to write a short film review--- and about a movie that has nothing to do with comics--- but I hope I can persuade more people to get out and see it soon.

I saw "Elizabethtown" last night, with my wonderful wife Libby and daughter Jenny (soon to star in her own Flying Colors’ TV ad!). All of us in the Field family are fans of most Cameron Crowe movies. The theme of Crowe movies generally deal with battered idealists trying to make it in a cynical world. In "E-town", Orlando Bloom plays the lead as a newly battered cynic (and former yuppie idealist) finding his way back in the traditional and somewhat time-warped family surroundings of Kentucky. Kirsten Dunst is wonderful and sometimes goofy in her role as the muse to Orlando Bloom’s character. She is at first off-putting, then innocent and wise and alluring. But mostly, wise.

"E-town" is a very engaging and mostly quiet meditation on the values of love, life and family. As in previous Crowe films, his wife Nancy Wilson (of Heart rock 'n' roll fame) writes the score---and her guitar fills fit each scene in sweet and subtle ways. The soundtracks of Crowe films are essentially "mix-tapes" (now probably "mix-CDS" or iPod loads) of songs that play to the moods created by the story. In some cases, like with the use of Elton John’s "My Father’s Gun" in "E-town", the songs help fill in the story.

I'm sure "E-town" would have garnered rave reviews if music reviewers rather than film critics wrote about it because this is a movie for those who LOVE their music. If you’re the kind of person who regularly throws together Mix-CDs to set the tone for your day--- if you count your music-loaded iPod among your favorite friends--- if your rock 'n' roll CD collection is as large as your comics’ collection (give or take), then see "Elizabethtown". Cameron Crowe has done it again.

Lots of great stuff hits the comics' racks tomorrow, including the awaited second issue of Alex Ross’s JUSTICE.

Please come see us soon!


Friday, October 14, 2005

Baseball! I love this game!

With both my local teams out of the play-offs, I've found another team to root for. I usually do so by counting up the ex-Giants and A's on the remaining play-off teams.

Let's see: the Chi-Sox have ex-A Jermaine Dye and ex-Giants Dustin Hermanson and AJ However-you-spell-his-name (he was a Giant for only a year--and any guy who angrily knees the trainer in the groin isn't really a Giant, in my book).

The California Angels of Anaheim (or the Los Angeles Let's Leave Early & Beat the Traffic Angels, as we refer to them up here) have nary an ex-Giant or Athletic (even Jason Christiansen isn't on the roster).

The Houston Astros, sort of the feel-good story of the post-season (especially cool fan to give the home run balls to Cooperstown), have just Jose Vizcaino, a back-up with the Giants and now a back-up with the Astros....

Then there's the St Louis Cardinals----

Busch Stadium, about to be torn down with their new park opening next season, is the site of my only hit in a major league park (maybe a story for another day. I take requests). With former Athletics Jason Isringhausen, Mark Mulder and John Mabry, along with ex-Gigantes Reggie Sanders and Julian Tavarez, the Cards are the easy winners in the "root for the former home-boys' race".

Plus, the Cardinals are led by Tony LaRussa, the only guy in the post-season this year to have ever spent any money in Flying Colors Comics!

Oh, and a couple more things:
• Tony is a cool guy who does a lot of good work with his Animal Rescue Foundation (there are lots of humans who need rescuing, too, by the way).

• Tony and I have a "several degrees of separation" story, too. It turns out---and I only learned it straight from Tony when he visited Flying Colors after the '98 season--- that my great uncle Joe Bowman (former major league pitcher from '32-'45) signed Tony to his first pro contract.

My great Uncle Joe was Charlie Finley's super-scout for the Kansas City/ Oakland A's when he recognized the talent of Tony La Russa as a ballplayer in the Tampa, Florida area. I'd like to say Uncle Joe saw Tony's Hall-of-Fame level managerial potential, too, but that'd be stretching it.

So I'm rooting for the Cards this post-season. But as soon as the Series is over, I'll be back to being a total die-hard for my Bay Area teams.

FlyCo Joe

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Goin' to Astro City...

Another big recommendation from this week is the ASTRO CITY: LOCAL HEROES trade paperback by writer Kurt Busiek and artist Brent Anderson, with an Alex Ross cover.

I have loved ASTRO CITY since it first came along ten years ago. When readers tell me they want more from the super-hero genre, I eagerly point them toward this series. Most spandex adventures seem to be all about super-power trips and huge action, but AC stories often deal with the human emotions of living in a super-powered world. ASTRO CITY is a wonderful and different flavor in the realm of super-powered adventure comics.

If you've never tried this series, I will give you a money-back guarantee on a copy of the introductory ASTRO CITY volume called "LIfe in the Big City"....and then prepare yourself to take a most enjoyable trip to ASTRO CITY.

Other major recommendations for brilliant new takes on the super-hero genre:
SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY also by Kurt Busiek (and artist Stuart Immonen)
IT'S A BIRD... by writer Steven Seagal (no, not the cardboard actor) and artist Teddy Kristiansen
POWERS by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming
RUNAWAYS by Brian Vaughan with artist Adrain Alphona

I honestly believe FLYING COLORS has something special for every reader, and while I've focused here on new views of the realm of super-heroes, we have so many other genres to explore. So next time you're in the store, please allow us to recommend something new and cool just for you!


the Comics Guru

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

JB's Captain Four Color!

Have you checked our Webcomics page recently?

I waited to get this blog up and running before calling attention to it, so the time is NOW!

Cartoonist JB Bonivert has come up with a great li'l story called "Captain Four Color Saves the Day!" ---and it's now posted on the Webcomics page.

JB's done a lot over his career, including ATOMIC MAN for Blackthorne, FUN BOYS for Tundra, a number of adaptations in the more recent GRAPHICS CLASSICS series. JB's 70+ pages Teenage Mutant Ninja Turltes' magnum opus "MUSCLE & FAITH" is still posted in our web-comics archives (thanks, Mirage!). By day, Jeff works as an illustrator at the Lawrence Livermore Lab (see ENGINEERING COMICS #1)--- but in his heart, he's a full time comic book cartoonist.

I just love JB's singular style. He's done a number of short pieces for Flying Colors over the years for our newsletters (anyone remember those?), for our 10th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL (in '98), and for this web-site over the last bunch of years.

Anyway, Jeff's done it again with "Captain Four Color Saves the Day". You might even recognize a few of the Flying Colors' staff in the story. Comics' fans, see if you can find all the Silver Age in-jokes.

Check it out and let me know what you think, OK?

Wishing I really could fly,


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

New Releases Wednesday at Flying Colors!

Lots of good stuff this week! Huge titles from the big companies include:
• INFINITE CRISIS #1 from DC (don' t look at the last page untill you've read through the whole issue!)
• FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #1 (first part of "The Other" story)
• HOUSE OF M #7 (about time for this one, huh?)
• THE GOON 25¢ issue from Dark Horse (what a great time to jump on this cool title)

Lots more from the big publishers, so let's shine a light on some other very cool things coming in this week:
• DOOMED magazine #1. In the style of classic Warren mags like CREEPY, EERIE & Vampirella, this anthology looks like a winner!
• KRAZY & IGNATZ 1935-1936. Geo. Herriman's seminal strip is given another volume by Fantagraphics. Always a welcome addition to any serious comic historian's library. Plus it's just great stuff.
• Vanguard Publishing has two stellar entries this week--- RGK: THE ART OF ROY G KRENKEL (with notes from Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta) and SPIES, VIXENS & MASTERS OF KUNG FU: The Art of PAUL GULACY. Purty pickshers, if'n ya ask me.
• STANDARD CATALOG OF COMICS (4th edition). While not the definitve price guide that Overstreet is, the STANDARD CAATALOG serves so many other needs with exhaustive information. This one helps to answer lots of nagging comics' trivia questions.
• TONY MILLIONAIRE's LITTLE & LARGE hardcover. It's a storybook for kids, but everyone who loves Tony's MAAKIES and SOCK MONKEY will want to grab this one, too.

New comics & other cool stuff sure do make the middle of the work week a lot more bearable, don't they?

See you in Flying Colors!


Monday, October 10, 2005

Silver Age Avengers Assembled!

I participated in a round-table e-mail discoussion regarding Diamond Comic Distributors' new policy for lower selling independent titles. Here's the link:

I come off as something of a Diamond apologist in the round-table, but there have been times I've been critical of the company. I do think Diamond does a difficult job very well. Sure, there are things they could do better, but I can say the same thing about my own operation. Anyway, if you'd care to post your comments about the "interview", please go right ahead.

Tomorrow, I'll give you a few highlights for the comics & other cool stuff arriving on sale here Wednesday, but I want to talk a bit about old comics right now.

Last week, my pal Steve Holmes came to visit. Steve's the one who really got me into comics back in '67. Whenever we talk or get together, we still talk comics. I suppose we could talk about law since Steve is a lawyer, but somehow talking about cool comics always seems to win.

Part of Steve's visit was his entrusting me with a small cache of old Avengers (scattered issues from #16-93) and Nick Fury (#3-15) comics. Most of these are in beautiful shape --- and Steve has consigned them to Flying Colors to sell so he can put the dough towards some old Dr. Strange and Conans he'd like to upgrade.

Ask me if you'd like to see this stash of about 70 comics from Marvel's Silver Age.

Keep those four-colors flying!


Friday, October 07, 2005

Columbus Loves Comics! No Delay!

I've already mentioned here how much I LOVE the new "Complete Calvin & Hobbes" hardcover slipcase edition that went on sale this past Tuesday.

Cartoonist Bill Watterson didn't give a whole lot of interviews about C&H or any of his work as a cartoonist, but in anticipation of the release of the Complete C&H, fans were invited to send questions for Bill to answer. The result is an enlightening Q&A session ---found at

I didn't go out fishing the internet for that interview, though. I found it on ---ta da!--- another blog! Dan Shahin runs one of the real up and coming operations in the comics biz, Hijinx Comics in San Jose CA (my birthplace, for what that's worth...) and he's been blogging forever. Check out Dan's site at ---and when you're in the San Jose area, stop by Hijinx.

By the way, even though there is an ostensible holiday next week--- Monday is Columbus Day --- new comics and other cool stuff will still be on sale as usual WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12 (except maybe for those being shipped on the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria).

No delays because Monday is not a UPS holiday. And it looks to be another great week for comics with the big item being DC's first issue of INFINITE CRISIS! Woo and hoo, as they say!

More soon!


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Odd Moment from Flying Colors' History

We just hit our 17th anniversary in business this week, so there have been more than 6200 days in the Flying Colors Comics history books.

Through that time, we've been asked --- let me guess--- something in the neighborhood of 620,000 questions. Most we've been able to answer simply and directly, maybe even enlightening the inquisitors along the way.

But the oddest question we've ever been asked was by the man who rushed in one Saturday morning in a total panic.
"Do you exchange saxophones?!"
"Excuse me?" I thought I hadn't heard the question properly.
"Do you exchange SAXOPHONES!!??"

No, we don't exchange saxophones here. Never quite fit the bill of "Other Cool Stuff" in our store's moniker.

Then there's the one about the guy who called looking for raccoon traps...


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Living a Baseball Life in a Football World

Those who regularly visit Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff here in Concord CA know what a big baseball fan I am. I like several other sports, but I LOVE baseball!

Remember comedian George Carlin's bit about the differences between football and baseball?

Football is all about taking enemy territory until you reach a goal, while baseball is all about "going home". Football is a war, while baseball is still a game. Football is played in stadiums---a la the olden days of the Christians vs the lions in Rome's Colisseum, while baseball is played in parks...where we can all relax and enjoy the ggreen grass and sunshine as the game slowly unfolds. Most other sports are on a clock, while baseball is timeless. Baseball players and fans are also smart enough to head for cover when it rains or snows...

In my estimation, the world would be a lot better place if it was more of a baseball world---more peaceful, more timeless and better mannered. I know baseball isn't really a "gentleman's game"---nor was it ever. But its pace is a more healthy one for all of us--- and the lack of baseball on the calendar is matched up to a lack of sunlight in our winter days. You don't hear about people getting Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) in June, do you?

So what does this all have to do with comics?

I'll stretch it a little and say this: Comics and baseball have some very positive things in common. The sublime pleasure of reading comics is as timeless and carefree as spending a warm summer day at the ballpark. We can rush through reading them ---or we can take our own sweet time to savor them. And the comics of our youth often will remind us of simpler times when we didn't have to watch a clock. For some nostalgists who double as baseball fans and comic readers, it's likely easy to recall where you were when you read that first issue of a favorite comic book--- or where you were when a big baseball event happened.

Who says we can't time travel?


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

New & Cool Stuff in-store Wed 10/5

Occasionally with this blog, I'll give a rundown of some new items in the store that may be a bit off the beaten path, but deserve your attention for possible purchases. Here's a few of those items on-sale Wednesday October 5, 2005:

• The Complete Calvin & Hobbes. A massive (20 pounds +) slipcased hardcover collection of Bill Watterson's brilliant comic strip. From fall-down funny slapstick to wry social commentary, C&H stands out as one of the greatest (if somewhat short-lived) comics strips of all time. The $150 price tag is well worth the hours and hours of pleasure readers will get from this long-awaited collection.

• Baghdad Journal: An Artist in Occupied Iraq, published by Drawn & Quarterly. I wasn't prepared for how big and beautiful (if 'beautiful' can really be used to describe paintings of war-torn Iraq) this book is. Be sure to take a look when you're in the store this week.

• Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror. What a line-up of talent for this annual treat from BONGO Comics! Mark Schultz, James Lloyd, John Severin, Angelo Torres and Al Williamson---all catching that cool EC Comics' vibe with a Simpsons' twist.

• The FOG. The adaptation of the soon-to-be-released movie starring "Smallville"'s Tom Welling, this one sports a Mike Mignola cover and looks like a winner.

• Bone Sharps & Thunder Lizards, from Jim Ottaviani's GT Labs. Some of you may remember getting a taste of this as a Free Comic Book Day giveaway edition---well, this is the full deal. Very cool---so please check it out!

• Curse of Dracula. The team of Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, reknowned for their "Tomb of Dracula" series from Marvel in the '70s, are back together with more Dracula tales, this time from Dark Horse. A pre-Halloween treat, if you ask me...

There's so much more that's hitting the racks Wednesday morning. We hope you'll find the time to visit Flying Colors Comics this week. And bring a friend!



Monday, October 03, 2005

First View 10-03-05

Welcome to The View from Flying Colors, our li'l excursion into the world of blogging.

I've been dragged kicking and screaming into this by my trusted web-master, Alan Alvaro ( --- I highly recommend Alan's services!), and I still don't know quite what to make about this stuff. Most of the time, I'll leave a place for you to add your comments---and it would be cool if you do, so I can know that someone is finding this, reading it and having some response to it. (Just to warn you, I reserve the right to edit posts for clarity and courtesy)

What you'll find in this space are my musings on the wonderful world of comics--- along with occasional reviews and rants from me and the rest of the Amazing Flying Colors' Staff!

I'll also delve into other subjects occasionally, including:
• Movie reviews (That wasn't MY 'Fantastic Four' movie, by the way. None of the sometimes melancholy, often playful family dynamics of the Lee/Kirby run and Dr. Doom wasn't in the rocket with the Four when they go hit by the cosmic rays!! But it was a movie that provided a springboard for more people to find out about all the great FF comics for the last 45 years...).
• Some talk about music (usually my favorite indie power pop and prog-rock, but you can already get a glimpse of some of that on at the "Music" page).
• Whatever else I feel like spouting off--- hopefully you'll find some of it readable, and all of it worth your time.

Anyway, this is officially the First View --- and what a day it is!
October 3 marks the 17th anniversary of the opening of Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff!

The first point of order here is to thank everyone who has been part of the success of this li'l venture, including all the great people working in the business of comics --- artists, writers, other creative folks, publishers and distributors (including all those warehouse workers who try to get my order right every week). Special thanks to all those who have served as members of the Flying Colors' staff. I wouldn't have been here for 17 years if I had to do it on my own! Most of all, thank you to all the thousands of people who have shopped here before. God bless you, every one!

More to come soon, but until then---
"We've got your cool blog right here--- in Flying Colors ('thumbs-up' sign goes here). "


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Watching the Tide

This "Big Picture" column was originally published in the June 2005 issue of Comics & Games Retailer magazine.

Watching the Tide

Interpreting an Immutable Law

A dozen years ago, I had some coffee mugs designed for sale and giveaway in my store. The mugs featured the Flying Colors’ logo on one side and big dark star on the other side that disappeared when heated liquid was added to the mugs, revealing the somewhat flippant message “Where Comics Don’t Have to Be ‘Hot’ to Be Cool.”


Our market was all about the ‘hot’ comics then, rather than being about creative content.

Sure, there were times when content and a product’s blistering popularity coincided, but mostly those days were about packaging collectibles, with foil covers here and limited edition holograms there. Few (if any) new titles introduced then continue to be published today, other than extensions of titles far longer in the tooth than 1993. Looking back on that time, very few of us retail survivors would look back fondly remembering the content of what we sold, but we could probably quote some startling stats about how many units we moved. 


Perhaps my favorite business-related book---and I’m making a strong recommendation for all to read it again, now!--- is “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” by Al Ries and Jack Trout (HarperBusiness, 1993). A quick read, to be sure, but the book has tremendous food for thought in the way we run our businesses, as local entrepreneurs and as members of the larger comics’ industry.

Retailers might wonder why they should give a hoot about branding, line extensions and media share-of-mind, but the reasons are all right there in the Ries and Trout paperback. For small business owners, it’s in between the lines of case histories about IBM and New Coke, but each and every law has applications for selling comics and making our individual businesses more distinct, whether that’s on a local level or worldwide.


What moves me to write this month is Immutable Law #21, “The Law of Acceleration.” The principle of this law is that success is not built on fads, but rather on trends. There’s much for the comics’ business to learn in the less than four pages of the book taken up explaining this particular law. Fads, by nature, burn hot and fast. They don’t last long, but they tend to scorch everything in their path.

In the last couple of decades, there have been fad-like cycles in the market, as retailers have surfed from one hot thing to another trying to stay ahead of the bill collectors. There was the black-and-white comics’ fad in the mid-‘80s, spawned by the mega-success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


Other fads include the proliferation of instant collectible comics with holograms, variant covers and limited editions. Remember the publisher that made the promise not to print over 100,000 copies of any of their titles? I remember their serially numbered editions of such poor quality between the covers there was never any chance for sales over 100K, so that publisher, whose name I ironically fail to remember, kept to its promise. It also faded quickly out of business.

Many retailers surfed to products on the comics’ periphery attempting to gain quick profits, only to be holding the bag on stale inventory some time later, such as sportscards, ashcan editions, Pokemon stuff, Beanie Babies, Yo-yos, and POGs.


Ries and Trout posit the best thing to do when we see a fad is to dampen it, stretch it out and make it more like a trend. “One way to maintain a long-term demand for your product is to never totally satisfy the demand.” That makes me wonder about the continued onslaught of multiple printings, including all of DC’s “Infinite Crisis” printings and Marvel’s oddly named “limited variant covers”. While I’m all for trying to satisfy my customers’ want-lists, sometimes the best sales tool for popular products is an occasional and honest sell-out.


Fad-surfing may be the way to a few quick dollars, but it’s also the road to an unfocused business identity and an erosion of core consumer confidence. While trends are mostly indecipherable in the moment, they are profound over time. Identifying and riding emerging trends are the keys to longer-lasting profitability.

We’re in the midst of three potentially powerful trends:

1)    The ongoing love affair between Hollywood and comics

2)    The persistent growth and influence of Japanese culture in popular media

3)    The continued migration from a periodical-based collectibles’ business to a book-based readers’ market.

These trends present opportunities for those willing to learn, to invest in them and then to ride the trends to profit.


According to Ries and Trout, fads are akin to quickly breaking big waves while trends are consistent like the tide. In other immutable words, give me
cool over hot any old time.


(Joe Field still loves his job running Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff, 2980 Treat Blvd, Concord CA 94518. Comments and suggestions are welcome at )