26 December 2008

Rom sales: April 1984

Here's a quick quiz for you. Which out of the following issues sold the best on the direct sales market in April 1984 (cover dates of August 1984)?
  1. Captain America #296
  2. G. I. Joe #26
  3. Iron Man #185
  4. Incredible Hulk #298
  5. Micronauts #59
  6. Rom #57
If you guessed Rom #57, you're correct! (And if you didn't, all I can say is, "yo, dude, this is the Rom blog.") This bit of information comes from a May 29, 2007 blog post by Marvel editor Tom Brevoort I recently discovered. For that month, Rom, with 73,800 units, outsold all the other titles listed above.

There is, of course, a caveat. The direct sales market was still very young in 1984 and Marvel was still seeing most of it's sales in the traditional, newsstand market. The difference between the two is that newsstands could return unsold comics, while direct sales shops couldn't.

So what sold better than Rom? The usual suspects (X-Men, New Mutants, Spider-man titles, Fantastic Four, etc.) plus Marvel's hot new limited series, Secret Wars (#4). If you want to see the complete list, visit the blog entry linked above. For now, I'm (naturally) going to focus on Rom's numbers.

Rom ranked 16th amongst Marvel's titles, down from 15th the previous month. It was pushed down by Power Pack #1, Alien Legion #2 (a bi-monthly that wasn't published the previous month), and Quest Probe #1 at 15th (78,800 units). Rom saw a remarkable increase in sales of 12.5% from 65,600 the previous month. Mind you, a quick glance through the numbers shows that most titles were seeing increasing sales. This is just another reminder that the direct sales market was new and expanding.

Three issues prior, in Rom #54, Marvel had printed its statement of ownership. It revealed an average sales per issue of 160,741 for the year and 170,588 for the most recent issue. That means direct sales accounted for approximately 35-45% of the title's sales.

So what's the bottom line here? When he was in print, Rom was not the third-tier character comic fans tend to think of him as now. While consistently outselling Dazzler, Doctor Strange and Power Man & Iron Fist may not sound like something to brag about, how about Marvel stalwarts like Iron Man, Captain America, and the Hulk? Not to mention other licensed comics like Micronauts, G. I. Joe, Conan, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones. You might say I'm jumping to a conclusion, but I think the only reason we haven't seen full revivals of him is because of the Parker Brothers license.

23 December 2008

Finally found a copy of Zap!

[The following was originally posted to the Usenet group rec.games.video.classic. I waited until after Christmas to post it to my blog so my mother wouldn't know what she was getting. As a result, this post has been backdated from when it was actually posted, five days later.]

My mother is hard to shop for, but an avid reader, so today I went to a used book store to see if I might find something for her. This led me to wander through a lot more of the hard cover section than I usually do on my infrequent trips there. And in doing so, I finally came across the game section. And what do I find on the shelf between the books on chess and bridge? A copy of Zap!: The Rise and Fall of Atari by Scott Cohen. I have been looking for this book for years! (Possibly because I've been unwilling to pay eBay prices.)

I've actually already read it before. It turned out my local library has a copy. (And yes, I considered doing something unethical like checking it out, failing to return it, and paying the fine, but I'm not that kind of person.) I realize it's not a perfect history. I also realize that it was republished by John Hardie through Xlibris. But that's just not the same as having an original, hard cover copy from 1984.

It makes a lovely addition to my collection. It's in very good condition with a tight spine, free of markings, and still has the dust jacket. Just some light wear along the top and bottom of the spine. Looks like it may have been read once (or possibly not) and then sat on someone's shelf for years before being traded in. Heck, for all I know it could have been sitting on the shelf at the book store for years. (Although not since the '80s, as they had a fire 11 years ago which forced them to restock.) Oh, and the best part was the price: $4 plus tax. (And I did find something for my mother, too.)

22 December 2008

R.I.P. Rufus, 1993–2008

We had to put our cat, Rufus, to sleep today. It was the most difficult decision I've ever had to make. He's now at rest in the raised flowerbed in our backyard next to our other cat, Somalia.

It appears Rufus had a blood clot or possibly a stroke. Back in September, I came home from work and heard a thud. Rufus had apparently attempted to get off the couch to greet me, but instead fell. I stood him up and he was having problems walking, so I rushed him to the vet. I called them as I was preparing to leave and they stayed and waited for me. The cause was uncertain then, but when he hadn't improved much the next day, they thought he'd probably had a mild stroke. The main symptom was his walking in a drunken stagger. Within just a few weeks, however, he'd appeared to have recovered.

We had to board him while we were gone for Thanksgiving. He seemed to do fine, but then I noticed after a few days of being back home he had appeared to stop eating. I might have noticed sooner, but the job of feeding him had been given to Andrew, and he didn't bother to mention it to us right away. A visit to the vet seemed to get him back on track, but then – after they'd done a follow-up call, of course – he seemed nearly to stop again.

I'd planned to call the vet today, but this morning, after Hannah woke us up, I heard him calling from the living room. I found him lying on the floor in front of the couch. Upon trying to stand him up, it seemed he was unable to. Further examination showed no movement in his tail or back legs. He was happy for the attention, though, calmed down, and began purring.

Once we got to the vet, the prognosis wasn't good. The options boiled down to more of the kinds of tests he'd had lately or putting him down. After much heart-wrenching discussion, we decided for the latter. I stayed with him while it was done, which broke my heart.

I think I understand, now, an emotional reason for burying the dead. Digging a large hole to put a loved one in helps a little, because it actually gives you something to do and focus on. Putting him in and preparing to cover him, however, I broke down again.

Dorothy and I got Rufus from the Humane Society back in 1994. He had gotten sick and his family had been unable to care for him. The Society had gotten him healthy again and then put him up for adoption. He was about 13 months old and came with the name Rufus.

I had taken Somalia from Dorothy's family a year earlier. She was a stray who was obviously uncared for and they couldn't really handle another cat, as they had many. We naively hoped that maybe she'd get along with Rufus immediately since she hadn't been a problem for Dorothy's family. We introduced them far too soon and, naturally, she attacked Rufus, the intruder. I grabbed the cat who was closest, which happened to be Rufus, and paid for it with numerous scratches on my hands and arms. Eventually, of course, they got along, although Somalia seemed to remain the dominant one.

Rufus was an unusual cat and extremely laid back. He loved to have his belly rubbed. Once we had children, Somalia tended to just stay away from them. Rufus, however, tolerated them better.

Sometime after Walter learned to crawl, Rufus came, laid down in front of him and rolled over for a belly rub. Walter, not knowing how to pet, just grabbed his fur. Rufus didn't react, other than to give him a look like, "what are you doing? That's now how you do it," and then got up and laid down a little further away. Walter crawled over and the scene repeated itself. Rufus tried a third time before giving up and wandering off.

When Andrew was one year old, he tried riding Rufus. Meaning, essentially, he sat on Rufus, although not putting his full weight on the cat. Rufus just sat there until he could get away. Other, more high-strung cats might have responded with clawing and/or hissing, but not Rufus. The above photo of baby Andrew and Rufus is not from either incident, but was one of the few I was able to find of Rufus with one of the kids.

I realized while burying him that Rufus had been in my life longer than any of my children and almost as long as Dorothy. While I felt sad when we had to euthanize Somalia, it didn't hurt as much. That was, perhaps, because while Somalia let us feed her and pet her, she remained aloof as only a cat can. Rufus was more affectionate. I don't know that I'll ever know another cat like him. Goodbye, kitty.

17 December 2008

15 years is the "washing machine anniversary"

About two days before our wedding anniversary, our washing machine died. For just $35, the repairman was kind enough to tell us that a slow leak had caused its innards to rust and the motor was dead. Even if he could repair it, it would cost more than a new machine. Great.

Thanks to my sister-in-law's Christmas present (unwrapped early), we had dinner plans for our anniversary. (Thanks, Beth!) Afterwards, we'd originally planned to get some Christmas shopping done for the kids. When you have three children, however -- particularly when one is in cloth diapers -- dirty clothes aren't something you want to get too far behind on. So after dinner, we had a lovely evening looking at washing machines.

It seems our desperate circumstances actually worked in our favor. After narrowing down our choices, we found out we were incorrect in our assumption that they'd have a sample of most models in back. So we asked what they had in the store right then. This revealed a discontinued model that the store happened to still have sitting in the back. There was no floor model on display; this was truly the only one they had. But we got a good deal on it because of that! (Or so it seems to us and we'd appreciate not being disillusioned.)

And there was also a good thing about the timing, as far as time of year. Our babysitter wasn't available until later than normal dining time. If it hadn't been the holidays, the store wouldn't have been open late enough for us to shop after dinner.

So, we found out we could indeed fit the washer in our minivan and drove it home. I then had to get the old washer out of the laundry room. I'd attempted to do so before dinner, but discovered it wouldn't fit through the way I'd initially picked, so I had to clear a second path when we got back home. Thanks goodness the laundry room has more than one door. Once that was done, I had to bring in the new washer and install it. And after that, I had to run an "empty load" to clean the machine out before using it. In the end, I think I got to bed around 1:30 a.m., but there was a load of clothes running when I did.

Two last interesting notes. First, the new washer thankfully came with new hoses. In removing the old ones, I discovered we were supposed to have changed them about seven years ago. You'd think after having our house flooded by a burst washing machine hose several years ago, we'd have learned our lesson and kept a better eye on that. I have dutifully recorded the date that the new hoses should be replaced in my PDA, so I'll get a an alert sometime in 2013.

Second, I was once told by a repairman that a clothes dryer can last through about three washers. Most people don't keep them that long, however, because they want their appliances to match. We're on a budget and don't give a flying fig; the laundry room's not a room we show off to guests. We bought our first washer and (the current) dryer from our home's previous occupants. The dryer is now on it's third washer. So happy anniversary, dear. I hope you like your present the clothes washer. Let's hope the "clothes dryer anniversary" doesn't come until at least 20 years of marriage.