Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Guardians of the Galaxy # 1 (Third Eye Comics Variant)

I've had my little rants about variant covers, but I end up profiling them from time-to-time nonetheless.  Hypocritical, maybe, but I suppose there's some things you can't fight.  I loathe the phrase "it is what it is," but when it comes to variants, the idiot idiom certainly sticks.  Thus, as a comics fan, you either pick the cover you like best or you go uber-collector-style and grab them all.

Best of luck to you if you're a Guardians of the Galaxy fan trying to gobble up the 21 (yes, 21) variant covers of the # 1 reboot you can scarf out there.  Of course, this series re-launch issue came out in the summer of 2013, so that means you'll likely be paying way more than cover price, so I wish you even better luck.  With the release of the new Guardians film this week, it'll probably be the year 2114 before you ever see any of these variants drop into the dollar bins at your local retailer. 

As many variants are pushed as comic convention specials and comic shop exclusives, it can be a test of mettle (and bank accounts) if you have to have every single cover of a specific issue.  If that applies to you, then Godspeed, chum. 

It's no secret the vast number of people learning about Guardians of the Galaxy are only getting their first exposure with the film.  This series has always been insiders-only, since for most in the mainstream world, the idea of a laser gun-toting raccoon sits as well as...well, a laser gun-toting raccoon.  Word to the wise, though; don't you ever call Rocket a raccoon if you don't want your bunghole blasted apart like a newborn nebula.

What some folks don't know is that Guardians of the Galaxy has actually been around (on-and-off, of course) since 1969, their first appearance coming via Marvel Super-Heroes # 18.  You just never know when a future legacy is bred innocuously within some other forum, i.e. Batman with Detective Comics, Thor in Journey Into Mystery, Hulk, Sub-Mariner and Ant Man/Giant Man with Tales to Astonish, Spiderman in Amazing Fantasy or Sin City in Dark Horse Presents.

The original Guardians might as well be considered one of the original crossovers, as they haunted numerous Silver Age Marvel titles such as Marvel Two-in-One, Marvel Presents and Marvel Team-Up.  They also cameoed in existing character books such as Captain America, Thor, The Avengers, Defenders and Ms. Marvel.  In the nineties, they returned in their own series and a subsequent miniseries, Galactic Guardians, albeit caveat if you're a newbie learning the ropes; this isn't the current lineup you see in the film and existing title run by Michael Bendis. 

It'll take another five to ten minutes to run through all of the old Guardians (Yondu Udonta, Martinex T'Naga and the more-familiar Adam Warlock, as examples), so I'll can the history lesson.  If you're just assembling all the pieces behind Star Lord, Rocket, Groot, Gamora and Drax, you're to be commended for that in itself.  Welcome to a cooler world.

My copy of the new Guardians of the Galaxy # 1 is a variant special to Maryland comics superstore, Third Eye Comics.  I've sung this store's praises in public forums in the past and consider them and Cards, Comics and Collectibles the two best comics retailers in the state.  In Third Eye's case, it's not just because of their stellar service, deep stock and frequent in-store appearances from comics creators.  They tend to get their own variant covers, often for # 1 issues.  Recently, I was able to snag their # 1 variants for Silver Surfer, Nailbiter and of course, Guardians of the Galaxy.  Even better, first printings at cover price and I was late to the game with Guardians # 1.  

See, even jaded jerks like me can play the fanboy game once in a while, and for the record, I am Groot, nyeh...

                         Listenin' to:  Heart - Dreamboat Annie

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