Friday, November 30, 2007

1998 Warner Bros. Studio Store Justice League Plate by Alex Ross

In the post-bust mid-90's, I was running a rinky-dink comic shop in a rinky dink town. One of my customers was an aspiring animator, whereas I always wanted to write. His two great passions were Star Wars and Disney Studios, where I was a DC fan who dug Warner Brothers in general, Daffy Duck in particular. I got talked into playing the Star Wars collectible card game, in part because CCGs were all the rage. I also thought it best I have some idea of how these things worked, if I was going to sell the stuff. I made pretty decent money off them, though my spending good money for a personal collection of SW cards on my Ramen noodle budget was decidedly ill-considered. They're still in a binder and box in the garage, presumably worthless, and don't even get me started on Overpower. That's the way it tends to go in this business.

This whole thing is a tangent, so bear with me as I work my way around in a decaying orbit toward the subject. I'd play cards with my friend with benefits (as in capital, not carnal, creep) and we'd good-naturedly rib one another about our respective corporate allegiances. He went so far as to work at the rather lame Disney store at the mall, where I only browsed the comparatively awe-inspiring WB Store. A great many of the novelties from those outlets will make their way to this blog, but I intend to center on just the one, for now. Eventually.

It so happens that the rinky-dink shop had seen its spirit mostly die with the premature passing of the owner's wife and comic czar. I was brought in to replace her. Of course I never did, which explains why her husband sold the shop less than a year later. Worse, I was pretty much sold into bondage to a drug-addled arrested development case who conned his mother into sinking five figures into a comic shop in the aforementioned post-bust mid-90's. I kept the doors open for a year with my developing social skills and business savvy for comics, cards, and toys. The idiot son managed to tank the place trying to sell tennis shoes signed by local ballplayers he'd overpaid for at an impossible mark-up in the aforementioned rinky-dink town. Busting open cases of froo-froo $10 card packs in the post-collapse sports memorabilia market to keep the choicest cards for himself when not skimming the till for booger sugar didn't help, either. After I'd quit and returned out of guilt about a half dozen times, the jerk finally fired me, though they kept me coming in once a week to sort the subscriptions, until they heard a rival shop hired me.

No really, I'm getting there. See, the Disney guy happened to call for me on the phone within minutes of my less-than-final termination, and I brushed him off with a cracking voice. Never saw him again, but somewhere down the line, some other customer I carted over from the rinky-dink shop to the better-run-pissant-small-town-shop bought me this plate from the WB store. I just don't recall the who or when. I'm kind of lousy when it comes to attaching memories to objects, unless there's a specific story involved. Now see, it was a darned nice plate, bought at a time when I was much more of a Wonder Woman fan than one to jones for J'Onzz. It's just, plates are, y'know, delicate. I'm sort of hard-travelled, if you missed it before, so I was pretty much waiting for the day this sucker ended up in pieces. Plus, I just can't see owning a plate that I can't eat pizza off of. Despite my roommate's annoying assertions to the contrary, function is essential, where form is not. I haven't had a working refrigerator in over a month because she hasn't found one her "style" yet.

Wait, I'm almost there. Once I loved this plate, but I very shortly after lost it. Got sold at the second shop to some other customer, for money that surely never went into my pocket. See, I invested that money in the second shop, which lasted another six years before I and my partner burned out on the industry and decided to close it, by mutual choice rather than by force. More importantly, we didn't feel the need to scam some other idiot, or sell-out our customers. Judging from internet resources and my own memory, the plate always caught enough of the light to never be properly visible as a whole anyway, so I just scanned a reproduction of the original painting. I got my shop and the art, too. That's good business sense. Plus, I never was a commemorative plate guy.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go drink some tea from my Silver Age Wonder Woman tumbler, thankful that I never smeared the oil from a Pizza Hut Meat Lover's all over those nipples Alex Ross insisted on painting upon the Manhunter. I expect emerald boy-breasts from the Incredible Hulk, but here it just skeeves me out. There's such a thing as too realistic, sir! Oh, and note that he's position next to his best frienemy, Aquaman. It's a thing, I tells ya...

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