Panel for Panel #1: Michael Giuliano, Playwright and Tradesman

Panel for panel is going to be an interview series I would like to conduct once a month. Ideally interviewing creators, but I would like to highlight people who love this hobby as much or more than I do. Let these interviews cement your love for comics. Inspire you to create and help you find the comics that define you.

My first entry I submit to you, the man's name is Michael Giuliano. You won't know him now but he has gained steam in local play writing communities in the Hudson Valley of New York and Fairfield County Connecticut. Two of his short plays have been shown. His play "Lovely Letters" has been performed coast to coast. Not only is he a playwright but he is a journalist for a local newspaper. He is an avid comic book collector who specialized in trade paperbacks and a nerd enthusiast. I sat down with Michael for about 45 minutes and here is what happened.

Keith HTK: So, Mike, how did you get into comics?

Mike Giuliano: Um… I think I was in college, like maybe around 2009 or 10 and I was a part of this group online. It was basically a group of people who liked memes back before memes were you know cool. I became one of the administrators of the group and one of the other guys in the group ah this guy Riley was big into comics and you know it would creep into all of our conversations every once in a while. I kind of got curious because I haven’t read anything, you know I wasn’t too familiar with superheroes outside of pretty much the movie universe. You know Spider-man and a random number of singles I picked up when I was little. Never really read a comic before but you know he would always talk about it and I would wind up asking him more and more questions you know. I had no idea who Green Lantern was and he was explaining to me who that was. This was right around the time that Geoff Johns was getting ready to start Blackest Night so Geoff Johns’ run was really hitting its stride and becoming popular and acclaimed. So I’m going to say pretty much learning Green Lantern through my friend Riley, you know it was a superhero I had never heard of and the premise really intrigued me and sounded interesting and it was at a time that that particular hero had a lot going on. It was a good place. The book store at my college had a little comics rack. You know a little spinney rack and it just happened one time I went there they had an issue, it was one of the first Green Lantern Blackest Night issues in the run. So, I picked it up and didn’t quite know what was going on. I had no reference for it, but you know I picked it up bought it and asked Riley for the context and then it turns out at my college that they really never updated that shelf too much. So, I went a couple months before I read the next issue. Then I transferred out of that school and I transferred back home to Connecticut. I looked up a comic shop online and I went there and I got all of the filler issues that I needed to get caught up and pretty much just started reading Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern at that point. Slowly you know badgering my friend Riley, asked him what are some other good runs going on right now, what are some other good characters to get into. He recommended Dan Slott’s Spider-man. This is right around the time Brightest Day I remember really started collecting when Brightest Day happened. You know all those 24 issues. And then I guess it wasn’t too long after that the New 52 started up. I really got started with that. I picked up, actually I didn’t start picking up Batman. I wish I did, that was a mistake but I picked up the Flash. It was usually my go to book, Green Lantern to continue Geoff Johns’ run. I was reading, you know a lot of the New 52 stuff was pretty good. Then after a while for the sake of space and budgeting I kind of switch to trades waiting a lot of stuff. That changed my reading habits. I went from reading one book every week to waiting six months to read six issues in one shot.

K: You keep naming writers, it seems that writers were very pivotal on how you got into comics, well not comics but different characters. What kinds of stories or do you actually follow any particular creators? Because it seems like you do.

M: Well Geoff Johns, just because my friend Riley likes to say that Geoff Johns is able to pretty quickly and without being like soap opra-ish, he really gets to the core of a character without much you expository B.S. He gets a lot of characters, like he understands Green Lantern and any book you read by him he really seems to have a good understanding of the character and their motivation

K: Don’t you think feel like every book that he touches he leaves his fingerprint on?

M: A little bit, I mean the only thing I read by him that I wasn’t totally blown away by was his Avengers run which is very short. I mean it wasn’t bad or anything, it’s like for me it was just kind of like if you read his early Flash run which my friend Riley you know told me was really good and the only annoying thing about that was back then parts of it were out of print and tracking them down was a hassle. None of his stuff seems to be very rigged to the current continuity of what’s going on in the universe. So, like obviously Blackest Night was a huge part of the Green Lantern run and it was huge part of the DC universe. Then Brightest Day kind of was for a while. In a Geoff Johns’ comic, you never got the sense that “oh like while this is going on we are also being reminded that hey Final Crisis is happening right now”. There might be a reference to it but it’s never really overt. He really tries to keep his stuff self-contained.

K: It seems like since you have a writing degree and you’ve written some plays, do you find yourself critiquing writers often? Or their style?

M: A little bit but I don’t like being critical. One, I am not quite sure that I really know what I am talking about so really who am I to judge. But also, the sheer volition of what I choose to read and what I have read I guess I am really lucky. I haven’t read a comic except for maybe once or twice where I was like wow this is a badly written comic. I don’t get that too often, even though I hear a lot of criticism like in trade I have the entire run of Amazing Spider-man from Brand New Day all the way to when Superior (Spider-man) happened. That is a big chunk of time but I hear a lot of people rip into, and you know at that time it wasn’t just Dan Slott. It was a whole myriad of writers. Brand New Day had Dan Slott, Mark Waid, Mark Guggenheim and a handful of others. With Brand New Day, besides everyone being pissed about the whole retconning and character changing people thought it was just not very well written. There were also a couple of arcs throughout that whole thing that were not very good. It seemed like a lot of the high points were written by Dan Slott. You had Death and Dying, the Anti-Venom stuff. But then you had a bunch of weird stuff that had people saying “well you have weird crap like when Harry Osborn’s girlfriend was bangin Norman Osborn”, I forgot her name I think it was… Menace? There are a couple of authors who I will read, one of my favorites is Scott Snyder. I was dumb, I wasn’t reading his Batman in singles. I was waiting awhile and then all of a sudden, probably on Riley’s recommendation I picked up Black Mirror.

K: Oh, that was the Detective Comics story?

M: Yeah, right before the New 52. That was his short little stint on Detective. I was like this is amazing and immediately after, I picked up the Court of Owls trade. And that is how I started.

K: That was so good. I think he left a lot in the Batman lore.

M: He did, and his run is going to be a seminal one that will be up there compared to you know Miller’s stuff and Morrison’s stuff. At the same time I will read stuff and I will like it but what happens, I will listen to other people’s criticism. One criticism I hear kind of a lot is “Scott Snyder will build up you know the story to an arc and it will build up amazingly. But what he will do is when it comes time for the actual action and the climax, it’s almost like it’s not as impactful and well executed as everything is leading up to it. I was reading Death of the Family, which you know is the Joker’s return to the New 52 and I was like you know I can kind of see what this person is talking about. You know the whole build up and then once we actually get to the scene with the bat family and their faces on the table, I was like oh yeah it is kind of like he wasted all of the energy he had before.

K: I didn’t get that from Zero Year. I thought Zero Year was fairly well done.

M: you see for me while I was trade waiting I had to wait 6 months between the first half and the second half, I thought Zero Year was a little… I think Zero Year was its own thing and not really reflective of his writing. It was a lot of world building and like really trying to cement, “hey this is the New 52, this is sticking around, this is Batman’s world now”. Like forget Year One. They really tried to hammer it home with twelve issues what Year One did with four. I read to enjoy and unless something is completely atrocious I will continue reading and I will be reluctant to point out a flaw in it.

K: I feel a theme in all of the answers you have given me so far, it is you’ve had to wait. You are a trade collector so you have to wait. Why trades as opposed to single issues?  

M: Well one reason was space issues. After a while of collecting I quickly realized that hey every week I’m bagging and boarding six new books. And I am filling this long box kind of quickly and I really don’t have a ton of space. So, I was like it makes sense, I have a big book shelf. I can slowly start clearing off and making room. For me it is a space issue and time issue. I don’t have to worry about bagging and boarding every week. Instead of having a big pile of floppies somewhere that I won’t have anything to do with, I will have a book that I can carry around with and read anywhere. I doubt that I will have to hopefully but if I have to I can sell it again. I can bring it to a used bookstore or give it to a friend.

K: They certainly look nice on a book shelf.

M: They do, and you know I was going with the trades because unlike the hardcovers, for space issues are a little smaller. But now I do like oversized hardcovers and the omnibus editions. The omnibuses at least collect a big portion of the run or an entire run in one spot. They are a little oversized which means the art usually looks a lot nicer and you can appreciate it a little more.

K: I imagine your Big Damn Sin City looks amazing.

M: Yea I haven’t read it yet but I have been flicking through it and it looks great. Dark Horse is good with the library editions. They’re really at that size for the sole purpose of appreciating the art.

K: I’m not familiar with the Library Editions. Is that like the Absolute Editions?

M: They are as big as the Absolutes, I am not a gigantic fan of the Absolutes from DC because their tall enough and big enough to be unwieldly to the point where they are difficult to read. The price point for what they are is usually around $100.00. Which an Omnibus will be around $100.00 and you will get 4, 5, 6 or 7 hundred pages out of one, whereas an Absolute will have 12 issues or 10 issues. Although they are beautiful if you are into the art. The Library Editions don’t come with a dust jacket or a slip case and they collect a little bit more. Right now, there are six for Hellboy. So, they collect 2 trades each. They are really meant to display the art on a bigger scale, but a scale that is readable.

K: Do feel like trades and hardcovers are definitely more durable? You want to be careful with a single issue. Do you feel like you need to be careful with trades and hardcovers?

M: For me it is the opposite, for me unless it is a huge special edition, a floppy doesn’t have much resale value. It will have personal value and you don’t want to damage it intentionally if you love the art. Marvel Omnibuses are looked at in the collecting community as a high point of quality. They have a sewn binding, a double binding so you can lay them down flat.  You can wrangle with them a little bit.

K: You don’t mind waiting for a trade to come out?

M: Well now I’ve kind of switched to digital, but I’m still not picking up too much stuff monthly. Ever since Rebirth I picked up the Rebirth special but I didn’t pick anything up monthly. Now I just kind of started up on Tom King’s Batman with the war of jokes and riddles. I will probably continue with that because I kind of like where it is and I read the first 2 trades digitally because of sales. One of the biggest myths out there is that going digital will save you money. It can save you money but it hasn’t save me money because they are constantly teasing you with these sales (saving money switching to digital). When I was waiting for trades I didn’t feel like I was missing out on too much because I was reading about what I was missing online. Marvel has a quick turnaround for trades. It seemed like an arc would end and 2 weeks later a trade would be out.

K: It seems like even though within the last 10 years started collecting you have been able to catch up and know the history.

M: I try to go back and read the classics, the staple points in both DC and Marvel. Get to know the crisis’s. My friend Riley has a blog, he is and he has a whole nice set up of recommendations of starting off points. It is becoming easier for people to get into comics although there is so much more back story now,

K: even though you are a trade collector you do have single issues. How do you determine what to buy in single issue form?

M: if it is for an ongoing series, usually what I will do is grab the first issue. Either digitally or physically if it’s something I’ve been hearing about or seem interested in I will grab it physically. One, just to have it and 2, if it turns out to eventually be a collector’s item ill have it. I will read one and see what I think. If I like it I will start buying it digitally.

K: do you see yourself buying a grail book or a high profile single issue, iconic comic?

M: I mean, I keep my eye out but like I mean I am kicking myself because I am pretty sure I had an issue of Saga number one somewhere. I do have my New 52’s like all the number ones still. But they aren’t collector’s items yet. I’ll get them signed by a creator when I meet them.

K: It’ll take 52 years for those to be worth something.

M: exactly, that is why I have no intention on going out and spending $25.00 on the Death of Superman just to one day sell it for $27.00 plus shipping. I will intentionally buy a single issue if I notice the cover is good. Or now a lot with Image they have covers that are fundraisers.

K: If you could give advice to someone who wanted to collect trades, what would you say to them?

M: Make sure you are getting the right ones, the good thing about Marvel now and New 52 was they dressed them all the same. Otherwise they can be confusing, like the Spider-man ones from before. They can be confusing so you really have to look at the back to see what they are collecting.

K: What was your friend Riley’s website again? And does that website give a lot of information for a prospective trade collector?

M: Yea he is pretty much my go to, every once in a while, I still text him like, hey have you heard anything about this issue or, I just stumbled upon this hardcover do you know if this is a good story? And he will give me some good advice. He is and that is his website. I don’t know how much he puts out nowadays, but he still has a slog of archives stuff. He has links to conversations and interviews, he does Youtube videos every now and again. You know, discussions with other comic book collectors. We run a Facebook group. If you are really into it, the Facebook group is the omnibus collectors comics swap community. It is people trading and buying omnibus editions off of each other. His website has links which are good like “how some stories are collected”, “the easiest way to read”, then if you are looking at collected editions, they have his highs and lows for certain characters and runs. He has a video on how to start if you have read before.