All posts by caperaway

I’m a publisher writer of graphic novels and short fiction. Published works include Acts of Violence: An Anthology of Crime Comics, The Grim Collection, Black Salt, and Psychosis.

Bestsellers: February 2021

It’s almost the end of March which means it’s time to talk about the best-selling board games, comics, and manga for February. Better late than never, right?

Bestselling Board Games for February 2021

Here to Slay: Warriors and Druids

TeeTurtle — makers of novelty t-shirts, reversible plushes, and board games– released Here to Slay in 2020 and the Warriors and Druids expansion in February 2021. Here to Slay was a good seller last year so it wasn’t a surprise that its first expansion was a big hit.

Marvel Champions LCG: Quicksilver

Number two on the list is another expansion. Marvel Champions is the newest addition to Fantasy Flight Games’ Living Card Game engine, a line that includes Arkham Horror, Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings. Quicksilver was the latest expansion.

Ticket to Ride

The only title from the original evergreen trio of Catan, Pandemic and Ticket to Ride to hit the list in February. The staples tend to slow down in the post-holiday season but Ticket to Ride was still hot even as the weather stayed cold.

Azul

Hmmmm…maybe the aforementioned trio should become a quartet…

Codenames Deep Undercover

To the best of my knowledge, the naughty version of Codenames was only available south of the border at Target stores. In February 2021, dirty Codenames came to Canada.

Disney Villainous

I rolled up sales of the original game with its expansions in order to get it on this list. Shhhh…don’t tell anyone.

Forbidden Desert

Matt Leacock , the designer of Pandemic, brought the simple mechanics of that game to family-friendly themes with Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert, and Forbidden Sky. Forbidden Desert was back in fashion in February.

Grounded for Life

When I was a wee lad I distinctly remember not being allowed into my grandmother’s living room one evening because the adults were watching a movie called Jaws. I sooooooo wanted to see what was going on. I wonder if there are wee lads out there now wondering what the adults are doing around the kitchen table with that game of white and black cards. Why is dad blushing? Why is mom cackling? Why did Uncle Jim’s new girlfriend leave the house suddenly? Why did grandma say neighbour Jim is going straight to the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks? Give the youngsters a taste of safe rudeness with Grounded for Life.

Lost Cities

One of the most popular two player games over the years has been Lost Cities. The version we stock now is the latest version, which includes a new, sixth expedition.

Bestselling Manga for February 2021

There were no stand-out graphic novels / trade paperbacks this month in terms of multiple sales so I’ve focused this list on manga. Titles are listed; not individual volumes. Manga are listed based on the total number of volumes sold for the month.

Haikyu

This long-running volleyball themed manga has been around for nine years but it has never enjoyed much success in ComicReaders until last year when it suddenly exploded. A wider popularity in North America means it was hard to get on the shelf, but in early 2021 we were able to start stocking its run. And then most of them sold.

Attack on Titan

Did it end? I think both the manga and the anime have ended or are ending but I don’t want to look because I’m behind in both and I want to avoid spoilers. Sometimes when a series is about to end or does end we see an increase in interest as people look to finish their run or finally want to see what the fuss is about.

My Hero Academia

The only thing surprising about this is that we sold more Attack on Titan and Haikyu. My Hero Academia has had some availability issues so that likely played a role.

One Piece

I started scaling back One Piece because it has slowed down in recent years but here in 2021 its on people’s minds and the volumes are flying off the shelves. This might have been higher on the list had I had more on the shelf. I am trying to remedy that in March.

Naruto

Here is another classic back in fashion.

This list might be prejudiced toward manga with a large number of volumes so let me mention a series that has had a lot of interest in 2020 and now 2021 but does not have as many volumes as the above powerhouses. Goodnight Punpun. 7 volumes. Solid manga. Not for the kiddies.

Bestselling Comics for February 2021

Lots of familiar faces on the best-selling comics for February. Read our January 2021 list to get some commentary on the titles listed below.

Amazing Spider-man
Fantastic Four
King in Black
X-Men
X-Force
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Last Ronin
Venom
King in Black: Gwenom vs Carnage
Star Wars
Justice League
Symbiote Spider-man: King in Black

20 Bestselling boards games of 2020

We may have been restricted as to the size and breadth of our play groups, but board games continued to be in demand during the first year of the pandemic. Getting a continuous supply of the hottest board games is not an unknown challenge but it was even more so with distributors working with skeleton crews, delays at printers and shipping for some brand new games, and some regions being fully locked down for periods of time.

The list below is comprised of the 20 bestselling board games at ComicReaders Downtown for 2020. These games were purchased in-store or via curb-side pick-up. ComicReaders appreciates those who shop and support local businesses before, during and after the pandemic.

1. Wingspan / Wingspan European
Wingspan was not readily available throughout the year and whenever we did have it in stock in quantity it still did not last long. What appears to be a busy game is, in fact, a not-too-difficult to grasp board game that can be enjoyed by players with varying board game experience. The theme of birds in their habitats certainly has attracted a lot of people to this game. The European expansion was released near the end of 2020 and it cracked the top 20, too, but I’ve moved up alongside the original.

2. Azul
Azul is now a family of games, with new themes on similar mechanics, but the original continues to be the one in highest demand. When it was released in 2017 it had the usual new, hot game availability issues, but in 2020 it was readily available throughout the year. A visually striking game with high end components, Azul has easy to understand rules and the right mix of clever scoring and forward thinking to make it a bestseller each year since its release.

3. Pandemic
This one surprised me. We’re in a pandemic. Doesn’t this game hit too close to home? But maybe that was the appeal this year. Pandemic is still a solid cooperative game 12 years after its original release.

4. Codenames
Just One is the most accessible word-based group game, but Codenames continues to dominate that genre. The original Codenames enjoys the #4 spot on this list but also in circulation are other versions, including Codenames Duet, Codenames Pictures, Codenames Simpsons, Codenames Marvel, Codenames Disney, and Codenames Harry Potter.

5. Catan
There’s just no stopping Catan.

6. Exploding Kittens / Streaking Kittens / Barking Kittens
A family-friendly bestseller expanded in 2020 with Barking Kittens. The expansion Streaking Kittens and the original Exploding Kittens were on the top 20 list, too, but I’ve stuck them together in #6 to make room for a couple additional games.

7. Trial by Trolley
The naughty group games are always popular around the holiday season. Trial by Trolley is a new entry in this genre at ComicReaders Downtown.

8. Carcassonne
Here’s another game that shows no signs of slowing down. I’m not surprised, of course. It has been a favourite in my house for 15 years. The large number of expansions keeps the game fresh, too, even though most of them were not available at all during 2020.

9. Kingdomino
This great game for the whole family is worth a look if you’ve not yet heard of it. We sold out during the holiday shopping season but both Regina ComicReaders expect to have it again near the end of February 2021.

10. Cards Against Humanity
For years we couldn’t get Cards Against Humanity. When one of our Canadian distributors started carrying it I wrestled with how much we should stock because surely the local market was already saturated because of online sales. #10 on the bestsellers list proves there were still more people out there that like their games dirty….and I don’t mean mud dirty. And controversial. And full of cuss words. And with zero design.

11. Root
When a game is in demand but often out of stock for months at a time I’ll order from multiple sources to better improve my chances of getting the game when it available. With Root, all those orders were fulfilled at once and I found myself thinking, “Oh man. I’ve over ordered.” This is a complex game with a sizable sticker price. But they were all gone by the end of 2020.

12. Dutch Blitz
ComicReaders Downtown might sell 4 copies of this game from January to October. The bulk of the purchases are from November to December.

13. Joking Hazard
More bad words. More naughty. More controversy. But now in comic form.

14. Disney Villainous
This one surprised me. Licensed games have a history of being a theme slapped onto some less than spectacular set of game mechanics. Disney Villainous by Ravensburger, however, is solid mechanics on a theme sure to attract players. The result is a bestseller. It has expansions, too! And a new Marvel version.

15. Just One
This was a game that people were telling us they were playing with friends over Zoom.

16. Patchwork
Our one and only pure 2-player game to make the top 20.

17. Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is another perennial bestsellers.

18. Gloomhaven
This monster of a game continues to sell well. Fully immersive campaign.

19. Jaws
Oh man this makes me happy. Ravensburger, which released Disney Villainous, gives us another strong theme on well designed game mechanics. This game has two phases. In the first, the shark menaces swimmers and avoids capture. In the second, the players are on the sinking ship and battling the shark in the climatic finale.

20. Scooby-Doo Betrayal at the Mystery Mansion
A family-friendly Scooby-Doo theme version of Betrayal at the House on the Hill.

Honourable Mentions

Exit The Game
There are a lot versions in the family of games known as Exit The Game. If the sales of all those titles were combined into one score then Exit The Game would have hit the top 20.

Keyforge
If sales from one “board game” family were combined into one total then Keyforge would have been the #1 game on this list. What is most interesting about that is the majority of those purchases was before March 2020 because we still had in-store gaming and Keyforge events always enjoyed a large turnout. Sales of Keyforge during the second half of 2020? Almost nil.

Bestsellers: January 2021

Things tend to slow down at ComicReaders Downtown at the beginning of a new year. It takes about a month for the store to recover from the holiday season. Product flows back into the store through January though this year it has been more difficult to get some items (Vallejo paint and hobby supplies and Games Workshop spray primer, for example), and things that are available get here a little bit slower, but I think we’ve all learned that patience is a virtue during a pandemic.

Bestselling Board Games for January 2021

Twilight Imperium: Prophecy of Kings
Our top-selling board game was the highly anticipated new expansion for the epic Twilight Imperium. Unfortunately, there were production issues so each customer who purchased a copy from ComicReaders is now waiting to hear the results of an investigation by Fantasy Flight Games as to the extent of the issues in the run and what will be done. Needless to say, we no longer have copies on the shelf and won’t have more until Fantasy Flight Games does a reprint.

Cards Against Humanity
This party game staple had another strong showing. If we included the sales of its expansions in our numbers then the family of Cards Against Humanity would have been our top seller for the month of January.

Codenames Duet
The two-player version of the evergreen Codenames has enjoyed a renewal during the pandemic.

Pandemic
We received a restock of the original Pandemic early in January. I do believe both Regina locations have had to reorder it since. The original Pandemic is still our top-selling cooperative board game after all these years. Accessible, challenging, and now with the added bonus of mirroring the world’s current situation.

Unstable Unicorns
Unstable Unicorns has not surpassed Exploding Kittens as the go-to silly family game featuring cute artwork, but it continues to perform well. It is well supported with multiple expansions, a naughty version, and blind-box vinyl unicorns that come with a card you can add to the game.

Catan
Every year for the past five years, I swear, we say this is the year Catan will slow down. And we were wrong again.

Under Falling Skies
Only during a pandemic would a game you can only play solo make it to the bestsellers list at ComicReaders Downtown. It’s a visually striking game and a challenging one at that. You can set the difficulty to your liking and it comes with a re-playable campaign mode.

Bestselling Graphic Novels for January 2021

Our bestselling graphic novel list is comprised of titles, not individual volumes. We take the combined sales of volumes within a series. This usually means the list is made up of manga, since the most popular manga have many volumes, but we like to include other graphic novels or series of note.

My Hero Academia
No surprise here. My Hero Academia is a powerhouse thanks to it also being a hugely popular anime.

Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan is set to wrap soon, but sales continue to be strong as people pick up volumes or dive in for the first time. The final season of the anime is underway, too.

Boruto
A sequel of sorts to the always popular Naruto.

Danganronpa
This title built up some serious steam in the back half of 2020. We were caught by surprise, to be honest. We didn’t have enough copies on the shelves and the distributors ran out. We got volumes back in stock in early January and they’ve been movingly steadily.

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes
A side series to the popular main title also enjoys a healthy readership.

Gideon Falls volume 5
The final volume of Jeff Lemire’s Gideon Falls hit the list. Gideon Falls is a creepy journey filled with stunning visuals.

Bestselling Comics for January 2021

Our list of bestselling comics is comprised of titles and not individual issues.

Dark Nights: Death Metal
The heavy metal inspired alternate version of the DCU has been popular in all its iterations. Death Metal was the latest miniseries, the final issue of which debuted in January 2021.

Amazing Spider-Man
Spidey has been a bestseller for years and usually enjoys the top spot on the list.

X-Force / X-Men / X-Factor
Jonathan Hickman orchestrated a revival of the X-Men and its titles and it appears as if the quality shall continue in 2021. X-Force, X-Men, and X-Factor are the top three titles. If you are interested in what Hickman has been cooking you can get in on the action by reading the Dawn of X trade paperbacks.

Avengers
This Marvel flagship title continues its successful run.

Fantastic Four
Marvel has brought the Fantastic Four back into the limelight after years of doing next to nothing with the family.

Venom / King in Black
We are lumping the Venom title alongside the King in Black miniseries because they are closely connected. Writer Donny Coates has really become a powerful influence within Marvel. Well earned, too.

The Eternals
A return of The Eternals just in time for the upcoming Marvel movie.

Once & Future
This is the only comic not from DC or Marvel to crack the list. In Once & Future, folks try to prevent the return of King Arthur. Jumping onboard this series in comic form is not recommended. Check it out in trade paperback to get caught up.













A Return to Physical Comics

I’ve been a comic book fan since I was a very young child. They have been such a mainstay in my life, that it’s hard to think of a life without them. Growing up, they were a refuge from bullies and a place to see characters that had become friends of a sort, offering comfort and escape from reality when I needed it. As I got older, they were a source of inspiration that I used in my own creative endeavors.

My wife says I got a lot of my morals from comic books, and I can’t disagree with her. When Spider-Man learned “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”, I took that phrase to heart. No, I’m not more special than anyone else, but I’ve always believed that if you have the opportunity and ability to help someone, you should do it.

My friends and family equate me with comic knowledge, and I wholeheartedly accept that assertion. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast last week, but I can tell you who the creative team on Superman #16 from 1986 was.

I read Marvel and DC equally over the years, with indies thrown in as time went on. From Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths, to Civil War and Flashpoint, I was there for every major event. Eventually, some things changed.

First off, I had a daughter. Wouldn’t change anything about having her, but the reality of a dual income household becoming a single income with an extra boarder, made our finances change. No longer was the disposable income there for buying lots of comics. Diapers aren’t cheap!

Second, DC Comics began ‘The New 52’. They restarted everything over again after Flashpoint. What came before was no more. This was a new DC Universe. I signed up for all 52 DC series in September 2011, cautious but excited to see what we as readers were in store for.

Within 3 months, I had cancelled nearly every DC comic from my pull list. These new books didn’t ring a bell for me. They weren’t the same characters I had known for years, and my interest went away quickly. When it came time to decide to cancel my pull list entirely, I was sad. This was the first time since the 1980s I would not be buying comics. My Marvel portion of the list had been going down as well; things just weren’t interesting me like they used to. I was sad, but when the pull list was closed, I was more disappointed than anything else. That’s when I realized that I was wanting quality over quantity.

A couple of years later, I did subscribe to Marvel Unlimited. It is six months behind on issue releases and there is no ownership, but it allowed me to keep up on Marvel on a budget. Marvel had a lot of things going on, but what got my interest was Jonathan Hickman and his work on the Avengers. I went back and read his Fantastic Four and other work. I was amazed at the world building and long game he played in all his work. He was writing the kind of comics I wanted to read.

Jonathan Hickman’s talent at world building and his interest in telling long stories within his series is likely one of the reasons why Marvel hired him to orchestrate a revival of the X-Men.

I heard in 2019 Hickman had taken on the X-Men, so my interest was piqued. I read the House of X / Powers of X lead-in series and couldn’t believe it… Hickman had found a way to completely reinvent the X-Men. He had done it with the Fantastic Four; he had done it with the Avengers. I should not have been surprised. His work blew me away. I needed to get back in the normal habit of reading his work. Thus, I started a pull list again for the first time in years. All of the X-titles are on it, and Chad & Comicreaders were great in getting me caught up on the back issues I was behind on.

X of Swords is an epic in 22 parts that runs through most of the X-Men comics.

I’m getting into X of Swords, the latest X-event, and am loving it. I’ve loved each of the series to date and the entire tapestry Hickman and Co. have made is fantastic. If Marvel simply put Hickman in charge of all of their publishing, I would be a happy camper.

I’m glad to be back reading physical comics and making that trek to the comic store several times a month. It’s a good time to be an X-Men fan, and I’m loving every minute of it. (Mike Hintze)

Puzzling Puzzle

I am currently in the midst of building the most frustrating and most difficult puzzle I’ve encountered. It is a stylized 1000 piece art puzzle of Pennywise from It Chapter Two. It’s a puzzle released by The OP (Usaopoly), a Southern California-based company that specializes in licensed puzzles and licensed versions of Monopoly. As I struggle with this puzzle I’m not sure if it is difficult by design or difficult by design flaw.

This Pennywise puzzle is proving to be a challenge.
This Pennywise puzzle is proving to be a challenge.

I started this puzzle with one of my sons. We had recently completed a 1000 piece Super Mario puzzle from The OP. That one was challenging because of the subtle color variation and the large sections of the same color and pattern. In looking for our next puzzle, I selected the Pennywise because my son is an It fan (both versions of the movie) and I thought there was enough detail in the art that my son would be able to pattern match and thus stay engaged with the puzzle throughout its build. (He walked away from the Mario one for a period of time, leaving me with the more difficult parts, and then swooping back in near the end to help finish it off.)

When Pennywise was cracked and we got down to the business, I directed my son to start on the little bit of text and then the large spider-web effect while I started the edges. I’ve always been a big fan of building the frame first. I think it helps to see the size of the space in which you are working and the frame often has visual cues that can help you as starting points for your build. This opinion originates with my mom with whom I puzzled as a youngster. I can’t remember for certain but I suspect my mom developed this plan when she puzzled with her mom back in the day. I don’t remember doing puzzles with my grandma, but I do know she and several of my aunts were often doing puzzles. For many years, my sister and I would help my mom pick out a puzzle to send to our grandma for Christmas. My mom would sometimes turn down our selection because it might be too easy for my grandma, who was a seasoned puzzler. I know eventually we stopped sending puzzles as grandma aged. I know my sister and I eventually stopped doing puzzles with mom. My mom and grandma are both gone now but I sometimes think of them both as I work on a new puzzle.

The less hair on my head the more reflective I get.

An hour or so into our first sit down with Pennywise it became apparent to me that building the frame was going to be tricky. There were no discerning characteristics to help determine where the pieces belonged. The pieces were either black, a shade almost black, or a green/black that looked black until you got it alongside one of its fellows. I abandoned the frame and decided to help my son with Pennywise. He had made quick work of the text but had hit a snag with the spider-web. I shifted his focus (and mine) to the blood drip-like effects. I fished out of the pieces and my son put them together. He also had some early success with the mouth of little sharp teeth.

Then the wheels started to come off.

One of the challenges we faced was the cut of the pieces often obliterated any recognizable pattern in the art. Was that dark streak some of Pennywise’s hair, a part of a tentacle, or some of the many areas of brown shadowing on orange? The subtle differences in shades of orange was difficult to discern. Same too for the greens. Same too for the various shades of black.

In an effort to keep my son into the puzzle, I packed up all the black only and green/black only pieces. This left us with a sizable sea of greens and oranges with seemingly nonsensical streaks of browns.

Schmidt puzzles
This puzzle from Schmidt is the puzzle that got me back into puzzles in 2013.

My son wandered off and has not yet fully returned.

I got back into puzzles in 2013. I had brought a number of Schmidt Spiele and Anatolian puzzles into ComicReaders Downtown. The store had always carried licensed puzzles but I had more and more inquiries about more typical puzzles like landscapes. Schmidt Spiele — a board game and puzzle publisher from Germany– and Anatolian– which has its roots in Turkey, I do believe, but has offices in various countries– offered a wide variety of stunning puzzles ranging from 500 pieces to 3000 pieces. My first personal purchase from this line was a Schmidt puzzle of a Napoleonic era British ship. The timing of this find was perfect because I was well along in reading Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey / Maturin novels. I had done that one on my own and now it was looking like I was going to be flying solo on Pennywise.

Alone, I had several sessions of little or no progress. I even moved the puzzle outside for a day. I thought the natural light would help me better recognize the subtle differences in shades of orange and green. Back inside and under ceiling lights that create glare, I decided the only way I could make progress was to organize the oranges and greens. I did this tedious task, but it really did help. The puzzle mat was now a tableau of different types of oranges and greens grouped together. I tackled each group separately and was soon making excellent progress. I stumbled for a while when I had to build the various tentacles. You’d think by looking at the box art that the tentacles would be easy but the size and design variation is not readily apparent on the individual pieces.

My son checks on me from time to time and gives encouraging remarks and nods of the head to show he’s impressed with my progress. I do feel a sense of triumph for each section I finish. When I placed the last orange and green pieces, thus finishing Pennywise, I called my wife and sons to the basement so I could proudly show off my accomplishment.

Now I am left with a box of black only pieces, almost black pieces, and black/green pieces that look a lot like black pieces until you get them alongside their fellows. I’ve started organizing these various shades. I’ve done much, but the reality is I’ve still got a long way to go. I also know for a fact that this frustrating puzzle is NOT going back in the box when finished. I’m going to glue it, frame it, and hang it on the wall like a trophy. (Chad Boudreau)