There's more to my comic book collection than just DC and Vertigo.
For much too long, books by DC and Vertigo have dominated the paragraphs of this monthly column. Regular readers are probably having a chuckle right about now.
''A column from Nick that's not about Batman or oddball graphic novels,'' they're surely saying. ''How's that even possible!?''
True, I tend to gravitate toward my favorite corners of nerd-dom. However, this month I'm stepping out of my comfort zone a bit. And it's not even all that uncomfortable, because, as I said, there's more to my comic book collection than just DC and Vertigo.
Sure, I've spotlighted the likes of Image, Dark Horse and IDW here in ''Nerding Out,'' but unless it happened in the pages of ''Amazing Spider-Man,'' I rarely ever write about Marvel.
Marvel's one of the ''Big Two'' when it comes to comics, and yet their characters rarely ever get a mention here.
Consider this some much overdue restitution. And such a focus on the company couldn't have come at a more appropriate time. There's a battle brewing between the Avengers and the X-Men - and the melee begins this month! While DC was rebooting its continuity last year, Marvel was laying groundwork for what's sure to be one of the year's biggest events: AVX!
The Avengers versus the X-Men.
Just let that idea sink into your head if you haven't yet heard the premise.
The two teams have been pitted against each other in the past, so this isn't a first. There was a limited edition mini-series at some point many years back. But the series Marvel's doing now is a much bigger deal, and also looks to be a lead-in to something larger. Or at least that's how Marvel's billing it. I half wonder if this will be their ''Flashpoint'' in some way, whether it will usher in some large-scale changes in the Marvel Universe or whether it will just end up being another ''event book'' like ''Dark Reign'' and all the rest.
Have any interest in finding out more about the series? Head to your nearest comic shop and pick up a copy of the AVX ''program guide.'' The comic is a free book which Marvel had printed as a primer for the fight to come.
In the forward which opens the program guide, Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso makes clear that ''there will be a winner'' in the fight between the Avengers and the X-Men. The battle lines are drawn, he says. The opening bell is about to be rang.
''And when the smoke clears,'' he writes, ''the future of the Marvel Universe begins.'' But who will win the day and who will rue it? And in what shape will the battle leave the world?
Flipping through the AVX program guide, a number of neat little details caught my eye. I read ''Amazing Spider-Man'' religiously, but not any of the X-Men or Avengers titles. So it was a surprise to me to see the classic X-Men character Beast listed as a Secret Avenger. And Namor is a member of the X-Men.
More than anything, for someone like me at least, an event like this is as much a reason to start reading Marvel's new comics as it is to catch up on their classics.
Here are the 12 stories Marvel's recommending reading as primer for AVX: The Dark Phoenix Saga, House of M, X-Men: Messiah Complex, X-Force/Cable: Messiah War, X-Men: Second Coming, Avengers By Brian Michael Bendis Vol. 1, New Avengers By Brian Michael Bendis Vol. 1, Uncanny X-Men: The Birth Of Generation Hope, Avengers: The Children's Crusade, X-Men: Schism, and Avengers Vs. X-Men: It's Coming.
That's a hefty reading list which reaches back quite a ways, so get to work.
Not into catching up on all the Marvel continuity, but still want to check out a title of some sort from the House of Ideas?
This year, Marvel's bringing back The Twelve. That's right, The Twelve in 2012.
The Twelve is a limited series which began back in the spring of 2008 from writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Chris Weston.
The series stars 12 obscure characters from Marvel's earliest incarnation as Timely Comics. The characters come from the period historians and fans call the Golden Age of Comic Books.
In January, Marvel released a trade paperback collection of the first six issues. Issues 7 and 8 are also out now, collected in a single book called ''The Twelve: Marvel Must Have #1'' and then, just this past month, issues Nos. 9 and 10 came out. March will see issue 11 hit store shelves and April will bring the conclusion of the 12-issue limited series.
''It's taken a long while, but finally, finally, the balance of 'The Twelve' has been completed and we're ready to ship it all to our long-suffering fans,'' said Tom Brevoort, Marvel senior vice president and executive editor.
In terms of story, The Twelve are essentially a dozen different Captain Americas - all World War II superheroes awakened in the modern day and forced to struggle to adapt. In certain ways, it brings to mind Alan Moore's ''Watchmen'' in the way it's using old Marvel characters not well-known for a limited issue series.
In Straczynski's story, the heroes get kidnapped by the Nazis during World War II. They're put in cryonic suspended-animation until the present day, when a construction project in Berlin, Germany, inadvertently uncovers them. Part of the focus of the series aims to explore the culture shock of people from the 1940s being revived in the present day.
''I wanted to explore their reactions to us, and our reactions to them,'' Straczynski has said of the series, ''what was good about the World War II period that we lost, and what was not so good about it that we've eliminated in all but them.''
I know I said I'd be sticking to Marvel, but this story was just too good to pass up.
A family sold their comic collection in February. The kicker was that the family found the collection after the death of a relative, having no real knowledge of it prior to that.
Could you imagine stumbling across an ''Action Comics'' No. 1 or ''Detective Comics'' No. 27 in a relative's attic? It's that holy grail of comic book daydreams. It's that thing that everyone's thought about, but has never actually ever really happened - until now.
According to The Associated Press, Billy Wright plunked down dime after dime for comic books while growing up in the late 1930s and early 1940s, caring for the collection he started around the age of 9 until his death more than half a century later. At auction last month, most of that collection sold for a whopping $3.5 million.
Wright's 345 comics, nearly all of which were published from 1936 through 1941, included issues such as ''Detective Comics'' No. 27, which features the debut of Batman, and ''Action Comics'' No. 1, which features the debut of Superman.
The comics were in remarkable condition, The AP reported - due largely to the fact that the collection was compiled by a single person and were cared for by Wright until his death in 1994 at age 66.
The copy of ''Detective Comics'' No. 27, from 1939, drew the highest bid, selling for $523,000, which isn't the highest ever selling price for that comic. Wright's ''Action Comics'' No. 1, from 1938, sold for about $299,000; ''Batman'' No. 1, from 1940, sold for about $275,000; and ''Captain America'' No. 2, a 1941 issue with Adolf Hitler on the cover, sold for about $114,000.
Family member Michael Rorrer discovered his late great uncle's comics in a basement closet while cleaning out his great aunt's home after she died last year.
''It was amazing seeing what they went for,'' Rorrer told The Associated Press.
In all, a total of 227 comics were sold at auction for $3,466,264. The remaining 100 or so were sold at a subsequent auction, and were expected to fetch about another $100,000.
Of the 200,000 copies of ''Action Comics'' No. 1 produced, about 130,000 were sold and the about 70,000 that didn't sell were pulped. Today, experts believe only about 100 copies are left in the world.
The find was a complete surprise for the family, and it is unclear if Ruby Wright was aware of the collection's significance. Rorrer said he remembers her making only one fleeting reference to comics: Upon learning he and his brother liked comic books, she said she had some she would one day give them. He said his great uncle never mentioned his collection.
Writer Jamie Stengle covered the story for The Associated Press.
A great many things happened in February that merit mention here.
AMC's ''The Walking Dead'' returned from its mid-season break. Kevin Smith's ''Comic Book Men'' debuted on the same network after the premiere of ''The Walking Dead.'' The DC reboot saw its sixth issues being released and the company also announced its second wave of titles in the reboot. Despite all that though, I'm only going to really focus on one Marvel news item for this month's assorted etceteras.
Right at the end of February, Marvel released a new trailer for ''The Avengers.''
Despite all the hype, anticipation and fervor building for the new Batman movie, 2012 might just belong to ''The Avengers.'' Watching the newest trailer for the film had me almost as excited the previews for Nolan's film - which is saying something. Sure, I'm a Batman guy. And I can't wait for this third part to Nolan's trilogy, but I'm getting excited to take in both the two of the films because of the sort of balance they will offer. Nolan's ''The Dark Knight Rises'' will surely be a hefty superhero flick more serious in content than ''The Avengers.'' What I'm loving most about the trailers for ''The Avengers,'' though, is the interplay between the characters, the quips, and what looks to be an enjoyable amount of levity and humor in the picture.
Summer can't come soon enough.
''Nerding Out With Nick Dean'' is a monthly column about comic books, movies and more. It runs the first Sunday of each month. To contact the author, email email@example.com.