mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Friday, September 24, 2004

The fact that there's someone willing to go out in public
dressed in a Thanos costume proves to me that there is still beauty in this world.

I can't stop looking at Firestorm's big flaming head, either. It's hypnotic.

So it appears it's going to be the all-nekkid season on Smallville this year, what with nekkid Clark, nekkid Lana, previews featuring nekkid Lois...yup, we'll be seeing a lot more (wink, nudge) of our favorite 25-year-old high schoolers this year, it looks like. Anyhoo, the season premiere felt pretty disjointed, as all the subplots and cliffhangers and plotlines are thrown together and stirred up a bit. The much-ballyhooed appearance of Superman veteran Margot Kidder (playing the assistant to Christopher Reeve's Dr. Swann character) was just long enough for her delivery of a deus ex machina to Ma Kent, in the form of "Black Kryptonite." So, when Ma exposed her son to said Kryptonite, was anyone else reminded of that scene in Superman III when the two halves of Superman's personality literally split apart and started fighting each other? No? Um...me neither.

(EDIT: Just noticed
Peter David also refers to the Black Kryptonite as a deus ex machina. Well, that's what it was!)

Erica Durance makes her debut as Lois Lane...Lois is talky, pushy, and actually quite enjoyable. Looking forward to seeing more of her (wink, nu...oh, forget it). Interesting that she shares the smoking problem of Kidder's version of Lois.

So, I wonder just how much more convoluted the origin of Superman is going to get this year?

In other news:

Tim at The Hurting reviews the first story arc on the new Swamp Thing series and finds it somewhat lacking.

Mark Evanier reports that the rights have been sold for a Groo the Wanderer movie. While I'm sure it'll be live-action, what I wouldn't give to see a fully-animated movie done in the Sergio Aragones style.

Thursday, September 23, 2004


Tim posted an Alf cover over on The Hurting, which brings to mind something that I remember reading a while back: that the Alf comic was actually one of Marvel's top sellers on the newsstand (as opposed to comic shops) at the time, outstripping even the X-titles's newsstand sales. I don't remember exactly where I read that, otherwise I'd pull the exact quote, but I think I'm recalling that correctly. If true, it's amazing what 1) recognizability and 2) availability can do for sales. Even on Alf.

That cover Tim posted does highlight one of Marvel's problems with licensed books like these...Marvel insisted on squeezing in parodies and references to their superhero books, which at best meant nothing to kids buying these on newsstands, or at worst alienated fans of these licensed properties who had no interest in superheroes. (Alf wasn't quite as bad about this as the Mighty Mouse title was.) I realize that Marvel did this only to expose potentially new audiences to properties Marvel actually owned (and maybe to pick up sales in comic shops), but it seems to me that it may have hindered as much as helped.

Anyway, all this Alf talk gives me an excuse to post my favorite Alf cover (sorry about the low quality...I don't have a copy in the store currently, and this scan was found online a while ago):

Even The Comics Journal highlighted this cover. Who could blame them?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

It's new comics day, it's new comics day....

  • Flash #214 - do my eyes deceive me? Did I just see an in-continuity reference to The Best Doom Patrol Story Ever? (under March 31st...it may not come up right due to the way the pictures load) The events of Identity Crisis begin to have some impact outside of that mini-series, and this issue plays off the events very well.

  • Plastic Man #10 - another "done-in-one" issue, featuring Plastic Man and friends versus a vampire! Very funny, as this series continues to be one of DC's best.

  • Teen Titans #16 - this is the first issue of a Titans comic I've bought in about 12 years, and I only picked it up because it guest-stars the Legion of Super-Heroes. It's the beginning of the wrap-up of Superboy's time-travel adventures, and a character drops a not-so-subtle prophetic hint about how this will be the last adventure of this version of the Legion.

  • Tom Strong #28 - Brian K. Vaughan and Peter Snejbjerg are the fill-in creative team for this issue, which delivers a story focusing on the Strong family's robotic manservant Pneuman. Nicely done.

  • As is Vaughan and Tony Harris' Ex Machina, where Mayor Hundred's superheroic past begins to catch up with him. However, I hope there's more to the reasoning behind the attacks beyond the theory presented in this issue...seems a little...too facile, you know what I mean?

  • Haven't had a chance yet to read Cosmic Guard #2 (it's a Jim Starlin comic, which should be description enough for some people...if you like Starlin (and I do), you'll like this) and Uncle Scrooge #334 (another fantastic-looking 34-page Don Rosa story). And that was pretty much all I bought today.

Other new releases:

  • Army of Darkness: Ashes to Ashes #2 - asked about every day for the last month, sold like 3 copies today now that it's finally out. I'm sure we'll sell out eventually, but I just like how this sort of thing always happens.

  • Doom Patrol Vol. 2 - The Painting That Ate Paris - if you haven't been exposed to the true successor (in tone and spirit) to the original '60s series, you've got to pick up this book. Also includes the above mentioned Best Doom Patrol Story Ever.

  • Hino Horror volumes 9 and 10 arrived today...dear God, these things look absolutely terrifying. Seeing as how it was a horror-themed story that finally got me to pick up one of these darn manga things that we seem to have a whole wall of, I think Hino Horror may be next on the list. Plus, that's a great photo of the cartoonist inside!

  • Puttin' The Backbone Back is a nice small softcover of sketches and flyer work by Jim Mahfood, well-priced and handsomely packaged at $9.95.

  • Dictators: Saddam Hussein #1 from Antarctic Press...hot on the heels of the Dictators: Hitler series, of which we didn't sell a single copy. So why did we order this second series, you may ask? Because every once in a while, we get Ted Nomura fans who must have everything he's done, and boy, I don't want to be the one to look into that fan's eyes and say "Sorry, sir, we're fresh outta Hitler."

  • Nightcrawler #1 - beginning Marvel's newest short-lived X-Men tie-in series! Oh, I'm sorry, did I say "short-lived" out loud?

  • Elric: Making of A Sorcerer #1 - now, I'm not a reader of the Elric novels (in fact, I just recently read my very first Moorcock book - a 34-year old paperback of Behold the Man), but I have to say this is a very attractive comic, thanks in no small part to artist Walt Simonson.

  • And that Mr. Monster comic from Atomeka I mentioned yesterday is also out on the shelves. Entertaining mayhem, and well worth your attention.

In other news:

  • So pal Corey and I are talking about Identity Crisis, and somehow we jokingly suggest that the murderer is going to be revealed to be the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen. We laugh about that for a moment...actually, I begin to laugh, then I start to think "you know, maybe...." And then I realized that fans hate DC now as it is because of this series, and making Barry the killer would only stir up the flames more...which only convinces me further that it's a great damn idea.

    My other idea is that it's Jean Loring who killed Sue Dibny, and that it was Sue Dibny from the past, having time-travelled from the past into the DC Universe's present on some adventure or another with the Giffen-era Justice League, discovers her own murder, and attempts to do in Loring in revenge. Yeah, I know, but I have to keep occupied somehow during lulls at the store.

  • Identity Crisis #1 has gone back to press for a new printing...doing a black and white "negative" of the art doesn't do it any favors, especially considering that the cover wasn't all that great to begin with. But some people do like the Mike Turner art, so we ordered plenty of the 2nd printing, and we're sure we'll sell through.

  • You know what's selling really well for us right now? The Akira Capsule Toy assortments. If you don't know what these are, these are little opaque plastic egg thingies that contain one of an assortment of miniature toys based on Akira...the toys are packed randomly inside, and you have no idea which ones you're getting. Our customers love these things.

And, um, that's it, really. Oh, I'm also finally getting around to reading last week's Alter Ego, which continues the Julie Schwartz tribute, and contains some Gil Kane goodies as well, not to mention an interview with Russ Heath.

"You saw the movie...now see what happens...!" 

Superboy #149 (July 1968) - cover by Neal Adams

Okay, so this comic is from 1968. Let's assume that the Superman stories published in 1968 actually take place in the year 1968. Now let us assume that the Superboy stories take place approximately 15 years prior to the "present day" Superman stories, placing them about the year 1953. These assumptions appear to be borne out in the stories themselves, so we may take them as a given.

Now, with that in mind, there is absolutely no explanation whatsoever how Bonnie and Clyde, who died in 1934, suddenly show up in 1950s Smallville.

(Nor is there any explanation for the cutesy narrator captions in this story -- to wit: "How will Clark explain away the shattered harvester-blades...without exposing his identity as Superboy? Hmmm?" Yes, there's really a "hmmm" at the end of that caption.)

One could make the assumption that perhaps this is a different Bonnie and Clyde, but information in the story would contradict that. Or perhaps Superman is older that we think...maybe in '68 he was 49 years old, which would make him about 15 in 1934. However, if I recall correctly, Superman was always "under 30" -- a perpetual 29, I guess. (There's even a story in the early 80s where this is a plot point...everyone over 30 is magically removed from Metropolis, but Superman is able to remain.)

Or maybe I'm thinking about this really peculiar comic just a little too much.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

By the way, apparently
pal Dorian and I are twinsies today, since we both had Mr. Monster reviews and Byrne Forum posts.

Oh, and I trust you all got that DVD set that came out today. You know, the one that's been long demanded by its huge fan base?

Yeah, that's right, I'm talking about Mr. Show Season 4. Now that's quality entertainment.

The John Byrne Forum is no longer amusing. 

So yesterday I posted about how people on message boards were almost certainly going to start complaining about the casting of Kerry Washington as Alicia Masters in the Fantastic Four movie. And, to the surprise of absolutely no one, posters on the John Byrne Message Board stepped on up and proved me right.

I had no idea that things could get worse.

As I was looking over that particular thread I linked to, I found this statement:

"I AM wearying fast of this self-conscious, politically correct angle they're taking to the material. The Marvel universe already has terrific black characters w/o having to change everyone's race in some hollow, condescending gesture to a cliche. (Although I could probably handle HALLE BERRY in ANYTHING; I am drop dead in love with that chick; I will FOREVER be her slave!)."

Oh, dear God. And that, my friends, was the final straw. I decided, right then, that despite my interest in Byrne's comics work, I no longer wanted to be exposed to some of the fans that post on his board.

I had no idea that things could get worse.

This morning, Fanboy Rampage linked to another thread on the forum, where John Byrne commented thusly on Jessica Alba's appearance as Sue Storm:

"Personal prejudice: Hispanic and Latino women with blond hair look like hookers to me, no matter how clean or 'cute' they are."

Yes, he gave it the qualifier of "with blond hair," and I know he was trying to say that he finds the contrast between the dark skin and blond hair unappealing, but you know what? The way he put is was incredibly stupid at best, and racist at worst. If he wants to believe that, fine. But did he expect that he wouldn't take any crap over it? However, like Graeme on Fanboy Rampage points out, people on that forum couldn't wait to support John Byrne's observation. And the few that pointed out that maybe, just maybe, what Mr. Byrne said wasn't the brightest thing in the world...well, they're just "trolls," apparently.

By the way, I ran that quote (and its context) past my girlfriend, who just happens to be Mexican, and asked what she thought about it. She found it appalling.

So, that is definitely that. I've had some enjoyment out of the John Byrne Forum in the past, but now I'm saying goodbye. Let Byrne's ego be borne aloft by his sycophantic toadies, lapping up every drop of wisdom that spills from his mouth. Let them wallow in their reactionary fears of anything "new" and "different." Let them continually express, with the attitude of a child wishing that every day were Christmas, their desires to have Byrne write and draw every comic book by every company. Let them put up with Byrne's abuse of anyone who expresses anything but absolute adulation for any aspect of his creative genius.

Let us hope that some of the more rational Byrne fans on that forum will wise up and abandon it, before they are irreversibly tainted by association.

Oh, and as one of the very few comics webloggers who supported Byrne's work? And as a manager of a comic shop that ordered and displayed and recommended Byrne's work? Suddenly, my desire to continue such support seems to have diminished.

And yes, I realize that, given the Byrne Forum's bunker mentality, the outrage expressed by my weblog and by many others will be seen as unwarranted attacks, as yet more examples about how it's the "cool" thing to attack Byrne and his work, about how we can't wait to jump on the latest "controversial" statement.

Well, guess what. You brought it on yourselves.

I'm a Mr. Monster fan from way back...I didn't read his first appearance in Vanguard Illustrated (which, from all accounts, is colored terribly, either from poor printing or otherwise), but I did buy the first issue from Eclipse back in '85, and followed him from publisher to publisher ever since.

Unfortunately, for the last few years Mr. Monster has remained mostly dormant, aside from occasional spot-drawings by Doc Stearn's caretaker Michael T. Gilbert in Alter Ego magazine. However,
Atomeka Press has done us the favor of bringing back into print one of Mr. Monster's little-seen adventures, which originally saw print, oddly enough, in the Penthouse Max comics magazine. Yeah, I know, I know, but don't worry, it's not "naked Mr. Monster having his way with equally naked ladies." It's Mr. Monster fighting Nazi Martians, with not a naked lady in sight...which makes one wonder why Penthouse published it in the first place.

But never you mind that! Mr. Monster: Worlds War Two is a 48-page full-color reprinting of that story, written by Gilbert, illustrated by George Freeman, and lettered by Ken Bruzenak (who is as much a part of the crazy visual experience of Mr. Monster as any of the artists). Alas, Mr. Monster's girl Friday, Kelly, is not along for the ride -- instead we get "Acid" Annie, a "hippe" reporter for an independent newspaper investigating reports of a supposed Martian invasion. The plot is secondary to Mr. Monster fighting giant-brained Martians (or, to be more accurate, that is the plot), but that's fine...it's non-stop nutty adventure just like MM's adventures used to be. Gilbert and Freeman give us a story inspired equally by EC Comics, the infamous Mars Attacks trading cards, and 1950s sci-fi films, and manages to make it all work together with a healthy dose of humor and suspense. My only minor quibble with this comic has nothing to do with the story, but rather with the pricing...it's a $6.99 48-page prestige format comic, which seems just a tad bit pricey, but given the current state of the marketplace, and the probable size of the printrun, it's not unexpected.

This should be out in your better comic book stores tomorrow, so if you're an old fan of Doc Stearn, give it a look (since it's unlikely you saw this story the first time it was published).


Jog relates his own memories of Mr. Monster in anticipation of tomorrow's release. (And he also remembers that this story was first published in Penthouse Max...maybe it wasn't as overlooked as I thought!)

Monday, September 20, 2004

So, reading Rich Johnston's
comics gossip page, I found out that Kerry Washington has been cast as Ben Grimm's love interest Alicia Masters for the Fantastic Four movie. Get ready for complaints of "bu-bu-bu-but she's black!!!" from the usual open-minded suspects on your favorite comic book message boards. (cf. the Daredevil movie, the new Firestorm series.)

EDIT: Here's the very beginnings of one such discussion to start you off, though to be fair, they're more upset about the Thing make-up. (So far, it looks like my July 7th posting about the Jae Lee version of the Thing reflecting the character's appearance in the movie may have been right, assuming this isn't some kind of early stage of Ben Grimm's transformation.)

Gordon has probably the
only rational reaction one can have to my Swamp Thing merchandise posts.

Would it surprise anyone to know that I have even more Swampy goodies to post about?

Yes, I really own all these things. 

This is one of the very first things I'd ever bought on eBay, over six years ago now. In fact, I think this may be the very item that inspired me to get an eBay account in the first place. Let me distract you from that highly embarrassing and very sad bit of personal information and draw your attention to the ballyhooing of "ACTION! Movable arms" blurbed on the package. While, yes, the arms do appear to move, I would have had a hard time attributing any kind of exciting "action" to that. Maybe you could pretend to move his arms around as if he were writhing in pain as you jab a pencil into his hip. Also, there were apparently three different designs in the exciting Swamp Thing pencil sharpener line:

...but that was the only one I've found.

This piece of merchandise boldly tells you, the consumer, just what exactly you're getting. "I'M CHALK!" exclaims the package, and by God, chalk is exactly what you get. Chalk carved in the general likeness of Swamp Thing and colored green, perhaps, but that, my friends, is Washable, Dustless chalk in its purest form. According to the back of the package, some of the suggested uses for Swamp Thing chalk are "Do Your Homework," "Play Games," and "Draw Funny Pictures" - yes, Swamp Thing chalk can cover the full spectrum of life. Also, according to the package, the Swamp Thing chalk "works great on chalk boards" which must come as great relief to someone.

Okay, seriously, I'm sure the "I'M CHALK!" legend on the front is some kind of warning that this item isn't candy, just in case having "CHALK" in orange letters on the front, and having pictures of kids drawing things with chalk on the back, weren't clue enough.

Measuring a whopping 34 inches tall when fully erec...er, inflated, the Swamp Thing bop bag is certainly something to behold. At last, we now have something to punch in order to work out our frustrations over the poor quality of the Swamp Thing movies. ("This is for the saggy-bottomed costume! And this is for the annoying kids in the films! And this is for topless Adrienne Barbeau...oh, wait....")

Additional linkage:

I'd not seen the French Swamp Thing movie poster before.

And what the heck...The Offical Adrienne Barbeau Webpage.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Aye, here there be spoilers, matey. Arrrrr! 

Yeah, I'm in my 30s and I'm watchin' the cartoons...what's it to ya? The newest Justice League Unlimited is a follow-up to an episode from last season (here's an overview of that story...mind the broken image links). I only vaguely remembered it, as, if I recall correctly, I caught only the second half originally, but this new episode gets you up to speed easily enough.

Basically, it's about the super-powered android Amazo returning to Earth to confront the man who took undue advantage of him previously...Lex Luthor. Luthor is supposedly reformed, which nobody in the episode really appears to buy, but in a nice turn of events it appears that, at least for this episode, he really is reformed. Still grumpy and abrasive when he doesn't get his way, but reformed nonetheless. This will probably only last until one of the writers gets a great idea for "Luthor goes bad again," but it's a good twist.

Want superheroes? This episode's got plenty: A bunch of Green Lanterns (including Kyle Rayner, surprisingly), which should make pal Corey happy, a handful of characters that we'd just seen in the previous episode (like Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., Fire, Ice, Dr. Light), Red Tornado finally gets to do something, and we get the return of the Atom to animation!

Anyway, the motivation for Amazo's return should be of no surprise to anyone who's seen Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but I do enjoy it when a superhero cartoon's conflict is resolved with something other than "who punches the hardest?"

I do have a question for you folks out there who may have seen more the previous seasons than I have...what were those spaceships surrounding the Earth along with the superheroes?

For a boatload of screen shots from this show, hie thee hither to Chris's pad.

In other news:

  • Ait/Planetlar's Big Larry makes with the 3rd part of his ongoing look at the comics weblogosphere. I'm a little late linking to it, but I'm sure if you're interested in it, you already knew.

  • I'll probably have more to say about Star Wars than just this at some point, in case anyone still cares, but I did want to say at least this: George Lucas has every right in the world to make whatever changes he wants to his films. If he wanted to paste in Jar-Jar Binks into every scene of The Empire Strikes Back...hey, more power to him. But at the same time, I would think that he would feel some sort of obligation toward preserving for posterity the film as it was originally released. I didn't expect him to release a separate set of the original versions at the same time as the "special editions" (simply because seeing the original versions' sales far outstrip sales of his "perfected" vision would be bit of an ego-squasher), but at the very least they should have been included in the set with the newer editions.

    I bet, though, that after the whole Star Wars thing has petered out even more than it already has, we'll get a DVD release of the original versions in yet another pricey set in a desperate attempt to keep the cash flow going.

  • Found on Scott McCloud's weblog, a bunch of other things Scott understands.

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