Over two decades ago, my grandmother came back from a flea market with one of these for me...a full-color British hardcover collection of 1950s and '60s Superman and Batman stories. If you look closely, you can still see the 25-cent price tag on Batman's chest emblem. And if the book looks pretty worn...believe it or not, that's more or less how it looked by the time it got into my possession.
One of the stories included is the "classic" "The Revenge of Luthor" by Supes' co-creator Jerry Siegel and artist Al Plastino. Due to exposure to Red Kryptonite, Superman splits into, well, Superman, and the younger version of himself, Superboy! Also as a result, the elder Supes gains a bad temper, while the boy Supes suddenly becomes less mentally agile. At one point in the story, Superboy ends up blundering into a trap set by Luthor (complete with sign reading "Luthor Trap to Capture Superboy") that leads to this panel:
Well said, Mr. Luthor. Anyway, Superman and Superboy are eventually forced by Luthor to fight each other for the lives of Lois Lane and Lana Lang, respectively, until we discover...well, I don't want to spoil anything, but it turns out this whole story was just a delusional dream of Superman's, caused by his exposure to the Red Kryptonite. Oh, wait, I did spoil it. Sorry about that.
A close look at that panel may show some odd coloring choices...for example, the jail is apparently made of the dreaded Brown Kryptonite, Lana is colored with yellow hair, Superman's hair has white highlights instead of the usual blue, and so on. The whole book is printed with less of a color palette than your typical U.S. comic, though the actual linework is very clearly printed on white paper, and the colors that are
present are nice and bright. The color on some pages is a little off-register, but that's more of an exception.
Another coloring error pops up in the Superboy story "The Super-Dog That Replaced Krypto." In the original, the white-colored Krypto was very distinct from the coloring of the canine ursurper, which can be seen here
. In this Bumper Book
reprint, things are slightly different:
And yes, Krypto was colored brown through the entire story. This can cause some minor confusion, particularly when the rival dog (named Swifty) gets his own cape, and then there's a brown-colored robot Krypto that Superboy builds, and then there's the Bizarro-Swifty that shows up late in the story, and...well, it ends up with brown dogs all over the place, making it a bit hard to follow.
Other stories include the Batman and Robin story "Prey of the Alien Hunters" (a prime example of the "Batman's Time Travel Crimes on Venus" stories of the '50s), "The Lone Wolf Legionnaire Reporter" (in which Jimmy Olsen searches out news scoops in the Legion of Super-Heroes' time), and the Lois Lane story "Courtship, Kryptonian Style!" (where Lois and the still-blonde Lana travel to the bottle city of Kandor).
Some non-fiction articles are interspersed throughout the book, such as a look at turn-of-the-century car racing, an article on the origins of Lifeboat Service, and a page of illustrations of vintage guns (illustrated by the Mick Anglo studio - Mick Anglo
being the cartoonist responsible for Marvelman
Also featured were several text stories that no one ever read; though, let's face it, with a title like this:
...how can any story live up to it? (And watch your hands there, Batman!)
, by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan, has been much ballyhooed and championed by the comicsweblogosphere over the last year, due in no small measure to the promotional efforts of AiT/P's head honcho, Larry Young. And all that acclaim is not undeserved...Demo
is one heck of a series, nominally a superhero comic written for the indie-comics crowd, but with a depth and emotion lacking in the "mighty Marvel manner" mutant comics which seem to be one of the series' inspirations.
Due out tomorrow is issue #12 of this series, the end of the run, and the issue is essentially Wood and Cloonan telling the reader "goodbye," as the story follows a couple that are spending one last night together, before "leaving forever." And, without giving too much away, the repeated "super-power" gimmick from previous issues shows its purpose. Had this been a 100% down-to-earth series, with no fantastic elements whatsoever, the conclusion of the story could only be read as tragic; the possibility that we are seeing the super-power for this story come into play at the conclusion completely reverses that, leaving us with a sense of hope. What could have been a definitive ending is now left vague, which fits nicely with the (mostly) open-ended conclusions of the previous eleven issues.
The story itself reads quickly, as there's no dialogue, no narrative captions - simply "lyrics" (as the credits put it) complementing the melancholy present in the images. It's a fast goodbye, as the story is over before you know it...but it's beautifully drawn, and the emotion of the story sticks with you.
For the short second feature, "Marie and Mike," Cloonan takes over the scripting chores, and Wood puts pen to paper, as we visit with another couple. In nine pages, this story seems to sum up the series in a nutshell - mundane situation, unusual power, emotional reaction to said power - as well as a repeat of the theme from the previous story, a desire to say goodbye to their current surroundings. It's a little lighter than the issue's main feature, but it functions as a reminder of what made the entire series so special.
Undoubtedly this series will be collected at some point, but that seems almost unnecessary...I'd said before
was the comic that felt like a trade paperback. Just as a physical object, each issue feels a lot more solid than some of its four-color counterparts, due to the thick paper stock. I could make some kind of extended metaphor about how the contents of each issue are also more solid, et cetera, et cetera, but I think you get the point. At any rate, putting these in a sequential order beneath one cover wouldn't improve the reading; the issues are linked thematically, not narratively, and having each story exist as an independent object supports, in an odd way, the prevailing feeling of alienation the "super-power" gimmick introduced.
This was a good series, which could only be improved by taking all the super-powered characters from the previous issues and forming them into the Demo League of America
Oh relax, I'm only joking. But this was a good series...not every issue was as successful as the next, but overall this was probably one of the very few comic series to take the industry's prevalent superhero genre into a genuinely new direction. Nicely drawn, sparsely but effectively written: fine work, and I'm glad to have read it.
#12 should be out in your local comic shop tomorrow, and the previous eleven issues should all still be available for reorder.
...yeah, right. You should be so lucky!
1. Thanks to everyone for the kind wishes on this weblog's first anniversary yesterday...yes, it was bit of a "hey everybody, look at me!" kind of post, but eh, what the heck. If you haven't read my anniversary post yet, please go check it out
...pack a lunch first, though, since I ran off at the mouth even more than usual.
1a. I don't know who keeps posting "I'm Chalk!" in my comments sections
, but it cracks me up every time. ("I'm Chalk!" is, of course, a reference to the greatest piece of Swamp Thing merchandise ever
2. Since my post yesterday was all "ME ME ME ME ME ME ME!" I neglected to note the happy nuptials of Steven and Rose
. Congratulations to the both of you!
3. Comic book "advent calendars" are all the rage this year, and you should check Greg Gatlin's Raw Feed
, Yet Another Comics Blog
, and Polite Dissent
for a month's worth of Christmas-themed funnybooks. I loved advent calendars when I was a kid, so this gives me a nice nostalgic feeling. I especially like Yet Another Comics Blog
's method of presentation...a blank card showing the date, until you pass your mouse over it, when it then changes into a thumbnail of the cover. Well done!
4. Saturday's Justice League Unlimited
cartoon was new to me
, anyway, even though apparently everyone else on the planet has seen it due to it being uploaded to the internet somewhere. It wasn't bad...the Justice League encounters a team of heroes, the Ultimen, that are inspired by characters from the mostly execrable Super Friends
cartoon. I particularly enjoyed how the Black Vulcan doppleganger's powers were portrayed...and having the top of the building where the Ultimen are quartered resemble the Super Friends' Hall of Justice was a nice touch. (Here's an overview of the episode
Another thing I'd like to note, with all respect to Laura
, is the very determined attempt in this series at making Aquaman cool for a whole new generation of kids who haven't been tainted by the mockery the King of Atlantis has received over the years.
5. Your remarkably disturbing link of the day, courtesy pal Andy
- the skeletal structures of cartoon characters
. The nightmarish vision of a Powerpuff Girl's innards
will go with me to my grave. (I seem to remember an article along these lines in a long-ago issue of Mad Magazine
. Can anyone confirm this?)
(EDIT: Site down, due to being Waxied and Boing Boinged
- the Boing Boing link has a sample image.)
(EDIT AGAIN: Pal Sean
has found the Mad Magazine
reference I was thinking of...look here for more
6. Mark Evanier passes along the sad information that comics writer Bob Haney has died
. He wrote some of my favorite nutty DC Comics from the '60s and '70s, and I'm sorry to see him go. Maybe we'll eventually see this shelved Teen Titans story
he did with Jay Stephens...from what little we've seen, it seems brilliant.
* The posting of "I'm Chalk!" in this post's comments section coming in 3...2....
When I first started this weblog of mine, my intention was to attempt to post something new every day for at least one year. And here we are, one year later, and despite illness, despite weddings, despite floods and locusts and power outages and Blogger
's usual shenanigans, I actually achieved that goal, and only managed to irritate one or two people along the way. Some days, especially early on, I didn't post much - maybe just a link or two - and the one day I just wasn't able to post and had pal Dorian
fill in, I still managed to put in a brief appearance explaining why
Dor was filling in.
Over a year of posting, I've managed to knock a little dust off my HTML skills, though some lessons took a while to learn -- like specifying exact dimensions for images so that the permalinks don't cause the page to jump all over the place as the images load. Er, sorry about that. Also, I had to find out about "hotlinking" -- I never did it, but plenty of people did it to me until I learned how to block that sort of behavior. The thought did occur to me to replace hotlinked images with something appalling, like some sites do...but decided against it because 1) I'm a nice guy, and 2) it sounded like that would be hard work.
Best of all, I managed to drag some of my pals into the weblogging world with me, including one coworker
, two former coworkers
, and two customers
. (Okay, so maybe Sean
's been a little lax lately, but the poor boy just got married, so cut him some slack!)
ASIDE #1 - THE NEVER BEFORE REVEALED SECRET ORIGIN OF
"MIKE STERLING'S PROGRESSIVE RUIN"
Well, the origin of the name
, anyway. The first half of the name is easy...I'm named after my dad. I'm Mike Sterling Jr., he's Mike Sterling Sr. Now why my grandparents decided to name my dad "Mike" remains a mystery.
The second half requires a little more backstory. For about a five year span in the mid-90s, I was involved in a local mini-comics publishing concern started by my old friend Rob. The "company," named Full Frontal Harvey (after an offhand comment from an MTV veejay regarding Harvey Keitel's performance in Bad Lieutenant
), published about three dozen different digest and mini-sized publications. The flagship title was an anthology book entitled Wood-Eye
, and contained work by Rob and myself in all twelve issues, and also had plenty of work by future Xeric Grant winner Fred Noland
...not to mention one cover by Love & Rocket
's Jaime Hernandez (posted on this very site yesterday
), a couple cartoons by novelist Scott Phillips
, and the occasional cartoon by this weirdo
At any rate, in 1998 I eventually took the pages I'd done for Wood-Eye
up to that point, along with a couple pages from a solo book (Lookit!
) I had done early on, and several new (or, at least, previously unpublished) pages, and put them all into one volume. Stuck for a title for this comic, I took the name from my original website -- "Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin!"
My original website, which I refer to as "Progressive Ruin 1.0," was first put on the web on November 8, 1996, and was basically there to, well, fill up some of the 5 megabytes of free web space offered by my ISP of the time. It was also the Official Website of Full Frontal Harvey, featuring cover scans of all our books, a downloadable mini-comic, and other goodies.
Yes, the origin of my website's name is that it's from a previous website. It's a cop out, I know, but it's still better than the ending to What Dreams May Come
"But what does it mean
," you ask? Well, it's a reference to the fact that...um, well, I'm going to grow older, my body is going to weaken, my cognitive faculties will dull, and I'm eventually going to die...and as such, any record of my actions and experiences, such as through a collection of comic strips I've drawn, or posts on a weblog, can be seen as a document of that steady decline. Or, if you will, of my progressing ruin.
See? A laugh riot, no? Oh, relax, I'm not chronically depressed or anything...I just thought it was an amusing title, an ironic counterpoint to the hopefully humorous offerings both in my old comic strips and here on my weblog. Besides, I plan on living forever, so I don't really have to worry about any of that aging or declining health stuff.
I've done some online comics discussion in the past. In the local BBS community (remember those, way back in the pre-internet days?), I was the go-to guy to run comic book message groups on various boards. I think I in charge of about four or five, as I recall, including a message board on a BBS run by this fella
. And in the early days of AOL, I would occasionally pop in on the comic boards there, though the level of discourse was...um, not exactly quality, shall we say. I never participated in the Usenet thing, like a handful of my weblogging brethren (and sisteren) did. So, after the fall of the BBS scene, aside from talking with some of my friends or the occasional discussion at the comic shop, my comics talk was at a minimum. I didn't (and still don't) try to use my position at the store to excessively inflict my comic book opinions on hapless customers...I really try hard to not be one of those
guys, you know?
And that's why I'm glad I now have a weblog. I can talk at length about all the funnybooks I want, without having to worry about preaching to a captive audience (like I could do at the store, were I one of those
guys), and without having to bore my audience to tears (presumably, if you're reading this site...in particular, if you're still slogging through this post...you must have at least a passing interest in comic books).
And to think, when I started, I didn't plan on making this weblog comics-only
ASIDE #2 - EVEN AT A YOUNG AGE, I COULDN'T SHUT UP ABOUT COMICS
Dave at Yet Another Comics Blog
posted the cover of Superman
#369 (March 1982) as part of his ongoing Christmas comic cover series. It just so happens that this issue contains my only printed letter of comment. As a preemptive measure, I shall reproduce it here, it all its horrifying glory:
Oh dear, oh dear. I was insufferable even way back then, wasn't I? I was very obviously trying to be "funny," and failing miserably at it. Plus, God may never forgive me for my slight against the late Mr. Swan. It's also one of those "recap the plot" kind of letters, which I hate. Even being 12 years old at the time is no excuse. At any rate, I'm sure they printed this letter more because it fit the space available rather than because of any perceived quality. If only they'd followed my advice to keep Cary Bates, though....
Please note that the city I lived in at the time was Port Hueneme, though whoever typeset this letter accidentally appended the state abbreviation of the end of the city's name, making it "Huenemeca." Thus, I was able to track all the mail I received as a result of having my letter printed in this comic. Fan club offers, conventions flyers, catalogs...all addressed to "Port Huenemeca." Okay, it wasn't that much mail, but it was neat to see what a 12-year-old kid could get just for having a letter pop up in a comic book.
I only ever wrote one other letter of comment, in reference to DC Comics Presents
#50, which was never printed. Though, looking at the letter that did
get printed, it's probably just as well. There's only so much public humiliation one person can stand!
One of the unexpected results of this weblog was getting to interact to some extent with professional comic creators, including Tony Isabella
comics still remain some of my favorite featuring that character), Fred Hembeck
(whose cartoon overviews of bizarre comics of the past is a definite inspiration of mine), and Scott Saavedra
(whose mighty Comic Book Heaven
magazine celebrated the goofiness of comics in a way that my little website can only try to imitate).
Another result I really wasn't anticipating was cartoonists, writers, and publishers sending me items for review. The first I received were the volumes 1 & 2 of the amusing children's series Sidekicks
by Tom Mason and Dan Danko. Items from Ait/Planetlar
's Larry Young, cartoonist Steve Lieber
, and Atomeka Press
were to follow. It's all part of their marketing strategies, I realize, but it still makes me feel pretty good to think that my opinion on their releases is desired, and that my little venue here is important enough to warrant being sent review copies at their not-inconsiderable expense.
ASIDE #3 - HOW I FIRST MET SCOTT SAAVEDRA
Scott Saavedra was publishing through Slave Labor Graphics a comic/magazine called Java Town
, featuring his cartoons as well as several pages of found ads, weird items, and so on. In the back of issue #2 was a reproduced image from an advertisement for a board game called "The Sinking of the Titanic."
Well, I had this game when I was a kid. (You can read more about the game, and see some pictures, here
.) And, when Rob, Fred, and I went to the second Alternative Press Expo in San Jose, CA (in '94, I think) to shill our Wood-Eye
comic, I got my chance to meet Scott Saavedra and tell him in person about the game and how it was played. He was appalled, as any decent human being would be, and from that point on I was "the guy who had the Titanic board game." Well, I don't think Mr. Saavedra ever referred to me as such, but I'd mention it on occasion to remind him who I was, like when I'd order copies of his original self-published version of Comic Book Heaven
, and he was nice enough not to tell me I was annoying him.
Okay, it's not much of a story, but it gives me an excuse to once again plug Scott Saavedra's weblog
which you should visit immediately after you're done here. You should also buy the Dr. Radium trades
and the Comic Book Heaven digests and collection
I do have a thank you or two, or a dozen, to pass along, if you all will bear with me:
First off, thanks to the grand-daddy of the comics webloggers, the enigmatic Neilalien
, who offered me some assistance early on, particularly with cleaning up the comic scans. And thanks as well to Graeme, as his Fanboy Rampage
, though he doesn't know it, was the site that finally made me say to myself, "hey, maybe doing a comics weblog would be fun
Thanks to Rory, who was the first person I knew in real life to put a link to my weblog on her website (Baresark
), and to Bill Sherman, who was the first person I didn't
know to link me on his own site (Pop Culture Gadabout
Thanks to pal Andy, who has been kind enough to link me on his essential Waxy.org
a handful of times...which directly led to me being linked by Boing Boing
, giving me my largest single day's worth of traffic thus far (just shy of 7,000 unique visits).
Thanks of course to everyone else who has posted links to my site as well.
Thanks to my pals Dorian
, and Ian
, the mighty Associated Comics And Pop Culture Webloggers of Ventura County, CA And Outlying Environs...more is definitely the merrier.
Extra thanks to Ian, whose mentions of me on the Comics Journal
message boards must certainly have brought me to the attention of Dirk Deppey...which brings me to thanking Dirk, for his many kind mentions of my site on the sadly missed web version of Journalista
. This post in particular
, the last before his farewell message, still
brings me visitors all these months later.
Thanks to all my fellow comics webloggers
, who have made a fun hobby even more fun.
Thanks to the customers from our store who read my site, but still shop with us anyway.
Thanks to my girlfriend Nora, whose tolerance levels are apparently higher than any normal human's, as she's put up with my silly comics stuff for what I'm sure she thinks is much too long.
Thanks to my dad, who reads my site every day, even though I'm sure he doesn't know what the heck I'm talking about half the time, what with some of the comics minutiae I get into. I
don't even know what I'm talking about half the time. And thanks to my mom, for...well, you should always be thankful to your mom, you know?
And thanks to you
, the readers, who have decided that my goofy ramblings are of enough value to keep you coming back. Your readership, and your comments, are always much appreciated.
Thus endeth my most self-indulgent post ever. The only way it could have been more self-indulgent is if I posted pictures of my d...
...oops, sorry, just slipped out.
See you tomorrow!