mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Smurfs life cycle. 

The Smurfs are a relatively uncommon woodland animal, found mostly in heavy underbrush in moderately temperate zones. A typical grouping looks similar to this:

Smurfs are small, and are often preyed upon by larger animals, but their sheer numbers often dissuade predators, causing them to look for easier kills.

The exception to this rule are Gargamels, solitary creatures often found in close proximity to Smurf nests:

Gargamels can often be found making their lairs in old, rundown buildings, and are usually accompanied by Azraels, feline creatures that live in symbiotic relationships with Gargarmels. These creatures are the only known natural enemies of Smurfs, as it appears they lack the cognitive abilities to recognize the numbers of the Smurfs as a threat to their well-being. They prefer Smurfs to all other foods, but their lack of hunting ability often results in Gargamels and any accompanying Azraels being weak and sickly.

Gargamels generally find themselves as prey for Bigmouths:

Like the Gargamels, Bigmouths are solitary creatures, as their voracious appetites and highly competitive behavior require large grazing areas away from any other Bigmouths that may impact the food supply.

Bigmouths have no natural predators, and usually only die from 1) old age, or 2) overeating. Dead Bigmouths do not go to waste, however; within hours of a Bigmouth's demise, the body can be found swarming with Smurfs, gorging themselves on the decaying flesh.

Not all of the meat is devoured. The Smurf Queen, or "Smurfette" as she is known colloquially, will deposit her eggs into the remnants of the Bigmouth's body.

Within 24-48 hours, the eggs hatch, and the wormlike Smurf larvae feed upon what's left of the Bigmouth. The Smurf-blown corpse of the Bigmouth serves yet another purpose, as the remains also serve as fertilizer, feeding the unusually large mushrooms that are native to Smurf forests. The engorged Smurf larvae burrow into these mushrooms, hollowing them out as they grow, and continue to use the excavated mushrooms as nests upon reaching maturity:

The cycle of life is truly a smurfy thing. I trust you found this informative.

(special thanks to pal Sean and Employee Nathan for helping me smurf this out)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Cheery ol' me. 

Someone at the store: "I read in the newspaper today that comic book sales are up 15%!"

Me: "Yeah, but around ten years ago they fell about 1000%."

(I suspect the percentages on both sides of this exchange are of the "pulled out of our butts" variety, but you get the idea.)

Also, for the first time in the nearly 2 1/2 years of doing this weblog, I got a note from my webhoster telling me that I'm using an unusual amount of bandwidth for this site. I'm hoping it's just the combination of the increased traffic I've been getting lately, along with the large amount of images I've been posting. There had better not be any shenanigans afoot.

Something I saw on the eBay today, while researching something at work (yes, I was really researching something, shut up): a set of the mid-'80s Man of Steel mini-series...wait, let me amend that, an incomplete set of the Man of Steel mini-series, missing #4. Minimum bid: $50. Shipping fees, for priority mail: $18.80. Shockingly, there were no bids.

A while back I spotted someone trying to sell a run of Infinity Crusade for $50. Hey, it just takes that one guy who has to have it right this second, I guess.

New comics day. 

So a couple weeks ago I received from our distributor a reorder of Jonah Hex #1, and most of the copies had an orange ink mark in the corner (as pictured to the right). I know, it's no big deal, but I think our customers would rather have copies with no ink mark, so I called them in as damaged copies, and replacements turned up in short order.

This week I received our order of the second printing of Fell #4...and one of those had a green ink mark, about the same size and in the same place as on the Jonah Hex cover.

So, hey, whoever's waving the markers around at the warehouse...watch where you're puttin' those things!

A few notes about this week's comics:

Punisher: The Tyger: John Severin can still draw like nobody's business, and Garth Ennis' look at Frank's childhood is both fascinating and unnerving. There was something wrong with that kid from the get-go, wasn't there?

Hero Squared #1 - After a one-shot and a mini-series, the regular series finally launches, by creators Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Joe Abraham. Like I've said before, the combination of the humorous dialogue and the unique premise really drives this title's success. The climatic battle of the book, involving Milo and Captain Valor (parallel universe versions of each other) and their girlfriends/arch-enemies Stephie and Caliginous (also paralled versions of each other), doesn't involve a single punch being thrown, a single caped person being tossed through a building. It's all in the dialogue, with witty jabs and sudden revelations, that's far more involving and dynamic than any superpowered fistfight.

Second Wave: War of the Worlds #3 - Miles and the group of folks he's joined up with try to escape a city under siege by Martian invaders...only to run smack dab into more Martians in the countryside. It's a fast read, as once we leave the city the panels suddenly become large and spacious and dialogue-light...but that only enhances the feeling of immensity of the huge Martian ships/creatures. It's a fun action movie of a comic, with leaves you wondering what's going to happen next, as good serial fiction should.

Superman/Batman #26 - This is the Sam Loeb tribute issue, plotted by writer Jeph Loeb's late son, and featuring contributions from folks like Brad Meltzer, Jim Lee, Joss Whedon, and others. The back-up story is a tie-in of sorts to Loeb and Tim Sale's Superman: For All Seasons, related the story of young Clark and his pal Sam, obviously based on Sam Loeb. That story is a real heartbreaker, particularly when you think about how Jeph Loeb must have felt as he was writing it. I'm not going to be critical of this book...heck, I'll even give Rob Liefeld a pass...as regardless of what you might think of the execution of this funnybook, you can't deny that it's certainly a nice gesture in honor of a young man who left this world too soon.

Mouse Guard #3 - Primarily being purchased by people looking for the new hot thing to invest in. Yeah, that is a shame.

Mona Lisa Eve Of All Saints #1 - I suppose the involvement of Tim Vigil should have indicated that this was an Adults Only title...but I was so busy breaking down the order and pulling for the comic savers that I never even checked. So there it was, right on the rack next to Metal Gear Solid, for most of the day. Hey, kids, comics! Luckily I didn't sell any of these on Thursday..."luckily" being relative, of course.

So, are you folks finding the "Links Pal Dorian and I Found" sidebar link-log useful? Interesting? Can you tell who's posting what? (I bet in at least a couple cases you'd guess wrong!)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

And Chachi for Vice President. 

Cracked Collectors' Edition #16 (1977) - art by John Severin

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"...Joker does not die unless his joker card is destroyed" 

"V versus The Joker"

"Two people heavy on insanity. V uses his to help other people and society, but nonetheless operates on a different mental level than others. Joker - what else can you say?
Both are great at bold, complicated plans no regular person would try.
Who is standing at the end?"

"is there prep?"

"no prep."

"If their is no prep joker will lose badly. V owns."

"V obviously in a straight fight. I would love to see them have a conversation though."

"im gonna say joker cause no way he will put up a stright fight and i dont know for sure about v but joker does not die unless his joker card is destroyed"

"V is like a low level deathstroke- Has strength,speed,endurance,healing,and brain power to put him on meta-human stage."

"they both laugh at eachother when they first meet at how insane they are and then V guts him with a knife."

"V is like Batman-lite... hech he is more like Punisher-lite"

"Actually in terms Of V. Remember he lives in a hitler like society where he can barely get his hands on anything. Not every hero has billions of dollars to get equipment."

"you never know for all you know when V does that hand thing you find out it was one of jokers guys in disguise then a metal card flies into V's skull from behind hay it might happen you guys cant count the joker out people he once took fear gas to the face from scarecrow it didnt do NOTHING to him and he almost killed the guy with a chair."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Some Tuesday night notes. 

So a while back I mentioned that there was a glitch in the ordering system over there at Twomorrows...for some reason, another person's order got appended to my account, which made it look like I was trying to mooch two free magazines instead of one from their Free Comic Book Day giveaway.

Well, apparently it was all sorted out, since I got my magazine today (Back Issue #3, if you were wondering). Phew, I was beginning to worry...I kept picturing Twomorrows putting a big banner on their site reading "MIKE STERLING IS A BIG CHEATER-PANTS" if the ordering problem never got addressed.

A thought that occurred to me over the weekend, and never got around to posting...I hadn't seen any kind of sales bump at the store on X-Men comics during the lead-up to the new movie's release. I mean, the X-books usually sell fairly well, but I haven't seen any increased or unusual demand for trades or new issues or anything...aside from the first issue of Wolverine: Origins, which was going to sell well, regardless.

I haven't seen much increased demand for the Superman comics either, beyond a few extra sales of some of the trade paperbacks DC made available to retailers on a consignment basis (including Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale's Superman For All Seasons).

Not sure why, unless folks just prefer their superhero action in moving picture form instead of dead trees 'n' staples form (which is clearly obvious, given the real money movies make versus the lemonade stand money comics pull in).

I just noticed that I had the wrong date on my X-Men movie review post all day. Sigh.

X-Men: The Last Stand 


Well, actually, all things considered...X-Men: The Last Stand was a perfectly watchable popcorn movie. It ain't deep, it ain't meaningful, but the film never drags its feet, Sir Ian McKellen (Magneto) and Hugh Jackman (that claw guy, whassisname) steal the show yet again, and overall, it's more of an even film than the previous two efforts. It never quite reaches the heights of the best parts of the previous two installments, but then, there's nothing in this movie that reaches the nadir of "Do you know what happens when a frog is hit by lightning?" Oh, and speaking of which, Halle Berry (Storm) even manages okay this time.

Anyway, I'm going to talk about specific elements of the movie, which will involve revealing big plot details, so SPOILER ALERT is in effect. When you next see a picture of Sir Ian striking yet another pose, the SPOILERS will be over.

Okay, ready? If you haven't seen the movie, skip to the next pic of Sir Ian...last chance!


  • Okay, Stan Lee shows up in his required cameo early on, and, though the man has received some grief from me in the past, I did appreciate that X-writer Chris Claremont was given a cameo as well. I mean, the man has toiled in the X-Men mines for 30 years, surely this is the least they could do for him.

  • For a very, very brief moment, as the "In the not too-distant future" subtitle flashed on screen, and we went into the Sentinel battle sequence, I thought we were gonna see the "Days of Future Past" storyline. Yeah, I know, I wasn't really expecting it, but there's always that little fanboy voice in your head that whispers these things to you, and you can't ignore it.

  • In the "works on paper, not in live action" department, we have a tie between the Colossus tossing Wolverine "fastball special" bit, and the "Angel flying" effects. Neither are terribly convincing.

  • Kelsey Grammer as the Beast worked better than I expected...I mean, he never looks like anything but a guy with a blue furry suit glued to him, but what the heck, it was close enough for horseshoes.

  • Is it just me, or did the sun come down awfully fast just before the climatic battle scene? Okay, it was about sundown as Magneto was hauling the bridge over to Alcatraz Island, but it seemed like it was still fairly bright out as the bridge dropped onto the island, and then it was suddenly pitch black as Magneto's crew were disembarking.

  • Speaking of Magneto's minions...okay, a while back I finally got around to watching Robocop 3 via the Netflix. In that film, there's a wild street gang terrorizing the community...and of course, they're dressed as stereotypical "punk rockers," with Mohawks, leather, studs, oddly colored hair...you know, typical movie punkers. And as I was watching this, I thought briefly about how you don't get enough of that kind of casting and costuming any more for your typical movie street gang...just dressing a bunch of extras up as what you think punk rockers look like and instructing them to act crazy and menacing.

    Well, it lives on in the new X-Men movie. Okay, it's modernized slightly, with a lot more tattoos and piercings, but it's basically the same thing. Look, I find my amusement where I can get it.

  • Rogue wasn't so much a character this time around as she was a thematic plot device, demonstrating that while the threat of a "mutant cure" is held in low regard by most mutants, there may be actual cases where such a cure would be desirable. This grey area is barely touched on, and when it is it's usually in the implied context of "Rogue, why would you want to cure yourself, even though your power basically cuts you off from any kind of human contact and clearly makes you miserable?" Of course, it's all a moot point anyway, since the last pre-credits shot of the film seems to indicate that the cure is only temporary.

  • Yes, I said "the last pre-credits shot" since there is a coda at the very end, after the thanks to the caterers and the soundtrack album info. You know, I wish filmmakers wouldn't do these, since, um, credits are a lot longer than they used to be.

    Anyway, I told you a couple days ago that some knucklehead started to blab about that ending...he didn't give away the whole deal, but just mentioned the character involved. That was enough for me to figure out what that coda was going to be as soon as all the elements involved in that coda had appeared on screen.

    Grrrr...that dumb kid.

  • Famke Janssen looked very menacing as the out-of-control Phoenix, though she didn't get to do much more than stand around as special effects swirled things around her. Still, there were some nice Phoenix visuals involved...and as for that character she killed off early on...well, we never did see a body, did we?

  • WOLVERINE: "Get everyone out of here...I'll stop Phoenix, I'm the only one who can!"

    KITTY PRYDE: "Um, actually, this mutant kid we just rescued has the ability to strip away the powers of anyone in his proximity."

    WOLVERINE: "What did you say? Couldn't hear you, what with all the fighting."

    KITTY: "Oh, nothing, nothing...you just go do what you do best. Good luck with that."

    Okay, given that Phoenix was dissolving anyone who got to close too her, getting Leech near enough to effect her wasn't likely...but still, I know you thought it too. DON'T DENY IT.

  • I knew from the moment they confronted each other on the street outside that clinic that we were going to get a Pyro versus Iceman battle, and I wasn't disappointed. I even pictured the two of them, shooting their fire and ice powers at each other, with the "beams" colliding in the center, EQUALLY MATCHED. We did finally get an Iceman that was completely iced-up, like in the comics...not sure the effect was 100%, really, but I appreciated the effort.

  • I also liked seeing Jamie Maddrox, the Multiple Man, make an appearance, albeit as a bad guy. Makes me want to see a live-action version of Peter David's X-Factor (not that I'm holding my breath). Juggernaut was silly but fun, Kitty Pryde finally gets some significant screen time, and Colossus was wisely kept underlit or in shadows (but we get a nice gag of an unarmored Colossus hauling a huge TV under one arm through the school halls).

  • Standout scenes: Wolverine attacking Magneto's forest camp, Phoenix destroying her family home, Sir Ian McKellen doing purt'near anything. I particularly liked that McKellen's Magneto expresses genuine shock and loss at the passing of his greatest rival.

  • Kind of a downbeat ending, with major characters having died, especially since the plan appears to be that this will be the last X-Men movie...though I wonder if the box office take will change that.


Man, Sir Ian had some great "I'm usin' my powers" poses in this film.

So, to reiterate...perfectly fine 'n' brainless action movie. Maybe a few too many characters, and maybe not enough plot...but that even one watchable X-Men movie was done is nothing short of a miracle. That there were three X-movies that were reasonably entertaining...well, no one is more shocked than me.

But, really, let's not have a fourth one. No reason to push our luck!

EDIT: SPOILERS in the comments section, too, just so you know.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Whenever I think of Alex Toth, I think of this drawing. 

This is from Superman Annual #9 (1983), written by Elliot S! Maggin and inked by Terry Austin...but that image is just pure Toth, with dynamic action that drives the eye across the page. The whole book is like this, with Toth's style taking what would have been a reasonably entertaining Superman/Batman team-up and turning it into something special and beautiful and funny and genuinely exciting, all at once.

It's this comic I think of whenever I see certain superhero comics on the stands today, all splash pages and static poses, with pin-ups instead of plot progression...I see these comics and I can't help but think "Boy, these people really should take some lessons from Alex Toth...that guy could move a story along!"

Here's the definitive collection of Toth links, in memory of his passing. Go see what we've lost.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Some shop notes. 

As I've referred to previously, young girls (and their parents) continue to pooh-pooh the current Supergirl comic in favor of Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. It's hard to imagine any incarnation of the Legion as an entry comic for new readers, but something about this new version is really grabbing the attention of children, at least at our store. Adding Supergirl to the mix (a recognizable, non-scary version of Supergirl) can only help its appeal.

I hate to beat a dead horse (yeah, I know, "since when?") but that Supergirl comic is such a missed opportunity. What, there weren't enough anatomically-improbable, appallingly-written and drawn comics starring female characters, which mistake "cheap titillation" for "strong characterization," that DC had to add to the pile with a title and character that might otherwise have attracted that elusive young girl demographic that's long since been lost to manga (if they're reading comics at all)?

Speaking of the new Legion series...this cover design on the first issue (reused on issue #7 and the new ish) is going to be the new version of this cover design, isn't it?

Pal Dorian looks at Newsarama and DC Comics forum reactions to the revelation that the new Batwoman is "the gay." Comedy gold ensues.

Which reminds me...I can't wait for the Marvel site to start up its forums. You thought the DC forums were a carwreck....

No, I haven't seen the new X-Men movie yet. Though, thanks to one loudmouth from the game store next door, I now know the nature of the surprise post-credits sequence. I really need to start taking my cattle prod to work.

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