mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, March 20, 2004

I am ashamed to admit that I didn't see
Tony Isabella's call for International Dave Cockrum Day until this evening. Mr. Isabella's proposed day for the event was March 18th, but, you know, this is the kind of holiday that should be celebrated over several days.

Today's Dave Cockrum site: Dave Cockrum.net.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Okay, who's left to alienate? 

1. Wow, American Power, new from Crossgen! I'm sure he'll go after big oil companies and the evils of political cronyism! ...Okay, okay, I'm just kidding, I'm sure it'll be about a guy in tights punching out swarthy foreigners.

What I would like to see is a comic like this, that appears to champion the intellectually lazy "love it or leave it"/"America kicks ass!" brand of patriotism, subtly satirizing that mindset while simulaneously demonstrating what real patriotism is all about.

Not likely in this particular political climate, however. I think the initial John Rey Nieber issues of the most recent Captain America relaunch attempted something similar to this (a thoughtful examination of what it means to be patriotic), and I think we all saw how long that direction lasted.

As my pal Dorian said to me earlier today, American Power looks like that Civilian Justice comic that came out right after the World Trade Center attacks ("it's an ill wind..." and all that), only with a fresh coat of paint.

I hope I'm wrong...I hope this comic isn't as unsubtle as it appears. But if it is...well, I'm sure there's an audience that just can't wait for this sort of thing.

2. Eat More People has posted about Robert Rodriguez taking steps to ensure that Frank Miller will be able to co-direct the apparently impending Sin City movie. While I'm all for comic creators taking a more direct hand in the development of movies based on their work, we must keep in mind Frank Miller's previous ventures into filmmaking.

A couple things I am wondering about...will the Sin City film be in black and white? Will they be able to have Miho on screen without people in the audience thinking, "wow, this is just a Kill Bill rip-off?"

3. Something else pal Dorian and I were talking about earlier...if anything is going to kill the X-Men movie franchise, it's putting Gambit in the film exactly as he is in the comics. I mean, dear God.

3a. By the way, Dorian, if you're reading this...you were right.

4. And here, to leave you with a good taste in your mouth, hopefully...Julius Schwartz tribute comics! The return of Cary "Mr. Surprise" Bates! Adam Strange written by Grant Morrison! Elliot S! Maggin! Marty Pasko! Oh, these are going to be good.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Special Guest Villain - Isaac Asimov! 

Yes, the Good Doctor himself, Isaac Asimov, or, rather a reasonable facsimile thereof, was the antagonist in the lead story of Superman #355 (Jan 1981) - "Momentus, Master of the Moon!" At the beginning of the story (written by Cary Bates, illustrated by Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte), Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are attending a lecture by Dr. Asa Ezaak...a lecture with the fairly unwieldy title of "Science Says You're Wrong If You Believe That--." Yes, really, that's what it says on the sign behind Lois on page 3, panel 6.

Dr. Ezaak is also a prolific writer, like Asimov. Jimmy relates to Lois that, spelling error and all, "Ezaak has written a whole library-ful [sic] of material...about every subject, from astronomy to zoology!" When Jimmy finally meets his idol in person and tells him that he owns all of Ezaak's books, Ezaak's reply is a surprised "all two hundred, Mr. Olsen--?" So Ezaak is bit of a piker next to his real life counterpart, but I guess 200 is nothing to sneeze at, either.

Anyway, Superman's been busy in the meantime, investigating a break-in at the local science lab by a burglar that, according to reliable witnesses, appears to be "a hulking figure covered head to foot by oozing orange mud."

The next morning, at the WGBS building (where Clark Kent and Lana Lang were TV reporters...hard to imagine that now, isn't it?), Lois and Clark realize that Jimmy didn't show up for work.

Cut to Dr. Asa Ezaak, delivering another lecture, this time on the effects of the moon on Earth's tides: "I realized high tides were twice-monthly proof of the immeasurable strength of the universe's most powerful natural energy source - gravity, my boy! Gravity!" Okay, all well and good so far...then the Not-So-Good Doctor reveals his cunning plan: "If I could devise a means of transforming a human body into synthetic liquid a thousand times more susceptible to gravity than water -- that person would become a living 'gravity sponge' with unlimited power at his fingertips!"

Uh, okay.

Ezaak then injects himself in the neck with a hypo filled with his own chemical creation (called "Ezaakis"...isn't that the name of a planet from Dune?) which turns him into, of course, the mystery burglar from the science lab break-in Supes was investigating earlier.

Okay, that image is from a fight scene later in the issue, and not from the scene I was just talking about.

Anyway, at this point we learn that audience for this particular lecture is just one person -- Jimmy Olsen, trapped inside a cage. Ezaak (AKA "Momentus") says to Jimmy "it is unfortunate that your ace reporter reputation preceded you, James" -- believing the "big fan of your work" story was just a cover for Jimmy investigating his nefarious activities, Dr. Ezaak imprisoned Jimmy to cover his tracks. I'm having a hard time accepting the whole "Jimmy as ace reporter" thing, too.

After Momentus splits to wreak more havok, Jimmy manages to trigger his Superman signal-watch, which Ezaak had removed and placed on a table across the room, with a well-aimed shoe. Superman shows up shortly after, rips open the cage, and gets the full story from Jimmy. At this point, Superman asks "what does Ezaak hope to gain with his fantastic gravity-powers?" Jimmy points to a large metal door and gives the legally-dubious advice of "why not save the police the trouble of breaking down this door?" Busting it down, Superman discovers a room full of rare and valuable scientific devices, plants, and animals that Ezaak has apparently been hoarding with the help of his new-found powers.

Suddenly, Jimmy is yanked toward a wall! Superman tries to prevent Jimmy's departure, with the immortal words "don't worry, Jimmy! I've got a super-grip on you!" No dice, though, as both Superman and Jimmy are yanked through the wall...and are face to face with Momentus himself!

We get a couple pages of Momentus mopping the floor with Superman, since, as he says in that panel above, "coming to blows with you [Superman] seems to have an invigorating effect on me! I feel even mightier than before!" That's the important clue -- Superman realizes what's up, and tries to get Ezaak to see the light: "Every atom in the universe exerts its own miniscule gravitational field! Since I come from Krypton...my super-dense atoms are compacted together by their own Kryptonian super-gravity -- and that's what your liquefied body has been gorging itself on since we met!" Supes related to Ezaak that he has to get out of range, or he's going to overload from the gravitational power he's absorbing from Superman's body...which of course Ezaak, like any super-villain, thinks is a load of hogwash.

That leads to Superman pulling this next move, in an attempt to escape from Momentus and prevent the doctor's impending destruction:

...but two panels later, Ezaak blows up anyway.

Superman and Jimmy wrap up the tale with some insightful words:

Superman: "Ironic, isn't it? Ezaak found the means of drawing virtually unlimited power from the Earth, sun, and moon!"

Jimmy: "But it was a fourth body that did him in -- a super-powered body from another world!"

Oh, sure, Jimmy, rub some salt into that wound. So the two fly off into the sunset, and Superman has one last parting thought:

"Every time I see a new or full moon from now on, I'm going to look...and wonder -- if we've really seen the last of Momentus!"

And yes, pretty much, they'd seen the last of Momentus. I suppose, though, that there was a special memorial issue of Asa Ezaak's Science Fiction Magazine.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

So I'm paging through the most recent issue of Wizard Edge at the shop, just to see what the "25 Most Overlooked Graphic Novels" are, only to see that one of them is Blankets. Yes, really. The graphic novel that you'd have to be Helen Keller - you'd have to be deaf, blind, and dead - to have missed is called "overlooked." Oh, and Ghost World is apparently "overlooked" as well. You know, the graphic novel that inspired the critically acclaimed movie and sold like gangbusters? Yeah, that one.

Well, that pretty much was what I was expecting. Of course, for the intended audience for Wizard Edge, pretty much all of these graphic novels would have been overlooked.

And now, it's time for Mike's One Word Comic Reviews:

The Moth: Beautiful.
New X-Men #154: Finally.
Spawn #133: Still?
X-Treme X-Men #43: GAAAH!
Mister O: Perfect.
Thor Son Of Asgard #1: Why?
New Frontier #3: Purty.
Abadazad #2: Fabulous.
Superman/Batman #8: Surprising.
Agony in Black Vol. 2 #1: Undisplayable.
Superman Secret Identity #3 - Paperback.

My favorite book so far this week is the aforementioned Mister O by Lewis Trondheim, from NMB. It's an 8 1/2 by 11 inch hardcover, 32 pages, in full color, featuring the little fellow pictured at the left trying to get across a chasm. Each page functions as a single strip, filled with little wordless panels, and invariably ending in Mister O's defeat as he's frustrated by rockslides, birds, old age, and by other people who seem to have no problem getting across the gap. It's absolutely brilliant...you really begin to feel for the little guy's endless attempts at overcoming the various obstacles that stand between him and his goal.

I say Superman/Batman #8 is surprising because I ended up enjoying it more than I was expecting to, since I'm not a big fan of the Image-style art by Michael Turner. Nothing against the guy - I'm sure he's perfectly nice - but this kind of art doesn't really do anything for me. However, Jeph Loeb continues turning in stories that evoke the Silver Age without necessarily copying the Silver Age, and it's still a lot of fun.

Thor Son of Asgard #1 is one of those frustrating mini-series that really seem sort of unnecessary. It's competently done, given my brief glance through the book, but is there any reason why it had to be a separate series? Is Thor really selling so well that we need spin-off series?

Fantastic Four #511 - while I liked the ending of this issue (kind of a dramatic cop-out, but emotionally satisfying), you have to remember that there's no way the higher-ups at Marvel would have let this ending happen, say, 10 years ago. I don't want to say more and spoil the ending, if you haven't read it.

While I'm sorry to see Grant Morrison leave New X-Men, the art on this last storyline didn't do his script any favors. Again, it's that Imagey-type of art that I'm not really a big fan of. However, overall Grant's run was the best X-stuff we've seen in a long time...shame it'll all be reversed in the next six months.

So...how're you all doing?

Here's a brief article about the current semi-revival of comics based on TV shows.

(via TV Tattle)

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

1. I know that Marvel sorta got shafted regarding what they could and could not do in their 1980 Star Trek series, but, really, was this necessary:

Star Trek #16 (Marvel Comics, October 1981) - cover by Luke McDonnell and Al Milgrom

The story's title? "There's No Space Like Gnomes!" Okay, Marvel, for that title alone I forgive you.

In all fairness, this wasn't too far off from the stories that popped up on the TV show.

2. Thank you,
Dave Intermittent, for reminding me of this great review of Batman: Hush by Sean Collins. I wasn't exactly a big fan of this story either, but I was willing to proclaim it "The Greatest Batman Story Ever" when (SPOILER ALERT) it appeared that the presumed-dead former Robin Jason Todd was the villain of the piece. The only thing that could have made me me happier would be seeing, say, the Anti-Monitor on the last page of an issue of JSA, multiple Earths looming in the background, proclaiming "THE CRISIS ISN'T OVER!" Anyway, it turned out not to be Jason Todd, which was exceedingly disappointing.

3. This is kind of neat...a screensaver from DC Comics that updates itself with cover images and synopses of the publisher's current comics. It's not really much of a screensaver, since all it's doing is replacing one presumably static image with another mostly static image. Still kinda cool, though...is this what was meant by that "internet push" technology that everyone was talking about a few years ago?

4. Neilalien is gathering comic book collective nouns, and it's nice to know that I was the first with the suggestion of "a hoary host of Dr. Strange fans." It's two words instead of the preferred one word, but really, anything other than "hoary host" just wouldn't satisfy. I'm trying to think of one for Swamp Thing fans..."a quagmire of Swamp Thing fans?" "A hallucinogenic tuber of Swamp Things fans?" Oh, I don't know.

5. Everyone has posted a link to this site (beginning with the aforementioned Neilalien), but I have to include it here, too: Comic Book Gorillarama! Comics and gorillas - joined together for a stronger America.

Scott Shaw! describes
issue #2 of The Close Shaves of Pauline Peril in the most recent installment of his Oddball Comics column. I just recently picked up issue #3 of this series, and it's just as peculiar as he describes.

Monday, March 15, 2004

"Contrary to most Weblogs, which consist nearly only of text, Mike Sterling (Comichaendler by occupation) peppt its Blog regularly with illustrations up. Often is the Scans from old Comics, which are involuntarily amusing today." (thanks Alan!)

2. Speaking of Alan David Doane, he's trying to raise some fast scratch by offering a bunch of nice graphic novels in auction. Go see his site for details on how to participate.

3. To Tomthedog: Steve Dayton, AKA Mento, used to hang with the Doom Patrol way back when, and even married Doom Patrol member Rita "Elasti-Girl" Farr. He used his fortune to buy himself superpowers so he could go superheroing with Rita...if it's been decided that the Doom Patrol now hasn't existed prior to current day, then Dayton had no reason to get superpowers, and thus couldn't be there in Swamp Thing #50 to help the DC Universe mystics in their part of the battle against the Darkness.

I'm a huge dork.

4. I wonder if the people who are objecting so vehemently to Kitty Genovese's murder playing a part in the development of Watchmen's Rorschach object equally to Harlan Ellison's short story "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs." No, Genovese is not mentioned by name in the short story, but there's not a single person who read this story when it was originally released who did not know who it was really about.

And anyone who says "well, it shouldn't have been used in a superhero comic" apparently doesn't understand Watchmen. If you are so challenged, start here and work your way up.

4a. The day of my birth was the 5th anniversary of the murder. How depressing.

5. Everytime I see this cover:

I think it's Kitty Pryde smooching Professor X. No, it's not, but given how inconsistently Kitty has been drawn over the years, it's not a hard mistake to make.

6. I miss Tales of the Beanworld.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Thanks to everyone for your good birthday wishes...it means a lot to me, and it will certainly go a long way toward easing me into my dotage. By the way, today is my sister's birthday...apparently my parents only had sex in June.

Enough disturbing thoughts - onward to the comics!

It seems hard to believe that Cerebus is finally over...though I wish there were fewer issues filled with pages of teeny-tiny text relating Dave Sim's views on religion and gender issues (yes, yes, "Men Good, Women Bad," we get it Dave), I am glad that I read the whole gosh-darn thing.
Bruce Baugh has a good overview of a little over 2/3rds of the series.

It seems to me that I remember a mention of a possible Cerebus Jam-type comic called "After Issue 300," by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John Totleben, involving a sorcerer reanimating Cerebus' body for some nefarious purpose. This was years ago when I read this, probably in an Amazing Heroes interview or something, and it probably wasn't anything more than Moore or Bissette or Dave Sim saying "yeah, when issue 300 comes out, we really need to do this!" There's little...well, no...chance of this happening, but wouldn't it have been nice? There's a mention of it at the end of this page.

A little more definite was a planned X-Men/Cerebus crossover from the very early 1980s...there was a tiny promo shot in, I believe, Comic Reader. Nothing ever came of it, though a Cerebus-resembling S'ym creature popped up in the X-Men comics. Fred Hembeck has a few words about the crossover's origins.

Well, maybe in a few years Dave will change his mind and we'll get Cerebus II: The Aardvark Defined or something. Or how about Imesh, about Cerebus' formative years, where he fights a different version of the Roach every week? (Um, that was an attempt at a Smallville joke...I can tell already it wasn't very successful.)

Anyway, I think I'll pull out the ol' Swords of Cerebus collections and start rereading the series from the beginning. The last few years of the series may have been rough going, but overall it's a grand achievement - (cliche coming in) "the likes of which we shall never see again."

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