mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, May 29, 2004

My, this looks like a faithful adaptation! 

Worlds Unknown 3 (Sept 1973), cover art by Rich Buckler & Wayne Howard

Friday, May 28, 2004

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Peiratikos did it, as did Grotesque Anatomy...so here are a few Google searches some of you people did in order to find this little 'ol website here:


look+for+criminals+named+sterling (You got nuthin' on me, copper!)

comic+weblogs (that's narrowing it down)



Mike+Sterling+suicide (WHAT???)


wet+his+pants+briefs (the less I know, the happier I'll be)

help+i'm+trapped+in+my+sister's+body (I swear to God this is in my logs)

that+girl+can+pee+a+real+flood (again, I swear...doing that entry on people peeing in the store hasn't done me any favors)

ATARI+A+B+C+D+E+F+G+H+I+J+K (uh, what?) (EDIT: I've been informed this is probably a search method to find ROMs.)

shakespeare+good+or+bad+writer (I'll say...GOOD! No, wait, BAD!)

peanut+slave+usage+wein (I don't even get this one)

future+marvel+movies+coming+out+between+2004+3000 (now that's planning ahead)


Plus, lots and lots of people looking for scans of story pages from recently released comics, and lots of searches just on my name (maybe they should look here instead).

Flash #300 (August '81) was a 48-page no-ads issue by Cary Bates, classic Flash artist Carmine Infantino, and Bob Smith. Underneath the wraparound cover (showing the Flash feeding knuckle sandwiches to his many villains) we find Barry Allen, heavily bandaged, stuck in a hospital bed. Apparently the accident that gave Allen his super-speed powers instead burned him severely, and his entire Flash career was nothing more than a delusion to cope with his injuries. Allen's not convinced, of course, and as the story progresses he flashes (har har) back on his own origin, his career, and his friends and allies (like the Elongated Man and Green Lantern). He also goes over the origins of all the villains in his rogues gallery trying to determine which one is most likely responsible for his predicament. It's a nice overview of the character's history, as drawn by the one artist most associated with the Flash.

A nice touch is one of
Fred Hembeck's patented illustrated essays on the inside front and back covers, where he looks at some of the Flash's more bizarre adventures, accompanied by his fun cover recreations: "I've got the strangest feeling I'm being turned into a puppet!" says the Flash; "Just how does one get the feeling he's being 'puppetized'?" is Fred's reasonable response.

By the way, the Wally West Flash series only needs another 35 issues or so, and there will be as many issues of the current version of the Flash as of the Barry Allen Flash. How weird is that? It seems like just yesterday I was buying the first issue of the new Flash series off the shelf.

EDIT: A little bit of background info on this comic's Hembeck strip is provided by the man himself in the comments section. Take a look, won't you?

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The New Comics Day Rundown 

  • JLA #94 - if I were John Byrne, I would be incredibly pissed at the coloring error near the climax of the story...without giving it away, one character shouts that something is one color when the stuff in question is most definitely another color. (And yes, the color is a plot point.) I haven't popped in over at the Byrne forums yet, but I imagine there is much blowing of gaskets.

    EDIT: Actually, just popped in. Yup, he's not happy. I don't blame him.

  • Batman: Harley and Ivy #2 - well, if the shower scene in the first issue didn't convince retailers to not try to sell this to the same young audience that buys Batman Adventures, this issue's splash page (or, rather, splayed page) certainly will. Still good fun...but not for the kiddies!

  • The Comics Journal #260 - it's a little closer to that middle-ground comics magazine the Comicsweblogosphere was going on about over the last week or two. I particularly like the "Journal Datebook" news round-up. Haven't had a chance to read the mag yet, but it looks like Dirk Deppey did a good job on his first full issue as managing editor.

  • Promethea #30 - remember a couple entries back where I mentioned that Uncanny X-Men #175 probably wasn't the best place to start reading the title? That applies even more so to Promethea. Hoo boy. If you didn't like this title before, you're not gonna like it now. I, on the other hand, loved it. Look for the cute sight gag involving Tomorrow Stories' First American.

  • Punisher #6 - oh, dear. The long-time Punisher fans are going to hate this issue.

  • The Moth #2 and DC: The New Frontier #4 - haven't had a chance to read these yet, but did want to note how fantastic the art is in both of these books. Absolutely wonderful. I'm really just grateful to have Steve Rude drawing anything on a regular basis again.

  • Legion #33 - is there anyone reading the Legion of Super-Heroes now that hasn't been reading it for twenty years? It just doesn't seem like the kind of title that attracts new readers on a regular basis. Even throwing Superboy on the covers only bumped up sales a copy or two at the store. I mean, I like it, but it seems a little insular. I know there's a Mark Waid/Barry Kitson revamp coming, but short of starting over from scratch yet again, I don't know what they expect they can do to expand the readership.

Oh, and I understand a new X-Men book of some sort came out today as well.

Detective Comics #500 is cover-dated March 1981, and was blurbed as the "500th Anniversary Celebration," which means, of course, that Detective Comics began publishing in 1481. Actually, this is issue #500 of the long-running series, and this would have been its 43rd or 44th anniversary issue, which isn't as terribly impressive as a 500th anniversary, but still, it's nothing to sneeze at.

This is yet another anniversary issue I bought off the stands as a child (11, this time), and apparently I was impressed enough with this issue that I plunked down $1.50 of my hardly-earned money to take it home with me. And I'm glad I did, as it remains a favorite of mine to this day.

This advertising-free 80-pager features the following stories:

  • "To Kill A Legend" by Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano - the Phantom Stranger whisks Batman and Robin away to a parallel Earth, where they must prevent the deaths of the parents of the young Bruce Wayne of that world. Or must they?
  • "The 'Too Many Cooks' Caper" by Len Wein and Jim Aparo - starring Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's other creation, Slam Bradley, as well as such other DC detective characters as Roy Raymond, Pow-Wow Smith, the Human Target, and more. A nice reminder that the comic is called Detective Comics for a reason.
  • "Once Upon A Time" by Len Wein and Walt Simonson - a two-page Batman adventure based on, of all things, the story written by that long-suffering author, Snoopy. Yes, even the line "suddenly a pirate ship appeared on the horizon" makes it into the story.
  • "The Finaly Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe!" by Mike W. Barr and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez - in a nice touch, this story (starring that strechable sleuth, the Elongated Man) centers around a lost magazine edited by the creator of the detective story, Edgar Allan Poe.
  • "The Batman Encounters Gray Face" by Walter Gibson, with illustrations by Tom Yeates - this is an 8-page prose story by Gibson, the creator of the pulp hero the Shadow.
  • "The Strange Death of Doctor Erdel" by Paul Levitz and Joe Kubert - the title of this story, which stars Hawkman and Hawkgirl, doesn't appear in the story itself, just in the table of contents...which is just as well, since for longtime DC fans, the doctor's name gives away the surprise ending of the story, involving a character that shared the pages of Detective for several years.
  • "What Happens When A Batman Dies?" by Cary Bates, Carmine Infantino, and Bob Smith - the final story involves Batman, being struck down by a mysterious poison, journeying into the afterlife (accompanied by Deadman) and being confronted by not only all the people he has helped over the years (but apparently died anyway), but by the two people Batman -- that is, Bruce Wayne -- misses the most. The odd thing about this story...if it were still in continuity, the result would be that Batman would no longer have the emotional baggage from the tragedy of his youth...the very tragedy that feeds the need for vengeance that fuels his vigilante career. But, really, I don't care, because I love this story anyway.

Inside the back cover is a brief text piece detailing the creators and characters that appear in this issue. A nice bit is the sequence bordering the text piece showing the progression of the jam cover on this issue...a six panel "strip" showing as each piece of the cover is added, along with the signature of the artist responsible. It's a lot nicer than your standard "key to the cover" that you usually get with this sort of thing.

For a brief period of time, shortly after I had bought this issue, it turned up missing, which made me fairly unhappy as you might imagine. However, as it turns out, it just ended up somehow getting mixed in with a pile of my dad's gun magazines...and you can maybe see a small measure of irony there, what with losing a Batman comic among gun mags, if you kinda squint a little.

Well, if you were going to get a copy of this today, it'll cost you a little more than the $1.50 I had to fork over, but it's a solid and enjoyable package that still holds up all these years later.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

1. Leave it to Mark Millar to take
a Microsoft Word crash and turn it into a story of terror and suspense. Don't jump ahead to the breathtaking ending! It's surprisingly nervewracking. (via Popp'd)

2. Apparently the superhero parody movie The Incredibles will undermine all the serious work done with superhero comics. You know, like Byrne's JLA.

That's a huge assumption, thinking the general public gives any thought to superhero comics one way or the other (beyond "hey, I hear old comics are worth something" or "they still publish these things?").

2a. On a related note...the Adam West Batman TV show was a fairly accurate depiction of superhero comics, despite what some comic fans want to believe. (Not that I'm complaining about either...West's Batman is still my favorite live-action version, though Alyas Batman and Robin is a very close second.)

3. Speaking of Byrne...ever notice how much Neil Gaiman's Sandman resembles Byrne's Alpha Flight run? Both feature super-hero teams that don't really fight together as a team, and the members of the teams don't even necessarily get along with each other; both feature the death of a team member that's immediately replaced by another team member; there's crossovers with other superhero teams early in the series (the Justice League pops up in Sandman, the Fantastic Four (or, rather, Invisible Woman) in Alpha Flight); there's a lot of magic roaming around in each series, there are solo adventures of some of the characters; and so on. The one negative point against Sandman -- a marked lack of Super Skrull, who makes a notable appearance in Alpha Flight.

Justice League of America #200 is one of my favorite superhero comics, bought off the stands by a 12-year-old me back in '82. The plot (involving the return of the alien warriors from the team's origin story in issue #9 from '62) basically pits the original members of the JLA (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, etc.) against the team members that joined later. The battles between the heroes are separated out into chapters, each by a different and appropriate illustrator: Atom vs. Green Lantern by Gil Kane, Flash vs. Elongated Man by Carmine Infantino, Green Arrow & Black Canary vs. Batman by Brian Bolland, Aquaman vs. Red Tornado by Jim Aparo, and more -- there's not a clunker in the bunch. Each chapter features at least one full page drawing of the heroes confronting each other...a nice showcase for each artist to strut his stuff. The framing chapters and wraparound cover are by George Perez. It's 72 pages, no ads, and well worth your time should you happen upon a copy.

This is the quintessential superhero comic anniversary issue, the one by which all others should be judged: it features 1) plenty of artists*, 2) all the characters regularly associated with the book, 3) a more or less stand-alone story (if you haven't read the original origin story, it's recapped), and 4) a nice reflection on the history of the book and what makes it unique (both within the story itself and in the essay by writer Gerry Conway, printed on the inner covers). Too many anniversary or "special" issues seem to be the culmination of the previous year's plotlines...which I suppose is fine for that title's regular readers. But, there are some people, like me, who like to pick up the larger special issues to sample other titles or characters and would rather get a self-contained story instead of "the senses-shattering final chapter!"

And yes, before you ask, the Gil Kane chapter does feature one of his patented "haymaker punch/receiver of punch flung backwards, head over heels" shots. It wouldn't be Gil Kane without it!

* Okay, you don't have to have "plenty of artists" for a good anniversary book, necessarily, but it certainly adds to the appeal of this particular comic!

Monday, May 24, 2004

1. I don't know if I could have picked a worse issue of Uncanny X-Men to have been my first than issue #175, which I bought off the stands over 20 years ago. I don't mean "worse" in terms of quality (it was fine, certainly better than the dire X-Men comics we'd see in the 90s), but worse in terms of "easily accessible to someone who has never read X-Men before, ever."

Yeah, I know that seems to be a little late for a comics fan to be getting into the X-Men (I'd just entered my teenage years), but for superhero comics I was (and sorta still am) a diehard, incorrigible (as my old pal
Mojo likes to say) DC fan, so experimenting with those Marvel Comics was still fairly new to me back then.

But, you know, even for being the last part of an ongoing story (well, as much as a "last part" as any X-Men story seems to get), I didn't have much problem getting into the narrative, understanding the basics of the characters and their relationships, and so on. Of course, that was almost certainly because of Chris Claremont's writing style, which has the characters declaring their abilities and attitudes to each other, ad nauseam. Plus, X-Men as a whole was a heck of a lot less complicated back then, though I recall that people were complaining in 'zines of the time about how convoluted the whole X-saga was. If they only knew what was coming....

Anyway, during the course of my workday on Saturday, I ended up glancing through a copy of #175 and started feeling nostalgic for the time when I was a young bright-eyed comics fan, and not the jaded and bitter old fart I've since become.

2. By the way, go check out this entry pal Dorian made, which features one of my favorite entirely inappropriate Uncanny X-Men covers of all time.

3. The comic I most want to see, but will never happen: Zatanna and Black Canary in Fishnets Ahoy! illustrated by Brian Bolland. Oh, if only, if only.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

1. As for
that exclusive Spider-man hardcover Barnes & Noble is carrying...I expect it'll have the same fate as all the other Marvel books at our local Barnes & Noble. It'll sit on the shelf, unsold, getting progressively more shopworn as it gets manhandled by kids or read for free in the B&N coffee nook, until it finally gets tossed on the discount table.

1a. We also have a Borders within spitting distance of our store...but it seems like half its employees are also customers of ours, and we get all kinds of referrals to our store from there, so I can't really complain.

2. Saw three superhero-related trailers last night...the new Spider-Man 2 trailer is one of those Walt Disney-style trailers that seem to show you the entire movie. The film looks okay to me...better than the first one, anyway. Catwoman got a few snickers, as expected, and no one knew what to make of Constantine (which may be an entertaining movie, so long as you don't expect it to have any semblance to the comic whatsoever).

3. Sad news: according to this post by J. Michael Straczynski, actor Richard Biggs (who portrayed Dr. Stephen Franklin on Straczynski's Babylon 5) suddenly passed away Saturday morning. He was a far too young 43.

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