mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, September 11, 2004

There's high concept, and then there's high concept 

Blackhawk #189 (October 1963) - cover by Dick Dillin & Chuck Cuidera

Friday, September 10, 2004

So after all
the brouhaha regarding Fallen Angel, guess which comic I forgot to buy this week? Don't worry, I remembered today. Sheesh.

Speaking of which, the pencils for the autographed bookplate (original offer here) are posted on Peter David's website.

Jog has
a nice review of In The Shadow of No Towers, and a lot more informative than my "well, I'm not sure about the quality of the spine" review.

Remember that Bush vs. Jesus ad from Mad Magazine I mentioned
this morning? Well, apparently it's taken the internet by storm...I've seen it referenced, or outright scanned-and-posted, in about a dozen places so far (like here). If you haven't got your copy of Mad yet, go take a look.

I find myself with very little to say about this week's comics. Well, Fables gave us a werewolf fighting Frankenstein's monster, we got some time-travel shenanigans (and another appearance by
my favorite Golden Age villain) in JSA, and the relationship between Lana and Superman goes in a direction I really wasn't expecting in Action.

The highlight of the new issue of Mad Magazine, #446, aside from the excellent-as-usual contribution by Sergio Aragones ("A Mad Look at Paparazzi") is "The Bush Campaign's TV Commercial If He Was Running Against Jesus." Obvious, yes, but still amusing. Also good is "Your Candidate and My Candidate" ("Your candidate waffles on the issues. / My candidate sees the merits of both sides of the argument.") All in all, another fine issue of this American institution. Some of the jokes have a little dust on them, but hey, so do I.

There was also a new volume of the Fantastic Four Marvel Masterworks series, which I can't afford at the moment, but will buy eventually since this is the only Masterworks series I'm following. It reprints issues 61 to 71 (and Annual 5) -- a little past the peak of the Lee/Kirby collaboration on the series, but still great stuff. It'll be nice to have on good paper. I don't get the "variant" covers on these...there's the new trade dress, and then there's the variant "classic" look of the dustjackets, hearkening back to the original appearance of the Masterworks line all those years ago. Well, I do get why they're doing it...for those fans who want their new volumes to match up with the old volumes, but why are they five bucks more? Are the print runs on the variant covers that much smaller that they have to bump up the price to cover costs? They're already fifty bones as it is. (We ordered equal numbers of each cover, by the way.)

Newest self-contradicting title: Essential Super-Villain Team-Up. Gives me an excuse to link to this old post of mine, though. I jokingly suggested at work yesterday that Marvel should do an Essential Marvel's Greatest Comics, just to screw with people.

Additional linkage:

Chris Karath has one of my favorite comics/media weblogs, but since it's not on the Comics Weblog Update-A-Tron 3000, I'm afraid some comics weblog fans may be missing it. So go take a look, won't you?

Also, I finally added The Sock Drawer to the weblogroll.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Long day at work (what with it being comic book day and all), and I haven't even had time to read any of my new comics yet. I'm writing this weblog entry instead...see what I do for you people? Anyway, I'll probably have some kind of comics overview tomorrow.

We did get in Art Spiegelman's new book
In The Shadow of No Towers, and I can say it's a very nice-looking package. The first half of the book, which relates Spiegelman's reaction to the 9/11 attacks and the country's response, is visually very compelling, looking for all the world like one of his old RAW magazines. The second half is classic comic strips from the beginning of the last century, thematically linked to Spiegelman's observations in the first half. I haven't had a chance to read and see for myself if it deserves the mixed critical reaction it appears to be receiving, but at the very least it's visually appealing. My one concern is that the book's spine may not be up to the job of repeated readings...it feels awfully darn fragile.

In other news:

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

A little late-night link-weblogging. 

Found via my referral stats: my favorite page linking to the Seven Deadly Harveys.

Milo George, who always delights and baffles, presents The Greatest Flash Gordon Daily Strip Ever.

In case you missed this link at the end of my interminable Superman post from yesterday, you've gotta see the Superpup page. No, it's not a hoax...I've actually seen the show in question. (EDIT: Just noticed that pal Andy has linked to the page as well...so you better go see it fast, just in case bandwidth issues knock it out! Just in case, here's an Angelfire page with more stills.)

For Scott Saavedra: more Space Canine Patrol Agents info here, here, here (warning: gnarly pop-ups), here, and, because God is good, Space Canine Patrol Agents fan fiction (with special guest-star, Ace the Bat Hound)!

If you like the old comic covers, get yourself over to the Viper Comics Raw Feed for some of Greg Gatlin's spicy delights. I have no idea why I just typed the phrase "spicy delights." I apologize.

To steal an observation from pal Dorian, everybody may be talking about Amazing Fantasy, but has that translated to sales?

The first issue of the British comic Dandy sells for 20,350 (just over $36,000, to us Colonials).

You can find the cover and 5 pages from the Cure issue of Rock 'n' Roll Comics on this Cure fan site.

Just added to my weblogroll: the mighty Mae Mai, the unique Utopia Moment, and the crispy Christopher Butcher.

Fallen Angel contest ends today, so go enter, you slackers.

If you don't enter (or you enter and don't win) you can always step into your local comic shop tomorrow (REMEMBER: NEW COMICS ARE ARRIVING TOMORROW, not today) and pick up a free copy of Fallen Angel #1. Quantities are pretty limited (retailers are only getting copies equal to half their orders on Hellblazer #200), so act fast.

EDIT: Because I'm an idiot, I forgot to put in the link to Johanna's contest page when I originally posted this message. I fixed it now, not that it matters...but I did post the link a couple days ago, so hopefully people saw it there. Sorry, Johanna!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

In which Mike rambles on about Superman to no good effect. 

So a few days ago I was listening to a Los Angeles radio talk-show trio who, between talking about stories they say they got out of the newspaper but really just stole from Fark, made a brief mention of the forever-forthcoming new Superman movie. One of the trio said something to the effect of "why are they doing another Superman movie? Haven't they done enough movies and TV shows about him?"

Honestly, I had trouble disagreeing with him. Will filmmakers have something new to say about Superman this time around, or will it be just another special effects extravaganza, with more budget than sense? We've already seen the straight-foward adventure angle (the movie serials and the George Reeves TV show), the focus on "realistic" effects (the Christopher Reeve movies...at least at first), and the romantic angle (The Adventures of Lois and Clark...not a bad show, for at least the first season). Supes' younger years have been pretty well covered as well, with the Superboy show from the late '80s/early '90s, and of course the current incarnation of Smallville.*

So, if that fella on the radio show is any indication, there may be a percentage of the movie-going audience who's not going to be terribly interested in seeing yet another Superman film, unless they have some kind of new take we haven't already seen. (Personally, as I've stated before, I think they should just wait for Smallville to run its course, then do a Superman movie with the same cast. It'll never happen, but it would be nice.)

And that got me to thinking about a somewhat-related topic...when's the last time anything interesting has been done with Superman in the comics? Now I'm not talking about the Elseworlds or graphic novels or such. I'm talking about the actual (Adventures of) Superman and Action comic series, the ones that have been published continuously since the 1930s, plus the newer Superman series that began in '86...the series that are published pretty much solely to perpetuate the trademark shepherd along the legend of the Superman character. By "interesting," I don't mean temporary costume changes (like the electric Superman), or storylines (like Supes' "death" and return). I mean significant, permanent changes to the character or to the dynamics of relationships within the books.

The most recent change is probably the marraige of Lois Lane and Clark Kent, putting to an end the quintessential comics love triangle. Prior to that was Clark telling Lois that he was indeed Superman, putting an end to one of the primary Superman plot-movers from the last half-century. Before that were what are turning out to be the only two major surviving changes made by John Byrne during his '80s revamp - the removal of Superboy from the Superman story, and the survival of Ma and Pa Kent into Clark's adulthood. Before that was the decision to make Clark Kent a TV reporter (which he was though most of the 70s into the mid-80s), and before that...the addition of another super-powered Kryptonian (Supergirl), maybe? The addition of his life as Superboy?

And what will be the next big change? The seemingly-obvious one would be the addition of a super-baby for the happy couple, but that may bend the Superman formula to the point of breaking (and wouldn't bode well for Lois, as anyone who's read this essay could tell you). More likely we'll get another company-wide revamping of the superhero characters, resulting in a "back to square one" continuity for the Superman cast. Or, less drastically but still tragic, the loss of one or both of Superman's adoptive parents.

In case you couldn't tell, I don't really have much of a point to all this, beyond considering what changes could be made to Superman without interfering with the character's current raison d'etre: merchandising and other mass media tie-ins.

* This brief list doesn't include the cartoons, or the pilots for the Superboy and Superpup shows (from 1961 and 1958, respectively). And, as bizarre-looking as that Superpup show may be, having seen it I can say that it was perfectly acceptable children's entertainment. A little...weird, perhaps, but kids can use a little more weirdness in their lives.

Monday, September 06, 2004


When we last left the Sentinels, Rick, Cindy, and Crunch were in the diabolical grip of the mindbending...er, Mind-Bender, as the mind-controlled Crunch was about to flip a switch designed to destroy their minds! As opposed to simply bending them, I guess.

Anyway, this story, "Night of Doom," was the back-up in Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #59 (published by Charlton Comics in 1967), written by "Sergius O'Shaugnessy" (AKA Denny O'Neil) and illustrated by "Sam Grainger," AKA Sam Grainger. And remember:

Before the switch can be thrown, quick-thinking Rick remembers that all villains love to talk about themselves, even if they are about to defeat their arch-nemesis (or nemeses, in this case) once and for all:

Okay, and once again we get a villain that probably could have made a fortune legitimately, had he just, you know, applied for patents and hired a marketing team or something. Which makes this following statement all the more ludicrous:

...a claim he supports by explaining his origin as a scientist caught in an exploding lab, which gave him the power to intermittently control minds. And thus he's a businessman. Sure, that makes perfect sen...wha-huh?

All this time, as the Mind-Bender blabs on and on, prodded on by questions from his captives ("Why do you need robots?" "To do the menial work!" Well, sure), Rick is working at freeing himself. Finally, a day or two later, just as the Mind-Bender has decided he's talked enough, Rick breaks his bonds and grabs some of the power cables on the wall, causing some of the generators in the room to explode, you know, as they do.

Angered at the turn of events, the Mind-Bender topples one of his robots in an attempt to crush the still-bound Cindy, who makes an insightful observation:

Luckily, in all this brouhaha Crunch has managed to bust himself free of the Mind-Bender's influence, and thus able to save Cindy's bacon by knocking the falling robot aside with his own body.

In the meantime, the Mind Bender has fled for the hills...well, a catwalk actually, high above the action. Rick flies up in pursuit, thinking "with [the Mind-Bender's] uncanny mental power, he's potentially the greatest menace on Earth," which may be overstating things a bit. But hey, he's the superhero, I suppose he knows best.

Anyway, once Rick has caught up with the Mind-Bender, MB makes a frank assessment of his failings:

...only to be followed by an admission of personal flaws by Rick during the ensuing fight:

The conflict concludes with Rick delivering a haymaker to MB's jaw, in a panel that contains no end of delights, from Rick's witty bon mot, to that fine sound effect, and even to that grunt of "ARGF!"

I want everyone reading this right now to say "ARGF!" out loud, just to hear it. "ARGF!" Rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

So the Mind-Bender is seemingly defeated, and just as Rick is about to wrap up this little adventure, MB leaps to his feet and pushes Rick (you know, the flying hero) off the catwalk! This gives Rick a chance to again berate himself for his failings:

However, he shortly recovers and flies back up to the catwalk to give the Mind-Bender a little more what-for. He hovers just off to the side of the catwalk, throwing some punches, while MB tries to return a few hits of his own. Unfortunately, MB leans just a little too far off the catwalk and loses his balance. "I can't reach him!" shouts Rick from about two feet away, and the Mind-Bender goes to his dignified end:

Meanwhile, the lab's in flames, and it's up to Crunch to save Cindy and himself from the fire...Crunch grabs one of the Mind-Bender's robots and smashes it through a wall, making an escape route for all three Sentinels. The group has some final words regarding their fallen foe:

Cindy: "That poor man! He was a genius!"

Rick: "A twisted genius, Cindy! If he had survived...well, perhaps civilization wouldn't have!"

Again, Rick perhaps overstates the case a little, probably to justify the fact that he essentially let a man fall to his doom.

We leave the Sentinels with this last panel, as Crunch is paid back for his rescue of Cindy by being totally treated like a third wheel. Admire the man's lantern-jaw and spit-curl while you puzzle over his dialogue:

Plus, I'm not entirely sure what Cindy did to get herself exhausted, but there you go.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Really, the best part of last night's new episode of Justice League Unlimited was the voice-work of fellow Oxnard native
Jeffrey Combs as Steve Ditko's The Question. Given Combs' history of playing characters that seem to think they know what they're doing, but very clearly have a screw loose somewhere (see also the Reanimator films, From Beyond, various roles on assorted Star Trek shows), he really added a layer of peculiarity to The Question, who was portrayed as being a little more obsessive and off-kilter than in any of The Question comics I've seen. In fact, there seemed to be just a tiny pinch of Moore and Gibbon's Rorschach, which has the nice touch of a derivative character feeding back into its inspiration.

At any rate, this episode, with its conspiracies (or "conspiracy," as the Question says), seeming betrayals, and its portrayal of the Question himself, must be pretty heady stuff for any 8-year-olds tuning in right after last night's Teen Titans cartoon.

Now that we've seen the Question, we're perhaps one step closer to getting a Mr. A cartoon: "Mommy, mommy, the man in the cartoon said that reality is independent of our beliefs...what does that mean?"

Other observations from the cartoon: I think we just saw the animated origin for Power Girl (given the Supergirl clone's attitute and "cleavage ahoy!" costume). Also, I believe I spotted a Wildcat cameo, which should make you-know-who happy.

In other news:

So, all those articles popping up lately about Jim Caviezel playing Superman in the new movie (here's a representative sample)...is Mark Millar pretty much the only source for this rumor? Well, at the very least, Millar knows how to get people talking about him...including me, I suppose.

In response to someone in the comments section of my previous post -- I don't have a cover scan for Marvel Comics' Life of Pope John Paul II immediately available, but you can find images of varying quality on eBay.

And go enter Johanna's Fallen Angel contest, gosh darn it. Don't make me tell you again.

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