mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, October 16, 2004

I hear tell from a little bird that it's
AiT/Planetlar head honcho Larry Young's birthday today...so to help him celebrate the big 8-7*, let's dip back into that long-neglected box of review copies Big Larry sent me way back when and take a look at a book Larry himself wrote: True Facts: Comics' Righteous Anger.

Well, it would be kind of a crummy birthday present if I didn't like this book, so I'm glad to say that I enjoyed it a great deal. It's a collection of columns Larry wrote for the now defunct Savant website describing, in great detail, just what it takes to get a comic book published and put into the hands of potential readers. The volume is a slim 120 pages, but don't let that fool you -- it's stuffed with lots of good information for the aspiring comics creator/publisher. It's written in a casual and friendly tone...this isn't Mr. Young shoving numbers and addresses and instructions at you. This is Larry writing you a letter, telling you about his day, his friends, and, oh, yeah, how to decide on a printer for your comic, how to promote your material and yourself, how to run your business like a business, and so on. Also, it's not just hard numbers being discussed, but mindsets as well, particularly the kind of singleminded dedication you need to work in comics.

The information comes in a variety of forms, from straightforward instructions on how to put together and distribute a press release, from a San Diego panel interview, from an observation of a person in a bunny costume at a wedding (yes, that does have something to do with comics), and from his own days working at a comic store. All these methods of delivery keep your interest, and though some may not have an explicit connection to the main theme of getting your comic book published, some of Larry's stories (particularly the one about the person trying to sell his "valuable" comic book collection) go a long way to giving hopeful self-publishers a sense of perspective regarding their work and the industry they're in.

The columns originally date from 2000, so for this 2002 edition Larry thoughtfully adds updates when necessary, sometimes correcting some outdated information, or occasionally just adding a tad more discussion borne of an extra couple years of hindsight.

This is a nicely done book, and a valuable resource to anyone thinking about entering the industry. I would even recommend it to comic fans who have no intention of publishing their own books, because 1) who knows, maybe it'll spark some interest, and 2) maybe it'll give them a little more empathy towards the people who actually have to work to provide them with a little entertainment. Anyway, file this with Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics, as well as Will Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art...it's a nice supplement to the material presented in those highly-regarded volumes.

My only real quibble...please, no more use of the term "cha-cha" -- Dennis Miller has ruined it for everybody!

In other news:

Smallville's latest episode says "so long" to Lois, at least for the time being, and puts an end to the Lex/Clark rift, also for the time being. About the latter...that's too bad, because as the story was working out, it seemed very much to me that Lex's eventual enmity with Superman would have its roots in Clark treating Lex like absolute crap. I suppose that would be going a little too far off model, even for the producers of Smallville. The less said about this week's adversaries (cheerleaders with mind-control Kryptonite punch? Wha--?) the better, though I did like Lois' confused reaction to Clark's reference to "meteor rock." Really, it's the appealing cast that make this show fun to watch...goodness knows it's not plots like this episode's.

Pal Ian discusses Howard Chaykin's Scorpion. I really liked most Atlas Comics...yes, even Morlock 2001.

The Shatner totally name-checks the city of Ventura in "That's Me Trying," a track off his new album Has Been (listen for free here). Therefore, for no more reason than that, I hereby dub the Shatner an honorary member of the Associated Comics And Pop Culture Webloggers of Ventura County, CA And Outlying Environs**, with all rights and privileges thereof.

* Please don't kill me, Larry.

** As always, IDIC for short.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Movie Poop Shoot (found via Johanna):
I was lucky in that my mother bought me a steady diet of Claremont/Byrne X-MEN and MARVEL TEAM-UP. I wasn't stuck reading SHAZAM reprints from the 40s.

What stinks about being sick is that I suddenly have more time to read, but I'm not able to easily concentrate on what it is I'm reading, which makes things a little difficult. So, of course, both the new issues of The Comics Journal and Alter Ego come out. I'm feeling a little better now, but there was no way I was going to be able to read these last night. Oy. TCJ contains a series of articles about Cerebus and its creator, Dave Sim, plus an interview with Ed Brubaker and reprints from George Carlson's Jingle Jangle Tales. I own a handful of Jingle Jangle Tales, and they're all demented and brilliant...if you've not seen this comic before, you have to take a peek at the new TCJ. Anyway, this new issue looks interesting, but I haven't been able to do more than just skim it, unfortunately.

The new Alter Ego has more stuff about Frankenstein's Monster in comic books than you'd ever want to see, ever...it does has a short Frankie-focused interview with Bernie Wrightson, plus a look at a comic I haven't read enough of, Dick Briefer's version of Frankenstein. This issue includes 25 daily strips by Briefer for a proposed Frankenstein daily, and they're really something else.

Other new arrivals (possible SPOILERS):

Mad Magazine #447 - Sergio Aragones brings us "A Mad Look at Politicians," which is great, as Aragones always is. The mag also includes a pull-out Alfred E. Neuman for President poster. Look for the Mort Drucker George W. Bush as the Cat in The Hat cover.

Punisher #12 - okay, okay, the story's finally over, for all you people who got tired of it. I enjoyed it, myself. Sometimes I need a little morally-abhorrent mayhem in my comics reading, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Astro City - A Visitor's Guide - eek, $5.95? But there's a lot of material packed into this comic...lots of text pages that I'll have to read later when I'm not so sick, a short comic by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, and Ben Oliver) and an extensive gallery of Astro City's inhabitants by a variety of artists (including Howard Chaykin, Kelley Jones, Dave Gibbons, and Bruce Timm). I think you'll get your money's worth out of this funnybook.

Fallen Angel #16 - good as usual, and equally good is the news that
Fallen Angel sales have bumped up a bit, with the possibility of a second collection. The promo comic helped, but I'd like to think a little online word-of-mouth (via comics weblogs and elsewhere) helped a bit, too.

Action Comics #820 - I read Superman comics, so you don't have to...the art on this issue by Carlos D'Anda is nicely done, reminding me a bit of Art Adams (appropriate, given Adams' work on the covers lately). But, really, the story didn't really do anything for me...the villain's M.O. seemed different from what I remembered, and the sudden focus on the guest-hero near the end of the book was admittedly interesting, but out of nowhere and out of place, I think.

Also: JSA #66 (a happy ending all around, I guess, as one of the "mistakes" of Zero Hour is corrected), Fables #30 (Snow White finally gives birth, and the winner of the Fabletown election discovers the cloud in his silver lining...very amusing issue), Ex Machina #5 (really, you need to be reading this comic), Challengers of The Unknown #5 (there's nothing quite like a Howard Chaykin comic), and Tom Strong #29 (it's an "everything you know is wrong" story, but at least for once there's no pretense at trying to fool the reader that really everything we know is wrong).

Other arrivals: the SPX 2004 Anthology (the War issue, which has an alarming cover by Steve Lieber, featuring a tank rolling over the remains of comic characters, Charlie Brown's shirt fluttering on the barrel), Secret War #3 (just took a brief glace through it...is it really half "S.H.I.E.L.D." files?), and X-Force #3 (...I'm just still amazed this is actually happening).

We also received our incentive packs for our orders on the Dreadstar reprint volumes. Fortunately, we were going to order quite a few of the Dreadstar books anyway, so it's not like we had to bump up our orders a lot to reach the incentive plateaus (like we had to on that most recent issue of Wolverine in order to get the variant...which arrived this week, finally). And it's a good thing we didn't, because we would have been pissed...included in the packs were four copies of the Battle of the Planets paperbacks that reprinted the Gold Key comic book series. You remember, the books that featured such terrible black and white reproductions of the comics that the publisher had to take returns on them? This is apparently how the publisher is getting rid of them again. Well, crud.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Due to illness, I'm not going to be doing my usual new-comics-Wednesday round-up...I'm shooting for tomorrow. However, so you don't leave empty-handed, here are some unusual internet search referrals that I've received over the last week or so:

kryp+tuck - You have no idea how many searches I got for this.

funny+spiderman+dancing+on+street+corner - Uh, what?

Reasons+to+visit+Saturn - Why, to get away from the funny Spider-Man dancing on a street corner, of course.

explain+superman+209 - No one can explain.

progressive+ruin+chalk+swamp - It just amuses me that someone who wasn't me was looking for this. God bless that person.

print+runs+for+marvel+masterworks - Actually, I'm kind of interested in that, myself.

ruin+marvel - I can only take partial credit for ruining Marvel, thank you.

I've+got+a+handful+of+vertebrae+and+a+headful+of+mad - Someone's looking for the
Doom comic, I betcha.

femforce+slash - Sigh.

necronomicon+warning+in+front+cover - "WARNING: Not a real historical volume. Created only to part gullible people from their money."

Green+Lantern+181+Spoilers - SPOILER WARNING: It stinks.

green+lantern+racial+sensitivity - "I been readin' about you...how you work for the blue skins...and how on a planet someplace you helped out the orange skins...and you done considerable for the purple skins! Only there's skins you never bothered with --! ...The black skins! I want to know...how come? Answer me that, Mr. Green Lantern!" - from Green Lantern #76 (April 1970) by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams

werewolves+nazis - ...Make for great comics.

hitler+logo - I really should stop mentioning Hitler in my weblog. I don't even like the guy.

monsieur+mallah+loves+the+brain - Yes...yes he does.

Comics+Slave - Aren't we all?

vixen+comic+fabio - I'm sure there's an explanation...but keep it to yourself.

killed+sue+dibny - No I didn't!

And because some of you are dirty, dirty people:

bubble+gum+fetish - I wish I could say this surprises me, but alas, it doesn't.

animated+toplessness - Because static toplessness is so boring.

erotic+elfquest - Isn't that redundant?

naked+adrienne+barbeau - At last, a nekkid web search I can get behind.

betty+and+veronica+nude - Ah, the eternal quest continues....

kerry+washington+goes+topless & erica+durance+topless & Erica+Durance+nude+pictures - Pretty much any time you mention any actress or female athlete on your webpage, you're gonna get hits from people looking for nekkid pictures of them. So, let's run a test: Carole Lombard Carole Lombard Carole Lombard

jessica+alba+latest+pictures+with+blond+hair - Oh, God, not this again.

Charlton Comics and the art of subtlety. 

Ghost Manor #33 (Sept. 1977)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

1. Congratulations to
The Comic Treadmill for reaching the one year mark. H and Mag are a couple of swell cats, in my own unbiased opinion.

2. Oh, for God's sake, does nothing go right for Walt Wallet?

3. Just added View from The Cheap Seats and Irresponsible Pictures to the weblogroll. I've also made other adjustments to the 'roll over the last week or so, but was too lazy to note them at the time.

4. Pal Andy has been posting a lot of comic-related links lately...instead of stealing them for my own, like I usually do, I suggest you check them out for your own self.

From the NEWSFLASHES column in Amazing Heroes #68 (April 1, 1985):
Marvel Comics will be combating the problem [of the increase of costs in printing a 32-page comic] by converting all of its existing titles into a 100-page format. Retailing for $2.95, these new comics will bear the headline 'SPECIAL GREAT BIG COMIC - MORE FOR YOUR MONEY!' across the top of each cover. The story content in each issue will total 85 pages, with 12 pages of ads and a 6-page letters column.*

...CHRIS CLAREMONT will be in charge of The X-Men Super Giant Big Book, which will include a regular 30-page X-Men series drawn by JOHN ROMITA, Jr. and DAN GREEN, a 25-page New Mutants series drawn by FRANK ROBBINS, and rotating series of features starring other mutants.

DC Comics' reaction?
What DC will be doing instead is cutting down its comic books to 16 pages - 'like Cerebus, just a step further.' Ads will be cut down to 4 pages, leaving 14 pages of story per issue.** Letters pages will be confined to the inside front cover, a la First Comics.

...'Let's face it,' DICK GIORDANO said, 'it's already tough enough fitting, say, the Legion of Super-Heroes into one 25-page story.' As a result, all teams will be cut down to three members.

...Justice League of America will reduce its membership to Vibe and Vixen, according to readership polls the favorite members of the audience. GERRY CONWAY will continue to write, and MIKE SEKOWSKY will draw.

It was meant as a joke at the time, but nearly 20 years on, do either of these options sound terribly farfetched? I think the estimate on the number of ad pages is a bit low...I think we'd be looking at about a 50/50 ratio of ads to story, just to keep the costs down on a 100-page monthly comic. And
pal Dorian mentioned to me that Warren Ellis had suggested some kind of 16 page weekly comic in place of the 32-page monthlies. (I hadn't read Ellis' comments on that, so forgive me if I have the details wrong.)

Well, at our store, people are still buying the regular monthlies like they're going out of st...er, like they're hotcakes, but with the increase in popularity of the trade paperback sales model (particularly in manga), monthly books may have to evolve in order to continue competing in venues aside from the comic book store niche market.

Just a thought...I don't think the 32-page format is going away anytime soon, but there will come a point when its price point will become too high for even the most ardent comics fan. What will happen then, I wonder?
* Yes, I know that adds up to 103 pages.

** See? Still funny!

Monday, October 11, 2004

So as I was digging through some boxes in the store's back room, I was surprised to find this little underground comix motherlode hidden away:

That's four copies each of Big Ass Comics #1 and #2 by Robert Crumb, and twelve copies of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers #2. I seem to vaguely remember receiving these in a collection a while back, but I think we were in the process of dealing with yet another much larger collection of undergrounds at the same time (as in several hundred of them), and this lot just sorta got lost in the shuffle. Anyway, they're rescued now, and thus I must begin preparing them for sale...which means figuring out which printing each comic is.

Now, several underground comix went back to press several times to meet demand, and with the exception of Kitchen Sink Press (which was fairly consistent in indicating what printing number each comic was up to) most publishers didn't make it easy to determine printings. Of course, it wasn't the publishers' concern, really...all they were trying to do is reprint enough copies of, say, Mother's Oats #1, to fill orders. They certainly didn't expect that 25 years later, some poor schlub like me was going to be carefully placing these in plastic baggies for back issue sales...they probably thought the comix would end up being tossed out, used as coasters, used as ashtrays for (ahem) "cigarettes," or whatever.

The only near-complete reference guide to undergrounds is The Official Underground And New Wave Comix Price Guide by Jay Kennedy...which was published 22 years ago, so obviously the pricing information is out of date. However, the publishing information is very detailed, and thoroughly explains the differences between printings.

In a lot of cases, the only way to tell the difference between printings is certain visual clues. A first edition may have a coloring error on the cover that the second printing does not, maybe a mailing address has changed between printings, maybe there's an art correction inside the comic, and in some cases it even comes down to the thickness of the paper stock used for the covers! However, since the Underground Price Guide only had the one edition, any errors that appeared in that first edition have remained uncorrected. In particular, we've come across several variations of Freak Brothers that are unmentioned in the Guide.

A great site that's been doing a lot of work toward straightening out underground comix' publishing history, and correcting errors in the Guide, is
Ugcomix.info, which is attempting to assemble a visual record of every variation of every printing of every UG...you might even see a scan or two I contributed, if you look around long enough.

There have been other price guides over the last few years that made half-hearted attempts at listing undergrounds...but in most cases not enough information was given in telling the various printings apart, and therefore unusable except in conjunction with the Underground Price Guide. Years ago, word on the street was that Kennedy was preparing a revised edition of his Guide, but unfortunately it has yet to appear.

In other news:

Mark Evanier's post about Christopher Reeve affected me the most. Very, very sad. Most of my fellow comics webloggers have some nice words about Mr. Reeve as well.

For some reason, I keep getting credit on various sites (this one's the latest I've found) for finding that Justice League of America panel with Batman thinking "Robin, what have I done to you?" Wasn't me...I'm not sure who first posted it, but it's never appeared on site (beyond my linking to it elsewhere).

Sunday, October 10, 2004

I'm a little under the weather today, so I'll just post a couple quickies here:

Laura's been linking to me on a fairly regular basis, and I haven't said "thank you." So, thanks, Laura! One of Laura's ongoing features is to post an Aquaman sketch (or, at least, an aquatically-themed sketch) every Saturday that she's acquired from pro cartoonists. Here's the latest, and I suggest going back through the archives to see more...lots of good stuff!


The contents for the next issue of The Comics Journal are up on the official site. (Read Dirk Deppey's essay on Marvel.)


My ballot-box-stuffing sense is tingling, what with the sudden increase in votes for Yoko Ono in the Comic Treadmill's latest poll. Surely the people know that a vote for the Associated Comics And Pop Culture Webloggers of Ventura County, CA And Outlying Environs* is a vote for freedom and prosperity?


Real content tomorrow, I promise!

* As always, S.H.I.E.L.D. for short.

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