mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Sometimes Batman accepted trophies just to be polite. 

from Detective Comics #279 (May 1960) - art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

Friday, November 19, 2004

So I've been writing an awful lot on this website lately, and I realize that's a lot of huge chunks of text for you all to wade through. If you do willingly inflict my disjointed ramblings upon yourself, you have my appreciation.

Don't worry...I'll have another funny comic panel tomorrow to break up the monotony!

In other news:

Pete Von Sholly revives the John Stanley classic Melvin Monster with a full 32-page web-only comic book!
Here's the link to the press release, and from there you can read the whole darn thing. Fun stuff!

Peter David reprints an old "But I Digress" column in which he discusses writing movie novelizations. One of the books discussed: his rather liberal (and highly recommended by yours truly) adaptation of Return of the Swamp Thing.

Holy frijole - H kicks ass and takes names with his look at the Comic Buyers Guide Top 1,600 Comics list. Our store's copies showed up today, and...hoo boy, H earned his merit badges if he waded through that whole thing. (Am I right in that there was no mention of Love & Rockets in that list? Wha-HUH?)

I have here in front of me a photocopied preview of the forthcoming
AiT/Planetlar release Proof of Concept. It's an anthology of short science fiction and/or fantasy/horror stories, all written by publisher Larry Young, and illustrated by several different artists. The stories run from the amusing (kids find a spatial anomaly in their backyard) to the compelling (a crew of time-travelers must pursue their insane former captain through time and space) to the downright bizarre (a future world populated entirely by clones of Abraham Lincoln). There are a variety of art styles at work here, ranging from Steven Sanders and Jeff Johns' cartoony style in "Zombie Dinosaur," to the rough-hewn, but still appealing, art of Paul Tucker in "The Camera." All the artists are nicely matched to the mixture of tones Young presents in his stories.

Aside from being a collection of entertaining stories, Proof of Concept has an additional purpose: showing just how to sell a story to a reader and/or publisher. Don't just go on and on describing every nuance of your new, terrific, and completely original idea: give us a hook, like, say, "zombie dinosaurs!" There you go; what's more high concept than that? However, instead of explaining how to sell your idea (as Young had done previously in the excellent True Facts), he shows you, complete with interstitial sequences (illustrated by Kieron Dwyer) featuring Young pitching his various ideas to a friend over the phone. Each discussion begins with Young setting out the hook ("Anne Rice meets The Fugitive"), spends the next couple of panels adding details to the hook, and then following up the interstitial with the hook in action as one of the anthology's stories. It's a clever gimmick, and drives home the importance of having a direction to your story...all the pretty art and clever dialogue in the world can't save your script unless there's a strong idea at the core.

My only minor complaint about the book is that the stories are mostly just excerpts from longer works...once you really get into the story, it abruptly ends and goes on to the next. (The only story that appears in its entirety is "The Bod," a previously-published work by Young and John Heebink.) It's a whole lot of set-ups, and not a whole lot of payoffs. Ultimately, though, that really doesn't count as a complaint, since it supports Young's point that stories with a strong (or, at the very least, catchy) ideas will grab your attention and not let go. As it is, this is still one heck of a sampler book, and I wouldn't mind seeing any of these stories in a fuller format. It's entertaining and it's educational, and a must-read for any aspiring writers, particularly those interested in the adventure genre. Keep an eye out for it in December.

EDIT: Pal Dorian has his own review...we're twinsies!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

New comics day. Again. 

(SPOILERS, as per usual. Don't blame me, buddy!)

Let's get it out of the way...Space Ghost #1 came out yesterday, and it's selling reasonably well for us thus far. I imagine I'll probably have to put in a reorder before too long (assuming reorders are available, of course).

As for the quality of the book...well, you can take a vacuum to the desert, and you can vacuum for hours and hours and hours, and when you're done you'll still have a desert.* That's sorta like this Space Ghost comic...you can dump as much "serious" content into this comic as you'd like, but you're still gonna end up with freakin' Space Ghost. Say, Space Ghost has a pregnant wife? I'm sure nothing's going to happen to her!

That said...it's not a bad-looking comic. It's one of those rare instances of fully-painted superhero comic art actually looking like cartooning, and not like a long series of photo references. The art, by Ariel Olivetti, has a goofy charm that's totally in contrast to the story's events. And I also want to note the unusual shade of blue at the bottom of front cover...looking at a scan of it online doesn't do it justice. It's a painfully...neon? electric? shade of blue that you need to see in person...very eyecatching.

If you're looking for a version of Space Ghost that's slightly more serious than the one that's on Cartoon Network, but not quite as "grim 'n' gritty" as this new version, find yourself a copy of the 1987 Space Ghost one-shot from Comico. It's just as serious as it needs to be (i.e. as serious as the original cartoons were) and it's chock full of Steve Rude goodness.

Other new funnybook arrivals:

Adventures of Superman #634 - absolutely fantastic. Last week, when we got our preview copy of this issue, pal Dorian showed me the cover, and pointed out the very subtle (and slightly disturbing) hidden images. I may never had noticed if he hadn't drawn my attention to it. The interior is a lot of fun, too, as Mr. Mxyzptlk gets mixed up in a battle between Superman and the Parasite Twins. As a result, Mxy ends up in the "real world," interacting with DC Comics' staff in some of the clearest photos I've ever seen used in a comic book story...we've come a long way from those grainy black and white photos that used to pop up in the Bullpen Bulletins every once in a while. Also appreciated is the much more sympathetic portrayal of Mxy, as opposed to the evil little S.O.B. he was following the mid-80s Superman revamp.

Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #4 - did anyone else think this issue read really fast? I got to the end of the comic and thought, "wait, is that it?"

Ex Machina #6 - there's a discussion between a couple subway workers near the end of the book that made me blush, and I'm someone who has to hear discussions about gay porn on a fairly regular basis. So, fellow retailers...for God's sake, don't sell this to kids! Well, otherwise, another fine issue...I find myself really enjoying the flashback sequences that take place during Mayor Hundred's career as a superhero...they have a "real" world Astro City-esque feel. A

JLA #108 - anyone disappointed that the first issue of Kurt Busiek's run didn't feature enough of the Crime Syndicate will be happy with this issue, which has the Syndicate almost to the exclusion of anything else. Well, there are some Qwardians in there, too...I wonder if this is a nod to DC's brief attempt at retconning the original Crime Syndicate into Qwardians a few years back. Anyone else remember that? I seem to recall a giant Phil Jimenez drawing of all the Justice League villains that had those big Qwardian bug-eyes badly edited onto the faces of the Syndicate members.

Fantastic Four #520 - I love the FF, but aside from Stan 'n' Jack, and a couple other people since then, the book is rarely done well. I have been enjoying Mark Waid's run on the title, and this issue had a good laugh out loud line (regarding Reed's fear that Johnny may try Galactus' patience)...it's a shame that Waid's leaving the book after this storyline, especially given the big brouhaha when he and Wieringo were temporarily forced off the book a while back.

Cosmic Guard #4 - I've given up on this comic. I normally enjoy Jim Starlin's work, but I think my patience has officially run out on this particular title. It's not bad work** by any means, but I don't think I need to see yet another variation on the "kid gets superpowers he's not ready for" storyline. The cosmic stuff from the first issue hasn't made a reappearance, and the "hero corrupted by power" theme is currently being done better in Firestorm.

Green Lantern Rebirth #1 2nd printing - this cover, featuring Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, was probably the one they should have used in place of the Hal as the Spectre cover on the first printing. Oh, and we were shorted half our order on these for some reason.

Identity Crisis #1 3rd printing - just wanted to mention that this came out as well, in case anyone still needs a copy.

Plastic Man On The Lam trade paperback - it's formatted like that Chip Kidd-designed Plastic Man book from a few years ago...you know, with the cover slightly larger than the pages inside. Oh, and hold your nose if you take it out of the plastic sleeve...the book is quite pungent. Hoo boy. Good comics, though.

In other news:

Those of you who bought the first two volumes of The Complete Peanuts as they came out, and were a little miffed that a slipcased set was released...the slipcase is now available for order from Diamond, separate from the books. It's only $4.95, so start nagging your retailer today!

Commenter Anonymous points back to that Love Is eBay auction I mentioned the other day...it ended at $274.99. Let me repeat that...$274.99.

* Why, yes, I am master of the analogy. Why do you ask?

** Your mileage may vary, depending on your Starlin tolerance levels.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Kangaroo Jack: G'Day U.S.A.! 

I'll probably have my usual "new comics day" post tomorrow morning, but I had to point this out to you...probably the most terrifying ad to run in Marvel Comics publications this month:

"Jackie Legs is hip-hoppin' his way to the U.S.A.!" it says, and who am I to deny it? Also, one of the DVD bonuses is the We Keep It Jumpin' rap, so you know this is a quality package.

I do go on a bit, don't I? 

1. Okay, fine, I wasn't going to say anything more about the new DC solicitations, but I should say at least 1) "woo-hoo, Skizz!" and 2) this may be the single geekiest assortment of action figures I've seen in my entire life...and thus, I am tempted by all of them.

2. I also received DC's list of forthcoming collections at the store yesterday (Christopher lists them all here). The Superman Vs. The Flash book sounds like fun...I actually have all the comics reprinted therein, but it'll be nice to have them on better (well, marginally better) paper than the originals. These themed Silver and "Bronze" age reprints are always enjoyable, and I hope DC keeps it up.

3. Just so you don't get the wrong idea, I want to emphasize that I dislike the term "Bronze Age." It just seems so transparent a method to make a bunch of lousy 1970s comics seem like they should be worth a lot more than they are. "Hey, this is a 1976 issue of The Joker" just isn't as marketable as "Hey, this is a Bronze Age issue of The Joker!" I have yet to use the term "Bronze Age" in our store for any reason (other than to cast aspersions on it). Feh, I say.

4. Oh, and speaking of DC's forthcoming books, I want everyone to buy that Batman Chronicles book, the one that's reprinting every Batman story in chronological order, so that maybe DC will do the same with Superman (which is what I really want). Not that I have anything against Batman Chronicles...but I won't really be interested in that series until they get to the "Batman's Time Travel Crimes on Venus"-era of stories.

4a. What I wouldn't give to see a Batman story like this in today's comics. Hey, that could be the next big Batman Family crossover..."Batman's Space Olympics!" Finally, a Batman crossover I'd actually be interested in!

5. Ever since I started this weblog, I've had friends (and two or three complete strangers) ask me to do a post about Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106, the infamous "I Am Curious (Black)" story. It is one of my favorite comics in my collection (the best example you'll probably ever find of "um...I'm sure they meant well"), but it's been covered several times by various sites and I'm not sure what else I can add to the discussion. However, every few months someone new rediscovers this particular funnybook and holds it up for some well-deserved ridicule...the latest being Millionaire Playboy with its nicely-done overview. (via Neilalien, among others)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Commenter Bob was good enough to put up nice big and clean images of the "hidden images" from Cerebus I was talking about yesterday. You can find links to them in that very comment of his I linked to...they are fairly sizable, and to save him a little bandwidth I decided to post much smaller versions of the same images here so you can at least get an idea of what I was talking about:

I should also note that commenter Sean had that first image up on his office wall. I can only imagine what his non-comic fan coworkers thought of that!

Anyway, I'm sure the Promethea version of this same gimmick will be something to behold, given the usual excellent artistic standards of that funnybook. Mostly, my mind is just boggled that they managed to corral Alan Moore into actually signing copies of the limited variant edition...I don't even think he signed that long-ago Graphitti Designs Watchmen hardcover, did he?

(Speaking of which, my research into the Watchmen hardcover matter turned up an interesting winner for said item on eBay....lucky guy!)

"Love is...when your e-mail turns to hot-mail." 

"What I have here is my collection of 'Love Is...' newspaper clippings from the Chicago Sun-Times
There are a total of 342
I have been collecting them for many years and I have no use for them anymore"

Good Lord. Featured in the auction description is a listing of all included Love Is strips, complete with publication dates.

Monday, November 15, 2004

From the Promethea #32 variant edition information in the
newest DC solicitations:

"...The posters reveal two hidden images from the book that are only visible in poster format - something completely new to comics!"

...But didn't Dave Sim do something similar in those "Mind Games" issues of Cerebus?

Milo, you scamp!)

Special thanks to everyone for participating in this little survey of mine. Like I'd said previously, this wasn't a popularity contest or anything, so there are no winners as such. However, I did want to say a few words about some of the titles that did seem to pop up with some frequency:

JSA - I'm about to say something that is apparently self-contradictory, but bear with me: JSA is one of my favorite comic books, and it's exactly the kind of comic book we don't need more of.

Now I'm a long-time comics fan...specifically, I'm a long-time DC Comics fan, so I'm fully mired in the company's convoluted fictional history. A comic like JSA is in effect a celebration of that history, playing with the pieces that are still left after continuity-changing events such as Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour. However, this heavy dependence on continuity means that it's aimed primarily at people like me...people who have read more comic books than is probably healthy, and not at anyone new to reading comics. Again, that's fine within moderation...companies like Marvel and DC need to publish books like this that cater to their fans and keeps them happy, so long as the majority of their other comics are more accessible to newer readers. (Whether the other comics are accessible is another argument entirely.)

Y The Last Man - alas, I don't buy this title, as it started at a time when I was desperately avoiding picking up any new series for fear of getting hooked on yet another comic book. However, I do flip through each issue as it arrives at the store (a good sign that I should probably be buying it...I was like this with Astro City before I finally broke down and added it to my purchases). It's an addicting title, hooking readers with the mystery of just why the Last Man on Earth did in fact survive whatever it was that killed all the other men. Given that the series does have a definite direction and a catchy "hook," and the promise that this series will have a definite ending sooner rather than later, and that it's supported by a trade paperback program -- all these factors have contributed to this series' success. (Other DC/Vertigo titles also benefit from these factors, such as Fables and 100 Bullets.)

Ex Machina - this is the first non-Warren Ellis breakout title from Wildstorm in a while, and it came as a real surprise to me that it sold as well as it did at our store. It came as even more of a surprise that I ended up buying it as well, spurred on by the interesting premise (a former "superhero" trying to live down that past while trying to function as the mayor of New York City) and a knock-out of a last page in the first issue.

The series continues to pick up readers as each issue is released...issues 2 through the current issue are all still available from Diamond for reorder, though I wish DC would go back to press on the first issue. The trade paperback isn't due for a while, and I'd certainly be able to recommend this comic to more customers if I could get them started with the beginning of the story.

Ultimate Spider-Man - for over a decade, the only Batman comics I read (aside from the occasional Elseworlds special and a handful of issues of Legends of the Dark Knight) were the comics based on the various animated series. In general, these comics were consistently well-done, attractively drawn, competently written, and for the most part, self-contained, without heavy reliance on Batman's extensive history or without being tied into yet another interminable crossover. I think this, in a way, explains the appeal of Ultimate Spider-Man. I think a lot of people do like Spider-Man, but don't want to read the regular titles due to the perceived high entry cost (knowledge of past history, crossovers, etc.). In fact, if I'm remembering correctly, in the nearly 70 issues of this series, there's only been one storyline that explicitly crossed over with another comic (Ultimate X-Men). I do have some quibbles with the series, mostly in the apparent padding out of storylines for eventual paperback reprinting, but those paperbacks also add to this title's success, so who am I to complain?

Other titles that turned up in my survey with some frequency include Planetary (probably Warren Ellis' most superhero fan-friendly series), WE3 (I didn't think people would suggest mini-series, but it's hard to argue with this particular comic), Gotham Central (a Batman title that approaches the franchise from an unusual angle, via Gotham City's police force), Astonishing X-Men (sort of Marvel's JSA, playing with X-Men history and clearly aimed at X-fans), Conan (just when I thought that Conan the Barbarian's time in comics was done, Dark Horse goes and makes it a hit title), and I have to salute the bravery of people who cited Identity Crisis.

Again, I'd like to thank you all for contributing to my informal survey...if any of you still want to add to the list, please feel free...I'll keep checking in and seeing what you have to say.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Don't worry, I'm only going to nag you about this once more...if you haven't told me what your ONE favorite currently-published comic book is, please let me know
here. I'll be discussing the results on Monday. (I used the word "tally" in a previous post, and that's a little strong...it's not a contest or anything, I'm just curious as to what titles most of you are enjoying.) I also know only a small portion of my daily visitors have left comments so far*...if you haven't yet, please do! At the very least, I'd like to get that comments section up to 100, just for the fun of it.

In other news:

1. After all the shenanigans on the most recent episode of Smallville have been played out, the conclusion Clark comes to at the end of the episode (and the conclusion the viewer is apparently supposed to draw as well) is that "magic is real, and it can hurt [him]." However, all evidence in the episode suggests that the supposed "witchcraft" is in fact Kryptonian technology...given that the spellbook is embedded with Kryptonian symbols and all.** I suppose we can assume that Clark just didn't know any better (though one would think that all the talk about the witches wanting the Kryptonian "power stones," and all of them ending up in the caves with the Kryptonian symbols on the wall, would have been giveaways), but it appears that the intent of the episode was to show that Clark has a vunerability aside from Kryptonite...thus establishing that "magic" is a totally separate force that can affect him. Despite this apparent intention, all this episode really does is show that he can be manipulated by Krypton-tech, something already shown in several previous episodes.

But, hey, it was nice to see Erica Durance back as Lois...she's a fun charcter, bringing a little edge to Clark's female relationships in the show (which had primarily been people making weepy doe-eyes at each other).

2. Have you looked at Fred Hembeck's links page? Holy crow.

3. I should have pointed to Yet Another Comics Blog's regular Sunday monkey-cover comics post prior to this, because doing it now just makes me look self-serving. But, really, you should check it out every Sunday...everyone loves monkey covers!

4. In much sadder news, Mark Evanier has posted an obit for Harry Lampert, the cocreator of the Golden Age Flash.

5. Chris has a nice selection of links regarding comics storage. Given that my own vast Mikester Comics Archives are getting a little out of hand, it's something I've been thinking about lately.

6. Your timely link for the day: Tips and cheats for the Atari 2600 Superman cartridge. Be sure to click on the Map link. (My fastest time on the game without cheating: 42 seconds. With cheating: 2 seconds. Yes, really.)

* Of course, there's a percentage of my traffic that's primarily people looking for naked pictures of actresses. Looking for porn on the internet...what folly!

** Yes, I know the Arthur C. Clarke quote about magic and technology.

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