mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Friday, November 26, 2004

Avast, ye new funny books! 

Here's a brief round-up of some of last Wednesday's new comic arrivals, some of which I bought, some of which I only looked at long enough to mock (SPOILER WARNING, as usual):

Cholly and Flytrap #1 - this Image mini-series is a reprint of the Arthur Suydam Marvel/Epic series from several years ago...disappointing, as I was hoping for some new Cholly and Flytrap material. To be honest, though, the characters work better in the insanely chaotic shorts that ran in Epic Illustrated rather than in an extended narrative. This story isn't bad, but try to find the Epic graphic novel The Original Adventures of Cholly and Flytrap from 1991, which reprints all the short stories, for the best stuff.

Simpsons Comics #100 - mostly reprints, with some new framing sequences, but just about worth the cover price for two page spread by Sergio Aragones, featuring darn near every Simpsons character in his own inimitable style. Thank God the decision was made to run it in black and white, since 1) that's one less colorist driven insane by the task of coloring Aragones' work, and 2) it makes it look more like it was ripped right out of a Mad Magazine, which I'm sure was the intention.

Too Much Coffee Man Magazine #21 has an interview with Mystery Science Theatre 3000 alumnus Kevin Murphy, if you're interested, and since MST3K was the Greatest TV Show Ever, surely you must be interested.

Frank Ironwine #1 - what's this? A new Warren Ellis comic starring a tough-talking bastard who's constantly showing up the idiots and no-nothing authority figures with his quick wit, and takes no crap from anyone? The devil, you say! ...Oh, don't look at me like that. Ellis excels at this sort of thing, so, yeah, while this protagonist of his may be a bit on the familiar side, Ellis does it so well, you really don't care.

Adam Strange #3 - this is a fine darn series, completely unpretentious and beautifully illustrated, focused only on telling a rollicking space adventure. It reminds me a bit of the old Flash Gordon serials, complete with cliffhangers. Very highly recommended.

Tom Strong's Terrific Tales #12 is apparently the last issue of this anthology series, which is a shame. The opening story, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Peter Bagge, is a shameless parody of Tom Strong...nasty, brutal, and wholly entertaining, and even contains an amusing call-back to Moore and Bagge's previous collaboration in Hate #30. It's too bad Art Adams couldn't provide the art chores on this issue's installment of "Jonni Future" (though he still did the cover), but Chris Weston did a great job filling in.

Green Lantern Rebirth #2 - late 1980s, ahoy, as the process of rolling everything back a decade and a half continues. It very much looks like Hal Jordan's murderous rampage is going to be explained as "well, it wasn't really Hal," or, at the very least, "it wasn't Hal's fault he went insane" - which is probably the only way to bring the character back as the untarnished hero everyone apparently wants. That said, I am enjoying this series, partially for the art, partially because I happen to enjoy Green Lantern comics, but mostly because I'm enjoying the sheer blatantcy of resetting the status quo.

Flash #216 ties into Identity Crisis...apparently we're being set up for the eventual un-reforming for some former Flash villains as a result of this issue. I've always enjoyed the Rogues Gallery, but I fear that making the reformation of some of the rogues be a result of some kind of mental tampering undermines the individuality and uniqueness of this particular group of ne'er-do-wells.

And this isn't a new release, by any means, but I did receive a reorder of Watchmen this week. I reorder copies of this book for the store at least every couple of weeks. This graphic novel is, what, 16 years old now? Absolutely amazing.

Also, I picked up another single HeroClix figure on Wednesday...this time, it was Man-Thing in a nicely-done sculpt. Painted all green and black, with the exception of two red eyes, it's actually quite imposing.

That's it for now...I actually have a few more things to say about The Best of Legion Outpost, but I'm off to the comic shoppe for what could very well be an insanely busy day of work. Normally, our Friday-after-Thanksgiving business isn't extremely overwhelming, since everyone's at the malls, saving their shopping for the small businesses for a little later in the season. But, our store was packed with shoppers all day Wednesday, so we'll see how today goes.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Okay, just a couple more things.... 

Hey, it's Thanksgiving...dinner's not ready yet, I don't watch sports, and I'm bored. Give me a break.

Found via the mighty and real Sam Johnson, a trailer for the CGI short Batman: New Times. It's already better than the Tim Burton movies. And let me add my voice to Mr. Johnson's...it's all about the Adam West.

Thanks to Tom "Comics Reporter" Spurgeon for linking to my silly site today, as part of his appreciation of the beauty that is...Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane. (EDIT: Tom's link was for Thanksgiving only...sorry if you missed it!) In case you couldn't tell from my occasional comic overviews...the Superman family of comics from the '50s through the '70s remain some of my all-time favorites, and any issue of, say, Jimmy Olsen, can give me more joy than any three issues of some modern comics. For pure unadulterated fun, goofiness, and downright peculiarity, they just can't be beat. Anyone who can't appreciate Goody Rickles or "The Leopard Girl of the Jungle" or "The Boy Witch Doctor" simply has no love in his or her heart.

Here's a small selection of Thanksgiving-themed comic covers, courtesy Diamond Comics' Scoop newsletter.

Happy Thanksgiving, where applicable. 

Well, I was going to put up a special Thanksgiving-themed post for today, but I was having a heck of a time finding a cover and/or a panel that I was happy with. (If you must have one, may I suggest this issue of Comic Cavalcade? And wouldn't you think the Flash would be able to catch a turkey?)

However, I checked our store stock, and it turned out that we did have a copy of Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #20, where the story I discussed here originally appeared! As I had noted, a tier of panels was edited out of the reprint, so as your special Thanksgiving treat, I'm reproducing them here. And, as I had figured, it's more slams at the gals, courtesy Clark Kent:

There's a look you don't often see on Clark's face anymore.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and I'll see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

First, thank you to everyone who responded to my query in my previous post, letting me know that the titles on my weblog look fine. Apparently it is just the work computer. Ah, well.

Second, I'll probably be doing my new comics day round-up on Friday, since tomorrow is Thanksgiving and all (though I will still have at least one post tomorrow...tune in, won't you?), but I did want to note a couple new arrivals:

It's Only A Game, Charles M. Schulz's other syndicated comic (created with Jim Sasseville) is now out in a nice volume from Nat Gertler's
About Comics. Very nicely done, and belongs on your shelf right next to Fantagraphics Complete Peanuts and the Li'l Beginnings book.

The Best of The Legion Outpost from TwoMorrows collects articles from the old Legion of Super-Heroes fanzine...as a longtime Legion fan, and a lover of old fanzines, this is right up my alley. Also, there's a drawing of the Legion of Super-Pets (along with Groo's dog Rufferto) by Sergio Aragones hidden within these pages...now you want to see a copy, don't you?

And, yes, I might as well get it over with...pal Dorian was quoted in the newest issue of The Comics Journal. Right there, on page 55, in the "Fighting Words" column. Gosh darn it. But I'm not jealous! No, of course not! Just because he's lording it over me, and probably will be doing so for the forseeable future....

Okay, okay, all kidding aside...I'm glad he got in there. He's a smart guy, and a rational thinker, and I'm glad to see his thoughts get out there to a larger audience. A victory for the ACAPCWOVCCAOE* is a victory for us all**!

* I don't even have to say the name "Associated Comics and Pop Culture Webloggers of Ventura County, CA And Outlying Environs" to myself anymore in order to spell the acronym. How sad is that?

** I realize this last sentence as a whole is really kinda geeky. But then, I am writing a comics weblog, so it's just more sand for the Saraha, you know?

Does this look funny to you? 

Just a couple things this morning:

X. Do the titles on my posts look odd, by any chance? Up there, where it says "Does this look funny to you?" - are the letters smooth, or are they all pixelated? Every time I look at my page on the work computer (er, not that I'm goofing off or anything) the title font isn't drawn correctly, since the font apparently isn't in the work computer's system. Is this a problem with my site common to many of you, or is it just our store's machine? (If it is a widespread problem, I'll just have to change the font to Comic Sans. Everyone loves Comic Sans, right?)

Y. Honestly, I have no idea - Altavista Babel Fish, you have failed me again! - but I love my German friends. I'm particularly intrigued by the phrase "Da kann Mr. Sterling ja gar nicht anders als den Satan mit dem Beelzebub auszutreiben..."

Z. For no good reason whatsoever, here's the track listing on a Christmas mix CD I made a couple years back for in-store play:

1. "Just Call Me Scrooge" - Fishbone
2. "Frosty the Snowman" - Man or Astroman?
3. "Merry Christmas to Me" - Swoon 23
4. "Jingle Bells" - The Honeydippers
5. "Lonely Christmas" - Sloppy Seconds
6. "Santa's Beard" - They Might Be Giants
7. Sound byte: "Prancer and Dancer and Donner and Blitzen and Vixen and Nixon...eh, Nixon? Consarn it, I get those names mixed up...."
8. "Run Rudolf Run" - Mojo Nixon And The Toadliquors
9. "White Christmas" - Elizabeth Elmore
10. "Merry Christmas...If That's Okay" - cast of Mystery Science Theatre 3000
11. "All I Want for Christmas" - Kayla Brown
12. "I Wish That Every Day Was Christmas" - Toothpaste 2000
13. "Hepcats Holiday (Night Before Christmas)" - The Honeydippers
14. "Children Saw Mommy Kissing Yellowman" - Yellowman
15. "Chistmas Wrapping" - The Waitresses
16. "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" - The Ramones
17. "The Christmas Wrong" - The Evolution Control Committee
18. "Santa's Got A Brand New Bag" - Murphy's Law
19. "Li'l Drummer Boy" - The Bomboras
20. Sound byte from Bugs Bunny - "Somebody oughtta teach that little humbug some Christmas spirit!"
21. "Mr. Grinch" - Mojo Nixon And The Toadliquors
22. "O Tannenbaum" - They Might Be Giants
23. "A Patrick Swayze Christmas" - cast of Mystery Science Theatre 3000
24. "Hard Candy Christmas" - Angie Heaton
25. "Silent Night" - Dickies
26. "Christmas at Ground Zero" - "Weird Al" Yankovic
27. "Hooray for Santa Claus (Theme from Santa Claus Conquers The Martians)" - Sloppy Seconds
28. "Christmas Time Is Here (Vocal)" - Vince Guaraldi
29. Sound byte - "Thank you Santa for bringing happiness to the children of Mars" / "And the Christmas spirit to all of us."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

So my headache from this morning has mostly gone away, but I can still feel it lurking in my head somewhere. Boy, that was nasty.

But you don't want to hear about my head...you came here for some comic talk! And awaaaaay we go!

1. Pal Dorian
was talking about how some comics were and weren't selling at our store, and that reminding me of a related topic...my X-Men comic sales theory. It's not 100% perfect, not all-inclusive, and only barely tested in the wild, but my observation of our store's comic saver service has brought me to formulate this theory, which may be stated as follows:

The critical acclaim of an X-Men series is inversely proportionate to the number of regular longtime X-Men fans that series has as readers.

Okay, maybe a bit wordy, but it's just a little something I've noticed. For example, New X-Men by Grant Morrison, District X, X-Force/X-Statix by Milligan and Allred, and (to a lesser extent) Madrox...all X-titles mostly rejected by our local X-fans, but read by people who normally don't get any X-titles. I had people on my comic saver lists who asked for every X-title except Morrison's X-Men, and added it back on as soon as Austen took over. And I had just as many people on my savers who only got Morrison's run.

I'm not trying to slam X-fans...I mean, if your favorite comic in the world is Academy X, God bless you, I'm glad you enjoy it. But it's interesting to notice that the X-titles that mangage to attract a non-traditional audience (rather than forcing the regular X-fans to squeeze another $2.99 book into their budgets) seem, in general, to repel the people who normally enjoy the X-Men.

2. A fun thing we do every week is the Marvel Order Adjustments, where we get to alter our initial orders of Marvel titles about three weeks before the titles are released...presumably so we can adjust our orders based on actual sales of the previous issues. This is a little tricky to do with first issues, certainly, but boy, I appreciate it when I can do it to second issues of Marvel's latest turkeys. For instance, Spider-Man: India - Sweet Mother McCree, this comic couldn't be more of a dog if it were humping my leg. We sold three...one to a person who gets all Spider-Man, regardless; one to a person who gets all Marvel first issues; and the third to parts unknown. Points to Marvel for trying something different (sorta), I guess, but boy, I'm slashing orders on #2 to the bone.

Identity Disc was another Marvel dust-collector...there was nothing really wrong with it, I guess - it's Robert Rodi on writing chores, after all - but Marvel fans just plain didn't want it. When I was calling in the order adjustments on that issue, the distributor rep on the other end of the line replied "popular choice," so I'm guessing every other retailer on the planet had the same experience with this title. (In fairness, Identity Disc did have a brief flurry of back issue sales, but that was quite some time ago.)

One I really thought about this week was the forthcoming Offical Marvel Universe Handbook - Golden Age. We didn't order a lot on this to begin with, but given how much of a hard sell even the Wolverine handbook was, I had to reconsider. Particularly since, when I was talking to someone about this comic, I actually had to pause for a few seconds to recall Marvel (rather, Timely) Golden Age heroes. Me. A person who sells these funnybooks for a living. Who has to know this stuff. Sure, anyone can remember the easy ones right off (original Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, and, God help us, the Whizzer). Maybe Namora. But how about Sun Girl? I only remembered her because we've had copies of her comics in the store. Anyway, the point is that if I, Mr. Sad Old Fanboy, had to hesitate to think of the names of Marvel's old heroes, most modern comic fans certainly aren't going to remember, or care, about them. It's not like DC Comics, who have managed to keep their Golden Age heroes, if not active, then at least in the public eye, making it easier to sell products featuring them.

Well, who knows? Maybe we'll sell a few to people genuinely curious about the pre-Marvel Age characters. I might even pick it up myself.

3. On the other hand, we get to increase orders on the successful Marvel titles, but there's an inherent problem in that, one touched upon by Dorian and myself on repeated occasions. Say you order 50 copies of Spider-Man's R/C Racers #1, of which you sell all 50. You get a chance to adjust your orders on #2, so while you originally ordered 45, you bump it up to 70. Then you receive your copies of #2. You sell 50 right away. You then sell maybe another 5 or 6 copies...you might have sold more, but some of the late-comers who pick up #2 ask you for #1. You tell 'em sorry, but #1 is sold out, and Marvel has none for reorder and no plans to reprint it (except in the eventual trade paperback, as soon as #6 hits the stands). Thus, #2 goes back on the shelf, unbought.

That's why I'm not planning on upping orders on Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes #3. We can't get more 1 and 2, so why bump up orders much beyond what we sold of those issues? It sold fairly well for us, and people seemed to like it, but I don't want to be stuck with extras.

I did bump up orders on Strange #2 and Madrox #2, but as Dorian has noted, the lack of #1s has hurt their sales.

4. We did sell out of Space Ghost #1. Luckily, I was able to order more from DC. Okay, I know, you know, and Dorian knows this comic isn't any good...but boy, people sure snapped it up. I ain't sayin' no to that money.

This post's sponsor. And no, I don't have a hangover. 

Well, I have a blinding headache and I'm about to go off to work (always a winning combination), so all I have for you at the moment is this link to a PDF preview of the forthcoming AiT/Planetlar release Couriers 03. Good stuff, sez I.

Also, go read pal Dorian's post about what's selling and not selling at our store. I may have a word or two to add on the subject when I get back home tonight (assuming my pounding brain doesn't pop out through my eye-sockets).

Monday, November 22, 2004

"This is the sultan of song, Clark Kent...!" 

Issue #94 of Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane (August 1969) brings us a reprint of a Kurt Schaffenberger story from issue #20 of the same series..."Superman's Flight from Lois Lane!" You know, for a comic that's actually starring Lois, it sure doesn't show her in a good light most of the time...and this story is no exception, as it focuses on the great lengths Superman goes to in order to get away from her!

The story opens with Clark and Lois preparing to jump out of an airplane for a little skydiving, apparently an assignment for the Daily Planet. However, Clark's chute has a malfunction and doesn't open, resulting in Clark hitting the ground fairly hard:

After his crash landing, Clark manages to get his chute open and, using his super-breath, billows it open and shoots himself back up into the sky to make it appear as if he never hit the ground. Lois misses all this, as, after noticing Clark's initial chute difficulties, she covered her eyes in terror, not opening them again until Clark had successfully returned to the skies.

Upon returning to the Planet, Lois sits at her desk and ponders the day's events: "Hmm...if Clark is Superman, he could have done something to that parachute while my eyes were shut!"

Clark notices the usual "is Clark Superman?" gleam in her eye, and decides that he's had enough trying to protect his dual identity around Lois: "Things would've been different if I hadn't become Lois' co-worker on the Planet!" Thus, Superman's solution? Quit the Planet? Hit the streets, looking for "Help Wanted" signs? Put his resume up on Monster.com?

Nope...he travels back in time, to the day that he first started at the Daily Planet! Superman arrives on the very day that he was to accept his job at the great metropolitan newspaper, somehow sidestepping the whole paradox of being in two places at once, since no mention is ever made of the younger version of himself being present at the same time as his older self.

Anyway, he takes a peek inside the Planet with his x-ray vision, "for old time's sake," and sees someone placing a want-ad for a radio disc jockey...with Lois Lane, who's filling in for the classified ads girl. For some reason, Clark decides that being a disc jockey would be a perfect job for him, since it would require staying in a small room and changing records about every three minutes and having to say something on the air about as often, thus leaving him plenty of time for his super-life. That previous sentence was dripping with sarcasm, in case you were wondering.

So he gets the job the old-fashioned way, by cheating his ass off:

He lands the job, of course, and is immediately assigned a young and pretty assistant named Liza Landis...yes, it's the old "L.L." thing again. Clark lets her know that he prefers to be left alone while he's on the air, which she readily agrees to. "She's discreet," Clark thinks with no foreshadowing whatsoever, "thank goodness she won't be a pest like Lois Lane!"

Mixmaster Clark then proceeds to become a hit deejay (that's Liza at the far right):

The name of his show is "Songs with Clark Kent." Good God, could he be more square?

So Clark continues to live the good life...acting as Superman by day, spinning some tunes at night. One evening, during a show, he finds himself nostalgic for Lois and checks in on her with his super-vision. Sure enough, she's up to her neck in trouble, so Clark strips down to his super-suit, and pulls a convenient Clark Kent dummy out of an even more convenient secret panel that somehow has been fit into his booth. He dumps the dummy in front of the microphone and goes off to save Lois's bacon. Reaction to the dummy is mixed:

Finishing his rescue, Superman zips back to the studio and switches back into his Clark duds after hiding his dummy. But, as he flies in, he manages to activate Liza's amazing "leap of logic" powers in the next room:

She sneaks into the studio, only to overhear Clark announcing the record he apparently was just playing: "You have just heard a rare platter from the record-library, of the sound of Superboy in super-flight! It was recorded years ago!" Luckily this station had such a record, as Clark managed to overhear Liza's comments as he flew in, and whipped out said record to cover his tracks.

Somehow Liza manages to jump to the conclusion that Clark and Superman are one and the same, and beings a campaign of terror to prove this theory: "If I can prove he is Superman, he may think I'm so clever, he might want to marry me!"

Clark has his own thoughts on the matter: "I can't believe it! Liza is turning into a worse pest than Lois!" That's hardly fair, since by that point all she's done is 1) barge into the studio after hearing a loud "WOOOOSH"-ing noise, which I think we'd all would have done, and 2) tried to cut Clark's hair with a pair of scissors to see if he's invulnerable, which, okay, is a little forward, but still not up to Lois' usual standard of excellence.

Liza's final trick involves dumping some sour-smelling perfume on Clark, then rushing to go smell Superman at one of his scheduled public appearances at City Hall. Yes, to go smell him. Superman manages to outwit this cunning scheme as well, and Liza, ashamed of her behavior, quits her job at the radio station. Clark shows his usual sympathy and tact:

Anyway, the next day, Lois Lane shows up to interview Clark Kent for a story on the life of a deejay. "I've received permission from the radio station to study you day and night!" she says, causing Clark to dash out the door shouting "I QUIT!"

Superman then returns to the present day, having resigned himself to being unable to escape his fate via time travel, since quitting the Planet and getting a job at, I don't know, The Los Angeles Times, seems to be beyond his abilities. He's already proven he's willing to cheat to get a job, so what's stopping him?*

At the end, everything is back to normal, and apparently Lois retains no memories of having briefly met Clark as a disc jockey several years back. But no time travel story is complete without the wacky twist ending:

Clark's not into the plus-sizes, apparently. You'd think Superman would be a little more open-minded than that. Also, either Lois has had a great deal of cosmetic surgery, or being a radio station owner's wife is highly stressful, since Liza looks like she aged a lot more than Lois did, judging by their relative appearances in the flashback and in present day.

A couple of final notes:

Since this was a reprint of a story from several years earlier, all references to the "current" year were altered to represent the time of the reprint's publication, 1969. In some panels this is done rather seamlessly, such as when Superman is travelling back in time and the years are shown flashing by in the background. In the next to last panel, though (and I realize it's hard to tell in my scan), the "1969" is very obviously relettered.

According to the Grand Comic Book Database, the reprint is missing one tier of panels from the final page. I didn't think to check to see if we had a copy of the original in stock, so I don't know if those missing panels clear up all the time travel paradox shenanigans in this story. More likely, it's just additional complaining about what trouble those pesky females are.

* Not to mention the fact that Clark originally got a job at the Planet by writing a scoop about himself. Journalistic ethics? What are those?

Sunday, November 21, 2004

1. Upsetting phone call to the store yesterday:

Me: "How can I help you?"

Boy on phone (maybe 12 or 13): "How old do you have to be to go?"

Me: "Excuse me?"

BOP: "How old do you have to be to go to your store?"

Me: "Um...there's no age requirement. Anyone can come in, whether you're 5 or 55."

BOP: "Okay, just checking...thanks!"

I make sure that the front of the store has family friendly merchandise...newspaper strip reprints, children's comics (Disney, Archie, etc.), the giant Wall O'Manga, some boxes of bargain comics, no posters of large-breasted women wielding bloody swords*...and this is the thanks I get.

Commenter George came close to hitting it right on the head, as it were...the sole purpose of Batman's terrifying statue was to be knocked over on top of the bad guys. Even better, the base of the statue was apparently made of a fast-melting wax, so that Batman was able to toss a heat-pellet at its base, causing it to immediately melt away and drop "Humpty Dumpty" right on top of the intruding alien creature (don't ask). Whether the statue served the same purpose in that theoretical Storyville adventure mentioned on the plaque, as commenter George wonders, I have no idea...like commenter Bob, I wonder if any such Storyville story exists.

3. The latest Smallville brings us yet another head injury for Lex, probably leading to the true reason for his eventual villainy...brain damage. At any rate, since it appears that Lex's pop Lionel has had an honest-to-goodness jail cell conversion (as a result of his "miraculous" healing caused by exchanging "life energies" with Clark in a previous episode*), that leaves Lex as the sole regular cast member in the "villain" role. Of course, he hasn't really been much of a villain so far...he's been a jerk at times, but nothing that would result in supposedly fated life-long conflict with Superman. Plus, most of rough patches between Lex and Clark have mostly been Clark's fault, stemming from either Clark trying to keep his powers a secret, or from Clark just being outright unreasonable. That could play into the Silver Age comics' origin of the Superman/Luthor enmity, with Clark having a hand in creating his own worst enemy, but I expect instead that we'll see Lex do something completely evil and irredeemable on his own near the end of the series, and that'll be that.

3a. While it was nice to see Jane Seymour in this episode, I'm not sure the cost of having her in the episode (an extension of the "Lana possessed by a witch" story I hoped we were done with last time) is worth it.

3b. According to the Kryptonsite rumors page, Smallville's Chloe Sullivan may be introduced into regular DC Comics continuity...perhaps in her own series.

* You should see some of the promo posters we receive...parents would burn me in effigy if I put some of these things on our walls.

** Sometimes there just aren't enough quotation marks. Just picture me rolling my eyes as I wrote that entire parenthetical aside.

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