mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, January 01, 2005


I never did get around to finding a good New Year's-related comic cover or panel, so here are some Star Trek fans bothering Iron Man at the San Diego Comic Con instead:

from Iron Man #72 (Jan 1974) - by Mike Friedrich, George Tuska & Vince Colletta

Happy 2005, everyone.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Okay, the absolute last reminder about this: the
Swamp Thing Bad Seed contest ends tonight, so if you're planning on sending 25 words or less to contest (at) progressiveruin.com telling me why you want one of the three copies of this book I have to give away, you'd better get the lead out.

Mike's End O'Year Review... 

...well, sorta. There are plenty of good year-in-reviews all over the comicsweblogosphere (I enjoyed pal Tom's various lists), and I wasn't sure if I'd really have the time nor the inclination to add to the year-end fray. I did come up with a couple smart-alecky awards (the Tempest in a Teapot award to Identity Crisis, the Don't Get Your Hopes Up award to the Sin City movie trailer), but that was about it. (Be sure to catch pal Dorian's awards as well.)

(Speaking of awards...the newest issue of Wizard includes the ballot for their fan awards, and, as I do every year, I fill it out with write-in nominees since, oddly enough, I generally don't care for any of their predetermined choices. I think one year I voted for Chris Ware as "Best Letterer." Don't look at me like that - he is a good letterer! I wonder if whoever is presumably counting the votes even bothers with my ballot, or just tosses it out.)

Anyway, lemme see what I can do here with my own year-end review:

Favorite comics: Well, I'm going to take the unpopular position (nothing new) and include Identity Crisis in this list, if only because of the discussion it's engendered. Granted, a good portion of the discussion was along the lines of "how dare DC publish such perversion," but there was some rational discussion out there as well.

Other favorites include Phil Foglio's beautiful Girl Genius, Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart's nuttily wonderful Seaguy, Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan's Demo, Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca's Street Angel, the Hernandez Brothers' Love and Rockets, Stuff of Dreams #2 by Kim Deitch, Plastic Man by Kyle Baker (and occasionally Scott Morse), Ex Machina by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris, Scurvy Dogs by Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount, Promethea by Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III, and others I'm sure I'm forgetting.

Oh, and Swamp Thing, of course. You can probably just include Swamp Thing as a given in any appropriate category.

Most surprising comic: I'll probably have to go with Adam Strange. I've always liked the character, so I was looking forward to the series...and I had no idea it was going to be such a wonderfully-illustrated comic. Artist Pascal Ferry really made this a comic to treasure...and the movie-serial style writing by Andy Diggle ain't all that bad, either.

Biggest disappointment: Not getting Crossgen's American Power for Free Comic Book Day. I really wanted to see this, and for all the wrong reasons. You just knew this was going to be fantastic.

Favorite graphic novel: I'm gonna go with Mister O by Lewis Trondheim. I just reread it a couple days ago, and it still cracks me up. It's just page after page of a little guy trying to get across a chasm, told in tiny panels, and it's really very funny.

Best reprint: Thank you, Dark Horse Comics, for bringing us Little Lulu in convenient trade paperback format. And thank you, Fantagraphics, for The Complete Peanuts.

Favorite manga: The absolutely terrifying Gyo. I mean, honestly, what's wrong with this guy? (And yeah, I probably shouldn't seperate "manga" out from "comics," but I'm old and set in my ways.)

Best comics-related thingie in another medium: I wanted to say American Splendor, but even though I didn't see it until this year, it is from 2003, so I guess it's out of the running. I did enjoy Spider-Man 2, but mostly for the fact that 1) they actually gave us a live action Doctor Octopus that worked* (thanks to actor Alfred Molina) and 2) they gave the people what they wanted - more J. Jonah Jameson. It certainly wasn't for the least charismatic superhero/girlfriend couple of all time. And no, I haven't seen The Incredibles yet...until I find a way to destroy cell phones that ring during the film with the sheer force of my mind, I have no real desire to return to a movie theatre.

So, I think I'll go with Cartoon Network's Justice League Unlimited. It's fun, it's generally well-written, it's giving us superheroes that I'm sure none of us ever expected to see in a cartoon (Nemesis? Aztek???), and it's probably the only way most of today's kids are going to know any of these characters.

The gift that keeps on giving: Hey, I have a way to mention the American Splendor movie anyway, thanks to something pal Dorian said the other day. Of all the comic-related movies that have come out over the last few years, the one that is still driving sales of books to this day is American Splendor. Even the Ghost World TPB finally has petered out to normal sales levels. But boy, we still get plenty of people who want the comic that the movie was based on. Thankfully there are a couple trades still in print.

Favorite comics weblog: I don't want to leave anyone out, so I'm just going to say that I appreciate all your weblogs and the work that you put into them. (Well, okay, there's that one guy, but I like all the rest of you.) I haven't brought them up much lately, but some of you who've been reading this site for a while know that I love old fanzines...and the comicsweblogosphere is like having a bunch of brand new fanzines every single day! I think it's swell.

* Aside from that scene where he falls to the ground and shouts "NOOOOOOOOO!" My cliche-sense is tingling!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

I'll only remind you once more, I promise. 

The Swamp Thing Bad Seed contest ends tomorrow night at midnight...um, in whatever time zone you happen to be in. I won't be picky. Anyway, 25 words or less, telling me why you want one of the three copies of this book I'm giving away, sent to

contest (at) progressiveruin.com

So enter already, gosh dang it. I won't bite, it doesn't cost anything to enter, and you might get a free book out of it. What, would it kill you?

New funny book day. 

I swear to you, the character's name is "Spunky the Monkey:"

Anyway, SPOILERS ahead, maybe. I ain't sayin' for sure.

Concrete: The Human Dilemma #1 - I've been a Concrete fan almost since the very beginning, having started with his second appearance in Dark Horse Presents all those years ago. It's been too long since the character has been on our shelves, so I'm very glad to see it again. That said, my first glance through the book made me fear that the preachiness factor of Concrete may have finally overwhelmed the story (this mini-series' topic: overpopulation), but now that I've actually read it, it's no more preachy than previous series have been. The back-up is an old abandoned fantasy project Chadwick was working on...pretty, but I think I would rather have had more World Below stories.

What If...General Ross Had Become The Hulk? - this bodes well for Peter David's coming run on the regular Hulk title (starting next week!), since David presents in this title yet another spin on the Hulk formula that I don't think we've seen before. I'm not referring to Ross becoming the Hulk, but rather the kind of Hulk Ross becomes. Well done, and Pat Olliffe's art (assisted by Sal Buscema) is nicely done as well...his work has really grown on me over the years.

Adam Strange #4 - hey, the Omega Men! I like the Omega Men...don't look at me like that, I like 'em and I don't care who knows it. Anyway, I've run out of ways to say that the art is spectacular in this comic, so just refer to previous reviews. Plus, I've seen mentions here and there that this mini-series is supposed to tie in to some big hoohah coming from DC in 2005. Aside from a reference in a gossip column and talk among my fellow webloggers, I'm not sure where this idea is coming from. Do any of you know any more about this? There may be a slight nod in that direction in this issue, unless I'm reading something into the story that's not really there.

Superman #212 - I give up. I'll just wait 'til this story is finished and read it all at once...maybe it'll flow better. (I did this with Joe Kelly's run on JLA -- and that turned out to be pretty good when you took it in all at once.)

Superman/Batman #16 - whew, new readers need not apply...this one's for the fanboys, and it's not ashamed of it. Superman and Batman bounce from one version of the DC Universe to the next, and we see a lot of old favorites along the way (that's Kamandi on the cover, and I won't spoil the other surprises inside. Oh, okay, Jonah Hex is there, too).

Legion of Super-Heroes #1 - the newest reboot of DC's long-running franchise is here, hoping against hope that someone other that what must be a diminishing number of longtime Legion fans will start reading the book. The newest aspect of this new reboot is that we're not starting with the origin of the team, as they're already clearly established by the time the story begins. Hopefully, this reboot will stick.

Dorothy #1 - I'm not big on the whole fumetti thing, but Dorothy, with its modern take on the Oz mythos, is quite fun. A teen gal, complete with piercing and dyed hair, seeks an escape from her drab Kansas life, and finds it in the form of a tornado that whisks her away to a mysterious land...but you knew that, I bet. It's all set up so far, just getting Dorothy into Oz, but it's all beautifully designed, photographed, and colored...see more at the official web site, where you can even order the not-distributed-yet-through-Diamond #2.

Other releases:

Comic Book Artist Vol. 2 #5 - I stopped reading this series when it changed publishers...still looks like a good magazine, but I can only read so many comic mags, you know? But this issue has a nice full-color ad on the back cover for the long-delayed Swamp Men book, featuring interviews and features focusing around Swamp Thing, Man-Thing, the Heap, and other swamp critters (but probably not Pogo). Oh, and there's a nice Howard Chaykin interview in this issue as well.

The Incredibles #2 - the first issue sold okay for us, but I really wonder if anyone's still going to care about this series once #4 shows up on our shelves? Maybe if the DVD is out by then....

Quit City is the newest Avatar book by Warren Ellis, and I completely forgot to take a look at it. Hey, new comics day is busy, I can't remember everything. I did want to note that it's out, at least.

Girl Genius Vol. 3 - I'm thankful that Phil Foglio's latest project is being supported with consistent trade paperback reprinting...this makes it a very easy sell for us.

Inu Yasha Vol. 20 - I haven't the faintest idea what this series is about - with a few exceptions, I'm not a manga maven (I let pal Dorian handle that), but I do try to keep track of what's selling. This series has always done very well for us, and this $8.95 format really encourages people to give it a try.

Daisy Kutter #4 - I gave up my copy of the first issue to one of our customers, as I wasn't able to get any reorders in, and I haven't been following the rest of the series as a result. I will, however, get the trade paperback collection. The art in this series is astounding...loose and cartoony, and very attractive.

Star Wars: Empire #28 - okay, so you have a character that looks like Peter Cushing's character of Tarkin from the first Star Wars movie, he's apparently a "Grand Moff" like Tarkin, and he's even drawn in some of the same poses as Tarkin from that film...and yet, it's not Tarkin. That threw me off a bit, there.

Elric: Making of A Sorcerer #2 - I love Walt Simonson's work. I just have no interest whatsoever in Elric. Sorry. Looks nice, though.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A couple things:

I'll talk more about the new comic arrivals tomorrow, but I did want to note the Elektra Movie Adaptation, wisely released now before anyone has had a chance to see the film. Anyway, the comic also includes Frank Miller's Elektra story from Bizarre Adventures, as well as several pin-ups. One of the pin-ups is by Bill Sienkiewicz*, and I noticed that it has a couple captions on it (reading something like "Four months ago / In the Lincoln Memorial"). For a moment, that made no sense to me...until I realized what they had done was take one of Sienkiewicz' splash pages from the '80s Elektra Assassin mini-series (specifically, from #8) and plugged it into this comic as a "pin-up" without bothering to remove the now context-free captions. Of course, if they had removed the text boxes, I'd instead probably be complaining about the lousy Photoshopping used to cover them.

I also wanted to give Fred Hembeck a nod and a wink for
his December 29th post regarding weblogs and the reprobates and ne'erdowells who run them. He has a nice thank you to them...er, us...so I wanted to say "thanks" back! Also, he reveals the news that he pointed Joe Staton in the direction of my Charles Barkley and the Referee Murders post, which terrified me for just a moment as I scrambled to make sure I didn't say anything too negative about Mr. Staton's work! I didn't really emphasize it, since the focus was on the peculiarity of a Charles Barkley comic, but Staton did do a fine job of cartooning, and managed to keep Barkley's likeness without making it look like tracings of photos.

More store stuff:

We were shorted all of our copies of today's What If Aunt May Had Died, but got double-shipped our order of the Daredevil What If, plus double our copies of JSA Strange Adventures and double our Dildos.**

We also received Hellboy graphic novels in Spanish (Semilla de Destruccion, anyone?), as well as new printings of Vaughn Bode's Junkwaffel...fun stuff!

* How do you know you've been doing the comics thing for too long? You can spell "Sienkiewicz" without having to look it up.

** Now there's a phrase I'm going to regret, once I see the search engine referrals.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Just a couple brief contest reminders:

The deadline for my
Swamp Thing Bad Seed contest is this Friday, so get your entries in, pals! 25 words or less, to contest (at) progressiveruin.com, explaining why you would like a copy of the book. Remember, thanks to Ken at Ringwood, I'll have three books to give away, so what are you waiting for?

Also, don't forget about Beaucoup Kevin's Julius giveaway...get your entries in before December 30th!

On a more serious note, here is a page of information on how you can help the victims of the Asian tsunami disaster. If you have the means, please consider contributing.

Mr. Review Catch-Up Explosion! 

I have a couple items here that were sent to me for my reviewing pleasure, and I've been sitting on them a little longer than I planned...so let's take a look, shall we?

Sidekicks Vol. 4: The Candy Man Cometh is the latest volume in Dan Danko and Tom Mason's ongoing series of kids' books featuring Speedy, the newest member of the sidekicks to the League of Big Justice. I reviewed the first two volumes here (you may need to scroll down a bit), and I'm pleased to say that this book continues the fun from the previous volumes. Speedy finds himself alone against the semi-menace of the Candy Man (whose dialogue of jingles from candy commercials of the past may very well go over the heads of the book's target audience), while Speedy's patron super-hero, Pumpkin Pete, proves as useless as ever.

If there were one thing about this series that affects me the most, it's how alone Speedy seems to be. There is a little bit of palling around with the other sidekicks at the beginning and end of the story, but the character is distanced from his parents, all the superheroes are either a bit insensitive (like King Justice) or outright incompetent and mean (like Pumpkin Pete), and even his schoolmates (including Charisma Kid, who attends Speedy's school in his secret identity) aren't terribly nice to him. It's a relief, then, when a mysterious superhero arrives during the course of the story to give Speedy a pep talk...and it's fairly clear from the clues in the story just who this superhero really is.

Aside from the villain, the book also focuses on a Legion of Super-Heroes-esque membership drive, seeking out new sidekicks, most of which have, of course, completely ridiculous "super powers." One amusing gag is the arrival of Super Vision Lad (who doesn't have extra-normal sight...he actually requires supervision, as in babysitting) who gets passed off from person to person during the course of the story.

It's a funny, and very silly, book, and a fast read for an adult in his 30s, though I imagine it would be a relatively quick read for the actual target audience as well. Now that kids may be more familiar with the concept of superheroes following the success of The Incredibles, they'll probably have even more of a connection to the elements being parodied within this series.

Atomeka's Hero Squared X-Tra Sized Special is Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis' latest funny super hero comic, ably drawn by Joe Abraham. It's very much of a kind with their work on Justice League all those years ago, mixing a few serious elements with their over-the-top situations and wacky character humor.

The premise of the story revolves around Earth's last surviving superhero, Captain Valor, who manages to evade his destruction at the hands of the invading alien forces by escaping to the Earth of a parallel universe. There, he seeks out who should be the parallel universe version of himself, hoping to team up with another Captain Valor...only to find this Earth's version of himself, Milo, is powerless, and something of a slacker.

As you might imagine, a lot of the humor comes from the contrast between Valor's superheroic ideals and his counterpart Milo's slightly more cyncial take on things. Abraham is well suited to illustrating both the superhero action and the more human elements of the story. Giffen and DeMatteis' ear (ears?) for humorous dialogue is (are?) as dead-on as ever, from the down-to-earth conversation between Milo and his friend on the subway, to the earnest superheroic exclamations, to the just plain nutty rantings of the alien leader's lackey Sloat...it all goes down easy, and it's a pleasant, and just slightly nostalgic, reminder of when people didn't take their superheroes so gosh darn seriously.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Cinescape reports on an apparent beefing-up of the Fantastic Four movie...supposedly as a result of the filmmakers taking a gander at The Incredibles. (found via Dark Horizons)

Remember what I said a while back about keeping what Matt noted at the end of this post in mind when the FF movie is finally released.

Tom Spurgeon, on his fine Comics Reporter site yesterday, made
a list of sports-related comics and mentioned in passing a certain Charles Barkley And The Referee Murders comic book. Well, it just so happens that I had a copy or two of this still floating around the shop....

In 1993, Hamilton Comics published this full-color album-sized graphic novel, written by science fiction author Alan Dean Foster and illustrated by veteran comics artist Joe Staton. Somehow they managed to convince basketball star Charles Barkley into directly participating rather than just licensing out his name, and according to the copious behind-the-scenes material included in this book, they had him in a studio for an hour, taking reference photos.

And boy, did Hamilton get its money's worth on those photos. Those pictures are everywhere in this book, and I don't mean just how they're used in Staton's art. The back cover is comprised of 15 reference shots of the many emotions of Charles Barkley:

and there is even a whole sheet of perforated stamps -- as in lickable, stickable stamps -- inserted into the book:

Plus, at the outer bottom corners of the pages inside are two different "flip-book" picture sequences of Barkley:

...one with him taking off his hat, and the other of him turning around to give you the stink-eye. This clearly wasn't planned (or, at least, told to Mr. Staton) until after the artwork was completed, since the flip-pictures are placed over what appear to be fully-drawn panels.

As for the story itself...well, there are murders, and apparently basketball is instrumental in solving the crime. Okay, maybe there's a little more to it than that...Barkley finds himself under suspicion after referees he had argued with at prior basketball games are found murdered, and he sets out to find the real culprits (complete with his Dick Tracy-style get-up he conveniently receives as a gift from a fan). Trying to plug a basketball star into a hardboiled detective story sounds like an idea whose time hasn't quite come, but it's not as bad as you're probably thinking. There is a sense of humor and lightness to the dialogue, and it's a breezy read. Not deep, you'll forget it two minutes later, but pleasant enough.

Speaking of the dialogue, Sir Charles does receive an "additional dialogue" credit. During the photoshoot, he was presented with several situations from the story, and Barkley came up with his own lines for those sequences. All together, nine word balloons are his doing, and the behind-the-scenes material indicates which ones they are and where they can be found in the story. My favorite line: "Listen! Them country bumpkins are a lot tougher than they look!"

Alan Dean Foster has a memory or two of his own from working on this book, which can be found in this short interview.

This wasn't Sir Charles Barkley's only foray into four color fun...there was also the immortal Godzilla Vs. Barkley, which may sound silly to you, but darned if we didn't sell out of it when it came out. And darn again if we don't keep selling it whenever we get it in as a back issue. I do wonder what sort of lawyer meetings were involved to determine who got top billing.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

1. For Christmas, my parents were kind enough to give me a scanner of my very own, so I can stop mooching off the one at work. Now, should the sudden urge strike me to, say, post a picture of the Bi-Beast pasting the Harpy with a serious haymaker:

from Incredible Hulk #169 (November 1973) by Steve Englehart, Herb Trimpe & Jack Abel

...I can do so right away, without having to plan a day in advance to scan the item at the shop. Higher bandwidth usage, here I come!

2. Christmas Day Eve, I finally got around to watching the Spider-Man 2 DVD with the pop-up commentary. Aside from catching the word "villain" spelled incorrectly at least once, I was amused at the occasional attempts at explaining Spidey's convoluted comic book continuity. The interminable Spider-clone storyline wasn't brought up, but mention was made of Aunt May's "death" and subsequent return (complete with an explanation of the imposter Aunt May), Spidey getting his
alien symbiote costume during Secret Wars, and even Spidey's "six-armed" incarnation from around issue #100 of Amazing. I could only wonder what non-comic fans (i.e. the vast majority of the audience for this film) will make of some of these referenced storylines. A nice addition to the commentary, however, was Stan Lee's lament that people keep forgetting the hyphen in "Spider-Man." That bothers me, too.

3. Thanks to the Real Sam Johnson for his plug of my Swamp Thing contest. Only a week to go...I still want your entries!

4. Commenter Bob points me in the direction of a Sheldon Mayer website...I think I may have linked to it before, but even if I did, it's always worth a second look.

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