mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Friday, January 07, 2005

Your parade of unnecessary clarifications! 

From my post last night...look, I liked Identity Crisis for what it was, but even I thought this article was a little over the top. I mean, up there with Crisis and Watchmen? I think, if I had to place IC on a chart, it would be a little below Invasion! and above Millennium...and waaaaay above Genesis.

And, for my nerdy nit-pick, both DC and Marvel were doing mini-series before '82.

From this morning, I found this press release about the Katy Keene celebration doing some random news searches on Google or Yahoo or some darn thing. I like that statement in the release about how Katy Keene is somewhat out of the public's eye...no, you think? Actually, I have had interest in the Katy Keene back issues at the store...invariably, it's from older folks who read it as children. I even had one customer, long ago, ask me to help her find the issue where her costume contribution was used and credited to her* -- but she had no idea what issue it was! I think we had it narrowed down to about the right decade, eventually.

And from this other post...once again, the specter of a decades-old TV series arises in the form of a sound effect-filled headline. The actual article itself is just dandy...I certainly can't fault the idea of a comic book club at a school...but I was really hoping I'd seen the last of that type of headline. Oh well.

* I always liked that about Katy Keene (and also about Sugar & Spike and the 80s version of Dial 'H' for Hero)...the reader participation aspect in the stories. And they always gave credit where credit is due...very important, as I'm sure you'll all agree. Anyway, is there any comic today doing anything similar?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Star Online:
Since the introduction of maxi/limited series in 1982, DC Comics has succeeded in delivering a killer product every decade. In the 80s, it was Crisis on Infinite Earths (and to the sentimentalists Watchmen) followed by Kingdom Come a decade later. Although we are just into a new year and midway into the first decade of the 21st century, my third re-read has given me adequate reason to conclude that Identity Crisis has already got this decade all sealed up.

Okay, okay...in my discussion regarding the new Youngblood and "Doctor" superheroines in
my last post, I forgot the female version of Dr. Light. I also forgot that Dr. Fate was a lady for a brief period of time. Still, my point still stands that...um, well, there's a point there, somewhere.

Also, there's a new comics weblog out loose in the wild, by the name of Filing Cabinet of the Damned. To his post championing a new, as yet unmade, Marvel HeroClix character, I can only say "well said, sir, well said."

It was new comics day...

...and this was
The Book of The Week, my friends. Not perfect, the weirdness was a little forced in places, but I'm willing to overlook its flaws just for having this old friend back on the stands.

Bob Burden also plugs another couple of his projects in the back pages...Mullet Force 6 and Dynamite Girl, to which I say...um...hey, Flaming Carrot's back!

Other books out this week:

Superman: Strength #1 - the first part of Scott McCloud's prestige format series has come out, and it's a lot of fun...the art by Aluir Amancio and Terry Austin took a while for me to get used to, but it did grow on me as I read though this issue. The art is over breakdowns by McCloud, and if you look at the first panel on page 5 (the "My God he's fast!" panel), that's pure McCloud layout if ever I've seen it. The story itself has Supes facing a group of villains in Metropolis, as Pa Kent is relating a story of Clark's youth to Lois, and I'll say that the flashback story is the more interesting of the two, so far.

Peter David's long-awaited return to the Incredible Hulk has arrived, and after years of either "Hulk smash," various writers trying to emulate David's approach to the character, and Bruce Jones' non-Hulk Hulk run, here's hoping David will bring back some freshness to the character. He manages to give the Hulk a new ability, as well as flashing back to Bruce Banner's high school days (a period I don't think has been covered much in prior Hulks). It's all set-up, but it's interesting set-up, and I can't wait to see where it goes from here.

In case you all thought you were finished with Identity Crisis, Flash #217 continues the crossing-over action, as the Rogues Gallery hold a funeral for their fallen comrade. Whatever you though of IC, at least Geoff Johns seems to be following through on that series' implications very nicely.

Swamp Thing #11 - you know, every single issue of this comic could just be Swamp Thing fighting Arcane while zombies wander around Houma, like this issue is, and I'd be perfectly happy.

Other new releases:

DC Horizon is a freebie item that your local funnybook purveyor should have available, and this new edition is all about Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory project. You know, if anyone else claimed that they'd be doing a 30-something issue series (in the form of multiple mini-series) featuring secondary DC characters, I'd wonder what they were smoking. But Grant Morrison? I know he loves this stuff, and after reading the preview, it's going to be brilliant. (But I'm still wondering what he's smoking.)

Girl Genius Vol. 3 hardcover - I already have this material, but this is a high-quality package. It has puffy hard covers! Pick it up and squeeze it...it's downright huggable!

There are far too many Elektra books out this week. It's almost as if Marvel expects the movie to do well.

The Constantine movie adaptation is here...the art, by Ron Randall, is actually pretty good. I don't know about the story...I flipped through it, and if it's any reflection of the actual film, apparently we're going to be told over and over and over and over and over and over again that Constantine is "damned." "Hey, is that John Constantine?" "Yeah, he's damned." "Hi John, howya doin'?" "Oh, I'm damned. You?" Also, I really hope Garth Ennis is getting some money from this film.

The Constantine movie trade paperback is out as well, reprinting the adaptation as well as some select stories from the Hellblazer run. I swear to you, the Garth Ennis story is part one of his first storyline on the title, and it ends with a caption that says "read the rest of this story in the Dangerous Habits trade paperback!" Those bastards!

The Doctor Solar Man of the Atom hardcover from Dark Horse appears to be shot from the original printed pages of the Gold Key series, but it actually looks nice, I think. If only that Battle of the Planets Gold Key reprint book could have done the same, instead of featuring low quality black and white scans; maybe we could have sold a couple copies, back when anyone cared.

Your "too late for Christmas" Christmas covers for the week: PVP #13 and Strangers in Paradise #70. Eh, maybe they're just early for this coming Christmas. Same with our much-delayed free Cerebus autographed Christmas cards. Sigh.

Youngblood Imperial #1 prominently features Alan Moore's creation Doc Rocket on the cover, notable for being one of the few female superheroes to be referred to as "Doc" or "Doctor," as far as I can recall. (Here's another.) I liked the character during Moore's all too brief run on Youngblood, but, um, I'll pass this time.

Belly Button #2 - I only took a brief look through it, but it doesn't look like the name "CRUMB" appears anywhere on it. I mean, I understand and all, that Sophie doesn't want to look like she's riding on Pop's coattails...but wouldn't most people interested in this book already know she's R.'s daughter? Losing the last name would seem a little disingenuous...unless it's an intentional meta-joke of some kind. (Of course, if her full name is in the book and I missed it...well, never mind.)

I'm sorry I don't talk enough about the manga that comes in, since, while I am familiar enough with it to note what's selling and what isn't, I really am not enough of an aficionado to really go into details on individual books. Hey, but we do carry a lot of them...still friends? I will note that $24.95 for the new digest-sized Ghost in The Shell book seems a little excessive. I'm sure it's necessitated by production costs and licensing fees and whatever, but that price point guarantees that it'll be going into the hands of hardcore manga fans and not to casual readers who may have seen the movie on cable.

Oh, and did I mention that Proof of Concept is out? Proof of Concept is out. Here's my review, and here's Pal Dorian's.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I didn't realize that Doug, who was one of the winners of my
Swamp Thing: Bad Seed contest, was also the mighty DougBot, frequenter of my comments sections and proprietor of his own weblog, the Giant Fighting Robot Report. If I had known, I would have linked him then. Sorry, Doug!

Also, any forthcoming comments from pal Dorian, regarding my vanity vis-a-vis my quote (and his, too) on the back of AiT/Planetlar's new release Proof of Concept are lies, damned lies, no matter how true they may be. Anyway, it's nice to see the book in its finished format...seeing the action figure cover in color is a treat!

Results for the Swamp Thing: Bad Seed contest! 

As promised, here are the results for the contest. But first, a little preamble:

I know I've said it a lot but it bears repeating...a big fat wet "THANK YOU!" to Ken Lowery, over there at Ringwood, who chipped in and bought two more copies of Swamp Thing: Bad Seed for me to give away. Beneath that gruff, rough-and-tumble exterior beats a generous heart. Thank you, Ken!

Also, I took a couple steps as to be as fair as possible in the selection process. First, as the entries came in (and boy, there were a lot of them), I would copy-'n'-paste the text from the e-mail into a separate document, away from any identifying information that could influence the decision. And second, I let my girlfriend Nora pick the winning entries.

And before I start listing the winners, those of you who entered and didn't win please remember rule #6 of the contest: "By entering, you hereby agree not to complain if you don't win."

Without further ado, to-do, or doo-doo, here are the wieners winners!

1. Nora's favorite of the bunch was this one from Doug, which tickled me as well:
"Give me the copy of Swamp Thing or I will write another awful DC-universe spanning crossover. Starring Lobo. And no talking monkeys."

Of all the entries that involved direct threats, I think I like this one the best.

2. Josh hits me up poetically with a request for some Swampy book goodness:

"white kryptonite could
not accomplish what she did.
locklear ruined you.

i would like that trade
because i am very cheap.
i stole your haiku."

Like several others, mention was made of the Swamp Thing movie, but his was the only entry to specifically invoke the specter of Return of the Swamp Thing, combined with a reference to Silver Age Superman continuity and to my recent haiku post. Well played, sir, well played.

And, in the interest of full disclosure...yes, Josh is a former employee of our store, dating back to those happy and carefree pre-pal Dorian days. But then, that's why I took the steps I did to prevent any favoritism and accusations of behind-the-scenes shenanigans. Honest. I swear. (Note to self: next time disqualify current and former employees!)

3. In the "hitting a little close to home" department comes this entry from Jim:

"My favorite toy was the action figure with the hands on cords that retracted if you squeezed the legs.

It's at my home..

I'm 35."

Get out of my head...get out!

And there you go...those three lucky winners will get copies of the Swamp Thing: Bad Seed trade paperback from DC Comics/Vertigo.

Let me again thank everyone who entered...I enjoyed all (well, most) of your entries, and I wish I could afford to give away prizes to everyone (well, most everyone) who took the time to participate.

It was a lot of fun, and I'll certainly do it again soon.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

In the "it's an ill wind that blows no one any good" department...lots of Will Eisner items have shown up on
eBay today. 36 items at last count were added following the news of his passing (compare to 9 items on Monday, 15 on Sunday). And yes, a few do make mention of his untimely death.

I only bring it up because as a retailer, every time a newsworthy death like this occurs, we get an awful lot of people dropping by the store anxious to make a buck...the "it'll be worth more now that he's dead" crowd, which is always very distressing. (Granted, it's not as prevalent in our hobby as it is in, say, sports.) Pal Dorian has mentioned that we got a couple people looking for Christopher Reeve items after his death, for example. I'm sure some of those items listed on eBay today are there for the express purpose of taking advantage of the "publicity" around the man's death.*

What I am hoping will happen is that people will hear about Eisner, should his passing get coverage in mainstream news (it's on Yahoo, at least), and become genuinely interested in his work.

I hope.

I don't have any personal anecdotes regarding Eisner, beyond a story or two I've been told by a cartoonist of my acquaintance, but I have enjoyed the man's work and I certainly appreciate the influence he's had on the industry as a whole. And, if it's even the slightest consolation, if he had to leave us so soon (and yes, I'm considering his age of 87 as too soon), at least he went knowing that the vast majority of his major works are still available and still finding new audiences.**

Mark Evanier, as always, steps up to the plate with his usual skill to tell us about Mr. Eisner.

* Before I get anyone irritated at me...I'm certain some of those listings are just coincidence, and not timed to take advantage of Eisner's death. I'm not that cynical.

** As compared, for example, to Isaac Asimov, where, at least in all our local bookstores, only about a half-dozen books of his can readily be purchased. And one of those is only in print to tie in to a lousy movie.

How do you keep a comics fan in suspense? 

The results of the Swamp Thing: Bad Seed contest will be announced on this very webpage tomorrow, and I will send notification e-mails out to the winners then. Thanks to everyone who entered, and thanks of course to Ringwood's Ken Lowery for donating two extra copies of the book to give away.

In the meantime...links ahoy!

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag has a contest of her own, and she's giving away the Colonia: Islands and Anomalies trade paperback by Jeff Nicholson. Please visit her site for details...deadline is January 20th.

Just the other day Ryan Claytor of Elephant Comics dropped by our store, and we got on famously, so I'd thought I'd point you in the direction of his mini-comics. They're all easily purchasable by PayPal, for your shopping convenience. His 24 Hour Comic Rock and Soul, available on his site, was also featured in the 24 Hour Comics Day Highlights 2004 book from Nat Gertler's About Comics.

Congratulations to Scott Saavedra for finding the best New Year's Day-related comics panel yet.

I'm not the world's biggest manga fan, and yet this article I've been pointed to by several people really kept my attention: Abhay covers the work of Naoki Urasawa, a Japanese cartoonist whose work hasn't made many inroads into the U.S.

A couple links to pal Ian: not only does he cover what may very well be my favorite Rick Veitch story, but this comments section for another post on his site delves into the nominees for...The Greatest Comic Book Cover of All Time.

The Superman V movie rumors site has...yup, you guessed it, rumors about Supes' costume in the forthcoming film. Darker colors, "3-D" emblem. The article includes a link to a fan-made interpretation of said costume redesign.

Monday, January 03, 2005

According to the
2005 "IN/OUT" list at the Washington Post, "Ultimate Marvel" is OUT, "DC All-Stars" is IN.

(list found via TV Tattle)

"I'll pretend I enjoy kissing her...!" 

That's the opening panel for "Jimmy's D-Day Adventure," from Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #86 (July 1965)...how does Jimmy find himself in such an unusual predicament? Well, lemme 'splain....

The story beings with our intrepid Daily Planet reporter at the Pentagon, watching vintage World War II films from a recently-opened Nazi archive. Jimmy looks admiringly at the canisters of film on the table next to the projector: "Those cans of film contain the greatest untold stories of the war!"

The next day, Jimmy opens up his carrying case, which he had conveniently left on the table next to the canisters while watching the film, and sure enough: "Oh, oh! One of the cans of film accidentally slipped inside my case!" Yeah, sure, Jimmy.

Anyway, he pops the film into his projector for his own private viewing, and what does he see but...someone who looks just like him, hanging with Hitler!

How to solve this mystery? Delve into old military records? Do actual reseach? Not in a Superman comic, mister! Fortunately for Jimmy, 1) he was able to get an authentic military outfit from a nearby costume shop, 2) he took German in high school, and 3) his scientist pal Professor Potter just happened to have given him an experimental time machine. The time machine, by the way, is a "time-bomb," which apparently explodes and sends you hurtling back in time:

Seems like that would be slightly dangerous, but apparently it works, as Jimmy finds himself back in World War II. Although he spots General Eisenhower, Jimmy decides that it's more important to go looking for his Nazi doppleganger, so he heads off to get behind enemy lines.

Eventually, Jimmy gets in over his head and finds himself pinned down in a battle zone with a paratroop squad. Disguising himself as a German soldier, Jimmy leads the squad to the enemy lines, telling the Nazi forces there that he has captured the Americans and that he's "take the prisoners to the woods and execute them!" Of course, it's just a ruse to allow the American soldiers to escape. Jimmy, however, sticks around, as he figures this is the best way to infiltrate the enemy army and find his mysterious double.

The German general confronts Jimmy (or "Von Olsen," as he is now known) and asks how he "captured" the squad. For some reason, Jimmy claims that the "crystal ball" part of the time machine he's lugging around is, in fact, a real crystal ball, allowing him to see the future and predict the movements of the enemy! In short order, Jimmy's supposed clairvoyant powers (actually, a cheat sheet of WWII events and battles that he has hidden in his sleeve) are exploited by the Nazis. However, the story carefully notes, Jimmy never gives the Nazis enough information or time to really act on his predictions, so I don't know why they put up with him for so long.

But put up they do, and it's not long before Jimmy is brought before Adolph Hitler himself! Seeking to prove his "powers" to Hitler, Jimmy predicts another attack:

Again, the prediction comes too late to really be an advantage to the Nazis, and this pattern continues for several weeks:

Finally, the Nazis are fed up. They finally realize there's something fishy with this Von Olsen guy, since all he ever does is predict Nazi defeats. Hermann Goering decides to test Jimmy's loyalty....

Hitler and his entourage (including Jimmy) stop in at a Belgian farmhouse for a lunchtime meeting, and are waited upon by a peasant girl who is very obviously upset at having to serve her "guests." As she is setting out the meals, she drops a piece of paper that, Jimmy discovers, is a message to the Allies reporting on German troop movements! Surprisingly, Jimmy rats her out...only to be told that this was a test of his loyalty, that this girl is in fact Lotte Lutz, a Gestapo agent!

Jimmy laughs to himself as he reflects on his vast breadth of knowledge: "She gave herself away! Belgian peasant girls usually wear wooden shoes, like the Dutch, not fancy high-heeled ones like this dame!"

Lotte Lutz is impressed with Jimmy, even as he reflects on the odd coincidence of her name while stretching his acting skills to the limit:

His loyalty proven, Hitler promotes Jimmy, and the ceremony is filmed...providing the very footage Jimmy saw on his "accidentally" acquired film reel! What a surprise, if you happened to miss the very first panel of the story.

Shortly afterwards, Hitler asks "Von Olsen" to predict the outcome of their next battle...which, as it turns out, is the Battle of the Bulge! "There will be a big break-through," Jimmy responds ambiguously.

However, the next day as Jimmy returns to the Nazi headquarters, Hitler is pissed! Jimmy has failed to predict an assassination attempt on Hitler's life by Hitler's own officers! Believing Jimmy to be in on the conspiracy, Hitler orders him searched and Jimmy's cheat sheet is discovered:

The jig is up...Jimmy beats feet, with Goering and Himmler hot on his tail. As he charges out of the headquarters, Lotte Lutz is waiting outside with her gun drawn. "Maybe this L L will be my doom, after all," thinks Jimmy. "Usually L Ls bring me luck!" he adds, though I don't think that particular assertion is supported by any other Superman family story, ever.

However, fortune does fall Jimmy's way, as Lutz is the worst shot ever (or, perhaps, has fallen head over heels in love with the young time-travelling reporter and secretly decides to help...we never know for sure) and manages to shoot off pieces of the giant blue swastika over the headquarter's entrance:

An S.S. guard throws a grenade at Jimmy, but as it goes off, Jimmy is whisked back into the future as the "time-bomb's" energy supply has expended itself. Also, the film Jimmy acquired though unseemly means has disintegrated due to exposure to the time-bomb's effects, destroying all evidence of his collusion with the Nazi forces.

The story wraps up with Jimmy extending his particular "L L = luck" delusion to ridiculous extremes:

Not shown: Jimmy getting hauled off by the feds for stealing and destroying U.S. government property.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Found via
Boing Boing...artist (and frequent early Mad Magazine contributor) Frank Kelly Freas has passed away.

I was thinking about
Heidi MacDonald's comment from her excellent year-end wrap-up that Powers is selling 10,000 more copies now that it's published by Marvel instead of Image, and whether 10,000 more people are reading it only because it's Marvel. I thought I'd discuss our experience with this particular comic.

At our store, yes, we did bump orders up on the new Powers #1, for two reasons. First, it is a number one for a relatively popular series by a name writer, and it gets a great deal of press. We thought maybe people would use this new series as a jumping-on point.* And second, it's a Marvel first issue...whether anyone wants to admit it or not, there are comic buyers who buy all Marvel #1s**, if not all Marvels period. (There is a third reason, I suppose...the fact that Marvel no longer supports reorders, requiring dealers to bump orders up just in case there is excess demand.)

Although the first couple issues of Powers did sell through for us, even at the higher orders, it has since gone back down to its Image numbers and we have adjusted our orders accordingly. (And yes, we do carry and prominently feature the Powers trade paperbacks, and we were trying to keep some of those new readers on the title.) I think we'll probably see that "10,000" number diminish over the next few months, if other retailers are having the same experience that we're having with this comic.

Marvel's other ICON book, Kabuki, has gone through a similar rise and decline, though I'm pretty sure sales have even dropped to lower than pre-Marvel levels for us.

On a slightly related subject, has anyone noticed any increased demand for Marvel's Amazing Fantasy title? Both pal Dorian and I have noted that Marvel's promotion for this title includes how it's being covered by the mainstream press in regards to its Latina lead, but none of this coverage has appeared to translate to sales. It's selling to the same people who buy Marvel comics, and not to anyone new. It's also being cancelled and restarted with a new #1 and a new name (Arana), which tells me that our sales situation isn't unique.

In other news:

In my half-baked year-end round-up, I forgot to note Eightball #23 as one of my favorite comics from 2004. Please forgive me, Alan!

Scott at Polite Dissent lists his awards for Comic Book Medicine in 2004. Who else could have made such a list? Who else would dare?

Congratulations to Fred Hembeck on the two year anniversary of his fine site.

EDIT: Oh, right, the Swamp Thing Bad Seed contest...winners will be announced this week!

* I know this flies in the face of previous experience regarding series restarts by Marvel, in which just as many (if not more) people jump off, but we had high hopes, apple pie in the sky hopes.

** Which was the only way we were able to move any copies of Spider-Man: India, for example.

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