mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Friday, September 23, 2005

Conversations with Kid Chris Nathan 

Nathan: "You know, if I read a comic I don't like, I just put it down and don't read it again. I'm not going to stand around complaining about it."

Me: "You'll never make it as a comics weblogger with an attitude like that!"


(Pal Dorian is sorting out some copies of Grips....)

N: "Hey, what's Grips about?"

Me: "Violence."

Speaking of Grips, in the '80s, back when I still attended comic book conventions on a semi-regular basis, I remember hearing a lot of buzz about this hot new Grips comic book. It was the item to have, apparently, and I kept seeing teenagers going from table to table asking for these rare, in-demand issues.

It's probably primarily of interest now since it features the early work of Tim Vigil, who would later do a more popular book on the subject of violence called Faust. But, honestly, Grips? No good. I have no idea why it got the "buzz" it did, other than "hey man, you think Wolverine is badass? Check out this Grips guy!"

I suppose I should have paid closer attention, and figured out what was driving that demand. Had someone told me back then that I'd have a comics weblog now, I'd have kept better notes. And wondered what a "weblog" was, but that's beside the point.

Oh, and Dorian wanted me to note that the numbering on the subsequent Grips series don't appear to make much sense. As in "two different issues with the same number that came out at the same time" kind of sense.

Yesterday, at the store, one of our customers said that I looked like George Perez.


Not that I think I look anything like George Perez, but I'm accepting that compliment anyway.

Via Robot Wisdom: your latest comic book news headline inspired by a forty-year-old TV show: "Bang! Pow! Cash!"

Thursday, September 22, 2005

This just in.... 

Kid Chris, former employee of our fine comic-booking establishment, has a weblog of his very own. Enjoy, won't you?

Well, former employee Kid Chris may be off to UCLA for some of that book learnin', but we have ourselves a new employee filling his shoes...Nathan, who as yet lacks a catchy nickname by which
pal Dorian and I can refer to him. Hmmmm..."Big Nathan?" I don't know...we'll see.

Regarding some of the new comic day arrivals:

Dor noticed in Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files 2005 yet another reference to pre-reboot Doom Patrol continuity...specifically, to the Brotherhood of Dada from Grant Morrison's run on the title. Once again...nobody is paying the slightest bit of attention to the team's current "together again for the first time" status. Look for the next Doom Patrol incarnation to explain away this current series as some of kind of aberration. (EDIT: Just noticed Dorian made essentially the same comment...actually, I'm surprised we don't overlap more often.)

If you were wondering where this image from one of my corner pictures came from, the new issue of Archie Pals & Gals Double Digest (#97) reprints the story that features that particular panel. As Dor said to me when he spotted it..."someone at Archie is reading your site!" (Well, if someone at Archie was reading my site, I'm sure the cease-and-desist would have shown up long ago.)

My insane Lex Luthor post from yesterday got me thinking about that particular bit of business regarding Luthor's current status in the DC Universe as compared to his status as of the mid-80s reboot. Particularly, the whole "coming back in a clone body and pretending to be his own 20-ish son" thing. Okay, that would work if only Luthor is about, say, twenty years older than Clark and Lois. Perhaps even ten. And, post the mid-80s reboot, Lex did appear to be significantly older.

That doesn't seem compatible with the current Luthor status, where his Smallville TV show-mandated back story has him as a slightly older contemporary living in Smallville, and briefly attending Smallville High with a teenaged Clark Kent. If you were to open your copy of Superman/Batman Secret Files 2003 to the story "Young Luthor in Smallville," Lex in the narrative is explicitly placed at age 18, and Clark in the story is in 9th grade, making the difference in age at about four or five years, tops.

So, in order for the "clone/son" ruse to work, assuming that Clark and Lois are in their early thirties, Lex would have had to father this alleged son while still a young teenager himself...technically possible, but not really fitting with the back story presented for "Lex Jr" (in which Lex was apparently already an established businessman).

Plus, don't forget that the post-reboot continuity established that a young Lex and a young Perry White were contemporaries...so unless Perry is only about five years older than Clark and Lois, what we have here is one screwed-up timeline.

I suppose the way out of this is the events in the Underworld Unleashed crossover, where Lex cut a deal with the demon Neron to regain his health and vigor. Perhaps, at the same time, Neron also altered reality, retroactively remaking Lex's history so that he was literally a younger man, and, um...

...okay, this is sad, even for me.

I am not Jack Klugman, nor am I Norman Fell. The jury is still out on whether or not I am Alan Thicke, Ted Koppel, or Cantinflas.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The many (and nowhere near complete) faces of Lex Luthor. 











Additional linkage:

Superman Through The Ages has a comprehensive overview of our favorite bald villain, as does Wikipedia (at least until Luthor complains and the entry is reduced to just his bibliography).

More "Many Faces of Lex Luthor," this time from TV and movies. And here's Kevin Spacey as Luthor from the forthcoming new movie.

DC Comics' official Lex Takes the Presidency page, complete with Shockwave campaign ad.

Comparing and contrasting the comic book origins of Luthor with his counterpart on TV's Smallville.

Who will win in the battle of the (previous) century? Khan versus Luthor, or Luthor versus Dr. Doom - you be the judge.

"Bin Laden as Lex Luthor." Er, um....

Fred Hembeck presents: Brainiac and Lex Luthor!

This lucky fella has a "Baldy Award"autographed by Mr. Luthor himself!

The original Mego Luthor Pocket Super Hero from 1979. And here's the Super Powers figure.

...And here are some custom figures, including probably the only Earth-3 Luthor figure you'll ever see.

The Planet Lexor, where Luthor was a hero and Superman was the villain!

Information about the Silver Age Luthor's estranged sister.

Luthor only made it to number 4 on this list of Evil Geniuses? Bah!

Luthor is also on the Forbes Fictional Fifteen richest characters list.

Here's a biography that's a couple years out of date, but gives you an idea of what the post-Crisis Luthor is all about.

The Luthor Hero Clix figure.

A thumbnailed overview of the Super Friends episode "Lex Luthor Strikes Back" (complete with Super Mobile cameo!). (warning: pop-ups)

Luthor as Capitalist Bogeyman. (warning: more pop-ups)

The absolutely genius Lex Luthor mini-bust.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I just have one thing to say... 

...about the new DC solicitations:


He was so badass that (as others have noted in the past) he didn't even bother changing out of his prison uniform before fighting Superman.

So, this new
Local comic all the cognoscenti are abuzz about...well, they're abuzz for good reason, as it's a fine darn read. A young woman finds herself at a crossroads, as her good-for-nothing strung-out boyfriend is coercing her into turning in a forged prescription at a pharmacy. That is basically the extent of the plot, but writer Brian Wood and artist Ryan Kelly wring a great deal of emotion and even suspense out of this seemingly-simple situation.

That's the spoiler-free review. If you want to be caught by surprise by the storytelling technique in this book, one that caught me completely off-guard, skip the next paragraph and buy the darn thing in November, when your finer comic shops should have it on the shelves.


Still here? Okay, the twist in this story is that we see several different outcomes for the young woman's pharmacy escapade. Similar to the end of Run, Lola, Run, as she reaches the tragic ending resulting from her entering the pharmacy, we are rewound back to the point where her boyfriend is pushing her into getting his drugs for him. She sets off on a different series of events from that point, and so on. We learn a great deal about how she deals with adversity, or how she deals with people sympathetic to her situation, and Wood and Kelly run her through minor variations on the same situation. It's a shorthand introduction to the woman who is apparently the protagonist for the series, telling us what kind of woman she is and how she ultimately deals with a problem that appears to have no solution.


Spoilers over, you can start reading again. Anyway, from my brief glances at other people's reviews (which I'd been trying to avoid as so not to spoil anything for myself), most everyone is recommending this to the folks that read and enjoyed the excellent Demo, Wood's prior project. I can't disagree...like most issues of Demo, Local has a gimmick driving the story, but the gimmick is there to teach us more about the characters involved, to bring emotional depth rather than some improbable plot contrivance.

It's involving and it's beautifully drawn, and it sticks with you after you've read it. That's a good way to spend three bucks, sez I.

Monday, September 19, 2005

As I've mentioned previously on this here weblog, one of my projects at the store lately has been going through dead stock in the back room. We have a buyer who just wants to buy a lot of comics in bulk, and doesn't care what they are...we're not getting much for 'em, but "a little" is better than "the nothing" we were getting for them before. Plus, we're freeing up lots of valuable store space, and that's the half-full cup I'm focusing on.

The vast majority of the bulk comics we're unloading are from the early '90s, that crazy period when comics were booming, recent back issues were selling like you wouldn't believe, money was coming in by the crateful, and these good times were never going to end, never! Well, they ended, all right, with promised blockbusters
not busting a darn thing, and the collectors/investors that were driving the inflated comics market bailing out and buying, I don't know, Beanie Babies or some darn thing instead.

One of those comic market bombs was the much-ballyhooed Image Comics/Valiant Comics mini-series Deathmate, which I mentioned briefly before. As I noted, a crossover between two red-hot companies was sure to be a sales success, and most stores ordered accordingly. However, it ended up tanking, whether it was due to its erratic shipping schedule, lack of the more popular Image characters (like Spawn), or just plain awfulness, it's hard to say. Actually, it's not hard to say...it was all three, surely.

At the time, I was still enjoying some of the Valiant books, and though I had little to no interest in the Image characters represented, I thought I'd give the series a try. No go...after the first two issues, I decided that it wasn't for me, and I hardly gave it another thought. Well, as a fan, I didn't give it another thought. As a comic store manager, I gave it plenty of thought..."well, crap, what am I going to do with this boatload of Deathmates?"

My plan for this weblog today was to gather together a full set of Deathmate, read the series from beginning to end, and do a (hopefully) light-hearted and fun review of the comics, and we could all have some fun reminiscing about this strange time in the comics industry.

That was the plan.

However, to pull the plan off, I would have to read the comics in question. And you know what? They're really, really bad. They're like the epitome of what early '90s "hot" comics were like...barely competent art, extremely sparse plots that still managed to turn into jumbled messes, laughable dialogue. I managed to give a full read to the first couple in the series, but could only manage to skim the rest.

The overarching "plot," as it were, of the series was that Solar (from the Valiant Universe), heart aching from the loss of his life-long love, flings himself into a some kind of interdimensional limbo and finds the WildC.A.T.s' Void (from the Image Universe). The two of them get down with some cosmic lovin', and as a result, the two Universes are merged, and the rest of the series is characters running around shouting at each other that something is wrong with reality.

The best part of Deathmate (and by "best" I mean "oh, look, the dog poop on my shoe isn't so thick by the heel") was probably the first story in the Prologue, which is at least is by Bob Layton and Barry Windsor-Smith (inked by Jim Lee), so it's at least competent. It is a nice companion piece to the generally excellent early issues of Valiant's Solar series, in which Solar's companion Gayle asks him to stop extending her life with his powers...to let her die. It's affecting, in its way, and kicks off the whole "Solar seeks companionship with ultra-powerful cosmic being" thing I mentioned earlier. It's a bit more complicated than that -- isn't it always? -- but that's the gist of it.

Now, as for the rest of the series...lemme explain first, for those of you blissfully ignorant of how this whole Deathmate thing worked. Instead of issue numbers, which would have made things easier, the issues are identified primarily (har har) by color. The Prologue and Epilogue issues have silver foil covers, and the other issues have blue, black, yellow, and red foil. There are also variant covers, of course, since this was the '90s, but I'll get to those later.

The foil cover on Deathmate Yellow is probably the worst of the bunch. Scanning it doesn't do it any justice...I tried, these guys tried, but nothing quite properly conveys the piercing, acidic yellow on this cover. Sunday at the store I was packing up a pile of these for the bulk sale, and that yellow actually started to make me physically ill. And no, it wasn't the thought that we dumped so much money into this comic...I was having an honest-to-God reaction to that horrible, horrible shade of yellow. I've no explanation.

Anyway, back to the actual contents...the majority of the stories in the Deathmate series are Valiant and Image characters fighting each other, but the first story in Yellow features Valiant characters Armstrong and the Eternal Warrior being "Jerked Through Time" (that's the title, I swear) to ancient Rome. As a result...quite possibly the finest use of a vomitorium in an intercompany comic book crossover:


And, yeah, that's pretty much the highlight of that book. In fairness, it's not a terrible story, given that Armstrong is so slovenly a character that he's usually fun to read.

Deathmate Black is notable for being the only issue of the series to have even the slightest aftermarket demand, primarily due to the brief appearance of the briefly-popular Gen 13. Also, this issue provides a good microcosm of the '90s comics market. Here's what about half the books from Image looked like:


And here's the other half:


The most infamous issue was, as I recall, the one that was the most delayed, Deathmate Red. I believe it was also returnable, at least partially, as well, making it the hardest to find. Though why you would want to find it is beyond me...it's Youngblood and Bloodshot, with Rob Liefeld at the helm for at least the first half, and you can glance at this cover for a taste of its greatness.

Aside from the core series, there were also variants and a "preview" issue. The preview is generally referred to as "Deathmate Pink," and you can see a pic of it here. It's simply a few pages from Yellow, with Shadowman sitting down and having a quiet cup of tea with Grifter. Oh, okay, not really, they're actually fighting. "Pink" was distributed with the Diamond Previews catalog, though, according to some of the signage I still had with our copies at the shop, copies may have also been distributed with boxes of Ultra Pro comic supplies.

The variants were simply gold foil editions of the books, which made the variants for Blue and Black stand out, but the gold variant of Yellow always used to make me look twice. It was just close enough to not be immediately obvious to me at the time, though looking at it now...well, the fact that the gold foil doesn't make me sick should be difference enough.

I should admit that, as I was processing the Deathmates for disposal, I thought I'd better check the back issue bins in case the Deathmate section needed restocking. Surprisingly, we needed Blue...though seeing as how this is probably the first time I've checked this section is, oh, a decade, who knows when it actually sold.

So anyway...so long, our backroom Deathmate stock...we barely knew ye, but I'm glad to see the back-end of you as you become someone else's problem.

Of course, with my luck, suddenly Deathmate will become red-hot again as soon as we unload all these turkeys. Though I shudder to think of a comics industry shift that would make Deathmate popular.

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Conversations with Kid Chris - The Final Chapter 

KC: "Hey, can Magnus Robot Fighter beat Red Tornado in a fight?"

M: "Well, I don't know...not necessarily."

KC: "No? But he's Magnus Robot Fighter!"

M: "Yeah, but he's not 'Magnus Beat Every Robot in a Fight Every Time.' Maybe he's one of those guys that can't fight worth a damn, and always gets his ass handed to him, but still keeps picking fights anyway."


Somehow the subject came up of the Punisher as a leprechaun, and Kid Chris proceeded to dance a little jig and sing the following "song" in a bad Irish accent:

"I age in real time
Unlike the rest of Marvel;
I fought in Vietnam...."

Okay, that doesn't translate well into weblog form, but trust me, it was darn strange.

And, yes, this is indeed the last installment of "Conversations with Kid Chris" -- I wish I had more conversations to relate, but we were pretty darn busy today, and no time for idle chit-chat. I mean, aside from the singing, dancing, and the bad Irish accents. Kid Chris is fired leaving us to attend UCLA, where hopefully they'll knock some sense into him. Monday is his last day of work at our store, and I'm unfortunately off that day, but I bet pal Dorian will give him a going-away present he's sure to never forget.

In other, non-Kid Chris related news:

Not only is All-Star Batman and Robin #2 selling well for us, but even more copies of #1 are flying out the door! But...but...but everyone on the internet says it's bad...don't these people read the internet? What's wrong with them?

Oops, sorry, someone nudged my sarcast-o-meter up a few notches. My apologies.

Really, ASB&R #1 was okay, but #2 was a blast. Big, dumb fun, even if Miller's explicit statement about Batman's behavior toward Robin (that he was testing the boy for his reactions) was too subtle for some people to get ("He just called Robin a retard! That's totally out of character!").

Plus, the comic made me laugh. (With it, not at it, smart guy.)

What's this terrible, terrible slander about me being less that saint-like? Why, I'm a prince among men, I am, with nary a naughty bone in my body.

However, perhaps, just between us, I'll admit sometimes I get really riled up about something comics-related at the shop, and, because I'm generally an easy going guy, by the time I get around to writing about it that evening or the next day on the weblog, my anger has generally dissipated.

Which is just as well. I'm doing this site to have fun, not to stoke my anger into some kind of raging fire. Which, I realize, may make this site more fun for some of you, but I've got enough grey hair, thank you...I don't need to encourage any more sprouting on my head.

Blogging about blogging is a sin, redux. 

With apologies to pal Dorian...Lessons the Internet Has Taught Me:

There's no molehill so small that it can't become a mountain; doing my best to credit weblogs and other sites where I find certain links, and expecting others to do the same for me, apparently makes me the jerk; being amused when other people are outraged is a serious character flaw; the internet is constantly in danger of cracking in half; and all those sorority girls sending me dating-spam really are interested in me!

Oh, and y'all need a hug. Come here, ya big goof!

Speaking of credit where credit is due, pal JP is the person who first drew the connection between this house and Doofus. Viva Batfatty!

Dave's Comics Weblog Update-A-Tron 3000 is a valuable tool that every fan of the comics weblogging should use...however, apparently due to something that happened at Blo.gs (since problems starting occurring after its ownership changeover), and through no fault of Dave (and as has been noted by others), the Update-A-Tron is now broken. Weblogs are apparently being "pinged" at random times, thus causing the list to show sites as having updated several times a day, including sadly-missed, and not-updated sites like Grotesque Anatomy. Hopefully that situation will get resolved soon...along with Blo.gs' inability to deal with quotation marks. That's really beginning to cheese my crackers.

So, just to let you know, I post at least once a day every day before noon. Sometimes I'll post something when I get home from work at night. I don't "ping" my site a dozen times during the day, as the bad data being fed from Blo.gs to the Update-A-Tron would have you believe.

Which reminds me...sooner or later I'm going to have to break the once-a-day habit. My initial plan was to post every day for a year, in an attempt to get people used to coming to my site often to see new content. At the year mark, I was going to drop the frequency down a bit...but obviously, I haven't. So, at this point, barring health, accident, Blogger problems, or jail time, I'm going for a post a day until the two-year mark.

After that...sleep. Beautiful, beautiful, sleep. And then probably more posting, because I'm a chump.

I was linked by a Superman message forum, and, for once, it wasn't to the Supes-using-his-super-hypnosis-to-protect-his-identity thing (under March 2nd).

About yesterday's posting of the War cover...Dorian, pal JP and I spent a little downtime at the shop going through some boxes of back issues, looking for stuff for JP to buy. From one of our Charlton boxes (yes, we have more than one), I pulled up that copy of War #34 and all three of us, upon seeing the cover, went "Holy crap!" JP insisted I scan it right away for posting on the site, because was going to buy it and take it home.

Man, that's a great cover.

From Roger Ebert's "Answer Man" column:

Q. Recently you have come under fire from readers who don't get the humor in your columns, as in your "Dukes of Hazzard" and "The Aristocrats" reviews. The print media is the absolute hardest place to be witty. A little piece of me dies every time one of your witticisms is mistaken for a sincere attack.

Andrew Zimmer, Los Angeles

A. I hope it is a very small piece. A depressing number of people seem to process everything literally. They are to wit as a blind man is to a forest, able to find every tree, but each one coming as a surprise.

That's enough posting for today...I need to get back to that Nigerian prince about all that money he wants to transfer to me....

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