mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Friday, September 30, 2005

All the news that's fit to reprint. 

From The Comic Reader #123 (October 1975):

"Casting is still up in the air (so to speak) for SUPERMAN '76 but the trades have Burt Reynolds likely as the Man of Steel with Mary Tyler Moore possible as Lois. Clark will be a talk-show host in the film...."

From The Comic Reader #126 (January 1976)...what I wouldn't give to see this:

"The November 26 episode of the Tom Snyder-hosted TOMORROW program entertained the notion of putting on an hour about the comic book industry. [...] We got...a Marvel collector who insisted on being called 'Spidey.' ...His blanket generalizations about comics only fed more fuel to Tom's continually growing fire of ignorance about comics and collecting. Finally, Tom brought out Carmine Infantino, Stan Lee and Julius Schwartz, who somehow only rated a half an hour out of the show -- and were forced to share it with 'Spidey' -- a loyal and vociferous member of the 'If It's Not A Marvel, It's Crap' camp."

From The Comic Reader #94 (February 1973)...they had no idea what was coming:

"Coming in May is Prez, the Joe Simon book which I cover-previewed last issue. It's almost impossible to describe, however, it is the story of Prez Rickard, the frist teen president of the USA. There are all sorts of weird supporting characters floating around too, like an Indian boy who becomes the chief of the FBI."

From The Comic Reader #148 (September 1977):

"As everyone is aware by now, STAR WARS is doing incredibly well. So well, in fact, that it may soon surpass JAWS for most money grossed at the box office. In any case, the Marvel adaptation is doing well too -- so well that Marvel is going into unprecedented second printings of the six issue series (much to the chagrin of all the speculators who bought up huge lots and are charging ransom prices)."

Also from #148:

"I'm told Roy Thomas explained in San Diego that the reason he or any other Marvel writer isn't involved in any of the Marvel TV projects is because Universal demanded that they not be. Perhaps they felt that they might rise above the usual level of Universal mediocrity."

From The Comic Reader #154 (March 1978):

"Superman battles Kobra in SUPERMAN #327, and then The Kryptonoid in #328."

Okay, there's not really anything funny about that last one. I just miss the simplicity of comic book news of old, sometimes....

Thursday, September 29, 2005

So that Identity Crisis "theory" I
posted about this morning, about how, perhaps, it's the Golden Age Superman as the villain, invading current DC continuity? Devon at Seven Hells had a similar idea, also referencing the Golden Age Supes.

A couple other ideas have cropped up...like commenter Nico's idea that it's, in fact, the Golden Age Lois Lane who's behind the shenanigans, and commenter John, who votes for Supes' pal (and Lana Lang paramour) Vartox.

Gee whiz, I miss Vartox. Okay his costume was a little...eh, well, but I liked the idea of Superman having a super-buddy that was pretty much just his pal, and not a member of the Justice League or anything.

Yeah, I know how that sounds. Don't look at me like that.

New comics day and the End of Civilization. 

As noted by both pal Dorian and Chris Butcher, this week's new comics day was huge. I believe that this was the largest invoice total we've had since last Free Comic Book Day...and not just the manga, but Marvel and DC really cranked out the product as well. Holy frijole.

Dor and I had this exchange at the store, as we were unpacking:

Dor: "Why would the manga publishers put out all their product at once?"

Me: "So they can drive the small comic shops out of business and not have to accommodate them anymore, and then they can put all their focus on the big chain bookstores, where the real money is."

Perhaps when we're rushed in the morning, and we're all kind of cranky, is not the best time to have these sorts of conversations. Anyway, I then put Cheech & Chong's The Wedding Album on the CD player and we were all much cheerier. At least, until we opened for business and discovered one of our regular customers is pictured naked on the letters pages of the newest Tarot, but I'll let Dorian tell you about that.

One of the high points of new comics day is when pal Corey pops in, and we get to shoot the breeze while he's shopping for comics and I'm pulling subscriptions. Today we got on the topic of what might happen in DC's Infinite Crisis series, and Corey mentioned the rumor that the series may focus on a pre-Crisis character who wants his world back...and how it would be cool if it were the Golden Age Superman as the villain! I then told Corey my theory that I felt as if Superman (the current, regular continuity one) was being set up to be put in a position similar to Wonder Woman's, where the only solution to a certain, serious problem would be that he'd have to take a life.

And then I combined our theories...what if the current Superman was forced to kill the Golden Age Superman to solve whatever the "Infinite Crisis" entails? Corey and I just laughed and laughed...not at the event itself, but at how fans would most likely react. Talk about the internet breaking in half! Anyway, it's all just speculation, but hey, I was within a stone's throw of the identity of the murderer in Identity Crisis way back when, so who knows?

Oh, and Red Sonja #2 finally came out this week. You know, I'm almost insulted by its arrival after such a long delay...but not as insulted as by the years-late arrival of Tomb Raider: The Greatest Treasure of All or whatever the heck it's called. When was this thing first announced? Holy smokes.

Best comic of the week: The Stuff of Dreams #3 by Kim Deitch. The Waldo saga continues, in Deitch's own inimitable style. God bless that man.

And now, Progressive Ruin presents...the End of Civilization. Whip open your Oct 2005 Diamond Previews and follow the fun! (Track the fall of civilization through these previous entries: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7)

p. 359: Street Fighter Cammy Door Poster - Guys, if you buy this poster (with a drawing of a character from a video game presenting her hindquarters for all to enjoy) and, say, hang it on your dorm room door, you will never, ever get laid. Sorry.

p. 392: Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer TP -

Dorian: "The solicitation says it's written by 'the world's foremost authority on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, its characters, and its themes.'"

Me: "'Foremost authority.' So it's written by Joss Whedon?"

Dor: "Apparently not."

p. 438: Disney's Cinderella Glass Slipper Scale Replica

"A collectible as breath-taking as Cinderella herself! This special edition glass slipper was carefully crafted to capture the ultimate symbol of romance. Every detail was considered to re-create the unique charm and splendor of Cinderella that helped her win the Prince's love and the hearts of millions of years. Crafted from the finest crystal, this collectible is a 4" scaled replica version of the glass slipper seen in Disney's Cinderella. Comes with a custom Acrylic Display Case, featuring a dark blue base draped in a maroon fabric."

"Millions of years?" I'm guessing they meant "fans."

p. 440: Transformers The Ghost of Starscream Previews Exclusive Statue - It's the statue of the ghost of a robot. Made from clear...something or other, but it's clear, by God. Actually, I can't be too hard on it, because if there's one thing I love, it's a robot's ghost.

p. 446: Scarlet Spider Statue - "This just in, a new entry in the 'approximately ten years too late' category...."

p. 450: I want to make fun of the Rocketeer Helmet Replica, but actually, that's kinda cool. Same with the Darth Vader Helmet Replica (p. 454).

p. 474, and pretty much the whole "Collectibles and Novelties" category from this issue and every future issue:


Thank you.

p. 477: American Dad Series 1 Limited Edition Bendable Box Set - the cartoon nobody likes, now in bendy plastic form!

p. 479: John Wayne Limited Edition Cookie Jar - it needs a voice chip. "Take your hands off my cookies, pilgrim."

Actually, not too much disgusted me this time in the new Previews (but then, maybe I didn't look close enough). I was amused by the ad for the Sub-Mariner statue stating it was based on the character's "first appearance" - his #1 issue in 1968.

And, as promised, for reading all my nonsense, you get a cookie.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

On Sunday I was speaking with a children's librarian at the store, talking about comics and graphic novels that would be appropriate for the younger folk. As a former librarian myself, I'm always happy to speak to other librarians and further the comics cause, as it were. Anyway, we were talking about
Jeff Smith's Bone series and its recent reissuing in color from Scholastic Books, and whether or not is was okay for kids to read. I reassured her that Bone is in fact just fine for kids, with no sex or naughty language, and only some fantasy-style violence and the occasional scary monster.

She then mentioned that she was at some trade show/booksellers' convention/something or other where a Scholastic representative told her that there had been some changes made to Bone's content for its color edition. Not that I've been on top of this story every second, but this is the first that I've heard of it. I know Smith made some changes to the original comics when they were initially reprinted in trade paperback form, but that was mostly just for storytelling clarity and similar reasons. The implication that I got from this rep, via the librarian, was that changes were made to make the material more appropriate for children. That seems hardly likely, since Bone was family-friendly from the get-go, unless Scholastic got nervous about upsetting some of the more hypersensitive parents and insisted changes be made. More likely is that Smith perhaps tweaked the artwork some more for the color edition, and the rep, hearing that changes were made, incorrectly assumed that these changes were made to make the material more kid-friendly.

Anyway, I don't own the color editions so I can't compare them to the black and white versions myself. Has anyone out there come across anything in the Scholastic Bone books that could be seen as a change made to remove so-calld "offensive" material, as opposed to just plain ol' art tweaks?

Man, I do go on a bit, don't I? If you actually read all that stuff I've written over the last couple weeks, you deserve a gold star, or a cookie, or something.

I've been in kind of a looking-backward mood lately, I guess, what with that clearing out the store's back room project I've been working on. After seeing tons of forgotten Image titles, each with a handful of associated variant covers, the mind just wanders in that direction, you know?

On top of that, I've been poking through my fanzine collection, finding some choice old news bits. For example, here's something from The Comic Reader #188 (May 1975):

"ABC has another pilot for Wonder Woman coming up -- entitled 'The New, Original Wonder Woman' starring someone named Lynda Carter as the Amazon this time and Lyle Waggoner late of the CAROL BURNETT SHOW as Steve Trevor."

Hard to imagine a time when Lynda Carter wasn't the '70s TV icon she is today, isn't it?

This space left intentionally blank. Well, except for that sentence. And that last one. And...well, you know.

Two side effects from managing a comic shop:

1. Helping a customer with back issues, coming across some comics you personally own and enjoyed, and suddenly being filled with the urge to pull out your own copies and reread them. This just happened to me with Matt Wagner's Mage series.

2. Having to manage comic stock at the store keeps one from wanting to deal with comic storage at home. I think I catalog and file the new acquisitions into the vast Mikester Comic Archives about, oh, once every two months. Imagine my surprise when I discoverd that I'm going to have to add a second box to the Hellblazer run, and add yet another box to the Legion of Super-Heroes run.

I've got too many gosh darn comics.

From a few days ago:

Me (noticing a song currently on the CD player): "Hey, what musical is this song from?"

Pal Dorian (completely disgusted with my ignorance): "It's from Kiss Me Kate!"

Me: "Geez, you don't need to bite my head off!"

Dor: "Well, look who you're asking! If anyone was going to know...."

Me: "'Oh, if only I worked with a gay man with an interest in musicals who could answer my question!'"

Also a few days ago, the topic came up at the store regarding some new Inspector Gadget animation project, and that the Gadget part was cast with a new voice actor. My response was basically along the lines of "man, they could have at least given Don Adams a break and let him reprise the part he originated."

I had no idea he was in such poor health.


Rest easy, Mr. Adams.

Monday, September 26, 2005


I saw the additional responses to yesterday's post this morning as I was putting up my latest entry, but had no time to respond as I was off to the dentist. So, I thought I'd try your patience with some additional responses.

Commenter Mark (of Chaosmonkey fame) asked about Marvel's "deluxe/newsstand" editions of their X-Men line of comics from a few years back. Commenter Bob's response is correct...the "deluxe" $1.95 edition, printed on the slick paper, was released about two weeks before the $1.50, printed on the non-slick paper, edition. I believe Marvel's statement on the matter was that they were testing the market, to see which edition readers, and retailers, preferred. Unsurprisingly, the one that came out first sold the best, since most X-fans didn't want to wait half a month to read the latest installment of their mutant adventures, and the $1.50 editions were done away with in short order.

Commenter Chris (from Matter Eater Blog) makes his attempt to break my brain by asking me to explain the whole Wasteland multiple-cover boondoggle. The Grand Comic Book Database has explanations in the entries for issue 5 and issue 6. Basically, #5 came out with the cover to #6 wrapped around it...it was reprinted with the correct cover, and the real #6 was released with a blank cover to (heh) avoid confusion. By the way, as a retailer, dealing with this sort of thing really sucks.

To pal Evilbeard...I haven't responded to your e-mail because I'm not sure how any answer I can give you could improve on the question itself! (I believe Hawkgirl would indeed shout out "Caw! Caw! Caw!" at that, er, moment.)

And, to Chaz...yeah, that's the problem with some of the really eye-catching covers, particularly in the case of Superman #204. The contents didn't always live up to the cover. You see that dynamic Neal Adams cover, and inside...generic late-60s Superman art. Not terrible, really, but it just suffers in comparison to that fantastic cover.

That is the corner company logo on the 1987 Justice League and Firestorm test-market variants I mentioned yesterday. More on that later.

I had some good comments on yesterday's post, including
commenter Joe, who wondered if both versions of that Amazing Spider-Man annual was in fact offered in comic shops. I'm fairly certain both were offered to retailers, but alas, I don't have any of the invoicing material from that period readily available and it predates my funnybook-selling days, so I just don't know.

As to Joe's X-Men #1 comment, that reasonable people would have just bought the fifth variant that had the gatefold cover that featured the images from the other four covers...well, if memory serves, the covers were released one a week, so that if you wanted the gatefold cover, you had to wait over a month to get your hands on it. But if you were any kind of X-fan, well, you weren't going to wait that long, were you? Especially for a new X-Men #1 written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Jim Lee? But, as Joe says, some people were indeed content to wait for the final version, and others just bought whatever cover was handy. And too many bought every single version.

Commenter Porkspam brings up a related subject...the difference between "newsstand" and "direct market" editions, which used to be that the newsstand comics had UPC codes and the ones in comic shops had a picture, or advertising, or the like in its place. (Or, as has been the case for the last few years, a different UPC code with a "DIRECT SALES" notation.) In general, the only difference between newsstand and direct market comics is just the UPC code, and the various price guides' stand on the issue is that one version is not more "valuable" or "collectible" than the other. I should note, however, that it's been my experience that there are a number of collectors out there who do in fact have a preference, who don't want the newsstand edition of certain back issues in favor of the direct market version. If this becomes a common enough phenomenon, the price guides may have to reflect it.

FM Zombie made me slap my head and go "duh!" I completely forgot about DC's Man of Steel mini-series from the mid-80s, the one that completely revamped Superman and established his new, permanent status quo...well, permanent at least until a couple years ago, but that's another post entirely. There were two covers for the first issue...an extreme close-up of the Superman logo, as revealed beneath Clark Kent's shirt, and another that matched the cover designs of the rest of the mini-series, with Superman standing to the right of the cover, with an action scene on the left-hand side. So, as far as I know, this is the earliest variant we've uncovered so far. (Though, as Martin says, I can't help but think that there was something much earlier than this.)

And now, to the test-market editions...Daniel wanted to know more about 'em, and Bob beat me to the punch by linking to scans of the variants in question (one of which, the Firestorm issue, I've, ahem, borrowed for this post...go to Bob's links for much larger images).

I don't know the background on these, but it seems pretty clear that DC was trying out a simpler cover design that would hopefully appeal to younger readers, a corner logo that emphasized that this comic was from the company that brought you Superman, and with that cover element that's used all too infrequently nowadays, word balloons. As Eric L mentions, the west coast was one of the areas where these covers were distributed, and as a result, our store has a pile of the Justice League variants that have arrived in collections over the years. Although we have easy access to this particular variant, because we were a test market, demand is rather slim for these locally. By contrast, though the Firestorm was available in our area (I bought one from a local newsstand myself), it never turns up in collections. I think, counting the one I owned (I've since sold it), I've seen a total of two over the years. It's almost certainly because there are a lot more issues ordered of the third issue of a high profile series like Justice League, than of the sixty-first issue of a second-stringer like Firestorm. But, for all I know, there's some store out there with a pile of that Firestorm!

Since we never saw those particular cover designs (or that logo) ever again, I'm guessing that whatever DC was hoping would happen with these didn't happen. But looking at these did make me wish for the days of word balloons and text-heavy covers that practically dared you to pick up the book and read it. I remember processing a large collection of Sgt. Rock comics that we'd purchased for the store, and having a really hard time not wanting to open every issue and see what the stories were behind the covers. And let's not forget the two greatest "I gotta read that issue!" covers of all time..."Why do these initials mean death for the Man of Steel?" and "Stop! Don't pass up this issue! My life depends on it!" Man, you had to read these!

I'm not saying that covers on today's comics are bad, by any means. A lot of them are nicely done, and some are quite beautiful, but while the covers are striking, they're not necessarily compelling. While those thirty covers in a row of Amazing Spider-Man, where Spidey is swinging on a web between buildings, may be drawn well, there's nothing on the cover that would make a casual reader think "boy, I wonder why Spider-Man is swinging on his webline? I'd better grab that issue and find out!" Compare that to, for example, this. "Holy $#!*! Blackhawk's fighting flying cavemen?!? The hell? I gotta read that!"

So it's a shame that DC's '87 test-variants didn't work out. Different newsstand covers designed to grab the attention of young readers with simpler, more compelling designs, with word balloons and other similar cover elements...those are variants I could get behind.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

So a customer yesterday expressed shock and amazement that a particular issue of a comic book had two different covers.

Not shock and amazement that he now had two great covers to choose from. But shock and amazement at the very idea that a publisher would use two different covers on a comic, and, what's this, what's this, the content of the comics contained within these variant covers are exactly the same? What manner of sorcery is this?

Okay, now during the big comics boom from 10-15 years ago, when the "variant cover" was still a fairly new idea, I could understand the idea of "muliple covers for the same book" being a slightly perplexing one.

But at this point, with the variant-covers-for-the-same-book being a mainstreamed marketing gimmick -- when TV Guide, one of the most widely read magazines in North America, uses the multi-cover gimmick for pretty much every other issue -- the very concept really shouldn't be too foreign.

That got me to thinking...what was the first "variant cover?" Or, if not the first, at least some of the earliest? I don't mean cover variations between printings spread out over several months or years, as on several old underground comics. I mean, going to a comic store, seeing Unicycle Tragedy #17 on the "new arrivals" rack, and discovering that you have your choice of three different covers, by three artists, all released at the same time and on the stands all at once.

And I don't think I'd count the Superman "test logo" variants of Justice League #3 and Firestorm #61 from '87 - I'm fairly certain the markets these were sold in only had these covers, and not the others, so the customer wouldn't have had the choice of which cover he or she wanted. (If I'm wrong, though, let me know...a newstand in our area had these covers, and I don't remember seeing the regular ones on that newstand at the time.)

In comics, one of the earliest was Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #1 from 1989, which had four cover variations (just overlays with four different colors). It's not the first, but it's the one that seemed to cause the biggest stink, with some fans complaining that they had to buy all four versions!

A couple years before that was Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21, where the newsstand edition had Peter in his Spidey costume, and the direct market edition had Peter in his civvies. Okay, it wasn't really a simultaneous release of both covers to the newsstands, but comic shops had both covers so I'm counting it as a variant.

Is there anything earlier? I'm sure there is, but I'm having a brain freeze and can't come up with any at the moment.

(Outside of comics, there was the original Raiders of the Lost Ark novelization in the early '80s, which was my first encounter with this particular gimmick. There were several different foil covers to choose from...I remember having the silver foil cover, but it seems to me that there were red, yellow, and maybe blue covers as well. And I'm not 100% on this, but the novelization for E.T. may have done the same thing.)

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