mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, March 25, 2006

from Questar #1 (1978) - art by William G. Wilson Jr.

Revenge of the Oil Slick Ducks #1 (1991) - art by Gary Cangemi

Friday, March 24, 2006

Your Snakes on a Plane update. 

"Snakes On A Plane - Unofficial 3D Model"

"This is a high quality 3D model replica of the actual plane used in the feature film 'Snakes On A Plane'. This model is constructed/forged out of genuine American Play-Dohå¨, which contains wheat (a warning for those of us who experience allergic reactions when exposed to wheat, I wore gloves when playing with this doh). This model is vibrant, and full of life, but does not fly. It's amazing the resemblance to the real thing.... snakes being on a plane and all. Bonus features: Used 10 oz. bottle of Pink Play-Dohå¨. Sure to increase in value over time."

If I had a title, it would go here. 

"One good film with comic-book roots" (warning: annoying animated ad)

It's a positive review for A History of Violence, but the reviewer discusses several comics-to-film translations...though his definition of "superhero" is a little different from mine*:

"Sure there have been many, many bad comic-book adaptations. After all, just because a movie isn't about superheroes doesn't mean it's going to be any better than, say, 'Catwoman' or 'Superman 4: The Quest for Peace.'

"Take 'Tank Girl,' for example. Or 'Barb Wire' with Pam Anderson. How about 'Timecop' with Jean-Claude Van Damme? There was the kung-fu dud 'Elektra,' which spun off from the costumed 'Daredevil' film and comic, and the even bigger kung-fu dud 'Bullet Proof Monk.'"

However, the reviewer does reveal himself to be a man of taste:
"But on the other hand, there have been just as many comic adaptations that have been good, or even great.

"In 1982, horror guru Wes Craven directed 'Swamp Thing' about a plant-man living in the bayou...."

But then he goes on to praise the From Hell movie, but nobody's perfect.

From Popcorn Panel's discussion of V for Vendetta:

"Unlike most reviewers, I wasn't crazy about Hugo Weaving's turn as V. Does the fact that the movie was based on a comic book negate the criticism that he seemed like a caricature? Probably."

As an aside, I've come across a handful of V for Vendetta reviews getting on Alan Moore's case for not wanting to have anything to do with the film adaptations of his work. Um, as I recall, he has pretty good reasons for that.

* Keeping in mind that I think Neil Gaiman's Sandman is a superhero comic, it's possible that everyone's definition of "superhero" is more rigid than mine.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Stupid Mike, Stupid Diamond, Comic Books, and the End of Civilization. 

Well, a few days ago I made a post allegedly pointing to the Snakes on a Plane trailer, but botched the link. Here it is for the three of you who haven't seen it yet. Oh, God, will this be brilliant.

Latest Diamond Comics shipping shortage report: no Hawkgirl, no JSA Classified, no Hulk, missing most of our Sgt. Rocks, our extra Marvel catalogues, missing another couple dozen indie titles, graphic novels, and books, and also missing Sable & Fortune, but we're ordering so few of that particular comic we might as well not get it.

We've been having shortages like this consistently over the last few weeks, as I may have noted a time or two on this site. It's exceedingly frustrating, particularly since we're still out stuff that didn't show up from previous weeks. We're out the most recent Spider-Girl, for instance...hope none of our customers wanted it that badly.

Sigh...this industry, I swear.

Not really much in a mood to discuss new comics, but I'll make a note about a few things:

Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy #3 - TOLD YOU.

Jeremiah Harm #2 - While I generally enjoyed the first issue, the alien setting was a little distancing...now that the action is on Earth, things are a bit more relatable. Harm finds himself in a clinic, confronted by a couple nurses who understandably think he's just a crazy man, and not a bounty hunter from space, leading to some entertaining banter among the three of them. So entertaining, in fact, that when the focus of the book turns to the alien baddies and what they're getting up to, it's not as interesting as the Harm segments. Not that it's bad, by any means, just that the alien villains of the piece aren't as interesting as Harm himself. Rael Lyra's art is rough and ugly, but that's not a criticism! Rough and ugly is what's called for by the story, with highly detailed dilapidated scenery, worn and rugged people, brutal action...Lyra does a great job with real visual flair, presenting a down and dirty setting without felling oppressive. Good work all around...Ross, give these guys a raise!

Transformers Generations #1 - Reprints #7 of the original Marvel Comics Transformers series. Dear IDW: perhaps reminding the few remaining Transformers fans of the comics they actually liked, as opposed to what you're currently publishing now, is not the best idea.

Supergirl & The Legion of Super-Heroes - Okay, I had someone come in on Wednesday asking me what's happened to the Legion since he last read it...which was about the time of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. The idea that each reboot was independant of the others, and that in the original post-Crisis Legion Superboy was in fact from an alternate dimension, and that the reboot just prior was in fact allegedly the "Earth 2" Legion (thanks for letting out that tidbit of info, whoever did so)...well, I did my best, let's put it that way. Okay, none of that had anything to do with this comic, aside from trying to explain 1) "One Year Later" and 2) what Supergirl is doing in it. My head hurts.

And now, Progressive Ruin presents...the End of Civilization. Crack open your copy of Diamond Previews (not your mint, sealed copy, natch, but the second copy you bought to read) and follow along! (Previous installments: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13)

p. 168-9 - Sex Pistols 3-D Album Cover Art: Now, I can understand doing this cover, but Never Mind the Bollocks? That doesn't seem terribly exciting.

p. 188-9 - X-Men The Last Stand Movie Prop Replica Jewelry: X-shaped cufflinks, and a "Jean Grey Pendant Replica." "...This high-quality wearable prop replica is a timeless and stunning piece sure to be noticed." A giant, tacky gold phoenix with red jewel-like dangly bits? I'll say it'll be noticed.

p. 190-1 - Alex Ross Wolverine Mini-Head Bust: "Quick, we need the world's ugliest Wolverine bust!" "No problem, boss - here it is!"

p. 236-7 - Shrugged #1:

"You've experienced the thrill of Shrugged: Beginnings, and you've explored the mystery of Shrugged #0. Now, prepare yourself for the debut of Aspen's newest breakout series, Shrugged #1...because you haven't seen ANYTHING yet!"

Um, presumably by this time you have seen something...the first two issues of the Shrugged series prior to the "debut" issue. This "multiple first issues" stuff was bullshit in the comics-investment heyday of the '90s, and it's bullshit now.

p. 305 - Angel: The Curse Cover Gallery: All 300 multiple covers (perhaps I overestimate slightly) from the mini-series, gathered together under one cover. If you didn't get the puppet cover, now's your chance.

p. 384 - Cosplay Girls Revised Ed TP:

"All over Japanm [sic] hard-core fans of animatrion [sic], video games and manga comics are hitting the streets in their latest cosplay outfits - especially women! [...] Here you will find street-fighting tough chicks, emerald-haired princesses, school girls with an attitude, faux-fur-kittens and more."

This makes me feel uncomfortable.

p. 413 - Star Wars: Sith Lord T-Shirt:


p. 432 - Star Trek 40th Anniversary Phaser: It's a "limited edition" phaser with a bronze handle. Really. Go look.

p. 440 - Frankie Raye Mini-Bust: Okay, I've tried to avoid making the obvious "bust" jokes in the past in regards to these statues, but honestly:

...they make it so difficult to resist, sometimes.

p. 440-1 - And don't get me started on the Mary Jane Watson statue:

Some of you may be familiar with what they used to do on old pulp magazine covers...basically dressing the pretty ladies on the covers in very little clothing, or flesh-colored clothing, to make it appear at first glance that they're in fact in the altogether, causing browsers to take a second look (and bring them that much closer to parting with that hard earned dime, or quarter, for the pulp in question). Just sayin', is all.

p. 460 - Space 1999 Eagle Die-Casts: Now, I always liked the look of the Space 1999 spaceships, but not enough to drop 75 bones on a little metal replica...imported from England or not.

p. 463 - Jim Woodring's Frank Toy & Pupshaw/Pushpaw Toy Set: Tempting, but at $24.99/$39.99 respectively, I just can't swing it this time around...baby needs shoes, after all. They're neat, though, if you're Frank fans...and I know you are.

p. 474 - Freddy Krueger Glove Prop Replica: There is no amount of explaining you can do to justify having Freddy's bladed glove on display in a glass box in your living room. It can't be done. Sorry.

p. 475 - Pirates of the Caribbean Fireplace Set:

"Now you can not only shiver your timbers, but burn them with this set of full-sized fireplace tools, patterned after the pirate cutlasses seen in the Disney hit, Pirates of the Caribbean! A unique piece of home decor."

p. 486 - Superman Returns Collector's Edition Monopoly & James Bond 007 Collector's Edition Monopoly: Pretty soon there are going to be Monopoly boards personalized for every single man, woman, and child in the United States and, probably, abroad. "Mike Sterling Collector's Edition Monopoly comes with six Sterling-themed pewter tokens: Swamp Thing, Camel Hair Toupee, Long-Suffering & Extremely Patient Girlfriend, Diet Coke Can, Four-Year-Old Macintosh Computer, and Debt."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It was about this time during The Return of Swamp Thing... 

...that I began to realize that perhaps the film was just a tad "off-model," as it were.

Still absolutely fantastic, though.

You know, when you get right down to it... 

from The Great Great Ape #1 (September 1976) by Frank Roberge

...The Great Grape Ape was one weird-ass idea for a cartoon.

(And now I have the image of the Grape Ape getting washed and waxed stuck in my head. Oh Lordy.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"Volume 2 meets the pornographic and offensive standards." 

Here are a few Amazon.com user reviews of some of Alan Moore's selected works. Enjoy, won't you?


"Moore's original burst of inspiration was to take a form of children's literature - the super-hero comic book - and fuse it with the Hemingway-derived melodrama of the hard-boiled school of crime and detective fiction. Teenagers, poorly-read and possessing malnourished tastes in prose, were predictably awestruck by the results. They thought it was 'realistic'; they thought this was 'great literature'."

"I was quite disappointed with Watchmen. I had heard so many great things about it and was expecting a memorable read. Now that I have read it I'm left with a feeling of 'What was the big deal?'. [...] Three GREAT examples of graphic novels at their best are: Kingdom Come by Alex Ross, the Rising Stars series by J.Michael Straczynski, and The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller."

"There are people around who insist on comparing this stuff to great works of literature. I wonder if they ever read any."

"Over-praised and stolen for the most part, WATCHMEN was the first step downward for Moore following his great run on SWAMP THING...from here on out he took himself way too seriously, thought he was much more profound than he actually was, and rapidly became the comic book equivalent of Sting."

"When I really lost interest however was with the whole Mars thing. I mean it was insipid beyond belief but attempting to be the ultimate in metaphysical insight. The art also stinks."

"If you're a comic fan, Watchmen is a harmless waste of a few hours. If you want a real introduction to the comic medium, though, stick to Maus or Hepcats."

"I would not really call The Watchmen the 'Citizen Kane of graphic novels.' It is more like Tarentino's movie, Pulp Fiction, multiple plot lines, hip references, and plenty of gory violence and power trip fantasies to satisfy a basically adolescent audience. But it is not as good as Pulp Fiction."

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1:

"This was one of the worst books i have ever read and i am a big reader. [...] I don't know how people can say its better then the movie because their is no comparison, i mean the movie is not one of the most popular but its still a really good movie and compared to the book the movie show will as many oscars as possible."

"Filled with racist tones and needless violence, this [expletive deleted] book is complete and total [expletive deleted] compared to The Watchmen. What the [expletive deleted] wass Alan Moore thinking when he wrote this?"

"It's tiresome except for nerds who want to play 'spot the hidden reference'."

"The sex and graphic immorality level was barely tolerable in vol. 1 and rises painfully in vol. 2. Volume 2 meets the pornographic and offensive standards."

From Hell:

"Unfortunately, Moore did a great damage to the Ripper case, becasue he chose to write about the less convincent theory of them all (but one with the greatest appeal..), that of the Royal COnspiracy, laucnhed in 1976 by writer Stephen Knight, in his book JACK THE RIPPER: THE FINAL SOLUTION. FOr a glimpse of the truth, read Philip Sugden's THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF JACK THE RIPPER."

"I got the sense that he pieced together a lot of his own philosphical essays, inserted them into the mouths of various individuals involved with the murders, and packaged it as a graphic novel."

(headlined "It's A Big Comic Book!") "I did not realize when I ordered it that it was just pages of illustrations with TINY LITTLE WRITING coming out of the various character's mouths. The writing was so small, I could hardly read it, and finally just gave up."

"'From Hell' is boring. I can't think of a worse sin for any story. At one point, one of the characters decides to go on a tour of London and recite the history of various landmarks to the cabbie. This monologue goes on for some thirty pages, and after forcing myself to read the first few pages, I skipped over the entire section."

"Moore is a very readable prose writer, but then again so is Stephen King, and he does't have anything to say either. [...] ...Any time he tries to write about even semi-serious subjects he comes off sounding like the B-grade sci-fi writer he is at heart. I guess that's why he finally gave up and went back to writing superhero drivel illustrated by artists more technically competent but less visually interesting than guys like Eddie Campbell."

"If I were less familiar with some of the books Moore had drawn from, perhaps I would have liked it better, but I think Moore is trying for the umpteenth time to be seen as some literary figure for a work that was lifted from what someone else wrote."

V for Vendetta:

"I picked this up because i was interested in the controversy surrounding the movie. I read 40 pages and returned it to the book store. all the book is, is Christian bashing. this book is disgusting, please stay away from it. do not buy this book, it is terrible and blatantly anti-Christian"

"What is Moore trying to say with this book? It sounds and looks like something a seven year old kid would write and draw. Only in Moore's case, maybe it's more like Norman Bates."

"I found it to be very two-dimentional and introspective. It reaches for an epic scale, but comes across like an adolescent in-joke. This graphic novel might play better to youths than Moore's other works- but clearly NOT to adults."

"In the scene where he broadcasts a message via a TV station, he plainly states that we are just animals, fresh off the tree. And this was the exact view that Hitler, for one, used to justify his campaign of killing the unwanted: the old, the infirm, the mentally ill, gays, Jews."

"I've been reading that the movie version [...] is not all too faithful to the actual comic, and I can only hope that this is true. Hopefully the Wachowski brothers re-vamped and pumped some much-needed life into this story"

"Good story. A bit over the top. The ending is so-so. The art is poor at best. The movie will make up for that though."

Monday, March 20, 2006

So it's come to this...some of Mike's favorite covers. 

So I was inspired, in part by my usual missing-out on Tom Spurgeon's Five for Friday question on the topic, in part by the regular feature in Comic Buyers' Guide, and in part by not really having anything else planned, to come up with a list of some of my favorite comic book covers. This isn't a final, comprehensive list of my Top Ten Favorites of All Time, by any means...simply a cobbled-together package of images that, when I come across them at home or at the shop, make me stop and think "man, do I like that cover."

And before you say anything, yes, I know this list is Marvel/DC/superhero-heavy. I plan on doing this again, perhaps next Monday, so I may do an indie-only list next time. Watch this space for further details.

I should also note that the scans all come from the Grand Comic Book Database, though resized for bandwidth purposes. I suggest visiting that site if you want to see higher quality images of any of these covers...and lots more covers besides!

Swamp Thing #9 (March/April 1974) - art by Berni(e) Wrightson

And of course you knew I'd be starting off the list with a Swamp Thing cover, right? This, I think, is probably the quintessential image of the character, rising up out of the swamp, a look of menace on his face. Unusually for the title (and most comic titles in general at the time), the cover doesn't really tell you anything about the contents, aside from the fact that there might be some kind of swamp creature involved. You couldn't tell that the story for this issue involves an extraterrestrial encounter, could you? I think Marvel may have learned from this example, with its endless stream of indistinguishable "Spider-Man swinging through the city" covers it's had over the last few years. But perhaps I digress.

The Thing #6 (December 1983) - art by Ron Wilson & Brent Anderson

This striking cover (har har) is unusually somber for a Thing comic, with the stark black background, though it matches the story within (as the Thing, trapped within the confines of his own mind, wanders through darkness). There is a slight element of humor to it as well, I think, as you're given a villain's eye-view of what it looks like to be on the receiving end of one of Mr. Grimm's clobbering times.

And, apparently, I'm not the only one who liked this cover.

Daredevil Battles Hitler #1 (July 1941) - art by Charles Biro

You usually can't go wrong with a wartime Hitler cover, but this one is the standard by which all other anti-Hitler comics are judged. The look of terror in the Fuhrer's eyes is really what sells it.

The Atom #36 (April/May 1968) - art by Gil Kane

This cover contains three elements that I always enjoy on my superhero covers. 1. Two different versions of the same hero (in this case, the Silver Age and the Golden Age Atoms) fighting each other. 2. Design elements that play on the fact that this is a cover on a comic book (the G.A. Atom being punched "through" the cover). 3. A near-perfect example of one of Gil Kane's patented "body thrown backwards by a haymaking punch" poses. Absolutely beautiful.

Green Lantern #85 (August/September 1971) - art by Neal Adams

If I may quote:

"You always have all the answers, Green Arrow! Well, what's your answer to that--?"

"My ward is a JUNKIE!"

This cover is the very definition of the "relevance" fad that ran through comics in the '70s. And also started off a lot of jokes about Green Arrow's sidekick being named "Speedy," but I won't go into that here.

And I'll quote that heart-stopping dialogue, from memory, at the shop given even the slightest provocation. It's sad, really.

Fantastic Four #203 (February 1979) - art by Dave Cockrum & Joe Sinnott

Okay, some covers are my favorite because of some of the questions they raise. In this case, apparently the Fantastic Four "becoming monsters" involves, in at least in the case of the more human-formed members of the team, getting bad hair (or long, flaming eyebrows). Now the Thing, it could be argued, already has a monstrous form. But to make him even more monstrous, he gets...bigger eyebrows. Ooh, scary.

Man-Thing #1 (January 1974) - art by Frank Brunner

Like the Swamp Thing image above, this cover features the image I think of when I think of Man-Thing. (And there's a sentence that could be taken out of context.) This image of the inhuman, misshapen Man-Thing, shambling out of the swamp, really instills in you the idea that this creature is not something you'd want to come across in the dark. Swamp Thing at least occasionally looked friendly and inviting and like everybody's favorite special swamp-buddy. Man-Thing, with its vacant red orbs for eyes, its completely unrelatable facial features...it never looks anything less than menacing. Unless you think his nose looks like a green carrot, in which case, I don't know what to tell you.

DC Comics Presents #29 (January 1981) - art by Jim Starlin

Here's a case where the text cluttering up the cover darn near ruined the impact of the image. But, in this case, Starlin's illustration of a suffering Superman, faced with the horrific images of his past conjured up by the Spectre, still manages to engage, despite the multiple logos and typefaces and the wholly-unnecessary cover copy.

Brave and the Bold #177 (August 1981) - art by Jim Aparo

Well, aside from being another excellent piece of work by the late Jim Aparo, I'm not sure what attracts me to this particular cover, exactly. Well, aside from the fact that it's something you don't exact see every day on a comic book cover...one hero being used as a noose to kill another. The whole concept is just completely preposterous, but still...it makes you want to pick up the comic and check it out: "How the heck did Batman and Elongated Man find themselves in this pickle?" You don't see enough bizarre and compelling covers that practically force you to pick up the comic anymore...and that's a shame.

Fury of Firestorm #9 (February 1983) - art by Pat Broderick & Dick Giordano

This cover has stuck in my brain since I first bought it off the newsstand nearly a quarter of a century ago. I think it's the incongruous mix of the dramatic mood and setting (a hero stands defeated, as the uncaring elements pour down upon him) combined with the sheer goofiness of Firestorm (the World's Loudest Costume, not to mention his flaming head), and, for additional emotional impact, "BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL" in GIANT LETTERING. This cover is superhero melodrama in a nutshell, and I love it for that.

And that's it for now. I apologize for any odd formatting that may occur above...I was kind of winging it, and it looks okay in my browsers, but your mileage may vary, as they say.

And, like I said, I'll probably do another list soon enough...but if you have any favorites of your own you'd like to point out, please feel free to mention them in the comments section. I'd love to hear about them.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

"...And when I return, I shall be a Cabin Man!" 

Just so nobody gets the wrong idea about this post from a couple days ago:

...Cabin Boy is one of my all-time favorite films. Sheer, unmitigated brilliance, beginning to end. To not love this movie is to not love life, your fellow human, the glorious creation of God Himself.

And Russ Tamblyn's in it, too.

A conversation I had with a customer yesterday:

Customer: "Hey, do you have that Serenity graphic novel in stock?"

Me: "No, I'm sorry, it's been unavailable to us for a while now."

Customer: "It just came out, didn't it?"

Me: "Yeah, but this publisher has a history of not being able to supply books to comic shops while they're in demand. Sin City, Hellboy...couldn't get 'em while the movies were out and people were clamoring for them. We'll probably be able to get Serenity again once Borders and Barnes & Noble don't need them anymore."

Customer: "This is some interesting industry."

Me: "Man, you don't know the half of it."

Speaking of customers, apparently I missed a fellow who dropped by the store Friday morning (I was at the bar post office) while making the drive down to this weekend's Wizard World convention. He had a want list all made out for the show...and he ended up finding nearly everything on that list at our store. And we didn't even charge him admission.

Found on the eBay...how to sell your copy of the Atlas/Seaboard Scorpion #2:

Or how not to sell it, that is, since it didn't get any bids. In the auction listing itself, an actual picture of the comic is available, but it's just not the default one that shows up in searches and so on.

Because I'm a jerk, I'm going to quote from that auction listing too:





Well said.

Boing Boing takes a stand against Marvel and DC's ownership of the term "superhero" (or "super-hero"):

"Here's a proposal: from now on, let's never use the term 'super-hero' to describe a Marvel character. [...] Let's reserve the term 'super-hero' exclusively to describe the heros [sic] of comics published by companies that aren't crooked word-thieves."

Something about Jack Kirby's unpublished ideas being released by Marvel makes me uneasy, particularly given what Kirby went through in his later years. I know it's from Marvel's "creator owned" imprint, but somehow that just adds insult to injury.

(Remember what I said about what the name of Marvel's "Icon" imprint should be?)

Thoughts that cross my mind when dealing with the store's backstock: is there some small element of irony to the fact that Tekworld was effectively a vehicle for William Shatner's Mary Sue character, given that the concept of "Mary Sue" either comes from, or was at the very least popularized by, Star Trek fan fiction?

DOOM deigns to respond to a certain Mr. D. Wright (or at least an amazing simulacrum), and somehow manages to drag me into it as well.

Ooh, you just wait...Wildcat, Swamp Thing, Aquaman, and Vibe are going to team up and kick your metal butt, Doom! I'm working on the fan-fic right now!*

* No, I'm not.

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