mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Because I can't get enough of the "Death of Superman," it seems. 

That image to the right is taken from this auction...apparently an actual granite tombstone, used as a promotional item for the "Death of Superman" storyline. I honestly have never heard of such a thing. Please note this bit from the auction's description: "BOTTOM 4 INCHES OF THE TOMBSTONE IN [sic] STAINED FROM BEING LEFT ON THE GROUND(OUTDOORS)." Goodness.

While trying to Google up more information about this item, I found someone who produced his own out of styrofoam (along with a reproduction of the "tattered cape" image).

I think I've noted before on this site that, shortly after the original black-bagged "Death of Superman" issue (Superman #75) was released, there was a lot of panic buying and hugely inflated prices taking advantage of said panic buying. $200 was the craziest price I heard, and this was less than a week after the comic had sold out. Nowadays we regularly sell sealed copies for $18 a pop (which is the highest we've ever priced this particular book, which surprises some people when I tell them this). Looking at auctions on the eBay, copies tend to sell between $5 and $20, though there is the occasional person with high hopes.

This item isn't specifically a "Death of Superman" tie-in, but any auction with the title "SUPERMAN BLOODY DEATH BLOOD DRIPPING DC SHIRT" deserves special attention. However, there was an official "Death of Superman" t-shirt, as I'm sure most of you recall, featuring that tasteful red bloody "S" from the bag covering Superman #75, printed against a black background. I still see people wearing them around town on occasion...whether they're original owners or just picked them up in one of our many fine local thrift stores, I'm not sure.

There was another t-shirt design, one showing superheroes carrying Supes' coffin. You know, the more I think about that superhero pallbearers shirt, the tackier it seems. Good Lord, people wore this. The other thing I remember about that shirt is that the image was taken from the poster that came with Superman #75, and Batman was one of the pallbearers*. Due to licensing issues, Batman was replaced by Captain Marvel for the t-shirt design (and, I believe, when that image was used in the tie-in trading card set).

And dig that belt buckle.

* Wouldn't having Batman as one of the pallbearers at a very public funeral service put lie to to the "Batman is an urban legend/public doesn't know if he's real" editorial direction the character had been under for a while? Of course, the scene on the poster doesn't occur in the comics themselves, so I guess that was their "out."

Friday, April 21, 2006

President Linkin'. 

Okay, let's ignore the fact that the title of this auction has one of my eBay pet peeves (the "not superman" aside, which is just keyword spamming), but just what is this guy selling?

"This auction is for a Spiderman trading card
You will get a FREE Custom made Spiderman 3 Costume Replica
Size Medium
(w/ detachable mask)"

Is it for a trading card featuring the costume? Is it for the costume and a trading card? Is it for a card that's a contest entry for this costume?

I do like this bit of the description: "Size small - medium (toby meguire size)"

Here's someone else who tried to sell his replica costume...apparently similar to the one being sold in that first auction, since it uses pretty much the same description and images (save for the "trading card" business).

Don't ask how I ending up looking at Spider-Man replica costumes on the eBay.

Via Johanna: TwoMorrows is offering one free magazine per customer on their website during Free Comic Book Day. Like Johanna says...perhaps they're missing the point a bit about getting bodies into stores on May 6th, but, hey, free magazines! And maybe it'll get folks into stores for future issues.

Article on comic book convention emphasizes slow death of medium:

"But the move toward Hollywood, while putting money into the industry, also distances people from the comics, making it possible to forget where the ideas, moral themes, plot lines and intricate characters were first developed.

"We see kids now who know all the characters inside and out, and we ask them, 'So you read the book?' And they say, 'No, I watch the cartoon,'" said [Ron] Frenz."

This article from 1997 features the single most threatening image of Spider-Man I've ever seen.

More balloons...Batman style.

Jon Stewart reads The Decider comic book on The Daily Show. (embedded Quicktime link, via Robot Wisdom) (EDIT: Missed that Neilalien beat me to it)

"DC Comics taking over theaters"

"Speaking of X-Men, the producers of those movies have been talking about doing Metal Men. Metal Men is a DC property that tells the stories of a ragtag team of superhero robots and their inventor who all face prejudice and fight evil."

"Spiderman [sic] visits Benjamin on his 3rd Birthday"

Thursday, April 20, 2006

In which Mike complains a lot, but ends on an up note. 

So, between my mentions of "gay sex" and "topless Adrienne Barbeau" over the last couple of days, I should be getting some interesting Google searches in my referral logs, I imagine.

And I would correct the title of this post to reflect the most likely reason why that dialogue balloon was cut, but I don't particularly want the kind of Google searches that word would bring me.

New comics day...feh:

I'm sure you all remember the glory that is...Rob Liefeld's Captain America:

This has been held up as the real nadir of questionable anatomy from the height of the Image Comics-era (and you can see more about it at, appropriately enough, Grotesque Anatomy). However, I think we have a new contender from this week's Wolverine: Origin #1:

You can go to this Newsarama article for a better look, if you dare. It's quite admirable, really, how Wolvie overcame his hunchback disability to become a superhero.


The Superman in the 80s trade paperback starts off well, with the two-part "Return of Jonathan Kent" storyline, a particular favorite of mine, from back in the days when Supes' adoptive parents were dead. However, the three part storyline from DC Comics Presents which introduces Mongul is represented only by the third installment, guest-starring the Spectre. Shame, really, since that run (also featuring the Martian Manhunter and Supergirl) is a good'un, and well deserving of a full reprinting. And while, yes, the early post-Crisis Superman comics were from the '80s, I would have liked to have seen more pre-Crisis stuff in this book. Isn't DC in the process of reprinting most of that post-Crisis Superman stuff in chronological order, anyway?

I understand the financial considerations involved in moving from publishing semi-quarterly mags to online strips and trade paperbacks, but still, some of our customers balked at buying the new $20 Girl Genius book to get the 1/4 of it that's new material. I love the Girl Genius stuff, but man, that's frustrating. (I imagine it's frustrating for the Foglios, too.)

Apparently, this isn't a new American Splendor book, even though the most prominent feature on the cover is the American Splendor logo.

Red Sonja #9/Stargate SG-1 Ra Reborn Prequel/everything from Avatar/et al - I realize that publishing multiple covers of every single issue is pretty much the only way to inflate your orders to somewhat more reasonable levels (particularly with the threat of Diamond dropping titles that don't reach a certain level of profitability), but, honestly, it's getting to be a drag.

And whom do I have to bribe to get Serenity trade paperbacks in stock? They finally showed up in Diamond's stock listings a few weeks ago, I put in my reorder...and they were put on back order, which was eventually cancelled. I tried again a couple weeks later, got the order confirmed, and they were on the invoice for this week...and they didn't show up. A note from the distributor indicated that they didn't have enough copies to go around, and that replacement copies should arrive next week. I'll believe it when I see it. I imagine in a few months, once nobody cares about Serenity anymore and Borders and Barnes & Noble return all their copies, I'll be able to get as many copies as I want. Or have I said that before? Probably. Seems to happen every time something hits it big (or even "cult big," like Serenity) in the "real" world, outside the comics industry.

"Okay, Mike, did you like anything this week?"

Yes...yes, I did. Little Lulu Vol. 9 - Lucky Lulu. She can totally kick that wimp Goku's ass.

Speaking of kicking ass, Fearless Fred Hembeck has a swell Swamp Thing cover repo currently up on the eBay. I can't swing it...alas, still recovering from recent expenditures, but I'm sure one of you fine folks can give it a good home. I mean, just look at it!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

No gay sex* for you. 

Found by employee Nathan...from Outsiders #30:

From today's release of the Outsiders: Crisis Intervention trade paperback:

* EDIT: My mistake...there's still plenty of gay sex in this book!





(Found here, here, and here, respectively.)

Also, it's interesting the things being sold as "old" on the eBay, like "Old Image Youngblood Comic Books," or 35 Old DC Vertigo Comic Books," or Comico Jonny Quest comics, or an issue of Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, or an "Old Rare Uncanny X-Men" #307, some Disney Comics-era books along with an out-of-date price guide, ten random issues of Quasar...all of these have the word "old" in their auction titles. Okay, maybe they are from a decade or so back, but is that really "old?"

Or maybe it's just my thing about having any comic younger than me being described as "old." I'm sure I have a grey hair or two that popped in upon hearing younger customers pull up an issue of, say Fury of Firestorm, and declaring "Wow! This comic is from 1986...boy, is that old!"

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I did it...for science

So when the original version of the Swamp Thing DVD was released, and then pulled off the market due to a parent's complaint (look under May 7-8 for details), I thought it was primarily for the accidentally-included footage of some topless dancers that appear late in the film, in a scene that was trimmed from the PG-rated theatrical release and initial video release.

However, in online reviews of the DVD, listings on the eBay, and whatnot, people kept saying over and over again "THIS IS THE VERSION WITH THE ADRIENNE BARBEAU NUDE SCENE THAT GOT IT PULLED FROM THE SHELVES," or words to that effect. And I kept thinking, "No, that's not the reason...the original version of the film had that nude scene with Adrienne Barbeau. 'Twas the topless dancers what did the deed."

Finally, after seeing the nude Adrienne Barbeau claim over and over and over again, I dug deep into the Mikester Video Archives and found my copy of Swamp Thing on VHS, and, strictly for the purpose of setting the record straight on this important matter, sought out the infamous Barbeau swamp-bathing scene to compare it to the same scene on my copy of the DVD.

First, I should note that the actual quality of the transfer really suffers when compared to DVD. It's hard to believe we put with with such crummy reproduction and "pan 'n' scan" for so long. Second, I've been spoiled by DVD chapter stops...actually having to (gasp) fast-forward a video cassette is so...primitive. This must be how our caveman ancestors watched television.

As it turns out, all those online reviewers and eBay sellers were correct...the nuditivity in question involving Adrienne Barbeau is far more, well, full-frontal, and much longer in duration, in the DVD version than the video version. For example, there are more shots of Barbeau posing like this:

Alas, if you want that scene in its full glory, along with the topless dancers, you are at the mercy of online auctions, since the first edition of the DVD has been replaced with a version featuring the original theatrical cut.

So there you go...I hope that was educational and enlightening.

In other news:

As I noted to a few online friends over the weekend regarding this story: "pop eats itself." The CSI comics are going the route of Marvel's Alf and Mighty Mouse comics, by explicitly gearing the comic to the people who are actually buying it, i.e. people who are already comic book fans, rather than futilely trying to tap the non-comic-reading audience that watches the TV shows.

I may be overstating it a bit...I'm sure the CSI comics must have grabbed a few fans of the show who don't otherwise read funnybooks. I know I've sold a couple to such people. However, it must be frustrating to have a comic book license to a popular TV show, and to have the print runs of the comic hover around 1% of the TV show's audience. You'd think it'd be like printing money, with a million CSI fans rushing to their local comic shops with cash in hand, eager to seek out new adventures of their favorite characters.

But it doesn't happen, since most of those people don't want comics. There are a number of CSI prose novels, too...I wonder if these are selling as well as their publisher hoped. In this age of immediate DVD releases of TV shows, and movies too, the fanbase's need to seek out additional tie-in stories has greatly diminished, a point I've made before.

Okay, that was bit of a downer. Sorry about that. Here, have an out-of-work Hulk:

If you learn just one thing from this video, let that lesson be "don't have Hulk as your golf caddy."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Store talk, and information for stalkers. 

Free Comic Book Day is coming, looming in the ever-decreasing distance, and so far we have a grand total of one, one, comic book for the event at the store (Liberty Girl #0 from Heroic Comics, in case you're wondering).

This isn't unusual, since I believe last year the majority of the books arrived just a week or two prior to FCBD, but it doesn't keep me from getting anxious...I want to get crackin' on sorting the books out into the bags for various age groups, as we've done in the past.

Speaking of FCBD, I came across a comment in a trade mag from a retailer who's going to pass on FCBD this time around, since his shop regularly has massive 25-cent box sales and other similar events. Thus, his customers already get plenty of inexpensive comics throughout the year, which apparently diminished interest in the Free Comic Book Day event. That, it seems to me, is missing the point...cheap comic sales, at least in my experience, primarily attract your regulars. FCBD is an outreach program, designed to get new people interested in funnybooks. I don't know...maybe this person gets lots of new people coming in his shop because of his sales, but it seems to me that "free" always beats out "cheap" when it comes to this sort of thing. I've always seen lots of new faces at our FCBD events.

That's not to say that the free comics don't go to your regulars, of course. In this case, it isn't so much getting them interested in comics as it is getting them interested in different comics: Queen and Country and Courtney Crumrin were success stories from past years, in this respect.

Then again, the comment by that retailer does have me thinking...how many new, regular readers has the Free Comic Book Day event actually created? How many kids picked up one of those Archie FCBD editions and started reading Archie Comics on a regular basis? Probably not a whole heck of a lot, I'd imagine. There were probably a lot more "hey, thanks for the free comics"-type customers who came in for the goodies and were never seen again.

Maybe the best we can hope for is getting kids (and adults) used to the idea of "reading comics" as a valid entertainment choice. It's a long-term goal, but one worth pursuing, I think.

If you are a retailer who's going to participate in FCBD, it doesn't take a lot to do it right:

1. Even ordering a couple hundred each of just the "Gold Level" comics (the more "mainstream" publisher titles) doesn't cost all that much.

2. Plenty of promotional materials have already shipped...put those FCBD posters up in your windows! Let people know it's coming...even if you don't run ads in local papers, trust me, word does get around that "somebody's giving away free stuff!"

3. When you get the comics, check 'em for content and make sure that the right comics get to the right age groups...don't let busybodies and politicians get a chance to jerk you around in the name of "protecting the children" (which, by the way, is never, ever, ever their primary concern).

4. When the day actually comes, make an event of it...you don't have to have special guests and people in costume (though some people do, and it usually works out well)...at the very least, make people aware that, hey, something different is happening at the store today! I remember reading about a shop that just had a box of FCBD books in a comic book by the front door, with a sign reading "FREE." That's no way to run a Free Comic Book Day! We set up a table by the front door, with displays showing off all the comics we're giving away, and manned that table with a couple people who greeted all the customers and informed them that, yes, we had free, free, FREE comics for everybody!

5. Don't wear these. For one thing, that's the wrong date.

Pal Dorian noted, upon his latest visit to the shop, that we've greatly expanded our already large manga section at the front of the store. And, as he noted, the genre-racking he attempted was reverted back to a straight alphabetical arrangement (with the exception of the more explicit "mature readers" material, kept on the top shelf). I was dreading Dor's reaction to this, since I know he put a lot of effort into arranging it that way. Okay, he doesn't work at the store anymore, but he is my friend, and I respect his opinion...don't let him know I said that, he'll just lord it over me. Thankfully, though, he took it well, and understood my reasoning.

For example, too many of our manga customers were apparently accustomed to looking for the books in straight alphabetical order (as they're racked in the chain stores), looking for, say, Fruits Basket near the beginning of the racks instead of looking in the Fs in the section marked "shojo." I've had to point people in the right direction more than once. Plus, though we had signs on the shelves, we weren't able to create a sufficient physical division between sections, which also caused some confusion. And then there was the whole "that's not 'shojo,' that's 'josei'" problem that popped up once in a while...sometimes caused by folks not wanting to accept that their stories were a certain genre, and sometimes caused by me, well, not knowing the difference between "shojo" and "josei." "Yaoi" is pretty easy to pick out, though, for some reason.

Well, genre-racking the manga was worth a try, anyway. I do still have a separate section for "children's manga" (though it's part of a more general "kid's comics and graphic novels" section we have at the front of the store). Though that causes a whole other set of problems ("That can't be a kid's comic...I read it!").

Just a little oddity, here...I finally got myself a bit of that Google Earth that's all the rage, and, like what everyone else does, immediately "ego-surfed." First, it turns out that the satellite images for where I'm living now are about a year old, since all it shows is a construction site where my house is.

And second, searching for our store, I was amused to discover this:

The blue arrow I so expertly painted in there is pointing at what appears to be my truck, parked behind the shop, and the red arrow is pointing at what looks like pal Dorian's little black car.

That's what it looks like to me, anyway. Hmmm...I think my truck could stand a wash.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

How's that again? 

From the Ain't It Cool News report on the latest Justice League cartoon (the one featuring the Legion of Superheroes):

"And do they have enemies?
Indeed they do, a group of Villains called the 'Fatal Five' but the only names I caught were the Emerald Empress (who controls a giant Emerald Eye of Eckram; it's kind of like GL's ring but it's a floating eye), Half-A-Man (half man, half machine), Tharok (giant machine thing with a living brain) and Baladis (no idea what he does)."

I guess it could be a bit confusing, if you don't know who any of these characters are and you have a bunch of names being thrown at you. You can read the actual line-up of the team here.

As you might infer from the above description, Validus (the "giant machine thing") was indeed turned into some kind of robot for the cartoon, primarily so he'd be easy to defeat at the end of the show (with a character just punching through Validus' chest) as they're wrapping everything up. At least, I'd always assumed Validus was an organic being (particularly given his pre-Crisis origin), but, well, I guess he could be a giant robot, or at least partially mechanical. I don't think there's anything in any of the Legion stories, in any of the reboots, that would specifically contradict this. (I am thinking way too much about this.)

And I never, in a million years (or a thousand, more appropriately) would have imagined that Bouncing Boy's superpower of, well, bouncing, would translate to motion as well as it did. It turned out to be effective and amusing, without being an over-the-top mockery of the character.

Makes me look forward to the coming Legion cartoon, though it's apparently going to be more in the style of the anime-esque Teen Titans show than the Diniverse series. This weblog is keeping tabs on the development of the series.

Marvel Jesus wishes you a very happy Easter. 

Here's a description of Wundarr (AKA the Aquarian), his origin (which began as a parody of sorts of Superman's), and his evolution into a more spiritual messiah-esque character.

Further information on the Dakkamites (Aquarian's extraterrestrial people) is detailed in this database entry.

Aquarian briefly pops up in this "Versus" forum discussion.

Stats for the original Marvel Super-Hero Role Playing Game.

You can find Wundarr, among many other Marvel second 'n' third-stringers, on this Micro-Heroes page.

Apparently these only currently exist in the Google cache, but the world must not be denied Aquarian fan fiction: "Peace Corps" parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 (plus an annual).

Detailed synopses and cover scans of Marvel Two-in-One #57 and #58, teaming the Thing with Wundarr.

...And from #58, Wundarr expresses his love for blue-eyed Benjy.

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