mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, July 29, 2006

"More Fun Than You've Ever Known" 

from a coverless copy of Frisky Fables (circa late 1940s)

Friday, July 28, 2006

T-shirts, my Wednesday, some incredibly brief reviews, and stamps. 

I've mentioned this before, about how this image:

...stripped of what little context it had as an Identity Crisis cover and slapped onto a poster, seemed to be an odd choice for a stand-alone, "iconic" presentation of one of DC's most marketable characters.

Well, this week, we received the t-shirt version of this image. "Hey, nice shirt! But, um, why is Wonder Woman holding a noose?" "I don't know, man, but isn't it cool!"

My Wednesday:

So I'm sitting at the store that morning, waiting for UPS to drop off our delivery of the new comics, when I received a call from Diamond. "So sorry," sez Diamond, "but your boxes weren't given to UPS yesterday, so they won't be arriving today. We'll get them to you on Thursday, we promise."

I then thought about all the folks coming in for the rest of the day, asking us where the hell the new comics were, and having to explain to them that it wasn't our fault, I swear.

And that's how Mike found himself making an emergency 3 1/2 hour round trip to Diamond's Los Angeles warehouse, in the hot afternoon, with no working air conditioning in his 12-year-old pickup. I was sweating so much that there was apparently some dirt on my seatbelt that transferred to my shirt, leaving a dark stripe across my front. I was sweating so much my pants were damp for the rest of the day. (Damp with sweat, I reemphasize.)

I'm sure you all were happy to read that.

The entire trip down I was trying to talk myself into turning around and just forgetting about it, thinking, "Is this really necessary? Will it hurt that much to have the comics delayed by one day?" I was still thinking this even as I pulled into Diamond's parking lot. But, my customers needed their comics, and employees Aaron and Nathan had already been telling folks that the comics would be there that afternoon, so I guess I was pretty much committed to the trip. And I'd be lying if I said that the thought "But I have to do my 'End of Civilization' post!" didn't cross my mind very briefly at least once.

On the plus side, shortly after I returned that afternoon, Sergio Aragones popped by the store, just to say "hi!" and sign some comics and books. So, he was inadvertantly exposed to my sweaty, stained, damp-pantsed self, for which I was very apologetic.

This was not one of my best days.

Received another batch of Boom! Studios books for review, and...well, after Wednesday's brouhaha, I wasn't much in the mood for funnybook readin'. But, at least let me note them briefly. Two of them are the latest installments of Boom!'s serialized adventure comics. Jeremiah Harm #4 continues the dark-humored bounty-hunter-versus-alien-criminals-on-Earth storyline, though this issue is weighted more towards the action and less towards the humor. Still, it's a quick and fun read...grotesque and violent and amusing, a slightly less lowbrow Lobo, if I may.

Second Wave #5 follows the strategy of most of the previous issues, keeping the alien invasion as a background menace, while focusing on the menace provided by the humans themselves. The "judge/jury/executioner" sheriff who "takes the law into his own hands" is a little on the cliched side, but it's more than balanced out by the woman who's not a nurse, but "close enough for government work," as she says. She's clearly an character with an interesting back story, and not afraid to make some tough decisions, and I hope we learn more about her. The art continues to be clear and expressive, though the occasional panel given a grey wash treatment tends to be a jarring change from the black and white linework of the rest of the book.

The debut this week is The Black Plague by Joe Casey and Julia Bax, a one-shot that's leading into another series. It's a thin premise, but promising...a couple of retired men play chess against each other in the park, and it becomes clear that the two of them used to be arch-nemeses, a superhero and a supervillain. Meanwhile, a new version of the supervillain, the Black Plague, strikes against the crime families of the city...and to say more would spoil the "twist" at the end. As I said, it's a slight premise, but the real strength that unites most of Boom! Studios' output is the characterization...how the folks in the stories deal with the situations they find themselves in, more than just shoving them through each plot point in order. This comic doesn't appear to be any exception, as the banter between the retirees is light and interesting (and gives us a perspective on superheroics we don't often see in comics), and the relationship between the new Black Plague and another cast member is only briefly touched upon, but shows promise.

I too bought those DC Comics postage stamps (in fact, pretty much as soon as I walked in the door at our local post office, where I do a lot of business, every clerk there pointed them out to me). I'd been meaning to post about it, but Bully gives us some good coverage...and Comic Treadmill has front 'n' back scans.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

"He was such a little dweeb, it's hard to imagine him doing anything interesting -- certainly not killing someone." 

"COMIC BOOK KILLER! - Rabid fan murders pal for prize collection."

"Cops in Sydney, Australia, say that rabid comic-book fan [Simon] Edison, 31, became 'obsessed' with buddy Joel Hoagland's collection, which was worth an estimated $450,000 and included a rare Captain America No 1., valued at $115,000, as well as vintage editions of such classics as Superman, Green Lantern and Detective Comics No. 27."


"Those who know soft-spoken Edison were stunned to hear of his arrest.

"'He was such a little dweeb, it's hard to imagine him doing anything interesting -- certainly not killing someone,' says a high-school classmate."


"Yet the green-eyed monster, jealousy, was always present. Hoagland's job as a computer scientist allowed him to invest and trade in comics at a level that Edison could never match. Acquaintances say the video-store clerk 'drooled' whenever his buddy granted him a sneak peak at a rare comic."


"'Simon got this weird, hungry look in his eyes. And he said, "Boy, I'd kill to have this." I never thought he meant it literally.'"

(via the Howard the Duck mailing list)

Progressive Ruin Presents...The End of Civilization: Special Edition 

Why a "Special Edition?" Because I'm actually providing images for every item listed here, for once...and plus, the first item I discuss makes it special. So as always, bust open your copy of the Diamond Previews catalog and follow along. (Previous installments: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17)

p. 193 - The greatest Iron Man cover...nay, the greatest comic book cover of all time gets the statue treatment:

"Tony Stark has never been a stranger to vice; a fact captured perfectly in this Marvel Milestones release! Taken from the shocking cover of Iron Man #128™, this 11" statue features a working mirror along with the two most challenging aspects of Tony Stark's life - the bottle and the mask."

p. 442 - Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel: Spike Puppet 21-Inch Plush:

Okay, that first Angel "Smile Time" puppet was cute, a nice tie-in product to what was arguably the best episode in Angel's run. That item turned out to be a hit, so soon we had the Battle-Damaged Angel puppet...I'd rather have seen another run of the first puppet to meet demand, but, eh, this was okay, I suppose. The Vampire Angel puppet was just plain going to the well one too many times.

"This original design answers the question: 'What would happen if Spike had been turned into a puppet instead of Angel?'"

Wow, merchandise based on fan-fiction...who knew? And the Angel puppet at least sort of looked like the actor...this doesn't look a darned thing like Spike. And besides, now that we've opened it up, what's next? Puppet Doyle? Puppet Lorne? Puppet Willow...hmmm, puppet Willow...er, let's move on, shall we?

p. 444 - Monty Python Horse Non-Action Figure:

"...Comes with all the parts necessary to reproduce the horse sounds from Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

Yes, those are coconuts in a plastic bag. That's damn-near genius.

p. 457 - UDA Alex Ross Collection: Silver Surfer Bust:

Gah! That's terrifying. Who in God's name wants that leering at them from the mantlepiece?

p. 462 - UDA Heroic Moments: X-Men Danger Room Statues:

This is a series of seven statues, priced from $25 to $30 (and $40 for the "observation deck") that assemble into the Danger Room diorama seen above. That's...well, I'm tempted to call that "brilliant," actually.

p. 462 - Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Mr. Pointy" Stake Prop Replica:

Ah...a flashback to my proto-End of Civilization post with the original Buffy stake replica. Yes, it's hand-carved from real wood. Includes "care instructions." ("Don't tell significant other what you just dropped seventy-five bucks on.")

p. 466 - Rocky: "Go The Distance" Boxing Gloves Prop Replicas:

"Exact reproductions of the on-screen props from this Oscar-winning film, these gloves are made from the finest leather and come ready to display in a attractive box!"

Also, the production run is limited to 1,976 pieces, 1976 being the year of Rocky's release.

p. 492 - Hello Kitty Cell Phone Resin Ornament:

Not a "Hello Kitty Cell Phone," but a model of a Hello Kitty Cell Phone you can hang on your Christmas tree. And thus does civilization die.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What's cookin'? 

from an unknown coverless comic, published circa 1950

A few notes from around the comicsweblogosphere:

Some folks had additional thoughts relating to the topic of dropping comics I discussed a few days ago. Go see what Calvin and Daniel have to say.

Here's a comics weblog I hadn't seen before, compiling links to comic book articles and reviews in the mainstream media. Through it I found this article griping about the superhero invasion of popular culture.

Ever since spotting the book in the last Previews catalog, I've kept meaning to mention the forthcoming collection of Rick Veitch's Abraxas and the Earthman here, but it took Johnny Bacardi pointing to an eight-page preview to remind me to do so. This story, serialized in Epic Illustrated, is what originally made me a Veitch fan, and I'm glad to see it finally get collected under one cover. In full, glorious color, no less.

Congrats to Dave for a fine four years of weblogging. Well done, old man.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Check it out. 

Thanks for all the responses to my questions yesterday...I'm finding them to be interesting reading. And thank you, too, for keeping the tone civil...maybe I've just been reading too many message boards lately, but I was a'feared that there'd be a comment or two like "THAT CREATOR SUCKS AND RUINED MY FAVORITE COMIC AND I HOPE HIS DOG GETS CRUSHED UNDER A FALLING FORD FESTIVA" or something along those lines.

I'm finding the comments about Legion of Super-Heroes to be informative, and about what I expected. Every time you do a relaunch like that (especially multiple relaunches in a relatively short period of time, as with the LSH), you may get some new readers, but that gives old readers an excuse to bail out as well.

Anyway, feel free to keep adding to the comments if you'd like, and answer these questions two: are there any titles you read/characters you followed for a long time, and finally just had to drop? Why?

Also, are there any characters or books that you'd follow regardless of how dire things may get?

As a former librarian, I always find news stories about comics in libraries to be of interest (particularly when they're illustrated with a pic of Zippy the Pinhead):

"Local libraries soar with comic offerings"

"'If somebody asked me whether comic books belong in a library, I would turn the question around,' [English professor Joseph Witek] said in a telephone interview. 'I would ask, "Why not?"'

"Like any medium or style of literature, the quality can vary. The subject matter can be very intense or dark. Witek recognized that comics have always represented a source of anxiety for parents."


"'Even Batman can be very scary and psychologically challenging,' [librarian Jonathan] Dolce said."

Now back in my librarian days, our library had subscriptions to various Archie Comics publications, which would get read to tatters in our children's section. Aside from that, most of our comic book/comic strip content would be in the non-fiction shelves, around the 740s, along with all the art instruction books.

That was in the days before Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, the two books that probably introduced a good chunk of the American public to the idea of "graphic novels." It's been a while, so I don't recall exactly, but I'm pretty sure all we had for superhero-type squarebound publications at the time were some beat up copies of Origins of Marvel Comics and Sons of Origins. I also remember a neat little book from the '70s called How to Draw Comics for Fun and Profit (probably more accurately titled, for today's marketplace, How to Draw Comics for Fun) which, as I recall, focused very little on superheroes and much more on other genres. I believe we had an out-of-date Overstreet price guide as well (on the reference shelf, natch).

Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent was, of course, long since lost or stolen from every branch in our particular network of libraries, but we still had one copy of Wertham's mostly overlooked, and much less negative, follow-up book The World of Fanzines.

I haven't been back to the library I used to work at in quite a while...I'm still in the same town, but that library is so out of my way that I never find myself in that area anymore. Thus, I don't know if they're carrying graphic novels or manga books now or not. If they do, I wonder if they have to deal with parents upset that their precious Little Billy looked at the shelf copy of Watchmen and saw a drawing of a nekkid blue man, or parents asking if the books are "too violent" or "too sexy" -- which are invariably asked, of course, about comics that are neither. (That's all rhetorical...I'm sure they do get these comments.)

Of course, if they don't have much in the way of graphic novels, why, I know a certain store manager/comics weblogger who'd be happy to supply them....

Monday, July 24, 2006

Giving up. 

So yesterday I mentioned that, after following the character for over two decades, I decided this new Flash series wasn't good enough to keep me around.

And, as usual, that got me to thinking.

If I may generalize, readers of superhero comics tend to be a little more patient, a little more likely to "ride out the rough spots," of titles they're not enjoying, particuarly if they've been following the character for quite some time.

I'm not casting judgement upon you from high atop my ivory tower...there have been a number of times I've kept reading a book despite wondering, "Geez, why am I reading this?" The 1980s Firestorm series, for example...the first twenty issues were good, the last twenty were good, but the middle sixty were hard going, and I could probably have safely skipped those. But, well, I like the Firestorm character and concept, and, like what I'm sure some of you have done, you buy each succeeding issue thinking "Well, maybe this one will be better." Well, I was right eventually, but was it worth slogging through five dozen issues?

Part of the reason for this is the need for comic fans to keep their collections complete, of course. In my case, there was that DC Comics series from about ten or so years ago called Valor, where I bought the first four issues, decided I didn't need to keep reading it, but came back for the last few issues for the Zero Hour tie-ins (which I did enjoy). To this day, I still feel the urge to go back and fill in the issues I skipped. I've resisted so far....

Tied into that reason is that everyone's got a character that they'll stick with, through thick and thin, no matter how appalling the circumstances. You tend to grant special dispensation to your favorites. There was a brief run of Swamp Thing that was pretty dire, which would have caused any reasonable person to give up, but no, there I was, still buying the series, refusing to give up on my muck-encrusted hero.

What I'm saying is that, in some cases, things have to go pretty badly in order to get some of us sad old fanboys and fangirls to drop a book. I tried to read the post-Morrison Doom Patrol issues, but the weirdness of the book that seemed to come to Morrison naturally seemed more forced under the succeeding creative team, making it an unpleasant read. When Hal Jordan was replaced by Kyle Rayner in Green Lantern, I tried to stick around but ended up dropping the title. Not because I was offended by the change in character, but because I didn't care for the writing. Previous writer Gerard Jones had brought some wit and maturity to the Green Lantern title, which was replaced by big, dumb, and unsubtle superhero slugfests, which I wasn't enjoying. (Not saying big, dumb slugfests can't be enjoyable, just not in this case.)

Then there are books that I followed, not because I had any particular attachment to the title, but because there was a creative team on the book I was interested in, and dropped the book when that team left. For example, when Kurt Busiek and George Perez took over The Avengers, well, how could I resist that? Even when Perez eventually left the book, I stuck around for Busiek's writing...and when Busiek left, so did I. Not because I hated what happened to the book following Busiek, but because I was only there in the first place for that creative team.

Then there are completely irrational reasons. I dropped the current Hawkman series about issue three or so, whatever issue had the ninja elephants. I really thought that was a painfully bad idea and just never returned to the title (well, until it became Hawkgirl with Simonson and Chaykin). And I gave up on New Teen Titans when they ran that one cover with the blurb "IT FINALLY HAPPENS! STARFIRE KILLS!" or words to that effect. That just struck me as dumb, and since I was getting pretty burnt out on the title anyway, that was reason enough to give it up. I did pick it up again for Perez's brief return, and again with the "Titans Hunt" storyline (featuring Marv Wolfman's second wind on the title, which was really good), but, unlike that persistent fan-urge I have with Valor, I don't have any desire to fill in the missing issues.

So, after all that blather, I have a question or two for you. Are there any titles you read/characters you followed for a long time, and finally just had to drop? Why?

Also, are there any characters, like me with Swamp Thing, that you'll follow regardless of how dire things may get?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Some final notes to wrap up the past week; plus, I tend to fixate on covers, for some reason. 

I forgot to mention that Gilbert Hernandez' new graphic novel Sloth came out this past Wednesday...probably because I haven't bought it for myself yet. Hey, look, I'm strapped...I'll get it eventually, I promise. In the meantime, you can read this swell review courtesy one Alan David Doane.

The second issue of the Flash relaunch came out this week, and, having read it, I've decided that my 20+ years of Flash-reading has pretty much come to an end. I really don't care for this new series. No, no, I'm not going to start an internet petition about it or anything, but this new series has just failed to grab me. Primarily, it's the writing...it just feels disjointed and random, and I'm not feeling any kind of connection with any of the characters. If you can't get me interested in what the Golden Age Flash is up to, well, something's gone wrong. Shame, too...I really do like the covers.

The San Diego Con is over, and I'm sure the convention center employees are currently hosing out the entrails and hauling in the giant-size Febreze air fresheners. I've been checking the regular comic news sites (starting with Mighty Tom Spurgeon and working my way outward) and have been seeing...well, not a whole lot of big news items that grab my attention.

Most interesting is the announcement that Matt Wagner will be reprinting his original black and white Grendel comics from the early days of Comico, just in time for the character's 25th anniversary. I used to own these comics, but long since sold them off...and, as usual when I sell something off, I ended up regretting it some time later. Those early Grendels had a charming...crudeness (for the lack of a better word) about them that was lost in the slicker and more experimental Grendel comics that were to follow. Plus, I thought the covers were quite eye-catching.

Anyway, it'll be nice to have these comics again, is what I'm saying. I got burnt out on the Grendel comics partway through the ninetieth-or-so Grendel Tales spin-off, but the initial concept is still a grabber...even in those early'zine-level funnybooks.

FRIENDS MAKE WITH THE FUNNY: Pal Tom has things learned from the San Diego Con ("Batwoman isn't really a lesbian. But her boyfriend really likes to watch, so...") and pal Dorian lets us know what would happen if comic news were written truthfully ("Investors announce 'we hate making money,' launch new comic company."). And look at pal Ian, just sitting there.

San Diego. 

The big, BIG news from the San Diego Comic Con is, of course, this:

"We'll also see 'The Un-Men,' an ongoing book about deformed creatures created by Anton Arcane to fight the legendary Swamp Thing. It's going to be a 'real good horror book' said [newly-promoted Senior Vice President/Executive Editor for Vertigo Karen] Berger, and said there will be a good crime mystery angle to it. John Whalen writes and Mike Hawthorne illustrates the series."

Good...it'll be more explicitly a Swamp Thing tie-in than this series on a similar topic. (Stiil want my Swamp Thing versus the Legion of Superheroes story, though.)

I usually don't dip into the Newsarama forums for documenting fan behavior, but there were some nice turns of phrase in this thread. Here are a bunch of Newsaramarians reacting to a story about comics writer Robert Kirkman giving Todd McFarlane some grief at a con panel:

"In your face McFarlane! In your comic-ruining face!"

"I wasn't aware TMP was still in business, by the way...? I thought they went bankrupt last year? What are they doing hosting panels?"

"Robert, you just made my day. Way to fight the good fight!"

"Haha, McFarlane got grilled. His toys suck. I did like his art on Spidey. Jim Lee did better with X-Men though."

"Am I the only one who sees this as a planned event to promote and get some buzz on a future project by Kirkman and McFarlane?"

"And The Walking Dead and Invincible will be published by Marvel's Icon line in 3...2...1..."

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