mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Things found in the Miscellaneous Publisher boxes. 

from the back cover of Project: NewMan #1 (1991) - art by Mark Poe

Some muscled superhero in a mask and a form-fitting outfit, carrying a shield and a gun? Nope, never seen anything like it ever.

This next item is from a house ad in Solson Publications' Ninjutsu: The Art of the Ninja #1 (1986):

I don't know if the Sylvester Stallone Guide to Movie-Making was ever published or not...I certainly hope so, because I'd love to see it. After all, the ad says the comic includes the following:

  • How to Choreograph Killings, Gun-Crazed Mobs (And Scenes of Otherwise Total Destruction & Utter Chaos!

  • How to Grunt, Mutter, & Mumble The Way The Big-Time Action Stars Do!

  • Get Tall, Beautiful Women To Fall All Over You!

  • Attend Swank Hollywood Parties! Hire an Entourage! Impress Your Friends!

  • Spell "Schwarzenegger" Incorrectly!

Okay, I added that last one.

And now, something so wonderful, so outstanding, found in the back pages of Shadow Cross #3 (December 1995), that I find myself forced to audioblog it. Prepare yourself for my melodious (or is that "malodorous?") tones as I bring you the poem "Die Vampire Scum," as written by the presumably-pseudonymous Valentine:

this is an audio post - click to play

If the reader-submitted poems that kept littering the Sandman letters pages were this great, I wouldn't have minded them as much. Well played, Valentine, well played.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Yet another Swamp Thing post. 

Pictured above are the two volumes of Critics Choice Files: Swamp Thing published by the Psi Fi Movie Press in 1987. These volumes cover issues #20 through #50 of the second Swamp Thing series, the first 3/4ths of Alan Moore's run on the title, with synopses and critiques of each issue. Plenty of cover shots and artwork from the comics can be found within, all reproduced in black and white. Full page illos are just a little too frequent, however, and feel like space-filler. However, they remain good, solid contemporary examinations of this now-classic comic book run.

Speaking of Saga of the Swamp Thing #20...there was a brief discussion in one of my comments sections regarding the non-reprinting of Alan Moore's first issue on the series. The explanation given for this by DC is that the story is too much of an epilogue to the previous storyline written by Marty Pasko. And, I suppose, that's true enough...Swamp Thing notes the previous-issue passing of his arch-nemesis, and newish supporting characters Liz and Dennis are written out of the title (at least until their return a couple years later). It's not until #21 that Moore begins to take the title in his own direction.

However, at the rate the second series of Swamp Thing is being reprinted, sooner or later those first twenty issues are going to look a little conspicuous by their absence. And they weren't bad, by any means...Tom Yeates did some nice work illustrating the initial storyline, even if Pasko's word balloons and captions did get in the way sometimes. There's a two-parter by Scott and Bo Hampton, the presentation of which would probably be improved by reproduction on better paper. And, of course, there's the beginning of Steve Bissette and John Totleben's run on the art chores.

Unfortunately, it would probably take about three standard-sized trade paperbacks to reprint all these, and it seems unlikely that there'd be enough demand for these particular stories to make the effort worthwhile. A black and white Showcase volume collecting all these isn't likely...'80s titles seem a litle late for that reprint program.

As long as I'm talking Swamp Thing reprints, maybe we could get a Showcase volume for the first series. Those 24 issues would fit in nicely, and maybe the two Batman team-ups from Brave & The Bold and the one Superman team-up from DC Comics Presents #8 could round out the book. Sure, it would mean the umpteenth reprinting of the first ten Wein/Wrightson issues, but it would be worth it for the first reprinting of the Nestor Redondo era on the book.

And DC should reprint Sugar & Spike, too. Nothing to do with Swamp Thing, but it doesn't hurt to bring up the demand for Sugar & Spike once in a while.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Noses, delays, and reviews. 


So Sideshow Collectibles is releasing a new Dr. Doom bust, which features a removable faceplate that reveals what has been (more or less) unrevealed in the comic books...the ruined visage of Von Doom. Pictured above is the "noseless" version...you have the option of leaving the nose on or off of Doom's face.

No, really, I swear to God:


And all this goes to show you is that it's much more interesting if you don't know what Doom really looks like. (Although I've always been partial to Jack Kirby's concept.)

And in Books of Doom (SPOILER ALERT) we get a peek under the mask as well...it turns out to be a fake-out, which is too bad, because what lay under the faceplate in that comic really did match my expectations for how horrible Doom's disfigurement could have been. Ah well.

So the current comic industry brouhaha is over Marvel's delay of its Civil War crossover and a boatload of its related tie-ins. As a funnybook seller by trade, my immediate reaction to this is "Oh, great, I'm going to be hearing 'where's Civil War #4'" for the next two months." And "Too bad, we probably could have used that money during the usual autumn doldrums." And "So much for keeping some of those new readers the publicity for the series brought in."

The official line is that the creative team for the main Civil War title needs the time to complete the books. However, the cynical and bitter part of my mind keeps thinking that the Spider-Man movie people said "You did what to Spider-Man? Fix it. NOW!" -- and the Marvel folks are now scrambling to rewrite the ending to meet that demand. No proof or anything, and that's probably not the reason...but on the very off-chance that it turns out to be the case, it wouldn't surprise me.

But no, given that most of Marvel's scheduling problems appear to be creative team-related, I'm assuming that really is the case here, too.

Anyway, until Civil War resumes, maybe folks will be placated by the concluding two issues of Ultimate Hulk Vs. Wolverine. Oh, wait.

And now...some reviews:

The Boys #1 by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson - Interesting set-up issue, establishing a world where superheroes are out of control and civilian casualties are a quickly covered-up by-product of super-battles, with a big dollop of Ennis' usual black humor. Like the much-missed Marshall Law, this could prove to be a very entertaining superhero comic by people who really don't like superheroes. I give it 3 1/2 out of 5 Swamp Things:

Tales of Leonardo: Blind Sight #3 by Jim Lawson - There have been some interesting things going on in this mini-series, which, at least for me, calls back to the early black and white magazine-sized days of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I'm not a regular TMNT reader, myself, but the cover design is attractive and the series' conceit (that Leonardo has been blinded and must learn to deal with his disability) is oddly compelling. This issue has Leonardo going on a spiritual dream journey which places him into the life of a warrior in feudal Japan, which is strangely affecting, particuarly in his relationship with his "wife." If you haven't checked out the Turtles in the while, this series might be a good one to sample. I give it 4 out of 5 Swamp Things:

The Savage Brothers #1 by Andrew Cosby, Johanna Stokes, & Rafael Albuquerque - You know, I keep thinking that the last thing in the world I really need to see is yet another zombie comic. This genre's just about as played out as the driven into the ground vampire thing. But, Boom! Studios just keeps putting out new books that find new life in the the walking undead...in this case, a couple of good ol' boy bounty hunters eking out a living during the Apocalypse, complete with lakes of fire and raining frogs. And, yes, hordes of zombies. It's a quick but fun and goofy read, very B-movie-ish, with some some nicely expressive art from Albuquerque. I give it 3 1/2 Swamp Things:

Lady Death: 2006 Fetishes Special - You know that you can buy actual pornographic magazines, right? With pictures of real people? And I understand that such material may be found on the internet, too, if you do some digging. Anyway, this is a pin-up book with Lady Death in her usual state of near-nudity, only with the occasional bondage shot or wearing a chastity belt. And, since this is an Avatar book, you get your choice of nine (at least) different covers (Angelic cover, Devil Girl cover, Latex cover, etc.). Feh, sez I. This book gets 1 Arcane:

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Snakes* on a Swamp Thing. 

from the back cover of The Comic Reader #172 (September 1979) - art by Mitch O'Connell

*Yes, I know there's only one snake in the picture. Don't poop on my joke.**

**And by "joke," I mean "cultural reference in place of an actual joke." See also Family Guy.***

***"Oh, damn! Oh no you didn't!"

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"Swamp Thing / You live in a swamp...." 

Saga of the Swamp Thing #20 - one of the Greatest Comics Ever, according to this fine person.

George Khoury details what happened to the long-awaited, now-cancelled TwoMorrows Swampmen book. (Thanks to Rodrigo for the heads-up.)

Frannie draws a cool Swampy image.

Here's a transcript of Joe Bob Briggs' comments during a broadcast of the first Swamp Thing movie.

Something Awful details various colored ribbons and their meanings. The green ribbon is, of course, for the remembrance of Swamp Thing:
"For those of you who simply fail to understand the importance of Swamp Thing, think of him as an organic Robocop that lives in a swamp. Then you will see his true beauty."

Someone on Craigslist is looking for the Swamp Thing cartoon, because "I just watched it as a kid and would like to watch it again." Disappointment, ahoy! Um, actually, I was going to put a link here to the Amazon.com listing for the cartoon's DVD release, but it looks like it's out of print. Wow, go figure.

This interview with the Mountain Goats swings into a comics discussion, in which it is mistakenly decided that Man-Thing is better than Swamp Thing.

Swamp Thing clay bust.

A brief examination of what went wrong (and the one thing that went right) with the first Swamp Thing movie.

Brian picks the best comic logos, with Swamp Thing's logo making the honorable mention list.

Who would win in a fight: Hulk or Swamp Thing?
"Um I think its a stalemate but if I had to pick a winner I would lean towards the hulk just Hulk smash puny plant"

Apparently, a couple years ago a copy of House of Secrets #92 sold for over four grand because it was sealed in one of those plastic boxes that seems to magically encourage crazy spending.

Joe Crowe appreciates Swamp Thing! Well, the movies and TV shows, anyway.

This weblogger recalls that show from the early years of the Nickelodeon cable channel, where a comic book would be shown panel by panel, with the dialogue and captions read aloud and the sound effects...er, sounded, I guess. Yes, the original Len Wein/Berni Wrightson Swamp Things were used on the series.

And now, here are some men dressed as Smurfs singing a song called "Swamp Thing" that may or may not be about the comic book character.

Monday, August 14, 2006

House of Secrets #92. 

House of Secrets #92 (June/July 1971) featured an eight-page story by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson titled "Swamp Thing," about love, betrayal, revenge, and a swamp monster, taking place approximately in the early 1900s. Sales were brisk, and reader reaction was positive, so this one-shot Swamp Thing story was retooled into an ongoing adventure strip set in the present day (resulting in some highly regarded comics, some less-regarded feature films, a live action TV series and cartoon, an action figure line, and, yes, even chalk).

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #9 (May 1981) was the first time I was able to purchase the story from House of Secrets #92 for myself. This particular tale certainly stood out among the bright and cheery origin stories of the Atom and Krypto the Superdog. This is Copy #1 of this story in the Vast Mikester Archives.

Saga of the Swamp Thing #33 (February 1985) was a fill-in issue of sorts, which contained a reprint of the House of Secrets story, making this Copy #2 of this story in my collection. The new framing sequence for this story, which drew a connection between the original Swamp Thing and the newer Alec Holland version of the character, makes what could have been just a fill-in into one of the most important and influential comics of the series. Not only did it establish that the current Swamp Thing was the latest in a long chain of swamp creatures throughout Earth's history (a plot thread that would play out through the rest of this series), but it also gave us the first "modern" usage of the old DC horror comic hosts Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel, formerly humorous wiseacres introducing short scary comic stories in their respective anthology titles, were now explicitly described as the Cain and Abel from Christian theology, Cain continuously murdering Abel in an eternal repeating cycle. This new (or old, I suppose) interpretation of these hosts was carried into Neil Gaiman's Sandman and its spin-off, The Dreaming.

Roots of the Swamp Thing #5 (November 1986) was a deluxe format reprint series, representing the first ten issues of the original Swamp Thing series by Wein and Wrightson recolored and, for the first time, on nice, bright white paper. As a bonus feature, this last issue of this series included the original House of Secrets story, making this Copy #3 in my possession.

House of Secrets #92 (June/July 1971) - At some point in the late 1980s, I was able to purchase for myself an actual copy of the original House of Secrets appearance. The comic looked like it had been hit by a truck, and I think someone had used it to clean a shellac brush, but it was only a couple bucks and, by God, I finally had an original copy of the story (making it Copy #4 in the collection).

Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis trade paperback (first printing, 1991) - This trade collected the classic ten-issue run by Wein and Wrightson, and also contained the House of Secrets story. This is Copy #5 of the story in my possession.

House of Secrets #92 (June/July 1971) - At some point in the early 1990s, I was able to upgrade my first copy of House of Secrets #92, which a generous man with poor vision would have graded as "Poor to Fair," to a copy in Very Fine. Set me back a cool $60, but given what it would cost now to buy it, I ain't complaining. Let's call this Copy #4a, which is also the copy I scanned for the image at the top of this post.

DC Silver Age Classics House of Secrets #92 (1992) - To commemorate the end of their printing comics at the World Color Press plant in Sparta, IL, DC released a series of classic comic reprints that were the last books off of those presses. Among the "Silver Age Classics" was House of Secrets #92, which kinda stretched the definition of "Silver Age" a little, but, since I apparently needed Copy #6 of the original Swamp Thing story, I was willing to overlook that little fact.

Essential Vertigo: Swamp Thing #14 (December 1997) - DC Comics began reprinting the Alan Moore issues of Swamp Thing in black and white in this series, partially to show off the fine linework in the art, but mostly because it would have cost too much to recolor everything for the new offset printing process. Anyway, this issue reprints Swamp Thing #33, mentioned above, making this a reprint of a fill-in with a reprint inside. I think this is the only U.S. printing of the original HoS story in black and white, but I know this is Copy #7 of the story that I've purchased.

Millennium Edition: House of Secrets #92 (May 2000) - To celebrate the turn of the millennium, DC Comics released reprints of notable comics throughout the year (complete with a cool gold foil "Millennium Edition" stamp on the cover that was designed by one of my long-time customers). And, yes, House of Secrets #92 made an appearance, and, yes, I made it Copy #8 of the story in my collection.

And I know there are more reprints of the story out there. One of the Swamp Thing trades reprinting the Alan Moore run contains issue #33, and I believe there were a series of black and white reprints in the U.K. that also contained that same issue.

But, for now, I think eight copies of the same story is plenty. I don't want people to think I'm obsessed or anything.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Ultimate Avengers and Neal Adams and fungus. 

So I rented the Ultimate Avengers 2 animated movie, and...well, the first one was no great shakes, but it was watchable and moderately interesting. This new installment? Just bland, bland, bland, unfortunately. All the characters from the first film are back (with the addition of the Black Panther), and there's a lot of running around and shooting aliens and stuff, but for a movie that's an hour and some change, it sure dragged. The scenes that are supposed to be emotionally involving aren't (something the first film generally managed), and the characters and relationships that are genuinely interesting (like the extremely damaged Bruce Banner and his attempts to make himself relevant to Betty) you just don't see enough of.

Special features: thankfully, there is no "text commentary" this time, considering how badly they botched it on the previous DVD. You do get brief previews of the forthcoming Iron Man and Dr. Strange direct-to-DVD cartoons, and there's a short "blooper reel," consisting of redubbed scenes from the first movie, that's so embarrassingly unfunny that it has to be seen to be believed. There's also a nearly half-hour long featurette on the making of The Ultimates comic (containing interviews with Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch) that's fairly informative, and concludes with this telling line from Hitch:

"My kids don't read my comics, but they'll sit and watch this."

Pretty much sums up the comics market as a whole, doesn't it? Kids, for the most part, won't read superhero comics, but they'll watch media based on them.

I didn't get to listen to very much of Neal Adams' interview on Coast to Coast AM last night/this morning. I don't know if, like last time, he started off the interview talking about the comics industry, its history, and his place in it like the last time he was on the show...I did manage to catch how, according to his theories, the real reason the dinoaurs died out was because, as the Earth expanded in size, gravity increased to the point that the larger dinosaurs were no longer able to survive in their new heavier gravity environment. I don't know how this explains the demise of smaller dinosaurs, but still...fantastic.

Don't worry, Greg...I don't get the Tom's case-book meme either! I wasn't intending to start anything, really...I just had that gag in my head, and, as I was looking at the blank version of that panel, I thought, just on the spur of the moment, "well, let's throw it up on the site and see if anyone else can do anything with it."

I have a long way to go to top pal Dorian's internet fungus, however. I'm still getting traffic from that!

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