mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, October 14, 2006

"Do you think you can draw his fantastic features?" 


Friday, October 13, 2006

We are all Nancy. 

The official Nancy site, with a new strip posted each day and a month's work of archives.

The Wikipedia entry for Nancy's creator, Ernie Bushmiller.

Is Ernie Bushmiller dead? (Apparently so; here's where he's buried.)

An "interview" with the "real" "Nancy."

An appreciation of Guy and Brad Gilchrist's version of the strip.

Some original Nancy art by Bushmiller and Gilchrist.

5-Card Nancy, a game created by the right and good Scott McCloud. Play the online version (here's an archive of some generated strips).

...And this person, inspired by 5-Card Nancy, created his own surreal Nancy strips. (As opposed to all those non-surreal Nancy strips.)

The Dark Horse Nancy and Sluggo limited edition statues.

Howard Cruse's nightmarish classic "Raising Nancies."

Nancy and Sluggo blown-glass ornaments.

Power Computing '96 "Sluggo" poster - "Let's Kick Intel's Ass!"

The Nancy and Sluggo blue silk tie, the red silk tie, and, best of all, the POWER TIE.

Wear the tie with your Nancy and Sluggo suspenders for maximum fashion sensibility.

Andy Warhol's "Nancy" and Shane Swank's "Nancy Warhol."

Nancy and Sluggo vinyl figures.

A letter of complaint re: "domestic violence" in a Nancy strip, and the response.

Nancy and Sluggo dolls from the 1950s which only barely resemble the characters.

Nancy in French, which points to this page ("Arthur et ZoĢ©").

Roger Green looks at a repurposed Nancy strip from the Black Comic Book.

Nancy & Sluggo Tootsie Roll display (from this site).

Just a slight scroll down this page you can see some Nancy & Sluggo stills from the Archie's TV Funnies cartoon.

Scott Shaw! examines Nancy & Sluggo #16, with its soul-piercing cover.

"NANCY AND SLUGGO" -- as in Nancy Kerrigan and, um, whatshername.

"Old Nancy Doll with Huge Head." FEAR IT.

Dig this Nancy and Sluggo marble.

Another Nancy doll, from 1973, at the top of this page (right above The Nanny sunglasses).

Ivan Brunetti's Nancy.

We are all Nancy.

Nancy golf gag briefly examined.

Bill Griffith's tribute to Nancy.

If Mickey Spillane Wrote Nancy - from Mad Magazine.

"But despite their common origin and certain structural similarities, the Nancy and the Sluggo have some very important differences. The Sluggo was outfitted with a single purpose in mind, that of all-out aggression, whereas the Nancy's owner was more concerned with the design of the galley and the equipping of the entertainment center, opting for a minimum of offensive weapons in favor of the essential defensive ones. So, while the Sluggo's big guns and ramming capability constitute a threat not to be taken lightly, the Nancy enjoys far greater speed and maneuverability."

Jim Woodring presents the Greatest Nancy Panel Ever Drawn.

Here's an animated version of the Greatest Panel Ever Drawn:

...And the original strip from which it came:

Thursday, October 12, 2006


New Comics Day. 

...And hopefully I won't go on and on like I have been the last couple of days. I'm still ill, even bailing out of work on New Comics Day after finishing the comic saver pulls and the mail order stuff. As such, I don't have much of a New Comics Day roundup this time around:

Evan Dorkin's Dork #11 has finally darkened comic shop doorsteps across the nation, and it's well worth the wait. More laughs per page than your average issue of New Avengers.

X-Isle #3 - Tempers flare as the castaways begin to turn on each other, even as they encounter an unusual tribe of...critters in their quest to track down on of their own. Fast paced and entertaining, even if I sometimes have trouble of keeping track of which character is which (more of a symptom of reading the comic in a serialized fashion, one chapter a month).

Infinite Crisis novelization - Now, I first mentioned this on the site in a previous End of Civilization installment, where I said that, yeah, I'm probably going to get it out of curiosity about how they're going to handle explaining the series in a prose format. And, given that the price it was originally solicited at was $6.99, I figured "Hey, what the heck?" Well, now it's shown up as an oversized paperback at $15.00...apparently there was a last minute change by the publisher, thus making it returnable to our distributor, thus making me think twice about actually wanting to keep it. Feh.

DC Who's Who Mystery Box Series 2 - The deal with the Mystery Box series is that they're marketed a bit like trading cards...you buy the package, and one of six different plastic statues are randomly packed inside, with the idea that you'd buy 'em and trade 'em and whatnot. Apparently this didn't go over so well, as this new series now indicates on the outside of the box which figure is in which package. Not much of a "mystery box" anymore, it seems. (But I do like this Aquaman figure.)

And, yeah, that's pretty much it for today. I had another extensive and rambling essay in the works, this time about the Superman books, but it's going to have to wait for another day, I'm afraid. Yeah, I know, I'm wussing out, but let's face it, I'm sure we both need the break.

But, hey, at least I have another disturbing image for you...from one of the Kitchen Sink Nancy books again:

EDIT: Since there appears to be some confusion...that's not supposed to be Nancy's Aunt Fritzi.

EDIT AGAIN: And yes, in response to an question posed by a hotlinking weblogger, this image is 100% authentic, direct from the pen of Mr. Bushmiller himself.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mike's Medicated Ramblings, Day 3. 

I'm still trying to recover from my illness, so I've not been doing a whole lot of keeping up with online comics news and weblogging shenanigans and whatnot...er, not that I ever do, of course. However, I have been thinking a bit about this hobby in which I find myself involved, and I've been just sorta throwing my thoughts out there on this site over the last couple of days. I realize they're hardly well thought-out, or come to any kind of reasonable conclusion, but I hope you folks will excuse my self-indulgence. Well, my extra self-indulgence, since weblogs are kinda self-indulgent to begin with.

Anyway, I did spot, on some site or another, a particular bit of business I wanted to address. It doesn't really matter where I spotted it, because we've all seen some variation of it:

Company A does something Reader X doesn't like. Reader X then declares publicly that he is going to drop all of Company A's books off of his regular reading list in protest of whatever it was that Company A happened to do.

Of course, Reader X will eventually back off this stance because whatever Company A did is 1) probably no big deal, 2) if it's some kind of "permanent" change to a character, it'll be undone eventually, or 3) if it's some kind of company-wide change in direction Reader X disagrees with, sooner or later Company A will publish something Reader X won't be able to resist buying and he'll quietly end his boycott.

I've seen examples of this in-store, such as when one customer told me he was going to drop all DC books from his comic saver list because of the line-wide price increases from $2.50 to $2.99. However, in the wake of Infinite Crisis, he found himself intrigued by enough of the new directions of the books that he ended up adding nearly every DC Universe title to his pull list.

And I've seen this on a more limited scale...I think both pal Dorian and I have noted that when Grant Morrison took over X-Men, a number of the regular readers of the book went "Ew, weird, I'm dropping it until he's gone." And then, beginning a few months later, these same fans started buying the issues they skipped as back issues to fill the holes in their collections.

Plus, I've had enough people say things to me like "I REFUSE TO BUY ANY DC...well, except Sandman, that's pretty good" and then they're buying the Death mini-series, and the Dreaming spin-off, and the Lucifer spin-off....

Or they dropped all the Marvel titles in disgust, because, say, they didn't like the whole "Gwen Stacy was pregnant with the Green Goblin's kids" thing, but then they hear Joss Whedon was gonna write some X-title, and suddenly, they find themselves back in the fold.

So, yeah, I'm guessing that message board bluster about dropping everything a company is doing is more or less just that...bluster. I'm sure maybe someone, somewhere, dropped a company's output in protest and stuck to his guns...but for the most part, I call "yeah, right" on these sorts of declarations.

I wonder if other publishing concerns have this problem? ("I hated the ending of Stephen King's From a Buick 8! I'm never buying another book from Scribner ever again!")

Of course, people drop books all the time, but they usually don't make a big production out of it. Either it's out of purely financial concerns, or they don't care for a direction a particular comic has taken, or they just plain lost interest...eh, it happens, and it's done on a case-by-case basis, not a blanket "now I hate DC because its run by jerks, so I'm dropping all their books" decision.

I've written about my decision to drop the Flash comic after reading it for a couple of decades, as the new creative team and direction were, um, not really to my taste. And I followed that up with a brief discussion of why I dropped a handful of other titles. In short, not because I was trying to take a stand, or trying to "send a message" to the publishers in question that they weren't going to notice anyway, but simply because...I didn't feel like reading those titles any more. Well, I did kind of make a deal out of it, since, as a sinner, I'm gonna talk about this sort of thing on my weblog, but you get what I mean.

And that, in a roundabout way, brings me to Marvel Comics.

I used to read a lot more Marvels when I was younger. I used to read Uncanny X-Men, Fantastic Four, Thor, Amazing Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, various mini-series...blah blah blah, you don't need me to list them all. But I was pretty much as mired in the Marvel Universe as I was, and still am, in the DC Universe.

But, over the years, I find myself buying fewer and fewer titles from Marvel, not out of some conscious decision to weed Marvel out of my life. Rather, it's just because the stuff Marvel is publishing just isn't getting my attention.

I do love most of the classic Marvel characters, for example. I know people probably assumed I was making fun of Wolverine during "Wolverine Week" (starting here) and...yeah, okay, I was having some fun with fan perceptions of the character, but honestly, I do like Wolverine. It's just that, 99% of the time, nothing's being done with the character that I can enjoy. I liked the Claremont/Miller mini-series, I liked some of the issues of his initial regular series, and of course when Morrison got his dirty, dirty hands on him, but, yeah, that's pretty much it. I love the Fantastic Four, too...I own the Marvel Masterworks reprints of the Lee/Kirby stuff, and there have been occasional periods on the book that I've enjoyed (the last being Mark Waid's tenure), but there have been long, long gaps between those moments.

Compared to the number of Marvels I used to get, my current list ain't nuthin':

Punisher - Garth Ennis gives me what I want from a Punisher comic...guns, violence, and irredeemable bastards.

Nextwave - Warren Ellis plays with the Marvel Universe, making it fun and silly when everyone else seems dead set on making it oppressive and morose.

X-Factor - Just because of Peter David. And Strong Guy. If you don't love Strong Guy, your heart must be a tiny piece of coal.

Hulk - I've been reading Hulk comics for nearly a quarter of a century now, and, surprisingly, aside from the rare misstep, the book has maintained a high level of compelling and interesting storytelling. In the Hulk. Yeah, I know how that sounds.

Ultimates 2 - A comic stuffed full of unlikeable characters that somehow manage to keep your attention anyway. May be dropped when Jeph Loeb takes over the book, if his run is more like the end of his Superman/Batman run (confused and disjointed) and less like the beginning of that run (big, stupid fun).

Thunderbolts - The most Marvel-y Marvel book I read, with bickering heroes, villains changing sides, straightforward super-action, the works. Probably one of the only direct descendents of the classic '60s "House of Ideas" that Marvel publishes.

...And I'll at least look at Warren Ellis' newuniverse when that comes out, because, hey, it's Ellis doing the New Universe, how can you not look?

That's pretty much it. And, again, it's not because I have anything against Marvel. These are just the titles that have managed to keep my attention, whether it's from my particular enjoyment of the character (such as the Hulk) or because of the creative team (I don't think I'd be reading an X-Factor book not by David, Strong Guy or no Strong Guy).

And there you go. Like I said at the beginning, I'm just throwing my random thoughts out there, so I'm sorry I don't have a proper conclusion wrapping this all up. Well, aside from "buy comics you like, regardless of company," but that should be self-evident, right? Right.

And for reading all that, have another disturbing comics image:

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Getting lucky. 

So I spent most of the day on Monday sick and lounging about the house, sorta watching TV, sorta napping, sorta not getting a darn thing accomplished.

I read no comics, with one exception...I pulled a trade paperback out of the vast Mikester Comic Archives, and that paperback was Nancy's Dreams & Schemes. This was the third of the five volumes released by Kitchen Sink in the late '80s, which reprinted assorted strips by Ernie Bushmiller.

Now I'm not mentioning this to sing the praises of Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy, wonderful though it may be. No, I'm bringing it up because, to the best of my knowledge, this series of Nancy books represent the majority of Nancy reprints in recent times (I know only of a couple others). As such, they tend to be in demand by Nancy collectors, which can drive prices up.

Luckily, I was able to buy these when they were still new and still in print, thus I only had to pay $7.95 or so a pop. And that reminded me that I've been lucky enough, over my past thirty years of funnybook reading, to be able to pick up several runs of comics or graphic novels when they were new, before they became pricey "collectors items."

In 1983, I was one of the five people nationwide still buying the Swamp Thing title when Alan Moore took over the writing chores. Well, my response to his writing was the same as everyone else's -- i.e. "my mind, she is blown" -- and started keeping an eye out for anything else he did. As a result, I picked up his Maxwell the Magic Cat series (produced by Acme Press, distributed in the U.S. by Eclipse), reprinting a comic strip Moore wrote and drew. Fairly difficult to find now, but generally not too expensive...with the possible exception of the apparently poorly-distributed fourth and final volume of the series. I'd hate to be a Moore fan now, trying to track these down.

Another Moore title that I was fortunate to purchase as it was coming out was Miracleman, the U.S. publication of Moore's groundbreaking Marvelman series. It seemed like the series sold like it had twenty dollar bills stapled to the covers, so it was hard to imagine that anyone missed buying it. But, then again, it has been a number of years, and there have been some new readers coming into the hobby since Miracleman ended its run, and Moore's reputation has only increased since then. On top of that, the notoriety of the series has only been driven upward by the confused ownership issues surrounding the character, preventing its reprinting and, as you may guess, pushing up secondary market prices.

I have seen some issues sell for insane amounts on the eBay, in particular the Miracleman/Kid Miracleman battle issue (#15) which has sold for hundreds of dollars, even without the artificial pricing bump that a CGC "slabbing" would have given it. So, short version -- thank God I bought this series when it was new.

Other series I'm glad I already own and not having to pay the current premium prices for: Zenith, the five album series from Titan Books, featuring Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell's own Miracleman/Watchmen-esque take on superheroes; the three Starblaze/Donning albums for Matt Wagner's original Mage series, its only decent reprinting; the 125 or so Gladstone albums reprinting Carl Barks' Duck work; and, of course, my Swamp Thing runs, though admittedly not many of those are too expensive and difficult to get.

One series I did miss and regret afterwards was Fantagraphics' reprinting of E.C. Segar's Popeye...I kept meaning to track them down, but never got around to it, fortunately enough, since new, improved editions are coming soon. I also regretted not buying Blackthorne's Dick Tracy comics, but, again, a complete reprinting of strip is forthcoming.

I guess if we wait long enough, most anything we missed the first time around will eventually turn up in print again...which makes me glad I did buy Miracleman, since it looks like pigs will fly before that situation will ever get cleared up.

At the moment, the only other titles I'm sorry I missed purchasing are Shelley Mayer's Scribbly and Sugar & Spike, which I'm sure DC is going to reprint any day now.

I don't really have a point to any of this, other than feeling fortunate that I was able to get these (mostly) classic and (mostly) in-demand titles when they were still affordable and easy to find, rather than trying to chase them down later.

Today's disturbing image, taken from the above Nancy book:

Monday, October 09, 2006

In which Mike gets the sniffles and wusses out. 

So usually on Mondays I try to put together some extended post, dissecting some old comic, or perhaps writing a long essay on some comics-related topic or another, because, hey, I get a lot of folks dropping by the site on Mondays, and I don't want to disappoint.

Last Monday I cheesed out because, as I said yesterday, I'd been otherwise occupied that week. And this Monday I'm cheesing out because Sunday afternoon, I was suddenly stricken with flu symptoms that I'm still trying to shake. So, alas, no slaving over a hot scanner for you, my faithful readers. My apologies.

C'mon, baby, you know I still love you.

1. So I've been wondering for the last week or so whether or not this Supershadow Star Wars fan site is a hoax or not. I keep going back and forth on it, not being able to decide because, as I stated before, while portions of the site do seem like parodies of particular fannish attitudes and expectations, other portions of the site are just a little too elaborately obsessive (in ways that I've witnessed in real life for too many years) for someone just trying to prank folks.

But then I read something like this, in response to a particularly dumb reader-contributed plot idea for a theoretical not-actually-happening "Episode 7:"

"Supershadow: Utterly brilliant. This will be forwarded to Lucas pronto."

...Man, that just reads like out-and-out mockery.

Or when I read proclamations like this:

"Is there anything extra that you could tell me about Luke Skywalker, after Episode 6? (SuperShadow: What I can tell you is to ignore all the novels and comic books written about Star Wars over the past 15 years. Lucas accepts none of it. Only SS.com has information about Luke after Return of the Jedi. Please read the Episode 7, 8 and 9 plot summaries at SS.com to get a glimpse of the future of Star Wars.)"

...I just get flummoxed. Either this is one of the greatest parody sites ever created, or it's the very definition of "pathetisad." The constant repeating of the idea that fan-submitted plot elements sent to Supershadow are forwarded to Lucas for possible inclusion in future features is...well, "cruel" seems a little strong, as who knows if the "fans" aren't also creations of Supershadow himself (or "themselves," as the case may be). But it certainly plays into the expectations that some certain kinds of fans have regarding their perceived "entitlement" over the material they enjoy (as opposed to the usual, and quite correct, reminders elsewhere that fan-created material is avoided for legal reasons).

1a. On a related note, Lucas (the real Lucas, not the one at Supershadow) has stated that there will be no Episodes 7, 8, or 9, taking place after the events in Return of the Jedi. I think he's even claimed that he's never said there would ever be a total of nine movies in the series, which doesn't seem quite right to me, but I don't have the material to back up my hunch, so, you know, whatever.

Anyway, I wonder if one of the reasons Lucas opted out of doing 7, 8, and 9 is due to the success of the "Expanded Universe" material...the novels and comics and other stuff...that already deal with the same period that (presumably) the third trilogy would have covered. Lucas has stated that he's not obligated to follow the continuities of the various spin-off products, as he's demonstrated by contradicting the elaborate Boba Fett "Expanded Universe" backstory with events in Episode 2. So, if films 7, 8, and 9 were produced, most likely they'd not incorporate ideas from any of the previously published "Expanded Universe" books and comics. And, if so, that would certainly make most of the "Expanded Universe" material moot, as it wouldn't follow the "official" Star Wars continuity of the films, and thus possibly permanently cripple a multimillion dollar industry already in place perpetuating the Star Wars product line.

Okay, the kind of money the books and comics rake in ain't a patch on movie money, but I'm guessing Lucas would rather not deal with more constant complaining from the fans who followed the Star Wars book line for the last twenty years, griping that Han and Leia's twin children aren't in the movies, or some darn thing. I know if I were Lucas, the thought of that would certainly make me think twice. "Ah, geez, not the fans again...."

1b. On a related related note, in the late '70s Dynamite Magazine had an issue with several articles on the Star Wars saga, and included their theoretical outlines of all nine movies in the series (keeping in mind that Empire Strikes Back hadn't been released yet). I've been trying to find a copy of this article for years, so if any of you folks out there have access to it, please let me know!

1c. If I were a member of Longbets.org, one of my bets would be "We will see the original Star Wars movie remade in our lifetimes." (By someone other than Lucas, that is, as he seems intent on fixing his movies 'til they're broken.) You know, I'm sure everyone thought no one would ever remake the original Planet of the Apes, and yet they did. I'm sure by the time I'm in my 70s (which is, what, ten, fifteen years from now) they'll be touting a new fancy version of that hokey sci-fi "classic" with the crummy special effects.

2. Okay, that was a lot of Star Wars talk...so, here, I said I wasn't going to, but let me show you a few panels from Mighty Mouse #73 (1957). To set up...cats were harassing mice, Mighty Mouse gave 'em the ol' heave-ho, and the cats then proceed to enlist the services of the mighty cat wizard Purrlin the Powerful. When Purrlin casts a spell to turn Mighty Mouse into, of all things, a bowling ball, MM uses his girlfriend Mitzi's compact mirror to reflect it:


And now the cats are doomed, DOOMED to be bowling balls for ALL ETERNITY, since Purrlin no longer has his sexy Magic Hands. And is MM plunging his thumb into that poor cat's mouth? Ew.

So there you go, another disturbing image from the Silver Age of Comics to take with you through your day. No need to thank me.

3. I still managed to type too much. Some sick day I'm taking.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Blogging about blogging is a sin; but first.... 

So I turn over my copy of Looney Tunes #143, and what do I see in the Over the Hedge DVD ad?


This isn't something I needed this weekend. So of course, I now share it with all of you. Enjoy.

Yes, as I was totally called out on a couple days ago, I've been a little distracted from the weblogging thing this last week, so aside from my magnum opus on Thursday, I've let things slide a tad.

In my defense of the Wolverine Origin reviews post, I love Amazon reviews of graphic novels from people outraged that "it was a fat comic book." (See also my overview of From Hell reviews: "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.") Plus, I find really negative and, um, not terribly informed reviews amusing. For example, this one for Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1:

"After X-Men was largely butchered by the no talent writing of Morrison, Marvel head comic geeks Joe Quesada and Dan Buckley hired Joss Wheton to script the series. The choice was a terrible one. Wheton's writing has all the talent of a two year old. The flat dialoge and John Cassidy's terrible manga style drawings make this little more then material not suited for anyone intelligent enough to read. Despite what you might hear Comic sales just do not make the money or the large sales figures anymore and the suits at Marvel are strongly considering shuting down their comics business and calling it a day for good. I hope they do."

This is comedy gold, friends. Well, comedy silver, anyway.

The Word on the Street features Swamp Thing in the ongoing "312 Days of Comics" project, and very nicely dedicates it to me. Thank you, sir!

One of the unintended consequences of this site is the fact that, all over the world, complete strangers who read my site now have me inextricably connected to Swamp Thing in their minds. (The specific example I was thinking of, though certainly not the only one, was this one, which turned out to be from that rascal BeaucoupKevin.) That either makes me happy or frightened.

Have another disturbing image, this time from Richie Rich #16 (March 1963), featuring a grown-up Richie Rich, a grown-up Gloria, and their son, Richie Junior:

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