mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, November 04, 2006

And now...another moment with Power Man, Iron Fist, and Rom, Spaceknight. 

But it all works out in the end:

from Power Man and Iron Fist #73 (September 1981)
by Mary Jo Duffy, Greg La Rocque & Ricardo Villamonte

Friday, November 03, 2006

"Did her child read the Boys issue 4?" 

Pal Dorian pointed out to me that there's a Newsarama message board thread discussing that "comic book stores are dens of sin" article I'd Googled up the other day.

Some reactions are as follows:

"I used to have a friend growing up whose mom would take a Sharpie to his comics and edit out anything she found 'offensive.'"

"My kids read some of my comics and if there's anything that I think might be a bit much for 'em( I know my kids so I have a good idea what that is in regards to the 11yo and 17yo) I just talk about it with them first and if they want to read the book still I leave it up to them."

"what a minute, this article is 4 years old!"

"Someone please tell me that this woman
[note - some posters in this thread seem to think the article was written by a woman] is not complaining that comics, which really haven't been targeted towards children in years, are not for childish enough. Please tell me that she isn't complaining about something that she comics to be, due to her own unwillingness to accept change. This is like someone writing a letter explaining they're outrage because they went to the South expecting there to be slaves, and found none."

"Did her child read the Boys issue 4?"

"The hard core fans have had years to become accustomed to, and even rather jaded about, things that a great many people, especially parents, would find very shocking. While I wouldn't use the sort of rhetoric this article contains, I do believe parents could use some warnings about what sorts of things are likely to be found in comics, so they'll know that they need to supervise their children's reading of them."

"As a librarian, I thought you'd value the idea of letting people decide about materials for themselves. Certainly if these weren't comics, you'd feel differently."

"I didn't say anything at all about advocating censorship. I said that parents are often deeply ignorant about the content of today's comics, and that they need to be made aware of them so that they will know to keep a closer eye on their childrens' exposure to them."

"I know this is a stretch, but perhaps parents should actually LOOK at what their kids are interested in and police the material themsleves. [...] Of course, its much easier to blame others and act like the entire world should be sanitized just in case a 10 year old gets his hands on something."

"Protecting children means censorsing adults. Didn't you know that?"

"I think it's funny too,that some folks have insinuated that the problems with education and the youth are all the fault of parents. Couldn't be the fact that many (not all) people today under 30 have absolutely no sense of personal responsibility and have to blame evryone but themselves for what's wrong with them."

"no one is attacking all parents in general. Just the ones who don't want to take responsibility for their kids, or how they turn out. Sorta like blaming your kids delinquency on some mythical generational flaw."

"Yes parents need to keep track of what their kids are reading, but that doesn't dismiss the fact that many comics are almost blatently dishonest with their rating systems. And this going to come back to haunt the industry someday."

"It's worth repeating - this article was written in 2002. The stupidity of it is timeless, though."

New comics day, and more fun from Starlog

I haven't talked about this week's new comics day yet, but thought I should mention a thing or two before it becomes "last week's new comics day."

First, I finally held a copy of the Complete Dick Tracy Volume 1 in my hands, and boy, it sure is nice. It doesn't have the sewn-in bookmark visible in the promo image I posted, but the reproduction of the strips are excellent, even including some color strips shot from original newspaper sections. This is very much the proto-version of the strip, with Dick Tracy only approaching his razor-sharp profile near the end of the volume, but it all looks beautiful and entertaining. So, yeah, as soon as I scrape some pennies together, I'll hopefully buy a copy for myself.

Speaking of coin of the realm, and lack thereof, I've been shedding books from the read pile over the last couple of weeks. This week I dropped Mystery in Space (I like Starlin's "The Weird" back-up, but the Captain Comet lead story isn't doing it for me), last week I gave up on Trials of Shazam (I love the Marvel Family characters, but I haven't warmed to this series) and Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters (forgot to pick it up, decided I didn't miss it). On the chopping block: Green Lantern Corps (stuck it out for the issues drawn by Dave Gibbons, not sure I care enough the non-Guy Gardner characters to keep reading).

Back to stuff from this week I did read:

Pirate Tales - another of Boom! Studios' anthology books, this time focusing on...well, guess. I do loves me the pirate comics, which we don't see enough of, and the highlights of this collection are "Jerky" by Chris Ward, Keith Giffen, and Rafael Albuquerque (a short horrific bit about pirates adrift on a raft at sea) and "The Walk" by Joe Casey and Jean Dzialowski (with the nice gimmick of several full page images, each page functioning as a separate panel, giving us a panoramic view of the ship). It's fun reading, and even when you come across the occasional piece of clich̩d dialogue like "Avast ye scurvy dog," well, you're willing to forgive it. If no one said "Avast ye scurvy dog" at any point during the proceedings, I'd have been disappointed.

Tales Designed to Thrizzle #3 - the new issue of Michael Kupperman's humor book from Fantagraphics is...well, beyond description, really. If you liked what you saw in the first two issues (and I did), there's more in this third issue. Plus, there's a history of porno coloring books. Look, don't ask me to explain.

And now, for no good reason, two letters from Starlog #29 (December 1979)...this first one is either an extremely sarcastic critique, or the writer just took his bathroom breaks at the wrong times:

"...Frankly, I was confused by the movie Alien. Perhaps you could help me. I saw quite a lot in the picture. There were all those flashing lights and those billowing colors of smoke. I was particularly amused by the actors, portraying present-day, foul-mouthed, drunken chain-smokers somehow transported into the future, still wearing their Hawaiian shirts, ball caps, and briefs. I thought that old carnival trick 'man with head through hole in floor talking' was a real pip. However, it's the title of the show that puzzles me. Was there supposed to be an alien in there someplace? I looked and looked, but never saw one. A friend told me that was the whole idea - it was supposed to be hiding. The only out-of-this-world creature I noticed was Sigourney Weaver - great body, rotten actress."

And now, a letter from Grandpa:

"...If you and your sister magazine FUTURE LIFE continue to publish articles lauding today's disco and punk rock, I shall be forced to stop buying your otherwise excellent publications. These are not rock fanzines you are putting together. Leave this to the cretinous rock pulps that dominate today's newsstands. STARLOG and FUTURE LIFE are far too intelligent to cater to the simple-minded dolts who listen to this production-line music. Rock is boring, repetitous. Once you've heard one song, you've heard them all. If rock is the music of the future, give me the triassic era any day. I'd rather tangle with a raging Tyrannosurus [sic] Rex than the deafening blare of noisy discotheques."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Posted only because I'd never seen Twiki without the helmet before. 

"Felix Silva [sic], in the role of Twiki, Buck's companion robot (inset) had some hot times under set lights. Says producer [Leslie] Stevens: 'We kept frying our midgets.'"

from "Buck Rogers Becomes The Movie" (Starlog #21, April 1979)

"...Comic stores have become little more than gateways into pornography and graphic violence." 

Here's a little something I found while Googling around the other day. It's a few years old, so it may have been discussed out there in comic book internet land already, but even so, I thought I'd shine a light on it anyway.

"Many parents are unaware of how bad comic books have become. Some drop their children off at comic stores, thinking that the kids are taking the easy route into reading that they themselves enjoyed as children. But comic stores have become little more than gateways into pornography and graphic violence.

"It used to be that you found a few bad comics amid the adventure stories and tales of superheroes. Now, the decent comics are difficult to find. Most of the titles are bizarre, with some being openly pornographic, such as Purgatori, Bettie Page and Lady Death. They are chockfull of nudity, homosexuality, violence, and demonic portrayals. Some openly attack religions and religious believers, particularly Christians. Many also have foul language, with repeated use of the F-word."


"A few good comic books remain that are consistently imaginative and nonexploitative. The Archie series is a good example. Archie comics have become the top-selling comic books in America. This is partly because of their quality and wholesome consistency. But they are also a dominant market force because there are few competitors. Disney and Marvel also put out quality comic books for the most part.

"But most comics publishers seem to have lost any concern they ever had for the effects of their product on impressionable young minds. The head of DC comics, which publishes some good comics but also now routinely features sex, violence, foul language and even anti-Christian themes in some of its products, said in an interview that she wanted to push the envelope as far as possible."


"The Federal Trade Commission recently issued a report accusing the music industry of aggressively marketing adult material to children. It䴜s time for them to look into the comic book industry䴜s deceptive and seductive marketing. Congress can hold hearings to shine a light on the dark corners of the comics world. Meanwhile, law enforcement authorities don䴜t have to wait. They can prosecute people who would exploit children. Merchants who sell smut to children should be put behind bars, where they can encounter first-hand some of the tender, loving behavior inspired by their products."

For a dissenting opinion: the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"Comic books and soap operas DO NOT MIX" 

So I guess I've decided to celebrate my new, expanded bandwidth by posting a boatload of pictures this week. For you folks on dial-up, I apologize...I know what that's like, so I'll try to ease up a bit.

So, in the news:

It's been going around again that Jack Black will not be Green Lantern, according to that video interview which will automatically start playing if you click on that link, so watch out, you. Apparently the last time he said he wasn't doing it didn't stick. And, again, that's too bad...I know it's the unpopular opinion, but I would have liked to have seen it. It could have been a good larf. Besides, some people are just so gosh-darned antsy about their superheroes being "properly treated with respect," so nit-picky about every detail, that a full-on superhero comedy featuring one of the "world's greatest superheroes" (that most of the general public had never heard of, aside from this cartoon) would have either forced them to just unclench a bit, man, or would have just plain broken their will altogether.

Let's see...I like the idea of Black as GL, I enjoy All-Star Batman...why do you people even look at my website? Clearly I'm a bad person.

In other news:

Okay, I haven't mentioned the whole Marvel Comics crossover with the Guiding Light soap opera, but...um, not that TV soap operas are paragons of realism, but isn't making one of the characters into a superhero, with actual super-powers, kinda pushing the boundaries just a bit?

I took to the soap opera message boards to see the reaction:

From Soap Opera Network - "Are they really doing this?"

"Now, please tell me the oldest soap in Daytime is not going to have a superhero on their show. What is the deal with this storyline and what do GL fans think about it?"

"I just can't believe this is happening. I'm stupified right now."

"They have to be smoking crack to come up with an idea as crazy as this."

"I have a feeling this is a fantasy episode as seen through the eyes of Harley's kids. Kind of a 'Super-mom' episode... at least that's what I hope. If it's anything meant to be taken seriously, CBS is getting one PO'd e-mail from me."

"Get off the back of GL for thinking outside the box like every other show does. They are doing what they need to do and special episodes are fun for fans and for the actors themselves."

"Supernatural stories have been poorly received on every soap except those specializing in them (Dark Shadows, Port Charles). Why a traditional soap like GL would do this is beyond me."

"I understand that comics are serial type reading, but that does not mean they should have a place on the oldest soap around. Passions, perhaps but not my GUIDING LIGHT."

"Comic books and soap operas DO NOT MIX This stupid crossover will only make people switch the channel or stop watching"

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Pink Panthers are real...." 

So, somehow, the Pink Panther's life of vagrancy has him stranded on a rainy night, looking for a port in the storm:

Frankly, I'm left wondering what circumstances put him in this position. Thrown out of a house by a jilted lover? Broken down car? On the run from the Inspector? What has brought Pink so low?

Anyway, as Pink approaches the castle, we see the castle's two occupants...an apparently mad scientist and his hulking assistant:

Why does he need a generator? Well, one panel and one change of shirt later, we see why...he needs it, and a brain, for his manmade...tennis instructor? Gym teacher? What is that monster wearing?

By this time, Pink has entered the building and, of course, makes a beeline to the kitchen to help himself to some food, but not without making a crack about health food nuts. Boy, those health food nuts sure eat some crazy stuff, am I right, gang:

Finally, the mad scientist catches on that there's an uninvited guest rummaging through the kitchen, and he and Bruno easily capture the freeloading panther:

Apparently the standards for a perfect brain slack a bit according to need and availability:

Pink, finally catching on that he's not in a bread-and-breakfast, makes a run for it, but is quickly captured by Bruno again. Pink then makes a startling discovery:

So did that hatch just pop open by itself, or did Pink somehow accidentally open it up while he was, I don't know, feeling Bruno's manly chest or something? Seems like bit of a design flaw, either way. Anyway, Pink takes the opportunity to fiddle with Bruno's delicate instrumentation. In the process, Pink succeeds only in 1) apparently making things worse, and 2) giving the story its pink-themed and wholly inappropriate title:

Somehow Pink slips Bruno's grip, but instead of running for his life, follows Bruno back to the lab. The sounds of violence and some dismembered limbs come from the lab's entrance:

Curiosity and a taste for violence drives Pink to peek in on what's on, and makes yet another startling discovery:

So not only is the assistant a robot, but the mad scientist is a robot as well...so what we have is an old castle occupied by two robots whose apparent purpose is to build more robots for...well, who knows why, really, beyond perhaps simple self-replication.

Pink finally wises up and splits the scene, comforted only by repeating his mantra of self-affirmation:

And it's probably too much to hope that he went directly to the local authorities to report dangerous robots on the outskirts of town, who have been attempting to kill living people in order to obtain their brains.

So, um, "BOO! OOOOH, SPOOKY!" I guess. Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A quick update. 

I'm a guest-weblogger today over at my Canadian twin's horror weblog, The Horror Blog, with Five Favorite Scary Superman Moments. Enjoy, won't you?

"Is this some sort of joke, man?" 

So I've been getting a lot of mileage out of Flying Saucers Stories #5 (Oct. 1969) lately...we recently acquired a copy in a collection and, as is probably evident from some of my posts over the last week, I just can't put the thing down.

I like how it's marked as a "collector's edition." Clearly it's marked as such because...um, it has UFO stories? You know, unlike the rest of the issues of Flying Saucers Stories? Maybe it's the rare treat of a Frank Springer cover.

Before I stopped darkening your virtual doorstep with stories from this funnybook, I did want to at least show you this one last story, "Far Out Physical." Dig the title font...I seem to remember a time when you couldn't get away from that particular typeface:

The single caption on the first page splash sets up the story:

"Carl Romain, gentleman farmer, connoisseur, horse breeder and dog fancier leaves his large house on a clear fall evening to walk his favorite show dog on the remote back portion of his country estate. Curious about an odd light glowing in a rear meadow, Carl Romain investigates...much to his great surprise!"

And sure enough, Romain takes his dog, Earl of Derby, out for a walk, and stumbles upon a landed UFO, its occupants pouring out of its portal:

And, like pretty much every alien in this comic (save for the fellas...excuse me, "MEN" on the cover), they're colored a bright white. No "Greys" here, pal!

Romain's not going to put up with any shenanigans from a bunch of trespassers, and gives them a stern talking to:

Even when the alien critters start getting a little touchy-feely, Romain doesn't lose his cool:

Now, in a couple of those previous panels, you may have noticed something. The aliens are clearly speaking, but the word balloons are empty. This wasn't an error...this is the story's conceit, its shorthand for our inability to understand the alien language. On the face of it, it's a clever idea, letting an empty word balloon be a symbolic representation just on its own, without filling it with random gibberish or pictures indicating speech.

But after three and a half pages (out of a six page story) that look like this:

...Well, whatever cleverness existed with this particular storytelling choice begins to get silly (or gets sillier, depending on your point of view) through repetition. I would bet money that the vast majority of the copies originally sold of this issue had these balloons filled by their young owners in short order. (And probably filled by some of you in short order as well, you rascals.)

Anyway, the aliens run Mr. Romain through a number of tests (as pictured above) and apparently make a plaster cast of his body, to...I don't know, mass-produce copies of him back on their home planet, I guess:

And then they let him and the Earl of Derby go, just in time for the shocking "lost time" ending:

And yes, his assistant is named "Sims," who is no relation, I'm assuming.

So, first...granted, we didn't see him in his best light, but Romain sounds like a bit of a humorless jerk. I guess we need to take the "gentleman" part of "gentleman farmer" from the opening caption at the narrator's word. Er, and the "farmer" part, too, I suspect.

Second, again going back to that opening, there frankly wasn't enough horse breeding in this story. I guess there was some dog fancying, though. And what was he a connoisseur of, exactly?

Third, I would have liked to have seen a sequel, where the aliens unleash a bunch of Romain-duplicates on Romain's country estate and they wander around, threatening to throw trespassers in jail and basically being dour and cranky. And fancying dogs.

Four, calling this "Far Out Physical" implies, at least to me, groovy aliens taking advantage of half-naked hippy chicks, not pasty-faced critters probing some stodgy middle-aged landowner. Poor show, sirs, poor show.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Semi-reviews, and I tempt the fates with merchandising ideas. 

Okay, fine, I'm rereading Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory mini-series...I think the problem I had absorbing the contents of the concluding one-shot comes from the fact that the darned thing came out so behind schedule that I don't remember the details from the previous issues.

I'm reading the minis in alphabetical order -- I'm halfway through Klarion -- and I'm noticing is that these comics read at a lightning pace. No lulls in the action, no wasted words and/or images, all killer, no filler. What a breath of fresh air it is to read a funnybook that is so well-tuned, effortlessly pulling the reader along from beginning to end. These past couple of weeks I've read a couple comics that were a real chore to get through, where it was as if the creators of the book were daring you to try to slog through to whatever passed for the comic's conclusion, and the Seven Soldiers comics are a nice contrast.

So, yeah, I'm enjoying the rereading.

Watched the Hellboy: Sword of Storms animated movie on Cartoon Network Saturday evening, and...well, don't really have much to say about it. It did its job, told its story, the characters were attractively drawn and well-voiced, there was humor to the script...it was perfectly acceptable light entertainment. Characterization was minimal, restricted mostly to Liz being mopey about her lot in life, but the focus was on Hellboy fighting monsters, and there was plenty of monster-fightin' to be had.

It was fun, if not exceptional, but it was certainly better than the Ultimate Avengers 2 movie. But then, a blank screen may have been better than Ultimate Avengers 2.

And as long as I'm in a reviewin' mood...for the most part, I've been enjoying Justice, Alex Ross' extended tribute to the Super Friends cartoon and the comics of his youth, even with the occasionally-obvious undercurrent of "today's DC Comics are bad, Sue should still be alive, Barry and Hal should always be best pals," etc. But this latest issue had a confrontation between Plastic Man and Elongated Man that...excuse me for a second, I can't believe I actually just typed that. Well. Anyway, those two characters have a pissing match over who belongs in the Justice League more, and it felt less like a reasonable argument between two adults and more like a kid playing with with Plastic Man and Elongated Man action figures, making 'em fight: "I'm the League's stretchy guy!" "No, I'm the League's stretchy guy!" Not that superhero comics are usually paragons of realistic relationships or anything, but this particular exchange seemed awfully forced, more the result of "hey, we've never seen PM and EM really have it out over their places in the JLA...that'd be cool!"

What was cool was seeing the Phantom Stranger pop up in this issue. It's nice that folks remember that he's kinda/sorta a member of the team...okay, he was invited, he never officially said "yes" as far as I know, but that's close enough for me. Hey, we're all dorks about something.

So we've had stake replicas, necklace replicas, plushie stakes, stuffed pig replicas...what other Buffy the Vampire Slayer replica could they unleash upon the world?

My idea was a model of Gile's car, scaled for action figure use. And if the figures lack sufficient articulation to be able to be seated in the car...well, that means it's time for a whole new line of BTVS "Car-ready Super Articulated Action Figures!"

I'd mentioned this to pal Dorian, who told me that there have been die-cast versions of Buffy vehicles already. Obviously they're not sized for use with action figures, but I'd honestly thought Buffy cars hadn't yet been merchandised.

Dor's idea for BTVS merchandise is a clothing line, so folks can dress like their favorite Buffy/Angel characters. "Here's the shirt Tara wore in episode #117!" You know, like that. My initial thought was an overpriced replica of Spike's leather jacket, which seems like a natural.

It seems to me that this would have already been done, but my brief Google-fu attempt reveals nothing except your standard silk-screened Buffy t-shirts. If it has been done, let me know...or, perhaps, let me live on in blissful ignorance instead.

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