Meanwhile, in Mike’s collection…

§ April 23rd, 2014 § Filed under trading cards § No Comments

…in one of his half-dozen or so binders of trading cards, there sits these two Wizard promo cards for the Dark Horse/Valiant crossover series Predator Vs. Magnus Robot Fighter:

…numbered 3 and 4, and I have no idea what 1 and 2 were. The cards are from 1992, advertising the then-forthcoming mini-series, and there they are, 22 years later, still in a card binder, still on a shelf, no real point to having held onto them for all this time other than for using them for this blog post you’re looking at right now. Plus, it’s not like they’re in the way at home or anything…I’m not moving, like, the dining table around and saying “I’d sure like to put this over in that part of the room if it weren’t for those damned Predator Vs. Magnus Robot Fighter trading cards already being kept there.”

Trading card accumulation was a real symptom of ’90s comic collecting, where one could get in cases of Jim Lee’s X-Men or what have you and easily expect to sell through all of them. That particular aspect of the market seems very diminished now…we received the 2014 Marvel Universe cards this week, and expect it’ll take a while to work through even a single box of those. The comic collector/card collector overlap likely burnt out in the overproduction of product a couple of decades back, from both sides of the equation. I remember personally buying and collecting various trading cards, and being fairly excited about tracking down those last few missing numbers I needed to complete a set. The very act of opening packs and collating sets was a strangely satisfying and fun activity in and of itself.

And then, suddenly, that particular collecting urge within me went away. It’s not like I have any newly-found disdain for the card sets I do have: I’m glad I have my Death of Superman set, or that set of chromium cards featuring Golden Age covers, or those two sets of Berni(e) Wrightson cards (with their accompanying special Berni(e) Wrightson binders!), or any of the other oddball sets I’ve gathered. I simply no longer have the desire to obtain more sets, buy more packs, sort more cards.

There are circumstances where I would want to buy more cards, of course, but more as a subset of other obsessions, rather than “I must buy and complete this new set of cards.” If DC Comics put out a new line of cards that included Swamp Thing images, I’m sure I’d set out to track down those specific cards, rather than acquire a full run of the whole release. Unless it was a full Swamp Thing series, in which case, okay, they got me.

Until then, I’m happy with the number of card sets I do have, in those half-dozen binders, resting on that shelf, where I can occasionally pull them down and look at them. And, of course, scan ‘em and show them to you.

The Shattered Ponies of Sethergarde.

§ April 21st, 2014 § Filed under retailing § 4 Comments

So these were the windows in the left side of our storefront, prior to the events of Saturday evening/Sunday morning. Tristan, one of our customers, painted this silly mash-up illustration for us, quite possibly with the sole instruction of “make it as amazingly nerdy as possible,” and lo, he did succeed.

That window painting had been up there for a while, and granted, it was about time for a change, but “having someone smash out half of it” wasn’t really the impetus we were looking for.

For the most part, reaction was positive to it; most of our customers were amused, or bemused, by it, and there was even a mostly-positive Reddit thread about it, of all things. But there were those people who just plain objected to having My Little Ponies in the shop windows. One person even told us “sorry about the windows, but I’m glad that My Little Pony mural is gone,” and, well, that’s tact for you.

Here’s a very good reason for having My Little Pony characters in the window: it got a lot of attention, and attracted a lot of new customers. Parents coming in with their children who specifically cited that painting as the reason they stopped by. Folks who saw pics of the window online and wanted to come by and see the shop in person. That painting Got People Into The Store, and you know I think that’s important because I even capitalized the preposition.

And besides, it’s not like we’re any stranger to weird window paintings, like these examples by our pal Randy Martinez:

Anyway, right now we’ve got big ol’ wooden boards where our window used to be, and hopefully by Tuesday or Wednesday we’ll have our new and (gulp) expensive window in place, and then it’ll be time for a new mural! I thinking something everyone will be sure to love, something action-packed, like Sluggo and Swamp Thing arm-wrestling. That’ll bring in the crowds.

I also wanted to say thanks to the folks who generously responded to my request to pick up some goodies from our listings on eBay and Amazon, and even the few folks who called me up at the store (805-653-2732) to have me track down some items. Please feel free to continue to do so…every little bit helps! (I won’t be in Monday, hopefully, barring any more surprises, but I’ll be back in the shop on Tuesday.)

Again, thank you for the sympathetic response to this completely pointless inconvenience visited upon us. I’ll be back soon to talk about comics instead of just picking at this scab, I promise.

So much for a relaxing Easter.

§ April 20th, 2014 § Filed under idiots, retailing § 6 Comments


Well, someone overnight decided to bust one of our big windows in the front of the store, which is going to set us back a pretty penny…on top of some recent big Diamond invoices and other large expenses, this is almost a bridge too far, here.

So now would be a good time to take a look at our eBay listings, our Amazon listings, or just straight up call me at 805-653-2732 after noon today and order something.

I’m not terribly happy at the moment.

Eight out of ten ain’t bad.

§ April 18th, 2014 § Filed under collecting § 6 Comments

So I made good on my promise…well, my passing whim, at any rate…and dug deep into the back issue bins at the store to pull out a set of the 1970s Charlton run of E-Man. Most of it, at any rate. We had several copies of some issues, in a wide range of conditions, but alas, issues 8 and 10 were not to be found. Sure, I could have settled for the reprints of those original issues First published later, but given the choice, I’m going for the older books, what with the swell covers and the tanned pages and the terrible ads and what have you.

I’m not much of a stickler for condition; so long as they don’t fall apart in my hands or smell like gasoline I’m okay. Most of these were in the Very Good to Fine range, and the worst condition copy was #2, which was in Good (i.e. “the eBay ‘Fine Plus’”):

Speaking of the eBay, it’s probably to the Internet auctionings I go to fill out the run, unless I’ve got #8 and #10 hiding in the backroom of the shop somewhere (and given the “abandon all hope, ye who enter here” state of the backroom, it’s not unlikely).

It does look like we have all of the First Comics series, and then things get a tad complicated after that, looking at the Wikipedia page. Then there’s all the Mike Mauser stuff, Mauser being a private detective supporting character in E-Man and having his own back-up series in Charlton’s Vengeance Squad. I think we have those at the shop, but those are also reprinted along with the original E-Man stories by First Comics, and that series also has some previously unpublished work and now I’m thinking I should have just taken home the reprints instead.

AAARGH. Now I’m waffling. I may bring back the originals and go for the reprints. But the originals have the cool Ditko back-ups. Man, these big decisions are the worst. I’m going to end up buying both versions and hating myself. LOOK WHAT YOU’VE MADE ME DO.

There was also a series teaming up Mike Mauser with Ms. Tree, Ms. Tree being a series I did read and I tell you right now, without checking my inventory list, I couldn’t tell you with any confidence whether or not I own that mini. I’ve seen it at the shop plenty of times, but my memory tells me I didn’t pick it up because I wasn’t familiar or just indifferent to Mauser, but my collector-fanboy-sense tells me I did pick it up because it’s a Ms. Tree tie-in. I have no idea. Okay, hold on for a second, I’ll check.

[tempus fugit]

Looks like I don’t have ‘em. Well, I guess if reading E-Man is going to turn me into a Mike Mauser completist, I guess I’d better pick those up at some point, too and fill out that Ms. Tree collection at the same time.

Now, all I have to do is find time to read all these. I’m sure that’ll be no problem. I’ve almost made it through #1!

I swear to God, this is something that actually happened.

§ April 16th, 2014 § Filed under wood eye § 3 Comments

I posted a few scans from my mini-comics works on the Twitters the other night, some of which I’ve probably featured on this site at one time or another and I will eventually track down and link to with my new “wood eye” category. (Wood-Eye being, of course, the name of the anthology comic most of my mini-comics appeared in.)

After doing Wood-Eye for a few years, in 1998 I put together a solo book reprinting my strips from that anthology along with new strips. That book was called Mike Sterling’s Progressive Ruin, which is where this website got its name. (You can read more about my mini-comic days, and see a wee tiny scan of the cover for that book, in my very first anniversary post.)

Anyway, one of those new strips was the following, which isn’t so much based on a true story as an exact transcription, and I don’t think I’ve posted it online before, but if so, here it is again:

I was between finals, walking from one building to another on the UC Santa Barbara campus, when that fella came up and said that very thing to me. I had about 40 cents in my pocket, which I handed over to him because you know, what the heck, and now, a couple of decades later, I’m posting a comic strip I drew about it on my website. 40 CENTS WELL SPENT, SEZ I.

Kinda wish I still had that little “Evils of Money” pamphlet. Wonder what happened to it?

E-Man #9 (First Comics, December 1983).

§ April 14th, 2014 § Filed under from the vast Mikester comic archives § 6 Comments

So this here is one of those comic book series whose omission from my personal collection is almost nearly inexplicable. E-Man seems like it’s right up my alley; a mostly-lighthearted superhero adventure comic, veering into parody and satire, created and originally written by Nicola Cuti, and co-created and (I think) always drawn by Joe Staton, one of my favorite comic book artists. And it’s not like I didn’t have opportunity to buy the series…I was following several of the comics being published by First Comics in the 1980s, of which the E-Man revival series was one. Plus, at the shop I work at I am pretty sure we have all of those First issues and the original ’70s series available in the back issue bins. Even if we don’t, First Comics also reprinted those on what would almost have to be better paper than whatever castoff printing scraps that 1970s Charlton Comics usually ended up using.

Anyway, I didn’t buy these series at the time, and someday I should, because if it’s one thing I need in the house, it’s more comic books.

However, as you may have guessed, considering I have it pictured above, I did buy one issue, mostly because I was being a Phil Foglio completist, and he, along with his sci-fi character Buck Godot, make a one-page cameo appearance in one of the Hostess parody ads that E-Man would regularly run:

I like the looks of this fella:

So that’s the one issue of E-Man I own, and honestly, I should own more. At the very least, I should have the issue previous, since it has a Cutey Bunny parody ad, and I’ve mentioned before that I’m an easy mark for the work of Joshua Quagmire.

And wouldn’t you know it, I just did a little Googling trying to find a list of creators who did parody ads for E-Man and just discovered someone starting, mere days ago, his own retrospective on the First Comics run of E-Man. Not trying to jump someone else’s train here or anything…it was just a coincidence! Plus, it’s not like I really had anything specific to say about E-Man anyway, so please go read what he has to say to learn more about that particular property, and to see another creator’s take on the Hostess parody ads!

Someday I will open my own shop and it will be called “Mike’s Magical Comics Fort.”

§ April 11th, 2014 § Filed under free comic book day § 8 Comments

Well, our shipment of Free Comic Book Day books has (mostly) arrived at our shop, and oh good gravy there are Too Many Comics:

That’s just a couple of the stacks of boxes that comprised Mike’s Magical Comics Fort that I built behind one of the counters, whilst I popped open cartons and did inventory counts.

Every year, as I go through the FCBD inventory, I have the simultaneous feeling of “I’ve ordered way too much” and “ooh, I hope this is enough,” and the worry sets in about covering the costs, even though we’ve never ever ever lost money on a Free Comic Book Day event. It’s just the worrywart inside me, or just barely inside me since it’s usually pretty obvious when I’m being distracted about stuff like this. However, it looks like a pretty good selection of books this year, and if you can only get one, I’d recommend Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: A Matter of Some Gravity from Fantagraphics, featuring a couple of great Don Rosa stories…you know, as if there were any Don Rosa stories that weren’t great. (But what kind of store would only offer you one FCBD book? Sheesh.)

Now, I said the books had “mostly” arrived, since, even after receiving this enormous shipment that probably put a few new creaks in our UPS guy’s bones, there is still one box out there, wandering about, alone, on the mean streets. Or, perhaps, sitting on a dock somewhere. So, even after spending hours breaking down and counting the order, there are still more FCBD books headed our way, and even on top of that I’m thinking of bolstering our stock with some selective reorders of some books on which I feel I may not have received sufficient quantities. Because, you know, I’m completely insane.

I still have about a box or so of leftovers from the 2013 event, and I think I’m actually completely out of any leftovers I’ve had from the years prior to that. I do have some other stuff I’m thinking about using for further giveaways at the shop as well. Also, while working on my personal comics inventory, I went through the stacks of FCBD books I had in the Vast Mikester Comic Archives and pulled out the ones I wanted to keep, and am returning the rest to the general giveaway stock for this year’s event. If any customers missed that copy of the Transformers: Infiltration freebie from 2006, now’s their big chance!

I wasn’t deliberately trying to hoard comics…I took one of each for review, to decide which comic went into which age-appropriate bag (explanation here) and then I’d be lazy and forget to bring ‘em back and they’d just sit in a box at home, unloved. Well, I don’t do the bag-sorting anymore, as I prefer to stretch the stock out a bit by putting everything out on the tables and letting folks take what they want, so I don’t need to do that extensive of a review anymore. A general “for God’s sake don’t let kids take the Avatar book” type of warning to the employees monitoring the freebies was good enough last year, and it’ll probably be good enough again this year.

And like I always do every year, I peek in on the eBay to see who’s already selling this year’s FCBD books despite the retailer order form having this to say:

“By buying FCBD editions, you agree that you will give them away for free on May 3, 2014, with no purchase required.”

…And of course, there are plenty available at some optimistic pricing. “We’ll give some of these Rocket Raccoon comics out for free, but we’ll charge five bucks apiece for the rest! …Hey, they didn’t say ‘give them all away!’” Okay, maybe it’s not retailers doing this, maybe it’s just plain folks anticipating being able to grab stacks of free books they can sell later. Sure, why not.

Gang of street toughs closely stalking the Black Cat, or promo image for a new wave band?

§ April 9th, 2014 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 6 Comments

…or, possibly, both:

Anyway, that’s not what I originally planned this post to be about. This image was taken from Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man #90, cover-dated May 1984, and is notable primarily for being one of the first appearances of Spidey’s then-new black costume.

The subject came to mind when, on our store’s Facebook page, a customer questioned an assertion I made on our regular website that Amazing Spider-Man #252 was the black costume’s first appearance. “Isn’t it Secret Wars #8?” he wondered, and I explained that even though Spider-Man is shown first receiving the costume in SW #8, that is actually a good seven months or so after the costume made its debut in ASM.

However, even that’s apparently not cut ‘n’ dried, since in Overstreet it’s noted that ASM #252, the aforementioned Peter Parker #90, and Marvel Team-Up #141 are “tied” (Overstreet’s terminology) for the costume’s first appearance.

Today’s Marvel is more than happy to crank out four or five or six Avengers or X-Men titles the same week, but it was my memory that wasn’t Marvel’s habit way back when, when all these comics were hitting the stands. So it had me wondering, even though they’re all cover-dated May 1984, did they all come out the same week, or on succeeding weeks, and which one was first?

Alas, though our store was open then, those invoices/cycle sheets/what-have-yous were discarded long ago. A little Googling finds some discussion (like this example), based mostly on “I-was-there” memories, plus additional blurring of the costume’s history with the inclusion of prior promo pieces from Marvel’s news/interviews comic Marvel Age and elsewhere.

A mention of Amazing Heroes #39 as a possible “first appearance” of the costume (speaking of blurring the lines) reminded me of a feature of Amazing Heroes, the “Coming Distractions” section, which would list all the new releases for that month, including specific release dates. Thus, I pulled out #40, the issue with the relevant information, out of the Vast Mikester Comic Archives, and here is what it says:

Amazing Spider-Man – “ships 1/10, newsstand o/s 1/31″

Marvel Team-Up #141 – “ships 1/24, newsstand o/s 1/14″ [typo - supposed to be 2/14...see below]

Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #90 – “ships 1/24, newsstand o/s 2/14″

And, yes, of course there’s that typo in the Marvel Team-Up listing, confusing things. But it’s certainly a typo: every other comic with a ship date of 1/24 is listed as being on sale on newsstands February 14th. (Both December 24, 1983 and January 14, 1984 would have been Saturdays, whereas every other date listed is on a Tuesday. In addition, no other book with a December shipping date is noted, so the 1/24 date doesn’t seem to be a typo.)

According to the information provided by Marvel, Amazing Spider-Man #252 was at least planned to ship out at least two weeks before the other books, making this the first in-story appearance of the black costume. This is of course assuming things worked out the way they should have. Shipments could have been delayed, books might have been late, etc. etc., so it is within the realm of possibility that some of the books may have been released, at least in some locales, simultaneously.

And then there’s the fact comic shops in the direct sales market received their books weeks prior to newsstands. I wasn’t on the business side of the counter in those days, but my memory is that direct shipping of new books wasn’t quite the exact science it is today, he said half-sarcastically, so again, it’s possible that even if the books stuck to Marvel’s schedule, who knows what order they showed up in which comic book stores.

On top of that, there was the usual speculation/hoarding shenanigans that turn up whenever something in the comic market smells like it could be “hot,” so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if some people remember seeing Marvel Team-Up #141 before Amazing #252, since all the 252s were immediately scooped up, bagged, boarded, and thrown in boxes marked “DO NOT OPEN ‘TIL EBAY.” And even beyond that, the disparity between new arrivals in comic shops and new arrivals on newsstands could have meant people spotting the latter Spidey books at their comic shops before seeing #252 pop up at the local 7-11.

Anyway, I wish I knew back then I’d be writing this blog today, so that I’d have taken better notes. As it is, at the time I did buy Amazing Spider-Man #252, from a newsstand no less, because I was semi-collecting that series anyway. I don’t recall when those other Spider-Man comics in question came out in relation to 252, since I wasn’t reading those at the time and didn’t pay any attention.

I was also going to discuss whether or not Web of Spider-Man #18 should be considered the actual first appearance of Venom, but I think we’ve all had quite enough of this sort of talk today. (And if you say ASM #252 is his first appearance, I’m gonna pop you in the nose.)

image from Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man #90 (May 1984) by Al Milgrom and Jim Mooney

Fifty Who Made DC Great (DC Comics, 1985).

§ April 7th, 2014 § Filed under from the vast Mikester comic archives § 16 Comments

So here’s this weird thing, released in conjunction with DC’s fiftieth anniversary in 1985, which, as the title promises, lists fifty people/licensees/products responsible for the company’s success and endurance. This would include the business people who started and / or ran the company:

…and the creative types who created the characters and produced the high-profile projects:

There are also entries dedicated to studios producing the films (like Fleischer Studios and Hanna-Barbara), actors who portrayed the characters (including Lynda Carter and Best Batman Adam West), the World Color Press, and of course, a page devoted to Superman Peanut Butter:

…which may seem a little silly at first, but that sure helped to keep Superman in the minds of kids. It’s no crazier than Donald Duck Orange Juice.

The entries for Bob Kane and Bill Finger are interesting for what they say and don’t say, as noted here by Boys of Steel author Marc Nobleman.

Alan Moore doesn’t rate a mention, having only worked on Swamp Thing for a year or so at that point, and the endless piggybacking of his work was still in DC’s future. Helen Slater gets a page, having portrayed Supergirl in the big-budget film flop from the previous year, which seems odd on the face of it. However, she made a good Supergirl, even if the movie itself wasn’t, and it remains, then as now, the only big-screen adaptation starring one of DC’s heroines. (EDIT: I mean, aside from that other one.)

One of the neat things about this booklet were the caricatures, credited to Steven Petruccio, of some of the personalities involved, illustrating various aspects of that person’s involvement in Making DC Great. You can see examples above in that scan of the M.C. Gaines entry.

Bookending the publication are some color cover images of DC’s major publications with brief notes as to why they’re important, such as indicating that issue of New Fun from 1935 was DC’s first comic book. (House of Secrets #92 is among those covers, making this yet another Swamp Thing appearance, kinda sorta, I had to own.) Along with those pics are quotes from notable folks occasionally about DC but mostly just about comics in general, from some diverse personalities as movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, underground comix legend Richard Corben, the Muppets’ Jim Henson, Stephen King, and Stan Lee.

I’m not even sure why I bought this at the time, beyond it catching my eye as the oddball release that is was, and perhaps appealing to my budding interest in the history of the medium. Plus, it felt sort of fanzine-y, and I do so love ‘zines.

A couple more comments on this: I may have inadvertently stole my “Suddenly, [X] Years Later” gag from that cover. And, if DC were to put this out today, surely it would be Fifty-Two Who Made DC Great!

Sluggo Saturday #123.

§ April 5th, 2014 § Filed under sluggo saturday § 6 Comments



from How Sluggo Survives (1989)

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