mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, August 18, 2007

"I -- I can't drink beer fast enough!" 

I spent my Friday at the shop rearranging the toy shelves in the front as well as the shelves of stored toys in the back...cleaning, restocking, shaking my head sadly over the Wetworks action figures.

Anyway, I was pushing a box back onto a shelf, when I noticed it was bumping into something, not allowing me to push it back all the way. I pulled that box out, looked to see what was impeding progress...and found a small cardboard box containing a few mini-comics. Specifically, it contained Wood-Eye #10 and Skulldog Comics #1, both from 1996, published by Full-Frontal Harvey.

I've mentioned Full-Frontal Harvey once or twice on this here weblog, but for the folks who don't remember: FFH was a local mini-comics publishing concern founded by former coworker Rob, centered around the anthology title Wood-Eye (which ran twelve issues). In its four or five year lifespan, about 35 comics under the FFH banner were released, a list of which you can see at this archive of my old website. Featured cartoonists included Rob, of course, as well as myself, Fred Noland, and pal Cully, who was the creator of Skulldog Comics. In fact, Skulldog Comics may be one of my favorite publications from FFH, particularly because of Cully's fantastic (har har) cover:

That's Cully's mighty head busting through the ground. And yes, I'm the one on fire. And that's a deadly accurate rendition of Fred in the lower left.

The cover for Wood-Eye #10 was, sadly, less impressive...I think Rob and I drew it in about three minutes, and it showed. But the corner box still cracks me up...the box in the original drawing was only about an inch and half tall, and Rob, for whatever reason, drew in a crookedly off-center Eiffel Tower. To fill the empty space, I drew a monster:

We should have just blown that up to full-cover size and used it for the main image. Ah, well.

Actually, looking through my Wood-Eyes and the old site makes me kind of miss those mini-comics days. Maybe a Wood-Eye #13 is in order....

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sluggo, Stickers, Stalks, Stardust, Somebody Else's Problem, Selling Out, Simple, & San Diego. 

So, I trust you all contemplated Sluggo yesterday? Got in touch with your inner Sluggo? Enhanced your personal Sluggoness?

Good. Contemplate Sluggo for at least five minutes a day, and you'll be a better, stronger person for it.



A week or two back, someone gave us a binder filled with nine-pocket card pages, all containing random cards and nearly, but not quite, complete sets. It's all pretty humdrum, except for a page full of swell sparkly foil stickers featuring Your Favorite Marvel Comics Characters. And Shatterstar:

The sparkle effect works to the benefit of these next two characters:

For Gambit, not so much:

Here's a closer look at Gambit's womanly lips:

My Swamp Thing sense must be slipping in my advanced years, as somehow this reference in Fables #64 got past me:

Thanks to the mighty Paul for cluing me in on this!

Ooh, that's not good. The film adaptation of the...well, it's not a really a "graphic novel" as such, but it did come from DC Comics, so close enough...of Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess' comic-type thingie Stardust tanked pretty hard last weekend. Which is a shame...the trailer didn't look too bad, but maybe folks are just all fantasied out at the moment.

And, hey, Peter O'Toole's in it? I didn't realize that. I'll definitely give it a rental when it's out on DVD in about four months.

A little bird tells me that a fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons is on its way, whether you like it or not. I only bring it up here because I can remember the trauma all the gamers went through (at least at our shop) when the 2nd Edition was unleashed upon the world.

I don't sell games any more, so it's officially Somebody Else's Problem now. But, you know, let me know how it all works out.

And now, a commercial advertisement:

Hey, look in my sidebar, there. I've got three slots for Project Wonderful ads. Only one is being currently used. Those other two empty slots mock me...mock me...with their non-linking-to-paying-advertisers-ness. For only $0.20 a day, as of this writing, you too can hitch your wagon to my chicken and success can only surely follow. (Success only a possibility, not a guarantee. No chickens are harmed in the creation or posting of advertising. Mr. Sterling is not a financial expert or a trained economic advisor...the man sells comics for a living, for God's sake.)

So, anyway, get yourself an ad (for your weblog, for your blog...heck, I don't care) and buy yourself a space in my sidebar. The other bloggers are pointing and laughing at the empty slots and it's making me sad.

From the morning of New Comics Day...reason #1927 not to work for Mike:

Employee Aaron: "Wow, we sure got the comic order unpacked fast today!"

Me: "Yeah...for once the shipment was pretty simple...not unlike Jeff."

Employee Jeff: "Hey...are you saying I'm simple?"

Me: "I believe you just answered your own question."

There's only one thing that must be done with Alan Light's excellent collection of '82 San Diego Con photos...and Tim O'Neil is the man what did it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Some days I have a lot to say... 

...and some days I just want to contemplate Sluggo:



Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Secret Origin of Tarzan's Trunks. 

So I'm flipping though a 1971 hardcover of Burne Hogarth's Tarzan of the Apes, which details the beginnings of the Ape Man...it is, being Hogarth, beautifully and lavishly illustrated. And since Tarzan has been raised by apes, he of course spends the majority of the book runnin' around in the altogether:

Eventually he encounters Kulonga, the tribesman who slew Tarzan's adoptive ape mother Kala, and kills him:

Deciding against eating his fallen foe (no, really), Tarzan brings the body down from treetops where their final battle was held:

And then the very next time we see Tarzan...he's wearing Kulonga's short pants!



Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A peek into the past. 

photo by Alan Light

Via Mark Evanier, a whole bunch of recently-unearthed photos from the 1982 San Diego Comic Con taken by original Comic Buyer's Guide publisher Alan Light.

The above photo of what we're all assuming to be a young Frank Miller (Mr. Light isn't sure, but it looks like Miller to me) is interesting because of that sign behind him (click on the pic for a better look). It reads, in part,

"Original Art: $20 to $125

Please don't ask me to
draw any X-Men (except Kitty)"

I thought that was a litte amusing.


I mentioned in passing yesterday something that's been at the back of my mind for a quite a while now, and I thought I'd go into a little bit more detail today.

I've mentioned a few times on this site about how, if you're working in a comic book store, you have to be mindful about what you say about which comics/creators around whoever is in the shop at the time. You may think you're pretty safe slagging some comic creator that's held in contempt by about 99.9% of world's comic book readership, but a representative of that 0.1% will probably be in your store when you decide to go on an extended rant about why that particular creator should be drummed out of the business. And pffft -- there goes any chance of a sale to that person.

Okay, maybe an extreme example, but you get the idea. I'm not going to just openly and loudly mock or insult a comic or creator in the shop, discouraging any customers in the store at the time from buying those comics or work by that creator...or making them feel bad because they are. On a one-to-one basis, if they ask me my opinion about about something, I'll discuss it with them quietly, and try to help the customer decide if the item is for him or her. I've even steered customers away from books I was reasonably sure they wouldn't like, if I were familiar with their tastes...several customers, with whom I've built up relationships over the years, have come to trust my opinions, particularly since I'll not shy away from saying if a book may not be for them.

That's different from making some kind of sweeping pronouncement along the lines of "that comic sucks," or "man, that creator's work is never good," or other such things I've heard shouted across the floors of certain stores I've visited.

But then, here's the problem. I have a comic book weblog. Everything's a pronouncement on a weblog. Particularly a site like mine, which tries to approach things from a slightly more lighthearted angle, I'm prone to some slight exaggeration for humorous effect. And, because it's a personal weblog, my opinions are at the forefront. This isn't an intimate one-on-one discussion with a customer, geared toward that customer's specific tastes...this is me saying "I really don't like Strangers in Paradise" or whatever, to a few thousand people every day.

So, in a way, my site is the equivalent of shouting "that comic sucks" across the room. For example, I occasionally refer to Purgatori as The Worst Comic Book Ever...I don't necessarily think it's the worst, but Good Lord, it ain't good. But I call it The Worst Comic Book Ever, because 1) well, something has to be, and 2) it amuses me to do so. It's not an in-depth reasoned review or anything...it's me venting slightly, and picking that comic to do it with. Now, has that affected sales of Purgatori among those customers of mine that happen to read my site?

I'm guessing probably not. I don't exactly advertise the fact that I do this site at the shop...I'm not greeting people at the door with "thank you for stopping by...and when you go home, please visit my weblog at Progressiveruin.com for new comics content, updated daily!" And the customers I have told tend to be folks I've known for a while, who I like and get along with, and don't tend to be so thin-skinned that they'd take my not liking a comic they happen to like as a personal affront (a common enough problem among some fans...I mean, have you seen the internet?).

But that doesn't mean other customers of our store haven't found my site on their own. And when I post something, particularly if it's something critically negative, or just outright mocking, about a work, at the back of my mind I'm thinking "I hope I'm not alienating a customer right now."

I have no direct evidence that's happening. I have encouraged the occasional sale with something I've plugged or mentioned on the site, but that's easy to find out. "Hey, I'm buying this because you said something about it on your site" is usually a good clue that I've helped things along. But no one's come up and said "I'm totally not buying Civil War from you because you were a jerk about it on your web page." Then again, would they say anything to me if that were the case?

However, there's the issue of whether or not reviews or commentary on comic book weblogs really have any impact in the real world. For example, Dan Vado has this to say about the Street Angel craze among the comic bloggers a couple years back:

"Critical acclaim does not translate to sales. For all the talk and hype on Street Angel, the comic hovered around 1500 copies sold and never broke out of that. Not enough for a creator with rent to pay to keep the project going. A million blog entries or message board posts mean shit when it comes to actually selling something. For all of the hype or critical acclaim for Street Angel on the Internet, that alone wasn’t enough to help make it a financial success or, for that matter, even get it nominated for a single award in any category."

To take another example, if one were to believe the hue and cry online, All-Star Batman and Robin apparently causes cancer, blights the land, and deforms the young with its very existence. And yet, All-Star Batman is one of our top-selling books. And I'm not about to suggest it's because I'm one of the three people online who openly, unashamedly, declares my love for each and every issue. Part of it is me knowing how to sell it to folks in the store, but the majority of it is just people picking it up on their own.

I wonder how much of an impact any weblog's reviews has on a book's sales. I'm sure if I asked all of you reading this site if a review made up your mind one way or the other about trying something out, you'd all have several examples. But you folks are actually reading about comics online, reading weblogs about comics...you're more likely to pay attention to reviews in online outlets. You are a biased sample. But I'm thinking a lot of my customers don't pay attention to any of this peculiar online behavior by a few weirdoes who spend their free time expounding about funnybooks on their digital pulpits. Maybe some of them visit Newsarama, but, just from interacting with my customers for as many years as I have, I suspect most of our customers get their news from the freebie papers and Wizard and Previews. And, as pal Dorian has observed in the past, there are some customers who don't know anything about what's coming out until they actually see it on the rack in front of them.

I'm guessing I'm worrying too much about my site's impact on my customers. It's a little like that old joke about the flea with an erection floating down a river on his back, whistling for the drawbridge to open so he can get by. I'm probably not quite as big as I think I am. (Um...please tell me I'm not the only person who's heard that joke.)

In other, non-rambling, news:

1. Pal Nat brings up an important point about Dazzler that I should have noted...that Dazzler's disco origins, which hurt the book at the time and brought about its negative repuation, only add to its retro kitsch appeal now.

I'll have more to say about some of your folks' suggestions for items to be put into trades, eventually.

2. If you advertise on Project Wonderful, I now have three available ad slots in the sidebar, there. Hey, it's cheap, and maybe I can send you some traffic. So buy an ad, you. (And ignore all that stuff I said about about comic websites having little or no real world impact...I'M A BIG FLEA, DAMMIT.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mike Wieringo (1963 - 2007) 

from Fantastic Four #511 (May 2004) by Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo & Karl Kesel

Yeah, I know, that's a tribute page to Jack Kirby, but it fits for Mr. Wieringo as well.

Pay a visit to his site for more of the man's work.

So long, Mike.

Regions and reprints. 

So Caleb asked yesterday why some stores can't seem to move any issues of Countdown, while we seem to be selling them just fine.

A few stats that I looked up at the shop on Sunday: not only is Countdown consistently matching or outselling DC's previous weekly series 52 in sales, I noticed it was outselling Ultimate Spider-Man nearly 2 to 1. In fact, it's outselling nearly all the high-selling titles from Marvel and DC...it outsells Justice League of America, any given X-title...the only thing I can think of from the Big Two that outsells Countdown right now is the World War Hulk mini-series.

My answer to Caleb that any difference in performance on a particular title from store to store can primarily be chalked up to regional differences. Perhaps we just have more DC fans than some other stores, or perhaps Countdown is more to our customers' tastes than to another shop's customer base. (All Star Batman is also selling extremely well for us, so clearly our customers have excellent taste.) But over the years, reading market reports from other stores about what sells for them and what doesn't and how we differ from them, and seeing what comics get canceled for poor sales even though we're doing okay with them...well, I just find it a curious phenomenon, even if I don't have a more specific reason why.

There may be other, more negative, reasons, which I hesitate to bring up because Caleb mentioned a specific retailer and I don't want this to come across as a criticism of that retailer. Because, really, I'm not trying to. At all. Don't even think it.

However, this post came from some stores I've been to (not the Caleb-mentioned retailer, to re-emphasize), where certain prevailing attitudes and habits may hurt sales on certain books. You know...they don't order copies for the shelf because it doesn't sell, and it doesn't sell because copies aren't ordered for the shelf, or just openly badmouthing titles and/or companies...those are self-fulfilling prophecy-type behaviors from certain funnybook sellers (not the mentioned retailer, nor, hopefully, me) that are guaranteed to lead to failure.

(However, I have been thinking about what impact having sites like this one have on that percentage of my customer base that's aware of my weblog. If I criticize a particular book/company/creator on my site, will that discourage a customer from trying something out at the shop? I haven't noticed any significant impact of that sort...but who knows? But that's a post for another time.)

Then again, it's not as if I went out of my way to promote Countdown, either. I put up the big ol' promo poster, I racked plenty of copies on the shelf...it just sorta sells itself. And people aren't just buying it out of habit, simply because there's a new issue every Wednesday (though I'm sure that's part of it)...I've had a number of customers mention to me that they really, really like it...even more so than 52.

So, Caleb...I don't know exactly why Countdown sells for us and not so much for some other stores. It's probably no more complicated than "our customer bases want different things," which isn't an in-depth answer, but likely an accurate one.

Building on my remarks yesterday about Essential Dazzler's surprising sales, and considering how well Marvel's recently-released Devil Dinosaur hardcover has been doing for us, I've been wondering. I don't have any exact numbers at my fingertips, here, but my general feeling is that the Showcase and Essential volumes that sell marginally better are the more oddball ones. Showcase Presents Jonah Hex and Metamorpho moved more copies than any of the Batman volumes, and we've sold more Essential Howard the Duck than, say, Essential Defenders.

There could be a variety of reasons for this...maybe people have had enough Batman reprints for the time being, or that some books just plain look better in the black and white format (like Tomb of Dracula) while your standard issue superhero stuff tends to suffer without color.

But it got me thinking. How well would a trade paperback of Marvel Comics' U.S. 1 series sell?

Yeah, really, U.S. 1. The comic about the superhero/sci fi truckers. Hey, people laughed at Dazzler and Devil Dinosaur, too, and yet I can't keep those reprint books on the shelves. And while U.S. 1 perhaps isn't good in a traditional sense, it's still kinda goofy, innocent fun. It's certainly more entertaining than...well, pick your own way-too-serious superhero book. Anyway, I'm betting a trade of U.S. 1 would probably do fairly well, given how well the much-maligned Dazzler has done as a reprint, finally finding an audience decades after its initial release.

Another good Essential candidate: Rom Spacenight. Yeah, I know, it's based on a toy license, but if Marvel paid a one time fee to the owners of Godzilla for the Essential reprint of their '70s Godzilla series...surely paying a pittance for the license of a toy that wasn't all that popular to begin with isn't that much of a hurdle. 'Course, ownership of the Rom license may be obscured slightly, or perhaps whoever owns the character thinks it's worth much more than it really is, and is asking too much.

Whatever the reasons preventing it, a Rom collection would be nice, and would probably sell like gangbusters.

Any other weirdo reprints from the Big Two you think might go over well?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunday shorts. 

1. I'm laying off the break-in talk for now, unless there are new developments. Here's hoping that new development will be "They caught the dumb bastard -- he was breaking into another comic book store to steal their early Ultraverse issues."

2. Though, on a related note...everyone laughed at the fact that the guy stole Spawn and Witchblade comics. But the comics used to sell enormously well...someone was buying them. I know I bought Spawn for a while...it wasn't too bad, at first. Todd McFarlane's art was cartoony and appealing, and his writing...well, it was improved slightly over the Spider-Man "his webline - advantageous!" days, at least.

And I know some of you bought 'em, too. Don't deny it, I know you have 'em. And not just the issues of Spawn guest-written by the good writers, either.

3. The people have spoken, and they want Essential Dazzler. Dazzler, a comic people have made fun of for decades, is now available in one of those fat black 'n' white paperbacks...and our copies sold out immediately on Wednesday.

Interestingly, a copy of the generally-maligned graphic novel Dazzler the Movie sold along with a bunch of its original art on the eBay for four hundred bucks.

4. Selling well at the shop:

Countdown (still outselling 52 for us)

World War Hulk (though a few folks are worried about a Civil War-esque flood of tie-ins and a non-ending)

Star Wars trade paperbacks (always sell consistently, though we just had a kid drop a lot of birthday money and wipe out our section)

Not selling well at the shop:

Thor zombie variant (lots of comments along the lines of "Ewww, Thor looks ugly...are there any other covers to this I can buy?")

5. Related to the Star Wars graphic novel thing...had another customer tell me about trying to get a copy of the Tales of the Jedi: Redemption trade paperback on the eBay, except that it's selling for a lot of money. For example, this winning $89.00 bid.

6. From Yahoo's main page last night:

I'll just add that to the list of "Things I Didn't Expect Yahoo to Feature as News on Their Home Page."

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