mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Legion-palooza. 

And now, a special message from the Legion of Super-Heroes:


"WOW!" indeed. Superboy digs chicks:


EDIT: Read more about said chick over at pal Dorian's.

SAD VALIDUS IS SAD. Oh, go cry about it, Validus:


Isn't that just the cutest little sad face you've ever seen? Now, are those eyebrows on Validus' brain, or are they on the clear covering over his brain? And what about those appearances where it looked like he had a nose in there, too?

And here's another thing...I'm too used to latter-day Val, I suppose, who merely grunted and roared. Every time I see the older stories with Validus, including his first appearance in Adventure Comics, it kinda weirds me out to see him actually speaking. Like this:


Whoa, what? STOP THAT.

images from Superboy #216 (April 1976) by Cary Bates & Mike Grell, Superboy #217 (June 1976) by Jim Shooter & Grell, and Superboy #219 (Sept. 1976) by Shooter & Grell, all reprinted in Legion Archives #12

Friday, May 09, 2008

My space-challenge to YOU. 


At some point today, if/when you find yourself within the appropriate situation, I want you to jut your index finger out at the person with whom you are speaking, and demand:

"Are you space-crazy?"

If he (or she) responds "no," he's probably lying, because space-crazy people ain't gonna own up to it. If he responds "yes," then run, run away as fast as your little footsies can take you because he's space-crazy and he doesn't care who knows it. Or he does care, and he just told you prior to space-stabbing you with his space-knife.

If he responds with "Her dreams always come true, Chameleon Boy...that's why she's a Legionnaire!" -- well (unless you actually are Chameleon Boy and you're talking to Brainiac 5) definitely don't mess around with that person, because he's a comic book fan and you know what they're like.

image from Superboy #220 (Aug 1975 - reprinted in Legion Archives Vol. 12) by Cary Bates, Mike Grell & Bob Wiacek

Thursday, May 08, 2008

"...A brilliant but deranged scientist who discovered how to give his hand a multitude of fantastic powers!" 

A little context for the panel posted yesterday:


So the reason Clark knocked out (somehow) Lana with a couple apples is that he had to give her the slip so he could respond to the Legion's call by traveling through time and meeting them in their stomping grounds of the 30th century.

Let's think about that for a second.

Clark has to leave right away, fly off into the timestream, and exit the timestream at the point from when the signal was originally sent. He couldn't wait, say, a couple of hours, spending that time liplocked with the cute redhead, and then travel to that point in the future (a journey that will now be shorter, using my particular example, by two hours). He's already traveling in time...what, he's going to be late?

Maybe there's some kind of fixed thousand-year-gap between Superboy's existence in the 20th century and his appearances in the 30th, which causes him to avoid overlapping his own timeline. He leaves April 4th, 1973 at 2:14 PM, he arrives in April 4th, 2973, at 2:14 PM. That would mean if he started his return from that particular journey on April 7th, 2973, 5:10 AM, the rigid 1000-year-gap would force him to end up back in his time on April 7th, 1973 at 5:10 AM.

If that's that case, then Clark would have to leave right away upon hearing the alarm. The longer he waited, the farther past the signal's origin that fixed 1000-year-gap would be pushed.

Of course, this "theory" would be contradicted left and right in the Legion stories, but I have a vague memory of some kind of precaution being referenced in-story to Superboy maintaining his subjective timeline during his time travels (i.e. preventing 1973 Superboy visiting 2979 Legion, and then in his very next trip visiting 2978). And of course, none of this references the Time Trapper/"pocket universe" thing where TT would guide travels in time between the Legion's 30th century and the "pocket universe" 20th century Earth with Superboy. But the less we mess with that, the better.

Well, actually, the less we mess with any of this, the better. Just kiss the girl, Clark, you sap.



Briefly:
  • I haven't mentioned Free Comic Book Day since my Tuesday post, so I'd better catch up:

    I found a contender for worst handling of FCBD, perhaps beating out the guys who closed down in the middle of said day to go see Iron Man. That would be the store that gave away FCBD books...

    ...with purchase.

    You couldn't just walk in and get handed/pick up free books, the explicit purpose of the event. You had to buy something to get the giveaways.

    YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.

  • I shouldn't complain...at least Marvel's trying. When the first X-Men movie came out, there were no readable then-currently published X-comics for any potential new audience seeking out material like that in the film.

    It's nice that Marvel launched a new Iron Man ongoing series this week, and so far, it's sold about twice the numbers we normally sell on Iron Man. Primarily, it's been going to folks who regularly come to the shop. I've even had a few of our subscribers ask us to add it to their lists.

    But I can't help but think how many we could have moved had the new Iron Man comic came out last week. That would have allowed me to hand over a brand new Iron Man #1 to all the FCBD customers new and old, riding that IM buzz, asking for something with Iron Man in it. Ah well.



And now, my favorite bit of dialogue from my Legion of Super-Heroes Archives vol. 10, reprinted from Superboy #200 (Feb 1974) by Cary Bates and Dave Cockrum:


I wish my fingers were even deadlier than before.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"Phew! Almost had to kiss a girl!" 


from Superboy #197 (Sept. 1973),
reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives #10,
by Cary Bates & Dave Cockrum

Frankly, I think those apples would have been more likely to cause some irritation than an outright knockout. "OW! Stupid apples. Anyway, Clark, pucker up!"

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I refuse to acknowledge Stan Lee as a sexual being. 

So the Iron Man movie had a 100 million dollar weekend, and by "weekend" they mean "starting from about last Thursday afternoon," which is when it started showing around here...and presumably everywhere else for that matter. I managed to catch a Monday evening showing at the local theatre, which I tend to prefer for your standard-issue blockbuster movies. Smaller crowds, you see...our theatre was only about half-full, if that.

Short review: quite good, filled with snappy dialogue, easy-to-follow action, a strong sense of humor and wonder, and very clearly defined character motivations. And everything you've heard is true: Robert Downey Jr. kills as Tony Stark. Quite possibly the best superhero casting ever, since Christopher Reeve put on that red cape.

And now, some more SPOILER-iffic comments about the film. The SPOILERS begin right after this still of Iron Man shooting off his arm-rocket, and end when you see the still with the big blowy-upness. Did I mention SPOILERS?


  • I do like that Iron Man's wartime origins were kept intact, even as the location of the war itself was updated to someplace more relevant to today's audiences. I do like the subtle...well, sorta subtle...reference to Iron Man villain the Mandarin, with the name of the group that kidnapped Stark ("The Ten Rings").

  • I have to admit, that absolutely last song I expected to hear on the soundtrack was Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized." Many many years ago, my friends would ask me to draw skulls on the back of their white shirts so they could make their own homemade Suicidal Tendencies clothing. That has nothing to do with the movie, but I just wanted to establish my punk cred, maaaaan.

  • It seems odd that the shiny, glowy power source would sit in what looks like an unprotected well and completely exposed through the armor. I'm assuming that maybe there's some clear cover that slides over the thing, or something, because why wouldn't someone just aim their guns at the big glowing target? Or why wouldn't Iron Man just reach into Iron Monger's chest and yank out the stupid thing?

  • Speaking of which: the effect of Stark essentially having a metal-lined shaft in his chest is supremely disturbing and effective.

  • Okay, show of hands...who wants their own 3-D holographic interactive computer interface like the one Stark uses in the film? Yeah, me too.

    In fact, and I'm totally stealing this observation from a fellow weblogger though I don't remember where I saw it, I like that the science and tech in this film is of the "half hour into the future" kind...just advanced enough to help along that suspension of disbelief that something like Iron Man could be built.

  • They mostly get around the "we can't have Spider-Man wear his mask too much, so people can't see our star" problem by including several shots of Stark, in the dark of his mask, his face illuminated by the many in-mask interfaces.

  • Stan Lee's cameo bothered me somehow. I refuse to acknowledge Stan Lee as a sexual being.

    On the other hand, it is amusing to think that's how Stan Lee actually is all the time, going to fancy parties with armloads of babes.

  • There is a lot of alcohol flowing in this film, certainly setting the groudwork for Stark's most famous character flaw.

  • The climatic battle between Iron Man and Iron Monger was just as long as it needed to be, not stretching out to uncomfortably long sequences to keep the explosions and mayhem coming. And doesn't Jeff Bridges make a great villain? It's a nice quiet menace, not really chewing any scenery until he's actually in his Iron Monger suit. At that point, he spouts out some good old fashioned comic book type dialogue, but Bridges sells even that quite well.

  • As long as I'm mentioning the supporting characters: Gwyneth Paltrow does a good job as Stark's assistant Pepper Potts, and Terrence Howard brings a lot of humor to the long-suffering yet steadfast Jim Rhoads. There's a cute bit where Rhoads (who eventually gets his own armor in the comics) looks wistfully at one of Tony's old suits. I don't mind the occasional concession to nerd-centric inside jokes...I'm not that jaded.

  • The conclusion of the film is spot-on perfect, keeping completely in character with Stark's "what the hell...full speed ahead" way of dealing with the world. The shock of Stark's announcement, and the immediate leap into the credits (with Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" playing in the background) makes for a fine last jolt of excitement for the audience....

  • ...At least until the post-credits sequence, and I planned to sit there and wait for all the credits to scroll by so I could gets me some Samuel Jackson "Nick Fury" action. Watching the credits, I noticed one of the names of the production artists (or storyboarder, I forget) was "Stephen Platt." Surely not THE Stephen Platt, of '90s "Hot Artists as Decided upon by Wizard" fame? A quick Googling seems to confirm that yes, it is the same guy. Huh.

    Also caught the creator credits, stuck in there somewhere: "Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby."

    Earlier in the film, there was a particular ring tone associated with a call from Tony Stark that made some people in the audience giggle a little. I didn't quite get why until I saw a credit for the Iron Man cartoon theme in the credits. I never saw the Iron Man cartoon, but I'm gonna guess that was what the ring tone was. If so...that's a pretty good joke for the more attentive fans.

    By the way, most of the audience cleared out, except for the three people directly behind us, who were yakking it up during the entirety of the credits. Which, you know, fine, it's just the credits, no big whoop. But, seriously, these were three of the stupidest people alive. It hurt to listen to them. Their dumb caused pain. And they weren't even waiting for the "secret" ending...when it started, their responses were essentially "wait...there's more?"

  • As for the actual coda itself...Samuel Jackson introducing himself as "Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D." really, really made me want to see that Nick Fury film.

    And the tease for a potential "Avengers" flick -- I'll believe that when I see it. Though apparently it's more likely than a Justice League of America movie at this point.



So there you go. Pretty brave move including Dakota Fanning as "Iron Girl," but I think the fans will really take to her.

So, what did you all think of the movie? (And if you posted reviews on your own weblog, please drop 'em in the comments section so I can go back and read them...I've been avoiding reading reviews until I saw the film!)

Monday, May 05, 2008

This Free Comic Book Day post was originally much, much angrier. 

I am not terribly happy about what I've been hearing about how some stores treated their Free Comic Book Days. Way to make a sow's ear out of a silk purse, guys.

Really, people, it isn't all that difficult. Free Comic Book Day attracts a lot of media attention This is the day that people...people aside from your regulars...might actually seek out a comic book store. This is your chance to make an impression, to expose these newcomers to what comics have to offer, to demonstrate that a comic book store can be a friendly, fun place, that we're just normal people trying to make a living.

A lot of stores did it right. We did. Chris Sims' store did. I'm sure The Isotope did, since James Sime is a smart, happenin' guy (not to mention a snappy dresser). Carla did the right thing, too. Brett's local store had it goin' on as well.

Unfortunately, however, too many comic book stores suck. This post of mine didn't come out of nowhere, after all.

A lot of people going to comic shops for the first time on Free Comic Book Day saw dirty, disorganized stores with indifferent, if not outright hostile, employees, only the barest acknowledgment that FCBD even was happening, and a pathetic selection and distribution of free books. (EDIT: A friend just reminded me of his local shop, which SHUT DOWN in the middle of FCBD so the employees could go see Iron Man. LAME.) The person who described his shop's method of display as basically being just piling a couple of random stacks on a counter, and making you search through them for the ones you want...that just blew my mind. It really doesn't take much to make the day a special event. Retailers were even offered preprinted BALLOONS for use in the shops, for God's sake. Nothing says "festive" like balloons!

Okay, I didn't remember to put the balloons up in our store. I was busy, and totally forgot. But by God, we were festive anyway.

I was going to go through and list, point by point, all the crap things I've been hearing about how some stores treated their FCBD event. In particular, if your treatment of customers on FCBD, a day specifically designed as customer outreach, causes you to lose those people as customers, you're doing it wrong.

But, instead, let me, yet again, go through and tell you what we did. Maybe we can lead by example:
  • Divided up the FCBD comics into three age-appropriate bags: one for kids, one for teens, one for adults. If you got all three bags, you got one of each FCBD book, while supplies lasted.

  • Cleaned and vacuumed.

  • Set up large tables at the front of the shop, where we laid out the prepackaged bags of comics, as well as stacks of extra books in case people just wanted a few, and not the whole enchilada.

    We also set up a small shelf with selections of FCBD books from previous years.

  • Made sure the table was monitored at all times, so that we could maintain the only limitations we put on the distribution of the comics: one of each per customer, and no age-inappropriate books for younger readers. (We would occasionally let some people slide if they wanted an extra copy or two of something for somebody who couldn't make it...hey, so long as they weren't grabbing 25 copies of say, Hellboy, it was fine.)

  • In response to Rocco's question: we just put a few of the Heroclix and Star Wars figures out at a time, and made sure that each customer got only one of each. (They went over well enough...I didn't think the Iron Man Heroclix were as appealing as previous years' offerings...the sculpt seemed a bit rough...but hey, people wanted the Iron Man stuff.)

  • Had in-store sales: 10% off graphic novels, four for the price of three on manga. 10% doesn't sound like much, but even a little break like that encouraged sales. And during special events, I've noticed, particularly at ones where folks are having a good time, people feel a little more free to open up the pocketbooks. Not that that was my ulterior motive for making sure people were enjoying themselves...I want people to like coming to our store, especially if it's their first visit. I can always shake them down when they come back.

    But encouraging extra sales on a day when you're giving away hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars' worth of product is a good idea, and not that hard to do. Even a small discount, like I noted, can help. In our case, the sales on graphic novels alone that day more than paid for what we spent on the FCBD books. And we had a lot of the FCBD books.

    By the way, pal Sean came in, swearing up and down he was only at the shop to get the free books, and had in fact promised the wife he wouldn't spend any money.

    He ended up buying fifty dollars' worth of books. SUCH IS THE POWER OF FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. (Sorry, Yvonne...it wasn't my fault, I swear!)

  • We were attentive to customers...answered questions, showed folks around the shop, were very, very patient with one or two people, and just generally tried to be friendly with everyone. Well, we try that every day, with varying degrees of success, but with new people coming in, you want to impress, right? Once they get used to us, then the abuse can begin.

    Anyway, there was a great deal of laughter and happy chatter going around, particularly with the Iron Man high most people were on, having either seen the film prior to coming to the shop, or they were on their way to the film, or perhaps between multiple viewings. The excitement over the Iron Man film really did help.

  • And there are some things that we didn't do this year, but have done in the past, like having in-store signings or distributing coupons in the FCBD baggies.

Ultimately, the success of a store's Free Comic Book Day is in treating the day like a special event to be enjoyed, and not just a burden to be endured, like I've heard about too many stores this year. Yeah, I know I grumble a bit about preparing for it here on my site, but it really is a fun, if enormously busy, day. And while the long-term effects of FCBD are still being debated, whether it really does increase readership and attract new customers, it's not as if there's too much of a downside to having a bunch of people come away from your store happy, with an armload of free comic books that you've given them.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The 7th Annual Meeting of the Free Comic Book Day Survivors Support Team. 

Some notes and comments from our Free Comic Book Day boondoggle:

  • The store remained solidly busy through the majority of the day, up until about the last hour or so. Lots of kids, lots of unfamiliar faces. No "are these free?" questions regarding our new arrival racks, and thus tragic deaths were avoided.

    We were much busier than we were planning for, and our 2008 FCBD supply was getting a little sparse about halfway through the workday. Luckily we had leftovers from previous FCBDs to supplement our giveaways...and we gave away plenty of those older books. We even gave away the few copies of last year's Spider-Man book we had left. Why, we could have sold those for $20 a pop!

  • The topic of conversation of the day was, of course, the new Iron Man movie (which I haven't seen yet -- shooting for Monday -- but I now know the last line of the film and the post-credits surprise). Reaction appeared to be overwhelmingly positive...even pal Dorian thought it was excellent. And, as I was thinking might happen, we had a large number of film-fueled requests for Iron Man comics, new and old. The FCBD Iron Man/Hulk/Spider-Man book was a popular item, and we even sold out of our copies of Marvel Adventures: Iron Man comics. We never sell out of Marvel Adventures: Iron Man.

    Whether this unusual post-movie demand will last long enough to help along sales on next week's Invincible Iron Man debut...well, we'll see.

  • Speaking of pal Dorian...he brought us cookies. Thanks, Dorian!

  • Aside from anything involving Iron Man, it seemed like there was a lot of demand for the Simpsons comics. The previous years' Bongo Comics offerings were extremely popular, and I had to restock them a few times. Which reminds me...when I was looking at FCBD news stories for yesterday's post, I ran across a story or two listing the types of comics available, and the Simpsons comic was referred to only as "Bongo Comics," with no mention of the Simpsons at all. Given that the general public doesn't know that "Bongo Comics" = "Simpsons," that just felt like a lost opportunity for free advertising of a commodity known to a non-comic reading audience.

  • I had what I thought was a pretty good story about a customer who wanted comics that featured the art of Roy Lichtenstein. As in "story by Gardner Fox, art by Roy Lichtenstein and Sid Greene." But it turns out I misunderstood, and she was actually looking for comics that Lichtenstein...borrowed from. Ah, well.

  • We had a couple of minor special deals during our event. We offered a small discount on trade paperbacks for the day, and had a "buy 3, get a 4th free" deal on manga. Had a few takers on the manga, but we sold a boatload of trades...it doesn't take much of a break on prices to get people to give the shelves a second glance.

    Ultimately, we not only took in enough scratch to pay for all the FCBD books, but, if we were to subtract the subtract the FCBD day costs from our end-of-day total, that still amounts to an excellent Saturday take. Finally, those solid-gold pants will be mine, mine!

  • During one of our busy times of the day, Customer Rob (hi, Rob!) was trying to convince a friend of his to give the Spirit a try, and asked me for a quick description of the character. I was sorta pressed for time, and had multiple demands on my attention, so the best I could do was "More Cheery Batman."

    I don't know...for a spur-of-the-moment thing, I thought that was pretty good.

  • Pal Nat dropped by, resplendent in his Licensable Bear™ t-shirt...and you can get one too! A shirt, I mean, not Nat. I think. That'd be between you and him, frankly.

  • As I've explained many times before, we pack the free comics into bags for ease of distribution to customers. Employee Aaron reported that one customer took a bag, looked inside, flipped through the comics, and handed the bag back without taking a single book. Geez, not even for free, huh?

  • Internet buddy Lankyguy asks

    "I'm curious, does it really bring in any new readers? Does it accomplish anything besides some P.R.?"

    That's something I covered in lengthy detail in this FCBD aftermath post from last year, when I was asked a similar question. In fact, I'll just reprint it here, in this post, as my answer hasn't changed much, and I'll save you the clicky-clicky:

    "Well, on the actual day of Free Comic Book Day...yes, lots of new faces show up, because not a person around doesn't like something that's free (unless it's, like, 'free measles,' or 'free punch in the nose,' or 'free Team Youngblood').

    But by 'new customer' you probably mean 'new regular visitors to the funnybook store,' the answer to which is a qualified 'no.' We did get some new regular customers out of past FCBDs, but they represented only a small fraction of the new folks who actually came in for free books.

    But that's okay...we don't have to turn every new person who walked in the door that day into a New Comics Day zombie. The results of FCBD are more longterm than immediate, anyway...it gets the word out that, hey, comic books are still being published, and that they can be a viable source of entertainment. Okay, mileage may vary with some of the offerings this year, but with the sheer number of books being given away, surely most people found at least one comic they kinda liked. And our already-existing clientele invariably will find something new to try out.

    Plus, it's great advertising...if some of those folks find themselves with some kind of comic-related need, perhaps they'll think of that swell comic shop that was giving out the free funnybooks, and they'll come back to us. And it's good public relations...we had a lot of happy customers that day, most of whom thanked us profusely for the books we were giving away.

    And it's the gift that keeps on giving, as I'm preparing packages of some of the leftover books for some local teachers and at least one doctor...and, as always, a big bunch of comics for my girlfriend to give away to the Sunday school class she teaches.

    So, um...to answer your question, perhaps it doesn't immediately create new regular customers, but FCBD perhaps helps to create an environment from which new customers may arise, by increasing in some small way a general awareness of comics. My, that's high-falutin' of me, ain't it? Not to mention optimistic."

    The only real update is that I don't have too many leftovers this time around.

  • Pal Tom notes his troubles trying to get his FCBD funnybooks, and has (as does the aforementioned customer Rob) a newfound appreciation for our store's kindness and generosity. At least on Free Comic Book Day...the rest of the year, we're jerks.

    Seriously, though...we certainly have room for improvement at our shop, but I think, at least when it comes to Free Comic Book Day, we manage to get things mostly right. If I could have changed anything this time around, it would have been having more of this year's selections to give away. But we managed to make a lot of people happy, so it all worked out in the end.

I'm sure I'm missing something...if I come up with anything else once the traumatic amnesia passes, I'll let you folks know.

However, if you have your own comments and questions about FCBD, please feel free to leave them in the comments, and I'll reply with a rambling, barely-informative post in the near future.

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