mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, April 18, 2009

That's one terrifying cat. 


back cover ad from Vic Verity #6 (August 1946)

Friday, April 17, 2009

"The vigil of vengeance begins...." 

I was flipping through a few books we were processing for our bargain boxes, and was amused this act of supremely mundane super-villainy. Not that trashing someone's home isn't a pain in the rear for the folks living there, but you'd think superpowered conflict would aim a little higher:


Rogue's about to take off after her act of complete dickery, but then decides what she needs to do...

Man, totally raiding Dazzler's nut bowl. Are there no depths to which Rogue won't sink?

from Dazzler #24 (Feb. 1983) by Danny Fingeroth, Frank Springer & Vince Colletta

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Some hyperbole may be present in today's post. 

  • AS FORETOLD BY PROPHECY: it's the nigh-inevitable second pulse-pounding chapter of THE CHRONICLES OF SOLOMON STONE, as told by Chris Sims, Matthew Allen Smith, and Benjamin Birdie. Who else could do it? Who else would dare?

    Anyway, go check it out. Secure your skull first, because your brain may explode from exposure to unfettered awesomeness.

  • Okay, gang, seriously, did you really think we didn't know how the first Rocky movie ended? The joke is both more and less subtle than that, honest!

    Anyway, pal Dorian has been rewarded with an enormous amount of attention for his "Uncomfortable Plot Summaries" post, and, surprisingly, nearly all of it has been positive. Good on him, and I, along with several other internet pals, were very happy to have been part of it. (I'm particularly pleased that one of entries I wrote, for Star Wars: A New Hope, has been cited quite frequently.)

    Keep checking back, as a few new good entries have been popping up in the comments section.

  • A couple of notes about yesterday's post: pal Cully let me know that this letter is from 1976, that he was eleven(!) years old, and (to answer Steve Canadian's question), alas, Marvel kept the art and Cully didn't make any copies of it. But Cully says as far as he remembers, it was just some character he created himself.

    If you want a slightly more recent sample of Cully's art, you can see the cover of his comics digest Skulldog in this post of mine from a while back.

  • Here's a great hidden gem of a website that you should check out: Dateline: Silver Age, featuring the best in-story newspaper headlines ripped from yesterday's comics! A nicely designed site with entertaining content...almost sublime in its beauty.

    And here's one that I spotted in my referral logs over the last few days: Roasted Peanuts, a site taking good advantage of the Comics.com embedding service to provide commentary on the classic Peanuts comic strips.

    I should also note that Living Between Wednesdays now has its own domain name and has undergone a swank new redesign with lots of new content. Currently featured: an interview with Jeff Parker!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One man's rejection is another man's blog content. 

Pal Cully was digging through some old belongings of his, turned up this rejection letter he received from Marvel Comics in the 1970s, and was good enough to let me show it to you folks here:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

And then there was that time Jor-El was about to make sweet, sweet love to the Bottle City of Kandor. 

detail from the cover of Who's Who #12 (Feb. 1986)
by Paris Cullins & Dick Giordano


  • So I, along with several internet pals, chipped in on pal Dorian's latest post where we all came up with, shall we say, alternative descriptions of movies and TV shows that are uncomfortable at best, downright rude at worst. So go, enjoy, be offended, maybe.

  • I got a mention in the latest episode of Look at His Butt, which perhaps I should explain is a Star Trek podcast with a specific focus on Captain Kirk, William Shatner, and, occasionally, the butt they share. Anyway, they were quite amused by the Trek items from the latest End of Civilization and decided to share it with their listeners, which was quite nice of them.

  • I also got a brief mention in another podcast, 2 People Talking, in which I'm brought up during a discussion of, what else, Swamp Thing. Specifically, during a review of the recently released Saga of the Swamp Thing hardcover, which (SPOILER) Angie liked.

  • Enough about me, here's more about me...well, okay, about a friend, Pal Tom F., graduate of the Kubert School and the fella who let me borrow these Kubert School 'zines...anyway, he's got a DeviantART page where he's showing off some of his swell illustrations. Please, go check it out.

    Speaking of Tom, the other day he brought in an original drawing of Swamp Thing recently done for him by his former classmate Steve Bissette, which of course made me insanely jealous. It's the third one down on this page and it's even more awesome seeing it in person.

  • And as long as we're talking about Swamp Thing: Swamp Thing and Floronic Man Legos. I knew adding "swamp thing" to my Google Alerts would pay off someday.

Monday, April 13, 2009

One of the signs of the end times: Howard the Duck on DVD. 

And now, another installment of "SPIN or SARCASM," featuring the back cover of the recently released Howard the Duck: Special Edition DVD:

"One of the most talked-about movies of all time...."

"...This unbelievably funny comedy...."

"...A hidden treasure the whole family can enjoy."

"...Groundbreaking special effects."

"...Its transformation into a cultural phenomenon."

Those particular quotes just kind of jumped out at me from the DVD cover...yes, this means I now own a copy of the DVD. Don't you judge me. Anyway, I suppose "one of the most talked-about movies" is certainly true, as is the business about being a "cultural phenomenon." Enormous cinematic bombs do tend to stick around in the public consciousness for a while...I couldn't tell you who won the Best Picture Oscar last year, but by God, I remember Howard the Duck pretty much scene-for-scene.

The other quotes..."unbelievably funny comedy" is pushing it a bit. Let's settle for "mildly amusing." And while some of the special effects were nice, like the stop motion monster near the end of the film, I don't know that I'd go for "groundbreaking." But there is some nice soundwork, and the Howard suit is actually a lot more technologically complex than I realized, after getting a brief shot of its innards during one of the DVD extras. In addition, "fun for the whole family" apparently includes that scene at the beginning of the movie with naked duck breasts (er, what?). I forget where I saw it, but an online review noted that the "fun for the whole family" line was right above a warning on the back cover that read "certain portions of this picture may be unsuitable for younger children." Granted, not much in the film is the type of the material that'll warp Little Billy's mind and turn him into a mass murderer, but there is a joke or two that might need some adult supervision.

Yeah, yeah, I'm nitpicking. Hey, it's all in fun...I gotta admire whoever wrote the copy on this DVD cover for doing a good job putting a positive spin on a film that's very famously a failure and a flop.

Now, about those special features...there's nearly an hour's worth of bonus material, which, when I first heard about it, surprised the hell out of me. I totally figured we'd get a barebones disc, with the movie and maybe the trailers, dumped on the market at a rock-bottom price. We do get the trailer (with actors talking about Howard as if he's a real person), plus some other vintage behind-the-scenes shorts (including one with Thomas Dolby and his work on the soundtrack), but we also get new interviews with Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck (the folks who wrote/directed/produced the film), Lea Thompson (who played "Beverly"), Jeffrey Jones ("Jenning/Dark Overlord") and Ed Gale (who was in the actual Howard costume). There is lots of vintage behind the scenes footage and stills accompanying the interviews, including several appearances by George Lucas his own self supervising the shooting, inspecting the effects, and very clearly pondering the creation of Jar Jar Binks. Or maybe I'm just reading into things, here.

Another element that surprised me, beyond the fact that there even were special features, is the honesty regarding the film's impact. Granted, for most of the interviews, there is a very upbeat, positive spin on the film. Lots of tales of hard work and enormous effort and hurdles to be overcome and so on...can't blame them for trying to defend the work they put into the film. Most folks don't make a film trying for a disastrous flop. But then they have to admit that, yes, the film may not have performed up to expectations, to say the least. Well, it's not like they could have denied it, right? They're fully aware of the film's place in cinematic and cultural history, and there is some discussion regarding how they reacted to the film's reception at the time (hint: not entirely well).

Howard's creator, the late Steve Gerber, is mentioned briefly, and there is a quick glimpse or two of the comics, plus a few mentions of how funny those comics were. Though, listening to the interviews, I sorta get the feeling that the folks making the film didn't really grasp what it was that made Howard special. Well, okay, maybe the actual two hour movie established that already, but there's still...nothing specific I can point to, but just a general sense from what was said that Howard's essence eluded them. No real shame in that, however...Howard's essence has pretty much eluded everyone whose name wasn't "Steven Gerber."

All that said...I'm not lie to you and tell you this is a good movie. It isn't. But it's not a horrible movie. It is, in a strange way, charmingly awful. It's watchable, it's dumb, it's occasionally amusing, it has Jeffrey Jones putting teethmarks in the scenery, it has Tim Robbins in one of his earliest roles, and it has Lea Thompson. Boy, does it ever have Lea Thompson. And occasionally, for only the briefest moments, you do get a minuscule reminder of the Howard you know and love from the comics.

But this...this...is the final insult:

After everything else they've put Howard through, they stripped away his cigar, present in all the previous publicity and tie-in material for the film, for the DVD cover? Here's the original:

Okay, he now has feet sticking out of the egg (which he didn't have before in the above poster* this cover was based on, and appear to have been taken from this other poster and Photoshopped in), but still...to deprive a duck of his smokes. That's a damn shame, that's what that is.

ONE FINAL WARNING: If you do decide to watch, or rewatch, this movie, you will have the refrain from the "Howard the Duck" theme song, as performed by the in-movie band Cherry Bomb, running through your head, unbidden, in a constant loop. This is the price you pay for quality entertainment.

* I had a vague recollection of a series of posters with Howard slowly busting out of the egg, and perhaps one of them had his feet sticking out, too...but perhaps I'm imagining things. I can't Google up any examples and there are no such posters at the IMDB entry. But I did find this awesome German poster for the film ("HOWARD - An Animal Hero," if Babel Fish is not lying to me), so my internet search was not in vain!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter! 

You celebrate Easter in your way, and I'll celebrate it in mine.

from Black Panther #10 (July 1978) by Jack Kirby & Mike Royer

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