mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sluggo Saturday #6. 



from Nancy and Sluggo #186 (Jan-Feb 1962)


Friday, June 12, 2009

In which Mike chills out with a cool item from the store's backroom. 

1. Decided to once again dig through some old poster stock for the eBay, and look at what I found. Shockingly, this wasn't the only poster for Batman and Robin that I turned up.

Also found a few remaining Xena Warrior Princess posters. Boy, those used to sell like crazy. I also found a poster for a Highlander sequel that I'd never heard of.

2. BEHOLD BEARDLESS MIKE. And to think a week or so ago I looked like this. Now my goofy visage is completely unfettered...there is no buffer between my made-for-radio face and your unprotected eyes!

3. I think Employee Timmy must have had the DTs, or there was an extremely localized earthquake directly beneath his feet, or something, because of the three photos, this one was the least blurry. The other two photos looked like typical examples of Bigfoot photography. Which is okay, because I had even dorkier expressions in the other photos, if you can believe that.

4. You know what's going for a lot of scratch on the eBay right now? Old Punisher posters.

You know what I can't find in our old poster stock?

5. Every time I start dealing with posters at the store, I think about how I'd like to get my hands on another copy of the Groo poster Marvel/Epic released in the late '80s. I had one at the time, but darned if I know what happened to it in the four or five moves I've made since then. (Here's one currently up for auction, and there's another in an eBay store for $100.)

6. I can't believe I've posted a picture of myself holding a Mr. Freeze poster. The things I do for you people.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Brother, can you lend a thumb? 

So Captain Marvel's creator C.C. Beck had a short story called "Vanishing Point" published in a magazine back in 1959. The site SFFaudio recently posted an MP3 of a reading of that story...you may need to scroll down a bit to find it.

In this message board thread, the Comics Buyer's Guide's Maggie Thompson confirms it's the same C.C. Beck, and later in the thread someone supplies a scan of the story's title page from its initial publication.

If you aren't interested in having someone read the story to you, you can read it yourself by downloading a text file from Project Gutenberg.

In other news:
  • Robert Elrod at Monster Portraits has posted the inked version of his Man-Thing vs. the Vision drawing. Very nice!

  • Another artist, Brian Hurtt, delivers up a swell Swamp Thing drawing in a web posting with a terrible, terrible title which I'm afraid I may have chuckled at. Don't you judge me!

  • Pal Dave instigates a discussion about word meaning, context, and responsibility. Yes, it's comic-related.

  • Comics internet treasure Bully the Little Stuffed Bull has been getting his special comic artist friends to create portraits of him, and he's been nice enough to share the results with his loyal readers. They're all great, but dig the one by Stan Sakai, and the accompanying photo! Everyone loves Bully!

  • Neilalien says a few words about Ultimate Dr. Strange's fate in the frankly peculiar Ultimatum mini-series. He also says a smart thing or two about "alternate future, only fans need apply"-type stories.

  • Following up on the Bat-posts from earlier in the week...I did indeed give the "Batman Reborn" issues of Batman and Red Robin a shot, and...well, they're not for me, unfortunately. Not that they were necessarily bad by any means...they had their moments, but nothing really grabbed me. Now, it may just be me. I've pretty much read all the Batman I've needed to read, so it has to be something that's really outstanding or just tickles my fancy to get me to pick it up (hence my love for Batman and Robin and the now mostly-theoretical All Star Batman). Or it may be that I am less curious about the "larger meaning of it all" and continuity-shenanigans of this twist in the Batman saga, and more interested in the "show me some cool stuff" aspect of the comics by Morrison and Quitely (and friends). So just because I wasn't compelled by them doesn't mean you won't be. As the saying goes, Your Mileage May Vary.

    I am still interested in the forthcoming Batwoman stories in Detective, so we'll see how that works out.

    A couple of other cool comics I grabbed this week:

    Muppet Show #2 2nd printing - gave up a copy of the first printing to a customer, like I did with the first issue, so I needed this here reprint. And, seriously, this comic is absolutely spot-on in its humor, in its characterizations, and in its sentimentality, delivered in just the right amount. It's the perfect comic. Four thumbs up (I'm borrowing two from a friend).

    Uptight #3 - haven't had a chance to read this yet, and it actually came out last week, but sold out before I could grab a copy. Got the restock this week, and the reason I picked it up? The absolutely stunning and strange cover (which you can see here). It's Jordan Crane, so it'll be a good read, I know, but man, that cover's something else.

    Fantastic Four #567 - I've given the title some grief over its unsurprisingly-erratic publishing schedule, but the comic itself, by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, is a fun read. I'd already linked to Tim O'Neil's review, and, yeah, what he said. I've always loved the Fantastic Four, though I've not always enjoyed what's been done with them...but what's going on here is different enough and strange enough to grab my attention, and it's a shame the team will be leaving the book soon.

    R.E.B.E.L.S. #5 - I really enjoyed the original L.E.G.I.O.N. '89 (and '90, and '91, etc.) series, though it petered out at the end and I never got into the original R.E.B.E.L.S. series that followed it up at the time. But this new incarnation of the series, with a very bastardly Dox and his assemblage of cohorts, willing and not-so, has been a lot of bad fun so far. This issue is mostly just fight-fight-fight and set-up for more fight, so you don't get a whole lot of what makes this book different (i.e. Dox being an entertainingly manipulative dick), but I'm sure we'll get more of that next time.

    Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #2 - a very silly and fun series starring the animal sidekicks/knockoffs of various Marvel heroes. And I guess this means, once and for all, that Lockjaw is a dog, and not a mutated Inhuman. Anyway, Frog Thor is in this comic, and therefore it is fantastic. I'm not thrilled that a future issue is going to be yet another installment in Marvel's (and comicdom's as a whole) ongoing Obama-exploitathon. I mean, nothing against our President, but c'mon, seriously.

    I didn't buy this, but I had to relate this bit of description from the back cover of the X-Men: The End trade paperback collecting all three mini-series. I offer, without (much) comment, the blurb where it says that the mini-series are

    "...A trilogy of books in the style of the LORD OF THE RINGS movies."

    Really. Huh.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In which I plug a lot of stuff. 

So at last...at long last the print edition of my favorite comic strip about a comic shop, The Rack, has been unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. Written by Killer Kevin Church and illustrated by Bashful Benjamin Birdie, the strip follows the lives of a crew of comic shop employees, both at the store and outside it, making it more than just industry in-jokes and catering to the fanguish of the moment. You get actual characterization, genuine wit, and the occasional fistfight. Something for everyone!

There's also an introduction by the industry's snappiest dresser, retailer James Sime, an interview with the creators conducted by a gen-you-ine college professor, and plenty of pin-ups by guest artists!

And in the interest of full disclosure, I have contributed to this strip as well, in that I've guest-written two strips, and have provided some minor inspiration for others. I'm very proud to have been, even in this very small way, part of this strip, and very happy for Kevin and Birdie for its success on the web and the arrival of this handsome-looking print edition.

If you want to get your own copy, and surely you must, all the details you need can be found right here. Tell 'em Mike sent you! (Not sure what that'll do for you, but tell them that anyway!)

In other news:
  • So remember when I said that Greg Burgas of Comics Should Be Good dropped by the shop? Well, he did a very nice write-up of the store, including a terribly frightening picture of me...I've since shaved and had a haircut, so I'm no longer as scary...or, at least, I'm scary in a different way, anyway. But go check out the write-up, and dig who left the first comment to say something nice about our shop!

  • Pal Dorian just did one of his patented movie trailer review posts, which I always love. Heed his advice, or ignore it at your peril!

  • Here's a webcomic I found out about because they've been advertising on my site recently: Multiplex, which is sort of like The Rack but only with movie theatre employees. I've not read a whole lot of them yet, but I do like the art, and it seems to be well-written. When I have more time I'll do a little diving into the archives, but so far they've got my attention.

  • So long as I'm enjoying Plug-Fest 2009 here, I've finally put up a few things in my personal eBay listings...a bunch of card sets, and a suddenly-redundant Blackadder DVD (due to my recently obtaining the complete DVD boxed set). Bid early, bid often, and I should have more card sets up next week.

  • And here's a link for swell cartoonist Cathy Leamy, just because she's awesome and deserves some positive attention.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


So I had a few responses to yesterday's post about Batman and Robin, All Star Batman, and so on, and I thought I'd respond to a few of them here rather than hiding them away in the comments section.

  • First off is Dean, who sez:

    "I've never quite understood the logic of marketing something like 'All-Star Batman and Robin' as a periodical in the first place. [...] The individual floppies were priced around $3 to start, so in essence DC was offering 264 pages of Miller-Lee for $36. Is there any chance that it wouldn't have sold 100,000 copies had it been released straight-to-trade at that price?"

    Probably not, but all things being equal here, we'd still be waiting for that theoretical Miller/Lee All Star Batman book to come out, for the reasons Dean gives later in his comment. And given that the book is, shall we say, a bit challenging to a typical reader's expectations for a Batman story, word of mouth reviews, from those less enlightened than All Star Batfans like you and me, may prevent some folks from picking up a $25 book, who may otherwise have sampled a $2.99 issue.

    There are pros and cons for both sides here, but I don't think DC would ever have seriously considered releasing ASB as a book from the get-go, given it would probably turn into a much talked-about no-show like Miller's theoretical Holy Terror Batman story.

    If the industry was a little further along in its transition from a periodical-based model to a book-based one, it could be we wouldn't be having this conversation. But to have a new, ongoing Batman book by Frank! Miller! and Jim! Lee! on the stands is too much of an ongoing potential sales/publicity coup for DC to resist, potential delays aside.

  • Your Obedient Serpent (say, I've always wanted one of those!) says a thing or two about a thing or two:

    "So much of comic sales come from stores with subscribers and hold lists that there really ISN'T anything resembling consequences for late books. Bad books, sure; if something starts to stink, I'll cross it off my list. If I have a budget crunch, I'll start whittling away at the titles that are least-impressive. [...] If a book is late or erratic, people are going to be MORE prone to keeping it on their hold list, because they know it'll slip right by them if they DON'T."

    That is true in the case of comic savers that the lists tend to remain fairly stable, and that lateness rarely plays into said savers dropping books. (Though it did result in more than one subscriber asking me why I didn't pull Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk #1 and #2 for them after seeing #3 in their box. "I pulled those for you three years ago," I'd tell them.)

    However, in this case I was still referring to rack sales. We do get a lot of walk-in traffic, so our percentage of new comic sales to comic savers isn't as large as you'd expect. Like I said, Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk still sold well, and when All Star Batman does deign to come out, it's usually our top selling comic (or close to) for the month. I think this is more an artifact of the modern comics business and customer expectations...after so many significant delays on high profile books, people have just become used to them. It's Business as Usual.

  • Matthew (who's recently sent me a couple of awesome logo banners that I'll be using soon!) wonders the following:

    "I'm curious to know if folks who liked THE DARK KNIGHT film are coming in and checking out the Bat-books. If someone really dug that movie, or BEGINS, and decided to see what the comics were like I would imagine it would be a bit jarring to find out Bruce Wayne isn't Batman right now. Or do you just recommend trades to those people (if they even exist. I'm assuming a lot here)?"

    I know a couple of people have already answered this in the comments, and I'm mostly in agreement with them. Dark Knight didn't really create increased demand for Batman comics. Batman is just one of those characters there's always demand for, regardless. You do bring up a good point that perhaps someone new to comics may be thrown off a bit by someone else in the costume, but...well, as Cole said in response to you later in the comments, there have been enough different interpretations of Batman over the years that anyone interested enough in the character to actually sample a comic can probably catch on pretty quick. The premise that Batman's former sidekick Robin has taken over for his mentor is a simple one to grasp, even for people only vaguely familiar with the character.

    But as Matthew implies, if people want Batman Classic, it's not as if there's not 70+ years' worth of previously-published adventures to choose from!

  • I've already covered a few things Cole mentions in the previous response, but he also sez

    "...Based on things Mike and others have said over the years, the connection between movies and serialized monthly comics doesn't seem to be anywhere near as strong as it is for discrete works like Watchmen."

    The other part of it seems to be that if there's a bump at all, it's usually 1) for the first film in a series (i.e. Spider-Man 2 and 3 didn't help comic sales any) and 2) almost exclusively prior to the film's release. So by default, the Watchmen movie would be the "first" in a "series" (oh God, let's hope that's not the case), thus bumping sales on the book. If there were a Watchmen 2: Seymour Rising (for example) I wouldn't expect sales on the comic to experience anywhere close to the same bump.

    That said...sales on Watchmen at our shop have pretty much dried up. Used to be, for the last couple of decades, I'd have to order copies every week. Haven't had to order one in a few months. Like since, oh, I think, around the time the film came out. Funny, we sell a lot of books here.

  • Bill D. notes

    "...There are plenty of people out there who consider themselves Batman fans without ever coming into contact with the comics. I saw a contestant on Jeopardy's Teen Tournament a year or two back who talked about being a huge Batman fan, and was obsessed with the movies, the cartoons, the games, and the toys. When Alex asked him about the comics, the kid said he didn't have any of the comics, and that they actually held no interest for him at all."

    I encounter that a lot at the shop, actually. Lots of "big fans" of Wonder Woman, or Silver Surfer, or Superman, looking for stuff with those characters...but not the comics. The iconography of the figures is what's attractive for those people, and, you know, that's fine.

    Wonder Woman in particular is a popular favorite for this type of collector. We try to order WW merchandise whenever we can, because that stuff is like printing money, honey.

  • My longtime customer Jo comments that she didn't care for Batman and Robin specifically because of the character filling the Robin role. And I can see that...he can be a bit offputting, but that's what I'm liking about the particular dynamic here. It actually reminds me a bit of the portrayal of the Batman and Robin team in All Star Batman, with an antagonistic sidekick constantly giving grief to Bats.

    Of course, you're not supposed to like this new Robin...he's a nasty little jerk, he's rude to Alfred (and nobody's rude to Alfred), and he's clearly going to get some sense knocked into him along the course of this storyline. So, Jo, if you don't like him, keep reading...he'll get his comeuppance!

  • JBS says

    "Judd Winick and Ed Benes - a solid creative team? huh?"

    I knew someone would say something about that. And, yeah...it's a solid creative team featuring talents that are competent and proven sellers. I know people gripe about them online, but those folks generally don't represent actual real world comic sales. As pal Dorian says in his following comment, this comic functions as "counterprogramming" -- if you don't like that Batman book, maybe you'll like this one. If you don't care for Morrison and Quitely's take, you can have this more traditional version by Winick and Benes.

    Plus, Winick's previous run on the Bat-books was well-received and a good seller, so I'm looking forward to his return to the title. (Yeah, yeah, I know..."well-received? Huh?" Don't you start with me.)

  • Chris T wraps it up with

    "I never knew Rick Veitch had a blog. Thanks for tip!"

    You're welcome! Rick Veitch's weblog is awesome, and everyone should check it out every day. SO SAYS MIKE.

Monday, June 08, 2009


  • Batman and Robin #1, so far, as sold very well for us. It's the first of the "New Batman" titles out the gate, it features a high-profile creative team, and has an extraordinarily eye-catching cover.

    I'm curious about how the next two comics involving the New Batman storyline, due out this week, are going to do. One is Batman #687 by Judd Winick and Ed Benes, which is a solid enough creative team for this sort of thing, but not quite the pull that Morrison/Quitely are. This issue is a direct follow-up to the Battle for the Cowl mini-series, which did sell well and was, at least at our store, positively received. Also, you've got Superman and Wonder Woman popping up in this issue to check in on New Batman, so there's a draw for the fans right there. I imagine the first issue will do very well on curiosity's sake alone, but we'll see how it goes after that.

    The other related title is Red Robin #1 by Christopher Yost and Ramon Bachs, and this one is kicking off with a four-part story in which the title character is searching for the original Batman, whom he believes not to be dead. Okay, everyone who read Final Crisis knows that the Bruce Wayne Batman isn't dead. Heck, anyone familiar with comics in the slightest should know he isn't dead. It's too early to really assume where this particular storyline is going, but I think it's safe to guess that, since DC seems committed to New Batman for the time being, Red Robin isn't going to find Batman by the time part four of four rolls around. But I do wonder if we're going to get any actual clues as to the eventual reintegration of Original Batman into the DC Universe. Again, probably too early, but Fanboy Mike is still curious.

    So, in both cases, curiosity is likely to drive the early sales on these titles. My customers do seem genuinely interested in following current Batman events, which is of course the goal of stunts like this. Even ol' jaded yours truly, who, with the rare exception, has mostly followed just the Bat-titles based on the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini-era cartoons (and of course the Miller and Morrison stuff), has found myself likely to at least check out some of these new Bat-books. But the question is how long the curiosity in this event will continue, and when will the sales begin to drop if and when the novelty wears thin. For some reason I can picture this event going on about two months longer than anyone reading it would really want it to. I hope it doesn't...I hope it keeps people involved 'til the very end. Sell more comics that way.

    I suspect ultimately Batman and Robin will remain the strongest seller of the bunch, even with Quitely only drawing every other story arc. Partially on the strength of Morrison (attracting readers who normally wouldn't read Batman comics), partially due to this being a new series, and partially to what I feel is the sense of this series being the flagship of the New Batman event. "If you read only one New Batman title this year, read Batman and Robin!" ...You know, like that.

    So anyway, let's all meet back here in about a year and see how things worked out. It's a date!

  • In other Batman news, for some reason we've had a handful of people asking us this weekend where All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, America's most beloved Batman book, has disappeared to. The most recent issue came out near the end of last September, so, you know, it's been a while. Not to get into it again, but I really dislike this sort of delay on what is allegedly a periodical. But lateness is rarely punished in the direct market for high profile books...orders don't drop significantly, readers just sorta shrug and accept it, since that sort of thing is becoming business as usual. I don't think we experienced any significant difference in sales from the beginning of Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk to the end, and that had a three-year-long gap in the middle.

    I know the response to that is "well, if sales aren't hurting, why are you complaining?" Well, it just doesn't seem very professional, is all. And just because sales aren't hurt much on specific titles doesn't mean consumer confidence in general isn't hurt. I wonder how many people pass up high-profile titles or series, preferring to wait for an eventual paperback collection if they want the story at all, simply because they don't want to put up with delays in the story's production.

  • Also due this week is the first extra-sized, extra-priced issue of Booster Gold, featuring the Blue Beetle back-up. I've only had one fella at the shop take the title off his pull list specifically because of the price increase...but he's since asked to have it put back on again. It helps that Booster Gold is actually a good, fun comic, but I'm not quite sure word has got around to all of our customers yet re: the bump in price.

  • Just so it's not all sales analyses (or what passes for same): Rick Veitch briefly discusses one of his Swamp Thing covers.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

"Nuts to you." 

So we recently sold a full set of unpunched 1966 Topps Funny Rings trading cards on the eBay, and I thought I'd share a few with you folks.

This ring introduced the harsh realities of the real world to the young'uns, so the cards are at least educational:

I've had moments where this next ring would have come in handy at work. "Hey, I invested heavily in multiple copies of Another Temporarily Dead Superhero #233, and from the profit I made I was able to recover the car seats with high quality lemur fur. What say you to that?"


Hey, remember that brief period in human history where the word "fink" was apparently a punchline in and of itself?

I swear I have Wizard of Id paperbacks with long stretches of reprinted dailies where some variation on "you fink" was the joke.

This set had more than its fair share of weird monsters, like this handsome fella:

...okay, maybe it's a "pretty lady" and not a "handsome fella." Your guess is as good as mine.

And I think this next ring is my favorite of the bunch:

...simply for the sheer bizarreness of it. "Yes, I'm a man who loves hot dogs, and I don't care who knows it! BEHOLD THE WIENER RING."

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