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I don’t have anything too scary today, except for those pictures of me accompanying this here interview I did via email over, oh, the last six or seven months, since I’m terrible about answering email. Anyway, Señor Editor, who conducted the interview, was very kind and patient with my chronic lateness, and please give the Editor your thanks by visiting the site. There’s a story or three there that you may have read here before, but I’m old and that’s what old people do, tell you the same story over and over again.
Also, I finally wrapped up my Halloween pog posts over at Pogressiveruin.com, which I’m sure you’ve all been following breathlessly.
1. So reader David was at a convention recently where he encountered Guy Gilchrist, one of the current creators of the Nancy comic strip. Well, he explained to Mr. Gilchrist my little Sluggo Saturday project — I can only imagine how that went! — and apparently it went okay, as Mr. Gilchrist presented David with the following sketch:
I am downright flabbergasted. In times of darkness and despair, I shall simply focus on this image and let its beauty shine over me.
Also, it’s been a while since I’ve done a Sluggo Saturday. I’ll try to cook one up soon.
2. Here’s a thought that crossed my mind when I read the recently-released Fury of Firestorm #13: the general status quo for the character, recently reestablished in the new title, is that two people would merge together to form Firestorm, with one person controlling the body, and the other person existing as a disembodied voice who can mentally communicate with the first person. Or, you know, something like that. You get the idea.
In the old Firestorm comics, sometimes Ronnie (the fella running the body) would be talking out loud to Professor Stein (the poor bastard stuck in the “disembodied voice” position) and someone would walk in on the conversation and would be all “hey, you talkin’ to yourself?” and Firestorm would be all “D’OH!” and embarrassed and stuff, since the Firestorm-is-actually-two-people thing wasn’t general knowledge.
Well, we got a scene like that again in the aforementioned #13 of the new series:
…and what I thought was “wouldn’t people nowadays just assume anyone talking to himself was actually using one of those Bluetooth ear-clip thingies?” That actually happened to me at the shop once, where a sole gentleman was in the middle of a very spirited conversation and I just assumed he simply had a Bluetooth headset on…until I got a good look at him and realized, oh, there’s no cell phone involved here.
Okay, in the panel up there, the dude isn’t explicitly saying that he thinks Firestorm is talking to himself…I mean, I think it’s sort of implied, but I suppose he could be thinking that Firestorm is just yappin’ on his cell. But anyway, I think modern technology may have taken away one of Firestorm’s running gags, and surely the world is poorer for it. (NOTE: Not actually sure of that.)
3. There is no third thing. I’m a big lying poopiehead.
Now, had you come up to me in recent years, right there at the comic book shop, dollar bills in hand, and demanded that you be allowed, this very instant, to buy all of our copies of the comic based on 1992’s greatest movie starring a giant Saint Bernard named after a legendary composer and co-starring Charles “King Kong (1976)” Grodin, I could very well have said “I’m sorry to disappoint you sir and / or ma’am, but there ain’t no such animal,” — and I would have been totally wrong, because BEHOLD:
There I was, digging through one of about ten thousand boxes of funnybooks dumped on us from another comic shop that had downsized its stock, thus upsizing our own, when this comic appeared. I really, truly had forgotten this had ever existed. I mean, I remember other Harvey Comics licensed properties from around this time. Beetlejuice
, Back to the Future
, even The Incredible Crash Dummies
. But Beethoven
? Whatever brain cells I had devoted to remembering that comic had been published have since been overwritten by, well, more important information
, I guess.
This particular issue, dated May 1994, features two stories by Angelo DeCesare and Howard Bender in which our titular hero finds himself in a series of giant dog-related shenanigans, such as getting embroiled in a museum mystery:
Okay, there’s no actual “mystery” as such evident in that panel, but trust me, that image is fraught with foreboding for the terrifying and suspenseful twists and turns that are about infringe upon Beethoven’s idyllic doggie world.
But here, please enjoy Beethoven’s amazing doggie-mugging for the camera from that story, as he contemplates infringing the intellectual property of McGruff the Crime Dog:
Anyway, there were three issues total of this series, at least as far as I can tell. But perhaps it’s still being published today, disseminated via some shadowy network of comics distribution that’s even more
shadowy than the one that already exists, passing along copies of Beethoven
out of my sight, hidden from my knowledge.
Also, I have a hard time believing the scripts for the Beethoven movies were anywhere close to being this sophisticated:
So on Tuesday, someone came to the shop and asked “do you have that Superman comic with Clark Kent?”
I paused for a second. Probably blinked once or twice. “How in God’s name do I answer that question?” I thought. Just wave my hand in the general direction the back issue bins with all the Superman and Action comics and say “sure, pick one!”
And then I remembered seeing some reference that morning on the Twitter about Superman being in the news for…well, you can click on this if you want to see, if you don’t know already.
Anyway, being generally out of the news-cycle loop for the last couple of days was apparently a bad idea, and left me unprepared for this gentleman’s question, which, in fairness, wouldn’t have been too far off from some questions I’ve fielded over the years. But once I realized what he was talking about, I was able to assist him, let him know when the comic in question was due out, even offered to save a copy if he’d like.
And of course that got me to wondering if I’m going to see a rush on this title from the real-world news interest, but I guess I’ll find out when I go into the store today. Frankly, I’m not sure why this particular plot twist is “news” other than the self-reflexive commentary of “even Clark Kent sees the writing on the wall,” but given we just had a news cycle based around “GASP! Batman fights the Joker!” I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. However, I suppose the coverage of that sort of plot development is an improvement on the ol’ “THIS ISSUE, SOMEBODY DIES!” media stories, the returns of which have diminished quite considerably.
So we’ll see what happens with this Superman comic. But frankly, the news should be covering Maggie #1, the special Simpsons one-shot that features lots of work from Sergio Aragones, as well as Carol Lay, Mike Kazaleh, and other Folks of Note. But that’s just my opinion.
Enough of that…how ’bout this:
I’m currently reading Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Sean Howe’s tell-all book about the history of the company and the personalities therein. Reading a handful of excerpts here ‘n’ there, such as this one over at The Comics Journal, finally got me to pick it up, and it’s been fascinating reading. I’m only up to about the early ’70s in the narrative, and boy howdy there’s a lotta drugs involved, but I am really looking forward to the material that covers what was going on with the company during my time as a funnybook salesman, starting with the big industry boom in the late 1980s.
That Comics Journal-ran excerpt covers a bit of that period, which is what probably finally convinced me to grab the book. I mean, there’s a quote from the editor of Secret Defenders describing the book as “that piece of shit,” which is both hilarious and, from a retailing standpoint, a wee bit annoying (as in “thanks for selling us a comic y’all really believed in,” even though I realize there may have been only so much even the editor could have done at that particular time in history). I’m kinda half-hoping the book would add to that title’s notoriety, and we’d have folks picking up back issues just out of curiosity just to see how bad it actually was for its own editor to say such things. No huge increase of back issue demand just yet! (Historically, this is the only issue of the series that anyone ever looks for…and I suspect demand will only increase as future Marvel flicks come along, presumably building on that character’s Avengers mid-credits cameo.)
Another comics-related-but-not-actually-comics thing I’ve been enjoying recently is season two of The Walking Dead, even though I’m not a reader of the comic it’s based on. Nothing against the comic, really, but I didn’t get into it early on, and suddenly there’s now seventeen trade paperbacks (or, alternatively, two huge omnibi) and I’m way behind, and I already read enough comics, and blah blah poor me life is hard. But the show is a lot of relatively-harrowing fun, and the zombies are suitably gross, and I like a lot of the actors. The show has yet to top the excellent series premiere, but the second season’s focus on the cast trying to make a home at the seemingly-safe farm, and its build-up to the apocalyptic season ending, made for some perfectly fine serialized horror storytelling.
Two other things about Walking Dead: 1. Every time I hear the main character’s name, I think of the cartoonist. 2. I wonder how soon after the TV show ends that the market will be flooded with all those different covers for the comic’s hundredth issue? I mean, those sold way above and beyond what the comic normally sells. (I remember discussing our ordering strategies on #100 as we were trying to decide our numbers…I argued for lots of copies of the $19.99 wraparound chromium cover variant as I figured that would do well for Internet sales. Everyone else thought I was crazy, but we ordered my recommended number anyway…only to have them sell completely out on the shelf in the shop within a couple of days of their release.)
Just a quick note to mention that I tried out Cerebusdownloads.com a few days ago. Once a week a new issue is uploaded, you pay about a buck, and you get a download (in a variety of formats) of a full issue of Cerebus from what is arguably the best and most reader-friendly segment of the series, “High Society.” Includes big ol’ scans of the art, all the ads and letters pages/text pieces, plus sketches and production work and much more. Also, you get a bit of video business, where Cerebus creator Dave Sim reads through the entire issue for you, doing voices for all the characters, and there’s music and sound effects, too. Oddly compelling, certainly fun, and I think I’m totally down with having Uncle Dave read me a Cerebus story once a week.
(The Video Cerebus reminds me a bit of the old proto-Nickelodeon TV show “Video Comics,” mentioned before on this site, where, just like the Cerebus thing, a variety of comics would be presented panel-by-panel, with voice actors, narration, and sound effects. If you’re old enough to remember that show, you know what the Cerebus thing is like.)
There’s a free sample you can try out, featuring Cerebus #26 (the first chapter of “High Society”). It’s worth a look, I think.
In other news:
- I have been shamefully neglectful in not plugging The Variants in these here parts. For those of you who don’t know, The Variants is a shocking look into the everyday lives of comic shop employees. 100% funny, 100% ABSOLUTELY TRUE. As someone who may have worked in a comic book store, I support The Variants‘ service and / or product.
- Pal Andrew talks about that beautiful man, Vincent Price.
- Reader Phil directed me to this Peanuts costume and, um. And then I started thinking “is there an adult-size Woodstock costume” and of course there is.
- Speaking of Halloween, pal Dorian has been reviewing horror films all month, and just the other day hit one of my all-time favorites.
- This Yahoo! news story is just this close to being this parody post of mine from a few years back.
So the other day I was goofing around on the Twitter, as one tends to do there, and decided, in the wake of the announcement of the forthcoming Superior Spider-Man title, decided to adjectivize some typical Marvel titles myself by way of classic horror writer H.P. Lovecraft:
I think that was probably the best one, though I came up with a couple
which were okay, I guess. I do have a fondness for The Ichorous Hulk
, I must admit. (Also, my name is briefly changed to “Mike Ghostling” because it’s a Twitter Halloween thing. What can I tell you.)
As I was thinking about this diversion over the next day or so, I realized that I quit before getting around to the Fantastic Four, which could only be “The Phantasmagorical Four,” so obvious a name that I’m certain I’m stealing it from some read-but-now-unremembered comic. But it also got me to thinking that one of the elements associated with Lovecraft’s horror stories is that the very thing that is horrible is hidden, or indescribable, or otherwise obscured from full understanding or comprehension.
Anyway, this is what I cooked up:
Professor Richards leaned forward at his desk, studying intently the papers laid out before him. After a few minutes of this quiet contemplation, he sat up, his wooden chair creaking at the movement. He looked over his shoulder at me, as if just now remembering that he had an assistant, one that had been waiting patiently for the good professor to finally turn his attentions to him. “My apologies,” Richards said, though his tone did not sound apologetic at all. “I am currently attempting to unwrap a particular historical puzzle, and have need of my volume of Egyptology.”
I inferred from this statement that he intended for me to fetch this book for him. Though I have spent little time in Richards’ personal study, I had no trouble spotting it amongst the many shelves burdened with books of science and history, both well-studied and obscure. It was a thick tome, discolored by age and resting on a shelf just barely out of my reach. I turned away from the professor to find the stepping stool or ladder that he must have somewhere nearby to facilitate the retrieval of books stored at such an inconvenient height. However, oddly enough I found none immediately evident, but my curiosity regarding this discovery was interrupted by….
What could I call it? A sense? A “feeling,” like the sort one would have when another person is peering intently at you, and you know for certain that you are being so rudely stared at even without directly confirming it yourself. This, however, was not the weight of another’s intense observation I felt upon me. This was the feeling that something was behind me, not approaching me, but passing by, twisting and serpentine, splitting through the air with haste. I saw nothing of what it was, frozen briefly by the sensation, staring blankly at a crowded row of books only a foot or two away. I heard nothing, save for what sounded for all the world like the hard cover of a book briefly scraping along a high and distant shelf.
Just as suddenly as the feeling had come upon me, it was gone; and, the spell broken, I spun around to try to determine what had just occurred unseen behind my back while I had vainly looked for a ladder that wasn’t there. Professor Richards was still seated in his chair, as if he’d never left it, and it creaked again lightly now as he once more leaned forward over his desk. It was not to study his papers, I saw to my surprise, but rather to read the book of Egyptology, the very one that had been sitting on the shelf moments before. I thought perhaps it was simply a twin of the volume, maybe one that Richards had stored in a desk drawer and removed unheard, but a quick glance upward revealed that the book that was once there, was no longer.
I tried to form the words, to ask the professor how he had done it, but as I was even drawing the breath to speak, Richards turned away from his studies only long enough for a terse “That will be all.” I found my need to question wither away, replaced by a relief at having reason to depart.
Yeah, I know, not enough ten dollar words to truly emulate Mr. Lovecraft, but you get the idea. I also had an idea for Johnny Storm, the Human Torch:
As I approached the door of Master Storm’s room, I felt the chill of the house alleviate somewhat, which I naturally attributed to a roaring fireplace or a radiator. I rapped my knuckles on the wooden door, and even that brief contact related the warmth of the room beyond. A cheerful welcome was called out to me by young Jonathan, bidding me to enter, so I grasped the door’s handle…and found it hot to the touch. Not so heated as to cause injury, but certainly enough to take notice at how unusually hot it was. Irrationally, I feared for Storm’s life, though I had heard his voice, unafflicted by fear or pain, only seconds before. I quickly twisted the handle and pushed open the door, expecting…gouts of flame, perhaps?
Inside, however, was not a raging conflagration; there was simply Master Storm, reclining on his sofa, obviously in no distress as all. I cast my gaze about the room, seeing no radiator, finding the fireplace unlit and unstoked, apparently for quite some time. Even the lamps were dimmed and barely provided enough illumination for the space in which I found myself. I found no source for the warmth I could still feel beating against me, except from the devilish grin upon Storm’s countenance, taking untoward amusement in my bafflement.
I didn’t really come up with a scenario for Susan Storm Richards, the Invisible Woman, beyond perhaps she’d be invisible all the time, a ghostly presence always near Professor Richards, leaving some clues to her existence for visitors to pick up on, but never enough to really pin anything down. Or maybe she’d be visible on occasion:
I’d turned away only for a moment, but when I turned back, there was Mrs. Richards, who had seemingly materialized out of nothingness as far as I was concerned. Even with my back to the professor, the one entry to the study was still within my eyesight, and I am of absolute certainty no one had entered.
And of course, there’s Ben Grimm…the Thing. The most inhuman-seeming of the quartet, with his monstrous appearance but, it should be noted, containing a giant heart inside. But since I’m low-rent Lovecrafting it up in here, let’s focus on the monster part. Of course, no one would ever get a clear look at him…he obviously would be kept under wraps by Richards in his family home, hidden away in a cellar or something, only let out when need arises. And the poor bastards that had to face the unknowable terror of the Thing…well, imagine a gibbering Paste Pot Pete, driven into madness having come face-to-face with Richards’ most horrifying secret weapon:
“The rocks that moved…the cracking…that rumbling laugh…those eyes, those piercing, soulless blue eyes blazing from the crevices…!”
“That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons
It’s clobberin’ time.”
I almost read one of them because of this accompanying image:
from Popeye #41 (July-Sept 1957)
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