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I’d been on hiatus from the Trouble with Comics crew for a bit, since of late what small amount of blogging time I’ve had I’ve been focusing right here on this site, keeping the content up, patching up some old entries, and otherwise justifying the ol’ Patreon. But, the Trouble with Comics Question Time feature was hitting its 50th installment, and who am I to pass up an anniversary issue?
The Question this time was simply to list 50 Things We Loved About Comics, and you can read our answers in the three installments right here (1 2 3) and my entry is located in Part the Second.
Those of you who’ve been around a while may remember three consecutive Valentine’s Day entries where I listed “100 Things I Love About Comics” in each — they’re right here and I should warn you I haven’t fixed any dead links in those posts yet. As I say in the first post, that was inspired by a couple of Fred Hembeck strips (1 2) and by a post by Chief Troublemaker Alan David Doane (which included my then-relatively new site, which surprised the heck out of me!). Lots of people did lists of their own, but leave it to Tom Spurgeon to have unleashed the 1000 Things He Loves About Comics, and hoo boy that’s hard to beat.
Anyway, for my new Top 50 list I was going to do something similar to my old Top 100 lists…just list a bunch of stuff I like, whether it’s characters or creators or titles or what have you. In fact, my first pass at my entry, I did just that…and it turned out I duplicated quite a bit from my old lists, and I didn’t want to do exactly what I’d done before. So the second time ’round I tried to stick to just listing specific events in comics (though a couple more general entries slipped in there), and I hope you are reminded of some fun things when you read my entry (and everyone else’s entries, too!) or maybe are intrigued by some bit of nonsense you hadn’t heard of before.
When I started my second pass at that list, I figured “oh man, this is going to take forever,” but I’m pleased to say that it took hardly any time at all to fill up all fifty spots. I had plenty more besides, and of course a day or two later I’m thinking of entries that should have been in that list but they simply slipped my mind.
Top of that “shoulda been in dere” list is Hawkman #4 in which we learn at long last the secret identity of Kite Man, who turns out to be a real blockhead. I can’t believe I left it off the list, but one of the wonders of the Comics Internet is that I been able to tell the writer of said issue, the eternally swell Tony Isabella, how much I loved that comic, so hopefully that makes up for my recent forgetfulness.
I also forgot to mention Lex Luthor anywhere in that list, which stuns me because I do loves me some Lex Luthor. It’d be hard for me to narrow it down to just one entry, but I think that one panel in Superman #149 (1961), “The Death of Superman,” where Luthor contemptuously thinks “The puny ants!” as he is on trial for Superman’s murder. Maybe more generally, I always liked those stories where Luthor is shown that, despite his hatred for Superman, he’s not entirely a monster and reveals some soft spot or ‘nother for, like, his sister, or for Einstein, or something like that. That’s an element lost in post-Crisis Luthor, who was just straight up pure evil, 24/7. (Maybe that’s part of the reason why I’m enjoying the Rebirth Superman titles so much, with Luthor’s redemption arc…he’s still an arrogant jerk, but he seems to be doing the right thing.)
And then there’s Dr. Doom, who really should have been in there somewhere, too. Again, it’s hard to pin down one particular moment or story…maybe that one Fantastic Four issue where we follow Doom around during a typical day in his country of Latveria. Or more generally, I just love the fact that Reed Richards and Doom were once (very briefly, like for what, a minute?) college roommates, now mortal enemies which I expect more than a few people can relate to.
And plenty more besides. Nobody needs to tell me what else I forgot…believe me, I know. I did manage to keep the Swamp Thing entries down to just one, but it’s a good’un. There are entries for three different Frank Miller Batman-related things, however. You’re welcome!
Back to your questions…cruisin’ in with the following is Pedro de Pacas:
“So how DOES the sausage get made?”
Well, I take some of the excess bits of Progressive Ruin, ground it up, and…okay, that’s not what I do. Generally, before I turn in for the evening, I plop myself down in front of the ol’ Atari 800 and start to type away. Now, typing’s the easy part. I’m a goood tipyst. It’s the actual content that can be tricky, since, as you likely know, I’ve been hackin’ away at this blogging thing and generating content for nearly 12 1/2 years now, and that’s not counting my previous online behavior at LiveJournal or on message boards or on local BBSes and of course the secret journals that can only be revealed after my death and I’m long past Ian’s vengeful reach. Point is, I’ve said a lot of stuff, and covered a lot of ground, and I’m not sure I have any more “good ol’ ‘Death of Superman‘ days” stories left in me.
In general, though, posts on this site can come from just my daily adventures in retail and overall retailing philosophy, seeing something odd in an old comic, reminiscing about past events, reacting to current comics news, occasionally reviewing comics, and just being silly…you know, the usual stuff comic blogs are made of, but hopefully I provide enough of a unique perspective to keep you all coming back every couple of days. I mean, I see my stats, and that can’t all be search engine spiders and people in the Ukraine trying to crack my password.
The one source of blog content I do miss is interactions with store employees, most of whom were about halfway nuts and therefore good inspirations for postings. Like, for example, this interaction I had with Employee Aaron about the Dungeons & Dragons comic, or my conversations with Kid Chris. Sadly, now, at my own store, it’s just me and my volleyball Wilson, and he doesn’t say much.
And on a related note, googum googums
“Anything new and good in what’s left of the comics blogosphere, or is it all over?”
I’d been sort of dreading this particular question, since I felt like this would be a big topic that I couldn’t do justice to. For example, I might end a sentence with a preposition.
However, I wouldn’t say the “comics blogosphere” is over, by any means, though even typing the phrase “comics blogsphere” whisks me away on nostalgic winds to the year 2004. Even now, you can go take a look at the current iteration of the Comics Weblog Update-A-Tron 3000 and see the latest updates from many still active comic book weblogs. (And I always point out that I saddled the previous iteration of the Update-A-Tron with that particular name, an act for which I likely should apologize.)
The comics blogosphere as it existed Way Back When in the early/mid-2000s, when I entered the mess, is largely gone, of course. I don’t just mean “folks ain’t around,” though folks did move on, leaving behind blogs to move into actual paying writing jobs, or just leaving when they decided they were done, or guided their blogs toward other topics, or just lost interest and let things peter out. A lot of the interaction between bloggers is gone, too, as others have mentioned…inter-blog discussions and debates and the infrequent feud (joking and otherwise) aren’t as common as they used to be. At least, not that I’ve seen, and that’s another thing….
…I don’t frequent other blogs as much. It used to be, before I’d post, I’d do a quick rundown of the latest posts on the Update-A-Tron to make sure I wasn’t accidentally duplicating another person’s content. Seems crazy now, since I’m pretty sure I was the only person championing All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, and besides, even if I was tackling the same topic as another blogger, I’d like to think my voice is unique enough to put my own personal spin on the matter. Nowadays, however, I simply don’t spend a lot of time reading comic blogs. I mean, I do follow some, and I have ’em in my feed reader, and sometimes other sources (like Twitter) will direct me to blog posts that interest me. But that level of interaction I used to have, going directly to other sites, leaving comments, building conversations…there just isn’t enough time anymore.
Another change in the blogging world that initially discouraged me was the advent of the group blogs, the ones hosted at the comics news/press release sites that had several people creating multiple posts every day, and how was one poor dumb blogger like me going to compete with that amount of content? Why go to Progressive Ruin and his handful of posts per week, when you can go to The Big Professional Comics Blog Emporium and get dozens of posts about Lois Lane having to become a Black woman every hour upon the hour? …Okay, I’m teasing slightly, but it was a bit imposing at first, until I accepted this wasn’t a competition, that several folks working for these sites were people I liked, and that my site had the one thing I was “selling” that other sites couldn’t: me! Sure that’s a bit egotistical, but one doesn’t write a comic blog with his name in the title, relating his opinions for nearly 13 years by being a shy, retiring wallflower. (Also, I did write for the group comics blog Trouble with Comics for a while until some scheduling problems took me away from the site for the time being, so take my group-blog comments with a grain of virtual salt.)
The other thing is that online comics discussion is always evolving…traditional blogs may have been “the thing,” and for lots of people they still are, but there’s Tumblr, there’s Instagram, there’s Twitter, there’s podcasting, and so on. I’m sure there’s some platform people are actively using to discuss comic books about which I am totally unaware, because I am an old person and not hep to your current jive. I suspect I’ll be sticking with my trusty WordPress installation long after everyone’s moved on to BrainJet DirectConnext online communications since I tend to hold onto things way past their shelf life.
In short; yes, googum, the comics blogosphere, or Twittersphere, or Tumblrsphere, is not yet over. It’s not the same as it was, but that’s a good thing. …But I’ll require someone to tap me on the shoulder when it’s time to go, because I won’t be able to tell, myself.
…as I have been too short on time in the last couple of days to give it the proper attention it deserves. It will be up Friday, I’m reasonably certain.
In the meantime, a few clarifications:
- It sort of dawned on me that perhaps I wasn’t clear about the origins of that “Mike Sterling is a jerk!” image that Bully, the Little Photoshopping Bull, made for me and I linked to at the end of this post. It was created in response to this Twitter post of mine in which I quote Employee Aaron expressing his opinion of me, based of course on the famous X-Men comic splash page. So, to be very clear, Bully does not actually think I’m a jerk, nor did I ever think he did. I know he was just teasing!
However, Bully does think Professor X is a jerk, and for good reason!
- For this post, my example of Power Pack #27 was used almost entirely at random. In fact, as I was writing the post, it was originally New Warriors #27, until I decided to write a little something about New Warriors #1 at the end. I thought “well, that’s two mentions of New Warriors in one post, clearly that violates some sort of zoning law” and Power Pack was the first thing to pop into my head to replace it. So, I wasn’t really making any kind of specific point about Power Pack #27, just a general one about guide-pricing versus real world sales potential.
However, in response to my mention, this nice person (who also says a few much-appreciated kind words about my goofy site) takes a more in-depth look at the comic in question.
- MrJM was only kidding with the “Thanks, Obama!” comment. Honest!
- A few of you have noted that Howard the Duck #1 was a comic that was once red hot and inflated in value, due to its 1970s popularity, and remained fairly pricy up until a certain movie of some note was released. I wish I’d remembered to dig up some of the old guides while I was at the shop to double-check pricing, but in general I do recall a sudden dip in demand and value on the comic. Exactly how much, monetarily speaking, I am not sure, but yeah, it certainly happened. In recent years prices have been creeping back up, partially because those comics are sort of crawling out from under the shadow of the film and regaining some critical appreciation again, and partially because it’s a noteworthy series that’s approaching its 40th birthday and it’s getting more difficult to find high-grade copies.
Anyway, that’s enough of that. I’ll bring a proper end to civilization tomorrow, I (mostly) promise!
So I received a used copy of this hardcover in a collection I purchased the other day:
And, well, I did have it in the shop as a new item before, but I never really did sit down and give it a good looking-at then, despite my enjoyment of Don Newton’s Batman. Thus, before putting it out for sale I thought I’d take it home and give it a read…what, it’s going to get more
used? …Well, okay, yeah, I suppose it is, but I’ve the gentle touch of a professional comics handler, and can easily peruse this volume without causing further discoloration, dogearing, spine stress, or, God help us, foxing.
Anyway, I was a fan of Newton’s work, both on Batman and on Infinity Inc., which he had just started to work on when he passed away in 1984 at the too-young age of 49. Reading this book, I find myself struck by one thing, which will hardly be a new or original comment in regards to these sorts of reprint projects, but nevertheless it’s still an honest reaction. The pages are just too white and clean. The Young Mike that’s still rattling around in my head is expecting to be reading these stories on brown-ish newsprint. In fact, when I mentally picture Newton’s art, I imagine dark, moody images…all shadows and mystery. Reprinting in this book on bright pages with bright coloring, even the shadows look like you’re staring at the sun. …Okay, I exaggerate slightly, but still, it was a bit jarring to have the art right in front of me and contradicting my memories of same.
And before you say anything, yes, Infinity Inc. was printed on bright white paper with eye-searingly bright colors, but Newton’s sadly brief tenure there doesn’t have the nostalgic hold his Batman work has for me.
As I was writing this, another sorta unsung comics artist fave of mine came to mind that I’d like to see reprinted in a book like this. I’d totally be all over The Complete Irv Novick.
• • •
One of my readers was kind enough to point out that, in an old post of mine…I mean, really old, within the first month of this site’s life…one of the links I’d posted way back then had apparently since gone feral and now pointed to a porn site. Okay, first off…porn on the Internet? When did that start? And secondly…yeah, link rot. This site is on the verge of turning nine years old, and I’m sure many links in a lot of my old posts now go to destinations I did not originally intend. I mean, if I was sending you to a dirty filthy dirty site
, I was usually pretty good about warning you up front.
I’ve heard about some people going through and consistently maintaining and / or removing links on old posts, but frankly, it’s hard enough to find the time to keep with new posts, or sleep. And then there was the great Blogger-to-Wordpress shift I underwent in early ’10, which resulted in some formatting and archived-post issues, and then whatever that company was that was supporting the old commenting system cut that support, so links to those comments are now no bueno, I guess, and…man, sometimes I feel doing a reboot, and just starting this website from scratch. FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNEW BEFORE: WELCOME TO THE NEW PROGRESSIVE RUIN! and then I’d never refer to anything before that date ever again.
I’m not going to do it, but, back past a certain point, my site’s a mess. I do still go back and fix links and formatting and stuff if I have occasion to link to an old post, so I’m not letting things totally fall into barbarism, but…well, just assume any super old link is probably taking you straight to a site that’ll sell you V1aG4a or promise you pictures of people inserting Tab A into Slot B.
However, I am happy to note that I still occasionally edit my very first post to make sure it’s still sending you where I want you to go. Man, had I known they’d be fiddling with those addresses every year or so, I’d have picked something else for my debut entry.
• • •
Reader d asks
“Hey Mike, we all know you have every Swamp & Man Thing appearance, but do you collect The Heap as well? Just curious.”
Well, I don’t have every Man-Thing appearance…I do have every one written by Steve Gerber, as well as the first appearance in Savage Tales (not by Gerber), but from about the ’90s forward, I’ve been a little pickier about touching Man-Things.
That has nothing to do with the actual thrust of your question, which is all about the Heap, the original comic book swamp monster dating back to the 1940s. Sadly…no, I haven’t gone out of my way to seek out Heap comics, though I have picked up some of the latter day revivals, such as this 1971 one-shot I’ve discussed in the past, or this new version from Moonstone, or the Airboy/Mr. Monster one-shot from 1987, in which the Heap plays a prominent role, and is a great comic, to boot.
The original Heap comics are about to be reprinted in a series of three hardcover volumes, and I’m still waffling a bit on whether I can afford to pick these up for myself. My usual argument to talk myself into such things is “if I don’t get them now, I’ll probably never have another chance, at least this (relatively) cheaply,” so we’ll see. I am tempted.
• • •
On a related note, in that it’s asked in the same comments section, Casey wonders
“Mike, have you ever done a post about toxic Teen Titans continuity?”
Oh God, no. What I’d wished I had done is recorded pal Dorian and myself going on and on and hashing it all out and realizing that some of the time frames involved would make some of the adult characters a lot older than they should be, or that some of the lengths of time of team membership would be extremely short, or…hell, I don’t remember now. This was prior to DC kind of pushing the “sliding scale” of the Modern DC Superhero Universe to being about 20 years old, as of Identity Crisis, which I recall thinking was a slightly more reasonable time frame, given the amount of “important” events and continuity, not just for the Titans but for everyone, you had to squeeze in there.
Of course, post-Flashpoint, that scale is now about 5 or 6 years, depending on who you ask, I guess, so it’s all a moot point. And I hear tell Titans continuity has even more exciting problems now, as in some indecision whether there were previous Titans teams or not, but I leave the pondering of that question to younger, abler folks than myself.
• • •
And then sometimes I repost a gag I already made on the Twitter
, such as presenting this gag header from Archie’s Joke Book
#134 (March 1969 – hey, my birth month!) and lamenting the fact that in no way does the story live up to this title:
…which is just as well, since Archie couldn’t participate anyway:
Oh, scatological humor! You’re the best
• • •
To bring things back around to the nostalgia of Young Mike from the beginning of this post, just before I soiled it all with continuity nitpicking, porn, poop jokes, and Man-Thing innuendo, I found myself the other day discussing the joys of Omega Men
with a customer of mine.
Although I had read the introduction of the Omega Men in those three or so issues of Green Lantern, I didn’t follow them to their own series (which experienced some small controversy in its early issues due to depictions of violence, back in the “they didn’t know how good they had it” days of fandom). It took Alan Moore, a writer of some note, writing a back-up in two successive issues of the series (#26, pictured, and #27) to get me to take a look…and quite wisely, a new storyline in the main feature started up at that same time, giving Moore-ites like me a solid jumping-on point. It helped that 1) the new regular artist on the series was Shawn McManus, for whom I was developing a strong appreciation, and 2) that the comic itself was just a darned weird, creepy, and plain ol’ interesting sci-fi adventure.
As I was talking about the book with the customer, a couple of things dawned on me that, I suppose, shouldn’t have surprised me but did anyway. The actual run of that “new direction” for Omega Men, from #26 to the book’s eventual cancellation, was only 13 issues, plus an annual. It sure felt like it was longer…not in a bad way, I mean. It’s that a whole lot of stuff happened along the course of that comic, and it’s hard to believe they managed to fit it all into only about a year’s worth of stories (well, technically a year…I think some issues ran a bit late, if I recall correctly). Also, there was a Teen Titans crossover, and, of all things, a Crisis on Infinite Earths-engineered Blue Devil crossover, and an appearance in DC Comics Presents, so that probably helped in the perception of the comics’ apparent length.
The other thing that dawned on me was that the series wrapped up while I was still in high school, which doesn’t feel weird for anyone but me, I realize, but still, it seems like it’s more recent than that. Ah, well…tempus fugit, and all that.
I’ve since picked up the remainder of the series, which of course includes the first appearance of Lobo (which guides at a low $7.00, which sort of surprises me, except I suppose Omega Men print runs at the time were fairly large), and despite the occasional terrifying Kevin O’Neill art job, those earlier issues were fairly staid compared to the outright craziness of the McManus-era stories. Still fun, and worth checking out if you can find ’em cheap, which they usually are.
• • •
Just to let you folks know, I’m probably entering Low Content Mode for the rest of the week, or at least lower
content mode…the Thanksgiving holiday is coming up, and I’ve also got another project I’m working on at the moment that requires the focus of my creative energy, he said in a hopefully non-New Agey way, so probably you’ll not be seeing much more out of me this week aside from maybe a pic or two. Or you can follow me on the Twitter
where I’m still likely to spout off about something. At any rate, I’ll see you on the other side, and please enjoy your Thanksgiving, where applicable, and everyone else, enjoy your Thursday. Thanks for reading!
• • •
the end of the post! I was wondering where that was.
So here’s what my original plan was:
After posting the final Sluggo Saturday and writing up my goodbyes, farewells, and amens, my initial intention was to do “Satan Saturdays.” However, I found I didn’t have immediate access to a sufficient number of devilish images to use for this project, so the plan changed slightly, to what you’ve been seeing me do over the last few months.
And…well, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the results. I mean, they were okay, I guess…I’m inordinately proud of myself for the Sea Devils Saturday entry, for example. But it felt a little forced to me, and turning these things up was more of a chore than a joy. And most importantly, they just weren’t tickling that same part of my brain that the Sluggo Saturdays were.
My goal was to do the “[character name beginning with the letter S] Saturday” thing for a year, and on the anniversary of that last Sluggo Saturday post, drop in a new Sluggo Saturday completely without notice. And then continue on with other characters, as before. Obviously, I didn’t make it that far.
So, um…apologies for making such a big deal out of my dropping the feature. I really intended to retire it, honest. But just when I thought I was out of Sluggo, Sluggo pulls me back in.
This doesn’t mean I plan on doing Sluggo Saturday every Saturday again, though…I’m going to try to keep it a little more sporadic than that, running when inspiration strikes. I’m also not continuing the other “S-Saturday” feature, unless, again, I come up with a good’un. Other than that, I have no idea what I’m going to be doing with my Saturday posts since I don’t have another regular feature planned. I suppose I could always go back to characters angrily pointing at this.