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And I say this as someone who’s enjoyed the recent Superman films.

§ September 13th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 1 Comment

Hey, remember those questions I asked you for way back when? Hoo boy, it’s been a while…let me see if I can knock a couple more of ’em out today:

Cwolf howled

“Like to read your thoughts on the reports about Marvel’s retailer conference this weekend.”

Uh oh, this question was asked on…egads, April 3rd, so let me look things up for a moment…

[tempus fugit]

…Oh, right, Marvel’s whole “our audience doesn’t want diversity” thing, based on the idea that a number of titles featuring non-traditional (i.e. not white male) leads weren’t doing well solely based on the idea that the leads were the problem, and not, say, a symptom of Marvel’s own publishing policies that undermined both retailer and consumer confidence in their titles. I mean, I don’t think I had too many customers…or any customers…complaining about Thor being a woman. If anything, that boosted sales a bit, at least for a while…but Marvel’s starting and stopping and relaunching and rebooting doesn’t help things, and sometimes it strangled new titles in the crib before they even had a chance to grow up, so what can you do? Marvel’s “Legacy” initiative (restoring original numbering to many of their long-term titles) may go a little way toward repairing that damage, and maybe readers might be a little more willing to try something new is they think there’s a chance it won’t be restarted from #1 if the issues get to close to double-digits.

Anyway, I know I’m a bit late to the party discussing this particular situation (though I’ve addressed this general topic on my site plenty of times before), but this article from The Atlantic gives a pretty harsh but not-inaccurate assessment of what all this rebootery has done to the marketplace.

• • •

Jerry Smith hammers out the following:

“Would you like to see a comic book movie or TV show do an actual, colorful comic book costume (within reason, that is)? You know, Wolverine in something close to the comics, Iron Fist in his traditional mask (with probably the modern track-suit costume) or anyone in something not black leather? I get tired of the black ninja crap on everyone, and long for attire closer to the comics (again, without being ridiculous).”

Well, sure I would. I know that’s probably not the in-thing in live-action representations of comic book characters nowadays, but there’s probably a way to do it without looking too ridiculous. Like, I always thought the costume in Batman: Dead End looked nice…fitting in well with the usual “dark” takes on the character without replacing the standard costume from the comics with the plastiformed muscle armor you usually see in movies.

But I think making the costumes appear to be some kind of armor or athletic outfit or something other than just tight-fitting spandex is one of the methods filmmakers use to support that willing suspension of disbelief. It’s a small touch of “reality” that helps ground the fact that the character can fly or run at the speed of light or whatever. I think Daredevil’s live-action costume looks fine, for example, and helps sell the “grittiness” of the character and setting that a ersatz circus outfit probably wouldn’t.

That said, I’d be happy to see a Superman movie where Superman is back in blue tights with red trunks and a big red flowing cape without any excessive detail noodling or lines or seams or such to somehow sell the “reality” of the costume. It’s a costume. It doesn’t serve any purpose other than to say “Hi, I’m Superman, I’m here to help.” By all rights, it should be silly-looking just on its own, but virtually every actor we’ve seen in that classic costume elicits the reaction, not of “hey, look how goofy he is wearing that,” but “hey, it’s Superman!” I bet if you got Henry Cavill into that costume and let him smile more, he’d probably get that response, too.

I still feel bad about the John Ritter thing.

§ July 24th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 13 Comments

Okay, finally back to more of your questions:

CP Bananas appeals to me with

“If you had unlimited funds, what’s the one thing you’d add to your store? Signage? Fixture? Ice sculpture? Water slide? Something more/less ridiculous?”

Crazy idea: movie theater. I have two rooms in the back of the store, and I can store stuff in the smaller room, and use the larger part of the backroom as an indoor theater of sorts. The walls would need repainting, and I’d need to cover that concrete floor with something, but that’s a lot of space that needs some using. Plus, I’d have to look into what sort of licensing I’d need to have in order to screen films, and some reasonable form of air conditioning that wouldn’t be too loud…but I could probably seat, I don’t know, a couple dozen people back there? It’s something to think about.

More realistically, I could knock out part of the wall that divides the store between the front and the back, and expand into that larger backroom area with more fixtures and products. “WELCOME TO MIKE’S COMICS AND POGS” the sign in front of the store would boldly declare to all passerby.

• • •

MrJM asks

“As I recall, every iteration of the team had substantially the same origin: the Legion of Superheroes started as three kids from different planets with different powers joined together to combat the powers of evil in the 30th/31st century.

“But why would anyone dub the founding trio of Rokk Krinn, Imra Ardeen & Garth Ranzz ‘the LEGION of Superheroes?’

“A Roman legion was a unit of 3,000–6,000 fighting men. Even colloquially, ‘legion’ is synonymous with horde, throng, multitude, host, crowd, mass, mob, gang, swarm, flock, herd, score, army. No matter how you slice it a ‘legion’ is a whole bunch of folks.

“While the group would certainly merit the name in the end — including everyone from Bouncing Boy to Invisible Kid to Quislet to another Invisible Kid — at the founding no one could have know that. It was just three people.

“Within the continuity of the story, ‘Legion of Superheroes’ simply made no sense as the name for the original trio!

“And so my question: Has this ever bugged you?”

No.

• • •

Thom H. inquires about

“I love reading stories about customers. Can you share a good story about a memorable customer, whether it’s good, bad, weird, surprising, or something else?”

I’ve had several memorable customers over the years, but aside brief, amusing (or occasionally aggravating) incidents, I have a hard time relating actual stories about them, I mean, I have written about a couple of longtime customers who had passed away (like Errol, or Bruce, or Sean and his tragic end – they did end up catching the guy who killed him).

There was the fellow who always wrote enormous checks for expensive comics, the only personal information on his check being his name…my old boss had been dealing with him since long before I worked at the shop, and he always told me “the check’s fine, don’t worry about it.” And, far as I know, his checks always were fine.

There was the kid who collected Adam Strange comics…because his name was also Adam Strange.

There was the time, shortly after I started working in comics retail, when the shop was suddenly filled with lady wrestlers all in costume. I was like “is this what selling comics is going to be like all the time?” And the answer to that was, of course…yes, yes it was.

There was the young lady who’d been coming to the shop since she was a kid…and now, college age, she had come to the store and asked me if I wanted to see her new tattoo. I said “sure!” and before I knew it she had basically removed her top with her back to me, presenting her new full-back tattoo in all its glory. (Coworker Sean, who was working on the other side of the store at the time, later asked me “what the hell was going on over there?”)

There was the teaching assistant at the college I was attending who found out I worked in a comic book store, and would request comics that I’d bring up the next day that he’d then pay me for.

There was customer Marlon, who dressed as the Milestone character Icon one year for Halloween, and as the John Stewart Green Lantern another year, in absolutely perfect costumes with the perfect physique. It’s like the characters had literally come to life in our store.

There was the fella researching vampires in comics, and was trying to buy every single comic featuring a vampire appearance. On one visit we stayed for hours after closing assembling his several-thousand-dollar purchase.

There was MC Chris, who stopped by the shop prior to performing at the local music venue, and proceeded to plug the store onstage.

There was the time I thought John Ritter was just some creepy guy planning to shoplift from us.

Those were all at the previous place of employment. I’m trying to come up with any really unusual stories from the new store, but aside from the endless repetition of “this is just like Big Bang Theory!” I haven’t had any really weird stories burn into my brain yet. I’ve had lots of great, friendly customers who have been very supportive, I’ve also had the occasional time waster or problem creator (like the mom who was upset that I made her pay for comics her children destroyed…and to this day, when she passes by I here her tell her kids “no, you’re not going in there”). Or the elderly gentleman who just did not seem to understand that, no, I didn’t want to carry the sports jerseys he was wholesaling.

But I don’t want to focus on the bad things, really. I prefer to think of the helpful folks, like customer Mark, whom I’ve met since opening my new shop, who will occasionally show up at events at my store (like Free Comic Book Day) dressed in his great Batman costume and entertaining the other customers.

Or the mom who told me that her little girl loves Squirrel Girl comics so much that she takes them to bed and sleeps with them at night.

I haven’t had anything really epically strange happen yet…mostly just nice people buying comics nicely and doing nice things. …PLEASE DON’T TAKE THIS AS A CHALLENGE, ANYONE READING THIS.

• • •

Oh, okay, back to MrJM’s question…no, I never really thought about it, to be honest. Looking back at the Legion’s origin as presented in Superboy #147, I don’t see where it’s established who names the team thusly. Given that the fella financing the team, R.J. Brande, is responsible for naming two of the founding members “Lightning Lad” and “Cosmic Boy” (and probably named “Saturn Girl” as well, though not explicitly stated), it’s likely fair to say Brande dubbed the team “The Legion of Super-Heroes,” too. Calling it a “legion” from the get-go is surely Brande anticipating that new members would eventually join…and it’s probably also just simple marketing. “Legion” sounds impressive. “The Three Kid Band of Space Heroes,” not so much. R.J. Brande is the richest man in the 30th Century…he knows how to sell stuff!

• • •

So long to Flo Steinberg, original member of the Marvel Bullpen, who passed away on Sunday. She was just as much a part of the team as Stan, Jack and Steve, and Marvel wouldn’t have been Marvel without her.

Several years ago a bunch of comics folks were swapping mix discs, and as a “bonus” at the end of my disc was a recording of a Merry Marvel Marching Society record that I digitized from a copy of the flexidisc that had turned up in a collection. I later heard from, I believe, Fred Hembeck, who thanked me for including that on there. “It was so nice to hear her voice” he said. It sure was. That gal had character to spare!

Pretty sure there was an episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold too.

§ June 23rd, 2017 § Filed under question time Comments Off on Pretty sure there was an episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold too.

Back to your questions, and that good man Gunga Din asks

“Can you talk about Jonah Hex? I miss him :(“

Well, sure!

The real tragedy of the Jonah Hex movie from 2010 is that a lot of the pieces were right, or at least close-to. Josh Brolin made a good Jonah Hex, most of the supporting cast was pretty solid, the film had the right look…this could have been a good film. Alas, nothing ever really gelled here, and it’s probably just as well the movie gave up and hit the credits at the one hour, 12 minute mark because it just plain wasn’t working.

Now, I joked at the time that instead of ending the narrative at 72 minutes, they should have taken what was at best a mediocre movie and turned it into the Best Film Ever Made by tacking on another half-hour or so of Jonah Hex trapped in the post-apocalyptic future. You know, just like the comics. I mean, what, were they afraid that might end up with a bad flick?

But seriously, it’s the time travel gimmick that makes Jonah Hex stand out from other western heroes, and one that’s come into play in other media adaptations of the character. In both the Justice League animated series, and in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, we are given a Jonah Hex (or Jonah Hexes, I guess) who is an old hand at dealing with people from other times. In the latter show, Jonah and Rip Hunter are already old acquaintances when we first meet him. And in the cartoon…well, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but I believe the gag is that shortly after encountering the Justice League in disguise in the Old West, he realizes what’s going on and states “oh, you’re time travelers.” And it’s made clear he’s dealt with time travel before. In both series, it works…it’s an amusing twist on the expectation that someone from the past would be shocked/surprised by people from the future. Instead, Hex is fairly blasé about it all, and that’s pretty funny.

The actual Jonah Hex comic…okay, to be fair, I haven’t read a whole lot of the original series, but I’ve read enough, and what I read seemed like a standard-issue western. That sounds like I’m being more critical than I am…I mean “standard issue” in that there really wasn’t anything in the series that wouldn’t expect in a western. Not a comment on quality, but rather just a description. No weird monsters, no ghosts, no time travel…well, not ’til issue #92, which was the precursor to the infamous Hex series I’d linked before. Instead, the gimmick of the series was that Hex had those famous and somewhat improbable scars on his face, giving him his distinct look. And I say “improbable” because I once read in a comics mag somewhere a person opining that if an actual cowboy had had a flap of skin like that over his mouth he probably would have cut it off long ago, and that’s been stuck in my mind ever since.

Anyway, after the future Hex series, the first big revival of the character was as a run of mini-series under DC’s Vertigo label, and it was here that we started to get more expansion of the genres ol’ Jonah found himself in. Suddenly, it was a horror comic, with the “weird monsters” I’d mentioned earlier, living up to the title of the comic in which he’d debuted long ago: “Weird Western Tales.” After that, the next major revival was in the 2000s and it was (as I recall) more or less a straight (and very well done!) western, followed by the New 52 relaunch as All-Star Western, which eventually brought us back to Time-Travelin’ Jonah. Of course, Jonah ended up back in his own time, and continued on as normal, making his journey into the future just another thing he had to deal with.

I like having that particular element as a now more-or-less permanent aspect of Jonah Hex. He’s a bounty hunter in the Old West who sometimes has to deal with time travel and it’s No Big Deal. Those stories I mentioned above were from the comics he himself starred in…that doesn’t even mention similarly-themed stories with Jonah as a supporting character, like this 1978 Justice League of America comic, or that one Swamp Thing, and a DC Challenge, too, if that counts.

Oh, and there was that issue of Secret Origins that maintains the whole future Hex series was still part of Jonah’s official continuity, which makes me happy.

In conclusion, Josh Brolin’s Hex should have teamed up with Stiletta and fought Borsten over control for the Soames pills. I’m sure you all agree.

For more Jonah Hex stuff, I recommend Matching Dragoons, probably the most comprehensive Jonah Hex site on the planet. I’ve written a bit about Jonah, too, over the years, but not as much as that guy!

You never know when I’m going to call YOU with questions about Cap’n Quick & A Foozle.

§ June 9th, 2017 § Filed under low content mode, pal plugging, question time § 1 Comment

Okay, to follow up on Chris Gumprich’s Cap’n Quick & a Foozle question from a few days ago, on whether or not it sold:

Yes, I did speak to my old boss Ralph about it, and his initial response was “…boy, that was a long time ago.” What he remembers, however, appears to jibe with my semi-educated guesses, that it sold okay at the time, due to 1) being a different kind of comics market then, with more people sampling oddball indie titles, and 2) being created by Marshall Rogers, who was an active “name” artist then (and not the gone-too-early legend he is now). Not a huge seller or anything, but did well enough. At any rate, we agreed it probably moved units that Marvel and DC would probably kill for now.

• • •

Blogging sister Tegan has the latest installment of her essays up at her site: “Tegan and Sara Made Me Queer” is #11 in a series, and you can encourage this sort of behavior by contributing to her Patreon, like I know I do.

• • •

Sorry for the short post, but your pal Mike needs to get some of this “rest” he’s read about in books. I’ll be back Monday with more of this exciting typing you’ve come to know and love!

Frankly even the top-selling comic book would have at best “a cult following.”

§ May 29th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 4 Comments

THE QUESTIONS, I’M BACK AT ‘EM:

Mikey Wayne lays the following on me:

“In light of the promises/suggestions that both the JSA and Legion of Super-Heroes will soon rebirth themselves into comic stores everywhere:

“For each team, which member would you most like to see rebirthed and why? If you could choose the creative teams for each book, whom would you choose?”

For the Legion of Super-Heroes, that’s easy…I’ve said before I’d like to see a Brainiac 5-centered Legion relaunch. Brainy as the cool, rational, scientific center surrounded by the utter madness of “Bouncing Boy” and “Matter-Eater Lad” and so forth, just trying to do his job despite all the crazy nonsense in which he finds himself mired. As far as a creative team…I’m always bad at picking out folks for this sort of thing, but I feel like Warren Ellis would make this absolutely bonkers. He’d give us a Brainiac 5 that actually seems like he’s intellectually superior to everyone around him, I’d think. And yeah, he’d probably be all bastardly-like, but not on purpose…he’s trying to be helpful, to fit in, but he’s so far beyond everyone else that he comes across as kind of a jerk without meaning to. (As opposed to some previous portrayals, where he pretty much was a jerk.)

For an artist, I’d say…well, so long as we’re playing pretend here, Paul Chadwick. I’d love to see the 31st century as drawn by him…I’m picturing a more futuristic sci-fi version of his series The World Below. Like, weird to the point of being creepy, which I bet Ellis could work with quite nicely. Man, now that I’ve described it, I’d love to see it.

With the Justice Society o’America, that’s a bit harder to choose. I really want to say Jay “Golden Age Flash” Garrick, but the Flash family is already pretty mired in the whole “Rebirth” thing and I’d prefer a character that’s a little more standalone. I’d maybe say Wildcat, partially because I think pal Dorian rubbed off on me after all these years and I would like to see a new, ongoing title starring his favorite character. I don’t really have a hook for the character as such, except even as I started typing this sentence the creator “Matt Wagner” came to mind and I can totally see Wildcat sorta remodeled by him into a Spirit/Shadow/Green Hornet-ish type crime fighter. I mean, he’d still totally be a boxer who puts on his Wildcat outfit and goes out to punch crumb-bums what need punching, don’t get me wrong. But Wagner could make just that much weirder, with only the occasional intrusion from the superhero element (maybe treated as a more supernatural occurrence) but with plenty street-level action with gangsters, creeps, dames, and beat cops. I would read that in a heartbeat.

• • •

Dani makes me retreat with

“Mike… one thing I’ve been wondering… just between us nerds… What exactly did you say to Encyclopedia Brown to make him snatch out your eye?”

Friends, sometimes running jokes from my beloved BBS days of decades ago follow me into the wide world of the internets.

…But basically what I told that Brown guy was “BUGS MEANY IS RIGHT.”

• • •

Chris Gumprich wonders

“1. Have you noticed an uptick of non-comics people coming in and asking for comic versions of the various DC-TV heroes?”

This is sort of a variation of the question “do the movies help comic sales?” and the answer is generally “not a whole lot.” The movies and TV shows increase awareness of the characters, certainly, but as discussed in the past, people who are fans of comic book movies and TV shows don’t suddenly acquire the “go to a comic shop on a regular basis” lifestyle. That’s not to say I haven’t had the non-initiated come in and ask for Supergirl comics, or grab Flash off the shelf. There is a slight increase, but compared to the number of people who get all the Flash and Supergirl adventure they need a couple of dozen weeks out of the year, it doesn’t seem like a whole lot. But, you know, a little is better than nothing!

“2. Do you think CAP’N QUICK & A FOOZLE would sell today? Did it sell in 1983?”

Well, for the latter part of the question, I’m going to have to say “I don’t entirely know,” since that was about five years before my entry into the world of comics retail. I’ll have to ask my old boss Ralph when next I talk to him, so I’ll update you later. My guess is that it sold…okay, in that this was the early days of the indie market still, and the black and white boom and its subsequent effect of making people not want to buy indie books was still in the future. Probably people were experimenting a little more with trying out different things, and Cap’n Quick & a Foozle may have benefited from that. Plus, Marshall Rogers was still a draw, so it may have sold just on his name alone. Again, I’d have to ask someone who was there to be sure.

Would it sell today? This is going to sound bad, and it’s no reflection on the great work of the late Mr. Rogers, but the answer is probably “no.” It’s too hard for any new titles to get real traction, so just by pure percentages, a series, particularly a weird-ish indie series, may get a small cult following but probably wouldn’t sell all that greaet. Just too tough of a market nowadays. Maybe “Cap’n Quick and a Zombie,” or “Deadpool and a Foozle.”

• • •

Andrew Davison schools me with

“If Swamp Thing falls over in the forest, and there’s no’one around to hear him, does he make a sound?”

Now, in the similar question regarding a tree falling in the forest, with no one to hear…in that case, I would say it doesn’t make a sound. If no one, meaning the lack of presence of ear canals that can interact with the resultant vibrations caused by the tree’s impact that can in turn be translated by an attached brain into what could be interpreted as “sound,” then no, no sound was made. The potential for sound is created, but no “receivers” as such exist to covert that potential and have it be recognized as sound.

However, Swamp Thing has anywhere between one and two ears, depending on who draws him, so he’d hear himself making a sound as he fell. I mean, assuming he’s real, and not just drawings on paper, of course.

You probably thought I forgot about your questions, didn’t you?

§ May 24th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 6 Comments

Okay, it’s been exactly a month since I last dipped into the most recent question pool, so let’s knock out a couple right here:

William Burns lights a fire under my butt about

“Do the Black Mask Studios comics sell much for you?”

They do…okay, I suppose. Some better than others. There was a while there, a year or two back, where the investor-types were looking into new releases from indie companies for their next fortunes. It’s still happening to a somewhat limited extent, but mostly with, say, Aftershock and Scout, possibly because nobody’s quite sure how to order on a lot of these, meaning if one catches one, any given store is likely to be caught short.

But with Black Mask, Four Kids Walk into a Bank and Young Terrorists still get a small bit of attention…in fact, I just turned a customer on to the latter title, and he thinks it’s great, so, you know, they’re still capable of finding new readers. It’s hard, though, in the current marketplace, to get any sort of traction, but I’m glad companies like Black Mask, and Aftershock, and the rest are still hanging in there.

• • •

Rob Staeger grills me with

“I’ve recently been reading a bunch of old Warlord issues. They’re so enthusiastically batty! I was wondering what your thoughts are on Mike Grell and the evolution of his career. Are you/were you ever a fan?”

Sure, I liked Mike Grell well enough. I wasn’t a huge follower of Warlord but I had this digest collecting his several-issue battle with his wizardly arch-nemesis Deimos, and that was pretty good. I tried the monthly series for a while (though at this point I can’t remember if Grell was still involved with the series or not) but I didn’t like those single issues as much as that digest, so I didn’t keep reading.

I don’t know if I would say I was a “fan” in that I was a devotee of his work, but usually his art was professional and effectively presented the the stories it was illustrating, like in Green Lantern or in Legion of Super-Heroes. I haven’t read Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters in a while, so I don’t know how that holds up…all I seem to remember are some unfortunately violent bits that may not have aged well in the nearly 30 years since its release. And I read Jon Sable Freelance for a time, too, and the “usually” qualifier I used just a moment ago applies to this title, as the art got a little…sketchier that I preferred in the later issues of this series. I never did get around to reading Starslayer, though I own several issues for the Grimjack back-up stories and that early appearance of Groo the Wanderer. Should probably look at the stories in the fronts of those books someday.

Overall, I think his work is fine. I know he’s done a few covers for the recent Green Arrow series, and those have been nice. I can’t recall how much interior work he’s done of late (aside from a couple of those Arrow TV show tie-ins), but I wouldn’t mind seeing his storytelling in action on a regular basis again. I mean, if they can give Neal Adams regular Batman and Superman minis for him to be his Neal Adams-est, why not give Grell a short-run Green Arrow or Green Lantern (or Green Arrow AND Green Lantern) series? I’d read that.

The garden of funnybook delights.

§ April 24th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 1 Comment

Let’s dip back into the ol’ question pool for our next inquiry, coming from young Matthew Digges:

“Having been in comics retail for as long as you have, I imagine you’ve seen just about everything. Is there anything recently that filled you with surprise and/or delight?”

Goin’ on just about thirty years now in the ol’ comics retail game, he said all folksy-like. And it can be very easy, working behind the counter, to get a little jaded, to lose that sense of wonder and excitement, as you have to consider order numbers and sales and other business-type stuff just to keep the doors open. The trick is not letting that get in the way of the actual enjoyment of the art form, which of course you need to have in order to make informed decisions about all that running-the-store rigmarole.

It’s hard to be surprised by things, too…even back in ye olden tymes when I was but a mere customer, like many of you, I still had access to ‘zines and publisher handouts and such that kept me informed as to what was coming. That was nothing compared to today, with an internet rife with spoilers, and solicitation information easily accessible, and…well, I don’t have to tell you. Very few surprises catch us off guard any more, since most everything is telegraphed one way or another in advance. Even Marvel is ballyhooing some last page “internet-breaking” reveal in a new comic they’ve got coming up, so 1) we’re already primed for something at the end of that comic, and 2) now we get to spend a few months guessing what it is, and more likely than not overthinking and over-anticipating what that actual surprise is.

On the other hand…that’s just “surprise” over events and gimmicks and the like. I can still be surprised by picking up a comic I wasn’t planning on reading and getting immediately sucked in. The most recent example was Curse Words by Charles Soule and Ryan Browne. Now, I like pretty much everything I’ve read of Soule’s work for DC and Marvel, but even so I wasn’t planning on picking up Curse Words…’til I read the small preview I was sent, which hooked me immediately and now I’m regularly recommending that comic to customers. Now that’s a surprise, getting a comic I didn’t think much about before beyond “I wonder how many I’ll realistically be able to sell on the shelf,” suddenly becoming one of my favorites.

Or the recent Flintstones reboot from DC…I planned on at least looking at the debut issue because I liked the artist…but that first issue was so different from what I was expecting I really didn’t know how to feel about it at the time. Since then, it’s become one of, if not my favorite comic of the past year, and I never thought I’d be saying something like that about a Flintstones comic. That definitely put Mark Russell on my “always buy work by this writer” list.

Now, for just plain “delight” at a comic’s very existence…well, I tend to enjoy all the comics I take home to read. But certain comics do stand out, mostly from amazement that they actually exist in today’s marketplace. The main one I’m thinking of here is Popeye, IDW’s ongoing reprint series of the original Bud Sagendorf Popeye comics of the 1950s/60s. That it’s lasted this long is shocking to me, but I’m glad it’s still here, showing off Sagendorf’s classic cartooning. In fact, a lot of IDW’s recent reprint work is great, such as reprints of 1950s mystery comics in Haunted Horror, or the complete reprinting of Berke Breathed’s Bloom County family of strips. Getting access to material like this is always a surprise and a delight.

There’s another aspect that I was going to say is unique to being a shop owner/employee, but upon a moment’s reflection, I realize it’s just another side of the same coin. As a comics shopper, I would get excited at looking through a box of unsorted, unknown comics, at a store or at a convention, not knowing what strange wonders I may find within. I get that same feeling now, when someone brings in boxes of comics that they’re hoping to sell to me. Yes, there’s a part of me that immediately responds with “oh boy, bet it’s another run of Brigade,” but there’s something about sorting through a long box of comics, wondering if there’s going to be anything unusual or neat about to pop out at me. It could be a Giant-Size X-Men #1 that I can sell for a lot of money in the shop, or it can be some rare fanzine that I don’t already have in my ‘zine collection. You never know!

And then there’s that feeling of finally filling that one hole in the collection. That’s always a delight, no matter how long you’ve been doing this.

So yes, Young Matthew, I can still be surprised and/or delighted by comics. This doesn’t even bring up how happy I feel when there’s, say, a new issue of Groo that’s out, or more Love & Rockets, or that Walt Simonson is doing a series based in the Norse legends. But there’s still plenty of joy to be had in the comics field, if you look.

“Star Wars demoted to bimonthly” is hard to imagine now, too.

§ April 17th, 2017 § Filed under captain america, pal plugging, publishing, question time, retailing § 6 Comments

Back to your questions:

Argh!Sims arghed:

“Since you and GregA were discussing it on the Twitters and all … Did you find any more info about the proposed cancellation of Captain America back in the ’80s? That was at least a minor deal back then, and I seem to remember it was going to end around 300, with Cap being aged and having his ‘final’ victory over the Red Skull”

Yup…Twitter pal Greg posted a scan of a news item from an old Amazing Heroes (#69 from 1985, to be exact). I hope he doesn’t mind me borrowing said scan to present it here, since I’m too lazy to scan it myself:


My memory at the time is that is was kind of a minor deal, as you say. Mostly surprise that Marvel would even think about ending one of their…well, maybe not a flagship title, as such, but certainly a long-running title with one of their most famous, if not top-selling, characters. You know, back in the day when every ongoing series didn’t get relaunched every 18 months.

And yes, I did spend some time going through subsequent issues of Amazing Heroes trying to find any kind of follow-up on this announcement, as well as going through the Amazing Heroes Preview Specials that would preview the next few months’ worth of content for individual titles. Alas, I couldn’t track down what I was looking for, which was confirmation of my vague-ish memory of someone at Marvel basically saying “hey, we realized that we couldn’t cancel Captain America, of all titles — that would be be crazy!” I said in the Twitter thread that followed that my belief was that said cancellation might have been forestalled by licensing deals that might have been dependent on Marvel continuing to publish and support the character, but that’s just a mostly uninformed assumption on my part.

Anyway, I am relatively certain that it was said somewhere, in some news story or interview, that the cancellation of that particular title was reconsidered because of the nature of the character and its importance to Marvel. And, if I recall correctly, I think it was also said by someone that the title wasn’t actually in danger of cancellation, and that its inclusion on the list above was a mistake. Now, I owned and have read a lot of comic ‘zines over the decades, so I don’t know where exactly I saw all this…or even if I did, since I should probably accept that possibility. If anyone has more specific information, feel free to let me konw.

• • •

Old pal Brandon wants to know

“Have you ever been witness to a major collapse of shelves or avalanche of comics?

I have seen some pretty precarious shelves in the backs of comics shops before and it was always a concern of mine going into the back room of your old place of employment (though admittedly that was purely anxiety driven).”

Well, true enough, the shelving in the back of my old place of employment was very end-of-Raiders of the Lost Ark-ish, with shelving stretching up to the ceiling, filled with countless comic boxes. It was all quite sturdy and secure, however, and in the three different locations that store had while I worked there, I don’t believe there ever was a major collapse or shelf failure.

Now, that one time someone busted in through the ceiling to steal some…uh, Witchblade and Spawn comics, I thought maybe some of our bookshelves out front were knocked over, but from the look of things it was just a huge mess made by broken ceiling tiles and insulation.

The only time I can remember any sort of in-store shelving collapse was a hook busting loose that connected a shelf to its supporting unit and a bunch of books falling off. No life-threatening epic disaster stories to tell, thankfully. But here’s something to tide you over:

• • •

In completely unrelated news…pal Andrew could use a little assistance, if you’re able.

Top of the Swamps.

§ April 10th, 2017 § Filed under question time, swamp thing § 4 Comments

Okay, I asked you for questions and/or topics, and you gave me some, and I’m going to start taking a crack at ’em today. And, if you want to add to the list…feel free!

Anyway, Rich asks

“How would you rate each of the various eras of Swamp Thing, in terms of the work each writer-artist team did during their tenure?”

Well, sure, Rich, start me off with something easy, why don’t you?

Now there’s the thing…I think, almost inarguably, the two pinnacles for the character are the original Len Wein/Bernie Wrightson comics from the 1970s, and the Alan Moore/Steve Bissette/John Totleben/etc. of the 1980s. Trying to pick which one is better than the other is almost impossible. Perhaps the Moore-era books are more effective in evoking a more modern-seeming feeling of horror, but they wouldn’t exist without the groundwork of the Wein/Wrightson stories. Also, few are the people who were better horror artists than Bernie Wrightson. In a way, both runs tread similar ground, in that they explored some of the more traditional horror themes (witches, vampires, werewolves, haunted houses, and so on) while giving their own particular twists on the topics.

Getting down to it, though, if I had to pick one over the other, I’d give the nod to Wein/Wrightson, setting the bar so high right out of the gate, which is probably mixing metaphors a bit but you understand what I mean. It’s because of them that we expect a certain standard of quality out of our Swamp Things, and it’s disappointing when that level isn’t reached. Moore ‘n’ pals would be a very close second, building on Wein/Wrightson’s creation and updating the storytelling for current sensibilities. Ideally, if someone were to ask me which Swamp Things they should read, these would be the ones.

As for the portions of the series by other creators…well, they all succeed at certain things in their own ways. The issues that followed Wrighton’s tenure featured beautiful artwork by Nestor Redondo…while the comics are not the legendary classics of the preceding issues, they are still excellent in their own right, and only probably overlooked now due to their lack of reprints (a situation about to change with the forthcoming omnibus).

The Marty Pasko/Tom Yeates run that opened the Saga of the Swamp Thing series that returned the character to newsstands is one worth revisiting as well. Its lengthier storyline, pulling together a new cast of supporting characters and giving more of a focus on ongoing subplots, was one that, if I recall some of the letter columns correctly, met with some resistance from older fans of the character. Things were maybe a little too wordy, and subplots stretched out a little too long, for their tastes, though I suspect that’s more a generational change in reader expectations from serialized comic books. Multi-part soap opera-esque stories were more the norm at DC as the 1980s rolled on, perhaps inspired by the success Marvel had along those lines in their own books. Looking back, the initial story wrapped up after only 13 issues, which…well, come to think of it, many stories nowadays come in 5 to 6 issue easily-trade paperback-able chunks, which are only approximately half the size of this Swamp Thing story. But, the point is, people are more used to not getting done-in-one stories in their comics today, which they weren’t back then, which may have affected their perceptions of this then-new Swamp Thing comic. Particularly since it couldn’t help but be compared to the classic ’70s run, which was mostly self-contained stories with only the barest minimum of subplots connecting issues together.

That’s all discussion about structure, not content, I realize. I think Pasko/Yeates put together a fine run, presenting effectively scary stories within the confines of the Comics Code Authority that weren’t necessarily variations on traditional horror topics…okay, there were the punk rock vampires, but there was also a story about Vietnam vets, a story inspired by a then-recent spate of child murders, a medically-themed body horror story, a weird alien-possession tale, and the whole storyline ending up with [SPOILER ALERT, I guess] Swampy going toe-to-toe with the Anti-Christ, which was probably not something anyone expected, but there it is. It wasn’t the Swamp Thing of the 1970s we were used to, but Pasko/Yeates certainly expanded the character’s scope, paving the way for the Moore/Bissette/Totleben stories to follow.

I hadn’t yet touched on the stories Bissette/Totleben did with Pasko pre-Alan Moore, but I think I’ll do so in Part II of “Mike Discusses How Good or Bad Certain Runs on Swamp Thing Were.” Yeah, there’s going to be a part two. At the very least. And I may eventually mention how this particular topic may be related to the special Patreon-only (at least temporarily) content I was talking about a while back. Stay tuned!

“You people bring questions for Mikey?”

§ March 30th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 28 Comments

Well, I was planning on doing some comic reviews, but ran myself out of time and energy, so I’m gonna put those off ’til tomorrow. But, in the meantime, since I’ve been thinking about doing this lately, I’ll go ahead and do it right now: let’s do Question Time again, where I welcome (hopefully comic book industry-related) inquiries from you, the people who haven’t realized you’re not supposed to be reading blogs anymore, and I answer them to the best of my ability. Or you can just suggest a topic you’d like me to discuss…at any rate, please just one question/suggestion per customer, deposited right here in the ol’ comments section.

Like the last time I did this, I won’t be answering your questions all at once in a week-long series of too-long entries here. Instead, I’ll probably address one or two topics per post, interspersed amongst the regular content and features of Progressivelyruinated.edu, such as “It’s the End of Civilization Already Again” and “Your Weekly Moment from Frank Miller’s The Spirit,” over the next few weeks or months or possibly eons…we’ll see.

Anyway, you guys ‘n’ gals usually cook up some good Qs for me to A every time I do one of these, so I’m looking forward to what you have to say. What, a website actually looking forward to comments? What decade is this? Again, please, one question or suggestion per person, gently placed in this welcoming receptacle. Thanks!

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