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No I didn’t forget, just didn’t feel like typing “…AND Beta” every time.

§ September 27th, 2017 § Filed under batman, reader participation § 1 Comment

PREVIOUSLY, ON BAT-TALK: 1 2 3 4 5

Hoo boy, I opened up a real can of worms on this one. I’m going to be commenting on comments to my comments for this particular set of theme posts for the rest of time…though realistically I’ll have to cut off the discussion somewhere, or I can just go ahead and change the site name to “Batgressive Ruin.”

Anyway, let me at least wrap up the comments from the very first post:

Chris G presents:

“I was 14. I wore a Batman t-shirt on the end-of-year class trip to Hershey Park and kids in my class who I barely knew were asking me where I’d gotten it. I saw it twice on opening day and bought a poster of Jack Nicholson’s Joker sitting on a beach that hung in my room for years. The Prince ‘Batdance’ song was everywhere. And it was a HUGE thing when the movie arrived on VHS less than six months later, priced to sell to consumers rather than to video stores – that had never happened before and was the beginning of a sea change in home video.”

Since I was a big Oingo Boingo fan at the time…well, okay, still am…I remember being slightly put out that Prince’s Batman “soundtrack” (with songs “inspired by the film” if I remember correctly) was being released first, while the actual score of the the movie, composed by Boingo frontman Danny Elfman, was coming out much later. A silly thing to be concerned about, I realize, especially since I totally understand now that “NEW PRINCE ALBUM” was definitely going to sell better. Also, Prince is amazing. But Elfman’s soundtrack is good, too, and practically immortal given how many times they’ve reused that theme. There’s room for both, Mike of 1989! Don’t be so uptight!

The VHS thing…I remember getting myself put on a waiting list for the VHS release of Batman at…$20, I think, which was pretty reasonable for the time. I could have sworn there were some videotape releases prior to this that were a tad more consumer-friendly pricewise, and this Straight Dope discussion (and this article linked from there) do mention a number of attempts at consumer pricing on some films in the early to mid-1980s. There were still plenty of $100+ VHS tapes being sold to stores for rental purposes, of course, and what exactly constituted “affordable” pricing encompassed a wide variety of options. (I remember asking a friend at a video store to look into any videotape releases of the original Land of the Lost, and he found a couple of tape, each with two episodes, at I believe $39.95 each…this may have been late ’80s/early ’90s.)

It’s possible the relative cheapness of the Batman home video release, and subsequent popularity, may have been the impetus to push more and more VHS out into the market at reasonable pricing. Plus (and I’ve heard this argument a few times in the past) pricing the tapes down may have lowered piracy, as the hassle of having to patch together two VCRs to record a rental from the local video store may have been worth it when prerecorded videotapes were $100 a throw, but at $20 or so it was less of a pain in the ass just to straight up buy a copy.

• • •

Adam recalls

“I was almost 7 when the movie came out. It was a revelation. I knew the Adam West show from reruns but this is something else. Everything was so serious, expressive and dramatic, even the silences. There were things that weren’t explained that made it intriguing. I must have seen it five times begging anyone who was willing to take me.

“I didn’t start reading the comics at this point. My grandmother volunteered at a library and gave me a copy of ‘Batman & Other DC Classics’ which reprinted excerpts of comics to convince people to try buying collections. And I loved that comic but it didn’t convince me to start picking them up regularly. Instead I was buying toys and stickers and buttons. And then, the VHS tape which I nearly wore through. I still occasionally think ‘you can’t watch a Warner Bros. movie without a Warner Bros. ballcap.’

“And as huge as Batman was, it’s worth noting there were a lot of big movies in 1989. Consider that Batman came out the same day as Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (5th highest box office of 1989) and a month after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (2nd highest). Every year has its share of classic movies but 1989 was stacked. Check out the full list since there’s too many to mention here. All these movies combined to give 1989 had the highest box office ever (without inflation) and wouldn’t be topped until 1993. And Batman was the biggest of them all.”

I can imagine the sort of impact this film would have had on a small child. A lot of it was super weird and creepy and I can imagine it frightening little kids…and fascinating them, as you say, Adam. That’s the right age to sort of absorb all this stuff at face value, without worrying about or even noticing the undercurrents of humor and self-parody involved.

I remember that Batman & Other DC Classics preview comic…probably still have one in my collection somewhere. And it seemed like for years at the previous place of employment I kept turning up copies. Gave away a whole lot of those…it was a nice little sampler.

And it’s funny that you point out 1989 at The Big Movie Year…for us just slightly older folks, 1984 is the year that always gets singled out as the Year o’The Hits…but I have to tell you, just browsing each year for the 1980s sure pulls up lots of formative films for a young Mike (though I don’t recall seeing this one on any Top Lists there).

• • •

And Jason has this to say

“I can only chime in as a film fan, because I don’t remember what I was reading in 1989. (I honestly think it was Captain America and not Batman!)

“When I say Batman was one of the darkest films I ever saw, I mean that quite literally. I saw it at a Drive-in as a kid, and and some scenes were simply too dark to decipher what was happening on screen. That bit where Vikki wakes up and Bruce is hanging upside down like his namesake? I didn’t see/comprehend that until I saw it again on video.

“I can’t think of any other movie that plays so fast and loose with the color black. Are super hero movies lit differently than ‘regular’ movies? Does anyone know offhand? Or are there simply more night scenes in super hero movies?”

Well, drive-in projection as I recall wasn’t the best for lighting and color nuance…I remember seeing that first Nightmare on Elm Street at a drive-in and it was a little hard to make things out in certain scenes. It could also be a problem with the actual physical projection…I know a theater local to me was having real problems with brightness levels on movies. That recent Harry Potter spin-off the name of which I can’t remember and don’t feel like Googling, for example, was nearly pitch black in some parts, and Rogue One, even in the scenes that were clearly supposed to be in bright, sunny daylight were desperately underlit by the projectionist. The theater improved since then, but I’m still reluctant to attend a flick there.

I don’t know enough about lighting or cinematography to intelligently answer your question about how they’re specifically doing superhero films…but not every film is mired in darkness. Spider-Man: Homecoming is nice and brightly lit…even in the night scenes, everything is clear as day. Occasionally I feel like dark shots are in our superhero moving pictures to conceal some dodgy special effects or CGI (something that occurred to me during at least one Harry Potter film). But man, of course Batman was filmed with lots of the color black…he is the Dark Knight, after all!

But seriously, I need to see that film again. Y’all are making me want to pop it back into the player.

The VHS player.

More Swamp Thing talk, plus a big ol’ commercial at the end of the post.

§ April 12th, 2017 § Filed under reader participation, self-promotion, swamp thing § 4 Comments

And heeeere’s Part Two to “Mike Talks About Swamp Thing Because Someone Asked, and Not Because He’d Do It Anyway.” You can find Part One here, or pretty much most of the last 13 years on this site.

Let me be frank…I haven’t read the earlier Swamp Thing series in a while. Aside from poking through some older issues here and there for writings on this here blog, the most recent Swamp Thing comics I’ve read have been the New 52 run and other assorted recent endeavors. Now, that’s not to say I haven’t read many of those comics about a billion times and have a lot of the events in them committed to memory…in particular, the original ’70s series and the ’80s Saga of… relaunch. The series afterwards I can probably use a refresher on, and…well, more on that later. But ultimately, I am mostly giving general impressions here on the assorted runs, as asked by Rich a couple of weeks back.

And last time I left off at the end of the Marty Pasko run on Saga of the Swamp Thing. This was where Steve Bissette and John Totleben took over as artists, prior to their partnership with Alan Moore on the title. We get a standalone story that would have fit in nicely in the original series, about strange goings-on in a mysterious town, and then we get the return of Arcane and Matt and Abby, which, as I said last time, sets the stage for Moore’s run. It’s nice to have short-run, high-impact stories after the year-long…well, saga, as it were, and Pasko sends off one of his cast members in his final stories, leaving Moore to write out the other Pasko-created supporting cast in his first issue. As a whole, I think Pasko’s run with his various collaborators is quite entertaining and effective, bridging the gap between what could be called the original, classic Swamp Thing and the more modern take on the character we’re accustomed to now. A little text-heavy at times, perhaps, but I don’t mind that so much when it’s good writing, which this was. With a high-end reprint coming of those issues, we might be a little closer to current audiences rediscovering that work…though a single paperback reprinting Pasko’s run would be better for those purposes, I think.

As to the other major runs on this particular series (and I’m skipping over fill-ins and such, like I did that Mishkin/Bo & Scott Hampton Phantom Stranger/Swampy story in the middle of Pasko’s stretch):

  • Rick Veitch had the unenviable task of following Alan Moore on the title, but he did so quite well, with stories that were perhaps a little weirder, creepier, and sometimes grosser than Moore was. A solid run, one that I would probably put at third place in the “classic Swamp Thing runs” contest here, marred only by Veitch not getting to complete his run as planned when DC balked at the last moment over his “Swamp Thing Meets Jesus” time-travel story.
  • Writer Doug Wheeler had the even more unenviable task of following Veitch, trying to wrap up his storyline before moving into his own direction. It wasn’t bad, with some nice art by Kelley Jones here and there, and a “trip to Hell” story that was interesting. His run wrapped with the “Quest for the Elementals” storyline, that had great covers but I seem to recall that the art in some of these being a bit disappointing, like it was super-rushed. I mean, it’s been a while, and I’ll need to reread these to get a firmer opinion on them after all this time. Overall, I’d give this run an “OKAY.” Some good moments and issues here and there.
  • Nancy A. Collins’ run (with some great art by Tom Mandrake and Scot Eaton, among others) was up next, focusing on Swamp Thing’s domestic life with Abby and their daughter Tefe in the swamp, with lots of weird monsters, and ghost pirates, and a crazy ongoing subplot with tiny flower people, created by Tefe, and the evolution of their society. Said domestic life is essentially dissolved by the end of this run, leaving Swamp Thing a solitary monster living in the swamp again…basically back to basics, setting up the next sequences of stories on the book. Would probably rank this above Wheeler, below Veitch.

  • And seeing out this iteration of the Swamp Thing series was Mark Millar (kicking off with a four-parter cowritten by Grant Morrison), primarily illustrated by Philip Hester. His run of stories cranked up the horror again by quite a bit, with a hard-to-forget image of Swamp Thing trying to pass as human in the guise of Matt Cable, his human-ish face showing leaves and branches poking through. It’s basically about the alienation of Swamp Thing, as his grasp on what was left of his humanity slips away and others have to gather and put a stop to him. Would probably place this run just behind Veitch’s, but it’s very close.

And for now I’m going to have to beg off ranking the other Swamp Thing series that followed, for the most part, since those aren’t quite as firm in my memory. I enjoyed them, as I recall, though I can’t really nail down specifics at this point. There was one story about an underground cartoonist that I quite liked. As for the more recent comics…that mini-series that popped up just before the New 52 was not great, unfortunately; the New 52 series wasn’t bad, though I thought the back half of the series by Charles Soule felt more like classic Swamp Thing; and the recent mini was good but felt a little off in places.

So, Rich, in answering your question this made me realize that it’s probably time to do a thorough rereading of all my Swamp Thing comics again, since my mastery of the information contained within has slipped a little in recent years. And here is what I am going to do about it:

As I mentioned a while back, I was planning on some Patreon-only content, to maybe boost contributions there a bit. Like I’d said, it wouldn’t be exclusively Patreon-only forever and ever…like, contributors would get to see each post there first, and then a few months down the road, I’d put that post publicly on this site.

I was wondering what to do, when blogging sister Tegan made the suggestion that I do an issue-by-issue review of every Swamp Thing comic. And, you know, that’s a fine idea. One of the things I first did when I got my first Mac and access to Hypercard was try to create a stack-database of Swamp Thing comics, with artist/writer info, first appearances, significant events, etc. etc., that I could trade with all my Mac-owning, Hypercard-using, Swamp Thing-enjoying friends, of which I had none. But, now that I’ve successfully suckered…er, attracted readers to my site, some of whom may even be interested in Swamp Thing, maybe now I’d have the audience for this oddball project of mine.

Thus, starting probably next month sometime, will be Mike’s Swamp Thing-a-Thon, a Patreon-only series available on Patreon for Patreon contributors who contribute through Patreon. That seems like a long title, so I’ll probably just shorten it to “Mike’s Swamp Thing-a-Thon.” I’m still hammering out the details, like exact formats and timing and such. I’m planning on at least two entries a month, maybe more as time permits, so that’s the next decade or so sorted, pretty much. This will be available on Patreon for anyone contributing at least a dollar a month. The posts will eventually be made available here, so if you want to wait, you’ll get to see each entry eventually, probably six months or so after being posted for contributors. The first entry (about House of Secrets #92, natch) will probably be available for free, just to give you kids a taste. A nice, minty taste of Exclusive Swamp Thing content.

So hopefully this is a good compromise…I didn’t want permanently exclusive content on Patreon, but exclusive enough that people might want to drop a buck on me to get to see it early. Thanks for reading all this, pals, and I’ll be back on Friday with more…stuff.

Most of these had print runs that some big publishers would kill for today.

§ July 13th, 2016 § Filed under indies, question time, reader participation § 9 Comments

So a few of you had some suggestions re: good comics from the black and white boom, including several that I own and of course couldn’t dredge up from my memory to include in the initial post.

kiwijohn mentioned a couple of titles that I enjoyed, like Border Worlds by Don Simpson:

bworlds4cvr

…a serious science fiction adventure/mystery from the creator of Megaton Man, that, as kiwijohn noted, never got to complete its story. Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve read this…I still have ’em, in what remains of my personal comic collection, so when I have a moment I need to poke through them again. As I recall, the art was gorgeous in this series.

Another kiwijohn mentioned was Xenozoic Tales:

xenozcvr

…probably remembered by a good chunk of the population as Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, a somewhat more commercial name for marketing purposes. Written and drawn by Mark Schultz, and boy, what drawing! The word “lush” was pretty much invented to describe Schultz’s art. There were a number of spin-off comics under the C&D title published by Topps Comics in the ’90s by other creators…can’t say how good those were, but the original Xenozoic Tales is the stuff.

Iestyn Pettigrew is aghast, aghast I say, that I didn’t mention The Trouble with Girls:

twgcvr

…and Iestyn is correct, I should have mentioned it, as it’s a hoot. It’s a parody of manly-man adventure novels/movies/etc. (by Will Jacobs, Gerard Jones and Tim Hamilton) in which our hero, Lester Girls, just wants a quiet evening in with a relaxing book but is constantly beset by spies, ninjas, terrorists, beautiful but deadly ladies, and all your other typical baddies that you’d find in your typical James Bonds or your Executioners or your Destroyers and so on. All very hilarious. Most of it was published by Malibu/Eternity, but it was briefly in color at Comico Comics, and there was a color mini-series at Marvel during one of its short revivals of the Epic Comics imprint. A side note: I think because of our proximity to the publisher, at my previous place of employment it seemed like copies of the first Trouble with Girls paperback collection were always showing up in collections. And not always just a single copy…I think I remember a dozen or more turning up at once in the same assortment. Go figure.

Matthew mentioned To Be Announced:

tbanncvr

…a series that I actually did try to collect. You’d figure, only being seven issues long, it wouldn’t be that hard, but I am still missing a couple. The comic is primarily by Mike Bannon, who was one of the cast of regular characters in the old Cerebus letter columns and is probably the main reason I sought this comic out. Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve read the issues I do have, but I recall being amused by it and I’m sure someday I’ll get around to completing the set.

Hooper mentions Neil the Horse, which I talked about a while back, as well as Tales of the Beanworld:

talesbean7cvr

…also noted by MrJM in the comments, and which I’ve also discussed many times in the past on this site. It did come out during the black and white boom, but I always forget that since the comic is just so unlike anything else on the stands. It’s hard to picture it as part of a “movement” (or “phase,” or “fad”) when it’s totally its own weird thing.

That Augie character (who just hit his 1000th Pipeline column…congrats!) mentions Nervous Rex by William Van Horn:

nerrex2cvr

…and Van Horn, some of you may best know as one of the primary American creators of new Disney Duck comics in the ’80s and ’90s, along with Don Rosa. As an avid reader of the Duck comics during that period, I was very familiar with Van Horn’s work there…but I already knew his name from his children’s books, which I’d encountered during my librarian days. Nervous Rex was one of those comics I’d always meant to look into, as the old job had most, if not all, of them, but just never got around to it, sadly. They always looked like they were delightful.

Anyway, there are a few others mentioned in the comments and I’m going to see if I can add any more personal favorites to the list in my next post. And if you have any more suggestions, you know where to leave ’em!

In which I ask YOU a question.

§ May 18th, 2016 § Filed under question time, reader participation § 53 Comments

Gareth volleys the following at me:

“What’s the best comic book story that’s told completely in a single issue?”

WELL SURE THAT’S AN EASY QUESTION…uh, hoo boy, lemme think. I know my favorite superhero story is Justice League of America #200, but it’s basically a sequel to the team’s origin issue so not really “complete” as such. And it’s basically a framework to get heroes to fight and show off the work of several talented artists, so…yeah, I don’t think this counts. And then there’s Spider-Man’s origin in Amazing Fantasy #15, which I think is still the Most Perfect Superhero Origin Story of All Time, but…I don’t know, that’s setting up a follow-up series, but even if that were the only Spider-Man story ever published, I think it would still stand up as a classic example of the genre.

But I think I’m going to go with “Only A Poor Old Man” by Carl Barks, from Four Color Comics #386 (1952), in which we learn that Uncle Scrooge’s attachment to his fortune isn’t greed, but rather the memories each coin brings him. Also it’s the example of Scrooge fighting the Beagle Boys, and the whole thing is just perfect. It’s been reprinted many, many times, most recently by Fantagraphics, and there was a Free Comic Book Day version of the story released in 2005, if you can track that down.

• • •

Okay, the next question in the list is going to take a bit of effort to answer, but in the meantime, I’m kind of curious what your answer to Gareth’s question might be. So, let me know in the commentswhat do you think is the best comic story told completely in a single issue? Yes, that’s right, I’m soliciting responses to a question while I’m still answering other questions. HEY, I CAN MANAGE IT. But please, let me know…I’m curious as to how you’d answer this tough question.

Yes, I know those characters over at War Rocket Ajax are doing their “Every Story Ever” list, but the entries there run the gamut from single issues to full series to even sequences in comic strips. But here, let’s keep it to single issues of comic books…no graphic novels, or trade paperback collections of minis, or what have you. Just one story, in one comic book, with a beginning, middle, and end. Even if that ending is “…THE BEGINNING” in which case you have your work cut out for you explaining why this is so great.

So again, drop that suggestion in my comments, with a few words of explanation if you’d like, but you don’t have to. In a while, I’ll tally up results or at least comment on your responses in my usual overly-verbose fashion.

“Thank God we can’t tell the future. We’d never get out of bed” – Tracy Letts

§ January 4th, 2016 § Filed under predictions, reader participation § 52 Comments


And away we go again, for that most anticipated event in what’s left of the comics blogosphere, the Progressive Ruin Foretell-the-Future Hootenanny! Please leave your comic industry predictions for what may happen in the far-flung future of 2016 (“aren’t we already in 2016?” “SHHHHH”) in the comments section for this post while hopefully not completely ignoring these simple rules:

1. Don’t read the other predictions before entering your own.

2. Don’t criticize other people’s predictions.

3. Don’t predict any real person’s death.

4. Limit of three predictions per person, please! (Seriously, just keep it to three…and if you have only one, that’s fine. Really. ONE’S GOOD.)

I’ll start looking at your predictions last year for 2015 in the next week or so, and we’ll see how everyone did. Or at least see how much attention I’ve been paying to industry events as I fumble to properly respond to everything.

Anyway, you guys ‘n’ gals always put in a great effort with your prediction submissions, and I really appreciate it. I look forward to your submissions for this year, so go ahead and dump ’em, or gently place them, in this comments section. As usual, thank you so much for your participation!
 
 
 

image from Adventure Comics #317 (February 1964), reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 2 (1992), by Edmond Hamilton and John Forte

Hey, why not, couldn’t sell worse than Doomed.

§ September 22nd, 2015 § Filed under reader participation, swamp thing § 1 Comment

In response to my post mentioning a theoretical Swamp Thing’s Kung-Fu Force book come these entries from Twitter pal MrJM:

st40

…who apologizes for conflating kung-fu with karate, and from longtime ProgRuin supporter Paul Di Filippo, who created a sequel of sorts to this issue of Master of Kung-Fu:

stkff
“A++++ WOULD READ AGAIN”

“I don’t try to describe the future. I try to prevent it.” – Ray Bradbury

§ January 5th, 2015 § Filed under predictions, reader participation § 51 Comments


It’s once again that time at the ol’ Progressive Ruin Dot Com Comics Discussion Parlor and Prognostication Palace for you to predict what waits for us in the funnybook industry in this, the Year of Jack Our Lord 2015. Please put your predictions in the comments section for this post, whilst following these most simple of rules:

1. Don’t read the other predictions before entering your own.

2. Don’t criticize other people’s predictions.

3. Don’t predict any real person’s death.

4. Limit of three predictions per person, please!

2015 is already underway, some of you may have noticed, so get your predictions in quick before they shockingly come to pass!

Of course, this also means I’m going to start covering your predictions from last time over the next, oh, say, three or four months, so you might want to prepare a meal or three to keep your energy up as you read all 500,000 words I’m about to dump on you.

Again, please put your forecasts into my comments section for this post, and after a few days I’ll lock everything away and see how we all did next year. Thanks in advance for what always turns out to be some very enthusiastic participation from you, my swell readers.
 
 
 

Back to the Future #4 (1992) – art by Gil Kane

So I haven’t done one of these in a while.

§ November 17th, 2014 § Filed under reader participation § 28 Comments

Ask me a question, preferably related to comics and the comics business, and I’ll do my best to answer it in a future post. If you give me a silly question, chances are about 50/50 I’ll give you a silly answer. If it’s too personal or if you’re obviously just trolling, I’ll ignore it…but otherwise, just throw ’em into this comments section and I’ll get cracking on them later in the week. Thanks, pals!

I particularly like Swamp Thing’s Popeye arms.

§ October 24th, 2014 § Filed under cranius, reader participation, sluggo, swamp thing § 2 Comments

So I received a letter at the shop yesterday from the possibly-pseudonymous “Sluggo Jr.” who, inspired by my most recent Swamp Thing/Sluggo mash-up post, sent along a page crammed on either side with pencil drawings, sometimes featuring best pals Swampy ‘n’ Sluggo teaming up, sometimes just Sluggo facing menaces on his own (like fighting a knife-wielding Charlie Brown and a bat-wielding Henry).

Here are a couple of samples:


I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do the “Cranius middle-finger” joke before. Well done.

I was only going to scan those two for now, due to time constraints — I’ve been working long hours, as you might imagine — but I just glanced again at the paper and have to present this one, too:


I could read about the adventures of Sluggo and Swamp Thing all day. Thank you, Sluggo Jr., for your fine contribution to the arts.

Here’s hoping none of you will be strangled by a green monster wearing an orange robe in the new year.

§ December 30th, 2013 § Filed under predictions, reader participation § 68 Comments


Well, here we are again. It’s the end of the year, and I’m asking you, yes, you, to give me your comic industry predictions for the nigh-imminent year of 2014. Please leave your predictions in the comments to this post, but please note New Rule #4 in the following bolded text:

1. Don’t read the other predictions before entering your own.

2. Don’t criticize other people’s predictions.

3. Don’t predict any real person’s death.

4. (NEW!) LIMIT OF THREE PREDICTIONS PER PERSON, PLEASE!

Sorry, gang, I need to streamline the process a bit so I don’t spend the entirety of 2015 responding to all of the 2014 predictions. Speaking of which…I’ll be going over your 2013 forecasts starting next week, so consider yourself warned.

Anyway, I always enjoy seeing what you have to say, so please, drop your ideas in my little ol’ comments section here, and I’ll sit on ’em ’til next year and see how everyone did then. Thanks, pals!
 
 

Adventures into the Unknown #12 (August/September 1950) – cover art by Ogden Whitney – image from the Grand Comics Database

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