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So it begins…the Swamp Thing-a-Thon.

§ May 22nd, 2017 § Filed under self-promotion, Swamp Thing-a-Thon § 4 Comments

Okay, gang, I finally started it. My ideally-twice-monthly looks at every Swamp Thing comic, in order, available initially to Patreon contributors (for as little as a buck a month!) before eventually getting posted on this site several months later. Well, with the exception of the first post in the series, which I’m including here as a sampler for those of you previously unfamiliar with my excessive typing.

A couple of notes: I’m just going with the credits as listed in the book (or “borrowed” from the Grand Comics Database). I know Wrightson had some assistance on this first story, but, I don’t know, it seemed weird wherever I plugged those other names in there. Maybe I’ll add them in later…lemme sleep on it.

Yes, that’s a scan of my actual copy of House of Secrets #92. The plan is to scan the covers of my personal copies for each installment, so you can see how beat up my copies get while reading them in the bath, while eating barbecue ribs, etc.

I am not 100% certain what content I’ll be including for each “review.” You’ve read my reviews before, you should probably know what to expect. Maybe it’ll be story analysis, maybe it’ll be some personal recollection regarding that specific issue, maybe it’ll be something retail-related…we’ll see what each issue inspires me to write as I get to it.

Anyway, here it is…if you want more of it, and faster than waiting for it to show up here, then hie yourself hither to my Patreon account and drop at least a buck per month (or $100 per month, I won’t stop you) to get access. Thanks for reading, pals, and I’ll be back with More Stuff™ soon.

• • •

ISSUE: House of Secrets #92 (June-July 1971)

TITLE AND CREDITS: “Swamp Thing” – written by Len Wein, illustrated by Berni Wrightson, coloring by Tatjana Wood, lettering by Ben Oda. Cover art by Berni Wrightson.

IN BRIEF: Alex Olsen is believed dead, killed in a lab explosion secretly prepared by rival Damian Ridge, who then takes Alex’s widow Linda as his own wife. However, Alex rises from the bog in which he was buried, transformed into a hideous creature, a swamp thing, who must come to his wife’s rescue when Damian begins to have designs on her life as well.

MIKE SEZ: Well, here’s where it all begins. What struck me as I read this again for the first time in quite a while is the parallels between how this story starts and how the relaunched/rebooted Swamp Thing ongoing series starts about a year later. I mean, not just the premise, obviously, but just structurally. Both this tale and the later Swamp Thing #1 start with our muck-encrusted mockeries of men looming outside their homes (well, barn, in the latter case) worrying about the people they left behind as they continue their lives within, leading towards the record scratch/“yeah, that’s me, you’re probably wondering how I ended up here” flashbacks that follow.

What also impressed me was just how much storytelling and emphasis on character perspectives were crammed into these eight pages. You start off with the first-person narration from Swamp Thing himself, leading into Linda’s second-person narration (like “you smile because he expects you to” — rarely seen outside EC Comics, text adventure computer games and “Choose Your Own Adventure” books) and her recollection of the disaster that killed her husband, then back to first-person narration for Damian’s involvement in said disaster. If I can talk like an old person for a moment, nowadays were so used to stories stretched out over multiple months, decompressed into 5 or 6 or 8 issues that conveniently fit into a nice paperback collection, that it feels just a little weird to have this much narration, this much dialogue, squeezed into so little space.

And yet, it never feels cramped. Yes, it’s all very text-heavy, but not at the expense of Wrightson’s art, which shares the burden of the story’s emotional weight. The narration explicitly tells us what everyone’s feeling at any given point, but the illustration conveys so much. Linda’s downcast looks of quiet sadness, Damian’s crazed desperation as he decides to kill Linda to protect himself, Swamp Thing’s glance down at his wrist where the bracelet Linda gave him once was…and the long, thin panel immediately afterward of Swamp Thing’s eyes rolled upward in despair. It’s the ideal balance between writer and artist, creating a tiny little masterpiece in the short feature format that’s mostly forgotten by the Big Two companies.

Speaking of the art, there’s something to be said about the portrayal of Swamp Thing himself. The human characters are all very naturalistic, which is only how it should be given that heavy photo reference was used by Wrightson in laying out the art. But Swamp Thing himself seems almost…cartoony, by comparison. He’s a big misshapen lump, mostly hidden in shadow so that you can’t ever get a real feel for what he actually looks like, with the exception of those previously-mentioned eyes. They’re large, lolling orbs, perpetually sad, poking out of the top of a figure that we can only barely discern. He doesn’t look scary, even when he’s bursting through that window at the climax to stop Damian. He looks…pathetic. He looks every bit as despairing as he feels. Now the character goes through a serious redesign into a more muscular-looking “action hero” type (I mean, relatively speaking) once that ongoing Swamp Thing series starts, but here, Swamp Thing’s sodden, burdened mass reflects the weight and tone of this short piece.

I’ve stated in the past that Spider-Man’s debut in Amazing Fantasy #15 is the Perfect Superhero Origin Story. Everything you need is right there, and in fact the story needn’t have continued. If the only Spider-Man story Stan Lee and Steve Ditko ever produced was just those 11 pages…that arguably would have been all the Spider-Man the world ever needed. Nearly everything that came after that was just extrapolation from the original.

I bring that up because this story, “Swamp Thing,” is I think in the same upper echelons of comic book origins. Perfectly constructed. No threads left untugged. No need to continue. And, in fact, there was no intention to continue “Swamp Thing” (unlike Spider-Man, which was designed to be a new ongoing superhero character, even if they weren’t sure at the time he actually would continue). However, once the sales figures came in on House of Secrets #92, and after some convincing, Swamp Thing would return…but it wouldn’t be turn-of-the-century Alex Olsen, but the modern scientist of 1970s-today Alec Holland who would take up the mantle, as Wein and Wrightson didn’t want to dilute the power of their original short. Of course, a few decades later another writer would figure out a way to make Alex Olsen part of the latter Swamp Thing’s continuity, but that’s a Swamp Thing-a-Thon review for another day.

THE WRAP-UP: One of the all-time classics in the comic book medium, and almost certainly the best short horror comic story you’ll find outside of the legendary EC Comics oeuvre.

“Manhattan in a muumuu / I know I know / It’s serious”

§ May 19th, 2017 § Filed under self-promotion, watchmen § 5 Comments

So the thing everyone has been wondering about Watchmen‘s Doctor Manhattan finally making his full debut in the forthcoming DC Universe comic book Doomsday Clock is, of course, what they’re going to do about Doc M’s…er, “Downtown Manhattan,” as it were. I’ve made passing reference to this situation in the subject lines of a couple of posts here, but I am curious as to what they’re gonna do.

As we all know, one of the ways…well, okay, the main way…Manhattan’s continuing alienation from humanity was represented in Watchmen was his no longer caring about such social niceties as “dressing.” He gradually wore less and less and eventually there he was, freely blowin’ in the wind. Now, he’d wear clothes when he had to, like during that ill-fated television interview, so maybe for this DCU story, Manhattan may well be fitted out with his own super-suit, just to fit in. Or, as is stated at the end of Watchmen, he’s rediscovered an interest in humanity, so maybe we’ll get the reverse of what happened in the original story, and he just slowly dons more and more clothing over the course of Doomsday Clock. Like, swim trunks, then some Dockers, and then, inevitably, the muumuu.

The other option is just “Austin Powers”/”Opus’s Post-Surgery Beak”-ing it and have Manhattan in the altogether, but always having his naughty bits blocked by, like, conveniently-placed potted plants or furniture or even just careful shadowing, or something. That may feel a little contrived after an issue or three, however, and I’m sure that last thing anyone would want is for this story to feel contrived.

Or they can go full Ken Doll, and just…um, smooth things out, I guess. Or go completely the opposite direction and say “screw it, we don’t have the Comics Code to worry about anymore!” and just reveal Manhattan in all his anatomically-correct Manhattan-ness. I mean, honestly, what’s gonna happen, the comic might get some publicity? (Okay, and maybe some comic shop will get in trouble for selling it to a five-year-old, because there’s always someone. Maybe NOT such a great idea.)

But hold on…I have an idea: a shocking plot twist that solves the problem of Nekkid Manhattan and a certain Superman redesign mistake.

Superman and Doctor Manhattan finally meet in this Doomsday Clock series. Superman says “ah, HA, you no-goodnik, I finally found you! Now to kick your butt out of this continuity for good!” And Manhattan’s all “whatever you want, buddy, I’ve got what I came for” and he steps out of the shadows and he’s wearing Superman’s long-missing RED TRUNKS. And then get our knock-down, drag-out fight over the remaining eight or nine issues of the series, and the final pages are basically a variation of this Tarzan sequence.

Yes, I know this idea is fantastic. DC, you have time to rewrite Doomsday Clock. I suggest you use it wisely.

• • •

Speaking of brilliant writing, I’m about ready to launch the ol’ “Swamp Thing-a-Thon” on my Patreon, in which I review all them Swamp Thing comics. I’m looking at this Monday, barring any problems like being driven off the internet for this post. It’ll be the usual rambling and occasional intentional humor and unintentional insight you’ve come to expect from a guy pushing 50 who’s still writing a comics blog after everyone’s moved on to posting their content directly to the chips in your brain. (I’m assuming that’s what they do, I haven’t really been keeping up.) The first installment (about House of Secrets #92, natch) will be available here for free right away as a sampler, but future installments will only be available to Patreon donors at least for several months, before being posted publicly.

Anyway, we’ll see how this goes, and I’m always open to suggestions and creative criticism once I get started on this new project.

Of reprints and Patreons.

§ April 26th, 2017 § Filed under dc comics, legion of super-heroes, publishing, self-promotion § 6 Comments

So a while back on the Twitterers I complained that a joke I had planned for an End of Civilization post was undone by the fact the publisher actually didn’t mess up something I thought they had messed up. I’ve been meaning to get around to telling the one or two of you who might remember that and still care just what I was talking about. And what I was talking about was the Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes hardcover volume one, as solicited in the March 2017 Diamond Previews:


That’s the image they’re using to solicit the collection, but obviously not the actual, final cover since that’s a pic of the Legion treasury edition the book will be including.

Anyway, my assumption is that there were going to be some issues skipped between the last of the DC Archives reprintings of the Legion of Super-Heroes and this volume, which picks up in the 1970s. However, to my surprise, this new book picks up exactly where the Archive editions left off, so for those of us depending on DC’s reprint program to gather up all those classic Legion stories in chronological order, like I know I was, that’s good news. Of course, this new format won’t have as many stories per volume, but also it won’t be $75 like that Archives generally were near the end there, so at least there’s that.

Like I mentioned, the treasury edition, featuring the wedding of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad (hey, stop snickering, this is a big deal) is in this book, and I was greatly anticipating its appearance in the never-forthcoming Legion Archives Volume 14. At some point, around, I don’t know, 2008, I even passed up on a copy of the treasury because I figured I would eventually get that story in the archive series. Well, took a little longer than expected, but it’s finally on its way. Hopefully. Assuming it isn’t cancelled or postponed.

Now if we can get DC to pick up reprinting Sugar and Spike where that last archive edition left off….

• • •

And now, for a brief commercial message…as mentioned just the other day, plans are continuing apace for the Swamp Thing-a-Thon, my attempt at reviewing every Swamp Thing comic, that will be an exclusive, at least for a time, for Patreon supporters. I finally updated my Patreon page to include that reward tier in the sidebar.

Since I have the reward tier set at the lowest level (I mean, I don’t think you can contribute less than a dollar a month, can you?), anyone who supports my Patreon at any level will get access to the Swamp Thing-a-Thon posts. If you’re already a supporter, you’ll get access. If you click the “Become a Patreon” button and donate that generous $150 a month I know you want to, you’ll get access. You don’t have to click on that $1 Reward button to get access, that just makes it easier for you to chip in. If you’re contributing at all, you’re in.

Like I’ve said…the content there will make it over to this site eventually, but not for a while. If you can provide support, that’s great, but if you can’t or don’t want to, that’s perfectly okay too, and you’ll get to see that stuff anyway, if you don’t mind waiting a bit.

Thanks to you folks out there who still read this “comics” “blog” after all this time. I appreciate all the support and readership you’ve given me for so many years.

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.

Every time I mention Mark Russell, I think of the piano-playing political satirist.

§ March 31st, 2017 § Filed under pal plugging, self-promotion, this week's comics § 8 Comments

So the interesting thing about these Hanna-Barbera/DC superhero team-up books is how in most cases, some attempt is made at making them…well, if not in continuity with the regular DC universe (such as its continuity is right now), at least not directly contradictory. Well, to be fair, I don’t know if that’s the case in the Suicide Squad/Banana Splits book since I haven’t read it yet, as 1) I’m not a Suicide Squad guy, and 2) my only real experience with the Banana Splits is enjoying the cover of their theme song by the Dickies. But Green Lantern and Adam Strange cross over into alternate universes to meet Space Ghost and the Future Quest gang, respectively…and even Top Cat falls through some interdimensional portal to meet a cowled crusader of some note (setting up what seems to be a very Howard the Duck-ian premise for the forthcoming series). It’s sort of the difference between the early Marvel/DC crossovers where Spider-Man and Superman have just always existed in the same world and they didn’t get around to meeting each other until 1976, versus the Marvel/DC crossovers from a couple of decades later where the Marvel and DC continuities were explicitly described as “different universes,” with even a jointly-owned character who could facilitate said meetings.

The exception seems to be Booster Gold/The Flintstones, which just throws Booster back in time to the Flintstones’ version of the Stone Age, without worrying about, you know, how Anthro fits in, or whatever. This was written by Mark Russell, who writes the regular Flintstones series, and as such this particular crossover fits right in the darkly satirical tone of that book. Russell also scripts the Snagglepuss back-up in the aforementioned Suicide Squad/Banana Splits comic…and of course I read at least that part of the book immediately. Yes, Snagglepuss is, as the writer describes him, a “gay Southern Gothic playwright” in the 1950s, and how he deals with officious types who don’t approve of him and his work. The brief sample we get is a tad more serious than Flintstones, but Snagglepuss’ dialogue is fun to read, and I look forward to hearing more of what that ol’ mountain lion has to say in his upcoming series.

As for the others: Adam Strange/Future Quest is right in line with the Future Quest series, fitting right in with the tone of that comic…I mean, what’s one more weird adventure character like Adam Strange in a book already full of them? Lots of fun, and, oddly enough, semi-connected to Strange’s appearances in the recently-completed Death of Hawkman mini. Green Lantern/Space Ghost has some nice art by Ariel Olivetti (making it match quite nicely with the Olivetti-illustrated Space Ghost mini from a few years back). Maybe a little wordy, with maybe too many small-ish panels, but you definitely get plenty of story for your buck that way. And while I’m generally surprised at just how much Hanna-Barbera has let DC get away with so far, Howard Chaykin’s “Ruff ‘n’ Reddy” is…well, Chaykin-y. Not for kids, though frankly the number of kids who are currently Ruff ‘n’ Reddy fans can probably be counted on one anthropomorphic paw.

Anyway, they’re all weird, and I enjoyed what I’ve read so far, and I expect I’ll enjoy the Banana Splits one, too. Hopefully they’ll do more Hanna-Barbera team-ups, because quite frankly once I thought of the Killer Croc/Wally Gator pairing, I’d had great need to actually see it.

• • •

In other news:

  • Blogging pal Tegan is writing for Medium, and her recent column on the passing of Bernie Wrighson is a must-read.
  • I have a few favorite artists who’ve drawn the Thing…Jack Kirby, of course, and John Byrne, and Barry Windsor-Smith…and RON FREAKIN’ WILSON.
  • And don’t forget…if you’ve got comics questions for me to answer, or topics for me to discuss, drop ’em in the comments to this post!

Some people suggested I make End of Civilization Patreon-only, but I suspect you’d all kill me if I did.

§ March 10th, 2017 § Filed under pal plugging, self-promotion § 3 Comments

 

  • Bully, the Hopefully Well-Rested Bull, is back from his brief hiatus to correct a most egregious error in Esquire.
  • Pal Andrew has returned to his popular “Nobody’s Favorites” feature, and the character he’s focusing on this time is a real blast!
  • Blogging sister Tegan is an essayin’ machine over on her site, with loads of deep, thoughtful content well worth your perusal. And if you’re a Patreon backer, you’re not only getting extra essays of a more political nature on a regular basis, but Tegan just started a Patreon subscriber-only podcast as well. “Tegan Reads Wookieepedia” is exactly what it sounds like: Tegan hits the ol’ “random article” button on Wookieepedia, the online encyclopedia for all things Star Wars-ian, and lets the commentary spring forth. It’s a hoot. You can check out a free sample of the podcast right here.
  • Speaking of Patreon, and inspired by Tegan’s efforts, I’ve been planning a little bit of an expansion myself on what I’ll be doing with my own Patreon account. I’ve said before I was reluctant to provide “subscriber only” content, because I’d like everyone who reads my site to have access to everything I’m doing. However, my Patreon account has plateaued a little, and I’d like to give it bit of a goose, but at the same time, I don’t want to leave people out of anything I might do there.

    So, here’s the plan. I’m working on an ongoing series of posts, probably two a month, that will be available exclusively to Patreon subscribers, at least at first. Each of these exclusive posts will eventually go public, but not for a few months after its initial posting. Think of it like DC’s old newsstand/direct sales plan for New Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes, where, for example, the comic shop only version of New Teen Titans #1 (1984) was eventually reprinted about a year later in Tales of the Teen Titans #60 (1985) for 7-11s or whatever. Not that my posts will be drawn by George Perez or Keith Giffen.

    These Patreon-only posts will be available to any supporters, so if you’re in for at least a buck a month, you’ll get them. I expect to start this series up in a few weeks, and I’ll let you know when it’s about to begin. I’m pretty sure the first installment will be posted for free here on this site right away just so you can see what you’re in for. Anyway, details forthcoming as I hammer everything out.

  • And speaking of Tegan, the other day she was surprised that this particular service still existed in some form, and I’ve not linked to it in quite a while (the first time being back in 2008!): the Update-A-Tron, which lets you know what comic blogs have updated recently. Yeah, I know, “but feed readers…!” But this is still a handy way to maybe learn about new comic blogs…and people are still blogging about comics, despite the constant death knells!

I did it for the Chicks, man.

§ October 26th, 2016 § Filed under obituary, pal plugging, self-promotion § 7 Comments

hitherechickSo, about Jack Chick. On one hand, he seemed to be an always-present part of the weirdo comics landscape …his little religious funnybook pamphlets were just some strange thing we’d come across once in a while, in a variety of circumstances. I’d get them with Halloween candy as a kid. I’d see ’em at the local church neighbors attended. A neighbor of another friend “witnessing” to me (at me?) would press one into my hands. Some years back, my old high school friend and former coworker Rob would actively collect them, and a couple of his spares he’d pass along to me.

Nobody I knew took them very seriously. Well, maybe that one friend’s neighbor. But they were all amusing in some dark fashion…little morality tales of horror and death, all footnoted with Bible verses, where “bad” people were punished for doing shitty things to their fellow humans, and for not accepting the tenets of Chick’s particular interpretation of Christianity. That one booklet about the dangers of role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons is a highlight, much parodied and mocked over the years.

Some of the images still stick with me…the “lake of fire” that I’m pretty sure was used and reused in many of Chick’s comics. The construction worker trapped in hell, wondering if he’d get to see his friends again, and being told he’d be alone forever. The dead fella being forced to watch all the sins he committed in life, aghast that he’d have to watch himself tell the filthiest joke. “No, not that joke, not here!” Usually the comics were crudely arranged and drawn, but there was that occasional moment of frisson achieved, sometimes more by accident than by design, but still there.

On the other hand, beyond the amusement value, mixed in with the sporadic positive religious message, were messages that were anti-gay, anti-science, anti-Catholic, anti-anything Jack Chick personally didn’t care for. That undermines the pop-culture jocularity a bit. True, these were in the usual ham-fisted style and thus hard to treat seriously at face value (though I know some folks did), but it still revealed the ugly undercurrent of ignorance. Even saying that would make me one of those sinners in these comics, shouting and sweating and exclaiming my bad points of view, while the even-tempered hero calmly explains why I’m wrong and surely going to hell.

Still, I felt that I should note Jack Chick’s passing. Something…unique, shall we say, has gone from the comics world, what could be described as an odd sort of “outsider” art aside from the fact that Chick’s tracts are probably some of the most widely-read pieces of the comics artform ever.

• • •

In other news: pal Tim, who wrote this lengthy essay that you should read if you haven’t already, has published his follow-up which I think you should read as well. Tim’s gettin’ back into the old blogging game somethin’ fierce, and if you’d like to help him out, he’s got one of those Patreons that you can throw some simoleons at if you’ve got a couple to spare.

I’ll be contributing myself in the next couple of weeks, as soon as I get through a month with the quarterly sales tax payment, car stuff, plus other big expenses, and by total coincidence here’s a link to my own Patreon.

Besides, she’s not wearing that headband in the ad, so clearly it was an entirely different story.

§ October 4th, 2016 § Filed under self-promotion, swamp thing § 4 Comments

I’ve once again dipped my toes into the Trouble with Comics pool, contributing to the Weekly Question of the Week, he said redundantly and repeatedly, this time discussing favorite “Comics What Never Wuz.” As you probably have guessed, I picked Swamp Thing as the focus of my discussion, and if you’re familiar with Swamp Thing at all, there should be one story that comes to mind right away, so of course I primarily discussed another one. Anyway, go read what I had to say and then meet back here so I can give you some additional notes on the matter. Go on, read it. I’ll know if you haven’t. I’M WATCHING.

Okay, one thing I wanted to add was a bit of information I gleaned from the Tom Yeates interview in the new-last-week issue of the Back Issue magazine. Yeates (who drew most of the initial storyline on the Saga of the Swamp Thing comic from the early 1980s) said he was approached to complete the art job on that Wein/Wrightson reunion comic that Wrightson ended up departing. In the Swampmen book I reference over at TwC, Wein says he suggested “several names” to the publisher, including Kelley Jones (who’s drawn his fair share of Swamp Thing comics over the years), so I imagine Yeates was probably one of said suggestions. Anyway, it’s a shame that particular mini-series never happened.

There were a couple of other Untold Swamp Thing tales I thought I’d mention…in fact, I’ve mentioned them on this site before, but what the heck, let’s bring ’em up again. Well, actually, when you get right down to it, these are more “abandoned plotlines” than “actual comics in that were in the process of being produced but subsequently canned.” First was the old “Abby’s magical powers” storyline that I examine in some detail in this post from (urg) nine years ago. This was a subplot that began in the post-Wrightson issues of the original 1970s series, and it seemed to be leading somewhere, but vanished along with Matt and Abby from the comic, which was cancelled only a few issues later. And, as I said in that original post, when Matt and Abby came back in the revival series Saga of the Swamp Thing, the “magic powers” thing was well forgotten.

I’ve discussed this one from 1983’s Saga of the Swamp Thing #16 before in the context of other abandoned plot threads in comics, but at least in this case it seemed like they were planning a specific comic to address the matter, as opposed to maybe eventually getting around to resolving a subplot (like in the case of Abby’s powers):


In fact, this particular “forthcoming” issue of DC Comics Presents was what might have been intended to be represented by Swampy’s headshot in the DCCP ad in 1983’s DC Sampler #1:

dcsamplerdccp
…as the next Swamp Thing/Superman team-up to appear in that magazine wouldn’t be until a couple of years later, well after Alan Moore took over the Swamp Thing comic’s writing chores and sent things in a wholly different direction, leaving behind the mystery of Linda Holland’s grave. Then again, the plugged Supergirl and Batman and the Outsiders team-ups wouldn’t happen for a couple of years, either, but I suspect the Crisis on Infinite Earths nature of the 1985 Supergirl issue wasn’t the story planned when that small mention was placed in the 1983 Sampler book.

All I know was that I waited for this Swamp Thing issue of DC Comics Presents very patiently, and when he did finally appear in the comic, I enjoyed the story so much I almost, but not quite, forgot all about that gravesite device plotline. …Hence this blog post.

That red arrow is pointing at Pal Dorian’s old car.

§ September 26th, 2016 § Filed under free comic book day, retailing, self-promotion, sterling silver comics § 4 Comments

Oops, sorry, I really was planning to have a post on Friday, and then when I missed that, a post on Saturday…but I have an excuse, honest. I was out car-shopping, and then, eventually, car-buying, over the last week, and was coming in awfully late and very tired in the evenings. Turns out that, if you’re running a shop seven days a week, that doesn’t leave you with a whole lot of time to do other things, like, oh, say, getting a new vehicle to replace the old about-to-die one.

Yes, buying a new car wasn’t something I wanted to do, but rather had to do, as my old pickup, immortalized in this Google Earth image from long ago (pointed at by the blue arrow):


…was well north of 200,000 miles on the odometer, and a visit for a smog check resulted in the mechanic telling me “I can’t test this thing,” so that, and several other issues, resulted in the need for a new Mikemobile. And thus, the 1994 Mazda B2300 is dead, long live the 2016 Hyundai Tuscon. …Actually, I tried to buy used, but it turned out there was nary a difference in price between a used 2015 Tuscon and a new 2016 one, and frankly, instead of driving a car that already had 20,000 miles on it, I’d rather put those 20,000 miles on it myself (or approximately 1,200+ trips back and forth between my home and the store).

So anyway, I have a new car, with all kinds of crazy electronic gadgetry I have to learn, as my previous vehicle was essentially a collection of levers and pulleys and this new car is like a more advanced version of KITT from Knight Rider. But now Caveman Mike have new magic machine to bang club on, and Blogging Mike should be back on schedule with his website. Thank you for your patience.

Oh, and by the way, on a completely unrelated note, now might be a good time to, say, come shop at my store, or maybe buy something from my eBay listings, or even patronize my Patreon. Or just overnight me a shoebox full of twenties, that’d be okay, too.

• • •

Okay, how ’bout some comic book-type stuff? I kept meaning to do a little write-up about DC’s Batman Day event, in which DC tries to get the word out about this crazy dude what dresses like a bat and fights crime. Yeah, okay, it’s the comic industry’s version of advertising Coca-Cola, but there’s usually a freebie of some kind involved (this year, a reprint of the recent Batman #1 from the Rebirth event), and it does get folks into the shop. I did the same thing I did last year, and set up a table filled with Bat-books and boxes of back issues and offered discounts on all the stuff, and did some pretty good business. Certainly there were people out enjoying Batman Day decked out in their Bat-regalia…shirts and dresses and the like, and I barely had to advertise it at all for the event to be considered a success.

Now, this is all part of trying to create Free Comic Book Day-esque events throughout the year to generate business for comic shops, like the still-forthcoming this year Halloween-Fest and Local Comic Shop Day. That’s fine, I won’t say no to stuff like this that’ll boost sales, especially when they don’t really require a whole lot of effort. Advertise, have the goodies ready for the day, and be a happy and polite retailer that welcomes everyone that comes into your shop. Actually, that’s good advice year-round, though it sounds like some folks can’t even manage that minimal amount of effort, as related by pal Shane on his Twitter.

Speaking of stores, Diamond Comics has regular Best Business Practice awards, and this year I put my shop in for Best Free Comic Book Day 2016. Only Diamond accounts can vote, so I can’t push the Progressive Ruin Army to my bidding here, but I figure I was the only comic shop with Jaime Hernandez, Batman, and my dad in-store for FCBD this year, so surely I have a chance at claiming this honor. (And if Jaime, Batman and my dad did all show up at another store without my knowing…well, wouldn’t that have been something.)

Oh, and I did another Back Issue of the Week at the store site, too. These are fun to do! Maybe I should start a comic book blog.

And one more bit of Turok Dinosaur Hunter first issue follow-up from last week: read this account of the dreaded fate that befell approximately 5,000 copies of said comic, if you dare.

If my cunning scheme works, I’ll pull in a whole $2.25 on this comic.

§ September 16th, 2016 § Filed under self-promotion, sterling silver comics, turok § 3 Comments

So I decided to put more of my hard-earned blogging skills to use and start a new feature on my store’s website: Back Issue of the Week. Now, I don’t expect to be quite so verbose in future installments, but I certainly picked a comic with a lot of historical industry significance behind it that needed some ‘splaining. I tried really hard to not go too heavy on the “remember when the comics business was really dire?” aspects of it since, you know, it is a store webpage and I want people to be happy and want to buy comics. But on the other hand, a little history lesson about a bit of the comics industry that a significant percentage of my customer base isn’t even old enough to remember might not be unwelcome.

Plus, that particular comic is pretty neat-looking, and, believe it or not, still sells. They keep showing up in collections, I keep buying them, and they keep selling. Whether it’s the persistent Valiant back issue market that’s been kind of lurking in the background ever since Valiant Version One went away*, or it’s the fact that (as noted in my store post) people are snapping up gimmick-covered comics again as interesting novelties…whatever the reason, they’re still moving.

One question I still have about that issue of Turok, and one I brought up before on this site, years ago, is whether or not it was originally solicited as having a full chromium cover, instead of just the glued-on chromium card. I have a vague memory that this was the case, though when I last mentioned it someone dropped into the comments and basically said I was a dummy for even thinking it, of course it wasn’t originally solicited with a full chromium cover. I remain unconvinced, though the fact that if such a change was made at the last second, this issue would have been made returnable…unless the change was announced way ahead of time and we were given opportunity to alter our orders, and we didn’t. Anyway, I don’t have access to the 23+ year-old appropriate distributor materials from which I may glean this information, so What Can You Do?

Another question I had, and one I was very tempted to determine for myself: is there anything under that chromium sheet? Is it just a blank rectangle, like I suspect, or is the border image continued beneath, just unembossed? Will it be the same poisonous and/or explosive material we were told we’d find at the center of a golf ball? One of these days I’ll get a crummy, unsellable copy of this comic in and I’ll find out for myself.

Anyway, enough about me, here’s more about me: I once again contributed to the Trouble with Comics Question Time, this time addressing “Comic Numbering: Is It Good? Should It Be Replaced?? Let’s Find Out!” You won’t be surprised to discover that I just go on and on and on.
 
 

* I’m considering the Nintendo comics-era Valiant to be Version Zero.

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