MORE NANCY EVERY MONTH…

§ April 5th, 2017 § Filed under low content mode, nancy § No Comments


…but perhaps less Mike this week, due to some scheduling issues. I should have the new End of Civilization up this Friday, with any luck, so you all can “look” “forward” to “that.”

And I am still taking your comics-related questions and topics, if you’d like to submit any. I promise to get to them sometime before our sun turns into a red giant. That’s the Progressive Ruin Guarantee!

The only thing I really wondered about is how much money Fox paid Warner Brothers to use the Superman music in that Deadpool trailer.

§ April 3rd, 2017 § Filed under movie reviews, wolverine § 9 Comments

So we finally made the time to go see Logan…for free, at the movie theater on the local Navy base, which is always the best way to see a movie in the theater because the other patrons are always so well behaved. No yapping during the film, no foolin’ around with phones, no acting up and causing disruptions…yup, I didn’t do any of those things this time.

As to the movie itself…hoo boy, I was told to expect a bit of the old ultraviolence, and that’s what I certainly got, but it’s not jut exploitative and…well, okay, maybe a little exploitative, but built on the story’s framework of aging, loss, and regret. It’s violent, but it’s serious and it’s funny and it’s sad, and it’s probably one of the more mature works in the superhero film genre. Tonally, it’s difficult to extrapolate Logan from Wolverine’s beginnings in the early X-Men films, which helped establish early on the formula for superhero films, but Logan wouldn’t work nearly as well without the character work performed by Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in those movies, endearing Wolverine and Xavier to us.

But you all saw it already, so you know all that. One of the things I kept coming across online, in between the film’s opening and my seeing it this past weekend, were a handful of clickbait-y articles declaring that fans were confused by the end of the film. Now, I deliberately didn’t click on said articles, since I didn’t want the film spoiled for myself, and a cursory glimpse today in the various internet arenas where I spotted those particular headlines didn’t turn up anything. I didn’t see anything in the ending that looked like it needed any kind of explaining, so I turned my query to my Twitter pals to see what they had to say. Just what was so confusing about the ending of Logan?

(SPOILERS AHEAD, in case you hadn’t seen it yourself, yet.)

One possible point of confusion that was mentioned was the eulogy Laura recited at the graveside. The thought was that maybe, despite hearing the same speech during the bits of Shane shown earlier in the film, viewers may have forgotten that bit of foreshadowing and later wondered just what she was talking about. That’s a possibility, I guess, thought that scene where they’re watching the movie in the hotel room might as well have had the caption “WE’RE SETTING YOU UP FOR SOMETHING LATER IN THIS FILM” across the bottom of the screen.

The other bit that may have thrown people off is the nature of “Eden” or “sanctuary” that the kids are trying to reach, whether it’s real or not. There’s radio contact with an unseen someone who is trying to help the kids, and we never see the kids reaching their supposed safe haven after leaving their gathering place on this side of the border. And given that the coordinates for that gathering place were taken out of a comic book presenting the fictionalized adventures of the X-Men….well, there’s a lot to parse here, and I think this isn’t so much “confusing” as “deliberately vague.” This movie’s not about kids trying to reach safety. It’s about what Logan goes through to help these kids…any details as to what this safe haven is, and how the kids learned about it, who distributed those kinda terribly-printed X-Men movies, etc. etc., can all be explained in Logan II: Laura Strikes Back.

And the only other thing that struck me as possibly making viewers scratch their head is Laura turning the grave’s cross on its side to make an “X.” Let’s face it, that’s waaaaay subtle.

Also mentioned to me on Twitter, and everyone in my theater thought this too (I know this, thanks to the incredible telepathic powers I’ve developed after seeing every X-Men movie in the theater), was the idea that surely Wolverine’s clawed fist was going to thrust out of the grave in that very last second of the film. C’mon, you expected it too. I’m glad they didn’t, however…just letting the story end right there, as kinda depressing as it was, was the right move.

At least until Logan III: Return of the Mutant, coming Summer 2021.

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!

“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!

Ask and I shall receive.

§ March 28th, 2017 § Filed under archie, swamp thing § 4 Comments

Reader Steve from Palm Springs saw the subject line to yesterday’s post featuring his image, and realized that there was a need that had to be filled:


That we live in a world with sights such as these.

Looking forward to reading “Arcane and Me.”

§ March 27th, 2017 § Filed under archie, swamp thing § 5 Comments

Courtesy reader Steve from Palm Springs, who went above and beyond the call of duty to produce this for my benefit, and now for your benefit too:


Gaze upon it and weep, for you have never before witnessed such beauty.

Thanks, Steve! Now if only it were a real comic….

No, not actual horses.

§ March 24th, 2017 § Filed under buttons, employee aaron, pal plugging, swamp thing § No Comments

So Former Employee Aaron (in that he’s no longer doing my cruel, heartless bidding…he’s still at my former place of employment) has a buttonmaker, and I’d featured some of his creations on the site before. Well, the last time I saw him, when I stopped by the old shop to do a little horse-tradin’, he had a surprise for me. Another handmade Swamp Thing pin:


Why yes, that is Swamp Thing as drawn by Steve Bissette and John Totleben from Saga of the Swamp Thing #21 (1984). Now to await a formal occasion for which I may use said pin as the perfect complement to my coat and tails.

In other news:

  • So Brian Cronin over at Comic Book Resources put up an article discussing the old Nickelodeon TV show Video Comics, which I talked about myself, due to the Swamp Thing connection, about four years ago. Brian was good enough to link back to my old post, since I had a few additional memories about the show not covered in his article. Thanks, Brian!
  • Hey, Matt Wilson is running a Kickstarter to fund his next comics project, Everything Will be Okay, done in conjunction with Joe Hunter, Rodrio Vargas, and Josh Krach. Looks like it would be fun, and they have a little ways to go yet on reaching their goals, so pitch in if you can!
  • Bully, the Little Punching Bull presents…Daredevil versus Hitler! (No, not that Daredevil.)

The DC Comics Hardcover/Softcover Plan: The End of the Thrillogy.

§ March 22nd, 2017 § Filed under dc comics, publishing, retailing § 3 Comments

Okay, it’s the third post regarding this particular publishing plan of DC’s from waaaay back in the ancient times of the 1980s. If you’re just joining us, you can read just exactly what the hardcover/softcover thing is in these two posts. If you’ve been here for the whole exciting saga, you’ll be glad to know that, as promised, I did ask my old boss Ralph about sales on the New Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes comics during that period.

As it turns out, sales in Ralph’s shop were pretty much as you’d expect. The new printing-on-fancy-Baxter-paper direct sales only series sold great, and their newsstand counterparts still sold quite well as long as they continued presenting new stories. Once the newsstand versions started to reprint the stories from the new direct-sales series, sales on the newsstand series plummeted. They did still sell a handful of copies, so either someone was still following the series in the cheaper format, or just completing the run, or it was simply random, non-consistent purchases from walk-ins not necessarily following the comics but just wanted something to read.

Ralph didn’t recall if there were any holdouts who didn’t want to spring for the extra cost of the newer series, but instead waited for those stories to be reprinted in the less-expensive partner series. However, some readers left comments saying they did just that, based on wanting to get the maximum comics bang for their bucks with the limited amount of financial resources at hand. So, you know, I would guess that this particular buying strategy was a tad more common than I assumed.

I also asked Ralph if there was any grumbling from his regulars about now having to buy two series of, say, New Teen Titans a month, instead of the normal one. He didn’t really recall any, as it seemed to him at the time customers were excited about the new higher-quality Baxter-format comics, even at the higher price. Plus, DC picked a couple of series with strong enough fanbases that the prospect of more material available each month was generally welcome. …Man, that was a long time ago.

Personally, I dutifully bought both versions of New Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes, up until the newsstand books went into reprints (except for the initial Titans one, since that reprinted the first appearance, which I didn’t have at the time, and a story from a DC digest which I did already have, but didn’t mind having in the full-sized format). I suspect, for readers who had the scratch and were within hopping, skipping and/or jumping distance of a devoted funnybook store, that was usually, but not always, the case.

Reader Michael likened this to Marvel’s 1990s experiment with direct sales/newsstand editions of some of their books, like X-Men and Wolverine. However, the wait time between releases was only a couple of weeks or so, and the pricier, fancier version came out first, with the less expensive version on the less fancy paper coming afterwards. As I recall, the plan was to see which format would sell better in the direct market, and, as Michael notes, of course the fancier one sold better because people didn’t want to wait even that short of a time to keep up with these particular titles. My main memory of these was, when restocking the back issue bins, having to keep track which issue numbers of which titles had the two different formats, and making sure both were represented in the old comics boxes.

…This all seems so quaint, compared to the modern practice of “here’s a new number #1 for a character/franchise that’s already had multiple new #1s in recent memory, some of which are still going.” I often thought at the time that future price guides and collectors would have a hard time puzzling out the different permutations Titans, Legion and Outsiders went through trying to satisfy two different retail markets. Little did I know what was coming.

Bernie Wrightson (1948 – 2017).

§ March 20th, 2017 § Filed under obituary, swamp thing § 4 Comments

There are a lot of fantastic illustrations by Bernie Wrightson in those early Swamp Things, but this is the one I keep coming back to:


The strange perspective, the incredible detail, the full page reveal coming late in the story after we’d already seen the werewolf a couple of times…all combining to make this an image that impressed itself into my brain for all time. Funny that it’s a pic from this series that doesn’t even feature the title character, but this splash from #1 does take a close second in the “Bernie Wrightson Drawings I Think of When I Think of Swamp Thing” category.

But flip through pretty much any issue of Wrightson’s Swamp Thing and you’ll see no end of intricately-detailed illustrations, their impact diminished not at all by the cheap printing and yellowing paper. If anything, the impact is enhanced, the drawings made even more moody and mysterious by the decaying pulp on which they are presented.

Wrighton’s covers from the period are eye-grabbers as well, looking like nothing else on the shelves. This Lovecraftian critter on this House of Mystery clearly represents something that should be unnatural and repellent, but Wrightson’s linework makes it endlessly fascinating. You want to pick this comic off the rack and see just what’s going on here:


…And this cover here…where do you even begin? This was 1971, and Wrightson, in his early 20s, had only been in the comics business for a couple of years. And here he is, already creating images as perfect as this:


And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the man’s work. These drawings are all from the early years of his career…his impossibly-detailed Frankenstein work was still ahead of him. His “Captain Sternn” stories, both the short in Heavy Metal and the later mini-series (plus the related back-ups in Dreadstar. The Weird. Batman: The Cult. National Lampoon strips and illustrations. Tons of horror shorts for Warren magazines. The Hulk/Thing graphic novel. Batman/Aliens. The “Howard the Duck for President” button. The Spider-Man: Hooky graphic novel. The comics adaptation of Stephen King’s Creepshow, plus all the other illustrations he provided for King’s novels. Even Punisher comics…and much more, besides.

Saying “he was a great talent and he will be missed” doesn’t seem like enough. He embodied a particular aesthetic that took inspiration from horror comic artists and fantasy illustrators that preceded him, and formed it into something unique, something so his own that the term “Wrightson-esque” easily conveys its meaning. He didn’t just redefine the horror genre. He was his own genre.

So long, Bernie. Thanks for letting us see, for so many years, what your wonderful imagination created.

And you didn’t think I was going to let this go without at least one picture of Swamp Thing, did you?


 
 

images from Swamp Thing #4 (April-May 1973); House of Mystery #204 (July 1972); House of Mystery #195 (October 1971); Swamp Thing #6 (September-October 1973)

Also it appears to leave out Swamp Thing’s appearance in Super Friends #28.

§ March 17th, 2017 § Filed under publishing, swamp thing § 7 Comments

There were some good comments regarding DC’s “hardcover/softcover” publishing move for their comics in the 1980s. I plan on returning to the topic soon, but, like I said in that post, I still want to ask my old boss Ralph a question or two about how they sold for him/what customer reaction was like to this program, since that was just before my comics retailin’ time. What I’m really curious about is if anyone pooh-poohed that newfangled New Teen Titans comic on the fancy Baxter paper and just stuck with the regular Tales of the Teen Titans series, figuring the stories will get reprinted there eventually anyway, for a cheaper cover price. Anyway, I’ll see if I can get any more info about customer buying patterns on these books from Ralph, and I don’t see why I wouldn’t, since it’s only been a little over 30 years and surely still fresh on his mind.

In other publishing news, I’ve been emailed and tweeted at regarding the Swamp Thing Bronze Age Omnibus, with plenty of details as to what said omnibus would contain at that link. Now, I’ve discussed this forthcoming volume before, about a year ago, at which point its Amazon listing described it (and still describes it) only as containing House of Secrets #92 and Swamp Thing (first series) #1 through the unpublished #25 (which was likely a typo).

The newer content listing contains a boatload of Swampy comics, much more than that older listing. It almost seems like it’s too much for one volume, but a quick comparison to what’s in my Man-Thing Omnibus shows it’d be about the same size. I forget how huge these volumes can be. Also, given what’s in the book means there won’t be a Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 2 since we’ll be well into the 1980s with any follow-up material, which is the Copper Age or whatever name people are trying to saddle that particular period of comics with in order to make them sound more marketable.

Anyway, this will be the first time the majority of the post-Wrightson issues of the original series will be reprinted, I believe (after getting #11 – #13 reprinted a few years back in a hardcover), and the first comprehensive reprinting of the pre-Alan Moore Saga of the Swamp Thing, though leaving out #19, the conclusion of Marty Pasko’s run on the book. Maybe it’s seen as a…transitional issue, between Pasko’s run and the beginning of Moore’s run, though traditionally Moore’s first issue on the series, #20, has been seen as the transitional issue, left out of early trade paperback reprintings of his initial storyline. And #18 seems like a weird issue to stop on, as it was a reprint of #10 from the original series, with 4 pages of new wraparound by the then-current creative team, and something of a cliffhanger-y issue to boot. Does this mean Original Series #10 will appear twice in this book? Again, like the inclusion of issue #25 in the initial Amazon listing, maybe this too is just a typo and Saga of the Swamp Thing #19 will be in here. We’ll find out soon enough, I guess.

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