The variants, they are a-changin’.

§ December 6th, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 1 Comment

[REMINDER: yesterday was this site’s 18th anniversary post, in which I included an index to all the variant cover-age posts so far]

The cover above wasn’t part of DC’s first wave of lenticular covers in 2013, but rather the second in 2014. It does give you an idea of what the lenticular covers looked like (though the second wave looked better than the first). And it wasn’t just lenticular images on these covers (making them strictly a “gimmick” cover and not a variant cover) as regular editions were issued as well with static fronts.

I’ve gone on about DC’s lenticular covers in the past…in real time, in fact, As It Was Happening and YOU Were There! As you may recall, DC announced this great month-long gimmick of producing a bunch of villain-centric one shots for most of their titles, all of which would feature fancy lenticular motion with advanced technology that I seem to remember from children’s books I had in the early ’70s. Long story short, even with extra advanced solicitation times, orders were such that the printers could not produce enough of the covers in time, resulting in allocations.

Interestingly, what I’d forgotten was that there were only lenticular covers initially planned for all these comics. It wasn’t until DC announced “Oops, Not Enough Lenticulars” that the “regular” static-imaged covers were offered to “fill out” any orders on the fancy covers that may have been cut short by the allocations. As I recall, you could just order however many you wanted of those.

Here’s a sample of a lenticular cover from this initial 2013 wave (non-animated, sorry):

And here’s the standard edition:

If you want more detail on what was happening at the time, here are my original posts on the matter: 1 2. As I recall, I had enough of the fancy covers to fill pulls, and some people preferred the standard buck-cheaper perhaps-not-as-gimmicky-and-distracting standard ones. I just hoped they wouldn’t pull something like this again.

Then suddenly out of nowhere DC did it again the next year, with the printing kinks worked out, apparently, and with standard cover editions offered from the get-go. You can refer back to my posts on the 2014 wave (1 2) for a more in-depth look, or perhaps “look at it from different angles.” I don’t know, there’s a joke there somewhere. But again, in short…sold fine, no panicked rush on the covers because they were in short supply like that first time.

Now, years later…well, when I ordered those, I was working for my previous place of employment. In fact, that second wave of lenticulars was one of the last Big Things I ordered for that store before opening up my own shop. As such, I don’t have any leftovers from those initial orders in my backstock, and I never ordered them for my own place. I’ve been dependent on acquiring them in collections, and, yes, sure, I have picked up a few over the years.

Oddly enough, I seem to see more from the first “limited in supply” wave than I do from the second “order as many as you want, we’ve got plenty!” wave. My recollection was that both waves sold well…we did have some leftovers on the second wave, but it’s not like we didn’t sell plenty of copies of those, too.

And speaking of the aftermarket…some of those initial lenticular releases, unsurprisingly, got targeted by eBay flippers and were quickly thrown online. In particular, the “Joker’s Daughter” issue (remember her?) of Batman: The Dark Knight (#23.4) was The Hot One, though a quick look at eBay shows you can buy ’em for around $10. That Joker one I pictured above was is another one that acquired a premium price for a bit, though I think that was one of the higher-ordered (and not-as-allocated) issues. On eBay now, about $10 – $15, which is still pretty good.

Most other issues, of both waves, at least in my experience, sell about about $4 to $5. It’s one of those deals, like with many of the ’90s gimmick covers, where people fish ’em out of the back issue bins, say “ooh neat!” and buy it. Not fast sellers, not “in demand” items (no one comes in asking for them) but more often than not they’ll buy ’em when they see ’em.

In 2017, Marvel gave lenticular covers the ol’ college try as part of one of their ongoing series of relaunches of various titles, and, um, well

In my opinion they were biting off a little more than they could chew, there, by trying to switch between two entirely different complicated cover images which 1) weren’t kept distinct enough from each other, making a blurry mess, and 2) would confused customers as to what comic they were actually looking at. “Is that…Giant-Size X-Men? What’s going on?”

They weren’t all that bad, but good gravy, they weren’t all that good, either. These I did end up ordering at my own store, and I’m pretty sure I rid myself of any excess in the dollar bins. Ah well. Oh, and keeping with the variant theme…it’s Marvel, of course there were variants. Here’s the main cover:

…and if you go to this page, you can see the rest of the variants this issue had. I recommend the “How to Draw Ghost Rider” one, which is pretty good.

The only company regularly flying the lenticular banner nowadays is Absolute Comics, and you can see a sample of one here. Looking back through Diamond Comics’ database, I see other publishers tried out lenticulars in recently years, on such titles as Zombie Tramp and Ninjas and Robots.

But DC and Marvel haven’t repeated the line-wide fancy movin’ cover thing since those initial attempts (though DC did spring for one on Doomsday Clock #1 in the true spirit of Watchmen). I wouldn’t mind seeing more in the future…I like them, they look neat on the rack, and the customers seem to like them too. Just…make sure they work, and maybe don’t unload dozens of them on us simultaneously.

“Suddenly, eighteen years later….”

§ December 5th, 2021 § Filed under suddenly... § 11 Comments

Sweet Mother Machree, it’s been eighteen years of this nonsense, of me writing about them funnybooks and the selling thereof multiple times a week (eyeballs permitting). What madness is this?

Thanks to all of you for sticking around, whether you started reading this site in 2003 or just started…I don’t know, today, maybe? What if this was the first time you ever read Progressive Ruin? If it is, here’s a FAQ:

“What is this site about?”

It’s about Mike Sterling’s progressive ruin, I mean it’s right there in the title.

“Why is there so much talk about comic books?”


Okay, anyway, thanks to you guys, thanks to my friends and family and customers who lightly cough and turn away when they discover what I’m up to here, and most of all thanks to Comics Blogging Pioneer Neilalien, to whom we must all pay homage.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about me. Or rather, this here site. This year was, as you probably noticed, unless you’re one of those “first day-ers” I was talking about, that it’s been The Year of the Variant in these parts. Waaaay back in the middle of April, I asked you guys about variant covers and how they affected your purchasing decisions. Now, the plan was to respond to your comments and move on, but somehow, someway, the thing I call “variant cover-age” and nobody else does launched from that initial post. As such, most every Monday since then I’ve written about the many…um, varieties of variant covers that have been released, and in most cases offering my personal collecting or retailing memories thereof.

While you can always click on the category link to read them all, I’ve provided this index listing to jump to the subject of your choice. Think of it as a precursor to the eventual article index page I plan to put on this site.

Man of Steel and Legends of the Dark Knight

Spider-Man‘s advantageous variants

X-Men #1

Robin‘s variant parade (plus this addendum)


DC’s “Superman Comics” market test

Valiant Comics

The issue of Jab what got shot with a bullet

Serial-numbered issues for MAD and Triumphant Comics

Variant interiors (for Team Titans, Fathom)

Retailer variants, focusing on Department of Truth

Superman and Spider-Man wedding comics

Double-covers and ad inserts

Whitman comics

That one issue of Lone Ranger

Marvel second issues

“All Ages” vs. “Mature Readers”

Image Comics newsstand variants

Superman’s Definitely Not Colorforms

Marvel’s 35-cent variants

“Platinum” editions

Naughty-covered variants

Old UK variants

TV Guide comic tie-ins plus a follow-up

Recolored reprints and sketch covers

Black and white New 52 variants

Sales impact of variants

DC’s MAD variants

DC’s “Robot Chicken” toy variants

Holy cow, that’s quite a few. And despite popular demand, I’m not done yet.

Other regular features haven’t had quite the same attention…I hadn’t realized, for example, I hadn’t done an End of Civiliation post all year. That’s mostly because it’s no longer as easy to flip through Previews (and other distributor catalogs) as quickly as I used to with my vision shenanigans. But, I promise, I’ll start doing them again. Those naked anime statues aren’t going to make fun of themselves.

Also, Sluggo Saturday only had one installment this year, but that’s kind of par for the course for that series. You can’t force Sluggo, you can only accept Sluggo as it comes. Plus, it’s kind of hard to top this sadly still-timely entry from 2020.

What else, what else…ah, well, I’m still running my Patreon, where all contributions go directly to maintaining my brain in this internet-connected jar, and I’m still doing occassional audio posts. And for some reason I started, based on a Twitter joke I made, where I do indeed tell you if a comic book has staples or not. Went on a brief hiatus, but it’s back, staplier than ever!

My store, Sterling Silver Comics, just celebrated its seventh year of occaionally getting undamaged new comics from my distributor(s), and you can follow my store on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. There’s an eBay store, and I also just started selling on a new comics auction/store site called HipComic, and that’s been going swimmingly.

On more place you can find me is my personal account on the Twitterers, where you can find such delightful things as this:

Being pushed toward the grave at the shop:

Wishing for a beautiful piece of comic book storytelling:

Relating my support for a comic writer who could’ve saved a famed franchise from ongoing oblivion:

Pondering an occurrence that certainly had happened:

Exuding more grace and charm to the customers:

Kids saying the greatest things:

Jumping on the latest collectible trends:

Thinking about a business offer I surely can’t refuse:

Defending my honor as a comic book seller:

Demonstrating my skills as a buyer of old comics:

Interacting with my colleagues:

Commenting on, well, dummies:

And again:

And one more time:

Never escaping the chains I forged in life:

And, well, again:

And finally, revealing the secret benefits of comics dealing, posted on, appropriately enough, 4/20:

Now back to this site…what’s been going on here? Well, let me show you:


This Mego-style Swamp Thing figure is on my desk staring at me even as I write this, so long Richard Corben, who would I get to draw my Swamp Thing comic (and my Stanley and His Monster comic), in which I ponder art versus the artist, egads I forgot about Santa’s Secret Cave, which review of the latest Wonder Woman movie had the best title — why mine of course, what I think about Valiant Comics.


The greatest Man-Thing-centric crossover event of all time, I look back at your 2020 predictions (parts 1 2 3 4 5 Epilogue).


Have I got a boner to show you, the deep dive on boners continues, can you find the secret message in this post about Malibu and Ultraverse comics, what I’m reading and not reading (and some talk about Doctor Aphra and 1970s Legion of Super-Heroes), “Five Years Later” Legion talk, nobody needs to hear my opinions about the DC Cinematic Universe (and more, and more), the speculator market gets even more out of hand,

MARCH 2021

X-Force #1 and the Shazam! Effect, the pricing of unbagged pre-bagged comics, the beginning of the Bad Idea invasion (plus bonus video!), Overstreet pricing and more Bad Idea shenanigans, repricing those $50 X-Files #1s you still had in the bins from 20 years ago, they still show up from time to time, I beat the rush on the “10 years later” New 52 retrospective, is Crisis good, there were some good New 52 titles honest, post #5200 should have been the New 52 anniversary post but instead it’s more Crisis talk, the M.O.D.O.K. of Positivity, are reboots/relaunches good, well eventually there were fewer damages, I swear to God mentioning that writer’s name is like putting up the Bat-Signal, anyway here’s some follow-up on that Birthright talk.

APRIL 2021

Talkin’ about New Teen Titans, for some reason I bought this Cracked “Mork from Ork” special I had as a kid off eBay, oh hey it’s an In Pictopia reprint I wasn’t expecting, my old college newspaper and the comic strips therein, Swamp Thing art gifted to me by a customer, here’s where the whole “variant cover-age” began and I swear I’m going to address your specific responses eventually, as expected demand for these from speculators plummeted once retailers were able to order plenty, a Sluggo Saturday shot from an Ernie Busmiller original(!), and now I own some original Bushmiller too, Total Eclipse was worth it just for that panel of Miracleman holding Beanish.

MAY 2021

Super gross retailer behavior, in which I talk about not being a gross retailer, G.I. Joe speculation just out of nowhere, puttin’ dem photos on dem funnybooks, and speaking of which here’s an old Stan Lee photo cover, why I liked Firestorm the Nu-Klee-Ear Man, they should bring back Daredevil’s Punch of the Month.

JUNE 2021

It’s hard to be a Swamp Thing fan these days, I do love those ’70s Shazams, the Herbie/Swamp Thing mash-up you demanded, the whole ugly Warren Ellis thing.

JULY 2021

My early foray into digital comics, I may have “repurposed” a couple of gags from these local ‘zines in my own comics, how to store mini-cmics and ‘zines (or at least how I store ’em), more early mini-comics art by me, how I got this Captain Jack sketch, and here’s an Evan Dorkin drawing I own, still mad about greedy retailers determined to drag down this industry.


Pricing of G.I. Joe #1 and #2, the “how does your local comic shop toss the new bookson the shelves” poll, finally I can be an official fan of Tumbleweeds, why you shouldn’t be impressed by King Spawn #1 orders, Free Comic Book Day 2021 postmortem (with a bonus pic of me, my dad, and Pal Dorian).


What Buck Rogers was up to in the year 2021, my Flaming Carrot still flames, look I’m dumb and I read Swamp Thing, oh yeah Popeye action figures.


Me ‘n’ British comics, some goofy thing from an old Walking Dead issue plus that first week of Marvel’s new distributor, more distribution talk. the effect (or lack thereof) of media adaptations on comic sales, and a little more about that, at last one of my “Special Monster Friends” from my mini-comic, a great little domestic scene from a George Perez-drawn Justice League comic, honestly that Flash/Firestorm scene stuck with me for years, the greatest Bouncing Boy comic that never existed.


What old comics I’d like to see reprinted – the answers won’t surprise you, Superman vs. the Arbor Day Foundation, all the 1970s Stan you can stand, the Diamond Comics hack, honestly I have no real use for this Diamond CD-ROM, Speedy dealing with something worse than heroin, time usage when dealing with multiple distributors.


My favorite anniversary issues, ROM has a message for you antimaskers plus bonus “what is an anniversary issue?” content.

And that’s one more year stored away in the archives for future generations to “enjoy,” for as long as the site stays up after I’m dead. Thanks to all of you for reading, for particpating in the comments, for all your emails, and your business. I greatly appreciate all of it, and I still wouldn’t be doing this site if it weren’t for all of you. Yes, I’m passing the blame onto you people.

For reading all that, here’s a photograph of a koala I inexplicably have in my possession:

I’ve had this photo for decades. Where did it come from? I have no idea! But now, you can enjoy it too!

Thanks, and I’ll see you tomorrow to start the next year of this site. What awaits? More variants? Probably. More koalas? I’ll see what I can do.

Maybe Arnim Zola?

§ December 3rd, 2021 § Filed under happy anniversary happy anniversary § 14 Comments

And now, a message from Marvel’s most-masked character:

…though I suppose one could make the argument that Baron Zemo is even more masked, as his was permanently glued on or something. But ROM’s was, like, literally bolted to his skull, presumably. Anyway, I’m sure there are other contenders over at the House of Mask Ideas. This just popped up from a Twitter exchange between me and pal Cathy.

So on Wednesday’s post, Turan points out the rather spurious use of “anniversary” in relation to celebrations of comics hitting those Magical Round Numbers, usually multiples of 50 or 100. “Anniversary,” for example, is used correctly on this X-Men issue, as, while it was issue #175 (kinda of an oddball number for a special issue in those days, but fine) it was also literally the 20th anniversary of the title’s debut in 1963:

Whereas Spidery-Sam’s solo title had only been around for less than a decade when they called this issue “the 100th anniversary” special:

And as Turan says, there’s no equally-accepted alternative, as a lot of terms like “sesquicentennial” (actually, 150 years) are still tied to, well, years, as you just saw.

However, good news everyone! The Merriam-Webster dictionary, and a couple other sources, cut us comic fans a little slack in anniversary’s definition:

“broadly : a date that follows such an event by a specified period of time measured in units other than years”

I mean, what are issue numbers but counting off months (or 9-times-a-year early on, or like bi-weekly for some modern Marvels) one at a time? That “100th Anniversary Issue” of Amazing Spider-Man could be celebrating its 100th month (more or less) of publication.

On the other hand, every issue is pretty much an anniversary issue of some sort. That Spider-Man? “Special 8th Anniversary Celebration!” But it’s kind of a moot point anyway, as I can’t remember any recent examples of Marvel or DC blurbing a comic as an “anniversary issue” that wasn’t literally for something in its 10th, 20th, or 80th year of existence.

But I wouldn’t worry too much about calling issue #100 of something an “anniversary” issue. It’s too built into the parlance of comics fans that, really, we all know what we’re talking about when we say that. No biggie.

It did remind me of a weird anomaly from ’80s Marvel, though. Issue #296 of Fantastic Four was an extra-sized 25th anniversary issue:

…but issue #300, just a few months later, was a plain ol’ regular-sized issue (with, granted, the momentous marriage of Johnny and Alicia…or is it?):

Now, all these years later, there’s no way that Marvel would have stood for this, and insisted both 296 and 300 be $9.99 giants, but I both appreciate and am surpised by the restrain shown. Alas, the 25th anniversary celebration couldn’t be saved until #300, as its cover date would have been March 1987 and putting it out of the 25th year. (Even though 300 technically was released in late November of ’86. OH, COVER DATES)

But hey, folks are dropping their own suggestions for great anniversary (sorry, Turan!) issues into the comments on Wednesday’s post, so feel free to add your own. Maybe I’ll comment on those in a future post.

I was as surprised as you were that I actually had a category set up on those old posts.

§ December 1st, 2021 § Filed under question time § 9 Comments

Time more more answering of your questioning!

Paul fills my comments with this inquiry

“Will you be having a giant store window display of Bill Griffith’s BUSHMILLER BIOGRAPHY?”

Actually, I’m going to order enough to form a giant throne, upon which I may sit and issue my comic proclamations.

But seriously, I am looking forward to it, and will absolutely carry it in the shop, and feature it prominently.

I do have some in-store Nancy displays…a framed blow-up of this cover above my register:

…and I have a similar large print of a Nancy Dell Giant cover in the front window…but darned if I can remember which one now! What a weird thing to forget. I’ll try to update once I return to the store and actually pay attention.

• • •

Vic Sage sages

“One Question per person. Take that Greg Rucka!”

• • •

Thelonious_Nick steals in with

“You expressed admiration for the Fantastic Four #35, the 60th anniversary issue. I read it last night and found it to be probably the best superhero comic I’ve read this year. What do you think are the best comic anniversary issues ever? Is FF#35 one of them? How about Fantastic Four #236? Detective #500? What others would go on the list? Do any of the #1000s make the grade?”

When I was but a mere mortal non-comics retailer, back in the early ’80s, I would regularly grab the extra-sized anniversary issues of just about any comic book. Not just the ones I normally read, but from titles that were new to me. Always thought they were good samplers, and issue #175 is what got me reading Uncanny X-Men for a time.

I was thinking about that just this week as Avengers #50 came out, wondering if this issue would have sparked the same weird “need” in me as those other anniversary issues from four decades ago. A quick flip through the book didn’t grab me (no offense, just haven’t read Avengers in forever) but I thought a few of the covers were nice.

A long time ago on this very site, I did a series of posts about my favorite anniversary issues. One of them was in fact Detective Comics #500 from 1981, which is still a favorite of mine. I often opine on the Twitters that this comic should get the hardcover treatment from DC. What a great mix of stories and characters.

That’s #2 on my list. The absolute #1 anniversary issue for now and ever more is Justice League of America #200 from 1982:

Multiple chapters, iconic characters drawn by iconic artists (Flash vs. Elongated Man by Carmine Infantino! Batman vs. Green Arrow and Black Canary by Brian Bolland! Green Lantern vs. the Atom by Gil Kane!) all with wraparound chapters (and great cover) by George Perez! Each chapter with a big ol’ splash page feauturing the heroes squaring off! It really is one of the most spectacular capital-C Comic capital-B Books of all time. And yes, another that could use a standalone hardcover reprinting.

As far as more recent anniversary issues…yeah, I enjoyed Fantastic Four #35, which had some cute touches like those period covers as chapter breaks. As far as DC’s issue #1000s for Detective and Action…I actually haven’t gotten around to reading the Detective yet, but Action was…fine, I suppose. I liked the Mxyzptlk story drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Looking over the contents I feel like I should remember liking the comic overall more than I did, so maybe I’ll give it a revisit. The different covers were mostly nice…this is the one I kept for myself.

But…boy, I do still love those old anniversary issues. Aside from what I’ve already discussed, the Fantastic Four #236 you mention is a good’un, and I always like the Superman’s life story we got in Action #500. There’s the game-changing Incredible Hulk #300, the artistically dynamic Superman #400 (with the gimmick of featuring artists who hadn’t drawn Superman before…or at least not much before), and the history-spanning Legion of Super-Heroes #300 (with some special cameos).

Anyway, anniversary issues are great. The new ones don’t grab me quite as much as the older ones did, but they still sell well so they’re certain getting someone’s attention, which is nice. May they find the wonder and enjoyment I had as a young Mikester, biking around to the shops and springing those extra few cents to get those extra-sized comics.

Twisted variant theatre.

§ November 29th, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § No Comments

So I remembered the just the one action figure cover variant from when DC did ’em a while back, the Batman and Robin #29 from 2014:

…which I kept because of the Swamp Thing appearance, natch. And while I knew there were more, as part of DC’s attempts to boost orders on their New 52 line, I could not for the life of me remember any of the others. I mean, I know I ordered them and carried them at the previous place of employment, but this was during the lead-up to me opening my own shop, so, you know, maybe I had my mind occupied with other things.

Looking at the cover again reminded me this was a tie-in to the Robot Chicken TV show, which animated action figures in humorously irreverent sketches. (Worth noting that the show itself was inspired by similar “photo-funnies” content featuring action figures in Wizard magazine publications…in fact, writers on the feature went on to create the TV show.)

Specifically, the 2014 covers (of which there were 22(!)) were created to tie into a DC Comics-centric Robot Chicken TV special. And in all this Googling about, I discovered this was the second TV special, with the first in 2012 being advertised by DC then on, far as I can tell, one sole variant cover:

Why just Aquaman? Well, he’s apparently the most hilarious of superheroes, an easy punchline for hack writers.

Anyway, like the MAD variants discussed last time, they got a second run with the aforementioned 22(exclamation mark!) variants in 2014, featuring gags like this:

Hm. Well, your mileage may vary I guess, depending on how funny you find the show itself. I’ve never seen it, beyond, I think, some Star Wars gag years ago, and maybe some incidental advertising…but I looked at a few clips on YouTube and it’s fine. And looking at the Wiki entry there’s certainly some impressive voice talent puttin’ in some time there.

But back to the covers: honestly, looking at that gallery I linked above (and will link here again so you don’t have to go searching) I have no recollection of any of these save that Batman and Robin I mentioned. I don’t even remember this Justice League Dark variant:

…even though I surely must have kept one for myself. No way that would have slipped past me.

The 2014 books were 1 in 25 ratio variants…again, a silly thing to do, as making these freely orderable may have resulted in fewer inflated orders for comics that may not sell just to get the special cover, and more copies moved to customers who were amused by the variants. But that does explain the low estimated print runs you saw on that gallery page I’m not going to link to for a third time. Some random eBay checking revealed prices in the $10 range, mostly, but some optimistic chap has the Wonder Woman variant at $85.

I think, though, my favorite gag on all these covers was the one used for Aquaman #29:

Okay, I admit it, Aquaman is hilarious!

By which I mean the current Hulk #1, not the previous three or four Hulk #1s.

§ November 26th, 2021 § Filed under hulk, this week's comics § 1 Comment

[spoilers for Hulk #1]

So my first Hulk comic was Incredible Hulk #293, cover-dated March 1984 but released in late 1983. I’d been mostly a DC Comics kid, but I’d been sampling various Marvels here and there for a while, enjoying just how different they felt from their crosstown rivals.

I was of course familiar with the Hulk…I’d seen the TV show, I read the Origins of Marvel Comics paperback featuring his origin, and I’m pretty sure I’d encountered funnybooks of his before. I certainly read the 1981 Batman/Hulk crossover. I just wasn’t picking up his own monthly title on a regular basis.

Well, for whatever reason I picked up that #293 off the stands, probably because of that image of him whaling on the Fantastic Four and wondering what was going on (SPOILER: dream sequence). I was also in for another surprise, in that the Hulk with which I was the most familiar, the one that in fact is the dominant version of Hulk just about the entire world knows, is the “Hulk Smash!”/”Madder Hulk Gets, Stronger Hulk Gets” character. Not very bright, speaks like a child (or not at all, as per the TV show), alter ego Bruce Banner wandering from town to town in his purple pants…that’s Hulk.

I started reading Incredible Hulk with that #293, and once a month (or two or three times a month, given Marvel’s bonkers release schedules of late) I’ve been getting a Hulk comic ever since. And for the majority of that time, that prevailing popular perception of the Hulk had not been the basis for the stories.

In that first issue I’d read, Bruce Banner had been in control of the Hulk’s body for quite some time. However, gears were beginning to slip a bit as we pushed forward to #300, with Banner losing more and more control until finally, we ended up with a Hulk that was entirely savage with no trace of Bruce Banner at all. Plus, there began to be a heavier focus on the psychology of Banner/Hulk, introduced by Bill Mantlo and picked up by Peter David during his long run.

Over the ensuing decades, we saw lots of permutations of the Hulk, with Ol’ Jadejaws “Smash Puny Humans” edition only appearing incidentally. And the focus was heavily on the psychology of the Hulk and Banner and how they related to each other. And after this latest iteration, Immortal Hulk, which dove deep, deep, deep into the workings of the Hulk — or rather, multiple Hulks — it was hard to see where else they could go with the concept. Especially since the series was so highly regarded, and for good reason (though ultimately going down in history with an asterisk next to its name due to some issues with the primary artist).

For one thing, I’m kinda surprised/kinda not surprised that Marvel immediately jumped back on the Hulk train so soon after wrapping up such a high profile series. Surprised in that the quality of the series casts a long shadow that any new series is going to have to try to escape in order to get its own thing going. Not surprised because it’s Marvel, restarting series with new #1s over and over again is kinda their brand.

But here it is, a new Hulk #1 for me to read after almost 40 years of reading the darn things. And yes, they seem to have found yet another permutation of the Hulk/Banner relationship…one that seems to present a more antagonistic Banner, literally pictured as piloting the Hulk’s physical body from whatever mental seating he has within. The Hulk has been outfitted with rocket-ship-y doodads and thingamajigs, apparently for Banner/Hulk to depart the Earth, fueled by the caged-in-mental-realm Interior Hulk’s rage.

I gotta say, didn’t see that coming. While I do appreciate that it retains the bones of the classic “madder Hulk gets etc.” idea, I especially like the idea of Banner being more explicitly a menace, as opposed to the “puny” “milksop” victim he’s usually portrayed as. The thesis statement of the book appears to be “the Hulk is there to protect us from Banner,” so I expect to see variations on that theme over the course of series. It reminds me a little of that bit at the end of Peter David’s (first) run, where a darker, yet more put together Banner surprised Rick Jones in his room at night, and as he leaves, he turns and Rick sees a glint of gamma green in Banner’s eye. Just the slightest hint of danger that’s now fully in Banner’s grasp.

So, yes, this comic’s got my attention. I don’t know about “Hulk as spaceship,” but I do like a more motivated-by-self-interest Banner portrayed as being possibly more of a problem than the Hulk himself. It’s still going to be compared, favorably or disfavorably, to the Immortal Hulk that wrapped up just before it, but hopefully it’ll be good enough for fans to approach as Its Own Thing.

Anyway, look, after all this time…it’s not like I wasn’t going to read it, right?

Humor in a variant vein.

§ November 23rd, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 5 Comments

So I think I said at the time, in 2013 when DC Comics was producing MAD Magazine variants for their New 52 line in celebration of April Fool’s Day, that this cover bothered me. I mean, it should have delighted me…it is technically a great drawing, as one would expect from the legendary (and then in his 90s!) Al Jaffee. It’s nicely colored, it certainly stands out on the shelf….

…But what really bugged me is that this wonderful opportunity is marred by burdening Mr. Jaffee with that awful, awful design for Superman’s costume. I know, I know, I’ve gone on about it before, but it baffled man and God as to who actually thought this was a good idea. (As a wise man, me, once said, “if even George Perez can’t make it work….”)

Anyway, Mr. Jaffee did his best, but the costume still looks awkward, unless of course Jaffee himself thought “this costume’s terrible” and played up how terrible the costume was. Thought, I have to admit, when I first saw it, I wondered if he’d been given the instruction “draw a funny Superman cover” and drew Classic Superman, only adding the New 52 outfit’s details later an editor got a look and returned it for regrooving. I mean, I have no idea…the fact that Superman was drawn with obvious trunks, or that the collar seemed a little…off, like it was added after the fact. Or that the body of the costume and even the boots look more like the traditional togs versus the inexplicable armor Supes was saddled with:

That cover just above, by the way, is the “standard” cover for this issue. However, not satisfied with a MAD variant, DC was running gimmick covers as the “non-variant” edition. In this case, it was the thing DC had branded as their “WTF Certified” covers, a gatefold cover where the front would pose some situation, and then you’d fold out the cover and presumably shout “WHAT THE F–” as you saw the amazing surprise that was revealed. Anyway, more on that when I start my “Gimmick Cover” series, after I’m done (if ever) with Variant Cover-age.

Similarly, poor Sergio Aragones had to do his best with that costume for the Justice League variant:

This actually turned out to be the MAD variant for which we had the most requests, and it’s a good thing this was the MAD variant for which we were able to get the most copies, if I recall correctly. A spot check on a number of the MAD variants released that month showed that the majority of them were offered as ratio variants…for every ten copies of the regular cover ordered, a retailer could order one of the special covers.

This always seemed so short-sighted to me. Given that the Justice League variant was offered to retailers…hmm, lemme see how to put this. Retailers were able to order as many copies of that Justice League variant up to their numbers on the lowest ordered New 52 comic for that week. As such, shops ordered as many of that Aragones variant as they did of Sword of Sorcery #7, maybe even raised their orders on the latter to get more of the former, and got a variant that, at least in our case, sold great, even despite that Superman costume. If they’d made the same deal with all the MAD variants, we could have had lots of these to sell:

…and believe me, we would have sold plenty.

Now, these MAD variants must have done well, as DC Comics did it again the following year. Alas, not so much since, though when I was tracking down some images on the eBays I noticed that several of these variants have been going for premium prices. Whether that’s a usual thing or just another example of the current collectible-inventing market boosting prices, I don’t know. I did see someone call that Justice League variant a “1 in 10” cover, which is of course wrong. What, on eBay, what a shock.

I do wish something like this was attempted earlier, with some of the MAD artists that I remember from my early days of reading the mag. Not that there was anything wrong with what we got, but imagine a Don Martin Swamp Thing cover, or a Dave Berg Harley Quinn. I tear up just a little thinking of those wonderful possibilities.

(Here’s a gallery of the 2013 MAD variants, and here are 2014’s offerings.)

Post delayed.

§ November 22nd, 2021 § Filed under Uncategorized § 2 Comments

It’ll be up Tuesday. Sorry pals.

Time, time, time, is on my side, yes it is.

§ November 19th, 2021 § Filed under question time § 3 Comments

Back to doin’ the Question Mash as I take on another of your queries!

Daniel T bones up on

“How much extra time does having three main distributors cost you? If dealing with Diamond took (x) amount of time, how much does Diamond, Lunar and Penguin Random House take?”

Well, yes, as you’d expect having the number of primary comic distributors suddenly treble does impact my workday, primarily when it comes to entering the monthly comic order. Diamond takes less time than normal, naturally, as I’m no longer ordering several product lines from them (DC, Marvel, Ahoy, Scout, a couple of other publishers). Ordering those now missing products (save Marvel) from Lunar doesn’t take any longer from them than it did from Diamond. And doing the final order cutoffs for Diamond/Lunar (where I can adjust my initial orders just prior to items going to print) hasn’t really been impacted timewise either. Just doing the same thing, only on two websites instead of one.

But Marvel over at Penguin Random House. Hoo boy.

The retailer website isn’t quite as streamlined as Diamond’s or Lunar’s. Placing initial orders takes forever…I can pretty much forget about doing anything else with my day if I’ve decided to enter the monthly Marvel numbers. Things work very slow there with order entry, and that’s not even talking about the seemingly random “log out due to inactivity” no matter if you’ve been typing numbers into the damned thing for the past hour. We’ve been promised ease-of-use changes for a while, but it’s got a long way to go before it works as smoothly as the other two distributors.

And the final order cutoffs…Diamond and Lunar present your order numbers on every item eligible for alteration right in front of you, and you can enter new lower or higher amounts for each item as you wish. PRH doesn’t give you your numbers, meaning repeatedly referencing past paperwork. And you can only add to orders on your own…if you want to drop any numbers you have to email a sales rep with a list of item codes and your adjustments and have them do it. So, yes, it takes quite a bit longer to do those for Marvel, too.

The other big change is in taking in the orders, breaking them down, and then doing the weekly comic pulls. When I used to get everything from Diamond on Tuesday (assuming no delays and no missing boxes), breaking down the pulling the order was often an all-day job, possibly lasting way past closing time. Going home at 10:30 or 11 at night wasn’t unheard of. Opening up the Diamond boxes, getting everything into some kind of order, checking it all off the invoice (if they remembered to pack one into my shipment), noting all the damages and shortages (of which there always were), then doing the pulls…it made for a full day.

When Diamond and DC split up, I started getting DC a little earlier in the week to accommodate their new Tuesday on-sales dates. Which meant having to break them down earlier and getting the pulls done…and since Lunar’s shipments, with very very rare exceptions shows up with no damages or shortages, and almost always already sorted to some extent, it takes a lot less time to process the DCs (and the other publishers once they started to add them to the distributor’s roster).

As such, I’ll do the DC pulls on Monday, then do the Diamond breakdown/pulls on Tuesday…with Diamond taking a little less time now that the DCs have already been handled.

And now that Marvel has also been separated out from Diamond, it also takes less time to process. They now show up, also mostly presorted and, at least for me, only with very rare shortages and damages (neither of which I’ve had for the past three or four weeks, after the pretty awful first couple of weeks). Like the DCs, I check them off the (slightly less readable) invoice and get ’em pulled for for the comic savers in relatively short order.

Thus, when the Diamond shipment comes in on Tuesday, the Marvels and DCs for the week have already been done. The leaves me with a much simpler task that day, getting everything sorted out and having more time to deal with damages and shortages. Overall, despite doing pulls three times a week instead of just once, it takes less time. One, it’s kinda easier to do pulls a company at a time for me. Two, a lot of the work before was untangling the mess of books that were packed with no discernible rhyme or reason in Diamond’s boxes, meaning more time to straighten everything out and putting them in an order where I can easily check them off the invoice. With Marvels and DCs now separate and mostly sorted, that means less set-up time. And few damages/shortages means less time spent sending in those reports (and making notes for the comic pulls on comics they have have missed due to those errors).

So overall…yes, probably more time spent once you add in the extra work dealing with PRH, but the perceived workload is lessened due to being able to split the burden of new comic shipments over a couple of days. Trying to do it all in one day was a real bear, but now it’s a lot less stressful. You know, so long as everything shows up on time and very little is missing or damaged.

Hopefully you won’t mind a very, very tiny NSFW image.

§ November 17th, 2021 § Filed under pal plugging § 2 Comments

My response to Twitter pal Chance’s tweet about NFTs inspired another Twitter pal, kinneyrick, to take matters into his own hands:

Anyway, we’re all hilarious, thank you for noticing.

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