Added a “real world stuff” category to the site just for this post.

§ June 1st, 2020 § Filed under real world stuff Comments Off on Added a “real world stuff” category to the site just for this post.

Think I’m going to pass on talking about comics today.

Pay attention to what’s happening right now, and don’t depend on network or cable news for information, as that’s all just “looters looters looters.” Look to reports and videos from ground level reporting on social media to see what people are fighting for, and what they’re up against.

Yes, I know that’s “being political,” and some people don’t like that getting mixed with their entertainment. Tough shit. The two are rarely, if ever, separated. Racism sucks, Black people getting slaughtered in the streets sucks, innocent people getting injured and permanently maimed (or blinded) by rubber bullets sucks, agitators discrediting movements with violence and vandalism suck. Sorry if I’ve offended anyone who’s actually okay with any of that…well, no, I’m not sorry, come to think of it.

Look, I know the regular readers of this site won’t have a problem with me saying any of this. I figure after doing ProgRuin for the better part of two decades, you gotta know what I’m about by now, right? I’m not aiming any of that at you. But there’s always those drive-by comenter who pops in to say something stupid whenever I take a controversial stand like, to use a recent example, when I decided to follow actual health regulations to maintain my business.

On top of that…I had to get this off my chest. It felt wrong just to ignore what was happening and continue on my site, business as usual. Look, I’m just a slightly-past-middle-aged white dude who sells comics, writes about comics, and writes about selling comics. I’m not pretending to have any special insight on any of this. Like most of us, I want to see a better world, and that better world is worth fighting for.

Thanks for putting up with this today, and I’ll see if I can’t get back to the usual content later in the week. In the meantime, stay safe out there, friends.

For the loosest definition of the word “lucky.”

§ May 29th, 2020 § Filed under retailing § 3 Comments

So it’s been a week since I was allowed to reopen my shop to customers, and so far, so good. Everyone’s being careful, maintaining distance and wearing masks, and happily shopping. I’m not quite as busy as I was before the shutdown at the end of March, but I’m still doing fairly good business.

One problem is that I’d been adjusting orders on my comics based on being closed to public access. Being told Thursday of last week that I could open again caught me by surprise, so I don’t have quite the amount of new stock that I would prefer to have for folks browsing the shelves. That’s not to say I had nothing, but my stocked copies on the new arrivals racks were perhaps not as deep as I would have liked. Now as it turns out, and as I noted, I’m not getting the foot traffic I normal get just yet, as folks are gradually getting used to the idea of venturing outside their homes again, but I did have to place a handful of reorders just to make sure I got the demands of the walk-ins I do have covered. It’s a fine line I’m walking here.

Speaking of orders, Diamond’s shipments for these last two weeks have been relatively small, so this week’s New Comics Wednesday was not the usual Big Register Take that I’m generally used to, but that’s okay. My Diamond bills aren’t all that high either, so as long as the sales on the new books pay for themselves, I should be in good shape.

Now the DCs…as you’d likely heard, DC started using alternative distribution outside of Diamond to start getting their books into shops a few weeks prior to Diamond’s reopening. And the distributor I’ve been using I’m mostly happy with. No damages, no shortages, good customer service, bulletproof packing…the only problem is the shipper they’re using. This distributor’s comic shipments are supposed to show up on Monday, so that the DCs may be put out for sale on Tuesday. I think I’ve had one of their boxes actually show up on Monday once. In fact, this week, I didn’t get the new DCs until several hours into my Wednesday. I like the idea of having alternatives to Diamond, but I’m going to have to transition my new DC orders back to Diamond just so there’s a better chances of having my books on time. I’ll likely do reorders and such from the other distributor, but time-sensitive stuff needs time-sensitive service, and I’m just not getting that.

When it comes to the actual racking of the new books, it’s a little trickier I have one shelf on the rack for the “New This Week” books, and the two shelves beneath hold all the books that came out the last week of March (the last Diamond shipment before their shutdown, released a week after I had to close the store’s doors) through New Comics Day of last week (which turned out to be the last day I had to be closed). I plan to continue racking things this way for a could of weeks so that as my customers return, they’ll have an easier time picking out what they have have missed while I was closed and they were away. Thankfully I have sufficient shelving space to accommodate this sort of behavior.

So, all in all, I seem to be doing okay and heading back to at least semi-normal business. I don’t want to say for sure my business made it through this crisis, because it ain’t done yet (and may not be for a while, if the folks demanding they be allowed to be disease vectors get their way) but there’s reason to at least be a tad hopeful.

• • •

IN OTHER SITE NEWS: Okay, there was a typo in Monday’s post title. It’s fixed now. And there are probably typos in this week’s post. COLLECT ‘EM ALL

Also, I did have a post ready to go for Wednesday…but I scheduled it way ahead of time, never bothered to check if it did load, and when I logged into my admin pages, I got a notice that publication failed for whatever reason. But it’s up now in all its glory. …So, two new posts for today! Ain’t you lucky?

And I’m not sure what’s up with that extraneous “K.”

§ May 27th, 2020 § Filed under marvel, merchandise § 6 Comments

So I had a fella bring in a few Spider-Man comics to sell the other day, and he had them stowed away in a small cardboard carrier. That that carrier looked a little something…like this:

I bought the comics, as it turned out I needed them all, and the seller left behind this box when he departed. At first clance, I thought it was a homebad box, as I’ve certainly seen a lot of personally-decorated comic boxes over the decade.

But no, the lettering appears to be printed directiy on the cardboard, which doesn’t preclude someone making one of these for himself, but more likely it’s some kind of mass-produced item. And it’s not official Marvel merchandise, given the lack of copyright notices. Not sure if this really counts as a copyright violation, despite the phrase “Amazing Fantasy” appaering, and having a spider dropping from the name “Peter,” which must be some kind of look ‘n’ feel thing.

Anyway, no idea where this comes from. I’d be very surprised if this was an Official Spider-Man Item™, but if you know where this came from, let me know!

I keep rememering another employee every couple of minutes to add to that list.

§ May 25th, 2020 § Filed under how the sausage is made, sterling silver comics § 3 Comments

So first, a correction/addendum to a previous post.

I was talking to my former boss Ralph, who owned the comic shop I used to work at, the other day, and he had a bone to pick with me. “I was reading your blog, and you co-opted my story!” he admonished me, and I was genuinely didn’t know what he meant. And he told me it was that story about the Superboy Annual #1 some folks were trying to sell. “That happened to me, not you!” he chided me.

Now first, Ralph was just giving me a bad time…he wasn’t really mad. Ralph’s a friend, and we’ve known each other pretty close to 40 years now, and if anyone has the right to give me a ration of shit, it’s Ralph.

Second…I honestly wasn’t trying to steal Ralph’s sauce in my story, or really in any story I tell about my days in servitude at the previous place of employment. In the case of the Superboy comic story, I believe I was in fact the person who took that initial call, as stated. But the rest of the related events did in fact directly involve Ralph. I was merely a Concerned Onlooker, watching and thinking “this will make a good story on my blog once those are a thing a decade from now.”

When I write about happenings at the old job, I tend to use an editorial “we,” as in “all us guys and the occasional gal who were at the shop.” I think my thinking in how I tell these stories is that what is happening and who is doing it is the point of the tale, over to whom these events are happening. In my head I know this stuff happened to Ralph, or to Rob, or Dorian, or Corey, or Aaron, or Dave, or Rachel, or Sean, or Timmy, or Damian, or Nathan, or the other Nathan, or Shirley, or one of the Joshes, or Greg, or someone else I’m probably forgetting, or even me.

I mean, there are specific events that happen to specific people at the shop. The lady who gave a withering “I’m very disappointed” when we didn’t have an issue of Stray Toasters…that happened to me. When the shop was visited by lady wrestlers in full regalia…I’d say that’s a thing that happened to “us.” Sometimes I don’t remember who was there at the time when things happened…like I don’t remember which fellow employee was with me when the lady selling a cleaning product door-to-door demonstrated how safe and non-toxic it was by removing the nozzle and licking the tube that dropped down into the bottle.

But in the case of the Superboy story, that was definitely Ralph who had to deal with those folks. When I said “we” in that story, that meant “Ralph, who was dealing with them directly, and me, who was listening to Ralph dealing with them while I was restocking, I don’t know, West Coast Avengers or something.” I’ll try to be a little clearer about these things in the future, and give credit where credit is due.

In current store news…so far, things are going swimmingly. Customers are happy to shop in the store again (while practiciing proper health safety, of course) and I finally had some reasonable days of business after two months of scrambling to make sales. Well, okay, Sunday was a bit slowish, and I expect Monday, a holiday, may be a little slow as well. Or it may be hugely busy because it’s a holiday…who knows. People are still being cautious about venturing into the diseased outdoors, so it may be a while before my business..or anyone’s business, is back to normal. I’m just glad I was able ride out the shutdown, but there are still plenty of challenges to come.

I know I promised something funny this time.

§ May 22nd, 2020 § Filed under retailing, sterling silver comics § 10 Comments

So Wednesday afternoon, a lady from the city came by to make sure my store had all the proper COVID-19 awareness signage and procedures in place, telling me that she hopes to get the go-ahead to let stores open to the public again by the weekend.

Thursday morning I received an email from the city, telling me “so long as you did [all the things the lady on Wednesday told me to do], open on up.” And that’s how Sterling Silver Comics is once again open to walk-in business, so long as you’re wearing a mask and trying to stay at least six feet away from anyone else.

I mean, that was a complete surprise to me. It was only a week or so ago that we got the okay to do curbside pickup. I was sure I’d have to keep my doors locked during the day for about another month or two. Huh, go figure. At least now I have a fightin’ chance at paying those invoices I was worrying about last time.

It’s welcome news, I mean, at least financially for me. But it’s really going to depend on how well people continue to protect themselves, and not get lax about it just because things look like they’re returning to some semblance of “normal.” First guy in the door on Thursday, a longtime customer of mine, didn’t have a mask…I told him next time he’s gotta wear one, and since he’s not one of these “BUT MY FREEDOMZ” disease-vectoring yahoos I’ve been seeing on the news, he agreed. Rest of my customers that day were sufficiently covered however.

All this said, I’m still offering curbside pickup and mail order as options, if folks would rather not venture in public spaces, which I totally understand. Plus I’m still doing these 30 for $20, or 75 for $45, packs of random comics, because I’m trying to clear out my backroom. And I’m taking your want lists, and I’m still putting stuff up on this Google sheet in lieu of an actual database, so let me know if you want anything off there.

Look, I wasn’t trying to trick you into reading an ad for my store. But these are hard times for comic shops, and even though I was lucky to hang in there so far during this epidemic, I still need to shore up the ol’ cash flow.

Sigh. You know, when I first started this blog I wasn’t planning on ever bringing up that I worked in a comic shop. Now look at me.

I’ll try to post something funny next time.

§ May 20th, 2020 § Filed under retailing, sterling silver comics § 1 Comment

This is the week that the major comics distributor, Diamond Comics, is starting up said distribution again, getting new comics into shops. After having relatively small shipments of just new DC Comics over the last few weeks from an alternative distributor, I suppose it was time to start gearing up the shop for these larger shipments coming in…though as it turned out, even Diamond is moving slow at first, easing back into the business.

Now Diamond wasn’t shut down entirely over the last couple of months, as they were still distributing reorders so long as you asked for them to be directly shipped from the warehouse…as opposed to having them sent with your regular weekly shipments, of which there had been none of late. My mistake, of course, was that the day before Diamond announced it was putting their weekly shipment on hold, I put in a largish reorder that I asked to have sent with the weekly deliveries. And of course there were lots of special requests in that reorder, so I had a lot of apologizing to do to those customers (all of whom were understanding and patient, thankfully).

The big issue is being able to take in enough income to cover the invoice costs each week. Not a problem right now, with small shipments (in fact, pretty much covered the week’s new comics costs with just my Tuesday sales), but based on coming weeks, it looks like New Comic Days will be approaching pre-shutdown levels. The trick here is that my store, like many retail stores in California (and elsewhere in the country) I’m closed to public access by government decree. I can do curbside pickup, so I’m very much encouraging folks to take that option and get their comics right quick so I can keep paying those gimmicks they keep sending in the mail called bills.

Again, not much of an issue now, but if I’m gonna be getting new larger Diamond invoices and I’m still keeping the customers out..well, that’s gonna be rough. The good news is that I did finally receive some financial assistance from the Binc Foundation…not, like, enough to keep my store afloat for months or anything, but hey, it ain’t nuthin’ and it’ll come in handy. Now if I could get that Paycheck Protection Program money or that Small Business Administration disaster relief grant, I’d be in a lot better position. Pretty sure cruise lines got all the PPP money, but maybe they’ll find some spare change behind the cushions in the chairs in their lobby to cover my payroll…which is, like, me. I’d like to, you know, maybe pay myself again someday.

Okay, it’s not quite as dire as all that…early indications are that my good and kind customer base are all ready to throw their comic dollars at me to keep me around, which is nice. And I’m keeping a close eye on orders, making sure things are cut down enough to not overwhelm me with costs, but not so much that I don’t have anything to sell. It’s a tricky line to straddle, but it’s gotta be done.

I mean, with any luck, like Diamond’s promotion for their return says, my comeback will be bigger than my setback, but it’ll take a while to get there. Like I said when all this started, I think for me, personally, Diamond ceasing distribution for a brief period was the wise choice, as it didn’t stick me with weeks and weeks of full orders I wouldn’t be able to move and fulls invoices I wouldn’t be able to pay. But I know that likely stuck stores that were still able to remain open with vastly reduced incomes while having to make rent and payroll and pay utilities, etc. Not sure Diamond had a whole lot of options, and I’m sure none of the options they did have would have made everyone happy.

As far as I can tell at this point, my business will be able to make it through this, which is very lucky for me. A lot of other comic shops, and just businesses in general, won’t, and it’s just a damn shame things had to get this bad.

Oh hey, Tony “Leave It to Beaver” Dow directed some of these.

§ May 18th, 2020 § Filed under swamp thing, television § 11 Comments

So in response to my brief description of the original 1990s Swamp Thing TV show, Brian wondered:

“‘Off-putting’ how? I have never seen this show, but have always been curious about it. Thanks!”

You’re welcome!

I thought about this question a lot over the weekend, actually. Mostly along the lines of “why did I say it was off-putting?” And to be completely frank, I couldn’t really put my finger on it. It had been years since I’ve seen episodes of the series, after all (even with the DVD sets…more on that in a moment), so I couldn’t remember any specific examples. Maybe I was conflating Swamp Thing with other late ’80s/early ’90s direct-to-syndication series that, to my mind, haven’t really aged well in my memory (and perhaps in reality)?

Well, there’s only one way to find out, isn’t there? BUST OUT THE SWAMP THING TV SHOW DVD SETS.

A couple of confessions here…last time I noted that I had the full run of the series on DVD. I was mistaken. I have “Volume 1″ (containing seasons 1 and 2” and “Volume 2” (containing the first 26 episodies of Season 3). Yes, there were some broadcast shenanigans apparently, resulting in what amounted to a very long third season. I don’t know, don’t ask me. But the end result was that, I dutifully bought those first two sets and never did get around to getting that last set. I seem to remember thinking “ugh I haven’t even watched these first two sets, I’ll get that third one eventually, I’m sure it’ll always be available for cheap.”

And yup, soon as I realized, like, this weekend, “oh yeah that third set, I need to get it” and tried to look it up, of course it’s out of print and not available. Not even on eBay, where out-of-print items go to get listed at stupid prices. Thus have I fallen down on my job as Swamp Thing Fan, but I imagine I’ll get a copy of this Volume 3 someday. On the other hand, when searching for that third set, I did see the DVD collection of the cartoon was being offered by multiple sellers for about $60 a pop. Take it from me, kids…don’t pay $60 for this. It was barely worth the…what, ten bucks I paid?

Okay, second confession…I think I’ve barely watched these discs. I did watch the special features (interviews with Swampy’s cocreator Len Wein and Swamp Thing himself, Dick Durock), and a handful of episodes, but I don’t think I ever made the commitment to watch them all straight through. I did watch some, and I certainly watched episodes of it when it was on actual broadcast TV, with commericals and everything, like some kind of savage, so I have experienced the show. But it’s been so long since the show was originally on the air, and probably a good decade or so since sampling these discs…I honest don’t remember a whole lot about them.

I did recall a couple bits…the opening title sequence and narration (“DO NOT BRING YOUR EVIL HERE” and Swamp Thing’s obviously animted eyes at the end), and, what I think may have been the element (heh) of the show that gave me the impression of its off-puttedness: Swamp Thing’s voice. It was modulated or altered somehow, giving it this odd almost metallic sound which seemed out of place given the nature-oriented being Swampy was supposed to be. Kinda like autotuning, only without the pretense of attempting to be musical. Points I guess for trying to do something different, given that in the Return of Swamp Thing film it seemed like they did literally nothing to the character’s voice, but the sound grates just a little.

My other memory of those show is that they did their level best to avoid showing the actor, the previously noted Mr. Durock, in the full Swamp Thing get-up. I had a specific recollection of someone talking to Swampy while all you could see is his head poking up over some shrubbery or whatever. And to be fair, in the two episodes I sampled on Sunday (season two’s “Birth Mark” and season three’s “Night of the Dying”) Swamp Thing did indeed show up in full regalia when necessary. Now it could be I’ll see some time/cost saving measures of our hero standing behind walls and stuff and only showing his head in other episodes, but we’ll see, assuming I keep watching these.

And, you know, I might. The episodes I watched…weren’t the greatest TV shows I’ve ever seen, but they were pleasant enough. It’s kind of nice to watch a superhero-based live action adventure show that’s only a half-hour long (AKA about 20 minutes without the commercials) so we’re in and out of the story quickly enough before you start thinking things like “this is kind of dumb” or “enough of all these ordinary people gabbing, when’s Swamp Thing showin’ up?”

One of the episodes, “Birth Marks,” introduced “Abigail,” played by an as-I-recall-embarrassed-by-it-later Kari Wuhrer, and of course Swamp Thing aficionados know, characters named “Abby” are of some importance in the Swamp Thing mythos. I haven’t watched enough of, or recall enough of, the show to know if there’s any similarity to the comic character beyond the name, but she does have mysterious psychic powers, recalling those issues of the first Swamp Thing comic book series where Abby Arcane evidenced some strange abilities of her own.

Also, the first credited actor in the show is Mark Lindsay Chapman, who plays “Dr. Anton Arcane,” and as I recall, in addition to the episodes I just watched over the weekend, he’s the main bad guy in pretty much every installment. Basically, he’s the star of the show, it looks like, which is fine because he’s a fun bad guy. There’s also a passing reference to Jason Woodrue in “Birth Marks,” so I’m looking forward to see how they deal with him. I’m guessing not a weird alien plant dude?

Continuity appears to be light, but not nonexistent. As I said, “Birth Marks” refers back to Woodrue, and “Night of the Dying” flashes back to a previous episode. From what little I’ve seen, there’s a light attempt at keeping things connected but not in an overt soap-opera style parade of subplots and character development that became the going style once it became progressively easier for people to watch TV without having to sit in front of the box when the show was on (and without having to program a VCR).

So Brian…I may have jumped the gun a little calling this “off-putting.” I mean, I can get used to the voice, and the Swamp Thing’s costume is…clunky, but I can deal. I enjoyed Swamp Thing as a prime example of a kind of TV adventure program that was very much of its time. Not deep, but fun, and I’ll try to watch more and finally get my money’s worth out of these two sets. And look forward to paying too much for that third set.

The archnemesis of Rolling Stone Boss.

§ May 15th, 2020 § Filed under pal plugging, swamp thing § 4 Comments

Speaking of Swamp Thing showing up in places you wouldn’t expect, I was speaking to longtime ProgRuin reader Wayne (buy his books!) and he let me know that for seemingly inexplicable reasons, the retro-TV channel MeTV has a Swamp Thing shirt available for sale in their online store. I already own that particular design, natch, but it struck me as odd as well, since as Wayne and I thought, Swamp Thing‘s various video incarnations (old non-sweary TV show, cartoon, movies) don’t seem to be candidates for their usual programming. I wondered maybe it had something to do with the Svengoolie program, which specializes in presenting horror movies of, shall we say, varying quality, though I imagine I would have heard from about a million people if Swamp Thing made it on there.

But after some extensive Googling, it would appear…maybe we were wrong about Swamp Thing not sharing a channel with Columbo, Gilligan and the Skipper, and Barney Fife. (Though wotta crossover that would be, right?) Doing some searching, it seems that the older Swamp Thing live-action show was part of MeTV’s “Red Eye Sci-Fi” lineup. There are even a couple of articles I found on MetTV’s site from 2017 discussing the series, such as their “8 Muckracking Facts” or their motivational posters. Look, apart from anything else, at least those articles gave me the term “Moss Boss” for ol’ Swampy, and for that alone we all owe ’em.

No idea if Swamp Thing is still on MeTV, or even rerunning anywhere. Half surprised it hasn’t turned up on the DC Universe streaming service yet.

I don’t know how much of the show any of you have sampled. It’s…well, there are lots of episodes, so if you’re into it, lucky you. I own the DVDs, and have owned them for years, but still haven’t watched them all the way through. It’s…rough going at times, and not because “oh my they changed this and that and the other thing from the comics,” but because it’s just a hard show to watch. Everybody does their best, but it’s just kinda muddled and occasionally off-putting. Now granted it’s been a while, so maybe I’m just being harsher on it based solely on my fading memories more than the actual experience, but it’s just one of those things I never find time to revisit.

Anyway, if you’ve been in need of a Swamp Thing shirt for a special occasion, here you go. It’s a nice design, recommended for all formal events and gatherings, once we start having those aqgain.

I tried to find a clip of Spicoli saying “Fuzzy Nerd” from the broadcast version of Fast Times, but this other video clip is a good second choice.

§ May 13th, 2020 § Filed under swamp thing § 3 Comments

So Twitter pal Fred dropped a bomb on me the other day, telling me that the DC Universe streaming service’s short-lived adaptation of Swamp Thing was picked up by the CW to appear on plain ol’ regular broadcast television, just like the kind Mom used to make.

I was of course stunned by the news in my typical hyper-articulate fashion. My very first impulse was “ooh maybe new episodes?” but then I thought about it for a sec. The show had been out of production for a while, everyone’s moved on to other things, I’m sure, and the cost of getting everything going again is probably more of an investment than anyone’s likely to want to make.

It occurred to me that what was more likely was that the network was shoring up its content for coming months, what with the decline in production of material due to coronavirus concerns, especially since I’d been hearing that could be a problem for the next TV season. And, taking a look at this Variety article, it would appear that this is indeed the case. And according to the article, Swamp Thing isn’t the only show jumping from streaming to comercial TV.

Now I suppose if this re-presentation of Swamp Thing is the biggest hit the CW has ever experienced, then efforts would be made to resume production on the series (after our proto-zombie apocalypse is overwith, of course) but that seems not terribly likely. But who knows…with more people staying home, and just by virtue of being shown on a platform that more people have (i.e. “free television”) it’ll acquire a larger audience. But I’m not holding my breath (at least, not any more than I already am) for a season two pickup.

It will be amusing to see how the CW edits the show to get around the naughty language for which the DC Universe shows are fairly notorious. Well, as I recall, Swmap Thing wasn’t too bad in this regard, so I guess it won’t be as big an issue. Not like what would have to happen, if, say, Titans or Doom Patrol got picked up to appear after Supergirl or whatever.

And by “files” I mean multiple stacks of CD-Rs.

§ May 11th, 2020 § Filed under swamp thing § 2 Comments

Let me present you the two oldest digital images of Swamp Thing I have in my “files.” The date stamp on both of these put them as being downloaded July 14, 1994, almost certainly from America Online. Yup, I was tying up the phoneline pulling these pics off AOL at however-many-cents-per-minute they were charging me.

Given the date (and, um, the drawings themselves) these are during the Mark Millar run, illustgated by Phil Hester. I think these came from the official DC Comics “room” (or whatever it was called…it had some kind of specialized name) on AOL, promoting upcoming comics. If my eyes worked better I’d dig through and find the actual issues these came from, but it’s around #147, I think.

One thing I do recall from this period of online promotion, at least where this particular DC outlet was concerned, was that quite a few of the images offered were limited color/”color hold” pics, like one of the ones I’m about to show you. And inf act, let me show them to you now:

Interestingly, when I tried to upload the original files to the site, I received the message “this kind of file is not permitted due to security reasons” or words to that effect. They were GIFs, but these are new jpegs I just created from that source. Did the GIF format somehow change so significantly over the last, eep, 26 years that old GIF files are a problem?

Anyway, enjoy those pics of Internet Yesteryear. And no, I’m not still on AOL, though I miss the anticipation of hearing the “YOU’VE GOT MAIL” message when I would sign in. I always thought that was pretty cool.

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