mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, May 08, 2004

More Things Not to Say to Comic Shop Employees. 

(part one - part two)

26. "Where are your computer games?"

27. "Do you mind if I leave my child here for three or four hours while I go shopping at the mall down the street?"

28. "How graphic are your graphic novels?" (from pal Dorian)

29. "I'm the owner's nephew. Give me a discount." (um, I'm fairly certain I know most of the owner's relatives...you aren't one of them)

30. "Hey, there's no price on this! It must be free!"

Friday, May 07, 2004

Another example of Robin's excellent observational skills. 

World's Finest Comics #121 (Nov 1961), cover by Jim Mooney

Thursday, May 06, 2004

1. That panel to the right was pointed out to me by pal Corey, who found it in DC Comics Presents #18, guest-starring Zatanna. So, if Superman has the Necronomicon, does that mean the DC Universe fits within the Cthulhu Mythos? Will Aquaman fight the Deep Ones? Will the Justice League fight Shub-Niggurath?

2. It makes me inexplicably pleased to see in the new issue of Invincible that Invincible's dad comes from...The Planet of the Mustachioed Men. "A planet...where men evolved from Freddy Mercury?"

3. A
German comics weblog had some thoughts on my Things Not to Say... list, particularly about the "Superman's still being published" comment. If I'm reading the translation correctly (the online automatic translator I used having a grasp of German only marginally better than my own) Comicgate believes that this problem doesn't exactly speak well of DC Comics' marketing department, and I'm inclined to agree, somewhat. It's probably safe to say that the people who say this to me haven't even thought of Superman since the whole "Death of Superman" thing, and never bothered to find out after buying their "collector's item" if Superman ever got better.

4. And for today's AiT/Planetlar review: Blackheart Billy by Rick Remender, Kieron Dwyer, and Harper Jaten. The title character is a skateboarding punk rocker who hates hippies, hates religious nuts, hates pacifists, hates the Grateful Dead...hates anything that offends his sensibilities (i.e. pretty much everything), and, oh, by the way, he also has a robotic head he got as a replacement when his previous head was seriously damaged at a punk rock concert. Well, it wasn't exactly my cup of tea (and I imagine that Billy also hates people who use phrases like "wasn't exactly my cup of tea," and who could blame him for that)...I mean, it was fine and all, but a little of this sort of character goes a long way. The lead story is the strongest, with Billy facing the menace of a resurrected Adolph Hitler, inhabiting the body of Jerry Garcia, and wrapped within a giant robot body. It's completely insane, plenty vulgar, and contains quite possibly the most offensive use of an inflatable love doll that you've ever seen. Remender's script is amusing, with an excess of pop culture references, but it's Dwyer's highly detailed and appealling art that carries the story.

The rest of the book is made up of shorter stories, one pagers, and comic strips...the short with Billy trying to get a coffee shop employee to let him use the restroom is probably the best, but the final strip, with Billy and his lady-friend Skeeter having a conversation about, what else, things Billy hates, and Billy's confrontation with a pacifist, is pretty good as well. The creators on this comic aren't afraid to go for the gross-out in the pursuit of a joke, which one should probably expect with Dwyer's involvement. Again, like I said, a little does go a long way...the excessive in-your-face outrageousness can wear thin a little after several pages, and feels forced at times. On occasion it seems like the creators are practically preaching at you through Billy's dialgoue about why these people deserve to be hated (particularly on the first few pages of the book), but that's more the exception. Some lines, though, are laugh-out-loud funny ("Well, hi-de-ho! A generous plank and me without a carpenter!" -- you really need the visual for the full impact. Yes, it's rude). So, overall, I did enjoy Blackheart Billy, but I don't think I'd want a steady diet of it. There, that's my wishy-washy conclusion.

And besides, there's a quote from Mr. Show's Brian Posehn on the back cover, and if he likes it, certainly you'll find something to like here as well.

Recommended for fans of Ralph Snart (the good ones, by Marc Hansen) and Tank Girl.

Someone unbuckled my swash. 

Okay, okay, there's more than just one funny pirate comic, like I had said. There's Pirate Club from Slave Labor, apparently One Piece is also another funny pirate comic...any others? Would you count My Monkey's Name Is Jennifer? There're pirates in it.

Geez...all I wanted to do was make my El Cazador joke!

Here are a couple more items for my list of
Things Not to Say to A Comic Shop Employee:

21. "Our new superhero is Neil Gaiman's Sandman done right!"

22. "Did you see [the new movie that just opened that day] yet?" (usually asked immediately after we open first thing in the morning) [from Chris Brown]

23. "Slow day, huh?" (only asked by the first customer who comes during the lull after a big rush)

24. "Hey, I'm buying a lot of stuff -- how 'bout a discount?" ("a lot" usually = $20 worth of merchandise or so) [I was reminded of this one by Greg at Viper Comics]

25. "Will you give me a dollar for the bus?" (not "will you make change," but "give me money." I had a guy come in nearly every day for a couple weeks asking us that)

Okay, now here are a couple true stories:

1. I was in a Los Angeles comic shop (no, not that one) with a friend of mine, and for some reason, as I was talking with him, the topic of Barry Windsor-Smith came up. I mentioned something about Windsor-Smith drawing those early Conan comics, and one of the store's employees piped up with "no, that's Barry Smith. Windsor Smith drew Little Nemo in Slumberland!" I'm not often dumbfounded....

2. A couple years back, a customer brings up the newest issue of the "KISS" comic book and started talking to me about how great it is that there's all this new KISS stuff coming out. I replied, absolutely without any malice, that it was very interesting that a band that was once big and popular could fade away for several years then come back so strongly.

The customer then got very angry with me, shook his finger at me and proclaimed "KISS NEVER FADED AWAY! THEY WERE ALWAYS POPULAR!"

3. Received a call from someone claiming to have a copy of Superboy #1 (the original one, from 1949) in absolutely perfect condition, and that he wanted to bring it in to sell. Well, we assumed it wasn't in "perfect" condition (heard that so many times, we don't even listen to it anymore), but if it was a Superboy #1 in any condition, we'd certainly be interested.

The next day, a couple comes in carrying a briefcase. They identify themselves as the people with the Superboy #1, and gingerly place the briefcase on the counter. Popping the latches, they open the case and carefully pull the comic out.

It's a Superboy Annual #1, from 1964. Still a nice item, not as rare or expensive as a Superboy #1, but still pretty good...except for the fact that this "perfect condition" comic had no cover, and had been so waterlogged at some point in the past that it was now pretty much a solid brick. We tried to explain to the couple, as nicely as we could, that the comic wasn't the title they thought it was, and it didn't matter anyway since it was completely unsellable.

Well, they were pretty darn mad. They thought we were trying to pull something over on them (what, exactly, I have no idea...we weren't trying, for example, to talk them down on a price...we didn't even want the comic in the store!), they picked up their comic, shoved it back in their briefcase, and headed out. For all I know, they're still wandering from town to town, getting increasingly upset that all these comic shops are turning their noses up at such a "great item."

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Well, I finally finally finally got my copy of Fantagraphics The Complete Peanuts, and it's a real humdinger. The strips are reprinted at a good size, the linework is nice and clear, and the design of the book is exemplary. And that index! "'Good grief,' first utterance of" can be found on page 215 (and it ain't said by Charlie Brown).

Also out this week at the comic shops...the conclusion of the first Plastic Man story by Kyle Baker, which I thought was very entertaining, but it's certain to tick off the people who probably shouldn't be reading this version of Plastic Man anyway (you know, the people who are upset that this isn't a serious superhero comic...oh sure, that makes perfect sen--wha huh?).

The DC 100 Page Super Spectacular reprint is pretty nice...it's a duplicate of the 1971 giant, down to the text pieces and the key to the cover, with the exception of the addition of creator credits to the inside front cover (not the credits to the stories, but rather to the creators of major characters...still no mention of Bill Finger, not that I was expecting one). The other exception is the cover itself...as I was looking at it at the store, it seemed to be a little awkward to me. I chalked it up to the coloring job (which is a lot brighter than the original), but once I got it home and was able to compare it to my original copy, the differences were pretty obvious. There is a cover reconstruction credit (to Dick Giordano) inside the reprint, so clearly there was a great deal of work to be done to reprint this cover. However, a lot of the finer linework has been lost, some of the linework that remains is a bit cruder, and some of the facial features are a little askew (Black Canary now looks crosseyed, for example). It's still a nice piece, but it really suffers in comparison to the original. I realize that the original art probably wasn't available and that there was only so much they probably could do, but it's still a shame. The actual story pages inside are nice, though, even if some of them have a slight "photographed from the original printed page" look to them (like the Checker Books Supreme trades had).

The long-awaited first issue of the new Firestorm series is now out, and although a bunch of comics message board people responded negatively to advance word on this new series because Firestorm was going to be "different" (i.e. "black" -- I don't know if that's a racism thing or an "it's different from what I'm used to, therefore it's bad" thing)...well, you can safely ignore them (if you weren't already) because this first issue was pretty good. And, when you get right down to it, it's not all that different from the original: teenaged kid, with troubles at home and with school, does something stupid and ends up with super powers*. It's all set-up, with almost no Firestorm action, but it's got me intrigued. It has a nice cover, too...really stands out.

The last part of Sandman Presents Thessaly Witch for Hire is new this week (amusing and well-drawn), as is Swamp Thing (told y'all about it
last week), the new Invincible (a series I've really grown to like), Shield: Spotlight (is anyone else reading this? I can't be the only one), and some others I might write about when I'm not fighting a huge headache like I am now.

The new issue of Scurvy Dogs, quite possibly the best (okay, only**) funny pirate comic on the stands, is out today as well, and that reminds me...1) I owe Scurvy Dogs publisher AiT/Planetlar some more reviews -- I haven't forgotten, Big Larry, I promise! -- and 2) there's also a new contest regarding Ait/Planetlar's title Demo, details of which can be found here. Win free comics, shirts, subscriptions...all kinds of goodies are being given away. And even if you don't win one of the prizes...hell, it's not like Demo is expensive; go buy your own copies.

* Though I kind of wonder how they're gonna deal with the terrorism aspect of Ronnie Raymond's Firestorm origin, particularly in this political climate.

** Unless you count El Cazador. ...Ha, I kid!

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Things Not to Say to A Comic Shop Employee. (All true, by the way.) 

1. "Do you carry comics?"

2. "How much will this comic be worth?"

3. "I don't remember the title...but it had this guy, and he did this thing."

4. "You know, I'm the person 'Hopey' from Love & Rockets was based on."

5. "Do you sell inflatable sheep?"

6. "Do you have a private viewing room for the adult comics?"

7. "Why, I remember when comics were only 5 cents!"

8. "Do you have any really good ninja comics?"

9. "I have a comic from 1962. What's it worth?"

10. "Are all your comics this expensive?"

11. "Do you have any 'I Love Bingo' t-shirts?"

12. "Do you have a photocopier? I want to copy some pages out of this comic."

13. "I'm an artist; do you have anything I can trace?" (Okay, they don't come right out and say it like that, but that's what they mean.)

14. "I'm looking for some good tattoo ideas -- what do you have?"

15. "Do you have any Spider-Man comics that are less sexy and violent than this?" (said after looking at a reprint of a Lee/Ditko era Spider-Man)

16. "Hi! I just let my ill-mannered kids run around the store unsupervised while I talked loudly on my cell phone for the last half-hour, and I have absolutely no intention of buying anything. Can my kids use your employees-only bathroom?" (Again, not exactly what the customer said...but boy, that's how I read it. Surprisingly, my answer was "no.")

17. "I know it's out...it said so on the internet!"

18. "They're still publishing Superman? I thought he died a few years ago." (I get this a lot.)

19. "Is X-Men x-rated? You know, what with the 'x' and all."

20. "You mean there's an entire store just for comic books?"

Don't worry...I was nice and tried to help all of these people out, or corrected their misconceptions, or politely informed them "no." Except for #16 -- screw 'im.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Neilalien links to a quote by Batman's Christian Bale, who tries to distance himself from the whole "comic book" thing.

I'm reminded of Kirsten Dunst who, on some cable channel promo-show for the first Spider-Man movie, in response to being asked if she read the Spidey comics as a kid, laughingly said "look at me! Do I look like I read comics?"

Also I'm reminded of Halle Berry, who, at the time of the first X-Men movie, was apparently complaining on a talk show about, due to the lack of roles available to a black woman, being "reduced" to playing a comic book character. (Berry claims she never said anything like this.)

At least John Travolta has the right attitude.

1. Comic writer Micah Wright admits he fabricated his military service;
all hell breaks loose. (I know you all know about this already, but I'm posting this link so my dad can read about it.)

2. A newspaper story on last weekend's Pittsburgh Comicon features a short but nice interview with Swamp Thing co-creator Bernie Wrightson, among others.

3. Found via Metafilter...online scans of Atari 2600 comic books, including Atari Force, Swordquest (by George Perez!) and Yar's Revenge!

Hear ye, hear ye. 

Pal Dorian, whom you might remember from my incessant mentioning of him in this weblog, not to mention his fill-in post regarding Doom Patrol #34, now has a comics/pop culture weblog of his very own, so he can stop slumming around here. Hie thee hither to


and tell him Mike sent you. If you want him to treat you nicely, don't tell him Mike sent you. WARNING: He might discuss Dr. Who, but don't hold that against him.

Seriously, though, he's a smart guy, and I think you all will enjoy his insights. But don't let him know I said that.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

1. How embarrassing...I thought I had
Legomancer over there in my links list this whole time, and I didn't. Oops, I guess the egg is in my face.

2. It looks like everyone on the freakin' planet has their copy of The Complete Peanuts, Volume 1, except me. I had to go and wait to get the copies at my shop, instead of advance-ordering from the publisher like all the cool kids are doing. Gosh dang it. I needs me some early Peanuts, and I needs 'em now.

2a. I did, however, receive my copy of Li'l Beginnings, the collection of Schulz's Peanuts precursor Li'l Folks. It's a gorgeous book...the gold stamping on the front cover really stands out, and the strips inside are reprinted at darn near full-page size. It's just as good as I hoped it would be.

3. So the other day at the store a fella is browsing the racks, glancing through various titles, looking at some of the books on the shelves and so on. Then a friend of his comes into the store to come get him...apparently Guy #1 was waiting on his friend to do some business in a nearby store, and decided to pass the time looking around in our shop. Okay, that's fine. But as they're leaving, the second fella asks Guy #1 "hey, you wanted to buy anything?" Guy #1 responds "nah. Can you believe it...grown men actually draw these things!"

Sigh. Grown women draw them too, thank you. What did he think...they were slapped together by preschoolers? Generated entirely by computers? (Well, some, maybe.)

4. I was doing a little restocking at the shop yesterday, and noticed that we had actually sold most of a run of Hex. Sure, you remember Hex, don't you? At the end of Jonah Hex #92 (the last issue of that series, published in 1985), Jonah vanishes in a flash of light in front of a bar full of people. What happened to him? Well, he ended up in the apocalyptic post-nuclear not-at-all-like-Road Warrior world of...the future! Hex, which ran 18 issues, featured Jonah using his old-west know-how in this new world, filled with giant insects, robots, flying ships, a future version of Batman, corrupt corporations, etc. etc., so on, and so forth. It was all completely inappropriate, and you know what? I'll defend this series with my dying breath. I wish DC would occasionally do more things like this...take some of their characters and just do something completely bizarre and out of left field with them. Where's my Aquaman: Space Ranger series? The John Byrne Forum had a good thing going with the Batman's Moon Patrol (and Monkey) gag series they came up with. (Heck, what I wouldn't give to see Batman fighting aliens again, and I don't mean in JLA...I mean in his own books.) Or how 'bout "Sue Dibny is...The Spectre!" Why not? The Spectre's position looks like it'll need filling, and if the rumors are true about the Elongated Man's wife...well, she may be in a position to take the job. I'd buy it...wouldn't you? Don't lie to me, of course you would.

Now, was Hex any good? No, of course not. Was it entertaining? Sure it was, in a real B-movie "I can't believe they're actually doing this" kind of way. The last few issues were illustrated by Keith Giffen, and the series ends on on absolutely appalling, but perfect, note, one designed to keep the hardcore Jonah Hex fans happy in regards to previously established continuity regarding Jonah's eventual fate. (Won't spoil it here, but I'll post it in the comments if you're interested.)

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