mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, September 18, 2004

The following statement only makes sense in context with other comics webloggers' recent posts: 

I still kinda like Star Wars.

Titles they'd probably think twice about before using today, Part One 

Wacky Adventures of Cracky #8 (September 1974)

Friday, September 17, 2004

Well, this has been a pretty content-heavy week for me on this here site, so I've just got a few odds and ends to cover:

  • If you want to hear the theme from the Swamp Thing cartoon I was discussing yesterday, you can find it (and several other superhero TV and movie themes) on this page. It'll cause great pain, I assure you. There's even a second version of the theme that was created, I'm assuming, to avoid paying the writers of "Wild Thing" more money.

  • Jim asks why I just got my copy of Following Cerebus this week, when he's had his for a week or two now. Well, sometimes distribution on independent titles is a little scattered, particularly in the case of Cerebus, which stores serviced by Diamond's Los Angeles warehouse consistently received the week after everyone else in the country got theirs. The rule of thumb seems to be that the further west you are, the more likely certain indies will arrive late. It's just one of those things, and we've learned to deal with it...it's not really that prevalent of a problem. (EDIT: Just noticed Dorian touched upon the same topic.)

  • As I was rewatching last week's Justice League Unlimited, I noticed two things: 1) Dr. Light turns and heads toward the teleporter before J'onn calls out her name, and 2) now that it's been pointed out to me that Billy West did the voice of Skeets, I can't help but be aware how much Skeets sounds like Fry from Futurama.

  • Suddenly, we're sold out of the Fallen Angel trade paperback, and several recent back issues of the series, in part thanks to DC's recent free first issue promotion. In fact, beneath pal Ian's gruff exterior beats a heart of love and generosity, as he gave up the copy of the TPB he was going to buy to another of our customers. Don't worry, Ian...I got more a'comin' next week!

  • Speaking of Fallen Angel...the bartender is who I think he is, isn't he?

  • Added to the list o'weblogs: a Kirby Comics weblog. But of course.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

File under "What Did I Expect?" 

I finally got it in my hot little hands, and believe you me, it's only because I'm The World's Biggest Swamp Thing Fan™ that I ordered this DVD in the first place. The cartoon is not good by any measure...well, it's colorfu...no, no, there's nothing good about it. And God help you if you hear the theme song, done to the tune of "Wild Thing." ("Swamp Thing / You are amazing" is the opening, and it doesn't get any better than that.)

The video quality is about as good as you can stand, given that the preferred alternative would be no picture at all. The color does seem to be a little washed out, but I don't think that's a problem with the transfer...I think that's how the cartoon originally looked. The cartoons themselves were created solely to sell toys, so the characters tool around in vehicles with grasping claws, and Swamp Thing regularly performs actions that could be duplicated in the various Swampy figures from the toy line, and so on...they might as well have shown giant animated kids' arms moving the vehicles and characters around.

Another thing with this DVD is how they padded out the description of what you get on the disc. Okay, there were only five episodes of this cartoon produced. And yet, this is how they indicated the DVD's contents on the back of the package:

Three regular episodes, and two bonus episodes? In what way are they "bonus?" I'm pretty sure all the episodes actually aired, so it's not like these are previously unseen shows (well, aside from no one watching them when they aired in the first place). Besides, it's not as if they were originally planning on holding back those extra two episodes for a second DVD of this turkey, then decided, as a special gift to all of us loyal Swamp Thing fans, to somehow find the space to squeeze on these "bonuses" at no extra cost to us.

And here's something else that's always bothered me about DVD feature listings:

"Interactive menus?" If you couldn't interact with the menu, what good is it? Okay, I'm sure what they mean is that the DVD actually has a menu, as opposed to some older DVDs that don't (like my Aeon Flux DVD, where you have to manually skip ahead to any episode you'd like to watch, or some of those no-frills Universal DVDs that only had a scene-select function, like the 1980 Flash Gordon or Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie).

And I don't know what they mean by "BONUS EPISODE," unless they mean "BONUS EPISODES," which I've already discussed above. Unless there's some kind of Easter egg on here, and a sixth episode is hidden somewhere on the disc. Oh, the humanity.

There are also previews for other cartoon DVDs, totalling about 13 minutes, and none of these cartoons are any good either, except maybe the ones on the Tex Avery disc.

I really have no idea why this disc was produced...there can't possibly be anyone else out there who wanted this...er, aside from me, that is.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Another Wednesday, another pile of dead trees:

  • Following Cerebus has finally made it to the shelves, and though I haven't had more than a glance through the book, it looks like there's lots of good information for the hardcore Cerebus fan like me that slogged through the whole damn series. There's plenty of sample artwork inside (original art, pencil sketches, and the like), but most of it is pixelated, which loses some of the detail. Shame about that, but the mag seems to be off to a nice start. (Pal Dorian wonders if the producers of this 'zine are going to try to pin Sim down on his "feminist-homosexual axis/female void" theories. I have doubts, myself.)

  • Oh, yes, it's another issue of everyone's favorite comic, Identity Crisis. I didn't see anything in this issue that'll stir up the fandom pot like the last couple of issues have, so they'll just have to try harder next issue. Anyway, we get some pretty nice treatments of DC's Big Three, and, I believe, when Green Arrow is talking to his friend later in the issue, while his friend is claiming that he's not allowed to interfere, he simulaneously lets slip a clue as to who may be behind the attacks. Nothing specific, just that maybe there's more than one person at work here. (Or maybe Meltzer was just trying to make the friend's reference to the murderer gender-neutral, which may be a clue in and of itself.)

  • I didn't pick up The Legend of Wild Man Fischer, as I have most of these stories already from when they appeared in Dennis Eichorn's Real Stuff comic. But if you haven't seen the strips, this $7.95 book is a good way to get some classic stories about this offbeat cult entertainment figure, with great art by one of my favorite cartoonists, J.R. Williams. The last page of the book is a handwritten letter from Fischer to Eichorn, and it closes out this volume on a very sad note. Looking at the scrawled, misspelled words, I sort of got the feeling that we have an alleged "street crazy" dragged into the entertainment business by people who thought they'd get a few laughs out of him, and has now found himself over his head in a business he thinks he has some influence over. A very downbeat conclusion, but still a worthwhile book to read.

  • Madrox #1, written by Peter David, pretty much flew off the shelves at our store, and I'm glad to say it's quite a well-done comic. It's takes Jamie Madrox's power of being able to split off duplicates of himself, and extends it to some natural conclusions. Mix in the fact that he's attempting to be a detective, plus the return of Strong Guy, we have a comic that's a lot of fun.

  • Other new releases: Youngblood: Genesis #1 (no, I didn't buy it...I did look at it, though...my eyes!), Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #2 (I really get a kick out of this book), JLA Secret Files 2004 (in which writer Kurt Busiek makes an obvious-in-hindsight addition to the Crime Syndicate story), Man-Thing #3 (also didn't buy, but did glance through...I like Manny's new look, but a Man-Thing that growls? Didn't like it in that long-ago issue of Astonishing Tales, and I don't like it now), and Alter Ego #40 (a customer of mine, who's been reading this mag since the beginning, once described all the interviews in this magazine as being the same: the artist talks about (or the spouse of the now-deceased artist recalls) how he would spend all his time at home in his attic studio, pumping out page after page of art for little money, never seeing his family and drinking too much. Maybe not 100% accurate, but it made me laugh. Plus there's always lots of great art in each issue).

In other news:

In talking with pal Ian earlier today, I suddenly had a brilliant idea: since the Freddy Vs. Jason and the Alien Vs. Predator (and, perhaps, Boa Vs. Python*) movies have had a moderate level of success, why not team up another couple of highly popular film properties? Yeah, that's right, I'm talking Back to the Future Vs. Bill & Ted. If there's a cinematic experience greater than Doc Brown vs. Rufus, I don't want to know about it.

Now that I've seen the Sin City in motion, I'm a little less hesitant about the quality of the film...but I still have a fear that the general audience is going to be laughing at the movie, not with it. I don't want everyone to think I'm all that down on the film, as I would like to see it...but just because comic fans think it looks good, doesn't mean the world at large is going to see it the same way.

I've read next week's issue of The Avengers, thanks to the preview copies our store receives, and were I an evil man, I'd spoil everything right here. Luckily, I'm not that evil...besides, if you've been paying attention, none of it should come as any surprise anyway. Heck, this is the first issue of this storyline I've really looked at, and I still wasn't surprised.

* Okay, so maybe this film isn't related to the previous Boa and Python films. Can't a boy have his dreams?

How Krypto protects his secret identity. 

from The New Adventures of Superboy #17 (May 1981) by Bob Rozakis, John Calnan, & Dave Hunt

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

There's no limb I won't go out on. 

So Dave (of the fine and good Yet Another Comics Blog) points out that the new Legion series is not going to have 40 pages of story in each issue, as I said, but rather that each issue would be 40 pages long, ads and all, comparable to the first issue of Seaguy. That would still be 32 or so pages of story, about 10 more than your average funnybook...not bad, but I think we'll still see a drop in page count (or a price increase) before too long.

And then there's pal Mark, he of Dorothy of Oz fame, who makes the (I believe) very correct claim that in issue 25 of Saga of The Swamp Thing, it's a caricature of Sting, not John Constantine, who makes an appearance. However, due to the physical similarities, some people have claimed that issue 25 marks a "cameo" appearance of Constantine, predating his actual first appearance by over a year. In fact, look at this exchange in the letters column of Swamp Thing #54 (Nov 1986):
"Close scrutiny has brought forth one fascinating observation I'd like to share with you concerning Mr. Constantine. Everyone knows he made his debut in ST #37. But has anyone taken a close look at issue #25? ... In panel 2 [of page 21] a sobbing Abigail Cable is standing next to - yeah, that's right - John Constantine! I always wondered how Constantine could have known so much about Abby and Swampy. The bloke must've been following them around for months, maybe years."

And the official editorial reply, from Karen Berger her own self:

"Aren't you the observant one.... Great spotting on Constantine's first appearance."

I'm sure this is just Karen keeping a fan happy, but I'm sure you see where the confusion comes in.

Anyway, the very reason Constantine was created was because the Swamp Thing artists at the time (Steve Bissette and John Totleben) wanted to have Sting as a character in the series (cited in this Alan Moore interview excerpted here). Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to a possible reason behind the casting of Keanu Reeves in the Constantine movie.

Remember the Rocketeer movie, based on the comic by Dave Stevens? The Rocketeer's girlfriend was named Betty, after the famous 50s pin-up model Betty (or Bettie) Page, and she was at least in part modeled after her. Well, in the movie version, that character's name was changed to "Jenny," reportedly out of fears that Page could possibly sue.

Well, according to that page I linked to previously, Sting is aware that there's a comic book character based on him, and that DC did have some fear that there could be grounds for a lawsuit. Perhaps the people behind the Constantine movie, realizing this, made a conscious effort to separate the Constantine character from its origins as much as possible, as a big-time Hollywood movie with an equally big-time budget may be more of a target for legal action than a small-fry comic book with a cult following. So, instead of a blond Englishman, we get a black-haired American. "See, Mr. Sting, it's nothing like you!"

Or, more likely, Reeves was the one who said "yes" to the script.

Anyway, all this pondering makes my brain hurt. Mike no like think.

Yes, the
DC Comics solicitations are up, and like most other comics webloggers, I thought I'd take a look at them. It's hard to top pal Ian's post, though.

First off, I wanted to comment on the new Legion of Super-Heroes series...I'm getting mixed messages on whether or not this is a reboot, but I suppose that really doesn't matter much to me. I'm a longtime Legion fan, and I can handle yet another reboot, I suppose. What is interesting about this new series is the plan to have 40 pages of story in each $2.95 issue. That does make a certain amount of sense, given the number of characters in the book (and every one is somebody's favorite...well, except Star Boy*), but, in order to do this, I imagine 1) somebody's taking a lower page rate; 2) it'll be printed on toilet paper; 3) it'll be in black and white (and wouldn't that tick somebody off); or 4) it'll have 40 pages of ads to accompany the 40 pages of story. Anyway, I'm sure this particular format will last only as long as Mark Waid is writing, or until DC's accountants tell them to knock it off. I happen to think it's a good idea to go 40 pages on Legion...beats having two Legion series, like they tried a couple years back.

Wait a minute...the Doom Patrol is fighting Devo? Oh, never mind, they're fighting "the Devolutionists." Rats.

The new Astro City series is finally starting, and promises to tell us the long-promised story behind the Silver Agent. Let's hope this one comes out on a more timely basis than other recent Astro City books.

I've usually waited on buying stories that appear in DC's hardcovers, though given the price difference between the hardbacks and the softbacks ($24.95 versus $17.95), I don't know why I bother. So I'll probably spring for the new Hellblazer: All His Engines book by Carey and Manco...I've been a Hellblazer fan since day one (in Swamp Thing #37...or #25, depending on who you ask). I like Carey's writing, and I certainly like Manco's art, so this should be a good'un.

Speaking of Swamp Thing...the new issue has the return (yet again) of Arcane, who apparently is back to being evil after his "redemption" at the end of the Millar run a few years back. I trust there will be some explanation for this turn of events.

I'm glad to see Chris pointed this out, too...is there really anything better than an Alfred action figure?

Additional linkage:

Scott has some naughty fun with a Legion of Super-Heroes panel.

Pal Dorian takes a certain turn of phrase to task. In case you're wondering...yes, I have seen him tell people off for this before.

Hey, cool...apparently, among the various other First Comics properties that are being revived and/or reprinted is Mars by Mark Wheatley and Marc Hempel. I loved that series. Apparently it's on track for "a large, deluxe edition" (read: hardcover) from IDW (read: expensive), which includes extra material (read: Mike must buy).

* I'm only kidding. It's really Invisible Kid that nobody likes.

Monday, September 13, 2004

A little link-weblogging love. 

Batman scales Buckingham Palace. (via This Modern World)

Peter David announces that his Hulk mini-series will now instead be part of the regular Hulk run.

Free Comic Book Day is back where it should be...in early May.

Pal Dorian looks at that infamous issue of The Hulk magazine, about...well, go see for yourself.

Whiz Kids comics archive. (Highlight - "Archie and The History of Electronics.")

"SWAMP THING, defender of all good" 

"DR. ANTON ARCANE, the twisted scientist, is preparing to drain the bayou in order to gain access to the vegetation and sediments at the bottom of the swamp. He believes that a series of experiments will reveal the secret of the origin of SWAMP THING and that once he possesses that secret, he can rule the world.

"Your mission is to protect the bayou against the evil DR. ANTON ARCANE and his mutant partners the UN-MEN!

"In order to save the bayou, you must travel through the swamp and confront ARCANE. Your journey will be perilous. Along the way you will have to overcome the dreaded UN-MEN - SKIN MAN, WEED KILLER, and DR. DEEMO. At the journey's end you must battle and defeat DR. ANTON ARCANE!"

"Never fear! Help is at hand. SWAMP THING, defender of all good, is joined by TOMAHAWK, a Native American game warden, and Bayou Jack, a former Medal of Honor combat soldier. Together, these heroes help you foil DR. ANTON ARCANE's wicked plans."

And so begins the instructions for this game from Rose Art Industries (1991), for 2 to 4 players, even though the game comes with 6 player pieces:

Sadly, the pieces are not in the shape of Swamp Thing, as one would have hoped.

This boardgame was part of the massive marketing onslaught* that accompanied the very short-run Swamp Thing cartoon series, but unlike the cartoon, this game is actually somewhat enjoyable.

The board itself is fairly attractive:

Here's a little closer look at a segment of the board:

Movement in the game is determined by cards:

Each player starts the game with three of the "Swamp Thing"-backed cards, which you can play one per turn. The cards are either just pure movement cards (the Swamp Thing card, where you can move your piece - in either direction - the number of spaces indicated); the Anton Arcane cards, which allow you to move other player's pieces, hopefully onto a space detrimental to them; and the Escape Cards, which allow you to bypass the spaces on the board where you do battle with one of the Un-Men.

Doing battle with the Un-Men requires using the die (AKA the "Battle Die," according to the instructions), and you must roll a number higher than the one indicated in the space in order to continue movement.

The Hero Cards, which you get to draw if you land on one of the spaces that tell you to do so, allow you to do one of three things: you can play one of your opponent's Swamp Thing cards in place of your own; you can add to the number of spaces a Swamp Thing card tells you to move (a typo on the cards says that you add the number to the Hero card); or you can increase your die roll by one during battles.

Swamp Thing's ability to enter "the Green" and regrow his body in other locations is duplicated by the "Green Spaces." By landing on the space by exact count, you can move your piece directly to another location on the board. There are also red spaces on the board (marked with things like "Oil Slick causes you to return to Start!") that, well, return you to the starting square. These aren't as tragic as they seem, as there's only three of them, and they're all no more than about a dozen spaces from the start square...the game's designers probably anticipated problems with younger players getting too frustrated at having to start over from a point much later in the game.

The game ends when you get to the final square, where Arcane is waiting...you have to roll a 6 (or a 5 and play one of your Hero cards) in order to defeat the big purple-headed guy and get him outta your bayou.

Anyway, it's not a bad little game, and it's fun for kids or drunk adults. It does sorta make one wonder what a game based on the comic book version of Swamp Thing would be like ("Eat hallucinogenic tuber - wander around the board for a couple hours;" "Send Arcane to Hell - take another turn").

* Perhaps I exaggerate slightly.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

For sale: one brain (factory-defective) 

So during one of the lulls at the store today Kid Chris and I were just working at the counter (he on processing back issues, me on mail order), shooting the breeze about increasingly bizarre topics, when the following sentence was actually uttered by me:

"Are you saying that Tony Danza is the Bionic Pope?"

There is no possible explanation that can satisfactorily describe how our conversation reached that nadir.

I think there must be something in the air here at the store, as just last week pal Corey and I pondered the idea of E.T. being a member of the A-Team.

I'm normally a rational human being, I swear.

Last night's episode of
Justice League Unlimited was so-so...it featured Booster Gold, who was never a favorite of mine (though I did buy his first issue, and even got the free "Go for The Gold - BOOSTER GOLD" pin that came with it). The premise of the episode revolves around Booster's quest for recognition from his peers and the public, which, in a nice touch, reflects the character's lack of recognition from the majority of the cartoon's non-comic reading viewing audience. The voice acting seemed a little off to me, and the writing was not nearly as amusing as it thought it was, though Booster's robot companion Skeets did get the funniest line of the episode ("I got nuthin'"). What did work for me was how the threat the rest of the Justice League was dealing with (while Booster was stuck on crowd control duty) actually felt like something really dangerous and world-threatening. More so, in fact, than in other Justice League episodes where the danger is the main focus of the show, rather than relegated to the background as in this installment.

There were more nice cameos, mostly of characters we've seen before. Elongated Man gets a speaking role in this episode, though his stretching power is accompanied by an unfortunately-annoying sound effect. Plastic Man gets name-checked, but not shown. And, if I may nitpick for a moment, I think the producers of the show may have confused EM's abilities with PM's...a reference is made to EM being on a stakeout disguised as a vase - aren't EM's powers more limited to just stretching, while Plastic Man is the fella what can change his body into various objects? Yeah, I know, the things I worry about.

EDIT: Chris is right...Elongated Man claims he disguised himself as a vase for three days, Booster calls him on it, and EM says, "okay, maybe not." So anyway, ignore what I said, and go look at the screenshots Chris posted of this episode.

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