mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Friday, February 04, 2005

Well, since pal Dorian
outed me as a Star Trek fan, I thought I'd say a word or two about the demise of Enterprise, and the possible demise of Trek in its entirety. (With no mention of comic books...sorry about that!)

Now, do I think Trek is gone for good? No, of course not. Paramount has made a lot of money on the franchise over the years, but with diminishing returns and an inability to attract any kind of sizable new audience, I'm not going to hold my breath for any more TV series or movies for the foreseeable future. We'll probably see the book lines continue, and I'm sure we'll still see other merchandise, but it will all be bought by the same folks who've always bought Trek stuff. (Warren Ellis said it best, in an essay I can't seem to find online anymore, but Neilalien thankfully quoted from.)

Dorian once said about a particular musician (I'm not going to say who...I don't need to start that here) that you can tell the end is near for his career, as instead of producing new material, all that's been happening is that his older material is being continually repackaged in more and more gimmicky fashions. This isn't designed to grab new fans, it's simply there to get more money out of the old fans this musician has left. I'm talking about things like "collectors box sets" of CD-singles, designed to look like 45s, complete with individual sleeves. It's material the fans already have, but they don't have it in this format, so they gotta get it!

The Trek books are kind of like that. The books are either part of a series (Worlds of Deep Space Nine Part 3, Starfleet Corps of Engineers) or they're "written" by William Shatner. The books can't stand on their own...they need to be shored up by some kind of gimmick. Enterprise, too, is playing solely to the fans, giving backstories to various elements of the Trek universe. The series was at its best when it left behind all the continuity-laden baggage and entered a year-long storyline away from familiar space for its third season (though Mr. Ellis again has thoughts worth considering on this very turn of events). However, with the end of that story, we're back with stories about Vulcan civil wars, or Eugenics Wars, or Next Generation's Data's grandpappy, or (forthcoming) an explanation of why "modern" Klingons have head-ridges and why "classic" Klingons didn't...it's all about why things are the way they are in other Trek stories. Using past continuity as a springboard for stories is one thing...Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan is probably the best example...but devoting your stories to minutiae that only your hardcore fans care about gives the appearance of insularity. It repels new viewers.

I'm not saying I haven't enjoyed Enterprise. I'm a lifelong Trek fan, so the series is very clearly aimed at me, and I think the series has shown a marked improvement over the last couple years, even despite my criticisms. (I'm probably also the one person on the planet who didn't completely hate the theme song.) But, I believe, it's about time to give it a rest. Like Ellis has said, and like Dorian has also noted, there just isn't enough fan support for a Trek show any more. I would rather see Paramount pull the plug for the time being, rather than just put less and less money into a TV show they're only keeping on the air for the few fans left who are watching it.

I'm sure we'll see it back in live action sooner or later, hopefully with different people in charge so we can get a fresh take instead of yet another variation on the original '60s series. A take that, hopefully, can grab new viewers instead of just catering to those of us who have watched Star Trek for so long. I like Trek...I want it to continue, but I realize that it won't be able to without reaching out to people who otherwise wouldn't watch the show.

(As an aside...please don't protest the series' cancellation at anybody's offices...that's just embarrassing.)

1. I've
mentioned before that it seems like someone on the internet rediscovers Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 ("I Am Curious (Black)") every few months, and holds the comic up for discussion, or at least ridicule. However, there's life in the old girl yet, as Scott from Polite Dissent gives it a go from his unique medical perspective. Well played, sir, well played.

2. Thor, Thor, Thor, Thor, Thor, and Thor. (Okay, that last one has nothing to do with the Marvel Comics Thor, but it still rules.)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Spotted at
This Is Pop - a pic of Thor from the forthcoming Visa commercial that's going to air during the Super Bowl. Oh dear.

For another look at a live action Thor, here's a review of his guest-appearance in the TV movie The Incredible Hulk Returns.

Kevin, you bastard! 

I hate these "meme" things, I really do. You know, those quizzes ("Which Teen Titans Character Are You?")* or endless lists of "favorites/least favorites" that you see on every weblog ever. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. I swear to God, I've seen more than a few weblogs that are just quiz results.

At any rate, that guy Beaucoup Kevin totally called me out on this whole music questionnaire thingie. Because I like Kevin, and enjoy his weblog, I will, this once, go ahead and answer these questions. But I refuse to enjoy it, so there.

1. Total amount of music files on your computer:

20 gigabytes. Every single one legally acquired, thank you. (A lot of those are archived radio shows in high quality MP3 format, thus inflating the size a little.)

2. The last CD you bought was:

Second & Eighteen by Honest Bob and the Factory-to-Dealer Incentives. Buy a copy today...tell 'em Mike sent you.

3. What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?

"Vertigogo" by Combustible Edison (from the Four Rooms soundtrack).

4. Write down 5 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.

"How Much About Last Night Do You Remember" by the Young Fresh Fellows
"Johnny Q" by the Crazy 8s
"All of The Cool Girls" by Honest Bob
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by Negativland
"Better Luck Next Time" by Oingo Boingo

5. Who are you going to pass this stick to? (3 persons) and why?

No one at all. Stop the madness!

* And that is all the comic book related content in this post. Sorry, folks. Oh, and I'm "Raven," by the way.

New comics, ahoy! 

Yeah, it's this again. SPOILERS ahead:

Superman: Strength (2nd issue out yesterday) is turning into quite the interesting series. I know some people are turned off by the art, but like I said last time, it really does grow on you, and the series' theme of a young Clark Kent learning to deal with moral ambiguity is compelling.

On the other hand, Superman #213 is one of those comics that I'm buying just to keep the run complete, I think. I know, I know, that's the worst reason in the world to buy a comic. However, I've been a consistent reader of Superman comics longer than this guy's been alive, and I'm loathe to have a hole in my collection. Sad, isn't it? Oh well, I've enjoyed 99% of my Superman comics, I can tough out the occasional rough spot.

Daisy Kutter: The Last Train is out in convenient paperback form, which is good since I gave up my copy of the first issue to a customer and I was never able to get any reorders in. Plus, the book is about four bucks cheaper than buying the series, and there are lots of extra sketches and pin-ups inside, so it's quite a bargain.

I was going to say that the new issue of Concrete: The Human Dilemma (#2) takes the Concrete saga in an unexpectedly adult direction...and by "adult," I mean "sexual," but upon reconsideration, Concrete has always been an adult series, in every sense of the term. It takes the comics cliche of a man trapped in a monstrous body and applies a real sense of loss, alienation, melancholy, and plain ol' sexual frustration that's only crudely approached by the prime example of this character type, the Fantastic Four's Thing. Even the Concrete series' one concession to fantasy (aside from Concrete himself, of course), the origin story involving the aliens, is layered with such dread and feelings of violation that it could be read as an allegory for sexual assault (something explicitly stated at least once in the text of those stories, as I recall). Anyway, the more explicitly sexual content of this issue isn't completely out of left field, as it does appear to be playing into this mini-series' larger themes regarding overpopulation.

Hellblazer Special: Papa Midnite #1 - I know they're just doing this to tie into the movie (had it been Marvel, the series would have been finished and out in paperback by now), but it's still weird to see a character in his own series that 1) hasn't been in Hellblazer in quite a while and 2) pretty definitively dead, I believe. Still well done, as we get a look at Midnite's formative years.

Grimjack: Killer Instinct #1 - argh, that $3.99 price point! That's okay, though, as it's a pleasure and a half to finally get Grimjack back on the stands again. While I'm anxious to see the story pick up from where it left off at the end of the First Comics' run all those years ago, I realize that's probably not the best place to start up a new GJ series. However, this "prequel" series is a lot of fun, and beautifully drawn by Tim Truman.

Bizarro World hardcover - I enjoyed the first volume of this series, seemingly produced only to have some kind of "appropriate" outlet for the Kyle Baker's "Letitia Lerner - Superman's Babysitter" story that DC had to be shamed into printing. There was a lot of good work in that volume, though too many pages were devoted to that Bizarro vs. Mxyzptlk framing sequence that I think I still haven't finished reading. Thankfully, there's no such albatross in this book, leaving more space for offbeat renditions of classic and not-so-classic DC heroes. I haven't had a chance to read the whole thing yet, but what I have read has been a hoot. Rick Altergott drawing the Legion of Super-Heroes? The Peter Bagge/Gilbert Hernandez Red Bee story? Snake 'n' Bacon's Michael Kupperman drawing the Justice League? That fabulous Jaime Hernandez cover? Oh my.

Other new releases:

There's an ad for the Constantine movie on the back of Super Manga Blast #49. I don't know why that amuses me.

The first volume reprinting Evan Dorkin's Bill 'n' Ted's Most Excellent Adventures is out, including a fairly frank and amusing intro by Dorkin about his initial hesitance toward the project. This was a very enjoyable series, and I'm glad it's available again...though I'm glad I have it in the original color comics, since the greytones don't really do it justice. Still looks good, though, don't get me wrong.

Shanna the She-Devil #1 - I know others have commented on it before, but it's still amusing to look through the book and see all the different ways Shanna's nudity has been covered up for final publication. Bubbles here, blankets there....

Daredevil Redemption #1 - why do we have yet another Daredevil mini-series when there are at least two other unfinished DD mini-series still not being published?

BMW Films: The Hire #2 - for all you people who didn't buy the first issue, here's another chance to not buy another one! Well, I guess quarter box comics have to come from somewhere....

Legend of Grimjack Vol. 1 - we already sold out of it. Battle of the Planets: Princess #4 - also sold out.

We also received a ton of manga books that apparently comic shops in other parts of the country already received...at least, the comic shops that bothered to order them did, anyway.

And yes, there's a new issue of Swamp Thing, but I cheated and read the preview copy we received last week. The Arcane story is wrapped up, for now, with the final piece of explanation we're likely to get regarding his fall from "forgiven" status at the end of the Millar run.

In other news:

Scott Saavedra reveals what the old comic ads meant when they promised "life sized monsters" and "monster masks," complete with shocking photos!

Someone's Green Lantern computer case.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

From a brief discussion regarding superhero movies at the store today:

Kid Chris: "I'd like to see a Kingdom Come movie. Alex Ross can play all the parts!"

Me: "Well, he's got the costumes."

This stemmed from old pal
Corey and I shooting the breeze about the forthcoming Superman movie, on the likelihood of any established Super-villains other than Luthor being featured in Supes' big-screen adventures. Mr. Mxyzptlk is probably too out-there, Terra Man is...well, it's Terra Man, Parasite may not be flashy enough, and Metallo is probably too Terminator-y, (On the other hand, I didn't think Doctor Octopus could possibly translate to film either, but Doc Ock worked out quite well in Spider-Man 2.) We figure Brainiac may be a possibility (one I think had been brought up at some point with some past Superman film treatment). When "Death of Superman"-mania was going around a decade or so ago, I think Doomsday may have popped up in a proposed film adaptation.

It's probably a moot point, anyway...any new Superman film franchise will begin with a focus on Supes' relationship with Luthor. Then, maybe down the road, they'll get around to other villains, but the franchise will eventually peter out, lay dormant, then start up the cycle again with a new Superman vs. Luthor story. Ah, well, it's just the nature of the thing, I guess.

We also wondered why no one at Cartoon Network has tried to get a Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon going yet. Like pal Dorian said, it's at least 50 new action figure designs that CN and DC Comics could sell. Plus, it's lots of super-heroes, lots of super-villains, lots of aliens and spaceships...if any DC property seems tailor-made for a cartoon, it's this one. Additionally, a LSH cartoon may be the only way to rebuild interest in a LSH comic at this point.

Other stuff:

Chris Karath displays all the ad pages for Flash #218. Like Chris, I don't have anything to really say about it...but it is strangely fascinating.

Favorite store moment of the day: longtime customer Deon's cell phone starts to ring...and his very loud customized ring tone is the opening bit from Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train." Beautiful.

Link-weblogging - Special D.I.Y. Edition 

You know, for a moment there I thought I saw someone who had made his own "Jimmy Olsen as Elastic Lad" action figure, but surely I must have been mistaken.

Seriously, though, this guy has a boatload of customized action figures -- all listed on the main page. I particularly like the Red Bee, and Wild Dog, and wow, who'd ever thought you'd see a figure of Merry, Girl of A 1000 Gimmicks? Or Degaton? This 'Mazing Man figure seems a little overly-muscled, but God bless this fella for even trying. This whole page is a lot of fun, and makes you wish DC would get around to doing official versions of some of these characters (my Justice Society collection will not be complete until I can get my hands on a Ma Hunkle Red Tornado figure).

A Swamp Thing diorama! Found on this page, with lots of other DC character models (both commercial and homemade).

Marvel Magic the Gathering cards. Yes, even Man-Thing. For Neilalien: Dr. Strange, Clea and the Eye of Agamotto. And for everyone: M.O.D.O.K.!

Wolverine and Kitty Pryde "relationshippers" fansite. Oh dear heavens.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The February 4, 2005 issue of Weekly Reader's Know Your World Extra magazine cover-features the John Stewart Green Lantern, and contains a short article on comic book characters that had been white, and are now black. Along with Stewart, other characters pictured with the article include the new Crimson Avenger from recent issues of JSA (complete with guns and her signature bloodstain on her chest -- considering this magazine is distributed to schools, I wonder how many parent complaints that'll generate?), the new Firestorm, and the new version of Mr. Terrific. Writer John Ostrander has a comment or two in the article regarding Mr. Terrific's creation:
"'The original Mr. Terrific met some kids who admired gangsters [...] I looked at some inner-city kids today and saw a similar situation. They admired "gangstas." I felt the way to re-create Mr. Terrific would be to make him black.'

"Ostrander knew that a black man would be a better role model as a superhero than a gangsta. 'I also liked the idea that the smartest superhero would be African American.'"

A sidebar to the article briefly discusses some white characters that became black upon their transition to movies or TV, such as the Halle Berry Catwoman, Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin in Daredevil, and Pete Ross (played by Sam Jones III, a fact not mentioned in the article) in Smallville.

The article ends with this note:
"Perhaps this trend will soon include Hispanics, Asians, and other ethnic groups. Maybe one day a black superhero will be reinvented as a white hero!"

Well, we have Arana, Marvel's Hispanic Spider-Man spin-off (not really a reinvention, I guess), and there was the sadly-overlooked El Diablo (drawn by the late Mike Parobeck)...and I can't think of any black characters that have been revived as white characters, off the top of my head, though it seems to be it's been done. Ideas, anyone?

Monday, January 31, 2005

You know what I miss? DC Digests...I had occassion to dig them out of the vast Mikester Comic Archives recently, and seeing them again reminded me of what a huge loss it is to not have inexpensive, widely-available reprints of this sort anymore. (Please excuse the condition of some of the digests presented here...I took absolutely no care of them whatsoever...heck, I was 10 or so years old at the time, and I was more concerned with reading them than preserving them for future resale value...which is only right, of course. As someone who now sells funnybooks for living, though, I can't help but wince a bit when I see them!)

Before we had trade paperbacks collecting every six issues of a comic's run, whether they needed compiling or not, we had the digests. Best of DC Digest #9 (February 1981) reprints the "Batman - Murderer" storyline by Len Wein and Jim Aparo, predating the interminable "Bruce Wayne - Fugitive" (or whatever) storyline by about three decades. This was a story that ran through several issues, sort of a rarity at the time, so it was nice to get the whole series under one cover. Also, new to this digest: a floorplan and legend to the Wayne Foundation Building (featuring all the secret passageways and hidden Bat-rooms).

The only frustrating thing about the digest format is something that's come up now that I have a website...it's a lot harder to scan choice panels out of them! For example, the Best of DC Digest #16 (September 1981) reprints "The Trial of Superman," in which the Man of Steel is on trial for the murder of Clark Kent. Attention is paid to the trouble in finding an impartial jury...but once the trial starts, a scene takes place in the jury room in which one of the jurors reveals why her decision is so difficult: apparently Superman once saved her baby from certain death. This is the impartial jury?

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #13 (September 1981) reprints, among the various sci-fi/fantasy oriented Strange Sports Stories (some '60s classics and some newer '70s adventures) the "classic" superheroes versus supervillains baseball game story "The Great Super-Star Game!" If there's a stranger splash page than Superman pitching a baseball, with the Joker up to bat, I'm not sure I've seen it. A welcome addition to the digest is an essay by Bob Rozakis on how he wrote the story (by creating the twists and turns of the game in the story by playing a baseball-themed playing card game).

Best of DC Digest #14 (July 1981) showcases five of Batman's most famous villains, in a series of stories reprinted from the 1970s. New to the digest were one page origins of each villain...and, if memory serves, the origin page for the Penquin featured information heretofore unknown. (I think I remember reading that this was the case...correct me if I'm wrong!) There's also a new two-page spread featuring 24 Batman villains drawn by Denys Cowan and Dick Giordano..."Can you identify them," asks the caption, and, sadly, I can.

This is exactly the kind of thing I wish I had at the store to sell to kids...an inexpensive book featuring Batman's bad guys. I could sell tons of these now.

Best of DC Digest #8 (Dec 1980) was the very first DC Digest I ever bought, featuring Superman in alternate identities (such as a genie, or a butler, or a hobo). The lead story is "The Day Superman Became the Flash," retitled for reprinting as "The Five Other Identities of Superman" (probably because there's another story in the digest where Superman also becomes the Flash, and this first story is more about Superman taking on identities duplicating some of his fellow Justice League members).

For some reason, the back cover has, among pictures of Supes' various guises, this image:

...an identity that appears nowhere in the digest, unfortunately.

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #10 (June 1981) just makes me wish DC would get around to releasing manga-formatted reprints of Mike Grell's Warlord series. You'd think with Conan doing so well at the moment in the comics market, DC would want to try to exploit it. Plus, these early Warlords still hold up after all these years. Lots of fun!

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #14 (October 1981) has a great Joe Kubert cover, on top of collection of DC's '60s sci-fi comics that, alas, are rarely seen nowadays. It's not completely superhero-free, as an Adam Strange story is thrown into the mix, but who's going to complain about Adam Strange, you know?

Ah, the Year's Best Comics Stories digest (this one being Best of DC #52 (Sept 1984)) - in which the editors of DC got together and voted for what they believed were the top comics the company released over the previous year. This was a good way to expose readers to comics they may have overlooked...along with the New Teen Titans and Batman stories were "The Death of Blackhawk Island" by Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle, and the first Amethyst story "Birthright" by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, and Ernie Colon. Also included was "Stopover in A Place of Secret Truths," Marty Pasko's Swamp Thing story that introduced Steve Bissette and John Totleben as Swampy's regular art team.

Favorite part of the digest...this detail from the back cover drawn by Paris Cullins and Dick Giordano:

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Jimmy did what now?

2. How sad is it that I remember the Silver Surfer issue Zippy is referencing? (If only I could say the same for the Little Iodine one.)

Keeping it short today...haven't I posted enough this last week?

Diamond Comics has posted a PDF file of the pages missing from some copies of Previews...so I guess that means someone somewhere also got some bunk catalogs. You see, I'm not crazy, I'm not! However, it's posted on the retailers-only Diamond site, so if you can't get a replacement copy of the actual publication, bug your local retailer for that file.

2. Am I the only person who got a Crisis on Infinite Earths vibe from the most recent episode of Justice League Unlimited? Okay, actually, I just put in that TV Tome link before reading it...and yeah, they pick up on the Crisis thing, too. It's kind of hard not to, with the different time periods being crammed together, and the big white wall of "nothingness" destroying the world...good times, good times. Another nice touch was the reference to the old Green Lantern "giant hand holding the swirling stars at the beginning of time" bit of business. That's right up there on my list of things I never expected to see animated.

The defeat of the villain was pulled out of nowhere (Batman (paraphrasing): "There...I just wrote a program that will reverse the effects of Chronos' time belt." Um, right), but the interaction of the Batman Beyond-era Bruce Wayne with the present-day Batman was a lot of fun...particularly in the contrast of methods used in extracting information from a perp. Batman just gets nastier in his old age, as we've all expected.

Plus, there's a cameo by a certain other Green Lantern that should make pal Corey very happy.

3. Oops...Tom reminds me that it's Jay Kennedy, not Jay Kinney like I said yesterday, who's responsible for the old underground price guide. I even regularly refer to our copy of that guide, so I should have known better...I just have a blind spot regarding those names, I guess.

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