mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Cameo appearances and gratuitous use of the -in' suffix. 

Friday, we had yet another visit from former employee, now college boy, Kid Chris, showing us his swell new squant-colored sweater. Here's a picture of him at our shop, perusing the latest in the finest of intellectual entertainment, now that he's got himself some higher learnin':


Also paying a visit was the most far-flung of the ACAPCWOVCCAOE, pal Ian:

IAN BRILL (Artist's conception)

Ian was regaling us of tales of the comics buying, reading, and drinkin' at the retail shops up there in the San Francisco area, and boy, the more I think about it, the more I think our store needs some kind of lounge as well. Just someplace where I can kick back, relax, enjoy some quiet time....

Oh, you mean the lounge is for the customers, too? Crud. Well, as long as I can have my store shooting range in the back, I'll be happy.

Friday, November 25, 2005


...seeing a complaint about this in this week's Wizard was the last straw. So, one more time....

The "bizarre" dialogue in this panel, from Frank Miller and Jim Lee's All Star Batman & Robin #2, which has caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth at Batman's "out of character" behavior:

...is explained in this panel, on the very next page:

It is explicitly stated in the narrative that Batman is behaving in such a fashion to test Dick Grayson's reactions.

I don't know...maybe my copy of the comic was the only one that had that second panel in it.

Not saying the comic is perfect, but I've seen too many people present that first panel (or other panels of Batman's extreme behavior) as if it were how Batman is normally characterized in this book, not mention the explanation on the very next page, and go into hysterics about "Miller ruining Batman." If you don't like the whole sequence (or the whole book, for that matter), fine, but don't pretend that particular piece of dialogue just came out of nowhere, with no context. I mean, you wouldn't catch me doing that.

Okay, now that I've alienated everybody...let's talk about New Comics this week:

First off, we were shorted a bunch of titles, including the new issue of Walking Dead (which, according to our distributor, we may or may not ever receive) and Giant Monster #2 (sorry, Ross!), plus several other smallish-press stuff. Very annoying.

Comics Journal #272, which we did get, reprints some choice pages from John Stanley's Thirteen Going on Eighteen comic. Great stuff, and well deserving of a full reprinting.

The new issue of Warren Ellis' Jack Cross came out, and was met by a handful of customers telling me that this will probably be their last issue. And it seems to me that, looking at some online reviews, a lot of people don't care for the series. (And by "online reviews," I mean reviews from reasonable and rational people, who more often than not are Ellis fans -- not knee-jerk "I don't like Ellis he's weird" message board reviews from people scared and/or jealous of him.) I don't see this as being any better or worse than other Ellis projects of this type, but I haven't really given it a careful reading, so I'm not the best judge. Reasons I've heard include "confused politics" and "going to the 'I'm a Hard Man' well too many times." Well, if things go south, they can always retroactively make this a DC Universe title and turn Jack Cross into the new Spectre. (Just kidding, please don't kill me.)

Evil Ernie in Santa Fe #2 - Hey, that offer on the back cover stating that readers can return their copy of the comic to the publisher if they don't like it, and get their money back? Can retailers do that too?

Walt Disney's Comics & Stories #663 - New Don Rosa story, featuring Donald Duck reteaming with the rest of the Three Caballeros. It's part one of (I think) three, and it's a whole nine pages, which kinda steams my clams. But nine pages by Don Rosa is like 27 pages by anyone else, so I guess I can let it slide.

Holy smokes, a new Palookaville (#18) is out, featuring the continuation of Part 3 of "Clyde Fans." Filmed in "Depress-o-vision," certainly, but a new Seth comic is always something to celebrate. I just hope the story wraps up before I hit retirement age.

Okay, so remember a couple days ago when I was poking fun at reporters who use the forty-year-old cliche of "POW! BAM!" headline titles?

Well, here's another one, but this title is funny, and therefore exempt from my scorn:

"Bif! Pow! PLOTZ! Jews and the invention of the American comic book"

Ah, "plotz," truly you are a great word.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Be thankful for...THE END OF CIVILIZATION. 

Wait a minute...the new issue of Girls doesn't have a naked lady on the cover! How do they expect to sell any copies?

Anyway, a new edition of Diamond Previews means, yes, once again, a new installment of PROGRESSIVE RUIN PRESENTS...THE END OF CIVILIZATION (previous installments 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9).

Whip out your copies and celebrate your Thanksgiving (where applicable) by looking at bizarre and peculiar merchandise due out in your local hobby shops in February '06. It's what the Pilgrims would have wanted.

p. 26 - Aliens Predator Panel to Panel - There's some kind of irony, I think, in that Dark Horse is publishing a book showcasing, in part, artwork from the Aliens Vs. Predator comics that they haven't had in print since before the Aliens Vs. Predator movie.

p. 164 - From McFarlane Toys, a three-dimensional representation of the Led Zeppelin 1 Album Cover. Lemme know when McFarlane gets around to a 3D version of this cover.

p. 186 - I've been wanting a Galactus Mini-Mate figure for quite a while now...well, it's here, it's eight inches tall, it's resin, it's non-posable, and it's $85. Okay, now I'm wanting an affordable Galactus Mini-Mate figure. One where I can at least move the arms...and maybe take off the helmet to reveal Galen's face. Let the boy have his dreams.

p. 229 - Friday the 13th: Jason Vs. Jason X #1 - The comic pal Corey and I should have written, with the good Captain taking the old, tired Jason pages, and yours truly taking the pages featuring the vastly improved, and much tougher, Jason X...of the future.

p. 245 - Painkiller Jane returns with a new #1, and will probably end shortly thereafter, as soon as the forthcoming lousy made-for-Sci-Fi Channel movie is inflicted upon an unsuspecting public.

p. 283 - Transformers: Infiltration: "Ask your retialer [sic] how to get the rare Guido Guidi 'Starscream' cover." - No, please don't. I haven't checked yet, but it probably involves ordering far more copies of the other covers for our shelves than this dying property deserves.

p. 286 Spike Vs. Dracula #1 - "You know, I bet mention is made of Spike's claim that Dracula owes him money." (reads soliciation) "Yup, there it is."

p. 400 - Oh, for God's sake, more Lord of the Rings trading cards? Give it a rest, already.

p. 404 - Casino Askew Poker Deck #1 - Hold 'Em McNeil - Featuring color photos and equally colorful dialogue from the film Chasing Amy on the faces of the cards.

p. 422 - Aliens Deluxe Pewter Chess Sets, with the Aliens versus the Colonial Marines. The Queens are the Queen Alien (natch) and Ripley in the Power Loader. Available in two editions: painted, and plain ol' unpainted pewter.

p. 422 - Big Screen Bears Series 1:

"Introducing the Big Screen Bears - plush teddy bears patterned after your favorite cult movies characters. Series One is scheduled to include: Pinhead (from Hellraiser), The Bride (from Kill Bill), Jay and Silent Bob (from Clerks), and Jules and Vincent (from Pulp Fiction). Each bear stands approximately 10 inches tall."

Okay, I started typing that thinking this is a ridiculous idea, but by the time I finished, I realized that there's nothing I want more than a Pinhead Bear.

p. 425 - Big Bird Deluxe Action Figure! Complete with pal Little Bird! Fantastic.

p. 425 - Labyrinth Goblin King Jareth 12" Action Figure - Little known fact: money was saved on the Labyrinth film by having David Bowie just wear his own clothes for the shoot.

p. 430 - Transformers: Optimus Prime Head Replica. ...There's not really anything I can add to that.

p. 435 - It wouldn't be a Previews with some outrageously-priced Buffy the Vampire Slayer prop replica. This time it's the Vampyr Book Replica, with a "worn leather look" (i.e. probably not actual leather) that "opens to reveal an attractive, velveteen-lined hidden space." 12 inches by 14 inches by 5 1/2 inches deep...only $129.99.

p. 460 - Monty Python Black Knight Talking Bop Bag - I have yet to be disappointed by any item from Monty Python's current merchandising onslaught. A Black Knight bop bag is genius.

p. 462 - Cthulhu Novelty Hat:

"The perfect head covering for those cold winter days, costume parties, an evening get-together of Cthulhu's minions, and the prevention of anything even resembling sex."

Okay, I may have added that last part.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

from Nutty Comics #8 (1947)

I don't really have a joke or anything here...I just like that image.

Also in the same comic is "Buddy Beaver" and his girlfriend Bessie, proving that "bigger, wider eyes" doesn't always mean "cuter:"

"Hi kids! We're on the crack!"

And this other panel from the story disturbs me for no reason I can easily name:

Let that fuel your nightmares, friends.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A couple things.... 

1. I just got the official word from DC Comics on what we gotta do to return the defective Crisis on Infinite Earth action figures: as hoped, we have to cut off and return the heads.

Cut off and return the heads.

There's a strange sort of pleasure in that...um, not in a weird "someday this weblog post will be read aloud in a courtroom by a prosecuting attorney" way. It's more...well, because of the nature of the hobby, we have to treat everything carefully at the store. Customers want mint comics, mint packages, mint mints, and so on, so we handle our store's merchandise gently.

Except when it's time for distributor returns, when we gleefully tear front covers off of comics, and, yes, cut heads off action figures, to mail back to Diamond for credit.

Last time I had to cut off a head ("I'd like to introduce exhibit 2, Your Honor"), it was for some lousy Batman pewter statues, and we had a devil of a time cutting those stupid things. These plastic figures, though...one quick snap, we got ourselves a headless Psycho Pirate, no sweat.

I'm going to do this when the store is open, and we have a floor full of customers, and I'm not going to explain to them what I'm doing, just to see their expressions.

2. We received a manila envelope in the shop's mail yesterday, containing one (1) copy of Jack of Hearts #1 from 1984, with severe spine wear and old water stains. The included letter stated that this was a complimentary copy from the sender, who wanted to be sure we had a copy in case anyone was interested in buying it.


Some (old) news you can use...or "Guess what search terms I used to find these stories" 

"Smash! Pow! Bam! Why superheroes go bankrupt"

"One way Marvel tried to cut its losses in the '90s was by directly distributing its own comics. That move not only ran several distributors out of business, it also shuttered many comic book shops and did real damage to overall sales. The company’s hamfistedness earned it the enmity of many fans, who undertook a boycott of all things Marvel."

"Pow! Bam! Can Marvel keep soaring?"

"Pow! Take that, vile debt!"

"Whatever happened to 'bam' and 'pow?'"

"It seems like nowadays, comic books have completely overlooked their most crucial readers: children. Sure, there's still an audience for Wonder Woman; it just happens to be your fat, impotent uncle George. And let's face it, George won't be with us much longer. So who will take his place as a new comics reader?"

"Comics are Nothing to Laugh About"

"...A teenage geek who’s never kissed a girl in his life goes into a comic store surrounded by people just like himself, which is run by a short, fat, balding, cigar chomper of an owner named Marv, to pick from the latest assortment of comics featuring Misogynist Man and Steroid Lad, in 'Pow/Bam' dialogue thinly disguised as a story."

I also came across this paper on Comic Book Markup Language (official site), which is a proposal for presenting comic books on the web in a format other than the usual "scan 'n' post." I'm sure someone out there in the comicsweblogoverse has already mentioned this, but it was news to me. Pretty interesting, I thought.

EDIT: The HBO series Carnivale may return as a comic book. (via TV Tattle)

Monday, November 21, 2005

A depressing letter; I'm lonely, oh so terribly lonely; Fanboy; a happy family; out of context merchandise 

This may be the most depressing letter to a comic book ever:

And, yeah, that was the whole letter. Boy, cheer up, fella! (And, um, ixnay on the sleepin' nude talk..."TMI," as the kids say.)

Another letter that puzzled me at about the same time was one that was printed in Green Lantern #162 (March 1983):

At the time, the Green Lantern letters pages were comprised primarily of very short letters (either readers were sending in brief missives, or these were excerpts from longer letters), interspersed with plugs for other DC Comics. I sort of got the feeling that the editor didn't have very many good letters to choose from, so he had to pad out the space as best he could, including letters that he may not have ordinarily run. That was my impression, anyway.

That letter in particular puzzled me at the time, and continued to do so for years afterward. "'Silver Twist?' Man, what was that guy talking about? Why would he write into Green Lantern about this?" Yes, I really did wonder about this on occasion...something would remind me of it, I'd think "what was up with that?" in passing, and get on with my life. I just figured it was something that the letter writer made up, and that was that.

Well, something like twenty years after I first read that letter, I finally found out what that person was talking about...the "Silver Twist" was actually a plot element that appeared in previous Green Lantern comics. I like GL, but haven't read every issue (like my pal Corey), so it may be understandable why I didn't know what this was. But I can't be too hard on the editor, either...not everyone is as obsessive about trivial details to the same extent as comic fans.

I remember one of my very few fan letters, written in my misbegotten youth, to some Superman comic or another referenced a minor character from a '50s Superman story, that had just been reprinted in one of the digests at the time. The editor wisely took it out when he printed the letter, since, well, what did that have to do with the modern Super-books, anyway, and the reference may have confused readers who didn't read that digest or didn't have an encyclopedic knowledge of comics.

Luckily, someone invented weblogs a couple decades later, and I can ramble on about obscure and ancient comic topics all I want. Take that, DC Comics editorial staff of the early 1980s!

So when I was thanking Fred Hembeck and Alan David Doane for their kind words in my post yesterday, a depressing thought hit me. Here are a couple people that I get along with, that I like and whose work I enjoy, and with whom I have exchanged extended e-mail discussions. But I may never actually get to meet them in person. Yeah, this is no new observation in this age of internet communication, but it's just a little discouraging to realize that no matter how well I may get along with some of these folks online, I'll probably never hang with them in real life. There are several people on my sidebar there with whom I'd probably get along famously...though I bet if I spent any time with BeaucoupKevin and Ringwood Ken, we'd all probably end up in a holding cell somewhere.

I have met a number of people in my weblogroll...all the members of the Associated Comics and Pop Culture Webloggers of Ventura County, CA And Outlying Environs, of course, even the elusive (and missing?) "Fred" (EDIT: site since appropriated by someone decidedly not "Fred"), I all knew prior to this whole weblogging thing, either as customers or coworkers. There's pal JP's brother Scott, about whom I can say "ah, I knew him when." I also know Ro and Randy and Dan and Andy in real life, and I've met John Gorenfeld several times, mostly because he's an old, old (like since elementary school) good friend of pal Dorian.

Of fellow webloggers, the only ones I've met are "Lefty" Brown and his swell wife Kelly, when they stopped by on their way down to the San Diego Convention. I have spoken to several more on the phone, such as the inimitable Mag 'n' H and the mighty Matt Maxwell, all swell folks.

I've met a few of the comic pros in that sidebar as well...I've met Sergio Aragones several times, I've known Nat and Scott for quite a while (Scott was even nice enough to include me in the acknowledgements in this book...you do own it, right?), I told you about how I met Scott Saavedra, and I've even encountered evil mastermind Ross Richie. And let's not forget old pal Fred Noland.

And I even met the supremely cool Wil Wheaton when he did a signing at our shop a couple years back. Look, here's a picture I took of him at the time:


And that's pretty much everyone on that sidebar I've met in person. Hopefully someday I'll be able to meet more of you good folks, and, maybe, you know, stay over a day or two in the guest bedroom...what's for dinner tonight? You folks like Yahtzee? Can I see the CD collection?

Speaking of Sergio Aragones (as I did in my namedrop-fest in that previous section), I noticed the other day that I am regularly reordering the Fanboy trade paperback, a collection of his DC Comics series (with Mark Evanier and a host of fellow artists) celebrating the history of comics. Mr. Evanier says is his description of the book that it was "pretty much ignored," but perhaps we've got bit of a sleeper on our hands.

If you haven't read it yet, give it a try...it's an entertaining love letter to the idea of being a comics fan, that doesn't necessarily gloss over the more embarrassing elements of same.

A common sight, at our store and at other stores as well, is the family that comes in and meanders about the store, not caring about any of this comic book stuff, while the one member of the family does his shopping. You know, the kid looking for Spider-Man comics while Mom waits not-so-patiently, or (sadly, more likely), Dad looking for comics while his bored children keep asking him "are you done yet?" (And yes, I try to give those kids appropriate "Free Comic Day Comics" that I keep around for such a purpose.)

So it's always a pleasure when we get a large family in the store (the happy couple, their parents, their grandparents), all of whom are interested in comics, going through our back issues and having a grand old time. I wish I could see that more often.

I was putting up the new posters we got in last week, when I had a thought about the Wonder Woman "Identity Crisis" poster. That's an odd image to turn into a poster, I think, out of its original context of the Identity Crisis series. The image sort of made sense there, but as some kind of standalone iconic image of Wonder Woman? Holding a noose made from her glowing magic lasso? Seems a bit peculiar to me.

There's a shirt based on Neil Gaiman's Sandman series that also stikes me as being a bit of an odd choice for a design...I don't have an image, but it's a panel of Matthew the Raven telling Dream that "it was good being your raven" or words (a lot of words...it's a big honkin' word balloon) to that effect. It's completely out of context, makes no sense on its own, and I can't imagine why this image made it onto a shirt.

But it sold well, so what do I know?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

"Too tired...must sleep...adfjadsfjkl;ads...." 

As expected, I'm remarkably tired after last night's Midnight Madness sale...I ended up getting to bed about 2:30 this morning, and my aged muscles are still a bit weary from moving a boatload of long boxes to and fro, putting the store back together, and so on. We did manage to move a lot of material, but it still looks like we only put a slight dent in our actual inventory. Plus, I didn't move as much manga as I was hoping, but I guess I can't complain too much.

The prime feature of our Midnight Madness sales are the dozens of boxes of "blow-out stock" - overstock back issues priced to move. When we first started doing these sales way back when, the pricing of these issues was a little more complicated. The issues would have colored stickers attached to their bags, and each color would represent a particular price point...orange would be $0.50, blue $1.00, red $2.00, and so on. Well, after a few of those sales, we all got kind of tired of trying to keep track of what sticker was what price, so we decided to just make everything $0.50, and hopefully we'd clear out more of this stock. That of course meant great deals on prestige format books, previously priced for blow-out at $2 or $3.

For last night's sale, we dropped prices even lower...$0.25 each, 5 for a buck, which meant even better deals could be had. Pal Corey snagged a Brave & The Bold #200 in nice condition, for example. He also found 90% of a full run of V for Vendetta.

I also poked through the boxes, looking for items for other customers searching through the rows (which are completely unsorted, by the way...did I mention they're not in order?). I ended up finding a couple books that were tossed into the blow-out stock years ago when we were overloaded on them, but now we could use them again...stuff like DC's Invasion series (suddenly selling again), and, God help us, X-Babies Reborn.

Oh, and I also pulled out several copies of 'Mazing Man and pushed them onto anybody who'd listen. (I think 'Mazing Man would make a good digest-sized collection from DC, actually.)

Anyway, I'm sure I'll have more observations about Midnight Madness at some point, but my thinker still isn't operating at peak capacity...plus, I have to go back to work for the Sunday shift. Oy.

And while I was slaving away at the sale, this lucky bastard was at Disneyland!

In other news:

Special thanks to "Fancypantsian" Fred Hembeck and "Ardent" Alan David Doane for mentioning me in Tom Spurgeon's most recent "Five for Friday" feature. I keep meaning to participate in those "Five for Fridays" but I only remember after the results have already been complied and posted...someday I'll join in, I promise!

Pal Nat is reviving his music 'n' sound weblog, so go visit and encourage the man!

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