mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, December 10, 2005

"I ain't dead yet, m*therf@ck%r!!" 

"That was Chuck Norris. No one else it could have been!" 

In honor of the current wave of Chuck Norris-mania currently sweeping the internet (primarily due to the Top 30 Facts about Chuck Norris site - "the chief export of Chuck Norris is pain"), here are a few selected panels from Marvel Comics' Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos #2 (March 1987) by Jo Duffy, Steve Ditko, and Mike Esposito. Are you man enough to look at them?

The Chuck Norris entrance strut.

Men, women, and youth with jaunty hats all love Chuck Norris.

You may start a fight, but Chuck Norris will finish it.

There's nothing I can say that can improve upon that dialogue.

Chuck Norris answers friendly queries as to his fighting ability with grace and panache.

So, anyway, my favorite Chuck Norris movie is Silent Rage: "Science created him. Now Chuck Norris must destroy him." (Read more about it.) What's your favorite?

Friday, December 09, 2005

POW! ZAP! BLAM! ERT! KABLOOIE! WHAMMO! BIFF! ZOWIE! HIKEEBA! TETSUO! Oxnard man reads comic books, brings shame upon family 

Most men in their thirties find excitement in traditional, manly ways: sports, hunting, rock-climbing, hiking, sailing, hang-gliding. These activities all test one's mettle, and get the heart pounding.

But for Oxnard resident Mike Sterling, 36, he finds all the excitement he needs in one place...between the covers of a comic book.

"I've been reading them for about as long as I can remember," Sterling says. "I was a voracious reader almost from the get-go, reading anything I could get my hands on. Books, magazines, newspapers, college textbooks, and comics too. It was just one more source of entertainment for me."

However, like most people of his generation, his taste for quality entertainment was forever marred by the 1977 theatrical release of "Star Wars," causing him to prefer flashy lowbrow amusements over more intellectual pursuits. "I discovered that the 'Star Wars' story was actually continued in comic book form," Sterling recalls. "Prior to that, comics were just an occasional thing. It was following the 'Star Wars' comic that got me checking out the comic book racks on a regular basis."

From these tragic beginnings was Sterling's comic book collection (which he sadly and continually refers to as "the vast Mikester Comic Archives") born. His collection, which numbers in the "tens of thousands," is made up of thousands of titles from dozens of companies, dating back to the 1940s. That would be more than enough for some people, but for Sterling, his obsession requires constant feeding.

"Every week, I get another dozen or so comic books, plus a few for my girlfriend." (Sterling's girlfriend, currently "visiting relatives out of the country," was unavailable for comment.) "I enjoy lots of different types of comics, such as 'Eightball' and 'Palookaville' and 'Love & Rockets,'" Sterling states, though the comics he showed this reporter seemed to be primarily about flying men in tights who punch each other and shout a lot.

Sterling's compulsive collecting behavior doesn't stop there. He also takes great pains to ensure his comic books are stored properly. "After reading each comic book, I gently place it into a protective comic book sleeve, sealing it with a removable adhesive sticker - not tape!" he's quick to emphasize. "I then put the bagged comic in yet another comic book bag, with a stiff backing board, then place it in a comic book box, which is then placed on a metal shelf in a temperature-controlled environment. Once the box is full, I then seal the whole box in a larger plastic bag for maximum protection. On the floor, I circle the shelves with salt to keep ants away."

His more valuable comic books are treated with greater care. "My most expensive comics, on the rare occasion that I must remove them from the safe, are borne aloft upon silk pillows carried by virgins, and the comics themselves are only handled by my gloved hands...each pair of gloves only being used once, then discarded." When questioned about where he would find virgins for this task, Sterling simply blushed, giggled, and hid his face behind a silk pillow.

On the topic of comics as investment, Sterling scoffs at the idea. "I buy comics because I like to read them. Why should every unusual hobby be justified to 'normal' people by telling them how much money can be made at it? Surely money is not the be-all end-all of human pursuit?" When then asked about his copy of the "35th Edition Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide," Sterling replied "I need that for reference" and quickly changed the subject.

As if all that weren't enough, Sterling makes his living by actually selling comic books at a "comic book specialty store" he manages: the Ventura Fun Time Comic Book/Magic Card Store and Video Deli. Sterling claims that there are thousands of such stores across the United States and other less important countries that, as hard as it is to believe, actually are able to keep their doors open by selling new comics and dealing in old ones. "It's a fun job," he says, "though sometimes people unfamiliar with the hobby treat 'comic store manager' as being about one step below 'drug dealer.'" Sterling then adds, "by the way, do you know about 'Free Comic Book Day?' That's where we give kids comics for free, in the hopes that they'll like 'em, and that they'll come back with money to buy more. 'The first one's free!'" he says, laughing.

Comic books apparently don't occupy enough of his life, as Sterling also maintains a "weblog" -- sort of like a personal diary, except kept "online" on the Internet where anyone can read it -- on the topic. His weblog (sometimes referred to by expert users as a "'blog" for short) can be found at "Progressiveruin.com," which he updates daily. "I just like to talk about comics, whenever and wherever I can, with other like minded people." Sterling says that there are literally dozens of other comic fans on the Internet, using this space-age technology to discuss this mundane subject.

"I realize it's a peculiar hobby," Sterling admits. "It's an even stranger job. But I've always loved comics, have always had the support of my family..." (family too embarrassed to comment) "...and, what the heck, it's a living."

If you can call that living.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Some quick linky-linky. 

Dave at Yet Another Comics Blog is having his second annual Comic Book Legal Defense Fund drive, a worthy cause.

Mag and H present the multimedia experience of..."Jingle Belles, Batman Smells" - the timeless classic.

The Boardgamegeek comic book/strip category - see such classics as the Swamp Thing boardgame (which I've discussed previously), the Superman II game (ZOD!), the hideous Archie Game, and, my goodness, X-Men Uno. (Thanks to pal Robert for pointing out this site to me -- no, Rob, I haven't yet found that game I was telling you about!)

New comics day. 

A brief exchange I had with someone yesterday:

Someone: "I drew this cartoony figure in life drawing class, and the teacher kept talking about it to the class and comparing it to Crumb's work. But it didn't look anything like Crumb!"

Me: "So basically the only cartoonist your teacher knew by name was Crumb."

Someone: "...Yeah, pretty much."

Anyway, it was new comics day yesterday, and I may have jumped the gun a little on my review yesterday for Zombie Tales: Death Valley, which I thought would be out but didn't arrive. Oops, my mistake...well, it should be out soon, so check it out then.

Aeon Flux #3 - There's nothing sadder than the last couple of issues of a movie-based comic book mini-series that are released after the movie in question has flopped hugely.

Essential Spider-Woman - The meaning of the word "essential" just keeps getting stretched further and further, doesn't it? Well, I suppose there's a fan out there not named "Brian Michael Bendis" who wants this book. (Says the man who wants a Showcase Presents 'Mazing Man.)

Marvel Zombies #1 - This shouldn't have been enjoyable -- Marvel jumping on the zombie trend, spinning out of a Ultimate FF storyline that seemed to irritate most folks with its bait 'n' switch -- but it was just grotesque enough to be fun. The bit with zombie Banner not being able to deal with what zombie Hulk ate was particularly dark-humored.

Penny Arcade 25-center - Has anyone else noticed quality issues with this comic? No, not the contents, I mean the actual printing and paper quality? Maybe we just got a bad batch of 'em.

No-show: Hard Time Season Two #1. Also, sorta no-shows were the DC promotional bookmarks (for Sandman and such) that were supposed to be allocated to Diamond accounts at about five to fifteen each...but we ended up getting one each. What good does that do us, exactly? I wonder if Borders and Barnes & Noble got all the DC bookmarks they wanted?

Special "This stuff shoulda been delivered to us in previous weeks but we just got 'em yesterday" section:

I kept thinking Amazing Fantasy #15 was actually #10. I can't imagine why, aside from the HUGE FREAKIN' black circle with the number "10" inside right up there next to the issue number.

Re: Dawn 2006 Calendar - publishers, please, next time you release a calendar in a comic or magazine format, at least have the courtesy to punch a hole through the edge of the pages so that people buying your item would at least be able to hang it up.

So a while back, DC Comics offered a free Superman Justice variant action figure to retailers who had bought the same variant figure previously as a Justice #1 ordering incentive. If you bought one before, you'd get another for free as a "thank you" for supporting the series, or two for two, and so on. Well, we were supposed to get it last week, but we were shorted...but we got our replacement this week, which is when I noticed that we were getting charged nine bucks for it. Now, the press release from DC emphasized repeatedly we'd be getting this figure for free...still waiting for Diamond to offer up an explanation for this one.

Anyway, I'm a little grumpy...Killer Japanese Seizure Robots, take me away!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Don't click on that link. You'll know which one. 

So I'm looking at this ad that ran on the back of Marvel Comics in 1987, which is designed to look like a letter the Thing wrote to Dr. Doom to tell him about the new Fantastic Four team. I thought it was pretty amusing...and perfectly in character for the Thing to type out (or, more likely, dictate to the FF's robotic secretary) a missive to Doom just to razz him.

And that got me to thinking...what other superhero/villain relationships would work at this level? You wouldn't see Batman mocking the Joker like this, nor would Superman do the same to Lex Luthor. Spider-Man? Maybe, but it seems to me Spidey would keep his mocking of the bad guys to just during the actual conflicts...he wouldn't cruise by their homes and moon 'em, for example.

No, it sorta seems to me the Thing (and, perhaps, his occasional partner in crime, the Human Torch) would get a kick out of haranguing the bad guys even during their down time. I like to think that the Thing would send Doom harassing e-mails as well:

"From: thing@fantasticfour.mvl

To: iamdoom@latveriaonline.le

Subject: Interestin' website

Hey Vic, here's a site I thought you might like. Har har!


the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing"

Don't click on that link, by the way.

Okay, maybe I'm reading a little too much into an ad, but for me, it just underlines what a unique creation Stan 'n' Jack had in the Thing...he could have been nothing more than a tragic character, but his sense of humor and irreverence keep us connected to him, even during the, shall we say, lower points of his history:

That's the splash from Fantastic Four Unplugged #1 (1995)...here's a better look at that word balloon:

Where were all you people complaining about "I'm the gosh-danged Batman" when this came out?

In other news:

Boom! Studios has a new zombie comic out today: Zombie Tales: Death Valley Book One, and it's a fun comic about a bunch of high school students facing a world full of zombies. Yes, we've seen set-up before, with a last batch of remaining humans fighting against vast numbers of the undead, but the story by Andrew Crosby and Johanna Stokes is fast-paced and goes down easy. The students themselves are outta central casting, with the Jock, the Smart Kid, the Shallow Cute One, and so on. However, effort is made to make them individuals beyond the cliches, so that when the deaths begin to occur, you actually feel sorry to see those characters go. The artwork, by Rhoald Marcellus, is less to my taste, a sort of a manga-esque cartoony style that feels a little rough-hewn, but it grew on me as read the book. Overall...not groundbreaking, but if you love the zombie comics, as I know some of you do, it's good entertainment.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Two years and a day. 

So I spend yesterday's post going "rah rah rah look at me, two years, w00t," and then I don't have any time to post anything substantial today. So, that means links ahoy!

  • I think the "apologies to Chris Ware" comment in this cartoon's right margin is really funny (as in "peculiar," not "ha ha")...I'm gonna guess Rall isn't really apologetic about anything in this strip.

  • If you gotta have the Fantastic Four movie on that hip new DVD format, you might wanna wait instead of rushing out and buying it today.

  • Apparently there's a trailer for the new X-Men film. I wonder how they'll write Professor X and Cyclops out of most of the movie this time?

  • The Comics Reporter gives us the sad news that Jim Sasseville, Charles Schulz' comrade-in-arms on the Peanuts comic book and the It's Only A Game comic strip, has passed away.

  • "Zap! Comic Book Man hit with collecting bug"

    "Tomlinson, a 2000 Hunt High School graduate, keeps his comics individually stored in Mylar bags along with a thin sheet of cardboard to provide sturdiness. Once the comics are 'bagged and boarded,' they're stored in boxes specially designed for comic book collections. He has more than a dozen long boxes, each holding hundreds of issues, stacked up in a room."

    Honestly, I had no idea what quote to pull from this article. It's all so...well, prosaic. Yeah, I know it's funny to us to read an article about an average comics fan being presented as "news," but I'm sure it's news to someone. Though I did like the "HOBBIES: Collecting comic books and swords" line at the end.*

  • Thanks to everyone for the kind words!

* EDIT: Just noticed Tom Spurgeon had this article in his Dec. 6 "Quick Hits" section. I only meant to steal the Sasseville thing, honest!

Monday, December 05, 2005

"Suddenly, two years later...." 

Don't worry, I won't run off at the mouth like last time. I was briefly tempted to go with H's idea of "everything you knew about 'the secret origin of Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin' is wrong," however.

But anyway, here it is, the two-year anniversary of this goofy weblog of mine. Even though I had planned on slacking off a bit on the daily posting once I passed the one-year mark, I still had something new on my site every day. Cut it close that one day while I was in the process of moving, but I still managed it, gosh darn it! Whether that's something to be terribly proud of, I'm not sure ("I goofed off on my computer every day this year...yay!"), but it's an achievement of some sort, surely. I even squeezed in a monthly column at Comic Book Galaxy as well (new installment today, in fact).

Now, for the future...ah, heck, I'll still keep trying to post every day, barring disaster, personal upheaval, and/or finally getting fed up with it. Don't worry, I'm not likely to get fed up anytime soon...I still like talkin' about comics, so you're not rid of me yet!

I had planned on doing some kind of annotated index of highlights from the site over the last year, but as I was working on it, it was turning out to be horribly, horribly long, and more self-indulgent than I was planning.

However, I'm not above a little self-indulgence, so let me tell you about a couple things on this site that you may not know about: for example, a page I put up, at Bjorn's request, showing how this site looked on April Fool's Day. (For comparison, here's pal Dorian's April Fool's page.) Also, I posted a page of all my sidebar icons, accessible by clicking the current pic. Now that I've got a lot of 'em, that page is beginning to look pretty neat, if I do say so myself.

I think I'll still point out a few of my favorite things from the last year, like my Free Comic Book Day speedos, ROBOT SHERLOCK HOLMES, the Swamp Thing sketch by Fred Hembeck, the Swamp Man drawing that Scott Saavedra was nice enough to place in my possession, Swamp Thing versus Man-Thing, deviant sexual behavior in Riverdale, some comic book haiku, some masterful packing, the Watcher movie, "you help blow too," the many faces of Lex Luthor, the racial sensitivity of Green Arrow, DOOM BUTTON, scary Swamp Thing moments, and, God help us, the "SPECIAL EXTRA LARGE LESBIAN UNICORN ISSUE" -- ask for it by name.

And it's been that long since my last audio post? I need to do more of those.

In all seriousness, thanks to all of you folks out there who read my site. The traffic on this site is way up...still not a patch on some folks, but pretty good for a comics weblog, I think. In case you're curious, the consistent top referrers to my site, aside from the Update-A-Tron, are Cognitive Dissonance, Dave's Long Box, and, unsurprisingly, pal Dorian...but a big thank you to everyone else who links to this site, too.

When I started this weblog, it was just another way to express my enjoyment of comics, particularly the more goofy aspects of the hobby, as well as talking about some of the tribulations of selling the darn things for a living. I never expected to have an audience beyond a few friends...but it's very gratifying to know that a lot of you out there come back to my site day after day, reading whatever crazy talk I happen to be posting. I honestly appreciate your readership, as well as your comments and e-mails. Again, thank you.

And special thanks as well to the Associated Comics And Pop Culture Webloggers of Ventura County, CA And Outlying Environs: pals Dorian, Corey, Sean, Tom, Ian, JP, and Kid Chris, who all encourage me in this sort of behavior.

Well, for the one-year anniversary I presented an embarrassing letter of comment of mine that was printed in a Superman comic. Alas, I have no more LOCs of mine to show you, but, to wrap things up, I do have this embarrassing photo of me as a young Mikester:

The certificate I'm holding is an award for "Most Fantastic Hair in Ventura County" (a title I still hold, thank you).

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, December 04, 2005




Well, because of
DC's offer to take returns on these poorly-painted figures, that's why. They just want the heads, and I aims to please. As far as the actual paintjobs go, they're not completely horrible, but they're just "off" enough to look pretty poor compared to the usual quality of the other DC Direct figures. It's like they were colored with the Flexographic process or something.

I will say that those rubbery capes (and, in the case of the Monitor figure, the rubbery skirt) were very upsetting to have to handle. I mean, ick.

To respond to commenter Roel from yesterday's Samurai the 13th post:

First, believe it or not, that wasn't a "Jason clone" in that comic...it was explicitly supposed to be the actual Jason from the movies, and the story takes place in the familiar surroundings of Camp Crystal Lake.

Second, as to the actual enjoyment one may extract from the comic...well, the panels I posted were funny, and there's a brief climatic battle between Jason and the samurai which isn't bad...but the rest of the comic is played like a straightforward horror comic. It's like a Friday the 13th movie, only with ToshirĂ´ Mifune instead of, I don't know, Kevin Bacon? Crispin Glover? The only "breaking the fourth wall" satiric aspect of the story is that (um, SPOILER, I suppose) Jason is defeated when his Friday the 13th movie contract is ripped to pieces, causing him to fade away into nothingness. Overall, the comic's not terrible...for, y'know, a Solson comic.

And I like the fact that Jason's usually accompanied by his theme music:

...which, I suppose, is also fourth-wall breaking when you get right down to it.

So that darn Scipio has begun his quest for comics-retail domination with his new Big Monkey chain of stores...go visit their swanky website and check 'em out. Speaking as someone who's sold comics for a living for...well, far too long...I say "good luck to you, friend! Vaya con pollos!"

As long as I'm giving "shout-outs," as the kids say, here, by request of former employee Kid Chris, is a shout-out to Summit 8 and the guys in Sammy (i.e. Sigma Alpha Mu) down there at that UCLA party school I hear so much about. Hi, collegiate chums! Kid Chris says y'all need to follow his fine example and be more studious. And buy more comics. From us, that is...the Kid will give you the address.

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