mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sometimes, the jokes just write themselves. 

From Yahoo news:

"A newspaper promotion for Tom Cruise's upcoming 'Mission: Impossible III' got off to an explosive start when a county arson squad blew up a news rack, thinking it contained a bomb."

Because, you see, when a movie fails at the box office, it's referred to colloquially as being a...oh, forget it.

Early Saturday notes. 

"The Eternal Lady Death joins CGC"

"Scoop has just learned that The Lady Death Universe, published through Avatar Press, and CGC collectibles grading company today have announced a deal which makes CGC the official grading service of the Lady Death Universe."

"The official grading service of the Lady Death Universe." There's no part of this that doesn't hurt my head.

Former employee Kid Chris (see also 1, 2) is back and blogging. HUZZAH! Keep a closer eye on the comment spam this time, youngster.

Some random thoughts as I was sorting out the Free Comic Book Day offerings at work:

  • A few of the contributors to FCBD seem to have missed the point: you're trying to attract new readers, not drive them away. Woo boy, a couple of these things are downright stinky.

  • A certain indie publisher might want to look into hiring a proofreader that knows a little something about how apostrophes are supposed to be used.

  • So not only are there shit and balls jokes in the Wizard offering, but they're the same shit and balls jokes from last time, since it's basically the same book as the one they sent out last year (with some minor revisions in their Top 100 trade paperbacks list).

  • For God's sake, don't give Fantagraphics' Funny Book to kids. Or teens. Or uptight adults.

  • It's too bad the Star Wars/Conan comic Dark Horse is offering is a flip book...I would have given anything to see Conan fighting clone troopers on a shared cover.

  • So far, the Owly comic looks like the best item for this year's FCBD. Very charming, very appealing.

Friday, April 28, 2006

I'm very, very sorry. 

This is Employee Aaron's fault for putting the idea in my head. You can see the original here.

Don't end your story like this. 

from Strange Worlds #1 (June 1958) - art by Don Heck

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Progressive Ruin Presents The End of...well, you know. 

But first, a couple notes about new comics day:

Hey, a New Avengers cover that actually reflects the contents of the comic! In this case, the marriage of Luke Cage and Brian Mich...er, Jessica Jones. In fairness, I do like this cover, strangely gentle and charming compared to the others in the series.

What Were They Thinking: Some People Never Learn, the new wacky one-shot from Boom Studios, is silly fun. The premise, where Keith Giffen, Mike Leib, John Rogers, and others supply new dialogue to some old, public domain funnybook stories, is amusing...though seeing this comic just makes me wish we could have the original comics just printed "as is" without the redialoguing gimmick. Sorry, just being a killjoy, don't mind me. But there are a few good laughs in this issue (one of my favorites is an art credit for one story, given as "a past master who deserved better"), and you get some nice Basil Wolverton art to boot.

We also received our huge boatload of Free Comic Book Day comics...in fact, my dad stopped by the store to borrow my truck, and we recruited him to help us unload the boxes. NO ONE IS SAFE. Anyway, even with the bazillion boxes we received, we still didn't receive our freebie books from Archie and Bongo. Oy. If I have to wait 'til next week for the replacements, that's gonna put a hitch in my sorting the books for distribution on FCBD.

On a non-comics note, I received my copy of Frederick C. Wiebel's Backwards into The Future: The Recorded History of the Firesign Theatre directly from the author, and I am thanked on the acknowledgement pages. I had contributed a couple scans (though it doesn't appear they made it into the book), and had otherwise been a longtime supporter of his Firesign-related endeavors, and it cheered me up immensely after a somewhat stressful day to see my name listed there. Thanks, Fred!

And now, what you've been waiting for/expecting/dreading/planning to scroll quickly by: Progressive Ruin presents...the End of Civilization. (Previous installments: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 -- do you folks even need these links?) Grab Volume XVI, issue #5 of Diamond Previews and follow along, no?

p. 120 - Swamp Thing #29 - Now, I've been asked by a few people what I think about this being the final issue of this latest Swamp Thing series. And, honestly...it doesn't really bother me. I've enjoyed some of the stories, but never really warmed to the series as a whole. It never seemed to escape the long shadow of the previous series, and I'm beginning to think a fresh start away from the previous strands of continuity may be necessary to give a new Swamp Thing series a chance. I wouldn't even mind having Swampy back in the mainstream DC Universe, teaming up with Batman, hanging with Superman...but I'm not going to hold my breath. So anyway, sorry to see it go, better luck next time.

p. 124 - Aquaman 13" Deluxe Collector Figure - my, that's some shiny fabric.

p. 151 - Todd McFarlane Archive fine art print:

"Own a piece of SPAWN history: the lovingly re-colored cover to SPAWN #2. Printed as an 11" x 17" image on 13" x 17" extra thick museum quality stock. Strictly limited to 250 pieces."


p. 270 - Battlestar Galactica #1:

"Picking up from the final pages of the best-selling #0 issue...."

By "best-selling," they mean "ordered in large quantities by retailers, but the issue hasn't actually shipped out yet so we have no idea how it'll be received by actual readers."

p. 366 - Swampmen: Muck Monsters of the Comics - Oh, you huge teases. It better not get delayed again or there'll be heck to pay. HECK, I tell you!

p. 390 - V for Vendetta: From Script to Film - "This film isn't stupid enough! ADD MORE STUPID." (Okay, to be fair, this happens to nearly every movie.)

p. 394 - Erotic Manga: Draw Like The Experts TP:

"...This guide to drawing the characteristic erotic manga characters seen on shonen and softcore hentai comics."

Oh, I don't know if this is a good idea.

p. 399 - Make Love The Bruce Campbell Way SC - I only mention this since some of you have been puzzled by one of my "since 1969" quotes that references this book.

p. 419 - Okay, now this is cool...t-shirts featuring the EC Comics horror hosts the Crypt-Keeper, the Old Witch, the Vault-Keeper, as well as the EC logo. Oh, man, I want all of them.

p. 423 - Star Wars: Vader, Fett & Lando ringer t-shirt: I don't know why this makes me laugh, but it just does.

p. 436 - McFarlane Monsters' Greatest Women Previews U.S. Exclusive 3-Pack: a rerelease of three figures from previous McFarlane Monster sets...well, take a look your own self. Bondage, blood, and...um, bikinis, I guess. I imagine this will probably sell fairly well, since I'm still getting requests for those figures even now.

p. 442 - Necronomicon Plush Book:


p. 460 - Star Wars Interactive R2-D2 Figure:

"Grab his attention by saying 'Hey, Artoo!' and he's ready for more than 40 voice commands! Ask him if he remembers his famous friends, like Luke Skywalker, C-3P0 or Jabba the Hutt. Each name will stir up a different response depending on Artoo's 'feelings' for that character."

Okay, that sounds silly, but he does other things, too, like "jazz[ing] up your next party with 'Spin The Droid.'" Um, yeah. And since when is Jabba one of Artoo's friends?

p. 468 - Pirates of the Caribbean II: Davey Jones' Key Replica:

Man, you've got to be a fan to buy this.

p. 514 - POG Marvel Series 1 Foil Packs & POG Marvel Series 1 Slammers: NO, NO, PLEASE GOD DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN.

p. 516 - V for Vendetta Dagger Prop Replica: So it only looks like a pointy, presumably sharp dagger, but not actually? I'm assuming it's permanently mounted in the "shadowbox," so no one can get stabbed by it...but what an odd thing to memorialize from this film.

p. 516 - Mr. T in Your Pocket Keychain:

"It includes such phrases as 'Shut up fool!', 'Don't gimme no back talk, sucka!', and 'Don't make me mad! Grrrr!'"

I don't care what you think...I need this. I want Mr. T in my pocket, and I don't care who knows it.

p. 526 - Elvis Collector's Edition Yahtzee: licensing has now officially gone too far...at least until the next installment of The End of Civilization, when I'm sure I'll find something even more horrifying.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Blogging about blog templates is a sin. 

Okay, I finally got around to posting some responses in the comments thread to my "event comics" novella. Your thoughts are, as always, very interesting and informative, and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter. And I would also like a little more information about this whole "Tony Stark invented a machine to make the world forget he was Iron Man" business. Honestly?

Now, about the site's new look...I'd been itching for a change on this site for a while now, wanting to replace that banner with an image that ties into the funnybook world a little more than the old one did. I also changed the background graphic, in case you hadn't noticed, but I'm still playing around with that.

Judging from the few reactions I've seen, at least a few of you like that new logo, and I like it, too...I mean, it does have Swamp Thing in it, after all. However, I may be crossing that "fair use" line a bit. It's one thing to have panels and covers and such in my posts, since I suppose that technically could be considered usage for review and commentary. Using a copyrighted character as part of my own identifying logo...well, maybe that's pushing my luck a bit. (Though it hasn't stopped these guys.) I may leave it up for a while, and change it to something a little less infringing in the near future.

I also need to add more "since 1969" taglines...I'm sure some of you are getting sick of seeing the same ones over and over.

Anyway, just in case you were curious, here's the original photo I used for my initial logo, taken by my girlfriend while she was visiting family in Mexico:

Just stretched it out, slapped some monospaced text on it, and olé, instant logo.

Go team. 

Anyway, thank you for your responses to my long, rambling post yesterday. I know it was an obvious point I was making, that the hyped "big changes" in event series rarely stick, but one of the side effects of being at a comic shop with a lot of back issues is that you can see all those crossovers and tie-ins and spin-offs and "changes" of past comic company events and just how much of a real impact most of them had. I'm not down on any of these events, really, so long as they're entertaining (and at least some of them were entertaining).

Anyway, when I have more time (I'm in bit of a time crunch this morning) I'll get to some direct responses to some of your comments. In the meantime, Bill at Trusty Plinko Stick has further thoughts on the topic, and brings up Stan Lee's "illusion of change" storytelling strategy that I had mentioned in my post, but edited out. Yes, I actually cut something from my manifesto, hard as it may be to believe.

I'd like to bid a fond farewell to Scott Saavedra's Comic Book Heaven weblog, as he's decided to put an end to it. I've noted several times before that the print edition of Comic Book Heaven was one of the inspirations for the direction of my site, what with all the looking at oddities of comics past and such. Scott, consider this my vote for the return of the magazine!

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Secret Crisis of Infinite Wars. 

A few days ago, I was paging through some early issues of Marvel Age at the shop, reawakening those nostalgic feelings for the magazine that I'd noted before. For only a quarter (or thirty-five cents, or fifty cents, or...well, you get the idea) you got a 32-page full-color comic filled with previews of coming events, sketch pages, interviews, promo art...sure, it was full-on hype for Marvel product, and technically you were paying for 32 pages of ads, but you knew what you were getting. It was an unabashed house organ, but you got some fun cartoons from Fred Hembeck in a bunch of issues, some of the back-cover calendar gags were amusing, and you got plenty of creator interviews...not deep, meaningful stuff (well, except maybe for the Hembeck cartoons), but overall it was a fun little mag, and what the heck, it was cheap. Well, for a while, anyway.

Anyway, I was looking at issue #12 of Marvel Age, reading the hype for the then-forthcoming Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars crossover mini-series, when I came across this paragraph:

"This momumental adventure figures importantly in the continuity of nearly every single Marvel title. Events in this maxi-series will permanently and shockingly alter the histories of everyone from Captain America to the X-Men to Spider-Man! No matter who your favorite Marvel hero or villain is, you'll find yourself absorbed in THE SECRET WARS to stay on top of the catastrophic changes in that superstar's life!"

Of course, as most of you know, the changes weren't quite as dramatic as the hype would have had you believe. Hulk broke his leg (lasted a couple months), She-Hulk joined the Fantastic Four (around for a couple years), and...did something happen to Captain America? I don't remember. I think Colossus and Kitty Pryde broke up because of events in this series, maybe. And of course there was Spider-Man's new black costume, probably the only lasting impact the series has had, though the evolution of that costume into his arch-nemesis Venom was more after the fact than because of anything in Secret Wars itself.

Marvel took some grief from fans and the fan press about the hyped changes that ended up being no real big deal, and when it came time to push Secret Wars II in Marvel Age #27 (June '85), writer/editor-in-chief Jim Shooter took the opportunity to do a little back-pedaling:

"You know, a lot of fuss was made about 'The Big Changes in Secret Wars!' And the fact is that change was not the point of Secret Wars. It was never the point. I don't know how the talk started because here at Marvel, we always have changes. [...] So the fact that in the twelve issues that made up the saga of Secret Wars there were significant events in the heroes and villains' lives, considering how many issues there were, how could there not be changes?"

Most of these company-wide crossover series seem to promise big changes, new characters, new directions, permanent alterations in the status quo...and a few years, or even a few months, later, it's as if nothing at all had happened, particularly if you've had yet another crossover series in the meantime.

Probably the only significant change at Marvel or DC that had its origin in a crossover series was from DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths, which changed the very structure of DC's shared universe by doing away with the decades-old multiple-Earth concept. Whether that was a good change or bad, I'll let you decide, since twenty years on we're still dealing with the repurcussions of that series.

Crossover series also kill off or retire characters, which doesn't matter because they're usually revived or replaced with a new character with the same name sooner or later. Supergirl died in Crisis...and was replaced with a new Supergirl a couple years later (who was herself replaced with yet another Supergirl, just recently, with an origin similar to the original, but now showing more skin). To address more recent events, a while back I joked about Sue Dibny: Rebirth and Blue Beetle: Rebirth, reviving characters killed off in the most recent spate of DC's crossover events...but all it takes is an editorial change and some new, hot writer who decides he really wants those characters back in the land of the living, and, surprise, there they are, as if nothing had ever happened to them.

New characters and titles are usually launched out of these events as well...DC's Bloodlines and one year's worth of Marvel Comics annuals introduced a whole boatload of new characters, most of which disappeared in short order (Hitman being Bloodline's big exception, though even that character has run its course). Most of these relaunches don't last, unless it's with an already established character (like The Flash or Wonder Woman). Again, to go back to Infinite Crisis...while Checkmate and the new version of Blue Beetle may be entertaining, chances are they won't be around five years from now. But then, most new titles from Marvel and DC don't last five years.

I know there are others...we got a good run of Starman out of Zero Hour, for example, though it too had run its course. But basically, this is why I don't worry overly much about all the "significant changes" and promises that "things will never be the same." Things may change for a while, but they'll change back sooner or later. And if you don't care for something unpleasant that was done to a character you like (for example, Wonder Woman having to break the neck of a bad guy), don't worry...it short order it'll be as if it never happened at all. How often is Superman's execution of three Kryptonian criminals brought up nowadays? At the time, people were pissed...I bet at least a few of you reading this now have no idea what I'm referring to.

Let's look again at Infinite Crisis. Did DC promise big changes because of this series? Yeah, probably, I don't remember and don't feel like looking up all the hype. I'm sure you all read it anyway. But what changes are we getting? Relaunched Wonder Woman, Flash, and Justice League comics, which would have happened anyway even without crossover events, since DC wouldn't let those names languish for too long. Superboy is dead, and depending on the repercussions of recent legal decisions some Superboy or another will probably be back. Superman doesn't have his super powers for the time being, which of course isn't a permanent state of affairs. IC feels more like "course correction," attempting to reintroduce and revitalize some of the characters and concepts in the DC Universe, rather than changing things wholesale.

I know I primarily discussed DC's current events above, but all that applies to Marvel, too, in their four or five big event comics they're currently running. Did I read correctly, that a Marvel character will have his secreet identity revealed to the world during the course of Civil War? I'm guessing Spider-Man, since it would seem like a bigger deal for that character than for, say, Iron Man...and I don't know if there are any other characters at Marvel where it would be a big deal. If so, someday someone at Marvel may decide that wasn't a good idea, and cook up a storyline where, say, Dr. Strange casts a spell to make everyone forget Spider-Man's secret. There, big change reverted, status quo successfullly maintained.

So that was a long row to hoe basically to say "I don't believe 'big change' comic book hype." Just give me some good comics to read out of these events, that's all I ask.

Nothing to do with the topic just discussed, but this amused me: in Marvel Age #12, Stan Lee (or a close approximation) writes about his work on a '50s humor magazine:

"Years ago, about the time that Mad magazine was a'borning, yours truly produced a similar publication called Snafu."

Phrased like that, it makes it sound as if Snafu simply simulaneously arose with Mad out of the same cultural zeitgeist that drove the need for new sources of parody and satire. But looking at the dates involved -- Mad preceding Snafu by about three years -- it becomes clear that Snafu came about for the same reasons all those other '50s humor magazines did: the need to rip off the incredibly successful Mad. Yeah, I know: "What? Marvel copied someone else's successful idea? The devil you say!"

Sunday, April 23, 2006

"How can I computulate if my computotron isn't working?" 

The Flash and his pal, Slippy the Ghostly Condom, want you to practice safe sex or get zapped by their de-erectifier gun. SO WRAP THAT PACKAGE BEFORE DELIVERY, BOYS.

(Found at this auction on the eBay by my personal manservant, pal JP)

Mighty Jaime Hernandez begins his run in the New York Times Magazine. He's a good guy, and deserves all the attention that this is certain to bring him. It's in that PDF format that seems to annoy everybody, but read it anyway.

Some interesting thoughts regarding religion and perceptions of the afterlife in the DC universe may be found in the comments section from my post yesterday. Would regular appearances of angels and devils in the DCU, not to mention superheroes regularly travelling to Heaven and Hell, strengthen religious belief ("See, it's all true, so you better believe") or undermine it ("Ah, angels and devils are just alien beings, like Superman, so big whoop")?

For no good reason whatsoever, aside from the fact it came up at the store on Saturday: a web page about one of the favorite TV shows of a five-year-old Mikester: Run, Joe, Run.

It's a live action kids' show about a dog, a German Shepherd, on the run from the law, pursued for a crime he didn't commit. In the process, Joe would encounter a different person each week who would need his help...help would be provided, and he'd move on to another town, one step ahead of The Man.

Hey, I was five. It was The Perfect Show for a five-year-old. Doggies!

"Comic capers coming soon"
"Having read a few recent stories regarding "V for Vendetta," it's become clear that some of my movie-reviewing colleagues don't know the difference between a graphic novel and a trade-paperback collection.

"So here's a quick tutorial:"

Read the article for the definitions, if you are so inclined.

If you've been having trouble posting comments here (and perhaps on other Haloscan-driven comment forms), like at least one person has reported to me, and I've even experienced here myself...going into your browser's preferences and clearing out the Haloscan cookies seems to correct the issue.

Speaking of computer problems, some internet connection issues I was having on the job caused me to utter that very declaration in the subject line for this post up there. I'm not sure why, either.

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