mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, June 24, 2006

"Look sharp! Look up! Look out!" 

Ad ballyhooing Jack Kirby's forthcoming Fourth World work for DC, reprinted from The Three Mouseketeers #2 (Aug 1970)

EDIT: Well, poop, Chris beat me to it. It's bound to happen once in a while, I guess.

Friday, June 23, 2006

And now, some answers. 

From the comments section of my previous post:

Daniel85: "Do you have a favourite month in comics?"

I suppose if I'd had to to pick one month, it'd be my birth month of March '69 since I have a comic that was released on that very day.

Gordon: "Is there a comic that you are personally ashamed of having sold? That someone paid good money for, and you knew was less-than-stellar, but for some reason, you never said anything?"

I could go with the cheap, snarky answer -- "Anything starring Gambit" -- but, no, I'm pretty much live 'n' let live with customers' comics purchasing. If I piped up every time someone was buying something I thought was terrible, we'd never sell any X-Men.

I would have the occasional twinge back in the boom times, when someone would buy, say, 15 copies of the same book...I'd ask "you sure you want this many?" and the reply was always in the affirmative, so, oooookay, thanks for shopping!

Robert: "Any recommendations for TPB's to pick up? [...] I mainly read TPB's and HC Comic Collections like DC Archives and Marvel Masterworks."

If you like DC and Marvel's high-end reprints, you might want to try some of DC's "themed" reprint books (Crisis on Multiple Earths, with the JLA/JSA team-ups, or the recent Superman Versus Lex Luthor book). If you're not adverse to black and white, the Essentials and the Showcase volumes are good value.

SanctumSanctorumComix: "Is The End of Civilization coming soon?"

As soon as the new issue of Diamond Previews is out! Usually it's the Thursday just following its release. (He's referring to this for any newcomers out there.)

Shane: "Approximately how many comics do you personally own?"

After doing a box count and a rough estimate of about how much each box can hold (an estimate I'm fairly confident about after having counted out 100,000 comics at the shop and stored them in similar boxes), I believe I own about 20,000 comics.

At one point, I was actually trying to keep an exact count of my inventory, but ending up losing track at about 10,000 (as I sold several thousand comics at about that time, and I never got around to subtracting them from the count).

joncormier: "I've got the trial for City of Villains and I seem to be blanking on names for some potential characters. Do you think you could help out?"

Wow, I'm terrible at cooking up superhero names. Um, "Chill Pill?" "The Biting Bedbug?" "Menarche?" (Ooh, on second thought, don't use that one.) "The Vainglorious Bastard?"

Reed Richards: "How would Swamp Thing trisect an angle?"

First he'd grow himself a big ol' brain to figure it out, then he'd grow a wooden pencil, a wooden compass, and a wooden ruler, then he'd get crackin'.

Also: "How much wood could Swamp Thing chuck, if Swamp Thing could chuck wood?"

Presumably a lot, given his mastery of all plant matter. Though he'd probably just grow and shape it whereever and however he wanted, rather than simply chucking it.

Pal Dorian: "Why do you hate the scene?"

BeaucoupKevin: "Why are you such a scene-hater?"

Because the scene sucks. Have you seen the scene? Blargh.

Bully: "Mike, what's the first comic you remember getting that inspired the feeling I MUST get the next issue?"

I don't remember the exact issue, but I'm almost certain it was one of the early issues of Marvel's Star Wars series that put the bug in me to return to the newstand on a regular basis in order to keep up with the story.

H: "And how about your favorite fanzine of all-time?"

That would be The Comic Reader, which ran from the early '60s until the early '80s. A Google search should reveal the number of times I've brought it up here!

Derek B. Haas: "On what day of the week did new comics arrive in October, 1982?"

It's my memory that new comics arrived at comic shops on Friday, though I may be wrong. At newstands and such, at least in my area, the new comics came in on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Milo: "When are you going to post a review of that RUDY IN HOLLYWOOD collection?"

Oops, I said I was going to review it, didn't I? I suck.

Here's a quickie review: it's good. Glad I bought it.

I'll post a real review in short order. Honest. I mean it.

Erin: "If you only had one day left to live, what favorite comics would you reread before slipping into eternal bliss?"

Hmmm...I'd probably reread my House of Secrets #92, with the first appearance of Swamp Thing...which is going to be buried with me, by the way. I'd also probably want to read an issue of Groo the Wanderer, since I loves me the Groo, and if I'm gonna go, I'm gonna go with a smile on my face.

David Lawson: "Who would win in a fight between Swamp Thing and Metallo if Metallo has a heart of white kryptonite instead of the usual green kryptonite?"

Swamp Thing. Like Superman ever lost just because Metallo had a green Kryptonite heart.

Nik: "What's the WORST Swamp Thing story you ever read?"

Hmmm...good question. Probably the "Quest of the Elementals" story (which started here). Swell covers, but poorly illustrated within, and the story was no great shakes either.

"What's the BEST Man-THing story you ever read?"

"The Kid's Night Out!" from Giant-Size Man-Thing #4. This needs to be reprinted on good paper, and soon, since the paper '70s Marvels are printed on was halfway to turning to dust even when it was new.

"What's the ONLY Black Goliath story you ever read?"

Wow, I don't recall. I'm sure I've read at least one issue of his own series.

Buk: "I would love to see a top 10 Graphic Novels, both your favs and one based on what your shop sells."

Wow, that's a biggie. I'm going to not bother with the "cite" formatting tags, just to save time.

This is just a guess, mind you, but the store's top ten may be something like this, in no particular order:

V for Vendetta
Preacher series
Y The Last Man series
Fables series
Love & Rockets (series)
Invisibles series
Kingdom Come
Superman: Red Son
Scott Pilgrim series

I swear we sell independent comics, too.

My own top ten:

From Hell
Mister O
The Cowboy Wally Show
The Book of Jim
Dr. Strange & Dr. Doom: Triumph and Torment (shut up, it's great)
Don Rosa Archives I & II
Love & Rockets (series)
Hulk/Thing: The Big Change (Wrightson-riffic)
Complete Carl Barks Library (all ten-zillion of them)

"And also I'd love to know if you agree with me that with in what, 18 months, New Avengers has gone completely off the rails and is the worst book Bendis has done."

Unfortunately, I'm not much of a New Avengers reader, so I couldn't say. I do flip through the issues as they come in, and I have to say they all sorta look the same to me. I would guess that any change in quality or tone in the book would have more to do with editorial edict to toe the company crossover line than anything else.

Matt: "When were you planning on answering these questions?"

Right now!

Just lurking: "If Man-Thing looked into a mirror for a moment and startled himself, would he burst into flames from the inside out?"

No, because Man-Thing can't startle himself...he's an entirely-mindless being, with no emotional responses of his own.

Enargy: "When will all the people asking for a Dr. Strange monthly actually *buy* a Dr. Strange monthly as it's being published?"

As soon as they do a good one!

A lazy post. 

I left work early on Thursday, as I was under the weather, and spent that afternoon and evening napping, watching the Lost Season One DVD set pal Corey lent me, rereading issues of Three Mouseketeers and Identity Crisis (now there's a combo), and receiving about two dozen phone calls from telemarketers.

So what I'm saying is that I didn't spend any time generating content for today on this here website. I'm a bad, bad weblogger.

I'm going to be lazy, then, and turn things over to you, the folks what tune in to my site on a daily basis. If you have a question for me, hopefully related to comic books, the comic industry, or even comic blogging (no "what's the meaning of life," "how do you trisect an angle," or "boxers or briefs"-type questions please), leave it in the comments section and I'll give you some answers later today.

Ask away!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

"He seems to thrive on controversy." 

Found on the eBay: "Alan Moore Miracleman 1-4 Near-Mint Vendetta Watchmen - Extreme Controversy Brewing Over Latest Alan Moore Proj"

"Alan Moore is already one of the most controversial writer's in the Comic Book Industry.He seems to thrive on controversy.With every project he gets more attention due to his controversial actions.Now he is about to outdo himself bigtime!!!

"In August Alan Moore will be publishing a series of beautifully illustrated hardback graphic novels* which will create a 'huge uproar' in the comic book Industry and thru-out the publishing world.This latest Alan Moore adventure will create a 'commotion' that will reverberate for years!!!

"This huge controversy will be very good for raising the 'Alan Moore Collector Conscience' to an all new level!!!

"Prices of Alan Moore collectibles could shoot up quickly!!! Now is the time to invest!!!"

* Referring to the forthcoming release of Lost Girls, don'cha know.

A tree grows in Ventura. 

Occasionally, when we get in restocks of some of the more popular trade paperbacks at the store, I'll take a quick peek at what printing the book is at. No real reason, aside from idle curiosity.

This Wednesday we received a large restock of Superman books (which I thought the store had better have, since I hear tell that there's a new talkie with Supes coming soon), and in that order were The Death of Superman and its follow-up, World Without A Superman.

The Death of Superman is on its thirteenth printing. That's no surprise...it was an enormous seller right out of the gate, during the '90s comics boom, and it's been a steady seller ever since.

The copies of World Without A Superman we received? Still first printings. The book is thirteen years old, and I'm still able to get first printings (assuming that's not some kind of misprint) as new items from our distributor.

I know WWAS is hardly the seller DOS is, but I've moved my fair share of copies of the book over the years, and surely we're not the only ones selling the book. So either it's not selling nearly as well as I thought it had been, or DC, buoyed by the success of the DOS trade, vastly overprinted WWAS...almost certainly a combination of both.

Just thought that was interesting. Yeah, I know, I'm the only one.

Dear Marvel: Why is the Uncanny X-Men Annual numbered #1? Did the previous couple dozen annuals not count? Did the Uncanny X-Men monthly series restart from #1, too, requiring a renumbering of the associated annuals, and I didn't notice? And why did you release the annual on the same day as the new issue of the monthly series? That annoys me, for some reason.

And cancel New Excalibur already. I mean, honestly...who asked for this?

Love, Mike

Giant-Size Hulk #1 - On one hand, I'm glad that Marvel finally reprinted the Hulk: The End one shot from a few years ago. On the other hand...crap, I already own half this book, but I'm still buying it to get the new stories. Which isn't as bad as it sounds, really...the new stories are pretty good, with a couple nice self-referential gags -- what? In a Peter David story? Surely you jest -- in the Hulk/Champions clash, noting the "sliding time scale" of Marvel continuity. And the second story includes a gag reference to events in that Mystery of Edwin Drood of the comics industry, Ultimate Hulk Vs. Wolverine. Plus, it's nice to be able to read The End in a format that allows you to lay the book out flat on the table, instead of the squarebound "prestige format" which you have to hold open while you read. That last sentence may be the laziest thing I have ever written.

Couple new Boom! Studios books:

Stardust Kid #4 - Picking up where the Image series left off, J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog continue their lushly-illustrated fantasy series, which remains one of the most beautiful-looking comics on the shelves. No one does fantasy setting quite like Ploog, and having his work on the shelves again is quite welcome. DeMatteis' strength is evoking the emotional depths of characters, and there's one page in the book, in which two of the characters have a heartfelt discussion, that suprised me at just how effective it was. It's a full-page splash, with the conversation restricted to a baker's dozen of captions, and I don't think it would have been improved by expanding it to a more traditional ten or twelve comic panels filled with word balloons. So, yeah, both these guys really are at the peak of their form here.

X Isle #1 - This is Boom!'s latest entry in the "people thrust into mysterious, unexplained happenings" cultural zeitgeist that's generated TV shows like Lost and Invasion...this time, it's mysterious animals washing up on beaches, driving researchers to seek their source.

Now, when I was a kid, I was fascinated by stories about UFOs, ghosts, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and so on...and one of my favorite books was a big hardcover book (still in the Mikester Library) about supposed seamonsters. As an adult, I'm quite a bit more skeptical about this sort of thing (as in "if these things do exist, I haven't seen any convincing proof yet" -- and please, dear reader, don't take that as a challenge and fill my comments section with links to "evidence"), but seeing the panels in this comic, with the crowd standing around the beached carcass, and the image of the unusual animal found in that carcass' stomach, reminded me of that same sense of mystery and wonder I once had looking at the grainy photos and old woodcuttings in that seamonsters book. So the comic got my nostalgia sense tingling right from the get-go.

Which doesn't tell you much about the comic, I realize...Andrew Cosby and Michael A. Nelson do a good job gathering the charcters together and giving them individual voices, while keeping the plot barrelling along and moving our heroes to the source of the mystery. Greg Scott's art is well done and appropriately moody, but it seems a bit...stretched, as if the art were slightly reformatted to fit the proportions of the page. Everyone seems to be a tad on the skinny side. Yeah, I know, that's an odd criticism...I'm unfamiliar with the artist's work, and maybe that's just his style. If so, don't mind me. But go get yourself a copy and check it out...it's a fun read.

For most of our new comics day, the city disallowed all parking on our block while workers jackhammered and ground and dug and just generally made lots of noise. I was thinking we were going to have no business whatsoever, but thankfully our customers' need for comics outweighed their need for convenient parking and we had one of our busiest Wednesdays in quite a while.

The end result of all that work in front of the store? We now have a tree in front of our shop. A pencil-thin, Charlie Brown Christmas tree-style tree, but a tree nonetheless. Not the tree that was dedicated to my memory, but I'm going to pretend it is, and none of you can stop me.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Want to see a nice rack? 

So I've been wanting to get myself a comic book spinner rack for home use for quite some time now. Yeah, I know, I've got spinner racks at the shop, but they're being used. And Diamond Distribution occasionally offers new ones for sale, but they're a couple hundred bucks a pop, and that's a bit much to spend on something that's just basically satisfying a random whim of mine.

However, I was able to purchase a surplus rack from a comic shop that just recently changed hands. The new owner decided he had one rack too many, I let him know I was in the market for a spinner rack...and twenty bucks later, this beauty was all mine:

Each side of the rack is topped with these metal signs, showing the new Justice League line-up:

I wasted no time filling the pockets with some quality reading:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

More news you can barely use. 

From The Comic Reader #28 (1964):

"SUPERMAN. Look for several parallel world stories in the Superman line. Which ones, I don't know, since they will all have surprise endings."

"HAWKMAN. It is reported that Murphy Anderson has done a great job on the Shadow Thief. The title of #5 is 'Steal, Shadow, Steal.'"

"BATMAN. [...] The Nov. DETECTIVE features 'Hunters of the Elephants' Graveyard'. When an 'elephant goddess' appears to Batman, it may give you the shudders; but the new Batman won't let you down. [...] The cover story of the Nov. Superman will actually show Batman's eyes through the holes in his mask!"

"THE ATOM #16 features the Mighty Mite against a villain who knows beforehand that he'll beat our hero! It's a book-lengther."

"Popeye is still the king. According to Variety, Popeye is the king of the Cartoons."

"The following item was written in code, and broken with the Superman code. 'Coming soon! Three issues of SHOWCASE devoted to the Legion of Super-heroes!'"

For more modern DC Comics news, here are the new solicitations. Not much to say, other than ooh, I like this cover; this Krypto comic looks absolutely fantastic; and while I love the Armored Lex Luthor, this just looks goofy.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Too many. 


So you may remember my discussion from a few days ago regarding a large collection of books that was essentially dumped on us. A small portion of the books we could actually use, but the rest?


Well, I'm not sure what we're going to do with these excess books...aside from my taking pictures of the books en masse for my own amusement. A number of the books I may be able to sell off on the eBay...one at a time may take a while, and even lots containing, say, 20 copies of the same book may be difficult to move. Of course, there are always donations to various charities, which may be the final fate for some of these books, at least.


There may have been another option, as we're still in the process of selling tens of thousands of comics in bulk to an international buyer, and perhaps we may have been able to unload some of these books on him. However, that buyer's condition of purchase is that the books be in new shape (Very Fine or better). About 90% of the books in this collection I'm discussing are in average shape (VG) at best.


Which brings up another point. This collection is comprised mostly of multiple copies of first issues, early issues of some series, anniversary issues and annuals, and so forth. The person who assembled this collection was obviously interested in "playing the market" with these books, investing for future resale. However, no attempt was made at keeping these books in sellable condition. They were stored in unwieldy cardboard boxes, with flaps that didn't even seal off the boxes when closed, and many books have dust damage, mold spotting, crunches and creases from being piled improperly in the boxes, and so forth. Most of these books are today only a few dollars even in mint condition, and easy to find in that shape. In the conditions the these books are in, the only way they'll sell is for pennies on the dollar.


So basically, all this effort assembling this collection, purchasing dozens of copies of each of these comics, was for nothing. The books were gathered, and left to rot.

And the thing is, even if the books had been kept in perfect, pristine mint condition, they'd still be hard to sell. Yes, Krull #1 may list in the price guide for a few dollars in mint condition, but you'd still have to find a buyer...which may not be easy since they're virtually no demand for it. And even if you do find a buyer -- a store, or a private collector -- it's unlikely you'll be able to sell all 83 copies to that same person. Any profit you may have realized selling your mint copies of Krull would be eaten up by the time searching for potential buyers, who are few and far between.

Of all the books from this collection, the ones I might be able to sell in fairly short order are the copies of The Life of Pope John Paul II. A distant second would be the Smurfs comics, which will sell eventually, but I certainly don't want or need to store 74 copies. I might be able to sell a dozen or so over the next year...having more copies than that gets into "diminishing returns" territory, as I now how to worry about storing the darn things for the foreseeable future.


I'm really not meaning to single out this particular collection for abuse. I've seen several collections along the same lines...people buying for investment who 1) invariably choose the wrong comics to buy in multiples, and 2) don't take care of them anyway, so the books end up being even less desirable. It just seems so...wasteful, I guess.

However, the comics appear to be our problem, now, so it looks like I'll have to go to extreme measures to move these books out. I wonder what our customers would think if they came to the store one New Comics Day and saw this on the rack:


Sunday, June 18, 2006


Yes, that's right, former employee and star of stage and screen Kid Chris made a return engagement at our shop, filling in for Employee Nathan who's currently out of town doing jail time visiting friends.

About that pic...I'd been joking at the store about doing a parody of this cover since we received those little plastic Green Lantern rings to coincide with the release of Green Lantern Corps #1 last week. Well, I finally found the time and the willing model to do so, so there you go. Frankly, however, I don't think Kid Chris can do a menacing look. He's more of a convivial evil.

Kid Chris and I did discuss potential endings for Marvel's Civil War series, and cooked up the following possibilities:

1. The series ends when the previously thought dead Hawkeye returns, admonishing the heroes for turning against each other in this time of crisis. "Hey, man, what's with all the bad vibes? Mellow out, dudes."

2. It turns out the Marvel Universe is still in the House of M parallel reality created by the Scarlet Witch, and all the lost lives, revealed identities, etc. from over the course of the series will be reset once she's defeated/subdued/whatever.

3. Reed Richards arrests everybody, claims that they're all guilty, and announces "I'm gonna go home and sleep with my wife." (Little Clue humor there for you.)

Kid Chris popped by the store on Saturday and gifted me with this fine item...a pinback button, made by the Kid his own self, featuring the ray gun from Eightball #23. Fantastic.

Something I was thinking about...given the large amount of news coverage that Marvel's "surprise revelation" has been receiving lately, we've had surprisingly few non-comic fans (or "civilians," or "mundanes," or "new customers") coming in for the comic in question. (And, come to think of it, I haven't had many inquiries regarding the lesbian Batwoman either.)

I'm not saying Civil War #2 isn't selling...it's selling quite well, actually. The only extra sales the publicity seems to be generating is from folks what already buy the funnybooks on a regular basis.

Used to be a time when a comic could have the barest mention in a real world news source, and our phone would ring off the hook for the next day or two from people asking about it. When Rob Liefeld appeared on a late-night talk show to plug the debut of Youngblood #1, the next day we had a line of people stretching down the block, anxiously waiting their chance to snap up this piece of comics history.

Of course, most of those instances were from the period of Batman movie fervor/speculator market/high public awareness of comics, as contrasted with today, where we're more or less back to "oh, comic books, they still make those?"

Don't have a point to this, really, beyond "things ain't like they were back in the old days." Plus, I wanted to remind some of you that believe it or not, folks once wanted the Youngblood in a bad way.

Things I shouldn't have to say to the customer running a role playing game at the game store next door:

"I don't care if there are dogs present in your game setting, your loud barking is disturbing my customers. Please keep it down."

And yes, I got a dirty look from the person for my trouble, since apparently I'm the jerk.

Hey, a 3-D Superman screensaver, for free! Superman flies through the Metropolis cityscape while your choice of Superman theme songs plays in the background. Available for Windows and Mac.

Here's an similar screensaver featuring Spider-Man from the same site.

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