mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, September 30, 2006

And now...random images from Tip Top Comics #158 (Sept/Oct 1949). 

Friday, September 29, 2006

Statues and stuff. 

So one of the primary topics of discussion in the End of Civilization comment section wasn't, surprisingly, thin-skinned Firefly fans raking me over the coals, but rather the potential audience for the high-end superhero statues and busts.

A couple years back, about the time I was beginning the whole "End of Civilization" thing, I briefly discussed Marvel's Demogoblin statue, and...well, here's what I said if you don't want to make with the clicky:

"...Really, a Demogoblin bust? Are there 2,000 (or 3,000) Demogoblin fans out there who have to have this? Or Spider-Man fans who buy all related merchandise? Or, as pal Dorian suggested to me, are there enough Marvel statue completists to support the production of pieces based on even the most minor character?"

And I'm still not sure what would drive the sales of an item like this. The more I think about it, the more I think it is as Dor said, that it's completists (of either Marvel or just Spidey varieties) who must buy every statue that's churned out. I can see a Professor X bust selling, or even a Quicksilver bust...but Demogoblin? C'mon.

I do know items like this (well, okay, maybe not like Demogoblin) can sell well...as I understand it, some stores south of us, in the Los Angeles area, can easily move several of each new statue that comes out. In our area, statues and prop items are harder sells to our particular customer base. We get special orders for them, but just buying random statues for store display, hoping to sell them on spec...well, most of the time they just sit and gather dust. Just a regional thing, I suppose.

I haven't moved many of the prop replicas...I think I sold at least one Green Lantern...er, lantern, and we sold a bunch of the Transmetropolitan glasses. I was hoping someone would order the Batman utility belt replica so I could run around the store in it check it out, but no dice.

The average customer for statues seem to be in their 30s or older, and they don't tend to make the statues regular purchases. One fellow has been getting Silver Age-related Marvel busts, about one every few months, and another customer is committing to buying the Peanuts statue line from Dark Horse, but for the most part, statues tend to be a once in a blue moon purchase by our customer base. I know I could only justify one statue purchase (one guess what it was). (Well, okay, two...I got the mini-version as well.)

The most of any single statue I've sold was, believe it or not, the hideous Miracleman statue from Todd McFarlane/Image. We had a number of preorders, and we figured, well, if so many people are looking for it, we should carry some extra for in-store sales. And, sure enough, we sold those too. My primary memory of this statue is that some of them were flawed (yeah, I know, "'course it's flawed, just look at it"), and that the posts on the feet of the statue didn't set properly into the notches on the base. We were able to get replacements, but still, it annoyed us and it annoyed the customers.

There was also this one elaborate (and imported) anime statue we ordered for a customer, with lots of little bits and sticky-out parts and stuff like that. We regularly pop open the statue boxes to check for damage, and, sure enough, the tiny curly and thinny bits were busted. We sent it back for a replacement, and when we received it...sure enough, the same bits were broken. A third try at replacement...same problems. (It wasn't the same copy of the same statue being returned to us over and over, in case you were wondering.) It took four tries before getting a statue that was in new condition.

So, anyway...statues! We all have our weaknesses, and I told you mine. What character finally got you to drop a bill or two to take home a three-dimensional representation of him/her/it/them? Not an action figure (or the cheap plastic statues that are passing for action figures nowadays), but a $50 bust, or a $100-$300 statue. REVEAL YOUR SHAME.

In other (Mike) news:

Spandex Justice finally gets to me in his Blog Roll overview, and says some nice things in the process. Thanks, Vincent!

Roger Green takes questions from his audience, and here's one of them:

"Mike Sterling: pro or con?"

"Well, when he's behaving himself, he's OK. But when he's being a great big cheater pants, to the pits with him!"

Well said!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Progressive Ruin Presents...The End of Civilization. 

Lo, there shall be an End of Civilization! Hie yourselves hither to your copies of the October 2006 Diamond Previews catalog and follow along. (Previous installments: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19)

p. 183 - Ghost Rider Desert Statue:


...just sayin'.

p. 183 - Ghost Rider Mephistopheles' Cane Prop Replica:

Three feet long, topped with a crystal skull, goofy as all get-out.

p. 185 - Marvel Universe New Avengers Spider-Man Bust:

Commemorate two, count 'em, two soon-to-be-undone changes to Spidey's status quo!

p. 189 - Marvel Mount Heroes and Villains Bookends:

Okay, these are actually kind of cool. I like crazy bookends (though I have so many books I don't really have space on the shelves for bookends). And now I'm picturing Mount Rushmore with Wolverine instead of Lincoln...AS IT SHOULD BE.

p. 318 - The 3 Geeks: Jim's Jerky! - I now present to you the greatest comic book gimmick of all time:

"The 3 Geeks have returned in a hilarious, full-color 'boutique' sized comic book called 'Jim's Jerky!' that actually comes with a free chunk of delicious beef jerky!"

That's it...everyone else can stop publishing comics now. FREE BEEF JERKY. This...this is just downright beautiful.

p. 403 - Lex Luthor Washed Hero Cap:

"Hero or Villain? Celebrate the undisputed genius, Lex Luthor, with this stylish cap."

Yeah, I'm pretty sure the answer is "villain." And just having the Lex Luthor logo on the cap is a little...weird, isn't it? It needs a pic of Lex slapped on there, too:

Okay, that's "Young Lex Luthor" from Adventure #292, but you get the idea.

p. 403 - Batman Tattoo T-Shirt:

Okay, I don't care how you dress it up, and how "cool" you try to make it, that's still a Batman logo shirt.

p. 424 - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Mr. Gordo Stuffed Pig Plush Replica:

It's not an End of Civilization without another insane Buffy prop replica. I...I honestly don't know what to tell you. It's forty bones, limited to 2,500 pieces. So there you go.

p. 444 - Professor X Mini-Bust:

Pick your favorite:

a) "Hey, Bob...why do you have a statue of a bald man with a headache?"

b) "I see they're finally making Dave's Long Box merchandise." (scroll down a bit if you don't get it)

p. 450 - Rocky Apollo Creed Boxing Trunks Replica:

God bless the current onslaught of Rocky merchandise:
"From the classic film, this wearable 1:1 scale prop replica brings the look of the boxing ring into your collection, housed in a museum-quality shadow box!"

"WEARABLE." Fantastic. The solicitation also reads "limited to 1,000 pieces (the year of the film's release)" but I'm gonna guess that's a typo.

p. 450 - Serenity River Triumphant Statue -- okay, I'm going to be a total jerk, so you may want to avert your eyes:

"Limited to 1,000 pieces, each statue features a hand-numbered base with matching box and Certificate of Authenticity."

Ah, so that's pretty much one statue for every person who saw Serenity in the theatre.

...I'M ONLY JOKING. You Firefly secret police can just relax.

p. 454 - Witchblade "Schoolgirl" Statue:

"Presenting police officer Sara Pezzini (Witchblade) in undercover school garb...."

Oh, yeah, "undercover school garb" -- I'M SURE SHE FIT RIGHT IN.

Marvel Previews p. 10 - Ultimate Spider-Man #103:

"The record is broken for the longest continual run by a creative team in Marvel history!"

...Well, aside from that 120-issue run of Groo the Wanderer by Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier, of course. Okay, that was under Marvel's Epic imprint, but I didn't see any qualifiers in that solicitation, did you? "...The longest continual run on a work-for-hire corporately-owned superhero comic by a creative team in Marvel history!"

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


from Charlton Bullseye #4 (Nov. 1981)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Lefty" Brown has stolen my soul for your amusement. 

Chris "Lefty" Brown is holding a contest on his site..."What's Dorian Thinking" -- take that terrifying photo of pal Dorian and yours truly in a manly embrace, taken by "Lefty" his own self, and give Dor an appropriate thought balloon/caption/whatever. Prizes will be given away...prizes above and beyond the reward of getting to see that picture, of course.

I am currently using that image as the wallpaper on the store computer, much to the chagrin of the other employees.

Okay, this is the last time I'm bringing it up, I promise... 

...At least until the next issue comes out, of course.

Just to be clear, I'm not a Civil War hater...as a seller of funnybooks, I appreciate the money and readers it's been bringing in so far, but as a comics fan, while it doesn't really do anything for me, I'm glad other folks are enjoying it. (And I have been enjoying the tie-ins in Thunderbolts.)

My comments on it the other day were more on plot development regarding Thor, which seemed to contrast just a little too much with the deadly serious and (I know I'm using the term loosely here) "realistic" tone of the series. Had this been less "sturm und drang" and more '60s style, wacky go-crazy, anything-goes Stan Lee-esque series, clone Thor would have fit right in. But for (as Comics And notes) something that's hyped as a serious allegory for real world concerns, it feels out of place.

Don't get me wrong, as I don't think it's that big of a deal just by itself. I can appreciate what was attempted...taking a typical superhero plot trope (in this case, a clone) and casting it in a creepy light. One could even argue that the clone Thor has a symbolic purpose, feeding into the series' overarching themes regarding freedom and responsibility. However, this is the plot development that caused everyone's suspension of disbelief to become less willing, primarily due to what the development says about the characters involved...see the various reactions Neilalien's been gathering for more details.

However, any series that gives me Sad Watcher:

...can't be all bad.

Monday, September 25, 2006

This is the worst comic story I've ever read.* 

From The Many Ghost of Dr. Graves #60 (Dec. 1976) comes the story "Lord of Unterweger," which finds Stacy acting upon her curiosity about her mysterious neighbor:

The owner of the mansion answers, and when Stacy asks to share some of her cake 'n' coffee with him to acquaint themselves, the neighbor declines, causing Stacy to way overreact:

That night, Stacy spots a person standing at her window, whom she recognizes as her grumpy neighbor:

But when she approaches the window, scolding him for coming to apologize at such a late hour, she sees quite a different face:

Frightened by the incident, Stacy finds herself with a new resolve to ferret out the secret of her mysterious neighbor. The next day, she returns to the mansion but is spotted before too long:

Man: "Skulking about on private property is a crime, miss!"

Stacy: "Oh! You startled me! But I suppose that I deserved it. My behavior is criminal, but I assure you I meant no harm. I'll leave immediately!"

Chastised, Stacy tries to split, but the man calls her back:

Her offer for some private nursing denied, she goes to purchase the required medicine, but not before turning to see the ugly face from the other night staring at her from one of the mansion's windows.

On the way to the druggists, she theorizes that the man is changing form back and forth from ugly to handsome, and that the medicine he requested is in fact just an ingredient for a formula causing this change. She decides that she should cut off contact with her neighbor:

"He has not treated me with kindness and his actions thus far suggest terrible consequences should I return...."

She returns to the mansion, fearing for her well-being:

She wanders through the large house, and happens upon a shocking sight:

The truth is revealed, as the medicine the handsome brother requested is in fact for his sickly Siamese sibling...the handsome brother then proceeds to reveal his sensitive attitude regarding his brother's health, who's RIGHT THERE NEXT TO YOU, DUDE:

Stacy impresses both brothers with her generosity and desire to help. Over the next few days, their relationship develops with somewhat predictable consequences:

Upon realizing this, the sick brother decides to take matters into his own hands:

Stacy returns just in time for the surprise twist ending. Go ahead, see for yourself:

Okay, first of all, the handsome brother must be the dimmest bulb on the planet to not notice that he's bound to his sickly brother by leather straps, covered with flesh-colored rubber or not. IT'S RUBBER, and I imagine that there's at least one seam somewhere in the rubber coverings. "Hey, what's this under my stomach strap?"

Second, was it really worth it for the ill brother to willingly allow himself to be bound "permanently" to his sibling, for no reason other than the slight risk that his loving brother wouldn't take care of him?

Third, the father must have started this pretty early for the handsome brother to not remember that he was ever anything other than a Siamese twin.

Fourth, the brothers must have successfully avoided any and all medical examinations, because I have a feeling that no doctor on the planet anywhere would be fooled by an elaborate network of straps and rubber faking conjoined twin-ness.

And that, friends, is the stupidest resolution to a comic story I've ever read. And I've read Millennium.

If you have any equally unfortunate "twist endings" that you've come across in comics, let me know in the comments section (SPOILERS will be there, of course, assuming anyone does leave any suggestions).

* Over the last couple of days, anyway.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I'm worth four times as much as bubble wrap. 

So Brook, a longtime customer of mine and an old friend of former employee Rob, came by our store late Wednesday afternoon, as he usually does each week to get the new comics. Last Wednesday, we had the following exchange:

Brook: "Hey, Mike, are you working this Saturday?"

Me: "Yup."

Brook: "All day?"

Me: "Yeah...um, why are you asking?"

Brook: "Oh, no reason."

Now I was busy, and couldn't press the issue, but I was fairly certain Brook probably wasn't planning any kind of bodily harm to me, so I was willing to wait and see what he had planned.

One of Brook's regular things is an annual scavenger hunt that he arranges (with real cash money prizes), and he passes out long lists of items to be acquired to the participants, each item assigned a particular point value based on rarity or difficulty. For example, a sheet of bubble wrap was five points, while a photo of the player standing in a bank with either a ski-mask or pantyhose pulled down over his/her head was forty-seven points. (Generously, the contest also offered fifty bonus points to anyone arrested and/or hospitalized during the hunt.)

Well, yesterday was the scavenger hunt, and it turned out a photo of the player exchanging a high-five with yours truly was worth twenty points. I took many a photo that day, and hopefully I can get my hands on some of these pictures for display here. (Brook, very wisely, also made "issue #86 of any Marvel Comic" part of the hunt, so I was able to sell a few comics to them at the same time.)

In a way, I was glad to find out I was worth twenty points (four times as much as bubble wrap, less than half as dangerous as the ski-mask in a bank bit). If I were only, say, three points, I would have felt like Bugs Bunny in "Rebel Rabbit" -- the one where he was pissed as all get-out because his bounty was only two cents and proceeds to go on a rampage.

By the way, I asked the players, and no one planned on doing the bank thing, in case you were worried.

An interesting bit of trivia regarding the Close Encounters of the Third Kind card set that I had posted some cards from yesterday: Richard Dreyfuss, the star of the film, appears nowhere on any of the cards. I knew there was some kind of likeness rights issue regarding Marvel's comic book adaptation, but for some reason it didn't occur to me that other merchandise would have been affected by it as well...at least until I started flipping through the card set and noticed the omission. (A quick Googling turned up a brief mention of this situation in, of all places, an article about Jack Kirby's interpretation of 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

I've never read any issues of The Crow. Am I right in assuming, as the Crow is chasing down the bad guys, he changes into a giant crow and flies after them, flapping his mighty wings? Or that he's wearing a giant crow outfit, his head peeking out through the open beak, shouting "CAW CAW CAW!" as he exacts vengeance upon those who've done him wrong?

Because if that's not what happens in the comics, I don't want to know. ("How can I strike fear into the hearts of criminals? ...That's it! I shall become a crow!") I mean, the comic looks like it's about a shirtless mime that mopes around in cemetaries on rainy evenings, and that can't be right.

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