mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hey, I'm with you on Swamp Thing. 


"If I ran DC...

"1) The Multiverse would be back. I still say that the complexity of the Multiverse was not a problem. The problem was that the writers at the time had fallen behind their marvel counterparts in their sophistication. With today's writers and the great possibilities of the Multiverse it would be unbelievable. Well, somewhat.

"2) DC and Vertigo characters would interact. So much of the DC universe was lost when they seperated these two properties. I know that they would have to tame down the Vertigo guys when they were in the mainstream, but it would be worth it to see Swamp Thing and John Constantine in the real world again.

"3) The real LSH would be back. The original can never be replaced.

"4) Hal Jordan would still be dead. For obvious reasons.

"So if you ran DC what would you do?"

The "real world?" Anyway, here are a smattering of responses from the thread:

"Retcon away some of the bad stuff from Identity Crisis. Either that or fire Meltzer."

"Make a decent JLA title."

"Lower prices of comics."

"Minimize the graphic violence and the over explicite sex scenes."

"Have polls with fans every once in a while to know if fans are happy in general or not."

"Wouldn't allow Frank Miller to do any art (cover or interior)"

"Put Ed Benes on all books with Leading Female characters (BoP, Catwoman, SuperGirl, etc.)"

"I'd have Frank Miller write Superman and Jim Lee to draw it.I'd also have Brian Azzarello to write Batman and have Lee Berjemo draw it.I'd kill off Dick Grayson and keep Jason Todd dead.I'd split Superman and Lois Lane up...infact i might kill off Lois.I'd create a Batman book that was aimed at 'Mature Readers',i'd have it more violent,that kind of stuff,just a bit more adult.I'll have a think about some other stuff..."

"...in my DC ,Hal Jordan would be very much alive and kicking butt like he is now."

"...I would make all the titles come out on time!! I would have artists of similar styles assigned to a title until it got on schedule. For example, say Green Lantern, have Ivan Reis do an issue, while Alan Davis works on the next issue, and Neal Adams is working on a third issue, maybe Mike Grell working on a fourth while Ivan gets another issue or two under his belt and gets back on schedule."

"Id take Morrison off Batman and put in Kurt Busiek."

This person really didn't like DC's recent direction:

"Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka and Judd Winick would be fired off of all titles they're currently writing.

"Then I would launch an event called 'Hour Zero.'

"In issue one, Ralph Dibny wakes up to hear his wife singing in the shower. They go to a birthday party attended by Michael Jon 'Booster' Carter, (not evil) Skeets, Max Lord and the recently retired Ted Kord.

"The Teen Titans are also there, except for Impulse who is off doing something with Wally West. Troia and Lilith are helping in the kitchen.

"We find out that Superboy Prime tried to free himself and reset reality again, but all he managed to do was retcon himself and everything since Identity Crisis out of continuity with no hope of any of that stuff ever coming back.

"The next six issues would spell out the new status quo without anybody gratuitously dying or being replaced by somebody else the readers don't care about."

Hey, pal Dorian, he also has an idea for improving your favorite character:

"Wildcat would start using gadgets and body armor."

That certainly shows an in-depth understanding of what makes Wildcat work.


"Conner Kent would find out that he never did have Luthor DNA and change his name to something that would keep DC from getting sued. He could be the new Gangbuster or something."

"Newer modern villains would be used even after the writer who created the villain is no longer writing him"

"Comics would be cheaper"

"Feedback will be listened to"

"There would no more events with the word 'crisis' in the title. Ever again. Or a least as long as I was in charge."

Friday, December 01, 2006

Super Friends/Mallrats mash-up. 

No, it's not safe for work:

One of these things is not like the other. 

So here are three things I picked up for myself this week:

And yeah, I know, that one thing sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the other two items. For all my high falutin' talk on this site about the comics medium, and the entertainment world in general, my lowbrow tastes will occasionally shine through. But, you know, I gotta be true to myself, and if that means willfully revealing that I read The Comics Journal, then so be it.

Oh, okay, silliness aside...the new Journal has a great interview with Johnny Ryan, a brief but interesting interview with Golden Age artist Lily Renee (including reprints of some of her stories, featuring Senorita Rio and "The Werewolf Hunter"), and the lavishly-illustrated, cover-featured interview with Joost Swarte which I haven't read yet, but c'mon, it's gonna be a good read, too.

The new Acme Novelty Library is, as usual, filmed in Depress-O-Vision, flawlessly cartooned and emotionally uncomfortable, and, as always, highly recommended. And the new Star Wars book is...well, it's a Star Wars book. Don't you judge me.

Other new books this week:

Batman/Spirit - I wasn't planning on buying this, but, heck, I figure I'm going to be buying Darwyn Cooke's forthcoming Spirit series, so I might as well pick this up, too. I know there was some trepidation regarding Jeph Loeb's involvement in this one-shot, but, eh, any minor rough spots in the dialogue are easily ignored in favor of the gorgeous, gorgeous art.

Batman #659 - Cliché-fest, at least given my brief glance through the book. At any rate, I didn't see anything in the comic that made me want to pick it up. I think I'll be skipping this fill-in story until Grant Morrison returns.

Nextwave #10 - Warren Ellis makes Forbush-Man scary. There's a sentence I thought I'd never type.

Talent #4 - Nicholas, the man possessed by a series of spirits killed in a plane crash only he survived, finds himself inhabited by the ghost of a hitman, tracking down another hitman who may hold the secret behind the crash. This series, as it has from the start, remains fast-paced and interesting, a fun exploration of a clever idea.

Onslaught: Reborn #1 - I already made my opinion known on this comic, here on the site, but I try to keep it to myself at the store. I took some grief from folks who wondered why we even bothered to carry it in the first place...imagine the shock in their faces when I told them that, hey, Liefeld sells comics. Well, Marvel comics, anyway. Usually. I hope.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A few Easter eggs. 

I should be doing a New Comics Day rundown, but I got behind and, well, what can you do? So instead, here's something we were chatting about at the shop...comic book "Easter eggs."

One of the more famous ones is the message Barry Windsor-Smith snuck into issue #8 of Conan the Barbarian (August 1971). Here's the panel in question:

And here it is, nice 'n' big:

Given the number of panels in this issue filled with piles of coins, you could hardly blame the guy.

Now the Overstreet price guide always lists Ka-zar #1 (Aug. 1970) as a "hidden profanity cover," and, if you sorta squint at Zabu's back, by the tree, you see this:

Actually, blowing it up to that size obscures the naughtiness...it looks more like the word in question at its normal size.

The cover for the 1988 Spectre annual by Art Adams is filled with hidden cross-company characters, such as the Thing (along with other Fantastic Four members):

...and the Marvel version of Hercules:

...the Creature from the Black Lagoon (cleverly drawn to look as if he were wearing a collared shirt):


...Wolverine (along with several other X-people):

...and none other than the famous Sam & Max, Freelance Police:

And pal Kevin pointed this out to us at the shop, from the cover of U.S. 1 #4 (Aug. 1983) by Michael Golden...a little chicken man among the other chickens, by the UPC code box:

I think it's just a generic chicken guy in glasses, while Kevin is convinced it's Super-Chicken in his civilian identity of Henry Cabot Henhaus III:

(Image from Dave's Un-Official Super-Chicken Page...auto-playing sound at link.)

There are plenty more comic book Easter eggs, hidden messages and the like, out there in the wild, but these are just a few that came to mind right away. Well, there are also the hidden messages in many issues of the Marvel/Epic run of Groo the Wanderer (which usually read "this is the hidden message" -- one of these even made it to the Groo poster release at the time).

Any other funnybook "hidden messages" that you can think of? Leave 'em in the comments, if you'd like.

EDIT: I can't believe I forgot this, from Saga of the Swamp Thing #19 (Dec. '83)...in this panel of Un-Men drawn by Steve Bissette and John Totleben:

...you can see Gumby, Spider-Man, and what appears to be E.T.:

...and the green guy above E.T. looks familiar, too, but I can't quite place him.

Lots of good Easter eggs in the comments section...some I remembered, some I didn't. Please feel free to keep adding to the list!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

You pansies can keep your "light bulbs." 

Wendy gets an idea punched directly into her head, from issue #50 of Spooky Spooktown (Aug. 1973):

As a former librarian, I was a little amused by this: someone having taped their own library book pocket into the inside front cover of Flintstones #36 (March '75):

Here's what it looks like on the other side of the cover:

And that's why tape and comics don't mix.

FARK runs charming headline re: the passing of Dave Cockrum, FARKites wage war over appropriateness of said headline.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The eBay, and Mike goes on at length about something he really can't do anything about. 

Found on the eBay...a Nancy & Sluggo puzzle set:

From this auction. More Nancy 'n' Sluggo fun here.

Also found on the eBay: pin-up art of Christina Aguilera in the slave bikini outfit that Princess Leia was wearing in Return of the Jedi. Now that's a specific interest.

So I found this CD at my local book/music/coffee shop yesterday:

...and quite frankly, it surprised the heck out of me. Steve Martin's three records from the '70s were reissued fairly early in the CD era, but this fourth album from '81, the least popular and the most critically slammed, was seemingly forgotten. Half of it featured Martin's stand-up act, the other half his banjo playing, and it was pretty unlikely that anyone saw a potential CD release as anything but a hard sell.

Whenever the primary delivery system for recordings shift from one format to another (in this case, from LPs/cassettes to CDs), there are always a few things that slip through the cracks, never to be seen again. I assumed The Steve Martin Brothers was going to be one of these forgotten relics, lost to history.

So imagine my surprise, flipping through the comedy CD section and suddenly coming across this album. Really, it was the last thing I'd expected to see.

The Steve Martin Brothers got lucky...some small label somewhere managed to talk Warner Bros. into leasing the rights to this album to them so they could get it out there for poor saps like me who had a Steve Martin Brothers-shaped hole in their collections.

But how many more recordings are out there are long forgotten, buried in the archives of a monolithic entertainment corporation, or lacking in any ownership to provide for their caretaking? How many of those recordings exist only in formats that are incompatible with modern technology, where the tech required to play them are becoming, more and more, expensive specialty items?

And all this thinking, as per usual, leads me to the comics industry.

The analogy isn't exact, I know. But I got to wondering about all the work produced over the decades' long history of the comics industry, and how so much of it now is forgotten, unread save by a few hundred (or certainly in some cases, a few dozen) collectors, if it's remembered at all.

In the cases of Marvel and DC, chances are at least fair-to-middlin' that some of their more popular older material will get reprinted, what with the Essentials and the Showcases and the Masterworks and the Archives. Even Archie has some reprints of their own older material, in their digests and the occasional softcover.

But for the off-brand stuff? Not so much of a chance...it makes me sad to think that some cartoonist, long ago, worked hard on his Spunky the Monkey strip to get it in before the deadline, saw it go into print once, and then it was consigned to the dustbin of history as the disposable entertainment it was.

Like I said, there are collectors still looking for this stuff, but where obsolete recording formats have expensive specialty equipment standing in their way, old comic books have 1) relative scarcity and 2) generally higher "collectors" prices blocking new readership for old stories.

This is just me being all weepy about old comics and the creators who put so much work into them (okay, to be fair, some put a little more work into 'em than others), only to see their hard work presented to the public once, then tossed aside, forgotten. I realize that the alternative is that everything ever published stays in print and available forever, which is of course not a realistic option. But I'd hoped that at least, say, Scribbly and Herbie (just to pick two examples) would have seen some kind of extensive reprinting by now. There's always the digital option, I suppose, with online archives (legal and otherwise) of comics that are otherwise unavailable.

I've covered this topic before, I realize, but I got to thinking about all that lost work and I had to get it off my chest yet again, so thank you for indulging me.

So, in honor of the reissue of The Steve Martin Brothers, the CD I never expected to see, and to end this post on a more "up" note, I want to ask you folks: What comic book reprint/reissue surprised you the most? What funnybook stuff did you expect would never see the light of day again, and yet...one day, there it was, on a bookshelf right in front of you, large as life.

It's hard for me to choose one, but I think maybe DC's Showcase Presents Haunted Tank is right up there. What's your pick?

Monday, November 27, 2006

"I must have punk on the brain!" 

Jughead #327 (February 1983) - art by Stan Goldberg

Now you'd think with "Punk vs. Funk" on the cover, it'd be Jughead fighting George Clinton, but no, it's the Riverdale gang's encounter with punk rock culture. It begins in the school newspaper's office, as Archie is complaining to Betty about punk fashions.

"Some of the punk hairdos are becoming," says Betty, looking out the window at a couple punk-types. Stick-in-the-mud Archie disagrees: "Yeah, they're becoming, all right -- they're becoming utterly revolting!"

One of the punkers overhears Archie's comment, and responds:

Archie is stunned, stunned, I tell you:

Archie is convinced that Jughead needs saving from the pervasive evil of the punk lifestyle, and dashes out of the editorial offices to catch him. Along the way, Archie runs into Veronica, who is also concerned with Jughead's recent personality change. "Betty acts as though it weren't important," Archie tells her. "Maybe the punk movement is getting to her, too," responds Veronica. OH NO IT'S CATCHING.

And it's not bad enough that Jughead is a punker, but Jug's pal Hot Dog is in on it as well:

Archie and Veronica confront Jug directly, only to find that the change is even more extensive than they feared:

Jug..er, "Captain Thrash," his unnamed girlfriend, and Hot Dog (new punk name: "Vicious") brush off Arch and Ronnie, as they announce their intentions to head to Dingy's for some grub. "'Dingy's!' That's the notorious punk hangout!" exclaims Archie, who decides to pay this clearly dangerous and disreputable den of sin a visit.

As it turns out, Dingy's is just an open-air hot dog/burger stand, which you can tell is dangerous and "punk" because there's a little pool of spilled liquid on the counter. Archie asks the proprietor, presumably "Dingy" himself, if he'd seen "Captain Thrash," who directs Arch to "Club Chaos" just across the street. "You better not go over there looking like that, Jack --- or you'll be sorry!" warns Dingy.

There's never been a warning that Archie hasn't ignored, and he finds himself facing an unspeakable tableau of social decay and teenage rebellion:

He's introduced to slamdancing, which in this panel is being demonstrated by people apparently in their 40s:

Even after having the dance explained to him, just a panel or two later Archie misinterprets events in the mosh pit:

Archie tries to tackle the guy, but before the subsequent kicking of Archie's ass can begin, Jughead personally steps in:

...and throws Arch out of the club. Jughead wants nothing more to do with him: "I've got new friends! We share the same beliefs and goals! So leave me alone!"

Defeated, Archie believes his friend is lost to him forever. But the next day at school, he witnesses a horrifying sight in the paper's office:

Archie and Veronica bust in, ready to save Betty from being punkified, but Betty has a surprise for them:

Sacrifices were made:

But Jughead's time in the punk rock world has left him sympathetic to their plight:

And apparently their quest to give punk rockers a more positive attitude was successful, since Riverdale has been mostly cleansed of punker influence ever since. Well, there was that brief period when Jughead was a skate-punk:

...but that may be a story for another time.

READ MORE ABOUT IT: The Onion's AV Club looks at Archie Comics' other attempts to address popular culture, including a brief look at the same story I just related above (which features another great panel from the story).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sad news. 

Dave Cockrum, co-creator of the modern version of the X-Men (and the creator of Nightcrawler) has passed away. Tom Spurgeon has an informative tribute to the man's life and work.

Archie and Onslaught and the fugiting of tempus. 

Here's another for the "this is a fetish for someone" file:

Oh, this is so not right.

At the store, I read through our preview copy of Onslaught Reborn, due this coming Wednesday. And all I can say is...why does Marvel Comics hate my eyes?

Okay, my smart-assery aside, Rob Liefeld does seem like a nice guy, and he was enough of a sport to make a video diary entry addressing his infamous Captain America pic. But all that congenial self-criticism over his own drawing doesn't mean a darn thing when a glance through Onslaught Reborn shows that nothing has apparently been learned.

I don't like saying this. I don't like being yet another person piling on Rob Liefeld, but honestly, this comic is pretty rough going.

I will say two positive things, so I feel less like a jerk: one, this comic will probably sell relatively well, since Liefeld can still move Marvel publications -- so, you know, what do I know; and two, the splash page made me laugh, as Liefeld and writer Jeph Loeb succinctly sum up the recent House of M/The 198 Big Event brouhaha with one big 'n' dopey full page drawing.

Mike (seeing customer he hasn't seen in a while and has shopped at the store since childhood): "Oh, hey...good to see you again! So, visiting for the holidays? Are you going to school out of town now?"

Customer: "I am visiting for Thanksgiving, but I've been out of school for a couple years now."

Mike: (drops dead of old age)

EDIT: In case you haven't seen enough of Harvey Comics over the last week or so at this here site, please enjoy my contribution to Yet Another Comics Blog's ongoing Monkey Covers shenanigans.

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