mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, December 16, 2006

"Look for me on the moon" 

Detail from the upper left corner:

And here's a closer look at this, just because it's FREAKING ME OUT, MAN:

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Secret Desires of Comic Book Retailers, Part One. 

"I need just one of my customers to win the lottery...just one...!"


Follow-up from yesterday, re: Roy Harper's belt buckle: some commenters suggested that it may be a "C" and not a "G" (which leaves us with the same problem, just a different letter), or that it's a botched "arrow" design and not a letter at all. Further investigation (a phrase that makes this sound a lot more important than it is) shows that the "G" design appeared on Michael Turner's cover for Justice League of America #4, while on the Ed Benes cover for #1, he clearly has an "R" (for "Red Arrow").

In addition, if one were to look at Turner's drawings of Green Arrow from the covers for Identity Crisis, GA is wearing, more or less, the same belt design:

You know, if I expended this kind of effort on something important, I could be dangerous.

A few months back I mentioned in one of my "End of Civilization" posts an absolutely fantastic comic book gimmick: Jim's Jerky, the latest installment in the 3 Geeks saga, being packaged with a piece of actual, edible beef jerky!

Alas, as it turned out this comic was solicited to retailers in quantity, not individually, so even though I love the 3 Geeks comics, they've never really sold enough for us to justify meeting the minimum order on Jim's Jerky to get our copies through Diamond.

However, it is readily available for sale though the cartoonist Rich Koslowski's website, which is how I obtained my copy. I paid for it through PayPal on the 7th, and received it on the 13th, securely wrapped in a manilla envelope with cardboard protection.

The comic itself is 4 3/4 inches square, 20 pages long and in full color. The piece of beef jerky itself is wrapped in cellophane and attached by a small bit of rubber cement to the front cover. My piece was about two inches long, and it looked like this:

And yes, as soon as I scanned it, I ate the jerky. It was a challenge to my teeth, but it was pretty tasty.

The comic itself is slight but fun, as we follow Jim's efforts to obtain the necessary ingredients for his special jerky recipe. His fellow geeks Keith and Allen are roped into the jerky pursuit to varying degrees, and it's all very silly and amusing. For only two bucks American (which includes shipping), you can get a good inexpensive sample of Koslowski's 3 Geeks work, which is all available in one form or another through his store. (If you want to try more, I recommend this particular volume.)

Darn. Now I wish I had another piece of that jerky. That was good eatin'.

People are still putting their two cents' worth into the Debate of the Century: Betty or Veronica? Join in...if you dare.

A reminder: I have an account on Comicspace, so please feel free to add me as Your Special Internet Friend there if you'd like. It's interesting to watch the constant rush of "friend network" building as everybody zips around "friending" each other, prior to the actual functionality of the site (re: comic strip hosting and subscriptions) being activated.

If the art hosting functions the way I'm hopefully not incorrectly assuming, once I'm able I'm planning to upload some of my old mini-comics work for all to endure enjoy. Maybe that'll finally give me the gumption to start my doodling again...we'll see.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A quick new comics day update. 

I don't know if anyone has covered this yet, so I apologize if I'm stepping on anyone's toes, here. But Employees Josh and Aaron asked me about this, and I didn't have an answer.

So, on the cover of this week's Justice League of America (issue #4), drawn by Michael Turner:

...we see that former Green Arrow sidekick Roy Harper has what appears to be a "G" on his belt:

Roy has been called "Speedy," "Arsenal," and, in this issue, "Red Arrow" -- all lacking in Gs. Maybe it's an old belt he borrowed from his former mentor and dyed red for his own costume? Or perhaps we're just reading too much into an oddly-shaped belt buckle that's not supposed to represent a letter at all. But, you know, darn if it doesn't look like a "G" to me.

Our order of the new issue of Ultimate X-Men was filled with the new issue of Magician Apprentice. I just about had a heart attack when I popped open the shipping box and out poured dozens upon dozens of copies of Magician Apprentice, a comic that normally sells in numbers that I can count on the fingers of one hand. At least it was distributor error, and not, um, order input error on our part, which is what I was fearing.

Not new comics, but fantastic: Cole has posted the greatest Phantom Stranger picture you will ever see. EVER.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


The debate rages on: Betty or Veronica? Betty has the lead, ever so slightly, as of this writing, so get in there and make your voice heard!

Er...not that there's going to be a prize or big payoff or anything. It's all just for laffs, kids, because sometimes in this cruel world, that's all you get.

Anyway, I do want to touch upon a couple things in recent funnybook news, which I don't do enough of (primarily because Tom and Dirk have got it pretty much sewn up), but that I feel slightly obligated to mention.

First, I know this is old news, but both my friend Cully and my own father will want to know this, and they're not going to see this anywhere else: "HBO to do 'Preacher' series." I wonder what the look was on the HBO executives' faces when they heard "...And get this...God's the bad guy!"

And then there's the brouhaha regarding some full-frontal Spidey in Spider-Man: Reign #1, in which an "art error" resulted in Peter Parker's naughty bits making it into the final printed product. Thus, Marvel is accepting returns from retailers on this first issue...which is a tad annoying, but only because we agonized over our orders for this comic, only to have it end up being returnable anyway. And it's just as well, because it ain't sellin' like we thought it might...plus, considering what happened the last time a comic with some nakedtivity got into the wrong hands, nekkid Spidey is the last thing we need. Though, with no Spider-movie in the theatres, it's not like kids are clamoring for Spider-Man right now anyway.

By the way, this press release from Marvel announces a "sell-out" on the first issue (really? I got plenty...let me know if you want one before I strip the covers and mail 'em back to the distributor) and a second printing:

"Marvel is rushing back to press with a new interior art variant cover [sic] by Andrews guaranteed to only increase the conversation swirling around this book.

I put a [sic] in there because I think "new interior art variant cover" is two different things being conflated. It's "new interior art" (i.e. Peter will have some undies on, or a nice, big shadow across his Little Spidey) and a variant cover, because you can't have a reprint without a variant cover. The press release doesn't mention the...trouble regarding the first issue, which is the only real reason there's any "swirling conversation" about it.

Another brouhaha is over Alex Ross' statement about the DC character Obsidian in a Wizard interview:

"Obsidian being put into the JSA is a lot like—and I'm speaking for Geoff here, which he may not agree with - but it's him grabbing a character that's just going to get molested further in other writer's hands. So he’s grabbing him and putting him in the group so he at least can be shepherding this character that belongs in this association. Maybe he’ll make sure that no other writers get any 'fun, creative' ideas with him.

Given that the only other writer to do anything with Obsidian recently was Marc Andreyko, in Manhunter, where the character was in a gay relationship...well, you can see how that sounds. Oy. Pal Dorian and Ray have additional commentary on the matter. (EDIT: Via pal Dorian, Ross tries to clarify his statement.)

Dor also discusses Chuck Dixon writing a gay lead character in the just-announced Grifter/Midnighter series, which is a tad odd given (as Loren points out) Dixon's feelings on homosexuality in comics. Johanna has some thoughts on the topic (as well as some debate in her comments section). I'm going to guess that, all things considered, Midnighter's homosexuality is going to be alluded to only briefly, if at all, in this series, which will probably be six issues of guns and fistfights and no time for love (though Dorian's prediction for the series, a favoring of Grifter's crime-fighting methods versus Midnighter's, is a possibility as well). We'll see.

BEAUTY IN THE WORLD: Public Enemy putting on a parking lot concert at a comic shop signing, promoting the first issue of their new comic book. Fantastic.

MORE BEAUTY IN THE WORLD: Announced by DC: a new Bat Lash series by John Severin and Bat Lash's co-creator Sergio Aragones. This better sell well, or I'm going to drive around the country kicking the butts of comic fans who didn't buy it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

So it's come to this. 

So inspired by the comments section from yesterday's post, I'm just going to throw it down, right here. It's the age-old debate, one that comic fans have been arguing over for decades, and perhaps it's a bit cliché ("a bit?"), but let's settle it, here and now.

The debate topic in question:

Betty or Veronica?

Yes, I know there are other gals in Riverdale. Yes, I know even hosting this debate probably makes me at worst a sexist jerk, at best just lazy. But don't blame the messenger, friends...this particular discussion was around long before I was born.

So I'm opening up the comments section for a healthy, reasoned symposium on this vital subject. Let's get it all out in the open, baby...tell me what you think. Keep it friendly, keep it clean, keep it...um, well, as non-sad as you can manage, I suppose. (Too late, I know.)

Further research:

Wikipedia entries for Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge, in case you need to refresh your memories.

Previous debates/polls on the topic: Electric Ferret, Fanbolt, August Battiston (about 3/4 down the page), Everything2.com, Team Sugar.

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Is this really happening or is it just another Archie story?" 

So, in Everything's Archie #29 (Oct. 1973), we find Archie in a situation that's quite unusual for him: a position of responsibility and power:

Yes, it's high school student Archie, managing a vast corporate empire devoted to licensing merchandise based on himself and his friends, which...well, frankly, this kind of mixing of levels of reality just makes my thinker hurt, particularly when Archie gets his comics publisher John Goldwater on the horn. For about a page, Mr. Goldwater relates to Archie plans and details about their publishing concern, such as the number of titles they have ("We have 33 different comic books, Archie!") and their readership ("We have about fifty million readers!").

Here, Mr. Goldwater tells Archie about their penetration into foreign markets:

Archie gives Mr. Goldwater the brush-off, however, as soon as the TV people call up:

After that call (which works in mentions of the Filmation cartoons, the Hanna-Barbera Josie & the Pussycats show, and the supposedly forthcoming That Wilkin Boy, Lil' Jinx, and Madhouse Glads), Archie moves into bragging to Betty and Veronica about their other product lines. Of course, he brings up the Archies recording group, mentioning the hit you know about ("Sugar Sugar") and the one you probably don't ("Jingle Jangle").

He then shows off a not terribly impressive display of knick-knacks and gewgaws:

...as well as a slide projector, wristwatches, and such.

A "nighttime T.V. show with music" is in the offing as well:

...and you know Archie means business, what with that "T.V. SCRIPT" he's holding.

The next item on the Archie menu, as it were, is introduced with what will probably be the most horrifying image of Jughead you're going to see all day today:

What's making Jughead's mouth water, you may be wondering, assuming the nausea caused by that image has passed? Well, it's this:

Just out of curiosity...are there any Archie's Restaurants still around? Googling turns up plenty of "Archie's Restaurants," but whether they're just coincidentally named as such, or their comic book origins are long forgotten, I'm not sure.

Anyhoo, back to the story, as Archie introduces his readers to the idea of obsessive collecting (assuming, of course, that comics didn't already put this idea into their heads):

Well, as it turns out, this was all a dream, which you should have probably figured out from the moment you first saw Archie acting somewhat competently:

The story lingers for a few more pages, as Archie continues to wax poetically about the joy of merchandising, while pleading poverty to Veronica in regards to their date. The story closes with Veronica getting in a good one:

"Why don't you just go back to sleep and take me out in your dreams?"

Ouch! Well, that cheap bastard Archie probably had it coming. Anyway, just so the readers don't get the wrong idea about all that great merchandising and restaurants and TV shows being just the fevered imaginings of one Mr. Andrews, the story features this final panel:

Yes, the story wraps up asking the readers to write in if they'd like to see more commercials for Archie merchandise disguised as stories in future issues. Well played, Archie Comics...well played, indeed.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Figures, me, and the Hulk. 

Chris Karath posts another batch of photos of his action figures, comparing different sculpts of the same characters, group shots of related characters, the assembled Marvel "build-a-figures," and so on.

This one amuses me the most, featuring Green Lantern arch-nemesis Sinestro with a squad of Qwardian pantsless warriors:

The photos are much larger on Karath's site, but I need a much larger version of that pic for computer wallpaper purposes.

It must be my week for being mentioned in podcasts, as Chris Sims mentioned me in his, and now my site's been referenced in the podcast for the Star Trek fansite Look at His Butt. Yes, "Look at His Butt." No, not my butt, God help you, but Kirk's manly space-captain butt. Anyway, they briefly discuss the Starpool kinetic passengers they saw on my site (about six minutes or so into the show).

More about me: should I be worried that Gordon actually has a "mike sterling" tag for his posts?

Acquired at the shop: a copy of Incredible Hulk #6 from 1962, brought in by someone who found it at the parents' home, just tucked away in storage. The amazing thing about this comic was its condition: a pretty solid Good to Very Good. It looks better than that sounds, as it still has nice cover gloss and mostly sharp edges, but with a couple small (maybe 1/4 inch) tears on the front cover.

Even so, "Good to Very Good" doesn't sound like an amazing grade, I know, so let me give it some context. Pretty much every copy of the original six-issue Hulk run that we've ever had in the store has been in appalling condition. I mean, if it wasn't for the fact that this was one of the scarcer Marvel titles from the period, we probably wouldn't even have bothered buying them. Brittle paper, nearly no spine, covers plastered completely with tape, heavy tanning, insect damage, used as coasters...for some reason, these Hulk comics took much more abuse than any other Marvel books from that time.

And thus, getting a copy of Hulk #6 like this one, which didn't feel like it was going to crumble like a really crumbly thing, is something like a miracle.


Okay, like a really, really minor and unimportant miracle, but still....

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