mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sometimes you just need a picture of Swamp Thing in an overcoat pasting Batman in the kisser... 

...so here you go:

from Swamp Thing #7 (Nov/Dec '73) by Len Wein & Bernie Wrightson

Friday, January 19, 2007

In which Mike goes on about boring retailing stuff you probably already know about. 

From Film Fodder's look at DC Comics December sales:

"DC's Infinite Holiday Special sold 24,368 copies according to the charts, coming in at #93. Did retailers under order? I know that I arrived only a few hours after opening at my local comic shop and they had sold out. During a visit to another retailer, they had similarly sold out and were anticipating the question at the cash register. There's a lesson in there, somewhere, for retailers."

We based our orders for the Infinite Holiday Special on sales of previous DC Christmas specials, which, for the most part, didn't sell all that well. And, once they get back-issued, that's where they tend to stay...I've experimented once or twice with putting out previous Christmas specials when the holidays rolled around, but with no luck. So, when it came time to order DC's offering for Christmas 2006, low rack sales of previous X-Mas specials + no sales as back issues = low orders for this new funnybook. And I suspect we weren't the only retailer that came to the same solution for this equation.

As it turned out, the Infinite Holiday Special did sell through fairly quickly, and I had a few inquiries for it after it was out of stock, requiring reorders.

I don't know what lesson we are supposed to learn here, exactly, other than "no matter how carefully you plan your orders, something's gonna catch you by surprise," which, frankly, we already knew. So, to answer this columnist's question, yes, as it turned out, we did under order (even adjusting for any extra sales it may have picked up with the Infinite Crisis-referencing title -- yeah, that sort of thing does make a difference), but only because the sales on this new holiday special were slightly higher than we could have predicted, based on the sales of previous holiday specials.

Even with all the monthly cycle sheets and gauging of customer reaction one does, it can be difficult to predict sales of a book three months down the road when you're placing orders right now. We ordered four or five times our regular numbers of Superman for issue #75, the "Death of Superman" issue...who knew that "real world" news would hype up the story between placing our order and the comic's release, and that we easily could have sold fifty times our regular order? We ordered a large number of Turok #1s, a highly anticipated debut issue from Valiant Comics, a red-hot publisher...who knew that the comic market crash would come between our order and its release, resulting in Turok #1s being a bargain box favorite, not just at our store, but across the nation?*

Okay, those examples are bit more extreme than being caught a few copies short on a Christmas comic, but hopefully that demonstrates what retailers have to go through in order to order your funnybooks. Even armed with sales records and customer input, we're still making our best guesses as to how things are going to sell two or three months from now...usually we're pretty close (especially with Marvel and DC's new "Final Order Cut-Off" programs, allowing us to do some last minute adjustments), but, you know, sometimes, shit happens, which should come as a surprise to nobody.

One other thing from that article...like that columnist, I think more of you should be reading DC's relaunch of The Spirit. That comic's fantastic!

* I go into more detail here and here about these two comics and the market crash, if you're interested.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

When you read 52 #37, don't skip ahead to the shocking surprise cover! 

Yes, the secret identity of Supernova is revealed right there on the cover...no preamble, no tease, just BAM, right in your face. Okay, it's not like it's not revealed early on inside, but still, we had some fun at the shop with "oh, hey, SPOILER ALERT!" with that image.

Also, best comic of the week:

Marvel Adventures: Avengers #9 was an entertainingly tongue-in-cheek adventure with quite a few good laughs. Basically takes the idea of "superheroes turned by MODOK into giant-headed, power-crazed freaks like himself" about as seriously as it deserves, and it works out just dandy.

Okay, they call him "MODOC" ("Mental Organism Designed Only for Conquest"), not MODOK ("...Only for Kumquats"), but that's close enough. And MODOK-Hulk is just too cute for words.

I did enjoy the first installment of the Helmet of Fate series, featuring Detective Chimp, as 1) it's Detective Chimp, and 2) it's drawn by Shawn McManus, and I'll read purt'near anything by Shawn McManus. This whole "who'll wear the helmet of Fate" thing is kinda of a moot point from the get-go, since DC just announced the new Dr. Fate series written by Steve Gerber, and, well, I'm going to guess the helmet ends up with the star of that series. Still, the first issue of this "event" series was fun, if slight, and I'll at least give the rest of the installments a chance.

I picked up the new issue of Back Issue (#20) as well, just because it has a feature article on the creation of Firestorm the Nuclear Man, and, well, I'm a sucker for Firestorm. And there's some little seen Curt Swan Superman art, and a Jerry Ordway interview...I don't buy Back Issue regularly, but every once in a while, they put out an issue I can't resist.

Also out this week was Spider-Man: The Reign #2 and a reprint of #1, now both with less penis. You know, certain folks inclined to complain about cartoon nudity probably won't be dissuaded by the fact that Peter Parker's crotch area is now a small gray smudge instead of a squiggly frank 'n' beans outline. Yeah, I know, they probably shouldn't complain, but our store is in an area where someone was actually offended by how supposedly oversexualized Steve Ditko's Spider-Man artwork from the '60s was. "Gasp! Why, you can almost see this woman's ankle!"

Oh, and I really wish Dynamite Comics would make their two Battlestar Galactica series (one based on the '70s show, the other on the current Sci-Fi Channel version) a little more distinct. They have the same logo, even though one is called in the indicia "Classic Battlestar Galactica," and of the multiple covers this time, each series had a cover where a human was being threatened by the old-style Cylons. Unless you recognized the human character in question as being from one of the two different TV shows, you couldn't tell which series was which.

(A related note...when the Classic Battlestar Galactica comic started, one of the employees at work made a sign to indicate it was from the old show, reading "Based on the classic '80s TV series!" When I spotted that, I chided them a bit, but not too much, considering neither of these employees had been born yet when that series originally aired in the '70s.

Their youth appalls me. And yes, I know Galactica 1980 aired in the '80s, but that doesn't count.)

And apparently former employee Kid Chris, currently attending UCLA, called our store (60 miles north of him) to ask if new comics were in (since he wasn't sure if Martin Luther King Day pushed things back) so he wouldn't waste a trip to his local comic shop! The jerk.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Because I needed yet another one. 

Thanks to Mr. Anonymous Commenter pointing me in the direction of an auction on the eBay, I am now the proud owner of this comic:

...which makes this the 10th copy of the very first Swamp Thing story in my collection. (You can see the first eight here, and the ninth here.)

The back cover promises "a quartet of horrifying tales," as you can see:

...even though one of the stories is a Shelley Mayer/Alfredo Alcala gag strip from Plop! #1. And, as you may infer from that statement, this is not a direct reprinting of House of Secrets #92, which is pictured there on the cover. It has the Swamp Thing tale from that issue, but a couple stories from House of Mystery as well (one by Neal Adams, the other by Jim Aparo), so it's still a nice little package.

I don't remember the circumstances surrounding this "DC Silver Edition" series, which came out in 1993, though a hasty Googling reveals that this series also included the Man of Steel mini-series, the Batman: Sword of Azrael mini, and an issue of Batman Adventures. Plus, as far as I know, they were not available through the direct market. If someone out there knows more about them, please clue me in.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

DC solicits, and links to things that amused me. 

From the new DC solicits:

It's not a regular 6-inch action figure of Ma Hunkel as the Red Tornado, but I'LL TAKE IT:

And these are kinda cute, too. And, oh look, they're even holding hands:

Other items from the solicitations:

Superman & Batman Vs. Aliens & Predator trade paperback - Wow, that was fast, particularly for DC, considering the second issue of the series isn't out yet. Who do those DC people think they are -- Marvel or something? I wonder what behind-the-scenes goings-on prompted this fast release.

Wonder Woman #7 - "Part 2 of acclaimed novelist Jodi Picoult's instant-classic WONDER WOMAN run...." Okay, "instant-classic" is perhaps overstating it a bit...hey, maybe it's great, but give us a chance to read it first before dubbing it "classic." However, I think I speak for most of us when I say we'll be favorably inclined toward this comic if it at least finally starts coming out on time.

Alan Moore: Wild Worlds trade paperback, reprinting some of his work for the Wildstorm family of titles. So, what's the printing screw-up going to be in this book? Moore seems to get his fair share of them (no copyright in the Captain Britain book, the typos on the cover of the V for Vendetta rerelease....)

Showcase Presents The War That Time Forgot trade paperback - you know, if there's one thing DC Comics did better than anybody, it's soldiers fighting dinosaurs. And here are 560 pages to prove it. Fantastic.

Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre - this isn't related to the specific issues being solicited, but more of a general question: are these horror books selling for anybody? They're slow movers at our shop, selling about the same low numbers as they did when Avatar was publishing them. (Now Marvel's take on Nightmare on Elm Street, that was a good'un.)

In other news:

Bully the cute little stuffed bull isn't done with 2006 quite yet, as he's running down his Fun Fifty of last year. Parts one, two, and three are up now.

Tim O'Neil gives what-for to DC Comics' 52 series.

This is from a couple weeks ago, but I can't stop staring at this wall o'Lockjaws.

As already seen everywhere, but I'm posting it anyway: GET YOUR CIVIL WAR ON, borrowing the Get Your War On format to comment on Marvel's latest event series. Well done and funny.

On a related note, someone's redialogued pages from Civil War #6 to make them funny on purpose, rather than just accidentally funny like they were in the first place. The bits with the Punisher are the best part.

Here's an amusing response to a newspaper's editorial column:

"In your Jan. 4 editorial, you apologize for printing a comic strip that promoted violence. You should have looked more carefully at the comics you published that day; without exception, all were either objectionable or insensitive.


"Fat people are ridiculed in Dilbert and Beetle Baily; the torture of Iraqi war prisoners is trivialized in Doonesbury; though people around the world are starving, Dagwood's mailman pours his cocoa into his boots; and an online dater in Close to Home shows an unhealthy interest in men's underwear while at the same time she scorns her date for being short.


"...You will have to eliminate comic strips completely from your newspaper if you seriously want to avoid accusations of advocating destructive behavior and promoting offensiveness and insensitivity. Oh, and making people laugh."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Your "Must-Read" link of the day. 

Former Swamp Thing artist Steve Bissette discusses some of the terrible, terrible Swampy merchandise that I've been featuring on this very weblog.

And the more I think about it, the more I really want to own these slippers, which probably doesn't say very good things about me.

(Additional linkage: the Henderson State University Bissette Collection.)

The Robin II Deluxe Collector's Set Gift Certificate (1991) 


A Gift Certificate
Redeemable for


Price: $30.00 US / $37.00 CAN"

"This certificate may be redeemed at the retailer below
and entitles bearer to

• Newsstand Editions of Robin II #1-4

• Four Direct Market Editions of Robin II #1

• Three Direct Market Editions of Robin II #2

• Two Direct Market Editions of Robin II #3

• One Direct Market Edition of Robin II #4

• Four Robin II Hologram Trading Cards

• Two Acid-Free Backer Boards

• One Exclusive, Deluxe Slipcase"

1. That "Robin II" sticker on the certificate looks kind of neat in that photo I took.

2. This is kind of the comics equivalent of the old "Star Wars Early Bird Kit" in a way, if you squint a bit. Except the Early Bird Kit was necessary, as there weren't going to be any Star Wars toys for that Christmas season, and Lucas/Kenner/whoever wanted something Star-Warsian out there for the holidays. The "Robin II" thing was just a way to get folks to prepay for a bunch of "collectible" comics that, as it eventually turned out, weren't in short supply anywhere, at any time. I can probably go in the store's back room now and pull out that entire set. Heck, I'm pretty sure I still have one of these "Deluxe Collector's Sets" back there.

3. Two backing boards? Whoa, thanks, DC...hope that didn't put you out too much. You know, including no backing boards would have been less insulting than just including two. I mean, c'mon.

4. The slipcase is pretty swank, though. I wish more comic book-sized slipcases would get produced. We have this one, the Comico Collection slipcase, the Lobo slipcase (packed with a set of Lobo trade paperbacks, including the set-exclusive Wisdom of Lobo: blank inside, you see), the oversized Barry Windsor-Smith: Storyteller case...I'm sure I'm leaving some out.

5. The set includes fourteen comics, cover priced at $1.50 each for a total of $21. The extra nine bucks gets you the trading cards, the slipcase, and two backing boards. If you were to piece out the extras at, say, $6 for the slipcase and 75 cents each for the cards (and bupkis for the backing boards, which is all that deserves), I suppose it works out to be an okay deal if you really have to have every variant edition of Robin II.

6. If memory serves, we actually did presell several copies of the Deluxe Set. The '90s boom was a strange time, indeed.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hang on...it's gonna get nerdy. 

So customer Kevin asked us at the shop the other day which of DC Comics' multiple Earths that the Charlton heroes hailed from. I knew they only hailed from said Earth briefly, and I believed that the specific number of Earth was noted just once when Blue Beetle was introduced into the Crisis on Infinite Earths series.

Okay, I was otherwise occupied, and I should have remembered that it was in the very first issue of the series where the Beetle appeared...but I decided I didn't want to go searching through the comics and went straight to the source of all that is good and holy in the world, the internet, and looked it up there.

And yes, of course, Wikipedia has an entry on the topic. And Blue Beetle's Earth was Earth-Four, complete with a notation that this Earth was first named in Crisis #1, like I'd thought.

However, when I got home, just on a whim I whipped out the original Crisis hardcover and flipped through the first issue...and didn't spot any reference to Earth-Four. I mean, Blue Beetle's in there fightin' crime and such, but I don't see a reference as which particular parallel Earth we're looking at. I even went to the original comic, checking the text pages in case the name was dropped there, but no dice.

Am I missing it? I went through the comic and its reprint in the hardcover several times...I can fully believe that I'm repeatedly overlooking it, and that one of you is going to leave a comment to the effect of "You chowderhead, it's on Page 8, Panel 2" and I'll then proceed to feel really dumb. But I'm not seeing the phrase "Earth-Four" anywhere.

I know it didn't come out of nowhere...does this designation appear later in the series? Or was it just in supplementary material, like the Crisis index series published later?

Also, on the two-page spread in Crisis #1, across 26 and 27, we see all the heroes Harbinger gathered, including Blue Beetle, and they're described in the caption as being from Earths-One and Two. Perhaps Beetle was intended to be from one of those Earths originally (if the "no Earth-Four mention" stands), and it was later retroactively decided to make him from a different universe in order to explain why none of the Charlton heroes had appeared in DC books previously.

And another thing...Wikipedia calls the parallel Earth in Detective Comics #500 (a world where the Earth-One Batman travels to in order to save the lives of that Earth's Thomas and Martha Wayne) "Earth-Five." Yeah, says who?

And another another thing...was I the only person annoyed at the time that the original Who's Who series, despite dealing with parallel universe versions of the same characters early in the run, did not have an entry on DC's multiple Earths? I suppose I can understand the reasoning (they were attempting to get rid of the parallel universe thing, after all), but still, I was fanboy enough to want it. Ah, well.

Okay, since the majority of this post can very easily be invalidated by, as I noted, someone finding the reference to Earth-Four that I missed (and if you do, be gentle, friend), let me ask you folks a question:

Which of DC's parallel Earths is your favorite...I mean, aside from One and Two, either of which would be the easy answers. C'mon, you've got Earth-Twelve (home of the Inferior Five) and Earth-Three (Crime Syndicate), among others, to choose from. I think my favorite is Earth-Prime, which, according to the DC Universe "mythos," is the Earth where we live...the real world, where superheroes are just characters in comic books, and yet, in those comics, the heroes would occasionally journey to Earth-Prime anyway.... That was a pretty wild concept for a ten-year-old Mikester to have to deal with, way back when.

So, anyway, pick an Earth, internet friends, and let me know your fave.

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