mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Not exactly Mamet. 

(Scene: Employee Josh is processing a number of X-Force back issues he recently pulled from the backroom stock. Mike is doing whatever it is Mike does...let's call it "supervising.")

Employee Josh: "Hey, Mike, should I remove this thing covering the hologram on this issue? Um...is it a piece of toilet paper?"

Mike: "Yeah...it was just there to protect the hologram in transit from the printer to the distributor to here."

Employee Josh: "So after this was printed, a single square of toilet paper was placed over every hologram on every copy...they didn't have a machine to do that, did they?"

Mike: "Not that I'm aware of."

Employee Josh: "So this printer had people whose only job, at least for a while, was to repeatedly tear off single squares of toilet paper and carefully place them on a comic book cover's hologram?"

Mike: "Seems that way."

Employee Josh: "Good Lord. Where was this done? Who printed this?"

Mike: "I'm pretty sure it was printed in Canada. It's yet another reason for Canadians to hate us."

Employee Josh: "Oh, man...and couldn't they have used something else? Why did it have to be toilet paper?"

Mike: "So readers could get a head start on wiping before tearing pages out of the comic for that purpose."

Employee Josh: "..."

Mike: "I'm totally blogging this."

Friday, January 26, 2007

So I like Stephen King books...what's it to ya? 

Now here's some good marketing...we got a batch of the above postcards this week from IDW Publishing, promoting their Clive Barker comic book adaptations, just in time for the imminent release of Stephen King's Dark Tower comic that some of you may have heard about.

Speaking of which, I am very curious as to how well that Dark Tower comic is going to do. We ordered pretty good numbers on it...not out of control case-upon-case "Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1" numbers or anything, but hopefully sufficient amounts to meet demand. I do think our orders on the Marvel Spotlight: Dark Tower interview/preview comic due out next week may be a little low, even though I bumped them up a tad during the order adjustment period. Having seen a preview copy of Marvel Spotlight, however, it actually doesn't look too bad. If you're a King fan or a fan of adaptation co-writer Peter David, there's a lot of material of interest in this issue.

As a Stephen King fan, and having enjoyed the Dark Tower series since the original stories were first collected into that initial volume long ago, I am looking forward to the comic book version, though I can't help but feel we got a little bait-'n'-switched on "Stephen King is writing comics!" becoming "Stephen King approves this service and/or product!" Okay, this early press release didn't explicitly say he was writing the series, but when you throw around phrases like "the comic series will mark the first time Stephen King has produced original content for an ongoing comic book project," you can't help but infer it, you know? Oh, and the press release does mention series co-writer "Robin Furth, who is also contributing to the Marvel comic project."

Nevertheless, I remain interested enough in the project to at least give it a try, and while I was never a huge Jae Lee fan, his art does seem a nice match for the material.

On a related note, here's a poll on Darktower.net asking fans if they're going to buy the comic. As of this writing, 68.2% say that they'll buy every issue, while 5.5% say "Comic books suck! What was King thinking?" And only 16.2% say they'll wait for the trade.

In some non-Stephen King news, we have a replacement for the sadly-defunct Comics Weblog Update-A-Tron 3000. It's the Comics Weblog Update-A-Tron 4000, brought to us by Chris at Tales from the Long Box.

And let's all give thanks to Dave at Simply Comics for providing the old Update-A-Tron for as long as he did. Many comic webloggers benefited greatly from the traffic he provided, and was instrumental in helping us acquire the readerships we have. Thanks, Dave!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Progressive Ruin Presents...the End of Civilization, 2nd Anniversary Edition! 

This post marks two years I've been digging through the monthly Diamond Previews catalog, inflicted upon comic book and specialty stores in the U.S. and abroad, finding only the tastiest treasures for you good folks to enjoy. And to think it all started with my stunned disbelief at a Buffy the Vampire Slayer replica stake.

Anyway, if you want to see previous installments, they're linked in the sidebar...and if you want to follow along with this month's entry, grab your February 2007 edition of Previews and let's get started!

p. 170 - For a second there, I thought I saw something called a Spawn 2.7" Bearbrick Collection, in which the demonically-powered Hellspawn was turned into a cute little bear, but surely I was mista...


p. 376 - Magnetic Wisdom Lois Lane's Guide to Life:

"In this fabulous guide [...] lovely Lois explains how to tell super 'heroes' from the 'zeroes,' reveals how to avoid potential courtship kryptonite, and shows how to bring out the Superman in every man!"

Most of you have read a lot of the same Superman comics I have. Is Lois Lane really someone you want relationship advice from? Is anyone in the Superman family of comics really a good source for this kind of advice? (Okay, maybe Perry...well, then again, his marriage with Alice has had troubles of its own over the y...um, why are you looking at me like that?)

p. 383 - The Big Book of Breasts HC:

You know, they probably would sell more of these if only they'd left the Witchblade logo on the cover.

p. 394 - American Idol Season 6 Trading Cards & Binder:

So not only do they make the cynical manipulation of consumer tastes and the corporately-driven generation of "hot talents" transparent to the public on a popular television show, but they also sell to this same public trading cards based on the process? As evil plans go, this one was exceptionally well-played.

p. 402 - The Flash Track Jacket: Oh, dear, this has "sarcastic nickname" written all over it, like when they call tall guys "Tiny" or fat guys "Slim:"

p. 403 - Ghost Rider "Icon 3" Foil Grey T-Shirt:

During my first pass through the catalog, I thought this was a belt buckle. Imagine my disappointment.

p. 406 - "Evil Keeps Me Young" Black T-Shirt:

If there's one shirt I never need to see again.... I swear, I know people for whom this is their only t-shirt. Or shirt, period.

p. 408 - Star Trek "Episodes" Black Long-Sleeve T-Shirt:

It's hard to tell, since the image in the catalog is too small, but I'm assuming it's a shirt listing the title of every Star Trek episode (Classic series, presumably). I suppose I could look it up online and find out for sure...but I don't want to discover that I'm wrong.

p. 427 - Star Trek The Wrath of Khan 25th Anniversary Previews Exclusive Kirk Action Figure:

I suppose calling it "Wrath of Khan Kirk 'Scotty's Nephew's Bloodstain' Variant" would have been in poor taste. (And that's a figure set we haven't seen yet: "Scotty w/Dead Nephew" two-pack, reenacting that scene where Scotty hauls his critically-injured nephew up to the bridge instead of, say, to sickbay.)

p. 442 - Star Wars Return of the Jedi Jabba the Hutt Statue:

Like it says, the "Product [is] Not Final," but whatever the final product ends up being, it damn well better have that Jawa with the fan:

p. 450 - The Cactus Friends: Polpettinia Vinyl Figure:

I don't even know what the hell this is. All I do know is that it disturbs me deeply. And that it'd probably hurt a lot if you tried to swallow it.

p. 460 - There are an awful lot of pages in this month's Previews that look just like this:

"Her gigantic eyes tell you everything you need to know about this sensitive cutie. Manaka-chan measures almost 6 inches tall in her kneeling position."

Oh, goodness.

p.467 - Doctor Who Cyberman Voice Changer:

...And "Reputation Changer," presumably, if anyone catches you wearing one of these.

p. 481 - "Hmmm...oh, look, a Wonder Woman cookie jar, a Mickey Mouse bank, a Superman logo magnet...say, what's this at the bottom of the page?"

Why, it's a Traditional 3-Headed Battle Mace:

"Nothing is cooler than watching the havoc caused by three spiked balls on a chain in a Medieval movie...unless you have your very own! From Master Cutlery comes this awesome recreation of one of the coolest weapons ever!"

Okay, people having cell phones in movie theatres was bad enough, but giving them maces...on the other hand, maybe I can use this to..."discourage" cell phone use while the movie is playing.

Marvel Previews p. 30 - Fantastic Four #545:

Okay, I don't want to be "that guy," the one that complains every time there's an insignificant cosmetic change made to a favored character...but I don't like glowy face outline Galactus. It reminds me of the old Battlestar Galactica helmets.

Marvel Previews p. 42 - Marvel Adventures The Avengers #12:

"The skies of Earth are a boiling tempest. Tidal waves threaten the coasts. A large dark force draws closer. Is it Armageddon? Naw, that's love in the air, baby...Ego style!"

First, Ego is a sentient planet with a beard. I think we can all agree that's cool. But, on top of that, if I'm interpreting the solicitation info correctly...that this story involves Ego falling in love with the Earth...then that picture shows a sentient, bearded planet making googly, flirty eyes at another planet!

Between this and the recent MODOK issue, I hereby declare Marvel Adventures The Avengers...Marvel's Best Currently-Published Comic Book.

Marvel Previews p. 60 - Silent War #4:

There are so many ways I could have gone with this image, most of which were supremely filthy. Thus, I'm just going to let that pic stand on its own. Enjoy, won't you?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Finally got a quote into Previews

So I was poking through the latest issue of Previews, preparing for the next installment of "The End of Civilization," when I decided to read the full-page "Previews Profile" on page 307 for Rick Veitch's King Hell publishing concern. And what do I spot there?

I'm a happy man. They were even good enough to correct my misspelling of "wondrous."

The book I was talking about there is this one, and the book they're advertising this time around is Shiny Beasts, containing several of Veitch's short features (including some done with Steve Bissette and Alan Moore). Good stuff, all around.

Progressive Ruin: Patriot-made, America-approved. 

Due to an unfortunate slip-up on my part in yesterday's post, the phrase I'd meant to write ("stick it to Hitler") was missing the "it," which resulted in a statement opposite of what was intended. In my comments section, folks were shocked, shocked I tell you, to think that I, Mike, patriot and brewer, would dare to include such an inflammatory statement in my normally 100% all-American weblog.

I've since corrected that typo, but let me make sure that the record is set straight, as I take the bold step of reaffirming the strong anti-Hitler position of the Progressive Ruin management, which may be expressed thusly: that Hitler guy really sucks, man. Sure, other, lesser comics weblogs, weak-kneed and yellow-bellied as they are, may shy away from political and moral statements such as these, but I've made my statement, and I'm standing behind it.

Here, courtesy the folks at the Grand Comic Book Database (which recently celebrated its 100,000th indexed entry!), is the cover of my favorite "giving what-for to Adolf" comic:

And, in 1992, New England Comics (the publishers of The Tick) released this comic, reprinting a handful of war-era "anti-Hitler comics" (as the title explicitly explains) along with several text pages providing analysis and historical perspectives:

Alas, only one Hitler-hating issue of this series was released, but it remains a good companion to their much-missed Tales Too Terrible to Tell horror reprint series.

Anyway, I hope you all will join me in thumbing our noses at Adolf Jerk-ler and his good-for-nothing Ratzis. And remember what Willie the Worm says:

...And wash your dishes, too: dirty dishes = happy enemies!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

In which Mike goes on too long about too many things, and clearly does not stop soon enough. 

I rented the first disc of the new Saturday Night Live Season One set from Netflix, and as I was watching it, I noticed, for the very first time in all my years of SNL-watching, the Marvel Comics Planet of the Apes cameo in the opening montage:

Specifically, it appears to be issue #14, dated November 1975, which means the photo was probably shot in the late summer or very early fall.

Okay, it's nowhere near as cool as spotting Amazing Fantasy #15 in the background of a '60s crime show, but still, I can't believe I've missed that in all the reruns and such I've watched over the decades.

In other news:
  • I hadn't mentioned it, but I finally, finally gave up on buying every issue of Alter Ego, Roy Thomas' mag of comics history and interviews. Not that I don't like it...I do, I just don't seem to have the time to sit down and read it any more. And I know it's monthly, or every six weeks, or something like that, but I swear to God it feels like it's weekly, sometimes, and that's a massive chunk of text to plow through, particularly when you're otherwise busy having a life or, ahem, writing a daily weblog.

    I think I'm better served just buying the occasional Twomorrows mag when it has something I'm genuinely interested in, like I did with last week's Back Issue, rather than just accumulating a pile of magazines that I may or may not ever get around to reading. You know, like normal human beings do, rather that sad, old comic fans like me who have been trained by the hobby to get every issue, to have a "complete set."

  • 52 SPOILERS: Re: the return of you-know-who in last week's 52...I told you so. 'Course, I didn't think they were going to reveal him as Supernova, as that was the painfully obvious solution and I expected more of a twist than that -- I was kinda hoping it would be Wally West, for no good reason I can explain. Anyway, there still could be a twist, if it actually turns to be not the original character, but the ancestor of the character discovered earlier in the series. Or maybe not.

  • I'm really wishy-washy about the whole "spoiler" thing. I try to play coy, but in my discussion I invariably give everything away. And Darth Vader is Luke's father.

  • Speaking of 52 spoilers, the editorial page for last issue had a secret hidden message...old hat for Groo fans but not something modern superhero fans are accustomed to. It reminds me slightly of the old coded fan club messages in '40s comics, detailing events in future issues, reminding kids to drink their milk and stick it to Hitler and all that.

    Anyway, the secret's given away on the first page of this Newsarama forum, and it's not much of a secret, really, aside from it being explicitly connected to events in 52, somehow.

    The secret (and again, SPOILER ALERT, if you don't want to know) is that DC's Multiverse -- their elaborate network of parallel Earths, done away with in Crisis on Infinite Earths twenty years ago, and revisited in Infinite Crisis just last year -- is being reestablished.

    That got me to pondering...in the old days, the parallel Earth "our" heroes (the Earth-1 folk) most interacted with was Earth-2, home of the Golden Age heroes, Infinity Inc., Justice Society, and so on. Well, because of the original Crisis, all those Earth-2 folk are now part of the standard DC Universe Earth. And, given the number of times the characters from this series have popped up in DCU books lately, I'm thinking the alternate future of Kingdom Come is going to take the position of the new Earth-2 as being the parallel universe destination of choice for our heroes. Like I said, just a random thought, could be totally off-base, but completely worth it so I could write the phrase "alternate future of Kingdom Come is going to take the position of the new Earth-2" -- you won't find that in Newsweek, pal.

  • The Fantagraphics store is Seattle is having a 25 Years of Love & Rockets" exhibition from February 10th through March 7th. If you're in the area, stop in and check it out...the Hernandez Bros. are swell guys and fully deserve their accolades. Details at the link.

  • Now I had to reorder more copies of Star Wars: Legacy #0, the special introductory comic to the series with the 25-cent cover price. I know comic companies don't usually go back to print on the cheapie books, so for our distributor still have copies six months or so after the initial release, particularly for a popular comic such as this, means that Dark Horse must have printed tons of the thing. (And made the person who paid $19.31 for it in the auction I talked about probably feel really, really dumb.)

    For some reason, as I was putting together the order on Sunday, I started to break down the costs and profits on this comic. So I order 20 copies, which, at our cost, are $0.1125 apiece, which works out to a total of $2.25. If we sell them all, that gives us a profit of $2.75.

    I then had the idea of placing them in the back issue bin with other previous issues of Star Wars: Legacy, rather than having them on the Cheapie Comic Spinner Rack with the rest of the promotionally-priced funnybooks the comic companies have released, where perhaps folks interested in the Legacy series might miss them. Of course, if I put them in the back issues, I'll have to bag them up to protect them from damage, which means an additional $0.02 wholesale cost per bag per comic, bringing our potential profit down to $2.35 on these 20 issues. That's assuming, of course, I put all 20 in the bins, rather than, as I'm more likely to do, splitting them between the bins and the spinner rack.

    Plus, there's the cost of the removable labels that I'd use to seal the bags, which works out to about 1/3 of a cent each...and I wouldn't use our specially-printed price labels on the front, since I'd just sell them for cover price anyway. Oh, and the labor: there's the cost of having employee Aaron bust open the distributor box, pull out the comics, count them, bag 'em and rack 'em, and so on.

    I don't know why I do this to myself. It's like picking at a scab. And don't take it the wrong way...I'm not complaining about the price point being too low to bother with it, like some folks did with the $1.99 Fell comic. I know the comic's a promotional tool, which is what we're paying for...I'm just amusing myself by juggling some of the numbers around.

  • I apologize in advance: this is old news, I know, but for some reason I've been enjoying inflicting it on people again lately, and now it's your turn. The most terrifying thing you will ever read...Harry Knowles' Blade 2 review. Warning: contains sexually explicit text, will also destroy your will to live and your ability to enjoy anything good and wholesome in the world.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Dye it blue, add a black dot to the outer circle, and you'll have a Dr. Manhattan shirt. 

This may be my favorite comic book shirt...the "Gold from the Metal Men" t-shirt:

...featuring only a simple black line rendition of the alchemical symbol for Gold. And in case you thought about stealing this design:

...well, just forget about it, buster.

Speaking of the Metal Men, pal Dorian passed along the info that when the Metal Men return in Superman/Batman, they'll be accompanied by a new member of the team: Copper. When he told me this, I immediately thought of another new Metal Man, Californium, who would wear surf shorts and sunglasses, and say "Hey, Dude" a lot. Oh, and also kill lots of people because he's highly radioactive, so I suppose the character still has a few kinks to work out.

As long as we're on the topic of "bad comic book ideas generated at the shop," Dor informed me that I quit reading Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters too soon, too soon, as there is a new, updated version of the Red Bee in the book. And that inspired me to suggest a possible team-up between the new Red Bee and the new Blue Beetle, and Dor followed up with the idea that they could fight Queen Bee, Killer Moth, and Firely.

And that conversation begat this one:

Employee Josh: "Hey, maybe some of the cat-themed characters can be put together in a book. Wildcat and Catman versus Catwoman and Cheshire*...."

Dor: "No, that wouldn't work, because Wildcat and Catwoman would be too busy having sex, as would Catman and Cheshire."

Me: "It could be DC's first x-rated comic! 'Cats in Heat, coming soon from the new DC!'"

And then everyone just sort of looked at me, shook their heads sadly, and walked away.

Most of my conversations at the store end this way.

* Not strictly a cat-themed character, but work with me here....

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"My Chin Is Cold, My Gun Is Hot

So for no real good reason, I decided it was time to reboot my beard, as it were...shaving it all off and starting again from scratch, leaving me all pink-faced and unpleasant-looking. I like to think it's "cherubic," but popular opinion appears to be that it's "unsettling."

Of course, I chose to do this while California is having a cold snap (a California cold snap being defined in the rest of the country as "t-shirt and shorts weather"), so I've been experiencing cool breezes upon my naked jaw, which I haven't felt there in quite a while. Also, I've had customers at the store pointing and whispering, saying things like "Hey, I think Mike shaved," and "Boy he looks weird without the beard...so nothing's changed, basically" and "Is he looking this way? Quick, stuff this Spawn down your pants."

Anyway, you didn't come here for "Beard Talk," you want yourselves some comic talk, so let's see what I can provide:
  • I came across an article somewhere in which the writer was recommending Civil War variant covers as good, long-term investments. I suppose they could be, if by "long-term" he means "dumping them before Civil War finishes and nobody cares anymore" (and, to be fair, given the number of delays this series has had, it could very well be long-term).

    I'm presuming a lot of you reading this site have read it for a while. God knows I've been writing it for a while. And presumably you've read my comic-store specific articles for Comic Book Galaxy. Hopefully, if you learned anything about me and how I comport myself at the shop, it's that I never, ever, under any circumstances, promote or suggest comics as investments. I never say anything like "Hey, this comic will probably go up in value, you should buy a couple." I get the creeps even typing it (this post aside). Quite frankly, it's just asking for trouble, because I don't want something like this happening at the shop:

    Me: "You know, this new issue of Mister Forelock's Cowlick of Mystery is quite the hot item. I think a value increase is inevitable. Would you like to buy a dozen copies?"

    Customer: "Why, thank you, kind comic book store clerk. Clearly, if it's one thing you know, it's finance and investment futures. I shall buy a dozen copies, and an extra dozen besides! I look forward to my coming wealth!"

    (Six months later)

    Customer: "Say, I just tried to sell my two dozen copies of Mister Forelock's Cowlick of Mystery online, and was only able to get $0.01 each! Your promise of increased value has failed to come to pass. Prepare to die!"

    Me (wearing fake mustache and using Spanish accent): "I'm sorry, but Mike moved to Athol, MA four months ago. Would you like me to forward a message, seƱor?"

    Perhaps that's a slightly extreme example, but you get the idea. I don't want to recommend investments that don't come to pass and burn the customer, not just on his investments, but on the hobby entirely. See also the '90s market crash, where people overbought, couldn't see a return on their money, and moved on to toys and Beanie Babies.

    Recommending variant covers for current "event" comics as investments seems even more problematic. As I've argued incessantly on this site, the importance of crossover events like Civil War is fleeting, quickly supplanted by whatever the next event will be, and one or two events later, Civil War will be old news, all the "permanent" changes will be reversed, and it'll be lumped right in with Atlantis Attacks! and Infinity Crusade as footnotes in Marvel history. (And before some of you Marvel fans get your knickers in knots, this applies to DC events, too, so relax.)

    The attendant "scarce" variant covers will of course be affected by this loss of interest. You can already see it happening with the variants for House of M, one of Marvel's prior events-with-variants series. There's no denying that some variants are hot, and sometimes expensive, while the series is current, but I have a hard time seeing them trading for the same sort of money, say, twenty years down the line. (And I'd be lying if I said we didn't sell some of the premium items for current market prices...but 1) we're undercutting prices on the eBay, and 2) I don't promote them a "good investments," so at least I sleep peacefully, mostly.)

    But, hey, like I can't predict something is going to go up in value, I can't predict for sure something is going to go down. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Civil War will go down in history as one of the pinnacles of comics publishing, and anything associated with it will be sought after as rare collectibles for the foreseeable future, prices skyrocketing, trading fast and furious for sealed plastic slabs containing Michael Turner sketch-cover editions.

    I don't know.

    I do know that I prefer to recommend to folks that they buy stuff they like to read, rather than worrying about "future value" and "investment" and so on. I'm kind of old fashioned, that way.

    But I just thought of something...the pricing of variant covers is, at least in our case, based on the number of copies (or extra copies) that we had to order to obtain the variant, and what the average current market value appears to be online. As such, the variants are priced higher than the standard cover. Is the increased price on the variant itself our suggestion of investment to the customer? Are we telling customers, via our pricing, that if this version of the comic is already priced at $10, surely it'll go up more?

    Great, now I'm the jerk.

  • Len Wein took reader questions on his site and has been answering them over the last couple of days. Of note is his background for one of the best superhero stories from the '80s, "Whatever Happened to the Crimson Avenger?"

    (And before you ask, no, I couldn't think of a question for him. Well, there's "Why is Swamp Thing so great?" and "Can I come over and hang out for a while?" but I don't think either of those will fly.)


    The world of Iron Man 2020 is only thirteen years away.

    Plan your shopping accordingly.

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