mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The font of wisdom. 

Oh, wise and powerful Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes II mini-series, please gift me with your insight and your mystical knowledge and help me solve my life's problems.

So, tell me, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes II, will I be lucky in love?

Well, um...that's kinda final, isn't it? How 'bout work, then? How are my chances at getting ahead there?

That's better than nothing, I suppose.

I've been having money problems, too. What should I do?

Well, duh. Then what?

Yeah, okay, fine, some help you are.

Maybe I should ask for a raise. What will my boss do if I do ask?

Yeah, well, I could have probably told you that.

Now, about my health...I've been having some unwanted weight gain...should I change my diet?

Hoo boy. This won't cause me any problems, will it?


Is there anything else the future holds for me?

Um, well...I guess that beats the alternative.


You know, you're not much of an oracle.

Same to you, buddy.

Friday, April 20, 2007

From a conversation at work. 

What it would be like to have Uatu the Watcher as a coworker:

"Hey, Uatu, I'm kinda busy here, could you...hey, Uatu, you listening? Could you get...I'm kinda tied up here, would you...okay, fine, I'll get the phone."

"I almost became a dope, reading comic books...." 

The Physics of Superheroes...the Death of Gwen Stacy explained:

"FUEL IS FOR LESSER MEN" -- Magneto from the '70s Fantastic Four cartoon (via):

"I almost became a dope, reading comic books...and I realize that is why I am now a little retarded" - Jerry Lewis as a victim of the corrupting influence of comic books from the 1955 film Artists and Models:

And here's a comic that Jerry Lewis' character might have read: "THE CHICKEN-HEARTED KILLER" presented by pal JP.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"...This is comic book boy saying 'Take care!'" 

New funnybooks:

Swamp Thing reference in Justice League of America #8. UPDATE YOUR CHECKLISTS.

Marvel Adventures: Avengers #12, featuring "Ego the Loving Planet" is completely insane and wonderful. Ego is macking on the Earth, the Avengers are trying to prevent this love connection, and...it's all really inappropriate and very funny.

It would take a lot to make me not want to read a Metal Men comic (I even read this series, which was terrible), but Superman/Batman #34, guest-starring said Metal Men, made me finally drop the series. Just looked so dreary and unpleasant.

DC's four-issue-mini-in-one-week World War III is entirely unnecessary, and not really very good. Lots of awkward set-ups and repositionings of characters so that they'll be in the states that they were in at the beginning of the whole post-Infinite Crisis "One Year Later" thing. And making a mopey Martian Manhunter the framework for the story, with the whole "I'll never belong among the humans" back-of-hand-to-forehead despair that we've all seen before...yeah, didn't really do anything for me.

Oddly, the new issue of 52, kicking off (and, er, wrapping up) the "World War III" event was actually not bad. And a damned sight more concise about it.

(Speaking of WWIII, I had one customer ask why we didn't just bundle the four issues together, since that's how everyone was going to buy it. True, most people bought all four issues, but some folks did buy just the first one or two, for budget reasons or "just to see if it was any good." And I had one fellow buy just #4...when I asked him about it, he explained that since it was the last issue of the series, that's where all the action would be, so he decided to skip all the setup and go straight to the payoff. Had I read the comics beforehand, maybe I could have warned him.)

Army@Love #2 - I'm sure this was filled with the usual Rick Veitch goodness, but our distributor saw fit to short us our order on this title, and send us an equal amount of the Marvel Spotlight: Spider-Man's Wearing His Black Costume Again, Which Coincidentally He's Also Wearing in The New Big Budget Movie Coming Soon one-shot in its place. Not a fair trade, frankly.

Fantagraphics comes to the rescue with Love & Rockets #19 and Mark Martin's Runaway Comic #3...good, solid chunks of expert cartooning.

From Pantheon Books comes the Alias the Cat hardcover, collecting the three-issue semi-annual series by Kim Deitch about his search for the truth behind the titular cartoon character/movie star/costumed superhero. It's strange, almost surreal, but entirely wonderful, as is all of Deitch's work. The hardcover doesn't appear to have any new material (aside from the full-color endpapers), but it does make for a handsome package...worth buying even if you have the original comics.

In other news:

That strip I discussed yesterday, featuring an apparent caricature of comedian Patton Oswalt, is presented for discussion on a message board frequented by Oswalt himself.

And that brings me to a brief discussion (1/3 down the page) of Watchmen by Dirk Deppey, who counters Toupydoops' assertion that Moore & Gibbons' book is overrated. I've said repeatedly that Watchmen is not a superhero book, but rather a book about superheroes, about what works in the superhero genre and (mostly) what doesn't work. The difference between the two positions, I think, will become even more pronounced if/when the Watchmen movie is released, and it's just another X-Men-style punch-em-up. Which will be a shame, because the public has seen enough superhero movies by now that a Watchmen movie deconstructing superhero movie clichés in the same way the comic took on comic book clichés would be a translation keeping in the spirit of the original, and possibly not confuse the general audience. But I'm not holding my breath.

This college news website story about Brad Meltzer's Justice League of America run strikes me as...odd, somehow. I don't know if it's the presented factoid of "Starro is a giant starfish who tries to use his mind-controlling powers to conquer Earth," or Newsarama being called "NewARama.com," or the article being signed off with "until next time true believers this is comic book boy saying 'Take care!'"

Or this quote:

"Meltzer grew up reading Justice League, which was why he wanted to write this re-launch. In an interview with NewARama.com, Meltzer said, 'I so wanted to do this. I loved it. Just like I loved it when Marvel did it.'"

When Marvel did what, exactly? Relaunch Justice League? Or does "it" refer to just "making comics in general?" The article gives no clue.

"The pitfalls of tangling with a superhero - Why are blue-chip actors like Edward Norton signing up to appear in lycra?"

"What seems to be happening is that the actors themselves are being duped into thinking that these are roles of Shakespearean complexity. Blame the unstoppable rise of the modern graphic novel. Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's Watchmen opened up comic books to a wider audience by adding a dash of realism to the fantasy world. Directors have taken this as a green light to slap large helpings of human suffering and emotional torment on top of any comic book material that comes along, to the delight of a succession of quality actors. Sadly for everyone else, the only people who want to see a miserable superhero are the actors and directors themselves."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"It's Jack Kirby's Demon, Charlie Brown!" 

This piece is from a comic convention program, circa mid-to-late '70s if I recall correctly. Unfortunately, I no longer have the program in my possession, having sold it through the eBay long ago, but at least I still have this scan. It looks to me like an actual jam piece by Russell Myers, Charles Schulz, and Jack Kirby, though I suppose it could have been cobbled together from various sources. If anyone has any more information about this artwork (like which program for what convention), I'd like to hear it.

EDIT: Some of my kind, knowledgeable readers have supplied some info about this picture. Thanks, folks!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I have a question... (UPDATED) 

...inspired by something I saw on another site.

Assuming you're a comic book fan (a relatively safe assumption, since you're reading this site), are you aware that the characters in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen are inspired, to a certain extent, by the old Charlton Comics superheroes?

I'll explain why I'm asking this in a little while.


I think it was Jon Stewart on The Daily Show who made a joke about the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" being the first video shown by MTV...specifically that it's an obscure bit of trivia that EVERYONE KNOWS.

That's how I sort of feel about the fact that Watchman's characters were based, in part, on the Charlton superheroes. My brief, highly unscientific, and remarkably skewed poll in my comments section would seem to bear this out, at least among internet-capable funnybook fans.

Now, I'm not trying to bust anyone's chops here...I've no beef with Toupydoops (in fact, you can read Johanna's positive review, and here's a generously-long preview of a forthcoming collection). However, that sequence of panels Dirk posted in today's Journalista column features one of the stars of Toupydoops using his knowledge of the Watchmen/Charlton connection to put some fanboy "poseurs" in their place. That just struck me as a slightly false note, particularly given the way the fanboys in question were presented. If they're into comics as much as they're shown as being, even if it is just superhero comics, and that they think Watchmen is the best comic ever, it seems very unlikely that they wouldn't know about that connection. That just seems like another piece of general fannish trivia that most of us fanboys and fangirls would have floating around in our heads (along with "The Hulk was grey in his first issue," "Stan Lee's real last name is Lieber," and "Swamp Thing is the best comic book character ever").

Some caveats:

1. When asked if they knew about the connection, one of the fanboys did say "yes," which was disbelieved by the star of the show. So it's possible that they did know, but just couldn't be convincing about it.

2. As some of the folks in my comments noted, they didn't know about the connection initially, but they did find out eventually...a few years after the fact, or even during the original run of the series, but they did find out. It's very possible that this confrontation occurred prior to those two fanboys making this discovery...and that this is how they found out.

3. Other folks have noted that the fanboys may be caricatures of two funnybook-fan comedians, Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn, and thus this may be the cartoonist's specific criticism of these two men.

4. Or it could be a bit of characterization for the lead character...he smugly tosses off a common bit of comic book trivia and treats it as arcane knowledge, which makes him the jerk.

Speaking of being a jerk, I think I've way overanalyzed this bit of dialogue enough. (And focusing on the trivia presented misses the point, I realize, of the actual argument being made...that Watchmen is overrated by superhero fanboys, but that's a post for another day, I think!) Again, here's that Toupydoops preview for you to check out, and hey, take it easy on Dirk...he's a good guy!

Yes, the cards are really called "SNIKT!" and "THWIPP!" 

Here are just a few "SNIKT!" and "THWIPP!" cards from the Marvel Monopoly game:

So, how much is Marvel stock worth nowadays?

I see optimists wrote the text for this next card. "Hey, how much can I get for my run of Force Works?" "Um...if I give you a dollar will you take them away from our store?"

Now, this next card:

Which Doctor Strange #71? This one, with the Paul Smith art, or this one, with work by Peter Gross?

I so wanted to find a card with this image, only with Iron Man, given the whole Civil War thing one or two of you might have heard about:

And here, have yourself a little more nightmare fuel with Mr. Monopoly (formerly "Rich Uncle Pennybags") dressed as the Green Goblin:

What Uncle Pennybags gets up to in his free time is really his own business.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Feeling a bit taxed. 

So, DC's weekly series 52 is just about to end, and a new weekly, Countdown, is on its way. A couple observations:
  • The first issue of 52 sold very well, and dipped with the issues immediately following (as expected). However, I did expect 52-fatigue to set in about -- I don't know, halfway through the series, maybe? -- but it never happened. Sales have remained consistently stable and strong throughout the run. I did have a few folks threaten to drop the book, saying things like "okay, I'll give this series just one more issue," but they kept with it.

  • I did have a few people complain that there wasn't enough Superman, Batman, and/or Wonder Woman in 52. Um, that was the point, I thought...52 was supposed to show us what was going on in the DC Universe without the Big Three looming over everything.

  • I'm curious just how Countdown is going to do. I've been hearing quite a few customers saying that, while they followed and enjoyed 52, one year-long weekly series was enough, thank you, and that they'll probably pass on Countdown. A few have cited the price increase, from 52's $2.50 to the new series' $2.99, as a factor against the series as well. I'm guessing that at least some of these folks will probably cave, and sample the series anyway. I mean, if you're coming in every week for your funnybooks, you're going to see a new Countdown on the shelf, and it's just one more $2.99 book to add to the pile...it's not that big of a deal.

    Nonetheless, I am expecting to see a slight dip in sales, compared to 52.

    Another barrier for some of my customers is their disinterest in the cast of characters for Countdown. How anyone can resist the tagline of "JIMMY OLSEN MUST DIE," I have no idea. But, since I had similar complaints about 52 (again, the lack of Supes, Bats, and, er, Wondy, I guess), and sales still remained strong on that series, I imagine it won't be that much of a problem for this new weekly.

In other non-weekly comic news:
  • Okay, so we haven't sold any back issues of Ka-Zar in...geez, I don't know, a good long while. Ka-Zar has been, for quite a while now, a real "who cares?" kind of title. So what happens? On Saturday, someone comes in and buys a whole boatload of Ka-Zar. Fine, great, it was bound to happen eventually. The very next day...someone else comes in and asks for Ka-Zar, before I've had a chance to pull extras out of storage, process 'n' price 'em, and restock the back issue bins. If the universe is going to mock me, I wish it would use a medium aside from Ka-Zar back issues.

  • Dear person who calls every week for the new edition of the Overstreet Price Guide: IT'S NOT MY FAULT IT'S NOT OUT YET. It's not like I'm in the basement printing the books myself. (Besides, my basement printing equipment is currently tied up with Ultimates 2 #13.)

  • Requests for a new issue of Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk increased slightly this past week. It's cute when fans have hope and faith.

  • I have no idea:

    EDIT: Reader Skip has provided a translation. Thanks, Skip!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

More action figures should glow in the dark. 

  • Currently processing a nice collection of books, ranging from the Golden Age into the mid-1980s. Highlight of the collection so far (though I don't see much surpassing this): a couple hundred original E.C. comics, including full runs of Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Shock Suspenstories, and the 3-D books (all two of them), and near-full runs of Tales from the Crypt, Haunt of Fear, and Vault of Horror...plus a handful of Mads and other random E.C.s. I'll let you folks know when they're available for sale.

    However, what I'm most excited about in this collection are the issues of Nancy & Sluggo and Fox and the Crow. I'm not letting you know when these are available for sale, because I'm keeping them. So there.

    (I should also make up some kind of "pedigree" name for this collection, like the, I don't know, "Seaside Funnybooks in Cardboard Boxes Collection," and price them accordingly. Plus, I can tell exciting stories about how the collection was acquired: "Well, one day, a guy called and asked if we wanted to buy his comics, and we said 'sure, let us take a look at 'em,' and we saw he had some pretty good stuff, so we bought them. The end.")

  • I've been trying my darnedest to avoid buying action figures, but I really found this one to be oddly compelling:

    That would be the "Kryptonite Batman" figure from DC Direct. You know, I wasn't even that big of a fan of the Superman/Batman storyline that this figure was taken from...but it just strikes me as being neat, for some reason.

    Plus, it glows in the dark, so he can fight my glow-in-the-dark Swamp Thing figure. BOTH OF THEM.

  • Speaking of Swamp Thing, which, I realize, I barely do, I've been sent this link several times, and I totally forgot to say anything about it here. So thanks to the most recent e-mailer, reader Michael, for reminding me that I should mention Swamp Thing's placement on the "Top 20 FX Suits" list.

  • Your least-expected comic book reference for the day, from this article on the evolving appearances of female dancers:

    "Look at the women in British ensembles like Random Dance or the Henri Oguike Dance Company. Look at Sylvie Guillem with her ripped physique and steely limbs. They're amazing. Like comic-book heroines, like Promethea or Lady Deathstrike."

  • Right now, I am picturing Don Ho in Heaven, singing "Tiny Bubbles" to Kurt Vonnegut.

    We all have our own way of mourning.

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