mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Just in case you needed some Galactus this weekend... 

...here you go:

from Fantastic Four #50 (May 1966 - as reprinted in Marvel Masterworks Vol. 25)
by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott

Friday, June 15, 2007


  • So it's finally happened...I've scripted an installment of Benjamin Birdie and Kevin Church's webstrip The Rack. It is, sadly, based on a true story. Guess which character is me.

  • Speaking of Kevin, I'd mentioned to him via the e-mail (yes, sometimes we talk in secret via e-mail...and we're saying things about YOU) that I was, at that moment, in the process of deciding some order numbers on a variant cover for the impending Thor #1. What kind of variant, do you ask? Why, a "zombie variant" (painted by Marvel Zombies cover artist Art Suydam) of course.

    Kevin immediately posted the order info on his site, because it is both terrible and beautiful. You can read it in full there, but to summarize: for every 10 "zombie Thor" covers I order, one of those covers will be a "non-zombie" Thor painting by Suydam. It's a variant for your variant. And now we have the descriptor "non-zombie" in our comic book parlance.

    Now, I'll admit, I'm mostly amused by Suydam's zombie covers, which are all parodies of classic (or, at least, recognizable) Marvel covers of the past. Most are funny (the birds kill me, every time), though this one is a tad on the tacky side, and I swear I don't get why anyone in his right mind would want this Marvel Zombies-inspired statue.

    But, really, haven't we hit our zombie saturation point by now? The current iteration of the zombie fad is way past its shelf life, and most folks have moved on. Not Marvel, though...there's no good idea they can't strip mine into oblivion. Then again, customers are still buying them, though diminishing returns are beginning to set in a bit.

    However, I will give the Marvel Zombies thing one more pass if we can get a zombified version of this cover. I mean, it's halfway there already.

  • For all that...yes, I ordered some of the Thor zombie variant for the store. Yes, I know I'm part of the problem. Hey, we were the first store in the world to carry the original, self-published Love and Rockets comic...surely that buys us some slack for occasionally giving in to Marvel's marketing.

  • Pal JP brings you SUPER TATTOOS. Not just any SUPER TATTOOS, but the greatest Superman tattoos you will ever see in your wasted, misbegotten lives. LICK AND STICK THE MAJESTY.

  • A special thanks to reader John, who proves himself goodhearted and saintly by sending me the one thing that, 'til now, the Vast Mikester Comic Archives lacked...

    ...a Swamp Thing comic autographed by Swampy co-creator Len Wein:

    It's...it's beautiful.


    Sent to me by pal Dorian.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

"My gamble on his baby's emotions came through like a champ!" 

Wednesday morning, at the shop before we opened, waiting for the UPS shipment of new comics, I listened to the Negativland album Dispepsi. Twice.

Now that's how you start your New Comics Day.

How not to start it...arguing with someone via the e-mail over the allegedly high cost of my shipping a book to Germany. One, the book is big 'n' heavy, and two, I'm in the U.S., and you're IN GERMANY...how cheap did you think it was going to be? Plus, at this point the only way I could ship it any more cheaply is to do away with any packaging whatsoever and just slap a mailing label right on the book itself.

Dear Marvel:

RE: World War Hulk #1...so far, so good. Almost lost me by introducing the Sentry, a character I couldn't care less about, into the series right away, but if all he's there for is to give the Hulk someone else to punch, I suppose I can live with it. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Sentry's actually going to play some major role in the story's resolution, which will be unfortunate, but What Can You Do?

However, the promise of the series (Hulk returns to Earth to kick the ass of everyone who's done him wrong) has played out just dandy so far, with the Hulk laying a beatdown on the one "hero" who probably deserves it the most. It's a good, solid, simple premise (and if folks hadn't read "Planet Hulk," the brief exposition provided nicely gets everyone up to speed), which I have a hard time imagining that even you, Marvel, could screw up.

Not saying you won't screw it up, of course, but hopefully it won't go off the rails until after we all get some quality Hulk funnybook action.

Yes, this all entirely lowbrow. But sometimes, no matter how sophisticated an "illustrated graphic storytelling" fan you may be, sometimes you just gotta read a comic about the Hulk smashing.

And that's okay.

Just try not to screw it up, for at least a little while.

Love, Mike

Just a few random panels from Avengers #105 (Nov 1972) by Steve Englehart, John Buscema & Jim Mooney:

Some heroic determination from Iron Man, back when he was a hero:

The best defeat of a villain ever:

And Thor pasting some bad guy in the puss, which is always quality:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"It is a shame, in a way, that I shall have to destroy you, Superman!" 

You know what I wish we could have had more of in the funnybooks?

Superman versus Dr. Doom, that's what:

from Marvel Treasury Edition #28 (1981) by Jim Shooter, John Buscema, Joe Sinnott, et al

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Benedict, Birthdays, Books, and Bitching. 

Now, I wasn't going to discuss this on my site, since a quick search through AskCerebra reveals that both H from the Comic Treadmill and Dr. Scott from Polite Dissent have discussed this issue, and I didn't want to step on anyone's toes. But, ever since it came to my attention, this comic is always there, lurking in the back of my mind, taunting me, teasing me with its brilliance.

And so, just to get it out of my system, let me point out Batman Family #1 (Oct. 1975). The lead story (by Elliot S! Maggin and Mike Grell) is blurbed on the cover, by Batman his own self, as "the origin of the Batgirl-Robin team" -- and what would that origin entail, you ask?

Benedict Arnold is sent by Satan to the world of the living in order to crush, once and for all, the American spirit...a plan that apparently includes the defeat of Batgirl and Robin. Here's Benedict in a swordfight with Barbara 'n' Dick:

It goes without saying that Arnold fails, and Satan isn't pleased:

Please please please tell me this is still in DC universe continuity. Okay, it's probably in Grant Morrison's Batman continuity, but what I wouldn't give for a flashback in, say, Birds of Prey, with Barbara Gordon remembering that one time, long ago, when she and a young Dick Grayson found themselves in a fight for America's spirit against a demonically-powered Benedict Arnold.

Surely that's not too much to ask.

In other news:
  • Reader John informs me that today, Tuesday, June 12th, is the birthday of Swamp Thing cocreator Len Wein. I'm sure Mr. Wein doesn't know me from Adam (well, except maybe as "that one guy who likes Swamp Thing just a little too much"), but I hope he accepts my birthday wishes anyway. Happy Birthday, sir, and thank you for creating my favorite comic book character!

  • I've mentioned before that I'm a fan of the long-running Wild Cards novel series...well, poking around on a site or two, trying to follow up on the news of new installments from a new publisher (coming Jan. 2008, by the way), I discovered the apparently months-old news that there's going to be a new Wild Cards comic book. It's another Marvel Comics/Dabel Brothers joint...other comics from this partnership haven't done anything for me, unfortunately, but I'm looking forward to this new mini. Hey, we're all fanboys about something.

  • I just wanted to thank Chris Sims for his referring to "the alleged Geoff Johns/Richard Donner run on Action Comics," as that description just totally sums it up. For all the ballyhooing of this fantastic new team, and how great it is that one of the Superman film directors is involved in the series, the parade of fill-ins by other teams just indicates that, once again, BALL SUCCESSFULLY DROPPED. I'm just getting tired of this shit. I don't like it, my customers don't like it (and believe me, I hear about it), but apparently DC and Marvel think it's just dandy, because they keep doing it. They hype the books up the wazoo, and then it's delays and fill-ins and annoyed fans and retailers.

    By the way, we're approaching the 16-month mark since the last issue of Ultimate Hulk Vs. Wolverine came out. But hey, some guy from Lost is writing it! That's great for the comics industry!

    I should note that it's nothing short of a miracle that Dark Tower appears to be on schedule.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"Let's make believe this is our clubhouse and get in it, huh?" 

And now, the most depressing robot story ever, from Midnight Mystery #7 (Oct 1961)...sure, the title splash is promising:

...but it'll all end in tears.

Dr. Gregory develops a super-intelligent robot on behalf of a buyer who wants it as an attraction at the World's Fair:

...but, as it turns out, the buyer wanted a robot that would provide a spectacular display, like motorcycle jumping or flaming plate spinning, not just a machine that could recite facts.

Without a buyer, Dr. Gregory seeks a way to recoup his losses and places a "ROBOT FOR SALE" ad in his local newspaper.

In short order, a low-rent carnival gets its mitts on the robot, and, now dubbed "ROCKY THE WONDER ROBOT," is commanded to rook rubes out of cash via those exciting chess matches you see at your better carnivals:

The customers quickly realize playing chess against Rocky is a bad idea, and the carnival's owner moves Rocky to a new attraction...as a "living" target:

This constant abuse begins to take its toll on Rocky, and during his down time he reflects on the day's events:

Apparently in the same room Rocky is sitting, the carnival's other employees sit down for an evening of television. And, coincidentally enough, what are they watching? A film about space robots running wild on Earth. Rocky can't help but notice what he's being shown:

Suddenly, Rocky has only one thing on his mind:

Inspired by the film, driven by the thoughts of his mistreatment, Rocky escapes the carnival and begins his reign of terror.

Or, rather, he's just about to begin his reign of terror, as his first stop is an auto-wrecking plant near the train tracks. There, he witnesses a couple of boy geniuses playing in a cardboard box on the tracks:

And God knows what they were getting up to in that box to make one of them exclaim "This is fun," but fun was apparently being had, and thus they do not hear the approaching train car:

Now, my initial thought upon Rocky's action at this point...stopping the car:

...was that, given what these kids were up to...playing in a CARDBOARD BOX on TRAIN TRACKS...would the gene pool have missed them all that much, really? But then again, maybe that was Rocky's plan, his long-term revenge on humanity, by letting these two survive to pass on their dumb genes to their misbegotten offspring.

But, whatever the reason, save them Rocky did, and what was his reward?

That's right, Rocky gets pie, Soupy Sales-style. And rather than just rip off these two punks' heads and use them as shot puts, Rocky wanders off to the nearby auto-wrecking plant. He briefly mopes by one of the presses:

A search party from the carnival arrives, but they're too late, too late:

And there's one last panel where all the humans discuss how the robot was just a pile of wires and circuits, and couldn't have actually taken its own life purposefully, don'cha know.

There just ain't no robot justice, friends, so I'm declaring Rocky the Wonder Robot the official mascot of the forthcoming robot uprising, joining Robot Phil, Robot Chris, Robot Mike, and our newest member, Mr. Robot Dan Kelly.

You live on in our mechanical hearts, Rocky the Wonder Robot.

For another pathetic robot story, may I direct you to this old post of mine? Man, robots are always gettin' the shaft.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Back issues, Swamp Thing, and druid rock. 

So ex-employee Josh popped by the shop on Saturday, and he was telling me about how the shop near where he now lives stores their back issues.

Apparently, their customer-accessible back issues are stored, bagless, in long boxes. Plus, they're shoved into the boxes so tightly that, as Josh says, you have to cram your fingers into the box and drag the comic out by your fingernails...which, I'm sure, does wonder for the conditions of the books.

Okay, if you're a store that does this to your back issues, particularly the back issues you leave out on the tables for your customers to go through...stop it. Really, just stop. You're destroying your own backstock, and you're annoying the customers who actually want to buy a back issue from you...assuming you have any customers for your back issues left.

Even if you don't want to put bags on the comics in the back issue bins (and you really should...for a very small investment, you'll protect your books from all kinds of wear), at the very least keep the boxes loose enough to allow folks to flip though them.

I wrote about the in-store care of back issues in one of my old Comic Book Galaxy columns, which has, I think, some common sense advice for anyone trying to sell back-numbered funnybooks. So, please, feel free to follow my tips.

Or don't. Fine with me...more back issue customers for us, then. I'll be happy to take them.

The most comprehensive Swamp Thing website in the known universe, Roots of the Swamp Thing, has moved to its new address of swampthingroots.com. Go, visit, tell Rich I sent you.

And if you need to search for something on swampthingroots.com, may I suggest my new Swamp Thing-specific search engine AskCranius? Sure I may.

from The Crusaders #10 (1978)

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