mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Dizzy don'ts. 




from Mike Barnett Man Against Crime #2 (Feb. 1952)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Updating late on a Friday evening, when no one's gonna read it anyway. 

Via Journalista, here's a Comics Journal message board thread featuring very early, very pre-Popeye examples of E.C. Segar's Thimble Theatre strip. Editor Kim Thompson doesn't think much of them, but I think they're kinda cute and amusing. Not a patch on the Popeye era, of course, but I wouldn't say no to a collection of these.

A follow-up to this morning's post, regarding the 7-11-distributed Radioactive Man comic...according to information provided by Commenter Phill and Pal Nat, we now know that one of the three featured stories ("The True Origin of Radioactive Man!") is new to this publication, while the others are reprints. "The Amazing Radioactive Spider" is from Radioactive Man "#4" and "Planet Of The Strange-Os" is from Simpsons Comics #50.

And Nat was able to find his copy today, so maybe you'll still get lucky and find one on a shelf still, too.

Friday Night Fights! 

from Mike Barnett Man Against Crime #2 (Feb. 1952)

(Get your fight on.)

Thank you, come again. 

As I'm sure most of you know, several 7-11 convenience stores across the country were redecorated into "Kwik-E-Marts," as an elaborate tie-in to the soon-to-be-unleashed Simpsons movie. As part of the remodeling, the stores were also stocked with several Simpsons-style items, like the Frosted Krusty-Os cereal and Buzz Cola. (You can see a typical Simpson-ized store and its product line at this site.)

What I didn't realize, until Customer Glenn clued me in on Thursday, was that one of the items was an exclusive issue of Radioactive Man comics...number 711, naturally:

Apparently, the Simpsons merchandise is supposed to be available at all 7-11s, not just the ones turned into Kwik-E-Marts, but neither the 7-11 Glenn checked, nor the one I tried yesterday evening in Oxnard, had the comics.

I suppose I could go the eBay route, since there seems to be a lot of copies on there (that's where I snagged the above pic) but I don't know that I want to give any of those guys my money. Particularly the guy trying to sell a lot of 50 copies for $450. I'll keep checking the 7-11s and hope for the best, I guess.

I'm not even sure what the contents are...the cover is blurbed "Special Origin Issue," so I suppose it's at least a partial reprint of the first issue of the original Radioactive Man mini-series. But, hey, it's still pretty neat, and at the very least, it got comics in 7-11s again. (My local 7-11s stopped carrying comics years ago, and I'm assuming it's the same everywhere. Let me know if I'm wrong.)

A couple follow-ups to my Flash post from Tuesday:

A few people here and there have challenged my assertion that the Bart Allen Flash series was always intended to be a mini-series, which is fair enough. That's my interpretation coming from statements made by DC's Didio and other folks. The opposing interpretation, that the reboot wasn't decided upon until late in the game as a response to fan reaction and/or sales, may be just as valid. I can't really prove or disprove either.

However, during some back and forth in the comments section, I whipped out this link, which sales reports on DC titles. According to the several months' worth of sales figures on the Bart Allen Flash series, the series had dropped down from about 120,000 on the first issue to about 47,000 on issue #11. Issues 9-11 were in about the 46,000 to 47,000 range, with sales bumping up slightly on #11. Those aren't great numbers, by any means (few comics today have great sales), but it still outsold other DC titles like Robin, Nightwing, Bird of Prey, Green Lantern Corps, Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes...none of which are, to my knowledge, getting canceled and/or restarted anytime soon.

I'm not privy to the inner workings of DC Editorial, of course, but I don't know why they felt a restart was necessary so soon, unless they liked that 120,000 print run on the first ish and wanted to try again with a new series that hopefully wouldn't shed readership by the tens of thousands. Or, like my crazy theory, the finite nature of this series was planned from the beginning.

Anyway, I think that 47,000 print run wasn't anything to sneeze at, and given that sales may have started to go up (or at least go down less quickly...they've certainly been up at our shop), and that, far as I can tell, people in our shop and online started to be a little more positive about the book (with the exception of that awful last issue, which may have been more "editorial edict" than the writer responsible for its quality), it's possible that 47,000 could have increased over time. Maybe not fast enough to give the book the profit margin that yet another restart may give it...at least for an issue or two, anyway.

I don't talk about this particular artist on my site any more, but that won't stop me from linking to the mighty Cole, who rips Mr. Name-Not-Mentioned-Here a new one in regards to a pissy comment about Grant Morrison writing the intro to the Jack Kirby's Fourth World omnibus, basically implying Morrison was a poor choice because he did so little work with Kirby's material.

Cole already explained why this is an entirely wrong-headed argument, but I'll support him with my little quiz:

Which do you think Kirby would have preferred to see younger creators do in his honor?

A. Slavish devotion and copying of work Kirby had already done?

B. Going out and working on their own whacked-out, original concepts?

I'm reasonably certain there's only one correct answer, and it ain't "A."

Congrats to Chris Sims for getting a pull-quote on the inside cover of Marvel's new Anita Blake hardcover. Why he got a pull-quote, I'm not entirely sure, since each time a new issue of Anita Blake comes out, Chris goes after it, guns blazing, like it was made of Hitler. At the very least, it shows that the folks behind the Anita Blake comic have a good sense of humor about what Chris does to them with his AB annotations.

A couple more things about this week's comics: 1) The Thor Suydam zombie-Thor variant and the Suydam non-zombie Thor variant variant are delayed 'til next week. Hopefully that won't bite (har har) into sales. 2) The Fallen Son: Iron Man "oh noes they're burying Captain America, lookit all the media coverage" issue we were all warned about, that there may be some minor media-enhanced demand for it...that demand never materialized. No lightning striking twice here. I'll try to contain my surprise.

Also, Action Comics #851...if you bought it...did you get the 3-D version or the regular version? Or, God help you, both?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Extra points for the Whodini reference. 

"Should The Recording Industry Sue Superman?"

"I mean, with his super-hearing, he must be listening at any given moment to at least a few dozen songs he didn't pay for. If he were real, the recording industry would demand some kind of compensation."

"Its not against the law to listen to music. Its against the law (I suppose) to download a song you didn't pay for. Its not like if I walked by some guy with a boombox (from the 80s I guess) and he was listening to Whodini I would have to pay him."

"But Superman's got an unfair advantage."

"But it's unlikely that Superman has good taste in music, either."

"You don't think one of his powers is super-taste?"

"Point taken. However, he grew up on a farm in Kansas, thereby nullifying, for life, his ability to pick and choose quality tunes."

"Considering all the unlicensed songs about 'Superman' - maybe HE should sue ASCAP..."

"With Superman's super-hearing, wouldn't HE sue the recording companies for putting out crappy music?"

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth of July, where applicable. 

Hot Stuff #136 (September 1976)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bruce Cervon (1941 - 2007). 

I just found out today that one of our longtime customers, one of our favorite customers, had passed away about a month ago. Bruce Cervon was a professional magician, with a long and fascinating career (which you can read about in his obituary - he was Johnny Carson's personal choice for Tonight Show parties! How cool is that?). He was also a great lover of comic books, and we always enjoyed talking with him about his favorite artists, the industry, and otherwise just shooting the breeze about the hobby.

Bruce had an impressive funnybook collection as well. Once, he brought in a paper grocery sack filled with comics, telling us "oh, here's just some junk I came across in the garage." At the top of the sack: Sensation Comics #1. The rest of the bag was other Golden Age books...he didn't bring them in to sell. He just brought them in so we could all have a good time looking through the books.

He'd also tell us about his adventures in the magic profession, about all the people he's met, about performing for Elvis Presley and other famous folk. He once told me a story about how he'd performed for George Burns and friends at a party. After the act was over, Mr. Burns walked up to Bruce, thanked him for the show, and pressed a hundred dollar bill as a tip into his hand. Bruce, surprised, said "Oh, I couldn't take this...after all the years of entertainment you've given me, you don't owe me anything." Mr. Burns replied: "Kid, trust me...take the money."

Here's a sample from one of Bruce's instructional videos:

...and here he is demonstrating "3 card monte" on an episode of That's Incredible (there's about a minute and half of 3 card monte "in the wild" before Bruce shows up):

So long, Bruce. I'm glad to have known you, and you'll be much missed.

The problem with the most recent Flash series... 

...aside from the last issue being crap, is....

Well, let me set up the situation for you, in case you don't know already.

DC Comics brought the previous Flash series, starring the Wally West version of the character, to an end about a year and a half ago. Then a new Flash series was launched, featuring Bart Allen, the former Impulse, as the title character. It was a whole big relaunch hoo-har, with a new #1 issue and everything, and even though the writing in the early issues of the book was pretty dismal, things picked up a bit when a new writer came on board and readers started to slowly come back, at least in our neck of the woods.

But it's not the quality of the book that concerns me here. Don't get me wrong, it does concern me, and that is an important issue, but the point I am trying to make here makes the actual quality of the title moot.

As I'm sure most of you know, we have to order books ahead of time, getting our order numbers in to the distributor about two months or so, usually, before the items are released. And, in the last couple of months, we dutifully placed our orders for Flash #14 and Flash #15.

Well, Flash #13, which came out a couple weeks ago, is actually the last issue of the series, and DC took order numbers on succeeding issues as an attempt to keep secret the shocking surprise wrap-up to Bart Allen's run as the Scarlet Speedster (a strategy last used, far as I recall, for the Ultraverse title Exiles). The orders for issues #14 and #15 have since been transferred to a Flash one-shot special and the "first" issue (actually picking up the numbering from the previous Wally West series) of the new Flash title.

And, judging from statements made by folks at DC, this was the plan the whole time. There were a lot of comments made along the lines of "don't get attached to this new Flash" and "the Flash in the early issues may not be the same Flash in the later issues" and that sort of thing.

The end result is that a title that was launched as a new ongoing series was, in fact, a mini-series. I don't have the solicitation info right here in front of me, so maybe it was never explicitly described as an "ongoing," but neither was it presented as a finite run, either.

In most cases, this wouldn't be that big of a deal. Plenty of comics start big, intended as ongoing series, and fizzle out in short order. In fact, this was practically Image Comics' publishing strategy for a while, there. In any case, publishers start new ongoing series, retailers order what they think they can sell, and we all hope for the best. Sometimes things go well, sometimes they don't, sometimes publishers pull the plug on a series a little too soon, sometimes something that sells well for us isn't selling well anywhere else and thus gets canned, and so on.

But a Flash series is different.

There are certain characters that Marvel and DC publish that, while not their primary licensable properties like Superman or Spider-man, will nevertheless almost always be assured a place in their publishing schedules. Partially because of the its recognizability or importance to the company's history, primarily because of the its translatability to toys and movies, these characters will almost always have a comic with their logo on the cover. There will likely always be a Captain America comic, for example, or a Green Lantern comic. Sometime sales will dip so low that one of these titles will disappear for a brief time (like GL did, or Thor), but will then get relaunched with a lot of fanfare.

In short, the chances of survival for an ongoing series starring the Flash is better than, say, the chances of survival for an ongoing series starring, say, Penance or Blue Devil. Not saying I wouldn't like to see an ongoing title with...well, with Blue Devil, at least, but from the point of view of someone who has to sell these books for a living, I'd have to imagine the publisher would have more invested in perpetuating the recognizable, marketable trademark in an ongoing series than any of their secondary, less marketable characters. If a Blue Devil series is launched, goes nowhere, gets cancelled...no big whoop. That idea didn't work, let's try something else with another character. If a Captain America series is launched, goes nowhere, gets cancelled...they'll try again with a new Captain America series in short order.

So, let's go back to the beginnings of this recently cancelled Flash series:

DC puts an end to their previous Flash series starring Wally West. Okay, it wasn't selling like gangbusters or anything, but I can see where DC may want to revitalize their Flash character with a big, new revamp/relaunch.

It's time for us to place orders for the new Flash #1, the series starring Bart Allen. Since it's a Flash series, and the previous Flash series have each lasted hundreds of issues, we make the seemingly-safe judgment call that this new Flash series probably will stick around for a while. Given this, and the fact that we tend to do pretty good business in back number sales, we order heavier on the initial issues. We'll adjust orders once actual sales figures are evident, but it's okay if we have some extras of #1, #2, and #3 floating around. Having a Flash series on the stands, particularly with low numbering, functions as a good advertisement for its own back issues. People who start with, say, #8, are likely to go back and buy the first seven. Plus, early and relatively inexpensive issues of a comic book series starring one of the major characters is an attractive draw.

And, while the Bart series is running (har har), we do indeed experience some significant back issue movement. People pick up a Flash #3 on the stands, they're gonna want a #1 and a #2.

Had the Bart series continued, this probably would have been the case for quite some time. Not indefinitely, of course...once you get to issue #15 or so, which the series had been approaching, you're not going to have as many people impulse-buying (har har, again) #1 through #14. But, as I'd said, this is a series featuring one of DC's major properties...those #1s through #3s had at least a little sales life left in them.

However, now that the Bart series is a self-contained one-off mini, with that version of the Flash not being seen again at least for the near future, and which has been supplanted with the revived numbering of the previous Flash series and once again starring Wally West...well, one of the motivators for folks to buy those back issues has been removed. Now it's a canceled, soon to be forgotten oddity, for Flash fans and completists only, with no back issue sales to casual comic fans driven by new issues of that series on the rack.

Had this actually been an ongoing series that we'd ordered heavily on for the early issues, and it got canned due to poor sales...well, What Can You Do? We took a bet that the series would succeed, we lost, it happens. We ordered the best we could with the information we had.

For the Bart Flash series, we didn't have all the information. We didn't know it was only an interim series published during a hiatus in the Wally West series. Yes, there were hints that the Flash that started the series may not be the Flash who would end up starring in it...but at no time did we suspect that the relaunched title, quite the big deal at the time, would be canceled and replaced by the previous title with the old numbering.

I expect to still sell some back issues of the Bart series, as there may be some cursory interest driven by the news around the Flash cancelation/relaunch and the forthcoming All-Flash one-shot which spins off from that last issue. The healthy lifespan of those back issue sales, however, has been severely curtailed without a "live" series driving them. Even where, unlike this case, there's a continuity of character across multiple "ongoing" (but canceled and replaced by other ongoings) series, like Captain America...back issue sales on the previous series tend to dry up in favor of the current one.

That was a long row to hoe to basically say "We wish we new that Bart Allen series was a mini, because we would have ordered it as such."

Monday, July 02, 2007

Nothing to do with comics. 

BRUCEPLOITATION - dedicated to the many, many Bruce Lee-a-likes that popped up after Lee's death (via). Lots and lots of reviews, and it's hard to not like a site with this disclaimer on the main page:

"I would appreciate any feedback on the site whether it be bad or good. Also if I messed up on the information or whatever."

A quick glance at the DVD reviews reveals solid info re: video and sound quality and extras and such.

For a taste of true Bruceploitation...from Bruce Lee The Invincible, Bruce Li fights a kung-fu gorilla:

Supermouse #27 Part Two: More Racial Sensitivity in Comic Books. 

So the Bunny family just happens to have a huge ol' picture of the Pilgrims battling the natives hanging on the wall?


Supermouse #27 Part One: Fun with Punctuation. 

So I was flipping through a copy of Supermouse #27 (November 1953), and I saw an art school ad on the last page. Save for a single comma (I think, unless it's an accidental spot of ink), the woman's word balloon is devoid of punctuation, giving her dialogue a rant-ish, "I've totally had fourteen cups of coffee this morning" feel:

Well, nice guy that I am, I thought I'd help out:

And apparently that's her horrible job in that panel, there; I don't know what it entails, other than waiting on old ladies. "Oh, man, this kissing booth gig is just getting me down."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

There's only one battle cry worse* than "Flame On" -- 

-- and it's this one:

from Sub-Mariner Comics #35 (Aug. 1954) - reprinted in Human Torch #7 (Sept. 1975)

Toro's battle cry is a little wordy, too.

* I don't really think "Flame on!" is that bad...it's just a joke, son!

"It's time to taste what you most fear...." 

  • What I did on Saturday: for a customer who was confused about how Black Adam, who had lost his powers by the end of 52, suddenly had them back again in Countdown...I drew out a timeline on a piece of paper, showing how Infinity Crisis, 52, "One Year Later," and Countdown all fit together, and where the forthcoming Black Adam mini-series takes place.

    I need a white board for the store for stuff like this. Except I'd probably use it all the time and annoy the hell out of everyone.

    "Hey, Mike, how come this copy of Tack Graphy, Two-Fisted Stenographer #2 is $50, while this one is only $20?"

    "Well -- " (pulls out the white board) "-- let me draw you various types of comic book damage and wear and their influence on comic pricing...."


  • Our store is located on the main drag through town. On one side of us, around the corner, is about three hospitals. On the other side of us, at the end of said main drag, is the fairgrounds, where the Warped Tour has apparently touched down Saturday for an day of rocking and rolling and young folks carrying on.

    I lost count of the number of ambulances that have sped from the hospitals in the direction of the fairgrounds that day. During our typical day, it's not unusual for the occasional ambulance to zip by, sirens blaring. Saturday, it was like the fairgrounds had been considered a disaster area. Heck, maybe it was, I don't know.

    They must have been dropping like flies over at that concert. It's all that mary-jane they're injecting directly into their veins, I just know it.

    Also, the Warped Tour thing really fouled up freeway traffic for a while, so folks were pulling off the freeway and taking the road outside our store to get across town instead. Heard a lot of "Hey, look! A comic book store!" from people stuck in the bumper to bumper traffic. They shoulda jumped out and shopped...or maybe I could have taken comics to them, wandering through the sea of cars carrying my stock and calling out "COMICS! GETCHA COMICS HERE!"

  • Not to belabor this point too much (and when do I ever do that?), a quick search through Newsarama's forums only brought up one reference to the Superman/Wonder Woman thing as a "pieta." And that person admitted that he was working on vague memories from college, and that he wasn't entirely sure what the Pieta looked like.

    A cursory Google search didn't dig anything up, either, but I only spent a little time looking until I realized I didn't really care that much.

  • Projects to do when I have the time, the inclination, and the lack of anyone telling me "what're you, crazy?" - a breakdown of scenes in Watchmen, with estimated times for each one, because I have a sneaking suspicion that if you were to add it up, the actual length of the narrative may be normal movie length (2 1/2 hours or so, maybe), and not the "only an HBO mini-series can do it justice!" length some people seem to insist on.

    It's all a moot point anyway, since I have a not-so-sneaking sensation that the movie we're actually going to get will be more like "X-Men with different costumes" than "examination of the superhero genre and why it doesn't work."

  • Actual discussion at work:

    Me: "Ooh, hey, I forgot about this copy of Super Mouse!"

    Employee Aaron: "Hey, who's stronger? Super Mouse or Mighty Mouse?"

    Me: "Super Mouse is stronger."

    EA: "Um...why?"

    Me: "Because he's super, he's not just mighty."

    EA: "Your stupid hurts me."

  • For no good reason, other than I've been on a Dead Kennedys trip again lately...here's a live performance of "Holiday in Cambodia" from back in the good ol' days:

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