mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, July 28, 2007

"What are half-Windsors to DOOM?" 

I'm in the process of prepping some neckties for consignment sale on the eBay on behalf of one of our customers, and...well, I'm not much of a tie-wearer (as in "almost never"), but if I were to wear a tie, let it be a Dr. Doom one:

There's "power tie," and then there's "craving ultimate power and dominion over all space and time tie."

I kind of like this tie, too...Employee Aaron dubbed it the "Crisis on Infinite Earths tie," what with the multiple Supermen and Earths an' all:

Friday, July 27, 2007


Employee Jeff just sent Employee Aaron a text message from the San Diego Con, where he's at the Joe Quesada panel. Apparently everyone's hounding Big Joe for a new Devil Dinosaur series.

EDIT: Jeff says there's word that more Frank Frazetta-inspired comics are planned, including one called Creature in which Teddy Roosevelt fights monsters. Hey, why not?

EDIT 2: Grant Morrison writing Final Crisis. Okay, it's probably already on the big news sites by now (haven't checked), but Jeff reports it, I pass it on.

Not a paid advertisment, Batfatty, and some brief Comic-Con news you've already seen. 

Okay, I promise you, I have no financial stake in this book or this publisher (aside from selling the books at the shop), this isn't a paid ad, no one asked me to do this...but I loved the last book these guys did, and by God, I want to see more. So, out of a bit of enlightened self-interest, hoping this new volume will sell well enough to justify reprinting more off-brand horror comics, I give you this coupon you can print 'n' clip and give to your retailer:

That's Chamber of Mystery: Voodoo volume 1, from Olympian Pubishing. I know some of you poor folks out there have retailers who get tired and a bit woozy by the time they reach "Wizard Entertainment" in Previews while ordering and don't buy anything past that point. Be sure to give 'em this coupon and let 'em know you gots to have your Golden Age horror reprints!

"Say, what's Batfatty been up to," you've been asking. Well, Batfatty, AKA pal JP, has been tracking down some Bat-rarities, including:

A couple San Diego Convention tidbits, pulled from online sources as I'm not there, due to my inability to "socialize" or "afford anything" at the moment:
  • Entertainment reporters not amused that big Lost announcement was intended for Comic-con, badger ABC programming executive into spilling the beans early. Quoting from the article:

    "'...What's the point of having 150 reporters with access to millions of readers sitting here?' asked another critic, joining the pile-on. 'You have the announcements. You can give them out. Instead you are going to hold them to give to people who have to pay to get into a convention.'"

    The San Diego Con itself is summed up in this three-line description:

    "Hundreds of years ago, Comic-Con was a sweet little comic book convention. But it's been totally co-opted by the studios, and now, for four days each year, it's the center of the cultural world.

    "This year Comic-Con expects about 120,000 blogging geeks, who will rake in whatever the studios shovel out about upcoming movies and TV series."

    (via TV Tattle)

  • As mentioned on this site yesterday, as well as everywhere else on the internet, and confirmed yesterday at the con, Zachary Quinto of Heroes will be all Spocked up for the forthcoming Star Trek movie. Leonard Nimoy is apparently also in the film as well. The MSNBC article says it's not clear if Nimoy is playing Old Spock, but the L.A. Times says he is, so there. Nyah.

  • Watchmen movie cast confirmed. They're actually going through with it. Retailers, sell those Watchmen graphic novels now, because after the movie comes out, they'll never sell again. Okay, I exaggerate slightly, but not by much.

    I didn't recognize a single name in the cast, save for "Billy Crudup," which I only remembered because of the odd last name, not because I can remember anything he's been in.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Progressive Ruin Presents...the End of Civilization. Again. 

It's the End of Civilization as we know it, and I feel just dandy, thank you. Come with me as I journey through the August 2007 edition of Diamond Previews and attempt not to weep openly. (The last two and a half years' worth of this masochistic endeavour are linked in the sidebar.)

p. 45 - Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope Photo Comic:

Seems to me this sort of book is just a couple decades too late, as the need for "photo-novels" has been supplanted by the availability of the actual films for home use. $9.95 for this book, or just a few bucks more for the DVD? (More discussion on a related topic here.)

p. 412 - Star Wars Reader A Queen's Diary SC:

In which you get the character development that probably would have been nice to have had in the actual movies.

p. 429 - Punisher Sterling Silver Symbol Ring:

"Hey, wow! Cool ring! I love the Phantom!"

p. 432 - "Teenage Nightmare Bitch from Hell" Women's t-shirt & "Disco Zombie Pimp" black work shirt:

Both these shirts are pretty amusing, I thought, but the pricing, the pricing. "Bitch from Hell" is $32.95 (all sizes), while "Disco Zombie Pimp" is $39.99 for sizes up to XL, and $43.99 for the larger sizes. God Lord Almighty, that's like concert t-shirt pricing.

p. 448 - Harry Potter 12-inch Hermione Granger Action Figure with Sound:

And the sound it makes: "Quick looking up my skirt, you pervert!"

p. 454 - Upper Deck Authenticated Venom Bust:

Okay, first, "authenticated?" Is there a big bootleg market for Venom busts? And second, that's a little more veiny than I prefer my Venom to be.

p. 454 - Gladiator Original Design Mini-bust:

"Slice your pizza for you, sir?"

p. 460 - All-American Cheerleader Statue:

You kinda have to admire the straightforwardness of this item. "No, she's not a 3-D representation of some art piece. She's not a skimpily dressed warrior princess. She's not a superheroine with a skin tight outfit. She's just your plain ol' run-of-the-mill basic-fetish cheerleader. Enjoy."

p. 460 - Sinful Suzi Statue:

Another in a long line of "this is gonna take some explaining to the loved ones" series of statues and busts offered through Previews.

p. 464 - Buffy the Vampire Slayer The Essense of Willow Statue:

Just for old time's sake, since it was a piece of Buffy merchandise that kicked off the "End of Civilization" thing so long ago, I wanted to feature another ridiculous Buffy item. But, um, I actually kind of like the design of this item. Apparently it lights up, too. I guess if I wanted to make fun of a bad Buffy item being foist upon the public in this catalog, I should have stuck with the comic.

p. 466 - Lord of the Rings Classics Gimli Bust:

I think we may have gone past the "sell-by" date for Lord of the Rings merchandise specifically based on the movies. See also Harry Potter merchandise in a couple years.

p. 471 - Star Wars Classics Momaw Nadon Hammerhead Bust:

First off, that's just kind of creepy. Also, when I was a kid, this character was just "Hammerhead," on screen in the cantina scene for all of a second or two, at most. But, because every single character who's ever had any screen presence now has to have a name and backstory, he's saddled with the name "Momaw Nadon." Sorry, but he'll always be "Hammerhead" to me.

p. 481 - Bart Simpson 10-inch D.I.Y. Previews Exclusive Qee Vinyl Figure:

"Ba-art, the fiendish ghost, the fiendish-est ghost you know...." You're supposed to use this figure as a template for your own designs, but, heck, just leave him as is. That's just plain scary.

p. 490 - Chocotto Sister Choco 1/8 Scale Whit Cat PVC Figure:

Japan, honestly, what the hell? And please tell me there's not a life-size verison of this.

p. 499 - Alien Kubricks Powerloader Deluxe Set:

You know, I really like the Alien Kubrick toys, and this set, with the Ripley in her Powerloader, the Queen Alien, and all...but seventy bucks? Ack.

p. 513 - Pez Elvis Gift Set Case:

"Each container holds 3 Elvis Pez dispensers (one from each decade: 50's, 60's & 70's)...."

With some slight modification, you could probably change the '70s one into a pill dispenser.

p. 513 - 300 Life-sized Leonidas Cape Limited Edition Prop Replica:

Only $225. Almost guaranteed to be pulled out of the display case or your closet and played with by your children.

p. 517 - Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise:

If it's July, it must be time for the yearly onslaught of Nightmare Before Christmas stuff. Here's one of three and half pages of related merchandise in this month's catalog:

Somewhere, a warehouse full of Corpse Bride merchandise is crying.

Marvel Previews p. 25 - Howard the Duck #1 (of 4):

"Just when you thought it was safe to read comics again...and Marvel has to do THIS?!?"

Probably the least self-aware quote in Marvel's catalog this month. It's a good thing it says "Howard" on the character's shirt, because otherwise I never would have recognized him. And, nothing against Ty Templeton, but Howard not written by Steve Gerber is like Charlie Brown not written by Charles Schulz.

Marvel Previews p. 84 - Marvel Milestones Howard the Duck Statue:

Well, I asked for it, and now that it's here, I'm not sure what to think about it. I do like the red-rimmed eyes, though.

Marvel Previews p. 85 - Marvel Minimates PX Zombie Iron Man & Black Panther Two-Pack:

Featuring the exciting "Man on Crutch Missing a Foot" toy! And I know it's how these Mini-Mate leg joints are designed, but posed like that...um, perhaps we see why Tony Stark (even Zombie Tony Stark) is popular with the ladies. BARN DOOR'S OPEN, TONY!

Yes, I'm twelve years old.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hex, Trek, and The 'Nam. 

Jonah Hex is on his way to the silver screen, it seems. The headline of the article I linked actually reads "Comic anti-hero 'Hex' comes to the big screen," which immediately made me think of this Hex, which would be fantastic.

I mean, honestly, how cool would that be? Everyone's sitting there, watching what they think is yet another western flick, and suddenly Jonah's whisked away into a distopian, Mad Max-ian future, with ray guns and giant mutant insects and gals in space bikinis. That's the movie I want to see.

Apparently the actual direction they're going with the Jonah Hex flick is based on the supernatural-themed Vertigo series by Joe R. Lansdale and Tim Truman, which is fine, too, I suppose. This means no giant robots, so don't get your hopes up. Also, if some "tail wagging the dog" results from this Jonah Hex movie, as it usually does with most comic book movies, we'll likely see a change in Hex's facial scars to reflect whatever slightly more feasible scarring we'll see in the film. Because, honestly, as has been pointed out several times before, there's just no way that flap of skin over the side of his mouth would not have been cut off by Hex long, long ago.

I don't imagine we'll be seeing the Winter brothers on the soundtrack album.

The seemingly just on the verge of being confirmed rumor that's sweeping the nerdinet is that Heroes villain Zachary Quinto is one pointed ear away from playing Spock in the next Star Trek movie.

That would be good casting...Quinto has a bit of an otherworldly look about him, handsome yet sort of off-kilter, and just plain kind of Vulcany, that would make an interesting interpretation of Spock. 'Course, the handful of Trek fans still alive will probably have conniptions that they're recasting the original crew, and the producers are taking the chance the reboot won't attract a new audience while alienating the old fanbase and being left with nobody for their newest Star Trek attempt. But, who knows...people do like Quinto, and maybe a "going back to basics" approach will revive interest in a franchise that's become increasingly insular and resistant to fresh fans.*

I still think a new animated Trek series, like Cartoon Network's Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoon, would be the best way to get people (especially kids) excited about the Trek franchise again. Well, the real best way would be to let the franchise rest for about twenty years, and revive it with an actual fresh start like they did with Battlestar Galactica, but I doubt Paramount's going to want to let one of its prime cash cows, diminished as it is, lay fallow for any longer than necessary.

For some reason, I just had a vision of the new Star Trek movie, with an entirely new set of actors and actresses portraying the Original Series characters, with the exception of Walter Koenig still playing Chekov. I picture him sitting behind the same old console, muttering "well, crap" under his breath the whole time.

I received an e-mailed press release for a forthcoming comic/celebrity convention, which had this to say in a short bio for one of the guests:

"Chris [Noel] co-starred with Elvis Presley in 'Girl Happy' and is the only actress to appear on the cover of a regular issue comic book."

I suspect there's some kind of qualifier missing, there. Doesn't Dell's I Love Lucy series count as a regular comic book, each issue of which featured a cover photo of Lucille Ball? Or how about, as Kevin suggested when I mentioned this to him, Dale Evans?

Anyway, a visit to her site reveals that the comic she appeared on was this issue of The 'Nam. You know, I must have seen this cover a hundred times, and never realized the woman on the front was based on an actual person. That's what I get for not reading it, I suppose. Well, I don't have that excuse any more, since a PDF file of the story in question is available at that second link.

The whole site is actually a lot of fun, and Ms. Noel does good charity work for vets, so I'm glad that odd statement from the convention folk got me to seek out her site for more info. Plus, she dressed up as Margo Lane for a taping session for an upcoming documentary about the Shadow, and you can't say that's not cool.

* In fairness, I should note that Employee Aaron was helping a couple of ten year old kids with trading cards at our card counter, and they were awfully excited about, of all things, Star Trek: Voyager cards. "Are you sure they weren't just short adults?" I asked Aaron. "No, they were definitely kids," sez he.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And now...a few words with Satan. 

A blank, for your infernal convenience:

original image from Adventures into Darkness #14 (April 1954)

EDIT: Here's a list of folks putting words into Ol' Scratch's mouth...if I missed you, let me know:

Armagideon Time

Blog THIS, Pal!


Chaosmonkey's Abysmal Pit

Chris "Lefty" Brown 2

The Comic Rack

Cullen M. M. Waters

Eddie-torial Comments

Golfwidow's Ministry of Silly Walks

Jeff's Gameblog

Jimmy Olsen's Blues

Letters to Myself

Mr. Dan Kelly (and the Mr. Dan Kelly Dancers)


Need Coffee

Noetic Concordance 2

On My Mind

Roger Green



So Employee Aaron came up with Crypt of Daylight, and I countered with Pantry of Terror, and then, suddenly, I'm trying to come up with a list of less-than-compelling horror comic titles. Here are a few:

Vault of Home Mortgages

Chamber of Stories (ahem) 'Borrowed' from EC Comics

Adventures into the Quite Well-Known, Actually

The Three Bedroom, Two and a Half Bath, Spacious Backyard, Close to a School and a Shopping Center, Newly Constructed Home of Horror

Richie Rich Vaults of Mystery -- oh, wait, that one's real

Weird Tales of Your Mom

All The Stories End with Ironic Twist Endings Monthly

A few quickie linkies:

Monday, July 23, 2007


from Adventures into Darkness #14 (April 1954)

Someday I'd like to see a collection of all the space-filling short humor strips used to fill out comics back in the day. Also...was this Weird Watson's only appearance? How can you not love that guy?

What fresh hell is this? Weekly World News...shutting down? Bat Boy...homeless? Ed Anger...even angrier?

Weekly World News has had several connections to the comic book world, such as editors Paul Kupperburg and Bob Greenberger, writer Andy Mangels, and, of course, Peter Bagge's run of initial "Bat Boy" comic strips, among others.

The supermarket just won't be the same without Weekly World News staring back out at you at the checkout line. Another little piece of Americana slips away.

(First spotted via Metafilter.)

A couple more follow-up questions from the '90s bust discussion:
  • Commenter Phil asks

    "One thing I've started wondering about your memories of the speculative boom - how much cash would your average collector buying multiple copies for investment value actually have sent down the toilet, in terms of purchase price versus current value?"

    That's a hard question to answer. Well, maybe not...the general response would be "a lot," but it would depend really on what multiple copies they purchased (and assuming they kept them in sellable shape, which, as I noted Friday, was rarely the case).

    But even if they did end up investing in a boom-era comic book with some current demand and a reasonable aftermarket price -- say, for example, Spawn #1 -- is the 30% to 50% (if you're lucky) of that aftermarket price you're going to get by selling it to a dealer, or on eBay, worth the fifteen years you've stored them? And if you have a lot of them, you might run into the problem I mentioned here...you might be able to sell 5 or 10 or even 20 copies of Spawn #1 to the same buyer, but it's not likely you'll be able to sell a full case of a couple hundred copies to that buyer. At least, not without taking an enormous loss on them. I can use some Spawn #1s for the shop, but I'm not going to tie up a lot of money in 200 copes that might take me a decade or more to sell. If you want me to buy a full case of Spawn #1, it better be cheap.

    And if you've got something nobody wants, like, say, Brigade #1, you've gone from the "you may make a little bit of your money back" situation with Spawn to the "too bad it's not soft enough to use as toilet paper" side of things. Sure, the price guide might say it's worth cover price or so, but they're not actually selling for that. To anyone. Ever. They're not even selling in our bargain bins, much less at full price. Anyone who invested in Brigade will find themselves...well, I believe the technical term is "losing one's ass."

    Speaking of asses and the loss thereof...another thing to consider, when it comes to value of many of the boom books...some of you folks may remember that our shop was clearing out some backstock, selling about 100,000 units to somebody who needed comic books in bulk, regardless of title or publisher. We unloaded tons of '90s crash-era comics at the princely sum of one shiny nickel per funnybook. Alas, I doubt you'll see that pricing reflected in the listings of your favorite price guide ("SECOND LIFE OF DR. MIRAGE #1 - $0.05 in NM condition").

    So, anyway, to actually answer the question: while I'm sure there are some success stories, the vast majority of people who invested in multiple copies probably only realized pennies for each dollar spent, if even that.

  • Commenter Mathew has a question about something a little more recent:

    "Do you think 52 would have sold as well if DC published it as a monthly trade rather than a weekly pamphlet?"

    If they had gone the monthly paperback route, 52 would have been a drastically different creature. (For one, they would have called it 12.) It was designed as a weekly serial, with cliffhangers, and its impact (and novelty) would have been diminished had it been yet another monthly publication. Not saying there isn't room for DC to experiment with a superhero story serialized as a monthly trade paperback, but 52 was primarily designed to take advantage of the weekly new comic pamphlet release schedule, which contributed to its sale success.

Another good sequence from Adventures into Darkness #14:

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

More racial sensitivity in comic books, plus more '90s stuff. 

I don't normally buy current publications from Archie Comics, and when I do, it's almost always books that reprint their work from the '60s and earlier. Such was the case with last week's Archie Digest #236, which reprints Archie's first appearance from Pep #22, along with a full reprinting of Archie #1 from 1942.

One of the stories from Archie #1 has Archie involved in a series of mix-ups on a train with another passenger, and the poor railroad porter gets caught in the shenanigans as well. The porter looks and talks like this:

I realize it's no shock to anyone familiar with comic book history that racist caricatures of black people (and Asians, and Native Americans, and so on) were common in early stories (and this isn't even the worst example from this particular story, with other panels including dialogue like "I done thought..." and "Mus' be dat bump on yo' had!"). Not having an original Archie #1 lying around the house, I'm going to assume the porter has been recolored slightly for the reprint, even though all his stereotypical dialogue appears to have remained intact.

I'm not saying this shouldn't have been reprinted as is. If you're going to reprint your old material for historical purposes, it should be reprinted as it was, warts and all*. And that's what folks have been doing...a glance through your Shazam Archives and your Golden Age Wonder Woman Archives, among others, will show you examples of political incorrectness similar to that bit of business with the porter. But these are high end reprints, aimed at comic collectors, who are presumably familiar with the poor way minority groups were portrayed. Disclaimers aren't uncommon, noting the usage of such caricatures were typical of the time, and left unchanged for historical reference.

This Archie digest, however, is aimed at a young, general audience. It's one of the few modern comics actually sold in places where people who aren't comic fans shop. At my grocery store, they're right up there at the checkout line, next to the TV Guide and the Weekly World News. How will kids take the porter's portrayal -- how will the parents? -- particularly since there is no disclaimer that I can find noting the historical reasons for that portrayal.

I'm very curious as to the response Archie Comics will receive.

Okay, one last round of "Mike Remembers Barely Making It Through the 1990s:"

  • Commenter Stavner asks

    "Do you think we'll ever see comic books back in supermarkets and convenience stores?"

    It'd be nice, and in some cases apparently you can find comics in some convenience stores...but a widespread revival of this manner of distribution? Not unless 1) comics get a whole lot more popular, and 2) the profit potential for them is enough for store owners to risk valuable space on them.

    "Do you think Gemstone will keep publishing Disney comics for very long?"

    Hard to say...my gut feeling says "no," since their number of publications has declined, and their prices have gone up. Their last Don Rosa reprint book has sold very well for us, though, so maybe there's some life there yet.

  • H of the Comic Treadmill doth ask

    "There are those who insist that monthly super-hero comics will be dead sooner rather than later. Do you see a trend in that department? What's your take on the viability of our beloved monthlies?"

    I think if the price point of the standard comic book goes much higher, something is going to have to give. My guess is a regular comic book will eventually undergo some form of evolution, possibly into a much thicker publication with more stories, at a slightly higher price point (but giving a higher perceived value to the reader), and just loaded with ads to help subsidize the cost of the magazine.

    There are a lot of economic factors there that I'm overlooking (such as whether or not a comic book publication could attract enough ads, and get enough money from them). At the very least, I don't think monthly books will go away, but they'll have to become something new to give readers more perceived value for their money.

  • Commenter Roel asks

    "Where the hell did all these investors come from in the first place? I mean, why did everyone suddenly get the idea that these comics would be worth a lot of money? Comics had been around for decades and decades, and then -- all of a sudden, out of nowhere -- all these non-comic book fans start investing in them? Why? Was there some sort of triggering event? I don't get it."

    Apparently there was a large crash in the sports card market just prior, and it was just a lateral shift from collecting one thing to another...I don't have exact details, but it appeared to be common knowledge at the time. I can personally testify to the number of investor-types requesting "comic book Becketts" -- Beckett being the publisher of several sports card price guides -- so that lends credence to that theory.

    Also, the greater awareness of comics among the general populace, driven by movies and media-hyped events, combined with a possible economic downturn and plenty of newspaper stories dragging out the old "did you know old comics are worth money?" thing...that made comics a large, attractive target for investing, without all that "dealing with brokers" stuff.

    "Oh, another question -- why are you so remorseful about selling pogs? How is that any worse than selling, say, a trading card or an action figure? People wanted pogs, and they wanted to give you money in order to own them. What's the big crisis of conscience there?"

    Because I can see the value of a trading card or an action figure. Though technically, I realize, there's only a slight difference between a trading card and a POG, but least trading cards were numbered, sometimes had cardback text, and could be put into sets. They had something to them. POGs (or, rather, milkcaps) were, with some exceptions, just random pictures on bits of round cardboard, and just felt to me like it was worthless junk. The alleged "game" involving milkcaps was essentially jacks or marbles, without the skill....you threw a heavy disc down onto a pile of cardboard discs. and you kept the ones that turned over, or some damned thing.

    I understand this might just be bias on my part, since there are plenty of folks who think comics are worthless junk too, but even if customers were willing to part with their money for POGs, I felt like I was giving them nothing of value in return. I was essentially turning their money into crap. I know I should feel like this when I sell someone a copy of, say, Purgatori, but I don't.

    Yeah, cheap shot at Purgatori, sorry, but I can accept that someone might find entertainment value in that comic. Somehow. I just don't see that value in milkcaps.

* As far as story content goes, anyway...I realize the comics in question have been recolored and (it seems) relettered for clarity.

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