mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, September 15, 2007

When a thing is both goofy and glorious. 

from Legion of Super-Heroes #294 (Dec. 1982) by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen & Larry Mahlstedt

Friday, September 14, 2007

In which Mike goes on too long about Spidey's marital status. 

At work yesterday:

Customer: "So, what do you guys think about all the negative response to the marriage of Peter and Mary Jane?"

Me: "There isn't any. It's all manufactured 'outrage' generated by Marvel/Joe Quesada's talking points that the 'Spider-Man marriage is bad!' in order to prepare fans for the undoing of that particular status quo."

Customer: "But don't you think it's a bad thing?"

Me: "No...if anyone actually doesn't like the Adventures of Married Spider-Man, it's not as if there aren't plenty of other Non-Married Spidey comics on the market. They can read those instead."

You know, pondering that, I realized that I've been selling the funnybooks for about as long as Spider-Man's marriage has existed. And, in all that time, I don't think I heard word one from anyone who really did not like the fact that Spider-Man was married. They objected to dumb storylines, they objected to the Spider-Clone story after it dragged on for its sixth or seventh decade, they objected to multi-part storylines that bounced back and forth among the several monthly Spidey titles...but no one objected to Spider-Man having a wife back home. I don't recall any extensive discussion on the merits, or lack thereof, of said nuptials.

I'm sure when it actually happened, there were those fans who thought it was a bad idea, or had problems with it simply because it was change, and change is bad and must be feared, you know. There may have even been the usual declaration of "I'M NEVER READING MARVEL AGAIN," a resolution whose lifespan is usually "until the next New Comics Day."

But recently, Marvel's editor-in-chief Joe Quesada has been going on and on about what a mistake the marriage was, and how it's "controversial," and how people really don't like it. I've seen that word "controversial" thrown around in describing the marriage, but that would imply there's a controversy about it, and I've never seen one. Just seems to me that most people are okay with it...and that's it's been around long enough that everyone was pretty much used to the marriage by now.

Quesada's repetition of his talking points (and their faithful reproduction by online news sites and Wizard) is making inroads, however, causing people to start message board discussions like "Why do people hate married Spider-man so much," (general response there: they don't, for the most part) and, well, causing people to walk into our store and imply, for the very first time in my memory, that it wasn't a good thing.

So, to sum up: it just seems to me that, for the Spider-Man fans, the marriage is hardly seen as some kind of albatross. (In fact, here's one poll on the topic, where folks overwhelmingly are in favor of the marriage). And, any indication from Marvel's representatives that the marriage is a bad thing is solely an attempt to prepare the fans for the marriage's impending undoing. Spidey's married, and has been so for nearly half of the character's existence; no big whoop.

Again, I'm not saying there was no objection to the marriage at any point; just that my feeling is that the objectors were vastly outnumbered by the fans who were okay with it, and that calling it a "controversy" is overstating it a bit.


That's a long way to go to basically say "I think Quesada's full of it." Sorry 'bout that.

What's your reaction to this? Did you object to the wedding of Peter 'n' Mary Jane, or were you okay with it? What's your reaction to the apparently-imminent undoing of said marriage? Have your say in the comments section.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Come again? 

The Death and Return of Superman Omnibus came out this week...a fat ol' hardcover containing the entire Doomsday/Funeral for a Friend/Reign of the Supermen brouhaha. Given that it's pretty light, it looks like DC went with the thin, newsprinty paper a la the Jack Kirby Fourth World hardcover. But that's fine...that's not my beef.

This is my beef:

For a $75 archival hardcover edition of these stories, one that's intended to stand the test of time, to remain a part of the family library for generations to come (assuming it's not just thrown out or given to the thrift store when you die...oops, sorry, downer), I don't know that I want a blurb for a DVD release printed on the dustjacket. Not a sticker (unless it's an incredibly thin sticker and I couldn't feel its edges through the shrinkwrap), but an actual part of the cover's artwork.

You know, DC, you're already charging seventy-five bones for a collection of comics that have far more than paid for themselves over the years through various reprintings. Next time, spring for a sticker on the shrinkwrap.

Of course, if that actually is a superthin sticker, then that makes my beef soyburger, and I apologize.

A couple other new releases:

Countdown Presents The Search for Ray Palmer: Wildstorm #1 - You know, there really isn't much to this book. Donna, Jason Todd, Kyle Rayner, and a Monitor travel to the Wildstorm Universe, discover Things Aren't Like How They Are Back Home, find themselves in conflict with the personalities there, and then move on to the next universe. As slight as it was, and some of the interactions are no more than a panel or two long, it was still good for some old fashioned fanboy entertainment. Dumb, harmless fun.

Groo 25th Anniversary Special - You did buy it, didn't you? Because if you didn't, remember what I said on Tuesday: I HATE YOU.

There's nothing particularly anniversary-ish about this comic, aside from being extra-long with two stories and an "Alphabet of Groo" feature. Oh, and the silvery ink on the front cover. The alphabet bit (along with one of Evanier's patented text pieces) is about as retrospective as it gets, with short poems about Groo's various cast members. But the stories themselves are classic Groo, and whets the appetite for the new mini (Hell on Earth) which is coming Very Soon Now.

Showcase Presents Batman and the Outsiders TPB - Sold out the first day we had it. Some Showcases just sit there, others just fly out the door. Wish I could reliably predict which will do what.

Naruto volumes 16, 17, and 18 - Three at once? I know, they're trying to catch up to the Japanese release schedule or something like that, but it's still a tad annoying. Okay, they'll sell, so that alleviates the annoyance a bit. But I do have a few kids who are scraping together change to buy their new Naruto volumes who probably won't be happy to find out they're suddenly three installments behind.

Heroes for Hire #13 - Ah, this seminal cover which had folks in the comics internet shooting out loads of white-hot anger, leaving them breathing hard with their passion, has found its release this week to, at least at our shop, no in-store ejaculations of outrage. So at least there's a happy ending.

Someday I'll get around to commenting on and responding to Tom Spurgeon's excellent essay on Why Comic Book Stores Still Matter...well, at least in a way that I haven't already done so in nearly four years of posts on this site, and in my old Comic Book Galaxy columns. But if you haven't read it, go take a gander.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"LACKADAISICAL -- Sumbudy who dont hav a daisy." 

from Adventure Comics #329 (Feb 1965) by Jerry Siegel & Jim Mooney

From the same issue...Funky DJ Bizarro-S hand-cranking the jams:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ends and odds. 

Just a few random things from the last few days, some of which you've already read about elsewhere, but I'm going to comment on them anyway:
  • My favorite comment I've read on the Twitter recently. Well, I thought it was funny.

  • I can't top what Dirk wrote about the travesty of Civil War #1 winning the Harvey Awards category for "Best Single Issue or Story." Honestly, go read what he said, because he really puts it in perspective.

    I suppose if you're approaching Civil War from terms of industry impact, there's that...its delays fouled up comics schedules and cash flows for retailers, and irritated comic readers who, as these things usually work out, blamed the retailer for the book's lateness. It's also had the consequence of explicitly turning two of their major heroes into villains, one of whom has been featured in a couple of so-so movies, and the other with a big-budget feature debuting in the near future (more on that later). Plus, Civil War brought us the "Clone Thor" plot twist, which had the unique result of actually making even the most hardcore Marvel fans stop suspending their disbelief and declare, "oh, come on."

    Okay, most of that was from Civil War as a whole, and not just the first issue. But, hey, that first issue is where it all started, and it made money, and it attracted the general public for an issue or two until they got tired of waiting for it to come out, so it must be far higher quality than Ivan Brunetti's Schizo #4 or the all-Aragones issue of Solo. Or anything else published that year. Or 32 pages of blank paper, folded and stapled and under a blank cover.

    Well, maybe Civil War wasn't as bad as all that...its main problem was that it was a standard issue superhero crossover/advertising tool punch-em-up that was pretending to be about "issues" and "moral ambiguity" without realizing that if you have two sides, and one side has Captain America (Marvel's moral center) and Spider-Man (Marvel's reader-identification character), the other side is, by default, the "bad guys." And it doesn't help that Spidey started on the other side, but questioned their motivations and actions. And that the other side's leaders, Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic, build a robot Thor clone that ends up killing Black Goliath. Oops.

    If you read it as "Iron Man has turned evil, and tricked other Marvel heroes into siding with him...and the rest of the Marvel Universe has to stop him!" -- well, Civil War improves from that perspective. ("'That's how Stan 'n' Jack would'a dunnit!' declared Old Man Mike, from his rocking chair on his front porch.")

  • Can't believe I'm still writing about Civil War. Sorry about that. Blame the Harveys.

  • And speaking of Sergio: new Groo this week. Buy it or I'll hate you.

    And according to news from some convention or other, Sergio is (along with longtime collaborator Mark Evanier) is taking over the writing chores on Will Eisner's Spirit...alas, he's not drawing it, too, which would make it one of the Greatest Comic Books Ever. No word on who is drawing it, but I'd suggest Dave Gibbons if anyone would listen to me.

    The previously-announced Bat Lash revival with Aragones and John Severin is still a go, according to that con report, so that's good to know, too.

  • Other con news that you've already discussed to death, I'm sure: Jim Shooter not just returning to comics, but returning to the book he started his comic career on as a young teenager: the Legion of Super-Heroes.

    The best thing about those original Legions by Shooter was that, as a 13 or 14 year old, he was writing adventure stories that were more mature and exciting than the adult-written Legion stories that preceded him. And they were written for kids, and not down to kids...because, of course, a kid was writing them.

    Now we're a long way from that Shooter, but here's hoping we're getting the Shooter that gave us those early Valiants and Star Brand (it's good, honest!), and not the Secret Wars II, "More gore for the org!" Shooter.

  • As long as I'm sorta on the topic...I really don't like the character designs for that Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon. They're just so ugly looking...when they cartoonized the Teen Titans, they turned out okay, but the Legion just looks harsh and angular and bleah.

    But they look like they're drawn by Rembrandt compared to the McDonalds Happy Meal toys...you can see a small pic of them at the bottom of this page. Pal Dorian gave me the Superb...er, "Young Superman" figure, and the girlfriend's nephew had a Tharok figure, and boy, they're about as unappealing as figures can be. The designs from the cartoon were no great shakes to begin with, but the toys managed to even screw those up. Yuk.

    I realize that neither the cartoon or the toys are aimed at me, but still, don't care for 'em. Hey, parents...if you're going to introduce kids to the Legion, get 'em one of the Archives. Start with number 2 or 3. Or the Showcase black and white reprint.

  • Hey, Iron Man movie trailer. Doesn't look too shabby. Robert Downey, Jr. looks spot-on as Tony Stark.

    Please please please let's see this happen in a sequel. I mean, c'mon, live action Modok? How bizarre would that be? I suspect it would look a little something like this, only sitting in a flying chair instead of a terrarium.

  • DVD pick of the week, just because I'm happy as a really happy thing that this movie finally came out: From Beyond, yet another in a series of films where fellow Oxnard native Jeffrey Combs plays a man who screws around with science and gets what's coming to him. If you liked Re-Animator, you gotta see this. Granted, it's been a while since I've seen it, but I remember really loving it at the time...and hey, when is Combs not fun to watch? The man automatically improves any movie or TV show by approximately 38% just by his mere presence. Yes, that's right, I said 38%, and don't you argue with me.

    Anyway, there's an Amazon link in the sidebar, wink wink, nudge nudge, and I'm probably going to continue to update that link every week with whatever DVD or CD happens to be grabbing my attention at that time. Yes, I know, it's another ad, but maybe you'll get to learn even more about my tastes, or lack of same, by what I post there. See, it'll be fun, and maybe, just maybe, we'll all learn a little something.

  • Oh, now, really? $19.95 for Who Wants to Be A Superhero: Feedback? That's the highest price I saw, though there are an uncomfortable number of other copies selling in the ten dollar range on the eBay.

    Well, that surprises the heck out of me. I didn't know that many people still cared. Though, you know, if it were me, I probably wouldn't have emphasized the "investment potential" of this book in my listing. "Honest, it probably won't be forgottten about as a merchandising tie-in to a fully-scripted oddball cousin to 'reality' shows on a third-string cable network."

Monday, September 10, 2007

"We all die alone and afraid, Spider-Man!" 

Digging through the back room for more online auction fodder, I turned up a couple more posters I wanted to share with you. That one above is "Spider-Man XII," copyright-dated 1995 (and drawn the year before, as the artist, Kent Williams, dated it "'94").

This has always struck me as an odd choice for a poster image. Okay, it's not as peculiar as the Wonder Woman with Noose poster, but still, a picture of Spidey dangling over a coffin that reads "PARKER" across its lid?

Now, the first interpretation of this image is that it symbolizes Spider-Man's guilt over the death of his Uncle Ben, and how that guilt is intertwined with Spidey's motivation toward superheroics. In fact, and I know it's hard to see in my pic there, but Spider-Man's arms are bound by his own webbing, perhaps representing how he's always trapped by his own guilt over his lack of action in preventing Ben's murder.

Pretty bleak for a Marvel poster, right? "Hey, would you like THAT on the wall, Little Billy?" But then I came up with something even more depressing.

What if that coffin, instead of representing Spider-Man's beginnings, represents his end? Spider-Man is trapped by his own webbing over a coffin intended for him...one strand of web trailing down beneath him, as if it were leading Spidey in the direction of that pine box. A bit of foreshadowing, that Spider-Man's superheroic life will be the cause of his death?

My, how cheery.

I was talking about this with pal Dorian on Saturday, and we pondered the possibility of this image perhaps tying into the apparent death of Aunt May from around this time. Now that I've had a chance to look into it, the timeline doesn't exactly work out...the poster was drawn sometime in '94 for a '95 release, the comic featuring "May's" death (not really May, but an imposter...er, SPOILER, I guess) wasn't out until early '95. Well, I guess the timeline could work, if they were planning ahead on the merchandise, but I suspect if this poster were tying into May's death, Marvel wouldn't be so subtle about it...there would at least be a giant floating ghostly Aunt May head looking over a sad Spidey, gazing beatifically down upon her nephew with pride and love. Besides, what kind of weird-ass tie-in would that be? "Commemorate the death of the old lady with a swell new poster, suitable for framing!"

Of course, the poster could be implying that the ultimate fate of anyone in Spider-Man's circle named "Parker," including Spidey himself, is doomed to a death caused by his superheroing. All paths from Spider-Man lead to the grave.


I think the next time a customer asks me about this poster, that's what I'm going to tell him. "Oh, this poster symbolizes the death and destruction inherent not only in Spider-Man's origin, not only in his ultimate end, but in the lives of all those around him. Only $4.99! Will that be cash or charge?"

Another poster I found, which I mentioned in Saturday's Twitter-fest, was this one:

Like I said in my Twittering, I can't believe we still have this around. It's a poster (retail or promo...I'm not entirely sure) advertising the Chrome series from Hot Comics, released in the mid-'80s. It was written by Peter Gillis, and illustrated by Kelley Jones, and I haven't read it myself, but the Slings & Arrows Comic Guide, 2nd Edition (great resource, tons of series reviews, click the ad at right to get a copy, cheap!) gives it a glowing review as an intriguing, if incomplete, story. (Short synopsis of the premise: an American and a Russian astronaut are test subjects of a new, body-covering, and non-removable, metallic suit...when there's an accident and one dies, the two governments find themselves at odds, unsure of which man actually survived. Hijinks ensue.)

I keep meaning to poke through the store stock and see if we have any of these comics still floating around so I can check them out myself. I mean, we still had the poster, for God's sake.

Speaking of '80s indies, that collection we got in the other day contained a few issues of Spaced, Tom Stazer's sci-fi comedy/adventure comic that was eventually distributed by Eclipse Comics (EDIT: ...and no relation to the UK TV show). This is one of those comics I remember reading about at the time in 'zines, and being intrigued by it, but, for whatever reason, I never got around to purchasing. There were only thirteen issues published, so it's not like a huge financial investment or anything.

Now, it's not so much a matter of money as it is of being able to find those issues. The few issues from the collection, combined with what we had in stock already, gives me 8 of the 13 issues, missing the first four and number 6. Well, it's been a while since I've had to actively search out missing issues of a comic book series...oh, if only there were some kind of worldwide computerized communication and search system I could use to track them down.

Or I can just use my site. Hey, any of you guys got those issues I'm missing, and are willing to part with them? (So long as they're in reasonably okay condition, and you don't charge me $30 to ship 'em.)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

I need to amend the store's dress code. 

So there I was, minding my own business, trying to get some stuff done at work, when in walk former employee Josh and his lady friend Dana (the little sister of former employee Nathan).

And they were in their Harry Potter-verse costumes:

Dana was dressed as Ginny Weasley, and Josh was...well, I'm not sure he actually was in a costume, since that's pretty much how he dressed when he worked here. But he had his Hogwart's top on, and he was wearing his "SUPPORT CEDRIC DIGGORY" badge.

To top it all off, they weren't just coming back from some Harry Potter convention or costume party. Oh, no. They dressed like this and came to the shop specifically just to freak me out, man.

But I can take it...I've had in the store lady pro-wrestlers in costume, Klingons, bearded women, and a gal whose top was comprised entirely of electrical tape. I can handle your HP cosplay!

...Though I did sigh a little.

1970s DC, you have brought me disappointment. 


The story from this cover to The Witching Hour #50 (January 1975, illustrated by Nick Cardy), where the guy's hand has actually turned into a skull, and, you know, maybe it'd talk to him and torment him and stuff:


A guy steals a magic skull from a shop, and finds in short order that 1) it's bringing him an endless supply of bad luck, 2) it's permanently attached itself to his hand, and 3) it doesn't talk:

It's a fine distinction, certainly, but I found myself somewhat disappointed. I wanted the "talking magic skull that's replaced the poor sap's hand" story, but alas, 'twas not to be.

Here's an interesting artifact from the 1980s black and white boom: issue #2 of The Protectors, published in 1986 by New York Comics, features a history of the creators' troubles with a particular publisher that runs beneath each story page throughout the entire book:

It makes for compelling reading. And yes, the comic itself is, shall we say, less than professionally polished, but good on them for putting it together and getting it out despite whatever hardships they were facing. It may be extremely amateurish, but in a way it's a lot more entertaining than, for example, any given Civil War tie-in.

Get a load of this handsome bastard:

This is the "retailer incentive" variant cover for Star Trek Year Four #2, but IDW really missed a bet not making that the regular cover.

Also, looking at that makes you realize, in regards to the forthcoming Star Trek film "reboot" -- it's a fool's game to recast Kirk. I mean, how do you top perfection?

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