mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Richie Rich #220 (November 1986). 

As we observe this scene, the primary action has already occurred...the burglar is already unconscious, the bump on his head already formed, the bag of coins already at rest on the floor, the loose coins already scattered about, Richie Rich already present, hands smugly on hips, delivering his pithy bon mots. All of the objects of the cover gag, as they are drawn here, are already at rest. The gag has happened, and we are seeing the results.

However, the cover contains an incongruous action element; there are motion lines tracing the path of the falling bag from the broken shelf, to the burglar's head, and to its stopping point on the floor. This motion is out of place, though perhaps we can forgive the motion lines around the pieces of shelving and the bag itself, perhaps representing some residual "wobbling" from the event. What we are seeing is the end result of a sequence of events; the action is completed. The motion lines more rightly belong in a theoretical "previous panel" to the cover's "current panel" - a scene in which the burglar, still conscious and upright and in the midst of his crime, is impacted upon his head by the falling coin bag, perhaps even with an exclamation of "Ow!" or "Hey" or "What's all this, then?" That is an action scene, and that is where the motion lines should come into play.

As it stands now, the motion lines only seem to serve as a hint to the less astute members of this comic magazine's readership, spelling out the joke for those who can't look at the broken shelf, who can't infer that the large bag of coins once sat on that shelf and are clearly the only item in that room able to cause such a goose egg on the burglar's head, and who can't even take the hint from Richie Rich's own dialogue.

A secondary problem in this cover image is the position of the robber. Only a moment's consideration will reveal that the burglar's head, when he is standing, is above the shelf in question.

Let us assume, firstly, that the duties of Irona, the Rich household's robotic maid, do not extend into the confines of the many walk-in safes on the premises. (I realize this may in fact be contradicted by other Richie Rich comics over the years, but a consistent continuity is hardly the franchise's primary concern...wither "Super-Richie," for example.) Thus, perhaps the scattering of coins upon the safe's floor were not from the falling coin bag, but present on the floor to begin with...coins dropped in the Riches' haste to store away their money and depart to acquire more, and never cleaned up by Irona. Those coins, representing an easy acquisition, attract the burglar's attention first, causing him to bend over to pick them up.

Judging from the burglar's current post-impact position, it looks as if he'd fallen backwards against the wall. However, if he had been bent over in that general position when the coin bag fell, it would have impacted his lower back, if it would have hit him at all. Going by the motion line path presented on the cover, the coin bag didn't make it that far away laterally from its starting point. Its path was primarily straight down, until it made its impact upon the burglar and bounced to the side.

Alternatively, the burglar could have been bent over facing the wall with the shelf. The coin bag falls, hits the burglar...and in the burglar's moments prior to lapsing in unconsciousness, he perhaps could have spun around, plopped himself down back against the wall, and passed out.

The third option is that the burglar was already sitting underneath the shelf when the coin bag impact occurred, which not only explains the burglar's position as Richie Rich finds him, but also works with the coin bag's presented trajectory. Why he was sitting we can only theorize: tired from entering the Rich mansion, he needed to sit and rest, or perhaps he had a bad back, and it was easier for him to sit down and pick up the spilled coins rather then bend over. Who can say?

This third option also answers another question implied by the image: would a bag filled with coins falling from that short of a distance from the shelf to the burglar's head really be enough to render him unconscious? It would certainly be an unpleasant experience, having that much weight fall upon one's head, but would it strike with enough of a sharp blow to knock out a full grown adult?

There is a possible solution to this as well, and one that may perhaps even incorporate the seemingly out of place motion lines discussed earlier.

At first glance, the cover presents us with a burglar knocked out by a falling bag of coins. But consider this alternative sequence of events:

1. Burglar enters walk-in safe.

2. Burglar spots coins on the floor, sits to pick up coins with his back against the wall just beneath the shelf.

3. Burglar stands up quickly, possibly alarmed by the noise of someone (most likely, Richie Rich) approaching.

4. Burglar's head impacts the shelf above, hard enough to not only break the shelf, but to also render him unconscious.

5. The breaking of the shelf dislodges a precariously placed bag of coins, located somewhere off to the side (instead of directly above the burglar's head). The bag of coin rolls over and falls down through the break in the shelf, off the burglar, and onto the floor.

If this is the sequence of events, then this resolves the cover's contradictory "completed action" of the unconscious burglar with the "current action" of the falling coin bag. The falling coin bag is not ultimately responsible for the burglar's unconscious state; he is already out when the bag falls. The falling bag (which is occurring, and we -- along with Richie Rich -- are observing, in the "now" of the cover image) is simply adding insult to the implied off-panel shelf-impact injury.

And really, "coin-ked out?" I don't have any explanation for that...that's just stupid.

Additional thoughts, opinions, and arguments from my fellow scholars are, as always, welcomed in the comments section.

Friday, September 21, 2007


So I have no idea what happened to yesterday's post for most of the day. If you're a regular reader of the site, you know I usually post the next day's post before I drag my carcass to bed. Well, Wednesday night Blogger was having some updating issues, but finally it appeared as if I managed to coax my Thursday post through...only to have that post cruelly, horribly snatched back from my page when I wasn't looking. It wasn't until reader Steve wrote me yesterday afternoon to let me know "Hey, that Joker post of yours disappeared...wha' happened?" that I found out about it.

And it wasn't just some weird browser cache glitch or anything...it was on the site! Honest! Reader Steve saw it! I'M NOT CRAZY.

I'm sure you all found that terribly interesting.

Not that my post was all that or anything, but I couldn't resist playing with pal Reid's scan, and it made for a quick, easy post since I was otherwise occupied Wednesday night with some important business. And by "important business" I mean Civilization III, and by "otherwise occupied" I mean "trying to establish a beachhead on an island occupied by several enemy nations."

Sigh. It's sad when it happens to someone you know, isn't it?

In other news:
  • I spent most of my Thursday afternoon assisting a couple ladies from the local library system, who were making a purchase from us to the tune of several thousand dollars. They'd made a similarly large purchase from us last year, and since those books were exceedingly popular they came back for more.

    Like last time, they focused on books appropriate for kids and young adults, but this time they were a little more adventurous with the manga purchasing. They only picked out first volumes of several series before, but now they took whole chunks of runs. They also bought the Essential and Showcase volumes...they shied away from these during their last visit, but decided this time to take one of each.

    And this is how I sold one of the books to them:

    "Here, try Banana Sunday, this is a cute book."

    "Really? Well...."

    "Hey, remember Dorian, who used to work here?"

    "Yeah, sure!"

    "Well --" (I turn the book over to show her the back) "--that quote on the back cover is from Dorian...he reviewed it on his website!"

    "Oh, okay, I'll take it!"

    So, pal Dorian, our customers are taking your word over mine, even though you haven't worked here for two years. LET THE GLOATING BEGIN.

  • A CORRECTION: When I was writing about the whole Spidey marriage/future status quo hoohar, I noted that I was working from vague memories of the Free Comic Book Day Amazing Spider-Man giveaway when I mentioned that Aunt May's status was left vague as she was only mentioned in dialogue. Well, Thursday I happened to come across a copy of that comic and flipped through it...and "vague" nothing, Aunt May's totally in it.

    Just thought I'd mention that before someone decided to lord it over me.

  • So did anyone else get a Jack Black vibe off this particular image of former JLA sidekick Snapper Carr from the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special:

    Okay, I ran that thought past a couple folks, and someone said it was just Amanda Conner's light cartoony touch that gave him a Jack Blackian countenance. But his disheveled appearance here (and in the later group shot), and his description by several characters in the book as "an idiot" -- I can easily see Snapper reimagined as a typical Jack Black-style "well-meaning, but lazy and disaster-prone slacker" character in DC's ongoing quest to make him Not Rick Jones.

    That's a lot to read into two pictures and a couple pieces of dialogue, isn't it?

  • So, those of you out there who are in the funnybook-selling business...have you experienced any rush on that one issue of Hitman with Special Guest Star Superman this week? Particularly since that issue provides the background for the JLA/Hitman mini-series that just debuted?

    I've had a couple requests for it, but for the most part it appears to be Hitman fans who are picking up this new mini at our store, and thus have already read that issue of Hitman. I'm just wondering if it's any different anywhere else.

    I haven't read any interviews or press or anything in regards to this mini-series, but I suspect its sales are being used to gauge whether or not any further Hitman trade paperback collections will be released. I have no idea why they haven't finished reprinting the series, given that it's by a popular writer and that, perhaps, a promise of completing volumes might jumpstart sales on the earlier books. (A collection of Ennis and McCrea's Demon -- some of which also feature Hitman -- would be nice, too.) Did the sales on the previous books just tank so hard that DC's a bit gunshy (har har) about doing more? I suppose I could look that up myself, but that smacks of "effort" and I've had a long enough day.

  • Dave has his way with those all-black "aren't I edgy and dangerous" t-shirts we're all sick of looking at. (My suggestion: "I CAN CATCH UNICORNS." And Chris Sims has one for sale.)

  • Pal Tom is reviewing the Fall 2007 TV season, because he's a crazy person. Let Tom tell you what crap you can safely avoid, which, so far, is pretty much everything. (His dismissal of Gossip Girl is classic Tom. Good on you, sir!)

    He's only just started, so keep checking back for each shocking update!

  • Neilalien wants to know...who's the guy in the blue hat?

    And now that's he's pointed it out...I want to know, too. That's just...peculiar. The shades, the odd symbol on the hat...what was going on there, exactly?

    The world may never know.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A lazy Thursday post. 

From pal Reid comes some Joker fun for everyone (taken from the cover for a forthcoming issue of Booster Gold, where Booster gets involved in The Killing Joke). My contribution to what the Joker could be photographing:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Five ways Walt Simonson kicked my ass with Thor #337 (Nov. 1983). 

1. The cover. - Who didn't look at this cover and think "What the holy heck is going on here?"

That was our very first clue that this wasn't just another rack-filling, copyright-protecting issue of a comic long past its prime. It signaled to us that, hey, maybe something cool and unusual is finally happening in a comic long since taken for granted.

2. "DOOM!" - The first occurrence of this mysterious being, forging...something...in some unknown realm. Not even the lousy printjob can diminish the power of this full-page, full-bleed image:

We'll see this fella for the next year or so, a page or two at a time, and the suspense will just keep building until his plotline finally intersects Thor's.

If I may quote the Unsinkable Chris Sims on the matter:

"It's a full-page shot of a giant making a sword out of a dead star. And the sound 'reverberates through a billion billion worlds.' That's like eighteen zeroes. Eighteen!"

Indeed. Simonson finally brought back some god-sized storytelling to a comic that had been far too mundane for far too long.

3. "I am called Bill -- Beta Ray Bill!" - Thor's first confrontation with, and our first full-on view of, the alien warrior with the remarkably unlikely but absolutely perfect name:

He looks like a completely formidable opponent for Thor, and he certainly looks like a nasty, evil fellow, but that assumption is turned upside down within just a couple pages....

4. Beta Ray Bill acquires Thor's hammer! - Thor is defeated and has reverted, unconscious, to his mortal form of Dr. Donald Blake. Bill picks up Blake's cane, finding it in the hammer's place. Frustrated, Bill smacks the cane against the wall:

Whoa, hey now. According to the inscription on the hammer itself, by Odin's own decree, "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor." So maybe Beta Ray Bill's not the bad ol' nasty we thought he was.

5. Odin's not too big on detail work. - Thor's old man pops in, requiring the presence of his son...and since Bill's currently holding the hammer and the power of Thor, that's who Odin grabs:

...leaving Thor trapped in Blake's form, crying out for the father who has forsaken him:

...And then Walt Simonson proceeded to continue kicking my ass on this comic for the next few years, giving us the best Thor comic stories (outside of Kirby, of course) ever published. I can't believe this comic came out 24 years ago...it still feels just like yesterday when I found the last copy of this book on the newsstand.

Even after all this time, even after being a funnybook salesman for as long as I have...I can still feel the sense of wonder this comic gave me when I originally read it back in '83. It's good to know that I'm not entirely jaded.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

In which Mike takes his time getting to what passes for some kind of point. 

So Monday evening I gave my girlfriend a ride to the Los Angeles Airport, as she's on her way to Mexico for an extended visit with some of her family down there. I'm not really much of a traveler, so I don't tend to spend a lot of time at the airport, and the last few times I've been at LAX, it was just to pick up/drop off one of her relatives so we didn't hang out there for too long.

This time, however, we had time to kill before her flight departed, so we did a little wandering through the airport, looking at the shops and eating at a restaurant. Actually, there were very few shops...they just seemed to repeat themselves several times. We stopped in one of the something like two dozen Hudson Newsstands 'n' bookstores just to look around, and I noticed a couple things:

1. The new Agent Pendergast novel is out, so somehow I'll have to scrape together the moolah to pick it up.

2. There was a small shelf of graphic novels by the register, which is what all this preamble was leading up to.

This is what the airport bookstore was selling:

Several Civil War collections, including the volumes for Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, and the mini-series proper. There was also a thick stack of the Thunderbolts volume which looked very un-looked through.

A few copies of Teen Titans volume 4.

One copy of the 300 hardcover.

And a copy or two of this graphic novel adaptation of Beowulf by Gareth Hinds.

And that was pretty much it. Oh, there were some Mad Libs books on the same shelves, too.

Given the kind of captive audience these newsstands have (people desperate for something to read on the plane flight, or just plain waiting for a plane), it's a shame DC didn't have, say, copies of Watchmen up there, too, particularly with the movie allegedly coming out. Yeah, sure, there's the potential problem of folks being offended by Dr. Manhattan's naked blue penis...but, c'mon, they were selling 300. If folks can handle that, they could handle Watchmen.

I also wondered briefly if Marvel was being ill-served by having a bunch of their Civil War books on display together. Seeing what looks like a bunch of books in the same series, with no particular indication of what order in which to read them, might cut down the impulse buys a bit. Then again, the people most likely to buy them 1) already know what they are, or 2) are getting them to give to the kids to keep them quiet. But maybe Marvel could just have had the Civil War book up there, which is more or less self-contained, along with maybe a handful of other graphic novels representing the rest of their line that don't tie into a mega-crossover. Assuming they have any say in the matter, of course.

The Showcase and Essential books would have been natural for airport bookstores, too, I think. They're fat with comics, and they're cheap. Those'll keep you busy as you sit in the plane for the next six hours, waiting for take-off.

A manga book or two might have been nice as well. Didn't see a single one. But then again, we only looked in one of the apparently dozens of these stores. Maybe there was a better selection elsewhere in the airport.

A follow-up to a Twitter post I sent a couple Saturdays ago: yes, the first issue of Captain America: The Chosen, written by Rambo creator David Morrell, has sold quite well. However, according to all the feedback I've received from our customers, nobody liked it.

'Course, in the world of comics, "not liking it" doesn't always mean "not reading it," so I'm curious as to how issue #2 is going to do. If it completely tanks, our orders on #3 will get knocked down to a more reasonable number. But I suspect it'll continue to do okay...some residual post-"death" Captain America awareness among our customers, coupled with the writer stunt-casting (a gimmick that's becoming less of a sales-driving novelty as time goes on) will still move some copies off the shelves.

I'm ashamed I didn't know about this earlier...Scott Saavedra, whose Comic Book Heaven 'zine was one of the major inspirations for this very site of mine, has returned, at least for now, to the weblogging.

So, go, read...see the guy who showed the rest of us how the funny comic book commentary should be done.

Monday, September 17, 2007


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Sunday, September 16, 2007

"Make it never was." 

So I had a few responses to my Spider-wedding post from the other day, and overwhelmingly the commenters seem to be okay with the idea of Spider-Man being married. Commenter Bryan brought up a point that I'd meant to make, but never got around to doing so:

"The wedding, at the time, seemed like a logical extension of the stories from MJ revealing she knew Peter was Spidey, the time they spent together in ASM and Web of, and finally the kiss they shared in 'Spider-Man vs Wolverine.'"

Which is true enough, I think...it certainly felt a lot more natural than the rushed Superman/Lois Lane wedding, which only happened when it did to tie into the wedding in the long-dead Lois & Clark TV show. Though, as Tom says (and I could have sworn I've said on this site at some point, but darn if I can find it right now) Peter's relationship with Mary Jane effectively ends the character's original thematic journey. Peter's life as Spider-Man was an escape from his worries and his problem-ridden life as a teen struggling his way through the various social challenges at school, and his financial/employment challenges elsewhere. If one looks at the Spider-Man comics as an allegory for adolescence, once Peter grows up, leaves school, and enters an actual adult relationship with another human being, his need for escape as Spider-Man is ended, and thus concludes the story.

But of course, this being a corporately-owned work-for-hire character, the story continues anyway, whether you like it or not. And for the most part, it's carried on just fine, adjusting to the new married status of the character fairly seamlessly. As commenter L. David relates:

"Peter Parker's entire story arc has been one of growing into further responsibilities ... becoming a crimefighter, a teacher, a husband, an Avenger, etc."

...And that's not a bad way of looking at the post-marriage Spider-Man series. And really, if you think about it, any low points in the Spider-Man storylines tended to stem from substandard art and/or writing, or incessant crossovers, or overuse of Venom, or what have you...pretty much any reason except the marriage.

There was also a mention or two, not just in my comments but in this Newsarama blog post noting a belief that all of Quesada's talk about the marriage being a bad idea is some kind of red herring, making us all worried about the characters' status and reading the book and talking about what's going to happen. And, sure enough, I suppose I played right into Quesada's hands, since this is my second post in three days on the topic. Sure, it's mostly of the "Joe's fulla crap" line of talk, but it's still publicity for the Spider-books, and that's all that's important to Marvel. Anyway, it's possible it's a red herring, but I don't necessarily believe so...there are too many clues suggesting otherwise, unless they're really trying to throw us off track.

One of the believed results of the "One More Day" storyline that's currently running is that Aunt May is going to die, and somehow that's going to split up Spider-Man and Mary Jane, and I don't think it's going to be anything as simple as that.

First, Marvel's Satan-analogue Mephisto is involved (having seemingly popped up, in disguise, in the last issue of Sensational Spider-Man, as well as having his hand pictured on the cover of a forthcoming issue, and plus I may have heard a thing or two, as I hinted back in June).

Second, we've already seen the character's status quo post-"One More Day" in the Spider-Man book from Free Comic Book Day, written by the fella what's writing Amazing after this current story is wrapped up. Since Spidey doesn't appear to be on the run from the authorities in that book, and he doesn't seem to recognize who appears to be Mary Jane as a costumed hero in that comic, and Aunt May (EDIT) makes an appearance is referred to in dialogue (though as I recall, it's deliberately vague...I don't have it right in front of me, sorry)...well, whatever is going to happen will probably involve Peter making a deal with Mephisto to reboot all the characters' circumstances. Spidey will never have revealed his identity, he's no longer married to Mary Jane, neither MJ nor Aunt May will know his secret, blah blah, so forth.

Also, I seem to recall it being said that the last thing Marvel wants to do is make Peter a divorcee or a widower, so "make it never was" is really the only other option.

Anyway, we'll see what's gonna happen, soon enough.

EDIT: P-TOR mentions in the comments section that perhaps Mephisto isn't the deus ex machina for this storyline's resolution. 'Course, I didn't read that comment until I expanded a bit on my original thoughts, but I think the gist of what I'm saying remains the same. (Though if the deus in question is who P-TOR thinks it is, at least that has the added virtue of tying up a dangling plot thread from early in JMS's run.)

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