mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, September 29, 2007







from Buster Brown Comic Book #34 (1954)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Mike's exciting day. 

So I noticed a couple books as I was plowing through Diamond Previews for the latest End of Civilization that I wanted to mention outside of the "Oh, God, can you believe this?" context of that post.

First was a new Ms. Tree novel from publisher Hard Case Crime, a publisher that specializes in new novels done in the vintage crime paperback style, as well as reissues of classic crime books. Johanna covered this new book before I got a chance to do so, but I just wanted to note that, as a Ms. Tree fan, I'm looking forward to reading this. (You can read a sample chapter, and get a better look at the cover, here.)

The other book I wanted to point out was that the latest in George R. R. Martin's long-running Wild Cards series is being solicited: Inside Straight, a sample of which you can take a gander at right here. Since the last, rather obscure, entry in the series has seemingly wrapped up most of the dangling plotlines from the previous dozen 'n' a half books, this new book is apparently being positioned as a jumping-on point, pushing ahead several years and with a new cast of characters. I'm not sure how much of a jumping-on point it really is...at this point, it's like trying to find a clean jumping-on point for Uncanny X-Men, I'd imagine, but as a fan of the series since Book 1, and thus well-versed in the shenanigans inherent in the saga, I can't wait to read it.

Say it with me: "We're all fanboys about something."

At the store yesterday: finally fixed the problem with the register that prevented customer receipts from printing properly (ink roll was sitting too low, fixed with a pair of pliers and some bending), created a new display for our trading card accessories (two 5000 count card boxes, stacked and arranged perpendicular to each other, holding all our snap 'n' slide plastic card boxes, penny sleeves, top loaders, etc.), resorted our Punisher comics (I now have "Minis/One-Shots" sections for Punisher [MAX], Punisher [Marvel Knights], and Punisher [Plain Ol' Marvel Universe]), sent our order adjustments to Diamond on the forthcoming Marvel 'n' DC books (ordered more Green Arrow: Year One, and, oh, c'mon, another Marvel zombie variant?), had to tell a guy his bag of water-damaged, brittle and crumbling '70s comics weren't worth a darn thing, had to tell the same guy that, no, he didn't have a Spider-Man comic from the 1930s, had to tell someone else the old "no, I don't know which comic will be sure to become a valuable collectors' item" thing (haven't had that in a while), and listened to Employee Aaron receive regular reports from home on the status of his pregnant dog's litter delivery (result: three puppies).

Not at the store yesterday: lots of customers. Happens once in a while, but slow days are a real drag. Luckily, there's always something to do (aside from my exciting activities, above), so the day wasn't a total wash.

This isn't my most exciting post ever, by any means. (That'd be this post.) Kinda wiped out after the rest of the week. I mean, just look at all that content!

So, tell me, regarding comics...what's on your mind? What are you worried/excited/disgusted/terrified/happy/crazy about in the funnybook world?

Feel free to let me know, internet pals!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Progressive Ruin Presents...the End of Civilization. 

BEHOLD! The End of Civilization cometh yet again, and its prophet is Diamond Previews, the October 2007 edition. Yea, you will bring forth your copy and follow along, forthwith and forsooth and all that. (Previous installments in the sidebar to the right.)

p. 185 - Spider-Man 3 Unpainted Spider-Man Bust:

"Sapstein, get in here!"

"Yes sir?"

"Our profit margins on these funnybook busts is slipping...we need to do something to increase our take on these things."

"Well, sir, maybe we can raise prices...."

"Nothing doing, Sapstein...these things are hard enough to sell as it is, unless we sex 'em up, and then they sell like gangbusters."

"Let me think, then, sir...wait! I've got it! We don't paint them! We save costs on paint, and we can sell it as...um, let's see...an 'Unpainted Limited Edition Production Bust!'"

"Sapstein, you're a genius! Give yourself a raise!"

p. 185 - Kotobukiya of Japan Presents Brown Wolverine Statue:

Wolverine proves once again that he's way too tough on couches.

p. 187 - Premiere Collection Formalwear Sue Storm Statue:

No, honest, it's Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four, not some generic blonde woman in a fancy dress that, you know, really could be anybody, since this doesn't look anything like any standard version of Sue Storm that anyone would immediately recognize, "4" base or no "4" base, and maybe if they'd made the sculpt's face look like, say, the Jack Kirby version of Sue, maybe some of the fanboys would have picked up on it, or it could have been a statue of the Jessica Alba version of Sue from the FF movies, in which case you'd just have a Jessica Alba statue and, likely, higher sales, and now I'm ending my sentence.

p. 191 - Spider-Man 3 Pumpkin Bomb Prop Replica:

Add this to your list of "Things Not to Bring with You When Traveling by Air."

p. 387 - The Truth About Chuck Norris MMPB:

This will look good on the shelf next to my copies of The Dancing Baby Art Book: One Frame Per Page, Mr. T Ate My Balls: The Complete Saga, and OVERKILL: Flying Spaghetti Monster, Talking Like A Pirate, and Other Once-Fun Internet Fads.

p. 410 - Superman/Doomsday II T-shirt:

"Mommy? Why is the monster on that man's shirt trying to poop?"

"I don't know, honey...stand closer to Mommy, okay?"

p. 413 - Superman "Owned" Camo T-shirt:

This is what happens when you leave your shirt designs up to the Random Faddish Elements T-Shirt Amalgamatron 3000. Here, let's give the Amalgamatron another spin...hey, it's a Zombie Big Dog flipping the bird to Osama Bin Laden! Let's try another...it's a tie-dyed shirt featuring Family Guy's Stewie saying that He's with Stupid!

p. 422 - Harry Potter Die-Cast Collector's Edition Sets:

"Packaged in a hinged flip lid box that resembles Harry's school trunk, the vehicles are made to an authentic 1:43 scale in First Shot, resin, and finished die-cast form."

Okay, they're limited, they're in a fancy box, but I look at the prices and all I can think is "sweet holy Baba O'Riley, over a hundred bucks for some Hot Wheels cars?"

p. 442 - Witchblade "Bikini Armor" Statue:

Okay, let's take a good look at Witchblade's armor:

Bikini area? Impenetrable.

Nipples? Tweak-free.

Right hand? Covered.

Left wrist? Practically bullet-proof.

Feet? Tootsies are stubbing-free.

Bits of forehead and cheekbone? Secured.

Upper buttical region? Safe as babies.


p. 496 - A Christmas Story: Leg Lamps:

So the Leg Lamp, which embodied tackiness and kitsch in A Christmas Story, is now itself an actual tacky gift item. It's the great Circle of Merchandise Life. There's a whole page of these things. There's a string of Christmas lights in the shape of the Leg Lamp. There's a Leg Lamp Snowglobe. And yes, there are Leg Lamp Lamps.

It's the ultimate "Funny for Five Minutes" gag gift, until the recipient realizes that, yes, he or she does in fact now own one of these.

p. 498 - I'm not putting the title to this, because I want to test something.

When I turned to this page, I went "Aaaah!" in shock.

When Pal Cully popped by the store on Wednesday, I showed the page to him, and he reacted with a "Aaaah!"

I showed it to Employee Aaron, and he too went "Aaaah!"

So, quickly, scroll down, and see how you react:

p. 501 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Chainsaw Prop Replica:

"Own an authentic replica of Leatherface's infamous tool of terror! This highly-detailed and unique piece is movie-accurate and limited to 500 pieces worldwide. No fan of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre will want to miss this!"

For only $214.99, now you too can make every single person you know...very, very nervous.

p. 502 - Land of the Lost Sleestak 12-inch Vinyl Bank:

My immediate question of "why are they making this now?" is overwhelmed by my desire to have one of these...which of course invalidates my criticism of pretty much every other piece of merchandise here, and, also, answers my question.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mike's New Comics Day Lunchtime Update 3000. 

  • As we're breaking down the new comic order this morning:

    Employee Jeff (taking the Tarots out of the box): "Hey, Mike, why does Chris Sims read this? Is it just to make fun of it?"

    Me: "Yeah, pretty much."

    Employee Aaron: "Same with the Anita Blake comics...and he still got a quote onto that collection!"

    Employee Jeff: "Did you ever get any quotes onto collections, Mike?"

    Me: "I got onto the back cover of Proof of Concept...."

    Employee Jeff: "How about Dorian?"

    Me: "He got a quote on Banana Sunday, and he made it into a Previews ad for Dorothy, I think. Oh, and I got a mention in that one Previews ad."

    Employee Aaron: "That's it?"

    Me: "Yeah...I'm no reviewer, but I've said plenty of good things about lots of comics. Where are my pull quotes?"

    Employee Jeff: "What you need to do is pick a comic nobody likes, and say lots of good things about it, so they have to come to you for quotes."

    Me: "Then where are my pull quotes on All Star Batman and Robin?"

  • Speaking of All Star Batman...I had a customer talk to me about a store he was at not long ago, where the owner apparently hates All Star Batman. And, apparently, ASB didn't sell well for them.

    We love ASB, and it sells great for us. But I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

  • Apparently Diamond was having some problems this week with shipments...we were shorted our full order of whatever the latest Annihilation tie-in was supposed to be (and got that same number we were shorted in extra copies of Justice League). When I called it in, the rep let on that there were shortages of all kinds all over the place...and apparently I was lucky I was only missing the one book.

    Also, and some of you folks what sell the funnybooks may want to take note of this, about half of our copies of the latest issue of Superman Confidential had torn covers, and some were even missing chunks out of the cover. Maybe we just got a bad batch, but you may want to take a closer look at your copies.

  • So am I missing something, or does that new Marvel Universe release with the big ol' Marvel Zombies logo on the front cover only actually have three pages of Marvel Zombies content?

  • After a brief discussion of Watership Down (where I had to explain why I referred to Employee Aaron as "Fiver"):

    Employee Aaron: "Wow, Mike, you've inspired me to read Watership Down! You're contributing to my...liter...ocity?"

    Me: (lowers head, shakes it in shame)

"Why isn't the Earth aflame?" 

A few moments from Super Powers #5 (Nov. 1984) by Jack Kirby and Greg Theakston:

Metron is so startled, he leaves the letter "t" off of "thought:"

Honestly, who hasn't had days like this:

Here's a short sequence of Robin being teleported off the Justice League satellite to Batman's location, mostly notable for demonstrating how all those crazy kids liked the rock videos back in the day...even superhero kids:


Kirby Batman just sittin' in a chair wasn't enough, so here's Batman opening up a can of King Jack Whup-Ass on a Joisey-accented alien, from Super Powers Vol. 2, #5 (Jan. 1986):

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"We hate Superman! He is the most atrocious man we know." 

So I pulled out my copy of Action Comics #309 (Feb. 1964) for those "Look-Alike Squad" panels to accompany this post, and upon my reperusal of the book, I wanted to note a couple other things.

The comic is primarily remembered for its use of President John F. Kennedy as an important plot point...specifically, due to lead times and distribution and such, that it was out at about the same time JFK was assassinated (comics being dated far ahead of their release dates, in case you're wondering about the "Feb. 1964" thing). You can see the JFK panels in question at Fred Hembeck's site, under "November 22nd," and Fred has a full synopsis along with one of his patented cover reproductions here.

Speaking of the cover, that was the first thing I wanted to mention. I find myself more than a little amused by Batman's cherubic smile, behind Supergirl's head of hair, there:

I blew it up nice and big for extra creepiness. No need to thank me. Also, if you look at the full cover, you'll notice that while everyone else in line is looking in the general direction of Superman, Batman appears to be staring straight out at the reader...I know there's no pupils visible, but he's definitely facing forward. Distracted by a crime in the distance? An Animal Man-esque awareness of the reader? Trying to get a good sniff of Supergirl's hair? Your guess is as good as mine.

Here's something else you don't see Batman do too much of anymore...going way out of his way to mess with someone, and having a good laugh at that person's expense:

I love the "why do I put up with this crap" look on Lois' face at the end. (And to think about it a little further...this situation only occurs for plot reasons, to remove Batman as a potential "Clark Kent" stand-in for when Supes and Clark are supposed to meet face to face. But when you consider it...what Batman has done is, for an event celebrating Superman, gone out of his way to don elaborate make-up specifically to tweak Superman's girlfriend. Is Batman that desperate for attention? "Hey, look at me, everyone! I've got Bizarro make-up on and I fooled Lois Lane! WOOOOO!" He might as well just put on the lampshade and make a complete spectacle of himself.)

On the letters page, I found myself disappointed when I realized that someone was writing this letter "in character" (or "characters," as it were). It was so much better when I briefly thought it was a fan expressing his actual murderous distaste for Superman...'course, that sort of thing wouldn't get that much attention or play until many years later, when 'blogs were created:

And then there's this letter, where it may sound like the guy's going overboard describing the potential greatness of a Jimmy Olsen Annual:

...except for the fact that he's absolutely, 100% correct (and assuming this isn't a letter from the editor, if you get my drift).

Citizen Kane. The Mona Lisa. Michelangelo's David. And this:

That humanity can bring such beauty into the world yet gives me hope.

Licensable Bear™ has something to say... 

...and, by God, he can say it here on my site:

You can see a higher quality (auto-playing) video here.

For more Licensable Bear™ information, please visit Licensablebear™.com.

Monday, September 24, 2007

"Metropolis has Clark Kent, Gotham City has Bruce Wayne, but Louisville has Lancelot Pertwillaby....!" 

My first exposure to the work of Don Rosa was in the early 1980s, as installments of his Captain Kentucky comic strip were reprinted in the very late and much lamented Comic Reader fanzine.

I loved those strips for many reasons...every square inch of the page was filled with art and writing, even including little messages to the reader between the panels. And within the panels themselves, the art was busy and detailed but never felt cluttered. In a way, in reminded me of Mad Magazine, where paying attention to the background details revealed additional jokes.

The character of Captain Kentucky himself had great appeal -- an everyday guy with great powers protects the great city of Louisville with some success but little respect, his tales told with a great sense of the absurd, a lot of satire, and just the rare moment of schmaltz. And, of course, plenty of in-jokes for fellow Kentuckians...I didn't get the local references at the time, but I recognized that they were in-jokes for the locals, and appreciated these additional personal touches of Rosa's.

In fact, that may be one of the main reasons I liked the Captain Kentucky strips as much as I did. Every single element of the strip just reflected Rosa's personality...reading, say, Superman or Batman comics didn't tell you much about the creative teams working on them. They're processed, prepackaged, created to fill a marketing niche and to appear on toys. The character is more important than the creator. But here, I think this was my first exposure to the idea that even a superhero comic can have a point of view, an expressive personality. (Some of Jack Kirby's work would fit this mold as well, I think, but at this point I was still a few years away from a true appreciation of the King's work.)

That this was all by one person, too, appealed to my obsession with amateur creators...folks creating stories and art outside of the usual corporate outlets, just for themselves or for otherwise limited audiences. And here was Rosa's Captain Kentucky, a one-man show, which to my eyes, then and now, was just as polished and well-written and entertaining as any superhero comic Marvel or DC could crank out...but with the additional advantage of being personal.

It wasn't until a little later, when Fantagraphics published Don Rosa's Comics & Stories #1, that I learned of the Captain's pre-superhero life as non-powered intellectual adventurer Lance Pertwillaby. I think I may have read that first issue dozens of times, enjoying the wide-ranging scope of the story, along with its humor and its fascinatingly-detailed art style. I patiently waited for the second issue...and waited, and waited, but I never did see it, somehow, and I wouldn't find a copy of it until about two years ago (and it was a moot point by then, anyway, which I'll get to in a moment).

After that, I learned Rosa was going to be working on a story for the recently-relaunched Disney comics line from Gladstone Publishing. I hadn't read Disney comics since sometime in the mid-1970s, but if Rosa was going to write and draw an Uncle Scrooge comic, I'd be willing to give it a try.

That comic was the classic "Son of the Sun" in Uncle Scrooge #219 (1987), and like the other Rosa comics I read before it, it was filled with detailed art, humorous adventure, and Rosa's personality. And as a side effect, it reopened my awareness of the Duck books, as I kept buying each new issue containing Rosa's work. That brought me to, of course, the work of Carl Barks, which got me to buying the entire Carl Barks Library series...so I have Rosa to thank for that as well!

Now, I started thinking about Captain Kentucky again because of Tom Spurgeon's Five for Friday from last week, in which he asked what our favorite non-Marvel/DC heroes from the last 50 years were. As I was making my list, I realized that a couple of the answers that popped into my head were fairly obvious -- Nexus, of course, along with one Spurgeon already mentioned, Zot! -- but thinking about it made me recall how much I loved those old Captain Kentucky strips, and how I looked forward to each new issue of the Comic Reader to read the latest installments.

I didn't have all the issues of TCR, so I missed some strips, but in 2001 all of Rosa's Pertwillaby work, including all the Captain Kentucky comics (and that second issue of Comics & Stories I missed), were reprinted in two handsome hardcover volumes from a Norwegian publisher. Here's the CK volume:

I think I'll be spending the next couple of days rereading this book, reimmersing myself in the world of Captain Kentucky, its in-jokes I sorta get, its craziness, its sledgehammer satire, and its pure fun. Thanks, Mr. Rosa, for this great strip, and thanks, Tom, for inspiring me to remember how much I enjoyed it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Candor about Kandor. 

So Saturday, pal Dorian and I were poking through the Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen comics at the shop, when Dor brought up the very unusual coincidence that there just happened to be a number of people in Superman's bottle city of Kandor who look exactly like most of Clark Kent's friends...not to mention Clark Kent himself:

Now, I'm not sure how many Kryptonians are supposed to be in the shrunken city of Kandor...let's say it's about the size of Los Angeles, so there's about 4 million people in there. What are the odds that four people in Kandor's population happen to look exactly like the terrestrial friends (Lois, Jimmy, Perry, and Clark) of Krypton's most famous survivor? Even if the city had a New York style population, with about 8 million, that would still slightly stretch credulity, I think. Perhaps someone better than me at odds and statistics can tell me how likely it is that a random set of people from cities of these sizes would contain exact duplicates of people from outside that set.

If we were choosing look-a-likes from the entire population of Krypton, I might be more willing to buy it. But we're picking from a small fraction of Krypton's inhabitants...four people who look exactly like another four people from another planet, who all happened to be in Kandor when it was shrunk by Braniac and thus survived Krypton's destruction.

I'm not trying to do another in-depth analysis or anything, but there may be a couple explanations that'll make this coincidence a little easier to swallow.

My cyncial explanation for this is a bit out of character for Superman, but may be enjoyed by those fans of the "Superman's a big jerk" school of humor. Superman seemed to do an awful lot of time-traveling in his pre-Crisis days, and popped up on a pre-exploded Krypton with some regularity. Perhaps Superman made several other undocumented trips to various points of Krypton's history, surreptitiously guiding populations, manipulating relationships between certain people, and just generally guiding Kryptonian genetic development and reproduction so that certain physical aspects are bred to Superman's benefit; i.e. that people whose appearances resemble his friends from Earth will 1) be born sometime close to the abduction of Kandor, and 2) will actually physically be in Kandor at the time of its shrinkage.

Just picture Superman, on one of his many time trips to ensure the success of this manipulation, wearing a fake mustache and handing a flyer to red-haired, freckled Kryptonian kid, reading "JOBS AVAILABLE - enquire in KANDOR - freckles a PLUS." The kid rushes off to Kandor, visions of employment pushing him forward to his fate, while Superman laughs gently to himself, knowing that one more piece of the future "Look-Alike Squad" is in place.

See, told you it was cynical. It does have the added benefit of letting you imagine that there was an entire population of red-haired, freckled Kryptonians wandering around, caused by Superman's genetic meddling. "THE JIMMY OLSEN ARMY OF KRYPTON" -- the greatest Silver Age Superman story you never read.

The other option is that Krypton was a world of advanced science. As the announcer says in that first panel, the Look-Alike Squad "resembles" Supeman's Earth friends. Whatever resemblance nature created could be enhanced by Kandor's super-cosmetic surgery.

Or it was just a big ol' coincidence, which, let's face it, ain't nothing unusual in the Superman milieu.

Another thing Dor and I discussed was Kandor's dealing with their limited space. Probably strict population control, an extensive recycling program...once Superman took over care of the bottled city, problems like waste and garbage extraction were probably handled by him. But prior to that, as Dor noted, Kandor was just kept on a shelf in Brainiac's ship, with (apparently) only an air hose attached to the top. Brainiac strikes me as a guy who just collects things (in this case, shrunken cities) just for the sake of collecting them, without much regard for their care. I doubt he gave much thought to Kandor's inhabitants beyond the air hose, making the population/gargage and waste production issues all that more important. I don't want to come right out and admit I used the phrase "Kryptonians drinking their own recycled, reprocessed urine," but, you know, c'mon.

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