mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A missed opportunity. 

Now every time I come across this copy of Richie Rich Vaults of Mystery #9 (March 1976), I get the urge to post it on this site and poke a little fun at Google:

'Course, the thing that usually holds me back is the fact that the actual mathematical term "Googol" (a 1 followed by a hundred zeroes, a fact repeated constantly over the course of this story) is the one being used as the villain's name.

So, sure, they sound the same, but they look different, which sorta undermines any joke I want to make. Like here:

Sure, it's still a little funny when read aloud, picturing Google, Inc. as a mysterious red-hooded villian, but the spelling mutes the humor a tad.

Now check out this panel:

That's just crying out for some kind of "Google is conquering the world, one user at a time" observation, but, again, it's "googol," not "Google." That just seems like one step too many from effective usage in satirical parody.

Some people just don't understand Google's business plans, or corporate decisions, or what have you, and I'd like to illustrate that concept with a Richie Rich panel, but instead I have this:

And then there's...well, feh, I like the idea of Google being unmasked at the end of story, like, say, Agatha Christie gathering all the cast into the library for the final revelation of the murderer. But instead we get:

The heck with it...God gave us Photoshop for a reason:

See...? Funnier.

Well, I think so, and it's my weblog, so there.

And because you're gonna ask...here's who the Googol was:

Yes, the "100 Zeroes" story was related earlier in the comic.

And now the comic is out of my system. Whew.

Friday, October 05, 2007

It took me a moment to remember who "Eric Strauss" was. 

From the Daily Planet Invasion crossover tie-in "newspaper" published by DC in 1988, here is...

1. I like how they make Abby Arcane (from Swamp Thing, natch) sound like a crazy person.

2. When was the last time we saw Funky Flashman in anything? Wikipedia sez 2005, but maybe he'll turn up in the Death of the New Gods series.

3. I'm trying to identify which DC staffers/executives/creative talents were cajoled into letting their photos be used for this. I'm reasonably certain that's former DC publisher Jenette Kahn as her semi-namesake Dr. Jenet Klyburn, and is that Karen Berger as Abby? I don't know...set me straight, internet pals.

4. The presumably post-Killing Joke Barbara Gordon entry just made me sad.

5. And it really did take me a second to remember who Eric Strauss was...which means it time to pull this Dr. Fate mini-series out of the Vast Mikester Comic Archives and give it a good rereading.

6. Actually, this whole Daily Planet paper is kinda fun, with in-universe stories, TV listings, horoscopes, business reports, showbiz gossip (including another Swamp Thing reference, to supporting character Liz Tremayne), sport stories (including one on a game interrupted by a superhero battle), soap opera synopses:

"SECRET HEARTS: Cara's life as Lynda Lee turns out to be only a dream. Zorra and Laura try to help their daughter but find themselves in a devastating earthquake and die. Plagued by dreams of a cousin Karl, Cara finally finds peace when her grandfather Ariel reveals the family secrets to her."

...and even comic strips:

It's only 16 pages long, serving as an interesting snapshot of where DC continuity stood in the late '80s, but packs plenty of in-jokes and fanboy humor into those pages. That's either an enticement or a warning, depending on your leanings.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Stink, Stock, and Supergirl. 

So the award for "Stinkiest Comic" this week goes to Atomic Robo #1. No, not "stinky" as in "this comic is no good" -- it looks just dandy to me, I mean "stinky" as in "oh God, someone shoot off my nose" stinky. It literally reeked. Something about the paper, or the ink, or the cover stock, or a combination of all these things, and maybe a skunk wandering around the Diamond warehouse...Good Lord, it was awful. Awful smelling, I emphasize...this is no slam on the actual quality of art and storytelling.

It still sold well, however.

Every once in a great while, as I'm listing and relisting on the eBay, I'll relist something that, oops, we'd sold already, due to some failure in my recordkeeping, or due to my just plain not paying attention.

Recently I've been listing a bunch of old posters from the backroom...stuff that had sort of gone past its sell-by date, at least locally, but now has found some new retail life on the internationally-spanning inter-webs. One item I listed a while back was a poster released in conjunction with the original late '80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, featuring Raphael in an overcoat:

Yes, yes, I know, he looks like a flasher. But that poster sold pretty well at the time, leaving us with only one copy left over to vanish into the backroom for a couple decades.

Anyway, I sold the poster through that auction...and a week ago, I listed and relisted a whole bunch of TMNT posters, accidentally relisting the Raphael in overcoat one. And, of course, I didn't realize it until just before that auction ended, too late to cancel it.

Even though I was pretty sure the copy I'd previously sold was the last in the store, I still delved deep into our storage, frantically seeking through our boxes of past-their-prime posters, hoping I wouldn't have to eat some crow and beg forgiveness of our bidder.

I found another copy of the Raphael in overcoat poster. I had one more copy of an 18-year-old poster that, I was almost certain, we not longer had in stock.

What we can find in our backroom scares me, sometimes. It's a labyrinthine treasure trove of wonders and horrors, beauty and treachery.

We also have about a dozen copies of the "Donatello in a straw hat" poster. Apparently that was slightly less popular than the Raphael's overcoat poster.

This is one of the cards from the newly released, hideously expensive DC Legacy trading card series from Rittenhouse Archives. The design is nice...the modern version featured in color on one side, with an embossed silver outline of the original version of the character on the other. Usually it makes for an interesting contrast, but in the above example of Supergirl, the newer version doesn't exactly compare favorably to the old. Granted, it's not as if the anatomy on the original Supergirl drawing is spot on or anything, but it's nowhere near as aggressively appalling as the dead-eyed gal on the left. It's a progression from "cute" and "charming" and "quaint" straight into "kewl" and "horrific" and "just plain dumb looking."

I don't care for the usual art for this new version of Supergirl; can you tell? This Renato Guedes version we've had lately has been a welcome relief from the straight-outta-the-early-'90s version we'd been enduring.

And because if I don't point it out, one of you will...though the back of the card talks solely about the Kara Zor-El version of Supergirl, the "classic Supergirl" image on the front is, in fact, "Super-Girl," a pre-Kara tryout of the Supergirl concept from 1958. Wished into existence by Jimmy Olsen, in fact. I imagine you can probably read a lot into that, if one were so inclined.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mike's New Comics Day Lunchtime Update 3001. 

Employee Jeff: "Hey, why do you always make yourself out to be so great on your site?"

Me: "What do you mean?"

Employee Jeff: "You always rewrite our conversations to make yourself look good and make Aaron and me look stupid."

Me: "No, I don't! I paraphrase and/or edit for clarity, so that the point or the joke gets across more clearly, but I don't purposefully do it to make you guys look bad."

Employee Jeff: "Yeah you do!"

Me: "Nuh-uh! I do not!" "Why, young Jeff, you, Aaron and I are all part of the great comics retailing world, and by including you in my retailing tales, you participate in the education and entertainment of thousands of readers! You are no clown, no fool, no object of japes and insults, but rather a starring player in my attempts to provide vital information to the masses."

Employee Jeff: "What a load of crap." "Why, oh great and wise Mike, suddenly I see the light! Your beacon of wisdom has brought me forth from the fog of ignorance! How ever could I have doubted you?"

Employee Aaron: "DUH, what? I don't get it."

In which Mike probably should have just gone with posting more scans. 

So, anyway....

Okay, I've been kind of out of it the last few days, and been a bit gung ho with the scanning and the image posting since, as I noted in this Twitter doodad a day or so back, I've not been up to writing at length about much of anything.

I wasn't out of it enough to take a break or enter "Low Content Mode" or anything like that, but...I don't know, I guess I needed to scale back and recharge the batteries a bit, I suppose. Thanks for your patience, and I hope you keep reading as I get back up to speed.

Yesterday we were puzzling out how to order on Captain Marvel #1, the revival of the very famous-deceased superhero. On one hand, this is the revival of a classic Marvel character, one that it seemed unlikely would return. On the other hand, will nostalgia for the character be enough to drive sales? On the other other hand, it is spinning off out of the Civil War crossover, and the CW one-shot that reintroduced CM sold very well. On the other other other hand, unless the cover for this new CM #1 has "from the pages of CIVIL WAR" on the cover, I don't expect that same sales level. On the other...okay, I'll stop, but you see the problem.

I'm fairly certain we've nailed down a pretty good number for the order, and if enough customers express interest between now and the time we have to do order adjustments, I can always bump numbers up then. Or bump 'em down, as it were.

Are any of you looking forward to the series? What sort of interest is out there for this book? I'm just kind of curious.

By the way, the premise behind the Captain Marvel series (in which a currently dead character is brought from the past to the present, knowing he'll someday return to his own death) reminds me a bit of Marv Wolfman's idea for reviving the Barry Allen Flash (second question down).

One of the things I keep meaning to do is get around to responding to some of the comments for my post last week, asking what was annoying and/or exciting you in the comics industry.

Someday I'll get to it, but I did want to note someone's negative reaction to the startling prevalent $3.99 price point on standard-sized comics from the Big Two, particularly on the mini-series. I do like the format for DC's extra-sized $3.99 books, with the feature-length lead and the shorter back-up, though the comics themselves have had mixed results. Tales of the Unexpected was unusual, in that the lead was almost universally met with indifference, while the Dr. Thirteen back-up has been rightfully championed as a genius piece of work. I've had several customers (and some fellow webloggers) note that they'd given up on the Spectre story early on, but kept buying the book to follow the shorter supporting story.

Then there's Countdown to Adventure, with Adam Strange, Animal Man and Starfire costarring in the lead, and a back-up featuring the Forerunner character from the weekly Countdown series...I tried the first issue, and it didn't grab me. In fact, I'm trying to remember something about it, and I can't. I guess it made just that much of an impact on me.

The newest $3.99 title in this format, Countdown to Mystery, has an improved mix on content. It lacks the mismatch in quality of Unexpected's stories, and it's more memorable than Adventure. The main story, starring Doctor Fate, features Steve Gerber's solidly weird and entertaining writing, and the Eclipso back-up, at least in its first installment, has me intrigued, and manages to make the Spectre more interesting in a few pages than the eight chapters of Unexpected.

...Okay, I'm perhaps being a little too harsh on Tales of the Unexpected. Tell you what, I'll give it a rereading and let you know if it holds together a little better being read over a shorter period of time than eight months.

Anyway, $3.99...don't mind it for the extra-sized DC anthologies (or for the extra-sized books in general...surely we're getting $3.99's worth of entertainment out of World War Hulk), but I can really do without that price point on every mini-series that comes down the pike. Like Captain America: The Chosen, or Punisher Presents Barracuda...lose the slick covers, drop the cover price a buck. Yeah, there are probably complex economic reasons for the prices being the way they are...higher cover prices making up for lower print runs, that sort of thing.

Or perhaps it's just getting everyone ready for the next big price level jump, as maybe three bucks just isn't cutting it as a profitable price point for your standard issue comic any more. We've been at the $2.95/$2.99 funnybook price point for a while now, we're about due for a change. So, what do you think? $3.50 by the end of '08? $3.99 as the primary price point of your 32-page comic book by '10? Or am I being overly optimistic?

And of course, there's the inevitable argument for the transition of the comics marketplace from periodicals to paperbacks, which you can see on pretty much any and every comic book website, and in every comic book magazine, from the last few years. I don't think the periodical magazine aspect of comics will ever go away, but I expect some kind of evolution to occur to the 32-page format in the near future, if that price point climbs up any higher. My personal vision, which I've think I've mentioned on this site before, is of a thick, 200 or 300 page comics magazine front-loaded with ads ahoy, about 1/3 to 1/2 of the book, in order to keep the cover price down. Of course, that brings up the additional problem of finding that many advertisers willing to pay for that adspace, and paying enough to actually make a difference in this theoretical magazine's cost.

Oh, here's where I've talked about this before...when I brought up an Amazing Heroes April Fools newscolumn about Marvel's alleged new 100 page format, and how that may not be far from what we'll eventually see.

Wow, I was all over the place, there. Sorry about that. Here, to make up for it, have an interview with Zelda Rubinstein. Yeah, I know, it's an Ain't It Cool News link, but dude! Zelda Rubinstein! And there are MP3s of the interview! And she totally dishes on Tobe Hooper! But don't look at the comments section there, as I'm pretty sure it's carcinogenic.

Also, dig this Cover Browser site, which features lots and lots of pages with lots of good-sized cover scans of comic books, pulps, and even some album covers. Scan quality can vary, slightly, but not too badly. A fun site to while away the hours if you're trying to put off doing anything important.

In other bloggery:

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Where old Spawn action figure case boxes go to die. 

No tie love for the Eradicator? Or Cyborg Superman? 

Somewhere, a city clerk still believes Superman is a real perv. 

from Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #42 (July 1963) - art by Kurt Schaffenberger

Oh, it'll set a standard, to be sure. 

"Bono Expects Spider-Man Musical To Set New Standards"

"'It should be a hallucinogenic experience for theatergoers. [...] The myth of the arachnid and the elasticity of these characters - you can turn theatre upside down.' And Bono and The Edge plan to bring a wide range of music to the production. Bono adds, 'We've got some punk rock in there and some beautiful opera.'"

(I know everyone's been linking this...I just can't get over what a bad idea this sounds like.)

Monday, October 01, 2007

"He's Back at Last!!" 

You don't really see too many great panels like that first one anymore. 

Customer: "Excuse me, sir...I'm looking for a few back issues...."

M: "Sure, what are you trying to find?"

C: "Well, do you have any comics that start off with a point-of-view shot from inside Venom's mouth?"

M: "You bet...here you go, Spirits of Vengeance #6 :

C: "Great! Now I'm seeking a comic where C3PO tries to talk R2D2 out of his spanking fetish."

M: "Um, okay...how about Droids #3?"

C: "Just what I'm looking for! Now how about a comic where there's a creationism versus evolution debate between Usagi Yojimbo and one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?"

M: "So happens we just received a copy of Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 2 #2 the other day...I think this'll do you."

C: "Delightful! Now I can use a comic where Baby Superman and Baby Lois Lane are just on the verge of getting married."

M: "Well...I do have Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #42...."

C: "And one last thing...do you have a comic which features Speedball reimagined as a dark, gritty, angsty vigilante with a piercing fetish...?"

M: "Yeah, sure!"

C: "...That's any good?"

M: "Um, sorry, can't help you there."

C: "That's too bad...does he at least have really pointy shoes, and does he maybe kick someone in the head?"

M: "As a matter o'fact...."

C: "Wrap it up...I'll take it!"

M: "Huzzah!"

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I love the sarcasm of "Admiral's Watch." 

1. I plan on addressing, soonish, a few of the topics brought up in your responses to my deliberately vague question of...well, here, lemme cut 'n' paste:

"...Regarding comics...what's on your mind? What are you worried/excited/disgusted/terrified/happy/crazy about in the funnybook world?"

So go ahead...have your say.

2. Finally got around to seeing the movie adaptation of 300...I thought it was okay, for what it was. Sometimes you're just in the mood for a corny, over-the-top bloody violence-fest, and there it was. The knowledge that the Mystery Science Theatre guys created a Rifftrax commentary for it had me imagining, as I was watching the film, what Mike, Crow & Servo Bill & Kevin would be saying about certain scenes, which probably undermined the gravitas of the proceedings a tad.

I think I would have liked it better had the whole thing been animated, like its credits. (Though, to be honest, it pretty much was animated, wasn't it?)

3. Hey, stop wasting your time reading about comics and movies, when you can be learning something useful instead. Like, oh, say, Navy slang:

from Don Winslow of the Navy #26 (1945)

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