mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, December 08, 2007

"Everyone's talking about it -- make sure you are too!!" 

house ad from DC Comics cover-dated May 1982

house ad from DC Comics cover-dated June 1984

Just a few thoughts:
  • There was only about a five year or so gap between the end of the original Swamp Thing series and the early '80s relaunch. It always seemed a lot longer to me. (Then again, there was only a seven year gap between the last Golden Age Flash comic and the Silver Age relaunch...that's another hiatus that seemed like it should have been longer.)

  • The first issue of Saga was never much of a "collector's item" -- near mint copies only sold for three or four bucks, not enough to retire on...sorry. Though, to be honest, I haven't checked its price lately, and I don't have my Overstreet handy at the moment. It is a 25 year old comic now, and it's possible high grade copies may be slightly harder to find, bumping up prices slightly.

  • I like that they pushed that fact that Swampy's creator Len Wein was going to edit the book, to, I guess, allay the fears of ST fans about the character's handling.

  • Pasko and Yeates' initial thirteen issue storyline was pretty good, tending towards the wordy side but still readable and appropriately creepy, and Yeates' art was lush and highly detailed. The issues following (the two parter illustrated by Bo and Scott Hampton, the debut of the Steve Bissette/John Totleben team) ain't too bad, either...and it's a shame these stories aren't likely to reprinted anytime soon. A black and white Showcase book would be ideal, and could include the long-lost Alan Moore debut on the series...and while we're at it, a reprint of issues 11-24 of the original series would be nice. And a pony. I'd like a pony.

  • If it weren't for the Swamp Thing movie goosing DC into getting a new ST title on the stands, there wouldn't be a Vertigo imprint today. Topless Adrienne Barbeau gave us Preacher and Fables. Thank you, Adrienne Barbeau!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Swamp missives, and a random pontooning. 

Not everyone loved Wein and Wrightson's (and editor Joe Orlando's) original Swamp Thing run unconditionally, as seen in this letter from issue #5 (July/Aug '73):

The pontoon in question from the end of issue #3, in case you were wondering:

Somehow I have a hard time seeing that particular method of stowing-away on an airplane as being particularly stealthy.

And here's a brief excerpt from issue #10's letter page, in response to #7 (the Batman issue):

So don't mention the Conclave, the organization responsible for the bombing of Alec Holland's lab, leading to his transformation, or the bio-restorative formula, which turned Alec into the Swamp Thing and is the reason why Swampy is constantly on the move (keeping any remnants of the formula still in his system from falling into the wrong hands). Got it!

Of course, nowadays all that stuff is pretty much forgotten about (the Conclave never made it out of '70s comics, the formula only mentioned in passing in retellings of Swampy's origin, its importance retconned and revamped away), so hopefully whoever wrote that letter is happy now.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I'm going to start off my fifth year by letting you know... 

...that no one lays a verbal smackdown quite like Darkseid:

from Swamp Thing #62 (July 1987) by Rick Veitch & Alfredo Alcala

"You've spent too much time trying to unravel the physics of reality, Metron, and not paid enough attention to cabal. Let me warn you -- there shall be no room for intellectuals in this universe when Darkseid solves the Anti-Life Equation."

Two things: one, Metron is such an obsequious dork in this issue, desperate to offer knowledge in trade to Darkseid for access to the "X-element" he needs. Quite a contrast to the all-wise, all-knowing, unflappable Metron that usually pops up nowadays.

You just know that if Metron were real, he'd be some overbearing, socially maladjusted know-it-all who would immediately start groveling and panicking the second he suspected he wasn't going to get his way.

Two, the phrase "academic chicken" has been floating around in my head for twenty years, ever since I first read this, just waiting for the opportunity to whip it out on somebody. Haven't had the chance to do so yet, but my time will come, oh yes.

Bonus images: Metron and Darkseid kicking back in their respective chairs - Metron in his Mobius Chair, Darkseid in his Swamp Thing chair:

Long story there about the Swamp Thing chair.

And here's a glimpse at a handy space-chalkboard featuring an apparent segment of the aforementioned Anti-Life Equation:

How do you square the swastika?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"Suddenly, four years later...." 

I've been doing this website for the same amount of time I was in high school...that's a thought to make me feel my age.

Anyway, I don't know what I can say that I haven't already said three times before, except to repeat, as always, my great appreciation for you, my readers, and all of your e-mails and comments (and logo contributions). Interacting with all of you just adds to my enjoyment of this goofy little website here, and makes me feel as if I'm not just shouting to the wind. That any of you find enough of value in my site to keep coming back means more than I can say, so thank you for that.

Also, thank you for putting up with the addition of advertising on this site over the last year...I've tried to keep it non-obtrusive, aside from my remarkably subtle hints to click a link or do an Amazon search, etc. It's not a lot of money coming in from those sources, but as I've said before, every little bit helps. If you're one of those folks who used those services...it's very welcome, and I thank you.

And thanks, of course, to my fellow comics webloggers...most of whom I get along with swimmingly, some of whom frustrate me occasionally, and none of whom I'd want to be without. It's the convergence and/or clashing of opinions and ideas that keeps things interesting, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Of course, a special thanks goes out to my good friend and partner in crime pal Dorian. It just wouldn't be the same without him around.

So for the last couple of anniversaries, I did a brief round-up of some of my favorite posts from the previous year. Well, I kinda overdid it this time, but I hope you don't mind:

Hanna-Barbera Pie Fight, Swamp Thing slippers, MODOK link-dump, refuting someone's incorrect assumption about comics ordering, my quote in Previews, How X-Force #25 made Canadians hate us, what Dino the Dinosaur is thinking, MIGHTY GREEN ARROW IMAGE SHOWCASE FOR LAUGH TIME, in which I was right about Dark Tower not being a gateway comic, the creepiness of Superboy Sphinx, BIKINICHROME, Swamp Thing dancers, Happy Ultimate Wolverine Versus Hulk Day, buy more comics, Abby Arcane's forgotten super powers, one of too many posts in which I explain the whole "Death of Captain America" thing , Mike's Comic Shop...of EEEEEEEEVIL, Batman Defeated by Joker - Seven Decades of Superheroing Come to End, Skywald's Heap comic, how not to get Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans to bid on your auction, a Pizzazz subscription card insert, a comic to make you feel old, a page of kid-drawn monsters, the 2007 April Fools post: "Attending Church: The Official Internet Fansite for Kevin Church," dancing Galactus, on the passing of Johnny Hart, an overanalysis of some nerd trivia, Jack Kirby's Demon versus Linus, Snoopy, and Broom Hilda, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes II tells my fortune, Spooky versus Pencilman, the Fist of Purplish-Pink Justice, Little Lulu freaks the mundanes, why Turok is cool, being a fink is fun, Free Comic Book Day aftermath 1 and 2, Spider-Man 3: not completely horrible, the zoo trip, a whole lotta ECs, a look at that comic book rack from an old Peanuts strip, NANCY MUST NOT EAT IT, Fallen Son: Nancy, a complete Spunky the Monkey story, Mike Sterling's Progressive Cranius, pure putty tragedy, Star Wars' 30th Anniversary, at least I liked this animation, the girlfriend brings me comics from Mexico, Archie's shirt freaks me out, the single most depressing robot story you'll ever read, Dr. Doom versus Superman, Fantastic Four sequel review, the Archie gazes also, Ibis the Invincible will freakin' kill you, man, Linus versus the pooping robot (and a follow-up with monster Peanuts), I explain the Pietà, the worst battle cry ever, how DC Comics totally screwed us with their handling of The Flash, a tribute to my customer Bruce, Good Lord we have a lot of old posters, I answer some questions about the '90s boom 'n' bust (follow-ups 1 and 2), putting words in Satan's mouth, these comics protected by Spawn, battle of the disembodied heads, a review of Mad Magazine's Up the Academy, I get snarky, the break-in (follow-ups 1 and 2), the random gift of a Man-Thing sketch, the possible negative impact of retailer blogging on sales, the secret origin of Tarzan's trunks, CONTEMPLATE SLUGGO, more local mini-comic memories, who's who at the Death of Superman, tiny comic book ads blown up good 'n' big, "IN HELL, BABY, IN HELL,", Jack Kirby's creepy as hell leprechaun, Darkseid versus the Care Bears, on Joe Quesada's attempts to convince everyone that the Spider-Man marriage was a bad thing (and a follow-up, plus my initial vague hint to current Spidey shenanigans), some Darkseid fine art, the MONDO-THICKARAMA BACKER 3000, the kickassery of Walt Simonson's Thor, the only Richie Rich cover analysis you'll ever need, logic is applied to the bottle city of Kandor for no good reason, a celebration of Don Rosa's Captain Kentucky, Kirby's Super Powers, the nightmarish frog thing what gathers bunnies, helping with a search for back issues, DC staffer cameos in the Daily Planet newspaper, Richie Rich versus 'the Googol,' the secret life of Sluggo, the Mickey Mouse thesis, Pink Batman, "WHERE'S ME GOLD," Mike versus Fire, the Superman: Doomsday DVD review, Stan Lee Presents Se7en, the chameleon torture toy for kids, a complete scan of the Golden Age story "The Widow of Death," things to not post about: is Kirby the Liefeld of the '70s, why Herbie rules, Fearless Fosdick and the Poisoned Beans, Mr. District Attorney and the Fastphoto system, the constant abuse of Porky Pig...

...and, at long last, my podcast interview.

Again, let me express my gratitude for my readership. I know I've said it before, but when I started I never expected more than a few friends (in real life and online) to read my site. That I have as many readers as I do is a never-ending source of surprise to me. And that they all seem to think I have some kind of obsession with Swamp Thing is a surprise as well. I wonder where they got that idea?

Thank you for reading, and I'll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

No, I didn't enter. 

I scanned this ad out of Superman #376, which had a cover date of October '82, so it was actually on the stands around July or August. With a deadline of September 1st, that didn't leave much time for dilly-dallying about, wondering if one should enter. Just to make sure, I checked through the early issues of Saga of the Swamp Thing, and, yes, the ad doesn't pop up 'til the October issue.

Had I thought about it, I probably would have entered the contest at the time, though I've never been much of a contest-enterer. I mean, sure, there was little chance at getting the grand prize, but I had a shot at getting that free year's subscription to Swamp Thing, and that $7.20 value is nothing to sneeze at, mister.

So, how short lived was that excitement? Yeah, I know the Swamp Thing film stands as bit of a camp classic now, but at the time...well, okay, Roger Ebert liked it, but as a follow-up to Superman: The Movie, DC's film about a guy in an ill-fitting rubber suit may have been something of a comedown. Okay, it's not an awful film, really. Costuming aside, it's actually not bad...it's a quirky, cheesy adventure with some knowing humor and occasional moments of genuine emotion. But it still had no chance of being a blockbuster like Superman (which was quirky and campy in its own way).

I don't have anything to say about this next bit, really, aside from noting the contortions the writer had to go through to get Swampy's old, now mostly forgotten tagline into the ad:

All joking aside, the grand prize sounds like a pretty sweet deal:

Okay, trip for two, hotel, etc. -- that's all well and good. And I wonder if, the ad blurb says, the contest winner actually met the literal creators of the character, Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, or if they meant "creators" in the general, copyright-ownership sense of the term; i.e. it's owned by DC Comics, legally DC Comics is the creator of the character...you know, like that. "Hi, we're DC Comics, and we create all your favorite superhero adventures right here in these offices!" Or did they mean the then current creative team, Marty Pasko and Tom Yeates? (And Wein, too, since he was editing the series at the time.) I know Mr. Wein is just a click and a comment away from me asking him these questions, but I don't want to pester the man.

But what I''m really curious about is what Broadway show they went to. It could have been Cats, which opened on Broadway about then. (And now for the smart-alecky crack that's gonna show me where my readers stand....) If it was Cats, well, that's more of a penalty than a prize, isn't it?

I recall seeing no one held up as the winner of this contest. But I do wonder how many people actually entered...a long time ago, I read an interview (don't remember where) with someone (don't remember who...take it from me, kids -- don't get old!) regarding a full-page ad they'd run in some DC Comics, and that the number of responses they received was very low.

I imagine a contest certainly gathered more response than just a plain ol' ad, but I wonder, not if they got enough entries to give away all 201 prizes, but if they received lots of entries well above and beyond the 201 limit, or if they just barely made it.

EDIT: That's one! Only 200 more to go!

That's probably the rarest Swamp Thing collectible of them all...if it turns out Rich has that list of winners, I'll turn green with envy. Because, you know, it'd be funny, since Swamp Thing is green, and...oh, fergit it.

Monday, December 03, 2007

"That thing is -- ticking! Gotta try to defuse it before..." 

from Swamp Thing #1 (Oct/Nov 1972) by Len Wein & Berni Wrightson

from Swamp Thing #23 (June/July 1976) by Gerry Conway & Nestor Redondo

from Saga of the Swamp Thing #1 (May 1982) by Marty Pasko & Tom Yeates

from Saga of the Swamp Thing #21 (Feb 1984) by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette & John Totleben

from Saga of the Swamp Thing #28 (Sept 1984) by Alan Moore & Shawn McManus

from Swamp Thing Annual #3 (1987) by Rick Veitch & Tom Yeates, et al.

from Swamp Thing #1 (May 2004) by Andy Diggle & Enrique Breccia

For contrast, here are the moments leading up to Alec Holland's transformation into Swamp Thing from the 1991 cartoon:

Sunday, December 02, 2007

"...I didn't kill her! I'm the Batman!" 

A little Batman versus Swampy action from Brave and the Bold #176 (July 1981) by Martin Pasko & Jim Aparo:


1. "Felicia" is Catwoman's sister, in her (only?) appearance. (Has she popped up at all in recent years?) It's a little strange that they introduce a sibling for a long-established major villain of one of DC's headliners, and not in one of the main titles but in a team-up book, and then kill her off.

2. For some reason, the thought of Batman shouting his darn fool head off and beating the tar out of somebody with a club amuses me. It's like the proto-All Star Batman.

3. I do like how over the course of the story Batman picks up minor clues as to the true nature of Swamp Thing. For example, when they're about to bury Felicia:

Why he couldn't be just a swamp creature that once saw a funeral, maybe, I have no idea.

'Course, suspicions aside, Batman still just sorta waves "good-bye" to Swampy at the end of the tale and doesn't, you know, offer to help him or investigate the Swamp Thing further or anything:

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