mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, December 22, 2007


from Fun and Games Magazine #8 (April 1980) by Owen McCarron

The title of the puzzle this pic is accompanying is "Hulk Sings Green Songs" -- just above Hulk and singing Rick Jones (and whatever the hell's he's wearing...apparently he's borrowed Nightwing's old collar) are the letters in the name HULK, each filled with a word search puzzle where you're supposed to look for names of songs with "GREEN" in the title. Examples, "Greensleeves," "Green Eyed Lady," "Green Hornet Theme," and other timeless classics.

Anyway, enjoy Hulk's O-face.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I have a pro-comics bias, thank you. 

Employee Aaron revealed that, several months ago, on a day when I actually wasn't in the store, a customer said this to him:

"Wow, you guys have a really great store...even though you have an obvious pro-DC Comics bias."

Um, wow. Okay, we have a spinner shelf devoted to Vertigo books, and we have a line of DC Archives on one side of our front counter (primarily for lack of anywhere else we could put 'em). Aside from that, we've got lots of Marvel promo posters and retail-sale posters up, we have more boxes of Marvel back issues than of DC, the majority of shelves in the front of the store are manga or kids-oriented (including a smattering of the Marvel Adventures books), the spotlight bookshelves have a few Marvel and DC, but mostly indie books, and the new comics rack features every (or at least as many as we can fit) new Marvel, new DC, and new indie book.

In other words, you're not going to able to look at the shop and say "hey, everything in the store is obviously DC-dominated...boy, these guys must hate Marvel!" If you look around, there's a pretty large mix of everything. If anything, the most dominant feature of the shop is the Giant Wall O'Manga right inside the front door. No one's accusing us of having, say, a pro-Tokyopop bias.

And Employee Aaron assures me that he was doing and/or saying nothing to disparage Marvel.

So I'm going to translate this person's reference to a "pro-DC Comics bias" as meaning "having any DC on display at all," because I don't know what the hell else he could have meant. And, because someone's gonna say it...yes, I do prefer DC to Marvel, personally, but that's just me. For the store, for our customer base, I order and stock and display Marvel as needed...I don't ignore or openly disdain Marvel books because I don't care for them. I stock and display the Marvel books that sell because our customers do care for them. And I do the same for the other companies.

Like I say in the title of this post...I have a pro-comics bias. It's my job to sell comics, regardless of publisher. We're not a Marvel store, or a DC store, or an Image store, or Dark Horse, or IDW, or Fantagraphics, or About...we're a comic book store, and I think we stock and display a pretty good mix of every publisher and genre, without obvious favoritism.

(Well, there is that giant poster of me hugging Swamp Thing right behind the register....)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

There's no need to fear.... 

So I rented the live-action Underdog movie from the Netflix, to much mockery from friends and colleagues, and...you know, it wasn't half-bad. It was slight, to be certain, but it was quickly paced, and maintained a pretty good sense of humor throughout. Plus, the CGI required to make the animals look like they're talking is fairly seamless...there's a moment or two where the animal faces have that CGI "shine" of something obviously being animated, but for the most part, it's not distracting.

There are also a couple amusing references to Superman: The Movie that must be deliberate (and may very well be explained in the commentary track I haven't listened to yet), involving Underdog's confrontation with (appropriately enough) a catburglar on the side of a building, plus UD's romantic interlude with Polly over the city.

I was going to comment on the amount of property damage in the film, but watching the original Underdog cartoon included on the DVD reminded me that property damage (and inept flights and landings) is pretty much par for the course where Underdog is concerned. I know property damage is standard practice for superhero adventures, but every time I see a building demolished or a telephone booth exploded, et cetera, I think to myself "someone's gotta pay for that." Yes, even for a movie about a flying dog with a cape. I can't help it.

Of the cast, Patrick Warburton as Barsinister's assistant Cad was fun, and Jason Lee's voice acting as Underdog was okay, if not quite as...well, nebbish-ish(?) as Wally Cox's original interpretation. Lee's Underdog, when he recites his rhyming dialogue and spouts his catchphrases ("There's no need to fear...Underdog is here!"), has just a touch too much...smarm, I guess. Not a lot, not overwhelming, but certainly containing a bit more self-satisfaction than Cox's vocal performance, which sounded more like a combination of Underdog trying to convince himself and Underdog just being entirely oblivious.

But, of course, the movie contains the greatness that is...Peter Dinklage as evil scientist Simon Barsinister himself:

Peter Dinklage makes everything better.

So, not a vital movie, certainly no award-winner, but a pleasant enough way to spend an undemanding 80 minutes. It's "family-friendly," if that's a concern...several poop jokes, but I've yet to meet the kid that doesn't appreciate a good poop joke. Plus there are a handful of mildly gross jokes regarding what a dog will eat or sniff, but they don't involve anything any family with a dog doesn't already know.

Okay, let the mockery of me begin. Line starts here.

Related: Underdog has what may be my all-time favorite cartoon theme song. Here's the original, and here's the Butthole Surfers' version.

In other news:
  • New Bispectacult comics podcast, with the "Bispectault Classic" team of Dafna and Kid Chris! Listen twice!

  • Not sure why I'm reading the Countdown: Search for Ray Palmer series of one-shots, since they're all essentially the same thing: our dimension-hopping heroes end up in another parallel universe, the natives get pissed at them for some reason, and, whoops, turns out we just missed Mr. Palmer, off to the next Earth, then. Okay, the plot isn't the point of these books...it's taking a tour of the multiverse, showing us what swell new universes are out there. But still, even with my nostalgic interest in the multiple Earths thing, I wonder if there wasn't a more...condensed way of doing this.

  • Also, I kinda like Countdown: Arena.

    Sigh. Line starts here.

  • I hit a customer with a little truth:

    Customer: "Hey, why are they canceling Exiles?"

    Me: "Well, they're not, really...they're relaunching with a new number one."

    Customer: "Really, how come?"

    Me: "So Exiles can have a brief bump in sales as everyone orders a few extra of 1 and 2, before going back to its original sales level."

    Customer: "Gotcha."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mike's New Comics Day Lunchtime Update 3008. 

1. Employee Aaron (looking at the huge stack of Justice League of America while breaking down the order this morning): "Wow, look at that huge stack of Justice!"

Me: "'Beware my stack of justice, for I am...Chimneyman!'"

Employee Aaron: "Wow, would Chimneyman's arch-nemesis be the Chimney Sweep?"

Me: "No, I think the Chimney Sweep would be, like, his partner or assistant. You know, like Alfred is for Batman. His arch-nemesis would be 'Gas Heating Man' or something like that."

Employee Jeff: "Mike, don't you think you're maybe too old to be making up stuff like that?"

Me: "I'm too old for a lot of the things I do."

2. Speaking of that huge stack of Justice League of America, somehow another store's order got mixed in with our shipment, doubling our JLA order, giving us extra Star Trek: Year Four variants, etc. So I got to box 'em all up and give 'em back to UPS, while also dealing with New Comics Day stuff. Sigh.

3. Out of context quote of the day, courtesy Employee Aaron: "I'm counting World War Hulk right now...I don't want to think about polygamy!"

4. Ladies, gentlemen, Ian, I now present to you...Employee Jeff as Mario:

Employee Jeff would like you to know that this year-old student film project was a last-second rush job, and please not judge him (or his student film pals) too harshly. EDIT: There's an unrelated George W. parody at the end of this YouTube clip.



I found Cute Galactus (actually, the "Superhero Squad Galactus," which also includes Cute Human Torch) while I was out allegedly shopping for gifts for other people, but instead apparently finding things I wanted. I resisted nearly everything, but Cute Galactus? HAD TO OWN IT.

Here's a shot of Cute Galactus in all his glory, taken from the back of the package:

I tried to take a picture of the front of the box, but I'm photographically inept, and plus I have no decent lighting. But here's a scan I managed to get of Cartoon Cute Galactus from the front of the box, as he contemplates the vast cardboard void behind him:

And yes, his name is being zapped out of his crotch. Such is the power of...Cute Galactus.

If you want a better look at the packaging, feel free to dig this Amazon listing and click on the thumbnails. Yes, if you buy one there, I get a piece of the action. I'm shameless.

And always remember:


Tuesday, December 18, 2007


One thing I wonder about whenever I see these amusement park coupons in old DC Comics:

Did anyone ever use them? I mean, with the Marvel Value Stamps, we always have to check each issue that contains them to make sure they haven't been clipped. I don't think I've ever once had to check through a collection of comics and make sure the Palisades Park coupons were still intact. I've never seen them missing.

Obviously unlike the Marvel stamps, these coupons have very limited regional interest. Unless you happen to be within visiting distance of Palisades Park, what good are these coupons for you? Well, maybe there were kids in other non-New Jersey lands who clipped the coupons and used them in pretend-play, making believe they were going to the park. I know that should be a indicator of creativity on the part of children, but I'm picturing a lonely little boy or girl in, say, Arizona, sitting in his/her bedroom, unevenly clipped Palisades Park coupons stuck to fingers with tears, while Dad downs his fourth beer while watching Ed Sullivan on the black and white in the darkened living room.

Wow, where'd that come from?

Anyway, I wonder...do comic shops in the New Jersey area, or thereabouts (it has been a decade or four, after all...plenty of time for the comics to have disseminated outward), have to keep a close eye on the old DC books in case these coupons have been removed? Has anyone ever seen these missing?

These are the things I think about...at least, when I'm not inventing the most depressing scenarios ever.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mike has to do all his Christmas shopping today, so think good thoughts for him. 

  • A quick follow-up on the whole League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier thing from yesterday...when I was doing reorders on Sunday, I noticed that the "variant cover" edition of the hardcover was still available from Diamond. 'Course, too late to do us any good, since by the time we receive it, it'll be Christmas, or just about.

    However, I did try to reorder the Wanted graphic novel while there's currently some interest in it due to the forthcoming film adaptation. I hear tell the trailer looks...er, less than promising, but I haven't seen it yet myself. Okay, you know, I'm going to go look for it online right now, and I'll return to composing this post as soon as I've seen it. Hold on a moment.

    (tempus fugit)

    Woo boy. All those people looking for the graphic novel based on what they saw in the trailer are going to be unpleasantly surprised. "Hey, what's with all this superhero crap?"

    It's a moot point, anyway, since the graphic novel is currently unavailable. Figures.

  • Speaking of trailers, apparently there's a new Batman movie coming soon.

    I forget where I saw this...I think it was from one of my Twitter pals, but man oh man, look at all the websites Warner Brothers put up for this movie. Remember those names, because they're going to turn into spam/porn sites soon as Warner Bros. stops renewing those domains.

  • A few days ago I was going on about the Watchmen book and how the movie may negatively impact sales after its release. Well, with the movie still a threat lurking over the horizon, the book sales are still strong...we sold through our restock from last Wednesday over the weekend.

    On a related topic, this gentleman is running a poll on who may or may not have read Watchmen, divided by "comic readers" and "non-comic readers." Unsurprisingly "comic readers who have read Watchmen" are leading by a wide margin.

  • Rich from Cable and Tweed had this question for me in my comments section from yesterday:

    "...Does the negative online and verbal reaction to Ultimates 3 translate to shops ordering fewer copies? I know it was a hyped-up #1 and all, but I'm pretty sure my local shops all sold out."

    Well, the online reaction, not as such. There's usually a pretty wide gulf between what online fans are saying and what the people who walk into stores are actually buying. Case in point: Countdown, Countdown: Arena, All Star Batman...all reviled online, all sell great for us at our shop.

    Verbal reaction from our customers in the shop...yeah, we should pay attention to that, but here's the thing. Comic fans may complain about the comics they read, online and in the real world, but a good amount of the time, they're still buying the books they're complaining about. (Assuming they're actually buying, and not just mooching free reads off online scans or at the chain bookstores.)

    Now, there was no way Ultimates 3 #1 was not going to sell well...it was a highly anticipated book, and curiosity value was high due to the new creative team. That it ended up being crap is not an issue...well, not yet, and I'll get to that in a second. Even if the word-of-mouth is that the book is bad, it's still going to sell because 1) it's a number one, 2) it's a Marvel number one, 3) it's a Marvel number one in its Ultimate line, and 4) that Battle Chasers guy is drawing it, and he still somehow has fans despite not having a whole lot of work in the industry over the last decade.

    We can't drop orders yet based on customers' complaints because, as I said, comic fans can have the habit of continuing to buy books they don't like to "maintain the collection," or to follow a particular character they like, or whatever. So, we're going to have to wait and see how issue #2 does before we start making any drastic changes to our order numbers. Some minor adjustment downward, sure, and maybe even lower if we start getting our comic saver folks cutting the title from their lists, but it's still too early to say for sure if Marvel has a dog on their hands.

    And, you know, as noted in that comments section from yesterday, some people did like Ultimates 3 #1. And, sincerely, good for them. Every comic, no matter how low your opinion of it, has its fans.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mike loses his mind, part #2084 in a series. 

  • Pal Dorian told me at the shop on Saturday that some of the chain bookstores he's visited recently have plenty of copies of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier in stock, warming the shelves and marked down in price. Several were unshrinkwrapped, missing the 3-D glasses.

    In the meantime, we poor comick shoppes have to wait for the 2nd printing, due out after Christmas.

    Dor also told me he saw plenty of copies of the Stephen King's Dark Tower collection floating around. Didn't see any copies of the Heroes hardcover, though.

  • Uncle Scrooge #370 and Walt Disney's Comics & Stories #685 were the most recent issues released by Gemstone, on the stands back in late September. Three months on, there's still no sign of the following issues (including a Christmas special). A quick Googling turns up this discussion on the matter (which also links to a Disney-specific comics board), where there are mentions of "printing problems" causing delays.

    I don't remember reading anything official from Diamond on the matter, though it's possible there was something in the weekly distributor newsletter and I just don't recall seeing it. (Not surprising, since I invariably try to glance at it on New Comics Day, which isn't the best idea I've ever had.)

    I also saw some discussion of Gemstone losing sales by not having inexpensive comics for kids to pick up, which ignores the facts that 1) Gemstone had inexpensive comics which kids didn't want (or just plain couldn't find, given the frequency of comic shops bothering to order Disney, coupled with the frequency of kids actually going into comic shops), and 2) Gemstone's $6.99 (now $7.50) comics aren't too expensive for kids, since they're buying mass quantities of, say, Naruto at $7.95 a pop...if they wanted Disney comics, they'd buy 'em.

    Sadly, comics with the traditional Disney characters are primarily bought by guys my age or older, and the book kids did buy with the newest Disney characters (Disney Adventures) is cancelled.

    I'm speaking in general terms, of course...I know some kids somewhere bought Disney books. We sold a few Disneys to kids here and there, and I have a young lady currently buying back issues of Mickey Mouse at our shop. But, I fear for the most part that the final, miniscule storytelling aspects of Mickey, Donald, and the rest are fading away at last, forgotten by newer generations, and they'll only be remembered as characters in video games and as corporate mascots.

    Well, in the U.S., at least. I understand the Disney books still do quite well internationally.

  • Does anyone out there like Ultimates 3 #1? None of my customers like it, and in my admittedly limited casting about the comics interwebs over the last few days, I don' t see anyone out there liking it either. Even the online guys who bend over backwards to cut Marvel enormous amounts of slack don't like it.

    I haven't read it, myself. I looked inside the first issue, thought the art looked like someone spilled coffee on the pages, and put it back on the shelf. Oh, well. At least it's only five issues long.

  • And, I swear, if Jeph Loeb manages to screw up a Hulk comic drawn by Ed McGuinness, I'm gonna be steamed. McGuinness drawing the Hulk = Good. Loeb typing the words = I'm not holding out much hope.

    Sorry, I'm being cranky. 'Tis the season and all.

  • Hey, here's stuff I liked recently:

    Popeye Vol. 2: Well Blow Me Down - an absolutely gorgeous reprinting of the classic E.C. Segar strips...it's kinda sad when you reach the point former Thimble Theatre star Harold Hamgravy is shuffled off the strip into comics obscurity for all time, in favor of the one-eyed sailor man.

    Batlash #1 - Sergio Aragones (with Peter Brandvold) and John Severin on a Western? There's no possible way this could have been bad.

    Green Lantern #25 - a rollicking round-up to the Sinestro Corps War storyline...I've always liked Green Lantern, Sinestro was always one of my favorite super-villains, and the set-up at the end of the book for future storylines has captured my interest. When this relaunched GL title began, I was sorta indifferent to it, but this storyline instilled the book with new life, turning it into one of my favorite superhero books.

    Captain Carrot and the Final Ark #3 - apparently the ending of this mini ticked off some people. I found it funny, sad, and intriguing all at once. The likelihood of this ever being followed up is nil, but it's an interesting way to end the series.

    Fall of Cthulhu #8 - I tend to be a sucker for Lovecraftian stuff anyway, and most of Boom! Studios' Cthulhu output has been entertaining. This current storyline, where the entities are taking more direct (if still covert) action in the "real" world, has been compelling reading.

  • I was packing up some mail order at the shop the other day, and I started singing to myself as I was doing it. In short order I'd created the beginnings of "Priority Mail: The Musical." Employee Aaron suggested I needed pal Dorian as a counterpoint to me in the song, so it'd go something like this:

    "This will fit in the flat rate box."


    "I will ship for the flat rate fee."


    Boy, as a lyricist, I make a good comics blogger.

    Good God, I need a vacation.

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