mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Three scenes with a Snapper Carr. 


"Let's do the wet and bubbly?"

If the solution to your problem is "Snapper Carr," you may be worse off than you realize.

from Justice League of America #93 (Oct/Nov 1971, reprinting issue #18, Mar 1963)
by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky & Bernard Sachs

Friday, February 15, 2008

"I don't like DC's heroes. They're all too goody-goody." 

  • So anyway, I had every intention of putting together another list of a hundred items that I love about comic books, like I've done for the last three Valentine's Days. But, alas, time got away from me, and it just wasn't going to happen this year. Sorry, gang. I am pleased to note that Bill at Trusty Plinko Stick picked up the slack and continued the tradition, so everyone please go to his site and appreciate his efforts.

    Reader Julius responded to my gag about just listing "All Star Batman" for each of the hundred entries by suggesting I do "100 Things I Love about All Star Batman."

    Hmmmm...I bet I can do it. Watch this space, and I'll see what I can do. (Because if not me, then who? Who?)

  • At the store:

    Me: "Now remember, Employee Aaron, when it comes to alphabetizing comics, it's always Darkness before the Dawn."

    Aaron: "I quit. Again."

  • Did anyone else watch Shoot 'Em Up and think "this is what a good Punisher movie would be like." You know, if they allowed something like a Punisher movie to have any "life" or "energy" or "style." Maybe someday they'll go back and digitally add a white skull to Clive Owen's shirt and make it into a Punisher movie retroactively.

    This movie kicks ass, by the way. I was talking to someone about it the other day and mentioned the opening "childbirth/shoot-out" scene, and realized that pretty much every scene in the film can be described as a "[something]/shoot-out" scene.

  • Terrific Tim O'Neil let me know that not only is there a "How This Works" article on Superman Vs. Jedi (as you all first saw here, and recently popped up again here), but he also let me know that How Stuff Works link made the front news page of Yahoo. It's gone too far, too far. (EDIT: I just rewrote this section so that it now makes some kind of sense. Don't write your blogs when you're half-asleep, kids!)

  • Following up on his post about the Blackhawks' Chop Chop, comes...another post on Chop Chop, this time featuring a post-Chaykin Blackhawks' version of the character reacting to his own racist caricature in a Blackhawk comic book.

  • Alan Doane is conducting a poll on comics retailing, and is gathering responses through Sunday, February 17th, at midnight. Prizes to be won! And when you tell him about having to deal with me at the shop while I'm drunk, remember that I'm lovably drunk like Arthur. And you might not want to mention "Pantsless Thursdays."

  • Things that sadden me: that there's a "bloody" variant of the new X-Force #1's cover, featuring blood and chunky stuff all over costumes, claws, other pointy bits, etc. Hmm. They'll be doing this for issue #2 as well.

    It's selling okay, though...once people are reassured that there's no Rob Liefeld involvement, they're willing to give it a try.

  • Many years ago, in my pre-comics retail days, I had a subscription to a mailed newsletter from another store (now long since defunct). In the newsletter was a section marked "BEST INVESTMENTS," that would usually list a bunch of #1s, and books by people who just happened to have been at that shop for a signing recently.

    In this particular example of the newsletter I'm looking at, it has the list of suggested titles (including Nathaniel Dusk #1, Hercules #1, Amazing Spider-Man #250, and so on), but also includes this follow-up paragraph:

    "Most number ones will go up in value. Also there are some titles that are more than doubling their cover price value. These titles you can buy that shoot up in worth are: Thor, X-Men, Alpha Flight, Fantastic Four, Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes, Camelot 3000. If you have any questions or need advice to buy comics as an investment, just ask us. After all, it's our business."

    Oh good gravy, talk about things I would never ever ever do at our store. I've noted my reasons why on the site several times in the past -- primarily, so that a customer who invested in a comic I suggested and eventually goes nowhere doesn't come back to the shop and stab me to death with a backing board folded into a knife. Even if some of the comics do go up in value (generally not by much, for the most part), that just seems like a bad behavior to encourage in your customer base. (See also the '90s market crash.)

    By the way, this shop was also the one where I overheard this conversation between a couple of other customers looking at a poster of DC Comics superheroes:

    Customer #1: "I don't like DC's heroes. They're all too goody-goody."

    Customer #2: "Yeah, they're not serious and cool like Marvel's."

    Oh, fans.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The existential despair of the magically twirling criminals. 

from Detective Comics #355 (Sept. 1966) - art by Carmine Infantino

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More on Mr. Gerber. 

I'm going to guess that just about every internet outlet attached to comics is going to have something to say about Steve Gerber's passing today, if they haven't said their pieces already. And I'm not surprised, as Gerber was one of the most unique voices in comics writing.

Of course, his greatest creation is Howard the Duck, one of those comic characters, like Plastic Man, like Charlie Brown, that has never been handled as well as when it was in the hands of its creator. Indeed, Howard was Gerber's four color avatar, and other writers attempting to give Howard life just plain did not fit. Alas, that title's legacy of satire, parody, and just plain strangeness has been muted by the long shadow cast by the Howard the Duck movie, but slowly people are again recognizing the greatness of this series, and what was lost when the creator and his creation were kept apart.

Howard sprang forth from Gerber's other major Marvel work, Man-Thing, which at first glance appeared to be a more straightforward horror title, but still had its moments of satire and offbeat humor. In fact, through most of Gerber's work, there's a feeling of Gerber taking things about as seriously as they needed to be...he can turn on the horror or the drama when he needs to, but just as quickly he can hit you with a scene that has a feeling of "can you believe this? I'm writing it, and I can barely believe it" -- but doing it in such a way that you didn't feel like the characters or situation were being mocked.

Speaking of "turning on the horror" -- just a few short months after I started this website, I posted a brief appreciation of one of my favorite comics, Gerber's terrifying Phantom Zone mini-series. I followed up on that post with a more detailed overview in my guest writer gig at The Horror Blog a couple of years back. So, please, I invite you to check out those posts for more about Mr. Gerber.

So, Steve Gerber.

He gave us Howard the Duck.

He gave us the Howard the Duck album issue, an illustrated text piece with Gerber's ponderings on his life and work and the universe...

...Where he also gave us a Las Vegas showgirl and her pet ostrich fighting a lampshade, which many years later became the Vertigo mini-series Nevada.

He gave us Doctor Bong. Dude, seriously, he gave us Doctor Bong. Who else could have? Who else would dare?

He gave us the Man-Thing series (and most of the preceding Man-Thing run in Fear), picking up from Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway's introduction of the character to take it into bizarre and frightening, and simply weird, directions.

He gave us "Kid's Night Out" from Giant-Size Man-Thing #4, easily one of the greatest and most affecting comic books ever published.

And yes, since someone's gonna bring it up, I suppose he sorta gave us Giant-Size Man-Thing, too. I'm pretty sure he claimed at some point that wasn't an intentional double-entendre, and it's not like he created Marvel's "Giant-Size" line. Still lots of good readin' in those GS-MTs, though.

He gave us Omega the Unknown, a coming-of-age story disguised as a superhero comic.

He gave us Sludge, yet another take on the Man-Thing/Swamp Thing/man-become-monster genre, and still managed to keep it fresh and entertaining.

He gave us Wundarr, a parody of Superman who eventually became, sort of, Marvel Jesus.

He gave us Stewart the Rat, which could have been just an attempt at getting lightning to strike twice with another Howard-esque avatar for Gerber, which...well, okay, it was, but still managed to stand on its own.

He gave us Destroyer Duck, one of the most unsubtle, but still very funny and pointed, comic books I've ever read.

He gave us the Mandrill. Hey, I like the Mandrill.

He gave us a new and interesting take on Dr. Fate in Countdown to Mystery, still being published even now.

He gave us much, much more than I'm mentioning here, and I'm sad to realize that we'll see no more. But we can all still appreciate the work he left behind.

Thanks, Steve.

Monday, February 11, 2008

In heaven, Steve Gerber owns Howard the Duck. 

So long, Steve.

image from Man-Thing #22 (Oct. 1975) by Steve Gerber & Jim Mooney

Hello, it's Monday again. 

Just a couple of follow-ups from the weekend:

First, on Sunday I just happened to be restocking the Batman graphic novels, and I took the opportunity to flip through a copy of Batman: The Cult to see if the monster truck shown here did indeed resemble The Cult's Batmobile.

And yes, the two do appear similar, though the comic book version's tires are quite a bit larger.

That, my friends, is the kind of research you've come to depend upon here at Progressiveruin.com.

Second, I'm not intending any real criticism of Aqualad's redesign in Teen Titans Year One with this post. I didn't really have an opinion, one way or the other, aside from "hmmm, guess they changed his look, here." The Innsmouth connection just came up at work, it made us laugh, and that's good enough for website content, my friends.

Though, I suppose, this creepy look could be used to help underscore his outcast status, given his origins (rejected from Atlantis society due to his purple eyes...yes really). The more overt physical differences not only separate him from his people, but from the folks of the surface world as well, giving the character that extra touch of tragedy.

Or whatever. Doesn't matter, since we're not likely to see this character design again past the end of this series.

I'm not really reading this Year One series, though I kinda flip through it when it shows up at the shop. What bothers me more than Aqualad's fishy makeover is the internet chatting, the cell phone (there was a cell phone, wasn't there? I think so), and stuff like that. I see it and I think briefly "the Teen Titans first appeared in the '50s, they didn't have internet or cell phones then!" I realize of course with the sliding timelines, assuming the current DC universe is in 2008 (or 2009, I have no idea how "One Year Later' futzed things up), then Teen Titans Year One takes place...oh, around 1999, 2000, or thereabouts, I guess.

That probably isn't the sort of thing I should be thinking about. That way madness lies.

In other news:
  • Hey, you all remember that Batman/Hellboy/Starman two-issue series from a few years back? I had a request for it on Sunday, and I don't think it's ever been reprinted. Someone pointed out this fact on the Dark Horse message boards, and apparently the official answer is "it'll happen eventually" (as of early '07).

    Of course, two issues would make for an awfully thin paperback (though I believe they did one for the two-issue Ghost/Hellboy mini). What would be welcome is a trade reprinting all the crossover one-shots/minis (like with Painkiller Jane and Savage Dragon and the Goon), but given the number of rights-holders involved it may not be financially feasible. Still would be nice, though.

  • Dr. K writes about the troublesome portrayal of the Blackhawks' pal Chop Chop. Now, a long time ago, we had some old Blackhawks with the Chop Chop back-up stories, and flipping through them...well, Dr. K states that the back-ups "kicked up the caricature" of Chop Chop, which is almost understating it. My memory of those stories is that Chop Chop was barely even recognizable as human...it was one of the most offensive things I'd ever seen.

    Dr. K also brings up the slow redressing of this problem, coming to a head in one of my favorite metatextual gags to ever appear in comics. I'll let Dr. K tell you what that was, and you'll know when you get to it because you'll see the word "metatextual" again.

    Anyway, Dr. K gives a nice, brief overview of the character's history and its evolution into something a bit less politically incorrect, so go ahead and give it a read.

  • Coming from Hollywood: Superhero Movie, a parody film in the style of Epic Movie. Check the link and tell me that guy in the green suit doesn't look a little like Ambush Bug, if you squint a bit. (WARNING: page may generate a noise-making pop-up.)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Some Sunday briefs. 

  • Your weird real world reference to that Batman: The Cult mini-series from a few years back:

    "If you're old enough to remember the Jim Starlin/Berni Wrightson comic-book series, Batman: The Cult, you'll recall the slightly ridiculous, mostly awesome monster-truck version of the Batmobile in the story. Finally, life has imitated art: Batman, the truck, is the reigning Monster Jam World Racing Champion."

    Includes photo of said truck, which may or may not resemble the Batmobile from The Cult. Sorry, been a while since I've read The Cult, so I'm just gonna take the article's word for it.


  • Currently reading volumes 3 and 4 of Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace collections from Fantagraphics...well, okay, I'm not reading them both at once, but rather I read volume 3, and now am reading volume 4. These things are nearly review-proof, in that 1) they're reprints of the daily Dennis panels, and 2) you know what Dennis the Menace is like, and if you enjoy it, well, here's a whole lot of it, and if you don't enjoy it, you aren't going to be reading this anyway.

    The presentation is nearly perfect...nice big 'n' clear reproductions of the panels, allowing for detailed appreciation of Ketcham's linework, at one panel per page. The pages themselves are just slightly bigger than the panels, making for one fat, square book.

    A few things I noticed which amused me in my perusal of these comics:

    1. Dennis' pop Henry is kind of a letch, with Dennis always calling him out, nearly always in mom Alice's presence, on his ogling girls at the beach or in magazines and whatnot.

    2. Dennis' dog Ruff, more often than not, is presented with a thought balloon containing a single question mark, in reaction to Dennis speaking to him, or Dennis doing something terrible right in front of him, and so on. A nice contrast to the army of talking, intelligent animals on the funnypages.

    3. There are an awful lot of one-shot supporting characters (or "victims"), and Ketcham gave each one a unique and amusing appearance. If anything, these books give you a new appreciation for Ketcham's ability for character and caricature.

    4. I...ahem...sorta find Alice slightly attractive. SHUT UP I KNOW SHE'S A COMIC STRIP CHARACTER.

    5. Also, even at one panel a page, it feels like it took forever to get through these books, so you'll definitely be getting your money's worth.

    So there you go...if you like Dennis the Menace, here are several hundred pages worth, in about as nice and permanent a package as you can reasonably expect. I wasn't even that much of a Dennis fan, and after reading these volumes, I want to go back and get the first two, now that I have a newfound appreciation for the comic.

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