mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, March 08, 2008

"Time lollipop. Got to suck it." 

Herbie plays, and greets, ball:

from Herbie #7 (Feb. 1965)

BONUS HERBIE FOOTAGE - Herbie flies into action:

from Herbie #8 (Mar. 1965)

Friday, March 07, 2008


Herbie Archives Volume 1 HC:

"Make way for the Fat Fury! The unlikeliest superhero of all time makes his mark in this new Dark Horse archival series."


"Herbie Archives Volume One is the first of a new archive series collecting the finest works of 1960s comics publisher ACG.

"Herbie Archives Volume 1 collects the earliest appearances of Herbie, as he battles monsters, bends time and space, and gets the better of Fidel Castro! Herbie is a delightfully weird, all-ages barrel of laughs!"

(Thanks to reader John L. for the tip!)

EDIT: Bill (at Comics Should Be Good) and I are on the exact same wavelength.

A commercial service announcement. 

Well, since I brought up the other day that I've had a devil of a time trying to get any of my customers to buy this at the shop, and that both Dirk and Tom have pointed out this particular retailing failure of mine in their respective weblogs, and that I've heard from a couple folks that they can't find any copies at their shops, I've decided to take drastic measures.

So here you go...I have Locke & Key #1 available for sale through our eBay store. Multiple copies available...I've only put a few copies up to start with, but I'll reload if it becomes necessary.

Here's what the cover looks like:

The publisher has a five-page preview.

And hey, the film rights were just picked up.

Plus, every copy you purchase through our store will be lovingly and carefully hand-packed by yours truly, and prepared to withstand the tender mercies of the postal office.


I apologize for the blatant sales pitch, but at least I don't do this sort of thing too often. You're all still my pals, right?


Er, hello?

"Likely The #1 Story On 80 Percent Of Comics Sites" - Tom Spurgeon 

Okay, like you all haven't heard enough about the Watchmen movie costumes over the last day or so...well, it is kind of a big deal, as one of our little picturebook industry's most high profile, and most beloved, funnybooks finally lurches its way onto the silver screen, and we're all interested in how it's gonna turn out.

Granted, most of us are...skeptical, or cautiously optimistic, or, um, a tad excited. After all, it's a very complex, very dense work, as much about the superhero genre as it is of the superhero genre, and most people are fairly convinced that if it can be botched, it will be botched.

Now, I didn't think I was too hard on the stills we all saw yesterday. I was somewhat taken aback by the Night Owl costume, as it seemed a little too Hollywood-movie-ish for what was supposed to be a goofy Batman-esque analog, as well as possibly indicating a serious missing-the-point problem at the script level (as eloquently explained by Mr. Kevin Church). Otherwise, the rest of the outfits seem fine, my qualms mostly being 1) still not overly impressed by Rorschach, but willing to be convinced otherwise, and 2) Silk Spectre's pose seemed a little too...superhero-y for what I know of the character from the source material, which is really about as nit-picky a complaint as you're likely to find. Otherwise, her costume, considering the inspiration for the character (her particular character archetype being, paraphrasing Alan Moore, "the lady who looks good in tights") is just dandy.

So, basically, if the film turns out to be not any good, it's not going to be because of the costumes.

But it got me to thinking. As I've probably said on my site in the past, and I'm too lazy to go looking for it right this moment, one of the main points of Watchmen is the deconstruction/reexamination of the tropes of superhero storytelling. (I wonder if the full impact of that particular ingredient is lost on readers coming to the book late, after having read countless regurgitations/waterings-down of those same ideas in two decades' worth of comics that followed.) Given that the average movie-goer likely to see a Watchmen film hasn't read any comics, a movie version of Watchmen, assuming it still includes that aspect of the work, would be wise to stick to attacking clichés familiar from other superhero films. Okay, yes, I know there's probably a lot of overlap, but one cliché that's more an issue in the films is the ridiculous, unnecessarily-detailed, overly impractical, sculpted-muscle superhero outfit.

You know, like the costumes of Ozymandias and Night Owl in those promo stills.

I was okay with Ozy's costume looking like it did, since that level of...ostentatiousness, I guess, seems fitting to the character. But if we're approaching the Night Owl character as someone who put a lot of money and time into building himself an over-the-top supersuit, which doesn't necessarily make him a better superhero, but makes him feel like a superhero -- and a costume that the audience would recognize as "yeah, that's what every impractical costume looks like in every superhero movie I've seen" -- well, in that case, I can live with it (which I'm sure comes as a great relief to the filmmakers). Especially if we see that he has a whole closetful of similar costumes for different occasions, as seen in the comic.

In that context, I find myself appreciating the Rorschach costume a little more...sure, it still looks kinda dorky, but that works in contrast to the overly-slick costumes of the other heroes. Obviously Rorschach didn't have the money or skill to give himself...I don't know, a trenchcoat with sculpted stomach muscles. He's playing at being a superhero like the fancy uptown folk, and this is the best he can do, with an awkward, ugly outfit. With that particular perspective hurdle of mine overcome, I can begin to see how the creepiness of Rorschach's character can work itself out in the film.

Of course, that's a whole lot of justification on my part, assuming Watchmen the movie approaches the complexity of Watchmen the comic book. If the film is just an X-Men movie with different costumes ("To me, my Watch-men!"), which it could very well be, then all that typin' is moot, I guess.

Ah, well. We'll see in a year. I'm certainly still interested in checking it out when it's finally released. And despite any griping and complaining and nitpicking that may occur between now and then, we're all gonna see it. Don't you lie to me. You know you will.

Anyway, that's far more about Watchmen costumes than you've ever wanted to read. I promise, when Lost Girls: The Movie makes its approach, I'll try not to be so obsessive.

From work, the other day:

"Hey, get this...what if Rorschach from the Watchmen was instead...HORSHACK from Welcome Back, Kotter?

"'Up your nose with a rubber hose, Dr. Manhattan!'

"'Hey there, Mr. Dryyyyyy-berg!'


Sigh. I've no pride at all.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A public service announcement. 

Just discovered that our remaining copies of Cable #1, which came out this week, all have loose centerfolds or are just barely being held in by one staple (and pop out when the book is opened). Of course, we find this out the day after new comics day, so who knows how many we'll get returned over the next week or so.

I don't know if we just got a bad batch, or if the problem is more widespread, but I thought I'd put the word out. Plus, just as I was writing this, I got a call back from Diamond, who tells me that my Cable replacements are all on backorder (i.e. "fat chance gettin' any more"). So there's that.

In which I'm all judgy and stuff. 


Thanks to Dafna at the Bispectacult, I see that the Watchmen movie weblog has posted character stills, and...well, I'll reserve judgement, since these are promo stills and not necessarily reflective of plot and/or characterizations, but, yeah, I have a hard time seeing the Silk Spectre from the comics posing like that. And there had better be a pudgy middle-aged man in that Night Owl armor.

Plus, I've noted this before, but regarding Rorschach...what looks menacing and creepy on the printed page looks kinda dopey in live action. In the few stills we've seen featuring Rorschach, the costume hasn't done anything for me. Maybe once I see it in motion, I'll change my opinion.

So I've done real well on that "reserving judgement" thing, haven't I?

Comedian looks really good, as does Ozymandias. No stills of Dr. Manhattan yet, since his appearance is likely going to be all special effects, I'm guessing.

in other news:
  • The official Elfquest site (EDIT: link fixed) is on the verge of revamping its digital comics section, where every Elfquest-related comic is about to go online. apparently for free. Not an Elfquest fan myself, really, but this does sound like an impressive project. From the retail end, it doesn't bother me too much, if only because EQ back issue and book sales have been fairly moribund lately anyway, and a project like this might possibly help rebuild an audience for this material. Maybe. Couldn't hurt, anyway.


  • So, anyone out there managing to sell copies of IDW's Locke & Key comic, written by Stephen King's son? We've moved one copy. Funny, we sell a lot of comic books, here....

    Also, one day may be too soon to judge, but I didn't have any kind of rush or significant demand for the premiere ish of the new Dark Tower series that came out this week.

    We did sell out of the Justice League: New Frontier special...here's Kevin's review, which sums up my feeling on this comic quite well.

  • Pal Cully sent me a link to a Rick Veitch Swamp Thing and Abby commission illustration. I have to warn you, it's Not Safe for Work. No, really, don't look at this anywhere where you might have to answer for your browsing habits. And if you're looking at this site while on the job...get back to work, slacker. Anyway, here's the link, if you dare.

  • From the comments section for yesterday's post, in response to my less-than-serious "demand" for a trade of this material: an archive of the comic book D&D ads. I love the look on the dragon's face near the end of the fourth strip.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Gary Gygax (1938 - 2008). 

Comic book ad, 1982 - art by Bill Willingham

My own interaction with Dungons & Dragons was relatively brief -- basically just during my junior high school years. Rather, my interaction as a player was brief, as I ended up ordering and selling the things through our comic book store for many years (until we finally sold off that part of the business).

But, brief as my stint as a player was, I still look back on it with some fondness. I still remember my preferred character (a halfling fighter by name of "Fearless Fred Samsonite" -- yes, I named him after luggage...well, I thought it was funny), and I still remember designing dungeons on graph paper, and it was quite a bit of fun for a little while.

Until, that is, one of my crazy neighbors got it into his head that he was going to save the neighborhood children from the satanic influence of D&D, and started passing around tapes of religious programs where the evil of fantasy gaming was revealed for all! I listened to one or two of them, shaking my head in disbelief as one person who called into the show, I remember clearly, claiming his copy of the Dark Tower game was talking to him from the closet at night, and it obviously was possessed by demons! (Or maybe he should have just turned it off before putting it away.)

I thought it was ridiculous, which it obviously was, but my more gullible neighbors bought into it, and that was pretty much that for my childhood D&D experience.

Anyway, at the time I appreciated D&D for what it was, a relatively complex game of imagination and adventure, and probably not a gateway into sin and devil worship.

So thanks, Gary Gygax, for providing me with a game that gave me a chance as a young'un to exercise my brain and my creativity. I may poke fun at what you have wrought once in a while, but there's no denying that you're a Geek Icon among Geek Icons, and the world is just a little less geekier for having lost you.

So long, Gary.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


We'll occasionally break down some of the trading card boxes we get in to put together sets for the shop, and put the special cards on the eBay. I love the sketch cards, where they wrangle some artists together to hand-draw original images to be randomly inserted into packs. I like these more than your standard chase card...that you're actually receiving a piece of original art seems more exciting than yet another foil card or hologram or something.

A couple of neat ones we've turned up recently:

This one is from the "Lord of the Rings Masterpieces II" set. I don't know if it comes through in the scan, but there is a lot of heavily-detailed crosshatching in this drawing. I don't know how many drawings each artist had to do for this set, but it's nice to see that this artist put a bit of effort into this piece.

Here's another sketch card from that set, and HOLY CRAP:

I think my favorite sketch card in recent memory has to be this next one, from the "Star Wars 30th Anniversary" set. I almost kept it for myself, in fact:

Boy, I just pulled that scan off our eBay auction, and I thought my scan of the card was better than that. Better get a nice big scan of it for, you know, archival records of sold items before I ship it off.

In other news:
  • The nigh-inimitable Johnny Bacardi points me in the direction of this blog posting, featuring a proposed animation pitch called "The Mighties." Among the DC heroes included is...why, yes, Swamp Thing, how'd you guess?

    Disturbingly cute, or cutely disturbing? YOU DECIDE.

  • Pal Dorian had let his site "The Cheater Pants of Mike Sterling" rest for a while, but he's slowly revving it up again. And this time he's gone too far, too far! I won't stand for this libel! (I'll sit instead!)

    I find the comments for another post there interesting, if not outright flattering. For example, Gordon of Blog THIS, Pal! states that he thought I was the CCH Pounder of comics blogging, and I only wish I was that cool.

    However, I nominate Dario for sainthood for rising to my defense:

    "Mike Sterling is like Leif Garrett, David Cassidy, and MODOK rolled into one! His pants are honest and virtuous! This blog is an abomination! Dorian shall be the first against the wall when the revolution comes!"

    So few people understand me like Dario does.

  • To Nathaniel, who kept asking "Congorilla?" in my comments section for yesterday's post...


    from DC Comics Presents #27 (Nov. 1980) by Bob Rozakis, Romeo Tanghal & Frank Chiaramonte

Monday, March 03, 2008

"These DC stars can't be LICKED -- but you're bound to be STUCK on them!" 

I've always had a particular fondness for this ad campaign of DC's from back in 1980, where they were ballyhooing the addition of eight additional story pages to all their books. To an eleven-year-old Mikester, that sounded pretty cool...I mean, look at these characters DC was going to be featuring with all that extra space:

There was another ad in Green Lantern, specifically plugging that book's forthcoming Adam Strange back-up, which had the same stamps surrounding this image:

I remember being a bit puzzled by this stamp:

...with "Batman and Robin appearing in Batman," until I realized that Robin wasn't always in the Bat-books during this period, and it was a special event when Dick Grayson wasn't away at college, or hanging with the Titans, or whatever. There's at least one issue of Batman or Detective with the cover-blurb "guest-starring ROBIN" which must have baffled at least some casual comic readers unfamiliar with the state of the Bat-books at that point.

Let's see....the Wonder Twins popped up in Extreme Justice, DC's "look, we can be like Image Comics, too" series, and Jack O'Lantern showed up here and there in the regular DCU, usually in the Justice League comics, with a new version featured in Primal Force. The Seraph's most recent appearance was an issue of Justice League Quarterly, as far as I can tell, but maybe one of you folks know better than I do.

In case you can't read what that says in the next scan, it reads "The Misadventures of Superbaby:"

Remember when we could have silly stories about, say, a Superbaby going off and having wacky adventures? Imagine DC trying that now, and the resulting message board hoohar: "DEAR DC i find that the Use of superbaby is INNAPROPRIATE and UNDERMINES the seriosness of earths number1 superhero SUPERMAN plese have SUPERMAN fight DOOMDAY again."

Okay, maybe that's a little harsh, but I know that's how some people online react to the very idea of Krypto, too. I've seen it. How can anyone not love Krypto? That boggles the mind.

Oooh, mysterious:

I never really took to the character, myself...I wanted eight more pages of Batman team-up in my Brave & The Bold comic, not a guy in a black turtleneck runnin' around shooting people. But these stories did have some nice Dan Spiegle art, and I thought maybe they'd make a nice black and white Showcase Presents volume except for the fact the Nemesis run is about 200 pages short of the usual Showcase size, at least.

That white-haired guy on the left is far too smug for my taste:

Yeah, yeah, laugh it up there, buddy, but who still has a planet? Oh, that's right, I do.

So, let's see:

Hourman's back in the Justice Society, thanks to some time-travelling whoop-de-doo. Sargon appears up in multiple issues of Swamp Thing, briefly shows up in the Books of Magic mini, and his sorcerous mantle is passed on to a relative of his during the whole Helmet of Fate thing. And Congorilla had a four issue mini (which writer Steve Englehart briefly discusses, along with featuring scans of all four issues), and he turned up in that all-gorilla Swamp Thing annual. It all comes back to Swamp Thing with me, doesn't it?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

"They must have taken my marbles away." 

I wasn't planning on dipping into the same well twice in a row like this, but I came across another letter of comment from an old issue of Green Lantern (this time #132, Sept. 1980), and wanted to mention it.

So here we go...a question from an inquisitive GL fan:

And the reply from then-editor Jack C. Harris;

That is such an entirely messed-up situation that one wishes they'd actually gone through with it, so today we'd have something else to look back upon and say "what the hell were they thinking?" Just picture it...Hal and his pal Alan, the Green Lantern of Earth-2, trying to fight some bad guy or 'nother and finding themselves hindered by their own rings, who are too busy whispering sweet nothings to each other. Those sweet nothings would be in those jagged-edge word balloons the GL rings usually speak in, of course.

And that the ring's personality is apparently Hal's own subconscious...well, that's even more deliciously insane. I see a cover, with a clearly distressed Hal front 'n' center, while the ghostly images of girlfriend Carol Ferris and Alan Scott's ring finger loom behind him. "I must pick which one I love the most!" shouts Hal to himself, in that declarative way once common to superhero funnybook covers. "But who? WHO!?" And in big bold letters along the bottom of the cover: "THE DECISION!"


I wish I were better at Photoshop.

No less a personage than former employee Kid Chris popped by the shop on Saturday, where he purchased the latest issue of All Star Batman and Robin, thus identifying himself as a man of quality and taste.

Anyway, Chris mentioned that he wanted to go to the San Diego Comic Con dressed as Wolverine, and I mentioned maybe he should dress as "Patch" (Wolverine's alleged "disguise" he used in early issues of his first ongoing series). Somehow that evolved into Chris dressing as the gray "Mr. Fixit"-era Hulk, and me dressing as "Patch," essentially meaning that Chris and I would be in costume as the cover of Wolverine #8 (June 1989):

Honestly, I think I'm at the point where I've forgotten how to have an adult conversation.

Anyway, before the tragedy that is the San Diego Con, we have the looming menace of the Wizard World L.A. con to worry about, which, as I said, I'd be attending for some reason. And pal Dorian will be there with me, too, and I'm mentioning it here since Kid Chris and his partner in Bispectacult-crime Dafna will also be in attendance. And we're all going to ask the various guests if any of them would give us horsey-back rides. "WHEEE! Giddy-yap!" I'd shout, my flowing golden mane waving in the wind as we charge around the dealer tables, dodging guys dressed as Klingons and people trying to sell their CGCed issues of Camp Candy.

Okay, I'm totally kidding...we really wouldn't ask anyone to do that. Well, maybe if Quesada were there....

Oh, hey, I noticed via referrals that Neil Gaiman linked to my site the other day, which immediately made me worry "Oh, crap, what'd I say about him?" in the same way I always do whenever I find out someone comics-famous has suddenly decided to pay attention to this silly thing I do here. Luckily it was just a link to this post where I quote an old Overstreet sales report, in which X-Force received praise for its excellent market exploitation, while Gaiman's Sandman was dinged for not doing enough to generate long-term interest. I still think that particular report is a hoot, and I'm glad Mr. Gaiman found it at least somewhat amusing. I hope.

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