mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Well, here we go again. 

Your local funnybook store is hopefully giving away free comic books today, so drop on by and grab a few. With any luck your store will be one that's making an event out of it and handing out tons of comics to everyone who walks into the shop, and not simply dumping a bunch in a disused short box by the front door with a little "FREE" sign on it (like someone told me about one of his local stores a couple of years back).

And, as noted here yesterday, you don't even have to go to your shop in costume. But if you do, you know I want to hear about it.

Other related news stories of the day:
  • Teaching the wrong lesson: "Free comics, good investment; Both collectors and store owners benefiting from comic book giveaway"

    "Several publishing companies offer free titles, ranging from reprints of popular books to all-new issues only available on Free Comic Book Day.

    "A Spider-Man title from last year ended up playing an important part of the ongoing storyline, and is now worth about $20.

    "Another hot item was Dark Horse's 'Umbrella Academy,' also in the $20 range now."

  • I see that word's been going around that there are comic books for everybody:

    "Tallahassee comic-book shops are giving away free comics Saturday. Superhero fans can pick up the free books as part of the annual Free Comic Book Day, a national event."

  • This article ("No ka-boom! for comics retailers") discusses the fact that blockbuster superhero movies don't translate to comic sales....something I may have discussed once or twice in the past.

    "Over the next three days, a few hundred thousand Americans are expected to show up at theaters for the premiere weekend of Iron Man, based on the Marvel Comics character. If only the country's 3,000 comics stores could entice even a small percentage of them into their shops."

  • Aspen Comics to debut new series on FCBD, will lead to about a half dozen different #0s and #1s, plus many multiple covers; only about a 10% chance said series will ever reach an issue number in the double-digits.

  • Chris Sims warned me about this article: "POW! Stores giving away free comic books Saturday"
    "That’s right — FREE! BIFF! BOOM! POW! All you have to do is stroll into a participating store and ask for one."

    Oh, man.

  • And now, the single greatest headline relating to Free Comic Book Day that you're going to see:

    "This Weekend: Marijuana, Free Comic Book Day and Midget Kiss"

    Dude...that'd be the best Free Comic Book Day event at a comic shop ever.

Friday, May 02, 2008


Did I mention pal Dorian's reviews for this year's Free Comic Book Day books? Some of the big linky-link sites haven't linked to his reviews yet, so I thought I'd give them another push before the Big Day. So go, read.

Also, you should be reading Armagideon Time, a great weblog about comics and music. You like comics, don't you? And music? Sure you do. Bitterandrew writes about these things, and related topics, in a very concise and intelligent way, and you will be a better person for reading his thoughts. That's my personal guarantee to you.

And you should also read Get Off The Internet, because it's a hoot.

So, sick of either Free Comic Book Day or Iron Man yet? 

Since they finally showed up this week, I thought I'd go back to the eBay and see if they've been listed for sale. And sure enough, there are about a dozen listings for the Free Comic Book Day Iron Man Heroclix figure. "Super Rare," says one.

Today we'll be doing some last minute prep for Saturday's Free Comic Book Day event...setting up the tables at the front of the shop, where our posted employees will be hand-distributing bags containing the free comic selections, and I'll be making signs for the in-store sales we'll be having that day.

Thursday I did have a group of high school kids show up and looked around, puzzled, at the shop. I asked them if they needed help, and one said "this is Free Comic Book Day, right? May 1st?" She wasn't happy when I told her it was the 3rd...having "1st Saturday in May" on all the promo material seemed to cause some confusion at first, with some folks, but I thought we had all that straightened out. Apparently not.

I do love the calls I get from people who just can't believe that Free Comic Book Day even exists.

Customer on phone: "So, this Free Comic Book Day...what do we have to do to get the free comics?"

Me: "Show up on Saturday."

Customer: "...And?"

Me: "And nothing! Just come in and we'll give you free comics!"

Customer: "Really? Do we have to dress up in costumes?"

Me: "All you have to be able to do is make it through our front door during our normal business hours on Saturday. We will then gift you with free comics, and lots of them. Honest."

Yes, I did have someone ask if they had to wear costumes. I almost...almost...said yes.

I also had another person, a new regular, at the shop say that she and her husband weren't going to come, because the husband was convinced we'd only give him one comic since that's what happened to him at another shop last time. I had to assure her that, as supplies last, each person would get at least one of each FCBD book that was available. No, really, you'll get more comics than you'll know what to do with, I promise. I think I finally managed to convince her...it was the final bit where I said I didn't want to store the leftovers, I want them in customers' hands and OUT OF THE SHOP that got the point across.

We're also still getting that thing where some folks think Free Comic Book Day is something just our store is doing, that it's just a promotion we put together to clear out some dead stock. I've had to explain several times that it's an industry-wide hoohar, and that many publishers produce books specifically for the event. This information puzzles some, alarms others. Comic book companies...working together? Joining forces? Trying to tempt the innocent citizenry with these devilish illustrated pamphlets? They must be stopped!

Anyway, if you want merciless coverage of what books you can expect to see, pal Dorian has put together his reviews for (most of) this year's selection. As always, pal Dorian is cruel but fair.

In case you were wondering, the "Did you see it" questions started to hit Thursday afternoon. And, as usual, I'm a smartass: "Not yet...but I've got my tickets for Made of Honor for tomorrow night!"

On that topic (of Iron Man, not that other film)...a conversation with Employee Aaron on Thursday:

Employee Aaron (jokingly): "Ooh, I don' t know if I'll have time to construct my Iron Man costume to wear to the movie tonight."

Me: "Well, just wear your Stormtrooper costume."

Employee Aaron: "Yeah, I can paint it red and yellow!"

Me: "..."

Me: "Someone, somewhere, is doing that very thing RIGHT NOW."

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Big meaty people doing big meaty things. 

So, a few of the new arrivals:

  • I don't often buy the Back Issue magazine, mostly because I've been having a hard enough time lately keeping up with my reading without yet another 100-page magazine being added to the pile. Why, it's as if I don't have as much free time to read stuff, particularly over the last four and a half years. Why, I wonder what I've been doing for the last four and a half years that's been eating into my extra time?

    Anyway, I don't normally pick up Back Issue, as I said, but this one seemed to have enough material right up my alley to get my attention. Lots of Hulk stuff in this issue, including a history of Hulk vs. Thing fights and an interview with Herb Trimpe (featuring an exclusive Trimpe drawing of Doc Samson, the Hulk, and Captain Tootsie!).

    Plus, there's an interview with Ron Wilson. Man, I love Ron Wilson, and I don't care who knows it. Dig this, if you dare, straight outta The Thing #5 (Nov. 1983):

    Wilson's art always felt very Kirby-esque without feeling like a complete imitation. All the characters felt like they had a weight, a heft to them...just a lotta big meaty people doing big meaty things. Well, okay, I could have put that better, but the phrase popped into my head, and now it's in yours, too.

    So, yeah, back to the subject at hand: I thought Back Issue #28 was worth picking up. There's also a look at the Teen Titan's Terra (all three of 'em), a history of Mark Shaw, Manhunter (by customer Jim - hi, Jim!), an examination of Kid Miracleman, and the article that made me finally decide "(sigh) okay, fine, I'll buy it" - a look back at the Trial of the Flash storyline that killed the second Flash series. Hey, I liked that story, anyway.

    And it's all under a crassly amusing Drunk Iron Man cover by Darwyn Cooke (which you can see here). And yeah, that page says the mag will be in stock on May 21st, but it's in shops right now, so go pester your local retailer for it, if this sounds like something you'd be interested in.

  • DC Universe #0 - essentially your prologue for the imminent Final Crisis brouhaha, featuring some nice art, a brief tour around the DCU, and a surprise reveal at the end that's apparently been spoiled by every single internet site in existence. It's a nice little whetting of the appetite for whatever Grant Morrison is about to unleash upon us in his Final Crisis series.

  • Blue Beetle #26 - the all...well, mostly Spanish issue, featuring a copy of the script in English in the back for those of you monolingual types. Here's a sample of the translation:

    Whew! Thank goodness that was there or I never could have followed that page!

    Okay, that's just me being a jerk. But I am curious how this will sell...we do have a large Hispanic population in our area, and we receive requests for Spanish language comics on a reasonably frequent basis. Regular readers may be a little put out by having to flip back and forth from the story to the translation, if their Spanish is on the rusty side, but I may be selling this comic for quite some time to come.

  • The New Gods action figures were probably our fastest selling set of DC Direct figures in a long, long time. I'm half-surprised they didn't find a way to squeeze a Batman figure into the assortment, like every other DC figure series in recent memory. The figures themselves do look very Kirbyish, though Orion's alternate "savage face" head doesn't look right to me for some reason. And Darkseid looks great. The best part, I think, would be the bases for the figures, made of translucent plastic and featuring some fine Kirby Crackle. Well done, well done.

  • Helen Killer #1. Remarkably bad taste. And yet, remarkably fantastic. I direct you to this review by internet pal Chris, which I agree with wholeheartedly.

In other news:
  • My citation in the Plastic Man Wikipedia entry was removed because it was a "citation from a blog," though the links to my site from the other four or five Wiki articles are apparently still okay, I guess. But the actual point I was making, that it was silly to require a "citation" to prove that a humorous sidekick is, in fact, a doofus, apparently fell upon sympathetic ears. The line in the article now reads "Woozy Winks, a comedic sidekick" -- no citation for "comedic sidekick" required, presumably.

    I hope none of that sounds like I'm irritated or anything. I'm pretty amused by it all, to be honest.

  • I've had a couple reports...excuse me, a couple OF reports from folks saying they couldn't download the PDF preview from the House of Mystery page. I had no problem doing so yesterday, and I did it again just now, so I don't know what's up with that. Maybe a temporary issue, maybe a setting in your browser...who knows?

  • Frank asks:

    "Were there noticeable jumps in back issue sales when hit movies based on lesser-known comics were released? I'm talking about stuff like Blade, Men In Black, and The Mask."

    To a certain extent...I don't recall if there was increased readership for The Mask prior to the movie, but there was enough interest apparently to keep a number of follow-up minis pumping out, though none of them really sold all that well. But I think The Mask was already had a bit of a cult following in the comics market, which may have provided the audience for this minis more than any influx of new readership from the film.

    In the case of Blade and Men in Black, increased demand prior to the films' releases primarily came from people who smelled a buck. Speculators were buying the Malibu issues of Men in Black hoping for a price jump, but actual readers didn't appear to care, or even be aware there was a Men in Black comic. As far as Blade goes, there was only interest in the character's first appearance in Tomb of Dracula #10. No interest whatsoever from anybody in any of the other Blade series.

    And, as usual, once the movie comes and goes, so does the movie-inspired interest. Well, Tomb of Dracula still has its demand, but more from people hunting key '70s books than from anyone trying to exploit the films.

    Also, Tom had a question about movies affecting comic sales. I know most of you folks who've been reading my site know my opinions 'n' experiences on the matter, but if you want to see them yet again, here's my answer.

    My particular thing with the Iron Man movie is that IM's comic sales are so down in the dumps as it is, with increased reader apathy toward the character due to his consistently negative portrayal over the last few years, that perhaps a movie as well-received as this one apparently is could only help sales. Thus, I'm curious as to whether or not the Iron Man may have the opposite effect on post-film comic sales. It's too much to hope that non-comic fans will suddenly become Iron Man readers after seeing the flick...that'll never happen. But maybe people already buying comics will start adding Iron Man to the reading pile, assuming Marvel's able to put out anything that even slightly resembles what potential readers experienced in the theatre, not to mention in time to take advantage of that brief bump in interest. Not that Marvel's managed it yet (remember when the Hulk movie was out, and the Hulk comic barely even featured the title character? Never quite got that, frankly).

    Just so I'm not Mr. Negative Ned...you know what run of Iron Man I really liked? Around issue 190 to 200, which you can see at the bottom of this gallery page. Tony rebuilds his old armor, fights stand-in Iron Man Jim Rhodes, guest appearance from Shaman, and tries to regain control of Stark Enterprises, while introducing his new armor. (Which was actually spoiled by debuting in an earlier issue of Secret Wars II, but don't tell anyone.)

  • Yet Another Comics Blog is celebrating his fourth annual Free Comic Book Month (which, by complete coincidence, is in the same month as Free Comic Book Day). Every day for the month of May, he'll be giving away a comic book out of his collection, and all you gotta do is send in your name and address, and a list of five comic series you enjoy. Read the details and help the man stripmine his collection!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Citation no longer needed. 

And now, for no good reason, Iron Man versus Man-Thing:

from Iron Man Annual #3 (1976) by Steve Gerber, Sal Buscema & Jack Abel

Following up on yesterday's post:
  • There was some discussion in the comments as to why Iron Man hasn't had the sales bump comic books usually get prior to the release of films based on them. Generally responses have ranged between "Iron Man hasn't been a very likable character lately" and "Iron Man comics, by and large, aren't very good." And either theory has its merit, though a comic not being good is rarely a detriment to sales, as proven by [insert title of comic you don't like that sells well here]. But those are as good reasons as any for a lack of interest in Iron Man comics...though if the movie is as good as I've been hearing from reliable sources (as opposed to, say, Ain't It Cool News), maybe we'll actually see a reversal of the usual trend. Maybe a comic book movie will finally inspire sales after the movie's release. Not holding my breath, but we'll see.

    It's the total lack of even the investor-types that has me puzzled. There's always at least two or three people who come sniffing around for key issues and first issues and "excellent to mint" (gah) copies for resale, even for the movie series that have been around for a while and the sales bumps are no longer as significant as they were for the earlier films. Like the example I used yesterday...Spider-Man 3 didn't generate a whole lot of funnybook activity, but I still had that guy buying all of the issues with the debut of the black costume. I would have figured I'd have more people looking for Iron Man #1, or that issue with the debut of Thanos, or the greatest issue ever, or whatever.

    If anything, our Iron Man sales are down. Even the brief flurry of customers I had looking for those Warren Ellis issues a few months back have dried up.

    Curious to see what happens after the film's release.

  • Phil notes that Swamp Thing had a brief, brief cameo in the House of Mystery preview in the latest issue of Fables. Phil's belief is correct: that isn't a new drawing of Swampy...in fact, it's from page fifteen of the first issue from 1972, drawn by Bernie Wrightson.

    Well, "cameo" is overstating it, since the cameos of the various Vertigo stars amounted to inset bubbles with old art and new dialogue espousing the virtues of this new House of Mystery series (or whatever they were doing -- I don't feel like double-checking). This series does look interesting, though, from what little I've seen. Hopefully it'll feature more Cain and Abel than what's just in the preview...haven't had enough of them since The Dreaming was cancelled.

    Here's DC's page for the series, including a PDF file of the preview.

  • I can't believe I'm now the citation for Woozy Winks' doofus-ness in the Plastic Man Wikipedia article. Well, at least until it gets revised away by someone with no sense of humor. EDIT: Citation since revised away by someone with no sense of humor.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"A most peculiar comic book experience." 

So there I was, reading the Wikipedia entry on Plastic Man for no good reason, when I spotted this:

Here it is, just a little larger:

Is a citation really necessary for Woozy's description as a "doofus?" Isn't it fairly self-evident? He's a goofy, silly sidekick for a 1940s superhero -- of course he's a doofus.

Ah, well. We all know you're a lovable doofus, Woozy, citation or no citation:

Plastic Man #5 (1946) - cover scan from here

Good news for fans of Tales of the Beanworld, straight from the mouth of creator Larry Marder:

Deluxe hardcover reprints of the original series, followed by a new graphic novel and a new series. This makes me remarkably happy, as I do love the Beanworld. Shame that it has to be "deluxe hardcover" (read: expensive) reissues of the originals, but I'm sure it was either being released in that format, for various economic reasons, or no Beanworld at all.

A while back I suggested that Beanworld would make a good webcomic, while worrying that there may not be enough Beanworld fans around still buying comics (or even near a shop that would dare order something called Tales of the Beanworld which wouldn't even have a zombie variant or foil cover or anything).

But then again, I do have customers at the shop who've kept Beanworld on their comic saver lists all this time, so who knows?

An observation about the forthcoming Iron Man movie:

Usually, as I've noted in the past, when a comic book movie is impending, there's a sudden increase in interest in the related comics, at least until the movie is actually released. At that point the moving picture supplants interest in the printed page, so any brief bump in sales (or, in the case of Dark Horse books that inspired movies, a brief bump in people asking us for DH books that are unavailable for order) vanishes. Like during the run-up to Spider-Man 3, I had someone wipe us out on every copy of Amazing Spider-Man #252, the first appearance of the black outfit. (Wonder how he did on those?)

However, I've had no such bump in interest in Iron Man back issues. A couple kids have been poking through the bins in the Iron Man section, but no onslaught of people having to read this "Iron Man" thing, no speculators snapping up key Iron Man issues for presumably, slabbing 'n' throwing on the eBay.

Oddly, our customers are extremely enthusiastic about Iron Man the movie. They're just less enthused in regards to the Iron Man funnybooks, which remain among our lowest-selling "classic" Marvel comics.

And speaking of the Iron Man, those Free Comic Book Day Iron Man HeroClix figures are on this week's invoice, so hopefully they're actually showing up...along with the couple of FCBD comics that have been AWOL. Thank goodness...maybe we'll almost be ready for the event this year!

Monday, April 28, 2008

What I wouldn't have given to have seen this actually happen in a classic Trek episode. 

from Star Trek #7 (March 1970) - art by Alberto Giolitti & Giovanni Ticci

Not that I have anything against the Eiffel Tower or our French friends...I'm just appreciating the sheer Irwin Allen disaster movie vibe of the scene.

Anyway, I'd like to apologize for the dependence on scans over the last few days. My "Low Content Mode" from a couple weeks ago seems to have extended itself, due to Real Life intruding on my weblogging time. Yes, I have a real life, that I manage to fit in between "managing" the comic shop, and writing my love letters to All-Star Batman. I should be back to what passes for normal in short order.

If I may continue blogging about blogging, I'm also still planning on creating a "rotating logo banner" function on this site, much like the random "since 1969" taglines, in order to show off all the great banners submitted by readers. I didn't want folks to think their hard work is just disappearing...you banner will be seen again, I assure you.

And so long as I'm on the Trek kick, lemme point you in the direction of the weblog/podcast Look at his Butt -- yes, that's what it's called. I first noticed it in my referral logs one day, some time ago, and went to investigate...it features two happy young women, cheerfully obsessing over the manly manliness of William Shatner. It's good, fun, silly obsessing, not "restraining order" obsessing, from a couple of people who know their Trek stuff.

Speaking of obsessions, here's a fellow weblogger feeding one of mine with a homebrewed Swamp Thing Final Crisis promo.

Where were you when SPIROMANIA STRUCK?

"What? What did you say? Who is this 'Billy' you're speaking of?"

Sunday, April 27, 2008

How I wish to be described, from this day forward. 

From the cover of this book:

"No pot needed!" 

A closer look at your "hand painted Mexican cardboard box."

Cactus garden excitement shown in ad may not accurately represent actual excitement. Your cactus garden excitement may vary. Duration of cactus garden excitement also not guaranteed. If cactus garden excitement exceeds 48 hours, consult your physician.

full ad from Captain and the Kids #18 (1950)
- click to make prickier

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