mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Just trolling the eBay... 

...and found the world's most terrifying goalie mask:

Note that the chinstrap features the Hulk's lower jaw (and...teeth?), so, when worn, it looks like the Hulk is eating the goalie's head. Fantastic.

Also discovered this item: "New Era Flash Supreme HUF Iron Man Hulk DC Comic 7 1/2." This has the kind of thing I just love seeing in eBay auctions..."Iron Man" and "Hulk" have jack-all to do with this, but are in the title anyway just to grab the searches. (Given that there are nearly 6,000 eBay hits on "iron man," and 7,500 for "hulk," I don't know how much of an advantage this really brings.) BONUS: Also identifies the Flash superhero logo as being from "Flash Gordon," but that's a fairly common mistake by the uninitiated. (Much like Hawkman is always "Birdman," and Green Lantern is always "Green Hornet.")

Oh, and dude:


Friday, June 20, 2008

Mike's Sexiest Moment. 

A couple of items following up on yesterday's Incredible Hulk review:

First, I can't believe I forgot to mention this, since it kept grabbing my attention throughout the entire film. Both Banner and Ross had these semi-circular scars on their cheeks on the left side of their faces. Every time they had a close-up on screen, my eyes would go right to those scars. I kept thinking "that can't be a coincidence...is this a plot point? Is there some hidden meaning? Is it a reminder that Banner and Ross are two sides of the same coin, two halves of the same circle, that Banner hides his rage on the inside, Ross keeps his on the outside?" Yeah, I know that sounds like crazy talk. But I kept looking...at...those...darned...scars...AARGH.

Second, I knew I wasn't the only person to draw the connection between the scene where Hulk rages at the storm with that Kochalka story...James Kochalka himself is collecting comparisons between the two.

Third, a surprising number of you agreed with me that the previous film by Ang Lee wasn't as bad as all that...and some thought it was, which, you know, is okay too.

But even more surprising was the number of people who misread "MIKE'S SEXIST MOMENT" as "MIKE'S SEXIEST," which of course means the demand is there! Coming soon: Mike Sterling's Progressively Sexy Ruin -- because you demanded it! That video of myself reenacting Uhura's fan dance from Star Trek V will be the new YouTube sensation!

In other news (assuming you're still reading, that is):
  • Trinity continues to sell like a thing that sells very well, necessitating yet another round of reorders.

    And one of Marvel's best superhero books, Incredible Hercules, has another installment out this week...and it surprises me to no end that I'm saying this about, of all things, Incredible Hercules. Caleb really nails it about why this comic is so much fun, so I send you in his direction. I will note that after a somewhat lackluster beginning, sales on Incredible Hercules are growing stronger, leading even to sell-outs on more recent issues (partially attributable to its tangential Secret Invasion tie-in, but sales were improving even prior to this).

    And one of pal Ian's first comics from Boom! Studios featuring his editing credit is out this week: Blood Bowl #1! (And Warhammer: Condemned by Fire #2, as well.)

    Hey, Ian, a suggestion: Snotling comics. Think about it, won't you?

  • This week was also the arrival of the first batch of Hellboy graphic novels as part of Dark Horse Comics "Hellboy Day" promotional push tying into the imminent Hellboy 2 movie. ("Hellboy Day" being July 2nd, a week before the film's opening, by the way.) It's a special deal where retailers can order a certain number of Hellboy books and receive free promo materials such as posters and bookmarks and a new edition of the Free Comic Book Day Hellboy comic to give away. Drop by your store on July 2nd, get some free Hellboy stuff. Not the trade paperbacks, natch, but feel free to buy some of those, too.

    Of course, the real reason for this promotion was to make sure retailers will actually have copies of Dark Horse trade paperbacks that tie into a film at the same time said film is actually in theatres, unlike pretty much every other Dark Horse film event ever. This may be a case of too little, too late...I haven't had any extra demand for Hellboy yet, aside from the usual demand for the newest Hellboy trade from the regular clientele. But Hellboy is a consistent seller, so even if movie-inspired demand never materializes, it doesn't hurt to have a solid stock of these trades.

  • Why I love my internet pal Dave: Thrown Down A Well Comics.

  • Because some of you are Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fans, I wish to remind you that MST3K creator Joel Hodgson's new project, Cinematic Titanic, has a new release out in DVD and downloadable formats. I spoke about the first release a few months back, and it's a fine collection of "riffing" in the MST tradition. Also, after what I'm assuming was a boatload of complaints, the physical DVD format will be delivered in real DVD packaging this time.

  • And now, more completely unprofessional behavior at our store...Employee Aaron modeling his Speed Racer helmet:

    That helmet makes sounds, by the way. It's like having Pops and the gang inside your brain all the time. "Get out of my head, Chim-Chim, get out!!!"

    And no, the employees don't get paid extra for this. Getting to appear on the site is a perk, my friends.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Yeah, I liked the Ang Lee version, too. 

I'm one of the apparently five people on Earth who liked Ang Lee's Hulk film from a few years ago...I liked the "comic book panel" presentation, I liked the slow, moody build-up, and the focus on the psychological aspects of the Hulk's transformation, I especially liked Hulk versus the Army in the desert...watching that fight was like watching a Herb Trimpe-drawn Hulk comic come to life. The climactic battle was, admittedly, a bit on the jumbled side, but I watched that Hulk film on TV a few months ago...and it holds together a lot better than people seem to remember. Not saying it's perfect, but I don't think it's a bad film, by any means.

And I thought this new Hulk film was pretty good, too. It's hard to say it's a better film, as it's certainly a different film, more in common with the Bill Bixby TV show than with its cinematic predecessor. If pressed, I'd say this new film feels more Hulk-ish, more like what we'd expect from a Hulk film. It meets expectations rather than surpassing them, whereas the previous Hulk film's grasp may have just slightly exceeded its reach, trying to present a Hulk story in a way a potential audience for a Hulk film wasn't willing to accept. A failed experiment, if you will...much like the film origins of the Hulk himself.

God, that was pretentious. Sorry about that.

Anyway, I'm sure you're all going to give me a ration of crap for defending the Ang Lee film, so let's get right down to business and start my SPOILER-iffic obvervations of this new film. The SPOILERS start with the pic of the Hulk leaping down at you, and end when you see the Hulk right up in your face.

  • I liked the extreme shorthand retelling of the Hulk's origin at the beginning of the film. It's mildly different from the origin presented in the previous film...but aside from that, this film can function as a direct sequel to the previous movie, I think, kinda sorta, if that sort of thing worries you. The last film ended in South America, where this film begins, which helps ease the transition. Aside from the origin's details, there aren't any HUGE contradictions between the two films.

  • And if you were put off by the looooong set-up in the Ang Lee flick, you'll be glad to know this new film jumps right into the action and only lets up enough to set up the next bit of action and get all the characters in place. A very fast-paced film...it's just shy of two hours, but doesn't feel it. And the acting is fine...Norton is tormented as Banner, Liv Tyler is the faithful girlfriend, William Hurt is sufficiently gruff as General Ross, Tim Roth chews the scenery only slightly as Blonsky...no one's winning an Oscar, but the melodrama is serviced well.

  • Your gratuitous Stan Lee cameo: Stan accidentally imbibing some of Banner's blood (long story...you saw the movie, you know how). I was hoping for a brief scene of Stan Hulking out, even slightly, but alas, it was not to be. (Stan doesn't manage it here, either.)

  • They really try to evoke memories of the '70s Hulk TV show, via cameos from Lou Ferrigno and the late Bill Bixby (via a TV broadcasting another show of his, The Courtship of Eddie's Father), the use of the signature "movin' along to another town" theme music, having Lou himself provide the voice of the Hulk, some paraphrasing of the show's most famous line ("You wouldn't like me..." etc.), and so on.

    Speaking of which, when I heard Ferrigno was providing the voice, I...well, I'm not sure what I was expecting. I wasn't expecting the Hulk to be giving soliloquies or anything, but I pictured more dialogue than I got. But, really, what the film gave us was enough...less is more, in this case. In fact, his bits of dialogue really sum up what the Hulk character is about: "LEAVE ME ALONE," "HULK SMASH," and "BETTY." There you go...that's the Hulk. Well, the Hulk most people know, anyway.

  • Another TV show reference pops up, paired with a reference to the comics: two witnesses to a Hulk battle are named Jack McGee (the reporter from the TV show...the character in this movie is also a reporter) and Jim Wilson (one of the Hulk's sidekicks from the comic).

  • I did enjoy how they sort of gloss over just how, exactly, a poor, shoeless, begging Banner in Guatemala somehow, within a period of just over two weeks, managed to make it to Virginia, and pick up a pair of shoes along the way. I think we can assume that Banner 1) has had some practice at this sort of thing, and 2) is a SUPER-GENIUS and is able to do things like this with a little bit of effort and brainpower.

  • MIKE'S SEXIST MOMENT (Johanna, avert your eyes!): I spent the first part of the film thinking, "huh, Liv Tyler looks weird" -- until the hotel room scene where she's in the flannel shirt with the wet hair. At that point, I thought "Oh, I get it now," and rescinded my previous "looks weird" observation.


  • A couple of things borrowed from the comics, one obvious, one sorta extrapolated:

    1. The whole "Mr. Green/Mr. Blue" thing from the Bruce Jones run on the title...worked nicely in the film, with a solid payoff introducing a future Hulk villain (more on that later).

    2. That bit at the very end, where it implies, I think, that Bruce is learning to exert some control over his alter ego: it reminded me a bit of the end of Peter David's initial run on the comic, where we see a very in-control Bruce Banner flashing his gamma-green eyes over his sunglasses, and the threat that implies.

    I don't expect to see "The Adventures of Smart Hulk" in the next film or anything, but, if there is a next film, some more movement in that direction would be interesting to see.

  • FREEZE FRAME FUN: I'm certain there are in-jokes in that bit of business in the film where we see e-mails and such whiz by us on the screen like a cheap screensaver. When I rent the DVD, I'm totally going through that frame by frame.

  • I've mentioned in the past where one of my favorite parts of the Ang Lee film was the Hulk making his huge leaps through the desert landscape, finding his own moment of peace. It was a quiet and affecting moment.

    There's a moment sort of like this in the new film, where Betty and the Hulk just sit, side by side, looking at the thunderstorm from a small cave in a cliffside.

    Earlier in that scene, however, I'm sure we were all reminded of Mr. Kochalka's Hulk story.

  • Like Iron Man, the climactic battle features our hero in a life-or-death struggle against an evil and more powerful version of himself. I know this is nothing new in adventure stories...particularly Hollywood-made adventure stories, where everything ends with either "How can I defeat...myself?" or something big owned by the bad guy blowing up. Hopefully there'll be a little more variety in future Marvel films. It's not a big hope, but still.

    Not saying I didn't like the battle, mind you. It was supremely satisfying to see the Hulk just open up and beat the crap out of a monster. I know it was one computer-generated cartoon beating up another computer-generated cartoon, but it was still effectively violent, the characters just real enough to sell the action.

    And it was a nice change to see an ending where the hero is encouraged not to kill the bad guy.

  • Setting up for follow-ups: though it seems unlikely Ed Norton will pop up in sequels (unless he's contractually obligated...I have no idea), we get a brief glimpse of Samuel Stearnes beginning his metamorphosis into longtime Hulk baddie the Leader (and how he clearly Just Doesn't Get It when it comes to the Hulk's potential for destruction vs. salvation), and we get a name-dropping (and usage!) of the Super-Soldier serum, which is, of course, what powered Captain America.

    And of course there's the cameo at the end, which I thought everyone knew about by now but still was an apparently welcome surprise for folks at our viewing. Just down the aisle from us were a couple young kids who were terribly excited that Iron Man just showed up in their Hulk movie. There's your potential audience for that Avengers film, should it happen.

So there you go...overall, a pretty good film, with plenty of entertaining action. Not as good as the Iron Man film, but given the Iron Man movie was far better than anyone could have anticipated, there's no shame in the Incredible Hulk not measuring up.

So, what did you all think? And if you posted reviews on your own site, please drop them in the comments section.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How to get Chris Sims to visit Istanbul.* 


from Condorman #1 (November 1981) - art by Frank Bolle

* Alternate post title: "How to drive all my readers away with yet another mention of Condorman."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Someday I'll start posting about actual comic books again. 

In the interest of accuracy in Progressive Ruin reporting, I would like to state that, upon viewing the film The Cat from Outer Space, my previous inability to suspend disbelief regarding the name of said outer space cat (that name being the all-too-terran "Jake") was an mistake on my part. The cat's name, as given in the film, is "Zunar J5/9 Doric 4-7." "Jake" is the name he adopts to make things easier for his human friends.

Progressive Ruin regrets this error.

By the way, Jake/Zunar J5/9 Doric 4-7 gets a mention in this Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic starring...Willow's cat, Miss Kitty Fantastico. Jake is Miss Kitty's father, you see.

You know, I don't think, in a million years, I would ever have come up with something like this. God bless you, Fanfiction.

That bit about the Kirk/Spock slash fiction from the novelization of the first movie I'd mentioned made the rounds, I see. In response to one discussion of that passage, this LiveJournal user notes that in the book's introduction, supposedly penned by Kirk himself, he downplays the accuracy of the events as presented in the television show. I'd forgotten about that, in the decades since I've last read the book, so I went back to check...and sure enough, that person spoke truth. Here's the passage in question:

"Unfortunately, Starfleet's enthusiasm affected even those who chronicled our adventures, and we were all painted somewhat larger than life, especially myself.

"Eventually, I found that I had been fictionalized into some sort of 'modern Ulysses' and it has been painful to see my command decisions of those years so widely applauded, whereas the plain facts are that ninety-four of our crew met violent deaths during those years - and many of them would still be alive if I had acted either more quickly or more wisely. Nor have I been as foolishly courageous as depicted. I have never happily invited injury; I have disliked in the extreme every duty circumstance which has required me to risk my life. But there appears to be something in the nature of depicters of popular events which leads them into the habit of exaggeration."

WOW. This passage not only kinda/sorta implies that there's some form of Star Trek show/virtual-adventure/holo-book/space-documentary within the Star Trek universe itself, but that at least some of it is horse hockey. I wonder if the in-universe actor who portrays Kirk is as...well, quirky as our own beloved Shatner.

A big thanks to reader Jeff, who sent along a scan of his copy of the Condorman novelization:

I've looked up info on this movie all over the web, and even though I know I saw the film, nothing rings any bells with me. But perhaps that's for the best, considering.

That's pretty loose usage of the word "major" there, too.

Sigh. I'd meant to leave the movie novelization stuff out of this week's postings, but What Can You Do?

Just noticed something as I was poking through the site archives:

Posted on April 24th, 2005:

"Where's my Death in the Family action figure set? I want a Joker with springloaded 'beating Robin with a crowbar' action!"

Currently available from DC Comics in the Batman and Son action figure set: Joker figure with crowbar accessory. Not springloaded, I might add, so that if you want to have Joker beat your Robin figure, you can't just press a button and have the Joker figure do the work for you. You have to get involved, get your hands dirty...you have to guide the arm of the Joker, up and down, over and over again. The sin, the guilt, will be yours, and yours alone.

This may not be recommended play action for the Batman and Son: Joker action figure.

Whoops, that came awfully close to posting about comics. Here, have a picture of Vincent Price from Tales of Terror (1962):

I recently watched Tales of Terror, adapting Edgar Allen Poe (on a flip DVD with another Vincent Price horror anthology film, Twice Told Tales, with adaptations of Nathaniel Hawthorne stories). It's a lot of fun, with some great costars... it's hard to go wrong with Basil Rathbone as an evil hypnotist, but the real treat is "The Black Cat," costarring Peter Lorre as the drunken, cuckolded husband who swears revenge upon Price's Fortunato. It's actually quite funny, in a dark humored sort of way, and the scene where the two compete in a wine-tasting contest made me laugh out loud. That still above is from this segment, where Lorre's character calls Price a coward...that's some haughty indignation at play on that face.

I threw an Amazon link for this DVD set in the sidebar, if you're interested. (And if, you know, you need something to watch while playing your new 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons set, also linked in the sidebar. Or if you needed something to watch on your brand new high-end DVD player, which you're welcome to search for and buy through the search box, there.)

(Okay, I'll stop that now.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

It's sort of hard to believe 'Mazing Man was even published in the first place. 

Yes, it's something else from Mike's Closet of Stuff Any Sane Person Would Have Thrown Away by Now...a letter that accompanied a free 'Mazing Man poster, mailed from DC Comics on July 29th, 1986:


The poster was sent out to respondents to another one of DC's fan surveys, and according to this letter, DC received a far larger response than expected. Apparently part of the deal of sending in the survey was getting a replacement copy of the "DC Releases" flier the survey appeared in, for, you know, the fans who were collecting the advertising fliers, which I'm not going to make fun of because, well, look what I'm posting about today.

I like this quote about outside reaction to this survey's results:

"...Doug Herzog, the News Feature Producer from MTV, read thru 20 responses and decided it was time that MTV began doing feature stories on comic books. THANKS FANS!"

Those must have been some responses! "I'm 16 to 24 years old with an enormous amount of disposable income and am willing to buy anything -- anything -- advertised between broadcasts of videos for, say, Falco's 'Rock Me Amadeus' and the Bangles' 'Walk Like an Egyptian.'"

My MTV viewing was fairly minimal, so I have no idea what stories they may have run at the time (though I'm pretty sure MTV, like pretty much every other pop culture-related broadcast, joined in on the late '80s Bat-mania that accompanied Tim Burton's first Batman film). If you saw any comic stories on MTV prior to the whole Bat-hoohar, please share those memories with us in the comments section.

Some hope is held out for 'Mazing Man's survival:

"If the sales increase by just a small amount in the next month the book will continue on the schedule."

Even a Frank Miller Dark Knight cameo on the cover of #12 didn't save the series...or maybe it did, sorta, since there were three follow-up 'Mazing Man specials.

You know, 'Mazing Man was a cute, funny and, above all else, gentle comic. A comic about a guy who dresses up like a superhero and helps out around the neighborhood, his best friend is a comic book writer who, for whatever reason, looks like a dog, the relationships they have with their friends...it was silly and affecting, all in the right proportions. It's been off the racks for twenty years, and I miss it still...there was nothing quite like it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Look on Wimpy's works, ye mighty, and despair! 

from Popeye #41 (July-Sept 1957)

You know, all things considered, I'd totally work there.

In other news:
  • We've sold out of Trinity, DC Comics' new weekly title, two weeks in a row. Guess we slightly underestimated the demand for a third new weekly title, even though orders were up even over the last couple of issues of Countdown (which mostly sold strongly, but still experienced a sales increase near the end, there).

    We've also had no increase in interest in Hulk comics. Reaction to the film seems to waver between "liked it a lot!" and "eh, it was okay for what it was," but either way, it doesn't seem to be encouraging anyone to pop in and look for Hulk books.

  • MIKE GETS ALONG WITH THE CUSTOMERS: Had a couple of fellows drop by on Saturday from out of town, and they indicated they were readers of Progressive Ruin, which brought us to this conversation:

    Customer: "Yeah, we've been reading about this shop on your site!"

    Me: "And you still came by?"

    But they were very nice, and bought lots of stuff (always appreciated!) and if you guys are reading this...thanks! And nice to meet you!

    Also, I had another customer later in the day remark on my air of authority. Finally, my graying temples are beginning to pay off.

  • Pal Dorian threatened to do it, and do it he...er, did, as he brought me a copy of this movie on DVD:

    And to think I actually read the novelization for this. Ah, well, I guess I can give the actual film a go.

    I should note that they're tryin' awfully hard on the back of the DVD case to sell me on this movie's wackiness:

    "Cosmic comedy is on the prowl when an extraterrestrial cat named Jake is forced to crash-land his spaceship on Earth. Jake then proceeds to lead a scientist, his girlfriend, and a team of baffled scientists on endless escapades during his unscheduled and hilarious visit!"

    Really, from all that, the one thing I have the most problem with is that the cat...the cat from another planet, mind you...that the cat's name is the totally extraterrestrial-sounding "Jake." Yeah, I know that's a dumb thing to be stuck on, but there I am. Go figure.

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