mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Don't worry, we didn't take extra space away from other new books so we could do this. 

Not that we really had that much space to spare this time, but I couldn't resist racking the new issue of Hulk like so:

It's a real attention-getter to have that staring back at you from the rack at about eye-level.

The two Final Crisis covers grab the eye as well, partially because 1) it's a striking design, and 2) that odd-looking Flash image:

NOT PICTURED: The Trinity covers that join up into one large image, since we apparently sold out of our reorder of the first issue. Whoa nelly.

Friday, June 27, 2008

"16 Images #1's." 

We had a box of comics just dumped on us at the shop on Thursday...99% of it was stuff that just went straight to our bargain bins. And in the box was a particular batch of comics, bagged and taped together into a bundle, with that piece of paper above taped to the top bag with a list of the contents within.

I think we ended up dumping all those comics into the bargain bin, too, except for the Spawn #1.

Things Youngblood #1 had that most comics haven't: a huge line of customers outside the door of the comic shop before it opened, anxious to buy that comic. (I think Superman #75 and another Liefeld masterpiece, X-Force #1, also had lines-before-we-opened type sales.) Looking at Youngblood now, it's hard to imagine that something like this could generate so much excitement.

It was once a hot, in-demand comic.

Now it's in the bargain box.

And unlike what I sorta implied here, Darker Image #1 didn't just come with a Bloodwulf card, as the copy in this collection had a Maxx card. So each copy of the comic was packed with one of probably 3 cards (the other likely card being Deathblow by Jim Lee). I know I have spare copies of Darker Image in the back room, but I never got around to double checking which trading card came with what comic.

Here's a thought that occurred to me yesterday: So, you know that KISS magazine that Marvel Comics published...the one that had real KISS blood mixed into the ink used to print that mag. I wondered, if there were a G.G. Allin comic back when he was still alive, what he would have put into the ink used to print his comic. Frankly, if all he put in there was blood, we'd be lucky.

Yeah, I know..."ick."

Processing the order of a mail-order customer, one who gets his shipments on a bi-monthly or quarterly basis, I noticed something. In the three month period since I've last shipped to this customer, we've had:

4 issues of X-Men First Class
2 issues of JSA
5 issues of Mighty Avengers
4 issues of New Avengers
5 issues of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
3 issues of Star Wars: Dark Times
2 issues of Star Wars: Rebellion
5 issues of X-Men Legacy

And no issues of Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk, in case you were wondering.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Progressive Ruin Presents...the End of Civilization. 

If you get caught between the moon and New York City, the best that you can do, the best that you can do is to once again, journey with me through the newest issue of the Diamond Previews catalog (the July 2008 edition). Find your copy and follow along! (Previous entries in the sidebar, as always.)

p. 128 - New Gods Series 2 Action Figures:

For full authenticity, the Superman figure should come with Murphy Anderson or Al Plastino-styled alternate heads.

p. 140 - Youngblood: Bloodsport #2:

Well, gang, we're just gonna have to face it...one way or another, we're gonna be dealing with Youngblood for the rest of our lives. There is no escape. It's like the black mold of the comics industry...the only way we'll be rid of it is to burn the whole industry down to the ground and start again.

p. 158 - Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! figures:

Traditionally, the only figure in any given McFarlane action figure assortment that sells well is the female figure.

If the "Cindy Lou Who" turns out to be the hot seller...that's it. I give up all hope.

p. 257 - Lone Ranger #13 "Authentix" Edition:

I'm just a little amused that they saw the need to run an image of the blank cover. (Yes, I'm aware of the irony of my running it, too.)

p. 412-3 - Costume shirts:

Now, there are a whole bunch of shirts across these two pages that duplicate costumes from comics and movies:

There's an even more general purpose shirt, if you want to...uh, dress as a gentleman with an interesting story to tell, apparently:

But I had ideas for a couple more costume shirts that may be a bit more relevant to the comics consumer. For example, my "Comic Book Internet Message Board Participant" costume:

I mean, judging by how people are acting because DC honcho Dan DiDio...I don't know, peed in their Wheaties, I guess...they must all be wearing something like this, I imagine.

In the interest of fairness (a rare occurrence in my "End of Civilization" posts), here is my "Comics Retailer" costume shirt:

I don't know what that slogan means, either. Ask former employee Nathan...he's the one who came up with it.

p. 416 - Marvel Punisher Belt Buckle:

When the dreams of Chris Sims become reality.

p. 418 - The X-Files Movie Mulder & Scully Black T-Shirt:

Man, has it been long enough that nostalgic retro-merchandise for X-Files is now being released? It doesn't seem like it was that long ag...huh? What's that you say? There's a new X-Files movie...? C'mon, seriously?

p. 422 - Classic Battlestar Galactica Lucifer 12-Inch Action Figure:

I'd never noticed how rich and full Lucifer's lips were before. I was going to make a "why does a robot need lips" joke, or say something about Lucifer, hearing that Galactica was popular again, went in for a Botox treatment to snazz himself up for the public...but no, he's always kinda looked like that. Huh.



p. 450 - 30 Days of Night Mini Vampire Skull Set:

I don't care how you'd try to explain it to the neighbors, this is still a display featuring two human-ish skulls. It's gonna look kinda weird next to the good china in your display case.

p. 454 - The Ultimates Thor's Hammer 1/1 Scale Replica:

...and Thor Lord of Asgard 1/1 Scale Helmet Replica:

I'm of two minds on this. On one hand, I'd give nearly anything to see someone come into our store wearing that helmet and wielding that hammer. On the other hand...I'm not sure I'm ready to deal with someone in our store wearing that helmet and wielding that hammer.

p. 482 - Doctor Who Dalek Voice Changer Helmet

OH COME ON. I realize there's no way to look cool wearing one of these Doctor Who voice changer helmets...but seriously, the kids wearing the other voice changer helmets are totally going to pick on the kid wearing this voice changer helmet for looking too much like a dork.

p. 501 - Secret Wishes costumes:

Due to the "Fairness in Making Fun of Previews Items" Blog Distribution Act, this page is being reserved for the use of Chris Sims.

p. 503 - The Ghost Writer Automatic Writing Kit:

"The Ghost Writer Automatic Writing Kit is their newest invention, and with it they once again share their secrets for initiating communication with the psychic universe. Thanks to a specially designed planchette, it allows information to stream directly from the spirit world and through the user's fingertips. This technique, known as automatic writing or trace drawing, is a well-known vehicle for channeling books, art, and music, interpreting dreams, unblocking memories, and solving life's most intractable problems."

I am so glad the Previews staff put this thing under the "Fantasy" heading.

p. 504 - Piratey stuff:

Said piratey stuff is accompanied by this Previews art slug:

"Pi-radical?" Good Lord. Can we consider this the death knell for the whole "Talk Like A Pirate" thing?

p. 507 - Smallville Zor-El Blue Kryptonite Ring on Chain:

Not mentioned in the solicit: ring totally controls your Bizarro problem.

But really, that's just a ring with a blue stripe of...something on it. You've got to be a really hardcore Smallville fan to just look at it and say, "whoa, hey, is that Zor-El's ring you're wearing? No way!"

p. 510 - Gears of War Cog Tags:

Please tell me those aren't just machine parts on a chain.

p. 526 - Munchkin Chibithulhu Plush Green:

They've been doing cute and bizarre variations on H.P. Lovecraft's terrifying monster for years now, but, really, I think with this we've reached Cthulhu's cuteness saturation point:

Any cuter we'll achieve some sort of singularity, I'm sure.

p. 528 - Family Guy Life:

So I presume that at various points during the game, there are flashbacks to other board games the Family Guy characters (or someone famous, loosely caricatured) may have played, and we all pretend it's funny?

Marvel Previews p. 99 - X-Men Magik - Storm & Illyana Premiere HC:

Now presenting, Things That Don't Need Hardcover Editions:

Marvel Previews p. 101 - Marvel Boy Premiere HC:

Now presenting, Things That Don't Necessarily Need A Hardcover Edition, But I'll Accept as a Hardcover Edition Since The Paperback Version Screwed up the Double-Page Layouts and Hopefully They've Got That Fixed by Now:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reading this Batman panel made me feel like I was going crazy. 

from Detective Comics #196 (June 1953) by Bill Finger, Dick Sprang & Charles Paris -
reprinted in Batman #223 (Jul/Aug 1970)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

So spend lots of money at your local comic book store this week. 

I was listening to a handful of my George Carlin recordings on Monday as I was working around the house, and I noticed something in one of the CDs that I had forgotten about. The CD booklet and tray card for his 1999 release You Are All Diseased feature video stills of Carlin, with various quotes from folks like G.K. Chesterson and Nietzsche superimposed over them. And one quote, the one on the tray card, the one that you see through the clear plastic of the case when you pull up the CD, is this one:

I have no idea if the quote was chosen by the label's art director and run by Carlin for inclusion, or if Carlin himself was a Reid Fleming fan...I hope Carlin was a Reid Fleming fan, because, honestly, if any comic book was tailor-made for Carlin, it was that one.

In other news:
  • Marvel is putting out a royal ass-load of comics this week, including every major Avengers title they publish, both Uncanny X-Men and X-Men, both their First Class titles, a good number of their mainline superhero titles (Daredevil, Captain America, Fantastic Four)...about thirty something in total.

    Our Man in Canada, Chris Butcher, wonders if Marvel is trying to push everyone else off the stands, particularly DC (whose second installment of their major event title Final Crisis is due for release this week). This concern regarding Marvel's market-flooding has popped up in the past, once or twice. I have here Comics Journal #86 (Nov '83), with the article "The Comics Glut of 1983." Where it says "Comics" in that title, read "Marvel" because they're almost exclusively speaking about what Marvel had been doing to the direct market. There are complaints from other publishers regarding what they see as Marvel's attempts to control the retailer and distributor dollar, particularly with the several high-end, Baxter paper reprints they were producing at the time. The article features a quote from then-Captial Comics editor Rich Bruning, who says:

    "Marvel, in particular, has decided if they dump enough material every week, the average comic buyer would spend all their money on them, and forego the 'competition.'"

    Like Dirk says, the current round of Marvel's overloading of their shipping weeks may simply be poor planning...how often have I complained about Marvel putting every Avengers title out in the same week, or every Wolverine title? But the large number of variant cover reprints they are pumping out, whether or not they're necessary...that only furthers the impression that Marvel is simply pushing books out the door to take away rack space from everyone else. For example...was there really a need for a third printing of Secret Invasion? I didn't think a second printing was really required.

    'Course, Marvel can run its business any way it likes. It's in business to make money, and if one of their strategies is to crank out so many books that they dominate retail resources to the detriment of other companies...hey, that's competition for you. But in an industry as relatively tiny and fragile as the periodical comics business, where your primary method of getting your product into the hands of consumers are little independently-owned niche shops with limited cash flow...well, hopefully there will be some rethinking of the "get every book we publish out this week" strategy. If it's even a strategy.

    So, just sayin' that the perception that Marvel is purposefully flooding the market with mostly unnecessary product to crowd out other books is nothing new, whether they're doing it purposefully or not. If you think that's what they're doing, best way to stop that is to, as they say, vote with your dollars. We passed up a couple of Marvel's recent reprints because they were so entirely unneeded we had a hard time justifying buying even a handful for the shelf. (I can use that money to order more reprints of, say, Fell, which is a constant seller.) And as time, and "second printing variants," go on, we find that even the folks that seek out the variant covers are beginning to pass on the reprints.

    In conclusion: sometimes it sucks to be a retailer. But you probably knew that.

  • Related: in the previous issue of the Comics Journal, #85, Gary Groth discusses Marvel's exploitation of the marketplace and how it was even making the distributors testy. He notes that one distributor, in his order advisory column, starts off his paragraph about Marvel's Generic Comic #1 with the sentence "We are really tired of Marvel pulling this crap on us." Hard to imagine Diamond Comics doing something like that now.

  • I saw this New York Times article about the San Diego Con via Johanna, and it sorta confirms what I half-suspected about San Diego's attitude towards the convention...that it's more endured than appreciated. I'm sure not everyone feels that way, but given the mayor's comment (for which he apologized later), I suspect the feeling is more widespread than people would like to admit.

  • Okay, just so I'm not Mr. Depressing-Pants, here are some fun HeroesCon 2008 reports from the mighty and powerful crimefighting team of Chris "The Hammer" Sims and Dr. "The Anvil" K. They did...things...there. Horrible things. Unspeakable. So enjoy!

Monday, June 23, 2008

"They're all over me like stink on poop!" 

So I was rooting around in the store's back room and turned up a copy of Darker Image #1, Image Comics' aborted anthology book. But not just any copy, oh no...your standard issue, full color, polybagged release of this comic is about as common as a really common thing that's common. I'm pretty sure the regular version had a print run larger than any given issue of TV Guide. Or The Bible.

But this is the RARE! VARIANT! L@@K! HOT! black and white edition of Darker Image, my friends, stripping the interior stories of color and sporting a snazzy embossed foil logo (which comes out a bit dark in the scan). I don't remember what hoops we had to jump through to be gifted with one of these, but, well, we apparently did.

And apparently we've been stuck with it ever since, which doesn't wholly surprise me. Darker Image tanked when it came out, and given this was the early '90s, love 'n' comics speculation were in the air, and the investors, smelling "turkey" all over this book, avoided buying even the RARE! HOT! limited edition variant. Then the market crash came, and any hope of selling Darker Image went away.

As the years passed, however, a market did sort of appear for this particular title, as one of the stories featured within was The Maxx. For whatever reason...strength of the title itself, or pushed along by the short-lived MTV animated series...The Maxx still has an audience to this very day. The trades sell, the back issues still sell...and if you point out that Darker Image has the Maxx in it (or just drop a copy or two into The Maxx bin), they'll move.

Certainly no one is picking it up for Jim Lee's Deathblow story, and I doubt there are any Lobo...er, Bloodwulf completists out there seeking out this hard-to-find appearance:

Yeah, removing the color really did this story some favors.

So, anyway...Darker Image #1. The cover's paper stock is much nicer on the variant versus the regular edition, and this version didn't come polybagged with a Bloodwulf trading card, thankfully.

Something else I found digging around the store:

I miss this era of Valiant Comics, with their wrestling mags and their Nintendo comics. I could totally sell Nintendo comics, still...customers ask me for Mario Bros. comics all the time.

I never get asked for wrestling comics, by the way...but I enjoy the sheer goofiness of these Valiant ones.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

George Carlin (1937 - 2008). 

So long, George.

Here's George talking about his famous Seven Words list. Not Safe for Wo...ah, screw it, even if you're at work, PLAY IT LOUD:

Two more items from Mike's closet. 

A sticker advertising DC's short-lived imprint starring Archie Comics' hero characters, from 1991. Well, I liked Impact Comics. Enough to have a complete set.

Yes, a complete set. Of Impact Comics. ...What can I tell you?

Forget The Love Guru...there's all the romance you need.



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