mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, July 19, 2008


No one loves the Badrock Skydisc.

No sales on eBay:

No sales in the shop:

But priceless in our hearts:

Oh, Badrock Skydisc, there will always be room on our shelves for you.

There pretty much has to be.

Doesn't help that it looks like a shapeless blob in scans and under store lighting. Looks okay when you have it outside on a sunny day...because there's nothing cooler than standing outside a comic book store waving a card around, trying to catch the right angle of hologram vs. sunlight so you can see a little blurry image of this guy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The obligatory Watchmen trailer post. 

Hey, CW asked. Who am I to deny CW?

I'm sure most of you have seen the Watchmen movie trailer by now, either with the new Bat-movie (it is with the new Batman movie, isn't it?) or online. And having watched it, I think I'm a little more optimistic about the film. It certainly looks spot on, as far as sets and such, and nearly everything presented in the trailer is recognizable as a scene right out of the comic. And now that we finally get to see Dr. Manhattan...well, he's a little more glowy than I imagined, but that's okay. The effect looks pretty darn good, and Manhattan's appearance is equal parts creepy and melancholy.

So it looks good, and, judging from the trailer, it seems to be hitting the story beats. Whether it manages to capture one of Watchmen's primary elements (the examination/deconstruction of the superhero genre) remains to be seen, though I argued in too long a post that the appearance of the costumes may...may...infer such an examination may indeed take place.

We'll find out eventually. But in the meantime...hey, neat trailer. The film looks like it might be watchable. And I didn't even hate that song that was in it.

But whatever...here are the important bits I'm sure you all were wondering about, and are answered in the trailer:

1. We do seem to be getting nekkid Dr. Manhattan.

2. The blots on Rorschach's mask do move. It's subtle, but it's there.

Also, the trailer ends with Laurie and Manhattan on Mars, in Doc's floating glass castle. I'm very glad that scene's still in the film, and I hope not too much was cut in the process of translation from page to screen.

And I still can't believe they gave Night Owl a smart-alecky talking robot owl companion. That's going too far.

ADDITIONAL LINKAGE: A moldy oldie from this site's archives - compare and contrast Dr. Manhattan and Baby Huey (at the end of that day's post).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I finally found a reason to mention Phooey Duck. 

Released Wednesday was Scott McCloud's big fat Zot! trade paperback, AKA The Complete Black and White Collection. It reprints issues 11 through 36 (more or less...I'll explain in a moment) of McCloud's much-beloved Zot! series from Eclipse Comics, and flipping through the book...well, it reminded me of just how much I enjoyed this comic.

I remember there was a bit of trauma at the time, when the book returned after a brief hiatus having transitioned from a full-color, (mostly) light-hearted sci-fi superhero romance to a much moodier, much more emotionally-invested sequence of stories richly illustrated in black and white. Well, I think we got over it right quick, and now it seems strange (at least to me) to think of Zot! as ever having been in color. Not that there's anything wrong with the color issues, but they feel more like a prelude to the the real meat of the series. The characters' relationships are explored in greater detail, the villains are fleshed out, McCloud takes more storytelling chances...and there's still plenty of room for silliness. It's a rewarding experience, and one I recommend to anyone who hasn't yet had the pleasure.

Don't worry about not having those earlier issues...issues one through ten have been reprinted, in color and in black and white trade paperbacks. They're out of print now, but a search of the eBay or Amazon should turn them up. You may be able to track down the individual comics, too. But even if you don't, the book stands on its own well enough, and McCloud himself provides copious notes in the volume to fill in any gaps that remain (as well as providing historical, technical, and publishing details behind each issue).

There are a couple of omissions that should be noted. There is a two-part "fill-in" story of sorts that was illustrated by Chuck Austen that was left out, specifically because it wasn't illustrated by McCloud. Plus, it was self-contained, so you're not missing any subplotty stuff. You do, however, get McCloud's original thumbnails for the story, so you do at least get to read it, sorta, in reduced form. Also not included are the Matt Feazell "Zot! in Dimension 10 1/2" stick figure stories, which is too bad since those are a hoot. However, McCloud promises an eventual reprinting of both the Austen story and the 10 1/2 stuff, which would be nice.

Anyway, short version: Zot! - good comic. You should read.

In other news:
  • Inspired by my post on the topic, Richard over at the Balloon Bellows has posted his own "Final Fate of the Peanuts Gang," reprinted from his late '90s Bastard Tales comic. Follow-up posts feature more "Final Fates" of other comic strip characters, so check it out.

  • "Only one fiendish fellow is nefarious enough to wed the lyrics of ABBA with images from the '60s Batman movie, old chum...and that fearsome Photoshopper is none other than...pal Dorian!"

    "HoLOLy internet meme!"

  • Received my copy of Helen Killer #3 this week...too bad we were shorted on our order of #2 and Diamond never was able to provide replacements.

    Luckily it's still available directly from the publisher, but just the same, kind of a drag.

  • Just watched National Treasure: Book of Secrets via the Netflix last night...I've said this before about the previous National Treasure movie, but darn if this doesn't feel like a Carl Barks Disney adventure comic, only with Nicolas Cage and, um, whoever those other people were, instead of ducks. I could just see Huey, Dewey, Louie and Phooey calling out obscure American historical facts to Unca Nicolas from their Junior Woodchucks guidebook as they crisscross the country looking for treasures and artifacts.

    Now I'm picturing Nicolas Cage with a duck bill being pursued by Ed Harris dressed as a Beagle Boy, and that's my signal to end this post.

Coming up from behind. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

I'm gonna try to keep this short, because 1) I honestly don't have a whole lot to say about this new Hellboy film, and 2) I've got a New Comics Day to deal with in the morning, and I'd like to get some sleep prior to that.

But, overall: Hellboy II is a fun successor to the previous film, with lots of imaginative visuals. The plot's paper thin, with very broadly-painted emotional strokes, but it moves along at a speedy pace, and it's a pleasant enough way to spend a couple hours. Plus, Ron Perlman's portrayal of Hellboy carries the film...he's always great to watch, though Seth MacFarlane's vocal work for Johann threatens to steal the show -- but more on that in the spoilers section.

Speaking of the spoilers section...look, the SPOILERS SECTION. Everything between this group shot of the BPRD gang and the pic of Hellboy and Abe in the headgear is spoiler territory, partner, so skip ahead if you don't want to know.

See you on the other side:

  • This is a lot funnier film than the comic book source material, probably by necessity. The comics could be awfully oppressive if directly translated, and humor can be very humanizing, needed particularly if your lead is a big red horned devil.

  • The removal of Agent Myers from the mix was a good idea (and is referenced briefly in the film), as it returns the focus of the story to Hellboy. Agent Myers was our "point of view" character in the first film, which was unnecessary...Hellboy is our point-of-view character, the skeptical voice, the one with whom we must sympathize when faced with bizarre monsters and annoying bureaucrats. Having Agent Myers around divided our sympathies...or more accurately, "why are we wasting film on Myers, when we could be having more footage of Hellboy?"

    Anyway, he's gone, and we get more Hellboy. Good.

  • So, I haven't read any other reviews or articles on the film...I got enough spoilers just being in the store, thanks...but was Seth MacFarlane deliberately mimicking the voice of classic vocal artist Paul Frees? He almost certainly must have been.

    The voice was very cartoony, and seems almost out of place at first...but it's done with enough skill and humor that I was won over quickly enough.

    Speaking of which...Employee Aaron mentioned that Johann and Hellboy haven't met in the comics, which, far as I know, is right. Just thought that was interesting.

  • People kept bringing up the "forest elemental" bit of business to me, for some reason. It was a neat visual, making me wish for a new Swamp Thing movie and what could be done with it.

    I did appreciate the sense of loss surrounding the conclusion of the elemental fight, in regards to another thing from a magical realm, the last of its kind, falling before the needs of humanity. It was a strangely beautiful scene, with a little more depth than yet another "monster defeated by the good guy" battle. The "magic goes away" theme is sort of implied throughout the film, but it was nice to see it directly addressed.

  • The spoiler I mentioned the other day in my Twitter thingie? It was the pregnancy thing. Okay, not much of a spoiler, really, but I'd rather have heard about that from the film, not in the store immediately after my saying "I HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM YET." What, was I not speaking English?

    I don't know how I feel about this particular plot element, though. Clearly this is way off from the characters' relationship in the comics, and I realize the movies are their own thing...but I think giving Hellboy and Liz a couple of Hellbabies may be getting a little too off-model.

  • A couple of story elements directly affecting Hellboy: first, the turning of the public against Hellboy because of his monstrous appearance makes sense in the film's context, I suppose, but it feels out of place to those of us who've read the comics. For the most part folks just kinda take Hellboy in stride in the funnybooks, which I think is pretty amusing. The "good guy persecuted because of his looks" thing we've seen plenty of times already, and didn't really need to get it again here.

    Second, I appreciated the reminder that Hellboy is, despite his intentions, possibly the source of humanity's destruction. Dropping hints for a potential Hellboy III, maybe? Maybe that can be the "A" plot, while the "B" plot will be about Hellboy trying to put diapers on his new Hellbabies, but look out! The baby peed on Hellboy! Ha! And the diaper he put on the kid? It just slipped right off, because Hellboy didn't do it right! Wacky!

  • You will leave the film humming Barry Manilow. DARN YOU, DEL TORO! DARN YOU TO HECK!

Er, that was longer than intended. Anyway, what did you think? Let me know in the comments...I'm goin' to bed!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I know I've been relying on the "wacky panel scans" thing over the last week, but I've not had the time to devote to internet shenanigans recently, so sometimes you just have to go back to the ol' dependables.

Old Batman comics, in particular, have a certain stronger appeal to me when it comes to peculiar visuals. Not to say that, for example, Superman books didn't have their fair share of oddities, but there's some ineffable quality to a picture of Batman and Robin in their jungle outfits that rings a note of amusing wrongness in the viewer's head:

And the look of the villains...I'm not even talking about the headliners, like the Joker or the Penguin, but the one-offs, the forgotten thugs and hoodlums and walk-on ne'er-do-wells...there's a particular sense of odd beauty to them as well:

But it is hard to deny the temptation to whip out a panel from near the end of a story, leaving the uninitiated to wonder just how Batman ended up waist-deep in a mechanical sea monster's mouth whilst wearing a kilt:

Some things, however, require neither preamble nor explanation:

Ain't a person alive what can't appreciate Batman's punching justice.

images from Batman Annual #2 (1961) - reprinted from earlier sources

Monday, July 14, 2008

Batman, buttons, and Inferno, oh my! 

Hey, remember when this was a problem?

It's seem strange to me now, that a Batman button set with a print run of 10,000 units wouldn't be enough to meet demand...but this is from a DC Comics order form from the late 1980s, when Batfever was in the air.

This is the set being solicited here...eventually I'll replace that link with, er, a scan of my own copy of this set. I don't recall off the top of my head if they had to go to a second printing on this set or not...memory tells me "no," and that the first set in this series was the only one that had a second printing. If someone out there recalls better than I do, please chime in.

At any rate, for a while there we were seeing these sets pop up in every collection that was brought into the shop through the 1990s. Unopened, dusty, the buttons unworn and unloved. I wonder how many of these button sets ever were actually opened up.

None of these Bat-button sets really sell for anything anymore, so don't ask me what they're worth, as the answer will be "diddly squat." (Or, in this case, seventy-nine cents.)

From another late '80s retailer solicitation form, this time from Marvel Comics:

It's nice that Marvel warned that this was going to be a "Red Skies" crossover, with little or nothing to do with the main "Inferno" storyline. Didn't stop 'em from throwing the "Inferno" logo on the cover, but...well, can't blame 'em too much, I guess. I imagine that this singling-out of Doctor Strange #2 in the solicits regarding its Inferno connection may have encouraged extra orders from some retailers as much as it may have discouraged them from others. Probably leaned more toward "encouraged," which likely helped this then-new Doctor Strange series lessen its second-issue order dip from its first issue numbers.

Again, I don't really recall our experience, exactly...it's been nearly 20 years, after all. I do remember that this Doctor Strange series was a bit of the hot item, at least locally, with the first issue acquiring some demand. The first issue still sells, on occasion. The second "Inferno" ish...not so much.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A little something for your unquiet dreams. 




stills from the Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938: Vol. 1 DVD set

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