mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, August 30, 2008

"...Guaranteed to make the Sphinx giggle." 

Some period Herbie news, from The Comic Reader #28 (August 1964)...please excuse the scan, as the originals are very faded mimeographed pages and it took some finagling to make it readable:

Here's another snippet of news, this time from The Comic Reader #20 (October 1963), in which TCR editor Jerry Bails announces another planned 'zine:

I don't know that this ever came out...a quick Googling reveals no evidence...but man, would I have loved to have seen it. (EDIT: Okay, I know he was likely joking, but I had to Google it in case it was actually a real thing. I mean, wouldn't you want to see something like this?)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Throwing babies into wood chippers is a bad thing. 

"Well, since there are so many babies, you have to expect a few are going to end up in wood chippers."

"You have to throw the occasional baby into a wood chipper, which will give all those times you don't throw a baby into a wood chipper that much more integrity."

"Why are you against parents playing with their babies?"

"Look, there are millions of babies in the world, and only three or four have been thrown into wood chippers. Clearly you've made some kind of rounding error if you think this is worth getting upset about."

"I'm far too important and busy and above all this to be wasting my time explaining to you why I disagree with your stand on wood chipper maintenance, but I'm going to post a half-dozen overwrought responses anyway before throwing a hissy fit and giving up, all the while steadfastly refusing to address your actual point."

"People who own wood chippers should be free to throw whatever they want into them, and who are you to tell them otherwise?"

"Why do you hate wood chipper manufacturers?"


He's getting the stitches out today, by the way. 

I didn't mention this earlier, because I wasn't sure if Employee Aaron wanted me to say anything about it...but he's finally come back to work, and after checking with him, I'll go ahead and clue you all in. Late last week, while driving to work, Aaron was run off the road by another driver (who, by the way, didn't bother stopping). Aaron's car was totaled, with both air bags deploying, and Aaron himself took a nasty knock to the head which required stitches. From his phone call to me minutes after the accident: "Yeah, uh, I was told that I hit the rear view mirror with my head." If you gotta be told that, chances are you've been knocked for a pretty good loop.

Anyway, after taking a couple of days off to recover, Aaron is more or less good as new, save for the seven metal stitches embedded in his scalp. At the very least, he doesn't appear any goofier than usual. But he's in good spirits, and he's otherwise in about Fine to Very Fine condition, with some light cover scuffing and minor wear at the staples, so we're all thankful for that. And special thanks to former employee Kid Chris for filling in for Aaron while he recovered.

Pal Dorian bought Aaron some "Get Well Soon" gifts, including a hat with which Aaron may, quote, "cover his hideous disfigurement." Actually, it's quite the snappy hat. It makes Aaron look like Andy Capp.

Unfortunately, Aaron forgot to e-mail me the photos of his stitching that he took with his cell phone camera, so I'll have to gross you all out later.

EDIT: Here is a picture of Employee Aaron's frowny face just prior to getting the staples removed:

And here is a shot of the staples themselves...no blood, but may not be for the squeamish or people who hate slightly blurry photos.

In other news:
  • Virgin Comics has shut down its New York offices, though perhaps there's a chance for some form of revival in the Los Angeles area. Now, this company never sold incredibly well for us, but it had a small following at our store and we always managed to move a few copies of each title.

    Ah, well. They didn't publish anything I was particularly interested in, but Virgin generally had good production values and published an attractive product...and its always a shame when a few of my customers find themselves suddenly without some of the comics they enjoyed reading. I always worry about the impact of publishing failures like this, making my customers more cautious about investing their time, money, and interest in new titles from new publishers.

  • Yesterday was Jack Kirby's birthday. He would have been 91 years old.

    Tom Spurgeon assembled an epic sampling of the King's work, which is certainly worth your attention. And former Kirby cohort Mark Evanier says this in his tribute to the man's birthday:

    "...If you had his phone number — and everyone did — you could call up, talk to him and maybe even get an invite to drop by the house for coffee."

    Not an exaggeration. Kirby lived out his later years in Thousand Oaks, which is just over the hill from where I'm at...well, okay, it's about a half hour drive, but still, pretty close. And more than a couple of times I've flipped open the phone book, looked at the listing for "KIRBY Jack" and looked at that phone number.

    I never called that number, but I've heard stories at the store from folks who did...who chatted with him on the phone, or even got to visit him at his house. I never felt comfortable enough to do either of those things...but I did at least get to meet Kirby at a local convention, shake his hand, and chat with him and his wife Roz for a minute or two.

    "Shake his hand." I say that like I just shook the hand of a mere mortal, of just any ordinary person.

    I got to shake the hand that created and drew Captain America, the Hulk, Darkseid and the New Gods, Galactus and the Silver Surfer, Iron Man, Captain Victory, the Boy Commandos, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Challengers of the Unknown, Devil Dinosaur, the Demon, the Fighting Fetus, and countless others. (And I'm not kidding about the Fighting Fetus...you can read my support of that character at the link.)

    The hand that drew the first romance comic book. The hand that drew Popeye in some of the original Fleischer cartoons.

    I got to shake that hand. In my memory, I see myself suddenly becoming enveloped in the Kirby Krackle upon contact. Obviously that didn't happen, but it should have.

    Happy birthday, Jack.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Progressive Ruin presents...the End of Civilization. 

If a new Previews is out, then that means it's time for another...End of Civilization. It ain't ended yet, but I'll help you keep tabs on the end's progress until it does. Come along with me as I mildly josh, damn with faint praise, and/or give backhanded compliments to several items from the September 2008 edition of Previews. (Older installments, as always, can be tracked down in the sidebar.)

p. 200 - The 2008 Presidential Candidates The Comic Books:

Another publisher tackles John and Barack prior to the election...though being solicited in the September order form is cutting it awfully close for getting these out before that day in November. (For example...how many Halloween comics have shipped the first week of November? A few too many, frankly.)

Sorry, I don't really have a joke here...I used my one good joke about this type of comic last time, so just go reread that one.

p. 260 - Geroge R.R. Martin's Wild Cards The Hard Call HC:

Oh, hey, a hardcover collection of that Wild Cards mini. Since I'm a longtime Wild Cards fan, and thus have already bought this comic book series, there's no reason for me to buy....

"This collection of the first Wild Cards mini-series includes an introduction by series creator George R.R. Martin [...] plus an original Wild Cards short story by Melinda Snodgrass."

...Oh, you bastards.

p. 285 - Stan's Soap Box The Collection TP:

Good Lord. Stan's columns from Marvel Comics, in concentrated form? Is this safe to handle? Does it come with rubber gloves and tongs? Being exposed to that much Stan Lee in one place requires special precautions. FOR ADVANCED FANS ONLY.

p. 291 - Star Trek TNG The Last Generation #1 incentive cover:

Well, if we can't have any more Star Trek/X-Men, then we can at least have a Trekker tribute to this cover. Uhura, noooooo!

p. 354 - Girls and Corpses 2009 Wall Calendar:

I know this magazine is tongue-in-cheek, but...you may want to think it over a bit before you put this calendar on the wall of your cubicle. You may be answering some interesting questions as a result.

p. 369 - FARTS A Spotter's Guide:

Seems to me if you can actually spot a fart, then, er, we're not exactly talking about a "fart" anymore, are we? Also, comes with an attached sound machine that reproduces types of fart sounds. This is what Thomas Edison had in mind.

p. 384 - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Trading Cards & Album:

"Shipping Fall 2008!" says the full-page ad. "Not so fast, there" says Warner Brothers.

p. 397 - Superman Splatter Symbol T-Shirt:

The ad reads "the Man of Steel meets Jackson Pollock," but c'mon, the first thing you're gonna think is "blood" when you see that. And nothing matches the image of Superman than being splattered with the blood of his victims. It's certainly harsher than this.

p. 406 - A Christmas Story The Kids Action Figures Boxed Set:

Oh, man, that poor Flick never catches a break.

p. 412 - Star Trek Retro Bridge Playset:

I had the original version of this when I was a kid. I need someone out there to keep me from ordering this newly-manufactured rerelease. (Though that $60 price tag is enough to slow me up a bit.)

But still, it was way cool, man. It came with cardboard viewscreen images, a Captain's chair, and stools. Stools, man! There was also this little room off to the side that, I guess, was supposed to be a Jeffries tube, but I always figured it was the bathroom. Yeah, I know, that was weird. EDIT: The little room isn't the transporter/spinner thing...there's a small "door" right next to the transporter (you can see it sort of pushed inward slightly in the picture above...it has a yellow stripe down the right side). It opened up into a triangular room that used the space in that section of the playset not occupied by the transporter mechanism.

Read more about the original playset here.

p. 418 - Ghostbusters Slimer Action Figure:

Speaking of bathrooms...looks like Slimer has a little ghost-incontinence there.

p. 429 - Supersized Xtreme Dform Statues:

So, what's so "dformed" about the Rambo figure?

Also, don't use the word "Xtreme," ever, for anything.

p. 434 - Star Wars Classics Snowtrooper Bust:

Always seemed to me the poor Snowtroopers never got their due. They had cool costumes an' all, but were always overlooked in favor of their more common comrades in arms. (Er, not that this bust has arms.)

I even took a picture of a Snowtrooper at a convention. Here, check it out.

Just look at those sad little eyes on that Snowtrooper mask. "Take me home...wuv me" he's saying.

p. 444 - Daredevil Movie Fine Art Bust:

A Daredevil movie bust? Now?

"A perfect facial resemblance to a-lister Ben Affleck is apparent in this 9" tall fine art bust...."

How many years ago was this solicitation text written?

p. 446 - Witchblade Anime ArtFX Statues - Sexy Masane:

I know this actually popped out...er, up earlier in Previews, but that would have put it at the very top of this post, and it's bad enough the pic's even right here.

I don't even have a joke. Just...the hell, man?

p. 452 - Shunya Yamashita Character Series Nasuka PVC Statue:

The solicitation text for this item uses the following words and/or phrases:



"Provocative, yet innocent"


"Wraps herself around her sword"

Words/phrases not used in the solicitation text:


"You can see her panties"

"Did we mention her panties?"

p. 460 - Naruto Pakkun Plush Bag:

"Say, I'm looking for a snazzy new handbag. Watcha got?"

"Well, I have this bag that looks like a decapitated dog's head."

"Does the dog look sad about being decapitated?"

"Well, certainly."

"You, sir, have a sale."

p. 509 - Batman The Movie Special Edition:

Pal Dorian had told me about this redesigned packaging for the 1966 Batman movie starring Adam West, when it started popping up, oh, around the time the new Dark Knight showed up in theatres. This new design is, perhaps, not exactly evocative of the pure joy that waits within.

Here's what my copy of the movie looks like:

That new release of this movie is already showing up in $5 bins. Good time to buy it if you don't have it already.

Marvel Previews p. 83 - Wolverine and Power Pack #1:

Well, that looks okay, but it ain't a patch on this previous meeting between these characters:

So, so very inappropriate. Yet always funny!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Yes, it appears to be available NOW. Just bear with me here. 

So I know I've complained about this before, but I wanted to throw some actual dates out there so you all have a stronger idea of what I'm talking about.

I first posted a note in my Twitter thingie on June 21st about how Walking Dead volume 1 (softcover) wasn't available for reorder from Diamond. My memory was that at the time I wrote that, I hadn't been able to reorder volume 1 for a couple of weeks, perhaps even a month.

After checking the date on that Twitter post, I went through the store invoices to see when was the last time I'd actually received any copies of Walking Dead volume 1 at the shop. According to the invoices, I received a reorder of copies of volume 1 on April 30th. I generally place my reorders through the distributor website on Sundays, and items I reorder arrive (barring accident and/or shipping error) on the second Wednesday after. That means the last copies I received came from a reorder placed on April 19th.

Now, I don't usually reorder tons of any given book at once. I have a budget I try to keep to for each week's reorders, so I can spread the money around a bit, reordering a few each of many things I can use for the store. In cases of books with instances of higher demand, such as Walking Dead, I order what I think I can sell over a period of a week or two, and place follow-up reorders accordingly so that I'd have fresh stock coming in each week. That also gives me some leeway in case Walking Dead experiences a sales lull (which it has, in the past), and I can cut off reorders on the book, hopefully only briefly, before I get overloaded with dead (heh) stock.

As I said, I received my reorders on Walking Dead volume 1 on April 30th. I had enough to last a week or two, and I probably (though I'm not certain) tried to reorder by about mid-May.

I didn't keep a record of attempted reorders...I usually download a copy of the in-stock list from the distributor, and pull item codes from that when putting together my reorder. If Walking Dead volume 1 was unavailable, its item code would not have been on the list, and I wouldn't have attempted to reorder it. But I would have double-checked on the distributor website to confirm that it wasn't available, at least. I know I did so a handful of times.

I realize some of that is vague, but having given the exact dates of the last shipment of these books to us, and having given you enough information about my reordering habits and strategies, and that I recall having had a few weeks of ill-fated attempts to get the book by the time I made that June 21st Twitter post, I think I'm not too out of line saying that Walking Dead volume 1 was likely unavailable from our distributor beginning around the middle of May.

Since the middle of May.

The first volume, reprinting the initial issues of one of Image Comics' precious few success stories in recent memory. The keystone of a whole series of paperback books reprinting this popular series. A series that recently released its 50th issue to much attention.

The first volume, unavailable. For most of the summer.

I had a number of customers looking to start reading Walking Dead, having heard the hype and read the reviews/interviews and so on. Normally, that first volume is an easy sell...it's only $9.99, and it has a lot of good word of mouth, so it doesn't take much to get someone to try it out. But it's only an easy sell if I have any to sell. And because I haven't had any copies to sell, those are lost sales. I've plenty of volumes 2 through 8, but a new reader's not going to want to jump in with the second volume. S/he wants to start from the beginning, and if I don't have the beginning, I don't have that new reader.

There is a hardcover volume reprinting issues 1 through 12 (the equivalent of the first two softcovers), but a $29.95 hardcover isn't an easy sell to someone who's on the fence about trying out something new. Even showing 'em the contents isn't enough to get that sale, sometimes...that $29.95 is a barrier that $9.99 isn't. I did sell a few, but more often than not I got the "I'll wait for the softcover" response.

I suppose it's very possible that Walking Dead volume 1 was sporadically available through our distributor during this period. Maybe it was available for a brief time on, say, a Tuesday afternoon, and I had the bad luck not to check at that moment. But from (likely) about mid-May, and (certainly) since the end of June, Walking Dead volume 1 was not available for me to reorder whenever I checked. And I didn't just check on Sundays when I was assembling my reorder...I would spot check during the week, just on the off chance it was available again.

I understand that stock runs out, that books fall out of print, that maybe there are issues out of everyone's control. It doesn't change the fact that it's frustrating for someone who sells these things for a living when there's a book there's actual demand for, from a publisher that could likely use the revenue, and, for most of the summer's peak sales period, sales on the series are crippled by the unavailability of its introductory volume.

Well, through the direct sales comic shop market, anyway. Pal Dorian informed me that the chain bookstore near where he lives has plenty of them. Of course.

As the subject line of this post says, Walking Dead volume 1 is now available for reorder. When I checked on Sunday, just three days ago, it wasn't. As I was writing this post, it was. Hopefully it won't go away for such an extended period again.

It's a good series. It's a series my customers want. It's a series I want to sell to my customers. I just wish I could have had the opportunity to sell more of them this summer.

RELATED: Kevin Church and Benjamin Birdie more succinctly express this retail frustration in their latest installment of The Rack.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm totally getting "Superman2001.com." 


Well, I have to admit...he makes a good pitch:

"First, this is a SERIOUS auction for the Serious Superman Fan! With that said, you have the chance to OWN my domain name Superman1938.com, which has been registered at Godaddy by myself as the owner. I understand that this name may be worth nothing to the casual internet junkee, but to me it's honestly worth my BUY IT NOW price! Why?! Because I absolutely LOVE Superman and am a HUGE FAN and have been ever since I was just a little kid (just like most of you), and quite honestly I still can't beleive I own SUCH A SIGNIFICANT SUPERMAN DOMAIN NAME! It's like I FINALLY own something Superman, that no one else has! I think that the year at the end of the name, makes this name special! 1938 Superman items are just SO hard to find, and I just love the fact that my domain name covers the very first EPIC year of the greatest Super Hero Ever! It's incredible, i'm really happy that I was able to get this rare domain name! So, unless someone BUYS IT NOW or at least offers me a great price... I am extremely ecstatic to own this awesome Superman Domain name! Beleive me, I just won't get rid of it! My price has to be met, and I beleive there is someone out there who will understand why I want so much for this name! To tell you the truth, and I am being honest... Whomever buys this name, will be getting an amazing deal! The opportunities are endless, so send them best offers if you are truely interested in owning Superman1938.com!"

From the Questions from Bidders section:

"Q: What can you do with this ?? I just don't understand the significance of this. thanks, anthony.

"A: Excellent question! This domain name can be used in many different ways! For one example, say Superman1938.com might be the only place on the internet in the World to actually look for Superman items from the year 1938, including MANY KEY ISSUES ;). Collectors want to know these things, and that's just one example."

Huh. Well, let's think about this. Obviously, there are Superman items from 1938 already on sale in numerous places, but maybe Superman1938.com can be a gathering of links to those sellers (sort of like Sketchcards.com).

Or maybe it could be a historical overview site, restricted to the character's impact and influence with its initial appearance. Kind of limiting, and perhaps redundant given the amount of info about this period on other sites...but there really isn't anything quite like those original Siegel and Shuster Superman stories. A site specifically devoted to examining the art, stories, themes, influences, etc. of those earliest books would be of interest.

Or it can be a place to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the character (as implied by the banner in the auction), but note you've only got a few months to go, and I imagine the 71st through 74th anniversaries won't grab that much attention. However, you'd be all set for the big seven-five.

Or it could just be a link-dump, a central gathering place for links to Superman news and items of note around the web. Maybe not "1938" specific, but I'm guessing "Superman.com" is taken and the "1938" suffix is as good as anything else to make the domain "rare." (Or at least "unique," which may be what the seller actually meant.)

Or somewhere there's a guy posting on an internet message board under the handle of "superman1938" and wants a domain of his very own.

So what would you do with this domain name? Aside from posting links to other domain name auctions, that is.

Hmmm...now I'm thinking about "SwampThing1971.com." That'll make me rich, I'm certain.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bits of nightmare fuel from 1950s/1960s DC humor comics. 

"Looks really impressive" is understating it, surely. "Will freak you the heck out, and all your friends as well" may be more accurate. But so long as your hands are hefty, why would you mind, right?

What the hell kind of insect is that? Perhaps some kind of weird mummy insect, with wrappings just on its legs? ...There's something almost Charles Burns-ish about how that alleged insect looks.


There's probably an Insane Clown Posse reference to be made here, but I'll defer.


I'm assuming by "fooling" they mean "mauling and/or eating." Well, not that Peter Porkchops was ever in danger of being eaten by Wolfie, here, but still, you imagine Wolfie was probably hoping.

Anyway, that book has "blogger who lucked into a book deal" all over it. You know whoever wrote that had a Blogspot account where he listed a new Way to Bother A Pig every day, and eventually they got compiled into a $17.95 softcover book and now it's providing an important service for bookstores across the nation by supplying a solid foundation for the remainder tables.

I could be wrong, and maybe in the DC Funny Animal universe there's money to be made in fostering ill relations between wolves and pigs. Or maybe pigs are just singled out, as lower-class citizenry that Funny Animal society has decided would be the target of its scorn and abuse.

More optimistically, sort of, maybe it's not just pigs, but every animal gets to be a target of a "How to Fool..." type book, to put everyone on more or less equal footing. "How to Annoy a Sloth." "How to Irritate an Orangutan." "How to Badger a...Well, a Badger, I Guess." I would hope these would be more on the good-natured side of gentle ribbing and generally friendly teasing, but given how funny animals tend to behave toward each other in the comics....

Or maybe I'm just reading too much into this. Lord knows I never do that.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Things That Are Rad. 

#1: The Psycho-Man piece from the Heroclix game:

I'm just a sucker for his Control Box, I guess. I need a Control Box of my own to carry around the store with me.

As a former librarian, I'm offended. 

"The Batman family needs to be reduced- NOW!"

"I know Bruce as Batman is up in the air, but lets face it DC are not going to damAge their most successful franchise and character so...

"The batfamily. Too many. Too similiar. Too many wannabes.

"Nightwing - is virtually a sidekick again - for someone who is his own man: when Batman says jump Nightwing says 'how high'
Robin - Tim Drake belongs in High School Musical. Let him go.
Oracle - should be written out forever. She's a librarian!
Batgirls/Batwoman - see above
Scrappy Doo AKA Damien Wayne - the single most laughable character ever written.
Jason Todd - died quite clearly in Death in the Family. Bringing him back in any form is a mistake. Such silver age making up the rules as we go along goes against the basic heightened realism of Batman comics. By all means let Superman come back if you must, but leave such guff out of the core books.

"Essentials Alfred and Gordon"

So, Damian is the "single most laughable character ever written?" That's hard cheese, considering we're talking about an industry that has room for this.

And I was almost with him on the Jason Todd thing, until the phrase "basic heightened realism." I get what he means, but we're still using the word "realism" in reference to comics starring a guy who fights crime dressed sort of like a bat. I mean, c'mon. (Besides, I kinda like the "rebellious former sidekick" angle.)

I'm not unsympathetic to his desire for more streamlined Batman comics. I can understand that. But the beauty of the character of Batman is its adaptability...you can use as few or as many of these extra elements as you'd like, and still have it recognizably be a Batman story. And with the number of Batbooks on the stands, chances are any given month one or two stories will meet his desire for a pared-down version of the character.

And if he waits long enough, he'll be able to get the newest issue of All Star Batman and Robin, surely everyone's ideal version of Batman.

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