mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, September 06, 2008






images from Boy Illustories #94 (Oct. 1953)

Friday, September 05, 2008

I've been meaning to post that video for months. 

Kid Chris: "Wow, Marvel Apes! It's gorillas mixed with my favorite Marvel comics...two great tastes that go great together!"

Me: "How do you know what gorillas taste like? I mean, I know what Marvel comics taste like...I've eaten enough of them over the years."

And that's how our holiday-delayed New Comics Day began. To be fair, Marvel Apes did sell okay...customers seemed pretty amused by it, and a quick flip through the book did get a few laughs out of me, so, you know, it does its job. And while Marvel's "retailer incentive ape variant" program is a transparent attempt at keeping the previous "zombie variant" interest going, it's hard to resist MONKEY PUNISHER. (And I better not see any "would he punish other monkeys by spanking them" jokes.) (And please don't tell me if there's actually one in the series itself.)

Other new comics stuff:
  • We had a fairly quick sell-out of the first issue of DC's new ongoing Secret Six series...so did Chris Sims, it seems. We ordered based on past performance, but I guess more people want it now than wanted it then, so What Can You Do? Well, other than place a fast reorder and hope they actually show up, I guess. It was a good read, with the introduction of what is so far a darned creepy new villain that is mostly off-panel or otherwise hidden, and will hopefully continue to maintain this level of creepiness even after we start seeing more of him. Also: we get more Cat Man. And we all like Cat Man, right? Who even thought, years ago, that the phrase "we all like Cat Man" would have even been possible?

  • Un-Men comes to a conclusion with its thirteenth issue, which is too bad, for a couple of reasons. First, after a slow start which may have hurt its chances for survival, Un-Men began to really find its voice and rhythm, becoming a grotesquely dark-humored and involving melodrama. Second, that's pretty much that for the presence of a Swamp Thing-related series on the stands (oddly-colored cameos in the Ambush Bug mini-series aside). After the last couple of short-run series featuring Swamp Thing and related concepts, unless there's a drastically outstanding or different take on the character (*cough* returns to DCU *cough*) I don't imagine we'll be seeing another series for quite a while. Ah, well.

    EDIT: Oh, okay, and Swampy spin-off Hellblazer's still going strong, too. Not quite the same as having a Swamp Thing title on the stands, though.

  • Love and Rockets begins its new annual trade paperback format, and it's just as beautifully done as ever. I'm going to miss having the semi-quarterly/bi-annual comic, but this book has about as much comics as you'd normally get under the L&R banner for a year, more or less, just under one cover instead of spread out over three or four issues. So I think I'll live. Besides, it's L&R by the Hernandez Bros. -- I'll take it in whatever format and frequency it's delivered. Well, maybe not "one page per decade," but I'm okay with a hundred pages yearly.

  • Comics Journal #292 - almost entirely given over to interviews with the four three Deitch brothers (Kim, Simon, and Seth) and father Gene. (EDIT: Oops...I knew Gene was the father, I swear!) Since I'm about as big of a Kim Deitch fan as they come, I'm looking forward to reading this. No, I haven't read this yet...I'm writing this blog post instead. Only so many hours in the day, my friends. I'll read it over breakfast, honest.

  • Myspace Dark Horse Presents #14 - not in stores, I know, but there's a new full color Achewood strip, and, even better, a new color Beanworld story!

  • Army @ Love: The Art of War #2 - haven't had a chance to read this yet, but I loved the previous thirteen installments, so I'm gonna guess I'll like this one, too. The first twelve issues have been collected into two volumes, currently available anyplace that sells funnybooks and has a lick of sense (a rare combination, admittedly), and is recommended reading to anyone with a need for some wartime satire that's equal parts terrifying and goofy in the Mighty Veitch Manner. Also, looking at the first page of this new issue, I'm glad to see Mr. Veitch is continuing with the best (and most thematically relevant) expositional introductions for a comic book series ever.

  • Invasion! trade paperback - 160 pages of good ol' fashioned superhero punch-em-up adventure stupidity, and that's not snark or a criticism...this three issue mini-series was almost the Platonic ideal of a Superhero Comic at the time. You paid your $3 bucks per 80 page issue, and you got non-stop superheroes fighting aliens, and it never pretended to be anything else other than that. Lots of weird alien creatures, lots of action, all your favorite characters, generally well drawn in cartoonishly-exaggerated style by Todd McFarlane and Bart Sears, with scripter Bill Mantlo right in his element.

    I did want to note this blurb that was on the trade paperback's cover:

    "Secret no more!" is obviously a poke in Marvel's ribs over their current Secret Invasion crossover event, also dealing with an alien invasion (though that series' alien infiltration element has more in common with DC's other newly-released-in-trade series Millennium). Outside of that context, the blurb seems strangely out of place...sure, there are secrets revealed over the course of the story, I suppose, but the main thrust of the series is "Holy Crap! Aliens have invaded the Earth and they know how to incapacitate our heroes!" more than "What is the dark secret of the Invasion?" It's no slow, suspenseful revelation of hidden truths and shocking unknowns...it's people in tights punching aliens and each other and blowing things up.

    Point being that, intercompany nose-thumbing aside, the "Secret no more!" blurb seems a little out of place. Not a lot out of place, but it's obviously there for more reasons than describing the book's contents. But, let's be honest, that's still an improvement over a permanently affixed DVD ad on an archival $75 hardcover.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

This is a comic book that always sells. 

Boy, this comic is almost like printing money for Marvel. That cover above is one of the two used for the 2008 reprinting of this Garth Ennis-written one-shot, which originally came out in 1995. Guess people just like seeing the Punisher blow up those Marvel superheroes real good, since it seems like the comic is always in demand from our customers. It's one of our most requested back issues, so when a new edition showed up, it just flew off the stands.

I didn't buy it when it came out originally, because by the mid-90s I, like most folks, never wanted to see another Punisher comic again for the rest of my life. But when the first reprinting of this one-shot rolled around in 2000, I figured "hey, it's Garth Ennis, it's got that swell Steve Dillon cover, what the heck." And it's not high art or anything, but it delivers what it promises...Punisher wiping out the Marvel Universe...and it's sufficiently brutal and a touch dark-humored and I got just the right amount of entertainment one could justifiably expect from a comic book titled Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe.

And I should note, since it always comes up when one is discussing Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe with, you know, your grandparents or your pastor, that, yes, Fred Hembeck destroyed the Marvel Universe first.

Anyway, that latest printing has sold out, and Marvel is going back to press for what they're calling a 2nd printing variant...think they're off by a couple of printings, there, though I suppose this would be the 2nd printing in the staplebound format (as opposed to its original squarebound releases). The new printing will have that Dillon cover the 2000 edition had.

So, Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe...a Comic That Always Sells. Kids love it!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sometimes it's like reading someone else's mail.* 

From the back of card #82 of Topps' Star Wars: Clone Wars set:

"Just outside Jabba's palace, Ahsoka is surrounded by the relentless magnaguards. Holding her own, she flips herself over and away from them into a position of more leverage. 'Okay, stick-tinnies, you're going back to Dooku in pieces,' she proclaims defiantly. It takes a bit of doing, but the feisty padawan swings back into action and winds up vanquishing all three of her magna-foes."

I keep wanting to read that as "manga-foes." "'Your tentacles will never get me,' proclaimed Ahsoka."

Here's the front of the card, if you're interested:

And just for fun, here's one of the original sketch drawing cards, featuring Count Dooku:

If that awful-looking Clone Wars movie had instead been animated in the style of that Dooku sketch, I might have bothered to go see it.

Speaking of movies, the man behind That Voice you all know from your movie trailers, Don LaFontaine, has unfortunately passed on. Please peruse this selection of YouTube videos and enjoy that wall-shaking voice. Be sure to turn your computer's volume way, way up.

Do I really need to link to Scott McCloud's Google Chrome browser comic...you know, on the off chance that you haven't heard about the comic or Google's new web browser on every website in existence. But I like Scott, so there's your link.

Hey, remember when I used to talk about comics and comics retail on this site? Oh, those were the days, weren't they? I'd talk about some comic I read, or about some silly thing that happened at the store, and we'd laugh and laugh, dabbing tears of mirth from our eyes. And then the laughter would quickly ebb away, moving into a comfortable silence...just two friends, sitting together quietly on the back porch overlooking the fields of corn, simply smiling softly and gazing downwards at the ice bobbing up and down in our frosty glasses of Mr. Pibb.

Well, okay, it's only been a couple of days. Hey, this almost turned into "Land of the Lost Week," so consider yourselves lucky. Real comic bookical content will return shortly.

Hold on, I do have one bit of news about comics retail...keep in mind that, for U.S. retailers, new comic shipments will be delayed until Thursday this week due to Monday's holiday. But go into your shop on Wednesday anyway and spend money, just because you love Your Local Comics Retailer. And then come back on Thursday and spend more money! It's a win/win situation! You get comics, we get money! Everybody's happy!

* Does the title refer to this post's first entry, or to the actual experience of reading the entire post itself? Who can say? Who can truly say?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

In which Mike goes on about some dumb thing that apparently traumatized him as a child. 

So I was rewatching one of my DVDs of Land of the Lost, which was one of my favorite television shows as a child, and I still quite enjoy today. And I realize this explanation is going to sound odd to anyone not familiar with the show...I imagine there are such people, somewhere...but this particular episode, "The Pylon Express," contains a sequence where Holly is dragged along inside one of the mysterious Pylons, as it travels through time and space to strange and frightening locales.

It's not the locales that were frightening to me as a kid, as much as what would happen between destinations inside the Pylon. A spinning column of lights would lower over Holly as the Pylon made its journey, and it looked a little something like this:

And here's the thing...the sound that accompanied that column of lights really bothered me as a kid, for no good reason I can describe. It just struck me as a very spooky sound...perhaps it was just because it was in conjunction with an especially creepy series of events in this episode, but whatever it was, it had enough of an impact that even today, even playing the sound file right now to test it out before uploading it to the site, I still feel a slight twinge of that creepy-crawly sensation, that feeling of "wrongness" that sound inspires.

Here's that sound, and I know full well it's not going to have near the impact on you that it had on me, and in fact you'll likely go "Mike, what is your problem"...but I can't go on about it like this and not play it for you, right?

direct link, in case the player doesn't work


I probably saw this episode when it first aired in 1975, when I was six. I'm nearly 40 now. I mean, what the hell, man? It's amazing the things that stick with you.

What other people are saying about MIKE STERLING'S PROGRESSIVE RUIN. 

On Sunday at the shop, I stacked up a big pile of Justice League and Justice Society trade paperbacks on a counter that I'd taken off our shelves, with the intent of putting them back in some semblance of order and noting what we needed to reorder. This inspired the following post on my Twitter thingie:

"Don't fall over and crush me, giant pile of Justice League/Justice Society trade paperbacks and graphic novels!"

This inspired the following exchange between my special internet pals Chris Sims and Kevin Church on their respective Twitters:

theisb @mikesterling That's how I always imagined you'd go.

Beaucoupkevin @theisb Really? I had it pegged as a hate crime.

theisb @Beaucoupkevin When Sterling dies, let's cremate him, and then have the ashes packed, treated and put into a package that says "I'M CHALK!"

Beaucoupkevin @theisb And then put him on eBay.


Beaucoupkevin @theisb Seller name? CHROMIUMMAN-CGC

theisb @Beaucoupkevin and we can start referring to him as "Corpse Mike."

See, it's pals like these what toughen me up and keep me from shedding blogger tears on the off chance someone attempts to say something mean about me. Thanks, guys!

Monday, September 01, 2008

"...With stories and art that are hotter than ever!" 

So I had one of these still floating around the store, still shrinkwrapped, still unopened and unloved in the 13 years since it was shipped to us. Every once in a while, I'd come across it...sometimes on a shelf in the back room, sometimes up front on a bookshelf somewhere, sometimes in my stash of eBay sale material. I'd pick it up and look at it, shaking my head and thinking "you know, I really should just bust this thing open and dump the comics into our bargain boxes," but then I find something else better to do and put this package back in one of those three previously noted areas.

This past weekend, I came across this item again, while pal Dorian happened to be around. I said to him, "oh, man, not this thing again. What am I going to do with it?"

"Put it on your site," sez Dorian.

"Hey, yeah," sez I, so here you go. Another white elephant haunting the aisles of our funnybook store.

Here's the back of the package, so you can see DC's best of 1995:

"It's been a banner year for DC Comics, with stories and art that are hotter than ever! In this special collectors set, you'll find the seven comics that were selected by DC Comics editors as the best of 1995."

Actually, it's not a bad mix of superhero books...you get a Doug Moench/Ed Barreto ish of Batman, one of Waid's early issues of Impulse, one of the animated Batman tie-in books (which were consistently excellent), and the debut issue of that one Superman book designed to come out quarterly, during that occasional fifth publishing week to accompany the other four, essentially weekly, Superman books. Plus, you also had that the beginning of that new direction of Wonder Woman by that one fellow, which wasn't too bad at first, and an issue of Legionnaires with, I think, the horrifying fate of Sun Boy (or at least a Sun Boy...I don't recall exactly, as that was a reboot or two back). And then there was Sovereign Seven #1, which I won't say anything about since there are a few thousand of you out there reading this, meaning chances are pretty good at least one of you read this comic and I don't want to alienate that guy.

I suspect that these may be reprints produced specifically for this package, but I haven't popped it open to check. What, ruin its collector's value?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Before you all fill my e-mail box... 

...yes, I've read the list of things that fellow hates about comics...a list that includes me. He doesn't think I'm very amusing...which is fine, since humor is very subjective and not everyone is going to find the same things funny. And he doesn't like my weblog, though he only seems passingly familiar with it, but that's fine, too. I don't need everyone to like me, and if he doesn't like my weblog, there are plenty of others that may be more to his taste.

By and large, his objections to me and my site appear to be relatively mild. However, if you want some real good 'n' solid Mike Sterling hating, something with some meat and a little bit of hair on it...then my friends, I direct you to pal Dorian's site The Cheater Pants of Mike Sterling. Maybe there you will find the Sterling hate that you crave. I know I do!

This entire post seems far dirtier than it actually is. 

Well, let me explain this Twitter post, then.

So I'm at the back of the store, in the process of sorting out some books, when I happen to look up and see a young woman, blonde in about her mid-20s, standing outside and peering through our front window. She sees me, and gives a brief but cheerful wave. I kinda half-heartedly wave back, before I think "oh, wait, she's probably waving at someone else in the store," but I look around and see no one else reacting. I then think "well, that was weird," and go back to what I was doing.

That young woman then enters the store and asks for "Dark Phoenix comics. Do you have any Dark Phoenix comics? She's totally my gal and I want to read up on her."

"Yeah, sure," sez I, and I go to the shelf and find her a copy of the Dark Phoenix Saga trade paperback.

"Do you mind if I thumb through it?" she asks. "Feel free," I reply.

I return to the back of the store to continue my sorting. The young woman flips through the book for a couple of minutes, and then heads to the register, where Employee Aaron is manning the post. She tells him "Can you hold this for me, I'll be back for it later today." Aaron says that'd be fine, and before she hands it over to him, she kisses the cover, and then takes off out the door.

I didn't catch that last bit of the transaction, but Employee Aaron reported that to me, and...being the future DEA agent that he is...he also reported to me that the young woman smelled of the marijuana. I didn't catch that particular detail...my sense of smell isn't that great, sometimes...but perhaps that explains her level of...enthusiasm. And why she never came back for the book. Yeah, that came as a real surprise.

The book was given a good scrubbing, by the way. It wasn't like she left behind any lipstick stains or anything, but still, dude, don't kiss the books.

Would you like another brief story of oral oddities at the store? Sure you would.

Many years ago, in the pre-pal Dorian days, back when Former Employee Rob still walked the shop's aisles, we had a door-to-door saleslady come into the store selling spray bottles of all-purpose cleaner. She was about our age (again, mid-20s, which I was at the time, and probably shocks the heck out of Employee Aaron to realize that I was once his age) and she was really up and cheerful and totally committed to trying to sell us this all-purpose cleaner.

Well, it must have been a slow day at the shop, and there weren't any customers around, so Rob and I kinda bantered back and forth with her, asking her half-serious but mostly goofy questions about the cleaner. You know, kind of giving her a bad time about it, but not really bad, and she was laughing and having fun with the questions, so there were no hard feelings or anything. No one was being a jerk, is what I'm trying to say.

Eventually she says, "and you know what's best about this cleaner? It's completely non-toxic!" At that point, she removes the top from her sample bottle, and then licks the tube that draws the fluid into the spray nozzle.

I'm fairly certain both Rob and I had the same reaction to this demonstration, and that reaction was most likely "AAAAAAUGH!"

I don't entirely recall what happened after that, but I'm pretty sure the saleslady left under her own power, and not in an ambulance. And though Rob told me later "Geez, I almost bought a bottle right then," we ended up not buying any of the cleaning fluid.

I do feel bad about that, now. At the very least, I owe her for giving me this story.

Man, I hope there weren't any long term effects on her, "non-toxic" or not. Ick.

There's no real genteel way of saying "licks the tube." Or, at least, I coudn't come up with one as I was writing this. I apologize.

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