mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I'm picturing the guy who'd wear the Minstrel mask to a party, and it's depressing me immensely. 

ad from Smash Comics #85 (Oct. 1949)



EDIT: Oops! Reader Rob pointed out that the great Dr. K covered another, very slightly different yet still creepy, ad in this series just recently, which I'd somehow forgotten or missed. Sorry, Doc, didn't mean to step on any internet toes here!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Progressive Ruin brings you higher education. 

  • Thanks for playing along with the Sluggo/Swamp Thing vote posts from the last couple of days. I needed something light and silly to improve my mood, and you all really came through. Your comments from day one and day two were, by and large, very funny and silly and right in tune with the tone of the posts. You're a bunch of swell folks, and don't let anyone tell you any different.

  • At long last, after nearly four decades of existence on this planet, I've finally contributed something positive to society. You may recall this post, where I questioned the physics involved in flinging Rex the Wonder Dog from a quicksand pit up onto a high ledge. Well, said panels and the potentially problematic physics therein have been pondered by honest-to-goodness college professors, as well as used as an instructional tool in an actual college class.

    Thanks to reader Walaka for making my day!

  • Tim O'Neil is continuing his discussion of the '90s comics market, a topic of particular interest to me (as anyone who's read my site for any length of time likely knows). He makes some good observations about societal influences on comics content from that period, as well as contrasting Marvel's and DC's publishing strategies. Good reading for people interested in extended ruminations on recent comics industry history.

  • Congrats to pal Nat for the tenth anniversary of his company, About Comics! Nat's a swell guy! Buy his stuff!

  • The newest installment in the insurance industry's longest running gossip column is up at Beaucoupkevin's. As per usual, take it with a huge grain of salt!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


A jubilant Swamp Thing celebrates his victory.

The results are in from yesterday's election, and, by a ratio of approximately 2 to 1, Swamp Thing, 36, of Louisiana, has beaten out Sluggo Smith, 8, of the Wrong Side of the Tracks.

Voters cited Mr. Thing's stance on the environment as one of the deciding factors in this election. Strangely, past scandals in Mr. Thing's life seemed to have little negative impact, such as the revelation in 1986 of swampside dalliances with social worker Abigail Arcane, and Mr. Thing's subsequent attack on Gotham City following Ms. Arcane's arrest.

However, Mr. Thing's ample media exposure, for these events and others, both positive and negative, seemed to work in his favor. Mr. Smith's media presence in recent years has been much less, leading to lower voter recognition in comparison to Mr. Thing. Also, some noted Mr. Smith's lack of international recognition, perhaps indicating a weakness in foreign policy. Other concerns included Mr. Smith's lack of a stable economic policy, resulting in repeated financial shortfalls in his immediate area of influence. Mr. Thing had no stated economic policy, but in this case it appears "no news is good news," as the voters apparently preferred a lack of policy to a bad one. While Mr. Smith did have a strong recycling policy, Mr. Thing's more wide-ranging general environmental scope of his platform was seen as vastly preferable.

Swamp Thing taking 2/3rds of the vote may be interpreted as a clear mandate from the people, but one must not discount the strong social influence Sluggo Smith wields. Though not taking the election, Mr. Smith still holds sway over his legions of followers, who contemplate his every move and find themselves entranced by his philosophy of unburdened living. Mr. Thing will need to take this "Sluggo Effect" into account over the course of his term...a term that will almost certainly be closely scrutinized by both sides of this election.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It ends with a hat. 

  • Here's yet more on the topic of the Superman "triangle numbers" thing, this time from Tim O'Neil. He discusses the inherent downside in the interlocking continuity among the multiple Super-books, emphasized by the triangle numbering, which reduces the individuality of the titles and creative teams in favor of editorially-mandated crossover events/"sagas."

    I was going to respond further, but too much of what I just tried to write seemed like it was duplicating what Tim was saying, and I don't want to be That Guy, you know? I do want to make two points, though:

    1. When the interlocking Superbooks worked, they worked really well, and that was during the whole "Death/Return of Superman" storyline. Outside of the sensationalism and influx of magpies into the market looking to "invest" in a "collectible," the actual serialized story generated genuine interest and excitement in at least our customers, and certainly in other readers elsewhere, I'm sure.

    Not disputing any of Tim's points, here, mind you. I do agree that the tight continuity among the Super-books probably lasted far too long, as he says, in favor of DC's hopes that they could get lightning to strike twice with later Superman "events." I suppose one could argue that, during the industry's lean times of the post-crash '90s, that the serial nature of the titles was what was keeping the hardcore readers coming back, and DC couldn't take the chance of losing what was left of their Superman readership by cutting that last incentive to keep reading. Just a little wild speculation, is all.

    2. I can see the current iteration of the "triangle numbers" on the Superman books having the primary effect of raising numbers on the Supergirl title. At our store, Supergirl generally sells about 2/3rds of the Superman titles. If the Superman readers decide they want to work Supergirl into their weekly Super-reading, and depending on just how tightly the Supergirl storylines are tied in with the Superman titles, I expect sales to eventually even out.

    Keeping Tim's criticisms of the older Superman titles in mind, what this means for the actual content of the Supergirl comic, its individuality or lack thereof, remains to be seen. And given that a month in, we've already had those triangle numbers on two "specials," I don't know how many extra books Super-fans are going to want to put up with just to maintain an unbroken triangle chain.

    Anyway, Tim says he plans on saying more on the topic, so hopefully I didn't step on any toes, here.

  • By the way, remember when the two Legion of Super-Heroes titles had "L numbers?"

    Related: remember when the Legion could support two monthly books?

  • I'm thinking about this triangle number thing way too much.

  • Pal Tom has been going through his Grimjack comics in chronological order, with commentary and images and gosh darn if it doesn't make me want to pull out my Grimjacks and read them. Here's part one, here's part two, and the man owns a Munden's Bar hat. A Munden's Bar hat. He must know what he's talking out.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Carla and Lance. 

As you may have heard, comics blogger and salesperson Carla Hoffman, along with her husband Lance, suffered serious burns as they were attempting to evacuate the Santa Barbara fires.

They are expected to recover, but they have lost their home. If you would like to help them out...here, from the official Montecito Fire Department web page is a press release (PDF download) detailing the Lance and Carla Burn Fund, including information on where to donate.

I've only met Carla and Lance once, but I've spoken with Carla several times on the phone, as her store and ours regularly do business with each other. She's always a treat to talk to, friendly and exuberant, and I always thought quite well of her. And Lance was quite the good guy, too, and I know Carla thinks the world of him, judging from her writing in her various blogging outlets. So please, everyone wish the best for Carla and Lance, and hope for their quick recovery...physically, economically, and emotionally.

"Reprints?" This is like the most reprinted comic ever...oh, wait, you mean in regular comic format. 

  • And Chris thought he was joking.

    So I was looking in the most recent issue of Comic Buyer's Guide, and happened across a letter from a reader, who was wondering about DC Comics' publishing strategies re: Watchmen, what with the new movie coming out an' all. To wit:

    "For Watchmen, there should be reprints of the original Alan Moore series or one-shots of each Watchman character by today's hottest writers and artists. The only things I've seen from DC on this epic series are the trade paperback, the Absolute edition, and a Millennium Edition reprint of the first issue. And outside of Rorschach's cameo in The Question some years back, nothing else. Why is that? I know Alan Moore wants nothing more to do with DC Comics, but, since they're company-owned, why not showcase the characters in one-shots or Hypertime team-ups?"

    Okay, I promise I'm not posting that excerpt from the letter to make fun of the guy. (Well, except for the Hypertime comment. That reference is a few years out of date.) Because, while on the face of it, it does seem ridiculous that new comics featuring the Watchmen characters would even be considered...I have to admit, I am at least a little surprised that DC hasn't published new material based on the original mini.

    I suppose a lot of it has to do with not wanting to dilute the perception, or the sales, of the original with new, and almost certainly inferior, material. And of course there's not wanting to tick off Alan Moore or Dave Gibbons (more Gibbons, now, since it's pretty clear hell will freeze over before Moore comes back to DC), and then there's the possible fan backlash, and the attendant bad publicity, and so on.

    But that letter shows that there very well may be a market for such things, now...people who don't care, or even remember, the whole brouhaha involving Moore and Watchmen and DC...who just want new adventures of the characters, and aren't interested in the creators behind them. A Batman/Rorschach team-up comic would find a pretty welcoming audience, I'd imagine. Hell, even I'd want to check it out, just for the sheer "what th--!?" factor.

    I don't expect any such thing to actually happen, of course...if it were to happen at any time, right now, with the movie adaptation on the horizon, would be the time for it. Though we have at least one or two more rounds of solicitations from DC Comics for books that would come out before or around the movie's release date...there's always a slim chance we'd have a shocking surprise. ("The NEW Birds of Prey #1...starring Silk Spectre!")

    We are getting new story material, of a sort...original Watchmen editor Len Wein is writing the script for the prequel video game (while noting in the interview that a sequel to the original story is very unlikely). And Gibbons has done a few new illustrations, for bookcovers or movie promos or what have you...not new story material, by any means, but still, they are new pics.

    I suppose this is one of those times we should be thankful for comics' general irrelevance in relation to Big Hollywood Promotion/Money-Making (aside from being R&D for new films). One memo handed down from Warner Brothers asking DC for more new Watchmen comics to capitalize on the film could be all it takes, Mike said cynically.

  • Following up on the whole "triangle numbers" thing from yesterday...Tom reminds me that the triangle number did eventually get enclosed in a Superman shield-shaped pentagon. A quick glance at the books reveal that this happened, at least in Action Comics, with the March 2000 issue. So there you go, in case you were wondering.

  • Speaking of my comments, JET asks

    "So, just how long are you going to hold off commenting on the fact that your president-elect is a comics collector?"

    Well, it's neat, assuming it's true. But I haven't brought it up because, really, I don't know what to add. I've not seen any pics of him kicking it on a beach somewhere, reading an issue of Conan. But if he gives a speech after he takes office, recommending the solution to the troubled economy is slabbing all of your professionally-graded comics...well, make space in the guesthouse, Steven, because I'm comin' to Canada and movin' in!

  • Would you like to know what is the awesome? An eight-page preview of El Gorgo #2, that is what is the awesome. The first comment in reaction to that preview over there is "El Gorgo! you are fantastico!" -- and there's nothing I can add to that.

  • PLEASE NOTE: one of my favorite writers on comics, a certain Andrew W., has moved from his old Blogspot digs to the new address of www.armagideon-time.com. No more freebie MP3 downloads (he explains why in his initial post, though you can probably guess the reasons), but it still remains some of the smartest writing on popular culture you'll find. He gets my HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION...and you know me, I don't like anyone, so you know that recommendation really means something.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

You may be sick of seeing the phrase "triangle number," but I'm sick of typing it. 

  • So apparently the revival of the "triangle number" on the Superman family of books is having its intended effect. (For the uninitiated, the "triangle number" is like a secondary issue number that appears on the covers of the multiple Superman books, indicating in which order they are to be read; e.g. Action #871 is triangle #4, Supergirl #35 is triangle #5, etc.) I had a number of requests over the last couple of days for people wondering where "triangle #3" was, since the regular Superman books appeared to skip over that number. It was in fact Adventure Comics Special, and once pointed out to the folks who'd missed it on their first pass over the rack, we sold quite a few of them.

    Okay, you'd think a big green "NEW KRYPTON" banner across the top of the cover would help draw attention to it...but really, when you stand back from the rack and look at the whole beautiful gory layout, it does sort of get lost in there, so I really can't blame anyone for missing it.

    And yes, it's not really a "triangle number" anymore...when they first introduced the concept in the '90s, the number was in a triangle. Now it's in the Superman-shield outline, which really makes a lot more sense.

    And in "can Mike get any more pathetic" news, it's not the triangle number that's going to get me to pick up the next issue of Supergirl...it's the fact that the cover of that issue is the third part of a larger image spread out over two previous Superman covers, and I don't want to have 2/3rds of the image in my collection.

    I told pal Dorian this, and he laughed at me and called me stupid. And then he pushed me down and took my lunch money.

  • ALSO SELLING: That Justice Society by Alex Ross and Kingdom Come Tie-In Superman Sequel Follow-up Book by Alex Ross or Did I Mention That Already? comic I was complaining about the price on a couple of days back. Flew off the shelves...nearly out!

    NOT SELLING: First issue of Push, apparently tying into a movie I haven't heard of. Luckily we didn't get that many of them.

    WHAT I'D LIKE TO SELL: That new Joker graphic novel. Currently unavailable from our distributor. Multiple requests from customers every day. Ah, well.

  • COMMERCIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Have some Disney books on the eBay...just clearing out some redundancies in the collection, and frankly, I won't say no to any money that it'd bring. So bid early, bid often! (And more stuff to come on Monday!)

  • Every once in a while, I just go back to this page Kevin Church put together, based on this post of mine from last year, and sit and stare and let it soak in. I half-suspect Kevin is using this to somehow brainwaMUST DESTROY THE HU-MANS

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