mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Getting a smurf start. 

So while I'm still taking your questions through the weekend (and doesn't that sound pretentious?) and wasn't really planning on beginning to address them 'til Monday, I thought I'd answer at least one today.

From P-TOR, longtime faithful reader of this site and proprietor of the Dr. Strange fan blog Sanctum Sanctorum Comix, has this to say:

"Do you love Peyo's SMURFS or is that old photo of you (reading a Smurf comic) merely a mockery?

*Also, if you DO love Smurfs... who is your favorite?

** ALSO, also... which explanation for Gargamel's desire to catch the Smurfs do you espouse:
- to make GOLD from them
- to EAT them
- to deflower Smurfette (as to which the many on-line spoofs allude)."

For the four of you who haven't seen it, here's the photo P-TOR is referring to:

That was taken by pal Sean, back when I had the full beard, and hair that was still mostly brown, before going gray over people who actually think comic book companies will actually do something like permanently kill off characters like Batman or Captain America.

Whoops, tangent there. Sorry about that.

Anyway, I do love the Smurfs, but alas, I haven't been exposed to enough of their comics over the years (though I did borrow and read some of pal Dorian's hardcover albums several years ago). Thus, my primary exposure and memory of the Smurfs is, of course, the all-pervasive cartoon from the 1980s.

As I recall, when I decided to pose for this picture, I didn't put a whole lot of thought into which comic I would be reading, beyond "hey, The Smurfs would be funny." And that's it. No mockery or anything intended. Just thought it would be amusing.

By the way, I also returned the favor by taking a picture of pal Sean at about the same time, give or take a day or two:

I know this photo doesn't have much to do with P-TOR's questions, but 1) that picture always makes me laugh, and 2) Sean wanted the picture for his band's Myspace page, so there you go, Sean! Sure, I could have just e-mailed it to him, but this is sillier!

Anyway, back to P-TOR: my favorite Smurfs, eh? Well, my sympathies are with Brainy Smurf, since he tends to go on and on and on and on and on and on and on, annoying everyone around him and I sort of get the feeling that I do the same thing. But I think my favorite Smurf has to be Jokey Smurf. The guy gives out presents. To his fellow Smurfs. Who have the presents EXPLODE in their faces. ...That utter bastard. Why the other Smurfs haven't ganged up and beat the holy living smurf out of him, I have no idea. But I like the idea of little Anarchy Smurf running around and stirring up trouble in their mushroom village.

As to Gargamel's motivation: now, I have heard of both of the reasons, re: making gold and just outright eating them. I think maybe we can reconcile these by saying that Gargamel wants to eat them, then use what's left (the bones, the hats, the inedible gristly tail-nubbins) to perform his forbidden alchemy.

I hadn't heard the...ahem, "Smurfette Theory," but without getting into things like, er, relative sizes, or perhaps what that would imply about Gargamel's...endowment...okay, I'm not going any farther with this. It's all too icky. But I should add that it doesn't surprise me that some people have put thought into this. And now I'm one of them. Great.

Speaking of thinking things best left unthought, here's my old "Smurfs Life Cycle" post, since it seems a bit appropriate to the subject at hand.

By the way, later in the comments, reader Linus suggests that I use the Obamafy Me website to generate some images similar to that Obama poster we've all seen.

Sure...here you go:

Now that's smurf you can smurf in!

Friday, January 16, 2009

So it's come to this. 

Well, frankly, I've got nothin' for today. I kinda went overboard yesterday with my posting and left myself with not a whole lot I particularly wanted to cover at the moment.

It's been a while since I last did this, so maybe it's been long enough for me to get away with it again. If you, the dear and loyal Progressive Ruin reader, happen to have any questions for me...hopefully comic book related questions...feel free to leave them in the comments section for today's entry. Even if it's not so much a question as just a request to cover a particular topic, go ahead and drop those in and I'll see what I can do.

I just ask that you keep the questions and requests clean, keep 'em friendly, and keep 'em at least somewhat related to things I've covered on this site. I reserve the right to skip questions that are rude, insulting, or just plain nosy. Or about Fell, just to spite the guy who kept nagging me to talk about it.

If I get enough questions/requests, maybe next week can be "Reader's Request" week. Hopefully someone will ask for high DPI scans of old funnybook characters pointing angrily, because I could totally go for another week of those. Couldn't you?

Anyway, drop in your questions and/or suggestions, and I'll do my best to give 'em serious answers. And probably long, meandering answers...you folks have read my site, you know how I run off at the virtual mouth a bit.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


We ran through our copies of that new Amazing Spider-Man by mid-afternoon, but we saved a copy for Employee Tim since he wasn't going to be able to pop into the store until after school let out.

So I prepared a copy specifically for him:

I just did this as a joke, but I'm sure there were stores you could walk into and see something pretty similar done to their ASMs hanging on their walls.

Anyway, we didn't have the hassle that I feared we would over this. Had a few people get snippy over the fact that we didn't have the Obama cover, including a couple of phone calls that ended with the folks on the other end slamming their phones down as soon as the words "don't have the Obama cover" left our mouths, and so on. But by and large we weren't swamped with people seeking to make their fortunes. It was more "a spattering of interest in the 'Spider-Man unmasking' story" than the "oh sweet heavens there's a line of people around the block waiting to buy the Death of Superman," at least for us. But hey, after months of the book dropping sales we finally got an issue of Amazing Spider-Man that actually sold well...now there's change I can believe in.

In related news, I found this message thread through my referral logs, where they're going on about Marvel not sending people the Obama covers. To wit:

"I don’t think it’s fair that the men and women who pick up every issue of this comic cannot get the alternate because Marvel has only sent them to select retailers. Yes, I firmly believe Marvel deliberately sent the books to the specific stores so they could get the price jacked up for online orders. There, I said it!"

I don't know how that argument follows exactly, but someone did try to send him to my post on Tuesday where I explained how Marvel actually distributed the comic. To recap: so long as you matched orders of a previous issue with the regular cover of this new issue, you could order as many Obama covers as you wanted. You could order a thousand. You could order ten thousand, but you'd probably get a lot of questioning phone calls and e-mails from the distributor, I'd imagine. Marvel has been offering several variants in this fashion in recent months.

From the sound of things, a lot of stores found themselves in the same position we were in: looking at the dropping sales of Spider-Man, trying to decide whether raising the orders and ordering the variants on top of that was worth it, and either opted not to do so or to order very conservatively. It's not a case of Marvel picking and choosing who gets the variants; it's a case of many retailers having little or no confidence in sales on the comic, and keeping orders low. (Again, keep in mind all this order decision-making was done and finalized prior to the news coverage.)

That's just a generalization...I'm sure some stores ordered TONS, and some stores didn't order it because they didn't know about it. But regardless, I wish Marvel just stuck with one cover on this book and avoided all the confusion.

Of course, it's hard to explain this over and over again in the store to people who want "the comic with Obama on it" and wonder why the comic we're handing them has an implied-threesome gag on the cover. But What Can You Do? I did tell 'em we'd have a new printing the following week, with the Obama cover, which made some of them happy.

Well, here's to the weekend...wonder how many calls about this comic I'm going to get over the next few days?

READ MORE ABOUT IT: Dr. K tells a story about a store where the guy behind the counter apparently had his fill of the Spider-Obama comic. It's remarkably unpleasant.

In other news:
  • So it's bad enough I accidentally duplicated part of someone else's post yesterday...but it had to be part of a post by Bully, the Little Stuffed Bull! Even down to the same panels. Boy, I'm a jerk.

    Don't worry, everything's cool between me and Bully. Plus, I think my focus was more on my continuing fascination of the filling of the gaps/backstories of every single aspect of the Star Wars universe, though we both had to say something about the "Piggy" comment. I mean, c'mon, you kinda have to, he said self-justifyingly.

    Speaking of which, as I Twittered last night, it's not enough that Han Solo has a stripe design on his pants. It has to be a Corellian Bloodstripe, with its own significance and backstory.

    I'm not taking the moral high ground or anything: I'm a big ol' Star Wars dork. I've read all the books. But I've got enough self-awareness, I think, to occasionally roll my eyes at some of the "Expanded Universe" excesses. Did you know pretty much every character in the Mos Eisley cantina has a backstory that's been told? Of course they do. And it doesn't stop there. (Again, no moral high ground, I read all those.)

    As I told a friend of mine on Twitter yesterday: while the 8-year-old Mikester loves this stuff, the 39-year-old Mikester can't help but wonder why he keeps reading these. Probably because the 8-year-old Mikester is the one in charge of the book budget.

  • Speaking of Star Wars, pal Dorian posted a good example of one of the most effective advertising strategies: confusing the customer.

  • Here, have a review of Final Crisis #6 from someone not taking a paycheck from Marvel. Seriously, this is some crazed superhero stuff, and a lot of fun.

  • When Fangirls Attack and Written World's Lisa Fortuner makes her triumphant return to her "Just Past the Horizon" column at its new home.

  • Now seems like a pretty good time to link to Andrew's tale of "Mr. Tawny's Pleasure Peril." (For the record: I can enjoy Tawny both here and in Final Crisis, because my sense of humor is simultaneously innocent and cruel.)

  • Tim O'Neil writes smart about the Wasp (who's had her share of problems lately), and has some insightful reviews of a handful of super-books.

  • Boy, that was a lot to read. Well, you're not doing anything right now anyway, right?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Biggs Darklighter pays a sensitive tribute to a fallen comrade. 

from Star Wars #6, reprinted in Marvel Special Edition featuring Star Wars #2
by Roy Thomas, Howard Chaykin, Rick Hoberg and others

Dude, he's already an overweight guy saddled with the name "Porkins." And he's dead. Why pile on with the "Piggy?"

Anyway, like all things Star Warsian, major or minor, there's an involved backstory for Porkins -- in particular the various names and nicknames, insulting and otherwise -- which you can read about at Wookieepedia. I should also note that I'm a bad person for laughing at the transcript of Porkins' death, which you can find in the article under the heading "Battle of Yavin."

In conclusion...Lucas. You had to call the fat guy "Porkins." Really.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Things I don't want to write about. 

1. The Amazing Spider-Man comic with Obama that's coming out this week.

Seriously, I don't even want to deal with it. We ordered based on what we thought we could sell, and on the information Marvel gave us (and they did give us enough info on the comic itself ahead of time), not based on media coverage that may or may not have materialized. If there's still demand, we'll have a second printing the following week. If demand continues, we'll continue getting reprints if Marvel keeps supplying them.

We've had some phone calls for it, but not a whole lot. 'Course, I wasn't in the store on Monday, so maybe the phone rang off the hook all day. I don't know.

But we're not going to bump orders way up on a comic that's been generally trending downward in sales, in a month where comic sales are usually sluggish for us, in the hopes that real-world news will create more one-shot customers that only come by for the hyped comic, and never come back. (Like they did on, say, the Captain America death issue. Sales sure scaled back on that title right quick.)

Yeah, maybe we missed out on the hundred dollar eBay sales and the "investment opportunity," and maybe someone will pop into my comments to tell me how he, I don't know, reshingled his roof with the money he made reselling this comic on the secondary market. Hey, good for you. I don't care.

So, again, we based orders on information we had on hand, not on potential hype (which, by the way, started after we finalized our numbers on this comic). This may be a conservative way of doing things, but this isn't an industry that, on the whole, really encourages, or rewards, or can even support, a whole lot of risk-taking. Because I'm sure if we ordered a metric ton of copies of a comic via direct sales in the hopes (or on the promise) of media attention, and it fizzled, the publisher would surely let us return the unsold copies...right?


Our preview of Wednesday, courtesy Employee Tim:


1. I'm not as angry about this as I sound, honest. I'm more bemused by it all.

2. Yes, I know publishers sometimes will offer items on a limited returnable basis to encourage orders. That's more the exception than the rule.

3. I actually think Obama meeting Spider-Man is a cool idea, given that our President-Elect's a Spidey fan.

4. "Our President-Elect's a Spidey fan" is a very strange thing to find myself typing.

Monday, January 12, 2009

"Believe me...I've been trying to." 

I keep trying to find a use for this particular panel:

...so I'll just post here in the meantime until I find one. Actually, this would make a good panel for this site's eventual, and hopefully far-off, Very Last Post, I think. (This is another scan from UFO & Outer Space, by the way.)

Maybe you can find a use for it:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My fanboyishness is showing. 

I keep getting e-mails (and at least one comment!) about this interview with DC Comics' Dan DiDio. In particular, this bit of business discussing the impending Solomon Grundy series:

"People will ask, 'Where’s Swamp Thing in the DCU?' and one of the things that we thought we could do with Solomon Grundy that can be interesting, that can be part of the DCU, and maybe fill that need that people are looking for in a more brute-like character such as Swamp Thing. I’m not saying, mind you, that Solomon Grundy will be like Swamp Thing in this miniseries, but that he’s a type of character that’s similar to Swamp Thing."


Whenever the topic's come up before regarding Swamp Thing returning to the regular DC Universe from the mature-readers Vertigo imprint, the answer has generally been "Vertigo won't let him go." Which, I guess, is understandable, since Swamp Thing is one of the most well-known properties in under Vertigo's umbrella, though perhaps more for the movies than for any of the comics.

So what appears to be said here is that what the audience is looking for is that niche of...well, let's set aside the description of "brute-like" since that's bit of an oversimplification of Swamp Thing's appeal. Let's go with the "man trapped in a monster's body" niche, since that appears to be the direction they're going in, based on that Faces of Evil: Grundy comic that came out last Wednesday. Anyway, so DiDio's saying that what the audience wants is that niche filled, and since they can't get Swamp Thing, Solomon Grundy will do.

And I can see what he's saying. You've got the man stuck in a monster's body, you've got the (sorta) fresh take on the regular DCU as seen though the horror genre filter, and you've got a character that's still firmly in the DCU, and not co-opted by the mature-readers imprint.

But I think the premise established here is wrong. I don't think the people who want Swamp Thing back in the DCU so that particular character type is present in the shared superhero universe. I think it's simply because they* like Swamp Thing, and would like to see the character again. Not a similar character, but that specific character. And, if I can explain my personal reasoning, the last couple of Vertigo Swamp Thing series didn't last very long, and maybe getting the character back in the DCU may help in generating some fresh interest in the character with, you know, crossovers and such. Yes, I want my Swamp Thing versus the Teen Titans comic...what of it?

Not saying I wouldn't enjoy a good Solomon Grundy comic, though I was a tad annoyed that the Faces of Evil one-shot didn't have an ending, but a lead-in to the forthcoming series. I still liked it well enough.

But it ain't no Swamp Thing.

* And by "they" I primarily mean me and Rich.

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