mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, February 14, 2009

And I certainly hope you all are happy to be Italian today, too. 

from Secret Romance #33 (July 1973)

Happy Valentine's Day from Progressive Ruin Industries!

Friday, February 13, 2009

I am the worst blogger in the world. 

So I'm starting this post awfully late to be attempting the time-intensive "respond to the comments" post that I've been thinking about doing for the Youngblood-related responses you folks have been leaving. That, and the fact I have a small scratch on my eye from some damned thing or 'nother which has me squinting painfully at everything, is telling me to lay off yet more Youngblood talk until I can devote a little more time and concentration to it.

I apologize for that...I had every intention of wrapping things up today and moving on, since I'm sure you've all heard enough on the topic to last you for a while. But I'll try to get to it first thing next week. I do appreciate all the response I've received, and I especially like that we've heard from several enthusiastic fans of Liefeld's, giving us a perspective on the man's output that you usually don't come across on comic sites or in the funnybook press.

Anyway, I'm begging off today, and tomorrow is Valentine's Day, so I'll probably slack off then, too. Let's try this again on Sunday, internet pals.

In the meantime, here's a link to a Kaz strip sent along by Reader Paul, that is of special interest to...well, me, I guess. But maybe you'll like it, too.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Even when I'm being a bad blogger, like today.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I meant to mention in the body of the post that I do like the character of Badrock, but this subject line will have to do. 

Well, as some of you may have noticed, we had quite the influx of Youngblood and Rob Liefeld supporters in my "tell me why you liked Youngblood" comments thread from Tuesday. I had suspected that some fan site or message board or something took notice and decided to send some Liefeld love my way, and sure enough, it came from the Rob Liefeld message board (WARNING: autoplaying sound at link). In fact, it was Big Rob himself who suggested to his fans there that they should come over here and let me know just how much they loved the title. And, you know, fair enough. Mr. Liefeld recognized that I was trying to bring a more balanced, fair-handed approach to determining Youngblood's appeal to its fans. (I can't link directly to the thread, as it requires a membership, but my man on the inside...well, okay, a friend who happened to have an account there...forwarded me the relevant texts.) There probably aren't too many friendly ports on the internet seas for Youngblood, so if he wants to send people here to voice their support for the series...hey, send 'em on over. Happy to have them.

Like I said when I started this, I was looking to be fair. The easy thing is to dismiss Youngblood as being indicative of a certain type of craft that embodied the flashy shallowness of many 1990s superhero comics. And I'll be honest...the comic doesn't do anything for me. But I can see why it would be appealing, and most of what the Liefeld message boarders had to say confirmed some of those assumptions.

One thing that did surprise me was the level of enthusiasm folks had for Youngblood and the connected shared universe Liefeld and pals created around it. Some of the comments had a measure of defensiveness about them, but I suppose I can't really fault anyone for that. Youngblood is so often used as a symbol, and usually a negative one, of '90s comics, that one forgets that there were, in fact, characters and stories and subplots and conflicts. And that there were people who read these comics and invested a measure of emotional attachment into them. And, as noted near the end of the comments, there was a real sense of loss for those fans when the various books dropped off the stands, cutting off access to that world. One of the things I've learned in my couple of decades' worth of comics retail is that every comic is someone's favorite...you just can't take for granted that there's going to be the one comic that's universally reviled. And for all the slagging Youngblood takes (and, yeah, sure, I've done it too, I'm not innocent), it does have its fans.

Even so, that doesn't mean Youngblood should be beyond criticism, no matter how passionate or enthusiastic its fans may be. My remarks yesterday about that first issue still stand...it's rough-hewn and awkward. And a glance at later issues reveals little, if any, improvement. And to be frank, a number of the issues I have with the craft in those books I still see in more recent examples of Liefeld's work.

The conclusion? His work's not for me. But I do recognize that it's for somebody. I can understand why people would be excited about Youngblood, why they'd follow his career and his follow-up projects and remain loyal to him. And by most accounts (and by my own general impression of him over the years) he seems to be a friendly guy who's kind and generous with his fans. So, you know, there's that.

My plan today was to go through and address several of the comments directly, but the Liefeld message board invasion (and take that in the humorous tone which I intend, Liefeld fans!) has altered my strategy a bit. I'm probably still going to attempt it, which means another day of Youngblood on the site. Hey, if I really hated the book, I wouldn't be having "Youngblood Week" on the site, right?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm sorry, I don't have a clever Youngblood-related title for this post. 

Thank you for your comments from yesterday's post regarding Youngblood.

I reread the first issue of Youngblood prior to writing this post. Well, skimmed it, anyway, as it's hard going. It's disjointed action pieces and peculiar anatomy and awkward poses and people shouting at each other through gritted teeth...granted, it's not much different from most superhero books, but it has that extra veneer of sloppiness and amateurishness that made it the embodiment of '90s comics.

But at the same time...it's colorful, it's action-packed, it's filled with a bunch of unusual characters, and it just plain looks exciting. And at the time, it looked different from, and in some ways more modern than, the more staid superhero offerings from Marvel and DC.

I know I'm not saying anything new here. There have been eighteen years of "how the hell did that thing sell?" commentary and there's not a whole lot I'm going to be able to add. But I do remember the day it came out, when we had a line stretching around the store, customers each with a copy of Youngblood #1 in hand. Some excited by the prospect of a superhero alternative to the Big Two created by former Marvel artists, some driven into the store by creator Rob Liefeld's appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show The Dennis Miller Show (or whatever...I wasn't sure the last time I talked about this either) the night before plugging the book, some picking up the book because hey -- everyone else is, and maybe even one or two people who picked it up because they thought it looked neat.

But it sold. A lot. And it continued to sell, for a while.

Some of what you folks had to say explaining why you read and/or enjoyed Youngblood jibes with what I've believed regarding the series' initial success. The hype, the series' rough promise, the exciting presentation, even its symbolic significance as the first title from this new upstart imprint created by expatriated Marvel artists...all perfectly acceptable reasons to throw down your $2.50 and give a comic a shot. It may not have been, you know, good in a traditional sense...it's pretty much the very definition of trash entertainment. But here I am, nearly twenty years later, and I'm still talking about it.

Tomorrow, hopefully, I'm probably going to go through and respond directly to several of your comments, so if anyone has anything they'd like to add to the discussion, feel free to join in.

Yes, I'm going for a third day of Youngblood discussion. Hey, I once talked about the Batman and Robin movie for the better part of a week. I'm not proud.

And what the heck...here's Rob's jeans commerical:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

There is love enough in the world for even this. 

Okay, so I may have been a bit hard on Youngblood yesterday. Well, I don't want people thinking that I don't play fair, so I'm opening up the floor here to you folks.

What I want from you is your best defense of Youngblood. And I mean the original Rob Liefeld-era Youngblood. Not the three or so issues by Alan Moore. Not the currently running series. But the original, classic, clenched teeth and speedlines and by God full-on Liefeldness of the original run. And maybe even Team Youngblood and Youngblood Strikefile, if you're so inclined.

Give me your best shot. Tell me why you liked these comics. And I know some of you did...these comics did sell very well for a while, and even taking into consideration that a bunch were squirreled away for future investment and never cracked open, at least some issues were read. And enjoyed.

I'm not looking for facetious answers, and I'm not looking to make fun of anyone. Youngblood has a certain...reputation for its quality, but I know the book had its fans and I want to hear why. Leave your comments anonymously if you'd like. Just tell me why you were a fan of the book. I really do want to know.

So, please, have at it.

Monday, February 09, 2009

In which I finally have something to say about Fell

  • Over at Dave Olbrich's Funny Book Fanatic site, my little weblog thingie here has been declared BLOG OF THE MONTH, which puts me in the running for Dave's BLOG OF THE YEAR in, presumably, about 10 months. So vote early, vote often!

    Sincerely, though, thanks a lot, Dave! It's greatly appreciated, especially coming from a former editor of one of my all time favorite comic magazines, Amazing Heroes. (And if you all haven't visited yet, Funny Book Fanatic is a fun site, and well worth visiting. And I'd probably say that even if I didn't get BLOG OF THE MONTH!)

  • Flush twice, it's a long way to Hollywood: Brett Ratner to possibly inflict Youngblood movie upon unsuspecting public.

    It's actually come up a couple of times over the past week at the shop that the currently-running Youngblood comic book series isn't all that bad, but, you know, good luck convincing anybody of that. Its symbolic value as a representation of '90s funnybook excess is such an insurmountable barrier that pretty much anyone working on the book is doing so in near-obscurity. Even Alan Moore's too brief stint on the title did nothing to counter the long-cast shadow of THIS.

    Again, like I said, the current incarnation is fine. But if you're reading it and enjoying it, it's like you're part of a secret club. The "Hey, This Version of Youngblood Ain't So Bad" Club, with, on average, about one member per comic shop.

  • We've been having a brief uptick in sales on Fell, Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith's crime comic with the $1.99 price point gimmick. I've mentioned in the past that we keep every issue in stock and on display on one of the comic racks in the shop not devoted to new releases, and it's remained a consistent seller. I've explained before why I like having this comic around, and I certainly hope we see a new issue soon.

    Keeping every issue of a series on display, as opposed to simply keeping them all available in a back issue bin, can be a difficult strategy to implement if you're short on rack space...a common problem when there's a dozen X-Men or Batman comics out at any given time. But sometimes it pays off...until very recently, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Lenore, which were also continuously kept on display at our shop, were selling gangbusters for us. If we'd simply thrown each issue in the back issue boxes as the new one came out, I don't know that we would have sold anywhere near as many. Well, okay, I know we wouldn't have sold as many. (I'm not sure what's causing the recent dip in sales I mentioned...either the local market is saturated, or perhaps this particular style of comic is falling out of favor...I don't know.)

    The "keep 'em all on the rack" strategy doesn't work with everything...there've been a couple of other titles I've tried this with, but got no rack sales love. And of course it helps if all the issues are kept in print...something that's certainly worked to Fell's benefit, with some issues having gone into sixth printings.

  • Mr. Dan Kelly brings you...restaurant superhero murals of Evanston, Illinois! Who else would dare?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The terrifying beauty of ephemera. 

So a box arrived for me at the shop the other day, mailed from Pal JP's secret headquarters in the Pacific Northwest, and contained therein was the following:


...as previously discussed by both me and esteemed Swamp Thing artist Steve Bissette. That last pic is a bit blurry, but the card reads "OFFICIAL LICENSED PRODUCT," in case you were worried someone was out there producing bootleg Swamp Thing slippers.

Now, thanks to Pal JP, I now have my very set of these unusual examples of Swamp Thing merchandising history. Yup, a grown man, excited over his ownership of little novelty booties. That's not weird at all.

Kid Chris suggested I get them bronzed, and Employee Aaron wants me to hang them from my truck's rear view mirror. I think I'll just keep them with the other items in my Swamp Thing merchandise shrine at the house, where just the family will worry about me instead of the public at large.

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