mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, April 11, 2009

And now, an excerpt from Black Panther's Little Handbook of Wisdom

from Black Panther #5 (Sept. 1977) by Jack Kirby & Mike Royer

Friday, April 10, 2009


from Black Panther #11 (Sept. 1978) by Jack Kirby & Mike Royer

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Solomon Stone and the Flash. 

The World's Most Perfect Comic has at last been created, and that comic is...


...concocted by the trio of mad geniuses Chris Sims, Matthew Allen Smith, and Benjamin Birdie.

Click the pic above to be whisked away to the very first chapter, which you can read for free -- FREE! -- with new chapters to follow on future Wednesdays. Tell 'em Mike sent you!

Longtime customer, comics columnist, and 'zine publisher Jim Kingman dropped me a line to ask what I thought of Flash: Rebirth #1, the mini-series revival of Barry Allen, the long-dead Silver Age Flash.

Well...I'm not going to lie and say I wasn't looking forward to it. I was a fan of the old Barry Allen Flash series, even all the way through to the bitter end and the generally maligned "trial" storyline (which I actually enjoyed, so there). But my anticipation, I think, is more of a knee-jerk old nostalgic fanboy response more than anything else. When you get right down to it, a revival of Barry Allen is largely unnecessary (as Tim O'Neil notes), as the character was given a heroic send-off in Crisis on Infinite Earths, his heroic identity successfully passed down to his former kid partner, and his place as the Fallen Legend to Whom Others Pay Homage was solidly fixed in the DC Universe. There was also a sense that the character was pretty much "done" at the time of his death (primarily because of that darn trial storyline), and the passing of the torch from one generation to the next felt natural and acceptable.

I was going to go into a comparison between this transition and what happened to the Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern, but that's been done to death, I realize. Basically, turning Hal into a villain in order to make way for a new GL didn't feel like a natural transition...it felt like the short-term gain marketing gimmick it was, and when the eventual Green Lantern: Rebirth mini came along, that felt like it was fulfilling a need/correcting a misstep in the franchise.

There is no such "mistake" (if I may so bold as to use that term) being corrected by Flash: Rebirth. The character was quite fine as he's been for the last couple of decades: a dead hero to whom others kept measuring themselves by, especially his former kid partner and new Flash, Wally West. His occasional, brief time-travel appearances in the modern DCU would remind the characters (and the readers!) of just how awesome Barry Allen was supposed to be, but primarily he was kept to the status of Deceased Heroic Legend. There was no lingering nagging feeling that some grave injustice had been done to Barry Allen, no outcry from fans that the character must be restored...the franchise had moved on, and the memories of the Barry Allen Flash served to enrich the stories that succeeded him.

All that said...the Wally West Flash series sort of felt like it may have run (heh) its course. After nearly 250 issues, the Flash franchise needed a little freshening up. Also, the series never really recovered from the Bart Allen Flash debacle, so a fresh break was probably needed. And bringing back a character that, for over two decades, was very famously dead is a good way to grab some attention. So while bringing back Barry Allen may not have been necessary for the character (as it arguably was for Hal Jordan), it may be a help to the franchise overall. Whether it's short-term marketing gimmick or long-term franchise adjustment...well, we'll see.

I realize none of that answers the question "is the comic any good?" to which my response would be "yeah, ain't bad." If a Return of Barry Allen comic had to exist, this'll do. Damning with faint praise, I realize, but reading this comic creates a variety of mixed responses in me (as evidenced in the blathering above). Just on its own, the comic's fine...it's readable and enjoyable, which is all a comic really has to be. Considered in the larger scheme of things, you're left wondering why it seemed necessary, outside of giving a kick in the pants to the franchise. And I suppose that may be reason enough, particularly given the previous attempt to bring life to the series didn't go so well.

And of course there's also a question of what's going to be so different this time with Barry Allen back in the costume, but we may have to wait and see the rest of the Rebirth mini before we find that out for sure. I suspect the answer is "not a whole lot," but we'll all find out eventually.

Just no more extended trial storylines. I liked it, as I said, but once was enough, really.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Say, did I ever tell you about one of the things pal Dorian gave me for my birthday? 

He gave me one of these:

An Andy Kaufman wrestlin' figure. I had no idea such a thing of beauty existed.

I went looking, and there's a two figure set featuring Andy with Jerry Lawler. David Letterman not included.

In other news:

I was typing "kitty pryde and prejudice" into the Google yesterday, to see if anyone beat me to the joke, and I got as far as entering "kitty pryde" into the search bar before I discovered something. To see what I found, I direct you to Mr. Kevin Church, whom I told about this since, given his particular expertise in online promotion and marketing, I thought he'd find it appallingly amusing.

What are you people getting up to out there?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've mentioned Jane Austen on my site. 

So last New Comics Day, I made a joking reference to Employee Aaron about Marvel's adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice being, in fact, Kitty Pryde and Prejudice...which inadvertently alarmed a customer who was within hearing and had a copy of said comic in his hands, who promptly did a double-take at the book. Not that I can blame him, because 1) this is Marvel we're talking about, whose only apparently problem with their X-Men publishing line is that it isn't large enough, and 2) the young woman on the cover of the Pride and Prejudice comic does fit within the generally accepted range of illustrated portrayals of Ms. Pryde (i.e. female, young, brown hair). Plus, any world with this in it can't dismiss the possibility of a Jane Austen/X-Men crossover.

The moral of the story: don't let Mike get within earshot of the customers. And don't let him beg them for food or coins, which has nothing to do with the above story, but is generally a good idea anyway.

BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES Netflix Marathon Update: The two-part origin of Two-Face is not just one of the greatest Batman cartoons of all time, it's one of the greatest Batman anythings of all time. I'd seen it before, but seeing it again reminded me...that they managed to get something as twisted and psychologically dark as this onto Saturday morning (EDIT: or whenever) television is nothing short of a miracle. Richard Moll's voicework as the tragic Harvey Dent is wonderful, effortlessly shifting from the smooth D.A., to the tortured innocent, to the growling "Big Bad Harv." The series was excellent from the beginning, but it was this two parter, I think, that really drove home that fact that this was something different in the superhero adventure cartoon genre.

A couple of bits of sad news:

Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein has lost most of his home to a fire...his family is safe, but unfortunately their pet dog perished. Harlan Ellison's message board seems to be the place to go for information on this tragic incident. My sympathies and best wishes to the Wein family in this difficult time.

Legendary cartoonist Frank Springer has passed away, and my condolences to his family and friends.

Monday, April 06, 2009

I did not know I needed this until I had it in my hands. 

So I don't get a whole lot of back issues for myself anymore, aside from the occasional Nancy and Sluggo, but this one came in over the weekend and by God, I had to keep it:

It's an entire comic devoted to The Twist, that nutty dance craze sweeping the nation. The cover is certainly striking, I thought...when I showed it to pal Dorian, he commented on how unusually sexy it was, particularly for a Dell book from 1962.

I wanted to provide some kind of overview of the story within the book itself, but...well, it's a tad mindboggling. Mostly it's kids dancing the Twist whenever the opportunity arises, freaking out the old folks...though some eventually give in and start doing the Twist themselves. There's some kind of competition between a pizza place and some upscale restaurant that involves the Twist, and there are a lot of panels like this:

And yes, the pictures are crying. The Twist is so powerful a dance it can give framed illustrations tear ducts:

...or there's, you know, a leaky pipe or something. This pizzeria's getting so shut down.

Anyway, I think I may need to give this crazy-ass comic another read or three before I can do it any kind of justice here. In the meantime, here's the gag from the back cover:

Oh, you crazy, scary youth culture! Clearly dancing kids would be the most frightening thing you'd be able to find in Times Square, so who can blame the guy, right?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids. 

  • So the Dr. Strange promo poster I posted on Friday has elicited some reactions from two of the internet's biggest proponents of the good Doctor: some commentary at Sanctum Sanctorum, which includes some nice words about me (always appreciated); and of course, some thoughts from the Living Embodiment of Comics Weblogging, the enigmatic and always excellent Neilalien. Go read 'em both!

  • I think reading both Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! and the Shazam Family-heavy Justice Society of America this week may have given me whiplash, considering the vast differences in tone used with essentially the same set of characters. I will have to say seeing the extremely pissed-off and badass Wizard Shazam in JSA was...satisfying, in a strange way.

    Also, I must not have been paying attention or something, because Mike Kunkel, artist/writer of the Billy Batson book, has had a long-running blog devoted to his efforts on this title and I only just now discovered it. Clearly I need to start spending more time on the internet.

  • Generally I let the employees handle register duty, because...well, mainly because I've done register duty long enough over the years, and now someone else can do it. But also partially because right now, with my wild mane of hair, scraggly beard, and (currently) my cane, I look like a Scooby Doo villain and frankly, the customers don't need my horrifying visage glaring back at them from the other side of the counter, while I'm demanding they hand over their money. So I let Employees Aaron, Kid Chris, and Tim switch off on that particular task, as they still yet retain their youth and some glimmer of joy and hope.

    Employee Aaron, in particular, has been heavily pimping the forthcoming Free Comic Book Day (1st Saturday in May, remember!) to any and all customers who dare come within proselytizing range, and yesterday this resulted in my favorite reaction yet to the news. A young man, about 8 or 9 years old, reacted thusly upon hearing about the free bounty of comics soon to be unleashed within our store:

    "Free comics? For no money!?"

    The very thing, sir!

  • Watched the new Wonder Woman direct-to-DVD animated movie this weekend. Not bad, not bad...a few good gags, plenty of action, and bless 'em for trying, but you can try to justify WW's costume in-story all you want, it's still a tough sell. It's a reasonably entertaining way to kill an hour or so at the very least. And that was Mike Sterling's ENTHUSIASTIC REVIEW™. (Should note that the girlfriend loved it. Any movie where the women kick butt and take names, she's all over it.)

    In related DC Animated news, as least as it relates to me, I'm currently beginning to watch all the '90s Batman: The Animated Series DVDs straight through (or at least 'til I'm burnt out on them), courtesy the Netflix. I've seen plenty of them over the years, of course, but only sporadically and nowhere near all of them. Amazing how rough around the edges (but still darkly beautiful) those early episodes appear, especially when compared to the slicker superhero cartoons being produced today. Hard not to look at those early appearances of Renee Montoya and not think "oh, hey, it's the new Question." (Okay, maybe not that hard.)

  • ANOTHER COMMERCIAL REMINDER: I've relisted a few things on the eBay that didn't sell in previous weeks, now (mostly) at lower prices, so if you'd like to help subsidize the time and energy I spend on this site every day, feel free to bid (or you can just send a donation via the PayPal link in the sidebar...I would be most appreciative of that as well). MY PROMISE TO YOU: all money earned via eBay sales/PayPal goes to things like "utilities" and "food," and NOT to dumb stuff I don't really need. (That's what the Amazon referral credit is for.)

  • And now, suddenly, BATMAN THE MUSICAL:

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