mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sluggo Saturday #7. 



from Nancy and Sluggo #180 (Jan-Feb 1961)


Friday, June 19, 2009


Here we go, the last few questions from my comments a couple of days ago. Maybe, just maybe, we might all learn a little something.
  • Anonymous challenges me with

    "Explain the miscolored Swamp Thing stealth appearances back in Planetary #7 and in the Ambush Bug: Year None mini, with the necessary pics."

    Well, I'm gonna have to do it without pics, because I'm starting this late Thursday evening and would like to go to bed at a decent hour. The "miscoloring" of Swamp Thing in Planetary was simply because the issue featuring several take-offs of Vertigo characters, and if the Swamp Thing analogue was miscolored, it was just an attempt at least slightly different visually.

    In Ambush Bug, I suspect Swamp Thing was miscolored to further distance this character's portrayal from his usual Vertigo appearances, since Swamp Thing is editorially forbidden (or, at least, not permitted overtly) to appear in the regular DC Universe...or whatever passed for it in Ambush Bug.

    "Was there a ST cameo in Guy Gardner: Collateral Damage? If so, prove it!"

    Whoa, ease up there, cowboy. We're all friends here. Yes, there's a cameo in issue #2 of this Howard Chaykin prestige-format mini-series, and here it is:

    In the first issue of the series, there's a VERY tiny image of a framed photo on a wall that may show Swamp Thing, but it's pretty vague.

  • Googum pipes in with

    "Am I too late?"

    Nope! You got in just under the wire!

    "Hey, does your store sell action figures, and if so, what are the current big movers?"

    We do carry action figures, but the market has become very oversaturated and we've scaled it back quite a bit. We've quit ordering McFarlane figures altogether, as we got tired of ordering a case of Spawn figures, selling the female figure immediately, and then getting stuck with a bunch of unsellable dust-collectors.

    We'll order the DC Direct figures, the Marvel Select figures, and the occasional Star Trek figure, and every once in a while we'll pick up some oddball figure that we may think will grab some attention, but the days of heavy action figure stocking is pretty much done for now. As such, nothing really sticks out as big movers. The last figure to sell noticeably well was the Rorschach figure from the Watchmen movie set. And prior to that we were selling several copies of the Marvel Zombies: Hulk figure, oddly enough.

  • Thorn wants to know

    "Hey Mike - What do you think about the news that May saw a nearly 20% drop in comic sales compared to last year? What's that all about? And do you predict that comic sales will continue to be down?"

    There was a story about "the May comics crash" that theorized the causes being a lack of Big Crossover Events, no outstanding #1s, lateness of popular books, rising cover prices, and everybody being broke. And that probably covers it. I know May wasn't the greatest month for us, but things seem to be bouncing back in June, so let's hope for the best.

    As for the future...I want to say things will improve, but you never know. It's going to be an ongoing process of adjustment/fine line-walking among the retailers/consumers/publishers re: pricing and formats.

  • R-Lex wraps up the initial question-fest with this:

    "Not sure if it's too late to get in on this, but would be interested to know if you have any thoughts on the upcoming Giffen Doom Patrol series."

    Well, I do love the Doom Patrol, and I enjoy Giffen's superhero writing, and the preview pages look good to me, so it'll definitely be a must-buy. Plus there's that Metal Men back-up by Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire, so I really can't wait to read it. It sounds great.

    Whether it'll stick around longer than the last couple of incarnations of Doom Patrol, I don't know. But it should be a lot of fun while it's around.

Okay, let's do a little mop-up on some comments from the last couple of days, and we'll wrap up this latest session of "Help Mike Generate Content" "Ask Mike Some Questions." From Wednesday:
  • Tim O'Neil asks

    "On another subject: the Cap #600 nonstarter was predicted by all and sundry, but do you think there was any significance to the fact that, as opposed to past Marvel news stories, the news of Cap's return also happened to fall on an extremely busy newsday? In other words, stuff like Cap's death and the Obama issue of Spider-Man enjoyed good press because not a lot else was going on that particular day, but Cap just happened to return on the day that Iran exploded, North Korea threatened to destroy the world, and the Obama administration began the roll-outs for the its two biggest domestic policy initiatives to date. *If* - and obviously this is a big *if* - there was any chance of the story gaining wide traction, did the news climate essentially quash said traction before it could get started?"

    Well, certainly real world events got in the way of some silly funnybook news...but there's always so much time and space to fill in the news media outlets, that even on a day when all this happened, there's still room for a puff piece on a comic book character. That night I heard the Cap story repeated, along with Iran/North Korea/etc., during the five minute newsbreak played every half hour on the radio. So the story was out there.

    But people don't care. Now, by "people" I mean the folks who don't go into comic shops unless they hear about something on TV or read it in the paper...the ones who showed up for the Spider-Obama comic and for the death of Cap. So far I have yet to hear a peep from any of these people about the return of Captain America. Not one phone call, not one walk-in from any non-regulars looking for it. (The excuse of "well, Reborn isn't out yet" doesn't fly, because these same people don't pay attention to any mentioned release dates.) It's very possible it's simply because "life" doesn't sell like "death" -- or doesn't seem like it would have the same "investment potential" of having the Last Captain America Story Ever.

    And there's the fact that the people who only go to comic shops for media-advertised events have already picked up the Death of Cap, and finding out their "collectible" has been undermined by the character's return, are disinclined to be sucked in again.

    At any rate, this is why stores can't base orders on potential (or even promised) media coverage. Just showing your product to lots of people doesn't mean lots of people are going to want it.

    On the other hand, our regulars (i.e. the already converted) have been expressing some heightened interest in the whole return of Cap thing, so the comics should sell okay to our regular clientele.

  • Philip notes

    "I was reading an old(er) DC comic ('70s?) and found an editorial sort of apologizing for prices going up to 60-cents and to make it up to the readers they were going to include lots of back-up features in their books. There seems to be a bit of that happening now with DCs $3.99 titles, but man oh man four bucks is a dear price to pay for a comic so I am being extremely selective anymore with what I buy, and the temptation to "wait for the trade" is growing."

    I do like DC's $3.99 format, introduced with the "Countdown to" titles last year. A lead and a back-up for an extra-sized comic isn't a bad deal for that price. And the titles in this format have, so far, been pretty good (like Booster Gold with Blue Beetle) or should be good (the aforementioned Doom Patrol, Detective Comics with Batwoman and the Question).

    However, it's only a matter of time before the back-ups go away, the extra pages vanish, but the $3.99 price remains on the cover.

And finally, at long last, from Thursday's comments:
  • David Z. goes above and beyond the call of duty finding this, a reggae/ska-ish version of "Also Spracht Zarathustra" that I was crudely joking about in yesterday's post. ...It's good!

  • GQ notes about my pic from yesterday


    You've got big hands, ain'thca?"

    My fists and large and strong, from years of experience smashing down HIGH PRICES. And strangling people who tell me oh, yeah, sure, I have a Superman #1 at home, it's in perfect condition!

  • WH says

    "Been meaning to say this for quite some time: You look like your humor, you know that?"

    I've no idea how to even take that. I'm assuming he means I look dull and witless.

  • Andrew Davison returns with

    "Just because you found some kindly gentlemen to pose next to you, doesn't prove that it's the mysterious Ralph. The real Ralph is obviously going to look more like Ditko's Crime Master."

    He's FOUND ME OUT. Andrew has even somehow ferreted out the original, unretouched image:

    "BTW, do they still sell those 60's Hulk t-shirts? What about the Spidey one?"

    They reissued these a few years back, but I think they're out of print again. But we may still have the Hulk one in stock! I'll check when I get back to the shop.

    "BTW, you need to restock several shelves behind you."

    We took the pic on Wednesday, and all the new books were on our large New Arrivals rack. The empty spaces you're seeing are the spaces we've made on the regular shelves for the new books, when we move them over on Thursday.

    There's a reason for all this, honest.

  • Sarah wraps it all up with

    "Awesome 'curse youuuuuuuuu, Richaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaards!' pose you have going there, Mike."

    That's pretty much how I look all day. I am megalomaniacally angry at everything. "YOU DARE BEND COMICS IN FRONT OF MIKE? I SHALL CRUSH YOU FOR THIS EFFRONTERY! NONE MAY DEFY MIKE."

    "I still think Ralph is fictional, though."

    So do several of our customers, oddly enough. Or they think I'm Ralph. Or his son.

    It's when they think Employee Aaron is my son that I get a tad annoyed. Somehow this is Aaron's fault. He's so fired.

Okay, that's enough for this round of questions and answers with yours truly. Thank you everyone for participating, and I hope I was able to satisfy your curiosity. And of course, as always, thanks to all of you for reading, and putting up with some of my quirks. I understand I may have a few.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Second Day. 

Here come more answers, such as they are, to your questions. Read on, if you dare:
  • Derek B. Haas asks

    "Do you have a superior at Ralph's? I've never quite understood if you're a trusted employee, manager, or (although I suspect not on this one) part owner of the place."

    Last time I did one of these question-and-answer sessions, someone asked me that, and I let folks know that yes indeedy, there is in fact a Ralph who owns the shop I've been managing lo these many years now. Unlike last time, however, I thought I'd provide an actual photo of the mysterious Ralph in his natural setting. Now, the two of us took a normal picture and a goofy picture, so, of course, here's the goofy one:

    I didn't shave for the photo. Neither did Ralph, apparently.

    Also, some of you may remember that Alan Light posted his photos of the 1982 San Diego Comic Con to his Flickr account a while back. Well, guess who's in one of the photos?

    detail from a photo by Alan Light

    Yup, that's Ralph. I've put together that old convention display board of his once or twice over the years. I think we even still have copies of that blue flyer posted in the lower right corner of the board.

    "All impressions are that the place would be lost without you, regardless!"

    Mostly just because I'm the only one who knows the passwords to all our online accounts. If I die unexpectedly, all the guys at the shop are screwed.

  • Alex wonders

    "Have you ever read the Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake) Parker novels? I ask because the new Darwyn Cooke hardcover adapting 'The Hunter' is dropping real soon, and I'm super stoked, and wondered if you might be too."

    While I'm familiar with the names, from my old librarian years, I've not read any of his work. But if the comic adaptation excites the author's fans the way it's excited you, then I hope it does well!

  • Stanley very possibly opens a can of worms by asking

    "If I remember correctly, you had a hand in creating Anime Jack for The Rack webcomic. Whether or not that's the case, who is the biggest 'fan-atic' you've encountered? Someone who just lives and breathes whatever they're interested in, and by proxy must tell you ALL about it?"

    Yes, that is absolutely correct...I did guest-write the installment of The Rack that introduced "Anime Jack," and you can see it right here. But sure what you want to do is find out how you can get your own print copy of this fine strip, and many others as well, in that convenient "paperback" format all the kids are raving about nowadays.

    I did come up with the name, Birdie the fantastic visual, and I'm thrilled to see Birdie and Kevin still use him from time to time. The character and situation is, as you may already have guessed, based on Real Life Events.

    To address your actual question, let me relate to you a story I may have told before, but likely bears repeating. One particular person in his early to mid 20s, who may or may not have been an inspiration for Anime Jack, was obsessed with one specific anime property. For the sake of this discussion, let's say it was Naruto. It wasn't, I promise, but it's close enough. Anyway, this fellow would talk about Naruto to the exclusion of anything else while in the shop. If another customer even so much as glanced sideways at the manga section, our Naruto fan would immediately start trying to talk up said customer about the virtures of Naruto. He would stand by the register and try to talk to the employees and anyone coming up to the register about Naruto. In short, he drove us crazy.

    Let's now focus on a particular Christmas season. I was at a Major Department Store in a local mall, desperately searching out gifts. As I was walking through the crowds, I espied at a distance our Naruto fan talking to customers, a 20-ish couple, by one of the store's counters. I noticed that the fan was wearing a nametag for the Major Department Store. Hey, the fan got a job! An actual job with some measure of responsibility and nothing at all to do with Naruto! Good for him!

    I walked closer. I was able to see the expressions on the couple's faces...that of a strained politeness. I could hear what the fan was talking to them about.

    Yes indeedy, it was Naruto.

    Now, a brave and kind man, especially one who has had prior experience in dealing with this type of fannish obsession, could possibly have stepped in and edged our fan away from the precipice, and nudged our hapless couple toward safety.

    I, on the other hand, suddenly became very interested in the sock display on the other side of the store and got the hell out of there. Hey, I'll put up with the guy as part of my job, but I ain't doin' it for free.

  • Just Some Guy wonders

    "Is it possible for the comic book industry to grow again? Or will the remaining big publishers continue to spin their wheels until the fan base shrinks enough and prices rise enough to finally be unsustainable? Will the whole thing pop like a soap bubble in a matter of months or will it be a long slow bleed out (assuming we're not at that point already)?"

    I think it's possible, surely...you never know when someone will come out with that One Comic that'll grab everyone's attention, and unlike the usual short-lived sales bump created by stunts like "The Death of Captain America" (which get customers for that comic and nothing else, especially not "The Return of Captain America"), maybe this new audience would find other works of value within the medium. And retailers and publishers alike, having learned their lesson from the short-term exploitations of the collectors' mentality, and the subsequent crash of the market, will attempt to grow the audience and their interest in their publications organically, reasonably, without pandering to greed or obsession.

    And perhaps in the process I can sprout a brass band out of my butt that will play a ska version of Richard Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra upon demand.

    So in other words, I don't know that it's very likely that we'll see a sudden growth in the comics marketplace. Things are slowly healing, though with some bumps along the way, but I have a hard time seeing the market being the juggernaut (relatively speaking) it once was. It'll survive, I think, but it's going to take some serious changes on the part of retailers and publishers. Perhaps that would make a good topic for a future, more detailed, post. Let me dwell on that.

  • Julius Brown queries

    "Do you think DC really has any faith that the Red Circle and Milestone characters have a chance of selling well or are they just trying to take up more shelf space?"

    I'm sure neither DC nor any publisher puts anything out hoping it won't sell well. They probably always hope for a huge hit, but I'm guessing that from the get-go on any new project they have a pretty good idea how it may be received and what sales levels they can reasonably expect. Now this Red Circle thing has J. Michael Straczynski involved, and his work usually sells okay in the direct market and generally gets some attention. Plus, there is some slight...well, very slight, nostalgia value in these properties, even if just from people who remember the Impact comics line instead of the original Archie-published comics.

    And the Milestone titles were, during their time, well-regarded and good mid-range sellers, so there's still some life in those properties, I think. Reintroducing them via other DC titles is a good idea, but I think they're still strong enough to give a solid comic rack showing.

    Though it probably wouldn't hurt for DC to grab back some of that rack space Marvel's been gobbling up. I haven't done an exact count, but I think in general Marvel has at least 2 new issues every week for everyone 1 DC gets out. At least, that's what it feels like sometimes.

  • Andrew Davison asks many a thing:

    "Finally read 'All Star Superman 1-12' due to your comments, and loved it. Quite possibly it's replaced 'Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow' as my favourite.

    I've heard 'Superman for All Seasons' is another strong contender for 'best'. Any comments?"

    Superman for All Seasons is a good one, a solid effort by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. While Sale's giant-faced Superman does take some getting used to, the art in general is very open and beautiful, and gets across a good sense of the wonder that the Superman comics often forget about. Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen's Secret Identity (about a normal person in a normal world, named Clark Kent, suddenly gaining super-powers) is another nice once to give a shot. A very thoughtful and well-illustrated work.

    "What happened to Warren Ellis' in your sidebar links?"

    Sometimes the sidebar links get moved around or edited, for various reasons.

  • Jonboy says

    "Do you have any idea where I can find a copy of Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children #29? Been looking for it for a couple years now to no avail. Driving me crazy."

    I checked our stock, and the highest number we had of this series was #16. I'm sure #29 is out there somewhere...it was nearing the end of the series, so sales and print tuns were likely low. Good luck, my friend!

  • Super-Rob ironically asks

    "Non-superhumans only (like, you know- in case the meta-gene and all magic goes bad or whatever): Nick Fury, Jon Sable, The Question, Rorschach, Karate Kid, Green Arrow, and I'll throw in Wildcat for kicks. Batman and Captain America are dead. Who would you put on YOUR team? (And if you really need to, you can prop Cap and Bats' dead bodies up in the corner of the room for inspiration.)"

    Well, we knew Cap wasn't going to stay dead, and while the characters in the books think he's dead, we know Batman is still alive!

    Now, am I supposed to be putting together a team to take on your team? That's probably not what you meant, but let's try that anyway. So let's go with...oh, the Punisher, Shang-Chi, Archie Comics' Moose Mason, Rick Jones, the Badger, and all of them backed with the finances of Richie Rich. LET'S GO.

  • Bully the Little Stuffed Bull posits

    "Ernst Stavros Blofeld versus The Michelin Man. Who would win?"

    I'd have to go with the Michelin Man. I think he'd always bounce back.

  • Andrew Leal asks

    "Related to the queries about your recommendations and what sells and what customers ask for, how much call does your store get for 'funny' funny books or at least non superheroic (vintage John Stanley Lulu, Sluggo, Melvin etc., Carl Barks, the better Archie, those weirdo Dells based on TV sitcoms)?"

    We do carry lots of this material, so we do a good amount of business in this material. We're heavy on Disney and Archie, and those get gone through on a pretty regular basis. So there's still demand for it out there!

    "And a rider: I think this also came up in a previous Q&A bout, but what would you recommend of recent books (especially if there are any series, not trades) that are genuinely, *intentionally* funny (and no, I don't mean All Star Batman or anything like that; light reading preferred but not utterly mandatory)? Since I'm the kind of guy that goes into a comic store seeking Howie Post Little Audrey or asking 'Get any "My Friend Irma" in lately?'"

    My mind always blanks when I get asked about stuff like this...I know it's out there, but I can never call up names when I need to. But let's see...there are old stand-bys like Groo (new series in the works, apparently), and the occasional issue of Amelia Rules, and the standard Archies and Cartoon Network tie-ins, if your tastes run in that direction. There was an attempt at getting Ralph Snart up 'n' running again, Knights of the Dinner Table is funny (if aimed at a very specific demographic), and there are examples out there of humorous adventure books (like Girl Genius). And there's more I'm sure I'm forgetting. But they're out there!

  • Pal Dorian jerks my chain a little with

    "What does it sound like when doves cry?"

    It sounds like when I'm too demanding, and you're never satisfied.

    "How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?"


    "What becomes of the broken hearted?"

    They just kinda walk around and whine a lot about tumbling fruits of love and stuff like that.

    "What has it gots in its pocketses?"

    A baby's arm holding an apple.

  • Tom Spurgeon terrifies me by asking

    "Do this month's DM charts prove a Sterling Effect has hit Watchmen?"

    Oh God, I hope you're the only person calling it that. Anyway, Tom's referring to my constant experience with comics sales as tied to their movie tie-ins...in particular, that if there's a sales bump, it's almost always before the film's release, to be followed by a paucity of sales following the release. In my case, Watchmen, formerly a consistent seller, peaked prior to the film coming out, and then stopped selling at all since then.

    There are plenty of reasons for this. Other bookstores carrying the book (though it doesn't look like they're selling any either), interest dropped off after overexposure in mass media, the local potential audience is saturated, or whatever, and it takes time for demand to build up again. And I've been in contact with stores in other parts of the country where Watchmen is still selling, so maybe it simply varies region by region.

    I don't have numbers or even chart rankings right in front of me, unfortunately...the "archive" section of Diamond's website doesn't seem to be working at the moment...but for May 2009, the Watchmen TP is near the bottom of the Top 300 Graphic Novels sales list. Again, it's probably just oversaturation...a ton of copies entered the marketplace over the last few months...so a dip in orders is to be expected. If things are still the same in a year or so, and we still haven't moved many copies, then that may be a point where worry should set in a bit.

  • And from Keith K:

    "Question time, would not be complete without some more important questions pertaining to the secret master of Mike Sterling's sucess: Employee Aaron.
    After seeing a picture of employee Aaron, I have one question: Why is he so short? Can he get any shorter? (sorry, two questions). Do you wear platform shoes in order to tower over Aaron (who I suspect is of a normal vertical dimension)? Sorry, three."

    Aaron's not short; he's simply conserving space in this overpopulated world by shedding unnecessary height. Also, compared to my towering, imposing 6' 7" height, he can't help but look small.

    Okay, okay, I'm not all that tall either. But it's not like Aaron is a leprechaun or anything. He's a good height. He's just tall enough for his feet to reach the ground when he stands.

    Anyway, here's another photo for you Aaron fans, this time posing with the one person in the shop he towers over:

That's enough for today. More tomorrow, hopefully!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mike pays the price for Tuesday's lazy post, Part One. 

I put the call out for questions, and lo, you did respond. Thanks, gang! Let's see how many of these I can get through today:
  • John Parker inquires

    "The shop I sold 1,000 comics to told me they would accept anything except Master of Kung Fu. This was mid-90s. 15 years later, are those Shang-Chi classics reviled in shops like yours?"

    It's very possible this shop you were selling your books to just happened to have an overstock of Master of Kung-Fu, or at least a local lack of demand...they may not have reviled them so much as just not needed them.

    As for us...we aren't actively buying Master of Kung-Fu at the moment, though we may pick up an issue or two here and there if we're low enough in our stock on it, and we can get it cheap enough. There's not a lot of demand for it right now, though with our back issue rep, we do get the occasional person hitting us up for it.

    Now, long ago, in those pre-"Mike entering comics retail" days, when the sun shone a little more brightly and there was still joy and hope in the world, the store owner, Ralph (whom some of you ask about later on in the comments) would sometimes meet some resistance in selling Master of Kung-Fu. "Nah, I don't want to read some kung-fu book!" the customer would say disdainfully. "But it's really good!" Ralph would reply. "Here, take this one for free and try it out!" And the customer would take it...and a few days later would return to the store to get more Master of Kung-Fu back issues. And Ralph was able to do that a handful of times to turn people onto a book that he personally really enjoyed.

    So, no, we don't revile it. We quite like it, actually.

  • So Anonymous asked

    "Cap #600?"

    ...which isn't really an entire question, as such, but I get his/her/its meaning. And Joe Littrel asked the related question

    "Did you actually get anyone fresh off the street looking for Cap #600 yesterday? (The only questions I got about it were 'net savvy regulars.) Did you have it delivered early?"

    I'm not in the shop on Mondays, but early in the afternoon I did put in a call to Employee Aaron to see what was going on. It went like this:

    Aaron: "Ralph's Comic Corner, can I help you?"

    Me (excitedly): "Yeah, do you have Captain America #600? I just heard about it on the news and I have to have it!"

    Aaron: "Uh, no, we won't have it 'til Wednesd...."

    Me: "Aaron, it's me, Mike."

    Aaron: "Oh! (laughs) Actually, you're the first call we've had for Cap #600."

    So I don't know if we got any calls after that, but I'm thinking probably not too many. We didn't get it early, as related in the above conversation, and it looks like that wasn't a problem. Marvel did seem to get some news coverage for Captain America's return, but "returns" don't seem to be nearly as interesting to the general public as "deaths" (see also Adventures of Superman #500) and I'm not anticipating demand from them. Maybe some heightened interest from people already reading comics, sure.

  • Roger Green wants to know

    "What will the direct market comic look like in five years? Will there BE a direct market comic book market in five years?"

    If the direct market is still around (and I think it will be...none of the predictions of its death have come true yet...though I suppose it only has to be true once), I expect there will be an even heavier emphasis on books and collections, and fewer, but thicker, periodicals. Stores with extensive back issue selections like ours will be even fewer and farther between than they are already, as the industry continues to shift to stores that carry this month's books, trade paperbacks, and that's pretty much it. Oh, and POGs, since the nostalgia for those should be in full swing by then.

    "With Geppi reportedly on the financial ropes, how much schadenfreude are you experiencing, if any?"

    Well, if that's the case, I certainly hope the best for him. In this economy, in this industry in particular, you don't like seeing anyone in it experiencing any kind of financial instability. "There but for the grace of God" and all that.

  • Rich Handley wonders

    "Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near...um, comics?"

    They keep trying to make nests out of our unsold copies of Master of Kung-Fu.

  • Larry E asks

    "After Capt. America and Batman return from the dead, what will be the next BIG EVENT for Marvel & DC? Do you think that either company will ever realize that the more BIG EVENTS they produce, the less BIG they seem?"

    Well, the next Big Thing at DC is the Blackest Night event, which I'm looking forward to, and I'm not sure what Marvel's is at the moment...seems like everything they publish has some "DARK WAR OF ZOMBIES" banner across the top of the cover, tying that book into something or 'nother. But while it's true that Special Events like these may seem less special the more they put out...and as someone on the retailing front lines, I hear the groans from the customer base as they see yet another crossover event announced...the fact is that they do still sell, and as long as they keep selling, Marvel and DC will keep doing them.

  • Smart guy CW asks

    "If the universe is expanding, as most scientists believe, what is it expanding into? In other words, what's outside of the universe?"

    Probably a Starbucks.

    But if you want as close as to a real answer as you're likely to get...well, this one seems likely.

  • Dogwelder asks

    "I can haz cheezburger?"

    Well, sure, don't let me stop you.

  • Dwayne "The Canoe Guy" wants to know

    "1) Will we ever see a page containing all of your glorious headers?"

    The intention is, yes, I want to make an archive page of all the wonderful logo banners you folks have made for me, and have even started on one, but it's been difficult to find the time. I've also been planning on a major overhaul of the site for well over a year now, switching over to another blog publishing platform, but that depends on finding the free time to do that as well. I may have to arrange for another Low Content Mode week or two so I can focus on these projects.

    2)"'The Death of Sluggo and the Rise of Dark Nancy.' Can you pick writer/artist team so that this book could several trillion copies across the universe? Barack Obama, nor any of his family, can appear in the series."

    Oh, man. The first name to jump into my head was "Jim Starlin" and now I can't shake it. That would be the very definition of "awesome." Would also be the very definition of "only Mike, and maybe his pal Cully, would buy it."

  • Thelonious_Nick asks

    "Which major character has had the best run over the entire run of his/her comics? Let's stick to the iconic characters who've been around decades. Besides Swamp Thing, I mean.

    "In other words, if you were to select one comic at random from a character's total collection of appearances, who is likeliest to provide a good read?"

    Huh. That's a good question. Who would it be? I'm stalling for time while writing a blog post, how sad it that?

    I think in terms of consistency in quality and entertainment value...the Silver Age Flash, by and large, tended to offer solid comic-booking at pretty much any point during its run. Yes, even during the trial storyline at the end, there. Lots of Done-in-One stories, almost always nicely drawn, plenty of colorful characters, plenty of bizarre things always goin' on...it's hard to find a non-entertaining issue of The Flash.

  • Sean Hollenhors asks the forbidden question

    "Do you have a favorite John Byrne related comic project?"

    And Old Bull Lee seconds with

    "I would also like to know if you like any Byrne stuff."

    Okay, this site had been a no-Byrne zone for a while for reasons I don't particularly feel like getting into again. I didn't like doing it, since I do think he was (and still is) a talented artist, his online persona rubbed me the wrong way and I felt I was better off not engaging him or his material on my site, for fear of adding an unwelcome level of negativity to what is supposed to be a fun distraction for me.

    But let's lift the ban for now and see if I can answer the question. Probably the obvious answer is his run on Fantastic Four...I like the characters anyway, and Byrne's run on the book is probably, after Stan and Jack's, the definitive version of the team.

    I also loved his Alpha Flight, the team book that wasn't a team book, for its sheer peculiarity.

    And of course, Next Men, probably Byrne's ultimate superhero book, and one I would like to see return someday.

  • Jeff Wood queries

    "Is there a way to donate comics (to a library or school) that would result in a decent tax deduction?"

    I suppose so...I'm not a tax expert, by any means, but I'm reasonably certain that as long as you can provide sufficient documentation, you can get at least some deduction from the donation. I don't have any more of a suggestion than that, but perhaps a reader of this site can pipe in with advice that won't result in you getting audited!

  • Matt M. sez

    "How did you get to be so suave?"

    I got to be so suave by knowing what the ladies like. And what the ladies like is...Sandman and Strangers in Paradise trades, amirite?

    "What's cooler: Tarot Pogs or an Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter commerative Pog holder?"

    Oh Matt.

    Now I'm picturing Tarot POGs featuring scenes from the comics and OH GOD MY BRAIN. GET OUT OF THERE, YOUR POG IS HAUNTED! (link not safe for work, or sanity)

  • The previously-mentioned Old Bull Lee also wants to know

    "And what do you think of the Nancy Collins run on Swamp Thing?"

    I quite liked it, actually. After the rather poor showing of the "Quest for the Elementals" storyline which wrapped up previous writer Doug Wheeler's run, it was a good return to form to solid, if not groundbreaking, Swamp Thing horror comics.

  • Matthew Allison dares to ask

    "Better Swamp Thing artist - Bissette, Wrightson, or Veitch?"

    You bastard. I love all three of them.

    The cheating answer is "they were all the best artist for their particular stories," but I'm going to give the edge to Wrightson. He set the standard for everyone else to follow.

    "Better ROM:SPACE KNIGHT artist - Sal Buscema or Steve Ditko?"

    I liked them both on the book, actually...but I think I'll give the nod to Sal, since I love the expressiveness of his characters.

  • Harvey Jerkwater has to know

    "How much has your shop's customer base grown or dwindled in the last, let's say, five years? Is there much turnover in customers?"

    I think it's remained fairly consistent...we've lost a few local customers, gained a few customers, and our mail order business has increased somewhat. There's some turnover, but there are also customers we've had for years, and a few for decades. I don't have a definitive answer for this, unfortunately. Compared to, say, the early '90s, the customer base has certainly dropped. But in the last five years, as the market continues its slow two steps forward/one step back recovery, it's too hard to judge.

    "Who would play Herbie Popnecker in the movie?"

    What's Mason Reese doing?

  • Gordon interjects

    "If Swamp Thing took on Batman and Robin (as portrayed in Frank Miller's ALL STAR BATMAN & ROBIN THE BOY WONDER), who'd win?"

    The reader, of course. And by "the reader," I mean "me, the one guy who'd want to read this."

  • Flotzenburger asks

    "Why are you so cool?"

    Because I'm never very far from an oscillating fan.

  • MrJM wonders

    "As a comics retailer, what one thing would you tell us that we -- as buyers/readers -- don't know about comics?"

    I've been thinking about this for a while, now, staring at the screen...I think one thing may be that printing comics on cheaper paper, a common suggestion from readers, won't result in less expensive comics. At best, slight decreases in stock quality might help keep prices where they're at...and even that's not working, since prices are going up anyway. And publishers probably don't want to drop down to '70s style pulp paper...reducing the perceived value of their periodicals by reducing the paper quality TOO much is something they'd certainly like to avoid.

    On a retail level, the other thing I want people to know is that we folks behind the counter actually do work...we don't get to read comics all day!

  • Thwacko says

    "What comic, series, or events sold or sell more than any nosepicker on the internet would have you believe?"

    At least at our shop, All Star Batman and Robin tends to be our best-selling book of the month, whenever the planets align and a new issue is released.

    Also, the first issue of Final Crisis outsold Secret Invasion #1 at our store. I had people outright tell me I was lying when I said that.

    "Will we see Final Crisis and all associated spinoffs end in our lifetime?"

    Don't die in the next six months, and you will!

  • Nik wants answers:

    "What is your least favorite comic book that sells well?"

    That's a hard question to answer, because it's not that I dislike books so much as I'm indifferent to them. For example, I don't care for the Avengers line of books...they don't seem like terribly interesting superhero comics to me. But they do sell well, so somebody likes them and that's just fine.

    I don't hate them...they're just not for me.

    "And what comic do you try to turn people on to most often that doesn't include Swamp Thing?"

    Probably the Fables comics. I've had the most success turning people onto that series (including at least one celebrity, who's since said another store got him into it...grrrrr!). It's a simple concept, it's accessible, it's mostly in trade paperback, and it's a good read.

  • Nate needs to find out

    "Is Mxyzptlk pronounced Mixelplick or Mix-yez-pittle-lick?"

    The latter. Though most of the cartoons see to use the former. But if it's the Golden Age version of the character, it's Mix-yez-tipple-ick.

  • And for the last question for today, pal JP chimes in with

    "Laziest blogger. EVER."

    Yeah, I know. I just had nothing for yesterday's post, and I was sitting there at the computer Monday evening struggling to keep my eyes open (much like the people who are trying to read all this). But the "ask me question" posts result in a lot of blogging "work" for the next day or two, so it all balances out!

Okay, that's it for today. More answers tomorrow. Can you stand the suspense?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mike's had a long day... 

...and didn't have a post ready, so I'm throwing open the comments to questions again. Got a question for me, hopefully comics-related? Throw it on in there, and I'll answer them in a later post.

Thanks, internet pals!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sgt. Rock: Creationist. 

So as per usual, Easy Company finds itself hip deep in trouble, pinned down under enemy fire. Everyone thinks it's hopeless, but Sgt. Rock steps in with a history lesson to boost morale. Specifically, he tells his men to think back to their cavemen ancestors, and the life-and-death battles they had to fight every day just to survive.

It starts off with Rock describing a battle between cavemen and mastodons, which...okay, sure, that's fine. But then things get a little weird:

Yeah, that's Rock narrating a conflict over food between ancient man and some kind of pterosaur.

And then there's the battle between those traditional enemies, the caveman and the Tyrannosaur:

I'm going to assume Sgt. Rock was using a little poetic license here for the benefit of the troops, and that if anyone in Easy Company knew better, they didn't pipe in with "Uh, but Sarge, dinosaurs and man didn't coexist." Well, except junior archaeologist and draftee Dino "Saur" Borelli, whom Little Sure Shot kept shushing every time he tried to interrupt with a correction.

I should also note that when Employee Aaron came across this comic in a collection we were processing, he took a look at this cover:

...and wondered if it was a crossover between Sgt. Rock and Joe Kubert's old caveman character Tor. Alas, it was not, but darned if I don't have to see that now. Someone whisper a suggestion into Mr. Kubert's ear for me.

At any rate, despite the shaky science, this is still an issue full of Joe Kubert's fantastic illustrations of dinosaur versus caveman battles, and sometimes that just has to be enough.

images from Sgt. Rock #318 (July 1978) - written and drawn by Joe Kubert

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Slipping you some tongue. 

So pal Nat informed me that, while taking a quick trip through a parallel universe, he snapped the following photo featuring a familiar pose:


In other...well, not really "news" as such:
  • Das Ubernerd saw the link to the C.C. Beck story I posted the other day and wrote up his own full review of the material. Nicely done.

  • So I was asked if I have a Sluggo fetish, in response to my newest ongoing feature "Sluggo Saturdays." I don't think it's a fetish, but it is an expression of my ongoing admiration of Sluggo; his independence, his confidence, his simple state of being into which one may read the greatest meaning.

    Plus, I think bizarre Sluggo panels are really funny, so What Can You Do?

  • So the other day at the shop, for whatever reason, we were discussing Pokemon, and I mentioned that, even though I've never played the card game, never played the videogame, and have only seen the briefest snippet of the cartoon, I really do adore Lickitung. The character just cracks me up. I have a couple of Lickitung cards, I have a song someone recorded about Lickitung, I have a sticker or two, and I even own a stuffed Lickitung doll who comes with his own Pokeball, said the forty-year-old man. (I suppose this makes me an iconography fan like I'd been talking about.)

    Anyway, during the discussion, I mentioned the idea of a two-man Lickitung costume, like the two-man horse costume idea you always see in movies or sitcoms but I've never actually seen in real life. The idea was that one person would be in the main Lickitung costume, which would be the body, and the other person would be in the tongue costume, attached to the first costume. I drew out a very quick sketch of this concept:


    Okay, I'm sure I'm not the first to think of this. If anyone knows of any real-life attempts at such a costume, please let me know! Not sure why I'd need to know, but c'mon, I gotta see it if it exists.

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