mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Sluggo Saturday #9. 



from Nancy and Sluggo #125 (October 1955)


Friday, July 03, 2009

Some things I just post for myself. 

Like this late '93 Malibu Comics house ad for Dinosaurs for Hire, which is totally making fun of Jim Shooter's Warriors of Plasm comic at Defiant:

Sometimes it's hard to imagine that "gore for the org" was once a thing, but indeed it was.

Another bit of business about that cover is the "GENESIS" logo, which was Malibu Comics' early '90s crossover event for their adventure/superhero books. And, oddly enough, a few years later DC Comics ran a crossover event also called "GENESIS." Coincidence? Well, probably. But DC's event didn't involve Dinosaurs for Hire, and therefore was vastly inferior.

In other news:
  • As you may have seen linked above, here's a website devoted to celebrating the writing of Jim Shooter.

  • Another comics writer of some note, Kurt Busiek, has a new website going, including a weblog. Good reading from one of the industry's most beloved creators.

  • I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often: a customer was looking for a DC Archives volume that I knew didn't exist. "But I saw it upon the Internets," sez he, so a quick Googling later, I found what he was talking about: this page of mock-ups for Archives fans are hoping for, including the one the customer had asked about. Ah, well, that may not have worked out, but we had a Showcase Presents volume for the same character, so everyone was happy.

    I'd totally love to have a Firestorm Archives, by the way. Those early issues on nice paper? Fantastic.


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Naked except for the felt hat. 

Oh what in the Sam Hill is this?

This is from the Xena Warrior Princess parody in Betty and Veronica Double Digest #172, new this week. I'm assuming this story is a reprint. Surely Archie isn't doing a Xena parody NOW. (Given that this is Archie we're talking about, you can never be quite sure.)*

Anyway, drink in the Jughorse, who certainly takes his place in the ranks of Disturbing Archie Pictures, along with this.

Speaking of this week's comics, I had a couple of variations of this discussion (which ties in what I've been going on about over the last couple of days):

Customer (looks at Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth #1): "So, is this a new Deadpool one-shot?"

Me: "No...."

Customer: "Oh, it's another Deadpool mini-series?"

Me: "No, it's the first issue in a new ongoing series."

Customer: "So wait...Deadpool has two ongoing series now."

Me: "Yup."

Customer: (rolls eyes)

Some people bought, some people didn't. But most people who commented on it demonstrated varying levels of disbelief.

Which, just as a tangent here, reminds me of something else that occurred to me today. our sales on the current version of the MAX-line Punisher and the sales on the created-pretty-much-just-to-tie-into-events Marvel Universe Punisher series together equal about what the MAX Punisher series on its own sold under Garth Ennis's tenure. Of course, as it was pointed out to me, this is Garth Ennis writing the Punisher we're talking about, so it may be a bit of an unfair comparison. But still, thought it was interesting to note.

Oh, and that Captain America: Reborn thing started this week, and while we did get our anticipated upsurge in interest from our regular clientele, Marvel's hoped-for repeat of high demand from the general public for Cap's death didn't materialize. Which is why we don't base our orders on the potential of media coverage, because 1) it may not happen, and 2) it may turn out nobody cares. I seem to recall talking a lot about this on the site around the time of Cap's alleged death. Don't really want to repeat myself, but I'm pretty sure you get the gist.

But our customers want it, and I got enough for them, and everyone's happy. Looks okay, too, as these things go...I'm not really a Cap fan, and I can count the number of his comics I own on the fingers of one hand, if I use the hand with the extra pinky, so it's not like I'm the target audience for this anyway. Hopefully the people who do read it enjoy it, and if it does generate some new Cap readership beyond the stunt aspects of this particular saga, even better.

Some good stuff that came out this week includes Muppet Robin Hood #2 (not the exercise in perfection that the Muppet Show comic is, but still amusing and well-drawn), Batman and Robin #2 (a streamlined machine of a comic, not a word or an image wasted and absolutely wonderful), Fantastic Four #568 (penultimate chapter of the Millar/Hitch run, with a guest-scripter over Millar's plot...the build-up of what seems to be a truly menacing villain continues, though with one issue to go, I suspect the defeat will be relatively prosaic compared to what came before), Tales Designed to Thrizzle hardcover (the first four issues, now with the black and white bits in color, but still just as fantastic and funny), Prince Valiant Volume 1 (a new and gorgeous hardcover reprinting the Hal Foster original strips from 1937 and 1938), and Solomon Grundy #5 (sorry, my "Swamp Thing in the DCU" need is still not fulfilled, though this isn't a bad read by any means).

In other news: well, I won't bother with the bullet point formatting, this time, since I'm just sending you over to Doctor Strange fan Neilalien's essay on what Marvel is doing with the character. Hint: he's not terribly happy about it, and I can't blame him.

* I suppose a quick Googling would resolve the query, but it's not like I really care all that much.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Charlie will soon discover that he shouldn't have provoked the spectral terror of Casper the Friendly Ghost. 

house ad from Richie Rich Diamonds #44 (September 1979)

Actually, I like what they did with these black and white photos to make them appear more clearly on the newsprint page. They look a bit like woodcuts. Not sure if the ultimate effect is "more quaint" or "more terrifying."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Seriously, I would totally buy that Wolverine comic. 

You folks have been nice enough to play along with my thing from yesterday regarding what the comics marketplace would be like with Marvel's and DC's characters/teams/franchises restricted to single titles. Just to reiterate...this isn't something I'm hoping will happen, or think will happen (beyond perhaps a condensing of titles into larger periodical anthologies in the face of rising cover prices). This is just a little thought experiment, wondering just what would be different, what situations it would improve or make worse.

I was asked in the comments if the retail end would take a hit if we didn't have (for example) the half-dozen Wolverine titles for people to buy. And granted, Wolverine comics usually do sell well. In general (and I'm bolding that so that I don't get a bunch of comments from people who need to tell me that they don't fall within the generalities I'm about to describe -- take it as a given that yes, I know), judging by my instore observations, if a customer buys just one Wolverine series, they buy the one just called Wolverine.* A large percentage (but not 100%) of those customers also buy the spin-offs, Wolverine: Origins and Wolverine: Weapon X. A much smaller percentage also buy the Wolverine: Noir mini-series and Wolverine: First Class (the first not being "in continuity" and the latter probably "not serious enough" -- surely points counted against these comics for the discerning Wolverine buyer).

This pattern shouldn't be any surprise. Amazing Spider-Man usually outsold Spectacular, Sensational, Web of, and Adjectiveless, barring special issues or high-profile creators (such as Todd McFarlane on those early Adjectiveless issues).

I think Batman/Detective and Superman/Action might be exceptions to this, where the titles have been around for 70 years, with neither book in each pair really standing out as the "home" title for the character, and where the sales levels are probably a lot closer. (Don't have the numbers in front of me, so bear with me.) I still suspect the comics with the character's actual names in the title have the edge over the generic anthological-legacy titles.

Er...what was the original question again? Oh, yes, is having multiple Wolverine titles sufficiently bringing in the bacon? Well, yes, probably. Would the loss of those other Wolverine titles mean 1) enough of a rise in sales in the main Wolverine comic to balance out those lost sales, and/or 2) that the freed-up money would automatically go to other non-Wolverine comics? The answers are "probably not" and "maybe so, maybe no." People buying the other Wolverine titles were, in general (bolding again, you notice) already buying the primary one, so there wouldn't be much of a bump there. As for the second option....

The money for those extra Wolverine comics has got to come from somewhere. Assuming the customer doesn't just outright decide that he doesn't need to pick up Wolverine: The Roaring '20s #1 (guest-starring the Great Gatsby), he needs to increase his comics budget by taking away his disposable income from other things to accommodate this new comic, or he keeps his comics budget constant by dropping another comic in favor of this new one, and I'm sure Marvel hopes he's dropping a comic by another company.

As prices increase on the standard 32-page format, the cannibalization of sales from other titles may have become the more commonly-chosen option by consumers when faced with new books. If so, the freeing of money for those Wolverine fans who read every Wolverine comic would go back to non-comic needs. But, now (in my original thought experiment -- remember that?) that those fans aren't faced with a rack filled with multiple Wolverine titles they need to keep up with, the possibility exists of spending money on other titles, should they so choose. You know, "boy, I'd like to buy Man-Thing War Journal, but I need to keep up with my Wolverine stories." Well, now they can buy Man-Thing War Journal.

Not to say that it would all balance out. Man-Thing War Journal would likely not sell as well as Wolverine: The Roaring '20s (which does sound like an awesome comic, come to think of it). But it, and other new titles, could have a chance in a market where so much of the consumer's dollar isn't tied up by trying to keep on top of multiple titles from particular franchises. A dozen different midrange titles featuring a dozen different characters/concepts versus a half-dozen titles all starring the same guy, at varying sales levels...diversity seems it would be, in the long run, a little healthier. And you never know...one of those other titles might catch on and become a top tier seller.

And in the end, this is all just, as I've said repeatedly, a thought experiment...just some armchair publishing in an imaginary world where economic realities take second place to some flights of fancy.

Good Lord, did any of that make any sense? Again, this is just some brainstorming, not a Call for Action. There are objections to be made at every level of assumption here, I realize, but my mind has been drifting in this direction over the last few days regarding the impact of multiple seemingly-redundant titles and I thought I'd try to throw my meanderings out there. Thanks for your patience, and of course I'm always interested in what you'd have to say.

Just for a chance of pace, here are a couple of links to people who can actually maintain a coherent line of thought:
  • Dave introduces a new feature on his site: Space Cabby Sunday, DC Comics' Silver Age-iest space character. Enjoy, won't you?

  • Pal Dorian has managed to find a minority sidekick character from the 1940s who wasn't an offensive caricature. (HINT: It ain't Chop-Chop.)

  • Speaking of comic book franchises: Tim O'Neil gives his preamble to a coming series of essays on the X-Men. Promises to be good readin'.

* Yes, it's called Dark Wolverine now. Come to think of it, I wonder if the name change, which in essence does away with a Wolverine flagship title simply titled Wolverine, is a disincentive to sales from people simply wanting a central Wolverine title and aren't interested in any of the ancillary books. Then again, it may very well be countered by the number of people buying it because of the temporary "new direction."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Something I've been pondering for a while now. 

What if the characters/teams from Marvel and DC were allowed one starring title, and that's it? Only one X-Men comic, only one Batman comic, only one Wolverine comic, only one Spider-Man comic -- you know, like that.

Okay, there are some caveats that you're probably wondering about. Yes, spin-offs would probably be allowed...as implied above, you could have an X-Men title and a spin-off with X-Men character Wolverine, but you couldn't have a dozen X-Men titles and a half-dozen Wolverine titles. Just one each, please. And you couldn't have both Action Comics starring Superman and Superman. Just one or the other.

And I'm going to be hardnosed and say "no mini-series or one-shots." If you've got a four-part Flash story, it can be told one chapter per month over four months' time in the Flash comic, and not in a concurrently-running Flash: Let's Beat Feet mini-series. I'll say okay to annuals, though, provided they are annual and not, say, every nine months.

Team books are still allowed...you can have a Justice League starring characters who have their own titles, for example. But not multiple Justice League comics. One's plenty.

I haven't been pondering these in excruciatingly exact and specific detail or anything. Just the process of articulating these ground rules is probably more effort than I've actually put into this thought experiment. Plus, I'm not addressing what the exact economic impact on the Big Two would be...I'm going to assume, for the purposes of this, that Marvel and DC can get by just fine on the profits from this more limited range of titles.

So what would it be like? I mean, other than looking like what the publishers were putting out in the industry's earlier decades? For one, I think readership may be higher...fans no longer having to decide which X-Men title they'd want to follow, or how many they could afford, or if it was even worth the trouble trying to jump into the cavalcade of mutant books. The cost of entry would be much lower.

Events in the stories would have more impact. Something significant happening in a Superman comic, to be continued in next month's issue of that series, wouldn't be diluted by other events in other Super-titles in the interim.

Maybe a wider variety of books? Would no longer devoting funds to buying the multiple monthly Avengers comics mean a greater likelihood of trying out a new non-Avengers title? Not to mention the fact that not having multiple variations on the same theme...i.e. that half-dozen of Wolverine titles...means more room on the rack for other material.

Would there be a trending upward in quality, stemming from more competition for fewer open slots for certain books? Or would that creative energy, instead of competing for a slot in the monthly Batman comic, instead be driven to other concepts? Would almost have to be, I think.

Anyway, this is all getting a bit convoluted, considering what kicked this off was me looking at our comics rack and thinking "you know, if there were just one ongoing X-Men title, it'd probably sell enormously well. Hell, even I'd buy it." Given the rules above, however, Marvel, being Marvel, could still get around the one-title limitation by spinning off every character into his or her book. "Coming from the House of Ideas this summer: Boom Boom #1!"

It's possible that something like this may become a reality, if only because the standard monthly comic book format is increasing in price. At $2.99 to $3.99 a pop, people are still picking up all the different Wolverines, but should the periodical format eventually get up to, say, $6.99 an issue, I'd imagine the comic-reading public would be less inclined to follow a half-dozen different Wolverine series. I know everyone assumes we'll move into some kind of trade paperback standard by that point (assuming the comics market will be able to adapt at all), but I have a hard time seeing the industry abandon the periodical market entirely. Years ago I mentioned the Amazing Heroes April Fool's column reporting a $2.95 100-page format combining several related titles into one giant book (like having X-Men and New Mutants under the same cover), and joke or not, I think something like that may be what we're heading toward. Well, it'd be a bit more than $2.95, of course, but you know what I mean.

So that's a lot of meandering rambling and half-baked thinking on the topic from me. Like I said, this is just something I've been sorta thinking about as I see the new comics rack at the shop. I thought I'd brainstorm a little about it here on the site, and if you have anything to add, feel free.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Blogging about other people's blogging, as well as my own, is a sin. 

Pal Tom is retiring his weblog, which is a darned shame, but I'm sure you'll all join me in wishing him the best. Plus, he's on the Twitter, so it's not like we'll never hear from the guy.

Tom was one of the four founding members of what I liked to call the Associated Comics and Pop Culture Webloggers of Ventura County, CA, and Outlying Environs (ACAPCWOVCCAOE for short, natch), along with pal Dorian, pal Ian, and myself. I've added a few folks to the collective, some of whom I realize haven't updated in a while. But Tom, Dor, Ian and I were the charter members of this alleged organization, and it is a little sad to see one of the Inner Circle decide to retire.

So good luck, Tom! Enjoy your life free of feeding the blog, what with your "going outside" and "having friends" and "enjoying life" and all that jazz. Why, you wouldn't catch me doing any of that.

In other news:
  • You may have noticed that I finally used tags on one of my posts. You can now click "sluggo saturday" at the end of a Sluggo Saturday post and get a faceful of Sluggo. No need to thank me.

    As pal Dorian told me regarding this, "welcome to 2005," so yeah, I'm a tad behind the curve when it comes to this sort of thing. I just haven't been looking forward to going back and tagging all 3,000 posts, and I'd been putting it off until I upgraded to a more robust blogging platform. But, who knows when I'll do that, so there you go. Enjoy some tagging.

  • Some follow up to a couple of questions I was asked via my comments sections, but never got around to answering:

    Flossin wondered

    "Also: Mike, are you an Andy Kaufman fan? I saw some Amazon ads for 'My Breakfast with Blassie' here and was just wondering."

    Yes, I am quite the Kaufman fan. I always appreciated that he either 1) kept audiences wondering what was a put-on and what wasn't, and 2) just outright aggressively tested their patience. I realize that, like most comedy, it's not for everybody, but I thought he was brilliant.

    Roel asks

    "...Isn't 500 considered a bigger event than 600? Why would they ignore 500 but return to the old numbering for 600? That seems backwards..."

    I'm not entirely sure...issue 500 would have been near the middle of the 1998 Cap series, so the "new #1" sales bump would have been over, and I doubt they knew that the series was going to end at #50 by that point, so that wouldn't have been a consideration. Maybe they just plain didn't feel like it, that the series was doing well enough without having to restore the original numbering to generate an Extra-Sized Issue.

    The again, they did just do that on Thor after only about 12 issues, a series that's still selling fairly well, so who knows. Just another attempt at grabbing the consumer in a rocky marketplace during economic turmoil...you gotta do what you gotta do, I guess.


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