mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sluggo Saturday #37. 



from The Best of Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy (1988) - thanks to pal Andres


Friday, January 15, 2010

So anyway, I got a book deal. 

We interrupt my tour through my funnybook collection to bring you this important announcement: the Bureau Chiefs (including yours truly) behind Fake AP Stylebook, the Twitter grammar and journalism humor feed, now have an official, honest-to-goodness book deal. The book (title to be determined) is due Spring 2011 from Three Rivers Press.

Nearly all of the contributors to the project are very closely tied to comics and online comics fandom, which has me a bit surprised that online comics news sources have ignored the fact that folks from within the hobby and/or business were responsible for something that's otherwise received so much attention and acclaim. The guys who created it, Ken Lowery and Mark Hale, don't do a whole lot of comics blogging anymore, though they had their beginnings in that same 2003/2004 wave of comics blogging that dragged me into all this nonsense. (Some of you more comics-oriented folks may be more familiar with Ken's previous site Ringwood.)

Other people involved include pal Dorian who surely needs no introduction by now, Dave Campbell of Dave's Long Box and Society of Dave fame, "King Oblivion, PhD" from the International Society of Supervillains, master of all things Lego Dave Lartigue, the Mistress of Manga Anna, the King of All Internet Media Chris Sims, Sims' partner in crime from War Rocket Ajax - the rapping lawyer Eugene Ahn, real life college professor and unapologetic Blackhawk fan Dr. K, that comic-writin' son-of-a-bitch Kevin Church, that tall drink of water Josh Krach, Green Lantern fan and former Newsarama contributor Ragnell, another former Newsarama-er and current design whiz Shane Bailey, the much too smart to be hanging out with us Andrew Weiss, co-creator of The Rack and all-around swell artist Benjamin Birdie, the devious genius behind Random Panels Brandon Bragg, The City Desk editor and Wasted Words host RJ White...and last but not least, a certain cute little stuffed bull. Oh, and like I said before, I'm involved, too. I brew the coffee.

That looks like a pretty solid collection of talent to me, despite my involvement, and as noted, nearly all involved are tied to the comics industry, either as fans, commentators, or gen-you-ine professionals. That would probably explain the number of references we make to Batman over in the Twitter feed.

Anyway, we gots us a book to write, so please wish us luck!

In other news, I guess Marvel has some cockamamie scheme for retailers to send in their overstock of DC's Blackest Night comics (in particular, the ones retailers had to order certain numbers on in order to get the various rings), and for every fifty copies, retailers would get some variant or something.

Well, let's see here.

I realize this won't be true across the board for every retailer, but we not only sold through nearly every comic we ordered as a result of DC's ring promotion, but we sold through almost all the reprints, too. (I think we have a couple of the Outsiders 2nd printings left.) Of the initial printings, we have some overstock of Blackest Night #5...intentionally, since we want them available as back issues for the duration of the series' run. But even then, we don't have nearly as many of those as we'd like for backstock.

I suspect this is more of a plan to put the seed in readers' minds that "Blackest Night didn't do well" than anything else. Sort of like how some of those second printings Marvel's doing for books that don't really need them give the impression that the books must be red-hot if they need reprintin'! Better buy the next issue when I see it!

Okay, I have no idea if that's the strategy or not, but can't shake the feeling, really. But this small survey of retailers doesn't seem to reveal much enthusiasm for the program. And frankly, giving up nearly $200 retail in product from an event series that seems to have been doing quite well in exchange for a single variant cover...well, I don't know. Maybe I could get $200 for it on eBay, certainly not in the shop. And if I were just swamped with tons of these Blackest Nights and I thought they were unsellable, I might consider it. But that still seems like a shortsighted way to make some fast cash, selling one variant cover to one collector, rather than building a readership with a variety of books. Depends on the situation, I suppose.

Over the past week, as I'm sure you've noticed, I've been going through my collection and picking out some oddball items to talk about. I've been enjoying it, and hopefully you've been enjoying it as well, and I'm thinking about continuing it for a second week. I don't want to test anyone's patience (says the guy who did this for a week), but if you folks out there don't object too strenuously, I may pick up again on Sunday or Monday.

I have had a complaint or two about "shilling for Amazon" with these posts, which, I assure you, wasn't the point. As part of my discussion for these items, I was curious about what prices other folks were trying to get for them currently, and Amazon just happened to be the first thing that came to mind. And yes, by slapping Amazon ads on these posts I have the potential of collecting upwards of multiple cents per sale, and surely you don't begrudge your old pal Mike pulling in some coin of the realm for the many seconds of entertainment I've provided over the years. At the same time, if any of you are interested enough in what I'm talking about, those Amazon links give you an easy opportunity to get a copy for yourself. At least a couple of people have snapped up those Superman Spectaculars, so hopefully they'll enjoy them.

Basically, I'm just posting those banner links because I can. I'm really not trying to do a hardsell on you...if you don't want to buy them, then don't click. Or if you want them but are offended by my blatant capitalism, buy 'em through pal Dorian's Amazon search box.

You know, if Jay Leno had just plain got off the air after "retiring" from the Tonight Show, instead of undercutting Conan O'Brien's run by starting what essentially was the same show earlier in the evening, maybe Conan wouldn't be getting screwed right now. Plus, this means that Andy Richter is losing yet another show, the poor bastard.

Yeah, that has nothing to do with comic books, but man, if I were Conan, I'd be absolutely livid. And I'm sure he is.

"Boo hoo, rich people having problems." Still, c'mon, as dick moves go, this is pretty epic.

In much more serious news, please visit the American Red Cross site to make a donation to Haiti earthquake victims. Even easier: donate $10, charged to your cell phone bill, to the fund by texting "HAITI" to "90999."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Complete Frank Miller Batman (Longmeadow Press, 1989). 

This hardcover book (with a leatherish-style cover) was assembled by Longmeadow Press, a publishing imprint for a U.S. bookstore chain that, among other projects, created "bargain books" for sale in those stores. To quote a former Longmeadow employee from this interesting discussion I found, the goal was to make "high-end bargain books (i.e., they looked classy, not schlocky)." And this Complete Frank Miller Batman book ain't bad-looking. It has a leatherish-bound hardcover with silver lettering on the spine (along with a dark blue Batsymbol), the metallic blue and silver image on the front cover (as seen above), a bound-in blue fabric bookmark, and clean white pages with a shiny silver trim at the edges. It should look garish, but it all seems to work together nicely, somehow. Or maybe I'm just used to it.

This book includes the entirety of The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, as well as the 1980 story "Wanted: Santa Claus - Dead or Alive" written by Denny O'Neil. Reproduction is strong, the coloring is good and faithful to the original (aside from the Santa Claus story, where the coloring is a bit slapdash, and too dark). Text pieces/forewords by Alan Moore, Richard Bruning and Miller himself are included. Of course, it's no longer the "Complete" Frank Miller Batman, as we've had The Dark Knight Strikes Again and All Star Batman since then, but if anyone says this makes it the "Complete Good Frank Miller Batman," I a'gonna punch you in the nose.

I remember the bookstore I bought this from had piles of these stacked by the entrance, and I always figured these were common as dirt. However, I hardly ever see these turn up in collections at the shop. My own copy has been a faithful companion, becoming my own definitive edition of these particular stories, which allowed me to sell off the originals. I even used it in college, during that one class where the Modern Narrative professor was cool enough to assign Dark Knight along with Don DeLillo's White Noise. And given I was dragging it to class, the Batman book looks like it's still brand new. That's either a testament to the book's durability or to my comic-fan obsessive-compulsive need to maintain that Near Mint condition.

Anyway, here's another Amazon thing. There are plenty to be had of Complete Frank Miller Batman, apparently, starting at about eighteen bucks, and going all the way up to a dizzying $192:

Yeah, I threw in a banner for White Noise, too. That was a pretty good book, as I recall.

ADDENDUM to the Superman Spectacular 1982 book I discussed a couple of days ago: the cowriter of the funnybook in question, Paul Kupperberg, popped up in the comments for that post to briefly discuss his involvement in producing Superman stories for the overseas market. Bonus: Vinnie Colletta inking story! Thanks for stopping by, Mr. Kupperberg!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Das Kampf (Bagginer Productions/Vaughn Bodé Productions, 1977). 

Das Kampf is a digest-sized collection of cartoonist Vaughn Bodé's musings and commentary upon war, in the format of a caption beginning "WAR is..." accompanying a single panel illustration. Here are a couple of samples:

According to the printing information on the back cover, the original edition from 1963 had a print run of about 100 copies, run off a mimeograph machine. This site has an image or two of the original version. (Also, the original 1963 publication would seem to contradict the assertion I've seen here and there that Das Kampf's "War Is" gag format was a parody of the Love Is... comic strip, which began in 1970.) The version I own, "the 1st comic publication" as it is described on the back cover, had a print run of 3,000. It was published in 1977, two years after Bodé's death.

I acquired my copy as part of a largish underground comix collection bought by the store a number of years ago. Being something of a Bodé fan, and always on the lookout for odd-sized mini-comics/digests for reasons I can't entirely explain, I decided to keep this particular item for myself. I've not seen another copy of this come through the shop, though a quick Googling seems to turn one up one or two for sale. Amazon has none available, but I'll put on those product link thingies here anyway, just in case someone there decides to part with a copy of it someday:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Superman Spectacular 1982 (DC Comics, copyrighted 1981). 

This is kind of an oddball item that I bought off the rack from one of the eighteen 7-11s that existed in my immediate area in the early '80s. It's larger than standard comic book size, measuring about 8 by 11 1/2 inches, with no ads...basically a "graphic novel" at the very beginning of the 1980s wave of graphic novels from the Big Two.

Written by Bob Rozakis and Paul Kupperberg, illustrated by Adrian Gonzales and Vince Colletta, the story features a battle between Superman and his two arch-nemeses Lex Luthor and...er, Terra-Man. Terra-Man, for the uninitiated, is a space cowboy who rides a winged horse. Through space. Who fights Superman.

Yes, this was as goofy, and as incredibly awesome, as it sounds. Anyway, during the course of the story, exposure to Red Kryptonite splits Superman into Superman-Red and Superman-Blue (in a reprise of the famous Silver Age imaginary story), and Terra-Man and Lex Luthor end up fighting Superman with magic energy channeled from another dimension, and...yeah, like that. The Grand Comic Book Database entry has a more complete synopsis. Despite of, or more likely because of, all the inherent goofiness in this here funnybook, it still remains a fondly nostalgic favorite of mine. Even just poking though it now for this post reminded me of just how much I enjoyed this book. I'm very pleased that 13-year-old Mike decided to pick this up.

This story was in fact originally prepared for the overseas market, and published there first before being reissued in a domestic version. Other Superman stories published about this time had their origins in DC's foreign publishing program, including these two Gil Kane tours de force. Why this particular story was reprinted as an album rather than as a standard (albeit extra-long) comic I'm not sure, aside from testing the format in the marketplace.

Since dishing out my $1.95 for this item way back when, I've never seen another one, even in all the years and all the collections I've poked through at the shop. Even at the time, when it was brand new, I only saw it at the one convenience store I found it in, and not at any of the others I would check in my semi-regular comic-purchasing bicycle tour of Ventura County. Maybe there's a store in, I don't know, Idaho that has a two-foot stack of these and desperately wishing to unload 'em, but they're sure scarce around here.

Amazon has a few for sale in the $15 to $20 range, which doesn't seem too unreasonable to me, given its apparent scarcity:

Should also note: beautiful cover on this book, by the way. Certainly very eye-grabbing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Agony (Raw/Pantheon, 1987) 

This little paperback book (with dustjacket) by Mark Beyer only measures about 5 by 5 inches, but packs in plenty of black humor and peculiar art. The premise is that a couple, Amy and Jordan, start their day by getting fired from their jobs, and things only get progressively worse from there. There are beheadings, prison stays, giant swelling heads, hospital horrors, and more, made even more terrifying by the off-kilter, almost childlike, illustrations of the characters and their miserable situations.

"I saved her, but her leg has dissolved!"

"I don't know what's wrong with me. My head's starting to swell up."

"Amy, the doctor says I'm basically alright, but he says you're going to need some internal organ transplants."

a typical circumstance

Amy and Jordan face their endless string of misfortunes with a mix of optimism, depression, and occasional outright terror, all for our amusement. And it is amusing, as things pile on and the two find themselves inextricably trapped by the workings of fate.

It's a neat little book that grabbed my eye when I spotted it on a convention table over twenty years ago, and even now, as I was flipping through it to write this post, I ended up just reading the whole thing again. And I was reminded of my cousin, who was only about 11 or 12 at the time I bought the book, picking it up and reading it straight through during one of her family's visits. "Poor Amy and Jordan!" I remember her saying once or thrice during her perusal.

The book's out of print, but I put up an Amazon link where you can find some slightly pricey used copies at (right now) $18 a pop. There's also (at the time I write this) a new copy for $180, which seems a tad much, but hey, if he can get it, more power to him.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"Inexplicably Friends." 

This is a commission piece I purchased from a Mr. Benjamin Birdie, co-creator of America's favorite comic strip about a comic shop, The Rack. I asked for a drawing with Swamp Thing and Herbie, and this is the awesome pic he sent me.

If you would like a Benjamin Birdie commission of your very own, why not contact him via his website? Reasonable rates, quality product.

Here is a similar image I posted about a year ago, with Swamp Thing palling around with another fellow, as drawn by Employee Aaron.

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