mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sluggo Saturday #38. 



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


Friday, January 22, 2010

Space Ghost Coast to Coast "Vol. 1 No. 2" (Cartoon Network, 1994). 

This is an eight-page, full-color, slickly-printed promotional comic advertising the then-new Space Ghost Coast to Coast comedy/talk/cartoon show on Cartoon Network, and I have no idea how I got this in my collection. I don't remember acquiring it, I don't remember seeing it "in the wild" and deciding to add it to the collection, I don't remember it being given to me. And yet, there it is, in all its shilling-ness. I also don't have any idea why it's #2, unless it's an oblique reference to one of the Space Ghost comics that came before.

The story (writer and artist uncredited) gives the origin of the Coast to Coast talk show, presenting Space Ghost as a superhero whose enemies have all been caught, his friends all moved on (sidekicks Jan and Jace gone to college, space monkey Blip on an extended leave to be with family). He's adrift in life, listless and without purpose:

...Until he discovers while studying broadcasts from Earth that a horrible disaster is looming:

Oh, Space Ghost, if only you'd come back and take care of our current talk show problems.

The inside back cover has a description of the show, noting the fictional crew ("Musical Director ............... Zorak"), the premise of the series, and a list of promised future guests. The back cover has Space Ghost requesting that you, the reader, contact your cable operator if you're not already receiving Cartoon Network.

I didn't find any copies on either eBay or Amazon during my brief investigations at either site, so I'll just put up an ad for the DVDs for the Coast to Coast show:

This was a pretty good show, I thought, if occasionally very uncomfortable when one of the live-action guests didn't get into (or, alternatively, plain just didn't get) the gag of being interviewed by a cartoon character...except that Bee Gees episode. That was awesome.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"GJDRKZLXCBWQ" Comics (Glenn Bray/Basil Wolverton, 1973). 

This mini-comics digest features several full page gag illos of the sort Basil Wolverton was so famous for - portraits of nightmarish grotesqueries:

...as well as a handful of very short (two or three panel) gag sequences.

Don't have a whole lot to say about this particular item, other than "drink in the beauty of that cover." I'm pretty sure my initial exposure to Wolverton was via Mad Magazine, either from the concluding panel of "The Face upon the Floor" (reprinted in one of those Mad comic facsimiles inserted in the specials) or from one of his rare full articles in a '70s Mad. However I first learned about him, I would generally pick up any comics that would reprint samples of his work, from the Eclipse Mr. Monster that would sometimes present a classic horror tale of his, or Fantagraphics' several reprint books (such as Powerhouse Pepper or that Wolvertoons collection).

This item turned up in the same underground collection Das Kampf did, and as I said about that comic, mini-comics and comics digests always catch my eye. A mini-comic by Wolverton? Definitely a keeper.

Surprisingly, I found someone on Amazon selling this for $20, which I don't think is entirely unreasonable. I wonder if anybody else is trying to sell it there, but misspelled the name? Wouldn't be hard to do.

I still have a few more scarce-ish items from my collection in the hopper for display on my site. Hopefully you're not sick of these yet!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fresh-Man: The First Few Years (Scott Easley, circa 1988). 

When I was attending the University of California Santa Barbara, Scott Easley's Fresh-Man was a welcome part of every Friday's Daily Nexus, the school's daily newspaper. Rocketed to UCSB from the doomed planet of Hometawn, young Chaz Kent lives among us as a mild-mannered college student. But, when danger looms, he cries out his magic word ("Werza-Pardee?") and transforms to the cape-and-underwear clad champion of underclassmen everywhere, Fresh-Man!

The strip was a fun and amusingly drawn strip about college life (for which I, as a young college student, was the ideal audience), with problem roommates, classroom woes, some local UCSB references, and, of course, the occasional supervillain. Man, supervillains were the worst part about going to UCSB, I tell you what.

Speaking of supervillains, Fresh-Man's arch-nemesis was the dreaded Professor F, seen here in a partial sequence taken from one of the strips:

(Before you say anything, yes, "surprise" is misspelled in that third panel. Hey, let's see how good your spelling is when you're in the heat of battle!)

Professor F was based on an actual professor at the college (and who was given a nod, by name, at the beginning of said strip). A year or two later, I found myself taking an English course with this professor, and all I could think about was the fact that he was the inspiration for Professor F, and hoping that was just a humorous exaggeration of his particular grading preferences. As it turned out, I did reasonably well in his class. And yes, his hair did look like that.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this strip, and I'm glad I snapped up this collection from the college bookstore way back when. It's a nice bit of collegiate nostalgia for me.

Looking at the Amazon listings, there only appears to be one copy for sale, at $49.95. Goodness...that's a far cry from the $5.95 I dropped on it:

I should note that the book itself has no publication data...no publisher, no year of release, etc. The strip finished its run during (if I recall correctly) my freshman year at UCSB, and I believe the book was published sometime during my sophomore year in 1988. I'm not 100% of that 1988 publication date, but I know it's certainly not the 1980 date I've seen given to it here and there on the internet.

By the way, that little green blob with the tongue at the lower left of the cover? That's Glorp, some dorm food Fresh-Man's roommate Oswald brought home and kept as a pet. Again, pretty much an accurate depiction of college life.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rudy in Hollywood (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984). 

Here's another one I've mentioned on the site before:

William Overgard's Rudy is one of the classic overlooked newspaper strips, running only for about a year or so in the mid 1980s. Rudy is a talking chimpanzee, a retired vaudeville star and stage performer, and the strip chronicles his semi-return to the outskirts of showbiz. I first encountered it during that brief period in the Los Angeles Times...a paper we didn't get in our household, but one I would look at on occasion at the local library. Even just the few strips I saw there, and a tantalizing review that appeared in a long-ago issue of The Comics Journal, instilled in me the desire to track down its one and only paperback reprinting. Well, okay, that's putting it a little dramatically, but I did keep an eye out for it at any used book stores or comic shops I happened to visit.

And of course, it takes the advent of eBay for me to finally track down the darned thing, where I managed to score a copy from there a couple of years back. I was pleased to discover that my anticipation for the item did not diminish the experience of actually having it in my hands and reading it...the linework was as finely detailed and elegant as I remembered from the strips I saw decades ago, the writing still witty and understated, preferring the subtle over the slapstick. The book is interspersed with text pieces allegedly written by Rudy himself, offering his opinions on various topics which generally would play into the next sequence of reprinted strips. It's a wonderful presentation for these strips, giving it that touch of "Hollywood Tell-All Autobiography" that fits right in with Rudy's milieu. The only downside is that (I believe) there are still Rudy strips not reprinted, which will probably only happen on the extremely unlikely chance someone decides to do a Complete Rudy volume.

A quick look at Amazon has prices starting at about $35, and someone actually has a copy for $999. Why do people even do that? Are they really hoping someone will buy a copy for that price?

Anyway, it appears I got very lucky when I found my copy on eBay, as I didn't pay anywhere close to that. The Comics Journal enters this story again, after a fashion, as I need to thank former TCJ editor Milo George for not getting into a bidding war with me over this very item. He opted not to bid on it when he saw that I was the high bidder, for which I am very grateful.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Maxwell the Magic Cat Volumes I-IV (Acme Press, 1986-7). 

I'm pretty sure I've talked about my Maxwell the Magic Cat books before on the site, but it's been a while, and they seem to fit into my little tour of oddball books from my collection.

This was a series of four black and white staplebound books, measuring 8 1/4 by 11 inches, reprinting Alan Moore's comic strip from The Northant Post. The strip ran about seven years, written and drawn by Moore under the homophonic pseudonym "Jill de Ray" (after a particularly nasty serial killer).

Here's a sample strip from the series:

A lot of the strips were like this, metatextual examinations of the very idea of a comic strip and its format, but the strip ran the gamut from simple sight gags, to real groaners of puns, to political humor, to outright absurdity (such a favorite sequence of mine, where a snake carries on a torrid with Maxwell's tail). Occasionally...well, mostly...Moore's artistic reach exceeded his grasp, but his gag-writing is solid and usually clever, and the general roughness of the art is just part of the charm. If the drawing were more polished, it just wouldn't be Maxwell the Magic Cat.

Now, I'd originally bought volumes 1 through 3 (pictured above) as they were released, in the mid '80s. I never saw volume 4 on the shelf, and at the time I just assumed it never came out.

Eventually, I discovered that volume 4 had been released, but for some reason it appeared to have limited distribution. I don't know if it actually did, or if it was just hard to find in my neck of the woods, or what the deal was, but several years of casual eBay and Amazon investigations seems to bear out my belief that the fourth book is the rarest of the volumes.

Luckily, a few years back a collection came into the shop containing one of these:

That would be the folder which accompanied the Complete Maxwell the Magic Cat Set of Volumes One Through Four, and indeed, volumes one through four were to be found within. Look, it's number four, and it's real! It exists! And it's totally mine now!

These four volumes comprise the entire series of strips, which ended in 1987. Rounding out the fourth volume were guest artist illustrations, including work by Gilbert Shelton, David Lloyd, Brian Bolland, and this crazily wonderful piece by Kevin O'Neill:

When the Maxwell the Magic Cat revival comes, that's what I want to see.

I didn't find The Complete Litter set on Amazon, but all four books are being offered individually, hence the Wall o'Banners here:

The first book's pricing starts at about twelve bucks, the second ranges around $30, the third only has one for sale at $65, and good gravy, some hopeful seller has the fourth at $249.99. Plus, a quick eBay search reveals plenty of the first volume, one copy of the second, and none of 3 and 4. I suspect a reprint of these, perhaps collecting all the strips into one book, would be in order...but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sometimes I felt like italicizing Blackest Night, and sometimes I didn't. 

Reader deworde asks for clarification on my statements re: Marvel's Blackest Night exchange program:

"Is that $200 figure accurate? I mean, surely as a retailer you'd have a hard time selling remainder 3-week old Booster Gold stock that you haven't already managed to unload."

Well, okay, no, I wasn't entirely accurate...fifty books at $3.99 a pop actually comes to $199.50 retail (and about half that, more or less, in wholesale). Okay, okay, I'm being a smart-aleck, but he does have a point in that the likelihood of a new comic selling off the rack does drop considerably past the first week or two of its release, and the potential of its full value being realized in the short term dips. However, we've been experiencing fairly consistent demand for Blackest Night tie-ins, so even if we did have fifty copies of the tie-ins left over, I'd be hesitant about giving them up. Particularly if the overages were, by some strange coincidence, fairly even, as it works out to about seven copies per title. Then again, if we were stuck with fifty left over of, say, the R.E.B.E.L.S. BN tie-in and one or two each of the rest, yeah, I'd probably go for Marvel's deal.

My assumption at this point is that we're probably good for another three or four months of Blackest Night back issue activity, so we should stock accordingly. As I've stated before, I'm actually out of most of the tie-is, so I'm looking into getting a few of the second printings via reorder.

As I recall, the numbers you had to order to be eligible for the bags o'rings promotion weren't all that onerous anyway. On most titles, like Justice League and Doom Patrol and such, we were hitting those numbers anyway. On the other hand, a title like R.E.B.E.L.S., which I personally like but doesn't sell terribly well, we ended up quintupling our order to 1) get the number of rings we wanted, and 2) sort of match the numbers of other BN tie-ins we were ordering...but thankfully, that blew out the door, too. But we're a larger store, and sell pretty good numbers on the popular titles. If we were a tiny store that sold, say, three Justice League any given month, having to order (I think it was) 25 to get the rings may have been a tough choice.

In conclusion...well, I don't have a conclusion. It's easy for me to poke a little fun at Marvel's offer (which, I suppose, is a bit amusing in its thumbing-its-nose way) because we did very well with Blackest Night sales and don't need the exchange. But there are always those stores that overestimate demand and way overorder things...and if they're stuck with stock they don't think they'll ever move, then they should go for Marvel's deal. Which, as I said the other day, is likely just a publicity gimmick trying to make it look as if DC fell on its face with their ring promotion. But hey, whatever their reasons, if you need to take advantage of it....then take advantage of it!

When I saw pal Dorian on Saturday, we were thinking that DC should do a counter-offer...free Blackest Night sketch cover for every fifty copies of Marvel's recent event tie-ins...you know, anything with a "Dark Reign" or "Utopia" (or whatever) banner on the cover. Or for anything where the promised media coverage didn't do diddly for sales. That'd be okay with me.

On a related note, those "revived DC title" Blackest Night books, the one-shots that pick up the numbering from where those titles ended years ago...boy, we did not order enough of those. I even bumped the orders up a smidgen when it came time to do the weekly order adjustments through our distributor. We really weren't sure how these would do, and we guessed on the side of caution, assuming (well, hoping) that they'd be available for reorder. Which they are, thank goodness. All we have left at the moment is a couple of copies of Catwoman #83, and I'm sure those won't last long.

Another title that's doing surprisingly well and has nothing to do with Blackest Night is the new Punishermax series. Jason Aaron's writing some very pared-down and brutal comics, and having Steve Dillon back on the art makes it feel like Garth Ennis never left the title. I don't like even giving the impression that I'm implying that one writer is aping another's style, and I'm really not trying to. But the pacing, the dialogue, and yes, Dillon's art makes it very much of a kind with Ennis' early work on the character. It has more to do with the similar storytelling strategies involved, I think, knocking away all the excess to get to the basics of the character, and thus Aaron and Ennis can't help but appear to have similar voices.

Anyway, good comic. And with Rick Remender's "Frankencastle" storyline in the other series, that makes two good Punisher comics on the stands! Whaddaya know?

In other news, pal Dorian has been running a series on his site called the Paperback Book Club, where he posts a cover of a paperback book from his collection and talks a little bit about it.

For his One Hundredth Installment, he asked for book contributions and brief descriptions from readers and friends, resulting in this epic entry. Yes, I submitted a book...a novel I've read and reread countless times since first discovering it in a library in 1981, and buying my own copy in 1982. It's kinda dopey, but I love it anyway. And this would make the second time I've done a book report on it...the first being in Mrs. Smithro's 8th grade English class.

This is an archive page for the old Blogger version of Progressive Ruin, kept around to maintain all the old permalinks. Please visit the main page for the current version of this site. Thanks for visiting, and sorry for the inconvenience!

Copyright © 2003-10 Mike Sterling. Some images used are copyright © their respective copyright owners.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?