mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sluggo Saturday #39. 



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


Friday, January 29, 2010

Mean Cat (Steve Lafler, 1981). 

This 24-page, magazine-sized, black and white comic is Steve Lafler's second publication, as per his introduction on the first page. Our titular aggressive feline is featured in a couple of stories within...here he is in action:

...though half of the book is devoted to other characters and features, such as "Angry Young Carrot," "Crazy Eddie," and "Naked Avenger," as well as a page of poems by Steve Beaupre.

I spent a lot of the eighties and the early nineties being a Steve Lafler completist, or at least as best as I was able. I think I'm still missing a couple of the Dog Boy comics he published under his Cat Head imprint, but I've got his short-run and one-shot books like Femme Noire and Out the Next and a complete run of his Buzzard magazine, and so on. When Bughouse came out in the mid 1990s, it didn't really do anything for me and, for whatever reason, I just sort of fell out of following his work after that. But I still have fond memories of getting big laffs from Dog Boy and Benb and his other crazy comics, so thank you for that, Mr. Lafler. And the man is still producing plenty of comics, which you can learn about at his official website.

This copy of Mean Cat turned up in a very large collection we acquired at the shop in the late '80s, from a collector who didn't do very much to protect his comics from the elements. For example, by not bothering to invest a couple of bucks in some comic bags, his entire run of Iron Man had a half-inch of water damage at the bottom of each issue. You can probably see the water spotting in my scan above, though the paper of the cover is heavily tanned as well, particularly on the inside. There was a copy of Guts (another early Lafler book) in this collection, but seeing as then-coworker Rob was also a Lafler fan, he and I split the acquisitions and he took the Guts, and I took this goodie. (Come to think of it, Rob's kind of been out of the comics world for a while...I wonder if I can get it back from him? If he even still has it.) (This is a terribly selfish geek-thing to think, by the way.)

I'll be taking another weekend break from my journey through my collection, but I'll be picking up again on Monday if nobody objects or shows up on my doorstep with rakes and torches. Thank you all for reading and, hopefully, enjoying my show-and-tell.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Previews #257 (Diamond Comic Distributors, February 2010). 

Previews was a catalog used by Diamond Comics Distributors, the largest company of its kind in the country...and possibly the world, I have no idea. Anyway, this catalog contained a wide variety of items, and not just comic books...you could also find t-shirts, games, videos, naked Japanese girl statues, action figures, candy, naked Japanese girl statues, iPhone covers, posters, naked Japanese girl statues, and naked Japanese girl statues. So it pretty much had everything, as you can see.

One of this catalog's many cultural impacts was the entirely petty and unjustified fun-poking immature folks on the internet would inflict upon some of the items listed within. As difficult as this may be to believe, one person even believed said items to be indicative of some kind of symptom of humanity's decline...markers of an "end of civilization," you might say.

Well, let's take a look at this February 2010 edition of Previews and find out ourselves, shall we? Links to previous examinations of the publication may be found in the sidebar of this webpage.

p. 55 - 12" Barb Wire Figure:

Not saying I couldn't probably sell this to a customer or two, because hey, bosomy blonde gal, but even so...a Barb Wire figure does seem a bit...late-ish, wouldn't you think?

p. 128 - Michael Keaton as Batman Bust:

Yup, those are Keaton's abs, all right. A stunning likeness!

p. 134 - JLA Trophy Room Wonder Woman Tiara, Bracelets and Lasso Prop Replica:

"Wonder Woman's tiara, bracelets and lasso are prop replicas ONLY and are not meant to be worn or used as weapons."

And would be totally embarrassing to have noted in your coroner's report. So please, friends, use your safewords.

p. 193 - Sarah Palin Rogue Warrior:

Okay, I'm hardly a fan of Sarah Palin, but there are just some things I wouldn't wish on anybody.

(Then again, there's still an audience for all these political spoof comics, so who am I to judge?)

p. 198 - Archie and Friends #143:

"Chuck, I feel that I have been 'molded' by your 'dissing' of me in your 'gags.' I believe you must 'do me a solid' and 'own up' to this offensive 'burn.'"

"Sir, please, your slang usage is inhibiting our ability to communicate."

p. 212 - Faith #1 Jesus Christ:

Man, these unauthorized biographies are getting way out of hand. Wait 'til Jesus' lawyers hear about this!

p. 334 - Here is a little blurb beneath the Graphitti Designs listings:

"On Dec. 7th, our Violet Lantern T-shirt made its screen debut on CBS's blockbuster series THE BIG BANG THEORY."

And nobody watching the show, aside from the already-initiated, knew what it was. "Hey, cool starburst design. If I had any idea what it was called or where to get one, I could have a shirt like that, too!"

p. 337 - Zombie Shakespeare Alas Poor Yorick and Zombie Che Viva La Dead t-shirts:

Surely someone's already drawn a connection between the fictional spread of the zombie plague and the real spread of the zombie fad. Except the fad seems even more insidious and widespread. At least the fictional version usually only spreads by bites and blood infection.

REMINDER: Previews regularly uses this slug on some of their listings:

p. 348 - Hellboy Fan Toffee Doll:

"...The Hellboy Fan Toffee Doll is something many a fan can related to, dressing up in their own unique style to emulate a character they love."

So it's a doll of someone dressing up as another character. It's a cosplay doll. Okay, I know Captain Action did it, too, but I don't know that the good captain was explicitly a fan of the characters he was dressing as. It's...it's just...look, I'm just going to say this is weird, and leave it at that, okay?

And don't tell me this has been going for a while in Japan. I don't want to know.

p. 361 - Achilles 1:5-Scale Statue:

"Dammit, this statue is broken by the foot, too! Well, pack it up and we'll ship it back to the distributor."

p. 361 - Phantom of the Opera Life-Size Resin Bust Kit:

You know, you really need one of those on a nightstand or a bureau right next to your bed, so that the Phantom's comforting presence and gentle gaze are always nearby. And each morning, as your eyes slowly open and the sun's warm glow peeks between your curtains, you can look up at your friend the Phantom and greet him as you begin your brand new day.

p. 362 - Arcade Mini-Bust:

So pal Dorian and I were discussing the Marvel bust line (insert joke about the White Queen statue on the same page of Previews here) and how it really seems to scrape the bottom of the barrel sometimes. I mean, a Magneto bust? Sure, okay. A Bi-Beast bust? Sales of that are going to depend on the Marvel bust completists more than some vast and silent network of Bi-Beast fans coming out from hiding to place their preorders.

Now, an Arcade bust seems to fall between the two extremes there...I'm sure there are plenty of Arcade fans out there, somewhere, and whether there is a large enough subset of those fans who are also buying statues to make a significant impact on this item's sales, I have no idea. But then there's the larger base of X-Men fans and completists, who will probably comprise the majority of sales, or at least match the folks who buy every bust, regardless of character.

Regardless of the reason, if you buy this bust, you're going to have a guy that looks like that sitting on your mantelpiece. With that tie. That's a decision only you can make.

I do like that metallic sphere base, though. That's kinda neat.

p. 365 - Star Wars Animated Slave Leia Maquette:

"This version of Leia has been, by far, the most requested character in Gentle Giant's Star Wars Animated series."

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Wait, let me try to contain my surprise. Because seriously, I could have sworn the Ugnaught Animated Statue would have been, at the very least, neck and neck with the "Nearly Naked Strong Female Character Forced to Be in A Submissive Position" statue. Just goes to show you, man.

p. 374 - Creators Labo #24 Tsukasa Bullet - Compact Hog PVC Figure:

After all that build-up at the beginning about "naked Japanese girl statues," I suppose I should throw one in here somewhere. Okay, she's not naked, but does feature "such exquisite details from her helmet, shoulder armor, and leather outfit to her soft, supple flesh" so I guess this will do. Well, thank goodness her shoulder is armored. And is there a more flattering name than "Compact Hog?" I submit that there is not.

p. 382 - DC Comics Blackest Night Buttons:

I understand Marvel's got a deal where if retailers send 'em fifty of these buttons, they'll get one rare Deadpool pin in return.

p. 383 - Serenity Blue Sun Travel Poster Set 2:

Perfect for college students trying to out-obscure their roommates with posters they won't know a damned thing about.

Marvel Previews p. 68 - X-Men Second Coming:

"Second Coming?" When have the X-Men ever been away long enough to have a second coming? Hell, the comic even went into reprints for a while in the early '70s instead of getting canceled, so we couldn't even get rid of them then.

On the other hand, maybe this is a crossover with that Faith comic book I noted above.

Marvel Previews p. 109 - Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk TPB:

For an authentic recreation of the story's original telling, after reading chapter two put the book aside for about three years and read a bunch of other Wolverine and Hulk comics in the meantime.

...Yeah, yeah, cheap shot, I know. Hey, I'll be making the same joke about my much-beloved All Star Batman soon enough.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kandykorn-Jackhammer #1-#3 (Pneumatic Press, 1990-1). 

This was a local 'zine published by artist/writer/mad genius Johnny Brewton, featuring his work as well as contributions from the remarkably various and the most definitely sundry from across Ventura County and distant parts beyond. It was a potpourri of cartoons, fiction, interviews (with the Jeff Dahl Group and Bob Forrest), reviews, clip art, poetry...basically, if it could be printed on a page, it was fair game for the magazine. The second issue even had an additional mini-comic stapled to the inside back cover.

Brewton would later move on to the X-Ray Book Company, a publisher of high-end, limited edition books and art pieces. One book he published had a swell cover by Jaime Hernandez, and another had some copies hand-signed by Hunter S. Thompson! Pretty neat.

Somewhat less neat is the following cartoon, which appeared in issue #3 of Kandykorn-Jackhammer. Yes, it's a contribution from a 21 or 22 year old version of yours truly, your pal Mike, upon whom Johnny took a great deal of pity and willingly wasted one valuable page on my amateurish scribblings, which by all rights I should be too embarrassed to show you:

Behold the obvious jokes! The terrible hand-lettering! The inkjet-printed computer lettering! The head mirror! (Actually, I still kinda like how that doctor came out.) And isn't that cute, I actually put a little © on it, like someone was going to steal it.

Well, maybe it's not that bad, and it was a precursor to my brief stint as a mini-comics creator under the Full-Frontal Harvey publishing banner. But I always did appreciate Johnny's inclusion of my comic, and I was quite happy to see it in print, and certainly proud to have been at least a tiny part of this interesting project.

And before you ask...no, that first issue did not have nude pictures of Ed Asner as promised on the cover. Nor did the other two issues. Sorry to disappoint.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Marvelman Special #1 (Quality, 1984) and Warrior #4 (Quality, 1982). 

This black and white British magazine fits early into Alan Moore's Marvelman/Miracleman continuity, after the events in "Zarathustra" (from Warrior #11, reprinted in Miracleman #3). A four page wraparound story, by Moore and Alan Davis, shows a two-man clean-up crew moving in to tidy up a secret government installation devastated by some Marvelman-created mayhem, and discovering a library of videotapes:

We then get a handful of original 1950s Marvelman stories from Mick Anglo's studio, including "Invaders from the Future," a rescripted version of which was used in Eclipse Comics' Miracleman #1 (providing an innocent contrast to the grim 'n' gritty revamp that followed, as well as simply introducing the character to an audience that may not have been familiar with it). In the context of the Moore's modernization of the character, these are some of the falsified adventures used as "programming" for Marvelman and his superpowered compatriots.

Rounding out the mag is a story starring the more-lighthearted Big Ben character, which is also presented as a video being watched by the cleaning crew.

Eclipse Comics did reprint this special (sans the Big Ben story) as the Miracleman 3-D Special in 1985.

I acquired this particular magazine shortly after the launch of Eclipse's Miracleman comic, as it had been sitting on the shelf at the comic store for several months and, being quite taken with the comic and character, finally decided I needed to have it. It's been 25 years, so I don't remember the exact timing, but I think I may have bought and read the magazine before the Eclipse reprints reached that point in continuity. It must have been a tantalizing glimpse of events yet to come, if in fact that was when I bought it. I do remember that owning this magazine is the reason I never bought the Miracleman 3-D Special, since, hey, I already had it, and didn't need to wear the special glasses to read it.

Speaking of glimpses of things yet to come:

Warrior #4 contains the story "The Yesterday Gambit," which is unique in that it's the only Alan Moore Marvelman story not (yet?) reprinted in the U.S. Also, it takes place much later in Marvelman continuity, hinting at events that wouldn't arrive in the Marvelman storyline for a few years to come. In fact, the original Marvelman run in Warrior would never reach that point...it wouldn't until Eclipse Comics finished reprinting UK-published material and started running first run work created by Moore and his collaborators. Specifically, "The Yesterday Gambit" takes place during the events of issue #15, published in 1988. However, instead of reprinting the original story, Moore and artist John Totleben take a handful of panels to essentially retell that adventure's events.

The story itself is about Marvelman and a Warpsmith (a teleporting alien) traveling through time and trying to find sufficient energy and power for their final battle against a reawakened and totally evil Kid Marvelman. This is where the "tantalizing glimpse" aspect of the story comes in, because if I've figured the timing right, this story basically interrupted the adventure in progress from previous issues of Warrior...which just happened to be Marvelman's first clash with the corrupt Kid Marvelman.

In essence, Marvelman clashes with past versions of himself, which allows the Warpsmith to gather the energy from those battles to bring back with them to the Kid Marvelman battle in the future. You know, writing it all out like this sounds completely convoluted and just a little nuts, but it all works in context, I swear. Anyhoo, one battle is drawn by Paul Neary, the other by Alan Davis (his initial work on the character), and the framing sequence for the whole thing is by Steve Dillon. Here's a panel from the end of the story by Dillon, where Marvelman and the Warpsmith have returned to their own time to resume the Kid Marvelman battle:

And the story ends right after that, leaving the fans hanging for six years. And you folks who read Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk thought you had it bad. Well, you did, but not for reasons of delay. Er, anyway.

I didn't buy Warrior #4 in the shop...I wasn't even aware* that there was an unreprinted Moore Marvelman story until relatively recently, so I had to depend on the eBay to bring it to me. And I'm not bothering with the usual Amazon links on this, since I didn't find Warrior after spending, oh, a whole 30 seconds looking for it, and the Special is under a handful of different names at prices ranging from $35 to (egads) $90. I paid $2 for mine, which is probably about right. And if you have to have the story, the U.S. 3D version should be relatively inexpensive. Oh, and I paid around $9, including shipping, for the Warrior mag, in case you're wondering. And I know you are!

* Or perhaps forgotten, because now that I think about it, it may have come up in the letters page at some point, and I'd just forgotten about it as the years passed and Miracleman remained a defunct title out of sight, out of mind.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Comic Book Confidential #1 (Sphinx Productions, 1988). 

This 16-page black and white comic was a promotional item for Ron Mann's documentary about comic book creators Comic Book Confidential, and features a cover and first page by Yummy Fur's Chester Brown. Here's one panel from that first page:

Most of the rest of the comic is comprised of very brief biographies and samples of art for all of the film's interviewees, plus one representational quote apiece:

I'm not certain how these were distributed, as I've never seen it in the wild. Presumably stacks of them were placed at various locations where they were likely to grab the attention of the film's target audience (comic shops, indie record stores, Protestant churches, etc.), and the inside front cover of my copy here has a sticker with information on where you could see the film:

I happened to find this in a dollar box at a convention, a bit late to attend that particular screening, wherever it was. In fact, despite knowing about this film since its release, despite having had a copy of the movie poster on my wall for a few years, I've never actually seen the film. Not on purpose...I was always open to seeing it, but for one reason or another I never got around to it. Checking the Netflix, I see that it's supposed to be added to their "Watch Instantly" streaming library on February 1st, which is pretty good timing since I just happen to be thinking and writing about this film at this very moment. Thus, added to the queue, and maybe I'll have a word or two to say about it here after I finally see it.

Couldn't find the comic on Amazon, but, left to right, here are ads for the DVD, streaming Video on Demand, and the old Voyager CD-ROM:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Pretty crazy cool." 

So last Sunday I was working late at the shop...we were still open, technically, but I was at the computer prepping some reorders and waiting for closing time to come around. And suddenly, a young woman, blondish, in her early 20s or maybe very late teens, black-framed glasses, hunched over like she's trying to avoid my getting a good look at her, dashes in the front door, plants a plastic baby doll on the counter, and rushes out, to sound of giggles and such outside from her partners in...whatever it was she was doing.

Now, "why a doll" I have no idea. But there it was on the counter, and I figure it was just some prank by local kids, and no big whoop. I took the doll off the counter and continued working.

A few minutes later I hear the clatter of what sounds like a lot of pieces of plastic something-or-other being dropped outside the door. By the time I get out the front door, I find a whole bunch of plastic coins like this scattered around the sidewalk:

...and no sign of whoever put them there. Now this annoys me a little, because now I have to clean up after these people. But just a little...again, it's just kids playing pranks, and it only takes me a minute with the broom 'n' scoop to sweep it up.

Finally, we're closed, so I kick out the last couple of customers...er, I invite them to leave but please return tomorrow, I meant to say, I lock the front door, and then I go to the back room for a bit to grab some of the paperwork I need for the end-of-day procedure.

I reemerge to find one of the last customers of the day knocking at the locked front door, trying to get my attention. I go to open up and see what his deal is, when I notice this certificate has been shoved under the door:

And it had one of these attached to it as well:

I've no idea what the ATF4 stands for, by the way, unless this person/these people are really into the gene.

Anyway, the customer says a young lady (the same from earlier in the evening, from how he described her) ran up and shoved these under the door.

Now, I don't know who this girl is. I got a pretty good look at her, despite her attempts to hide herself during the first bit of business with the doll, and as far as I can remember, she's not a customer. She was doing this with at least two other girls, whom I never saw, so I don't know if they're customers or not. But for whatever reason, these girls have decided to be "fans of the comic shop," I guess, for better or worse. And this isn't the first incident...we've had other notes and "surprises" left for us before over the last few months.

It's not really anything worth calling the police over...yet. It's mostly harmless, though I wish they'd stick to doing things that didn't require much cleaning up.

So Employee Aaron brought his button maker to work, and since we had a bunch of junked comics that would have been tossed/recycled/whatevered, I let him cut pictures out of those for button face material.

One of the first he made was, of course, Swamp Thing, as a bribe for me to allow him his continued life:

The buttons measure about an inch across, by the way, and sorry about the glare in the scans.

Here are a few more buttons he made(which, by the way, aren't for sale, since that, I imagine, would be a Bad Idea) and which amused me:

I asked Aaron to make this button mostly because I just wanted to see what it would look like:

And here's another button I specially requested, because man, just look at it!


So remember that publicity stunt of Marvel's, where they're trying to make it look as if DC's Blackest Night series is tanking in sales by letting retailers turn in their BN extras for one of their Siege variants? (I talked about this deal at length last week.)

Well, here's what the variant looks like. Go ahead, if you haven't seen it, check it out. I'll wait.

hmmmm hmm hmmm hmmmm hmmm...oh, you're back. So, what'd you think? ...Yes, yes, you're right, it is kind of dumb-looking. I realize nobody is getting these super-limited variant covers for their artistic value, but merely for their commodity as rarities, so it really doesn't matter what's on the cover, but good gravy that's unappealing.

Well, here's hoping folks who get this variant can realize a $100 sale with it, just to break even on the wholesale cost of the BN books that were traded in. Even better, if they can get the full $199.50 retail. I suspect that won't be a problem, because I don't imagine there are going to be too many copies of this variant out there, and there are plenty of people who'll pay a lot of cash for something that's collectible just because it's hard to get.

And as pal Dorian said to me the other day, someone out there is probably going to list it for $75 or less, and thus effectively lose money in the deal. Well, unless they were just buried in BN overstock and losing a little money in turning that dead weight into cash is preferable to losing all that money. But I suspect if that were the case, "losing money" is a situation that would not be unfamiliar.

Johanna gets her mitts on the Howard the Duck DVD, and proceeds to give her positive review on the film's surprisingly-deluxe presentation. (See, I'm not the only one who likes it!)

A couple of Swamp Thing links:

First, Twitter pal @misterjayem points me in the direction of Todd Klein's lettering weblog, where Swamp Thing's logos, among others, are discussed.

And there there's pal Cully, who let me know that Covered featured one of their cover redos of a Swamp Thing comic.

REMINDER: You've read it online, now get it in that new "printed on paper" format that's all the rage! El Gorgo #3, now available for order in physical stapled-and-folded form! Get all 3 issues for a special deal! Buy two sets, and give one to Grandma! I love this comic, and I think you will too. As always, you can read all the issues online, but throw the boys some cash for all their hard work and spectacular results!

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