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At the very least, I’d like to see an animated version of House of Secrets #92.

§ February 14th, 2017 § Filed under cartoons, movie reviews, swamp thing § 5 Comments

So pretty much in every media adaptation of Swamp Thing, be it cartoon or live action TV show or two fantastic movies or video game, hearing him refer to himself out loud as “Swamp Thing” always sounds just a little goofy. Some kind of weird combination of self-importance and “…seriously, that’s the name you’re going by?” And look, I’m saying this as the guy that, some of you may know, kinda likes this Swamp Thing character. But sometimes, something that reads okay on paper just doesn’t seem to translate to actual spoken out-loud dialogue, and, well, what can you do. And maybe they hit the “I AM THE PROTECTOR OF THE GREEN” thing a little too hard. Still, though, it was nice to see an animated Swamp Thing that had purpose beyond selling toys. Would love to see a standalone Swamp Thing animated movie at some point, but it would have to probably have to shoehorn Batman or Superman into it like they do with pretty much all the direct-to-home-video DC cartoons, like they did with this one, so I’m not holding my breath.

Oh, and by the way, “this one” is Justice League Dark, as some of you probably surmised, teaming up DC’s spooky characters, like Deadman, the Demon, Zatanna, and John Constantine, mispronouncing his name as they have in, I think, every TV and movie version of him:

…but What Can You Do? Despite that particular issue only I care about, I enjoyed the film well enough. It’s still weird seeing Constantine just straight-up casting magical spells like Dr. Fate in an overcoat, which is not something you saw him really do too much in the early comics but is perhaps a bit more frequent in modern funnybooks. But beyond that, it was a good showcase for all the characters, all of whom got something to do, with a variety of action sequences and creepy locations, but that one scene with the cast being chased by a hurricane with a face felt more like something out of Scooby-Doo There was just enough left unexplained in characters’ backgrounds to maybe urge the more inquisitive viewers to Read More About It. Hopefully in the comics, that is, and not just on Wikipedia.

As mentioned above, Batman does appear in the film to help sell it to people for whom the “Justice League” in the title isn’t enough to entice them, but other JLA members appear as well. Alas, though we’ve all moved on to the “Rebirth” era in the comics, the movies are still in their “New 52” phase, so that’s the Superman we get, whose New 52 costume is somehow even worse in animation than it is on the page. Fortunately he’s not in there that much, since that costume more than anything dates the film (to, like, the early ’90s, frankly). Wonder Woman’s New 52-era costume makes an appearance, too, though that’s slightly more tolerable.

I haven’t really gone through the extra features (available on the Blu-ray version) just yet, beyond the “Story of Swamp Thing” short, in which Len Wein and Kelley Jones discuss the character’s origins and history. There are other short pieces titled “Did You Know? CONSTANTINE ORIGIN” and “Casting Deadman” and the like, plus a preview of the New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract cartoon, originally announced years ago, which is finally coming out. (Not that it was made years ago and has been sitting on a shelf, but…well, you know what I mean.) There are also the usual “From the DC Vault” cartoons, this time a couple of episodes of The Brave and the Bold featuring the Demon.

…And speaking of Deadman, Nick Turturro does the perfect voice for him. I don’t know that I ever imagined what Deadman would sound like as I was reading the comics, but now this is the voice. So great.

Overall, an enjoyable film, I thought. Not really expecting a sequel, despite the fact it would be nice to see some…resolution to the seemingly final fates for some of the characters. But, despite what I said above about the possibility, I’m still holding on to that faint hope that maybe, just maybe, now that we’ve cracked the seal, we might see some kind of solo Swamp Thing animated effort. Well, even if it does have to guest-star Batman…whatever it takes, I guess.

House of Secrets #92.

§ August 14th, 2006 § Filed under swamp thing Comments Off on House of Secrets #92.

House of Secrets #92 (June/July 1971) featured an eight-page story by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson titled “Swamp Thing,” about love, betrayal, revenge, and a swamp monster, taking place approximately in the early 1900s. Sales were brisk, and reader reaction was positive, so this one-shot Swamp Thing story was retooled into an ongoing adventure strip set in the present day (resulting in some highly regarded comics, some less-regarded feature films, a live action TV series and cartoon, an action figure line, and, yes, even chalk).

DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #9 (May 1981) was the first time I was able to purchase the story from House of Secrets #92 for myself. This particular tale certainly stood out among the bright and cheery origin stories of the Atom and Krypto the Superdog. This is Copy #1 of this story in the Vast Mikester Archives.

Saga of the Swamp Thing #33 (February 1985) was a fill-in issue of sorts, which contained a reprint of the House of Secrets story, making this Copy #2 of this story in my collection. The new framing sequence for this story, which drew a connection between the original Swamp Thing and the newer Alec Holland version of the character, makes what could have been just a fill-in into one of the most important and influential comics of the series. Not only did it establish that the current Swamp Thing was the latest in a long chain of swamp creatures throughout Earth’s history (a plot thread that would play out through the rest of this series), but it also gave us the first “modern” usage of the old DC horror comic hosts Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel, formerly humorous wiseacres introducing short scary comic stories in their respective anthology titles, were now explicitly described as the Cain and Abel from Christian theology, Cain continuously murdering Abel in an eternal repeating cycle. This new (or old, I suppose) interpretation of these hosts was carried into Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and its spin-off, The Dreaming.

Roots of the Swamp Thing #5 (November 1986) was a deluxe format reprint series, representing the first ten issues of the original Swamp Thing series by Wein and Wrightson recolored and, for the first time, on nice, bright white paper. As a bonus feature, this last issue of this series included the original House of Secrets story, making this Copy #3 in my possession.

House of Secrets #92 (June/July 1971) – At some point in the late 1980s, I was able to purchase for myself an actual copy of the original House of Secrets appearance. The comic looked like it had been hit by a truck, and I think someone had used it to clean a shellac brush, but it was only a couple bucks and, by God, I finally had an original copy of the story (making it Copy #4 in the collection).

Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis trade paperback (first printing, 1991) – This trade collected the classic ten-issue run by Wein and Wrightson, and also contained the House of Secrets story. This is Copy #5 of the story in my possession.

House of Secrets #92 (June/July 1971) – At some point in the early 1990s, I was able to upgrade my first copy of House of Secrets #92, which a generous man with poor vision would have graded as “Poor to Fair,” to a copy in Very Fine. Set me back a cool $60, but given what it would cost now to buy it, I ain’t complaining. Let’s call this Copy #4a, which is also the copy I scanned for the image at the top of this post.

DC Silver Age Classics House of Secrets #92 (1992) – To commemorate the end of their printing comics at the World Color Press plant in Sparta, IL, DC released a series of classic comic reprints that were the last books off of those presses. Among the “Silver Age Classics” was House of Secrets #92, which kinda stretched the definition of “Silver Age” a little, but, since I apparently needed Copy #6 of the original Swamp Thing story, I was willing to overlook that little fact.

Essential Vertigo: Swamp Thing #14 (December 1997) – DC Comics began reprinting the Alan Moore issues of Swamp Thing in black and white in this series, partially to show off the fine linework in the art, but mostly because it would have cost too much to recolor everything for the new offset printing process. Anyway, this issue reprints Swamp Thing #33, mentioned above, making this a reprint of a fill-in with a reprint inside. I think this is the only U.S. printing of the original HoS story in black and white, but I know this is Copy #7 of the story that I’ve purchased.

Millennium Edition: House of Secrets #92 (May 2000) – To celebrate the turn of the millennium, DC Comics released reprints of notable comics throughout the year (complete with a cool gold foil “Millennium Edition” stamp on the cover that was designed by one of my long-time customers). And, yes, House of Secrets #92 made an appearance, and, yes, I made it Copy #8 of the story in my collection.

And I know there are more reprints of the story out there. One of the Swamp Thing trades reprinting the Alan Moore run contains issue #33, and I believe there were a series of black and white reprints in the U.K. that also contained that same issue.

But, for now, I think eight copies of the same story is plenty. I don’t want people to think I’m obsessed or anything.

The House of Lollipops.

§ June 23rd, 2021 § Filed under publishing, retailing, this week's comics § 6 Comments

Thanks to reader/mad genius Paul for sending this mock-up of what could’ve been for a Sterling Silver Comics retailer exclusive variant!

Following up on my discussion about that very topic from Monday, I’d actually pulled up an email I received from A Comics Publisher in response to an inquiry I’d made along these lines. Without going into a whole lot of specific detail, let’s just say my buy-in, just for the minimum copy purchase of the exclusive variant, would have been in excess of $10,000. That doesn’t count other minimum orders for the regular cover or other variants of your retailer variant, or for paying for the actual artwork by the artist.

Basically, it’s a lotta scratch…not undoable, entirely, but certainly an investment that would require some first class hustling to make that cash back. Which could be a problem in case you got a cover that didn’t grab the attention of the sort of folks who look for exclusive variants like this. But, to be honest, the way the marketplace is right now, seems like anything that has any form of scarcity is automatically in demand.

Anyhoo, something to think about the next time the opportunity arises.

But speaking of “scarcity,” apparently the latest issue of Usagi Yojimbo, #20, is “in demand” due to it being a first appearance of a character whose name I bet most of the people looking for it couldn’t even tell you. My distributor decided, alas, that this would be one of the comics they’d be shorting from my order last week (there’s usually a few every shipment). I figured that would be that, given it’s temporary hotness and all spare copies eaten up by reorders, I’d have to wait for the second printings to come along so I can get copies for customers who actually want to read it. Somehow, though, miracle of miracles, my replacements showed up! I mean, sure, half my Fireflys are missing and several of my Marvel Voices: Pride shorted or damaged, so it’s always something.

As to the Marvel Voices: Pride comic, it surprised me a bit by including select pages from Alpha Flight #106 (1992). In case you forgot, that’s the comic where Northstar finally just straight up said, after years of subtle-ish hints, “yeah, I’m gay.” Which was, granted, a pretty big deal, and demand for the issue warranted a second printing. But this was also at the height of the whole “gotta be EXTREEEME” art thing, and…yeah, it certainly looks a bit jarring side-by-side with more current art styles. Hey, gotta start somewhere! (Also, did they ever bring back Major Mapleleaf from that story?) (Yes, I know that was a nickname of Alpha Flight’s Guardian at one point.)

I should also note that my comments sections here on Rogressive Pruin occasionally take on a life of their own. So, if you ever wanted to delve deep into the origin of the word/sound/expression “vootie,” well, your day has come.

The Department of Variants.

§ June 21st, 2021 § Filed under indies, variant covers § 3 Comments

So back in 2014, when I was still at the previous place of employment, our prep for what would turn out to be the final Free Comic Book Day I worked at that store, we took advantage of a special deal Valiant Comics offered. If we ordered a minimum of 500 copies of that year’s FCBD offering from the publisher, Armor Hunters Special #1, we would be able to receive custom-printed copies with our logo on the cover. Now 500 copies at a quarter a pop our cost, for a total of $125, was just a drop in the bucket in the overall expenditures for our Free Comic Book Day event, so we went for it, resulting in this:

One, they actually ran two logos, one for Seth’s store and one for Ralph’s, though I suppose the restriction wasn’t “number of store logos” but rather “what will fit in that space, and hopefully isn’t straight-up pornography.” Two, you can probably tell which logo was actually by A Real Artist and which was by The Overworked Comic Shop Manager Who Knew How to Color In Letters in an Art Program. As to that URL, pretty sure I told ’em “just put it in there somewhere” and somewhere is indeed where they put it.

Anyway, aesthetics aside, one of the unintended but probably-should-have-expected-because-comics consequences was phone calls from collectors trying to obtain copies of our customized version of this freebie. Lots of calls. Valiant press-released a list of stores what went for these branded Armor Hunters, which sent folks our way. (Honestly, I’m surprised so few stores took part in this.) And I believe we did mail out quite a few, but true to the spirit of FCBD we didn’t charge for them (just asked for shipping costs…and waited to send ’em out after the event).

That was the one time I did the whole retailer-variant thing, which I’d been thinking about over the last couple of days in relation to a collection of comics I just took in. Specifically, I acquired a bunch of Department of Truth variants, several for each issue released so far. There were a handful of the regular variants available through Diamond, but the vast majority of them were covers specifically produced for retailers, like this cover for #1 by Peach Momoko:

Now, to get that Valiant variant, it was relatively easy…just hit that minimum and provide the artwork. For these kinds of variants, featuring specific artwork by actual professional artists, it’s a whole different scale of business there. I don’t know the specifics of what had to be done with these Department of Truth variants, but I do know with other retailer variants I’ve looked into, it required ordering a certain minimum number of the regular covers, then committing to a certain amount of the retailer variant, sometimes at a higher-than-normal wholesale cost. Regardless of the details, it costs a lot and you end up with a boatload of comic books. Huge numbers of books, more than my current rinky-dink operation can deal with.

Every time I crunched the numbers on these, it always looked like the end result would be me having to dump all those extra copies of the regular cover (above what I’d normally sell) for pennies on the dollar, or just plain recycle them, and hope sales on the retailer-variant cover the cost. But the larger stores with the more efficient (i.e. more than one dude running the shop) mail-order department probably is in a lot better position dealing with these. And that must be the case given the number of retailer variants that exist for comics. I mean, Department of Truth alone…

Anyway, speaking of that comic, I already knew there were a number of variants for issue #1, but I just wasn’t aware how many. The main cover of the first issue looked like this:

…but interspersed with this cover during its initial distribution was this cover (about 1 in every, what, 6 copies?) replacing Kennedy’s image with Lee Harvey Oswald:

And of course there were the usual “ratio” variants, where you could get 1 copy for every X copies of the regular you were ordering. These existed at the 1-in-10 and 1-in-50 levels (which you can refer to on this page, as I won’t be putting every cover up here). There was also a 1-in-100 variant, which I am putting up here:

…due to its “homage” to the writer’s other weirdly popular comic Something Is Killing the Children. It is noted as “Cover F” on the back cover…a letter designation is assigned to most, but not all, of these Department of Truth variants. (If you’re also wondering if this particular variant has staples, you know where to look.)

This series turned out to be in very high demand, and after the quick sellout of the first issue, reprints were quickly produced. Five printings of #1 as of this posting, with the 2nd print pictured here:

These reprints, at least on the first issue, were simply coloring variations on the initial release. But also wildly in high demand, often from collectors and investors looking toward resale. Like many reprints, which are seen by some as “rare” collectibles, their relative scarcity in comparison to the comic it’s reprinting, drive their demand to occasionally outrageous levels.

But nearly all the rest of the #1s are retailer comics, which you could buy at conventions, or, more likely since there weren’t conventions for a while, obtained via mail order. Often they had small print runs (like about 500 or so) and a quick scan of several of these retailers’ storefronts show them long out of stock. However, this version of that first Momoko cover I posted, but sans logo:

…was used for a foil variant that apparently was sold directly by the writer himself, if I understand correctly? This only had a print run of 100 copies, so the premium prices on the secondary market for this edition can run quite dear. (And yes, before you ask, I had one of those in this collection…it was one of the first to sell!)

As you scan down that catalog of variants, you see the process not slowing down much. A lot of the “altered color” reprints, along with a bunch of retailer exclusives, are listed for every issue. Issue 9 isn’t listed there yet, but I can assure you the same goes for that one as well.

As I go through this collection of Department of Truth variants, it has me thinking again about looking into getting a retailer variant of my own. Given the response we had far and wide from folks trying to get that Armor Hunters variant, I imagine I could probably move enough copies of my own store-exclusive edition of…something. Just a matter of me deciding to put my dime (well, lots of dimes) down on something that I’d want representing my shop. I don’t know if I can top this Archie Vs. Predator exclusive, but I’d love to have a House of Secrets #92 homage on some comic for my store to sell. Too bad Herbie is off the stands…an HOS92-type cover with a lollipop sitting in the foreground with a shadowed Herbie lurking behind, with a giant “Sterling Silver Comics” logo adorning the image. It’s too beautiful to imagine.

Okay, I don’t know how educational all that was, and it was a little off-model from the rest of my variant cover-age posts. I know I said I’d do the Marvel 35-cent variants this time ’round, but that was turning into more of a thing than I was really up for at the moment. There’s a lot to unpack there, along with varying distributor marks, and the larger direct sales vs. newsstand editions secondary marketplace…I’ll get to it all eventually.

Don’t get me wrong, the fact that I could regularly read stories where Swamp Thing pals around with Detective Chimp is awesome.

§ June 4th, 2021 § Filed under collecting, swamp thing § 23 Comments

So I realize I’m probably expected to do a little something about the Swamp Thing anniversary this year (having debuted in House of Secrets #92 50 years ago as of about April). It’s also Man-Thing’s 50th, debuting in 1971’s Savage Tales #1, so overall it’s a good year for swamp monsters.

I expect I’ll get around to something eventually…or maybe this will the only acknowledgement. I honestly don’t know. I can’t say with all honesty “it’s been a great 50 years, here’s to 50 more!” because frankly things have kinda sorta fallen apart in regards to the Swamp Thing comics over the last ten years. Lemme ‘splain.

Well, actually, there’s not much ‘splaining to do. The New 52 relaunch sort of “broke the chain” of continuity between the Swamp Thing we had before and the later Swamp Thing. Part of the character’s appeal to me was its history, the sense that all of the events that happened to the character in its past have remained so, and continue to inform its future. Okay, granted, one or two things have been sorta kicked under the bed and not brought up again, but by and large I could (to use a phrase I’ve probably overused on this site) draw a line from the character’s 1970s comics all the way through to the end of Brightest Day. It was with the Brighest Day follow-up The Search for Swamp Thing and the New 52 relaunch that stuff went astray.

I won’t go into excruciating detail (again) but character elements were changed, Alec and Abby’s backstory changed, Arcane was an almost entirely different kind of creep, etc. Then with the advent of both creator Len Wein’s 2016 mini-series (which seemingly nullifies a significant part of the Alan Moore arc), and the digital-first stories where full-on Plant Elemental Swamp Thing is going up against…General Sunderland!? Well, that undoes another fairly significant part of Moore’s run. It literally plays havoc with the circumstances surrounding Swamp Thing’s evolution into the kind of character he is now.

Look, all the New 52 and later era work is fine on its own. Well, okay, not all, but most of it is perfectly serviceable. But for someone who’s followed the character for as long I have…not since the very beginning, but close…there’s a level of detachment. What I know of the character is not fitting with what they’re telling me about the character now, and it’s distracting. There are a number of stories that don’t require dependence on past continuity, of course, but once you remind me “Matt Cable is alive and he was never possessed by Arcane,” that throws me just a little. I feel…detached from what’s happening to the character.

Some of it is on me…given the vision troubles I’ve had over the last few years, I’m way behind on my comic reading. And some of the comics I haven’t read yet are Swamp Thing-related, such as the Walmart Giant issues (collected in a book that I have in place of said Giants, which I never found in the wild). My enthusiasm for the character having waned, I never made it a priority to catch up on those particular stories. I’m sure they’re perfectly good, but with everything else happening to Swamp Thing, I was in no rush to read more stories set in the same post-New 52 milieu.

Plus, on top of all that, there was my decision to not acquire every single appearance of the character, spurred on by this nonsense. I also stopped pulling both covers of Justice League Dark for myself if each had Swamp Thing on it. Being as behind as I am, the last thing I needed was more comic books floatin’ around the house. And besides, who am I trying to impress with A Complete Swamp Thing Comic Book Collection? It’s not like God won’t let me through the Pearly Gates when I die if I don’t have one. (Unless of course Wein and Wrightson are at his side, waiting for me, their arms crossed and shaking their heads in disappointment.)

Like I said in this post, I, The Guy What’s Read Swamp Thing Comics for the Last Several Decades, was not the target audience for these rejiggered relaunches. This rethinking of ol’ Swampy was designed to get newer readers ensnared, who likely hadn’t read all that early stuff.

Not to say everything is terrible, of course: Swamp Thing’s appearances in Justice League Dark gave me the month-to-month adventures that didn’t dwell a whole lot on his new backstory and almost felt “normal,” you know, more or less, guest-starring with Detective Chimp and everything. And the new mini, bringing in a new person as Swamp Thing with the Alec Holland Swampy primarily there to pass the torch…this may be the solution to finally getting past the character’s shattered history, and it helps that the comic is really good, too.

But anyway, in short, Swamp Thing is still my favorite comic character despite everything. I get that expecting editorial consistency on a comic book character in a shared universe in stories created by Many Diverse Hands is a bit of an ask. I mean, the Superman we got with the John Byrne reboot in 1986 is technically the same Superman we have now, though many of the details have changed over the decades. But I kind of expect that from superhero comics. I felt like Swamp Thing was different, like maybe folks were putting a little more effort into internal consistency over the years. That’s why just changing things for the sake of change (an endemic problem to the New 52 as a whole) was so disappointing.

• • •

On a related note, just recently we had a spate of “give me your controversial take on [comic character]” tweets on the Twitters (here’s my favorite iteration and my response). So of course I jumped in with “give me your controversial takes on Swamp Thing”. Got some good response, and some jokey ones, too, but c’mon, we’re all comedians on Twitter. But I plan on responding to some of those “takes” here in the near future.

Thanks for reading, pals, and keep in mind, despite all that stuff I said…I ain’t giving up my Swamp Thing slippers.

Swamp Thing-a-Thon #2, Swamp Thing #1 (October/November 1972).

§ March 6th, 2021 § Filed under Swamp Thing-a-Thon § 1 Comment

Originally published as a Patreon-exclusive entry…ahem, quite some time ago, here is entry #2 in my ongoing attempt to do an overview of every Swamp Thing comic book. My House of Secrets #92 coverage can be read for free here, and issues #2 through #7 are currently behind that Patreon paywall. And as I’ve noted before, I’m doing some audio bits on there as well (just an intro piece and a five-minute thing on comics shipping so far) and a new entry in the Swamp-Thing-a-Thon is also coming soon.

Thanks, pals, and we’ll see you Monday.

ISSUE: Swamp Thing #1 (October/November 1972)

TITLE AND CREDITS: “Dark Genesis!” written by Len Wein, illustrated and colored by Berni Wrightson, lettered by Gaspar Saladino. Cover art by Berni Wrightson.

IN BRIEF: Scientists Alec and Linda Holland are threatened to reveal the secrets of their bio-restorative formula…and Alec is seemingly killed when a bomb destroys their lab in retaliation for their refusal. However, Alec rises from the surrounding bog, changed by the explosion and the formula into the muck-encrusted mockery of a man that can only be called…SWAMP THING. He then exacts his vengeance on the same men who “killed” him after they kill his wife Linda, then disappears into the night as government agent Matt Cable swears to discover the connection between this strange swamp monster and the deaths of the Hollands.

MIKE SEZ: And awaaaaay we go, with the simple perfection of that standalone short story from House of Secrets #92 retooled and revamped into a similar premise designed to support an ongoing regular title, complete with subplots and cliffhangers and all that other fun stuff required for a adventure strip. As I noted in our last Swamp Thing-a-Thon installment, our hero, the Swamp Thing himself, has been redesigned from a sad, indistinct shadowy mass into a more muscular-seeming dynamic type who kicks ass and takes names and demolishes a car, even. Swamp Thing’s been around for so long, it’s easy to forget what a masterpiece of design the character is…a body that is recognizably humanoid, but covered with twisted roots and vines and topped with that amazing, distorted face. Not so hideous that he repels us, but hideous enough to sell the idea, for story purposes, that This Is A Monster, terrifying to all who see him.

Like the original short, the story begins in media res, with Swamp Thing already Swamp Thing, flashing back to previous events. Interestingly, and something I don’t think I’ve given much thought to before, is that while the flashbacks begin specifically with Alec’s own memories of coming to the lab, the encounter with the men demanding the secret formula, the explosion, his transformation, and so on…the flashbacks also include scenes that Alec could not know, that he himself did not witness. For example, there’s the seemingly stray mutt that Alec does remember being convinced by Linda to “adopt,” as it were…only for the narrative to cut elsewhere, to a person listening in on the transmitter planted on the dog and gloating the whole while. There’s no way Alec could have known that, and probably would have saved him some trouble over the next few issues if he did know he was being surreptitiously monitored. Obviously, since I never really considered it before writing about this issue right now, this apparent switch from a personal flashback to a more omniscient overview of prior events isn’t that big of a deal. Just in retrospect, upon closer reading, this stands out as a minor glitch in the process.

But going back to that fella on dog-transmitter duty…this is one of those subplots I told you about, moving us from a one-off horror comic to serialized action strip. This guy is working for a man who apparently runs “The Conclave,” who also appears (in shadows, natch) and gives a good ol’ villain speech about having to destroy the Hollands if they don’t give up the stuff. And we’ll be seeing more of that hidden transmitter and “The Conclave” in future issues, providing the plot points the stories will occasionally touch upon, reminding us that we all should really come back for the next issue to find out who’s really responsible for what happened to Alec. Gone are the quiet melancholy and soft tones of the original short…we’re in full-blown melodrama mode now. That’s not a bad thing, of course. That’s the kind of comic this is: horror/adventure, taking the EC-style short stories and making them a continuing saga. It’s an anthology series, where we get mostly new situations and a fresh set of supporting characters in each series, but with the repeated involvement of Swamp Thing and his regular hangers-on.

And the premise for future issues is set up, more or less, here. Agent Matt Cable, convinced Swamp Thing was involved in the murder of the Hollands, pursues the creature, while Alec stays one step ahead. Notably the idea that Alec must elude capture as his transformed body contains the bio-restorative formula and it must not fall into the wrong hands is not here. In fact, I don’t recall when that come into play, but I suppose I’ll find out as I reread each issue for this project. At any rate, the story ends with Swamp Thing shambling back into the bog, rejecting humanity, rejecting the idea of going with Matt Cable to explain what has happened, and essentially declaring that Alec Holland is dead…”and in his place stands only a…SWAMP THING!” Eventually this nihilistic despair from the loss of his wife is replaced with new motivations, such as the aforementioned formula, or finding a way to become human again…more hooks thrown in there to facilitate an ongoing series.

Wrightson’s art is, of course, outstanding, featuring several iconic moments such as the much-revisited scene where Holland awakes in his lab, only to discover the bombs beneath a table moments before the explosion. “Gotta try to defuse it before…!” The full page splashes are used to great effect as well…the close-up of Swamp Thing’s face after his rebirth, and of course the amazing “STOP!” image of Swamp Thing bringing a car to a crushing halt.

As first issues go, this one does the job it needs to. Introduces the characters, gives us the origin of our hero, and sets up the relationships that’ll drive the series for the next few issues. As I said, it doesn’t quite nail down some of his specific motivations that will become more familiar as the series and character progress, but pretty much it’s the quintessential Swamp Thing story. It’s the ultimate Statement of Purpose for the character, at least until Alan Moore gets his hands on him a decade or so later.

SWAMPY SEZ: For my amusement, I’m going to keep track of Swamp Thing’s actual spoken dialogue in each issue (at least until we get to the Alan Moore run, where ol’ Swampy is a bit more loquacious). Unlike his predecessor in the House of Secrets story, All-New, All-Different Swamp Thing is able to vocalize with great difficulty, restricting his speech to a word or two here and there.

And, in Swamp Thing #1, we get a total of five words (well, four and an exclamatory noise): “AARGH!” “NOOOO!” “LINDA!” “STOP!!” and “HUH?”

THE WRAP-UP: A successful conversion of the original short story into a new ongoing series, effectively combining Wrightson’s complex and moody art with a serialized adventure.

I know that issue of Legion of Super-Heroes didn’t have a digital code, just roll with it.

§ March 3rd, 2021 § Filed under collecting, retailing, self-promotion, Swamp Thing-a-Thon § 3 Comments

JohnJ has this to say

“There must also be some basic pricing difference between copies still bagged and those removed from bags, just as there would have been with Superman #75 or Spider-Man #1. Is an X-Force #1 even possible to be considered ‘mint’ if it’s out of the bag and card-less? No matter how pristine the book itself might be, would the ‘slabbers’ turn up their noses at it?”

When I price comics, I do indeed take into account opened/missing bags, removed inserts (like trading cards) and stuff like that. There are also those comics with the Mark’s Jewelers ads where even in the price guide their presence, or lack thereof, is factored into pricing. I mean, I guess technically having those inserts removed would be similar to an old comic having “ad page removed, story not affected” dragging down the price, so I can see the logic there. Either the comic is complete as published, or it isn’t. Whether that “completeness” impacts the price, and by how much, is the matter than can be debated.

For something like X-Force #1, where sealed copies are still relatively plentiful, unbagged copies can go for next to nothing. Same for Adventures of Superman which is hard enough to sell complete and presumably mint at anywhere close to its barely-above-cover-price guide listing (or even at a dollar a pop, like I’ve been trying to), much less naked, exposed, trading card-less. In both cases I usually just toss ’em in the bargain bin when I come across them, though sometimes I’ll put a bagless X-Force #1 in the regular bins in case anyone just wants a reader copy for cheap and don’t want to hunt through the random cheapo boxes.

There is a grey area, of course, with the “opened bag” — the Death of Superman issue still sells with an opened bag and most, if not all, of its contents. Not for the full premium, of course, but not bargain basement prices, and there’s still demand for it. Compare to X-Force #1, where the main driving force for collectors right now is whether or not the Deadpool card is included, and whether that card is in “mint,” so sealed copies are preferred.)

Now as I recall (haven’t checked of late, because I think this was dumb), the price guide’s stance was that so long as the bag was opened neatly and all contents were intact, it should essentially be priced the same as a sealed copy. Which of course is bananas, as in actual real life customers will pay more for a sealed copy, and less, or nothing at all, for an unsealed one.

And then there’s 1990’s Spider-Man #1, where you could get the green cover, the black ‘n’ silver cover, or either of those covers sealed in a special polybag. The polybag editions were just polybagged…no inserts included. The polybag was the gimmick, and a gimmick so dumb that my former boss swore he’d never stock that particular version as a back issue in his shop. So anyway, having the bag in this case damaged or removed made those variants sort of pointless, and why would you want to open them anyway? To read this comic? Have you read it? C’mon.

I mean, in the old days, unbagged copies of the bagged Spider-Man would have been pointless, except now, as the need for collectible comics intensifies in the face of declining supply, they are now selling for higher prices. Specifically as “unpriced variants,” since these bagged editions had their retail prices printed on the bags themselves, and left off the actual covers. A speedy search of the eBays turned up a “no price” black variant at $16.99.

I figured “McFarlane’s Spider-Man is a hot comic, so I guess demand is up for any copies of this” but in fairness I looked up Adventures of Superman #500, which earlier I asserted debagged copies of the white-bag variant are essentially worthless. Well, I still think they are, but that’s not stopping folks from selling slabbed, graded copies for $100 plus. And “raw” copies, too, for the usual $1 to $3. Amazing.

Online pricing doesn’t necessarily reflect real world pricing on collectibles, of course. I’ve sold stuff online for premium prices that would get me laughed out of town if I tried them in the store. And I’ve tried to move things online for any price that ended up selling more quickly, and more dearly, in the ol’ brick and mortar. So [throws price guide up in the air] who knows, man.

On a related note, I wrote (egads, nearly nine years ago) about Marvel Comics and their digital code stickers, and how their removal would or would not affect pricing. Oddly, it hasn’t really come up too often, aside from one collection of books I took in a couple of years ago. My rule of thumb, as stated above, remains “is this book as it was originally published?” If it’s missing the sticker covering the code, then no, it’s incomplete. A very nit-picking incomplete, but nonetheless, by technical definition, it is as such. Now it doesn’t affect pricing that much for these mostly recent books, but what if in a few decades, whatever today’s equivalent of Incredible Hulk #181 (almost certainly that first evergreen-hot appearance of the Gold Lantern) is missing a sticker? Will its going market price of 2000 Space-Credits drop down to a measly 1200 Space-Credits? How’s someone supposed to send their clone-child to Ceti Alpha V Academy on that little amount of money? Or will it be taken in stride, like the Guide’s instance that arrival dates on covers for comics of a certain age shouldn’t affect the grade? I guess time will tell. Time travelers, come back and let me know.

• • •

In other news, after a long hiatus, mostly enforced by ongoing eyeball issues, I am attempting to return to doing my coverage of Swamp Thing issue-by-issue as Patreon-exclusive content. Probably at a less-frequent pace than I was attempting, but I plan on filling the gaps with brief audio content (the very brief first installment of which has already been posted, not really saying much more than what’s already said here). So, if you want to hear my warbly voice barely make it through a sentence without stumbling, now’s your chance! (This may be practice for a full-fledged actual podcast at some point in the near-ish future.)

When I first started the Swamp-Thing-a-Thon, my intention was to post it exclusively for Patreonites, then release it here on ProgRuin several months later. Well, I never did that last part, so I’ll try to get another one posted this weekend. In the meantime, here’s the very first installment I posted about House of Secrets #92.

Thanks for reading, pals, and I’ll catch you on Friday.

“Suddenly, sixteen years later….”

§ December 5th, 2019 § Filed under suddenly... § 15 Comments

Somehow I’ve made it sixteen years doing this silly site here, and thanks to all of you who’ve bucked the trend, reading blogs long past that medium’s heyday. Thanks also to my friends and family, who support this endevour by not explicitly opposing it, to my girlfriend Nora who still seems okay with me doing this, to pal Dorian who was there at the beginning, and of course to Neilalien, the firstest and the bestest of the comicwebloggers.

The predominant theme for the past year as been “Mike’s eyeballs,” as I’ve undergone multiple issues and surgeries throughout the last several months…and at times even being pretty darn close to being entirely unable to see. I’m a lot closer to being done wtih all this now, but you may have noticed a relative paucity of posts over the past year as I had to take time off from the site due to assorted eye operations, or straight-up near-blindness, which prevented me from posting pictures of Swamp Thing or Sluggo or both. My End of Civilization posts even took bit of a hit of late.

Like I said, I am almost through all this, though I do have one more operation next week and we’ll see where I’m at after that. But I don’t plan on giving up the blog anytime soon…long as you guys will have me, I’ll be around.

Oh, and my store had its fifth anniversary this year, as I entered my 31st year of working in comics retail. I should probably get a real job at some point, but in the meantime…stop by my store! Say hi! Buy stuff! Buy lots of stuff! Maybe even pick up something off the eBays! I won’t mind!

Speaking of the store, I started posting a lot more on the shop’s Instagram this year. Lots of pics of stuff in and around the store, but I also realized “wait, I have sixteen years’ worth of pics I posted on my blog to pick from, too” so you may see some old ProgRuin favorites on there occasionally. No, I haven’t hit them with “Then…KOREA” yet…not sure they’re ready.

And as always, you can find me on Twitter usually commplaining about something or making stupid jokes, or you can follow my store there too. My store’s on Facebook if you are still putting up with that site.

So one of the side effects of my ongoing eyeball problems is that my ability to read stuff onscreen is hampered a little bit, though the recent acquisition of a much larger monitor seems to help a bit. Anyway, please excuse the occasional misspelling or whatnot as you peruse the archives of recent memory…try to collect them all! Just something I thought I’d mention before directing you to the following links of highlights and lowlights from the past twelve months of ProgRuin history:


I mark my first eye surgery in the most tasteful manner, the aftermath of said surgery, here’s the worst thing to do with a guy with one working eye, a Christmas post so great I don’t know if I can top it this year, I give you a beautiful GIF from Teen Titans Go! to the Movies.


Oh Bob Haney and your Teen Titans dialogue, still haven’t started on getting those early Cerebus (and a follow-up), I promise you I was only joking about the gift I gave pal Dorian, I look back at your predictions for 2018 which I’m linking to with just the post tag because I don’t want to link each individual post here, ffthe Penguin’s Harley Quinn.


Marvel’s guide to funnybook collecting, comic book “ages” – always a hilarious topic, I’m an easy mark for Nexus/Badger nostalgia, the very Dalgoda store signs that the other shop had on display before I even worked there, Fantastic Four #347 hype, I regret to inform you that someone did indeed register that domain name, we don’t talk enough about this horrible subject line (or about my Herman Melville joke in the comments).

MARCH 2019:

Oh don’t get me started on the whole “his name is Shazam” thing, I go on about online store reviews, someone somewhere is mad that the HBO series isn’t a direct adaptation of Doomsday Clock, I really really hate those Marvel Value Stamps, I celebrate my 50th birthday with 50 things I’ve learned about comics and comics retail, the comic strip reprints of my youth, ANIMATED HAGAR, Mad paperbacks and I namedrop Sergio, already filled that shelf.

APRIL 2019:

Gotta stop getting eye surgeries as I’m running out of punny post titles, I could use four or five more of these to sell right now, I pay pals to speak good about my store, it finally happened — I made a 420 joke, oh hi Walmart thanks for checking in, I go into far more detail than you’ve ever wanted about my eyeballs.

MAY 2019:

Oh wait here’s more about my eyeballs, I did more on Free Comic Book Day with one eye than most people do with two, Swaqmp Thing and the recontextualizing of superheroes, a reconsideration of that first Superman/Swamp Thing team-up, those fancy comic sleeves from the ’90s ain’t so fancy now are they, China needs to answer for this Superman statue, an overview of the DC Universe streaming shows, six weeks off from reading comics and this is what I jump back in with.

JUNE 2019:

Oh hey this Swamp Thing TV show is pretty good — I’m sure it’ll last forever, fitting that they’re white like an albatross too, I’ve never seen this Barbie and Ken comic before, didn’t expect to write this much about John Byrne on my blog ever again, your once-every-six-months comic news update, a weird Watchmen-inspired album cover.

JULY 2019:

Oh man I forgot about this swell version of the Phantom Stranger we’ll never see again, don’t know how many people I’ve had to tell “no Mad isn’t going away,” still kinda cheesed off about how the end of The Walking Dead was handled, more Swamp Thing TV talk, your Donny Osmond joke of the day, grading them there bagged comics, surely this can’t be more Swamp Thing TV talk, variant covers – friend or foe?

AUGUST 2019:

And goodbye to Swamp Thing TV talk, the salty tongues of the DC Universe shows, Groo reprints and the lack thereof, reprint #1,000,000 of House of Secrets #92 that I own,


the big change in B.C. ain’t as big as you think, watching back issues become scarce in real time, online reaction versus in-store sales, superpowers in the Watchmen universe, a really Super watch, good gravy I’m also collecting parodies of the House of Secrets #92 cover, on being a (somewhat former) Swamp Thing completist (2 3) 4, Thor #337 really was a huge change, at long last New Universe talk, more X-Force #1 talk.


NANCY BOOKS NANCY BOOKS NANCY BOOKS, New Universe sales back in the day, comics I never owned but loom large in memory, I may have invoked some kind of demon with this post, bad eyes won’t stop me from keeping you informed about Swamp Thing comics, the only Halloween ComicFest picture you need to see.


Post #5001 – all about Boris the Bear, Reader John sent me a full run of the Dark Horse Roachmill because of this post so I’ll be posting about the first year of Action Comics next, the last Hellboy movie wasn’t the abomination I feared, the what of super-who, so long Tom, even more Death of Superman stuff (and more!), Marvel making a sow’s ear out of the silk X-purse.


Only one post so far this month, and it’s about that Dark Multiverse thing.

Thanks for sticking with me, friends, whether you just started reading my site or if you followed me over from LiveJournal back in 2003, or if you were putting up with me in the local Oxnard BBS scene before that.

And for reading all that…well, usually I post some old personal picture or something to post at the end of these, but I didn’t have anything ready. So, instead, you get this picture I just took of myself right now as I’m working on this post. Yes, I look tired…hey, you post on a blog for 16 years and tell me you’re not tired!

See you all next week.

At least it’s not another hardcover.

§ November 6th, 2019 § Filed under swamp thing § 3 Comments

JohnJ dares to inquire

“You didn’t mention Swamp Thing: Tales from the Bayou which collects all the new Swmapy material from those Walmart exclusives along with a few other things. Maybe you were waiting for a full entry just about it?”

If I didn’t mention it in my End of Civilization post, it’s probably just because I didn’t immediately have a joke (or, rather, a “joke”) come to mind as I was frenetically paging through Previews. But, oh yes, I’m definitely aware of it, and will certainly order a copy or four for myself.

As JohnJ said, Swamp Thing: Tales from the Bayou trade paperback (cover image above) does indeed collect together those new stories from the sevenSwamp Thing Giants that were theoretically found within Walmarts across the country with the apparent exception of the four stores in my immediate area, of course. But it also contains the short Swampy tales from the Winter Special, Swamp Thing Halloween Horror (another Walmart exclusive giant) and the Young Monsters in Love one-shot.

Interestingly, the recent Swamp Thing hardcover Roots of Terror, which is still in print and available, also collects the stories from the Winter Special, Halloween Giant and Young Monsters in Love. However, Bayou does not have the story from Cursed Comics Cavalcade which Roots does.

So, while I must have this trade to get those elusive Swamp Thing Giant stories, it is just a little annoying that they’re doubling up on reprints on that other material, instead of just doing, I don’t know, a thinner trade or a two-part comic book sized reprinting like Batman Universe etc. But I guess I’m tripling up on some of this material since I do own some of it in its original form, so I, the Guy Who Owns Like Two Dozen Reprints of House of Secrets #92, am not really in a position to grouse.

Actually now I kind of regret not getting that Swamp Thang comic.

§ September 18th, 2019 § Filed under collecting, swamp thing § 1 Comment

So to continue from my last post, there are other aspects to my Swamp Thing collecting that I neglected to mention.

1. FOREIGN EDITIONS: I mean, sure, when I can find them. I have Swampy in handful of different languages, some I can kinda sorta read, and others I can’t comprehend at all. I still regret missing out a bunch of first series Swamp Things on eBay that were published in Mexico during the ’70s. Ah well. But I’m generally open to buying any of these that I can find.

2. REPRINTS: Nowadays “reprints” generally means “trade paperback collections” or “hardcovers,” and I usually don’t buy them if they’re just duplicating content I already own. I’ve made exceptions, like the recent Roots of Terror hardcover collecting together a bunch of one-shot stories in one place. But generally, if it’s just, say, a straight reprinting of issues, unless there’s some kind of new content, I’ll probably pass.

Now I did get that Bronze Age omnibus because it was the first time a lot of that material had been reprinted, and on nice paper to boot, like the Pasko/Yeates run, the latter portion of the original series, etc.

Iin the early days of my Swamp Thing collecting, like I mentioned last time, I did buy the comic book reprints DC had published of the original 10 issue run by Wein and Wrightson, partially because of new covers on the first two collections, and partially just out of the need for gettin’ ’em all. And, of course, I will keep buying reprints of House of Secrets #92 just because it amuses me to do so, and nobody’s been able to stop me.

3. PARODIES: Not that there’s been too many, but Swamp Thing parodies do pop up now and again. I generally buy these as I see ’em, though I admit to passing on the Spoof Comics Swamp Thang one-shot [COVER MARGINALLY NOT-SAFE-FOR-WORK] which was perhaps a little too far off from the character it was parodying. I did, however, totally get this Mighty Mites issue.

There haven’t been a whole lot of parodies of Swamp Thing over the years…or maybe there have been, and you’re all just hiding them from me to spare my feelings. In general, I’ve been pretty lucky as they’ve just turned up in things I was already reading, like Cerebus or Boris the Bear and so on. But I keep my mostly-working eye open, in case any others turn up.

So anyway, that’s that. Folks have been popping up in my comments section for that last post talking about what and how they collect, which has made for some good reading, and I encourage you to join in. I’ll probably go back and respond to some of those comments in a future post.

My apoologies to regular commenter Turan, who had one of his comments grabbed by whatever algorithm decides to hold entries for moderation…it’s approved now, Turan! He also mentions the Heap stories from the black and white mags of the ’70s have shown up in a print-on-demand collection, which may be of interest to some of you folks, as well as to me. The color comic isn’t included, but that’s okay, I already have it!

Okay, enough SWAMP TALK for today…will return to this topic next week, as I have something else planned for Friday. Thanks for reading and commenting, pals.

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