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As in “editorial edict,” not “the model of car.”

§ November 17th, 2023 § Filed under does mike ever shut up, fantastic four, the thing § 11 Comments

So Matthew brings up another option I’d totally forgotten aboiut in the Thing eyebrow/no eyebrow raging debate: TWO eyebrows, as per Fantasic Four #502 (art by Casey Jones):

Now I was all ready to not like this, based on the description. This issue, though, was one I had read, probably a couple of times, given this particular run of the book was a favorite of mine, and I don’t recall being put off by the appearance of Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew at any point.

Pulling up that above image and giving the dual-brow look a once-over, I find…I don’t hate it. (And to be fair, I don’t really hate any of the Thing’s various visual permutations, despite some interpretations of his “pineapple Thing” days proving…challenging.) I can picture Benjy waggling his eyebrows up and down, individually, Groucho-style, stogie in his better-be-toothless mouth if he were still allowed to have his stogies (banned long ago via editorial).

The aforementioned “raging debate” in the comments of Wednesday’s post is described as such in the Mighty Mike’s Facetious Manner, as folks from both sides of the conflict, the no-eyebrow people and the wrong people, have cheerfully piped up with their love for the character no matter the state of his forehead. As I said then, either interpretation of the Thing is perfectly fine, and though my personal preference is no-eyebrow, the charm of the expressive separate eyebrow is certainly not lost on me.

One thing (cough) we can all agree on, as brought up a couple of times in my comments, is “Woe Betide You If You Give the Thing Teeth,” as so:

Look, God bless Neal Adams, that man did a lot for our beloved funnybooks, at his peak his art was unmatchable, he gave us Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali, he was instrumental in Superman’s creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster getting their due. And maybe he had some…odd ideas about science, and maybe his latter-day comics were…idiosyncratic, but he was a legend and absolutely rightfully so.

But when I turned the page and saw the above image in his Fantastic Four: Antithesis series, it was like a jump scare in a horror film. I mean, wow, that is not a Thing I am used to. It was an entertaining series, and the art was nice overall, but the Toothsome Mr. Grimm took some getting used to, not that I really ever did.

The Thing is one of those characters that is open to a wide amount of variation and still being “The Thing,” but there are certain elements that to his look that can just look wrong if pushed too far or simply not done correctly.

John Byrne’s “How to Draw the Thing” from the early ’80s is oft-cited:

…and my early exposure to it, and internalization thereof, has definitely influenced my opinions on the Thing’s appearance. I notice when someone gives him a neck, for instance, and it always reads as “wrong” to me. Despite this, I am up for versions of the character that don’t necessarily follow Byrne’s fiat.

However, with increasing talk about the forthcoming Fantastic Four movie, and Marvel’s predilection for letting the tail wag the dog, one wonders how much a live-action/CGI Hollywood Thing design will alter the character in the comics. I got to wondering about this after seeing a post on…probably Xwitter, lamenting the fact that whatever is done with the FF in the movies will be reflected by the comics for the following few years.

This doesn’t take into account that Marvel movies may very well be entering a period of decline, as moviegoers appear to be becoming pickier about the movies they see, and films budgeted with near-billion box office takes in mind are barely breaking even, if at all. Lots of reasons for this, and it’s less the ever-threatened “Marvel burnout” and more “COVID has changed movie-going patterns” and “people have turned increasingly to streaming options” and “it’s just easier to wait a month or two and watch at home instead of going to a theater.”

And maybe it is a little bit about “Marvel burnout,” as I saw an article recently ask, nonironically, “why did The Marvels, the 33rd film in the franchise, fail?” Well, maybe after 2 1/2 dozen films, the novelty’s worn off, and folks just won’t go to see any movie with a Marvel logo in front of it. The movies might be perfectly fine (I myself would like to see The Marvels, but I haven’t been to a theater since the pandemic started and have no plans to return) but unless it’s something special, it’s not going to pull people in. (Compare to Barbie, which was new and different and had a point of view and an individualistic style and made that coveted billion bucks.)

And I’m not picking on Marvel movies specifically. DC’s last few movies underperformed, and I don’t see that trend changing even under James Gunn’s purview. That last Indiana Jones film made $300 million in the box office, an impressive take under normal circumstances, but its production costs were about that much, and that’s not even counting the advertising. It had to become a phenomenon to turn a profit, and there just wasn’t enough of an audience that excited for the last installment of a decades-old franchise. Which is why I think forthcoming Star Wars movies may also see the same fate.

Anyway, what all this means is that maybe we don’t need to worry too much about an FF movie having undue influence on its poor print cousin. Even if they make the Thing purple with eight arms and teeth for days, there’s every possibility the film will come and go without making a ripple and ol’ Bashful Benjy will be safe. Except if there’s too many flops Marvel The Comic Publishing Company may outlive its usefulness to Disney and be scrapped so they can spend that money on cleaning the Star Tours queue area instead.

Not that I expect that to happen. Marvel movies will more likely slow down in production, maybe one a year if that, making them more “events” again and giving them a better chance at bringing in viewers. Like, Spider-Man movies will always make money. This new Deadpool film will do fine. If Marvel ever gets around to doing a new X-Men movie, that should also do well, assuming they don’t screw it up. But I just don’t see the Fantastic Four capturing audience excitement in the way it needs to in order to justify that likely $250+ million budget. Which would be disappointing because I love the FF.

Well, that’s not where I expected this post to go. Please take a lot of the above with all the authority that I, a dude that sells comic books for a living and doesn’t make Hollywood movies, bring to it. I hope I’m wrong about the movie end of things, since I enjoy superhero films and want them to continue, even as I’m part of the problem by no longer attending theaters. It’s a trickier marketplace than ever, and I’m glad I’m just working at the nickel-and-dime level I’m at rather than having millions upon millions of dollars on the line.

Crisis of Mike’s Infinite Typing.

§ March 15th, 2021 § Filed under dc comics, does mike ever shut up § 15 Comments

To clarify somewhat regarding my Saturday birthday post…I do find things to enjoy in the various reboots/relaunches/house cleanings that DC (and Marvel too) regularly employ. For example, the big one, Crisis on Infinite Earths…while that’s arguably Patient Zero for all the shenanigans at the Big Two today, it remains a beautifully fascinating comic.

Is it a good comic? I mean, look, if this was the first comic you ever read, well, God bless ya and God help ya too, as this clearly was a funnybook for those with regular admission to the clubhouse. As I said, in retrospect, it was very much solving a problem that perhaps didn’t need a solution (i.e. DC’s supposedly convoluted continuity) by trying to establish the groundwork for a consistency for which comic books, especially superhero comic books, have defiance built into their very DNA. Crisis hadn’t been done for months before creators started finding ways to push back against it, through in-jokes and knowing nods then eventually outright reestablishing what had been specifically done away with by the series. Supergirl and the Barry Allen Flash, done away with absolutely for sure, until they returned. And the ultimate expression of this was the recently -concluded Dark Nights: Death Metal, giving DC its limitless multiverse once again after Crisis had winnowed it down.

Now it remains to be seen what exactly is going to be done with that, after decades of DC releasing event comic after event comic trying to undo, or at least plaster over the cracks, what Crisis had done. But that’s hardly the fault of Marv Wolfman and George Perez, who tried to put out a comic with the nearly impossible task of telling a story while restructuring a fictional milieu pieced together by disparate hands for fifty years. It is, needless to say, beautiful to behold, with Perez absolutely in his element drawing everything and everyone in panels crammed with detail. Every character is essentially the Platonic ideal of itself in this comic.

But I don’t think anyone’s complaining about the art…it’s the story, and the editorial decisions evident therein, that’s the culprit for many. And I can’t blame anyone for thinking so…looking back, it seems wasteful to, say, open up the series by destroying Earth-3, the parallel Earth where the Justice League was an evil crime gang, a fun Silver Age-y idea that was so good that DC kept trying to reinvent it multiple ways over the following years until finally just saying “fine, okay, they’re from a parallel Earth again.”

That destruction had the intended effect at the time, however. It told everyone that nothing was safe, this Crisis series meant business. And boy, as this series was coming out you were on tenterhooks wondering what was going to happen next. The one-two punch of the deaths of Supergirl, immediately followed by the Flash, were appropriately shocking (even though Flash’s demise had been foreshadowed throughout the previous installments).

It is easy to let nostalgia color the memories of the series, admittedly, but there’s no real reason why it shouldn’t. In the context of the time, as the series was released, the perceived staggering importance of what was happening made each issue a must-read, to be absorbed if not outright studied. For someone who read it in real time back then, I can still look at the pages (in my slipcased hardcover edition, in which it was initially collected, natch) and recall that excitement I felt reading the series. I don’t think that’s a thing one should deny, but it should also be recognized as a problem when trying to approach the series critically.

Yes, I very much, emphatically and non-ironically, love Crisis on Infinite Earths. But it’s also very dense to the point of being cluttered, characters are given short shrift with that stilted dialogue in the Wild Wolfman Way, there are some editorial inconsistencies and shoehorning in tie-ins to other titles, and an ending that doesn’t quite stick the landing. Though in that latter case, the decision to allow characters to remember the DC Universe as it was, was generally ignored anyway so no big whoop, but it still felt like a cheat, a denial at least in part to the sweeping changes promised by the story.

There’s a lot of cover in this series, far more than can be really broached in a single blog post written by a later-middle age guy late at night who hasn’t been getting enough sleep lately in the first place. I did just want to let you know…I loved Crisis, still love Crisis, but yeah, it ain’t perfect. And despite knowing in my heart that the ripples it spread across DC, and Marvel too, that persist even today, weren’t intended consequences, it’s difficult to consider the series removed from its position as that epicenter.

Next time: to prove I’m not 100% a crankypants, I’m going to talk about the New 52 books that I liked. SPOILER: not Justice League so much.

Thanks for reading, pals, and for your thoughtful comments.

Oh, and I quit working at the library because working at the comic shop was a pay raise.

§ September 14th, 2020 § Filed under does mike ever shut up § 12 Comments

Twitter pal Tim Byrne (who has kicked off many a previous ProgRuin post) asks:

“I know you weren’t (yet) in retail at the time, but can you do a post about how the comics world felt in 1986-88 in the midst of Maus / Dark Knight Returns / Watchmen etc?”

I started my path to comics retail fortune and glory in September of 1988, working afternoons at the comic shop after college classes were done for the day, and before my evening shifts at the library. This was after working during the summer at a medical parts factory (tubes and machinery and stuff, not, like, limbs and organs), somehow being put in charge of the stockroom after the regular stock guy quit and I, the temp guy who was just there to do an inventory count for a couple of days, was given the keys to the wire-cage castle.

Well, that job sucked and when summer was over, I was glad to have the excuse of resuming classes to bail myself out…but still had need to maintain income to pay for that ol’ college thing. As it turned out, the comic shop I frequented was losing one of its regular employees, and I half-facetiously suggested “hey, how ’bout hiring me?” and thus here I am, 32 years later, trying to puzzle out how many copies of all these Marvel variant covers I need to order for my own shop.

Okay, Tim, you didn’t ask for that, but you did ask me to talk about me and I’m my favorite subject, as anyone who reads this blog, or my Twitter, or ever mistakenly engages me in conversation, quickly discovers to their despair. But that does give you a little bit of context of where I was in that period…’86-’87 I was a senior in high school, and in the autumn of ’87 I started college, so those were the things occupying most of my headspace.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I was definitely reading comics, and buying the Amazing Heroes and The Comics Journals, so I was trying to keep up with stuff at the time, but after all these years I feel like my specific memories of that period are an amalgam of what I’ve actually experienced mixed with what I’ve learned elsewhere. I do have a vague memory of seeing a two-page advertisement for Dark Knight Returns in the Rolling Stone-esque SPIN…you know, that sort of thing.

Other than that, I don’t really recall witnessing the specific cultural impact of Dark Knight, Watchmen and/or Maus around me at the time. I knew they were special…I mean, Dark Knight had better be special, that comic was $2.95 a throw, for Pete’s sake. But I knew they were special because 1) the fan press was all abuzz about them, 2) just plain reading them told me “hey, this is a sea change of some sort, isn’t it,” and 3) they…well, mostly Dark Knight, were getting parodied up the wazoo by other comics. They were A Thing just within the comics world itself, and that’s what I primarily saw from my not-yet-in-comics-retail perspective.

The biggest industry impact, I think, was the idea that “at last, comics will be taken seriously as an art form,” a thing perhaps we can mildly suggest was jumping the gun a little. But they were making inroads in trade editions into bookstores, which didn’t know what to do with them so Maus was racked with Garfield.

And there was real world media coverage, primarily variations of “POW! BAM! Comics aren’t for kids anymore!” with lurid descriptions of whatever violent activity they could pull out of context. And that of course brought folks to worrying about a new Frederic Wertham and a comics witch-hunt, as Dark Knight and Watchmen paved the way for a “mainstreaming” of more mature (or “mature”) comics material.

It wasn’t all negative…I think there was a real excitement within the comics realm for new, interesting material that pushed the boundaries and shook things up. There was some bemoaning of publishers taking the wrong lessons from Dark Knight and Watchmen in the “dark and gritty” trend in superhero books, but looking back I don’t think things were necessarily as bad as people were saying. Well, I mean, sure, there was that Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, trying to catch that Dark Knight-lightning by using the same format and upping the violence.

But “excitement” I think is the right world for that 1986-8 period. A lot of good, interesting, and just plain weird stuff was coming out, and lots of material outside the usual Marvel and DC pipelines were getting attention and sales. Not that Marvel and DC were slouches…Marvel’s Epic line was still going strong, DC had Swamp Thing (its vanguard for more adult storytelling), and Crisis on Infinite Earths, which inspired revampings/retoolings of much of its line and grabbed a lot of attention from fans.

Look, I know I’m leaving a lot of specific stuff out. But the general sense I have of this period, admittedly possibly clouded by some nostalgia, is that this was a fun if strange time for comics. Real world media coverage, already trickling in, was about to storm the gates as the 1989 Batman film approached, it seemed like readers were a little more willing to experiment with what they were picking up at the shops, and a wide variety of material, traditional and offbeat, was being produced. And the coverage of the industry and reviews of the product, as in the aforementioned Amazing Heroes and The Comics Journal, was informative and occasionally a bit snarky, back before we were all sick of snark.

I’m sure there’s space for a more granular examination of what was happening during this specific period, but this is how I remember it. Hope that answers your question, Tim!

New Comics…Tuesday?!?!

§ April 27th, 2020 § Filed under does mike ever shut up, retailing § 4 Comments

So for the first time since the end of March, my store (and presumably many other stores across this nation and possibly elsewhere) will be receiving new comic book releases this week.

As noted previously, DC Comics opted not to wait on Diamond Comics to rev up their weekly shipments (still mid/late May, they’re saying) and decided to go through a couple of other distributors instead to get their books out.

These distributors are apparently connected to (or in fact are) large comic book subscription service houses, so I imagine they’ve got the whole “mailing comics out to customers” thing down. We’ll see, as my first order (through “Lunar Distribution”) is coming Monday via FexEx. Now I’m used to my usual UPS shipments, where they generally show up within the same two-hour window. I don’t have a whole lot of experience receiving packages from FedEx, aside from “always missing them on the first attempt,” so I plan to be at the shop good ‘n’ early to get those new funnybooks.

I especially want to be there since, from all appearances, aside from the pizza place handing out take-out orders at the other end of the strip, our whole retail area looks like a ghost town. I don’t want FedEx thinking I’m not there, either, especially with the signage in the window reading “CLOSED DUE TO THE PLAGUE” or words to that effect. So I’ll be there, all the lights on, the front door kicked open a bit, not enough to look like I’m open, but enough to look like “hey there’s a human being or at least a comics retailer in here, please stop.” We’ll see how it goes.

As noted in that past post linked above, I’m not really getting as whole lot of books this first week. It’s, what, a half-dozen titles, and two of them are reprints of recent sold out “hot” books? I ain’t gettin’ rich off this, but once the following week comes in with a few more titles people will want, I’ll be able to get the new comics mail order shipments going in relative force again. And at the very least, get me warmed up for the more extensive mailings I’ll have to do if/when Diamond starts their own shipping.

Another new twist is that DC is allowing their new comics to be sold on Tuesday, breaking away from the long-held New Comics Wednesday that had been the norm since we got away from New Comics Thursday and New Comics Friday before that. I wonder how much longer it will be before new comics day is pushed back even futher until it’s Friday again? Or hey, remember the separate “air shipments” of new comics shops could get aside from their regular shipments? …Okay, I digress. But I do wonder if either DC or Diamond will budge on when their new releases should be avialable for sale. I really hope everyone doesn’t decide to make it Tuesday, unless I get all my stuff on Monday to have it ready.

The other thing I’m thinking about in regards to this new distributor is damage/shortage reports. I suspect these new distributors would want to impress and make sure none of the shipments have any problems, so I’m not really expecting any issues. But, you never know, stuff happens. I’ve had better luck contacting this new distributor via email than by phone, so I wonder if emailing damage/shortage reports would be best. Guess I’ll find out when the time comes.

Also curious if these new distribution methods are here just until Diamond gets going again, or if they’re in for the duration. We’re already getting solicitations past the three weeks these alternative options were supposed to fill. Are we on our way to having permanent competitors to Diamond? The barrier to this happening before was that there was no money in a large-scale comics distribution service without at least one or two of the Big Guns, like Marvel or DC, in your roster. (How long did Capital City last after Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image moved elsewhere?) Will everyone just keep their DC orders with the new guys? Will they switch ’em all back to Diamond once that’s a thing again? Will Diamond have to scale down their operations if these other distributors take away too much of their traffic?

I’m curious to see how this all shakes out. I’d be looking forward to the possibility of more distributors and what that could mean for the overall health of the market if I wasn’t also worried about how I was going to sell what they’ll be distributing. I mean, I’d love to get lots of new comics, but I’d also like to be able to open my doors and let people see what’s available. Mail order business is fine, but I still do (or did) plenty of business from folks who just browsed the racks and bought stuff on whims. Having to do it remotely is an extra barrier to getting that comic dollar.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed today’s “Mike’s Comic Retail Anxiety Therapy Session.” I’ll try to be back with some fun stuff next time.

I realize the phrase “following up on my Swamp Thing post” doesn’t exactly narrow things down.

§ June 14th, 2019 § Filed under does mike ever shut up, sterling silver comics, swamp thing, undergrounds § 1 Comment

Following up on my Swamp Thing post, I should note that there are further reports about what may or may not have happened regarding the show’s cancellation. First it was “somebody messed up the tax credit,” then it was “they weren’t getting enough tax credit,” and now it’s “powers-that-be thought the show was a stinker and cut their losses.” The show’s getting plenty of good reviews now, but it’s probably too late for them to change their minds. Anyway, I have no idea what the full, real story is, but in the meantime, one of the My Little Ponies, a “community manager” at DC Universe, tries to keep things upbeat, as is the way of said ponies.

ª ª ª

More Swampy follow-up: after noting here and discussing further here that DC’s digital versions of certain Swamp Thing issues feature incomplete artwork or missing captions, BobH asked if the same problem was still in the print edtion. And yes, after getting Swamp Thing Book One TPB back in stock, I was able to check and…the color-hold image is missing from the reprint of #21, and the “and meet the sky” caption is still missing from the end of #24. Don’t worry, everyone, I’m sure they’ll have this fixed by ther time Swamp Thing Season Two shows up on DC Universe.

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Hey, look at this thing that showed up in a collection on Thursday:

And here’s the back cover, because why not:

I immediately recognized this as an Ods Bodkins book, featuring the work of Dan O’Neill, but quickly realized it was one I already had, albiet in the diffeof trent edition. It was, in fact the first edition, from 1969, of Hear The Sound of My Feet Walking..Drown The Sound of My Voice Talking. I discussed the book, or at least my edition of same, a couple of times on the site, including way super-early on, back when people read blogs. And I brought it up again a mere 12 years later when I decided my site needed a nice big scan of the cover.

It’s quite a bit larger than my copy (it’s about the size of one of those treasury edition comics) and there appears to be a page half covers in red ink. Not “oopsie we splashed some red ink on this page,” but literally “here, have a giant solid block of red for just that one page for some reason.” I’ll need to take a closer look and see what’s up with that…or just straight up keep the book, since I love “Ods Bodkins.” …Yes, I’m the guy.

• • •

So about the Will Eisner “Spirit of Comics Retailing” award my shop was nominated for…well, you can read the whole tragic tale here on my store’s Facebook page. If you eschew Facebook, and if so I salute you, the short version is: got the paperwork a while back, decided to hold off dealing iwth it ’til my eyes were a bit better, checked the due date, waited a bit, eyes are reasonably better, got out the paperwork again, realized I misread or misremembered the due date and now it’s too late to enter. Well, great.

On the other hand, if I tried to complete the paperwork and take the necessary photos and make the necessary video for the award application on time, I would have had to done with eyes that on a good day were barely adequate for my regular day-to-day stuff, and occasionally completely obscured leaving me with hardly any vision at all. So, let’s call this a “mixed blessing,” and should someone make the horrible mistake of nominating me again next year, hopefully my eyes will be back in business for good and I can give the award whatever attention I can manage.

And like I said in my Facebook post…my eyes are finally getting better. Both eyes. At the same time. Not “one eye’s mostly okay, the other completely blind” or anything like that. This is the first time I’ve had reasonable, though still a bit to go, vision in both eyes at the same time in over a year. Barring any more surprise sets (crossing my fingers ande my corneas) everything should be good sooner rather than later. Yes, I realize I’m jinxing it.

I can’t really call myself an “Eisner nominee” since I won’t be in the running, but it’s nice that someone thought well enough about me to throw my name into the hat. I’m not the biggest or most media-present store out there, but I am a guy who likes to sell comics, has a store full of them, and has done this for a long time. That I still get to do it is certainly an award in and of itself.

• • •

Don’t forget…I’m still taking your funnybook-related questions and post topics! I’ll probably start on them next, so be sure to tune in on your Internet Radio Box for that.

Welcome to Mike’s Eye Health Blog.

§ April 29th, 2019 § Filed under does mike ever shut up, eyeball § 20 Comments

So basically what’s been happening is this…a year ago, during an eye exam, it was discovered that the blurry vision in my right eye wasn’t just age and a need for glasses, but in fact caused by internal bleeding and blood basically stuck there inside my eyeball and not getting flushed out. Several eyeball injections, operations, and a cataract replacement later, that eye is now well on its way to healing.

However, in the meantime, about two weeks ago I was at the shop when I suddenly noticed a lot of blood suddenly appearing in my line of vision in my left eye. The same situation that had occurred in my right eye was now happening literally before my eyes…well, eye…and I rushed back to Ye Olde Eye Doctor for treatment. One more shot put a stop to the bleeded, but now I had to wait for the blood to eventually wash out of that eyeball.

That meant the left eye, the good eye that I have been depending on all this time, the eye that let me still drive and read and such, was now more or less out of commission. I mean, I could still see out of that eye, but it was like looking through gaps in my vision, like there was a beaded curtain of blood that was parted in places that I could see through. With a little effort, I was able to kind of focus around it, thought frustratingly when I would try to directly focus on something, it was like one spiral of blood would just swing directly into my light of sight…I would almost have to look at things out of the side of my eye to see whatever it was I was trying to see.

During all this, my right eye was still healing, and was almost but not quite able to pick up some of the slack. Large images, like say watching TV or something, was fine, but looking at text was difficult…letters looked at straight on were slightly distorted, and it would take some doing, and some slow going, to read anything at length.

Then within the last week or so, I had some other complications. My right eye, which had been coming along fine, had what was described to me as “post-operative bleeding.” A little blood got in there and essentially diffused throughout my eye, fuzzing out whatever vision I had. The good news was that, since the actual gel in my eye is still in the process of being replaced post my multiple surgeries, the blood pretty evenly spread out and cleaned itself out over a few days.

The big problem, however, was early last week, when the blood in my left eye, whicih had been in those “beaded curtain” clumps, suddenly broke apart and also diffused throughout my eye, obscuring pretty much all vision there at the same time my right eye was also fogged up with blood. For a couple of days there, I was more or less effectively blind. I mean, I could see shapes and light and such, but no way was I able to, say, break down and process the new comics shipment on Tuesday, check anything off an invoice, or do the pull lists.

Thankfully my dad has been able to help me at the shop for the last week or so, and my girlfriend as well, otherwise I’d still be sitting on last week’s Diamond shipment wishing for elves to appear overnight and do my job for me. And my right eye has cleared up, so my vision is…well, not perfect yet, but I can see well enough out of that eye to function, though I’m still having trouble with low-contrast things (and I still can’t quite make out Marvel’s cover prices in this tiny tiny type without the aid of a magnifying glass). Even now as I type this on my computer at home, I have the screen colors inverted, with white on black being far easier for me to handle.

My left eye, however, is likely also going to need some surgery to properly clear out that mess in there. We could wait and see if it’ll wash out on its own, but it could take weeks and because that gel in that eye is still intact, that blood is just kind of suspended there. Apparently the fact that it diffused like it did is a mostly good sign, that it’s breaking down and possibly getting reabsorbed, but it may still take too long and surgery appears to be the bst option.

So, for now, I still can’t drive, my dad is still going to help me at the shop (and likely will need him to check things off the invoice when the new comics come in, since those seem to be printed in off-white ink on white paper)…but my right eye is improving, and I should be reasonably functional during Free Comic Book Day.

The good news is that the poor health I was in that caused these issues has more or less been corrected or controlled…the bad news is that I still have to deal with the damage I caused myself. It’s affected my ability to work, it’s affected my ability to keep up on this site…I can’t even read comics right now, which is a terrible thing for a guy who, oh, I don’t know, owns a comic book store. But I really have no one to blame but myself.

Anyway, I’m surprised I was able to type all that. And it turns out, I’m having a less difficult time being able to read the text as I type it than I expected. It feels like my right eye has improved at least a bit since even yesterday, which is a good sign. Not perfect yet, and I’m certainly going to need some sort of glasses eventually (aside from the dollar store cheaters I’ve been depending on), but it’s certainly better than the nuthin’ I was getting last Tuesday.

So that’s what’s going on. I will be back blogging on a regular basis eventually, and I do want to post something about Free Comic Book Day, coming soon to a fairly okay comic book store near you. It may be a couple weeks before I get up to speed again, so thank you for your patience, and continuing to indulge my extended blatherings. I’ll talk to you again soon.

Things to do in Oxnard when you’re feeling yucky.

§ May 12th, 2014 § Filed under does mike ever shut up § 6 Comments

I apologize for the extended outage…flu and / or flu-like symptoms struck down your pal Mike after I had seemingly worked them out of my system over the Free Comic Book Day weekend. Alas, they came back in full force early last week and I spent most of the week in bed reading comics, watching television, or (mostly) sleeping.


I reread all of William Messner-Loebs’ series starring his 19th century woodsman Wolverine MacAlistaire, Journey. Originally, when the series was coming out, it took a normalman crossover issue to get me to try it. I liked Loebs’ work so much, however, I ended up continuing with the series and picking up the back issues. The follow-up mini-series Wardrums was never completed, sadly, though we did get a short story in the Many Happy Returns one-shot.

I also reread all of Grant Morrison’s Batman saga, beginning back in Batman #655 from (urgh) 2006, which was about eight years ago, and not the “just the other day” I had been clinging to out of desperation to push away the yawning grave. Overall it holds together pretty well, despite the occasional artistic…misstep, I suppose, and it somehow manages to maintain its overall story threads during the whole New 52 switchover. Mostly by ignoring it, it seems like, which was probably just as well. I’d have to dip back into the Batman boxes from the Vast Mikester Archives for the occasional tie-in one-shot or mini I’d forgotten (“oh, right, Batman: The Return“), and I was bemused by being reminded I’d only bought the Morrison parts of that Ra’s al Ghul crossover and didn’t bother with the rest (sorry, whoever worked on those other parts of the story).


I saw that Son of Batman animated movie, which is what kind of inspired my reread of the Morrison Bat-comics since the film was based on, oh, one or two issues of those comics. It was fine, I guess, with nicely animated fight scenes and some funny dialogue, but frustrating since this is all of the overall story arc we’ll ever see adapted, I’m just going to assume. Not that I’m expecting Final Crisis: The Animated Movie or anything, but there’s enough stuff in Morrison’s run to fill a couple of TV seasons of an ongoing Batman cartoon, and it’s all so much fun craziness that only doing a adaptation of what is essentially the prologue seems like a lost opportunity. Points, however, for being the first Batman cartoon I’m aware of to discuss birth control.

However, I balanced this out by watching most of the third season of Batman: Brave and the Bold on Netflix, which is every crazy thing you’ve ever read in a Batman comic, animated and made completely amazing. On one hand, it’s a damn shame there were only three seasons of this. On the other hand, three seasons of this was far more than this fallen world deserves.

I also finally got a copy of this on DVD after having the soundtrack CD for nearly 25 years. And the DVD comes with…a copy of the soundtrack on CD. Well, sure.


I didn’t read most of the new comics I picked up last week. That’s weird. I will note that Marvel’s prepping you folks for the upcoming EXPLICIT BIRTH SCENES in Miracleman by starting to polybag the comics now, which also totally coincidentally hides the return of the black and white “classic” reprints nobody wants filling space in these issues. Sigh. Everything else in these Miracleman reprints is pretty great, though, so don’t let that dissuade you.

Anyway, how’re you doing?

In which I say I’m not going to respond to the comments, but I do so anyway. (Also, I usually compose these titles after I write my posts, in case you were wondering.)

§ October 7th, 2013 § Filed under dc comics, does mike ever shut up, retailing § 10 Comments

The temptation to follow up to the comments on my Robot 6 interview is strong, but I think I’ll try to resist…mostly. A few folks there noted an actual, physical aversion to the very texture of DC’s 3D covers, which is a reaction I hadn’t heard at the shop. I did have a few people reject the 3D covers because they didn’t care for them visually, and others who expressed an aversion at paying $3.99 a pop, but people just plain not liking how they feel is a phenomenon I didn’t expect. Personally, I liked rubbing them together and listening to the zzzzzzip zzzzzzip sound, but perhaps I’ve said too much.

Interesting also is the gap between one commenter’s statement that “the idea any of these titles are going to be worth money in the future is laughable” and another’s statement that “these are going to be worth money.” The truth is somewhere between, as it often is, unless the eventual answer turns out to be “these will be worth exactly one visit to the King of the Moon!” which is waaaay outside the range established by the initial responses, admittedly. Right now, yeah, some of them are commanding Big EBay Bucks, but they’ll settle down to Slightly More Reasonable EBay Bucks in a few months, and I suspect future price guides, assuming a future industry to support publication of future price guides, will reflect slightly higher prices for these 3D issues over the issues that surround them. If the vast majority of them are going for any more than about $5 to $10 a year from now, I will be shocked, and thankfully the comments on this post will be closed by then in case I’m wrong. Anyway, in a year someone remind me to go look at the aftermarket pricing on these books and maybe I’ll write up a follow-up post, unless by then I’ve ejector-seated myself out of this crazy business and finally started doing something sensible, like deep-sea fishing.

The negative response to the comics themselves, not just in those comments but elsewhere on the Internet, are a bit of a surprise, too. Well, not much of a surprise since it’s currently DC’s turn to get kicked around by the online comic-gnoscenti, but in general my customers seemed to enjoy reading the comics, when they weren’t being frustrated by availability issues. Most of the ones I read I enjoyed, but, as I noted in an earlier post, I was generally just picking up the Villains Month issues for comics I was already reading (or featuring concepts I enjoyed, but shoved under the Justice League banner for the month), so I was predisposed to like the Villains Months issues I was buying. I liked most of the one-shots that tied into the main Batman book, for instance, but I passed on the Bane one-shot because, well, aside from the animated versions, and the amazing live-action version from the third Nolan Bat-film, I don’t much care for the character. I enjoyed the Doomsday issue of Superman/Batman, with its crazy-pants Krypton story and implications for how the Death of Superman now fits into New 52 continuity. We also got a new Mongul story in one of those Green Lantern one-shots, written by Mongul’s creator, Jim Starlin! That was pretty fantastic. And I enjoyed Swamp Thing‘s Arcane one-shot, as I’d discussed previously, and my issues with that particular comic were more related to the general Swampy-reboot as a whole than any specific Villains Month hoohar, but then, I’m Swamp Thing-obsessed so that should be expected. …And I’m sure some of you folks out there liked reading some of these villains comics as well.

In a more general sense (and I’ll stop using the word “general,” I promise) I don’t object to the idea of DC doing a big special event like this. If it gets people in stores and looking for comics, well, beggars can’t really be choosers, especially as the marketplace continues its ever-ongoing and seemingly-eternal upward scrabble out of the pit of the ’90s crash. I wish the event had been handled differently — let me insert right here the “NO DUH” you’re thinking right now. I wish it didn’t effectively make a bunch of titles weekly books for the month…I mean, if you were already getting all the Green Lantern books, you were basically buying a weekly GL comic anyway, but if you were only getting the main Green Lantern title, you may have felt compelled to get all four Villains Month issues, quadrupling your GL input, and that hardly seems fair. (Much in the same way Superior Spider-Man fans got about twenty issues of their title in nine months, Lucy-and-Ethyl-working-the-chocolate-conveyor-belt style). At the same time, just doing a Villains Month special for each of their regular titles would not have generated the same sales levels, probably; an All-Star Western 3D Villains Month special issue wouldn’t have generated the numbers of a fourth Superman special, hence that marketing decision.

In conclusion, I wish things were different and better and that everyone would be happy, and also I want more Swamp Thing titles, so long as I’m wishing for stuff. I also hope the next Big Event is not quite as headache-inducing, as long as I’m really wishing. And hopefully, that’s enough discussion of 3D covers on this site (until the aforementioned year-later post I may or may not do).

Next up: DIE-CUT COVERS – why these are a huge pain in the ass.

The post that would not end.

§ November 19th, 2012 § Filed under archie, batman, blogging about blogging is a sin, collecting, dc comics, does mike ever shut up, everyone's going to hate me, giant-size man-thing, golden age, how the sausage is made, I have no idea how to tag this, indies, linkrot, newspaper strips, other swamp creatures, retailing, scans, swamp thing § 16 Comments

So I received a used copy of this hardcover in a collection I purchased the other day:

And, well, I did have it in the shop as a new item before, but I never really did sit down and give it a good looking-at then, despite my enjoyment of Don Newton’s Batman. Thus, before putting it out for sale I thought I’d take it home and give it a read…what, it’s going to get more used? …Well, okay, yeah, I suppose it is, but I’ve the gentle touch of a professional comics handler, and can easily peruse this volume without causing further discoloration, dogearing, spine stress, or, God help us, foxing.

Anyway, I was a fan of Newton’s work, both on Batman and on Infinity Inc., which he had just started to work on when he passed away in 1984 at the too-young age of 49. Reading this book, I find myself struck by one thing, which will hardly be a new or original comment in regards to these sorts of reprint projects, but nevertheless it’s still an honest reaction. The pages are just too white and clean. The Young Mike that’s still rattling around in my head is expecting to be reading these stories on brown-ish newsprint. In fact, when I mentally picture Newton’s art, I imagine dark, moody images…all shadows and mystery. Reprinting in this book on bright pages with bright coloring, even the shadows look like you’re staring at the sun. …Okay, I exaggerate slightly, but still, it was a bit jarring to have the art right in front of me and contradicting my memories of same.

And before you say anything, yes, Infinity Inc. was printed on bright white paper with eye-searingly bright colors, but Newton’s sadly brief tenure there doesn’t have the nostalgic hold his Batman work has for me.

As I was writing this, another sorta unsung comics artist fave of mine came to mind that I’d like to see reprinted in a book like this. I’d totally be all over The Complete Irv Novick.

• • •

One of my readers was kind enough to point out that, in an old post of mine…I mean, really old, within the first month of this site’s life…one of the links I’d posted way back then had apparently since gone feral and now pointed to a porn site. Okay, first off…porn on the Internet? When did that start? And secondly…yeah, link rot. This site is on the verge of turning nine years old, and I’m sure many links in a lot of my old posts now go to destinations I did not originally intend. I mean, if I was sending you to a dirty filthy dirty site, I was usually pretty good about warning you up front.

I’ve heard about some people going through and consistently maintaining and / or removing links on old posts, but frankly, it’s hard enough to find the time to keep with new posts, or sleep. And then there was the great Blogger-to-Wordpress shift I underwent in early ’10, which resulted in some formatting and archived-post issues, and then whatever that company was that was supporting the old commenting system cut that support, so links to those comments are now no bueno, I guess, and…man, sometimes I feel doing a reboot, and just starting this website from scratch. FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNEW BEFORE: WELCOME TO THE NEW PROGRESSIVE RUIN! and then I’d never refer to anything before that date ever again.

I’m not going to do it, but, back past a certain point, my site’s a mess. I do still go back and fix links and formatting and stuff if I have occasion to link to an old post, so I’m not letting things totally fall into barbarism, but…well, just assume any super old link is probably taking you straight to a site that’ll sell you V1aG4a or promise you pictures of people inserting Tab A into Slot B.

However, I am happy to note that I still occasionally edit my very first post to make sure it’s still sending you where I want you to go. Man, had I known they’d be fiddling with those addresses every year or so, I’d have picked something else for my debut entry.

• • •

Reader d asks

“Hey Mike, we all know you have every Swamp & Man Thing appearance, but do you collect The Heap as well? Just curious.”

Well, I don’t have every Man-Thing appearance…I do have every one written by Steve Gerber, as well as the first appearance in Savage Tales (not by Gerber), but from about the ’90s forward, I’ve been a little pickier about touching Man-Things.

That has nothing to do with the actual thrust of your question, which is all about the Heap, the original comic book swamp monster dating back to the 1940s. Sadly…no, I haven’t gone out of my way to seek out Heap comics, though I have picked up some of the latter day revivals, such as this 1971 one-shot I’ve discussed in the past, or this new version from Moonstone, or the Airboy/Mr. Monster one-shot from 1987, in which the Heap plays a prominent role, and is a great comic, to boot.

The original Heap comics are about to be reprinted in a series of three hardcover volumes, and I’m still waffling a bit on whether I can afford to pick these up for myself. My usual argument to talk myself into such things is “if I don’t get them now, I’ll probably never have another chance, at least this (relatively) cheaply,” so we’ll see. I am tempted.

• • •

On a related note, in that it’s asked in the same comments section, Casey wonders

“Mike, have you ever done a post about toxic Teen Titans continuity?”

Oh God, no. What I’d wished I had done is recorded pal Dorian and myself going on and on and hashing it all out and realizing that some of the time frames involved would make some of the adult characters a lot older than they should be, or that some of the lengths of time of team membership would be extremely short, or…hell, I don’t remember now. This was prior to DC kind of pushing the “sliding scale” of the Modern DC Superhero Universe to being about 20 years old, as of Identity Crisis, which I recall thinking was a slightly more reasonable time frame, given the amount of “important” events and continuity, not just for the Titans but for everyone, you had to squeeze in there.

Of course, post-Flashpoint, that scale is now about 5 or 6 years, depending on who you ask, I guess, so it’s all a moot point. And I hear tell Titans continuity has even more exciting problems now, as in some indecision whether there were previous Titans teams or not, but I leave the pondering of that question to younger, abler folks than myself.

• • •

And then sometimes I repost a gag I already made on the Twitter, such as presenting this gag header from Archie’s Joke Book #134 (March 1969 – hey, my birth month!) and lamenting the fact that in no way does the story live up to this title:

…which is just as well, since Archie couldn’t participate anyway:

Oh, scatological humor! You’re the best!

• • •

To bring things back around to the nostalgia of Young Mike from the beginning of this post, just before I soiled it all with continuity nitpicking, porn, poop jokes, and Man-Thing innuendo, I found myself the other day discussing the joys of Omega Men with a customer of mine.

Although I had read the introduction of the Omega Men in those three or so issues of Green Lantern, I didn’t follow them to their own series (which experienced some small controversy in its early issues due to depictions of violence, back in the “they didn’t know how good they had it” days of fandom). It took Alan Moore, a writer of some note, writing a back-up in two successive issues of the series (#26, pictured, and #27) to get me to take a look…and quite wisely, a new storyline in the main feature started up at that same time, giving Moore-ites like me a solid jumping-on point. It helped that 1) the new regular artist on the series was Shawn McManus, for whom I was developing a strong appreciation, and 2) that the comic itself was just a darned weird, creepy, and plain ol’ interesting sci-fi adventure.

As I was talking about the book with the customer, a couple of things dawned on me that, I suppose, shouldn’t have surprised me but did anyway. The actual run of that “new direction” for Omega Men, from #26 to the book’s eventual cancellation, was only 13 issues, plus an annual. It sure felt like it was longer…not in a bad way, I mean. It’s that a whole lot of stuff happened along the course of that comic, and it’s hard to believe they managed to fit it all into only about a year’s worth of stories (well, technically a year…I think some issues ran a bit late, if I recall correctly). Also, there was a Teen Titans crossover, and, of all things, a Crisis on Infinite Earths-engineered Blue Devil crossover, and an appearance in DC Comics Presents, so that probably helped in the perception of the comics’ apparent length.

The other thing that dawned on me was that the series wrapped up while I was still in high school, which doesn’t feel weird for anyone but me, I realize, but still, it seems like it’s more recent than that. Ah, well…tempus fugit, and all that.

I’ve since picked up the remainder of the series, which of course includes the first appearance of Lobo (which guides at a low $7.00, which sort of surprises me, except I suppose Omega Men print runs at the time were fairly large), and despite the occasional terrifying Kevin O’Neill art job, those earlier issues were fairly staid compared to the outright craziness of the McManus-era stories. Still fun, and worth checking out if you can find ’em cheap, which they usually are.

• • •

Just to let you folks know, I’m probably entering Low Content Mode for the rest of the week, or at least lower content mode…the Thanksgiving holiday is coming up, and I’ve also got another project I’m working on at the moment that requires the focus of my creative energy, he said in a hopefully non-New Agey way, so probably you’ll not be seeing much more out of me this week aside from maybe a pic or two. Or you can follow me on the Twitter where I’m still likely to spout off about something. At any rate, I’ll see you on the other side, and please enjoy your Thanksgiving, where applicable, and everyone else, enjoy your Thursday. Thanks for reading!

• • •

Oh, here’s the end of the post! I was wondering where that was.

I can only hope the Hernandez Brothers will forgive me.

§ October 2nd, 2012 § Filed under collecting, does mike ever shut up, reader participation § 4 Comments

So thanks for your responses to my question yesterday…I really wasn’t quite sure what I had to say on the topic, and I’m still not quite sure, but I think I can at least circle the runway even if I don’t land.

Anyway, this particular thought process was kicked off by a comment to my Saturday post, in which I claimed it took the return of the character of Doop to finally get me to pick up a copy of Wolverine and the X-Men. And reader Chance left his response, quite rightly chiding me slightly for not being moved to read said comic simply by the presence of writer Jason Aaron and artist Mike Allred, both of whom are quite formidable talents.

My reply to Chance was that, while there are plenty of creators out there whose work I do enjoy, I don’t necessarily have a desire to read every single project they do. I think Aaron, for example, did a swell job on Punishermax and I liked his run on Incredible Hulk. And Allred…I was a big fan of Madman and The Atomics for quite a while, though admittedly I kind of…I don’t know, burnt out on them, I suppose. It’s not you, baby, it’s me. But it takes a lot to get me to buy into the X-franchise nowaways, and the last time I regularly read any X-titles, it was New X-Men by Grant Morrison and his army of artists, and X-Force/X-Statix *starring Doop* by Peter Milligan and that Allred guy.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough that Allred and Aaron were on the book to get me to pick it up…but it didn’t hurt, either. Had it been just them and no Doop, probably no sale. But that it featured Doop, and it was illustrated by Doop’s original cocreator, and it was written by a writer whose work I have enjoyed…all those facts together got me to pull the trigger on grabbing this book. And even then, I still sorta hemmed and hawed over it for a couple of days. Well, it’s not like I tossed and turned in bed nights on end, drenched in sweat, haunted by the existence of this comic book, agonizing over my decision. But I’d see it on the rack at work, think “hmm, wonder if I should pick that up,” and then finally just decided “ah, what the hell.”

But Chance’s question did open me up to thinking about what creators I do follow without question, whose names I see on books and pick up without pausing to wonder if this was a project I’d be interested in. To use a couple of names that I mentioned in this category yesterday…let’s say someone like, oh, say, Fantagraphics has picked up the rights to that old Chaos Comics character Purgatori. (Okay, stop laughing, work with me here.) It’s been a while since I mentioned Purgatori around these parts, but…that’s a character I’ve never much cared for. I’ve often commented here that I think it’s a terrible character and a terrible comic, which…okay, I know the character has its fans, and I shouldn’t just harshly dismiss it like that, so let’s just say the Purgatori property has been firmly established as not being something in which I’d have any interest. Ever. For any reason.

So let’s say Fantagraphics gets the property, and they eventually announce at a San Diego Comic Con a new Purgatori graphic novel by Los Bros. Hernandez.

Would I buy it? Absolutely I would buy it. Are you kidding?

The Hernandez Brothers have, over the (gulp) decades I’ve been following their work, totally gained my trust. Everything they’ve been involved in, I have enjoyed. And I know enough about them and their creative talents to know that, if anyone could rehabilitate the character of Purgatori in my theoretical example to the point of making me want to read a comic with her, it would be these guys.

Reader philfromgermany noted in his comment, after listing the creators he always follows, that the indie artists and writers usually are working on projects they themselves developed, as opposed to some of the folks who frequent Marvel and DC books who might end up on established properties one might be indifferent to or outright dislike. And I think that’s an important distinction, and one I was sort of pondering when I was trying to write this post for Monday. Though that’s not to say there aren’t lines that can’t be crossed…one indie book comes to mind by a creator I almost always followed which promoted a bunch of previously-debunked conspiracy hoohar…a great disappointment.

But creators working on their own material does do away with some expectations a reader might have toward any given project, depending mostly on one’s appreciation of that creator and trust in his/her storytelling talents. A new original Dan Clowes graphic novel, sure. A Batman graphic novel by Dan Clowes…well, okay, that sounds amazing, but if you really, really hate Batman, even the most pure, unadulterated love you have for Mr. Clowes may not be enough to get you to pick it up. But I have picked up superhero books I’d had no previous interest in because of creators involved…like that run of Birds of Prey written by Gilbert Hernandez, which remain the only issues of that series in my collection.

I’m probably contradicting myself all over the place here, but what can I tell you. I have complicated feelings about funnybook buying. But outside of Aragones, the Hernandez Brothers…um, Clowes, and Chester Brown probably, and someone mentioned Jim Woodring in the comments, so I’m probably good with that too…there aren’t that many people who get a full, complete pass with me in the comics I buy.

Of course I simply can’t afford to read everything, but there are still plenty of names out there that grab my attention, if not necessarily my comic-reading dollar. You can get me to look, but not everything is going to be up my alley. (There’s at least one artist whose style I do really enjoy, but the only thing in recent memory he’s done that I actually wanted to read was, um, a while ago.) Picking and choosing what I read I think gives me a lot healthier relationship with this hobby than simply buying every single thing that comes out that may involve an artist or writer I’ve enjoyed in the past. Sometimes it does come down to a Doop appearance to get me to fish out that wallet.

Okay, I’m not sure if any conclusions are drawn, or if we learned anything today. But Chance’s question stirred up some thoughts that I tried to lay out here in my usual exceedingly verbose and sloppy fashion, and I certainly hope he doesn’t take this as an attack or an overly-defensive response. Thank you, Chance, for inspiring me to explore, just a little bit, some of the strategies some of use in making our comic-buying decisions…and giving some of us an opportunity to think about those creators whose work always gives us joy.

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