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Remember that trend of naming characters “[Something] The [Something Else] Man?” They should bring that back.

§ May 26th, 2021 § Filed under collecting, employee aaron, firestorm § 14 Comments

Jay from Tennessee volunteers the following

“What was it that you liked most about Firestorm?”

Let’s borrow Mr. Peabody’s WayBack Machine and travel back to the joyous, nigh-utopian days of 2007 when I wrote a bit about my Firestorm fandom:

Me: “You know what I like about Firestorm?”

Employee Aaron: “No, what?”

Me: “Well, Ron Raymond [Firestorm’s secret identity — well, one of them] is on the school’s basketball team, and he’s always getting picked on by the school brain, Cliff Carmichael. It’s some kind of weird parallel universe high school where the jocks get bullied by the smart guys.”

Aaron: “So what parallel Earth would that be?”

Me: “I’d call it ‘Earth-Remarkably-Improbable.’”

Okay, that’s a little facetious (what, on this blog? NOOOOO) but…you know, I was trying to think if I’d encountered Firestorm much prior to the launch of the 1982 series. I’ve read some Justice League of America before that, so I definitely c him there, and there were a handful of back-ups in Flash that I know I read. But at this point in time, I can’t recall if the character really grabbed my attention or if he just happened to be a dude in a comic I was reading for other reasons.

I suppose I must have liked him well enough to drop my two quarters and a dime on the first issue when it was released. I think a lot of it had to do with being an excited 11 to 13-year-old getting in on the ground floor of all these new comics that were popping up (like Saga of the Swamp Thing, natch, and All-Star Squadron, just to name a couple).

And like I said in my 2007 excerpt up there, I liked the weird premise of Firestorm actually being two people who would merge together into one shared-body superhero, with the impulsive teen (Ronnie) controlling the body and the older scientist (Martin) as the voice in his head. The additional twist of that “voice” being represented by Martin’s ghostly “head” that only we, the readers, and Ronnie could see was a clever one.

Another plus was the artwork, which remains my favorite example of Pat Broderick’s work to this day:


Even after doing this blog for nearly two decades I’m still not any better at describing art much beyond “pictures good,” but, hey, you know, pictures good. There was a detail, a graininess, to his work that felt…unusual to me at the time, which you didn’t see much in the usually much slicker superhero comics. Even when Broderick left regular penciling duties and was replaced by Rafael Kayanan:


…the artwork was still somewhat Of A Kind with what had come before. A little slicker, maybe, but still evoked Broderick’s influence in a way that later artists on the title would leave behind.

I enjoyed the stories as well, particularly the difficulties superhero-ing placed on Ronnie and Martin’s personal lives (especially Martin, who initially didn’t retain memory of his time as half of Firestorm). And of course the whole business with Ronnie’s rivalry with Cliff Carmichael, as mentioned above. It was all presented with just the right mix of humor, melodrama, and action, and always felt like I got my money’s worth out of each issue. I realize in hindsight it’s all very Spider-Man, almost certainly intentionally, but for a kid who hadn’t read many of those Spideys, and certainly not from the beginning, this all seemed fresh and enthralling to me.

Okay, with all this “from the beginning” talk I should note that I was aware at the time there was a previous Firestorm series in the ’70s. Certainly that they named the title Fury of Firestorm to differentiate itself from the previous Firestorm I do remember noting back then (in the same way Saga of the Swamp Thing was so named as to avoid confusion with Swamp Thing.) This, amongst other quests, is what would eventually lead me to comic shops looking for back issues. I eventually got that first series, though oddly I never sought out the Flash back-ups I didn’t have. Ah well, I eventually bought the book, so that’s moot now.

Once or twice on this site I believe I’ve mentioned that I really enjoyed the beginning of Fury of Firestorm and the end of it, while kinda coasting along through the middle which wasn’t…well, let’s say it was a little more inconsistent. Not necessarily bad, but not always to my taste either. However, I was still invested in the characters and wanted to see what happened with them. Yes, even Cliff Carmichael.

This is, unsurprisingly, going on forever, so let me try to wrap things up a bit. I did like how they changed things up and did things like replace Martin with another guy in the Firestorm merger, and went through a period where Firestorm himself had his own personality separate from the two men who’d form him.

Most notably, there was that business where, “inspired” by Swamp Thing’s journey into discovering he was a Plant Elemental, formed by Earth to be its champion, so was Firestorm sent on his own journey to become a Fire Elemental in much the same way. Oh, and said journey came with his own knock-off of John Constantine. Yeah, I know. But this all brought us to a new, relatively short-lived redesign for the character and some dynamic artwork from Tom Mandrake:


And then after this there were additional revivals/revamps of the character, specifically with new kid Jason taking over the role:


…in a fun series that provided a new take on the premise, while still following up on characters and events from the previous series. Of note: the end of DC’s Brightest Day event included an epilogue that threatened a dire fate for Firestorm that clearly was going to lead into…something, but that (and other set-ups from the end of this series) were cut down a’bornin’ with the advent of the New 52 publishing initiative. That to me was a major clue (along with what appeared to be poor, rushed planning overall) the New 52 was as much a surprise to DC as it was to the rest of us.

Anyway, Jay, I realize a lot of that was more “here’s a history of Firestorm” more than “what I liked about Firestorm,” but all these twists and turns in the character’s timeline always kept me interested. Until the cut-off and relaunch with the New 52, you could drawn a line from those beginnings as a 1970s series canceled early due to the DC Implosion, to all those Brightest Day shenanigans. I enjoyed being able to follow the lives of these characters for so long, and though their original story didn’t end so much as stop, as is often the case in superhero comics, the ride was of course all the fun.

I will say that the reveal of Martin Stein as a bad guy in Doomsday Clock was not my favorite thing. Who knows if DC’s “Infinite Frontier” initiative takes care of that or not. IT BETTER.

No, not actual horses.

§ March 24th, 2017 § Filed under buttons, employee aaron, pal plugging, swamp thing Comments Off on No, not actual horses.

So Former Employee Aaron (in that he’s no longer doing my cruel, heartless bidding…he’s still at my former place of employment) has a buttonmaker, and I’d featured some of his creations on the site before. Well, the last time I saw him, when I stopped by the old shop to do a little horse-tradin’, he had a surprise for me. Another handmade Swamp Thing pin:


Why yes, that is Swamp Thing as drawn by Steve Bissette and John Totleben from Saga of the Swamp Thing #21 (1984). Now to await a formal occasion for which I may use said pin as the perfect complement to my coat and tails.

In other news:

  • So Brian Cronin over at Comic Book Resources put up an article discussing the old Nickelodeon TV show Video Comics, which I talked about myself, due to the Swamp Thing connection, about four years ago. Brian was good enough to link back to my old post, since I had a few additional memories about the show not covered in his article. Thanks, Brian!
  • Hey, Matt Wilson is running a Kickstarter to fund his next comics project, Everything Will be Okay, done in conjunction with Joe Hunter, Rodrio Vargas, and Josh Krach. Looks like it would be fun, and they have a little ways to go yet on reaching their goals, so pitch in if you can!
  • Bully, the Little Punching Bull presents…Daredevil versus Hitler! (No, not that Daredevil.)

Holy hirsuteness, Batman!

§ July 24th, 2014 § Filed under employee aaron, pal plugging § 2 Comments

The End of Civilization post should be up tomorrow, but in the meantime, please enjoy this, the fifth anniversary installment of Nobody’s Favorites by pal Andrew, discussing a certain feathered hero of some note. (I will note that this series featuring the character is still a favorite of mine, and still holds up today…if only they’d stuck with that instead of endless rebooting.)

And speaking of pal Andrew, his other ongoing project You Chose Wrong (celebrating the tragic endings of Choose Your Own Adventure books and similar book series) recently featured one of my submissions taken from a book I’ve previously discussed.

By the way, in case you were wondering how the Batman Day event went at our shop…it went swell. Gave away lots of free comics and masks, had a successful sale on Batman comics and merchandise, got to see a very happy four-year-old girl in her Batman muscle costume, and we had this mysterious gentleman running about the store most of the day:


WHO WAS THAT MASKED MUSTACHIOED MAN?

This is what DC Comics missed out on by not handing Swamp Thing over to me.

§ December 27th, 2013 § Filed under Christmas, employee aaron, swamp thing § 6 Comments

So I’ve joked around the shop a handful of times that if I were in charge of Swamp Thing comics, it would totally be just Swamp Thing time-traveling every issue, visiting important characters and events through the DC Universe’s history. (In other words, sorta like the Veitch issues in the middle of this page, but more like this series, just with a muck-encrusted mockery of a man as the lead.)

One of the covers I suggested for this theoretical run (Swamp Thing Adventures in Time and Space, if I may) would have been a take-off on this classic Chaykin cover from 1983:


…but with our pal Swampy in the cockpit.

Well, this Christmas, in secret collusion, Employee Timmy bade Employee Aaron to create this illustration as a gift for me:


I’m telling you, DC…call me. I’ll even buy the boy a ruler to keep his swastikas straight.

The day after the day after Free Comic Book Day.

§ May 6th, 2013 § Filed under employee aaron, free comic book day, pal casie § 9 Comments


I did indeed get a free comic. And so did the several hundred folks who passed through our doors on Saturday, most of whom didn’t get just one free comic, but many free comics pulled from the several tables we had set up for funnybook distribution.

This shot:


…is from much later in the day, when we’d taken down one of the tables once we were out of a handful of titles. But this should give you kind of an idea of what was goin’ on at our store for pretty much the entire day. And yes, that’s a shelf of pogs. There is no escape.

Here’s a shot from sort of behind the register “island” near the front of one side of our shop…that’s Employee Fredat the far right behind the register there:


And here’s the boss, Seth himself, posing with a box of Bongo comics, Employee Timmy lurking just over his shoulder:

Part-Time Employee Aaron and his lovely wife Kempo manned and womanned the Cash Only register we set up on the other side of the store, with only the occasional bout of violence:


And then there was this fella, Customer Brandon, who helped out a bit, too. I think he’s dressed up as someone from Speed Racer or something, I’m pretty sure:


Special thanks to Pal Casie, who dropped off a box of cakes and cookies, decorated in such a way that clearly indicated they were all meant for me and not for any other of those crummy employees:


Those were the only pics I managed to take; Employee Mark took more photos but hasn’t yet sent them to me, but as soon as he does, I’ll toss ’em up on the site. One of those photos includes me, so consider yourself warned.

Anyway, remember how in this post I mentioned I was going to de-emphasize the distribution of our free comics in age-appropriate bags…a bag of freebies for kids, one for teens, one for grown-ups. Well, I de-emphasized the heck out of it since I ultimately decided not to bag any of the comics at all. The goal was to keep some stock of freebies through most of the day by not giving everything to everybody. And I have to tell you, that morning, as I was unloading and stacking all the comics on all the tables I had a moment of panic. “Oh man, we’re never going to get rid of all of these, I shoulda bagged ’em, oh we’re screwed,” which is a variation on my usual FCBD pre-opening panic that no one’s going to show up and that it’ll be a disaster.

Shouldn’t have worried. We were slammed from the second we opened our door at 10 AM, and the store was crammed full with people until mid-afternoon, when things slowed down to just merely insanely busy. Seth and Employee Mark even had to function as gatekeepers for a couple of hours, standing at the door and letting customers in only a few at time, and we still had a line stretching around the interior of the store, down one side, across the back wall, and forward by the tables as they head back towards the the register and the exit. As previously noted, the shots of the store above were later in the afternoon, when folks were just heading straight in from the door toward the tables, when the crowds were slightly more manageable.

Also as previously noted, we had a second register set up for cash only transactions, having learned my lesson from last time when we had register lines a mile long. As it turns out, not a whole lot of people carry cash nowadays, but enough did to help lessen line wait times at least a little.

Back to this year’s free comic distribution test (i.e. “Mike was too lazy to sort out the comics into bags this time”), there were two main results. First, yes, as I’d hoped, the comic stock lasted a bit longer this time around. In fact, for the first time in a few years, I still had a small assortment left over, enough to fill a small Diamond shipping box, which is quite the reduction from the many dozens of Diamond FCBD shipping boxes I originally received. That’s probably a combination of the non-bagging and of my increased orders this time around. That’s okay…we’ve left some out for anyone who couldn’t make it in on Saturday.

Second, it did increase customer wait time as everyone picked out the comics they wanted instead of just grabbing a pre-packed bag or three and running off. Nobody really seemed to mind, however, and the wait time wasn’t that long.

Another thing I did this year was take a bunch of those bargain-priced comics we still had hanging around (all those 50-cent Invincibles and $1.00 “Image Firsts” and 25-cent Vampirellas and such) and put those out for giveaways, too. And that giant stack of free Marvel Point Ones that Marvel overshipped to us a couple years back, and that one issue of Garfield that, ahem, I may have accidentally overordered by entering the wrong number on the order form and not noticing…all put out for giveaways, all gone.

AND I think I am finally, finally out of that Avatar Comics Robocop freebie from years ago. I thought I was done with it before, but more keep turning up. But I think I finally unloaded all our backstock of books from FCBDs past. …Well, it wasn’t more than two or three shipping boxes’ worth, so it wasn’t that much, but it still feels good to have found good homes for them.

We didn’t have any in-store signings or other planned special guests…there just wouldn’t have been room…but I did briefly greet pal Nat; got to see the bearded visage of Matt Digges and his non-bearded niece; reader Dave Z., who makes the trek from Bakersfield every year to get free comics that had been personally touched by my filthy, filthy hands; and hugged Gina, my former editor at Music Confidential magazine.

In addition to the goodies pal Casie brought us, Heather from the local library brought us a tray of cookies, thanking us for providing a bunch of this year’s FCBD books for them to distribute. And Employee Mark’s uncle Jay brought us his candied balls. …Before you ask, yes we did. How can you not.

End result: the busiest, most successful Free Comic Book Day yet…gave away more comics than ever before, and made more money than ever before. I’m not trying to be crass by mentioning the money thing, but it’s important to note that the expense of Free Comic Book Day…the cost of the comics, the employee wages, the trapeze artist, the stunt drivers…was more than covered.

I have been sent a few stories, in comments and via email, from people whose own FCBD experiences at their local shops were less than exemplary. I’m sorry to hear it, but I’ve also heard from folks who had wonderful times, so maybe things have been improving on that front. Like I’ve said many, many times before…it doesn’t take much to make Free Comic Book Day into an event, and boy, what an event we had this time around. Plus, I think I’ve convinced Seth into letting me spend even more money for Free Comic Book Day next year.

I should also note the efforts of Employee Robert the Friday night before, who did a lot of set-up rearranging part of the store to accommodate the free comic distribution. EFFORTS ARE NOTED.

And yes, I know that’s Goku…don’t send me emails.

His is a hairy and wild-eyed people.

§ September 12th, 2012 § Filed under employee aaron, swamp thing § 5 Comments

So we were a bit shorthanded at the shop on Tuesday, and thus were forced to call in a member of the Legion of Former Employees…the dreaded Aaron of the Forest Tribe:


…pictured here wielding his clan’s traditional weapon of Spawn posters.

Anyway, I probably want to talk more about Swamp Thing — yes, I know, shocking — and some of your comments regarding Monday’s post, but that’ll wait ’til later in the week when I’m not dog-tired. But at the very least, reader Adam was good enough to post a link to Swampy’s cameo in the recent Robot Chicken special. Very short, involves what could only technically be called “a joke,” but has some nice stop-motion animation using that recent Mattel Swamp Thing figure and a Barbie doll or something similar made up to look like Abby. WARNING: May have to watch a 30 second commercial before watching the 4 second clip.

I wish I could have heard Aaron explain to Scott Snyder the significance of that particular phrase.

§ March 22nd, 2012 § Filed under employee aaron, swamp thing § 7 Comments

So former employee Aaron brought me tribute from last week’s Wondercon to appease my mighty wrath, in the form of a copy of the newest Swamp Thing #1 signed by writer Scott Snyder:


And…oh ho, what’s this?


For those of you just joining this website already in progress (-ive ruin), that would be a reference to the greatest piece of Swamp Thing merchandise ever created…the infamous “Swamp Thing chalk,” as seen here:

Anyway, between this and the War Rocket Ajax incident…well, Mr. Snyder probably isn’t thinking “oh, man, not another person bugging me about this Mike Sterling guy again,” but we’re getting there, surely.

Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands.

§ February 5th, 2012 § Filed under employee aaron, watchmen § 16 Comments

Employee Aaron: The End.

§ October 9th, 2011 § Filed under employee aaron § 7 Comments


Saturday was the last day of Employee Aaron’s full-time employment at our humble funnybook store, so please join me in wishing him well in his new professional endeavor: SUPER SECRET SPY A GO-GO 3000.

Aaron was a joy to work with, his cheerful demeanor always inspiring, and it’s not going to be the same without him. Well, mostly without him, as his new job as SUPER SECRET SPY A GO-GO 3000 is Monday through Friday, leaving the possibility of getting him into the shop on the occasional weekend. Plus, his lovely wife Kempo is still putting in a few hours at our shop every week, so he’s certain to come by the shop sometime…and then we can recapture him say hello.

We’re going to miss Aaron around here, and we all hope the best for him. Good luck, pal!

Special thanks to pal Kevin for taking the photo and comic-ing it up.

I’m totally posting this without telling Employee Aaron first…

§ October 3rd, 2011 § Filed under employee aaron § 3 Comments

…but if he didn’t leave his doodles just hangin’ around the store, I wouldn’t add my own scrawlings to them and then post ’em on the internets:


That would be my little addition ruining Aaron’s drawing, in the right hand corner there. …WE MAKE A GREAT TEAM.

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