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The laziest way to start the next year of comics blogging.

§ December 8th, 2023 § Filed under how the sausage is made, pal plugging § 10 Comments

Thanks, gang, for the positive response to my 20th anniversary post, both here and elsewhere. And thanks to most of you for not making fun of my appearance in the Youtube video, Andrew. Ah, just kidding with ya, I knew my face was goofy when I took it.

But anyhoo, I was going to dive back into the 1990s comics thing, and I promise I’ll get back to the 1980s comics thing next week, but I thought I’d respond to a couple of recent comments before they’re lost to the mists of blogging time.

First, Donald G mentions

“May you be here for many more and not disappear like so many others.”

I’ve talked about this before, but it’s likely been, oh, a decade or more, so it probably won’t hurt to address it again. Barring accident or sudden health issues or something, like a big cartoony piano being hauled up the side of a building suddenly snaps its rope and it comes crashing down, accordionizing me beneath it, I promise if it comes time to shut off the lights here, I will let you know. I won’t leave y’all hanging.

I’ve seen a lot of blogs over the years where the last post reads something like “sorry, been busy, will post again soon!” and the entry is marked like five or six years before the current date. It was prevalent enough to where when I when post something like “sorry gang, no post today, will be back later” I’d add something like “no really, I’m coming back, I’m not like those other blogs.”

I used to post every day, because I read something once long ago that you should post every day to maintain your readership, get people used to the idea that Regular Content would appear on your site. Well, maybe doing that in the early years helped build an audience, but now I’m on a more…sporadic schedule (usually Mon-Wed-Fri, but not always) and that doesn’t seem to have hurt anything. I mean, someday the schedule may get even looser…once a week, three times a month, something like that, but don’t worry, I don’t plan to scale it back that far anytime soon.

BUT…scaling it back is likely inevitable. As long as I’m in the comics business, I plan on keeping this site going (so if you want this place to continue, the obvious solution is sending lots of money to my store). But it may be as free time decreases, or the simple desire to post as much wanes, new content here will diminish. I can’t see ever not wanting to talk about comics, so the site staying open so I can continue to pontificate at excruciating length at least once in a while.

Like I said, that’s a long, long way off before I do anything like that, at least three or four months, so don’t worry about it. One of the ultimate goals for this site is to create an index page, with links to specific posts or categories of posts, so that even when I decide to stop the blog or slow it to a crawl, it can remain a more easily-searchable resource. I used to have in the site’s sidebar links to posts of note…it would be sort of like that, only perhaps a little more comprehensive.

One thing I won’t being doing if/when I bring the site to an end is “Scorched Earth.” This was a post I thought about doing very early on, before I realized this site was going to become a lifelong task. It would be the final entry here, where I stopped being polite and started getting real, just laying into the people who annoyed me, crushing my enemies, speak truth to power, etc.

But if I’ve changed at all in the last couple of decades, it’s that I’ve mellowed out a bit. I don’t get quite as worked up over the whole “Someone Is Wrong on The Internet!” thing as I used to, mostly just shaking my head at the absurdity of it all. Besides, I’ve outlived most of my enemies, at least here on the Information Superhighway, so the burning need to do a Scorched Earth post has diminished over the years. …Wait, I just thought of that one guy. OOOOH I hate that guy. NEVER MIND, SCORCHED EARTH IS BACK ON.

The TOO LONG, DIDN’T READ version: I’ll tell you when I’m stopping the blog. Unless I’m hit by a train or something, in which case someone else can tell you.

• • •

Here’s a quickie link to something amusing you folks might like. I know I did! Matthew Murray gives us the mini-comic Juchebert for free, free, free, in which Dilbert strips are mashed up with North Korean propaganda slogans. Very strange and amusing, and you can download it your own self here.

• • •

Lastly, customer Sean asks, among other things, if I’d rank the various Swamp Thing runs. Well, I did, a while back, in these two posts: 1 2. It’s been nearly seven years, probably pointing folks to them again wouldn’t hurt. Anyway, this is the sort of thing a big ol’ index page would come in handy for.

• • •

Thanks for reading, pals, and it’s back to Business as Usual Monday!

Foreward into the past.

§ July 19th, 2023 § Filed under how the sausage is made, hulk § 9 Comments

So thanks to Roel for pointing out my “forward/foreward” typo, which was dumb of me specifically because 1) I had the book right in front of me and it’s spelled out there, and 2) I had to correct myself when I typed the same word in an email, so I do know how to spell it. Ah, well, it wouldn’t be Progressive Ruin without any typoos.

Anyway, I’ve been going through some old CD-Rs and DVD-Rs of old files, and finding some oddball stuff. Like, here, enjoy a full box of Spawn POGs (or SPOGs) that I had at some point for sale on the eBays:

And here’s this thing, a blank template I created from the first Eclipse issue of Miracleman:

…that I eventually used to make this post.

If you want a full-size version of this template for your artistic shenanigans, just drop me a line and I can email it to you. (Sorry, it’ll get hotlinked to death otherwise.)

Oh, and another thing…I’ve recently been reading Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema’s “Intelligent Hulk” storyline from the early to mid-1980s, leading up to the Hulk’s banishment to the Crossorads in #300. I started reading Incredible Hulk with #293, which is pretty much right at the final act of this story which more or less began around #270.

For about 2 1/2 years the status quo of the Hulk had changed from what everyone basically “knew” (either from the comic itself or from the TV show), which seemed like it was taking at least a slight risk. Even at the end, changing the Hulk back into an even more brutal, even cruel, version of the character was a little startling. It definitely laid the groundwork for following writer Peter David’s ten years of various versions of the Hulk, and pretty much the Hulk ’til today. (Not to leave out interim creator Al Milgrom, who was the fella what actually brought back the Grey Hulk before David got his hands on him.)

But what I thought was interesting, after Mantlo demonstrating repeatedly over the course of the storyline, that even with Banner’s mind controlling the Hulk’s body, he could still fall into a Hulk-ish rage if he wasn’t careful. This groundwork for Banner eventually losing control was put down sporadically, but not, like, overwhelmingly, and the danger of the old savage Hulk returning seemed…at least preventable.

Then Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars came along, where a whole gaggle of Marvel’s heroes vanished at the end of one of their issues, returned at the beginning of their next issues, and we were all extolled to read the 12-issue Secret Wars series to find out what happened to them between those installments.

In Hulk’s case, he came back with a broken leg and a bad attitude, suddenly a lot more cranky and violent than he had been just a month ago. Obviously things went poorly for ol’ Jadejaws during his Secret Excursion, causing his further mental decline.

However, reading it now, as a whole, rather than just the final few issues as I had originally…the pacing is off. Having so much of the Hulk’s decline happen elsewhere felt like something of a cheat after following the story in his own book for so long. Yes, everyone reading Marvel was expected to read Secret Wars, but even if you were planning to, the nature of the series meant that by the time you got to Hulk’s problems there, the actual Incredible Hulk book would have moved on into its new direction. A part of the story’s development had been excised from the main book, put into another writer’s hands in another series, and then deal with those repercussions back in Hulk. Ah well, that’s the Marvel Universe for you.

To be fair, #300 was looming ahead, so a change to the status quo was going to come anyway. And realistically, how much more of “Banner is or is not losing control?” plot events did we need? It would have been nice if we’d got more of Mantlo’s Intelligent Hulk, but it’s enough that he basically changed what a Hulk story is for…well, all time.

The fallibility of memory.

§ January 23rd, 2023 § Filed under how the sausage is made, scans § 20 Comments

So if you’re dumb like me and still on Twitter, you may have seen me complaining thusly:

What was this mystery scan? Well, it was from a story that ran in an issue of Action Comics Weekly, that brief period in the late 1980s when DC attempted the weekly comics thing. Overall I thought there was some good work in there, though as it wore on the contents became slightly less killer, more filler. Overall, though, it was a good run and I was kinda sorry to see it go.

Now, the scan in question that I’d thought I’d made was from one of the serialized stories in this run, in which my hometown of Oxnard, CA (“more than just a pretty name”) made a brief appearance. I couldn’t find it on this site here, and it may or may not have been posted by me during my LiveJournal days, but I didn’t see it there, either. I could have sworn I made and posted a sca of the darn thing, but evidence appears otherwise.

And as my tweet there said, I went back into the tattered remnants of the Vast Mikester Comics Archive to retrieve the issue and make a new (or first, anyway) scan of the panels.

Which brought me to my next problem. What issue was it in? I remembered it being from the Blackhawk story (as referenced in this post right here, in the post’s title even) and so my search began, poking through every issue with a Blackhawk story trying to find the darn thing.

I did seem to remember that this was the issue with the images I was looking for:

…but a check of the Blackhawk story there turned up nothing.

And thus I looked and looked and checked purt’near every Blackhawk story in this run and found nothing. But I kept looking at that particular issue of Action, as I was sure that was the issue.

I checked again, this time going through all the stories in #621, and found what I was looking for. In the Secret Six story.

Somehow I conflated the Blackhawk cover image with the pics from the Secret Six story and remembered it as “Oxnard was in the Blackhawk story.” (Or maybe I can claim it was some supernaturally-tinged Mandela Effect, get featured on some Bullshit or Not-type TV show or website and 3) Profit.)

Regardless, here’s the sequence in question, where the characters are passing through my city of residence:

Well, I mean, yes, there are oil drilling sites in the area, and while I don’t think there’s an exact location that street scene is based on, it wouldn’t be out of place:

I thought it looked a bit like part of Oxnard Boulevard, my girlfriend thought it looked like the Boulevard as well, or maybe part of Fifth Street or A Street or thereabouts. Point being, this could be in Oxnard somewhere even if it isn’t.

But it was a neat thing to see Oxnard referenced in a comic I was reading. I mean, yes, yes, there’s Love and Rockets, too, but that’s different, Love and Rockets is from Oxnard. It’s more weird to see a superhero comic, which usually base their stories in New York or Metropolis or other big real-or-imaginary cities, as opposed to cities like Oxnard usually used as punchlines by Johnny Carson (true) or ALF (also true) or referenced on Three’s Company (also also true). Not to mention an episode of Sam and Cat that takes place in town. Don’t ask how I know that.

Oh, and back to comics, I seem to remember an biographical strip by Eddie Campbell in which he makes a stopover by train in Oxnard. Kurt Busiek set one of his comics (Section Zero or Shockrockets, sorry, can’t remember, see this post’s title) in neighboring Port Hueneme, which is close but no cigar.

And that’s that…the saga of Mike’s Brain No Work and the quest to track down that scan from a story. Thanks for tolerating my self-indulgence here, and remember, Call Again and Drive Safely:

…a sign I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen around here.

from Action Comics Weekly #621 by Marty Pasko, Frank Springer and Frank McLaughlin

I could always go back to LiveJournal.

§ November 21st, 2022 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, how the sausage is made, video § 7 Comments

Hi pals…I’m a little under the weather (not COVID, don’t worry) so I’m going to try to keep this reasonably short today.

Just to touch upon a topic I’ve noted before, the social media hoohar is still going on, as everyone is casting about trying to figure out what the new Twitter is going to be. Frankly, I think the new Twitter will be “the old Twitter, only worse” but in the meantime I’m trying out Mastodon, I’m there on Cohost, and I’m also on The Hive (user name: “mikester” natch), which is phone-app only but looks promising. I even revived my Tumblr, for Pete‘s sake.

I don’t know where we’re all going, but we’re certainly going somewhere. I do expect Twitter to survive, even despite current ownership, and as someone said they’re going to discover themselves engineering back to the solutions that already existed when their thoughtless whims all come crashing down. The trick is whether or not the advertisers and the power users will stick it out ’til everything settles down.

But whatever happens, you can always find me here, and you can see what else I’m up to (or had been up to) at And that reminds me…I’ve long lamented the fact that “” was registered only a few short months before I thought about doing so, and after years of being what appeared to be a mostly-inert webpage it is now in the hands of some domain sales site at the low, low cost of nearly $4000. So, for about 4% of the price I registered “” instead. It just forwards to Hey, that’s a whole four characters less! A real timesaver!

Okay, so this isn’t just me blabbing about social media and domain names, here’s some actual comic book content. It’s the Wizard-a-like Hero Illustrated‘s video magazine #2 from 1994! Warning: may be hard to take all 25 minutes in one sitting. Features a Rob Liefeld interview and commercials for a video game I don’t remember.

To variant or not to variant, that is the question.

§ October 25th, 2021 § Filed under how the sausage is made, variant covers § 8 Comments

Turan said, in response to my Saturday post about my old mini-comic with the various monster drawings on the back:

“You let pass an opportunity to tie this post in with your recent theme, by calling all of those copies with the personalized monsters ‘variants.'”

I did briefly consider making this explicitly one of my variant cover-age posts, but had opted to not cross the streams, as it were. But, well, the seal has been broken, the connection between the two has been noticed, so I might as well touch on this briefly. Or “briefly,” as the case usually is.

Now, what exactly am I talking about when I say “variant comics?” Okay, fair enough, I’d imagine that’s a question that should have been addressed when I started this series of posts, oh, six months ago. Anyway, when I’m talking about variants, I specifically mean “different versions of the same book offered for sale at the same time, giving consumers a choice.” I’ve more or less followed that here, maybe not strictly exclusively (like the international comics purposefully not offered to the same customers), but that was sort of my overall goal.

Mostly that was to differentiate simultaneously-offered variants from reprint variants, where a sold-out comic would be reissued with a new image or altered coloring on the cover. Like, for example, Identity Crisis #1, where the first print looked like this:

And then the later pressings had changed covers, like this fourth printing:

Again, I’ve brought up changes in reprints before here, like for the Robin mini-series. Overall, though, I feel like that’s a somewhat different topic than what I’m covering here. Splitting hairs, I know (and I realize it’s not like the reprints weren’t often offered on the shelves side-by-side with the comics they’re reprinting) but they just weren’t my focus.

Going back to Turan’s comment, where he continues:

“…There was one illustrator who did just that with an issue of BATMAN released with a blank cover–he bought a batch of copies, drew a quick sketch of Batman on each one, and then put them up for sale on eBay as ‘super-rare variant editions,’ priced at thirty dollars apiece. I wonder still how many people fell for this.”

Now “sketch” covers are variant covers, an alternate cover offered at the same time as other covers for the same comic, just with a blank covering made of somewhat-more-amenable-to-drawing-upon paper stock. J. Scott Campbell’s joke “do-it-yourself cover” for Gen13 has become reality, with regular offerings like this:

Usually the paper is white, but sometimes the publishers go for a little novelty.

Thus, while blank sketch covers are themselves “variants” for the purposes of my discussion, I am agreeing with Turan (as I think most people would) that the drawn-upon sketch covers being offered on eBay are not “variants” in the same sense. Yes, technically they are additional versions of the cover, but they are not variations simultaneously marketed by the publisher, but rather made after the fact.

Before you logjam my comments section with “what if” and “actually” and “how ’bout” responses, yes, I know there varying circumstances that could allow for a sketched-upon blank cover to be simultaneously offered with the other variants. “Remarked” books with drawings an’ such are frequently available from official sources…I’m just saying, for the purposes of discussion here, at the moment that doesn’t fit the topic I’m interested in discussing. It’s not Law Engraved in Stone, it’s just drawing a line (ahem, so to speak) on “what is a variant” and “what is not a variant” for my purposes. In this instance, “sketched-upon covers” are basically “autographed comics” — yes, they’re all different, but when I’m talking about actual variant comics, you know what I mean.

Now the reason I did all that typing above is to state that my mini-comic with the different monsters drawn on the back…those do count as variant covers. Only one copy of that comic exists with no handdrawn monster, and that’s the one in my collection. As the fella what created, printed, assembled, stapled, and drew upon a few hundred copies of this comic, I can guarantee every one that went out for sale had a different monster on it. Not done after the fact, where they were sold blank and you had to ask me for a monster. You flipped though the rack, found the monster you liked, and you bought a copy. It was offered by the publisher, Full Frontal Harvey, and the creator, me, only with original drawings on the back cover.

If I may be so bold, I suppose it’s like that issue of RAW Magazine with the torn-off corner (and the corners were then switched around so you got a corner of a different copy taped inside):

Now you could buy a copy of, say, issue #136 of America’s favorite romance comic Unicycle Tragedy, the extra-sized 17th anniversary issue, off the stand, tear off the cover, and declare it a “variant cover” but nobody’s gonna buy into that. But if the publisher did it and offered ’em up for sale as such, like them wacky RAW folks, then yes, I think that counts as a variant in the sense I’ve been using it here.

That’s a lot of words basically discussing “publisher’s intent” versus “after-market fiddlin’ around. As I said, I’m not the Dictator of Comics (yet) laying down edicts. Just trying to define what “counts” and what doesn’t in my little discussions here.

And speaking of variants: the other day I was going through some stock at the store, and in researching a particular comic I found, I discovered the Grand Comics Database didn’t have an image of it in their system. Well, thanks to me, now they do! …The irony of attaching that bit of business to this post is that the comic may have been a later reprint of the issue for sale in other markets (like the Superman Wedding issue I talked about here). So, possibly closer to Identity Crisis above than to, say, X-Men #1. Oh well, you know where to send the complaints.

I’ve had a long day.

§ June 16th, 2021 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, how the sausage is made, self-promotion § 2 Comments

So Tuesday took a lot out of me at the shop today, and ended up getting home pretty late. As such, let me just cover a couple things:

Readers added some good information to Monday’s post in regards to variant interiors and repackaged remainders. I added a big ol’ addendum to that entry to reflect these updates, instead of doing a brand new post about it, as I’d prefer to keep this series…self-sufficient, I guess? So you find all the info on a particular variant on just the one page, instead of having to read updates over the next three or four posts. Anyway, I wrote a bit there so check it out.

Next, I wanted to remind folks that there’s a lively discussion regarding the Legion of Super-Heroes and its scattered continuity/publishing going on in the comments to this post. In this case I’ll likely do an update post on the topic addressing some of your thoughts.

Finally, don’t forget, for your #1 Source in Comic Staples Information please visit Does This Comic Have Staples? and bask in the enlightenment.

So what I did on my Thanksgiving…

§ November 27th, 2020 § Filed under how the sausage is made, movie reviews § 16 Comments

…was not expose myself to unnecessary health risks, but stayed home, did some laundry, ate some homecooked food with my girlfriend, watched a movie, and switched over to a new desktop computer.

The “switching over to a new desktop computer” thing is what’s standing in the way of a proper update to this site here…I mean, I’m writing this post on the new computer right now, but I still have a few things to do to it to beat it into a shape I’m familiar with.

And “new” is perhaps not quite the right term…it’s a Mac Mini from 2010 which I know is half-past-dead in terms of computer lifespans, but my previous Mac Mini from 2009 was a pretty robust machine up until the CD/DVD drive decided to die out on me this week. In fact, the 2009 machine probably would have been fine to continue using as, aside from that particular mechanical failure, it was still chugging along swimmingly.

But since I had this 2010 Mac Mini here (given to me by my parents, as they upgraded to a newer machine a few years back), I just went ahead and made the switch.

It’s a stopgap measure, I realize…the last three or four Mac system software updates don’t seem to be installable on this particular Mac’s hardware configuration. And eventually, the programs I depend on will require more recent system updates. But for now, it’s fine…everything from the startup and the actual operation seems to be significantly faster, so I’m probably good for a while. Hopefully after my eyeball situation, and now my teeth situation, ha ha, come to some sort of resolution I can save up for a new home computron.

Anyway, that’s more than you probably wanted to know. Thankfully everyone’s too busy doing Black Friday stuff to read this.

Oh, and the movie I watched was Joker. Turned out the girlfriend got a year’s worth of free HBO as a promo thing from the cable company, and that comes with an HBO Max login, so I took a break from watching 50-year-old episodes of Sesame Street to watch the only DC Comics film to be nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar. (And the second Joker portrayal to win an Oscar.)

It’s…certainly depressing. And a little horrifying. The cinematography was certainly excellent. Gotham definitely looked like a city that would need a guy who dressed like a bat to protect it someday. Watching Joaquin Phoenix play a guy who ultimately seemed doomed from the start was…affecting, worrying, and definitely appropriately cringe-y in parts. Removed from the real world concerns that surrounded its release, I’d recommend it as an interesting take on the character, but given the more social and political ramifications it feeds from, I can understand why folks would give it a pass.

I did see in an interview somewhere where (I think) the director of the film was intrigued by the idea of what kind of Batman would arise from the world created in this film, and I have to say…you know, I realize there’s no shortage of Batmanning in Hollywood, but I’d kinda like to see that too. Especially if it, like the Joker film, was told entirely from the point of view of the Joker. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see an adaptation of this series? I call dibs on playing Willie the Weeper.

(EDITED to correct my poor Oscars memories.)

I keep rememering another employee every couple of minutes to add to that list.

§ May 25th, 2020 § Filed under how the sausage is made, sterling silver comics § 3 Comments

So first, a correction/addendum to a previous post.

I was talking to my former boss Ralph, who owned the comic shop I used to work at, the other day, and he had a bone to pick with me. “I was reading your blog, and you co-opted my story!” he admonished me, and I was genuinely didn’t know what he meant. And he told me it was that story about the Superboy Annual #1 some folks were trying to sell. “That happened to me, not you!” he chided me.

Now first, Ralph was just giving me a bad time…he wasn’t really mad. Ralph’s a friend, and we’ve known each other pretty close to 40 years now, and if anyone has the right to give me a ration of shit, it’s Ralph.

Second…I honestly wasn’t trying to steal Ralph’s sauce in my story, or really in any story I tell about my days in servitude at the previous place of employment. In the case of the Superboy comic story, I believe I was in fact the person who took that initial call, as stated. But the rest of the related events did in fact directly involve Ralph. I was merely a Concerned Onlooker, watching and thinking “this will make a good story on my blog once those are a thing a decade from now.”

When I write about happenings at the old job, I tend to use an editorial “we,” as in “all us guys and the occasional gal who were at the shop.” I think my thinking in how I tell these stories is that what is happening and who is doing it is the point of the tale, over to whom these events are happening. In my head I know this stuff happened to Ralph, or to Rob, or Dorian, or Corey, or Aaron, or Dave, or Rachel, or Sean, or Timmy, or Damian, or Nathan, or the other Nathan, or Shirley, or one of the Joshes, or Greg, or someone else I’m probably forgetting, or even me.

I mean, there are specific events that happen to specific people at the shop. The lady who gave a withering “I’m very disappointed” when we didn’t have an issue of Stray Toasters…that happened to me. When the shop was visited by lady wrestlers in full regalia…I’d say that’s a thing that happened to “us.” Sometimes I don’t remember who was there at the time when things happened…like I don’t remember which fellow employee was with me when the lady selling a cleaning product door-to-door demonstrated how safe and non-toxic it was by removing the nozzle and licking the tube that dropped down into the bottle.

But in the case of the Superboy story, that was definitely Ralph who had to deal with those folks. When I said “we” in that story, that meant “Ralph, who was dealing with them directly, and me, who was listening to Ralph dealing with them while I was restocking, I don’t know, West Coast Avengers or something.” I’ll try to be a little clearer about these things in the future, and give credit where credit is due.

In current store news…so far, things are going swimmingly. Customers are happy to shop in the store again (while practiciing proper health safety, of course) and I finally had some reasonable days of business after two months of scrambling to make sales. Well, okay, Sunday was a bit slowish, and I expect Monday, a holiday, may be a little slow as well. Or it may be hugely busy because it’s a holiday…who knows. People are still being cautious about venturing into the diseased outdoors, so it may be a while before my business..or anyone’s business, is back to normal. I’m just glad I was able ride out the shutdown, but there are still plenty of challenges to come.

You get to retell stories you’ve already told once you’re an old person like me.

§ April 15th, 2020 § Filed under how the sausage is made, retailing § 13 Comments

Okee doke, finally going back to this question posed by Twitter pal Tim (which I first mentioned in this post):

“Best example of people overvaluing comics which they were attempting to sell to you (another excuse for you to reference the Death / Return of Superman)”

When I first brought this up, I mentioned I had a specific story in mind that I’d discussed before, probably on this site, certainly on Twitter, and most definitely on Alan David Doane‘s “Comic Book Galaxy” site, where I wrote a monthly column entitled “Mike Sterling’s Behind the Counter” about a decade ago. Look, I had a logo and everything:

Now as it turns out, on the old version of Progressive Ruin, I had a sidebar link to an index page linking all the articles I wrote for the site. That particular piece of HTML still exists, but only the latter half of the articles are archived here. For reasons I no longer remember, the other half were still linking to their original spot over on CBG which no longer exists. And of course, the story I wanted to tell was in the very first column I wrote for that site.

The good news is that I did go and save copies of all those pages directly from CBG before it went down, so back-ups of those earlier columns do exist, and with, you know, the extra free time everyone seems to have nowadays maybe I can get all those earlier columns back up for you to enjoy. Or “enjoy,” as the case may be.

Anyway, that whole preamble is just to tell you that I’m totally just cutting-and-pasting the story Tim’s tweet brought to mind from that old column to this current post. So, here’s Younger Mike with Browner Hair and Working Eyes to tell you about the day someone had an old Superboy comic to sell:

A few years ago, I received a call from someone claiming to have a copy of Superboy #1 in absolutely perfect condition, and that he wanted to bring it in to sell. “Which one?” I ask, since there have been several Superboy #1s on the stands over the years.

“Oh, it’s the very first one…from the 1940s. And it’s in pristine condition!’

Well, I tell him to bring it in and we’ll take a gander at it.

The next day, a couple comes in carrying a briefcase. They identify themselves as the people with the Superboy #1, and gingerly place the briefcase on the counter. Popping the latches, they open the case and carefully lift the comic out.

It’s a Superboy Annual #1, from 1964. Still a nice item, not as rare or expensive as the original Superboy #1, but still not a shabby item to have around. That is, it would have been nice to have around, if not for the fact that this “perfect condition” comic had no cover, and had been so waterlogged at some point in the past that it was now pretty much a solid brick. We tried to explain to the couple, as nicely as we could, that the comic wasn’t the title they thought it was, and it didn’t matter anyway since it was in completely unsellable condition.

Well, they were pretty darn mad. They thought we were trying to pull something over on them, perhaps supposedly trying to get them to part with the book for a pittance…even though we were making it quite clear that we weren’t interested in buying. Angrily, they grabbed up their comic, shoved it back in their briefcase, and stomped out of the store in a huff. For all I know, they’re still wandering from town to town, getting increasingly upset that all these comic shops are turning their noses up at such a “great item.”

That’s gotta be at least 20 years ago now that this happened. I bet they’re still wandering the Earth lookin’ for buyers. Or maybe there was a bitter divorce, with the greatest acrimony saved for the battle over who was going to keep this priceless heirloom. Who’s to say.

If you know this story already, I apologize. For the 70% or so of you out there who don’t have my every online utterance memorized, I hope you enjoyed that story. Granted, it may not entirely fit Tim’s request, as no specific anticipated costs were noted by the hopeful sellers, but it’s pretty safe to say they weren’t expecting a Rip Taylor-esque $1.98 if they were lugging the damn thing around in a briefcase.

And that’s probably the apex of my “people hoping for more than what they were offered” stories. I mean, it happens all the time, of course…people walk in (or used to walk in, before The End Times) thinking their comic is worth millions, and are shocked when they get offered $10. Most people understand, once “condition” and “demand” are explained to them, but it’s so commonplace it’s hardly even stands out any more. Even with the Death of Superman issue, one of which I have in the case right now, the customer is usually all “I remember when these sold for $300!” before selling it to me for, like, $15 or $20.

More common is when comics show up in collections with price tags from other shops/sellers…and not current or local sellers, usually, but tags on things that had been in storage for a while, that sort of thing. I wrote about a couple examples here, where some shop apparently only saw the price of “$24.00” for every price guide entry.

Another example is that there’s someone at a local flea market who sells old comics in decaying, yellowing polyethelyne bags with felt-tip pen prices written on them (the bags, not the comics) that are laughably out of bounds. Could be these bags were reused from previous, actually expensive comics (not likely), or that the prices were deliberately inflated so that when he actually had them priced at $2 or whatever, buyers would think they’re getting a real bargain, or they’re just streaight up invented. I have no idea what the story is.

Oh, there’s another thing that happens once in a while that I just remembered. It’s the personal collection where someone’s already gone through all the issues and assigned prices to them by affixing sticky notes to each bag (or directly on the comic) with their estimated price scribbled thereon. Sometimes the prices are the mint ones, sometimes they’re the lowest marked price in the guide (and occasionally even that’s too high), and sometimes, again, they’re just made up out of thin air. I understand the impulse to do it, to make sure they’re at least somewhat informed before attempting to unload the stash, but the prices almost never have any bearing on whatever offer is eventually made.

As to a couple of your examples:

William Lynch serves up the following

“There’s a guy in our coin club who keeps trying to convince us that his 1990s Pizza Hut X-Men giveaways are worth a mint.”

That’s a weird sort of collectible, in that it seems like it should be something that’s rare, valuable and in demand. It features big name characters, it’s in a non-standard format and it comes from a non-traditional comics venue. Surely these are hard to come by and command high prices! Except nobody cares, really. No comment on the actual quality of the books, but…I don’t know if it’s because of the nonstandard format, or because they come from a period of X-Cessive X-Men stuff being available everywhere, but they’re almost impossible for me to move. For a while they were even getting dumped on me in collections, and I have a stash in the backroom still, waiting for the ones in the main room to sell and require replacing.

• • •

Michael Grabowski hands over this

“…In the mid-80s my uncle gave me a bunch of fair (or less) condition late 60s Marvel Annuals. One of them was X-Men Annual #1, published in 1970. I loved those comics and that gift, but they are long gone. He now insists that it was a mint condition X-Men #1 which he regrets having given to me.”

Ah yes, the imaginary expensive comic. I get that every once in a while. The folks who insist that they have a “first Superman comic” or something back at the house or in their grandma’s attic or whatever that they swear they’re going to find and bring in. Well, okay, it’s been a long time since this was a commonplace occurrence, but 15, 20 years ago I seemed to get it all the time, to the point where it was a kind of running joke. No idea what they actually had, unless it was one of these treasury edition reprints from the 1970s.

Sometimes folks would ask “what would you give me for [old comic I totally have at home, no foolin’]?” and we’d say “probably a lot of money…bring it in!” and of course we’d never see that person again.

• • •

And a couple of you brought up the dreaded “cat pee” comics, which is an entirely different problem. Usually we didn’t even get to the point of discussing money, we’d just say “plese remove these from our presence, they do offend the olfactory senses” or words to that effect.

On par with the awfulness of cat pee was the time at the previous place of employment we somehow ended up with a collection that had been kept in, of all places, an airplane hanger. The wonderful smell attached to said comice we were told was plane fuel. …For all I know, those are still being aired out. So kids, keep your comics away from cat pee and airplanes, and especially from cats flying planes.

• • •

Speaking of cats, Robcat slinks in with

“I am actually more interested in the flip side. You ever find anything really valuable in what people thought was probably all junk?”

Hoo boy…I think the closest I came was at my own shop, where someone brought in a shoebox full of old comics and on the top of the stack inside was Adventure Comics #247, the first appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes, which I’d never actually had as a comic for sale either at the old job or at my current one. Now the other comics in the box were pretty good too (mostly Batman comics from the same period) but a major key book like this sure stood out from the rest of the bunch.

A story I once heard (and now I can’t remember if it was my old boss Ralph or our late, lamented customer Bruce) involved the cleaning of a garage stuffed with old junk and newspapers, and finding, tucked into one of those newspapers, a mint copy of Captain America #1, the 1940s one with Cap slugging Hitler. (And if either Ralph or Bruce called it “mint,” it was definitely mint.) Needless to say, the garage cleaning slowed to a crawl as now suddenly everything was searched, every box, every drawer, every remaining newspaper, for similar funnybook treasures. …Of course, that Cap comic was the only one found.

For another story of surprise finds, please see this comment from Tenzil Kem.

• • •

If you read this far, you’re probably home by now, so let me leave you with this: speaking of things I’ve talked about before, in reference to our recent discussions about Pariah from Crisis on Infinite Earths, please enjoy this old post of mine.

Quick. someone Ask Jeeves.

§ May 17th, 2019 § Filed under dc comics, how the sausage is made, publishing, swamp thing § 7 Comments

So the plan was to continue my dicussion of DC’s history of getting superhero chocolate into Swamp Thing’s peanut butter, and to do so I was going to, ahem, “borrow” some images from the DC Universe streaming app/service/comic library thing to save myself the time scanning the appropriate images. But lo and also behold, when I went to check out issue #23 of the original 1970s Swamp Thing series, this is what I found:

…It was in black and white. And so was #24. And when I checked other issues in the series, the available online scans from #14 ’til the end of that first run are all in black and white. Oh, and I eventually noticed the little, um, notice that was in the short text intro for each issue letting you know that, yes, this issue you’re about to read is in blcak and white.

That struck me as a bit…odd. I haven’t come across any other series on the service that was originally in color being presented in black and white. Granted, I haven’t done much of a deep dive beyond scattered issues of DC Comics Presents and some Silver Age Green Lantern, and there are literally thousands of digital comics recent thrown onto the service here, but it seems like this is weird.

Now there never was one of those black and white DC Showcase paperbacks for this series, and the entire run of the book was recently recolored and reprinted in that big ol’ Bronze Age Ominbus that came out not long ago. And other recently returned for regrooving and recoloring issues of other Swamp Thing series, like the 1982 run (also in that omnibus) is on the service, in full glorious technicolor. So why did the ’70s series get singled out?

There must be some kind of production issue involved here, though I have no idea what it is. The first thirteen issues are presented in color, and those same thirteen (representing Len Wein’s entire run of stories) were also recolored and reprinted in a hardcover some years back. So, I guess, maybe since those issues were reprocessed a few years back, they were ready for digitizing and uploading, but the later issues had yet to be recolored for that much more recent omnibus and weren’t ready when it was time to get all this online? But then, the pre-Alan Moore issues of the 1982 series had also never been reprinted before, but they’re all up and newly colored…so I have no idea. I’m really just guessing, and someone’s probably already explained why somewhere, but Alta Vista’s down and I know of no other way to search the World Wide Web.

Anyway, thought that was interesting. I’m still gonna talk about those issues soon, but I’m going to have to scan my own comics like some kind of caveman. I have talked about issues #23 and #24, the particularly superhero=y Swampys, on the site before, back in ye olden dayes of comics blogging, back before the meteor struck and killed 90% of Earth’s comics-blogging population. The scans I used then were tiny little things designed for dial-up, and not the glorious giant bandwidth-hogging pics I try to use now, so I’ll get on that in short order.

To follow up on BobH’s question from Friday’s comments section, about whether or not that final caption from issue #24 is in the currently-available print editions…my answer is “I don’t know.” I got pretty wiped out on much of my trade paperback stock during Free Comic Book Day, so I don’t have those Swamp Thing books readily available to peek at. I’m restocking best I can, and those Swampys are a priority what with the TV show about to debut. When last I investigated this important matter, that caption was missing from the then relatively recent hardcover printing, but present in the softcover edition. I believe we’ve had a repackaging of those issues since, so when my stock of those gets replenished, I’ll take a looksee.

In other Swamp Thing reprint news, DC has a series of “facsimile editions” (new printings of classic comics, ads and all, kind of like what Marvel’s been doing lately) coming soon. And House of Secrets #92, featuring the work of Jack Kirby and alos the first appearance of some swamp creature, is on the docket. That’ll make reprint number…man, I don’t know, I’ve lost count of how many versions of this I have. I made a list on this site long ago, and a later addendum or three, and I was up to, what, 15? 16? Whatever it is, it’s too many, and I’ll be adding to that collection soon, it seems.

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