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I looked through my Amazing Heroes Preview Specials for way too long trying to find that book’s original title.

§ August 18th, 2017 § Filed under pal plugging, publishing, self-promotion § 1 Comment

A couple of reactions to Wednesday’s post:

Eric L asks

“OK, but was Radioactive Adolescent Black Belt Hamsters any good? The title sounds like a blatant rip off, but it seems to have lasted a while so maybe it had something going for it?”

The fact that the title “Adolescent Radioactive Black-Belt Hamsters” was so on the nose was pretty much part of the joke, and folks kept putting out books with more tortured variations of that title format. Even Marvel was going to get in on the act, with a one-shot titled Grown-up [or Adult] Thermonuclear Samurai Elephants, but it took so long to come out that the fad had passed, and it was renamed Power Pachyderms prior to its eventual unleashing.

But Hamsters was the first out of the gate in the “‘borrowing the Turtles’ sauce” race, and…well, as these things go, it wasn’t bad. I only had one copy of the comic in the store for me to flip through and remind myself of the actual contents:

…and of course it was the 3D special, which was a small bit of a challenge to my aging eyes. But, you know, it was amusing enough, and professionally done…it did its job as a funnybook. Also as I recall, other issues featured work by Ty Templeton and Sam Keith, so there were some interesting art jobs on the series that you probably wouldn’t have expected. Yes, it will always be remembered as “The First Knock-off of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and it deserves some credit (or, more likely, blame) for leading the way for the [blank] [blank] [blank] [animal, maybe] titles that would follow, but as black and white boom comics go, it’s certainly nowhere near the bottom.

Dave Carter says

“The comic I remember most from the B&W boom was Mark Martin’s Gnatrat. I recall quite enjoying it at the time (though may tastes may have been less discerning in those days…)”

Trust your memories at least on Gnatrat and related titles, Dave…as I mentioned in this post about The Boom, Mark Martin’s comics were Quality Products by a talented cartoonist, definitely top echelon of the period. They are Batman/Daredevil/Frank Miller parodies, but they hold up. There was a complete Gnatrat trade paperback a few years back…out of print, but used copies are cheap on Amazon at that link.

• • •

In other news:

  • The next installment in the Swamp Thing-a-Thon at my Patreon should be up over the weekend, or Monday at the latest. Only one dollar gets you a extra giant wall of text from me twice a month!
  • Alan David Doane notes a recent David Letterman interview where the talk show host reflects on frequent guest (and comics legend) Harvey Pekar. I remember watching all of these as they aired all those years ago…usually funny but so uncomfortable. I think it was in that final appearance that Dave got pissed at Harvey and referred to American Splendor as “this Mickey Mouse thing.” I suppose I could go look this up on YouTube, but that’ll probably just make me agitated.
  • Bully, the Little Bull Stuffed with SPF 300,000 sunscreen, looks directly at the Sun-Eaterwithout protective lenses! Bully, NO! Always be safe when observing solar events!

Apparently Twitter was celebrating some Cat Day or ‘nother recently…

§ August 11th, 2017 § Filed under pal plugging, retailing, scans, self-promotion, the thing § 2 Comments

…being one of the at least three Cat Days recognized by God and man. Alas, I missed the August event, but I’m ready for the ones in October and February with this little ol’ panel right here:


Yeah, that’s right, cats are doin’ it for themselves, standin’ on their little cat feet, and not taking any guff from the fella with the syringe. He totally had it coming. Anyway: Cat Day, everyone, Cat Day!

In other news:

  • I mentioned the new Mister Miracle #1 on Wednesday, and it was quite the hit apparently. My initial order on this was a little on the low side, since New Gods material that’s not by Kirby can be bit of a hard sell…but after having several customers ask about it and getting some additions to the pull lists, well, I was convinced to go a little higher. Not high enough, it seems, as they’re gone now, but I would have been out a lot more quickly otherwise. Oh, and Diamond seems to be out of stock on ’em as well, so look forward to that second printing announcement Any Day Now…if it hasn’t happened already. I don’t know, I was busy today.

    Now it remains to be seen if the right lessons are learned, two of which are of course 1) more Tom King/Mitch Gerads comics, and 2) more good Fourth World comics. The wrong lesson is 3) “better crank out more Fourth World comics as fast as possible by anyone we can get, it’s hot hot hot right now!” but let’s see what happens.

    I did have one person come in to grab the comics because, as this customer declared, “Mister Miracle is my favorite character!” I’m really curious about what her reaction was to the actual comic, since it’s quite a different take than what we’ve seen before. Depends how she liked Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers version, I guess.

    Fellow blogging machine Ryan has a few words to say about this here new Scott Free funnybook, so go see what he’s got to say.

  • NOT COMICS: pal Andrew talks about his brief obsession with slot car racing, one that I also shared for a short time in my long-ago youth. As I recall, the gimmick with the set I had was that the cars could change lanes, which I thought was pretty slick. The neighbor kid across the street and I whiled away some precious days goofin’ around with these things. …I’ve got no big reveal or life lesson here, just thought you should know I wasted my life doing stuff other than reading comics.
  • Don’t tell Bully, the Little Stuffed Bull Too Young to Know about Such Things, but that Amalgam-ated character’s name could have been truncated into much, much worse form. I mean, that had to be on purpose, right? …Anyway, I apologize in advance. (Oh, and I just looked at the comments there, and I guess Twitter pal Evan beat me to the same shameful conclusion.)
  • Hey, have I reminded you lately about my store‘s Instagram page? I set it up quite a while ago, but I’m trying to use it more frequently now…usually posting pics of goodies around the store and new acquisitions, with the occasional pic of Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew. Please, follow me there if you are so inclined!

 
 

image from Unexpected #197 (April 1980) by George Kashdan & Ruben Yandoc

This is the title for this post.

§ August 4th, 2017 § Filed under advertising, self-promotion § 3 Comments

They said it couldn’t be done…they said it shouldn’t be done, but I dood it! Part the Sixth of the Swamp Thing-a-Thon over on my Patreon is up, covering issue #5 of the original Swamp Thing series. For the entry fee of only one measly, paltry, barely-noticeable dollar per month, you can see a whole lot more typing by me, America’s Only Comics Blogger. Be the envy of your friends and the bane of your enemies…put yourself on the path to righteousness…grow tall and strong and healthy…by joining today!

In the meantime, whatever you do, don’t think about this:

Blogging about that particular comic in the year 2017.

§ August 3rd, 2017 § Filed under pal plugging, publishing, self-promotion § 1 Comment

First, my pals Matt and Chris took listener questions for the latest episode of the War Rocket Ajax podcast, and you can literally hear joy die in their voices when they get to mine (at about the 53:50 mark). Don’t worry, fellas, some day you’ll come around to my way of thinking!

Second, if you follow me on the Twittererers, you may have seen this thread a while back where I talk about a fella who used to be in the magazine distribution business who came by to see if I’d be interested in buying comics. He didn’t have any on hand at the time, but from the sounds of things his particular heyday was about the late ’80s/early ’90s period of the comics boom. Of particular note, he mentioned receiving a notice from a publisher to not distribute some bundles of a particular comic that had been delivered to him, and to have them destroyed. Well, he said he kept a couple of bundles intact “just in case,” though he couldn’t recall that actual title in question.

And just yesterday, the gentleman came back in with a sampling of the comics that were in his possession. Plenty of those Jim Lee X-Men #1s, one of the bagged X-Force #1s (though the bag had been slit at one end and the trading card removed), and a copy of the recalled comic of which he still had hundreds of copies. And that comic was:


…the Saved by the Bell Special from 1992.

To start with, this is assuming the gentleman’s account is correct, and that this is the comic the publisher asked to be pulped. I only saw the one (very beat up) copy (the scan above was stolen from the Grand Comics Database). He said he had plenty more of this very comic, and for the sake of argument I will take him at his word.

Next, my initial assumption was that there was a publishing date discrepancy…the comic the gentleman had contained a March 1992 publishing date in its indicia, whereas the GCD listing linked above had it dated at March 1993. Maybe there was a licensing issue, thought I, and Harvey wasn’t actually allowed to send out that comic for whatever reason…a problem cleared up a year later when they reissued it. However, the Comic Book Database gives the comic a 1992 date as well, so maybe there’s a typo at GCD? I don’t know.

Also the Holiday Special is a nearly direct reprint of the first Saved by the Bell comic from 1992, so I thought maybe that was just the previous edition’s indicia…except this indicia very clearly stated it was for the “Saved by the Bell Special.”

Ultimately I can’t find any reason for this to have been pulped, other than the sheer fact it was a Saved by the Bell comic. The gentleman said he definitely got a letter from the responsible party instructing him to shred these things, but unless he tracks that letter down (and he may yet…he says he thinks he still has it) I have no idea why this issue was allegedly held back. I don’t recall anything from the time, since that definitely falls within my early years of working comics retail, and I can’t find anything on the Recalled Comics site, so…who knows? It’s a Mystery for the Ages, one to pass down to your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren, all the way ’til the end of time. Or I find more information, one of the two.

And third, the next installment of the Swamp Thing-a-Thon should be up over at my Patreon page soon…if not by Friday, then on Monday. Thanks for your patience!

The new Swamp Thing-a-Thon post is up…

§ July 21st, 2017 § Filed under self-promotion Comments Off on The new Swamp Thing-a-Thon post is up…

…and you can read it here over at ye olde Patreon page, if you are contributing a dollar or more per month to the “Keep Mike in Hot Pockets and Diet Cokes” fund.

Anyway, I meant to have Additional Progressive Ruin Content™ on the site today, but there were some extensive Thursday night household chores that had to be done, so no blogging for me. (Or rather, blogging at 1:09 AM, like I am right now.) Rest assured, I thought about comics the entire time I was working. (“Oh, Dark Knight Strikes Again, you really are the best!”)

So, you can look forward to more stuff next week, or you can drop a buck and read this really long post about Swamp Thing #4 many, many moons before I put it up here. Either way, have a great weekend, unless you’re at the San Diego Comic Con, in which case I hate you.

New Swamp Thing-a-Thon post up…

§ July 7th, 2017 § Filed under self-promotion Comments Off on New Swamp Thing-a-Thon post up…

…over on my Patreon, discussing issue #3 of the 1970s Swamp Thing series. See how many times I can type the words “Patchwork Man!” Only a buck to get in and see these posts good ‘n’ early!

The newest Patreon-only post is up!

§ June 20th, 2017 § Filed under self-promotion, Swamp Thing-a-Thon Comments Off on The newest Patreon-only post is up!

Installment #3 of the Swamp Thing-a-Thon, featuring my look at Swamp Thing #2 (1972-3) is now up…contribute a minimum of one slim dollar bill per month to my Patreon to get access to these posts months before they show up here! (Free sample of the first installment, featuring House of Secrets #92, is right here.)

New post up at the ol’ Patreon.

§ June 6th, 2017 § Filed under self-promotion, Swamp Thing-a-Thon Comments Off on New post up at the ol’ Patreon.

The second installment of the Swamp Thing-a-Thon, featuring my look at the original Swamp Thing #1 from 1972, is now up for Patreon contributors. And as I keep reminding y’all, I will eventually post it here, but not for a few months.

Thanks for reading, pals!

So it begins…the Swamp Thing-a-Thon.

§ May 22nd, 2017 § Filed under self-promotion, Swamp Thing-a-Thon § 5 Comments

Okay, gang, I finally started it. My ideally-twice-monthly looks at every Swamp Thing comic, in order, available initially to Patreon contributors (for as little as a buck a month!) before eventually getting posted on this site several months later. Well, with the exception of the first post in the series, which I’m including here as a sampler for those of you previously unfamiliar with my excessive typing.

A couple of notes: I’m just going with the credits as listed in the book (or “borrowed” from the Grand Comics Database). I know Wrightson had some assistance on this first story, but, I don’t know, it seemed weird wherever I plugged those other names in there. Maybe I’ll add them in later…lemme sleep on it.

Yes, that’s a scan of my actual copy of House of Secrets #92. The plan is to scan the covers of my personal copies for each installment, so you can see how beat up my copies get while reading them in the bath, while eating barbecue ribs, etc.

I am not 100% certain what content I’ll be including for each “review.” You’ve read my reviews before, you should probably know what to expect. Maybe it’ll be story analysis, maybe it’ll be some personal recollection regarding that specific issue, maybe it’ll be something retail-related…we’ll see what each issue inspires me to write as I get to it.

Anyway, here it is…if you want more of it, and faster than waiting for it to show up here, then hie yourself hither to my Patreon account and drop at least a buck per month (or $100 per month, I won’t stop you) to get access. Thanks for reading, pals, and I’ll be back with More Stuff™ soon.

• • •

ISSUE: House of Secrets #92 (June-July 1971)

TITLE AND CREDITS: “Swamp Thing” – written by Len Wein, illustrated by Berni Wrightson, coloring by Tatjana Wood, lettering by Ben Oda. Cover art by Berni Wrightson.

IN BRIEF: Alex Olsen is believed dead, killed in a lab explosion secretly prepared by rival Damian Ridge, who then takes Alex’s widow Linda as his own wife. However, Alex rises from the bog in which he was buried, transformed into a hideous creature, a swamp thing, who must come to his wife’s rescue when Damian begins to have designs on her life as well.

MIKE SEZ: Well, here’s where it all begins. What struck me as I read this again for the first time in quite a while is the parallels between how this story starts and how the relaunched/rebooted Swamp Thing ongoing series starts about a year later. I mean, not just the premise, obviously, but just structurally. Both this tale and the later Swamp Thing #1 start with our muck-encrusted mockeries of men looming outside their homes (well, barn, in the latter case) worrying about the people they left behind as they continue their lives within, leading towards the record scratch/“yeah, that’s me, you’re probably wondering how I ended up here” flashbacks that follow.

What also impressed me was just how much storytelling and emphasis on character perspectives were crammed into these eight pages. You start off with the first-person narration from Swamp Thing himself, leading into Linda’s second-person narration (like “you smile because he expects you to” — rarely seen outside EC Comics, text adventure computer games and “Choose Your Own Adventure” books) and her recollection of the disaster that killed her husband, then back to first-person narration for Damian’s involvement in said disaster. If I can talk like an old person for a moment, nowadays were so used to stories stretched out over multiple months, decompressed into 5 or 6 or 8 issues that conveniently fit into a nice paperback collection, that it feels just a little weird to have this much narration, this much dialogue, squeezed into so little space.

And yet, it never feels cramped. Yes, it’s all very text-heavy, but not at the expense of Wrightson’s art, which shares the burden of the story’s emotional weight. The narration explicitly tells us what everyone’s feeling at any given point, but the illustration conveys so much. Linda’s downcast looks of quiet sadness, Damian’s crazed desperation as he decides to kill Linda to protect himself, Swamp Thing’s glance down at his wrist where the bracelet Linda gave him once was…and the long, thin panel immediately afterward of Swamp Thing’s eyes rolled upward in despair. It’s the ideal balance between writer and artist, creating a tiny little masterpiece in the short feature format that’s mostly forgotten by the Big Two companies.

Speaking of the art, there’s something to be said about the portrayal of Swamp Thing himself. The human characters are all very naturalistic, which is only how it should be given that heavy photo reference was used by Wrightson in laying out the art. But Swamp Thing himself seems almost…cartoony, by comparison. He’s a big misshapen lump, mostly hidden in shadow so that you can’t ever get a real feel for what he actually looks like, with the exception of those previously-mentioned eyes. They’re large, lolling orbs, perpetually sad, poking out of the top of a figure that we can only barely discern. He doesn’t look scary, even when he’s bursting through that window at the climax to stop Damian. He looks…pathetic. He looks every bit as despairing as he feels. Now the character goes through a serious redesign into a more muscular-looking “action hero” type (I mean, relatively speaking) once that ongoing Swamp Thing series starts, but here, Swamp Thing’s sodden, burdened mass reflects the weight and tone of this short piece.

I’ve stated in the past that Spider-Man’s debut in Amazing Fantasy #15 is the Perfect Superhero Origin Story. Everything you need is right there, and in fact the story needn’t have continued. If the only Spider-Man story Stan Lee and Steve Ditko ever produced was just those 11 pages…that arguably would have been all the Spider-Man the world ever needed. Nearly everything that came after that was just extrapolation from the original.

I bring that up because this story, “Swamp Thing,” is I think in the same upper echelons of comic book origins. Perfectly constructed. No threads left untugged. No need to continue. And, in fact, there was no intention to continue “Swamp Thing” (unlike Spider-Man, which was designed to be a new ongoing superhero character, even if they weren’t sure at the time he actually would continue). However, once the sales figures came in on House of Secrets #92, and after some convincing, Swamp Thing would return…but it wouldn’t be turn-of-the-century Alex Olsen, but the modern scientist of 1970s-today Alec Holland who would take up the mantle, as Wein and Wrightson didn’t want to dilute the power of their original short. Of course, a few decades later another writer would figure out a way to make Alex Olsen part of the latter Swamp Thing’s continuity, but that’s a Swamp Thing-a-Thon review for another day.

THE WRAP-UP: One of the all-time classics in the comic book medium, and almost certainly the best short horror comic story you’ll find outside of the legendary EC Comics oeuvre.

“Manhattan in a muumuu / I know I know / It’s serious”

§ May 19th, 2017 § Filed under self-promotion, watchmen § 5 Comments

So the thing everyone has been wondering about Watchmen‘s Doctor Manhattan finally making his full debut in the forthcoming DC Universe comic book Doomsday Clock is, of course, what they’re going to do about Doc M’s…er, “Downtown Manhattan,” as it were. I’ve made passing reference to this situation in the subject lines of a couple of posts here, but I am curious as to what they’re gonna do.

As we all know, one of the ways…well, okay, the main way…Manhattan’s continuing alienation from humanity was represented in Watchmen was his no longer caring about such social niceties as “dressing.” He gradually wore less and less and eventually there he was, freely blowin’ in the wind. Now, he’d wear clothes when he had to, like during that ill-fated television interview, so maybe for this DCU story, Manhattan may well be fitted out with his own super-suit, just to fit in. Or, as is stated at the end of Watchmen, he’s rediscovered an interest in humanity, so maybe we’ll get the reverse of what happened in the original story, and he just slowly dons more and more clothing over the course of Doomsday Clock. Like, swim trunks, then some Dockers, and then, inevitably, the muumuu.

The other option is just “Austin Powers”/”Opus’s Post-Surgery Beak”-ing it and have Manhattan in the altogether, but always having his naughty bits blocked by, like, conveniently-placed potted plants or furniture or even just careful shadowing, or something. That may feel a little contrived after an issue or three, however, and I’m sure that last thing anyone would want is for this story to feel contrived.

Or they can go full Ken Doll, and just…um, smooth things out, I guess. Or go completely the opposite direction and say “screw it, we don’t have the Comics Code to worry about anymore!” and just reveal Manhattan in all his anatomically-correct Manhattan-ness. I mean, honestly, what’s gonna happen, the comic might get some publicity? (Okay, and maybe some comic shop will get in trouble for selling it to a five-year-old, because there’s always someone. Maybe NOT such a great idea.)

But hold on…I have an idea: a shocking plot twist that solves the problem of Nekkid Manhattan and a certain Superman redesign mistake.

Superman and Doctor Manhattan finally meet in this Doomsday Clock series. Superman says “ah, HA, you no-goodnik, I finally found you! Now to kick your butt out of this continuity for good!” And Manhattan’s all “whatever you want, buddy, I’ve got what I came for” and he steps out of the shadows and he’s wearing Superman’s long-missing RED TRUNKS. And then get our knock-down, drag-out fight over the remaining eight or nine issues of the series, and the final pages are basically a variation of this Tarzan sequence.

Yes, I know this idea is fantastic. DC, you have time to rewrite Doomsday Clock. I suggest you use it wisely.

• • •

Speaking of brilliant writing, I’m about ready to launch the ol’ “Swamp Thing-a-Thon” on my Patreon, in which I review all them Swamp Thing comics. I’m looking at this Monday, barring any problems like being driven off the internet for this post. It’ll be the usual rambling and occasional intentional humor and unintentional insight you’ve come to expect from a guy pushing 50 who’s still writing a comics blog after everyone’s moved on to posting their content directly to the chips in your brain. (I’m assuming that’s what they do, I haven’t really been keeping up.) The first installment (about House of Secrets #92, natch) will be available here for free right away as a sampler, but future installments will only be available to Patreon donors at least for several months, before being posted publicly.

Anyway, we’ll see how this goes, and I’m always open to suggestions and creative criticism once I get started on this new project.

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