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Yes yes, and “Platinum Age” and “Victorian Age” and “Pioneer Age.”

§ February 4th, 2019 § Filed under Uncategorized § 13 Comments

So, going back to Friday’s post, I’ve got a little bit of follow-up. First, very briefly, as was pointed out in the comments there and on the Twitters, the early ’80s Ka-Zar was something of a popular comic at the time, as borne out by my own perusal of former boss Ralph’s early ’80s order forms. Not only was Ralph ordering nearly as many Ka-Zar as he was of Avengers, he was actually ordering more Ka-Zar than Amazing Spider-Man. Now whether this says more about the popularity of Ka-Zar or about possible sales doldrums for these flagship Marvel titles, I’m not sure.

Secondly, commenter Matthew asked:

“So if you don’t like ‘Bronze Age’ as a term, are there terms you do like?

“And do you think we need more ‘ages’? The current ‘modern age’ has been (according to Wikipedia) going since 1985, and so is longer (34 years) than the silver (1956 – c. 1970) and bronze (c. 1970 – c. 1985) ages put together (30 years).

“If you were to create more ‘ages’ what would they be and what would be the signifiers?”

These are all perfectly reasonable questions. I’ve discussed the whole “comic ages” thing before, perhaps a tad derisively. Though I quoted it there, it bears repeating that the Overstreet Guide itself resisted the term “Bronze Age,” defining it thusly in their 28th edition:

“Non-specific term not in general acceptance by collectors which denotes comics published from approximately 1970 through 1980.”

Well, it’s pretty much a thing now, I guess. Like I said last time, creating a “Bronze Age of Comics” more like a deliberate marketing strategy to get those copies of Human Fly out the quarter bins and into glass classes with “KEY BRONZE AGE BOOK” written on the price stickers. But, you know, it’s here now, and I just gotta live with it. Mostly I was just complaining without providing any alternatives, a thing no one in any fandom ever does I’m sure you’ll agree.

Do I like any terms? Well…”Bronze Age” may have stuck in my craw a bit, and here in an old blog post filled with linkrot I transcribe a somewhat paraphrased discussion between pal Dorian and me about said ages and our incredulity at same. Now it’s been…egads, fourteen years, so I’ve got the current Overstreet here with me and let’s check the definitions of terms:

Golden Age: 1938 – 1945

Silver Age: 1956 – 1970

Bronze Age: 1970 – 1984

Copper Age: 1984 – 1992

Modern Age: “catch-all term applied to comics published since 1992”

As you see, there are some gaps there, which I’ve seen folks describe as “pre-Silver Age” or “post Golden Age” and so on, though others just simplify matters and call a 1948 book “Golden Age.” I don’t think the Price Guide Police will get ’em for doing so. And yes, there’s a little overlap…I don’t think Bronze ends May ’84 and Copper picks up in June or anything, but I suspect if anyone really wants to split that hair I guess it’s a case of “I know it when I see it” in trying to decide if J’emm, Son of Saturn is Bronze or Copper. To be fair, I don’t see “Copper Age” used to much in the wild…guess I’m not hanging out with the right people.

There are other general terms, like “pre-Code” (anything put out prior to the Comics Code Authority being established in 1956) and “pre-superhero Marvel” (stuff I thought just meant “whatever came out before Fantastic Four #1, but apparently very specifically meaning Journey into Mystery before Thor showed up, Tales to Astonish before Ant-Man, etc.).

Okay, do I like these terms, Matthew asked? Well, it’s too late for me to do anything about them now, and my post here on this silly blog (remember blogs?) isn’t going to change anything. I’m fine with them, I suppose…I “get” the divisions, more or less. And “Modern Age” does sound better than “Holy Shit The Entire Comics Market Just Collapsed Age.”

Modern Age seems to be tied to the whole Image launch thing, which is about as definitive a division in eras as we’ve had in recent comics history. One can easily recognize a “before Image” and an “after Image” in the industry. While the Overstreet definition of “Modern Age” isn’t as long as the period is descried by Wikipedia that Matthew noted, it’s still over a quarter of a century. However, I can’t really think of a specific line to draw at any point here that seems like a definable “age” in the sense of the previous ages. I joked in the title of this post about “Downloadable Torrent Age,” but…maybe that’s close? Maybe we’re in the Digital Age, where that’s a significant source of distribution not just for the big comic companies, but for smaller creators too? That’s not perfect, but it’s a possibility. It’s more likely that any such further delineations will come about with more distance from the present and we can look back and get a better picture of how things played out over time.

We all know the facetious suggestions, like the “Polybag Age” or the “Chromium Die-Cut Foil Cover Age” or the “Jemas Age.” Okay, that last one I just made up right now, which I would describe as a period of increased antagonism between Marvel and DC. Or, maybe, the “Rebirth Age,” by which I don’t mean DC’s post-New 52 initiative, but that time when DC was actively trying to undo major events in the past to bring back Barry Allen as the Flash, Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, and so on. Maybe a period of attempts to return to form after upending all the characters for, like, a decade or two. Sort of company-specific, but then, so are the definitions of Gold and Silver.

So, to recap answers Matthew’s questions: I don’t care for the term “Bronze Age,” but now that it’s here I guess it’ll do.

No, I don’t particularly think we need new ages, but new divisions will likely become more apparent once we look back on this time with some distance.

And I do have a few semi-jokey ideas for new ages. “Rebirth Age” still sounds as likely as any to me. But I suppose “The Mike Sterling Age of Comics” is still in the running.

“I’m a collectible!”

§ November 26th, 2018 § Filed under retailing, Uncategorized § 1 Comment

So anyway, I was just Googling around (“mike+handsomest+comic+shop+fella”) when I happened upon this:


Yes, that’s a back issue catalog that I put together and mailed out way back in ye olden tymes of my funnybook selling days at Ralph’s Comic Corner. And that’s all it was…despite being described as a “catalog/fanzine” in the list, and despite Bully’s wishes for inclusion of my Swamp Thing fan-fiction, it’s just titles, issue numbers, grades, prices, and where to contact us to purchase said items.

That had almost completely slipped my mind that we even did that. I am curious about the 1990 date on it, however…I seem to recall assembling this catalog from the files we used to list comics on our then-fledgling website, but 1990 seems awfully early, considering the World Wide Web was only available for surfing in 1989. Maybe I’m thinking of a second mail order catalog we put together? And assuming that seller there has the correct date listed, of course.

The actual domain name “ralphscomiccorner.com” was acquired in 1998, according to the WHOIS data, and that sounds about right. But prior to that, we just had our 5 megs or whatever of webspace with our local internet provider. I remember we were all pretty proud of securing our space online with that initial website, and had a big banner printed out with “http://www.fishnet.net/~ralphs” hanging in the store, extolling all our customers to go visit. I seem t remember we were one of the first comic shops to have a web page…Ralph has often said that at the time he went looking to see what other shops were doing, and he had trouble finding any, so we must have been up and running on the web quite early. Exactly how early, I can’t recall, though.

I’m sure I still have the original files for this catalog on a floppy disc somewhere…the problem here of course being “a floppy disc.” I did back up a bunch of floppy files to CDRs and DVD-Rs, but these didn’t seem to make it. It’s a bunch of documents for the old Mac desktop publishing program Ready Set Go, Version 4.5, so I’d probably have trouble opening ’em up anyway with whatever nonsense I have on my computer now. But I could at least look at the file creation dates and figure out just when I did this thing. Oh, if only I was blogging back in the early ’90s, but I was too busy being EXTREME.

Oh, and I keep meaning to mention the format of the catalog…at the time, old pal Rob and I were still doing the comics ‘zine thing, mostly in the format of 8 1/2 by 11 inch pieces of paper folded in half and stapled, with a thicker outer cover (as seen here). So, we were old hands at making up little booklets like this, and the catalog was essentially in the Wood-Eye format, only with fewer naughty jokes. Yes, I do believe some paste-up was involved…printing out the listings page by page, cutting ’em up, pasting them into our work copy, and then taking the whole shebang to the local printers and begging them to make it look purty.

So anyway, that’s that…I’m tempted to ask Ralph if he still has the mock-up so I could borrow it and print up a whole bunch more copies and make my fortune in the fanzine market. But I will ask him if he can remember when we first put up our earliest website…the online web archive only started saving webpages sometime in the mid 1990s or so. My own early website, Progressive Ruin 1.0, is archived starting in 1999, but my “What’s New” page (essentially a proto blog) started in ’96, so I’m still not sure how far back the store’s page went.

But there you go…if you want any early examples of my comics writing, it’s yours for around $50 at that link at the beginning of this post. A bargain at any price!

I think posting a picture of those glasses on my site about once a decade should be okay.

§ September 13th, 2018 § Filed under Uncategorized § 9 Comments

SO CONTINUETH THE PARADE OF OLD PROMO GOODIES THAT MAY OR NOT BE ON MY EBAYS AS I WRITE THIS:

“Prophet: The Quest Begins” poster from 1994:


…featuring the artwork of the Wizard Top Ten Artist (I’m presuming) Stephen Platt. His work always kinda reminded me of a slightly less goofy (and I mean “goofy” in a 100% positive way) Sam Kieth. He also has the perfect pen name: “SPLATT.”

Straight outta 1986, becaues when else, is this promo poster for New Wave from Eclipse Comics:


…a short lived experiment in a cheaper comics format…16 pages for 50 cents. It was a buck and a half by the end of its 13 issue run, well, that still sounds like a pretty good price to me nowadays. Anyhoo, check out pal Andrew’s write-up no this book, if you dare.

Here’s a particuilarly low-rent..er, I mean, “artistic” black and white poster for that new 1990 Marvel teen sensation, Darkhawk:


Well, okay, I shouldn’t tease. It’s actually a striking image, and really doesn’t need color, That logo could use a tad bit of work, however.

Now this next item isn’t a poster, but rather some store signage…an “OPEN/CLOSED” sign from Oni Press and View Askew (1999):


…with art by Michael Avon Oeming. Never did use it at the store…I mean, the “OPEN” part is okay, but the “CLOSED” part:


…seemed maybe just a tad too crass. Okay, look, that’s a feature, not a bug, I realize, but we weren’t sure how some of our clientele would take it seeing it in our front window.

Oh hey, here’s an Archer mousepad promoting season 2 of that show from 2011:


Never seen a single second of this show, though I understand it’s funny. The mousepad is approximately 1 micron thick. Do people even use mousepads anymore? Sure, I do, because I’m an elder, But I feel like that’s one of those things that’s becoming increasing obsolete, like CDs, phone books, and comic blogs.

This Eclipse 3D comics poster is undated, but c’mon, it’s from the 1980s:


I wonder how many more people we would have had coming into the shop asking just to straight-up buy our 3D glasses, had we had that in the window? We didn’t sell the glasses separately, of course…we had just enough to cover our back issue stock of 3D comics, and God forbid we didn’t have a pair to go with that 3D copy of BraveStarr should it have sold.

Didn’t keep me from claiming a pair of 3D SCRATCH AND SNIFF GORILLA GLASSES for myelf, however:

I swear this isn’t just a commercial for my eBay store, but if you happened to go there and buy something, I would not disapprove of your selfless behavior.

§ September 11th, 2018 § Filed under advertising, how the sausage is made, promo, self-promotion, Uncategorized § 3 Comments

So here’s the thing: I’m still planning on an End of Civilization post, but I just haven’t had the time to start putting it together yet. I’ve barely even cracked open the new Previews…I have no idea if that deluxe hardcover edition of Swamp Thing Meets Jesus is finally announced, or if the last issues of the Sonic Distruptors mini-series have finally been solicited. Could be in there, I have no idea.

But anyway…usually when I’m having a lunch break at work, I’ll buzz through the Previews and pick out some likely suspects for my EoC post, and then write up the “humorous” “gags” at home. Alas, this month my lunch breaks have been less leisurely and more “cram this food down my throat so I can get back to processing these huge collections I have to process” and “oh Lordy I gotta get all these things on eBay” and…well, you know, actual work. So, no Previews perusal has occurred as of yet. But soon…soooooooon. Hopefully before the DC Universe streaming service starts up next weekend and I suddenly disappar into binge-watching the Constantine series at long last.

Soooooo…let’s shoot for next Monday for the new End of Civilization. Agreed? Agreed! (I totally spoke for you there, I hope you don’t mind.)

In the meantime, let me tell you about some of the stuff I’ve been working on and processing (and may eventually get to my eBay store, if it’s not there already, and if it’s ite> already sold). Basically, former boss Ralph (I’m trying not to call him “old boss Ralph,” y’know) broght me more boxes of promotional funnybook items from the Good Ol’ Days, back when there was only one (or two) X-Men series, when many titles still had triple-digit numbering, when the only “-gate” we had to worry about had “Water” in front of it. I’ve been digging though them, and within I found:

Malibu Sun #13 from 1992:


…featuring a preview of Spawn #1, back when Image and Malibu Comics were briefly iinked together. As others have commented when I posted a pic of this on the Twitters…”that’s some logo.” Anyway, there are some black and white pin-ups by McFarlane inside, and a short (very short, since it had barely existed at this point) history of Image Comics and where it came from and why, and boy howdy do these things go for a pretty penny on the eBay.

Valiant Comics loved its chromium, as evidenced by this wee little “Ninjak on Sale” display piece from 1994 (I presume):


Measures about 5 by 8 inches, and is basically just a miniature version of the cover to the first ossie drawm by future Marvel head honcho Joe Quesada.

“Hey, where’s the new issue of Thor Corps?” “Why, right below the Thor Corps ‘New Arrivals’ sign, of course!”


Dated 1992. Odd choice to represent Marvel’s publishing line for All Time on a sign that’d be posted about the new comics and left there ’til it sunfaded into nothingness, but who am I to judge?

Speaking of odd choices, please enjoy this unopened pack of First Comics stickers from 1983:

And a closer look at said stickers:


Now, I read and enjoyed Mars as it was coming out, but even I’m like “…what would I do with a bunch of Mars cover stickers?” But stickers featuring First Comics mascot Teddy Q — well, those have no end of uses!

My favorite piece so far is the one that’s in the worst condition (a lot of dings and creases, but somehow never actually displayed!)…this promo poster for the second issue of the original magazine series of Nexus, from 1982:


Never did buy all those original mag-sized Nexus issues…got the third one for the flexidisc, but was otherwise satisfied with the trade collection First released years later. Also, that’s Paul Gulacy art on that nice-lookin’ cover, which I misidentified as “Steve Rude” in my rush to get this thing listed. Ah, well…fixed now.

You know, every time I’m reminded of Nexus, it makes me want to go back and reread all the comics. Man, I don’t have time for that…I’m behind on the new comics as it is. Anyway, Nexus is a good comic, is what I’m trying to say.

Next time…more stuff!

“BRIAAAAANNNNN!!!” [shakes fist]

§ August 13th, 2018 § Filed under collecting, Uncategorized § 4 Comments

So this Twitter discussion with Pal Andrew got me nostalgic, in a way, for my days of comic collecting just prior to my frequenting dens of iniquity, er, I mean, comic shops…well, okay, same difference. Anyway, I was thinking back to my comic buying progression, from occasional purchases from grocery stores and newsstands, to buying those three-packs of Star Wars comics at Toys ‘R’ Us, to digging through stacks of old comics at used bookstores, to making the rounds on my bicycle of all the local convenience stores and that one nearby grocery store.

It was one day in 1983, while going to one of those convenience stores that was a little farther afield trying to track down an issue of something or other, that I ran into a friend of mine from school. I told him what I was up to, and he said “oh, you should check out Ralph’s Comic Corner, it’s a comic book store in Ventura, they should have what you’re looking for,” and thus did my long association with that store begin, leading to my evenual employment there, and of course to opening up my own store. So, should anyone ever ask how I ended up in my current situation, you can blame old schoolmate Brian Lindquist, wherever he may be now.

Not to say that Ralph’s was my first-ever comic shop. I visited one in Simi Valley prior to that, after having seen an ad or a coupon or something cluing me into its existence. That was a slightly further trek to make than the relative closeness of Ventura, so we didn’t go to that store very often (I think ultimately only about a half-dozen times, at most, including that one time I met Chris Claremont).

But, as I was saying, before delving deep into the world of THE DIRECT MARKET and all its horrors, I had various places around town that I’d hit up for comics, some relatively close, some requiring a little more of a journey, and you’d have to check them most of them out on a pretty regular basis to make sure you were seeing all the newest releases. The aformentioned grocery store usually had a pretty good selection, and, especially during the summer, more than once I’d show up on New Arrival Day just a little too early only to see the uncut bundles of comics sitting in a cart, waiting for some probably overworked employee to finally find the time to open ’em up and toss them on the rack.

The one place that was more of a “last resort” was a convenience store that was a little farther away than the rest, so I didn’t go there too often, especially since they inexplicably charged tax on comics (something that periodicals weren’t subject to in Califoria at the time), and even worse, sometimes the comics would have a price sticker directly affixed to the front covers! Eep! On the other hand, that particular shop was the one place I ever saw the Superman Spectacular out in the wild, which is still one of my favorite Superman stories, so I can’t think of it with too much disdain.

The best place in town to get comics was a place deep in Oxnard called the Strand Newsstand, which had pretty much everything. Tons of magazines, lots of paperback books, the extensive porn wing, and, of course, multiple spinner racks of comical books. Once I started going there (and we went there weekly, both my dad and I), my need to circulate amongst the other convenience stories pretty much declined (though I’d still pop in once in a while to tide me over between Strand visits). The weird thing about this newsstand, which has me wondering about their distributor situation, is that they’d occasional get stuff that primarily would go through the comic shop direct market. PC Comics, such as Groo and the Berni Wrightson Master of the Macabre, I found there. Fanzines like The Comic Reader. The first issue of Don Rosa’s Comics & Stories. The Comics Journal. And they seemed to get things a little bit earlier than my other funnybook sources, too.

Whatever the reason for their comic stocking advantages, this store became the place for me to get my regular comics fix…even after discovering Ralph’s Comic Corner, this place was still closer to us and I split my purchases between both shops. Eventually, I did more or less fully migrate over to just buying from Ralph’s, especially once I started seeking out back issues.

A lot of those places I used to buy from have since closed up shop, or stopped carrying comics…presumably for reasons unrelated to my no longer visiting them. It’s certainly a lot easier for me now to stay on top of gathering the comics I want to read, since all I have to do is wait for them to show up at my store after I order them. (I mean, theoretically, given the usual vagaries of our supplier.) Definitely more convenient, but somewhat…lacking in the mystery and excitement I used to feel traveling from shop to shop wondering what will be there, what new comic will I discover, what new stories will I hardly be able to wait to get home to read.

§ July 21st, 2012 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on …

Our sorrow for the victims of the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, and our sympathies for their family and friends.

Mike’s Lunchtime Update 3013.

§ March 1st, 2011 § Filed under Uncategorized § 1 Comment

  • Those Church ‘n’ Birdie cats, they pulled a fast one…America’s most beloved comic strip about a comic shop, The Rack, has returned! The cast is reintroduced here, and behold, the first “new look” strip! Characters live, characters die, nothing will ever be the same again!
  • And now, as part of an ongoing examination of the work of filmmaker Jim Wynorski, here’s an in-depth look at the cinematic classic The Return of Swamp Thing.

Something borrowed, something new, something bat, something blue.

§ August 29th, 2010 § Filed under Uncategorized § 3 Comments


Had no idea such a thing existed:

Batman Wedding Garter Set Black Bat with Gift Box

…now, when they come up with the Swamp Thing garter belt (vines) or Sluggo garter belt (shoelaces) then we’ll have something.

Love Superhero Style.

§ August 25th, 2010 § Filed under Uncategorized § 5 Comments


So regular commenter on the site, Roel Torres, and his drawin’ pal Scott Arnold have just unleashed their first comic book onto the world, Lightning Girl Loves Rocket Boy, an essentially done-in-one graphic novel featuring the romantic travails between two young college students who are also, it just happens, superheroes.

Roel was nice enough to pass along a copy to me, and I quite enjoyed it. I liked how the superheroics were pretty much just in the story for the purposes of how it affected the romance, and not the be-all, end-all of the story with a romantic subplot squeezed in. The dialogue is light and humorous when it needs to be, and services the romantic melodrama without being overly melodramatic and goofy.

Though it took me a page or three to get used to it, Arnold does a good job on the art, handling both the character interaction and the superheroics with his particularly stylized cartooning. All the characters are distinct and consistently portrayed and instantly recognizable, which is a plus considering the emphasis is on what happens to the leads when they’re NOT out in their superhero work uniforms.

The story itself is 50 pages long, but there’s a lot packed into it. There’s no wasted space on the pages, and no wasted time moving the plot along. No decompressed storytelling here. Yes, it’s a “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, does boy get girl back, I ain’t tellin'” plot, only with superheroes, and even with that twist, I’m sure we’re all familiar with the tropes of the genre. Even so, it still moves along at a quick and entertaining clip, and the basic story thread is given enough unique embellishment to go down easy.

If I were to bust the guys’ chops about a thing or two on the comic…having “The Beginning” at the end of the story? Oh, Roel ‘n’ Scott, say it ain’t so. You know the Mystery Science Theater 3000 guys would totally rake you over the coals for that. Also, the computer lettering used in the book was…well, not terrible, but just slightly distracting, but I got used to it. And there’s a panel or two in the comic where the characters felt like they weren’t really integrated into their backgrounds, such as when they’re standing on a rooftop but it looks more like they’re hovering over it or pasted into the panel. But that’s just getting nitpicky, and any rough edges the comic may have is the sort of thing experience takes care of. (Plus, I like comics with a rough edge or two…I’d rather read a comic produced by amateur creators just starting out in the field, like this one, than a fifteenth Avengers ongoing.)

But, overall, a good first effort, and I’d like to see more from these fellas. Maybe not more of this specific story, as, even though there’s a “#1” on the cover (and, ahem, “The Beginning”), it feels like we reached a definitive ending with this story and it’d be a shame to undo that. It stands on its own as an enjoyable addition to the relatively-sparse “Superhero Romance” genre.

If you go to the official blog, you can read an extensive preview of the comic, and you can order your very own copy right here.

• • •

In other news:

  • I received my package of Neil the Horse comics yesterday, and they’re all in good shape, with only the first issue having a crease or two on the covers. Can’t really complain for a 99-cent bid, though I have to admit I’m not thrilled about paying a certain amount for shipping, and then seeing that the actual shipping cost was only about a third of that. But…full run of Neil the Horse, under nine bucks total, stop complaining, Mike.
  • Hey, Superman: Secret Origin #6 is coming out today. Finally. Took ’em so long, it’s almost time to revise Superman’s origin again.
  • Bully, America’s Greatest Little Stuffed Bull, presents to you Archie Comics Versus Kids’ Fads. It’s a battle Archie only rarely won, if ever. (Ignore the first reader comment, where someone proclaims Archie late to the party for featuring a Wii-type game on a cover. Um, the Wii is still selling, last I heard. DO NOT TEMPT THE BULL’S WRATH, COMMENTER.)

In which I advertise a comic even further by discussing its advertising.

§ August 24th, 2010 § Filed under Uncategorized § 4 Comments


So Marvel and DC (well, mostly Marvel) regularly sends out packs of advertising postcards for shops to give away, usually listing all the tie-ins for a crossover series, or pushing some new title or storyline or what have you. They make for nice promotional items, and I’ve seen more than a few customers marking off titles they’ve picked up on the card’s checklists. And I’m sure a lot of them end up on display back at home somewhere…like, I’m not coming right out and saying that I have the “Planet Hulk” postcard on my fridge door, but I might.

That one I scanned above has received more reaction from our customers than any other card released so far. Okay, mostly it’s “they’re getting rid of a member of the Fantastic Four? Again?” but nearly everyone who’s seen the stack of these cards on the counter has commented on it. And really, this is about as perfectly pure and simple a targeted advertisement as I’ve ever seen. Okay, your average non-fan off the street may not get it, but every comic fan 1) recognizes this as the FF logo, and 2) knows that, hey, that should be a “4” in there, not a “3,” therefore something’s happening to one of the characters. The information on the back of the card is almost redundant…everything you need to know is pretty much right there on the front. (But if you need to know…it’s a storyline starting in next month’s FF. And you should be reading FF right now anyway, because writer Jonathan Hickman has been doing a good job on it.)

Anyhoo, just wanted to give some appreciation to this promo item. Well done, Marvel’s marketing department…well done.

• • •

In other news:

If one were to listen to the one year anniversary installment of War Rocket Ajax, featuring those Clown Princes of Podcasting Chris Sims and Eugene Ahn, you may hear them answering a Listener Question from a certain M. Sterling, at about the 1:27:30 mark.

EDIT 8-29-10: Had to shut off comments, as this particular post was attracting a lot of comment spam, for some reason.

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