Or there’s a secret message there only readable by comic fans under 10 years old.

§ July 10th, 2020 § Filed under self-promotion, sugar and spike § 5 Comments

Okay, this is probably the last time I’ll be linking this GoFundMe for raising money to finally (we hope!) fix my eyes, since, thanks to everyone’s kindness and generosity, we’re way past the goal. But I did put another update on the page, mostly thanking everyone again and describing how the money will be sued. And I can easily use nearly every cent for all my medical stuff.

But again, thanks to all of your support, whether you contributed financially, reposted the link, or thought good thoughts at me. It’s all quite welcome.

• • •

Okay, for today, here’s a weirdie I spotted in a 1971 issue of Sugar and Spike (#96, I believe) that I was processed at the shop on Thursday:

That’s…odd, right? Has DC ever left this much empty space on an ad page before (or since)? I mean, space clearly left for another house ad. Wonder why? I also wonder how whoever owned this comic originally fought the urge to fill that space with their own drawings. When I was a kid I absolutely would have. Hell, just looking at it now I want to draw something in there.

Oh, right, remember Miracleman?

§ July 8th, 2020 § Filed under self-promotion, superman, this week's comics, x-men § 4 Comments

So a couple of days ago I asked you all for a little help regarding my eyeball-related medical treatments and associated bills via a GoFundMe campaign. I was thinking at best I’d reach the goal amount, which would cover some outstanding bills, a couple laser treatments to hopefully, finally stem the constant bleeding in my eyes, and a few follow-up visits (likely requiring more injections).

Well, you really came through for me. The goal was reached within twelve ours, and folks are still contributing. Any extra money I receive will continue to go to medical bills and debt. If, with any luck, I finally get through this eye stuff and money is left over, I’ll find a worthy charity to give it to.

I said this on the GoFundMe page, and I’ve been blathering about it on Twitter…but I have been very moved by this enormous outpouring of help from everyone. I just couldn’t believe so many people care about some dude who sells comics and also types too much about them on the internet. I can’t possibly thank you all enough for what you’ve done.

• • •

Okay, so this week’s new issue of Superman reminded me a lot of the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League series from the ’80s, and I’m sure having that series’ artist Kevin Maguire on this new book helped a lot.

It was mostly a light, funny read except, of course, when it wasn’t, as Superman and Dr. Fate try to work out whatever problems Supes is having. More something that’s essentially talking heads (what, in a Bendis book, who would’ve guessed) it remains compelling reading as Superman works through his feelings on recent events in his comics. It’s not often you see your mainstream superhero books tackle the emotional impact of whatever super-shenanigans they were responsible for. And here you do, and somehow it’s interesting.

Plus I forgot we had a new Dr. Fate, which is from…I don’t know, two or three reboots ago, right? So I didn’t know if that new Fate was still around or if we were back to the original dude. If the new guy’s turned up in other stuff recently, I don’t know, since I’m still behind on just about everything. I’m catching up, though, one comic at a time!

Now this one I was interested in, as, hold onto your hats, I’ve never actually read the original graphic novel! In fact, my primary memory of God Loves, Man Kills is when I somehow managed to catch some religious TV show in the early 1980s looking at some then-recent comic books, including that very volume. I can’t remember many specifics about what the panel on this show had to say, except they weren’t entirely thrilled with the imagery of Professor X being crucified, and that the ended the discussion with “this cost $5.95? I remember when they were ten cents!” (Also, they talked a little about Thor, and his being the “God of Thunder” which was also apparently a problem.)

Anyway, I finally have my mitts on at least half the story, and since this is the “extended cut,” there are a few new introductory pages of what I’m presuming to be a framing sequence (with the other part of the frame in #2), featuring Kitty Pryde. Oh, and it’s by Chris (excuse me, “Christopher”) Claremont and Brent Anderson, the folks what did the original book. You know, that’s kinda neat. And there’s some back matter, too, interviews and such about the making of this story.

The story is pretty much Peak X-Men, with all the characters you’d expect, hanging out in the mansion, getting persecuted for being mutants, all that sort of thing. I mean, when I think “X-Men Comics,” this is what I think of, down to being written by Mr. Claremont, back before the 1990s arrived and the X-franchise was splintered and more-or-less destroyed. Well, okay, maybe the endless array of never-ending subplots aren’t as involved, but you can’t have everything.

And it turns out, it’s a good story, in case you hadn’t heard about this here graphical novel. A Falwell-type religious leader has it in for them mutants, successfully taking them on in the media, and meanwhile, some bad people are going around killing mutants, and The X-Men Are There to put a stop to all this. A nice point that’s made is that in a televised debate between said religious leader (Stryker) and leader of the X-Men, Professer Charles Xavier, it’s Stryker who comes out the clear winner, being charismatic and convincing and knowing ahow to play to the cameras, while our Professor X, who doesn’t know how to deal with the media, comes out a bit off-putting. A nice comment on how “truth” and “facts” can get easily steamrolled.

Another interesting bit in this half of the story involves Kitty, and the aftermath of her fight with a fellow dance class student who thinks Stryker’s got the right idea about getting rid of mutants. Kitty, a mutant herself, clearly objects to this, and her classmate refers to her as a “mutie-lover.” Following a brief scuffle, the instructor of the class, Stevie Hunter, a Black woman, tries to calm Kitty down, to which Kitty responds how Ms. Hunter would have responded if the other student had said “n*****-lover” instead.

The N-word is not censored in the comic, which I wanted to address, if only because not that long ago, in Marvel’s Miracleman reprints, the same word was censored, when it wasn’t in the original. I suspect the difference is context, in which the X-Men usage is simply making explicit the X-Men’s allegorical themes regarding racism and bigotry, while in Miracleman it’s a Black man using the word to describe himself in a derisive manner. Both uses are about the racist treatment of Black people, but the X-Men example is a little more obvious in its purpose. …Or, you know, just different editors making different decisions, and I’m just reading too much into it, which, you know, I never do. Regardless, it was still a bit of a shock to see, particularly in the current questioning of whether white people should even be using that slur in any context, no matter the point being made. Look, I don’t even like typing the censored version here.

I am glad I finally read this, or at least half of it, after all these years. It’s definitely a product of its time, with evil folks using religious as a weapon against the oppressed. Whew, thank goodness that doesn’t happen anymore. Anyway, maybe I’ll get around to reading that New Mutants graphic novel next. Nobody spoil it for me.

So it’s come to this.

§ July 6th, 2020 § Filed under eyeball, letters of comment, self-promotion § 4 Comments

Hi pals! I actually spent my blogging time Sunday night to work on this: a GoFundMe campaign to help me pay for more eyeball procedures. I didn’t want to have to do it, but also I want to see, and with my personal resources kinda stripmined after a couple of years of eyeball injections and surgeries, plus the recent economic COVID-19 downturn, I could use the help. If you can contribute, or at least share, it would be appreciated.

Okay, let me try to get a little comic book-y content into this post so it’s not all just me picking your pocket.

Longtime reader Wayne (who recently gifted me with a replacement copy of the Darkseid/Galactus crossover — thanks, Wayne!) asked about letter column writers:

“…Has anyone ever written to a prolific letter writer? I’m as old as dirt, but I wrote to T. M. (The Mad) Maple and even found Irene Vartanoff online with her own blog. I wrote Dean Mullaney long before Eclipse Comics was a thing. I don’t necessarily miss letter columns, but even Martin Pasko was prolific for awhile.

“Other names I remember are Danny Fingeroth and Elvis Orten. I’ve been meaning to bring this up for awhile.”

All familiar names, of course! I know at the previous place of employment I either sold via eBay or just direct mail order somethin’ or ‘nother to Mr. Mullaney. I suppose that counts as “writing” him, maybe.

Now I never really sought out and directly wrote any letterhacks (though I believe I’ve mentioned before how my one letter printed in an issue of Superman resulted in convention and club fliers being mailed to me). BUT…shortly after I started blogging here, I made a silly joke about how, rather than waiting for the trade, I was waiting for the microfiche. Well, Augie De Blieck Jr. was tickled by that and mentioned it in his column for Comic Book Resources. [Should tell you right now…plenty of linkrot in those posts, but not for the actual microfiche link, amazingly enough.] I recognized Augie’s name from letter columns and from the fact that I’d been reading his stuff on the comic sties for a while, so I was equally tickled by that. And Augie and I have had an online friendship ever since, which makes me very happy.

Now one of my habits, when I’m processing old comic books, is peeking at the letters pages to see if I recognize any names. Sometimes I’d see future pros, but every once in a while I’d catch a letter from a customer of mine at the shop! I once found one in a 1973 comic from someone I knew had to be the same person because he had a very unusual name…and when I asked, yup, sure enough.

Had another customer get a letter printed in…Green Lantern, I think, in the 1960s, back when they were giving away original art to “best letter of the month” or whatever, and he ended up with a chapter from a Flash/GL crossover. I remember him telling me (sometime in the 1990s) that he still had people tracking him down to get that art from him. He still has it all, far as I know.

A little more recently, my old friend Mark got the “featured letter” treatment in a couple of latter day Astro City issues, which were nice surprises to me.

UGH. Up too late again, so it’s off to the ol’ hammock for me. Thanks for reading, and for contributing lots and lots of money to my GoFundMe, nudge nudge. See you Wednesday.

No, it wasn’t me (though I admit the circumstantial evidence of my birthday is a tad damning). Also, yes, that’s a Morrison reference.

§ July 3rd, 2020 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin § 7 Comments

Okay, might as well make this a week of “Mike Crawls Up His Own Bottom” posts, so let me try to wrap it all up here with this posty-post.

Nate asked in the comments of my last post:

“I ask this every time someone reminisces about the golden age of comics blogging, but does anyone have a clue as to what happened to Dick Hyacinth of ‘Savage Critics’ and ‘Dick Hates Your Blog?’ He was a regular presence and then, poof, he was gone…”

What Age of Comics Blogging are we in now? The Just Barely Hanging In There Age, I’m presuming. Anyway, for those of you who missed it, Dick Hyacinth was a relatively acerbic comics blogger who popped up in 2007, cranked out a lotta posts for a couple of years, then vanished mysteriously on, of all dates, my birthday in 2009. He was…not a fan of what comics blogs were doing, as you can probably judge by the title of his site, and he wasn’t shy about saying so, at a time when most of us were generally playing nice with each other. I know a friend or two got into it with him over one thing or another. Aside from that, some of his comics criticism and discussion of the industry was worth reading, I think, and when going back over his blog I found myself looking at more than one thing he wrote and thinking “…yeah, he had a point.” I know he brought me up once or twice but was actually fairly complimentary, so I guess he didn’t hate every blog.

It does seem just a little strange that he up and quit without any notice, but only a little. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, uncommon for bloggers to have a strong start then dry up with no warning. What’s unusual here is that he also had a side gig writing reviews for another site, so the thinking is that he was a little more established than someone just blogging on a whim. But, hey, people burn out, or have other responsibilities that take precedence (I believe he mentioned a few times that he had a kid, or maybe kids) so there you go.

As to the person behind the pseudonym…I kinda think maybe he was another blogger or columnist or whathaveyou deciding to be a bit more blunt under an assumed name to avoid blowback. Or he was just an observer of what was going on in the comicsweblogosphere and decided “THESE PEOPLE NEED ME.” I mean, who knows. I don’t suppose it really matters now, eleven years on.

I’ll probably go through and revisit some of his entries at some point, and try to remember just why exactly he got up all our noses at the time. I know then I was bothered by some of what he’d said, but also, as I said back in Monday’s post, I’m not quite as uptight about this sort of thing. Could be the worst I’ll think looking back at his work is “boy, he’s really playing up his schtick here” and wonder why we were all so angry with him in the first place. Or I will get reminded and become angry all over again. I’M A JUMBLE OF RAGING EMOTIONS

Talking about this reminded me of one guy, years ago…a comics columnist of some sort who for whatever reason decided to point out that I wasn’t as funny as I thought I was. At the time I posted a response (not linking to the article, which is probably long gone anyway, along with its author) where I essentially said “hey, fine, everybody has a different sense of what’s funny, it’s okay if he doesn’t like me,” when what I should have said was “FUCK YOU, I’M HILARIOUS” but l’esprit d’escalier and all that.

And then there was that one guy who took to the message boards to complain about me and pal Dorian about being a couple of real jerks because, as far as we were able to determine, we didn’t like a comic he liked, I think? Also, same dude had me put together a sizable mail order for him then stiffed me on payment. But now I’m just listing grievances. Don’t worry, everyone, I’m too old and creaky to seek my bloody vengeance on anyone. I’ll just write satirical poems about them in my newsletter.

And the rest of the ACAPCWOVCCAOE, if you remember what that is.

§ July 1st, 2020 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, eyeball § 3 Comments

My apologies for missing the first part of the week…I’m still undergoing some eye issues, which rose up over the weekend. I’m okay right now, but it’s very likely more signiciant treatment is coming in the future to correct some of the ongoing issues I’ve had for the last year or two. I ask your patience and the patience for my customers as well as I deal with this. Don’t worry, everything will be fine! Just have a few more things to do in order to get everything fixed.

Anyway, I want to add a couple of notes to the last way-too-long post on Your Pal Mike’s Blogging History:

First, I neglected to mention Alan David Doane as one of the foundational bloggers of the very early Aughts, and he’s written about what he’s up to in regards to the whole funnybook thing. Alan has always been very supportive of Progressive Ruin, and one of my favorite moments early on is when he made his list of Favorite Things About Comics and my dumb site was on his list. I’ve since worked with Alan on a few of his online projects which was a great deal of fun, and hopefully we’ll work together on something in the future.

SECRET FUN FACT: before I was menacing the world on the World Wide Web, and long before we knew each other, Alan once mail ordered some comics from my previous place of employment, which I personally packaged up and shipped.

Another point I should have mentioned was how the Comics Journal’s linkblog Journalista was very important in driving traffic to this site early on. Curator Dirk Deppey was very generous with the ProgRuin links, even saying about me (in a quote I preserved on my linkrot-enhanced About page):

“…Definitely one of the better new comics bloggers to emerge so far this year.”

This was of course well before my slow decline into this shadow of a man I am now, but I always appreciated those kind words. Particularly coming from a representative of The Comics Journal, a magazine I’d long read and respected.

I believe i may have pal Ian Brill to blame for bringing me to his attention, as he’d often bring me up in the ol’ TCJ message boards. So really, the blame’s probably all on him.

One person I’m especially remiss in not mentioning is my good friend and former coworker pal Dorian. Hours of just chatting about comics at the shop while we worked is probably a significant part of why we both ended up in comics blogging in the first place. A lot of our content was generated by trying to make each other laugh, and we often collaborated on material, not the least of which was “Doctor Doom’s Top Ten Euphemisms for Sex.”

Now Dor had to curtail his blogging mostly due to work stuff, but he’s still around, he’s still my pal, and I have to admit a lot of what I write has “I wonder what Dorian will think of this?”

The reason I call him “Pal Dorian?” Early on, before Dorian had his own blog, I’d often bring him up on my site, because, as I’d mentioned, much of the content here would come from our interactions. And rather than explain every time who Dorian was whenever I brought him up, I just called him “Pal” and figured that would get the point across. I’ve since used “Pal” for most of my real world friends.

One exception is Kid Chris, whom I started calling that and the nickname, like, just stuck. Everyone called him that. He’s now teaching English to kids in Korea and I’m pretty sure his students call him that.

Anyway, I owe lots of folks for the success (or “success”) of this site, including all my former coworkers and my old boss Ralph…other comics bloggers, my parents and my girlfriend Nora…y’know, all the people I generally bring up in my self-aggrandizing anniversary posts in December.

Okay, enough of all that. Back to actual comic books next time.

WARNING: I say the word “blog” a lot.

§ June 26th, 2020 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin § 12 Comments

Okay, I promise I’m getting back to crossover comic talk soon, but my post about Bully the Little Retired Bull on Wednesday had me thinking about things ‘n’ stuff.

I just Googled “average blog lifespan” and the first answer that popped up was 100 days. That seems…I don’t know, I’m of two minds about it. It either seems too long (having seen plenty of blogs that got one or two posts then immediately tried up) or too short (my own purely uninformed guesstimate being closer to about 2 to 3 years). But I guess that makes sense…if you’re at it for 2 to 3 years, it’s become a habit/routine/whatever and you’re more likely to continue. If you don’t have the inspiration or wherewithal to put time into your site…yeah, just over three months is probably a long enough span for people to figure out blogging’s not for them.

So what I’m trying to say is…Bully making it to 15 years is quite the achievement, particularly given some of the labor-intensive posts he would do. I’ll be hitting the 17 year mark in December, and Johanna Draper Carlson‘s been at it longer that. And of course there’s Neilalien, the first prominent comics weblogger, who retired from full-time blogging in his 11th year back in 2011, but continues to update his sidebar with bits of comics news, especially if it has to do with Doctor Strange.

And there are still more active comic blogs, a few dating from the heyday of the early to mid-2000s, and plenty of newer ones. The “Update-A-Tron” (as I dubbed the service long ago, and the creator happily adopted the name!) is a good place to still check and see who’s still updating. Mike over at Zombie Cat Bacon had been doing an ongoing series of posts that I hope he gets back to, in which he goes through many of the comic weblogs to see what’s happened to them. Search his site for “All Blogs Go to Heaven” for those posts. (Here’s a sample.)

I’ve made lots of jokes here and on the Twitters about being the Last Comics Blogger, which clearly isn’t true. Plenty of folks out there doin’ it, including several from the aforementioned heyday. And there are many other venues for folks interested in talking about comics online…podcasts, of course, and I understand there are also YouTube shows but I only ever hear about the terrible ones.

“Blogging is dead” is thrown out there relatively often nowadays, but while it’s not quite the thing it was, it’s not exactly six feet under just yet. Even as group comic blogs and corporately-owned comic blogs became more prominent, here we were, the little guys, still typing away at our keyboards for whatever audiences we still had…not for fame, or for money, but because we had something we needed to say, to put out into the world, and with a little time, internet connection, and webhosting we were able to do so.

I started doing the online comics thing in the…late ’80s, early ’90s, or thereabouts, calling local BBSes and participating in comics discussions there, if any were going on. As it turned out, many of the folks on those BBSes were customers of mine at the comic shop I worked at then (having started in comics retail in ’88). Some of those people remain friends to this very day. Pal Andy was one. And Kevin, who unfortunately passed away earlier this year. Eventually I started running my own comics forums on one or two of those boards.

Once America Online rolled around, I started trying to participate in the comic message boards there…but this was around the time of the comics market boom, and it felt like the conversation was dominated by investment talk versus actually reading the darn things. Granted, it’s been a long time, and my memory may be selective, but I really remember the discussions there not really being anything I wanted to participate in.

In the mid-90s or thereabouts, once full-on internet connections were more available, I started what I’ve since come to call “Progressive Ruin Version 1.0.” According to my “What’s New” section, I opened the site on November 8th, 1996. Not a blog, but more a link/archive site, providing an online presence for our mini-comics concern, terrible desktop patterns (which got me mentioned in a computer mag, apparently!), copies of my articles for that music magazine I wrote for, and other stuff. However, if you were to look at that “What’s New” section, the entries are very bloglike, I think.

A tad bit later (October 2000, to be exact, according to the user stats there), I joined LiveJournal, where I began to really cut my blogging teeth. I started to post more pic-heavy posts about comics, including a few discussing some pretty crazy Silver Age books that eventually got reworked for the current site. And once I discovered actual comic blogs outside of LJ, I decided to try my hand at that.

I knew I wanted my own domain name (reusing “Progressive Ruin” from my initial site, also since used on a mini-comic of mine…and please note, I’m wrong in that tweet…the PR name predates the comic by three years!). My first call around 2001 to my local ISP quoted me a fairly outrageous price for setting up my own domain, so it waited ’til 2003 when, after a little more research (and some sweetheart deal on webhosting) I finally registered progressiveruin.com and set up what you’re reading now, aside from some changes in design and blogging software.

Like I said, I’ve been at this specific site for the better part of two decades. I don’t post as often as I used to (like, posting every day because I was terrified of losing my audience), but I’m still here, still writing about comics and the comics industry. One of the side effects of my recent eyeball troubles was that it was a lot harder to actually read comics. It was hard to crack wise about older stories, it was hard to react to newer ones…but I always have plenty to say about the retail end of things. I think I was one of the few comic bloggers who wrote about comics from the perspective of someone actually working in a comic shop, and obviously that’s something I still do now. Even after all this time, I have things I want to say, even if I repeat myself a little. Look, I’m old, I’m allowed to.

Now what’s up with Progressive Ruin in…the future? Well, I noted on Twitter that I plan to stick with blogging so long as I’m still in the industry, however long that is. If, Galactus forbid, my shop folds someday, I imagine I’ll have a few things to write about that, but once I’m out of the business, I’m probably out of writing about it too.

That said, I have no intention of leaving the business, and especially don’t intend to close up my shop. They’re gonna find me at the ripe old age of 99, slumped over a pile of X-O Manowar, and they’re gonna say “that Mike Sterling, he died with his Mylar™ bags on.” Perhaps between now and then, WordPress will be bought out by Disney and turned into a Star Wars toy of some kind, and I’ll have to move to some other platform to express myself with Progressive Ruin 3.0, but so long as I’m slingin’ comics, I’ll have something to say about them.

Could very well be that I’ll eventually follow Neilalien’s path, archiving most of the site and just posting occasional small updates. Or I could stretch out the posting schedule, one or two posts a month, something like that. I do have an eventual plan to create an index page, pointing you all to Posts of Note from the site’s past, but that’s still in its infancy. That could be the site’s landing page someday if I decide to do what Neilalien did.

I’ve mentioned this to a few people over the years, but mostly to pal Dorian, about how I thought I’d end my blog back when I was thinking about how that would happen, in the mid-2000s. I’d have a post where I said my goodbyes…and the the next week I’d have one final post entitled “SCORCHED EARTH,” where I just lay into all the stupid things and terrible people I’d dealt with in the comics industry, online and off. This was a half-joking idea (even then, I wasn’t really planning on ending the site any time in the near future) but some folks really got up my nose at times and I wanted to let them have it. Well, needless to say, I never did that, and besides, I’m pretty sure I outlasted most of the people I wanted to lambast. I can’t even remember who they were or why they irritated me, frankly.

That sort of thing seems so foreign to me now…as I mentioned to Bully’s friend John when I was talking about this with him, I think I’m a lot less tightly wound now that I was 15, 10…hell, even five years ago. Opening my own shop probably helped a bit. In fact, I know it did…soon as I opened my own doors I had customers who’d known me for a while tell me “boy, you sure look a lot happier!” And I think I am, even with the extra pressure being a small business owner puts upon me. But whatever the reason, I don’t fall into the “someone is wrong on the Internet!” trap so often any more. There’s always going to be stupidity and meanness out there, but reacting to it with a lighter touch and less intensity is a lot healthier for my blood pressure.

Speaking of opening my own shop…one side effect of having this blog is, well, advertising. Wasn’t intended to be, but regardless, there it is. If you look at the early posts in this category, I take everyone along on the trip as the store is built and prepped, and more than once I’ve said “HEY BUY STUFF FROM ME” and occasionally I wasn’t even that subtle about it. I don’t know how many readers of this site have since become customers of mine…even now I have new customers sending in requests simply because they’ve been reading my blatherings here. I am of course terribly grateful for that.

Look, believe it or not, I have even more to say on the topic (whatever the topic may have been, I think I lost the thread somewhere), but for now let me sum up: I’m not going anywhere. I plan to sell comics for the rest of my life, and I plan to talk about it. Here’s hoping you all continue listening.

NOTE: I’m up way too late. I’ll check for typos tomorrow.

Don’t think about the math.

§ June 24th, 2020 § Filed under pal plugging, this week's comics § 9 Comments

Alas, it has come to pass on this, the occasion of his seventh birthday, that Bully the Little Bull Stuffed with Love, is bringing his website Comics Oughta Be Fun to a close after fifteen years.

Bully (with the assistance of his pal John, who helps Bully type since he’s too small to reach the keyboard) has been one of the purest delights of the comics internet, with an endless library of comics and a staggering knowledge of the artform. Always presented with good cheer, enthusiasm, and delightful humor, Bully was a dependable break from the sarcasm and cynicism that too many others (including myself) often utilized. To read Bully was to read joy, to remember why it is we all love comic books…and we all do remember why, even if it’s buried beneath layers of accumulated mental crud caused by industry shenanigans and less-than-great publications.

Bully was also a good friend to me, personally, and I’m glad to have known him…oh, and his friend John too. More than a handful of times have I asked Bully for production assistance on some post I was trying to put together, and he always came through, bless his little fuzzy heart. And of course he occasionally found time to razz me a little:


Anyway, I am sorry to see Bully wrap up his blog, but am glad we were able to enjoy it for so many years. And of course, despite me continually talking about Bully in the past tense here, he’s still around on Twitter as one of the very few good things on that platform. And, if I know Bully, I’m sure he’ll find even more ways to continue reminding us that comics oughta be fun.

Here’s to you, Bully and John, and please, always remember:

• • •

So, in a minor tribute to Bully’s long internet efforts, let me talk about a couple of fun comics right now! It’s the stunning return of the “This Week’s Comics” category, after being years behind on purt’near everything due to my ongoing eyeball situation. Well, while I still have eyeball issues to contend with, I have been able to get actual prescription glasses, thus allowing me to finally start trying to catch up on my funnybook reading. Oh, and also work and drive and stuff, I guess.

I’m not entirely behind…I did attempt to at least keep up on a couple of titles during those brief periods I could see well enough to struggle through a comic armed with a pair of dollar store reading glasses. And one of those titles was Immortal Hulk, a new issue of which comes out this week:

This continues to be the best comic Marvel is current publishing. Hulk-as-horror-comic is a natural interpretation of the character, one that’s been touched upon many times in the past but not for the extended examination that this series has provided. Psychological and body horror mixed together with nightmarish interpretations of Hulk’s enemies and allies, combined with the overarching existential dread that always lurks behind every plot twist and character moment in this book. It’s lotsa fun, honest!

Ol’ Sam Sterns, The Leader, the fella what got super-strong brains from gamma radiation instead of the muscles the Hulk received, is the focus of this issue, though perhaps you guessed that from the cover. We see the history of the character, from his beginnings to present day, and if you’ve read Hulk comics for way too long like I have, you definitely recognize some of the stops the narrative makes along the way. Certain events are recontextualized for the overall themes the book explores, particularly those of life and death and resurrection, and it’s all endlessly fascinating.

It was recently announced that the series is wrapping up with issue #50, and while it’s disappointing to have one less good comic to read, it is good that the creative team will be given the option to conclude the story on their own terms. Of course, we’re all gonna feel sorry for whoever takes over the Hulk next.

Should note that this is the work of regular series writer Al Ewing, while quest-artists Butch Guice and Tom Palmer fit right in. I hardly noticed the difference.

A confession: aside from Action Comics #1000, I haven’t read any of the recent 80th Anniversary specials DC has released. I want to read ’em, I have a copy of each of them, but, well, I refer you a couple of paragraphs back where I complain about my eyes yet again.

But gosh darn it the Green Lantern anniversary special came out today, and while I have working eyes and good glasses I was going to read the darn thing. And read it I did.

First, of course I was going to go for the ’60s cover variant, with the go-go checks and the swell art by Doug Mahnke and David Baron. I think they did a good job differentiating the different decades represented on the covers…I didn’t even have to look at the small print in the corners to figure out which one was which. (Unlike the Joker anniversary covers from a couple of weeks ago, where…maybe the ’40s one looked like it was trying to evoke the 1940s?)

The contents are a good read as well, starting off with a pleasantly done Alan Scott story that addresses the origin of a particular aspect of that version of Green Lantern. (Will note that seeing Doiby Dickles, the Golden Age GL’s sidekick, being called “Derby” feels so terribly weird to me.) And I know y’all like to kick Geoff Johns around, but his contribution is a simple character piece with an amusing payoff. The rest of the book is enjoyable as well, with nice bits featuring Jessica Cruz, Simon Baz, Sinestro and Kilowog, plus a story where the other GLs talk about Guy Gardner…it’s a good piece, but a tiny bit distressing, which you’ll see when you read it.

The book is filled out with several pin-ups, including a great image of Guy Gardner by Joe Staton, the very fella who helped usher him back into the DC Universe back in those long-ago 1980s. The back pages are a mini-who’s who of the various Green Lanterns, human and otherwise.

Anyway, both of these are fun comics. As they oughta be.

I think the world is ready for a Concrete/Thing crossover.

§ June 22nd, 2020 § Filed under cerebus, dc comics, marvel, publishing § 15 Comments

So remember last week when we were talking about the Marvel/DC crossovers, and which ones I thought we the good’uns? Well, a couple of you had questions, so let me address those first:

John Lancaster tossed his line into the water with

“Seems to me that a lot of good crossovers that aren’t Marvel/DC are getting forgotten”

and then he proceeds to list some ones that are indeed good. My focus of the post was specifically just the Marvel/DC encounters, but I had planned on address some of the crossovers involving other companies as well. In other words, let’s talk about Deathmate:

Ah, just ribbin’ ya a little, and I’ve already talked about Deathmate at length if you want to go relive that.

But yes, there were plenty of crossovers among the smaller companies, sometimes even with either Marvel or DC. A personal favorite is 1994’s Archie Meets the Punisher (AKA Punisher Meets Archie, as per the Marvel-published diecut cover version):

General reaction to this at the time when this was announced was “Whaaa–!?” and for good reason, though it turned out to actually be a bit of fun. with art by Stan Goldberg and John Buscema.

Archie Comics, in fact, seems pretty game to cross over their character with other companies even to this say. John mentioned Archie Vs. Predator (which featured some fairly shocking content for an Archie comic, but in this post-Afterlife with Archie world, pretty much anything is fair game, I suspect). We’ve also had Archie meet up with Batman ’66, and the Archie gang turned up in issue #13A of Gen13 back in ’96:

I remember that one surprising me more than the Punisher crossover, for some reason. Like, Marvel and the Punisher were fairly “mainstream” and high profile, versus a relatively unknown (though admittedly popular) indie book. Wasn’t sure what Archie was going to get out of that…except, after thinking about it for a second, exposure of the characters to an audience that might otherwise not have paid attention to them, duh.

I suspect creator-owned titles are a little easier to negotiate with when it comes to crossovers like this, simply due to less layers of bureaucracy being involved. I mean, I’m about to exaggerate a little, but assembling the deal to make this happen feels like it probably only took about five minutes:

Don’t write to tell me I’m wrong, I know I am, but you have to admit the process of Todd ‘n’ Dave getting together to team up Spawn and Cerebus probably was a great deal less involved than JLA/Avengers. And Mr. Sim wasn’t shy about letting Cerebus show up here and yonder in other people’s independent comics, which again probably consisted of a fax asking if they could use the character, and Dave faxing back “yeah, sure.” Okay, granted the two that immediately come to mind are Journey and normalman, both Aardvark-Vanaheim publications at the time, like Cerebus, but I know there were others. Alas, the fabled X-Men/Cerebus didn’t happen (beyond a piece of promo art). But look, all I got for that Mr. Monster/Swamp Thing proposed team-up was a single piece of art as well:

…so we all just have to suffer.

More on specific crossovers next time, maybe, but let’s address Thom H.’s query briefly:

“I mean, is it that difficult or costly to have an inter-company meeting to discuss splitting the costs and profits 50/50? It seems like something two lawyers could do via email.”

As it was explained to me by someone also in the comics publishing business, it’s the potential profits that are a problem. Apparently neither Marvel nor DC feel like they’d be making enough profit on bringing any of these back in print, that having only 50% of the take isn’t enough. Now it seems to me making a little money is better than making no money (believe me, I’ve told myself that plenty of times at the shop after looking at the end-of-day receipts) but the Big Two don’t see it that way, I guess.

My half-facetious solution was that each company get the rights to publish their own paperbacks reprinting their crossovers…like, DC could publish JLA/Avengers under their own trade dress, and Marvel could do the same, titling it Avengers/JLA and putting it out with their trade dress, and they could agree to just keep all the profits from their versions. But I can see other problems arising from this (like, what happens when Marvel lets theirs fall out of print almost immediately…can DC still keep publishing their own?) so that may not be much of a solution.

So I don’t know, Thom…maybe when we enter a cashless society then someday all these comics will come back into print. In the meantime…WRITE YOUR CONGRESSPERSON! I’m sure they have nothin’ else going on right now, let them deal with this issue.

Okay, more crossover talk next time? Eh, we’ll see. In the meantime, be good to each other, wear your masks and wash your hands, and for God’s sake quick setting off your firecrackers at night, old comic shop owners need to get their beauty sleep.

“Buy a CD,” said the guy obviously in his 50s.

§ June 18th, 2020 § Filed under eyeball, real world stuff § 16 Comments

Okay, I do plan on getting back to the whole intercompany crossover business we were talking about last time. What I was going to talk about today was the fact that I finally got prescription glasses (my eyes finally being stable enough for them, but still prone to occasional bleeds) and have started to try to read the enormous backlog of comics I’ve got waiting for me at home. I’m literally a year behind on some titles.

But something needs to be said about comics writer Warren Ellis and writer/artist Cameron Stewart, both of whom are facing allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior. You can read about what’s going on with Ellis here, and Stewart here. No word that I’ve seen from Ellis, but I saw Stewart locked down some of his social media presence.

Now…okay, I don’t really know anything about Stewart, aside from seeing his name on some comics here and there (and I know I enjoyed the Batgirl run he worked on) but I am quite familiar with Ellis, as I suspect most of the folks reading a comics blog like this would be as well. I think it’s safe to say that Ellis had cultivated a persona of being someone who did not suffer fools, was encouraging of new work by independent creators, supportive of the rights of women and the LGBTQ community. So of course it’s greatly disappointing to hear these reports coming out about him. I mean, it’s disappointing to hear them come out about anybody, but Ellis, in particular…you can’t help but think “but surely he was smarter than that?”

I have no idea how this is going to shake out…while I’m all for “innocent until proven guilty,” I’m also for “believe women,” and there is a lot of stuff just kinda pouring out right now. I am curious as to what Ellis, and Stewart too I suppose, are going to have to say in response, whether they’re apologies of varying levels of sincerity, or just a flurry of self-defensive libel suits, I don’t know.

But I do know that I hate seeing these stories come out of the comics industry, a business primarily built on telling stories about good conquering evil, in which evil is continually inflicted on good people and so often goes unpunished. Or worse, unmentioned.

Reader Hooper left a comment on my last post regarding these recent events. You should read the whole post, but I did want to respond to one part of it. Hooper says

“…I feel guilty for contributing to their careers by seeking out their work and purchasing their art.”

Well…you really shouldn’t. How could you have known? It’s not your fault. I mean, you have to go through life and make your decisions based on the idea that folks whose work you’re supporting are operating in good faith. You can’t buy a CD thinking while you hand over the money “I sure hope this guy isn’t a child molester!” You’d drive yourself crazy second-guessing yourself like that. Don’t feel bad that you supported someone who turned out to not be a good person. Don’t even feel bad that you enjoyed the work in the past. Just think “I know better now” and stop supporting that creator. Maybe that creator will make amends, work to better himself, do proper penance, and someday be worthy of support again. Or maybe not. But it’s all on the person who did wrong. It’s certainly not on you, the consumer who didn’t know.

Sigh. Sorry, I don’t have a funny or pithy wrap-up to this post. These are just ugly situations, and I hate that these things happen. I really do.

Money on the table.

§ June 15th, 2020 § Filed under dc comics, marvel, Uncategorized § 6 Comments

Continuing from Friday’s post, where I was going on about intercompany crossovers…well, once again I ran out the clock on my blogging time, so let’s see what I can cover at least briefly here. I did want to mention a couple more favorites of mine…though, oddly enough, I ended up putting a couple of them on sale here at the shop, like a big dummy, but I suppose I can replace them someday.

The first two Marvel/DC ones I wanted to point out as being particular notable, and the first tow have one thing in common: John Byrne. Now, Byrne seems to be most in his wheelhouse when playing in Jack Kirby’s playground, and that’s definitely the case with Darkseid Vs. Galactus: The Hunger:

It helps that Galactus is a character I’d liked since I was a kid, and that Byrne’s Galactus is the one that I was really into, so it was nice to see Byrne returning to him. And pitting two of Kirby’s big baddies from either side of the publishing aisle is hard to resist. Sadly, it’s been a while since I’ve read this, so I forget most of the details (again, wish I hadn’t given up this comic) but the conclusion, as I recall, is a pretty good and clever defining moment for each character.

The other Byrne-produced crossover was Batman/Captain America, presented as a period piece with both characters in the World War II-era incarnations. You’ve likely seen the much-scanned-and-posted sequence from this book where the Joker, discovering that his partner in crime, the Red Skull, is a Nazi, turns on him, declaring himself an all-American criminal (shades of The Rocketeer movie). It’s a good scene, and the comic overall is a lot of fun…Byrne gets to play with Kirby’s Cap, and I’ve always liked his version of Batman.

Of note, I had a copy of this in the shop recently, and posted a pic on the store Instagram. I received a lot of requests for it (not just on Instagram, but in email, via Twitter DMs, etc.). Alas, had but the one to sell, but it certainly demonstrated the demand for these things.

Another book I wanted to mention was Incredible Hulk Vs. Superman, featuring beautiful art by Steve Rude (and honestly, would you expect any less from The Dude?). As was noted in the comments to my last post, it’s a nice retro-presentation for both characters, with the early ’60s version of the Hulk and the Golden Age-esque style of Superman, which nicely matches Roger Stern’s story placing this encounter early in the careers of both.

It’s a common thought I have about comic works of notes, but it’s a real shame material like this is out of print and difficult to come by. A nice, permanent edition of this (or any of thse intercompany crossovers) would be perennial sellers. I realize there are economic reasons that make it difficult to keep these in print, but still, what a waste and what a shame.

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