Okay, let’s try this again.

§ September 28th, 2020 § Filed under collecting § 12 Comments

Some of my ProgRuin-readin’ pals out there have contributed good suggestions to the most recent Question Time post, and I look forward to getting to them in the near future. If you have a question or blogging suggestion for me, feel free to drop it in the comments to that post! Not today’s post, that’d be confusing.

Anyway, let me get back to that question D (am I spelling that right?) asked in the comments to last Monday’s post, which caused me to stumble hard when I tried to answer the first time:

“What did you think of A-V’s other comics output? At the height of my Cerebus fandom I believe I was buying everything they put out. I still consider Journey one of my favorite series of all time & wish Bill Loebs had been able to finish Wardrums. But I bought the entire run of Neil the Horse, normalman & continued to buy Flaming Carrot even after its move to Dark Horse. Deni continued with Ms.Tree, another series I loved. Hell, I even bought that weird Ditko thing she published. A real shame that Renegade Press failed, it had a cool niche.”

Okay, I had paragraph after paragraph in my initial draft that was just rambling text that went nowhere and, frankly, is probably not a surprise to anyone who’s read my writing more than once. So, I’m going to try to keep it simple. Yes, D — may I call you D? — I certainly did read other output from the home of Dave Sim’s Cerebus, Aardvark-Vanaheim, and Renegade Press, run by Dave’s ex-wife (and former A-V publisher) Deni Loubert. But in several cases, I didn’t read them “in real time.”

For example, I was buying normalman from issue #1 (and still my favorite of Jim Valentino’s many creations — sorry, Arson). But there was that weird-ass crossover with Journey in issue #13, so I picked that up off the shelf at the time.

Now normalman (always the lower-case “n”) had the delightful premise of a perfectly normal person being rocketed from a believed-to-be-doomed planet who ends up on a world populated entirely by superheroes. It’s a very funny comic, with each issue parodying a specific title or genre. William Messner-Loebs’ Journey, by contrast, was a mostly naturalistic story of a 19th century frontiersman named Wolverine MacAlistaire.

So crossing over the two was completely bonkers and fun, and said crossover had the intended effect of pretty much any comic book crossover: getting me to start picking up a title I hadn’t already been reading. I eventually bought up the Journey back issues, read the series to the end, and picked up the, what, one or two issues of the Wardrums mini that was released before the comic disappeared probably forever except for a short that pal Nat published in an anthology comic in 2008. But it’s a great series and I’m glad normalman brought me to it.

I started Flaming Carrot mid-stream, I think after it had already transitioned, or was in the midst of transitioning, from being published by A-V to Renegade (like all the non-Cerebus titles did, as Dave focused on the “self-” part of “self-publishing”). But it wasn’t that far in (I think my first issue was #8) that I couldn’t find the earlier installments. Well, it took me a while to get the magazine from Kilian Barracks magazine that preceded the series, and I also now have most of the Visions magazine in which the Carrot originally appeared.

And there was Ms. Tree, another A-V to Renegade comic, the title for which, as I have stated several times before, I didn’t get the pun ’til I started working at a comic book store and had to say the name out loud. Anyway, I started reading Ms. Tree with #50, which was rather late in the series seeing as how that was the last issue. Not sure why exactly I picked that one up…I may have been intrigued by the forthcoming Ms. Tree Quarterly coming from DC Comics, or because of the flexidisc (warning: dead links ahoy), but I ended up buying all the back issues for that series, too. Somehow without saying “Ms. Tree” out loud I guess.

I did buy all of Puma Blues as it was coming out, mostly through a side-imprint of Aardvark-Vanaheim (“Aardvark One International”) (and eventually collected by Dover Press). I bought a complete run for cheap of Neil the Horse off eBay long after the fact. I picked up Robot Comics upon release as it was by Flaming Carrot’s creator Bob Burden.

I also picked up just the first issue of Open Season:

…because it reminded me a little of Bloom County, I guess, but without the talking animals? Or maybe there were talking animals, I apologize if I’m remembering incorrectly. Pretty sure I still have that comic in what remains of the Vast Mikester Comic Archives.

One Renegade Press series that didn’t interest me at the time it originally came out, but now sort of intrigues me, is Wordsmith, about a pulp writer. I seem to have a bunch of issues of this series in my multiple boxes of unsorted comics I’m still going through in the store‘s back room, and am half-tempted to pull them aside for myself. Because, you know, I’m not far enough behind on my reading already.

And whoops, almost forgot Renegade’s Trypto the Acid Dog. Definitely have one of those.

And thus, D, if that’s your real name, is a general overview of the non-Cerebus Aardvark-Vanaheim and/or Renegade Press. Didn’t list everything I’ve bought from them, but it was fun to remind myself of that particular time in comics, being a teenager interested in these weird comic book-type things and having many peculiar and wonderful choices before me.

You can tell Mike’s mismanaged his blogging time when he resorts to the “ask him a question” post.

§ September 25th, 2020 § Filed under question time § 32 Comments

I’m sorry, D, I am working on a reply to your question about what else I read from Aardvark-Vanaheim and Renegade Press, but it’s running long (shocking, I know) and frankly I’m not sure if the post is hanging together as much as I’d like. So…sorry about that! It’s still in the hopper, and I’ll get to it next week.

So, since I’m stuck for a post now that it’s (checks watch) way past my bedtime, let’s make this a Question Time, since, you know, turning your questions into posts is about half my content lately anyhow!

Thus, ASK ME A QUESTION, preferably related to comics or the comics industry. Just leave it in the comments there. If it’s too personal, or asks me to reveal rocket secrets, I may demur, but otherwise I’ll try to answer your question in a future post. Unless you’re D. SORRY D

And please, ONE QUESTION PER CUSTOMER. To reiterate:


Take it easy on your pal Mike.

I’ll get to these questions over the next few weeks (or months, let’s face it). And don’t worry, D…I’ll respond to you before I start on any of these!

Thanks, pals! Just leave a comment with a question in the comments here.

If they’d just kept making episodes of Swamp Thing, they’d still be around.

§ September 23rd, 2020 § Filed under television § 7 Comments

Well, coming as a surprise to pretty much nobody, the DC Universe streaming service is going comics-only starting next year. The name is changing to “DC Universe Infinite,” though not so infinite that it’ll continue supporting Amazon devices, Roku, XBox, or Apple TV. Which is a shame, as I liked reading comics on my big-screen television, and I suppose there are some clunky workarounds, but it’s not the same.

The DCU original TV shows are moving over to the still-not-competitively-priced-for-the-streaming-market HBO Max, with announcements of new seasons for Doom Patrol and Harley Quinn, and the previously-announced new season of Young Justice. The press release also says “key DC classics” will also make the move, so I don’t know if that means all of the Batman animated series, the ’90s Flash, or the remastered ’70s Shazam! will pop up there or not. And I imagine that DC Daily archive of episodes isn’t going to make the transition, but I suppose a number of those will live on over at YouTube.

“Yes yes yes, but what does this all mean for you, Michael Ricardo Anatoly Sterling?” I can hear you all desperately asking. Well, my initial reaction was to go ahead and click the “cancel subscription” button DC Universe helpfully provided in its email to me informing me of this coming change. And I thought long and hard about sighing heavily and subscribing to HBO Max.

But ultimately…I think I’m going to stay on. I do have an iPad which I primarily use only to read comics on DC Universe, which is how I read most of the Hitman run while waiting in the jury duty waiting room a while back. And currently I’m going through a bunch of Golden Age Superman stories. There’s plenty more on there I want to check out besides, so I think I can continue to get my money’s worth out of the service.

As to HBO Max…I understand there’s a commercial-supported free version coming, but I figure it’s going to have limited content like the free version of the Peacock streaming service (which only gives you partial seasons of programs, stuff like that). I’ll wait and see, and also wait if there’s going to be a price drop anytime soon. DC Universe hasn’t been shy about throwing discounted special offers, and I expect that’ll continue into the future, so I’ll just wait and see how all that shakes out over the next several months.

Worse comes to worse, I can just wait for the DVD/Blu-Ray releases of any of that new material showing up on the service and just borrow the discs from Netflix. Yes, I’m the guy still getting physical discs from Netflix, like a savage.

I will say DC going comics-only got me thinking about Marvel’s long-running online comics library, as I’d at least like to read all the Hulks that came out before ’83 (when I started reading the thing) but I I’m going to hold on that thought for the time being. Maybe once I get through the teetering stacks of books I already have waiting for me.

So, sorry to see DC Universe go, and I’m at least willing to try out the new iteration of the service. I mean, look, they have to add the Silver Age Metal Men to the service eventually.

A little fancier filler copy than a Cerebus Biweekly.

§ September 21st, 2020 § Filed under cerebus § 8 Comments

Well, I sorta started what I threatened to do here, picking up pre-#26 issues of Dave Sim’s Cerebus for cheap off the eBays. Now, most of them are reasonably priced, at least for my purposes, but the lower numbers, your 1 through 3s or so, are still commanding higher prices. I figured maybe someday those issues would come through the shop and I could buy them then, but otherwise, unless some amazing bargain breaks out, I’ll have to do without.

Well, enter Kickstarter and a new reprint of #1. I figure I’d live if my hopefully someday-complete run of the Cerebus comic books had this version of the first issue. Which isn’t to say I still wouldn’t be willing to get my mitts on one of the original #1s (and not one of the bootlegs…more on that in a moment).

“So what all did you get in said Kickstarter?” you’re probably not asking, but don’t worry, I’m going to show you anyway.

First off is ye olde comic book itself:

with a platinum-colored metallic ink on the cover, instead of red. It contains all the material from the original, but plenty of extras aside, such as promotional art, sketches, period ads for the book, etc. Of note is two pages of storytelling from the original comic redrawn in his modern style by Sim…or as modern as it was in 2010 when those pages were drawn.

On the back cover is where Dave handsigned each copy:

…and that this is #751 of an 800-copy run.

Along with the comic were a small pile of extras, including trading cards, a pretty swell-looking postcard, a sticker, and a bookmark:

I also received Cerebus The Sketchbook, which is, yes, entirely blank:

…with a request from Dave on the inside front cover to send copies of any drawings one might get in this booklet of other cartoonists’s rendition of Cerebus. I don’t have any plans of attending conventions anytime soon…well, yeah, okay, nobody with any sense of self-preservation does, but you know what I mean. So I guess I’ll have to use this to draw my own Cerebus comic. “The Adventures of Cerebus and His Best Pal Spike Merling,” I’ll call it.

Now this next item is pretty cool:

It’s a collection of newspaper and ‘zine articles, and in-house memos/notes, and, as promised in its title, a straight-up history of the counterfeit Cerebus #1s that got dumped on the market a few years after the original’s release in 1977.

Much appreciated is the detail that’s gone into in regards to determining whether that Cerebus #1 you’re looking at is the original or one of the copies:

…which is something I was never quite sure about, to be honest. Once, at the previous place of employment, we actually had an original and a counterfeit #1 in the store at the same time, and I’m pretty sure then I was able to look at them both and see the differences. But if I were, like, handed just one or the other and had to determine which version it was, I might have been stuck. BUT NO LONGER thanks to this handy guide.

I forgot to note that the print quality of all these items is excellent…the new edition of #1 is a thick comic, solidly built and with the crisp newly-scanned artwork they’ve been using in the remastered “phone book” trade paperbacks. I’ve been in the process of slowly converting large chunks of my collection into sellable stock for the store, but some things I’m not letting go. My run of Cerebus is one of them, and I’m pleased to have these as part of it.

Now hopefully #2 and #3 will get the same treatment so I can stop hunting eBay for copies that aren’t hundreds of dollars.

Retroactive Low Content Mode!

§ September 18th, 2020 § Filed under low content mode § 4 Comments

Sorry, pals, I’m trying to write a new post for Friday and I’m literally falling asleep at the keyboard. I have a post partially done but it’ll have to wait for Monday.

Ugh. Didn’t have time for a post for Wednesday, and now this. Again, sorry about that, but I’m definitely coming back Monday with new material.

Anyway…um, how’re you doing?

Oh, and I quit working at the library because working at the comic shop was a pay raise.

§ September 14th, 2020 § Filed under does mike ever shut up § 12 Comments

Twitter pal Tim Byrne (who has kicked off many a previous ProgRuin post) asks:

“I know you weren’t (yet) in retail at the time, but can you do a post about how the comics world felt in 1986-88 in the midst of Maus / Dark Knight Returns / Watchmen etc?”

I started my path to comics retail fortune and glory in September of 1988, working afternoons at the comic shop after college classes were done for the day, and before my evening shifts at the library. This was after working during the summer at a medical parts factory (tubes and machinery and stuff, not, like, limbs and organs), somehow being put in charge of the stockroom after the regular stock guy quit and I, the temp guy who was just there to do an inventory count for a couple of days, was given the keys to the wire-cage castle.

Well, that job sucked and when summer was over, I was glad to have the excuse of resuming classes to bail myself out…but still had need to maintain income to pay for that ol’ college thing. As it turned out, the comic shop I frequented was losing one of its regular employees, and I half-facetiously suggested “hey, how ’bout hiring me?” and thus here I am, 32 years later, trying to puzzle out how many copies of all these Marvel variant covers I need to order for my own shop.

Okay, Tim, you didn’t ask for that, but you did ask me to talk about me and I’m my favorite subject, as anyone who reads this blog, or my Twitter, or ever mistakenly engages me in conversation, quickly discovers to their despair. But that does give you a little bit of context of where I was in that period…’86-’87 I was a senior in high school, and in the autumn of ’87 I started college, so those were the things occupying most of my headspace.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I was definitely reading comics, and buying the Amazing Heroes and The Comics Journals, so I was trying to keep up with stuff at the time, but after all these years I feel like my specific memories of that period are an amalgam of what I’ve actually experienced mixed with what I’ve learned elsewhere. I do have a vague memory of seeing a two-page advertisement for Dark Knight Returns in the Rolling Stone-esque SPIN…you know, that sort of thing.

Other than that, I don’t really recall witnessing the specific cultural impact of Dark Knight, Watchmen and/or Maus around me at the time. I knew they were special…I mean, Dark Knight had better be special, that comic was $2.95 a throw, for Pete’s sake. But I knew they were special because 1) the fan press was all abuzz about them, 2) just plain reading them told me “hey, this is a sea change of some sort, isn’t it,” and 3) they…well, mostly Dark Knight, were getting parodied up the wazoo by other comics. They were A Thing just within the comics world itself, and that’s what I primarily saw from my not-yet-in-comics-retail perspective.

The biggest industry impact, I think, was the idea that “at last, comics will be taken seriously as an art form,” a thing perhaps we can mildly suggest was jumping the gun a little. But they were making inroads in trade editions into bookstores, which didn’t know what to do with them so Maus was racked with Garfield.

And there was real world media coverage, primarily variations of “POW! BAM! Comics aren’t for kids anymore!” with lurid descriptions of whatever violent activity they could pull out of context. And that of course brought folks to worrying about a new Frederic Wertham and a comics witch-hunt, as Dark Knight and Watchmen paved the way for a “mainstreaming” of more mature (or “mature”) comics material.

It wasn’t all negative…I think there was a real excitement within the comics realm for new, interesting material that pushed the boundaries and shook things up. There was some bemoaning of publishers taking the wrong lessons from Dark Knight and Watchmen in the “dark and gritty” trend in superhero books, but looking back I don’t think things were necessarily as bad as people were saying. Well, I mean, sure, there was that Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, trying to catch that Dark Knight-lightning by using the same format and upping the violence.

But “excitement” I think is the right world for that 1986-8 period. A lot of good, interesting, and just plain weird stuff was coming out, and lots of material outside the usual Marvel and DC pipelines were getting attention and sales. Not that Marvel and DC were slouches…Marvel’s Epic line was still going strong, DC had Swamp Thing (its vanguard for more adult storytelling), and Crisis on Infinite Earths, which inspired revampings/retoolings of much of its line and grabbed a lot of attention from fans.

Look, I know I’m leaving a lot of specific stuff out. But the general sense I have of this period, admittedly possibly clouded by some nostalgia, is that this was a fun if strange time for comics. Real world media coverage, already trickling in, was about to storm the gates as the 1989 Batman film approached, it seemed like readers were a little more willing to experiment with what they were picking up at the shops, and a wide variety of material, traditional and offbeat, was being produced. And the coverage of the industry and reviews of the product, as in the aforementioned Amazing Heroes and The Comics Journal, was informative and occasionally a bit snarky, back before we were all sick of snark.

I’m sure there’s space for a more granular examination of what was happening during this specific period, but this is how I remember it. Hope that answers your question, Tim!

The Comic Reader #11 (July 26th, 1962).

§ September 11th, 2020 § Filed under fanzines, from the vast Mikester comic archives § 7 Comments

This is the earliest example of The Comic Reader fanzine that I own, three mimeographed pages stapled together, two of them printed both sides. Included is an extended review by Roy Thomas of ACG’s Magic Agent.

The front page is made up of current news items, most notably the following:

“SPIDERMAN [sic] — This hero will be missing from a few issues of AMAZING, but if this trail [sic] run in this mag is a success, then expect him back as the star of — (title as yet uncertain).”

Initially it took me a second to parse out that “AMAZING” as Amazing Fantasy…according to the Grand Comics Database, #15 came out in early June, which means this ‘zine was released as Spider-Man’s debut appearance was only about two monthss old. This news about a test run in Amazing Fantasy didn’t pan out, as that was the last issue of the series (and if I remember my Origins of Marvel Comics correctly, Stan Lee said, for what it’s worth, Spider-Man only made it into the comic because it was the last issue. “Ah, throw that weird character into the book, not like it’s gonna hurt sales.”

Regardless of whatever mess I’m making with my recollection of comics publishing history, it’s still pretty neat to be holding this artifact talking about Spider-Man when the character was literally brand new.

I picked this ‘zine up from eBay about a couple of decades back. paying $30 for the item. “$10 a page!” I’d say when I would discuss this with folks who pretended to be interested. Of note: at the time I had a mutual acquaintance with the sadly now-deceased Jerry Bails, the very man who had assembled and distributed this very ‘zine back in ’62. Said acquaintance informed Mr. Bails of my purchase of this copy of The Comic Reader #11, and the price I paid for it. It was reported back to me that Mr. Bails was, quote, “bemused.” …That’s probably the correct response.

Zippy Stories #1 (1977) and #2 (1978).

§ September 9th, 2020 § Filed under from the vast Mikester comic archives § 5 Comments

Not entirely sure where I obtained these…could have been from my previous place of employment, or (I’ve had these long enough) from the days when I’d frequent comic book conventions. But they’re pretty neat, little digest-sized comics. This first issue is a first printing, with black, white and red interiors (later printings were black and white only):

Here’s a sample page to show you how the red was used:

And #2 is all black and white:

In 1982, these were reprinted in the Zippy 2-in-1 Special magazine, which I don’t own, but maybe will get my mitts on someday out of Zippy-completeness.

Buy This Book of Odd Bodkins (1965) and Dan O’Neill’s Comics and Stories Vol. 2 #2 (1975).

§ September 7th, 2020 § Filed under from the vast Mikester comic archives § No Comments

For this week I’m just going to show off some oddball things from my collection that 1) I haven’t shown on the site before, and 2) didn’t give up to the store for sale. Today’s goodies are a couple of underground comix from Dan O’Neill, which are related to a couple of books I have featured here in the past.

First item is Buy This Book by Odd Bodkins, an oddly-sized 1965 collection of Odd Bodkins strips, measuring about 5 1/2 by 10 inches:

And here’s the back cover:

It’s about as tall as a regular comic, but may 2/3rds as wide, with a thicker-than-normal textured paper cover that’s blank on the inside. I’ve had this for years, but honestly I don’t think I realized it was as old as it was until I was looking up for information about it. Always pegged it as a 1970s thing, but shows you what I know.

Another O’Neill item in my collection is this, issue #2 of the second series of Dan O’Neill’s Comics and Stories from 1975:

Magazine-sized, black and white, features a little Odd Bodkins material but it’s mostly examples of his comics work. At some point a $1.00 sticker was placed on the cover over the original 75¢ price, a common practice at the time for undergrounds. The title is over course a play on Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, the long-running anthology comic once published by Dell Comics (hence the “Hell” logo in the corner). Just goes to show you that the whole Air Pirates thing didn’t stop Mr. O’Neill from thumbing his nose at The Mouse.

There were five of these Dan O’Neill’s Comics and Stories altogether…the one I have is the last of the second series from 1975, and the first series ran 3 issues in 1971. I know my former boss Ralph had more than this one issue in stock at the time I bought this one (for a whole $1.50, according to the price tag still on the bag), but I didn’t pick up any more than the one. Ah, well.

Progressive Ruin presents…the End of Civilization.

§ September 4th, 2020 § Filed under End of Civilization § 13 Comments

All rise…this month’s End of Civilization is now in session! The honorable Spike Merling is presiding. …Do you solemnly swear on this copy of Hero Illustrated #2 from 1993 and its attendant Aliens Vs. Predator ashcan included in the sealed polybag to read along in your copy of the September 2020 Diamond Previews and DC Current #4?

Well, too bad, because you’re getting this End of Civilization anyway:

p. 38 – Darkness 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition:

Celebrating 25 years of people bringing their copies back to the shop and asking “is it worth anything yet?”
p. 59 – Ice Cream Man #21:

Wait, hold on, how do they expect to sell piles of copies to speculators without a Dr. Seuss parody cover? C’MON, MARKETING
p. 72 – Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons Crossover #1:

Oh yeah, sure, if you want to do the obvious thing. I think we all know the Stranger Things crossover we’re really waiting for.
p. 103 – Locke & Key Sandman Hell & Gone #1:

Finally, the dark, gritty horror version of Flint Marko we’ve been waiting for.
p. 123 – Goosebumps Secrets of the Swamp #3:

Is there some kind of…thing…in there? Is that the secret, that this is a surreptitious DC/IDW crossover to go along with that Locke & Key/Sandman one? HAVE I CRACKED THE CODE
p. 202 – Marvel Value Stamps A Visual History HC:

I just know these are going to show up in collections a decade or two down the line with some of the stamps clipped out.

[NOTE: yes, this solicitation was apparently cancelled, almost certainly due to time-traveling demand from an alternate future version of myself dealing with the very problem I just described]
p. 230 – Tremendous Trump Trade War TPB:

Collects together all those prevoius Trump parody comics so you can remember those things we were making fun of before they got repeatedly supplanted by new things Trump did.

Kudos on the great name for the book, however.
p. 231 – Punchline #11:

How pissed do you think these guys are at DC right now?
p. 248 – Everything Will Be Okay TP:

The new graphic novel from Matt Wilson! I bet his coloring will be great!
p. 250 – Batman 100 Greatest Moments HC:

Ooh, it better include this:

Or this classic scene:

Or this groundbreaking team-up:

Or this defining moment:

Or even this scene from Batman: Damned:

p. 309 – Batman and the Missing Punch Line Young Adult SC:

“Missing?” You can’t swing a dead Catwoman in this month’s orders without hitting a Punchline. You’re not even trying, Batman.
p. 310 – Little Big Book of Pussy HC:

Hey, great, I love cats!
p. 320 – Alien Official Cookbook HC:

Finally, an excuse to dust off and put out the ol’ John Hurt Lazy Susan.
p. M98 – Dragon Ball Super Monopoly:

Do not pass GO, do not go OVER 9000

Is that how that works? I have no idea. All I know is that this Dragon Ball Monopoly is nowhere near as strong as Superman Monopoly.
DC Connect p. 7 – Punchline #1:

How pissed do you think these guys are at Antarctic right now?
DC Connect p. 18 – Dark Night Death Metal Infinite Hour Exxxtreme! #1:

Look, there are people who find this title to be absolultely delightful, and there are people who are wrong. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
Marvel Previews p. 68 – Fantastic Four Antithesis #4:

Boy, after reading that first issue, it’s more like “Anti-TEETH-is, amirite?

Yeah yeah, “but wouldn’t that mean he wouldn’t have teeth?” Shut up, it’s still funny.

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