Sometimes Tuesdays are like that.

§ December 23rd, 2020 § Filed under low content mode, question time § 4 Comments

Ah, apparently I had the wrong Spider-Man TV show theme song in mind when writing my response in the last post. What Chuck V. was referencing was the version of Spider-Man on the educational television program Electric Company:


As such, thusly amend my response to “Spider-Man came from the Children’s Television Workshop Labs, a hideous mutation that could never remove his mask nor speak in more than nonsense sounds.”

Anyway, this is a reminder to give me your comic industry predictions for 2021, shop small stores like mine when you can if you’re still buying for the holiday season, and most importantly: be safe out there.

Sorry, not much of a post today, but I had bit of a day Tuesday and I’m not up a real post. But I’d like everyone to enjoy their holiday best they can (where applicable) and we’ll get together again next week to see out this year.

I’m basically that Barbie with the “Math is hard!” sound clip.

§ December 21st, 2020 § Filed under question time § 8 Comments

Gonna try to get through the rest of your questions before the end of the year! (And don’t forget…I’m looking for your comic industry predictions for 2021!)

Chuck V. vents

“Where was Spider-Man coming from?”

I believe Mr. V. is referring to the classic theme song from the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon, in which the lyrics extol the comings and going of Spidery Sam thusly:

“Look out! Here comes the Spider-Man!”

and

“Hey there, there goes the Spider-Man!”

So in the second line, one can presume he is either returning to wherever he originally came from, or perhaps this is the “coming from” origin point for a following iteration of looking out, here he comes. Now that second line of thought could lead us on an endless chain backwards through time, with Spider-Man always coming from a place he was previously seen going from, over and over again, leading to an eventual “if God created everything, then who created God?” quandary. Thus, let us focus on the first possibility.

One can be facetious and declare “why, Spider-Man AKA Peter Parker came from his parents, Richard and Mary,” but we know that is not the spirit in which the question is posed. I can offer some strong possibilities from where Spider-Man appears, but this will not, and can not, be a comprehensive list, and I appeal to the reader’s understanding why this is so.

In the earlier part of his career, Peter Parker, as Spider-Man, would most likely have come from three distinct places. First, the home he shared with his elderly Aunt May. Second, from Midtown High School, where he was a student. Third (and this is a combination of sources, please indulge me), either from the Daily Bugle offices themselves, where he worked as a photographer, or whilst on the job as a photographer for said institution.

Later in life, things remain mostly the same. Instead of his aunt’s home, he could come from his swinging bachelor pad or his shared domicile with wife Mary Jane Watson (when the marriage was status quo). Instead of Midtown High, Empire State University, either as an undergrad, or pursuing a graduate degree in biochemistry. The Daily Bugle and his responsibilities therein remain a constant. Plus, of course, he wold still return to Aunt May’s home to make sure she’s doing well, because he’s a good nephew.

As I said, this is not comprehensive. The character’s sixty year history provides for a multitude of variations and alterations that can’t be covered here sufficiently. But it’s safe to say he was swinging into action from being called away from home, school, or work. Or a date. Probably plenty of dates. Or he was just webbing his way across New York on patrol. I mean, you’ve seen the cartoon, right? He was clearly swinging on a web attached to a low-flying plane or a blimp or something.

• • •

Dave mysteriously asks

“Did you get the CDs I sent you?”

Why, yes, I did get the (cough) “CDs” you sent me. Definitely compact discs. Containing music. Not any other kind of object. Certainly not something that has to be held at subzero temperatures, in a lead-lined box, which must avoid any sudden shocks or impacts. JUST CDS.

• • •

Andrew evilly asks

“This tomb holds Diophantus. Ah, what a marvel! And the tomb tells scientifically the measure of his life. God vouchsafed that he should be a boy for the sixth part of his life; when a twelfth was added, his cheeks acquired a beard; He kindled for him the light of marriage after a seventh, and in the fifth year after his marriage He granted him a son. Alas! late-begotten and miserable child, when he had reached the measure of half his father’s life, the chill grave took him. After consoling his grief by this science of numbers for four years, he reached the end of his life.

“How long did Diophantus live?”

HOLD ON, NOBODY TOLD ME THERE’D BE MATH. Okay, I got as far as translating this into something resembling algebra (1/6x + 1/12x [and so on] = x). I figured out the common denominator and got the equation down to x = 75x/84 + 9 and I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what to do with it at this point. Junior High School/High School Mike probably could’ve breezed right through it, but I’m old and do all my math on machines, and any algebra I do now tends to be very basic. So yes, I looked for a solution and saw at least I was on the right track. Once I saw how it was done, I was all “oh yeah sure, of course” but really all this taught me is that I need to brush up on my algebra.

I SPENT A LOT OF TIME ON THIS, ANDREW. WHILE ON PAIN MEDICATION.

• • •

Chris G gets me with

“What’s your take on the Mark Millar run of Swamp Thing?”

A while back I was asked to rank the creative teams on Swamp Thing, and in part two of those posts, I basically said Millar’s run was probably fourth in line, behind Wein/Wrightson, Moore/Bissette/Totleben etc., and Rick Veitch. I liked his emphasis on the “monster” part of Swamp Thing, as he became increasingly more powerful and more alienated from humanity. I think it’s one of Millar’s best comic book runs, and hopefully we’ll get a good collection of it someday.

• • •

Will sez

“Hi Mike, I hope the eyes are healing well.”

Hanging in there, more or less! Between my eyes and my teeth, it’s like, as pal Nat told me the other day, “your entire head is falling apart!”

“My question is kinda twofold – being a Swamp Thing completist, what’s the oddest/most obscure/most surprising comic you’ve ended up buying just cos Swampy’s in it, and secondly, what’s the best comic you’ve bought that you wouldn’t otherwise have bought, again just because it had it had your mucky mate in it? Thanks.”

Well, I’m not quite the completist I used to be (the Convergence hoohar put me off, and while Swamp Thing is more involved in this “Endless Winter” event, I’m just picking up the tie-ins associated with titles I’m already reading).

Most obscure or odd comic I bought because of a Swamp Thing association was, in fact, a parody comic, one I had floating around at the previous place of employment without realizing a Swamp Thing spoof lurked within. I wrote about Mighty Mites Vol. 2 #2 at the time, which not only featured a take-off on Mr. Thing, but also contained an appearance by the real Mr. Monster! Yes, I said “real,” what of it. Probably the closest we’ll come to fulfilling the promise of the Amazing Heroes cover at the end of this post.

Now, the best comic I wouldn’t have otherwise bought if it weren’t for ol’ Swampy…? That’s actually harder than you’d think. The easy answer would probably be 1970s Challengers of the Unknown, which picked up the Swamp Thing storyline following the demise of his first series. It was an oddball book, which also featured Deadman, with work by Gerry Conway and Keith Giffen (and Bernie Wrightson himself inking a single flashback panel!). That was a fun run of books…I wasn’t really a Challs fan, so I wouldn’t have picked this up if it weren’t for Swamp Thing.

I don’t know if that counts, since it was basically a book starring Swamp Thing. For a book I just picked up because of a cameo, I think this issue of Super Friends is a contender. It’s not even really Swamp Thing, just a guy at a costume party wearing a Swamp Thing outfit who is magically transformed into Swamp Thing. I mean, it’s E. Nelson Bridwell and Ramona Fradon on creative chores, how could it not be charming?

• • •

Wayne Allen Sallee sallies forth with

“Mike: what single comic (or related item)do you hold on to for no good reason? […] You must have something that it is easier to just keep in a box than get rid of and right away find out you could have given it to X or Y?”

I do have a lot of comics at home still that I feel like I don’t particularly need to keep, but there’s no point bringing them to the store because they’re not going to sell, and I don’t really want to throw them into the dollar bins either. So they just sit in my boxes at home, awaiting to be entombed with me in my pyramid when I finally pass from this world.

But I I think, if I had to pick one oddball item in the collection, it’s a copy of Defenders #98 autographed by Don Perlin. My old friend Rob gave that to me for some reason, and hey Man-Thing‘s in it, so that’s nice. I don’t really have too many (if any) other Defenders in my personal collection, but I just keep hanging on to it, because 1) it’s a gift, and 2) hey, Don Perlin signature, that’s neat.

But “give away” any of my comics? Give away? BITE YOUR TONGUE, SIR.

“Never make predictions, especially about the future.” – Casey Stengel

§ December 18th, 2020 § Filed under predictions § 45 Comments

Okay pals, it’s that time of year again, when I, your humble comics bloggerererer, asks you, what remains of people what read the blogs, for your comic book industry predictions for the coming year. That year being 2021, in case you’ve lost track, and I wouldn’t blame you if you had.

So this means I’ll be looking at your predictions for 2020 pretty soon and seeing how y’all did. I haven’t looked at them yet, but if one of you said “the world will fall into plague times, which slightly affects the comic book industry,” I’m gonna plotz.

BUT THAT PLOTZING MUST WAIT, and I need to get your predictions for 2021 right this very moment! Please leave them in the comments to this post, and for the love of all that is good and holy, please please please follow these 4 Simple Rules for Posting Your Predictions:

1. Don’t read the other predictions before entering your own.

2. Don’t criticize other people’s predictions.

3. Don’t predict any real person’s death.

4. Limit of three predictions per person, please!

See? That’s all I ask. That’s not so bad, is it? I’m no tyrant!

Anyway, thanks to everyone who participates in this particular activity of mine…I enjoy your contributions and hopefully you enjoy my coverage of them. So please leave your comical conjectures in the comments and in January of 2022, I’ll read ’em over and see how you did!
 
 

“Your Future Rests…In Your Hands!” (1964) – art by Larry Lieber

I mean, I like Frank Miller’s The Spirit movie, and you’re still reading this site.

§ December 16th, 2020 § Filed under question time § 6 Comments

I’m gonna do some more of your questions, if that’s okay with you:

Andrew-TLA sends me on an adventure with

“You, for whatever reason, suddenly find yourself the opportunity to launch your own line of comics. What genres do you choose, and what five creative teams do you hire to run them?”

Well, I’ll tell you what, that reason probably isn’t “making money.” But here, I’ll give it a shot…but five genres? Surely there aren’t that many!

Let’s see…let’s start off with “superhero” as this is comics we’re talking about, and as we all know “comics” = “superheroes.” Anyway, I’d pick Don Simpson to run this end of it, as I desperately miss Bizarre Heroes and Megaton Man and if I’m going to publish superheroes, I want ’em weird. …I once described Bizarre Heroes either on this site or somewhere as “what if all the stuff that happened in ’60s Marvel books took place in the same comic,” and boy that series was fun to read.

Next up, let’s say “science fiction.” Hmm. Gimme some Jeff Parker and Frank Quitely on that action. Mr. Parker for his light, breezy style (which is what I want from my science fiction adventure comics) and Mr. Quitely because his art is gorgeous and well-suited for spacey-type stuff.

Then there’s “horror,” naturally. I’d say we put my close personal friend Karla Pacheco on the typewriter for this, as anyone who knows her understands she’s more than capable of cooking with some real nightmare fuel. And on art chores…how ’bout Jim Woodring? There ain’t too many artists better at disturbing imagery than Mr. Woodring. Pacheco and Woodring…have I endangered the world by positing this most unholy of pairings? Eh, probably, the world deserves it.

For the fourth genre of books, “humor,” I would of course pick Sergio Aragones. Just give the man a monthly comic to do whatever. Also, I would pick up the reprint rights for all his previous comics and get them back into print, because it’s a crime that stuff is all unavailable. Hey, you know, so long as I’m dream-publishing.

The final genre is, as you probably already surmised, “Popeye,” truly a genre unto himself. Gail Simone on scripts, for her seemingly effortless balance between seriousness and sillyness, and for art…Art Adams. Boy, what a Popeye comic drawn by Art Adams would look like. I don’t care if the book would end up being an annual, it’d be worth it.

So, any of you rich investors out there, give me a call.

• • •

Eric points the camera at me with

“Speaking of Cerebus, how do you personally handle separating art from the artist? It’s a question I struggle with and I find my own takes sometimes vary, case by case.”

Yeah, that’s a good question. “Case by case” is a good way of dealing with it. Like, can I ever read a comic by Gerard Jones again? I enjoyed his Green Lantern, loved Green Lantern: Mosaic, and really liked The Trouble with Girls. Man, I even have comics he signed for me when he did an appearance at my former place of employment.

Finding out what he’d been up to later doesn’t mean I didn’t read and enjoy his comics before. But it certainly casts a pall over even thinking of revisiting them now. That’s definitely a case, at least for me, of not being able to separate the art from the artist.

Now compared to that example, John Byrne having cranky old man opinions on his message board doesn’t seem quite as bad as it did years ago when I swore I’d never mention his name on my site again. Doesn’t mean his opinions were any less dumb, it just means that when I look at his work, I try to enjoy it simply in the context of the work itself and try to forget, years after he drew this issue of Fantastic Four, he actually typed onto a website that he thought blond Latinas looked like hookers.

It’s a problem that permeates pretty much everything nowadays, but at the same time I don’t want to fall into that “stick to playing basketball, shut up about politics” mindset which is pretty stupid in its own right. People have the right to speak their mind about topics that are important to them, regardless of whatever their job may be and whatever their relation to you is, whether it’s a literal relation, like an uncle going on about whatever he heard on Fox News while everyone else is trying to enjoy Thanksgiving, or you just relate to them via what they produce, be it some form or entertainment or product. But you have to decide, is what they’re saying enough to turn me away from however I’m interacting with them or their work?

I’m comparing two different things here, I realize: a person committing an actual crime versus someone being dumb on the internet or whatever. It’s not an easy topic and one I can’t resolve here on my silly funnybook blog. I really can’t get more specific than what you said, Eric: take it case by case. Everyone is flawed in this fallen world, and only you can decide for yourself if those flaws (whether they’re actual flaws or differing opinions) are enough to turn you off, or if you can just kinda not pay attention to whatever nonsense they’re spouting. Ask some of the more aware fans of The Mandalorian how they’re dealing with it. Mostly I just kind of sigh.

Also, I used to be really into Dilbert, but man that guy, enough was enough.

Anyway, I’m not sure if that was much of an answer, Eric, and I don’t really address how I, as a cisgender white male, can overlook or shrug off bad creator opinions that can be far more impactful on other folks. Just wanted to note that I know that’s an omission from my response and it’s a consideration of which I personally need to be more aware.

• • •

A BRIEF CONTENT NOTE: I am getting a wisdom tooth (and one or two others) yanked on Friday, and expect I’ll be out of commission for a couple of days. One of the members of the Legion of Substitute Mikes will be running my shop, but my online presence will likely be greatly diminished over the weekend. I have a post ready to go for Friday, and with any luck I’ll be back on Monday. Any emails or comments sent my way will be dealt with then. Thanks for reading, pals, and everyone be good to each other.

I looked up “reductionism” on Wikipedia and now I’m an expert, obviously.

§ December 14th, 2020 § Filed under question time § 3 Comments

Hey, let me tackle a few more of your questions:

John Lancaster casts the following at me:

“Can you make sense of a non-reductionist view of theoretical entities? Please convey your answer in the form of a cipher.”

The thought of, for example, explaining Sluggo by imagining his soul, inferring his wants and desires and his “lit-ness,” rather than simply observing his stubbly head and his patched jacket and drawing conclusions from those alone…well, it all falls apart when one realizes there is nothing theoretical about Sluggo. He is as real as you or me. …Oh, a cipher. Well, “[picture of a garden slug] – O” and all that.

“Oh, and who would win in a fight; Zeep the Living Sponge, or Color Kid? Darn, that’s two questions – just worry about answering the first one.”

Oh, sure, now you tell me.

Zeep, the original “Dial H for Hero” version: loses to Color Kid

Zeep, the character from Hero Hotline: totally beats Color Kid. …Look, I don’t explains ’em, I just reports ’em.

• • •

ExistentialMan questions my existence with

“If you could break down your comics hobby (as a reader, collector, retailer, whatever) into discrete phases, what would they be?”

Hmm. I think you mean “chronologically,” rather than “concurrently compartmentalized,” I hope, since that’s easier to answer. For the latter, there’s a lot of “wow, this comic sounds terrible” versus “then again, it’s probably going to sell great, better order lots” (and variations thereof) happenin’ whenever I’m doing the monthly comics order.

Chronologically, I was a reader first, getting scattered issues of various comics as a very young Mikester. It was probably Star Wars that turned me into a “collector,” wanting to pick up every issue as it came out as opposed to an issue here and there as I’d happen upon them. A trip to stay with cousins down in San Diego shortly thereafter revealed to me their own large and organized comic book horde, which inspired me to organize and keep track of my own gatherings.

I was never much of a condition hound on my own books, so I didn’t get into that aspect of being a collector, for the most part. I did upgrade the occasional old Swamp Thing comic if the one I had was particularly worked. And for a very brief period of my collector phase I did dip my toes into the “investor” thing, picking up a comic or two with the expectations of turning them over for Big Bucks later. Anyway, that was stupid and of course it didn’t work out, and I quickly stopped doing that. Because it was stupid. Like I said.

And then in ’88 I entered comics retailing. The end.

Well, okay, it didn’t end. In fact, if anything, each segment built upon the other. I was a reader, then I “collected” (i.e. put some effort and care into gathering and storing these comics) while still reading them. And now, as a retailer, I still read and collect them, so it’s all merged together now. Though “collect” is kind of the wrong term at the moment, given I never seem to find the time to sort them properly at home any more.

• • •

Mike Loughlin has the last lough with

“Congratulations, DC has decided you are the perfect writer to helm The Muck-nificent Swamp Thing!(NOTE: I don’t work for AT&T/DC and the preceding sentence is a bald-faced lie)! You even get to pick an artist and a back-up feature starring a mystic and/or horror DC property. Which artist and character do you choose, and who would you choose to draw the back-up? Since those three questions fit into one inquiry, it looks like one question to me. If you disagree, feel free to discard the part about a back-up.”

Ooooh you sneaky Petes with your multi-part “single questions.” YOU’LL ALL GET YOURS but I’ll probably answer ’em anyway because I’m a soft touch.

So, I get to write a Swamp Thing comic, eh? Either Swamp Thing’s Adventures in Time and Space or Swamp Thing’s Good Time Jamboree, I haven’t decided which. As for artist…well, I would pick my Close and Personal Friend, the increasingly hirsute Matthew Digges, based on this drawing he gave me a while back:


…or if Matt’s not available, I’d ask Francesco Francavilla, because I’ve been looking at a Swamp Thing drawing of his as wallpaper on my store computer for the past six years and his art is great.

Back-up: would have to be “Stanley and His Monster,” with shared art chores by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. Jaime would draw Stanley, Gilbert would draw His Monster. You’re already picturing this in your head, and are amazed at its perfection.

Richard Corben (1940 – 2020).

§ December 11th, 2020 § Filed under obituary, undergrounds § 4 Comments


So I got a copy of Rowlf #1 at the shop a while back in absolutely beautiful condition. It wasn’t Near Mint, but whatever minor flaws it had did nothing to detract from the visual appeal of this cover…the second printing, by the way, as the first print had a different image. It’s certainly the first image that popped into my head when I heard that Richard Corben passed away this week at the age of 80.

The first time I encountered Corben’s art was in an early ’80s issue of Heavy Metal, at a time when I was clearly too young to be looking at this magazine. Lush, fully painted art while still being cartoonishly exaggerated…it was some of his fantasy work, in the same arena as, say, Frazetta and Vallejo, but where they were more in the realm of representational illustration, more or less, here was that weirdo Corben basically doing Tex Avery, with the Wolf’s eyes bugging out of his head and his tongue dragging on the floor. It was a strange mix of styles I hadn’t seen before and had rarely, if ever, seen since.

He’s an underground comix legend, as I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone reading this. When people come to my store looking for undergrounds, more and more often they ask to see my “Crumb comics,” which can mean anything from actual Robert Crumb comics to Freak Brothers to, well, whatever you can think of. I’ve suggested before that “Crumb comics” may be well on its way to becoming a generic term for undergrounds. That said, the second most mentioned name from those looking for undergrounds is Corben. In fact, if anything, any Corben I get in tends to sell faster than my Crumb (I mean, actually by Crumb) books. A largish collection of Corben I took in earlier in the year was gone within just a few weeks. Demand is still high for his work, and his name still looms large among a certain segment of comics fans.

In recent years he seemed to be more active working for Marvel and DC, which, well, one has to go where the money is, but his work for these companies was no less idiosyncratic than his independent projects. The Hellblazer run he did over Brian Azzarello’s scripts, and worked with that same writer on a Hulk mini, and did some horror books for Marvel and Dark Horse…that garnered him some all new fans, certainly, who’d never seen Den.

He was a strange and unique talent, and I’m sure we’re all sad to see him go, but glad he shared as much of his imagination with us that he did.

So long, Richard.

Did they ever explain how Matt Cable could be alive and one of Dream’s ravens at the same time? I can’t even remember.

§ December 9th, 2020 § Filed under swamp thing § 1 Comment

So we’ve got some new Swampy comics heading our way…first off is the Future State: Swamp Thing title, part of that two-month event starting off the new year, featuring the work of Ram V and Mike Perkins:


I see in an interview the book’s editor said one of the hooks for the story is “what is Swamp Thing, when it’s freed from Alec Holland” and I’m pretty sure the answer was “Alan Moore’s run ’til the end of Brightest Day but let’s see what goes on here, particularly in the context of the post-New 52 revamping of the character. The continuity hoohar involved in getting Alec Holland back into the Swamp Thing mix was…something else (a couple of posts of mine trying to make sense of it all here and here).

And, as far as I could figure, the business with Swamp Thing thinking he was Alec Holland, discovering he wasn’t Alec Holland, then that Swamp Thing being replaced with a Swampified ALec Holland, is all in New 52 (and Rebirth) continuity. Thus, this Future State special apparently gives us an unHollanded Swamp Thing yet again. Well, I’ll read it and see what they’re all up to, anyway. Maybe these comic and the follow-up series can hammer out some of the pre-New 52/post-New 52 inconsistencies. I mean, even creator Len Wein’s mini muddied those waters a bit.

Oh, did I say “follow-up series?” Because here it comes, a 10-parter from the same creative team, debuting after Future State wraps up:


I’m looking forward to these…I feel sort of like I lost the thread on Swamp Thing at some point, after he was relegated to team player in Justice League Dark and miscellaneous one-shot stories and appearances in those 100-page giants DC pushed for a while. I mean, not that any of it was bad, I just wanted a regular ol’ ongoing series where he was the headliner. Well, okay, this new book is a mini-series, but it’s a start, I suppose.

• • •

In other Swamp Thing news, Adrienne Barbeau talks about being in the Swamp Thing movie and the recent Swamp Thing TV show. Can never have too much Barbeau.

No, I never owned that weird “Spock” helmet (but I remember seeing it in stores).

§ December 7th, 2020 § Filed under swamp thing § 5 Comments

So I was no stranger to the Mego series of action figures, those 8-inch tall poseable dolls with fabric clothing and (usually) molded plastic accessories. As a Young Mikester I had the first two series of the Star Trek figures (as well as the amazing Enterprise playset and these “communicators.” And a whole bunch of other Trekkian products until Star Wars came out in ’77 and suddenly there was a whole new obsession into which my poor parents had to sink more of their household income. (I also had at least one Planet of the Apes figure, pretty sure just Generic Ape.)

Alas, the landfill was the ultimate fate of all these goodies, as we cleaned house years later and I, the smooth and cool teenager that I was*, decided to put away childish things.. Or at least dump them, like I did the tricoder out the truck window which I realized was still in the cab as we were leaving.

There had been reissues of some of the older Mego lines over the years, or at least lookalikes, and even new figures that never originally had Mego-esque releases, with the plastic bodies and the clothes and all that. I’ve admired the work on many of those, as they passed through either my previous place of employment or my own store, but I’ve never felt tempted at picking up any of these for my own collection.

Well, guess what happened. Yup, the Figure Toy Company (which specializes in Mego-likes) produced an officially licensed Swamp Thing figure in the classic style. Yes, with fabric clothing (which I poked a little fun at when first announced):


And that would indeed be the very figure I received in the mail just a few days after placing my order. No, I haven’t opened it yet, so I don’t know if under his leafy garments Swamp Thing is wearing little blue underwears like his Mego Star Trek cousins. …What? Anyway, it’s a good looking figure, definitely evokes the original Mego style. Good face sculpt, definitely not a repaint of Spider-Man villain the Lizard.

I’m not quite the Swamp Thing completist I used to be, and I really don’t need to be spending money of ridiculous stuff like this. But it brings a nostalgic smile to my face when I look at it, and after the year we’ve all had, who can blame me for wanting this?

 
 

* Please read with the intended sarcasm.

“Suddenly, seventeen years later….”

§ December 5th, 2020 § Filed under suddenly... § 12 Comments

Seventeen years of me…yes, it’s true, even though the way this past year has been it feels more like that number should be in the thirties, somewhere. But, I started this dumb thing in December 2003 and no one’s stopped me yet!

Of course, the thank yous: to my friends and family and girlfriend, who haven’t disowned me yet, and to you, the folks what keep reading blogs when all that cool kids are on their TikToks and whatnot, to pal Dorian who will still talk to me despite his best judgement, to all my other fellow bloggers active or fallen, and of course to Neilalien, Comics Blogger Number Uno.

Well, as we all know, this has been some year, but there have been a couple of upsides. A couple folks out there said “hey, there’s this guy who’s been selling comics for decades, let’s ask him questions about stuff he knows,” and that’s how I got a feature interview over at The Comics Journal, as well as being queried for this New York Times article.

My store is still doing well, despite everything…luckily with some hustling and some good customer support, I was able to ride out that two month shutdown. The shutdown also gave me time to start putting some of my recent back issue arrivals online…it’s just a spreadsheet, basically, but it’ll allow me to output the data in usable form should I decide to do something else with it.

Also this year, with my eyeball health situation going on and on and on, my resources were fairly drained and I still had some pricey treatments ahead. As such, I finally bit the bullet the did a GoFundMe…which was a lot more successful than I was expecting, and I really couldn’t thank you all enough for it. I haven’t closed it yet because I’ve still got more stuff down the pike, but I haven’t exactly gone out of my way to promote it lately either, since everyone was already so generous the first time. But, if things get really dire, as least it’s there if I need to push it again.

Sadly, we said goodbye to a little stuffed friend, Bully the Retired Bull, as he shuttered his website for good. Not to say he still isn’t out there, of course, doin’ what he does best. Being stuffed. And little.

In better news, November 5th was the sixth anniversary of my store, Sterling Silver Comics. This year was (and still is) a challenging one, but I’m hanging in there!

I did manage to get out a couple Ends of Civilization, as well as a couple of timely Sluggo Saturdays. So, you know, the old favorites haven’t been forgotten, just trotted out when the time is right.

And of course, I’m always doin’ something stupid on Twitter, the worst place, where…

…it’s never too late for a Death of Superman joke:

…I experience the joys of aging:

…I posit DC’s next R-rated animated film:

…I prepare to open the floodgates:

…I occasionally get political:

…I expand the cultural horizons of my customers:

…I discuss my comics pricing techniques:

…and of course I reflect on the fact that I’ve been doing this comics blog for seventeen years:

Speaking of blogging, here’s some of that very thing I got up to over the past year:

DECEMBER 2019

Well I’ve had some laser treatments but no full-on eyeball surgeries since then, Superman’s secret identity now with less secret, the Doomsday Clock postmortem with added “universe-changing events” context.

JANUARY 2020
I thought this was a pretty good panel with which to kick off 2020, trying to keep Superman current vis-à-vis his trunks, “Hulk Smash Hit Record” (and a follow-up).

FEBRUARY 2020

You mean I could have had this Nolan Ryan comic for only $2.50, Tumbleweeds dammit, oh yeah Alfred’s totally dead for sure, Funko-ous Cube, out: Bronze Age Superman – In: Disco Superman, frankly I need to be stuck on an island to catch up on comics, Mike vs. the new speculator market, pricin’ up those Elves with Guns, I have exactly one copy left of that cardstock cover for Batman #92.

MARCH 2020

My Blip collection has not progressed further, I’m still on the Bad Idea retailers list, COVID-19 business worries alleviated slightly by adrawing by Matt Digges, yet more COVID worries, and the shutdown begins, was pretty worried I’d have to close down for good there + FCBD talk, Diamond’s shutdown, the most timely of Sluggo Saturdays, still doin’ okay business during the plague times.

APRIL 2020

The likability or lack thereof of Jason Todd, new characters with possible staying power (nd follow-up), I still need to get all those Comic Book Galaxy posts up and linked again, distribution follies in the time of COVID, I retell yet again that story about the Star Wars treasury edition, New Comics Tuesday, ’90s hot comics and also the Omega Men.

MAY 2020

Deathmate talk, it’s all the fault of Star Wars. well we thought reopening would be okay, the oldest digital images I have that aren’t pictures of a certain MTV VJ, heck yeah 1990s Swamp Thing TV show, actually all things considered I’m doing okay business now (with follow-up), I stil have this dumb box just floatin’ around the store.

JUNE 2020

If you don’t like me being very slighlty overty political on occasion tough cookies, DC bails entirely on Diamond, leaving JLA/Avengers and thus piles of money on the table, intercompany crossovers 1 2 3 and more to come, Warren Ellis and supporting problematic creators, the most sinful of “blogging about blogging is a sin” posts, brought on by Bully’s retirement.

JULY 2020

Oh no more blogging talk, and even more old man shouts at clouds about blogging, negative space advertising, lazy cover design, I like this screengrab of Doom Patrol I got, The Walking Dead now in living Technicolor, more on comic book reprint series.

AUGUST 2020

I think ultimately I made money on Three Jokers and am still selling them even today, but it’s way easy to lose money trying to predict what’s “investible” (and follow-up), reading about the DC Implosion while another DC Implosion is going on (plus follow-up), have an online presence for your store for God’s sake, a COVID comic reading poll, the relative meaning of “old comics,” you all talk about old comics and what happened to them, Three Jokers #1 and the shocking Swamp Thing connection, look out it’s DC continuity!

SEPTEMBER 2020

Look, I’m just going to bring up Odd Bodkins every few years and we’re just going to have to deal with it, are we having comics blogging yet, I’m sure this ‘zine smelled great when it was fresh, the mid-ish ’80s comics industry and my beginnings in funnybook retail, finally got a Cerebus #1 sorta, DC Universe is dead — long live DC Universe, Aardvark-Vanaheim comics that aren’t Cerebus, oh hey there Three Jokers #2.

OCTOBER 2020

Yet another comics-related vinyl record I’ve scouted out, it’ll take longer to read this post than it will to read the Angriest Dog in the World book, too much Joker, my Piggly Wiggly lies exposed (also a comic I totally Silly-Puttied), be careful with your colored word balloons, the black vans haven’t come for me yet so I guess it’s okay to have this comic, “Omaha” the Cat Record, some Warlord love and dead stock, Big Bang Theory and the elusive Jughead (plus follow-up), Three Jokers #3 – the shocking conclusion.

NOVEMBER 2020

Weird comic pricing hijinks, still can’t believe it included a Tumbleweeds parody (plus what do I mean by “local market conditions”), someday I’ll finish reading all the DC Comics Presents, I go on about comic ages again (and again) and talk more about back issue pricing, the Archie comic that doesn’t exist but should, go to the comments for the link to that long-lost MP3 of me, Marvel movie talk.

DECEMBER 2020

DC movie talk, and here’s a long-lost article I wrote for another site in 2006.

And there you go. Again, thanks to everyone who’s ever found even the slightest bit of worth in reading my excessive, somewhat typo-ridden, ramblings, and then come back for more anyway. Your readership, your comments, your emails, your (hint hint) purchases from my store…it all reminds me about how much I love this business, this pasttime, and the people I’ve met doing it. Especially the purchases. Those BIG, BIG purchases.

For reading all that, you get this picture of me taking a brief break at work:

Thanks, and I’ll see you again in a couple of days.

The New 52 armor costume is the honorary #6.

§ December 4th, 2020 § Filed under superman § 5 Comments

So in the process of backing up files and transferring things to the “new” computer, I came across a post I wrote for another blog back in 2006. It was The Horror Blog, a site run by a fellow named Steve up there in the wilds of Canada, who had also run a fun comics-oriented blog entitled I Was Ben. Now both sites are unfortunately defunct, replaced with either squatter “buy this domain” pages or some suspicious “SECURITY BREACH, YOUR IP HAS BEEN LOGGED” site. However, at some point I had the good sense to download a copy of my article and the images way back when and stored them away.

As such, since I’ve been busy working on a big post for Saturday, I’m going to present A Classic from the Golden Age of Comics Blogging and Not at All Just a Reprint, straight outta 2006: “Five Favorite Scary Superman Moments,” just in time for the scariest of all holidays, Christmas. Please enjoy!

• • •

Five Favorite Scary Superman Moments

When one thinks of “scary,” usually Superman comics don’t come to mind. Bright, cheery, sometimes even whimsical, sure…but scary? Not usually, but there are rare, very rare occasions when a moment in a Superman story will get under your skin, sticking with you long after the comic is put away. Here are just a handful of those instances, when the world of Superman was not as bright and friendly:
 
 
 
5. Superman is confronted with his own dead bodies (Action Comics #399, April 1971):

Following the explosion of an experimental power generator, Superman finds himself thrown out of our world…and into a giant crystalline “cell,” where he finds himself trapped with General Custer, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington. Eventually Superman breaks free of the cage to discover that he’s in the future, being studied by a time-travelling historical institute…and that the common thread among the “guests” is that they’ve been brought from the past from just before their imminent deaths!

That’s not the only surprise awaiting Superman, as the future historians explain that he is, in fact, the third Superman! Following the death of the original Superman, Earth scientists clones a second Superman to take his place, removing the memories of his death. And when that second Superman died, a third was created…the Superman that has been brought to the future just prior to his own demise.

Superman doesn’t believe this, of course, but by coincidence, the crypt containing the three super-bodies is just below the historical center:

For the most part, this is your standard Superman adventure, with the twist being that Superman was in fact thrown into the future of a parallel universe, and thus the history being related to him is not the history he lived…no cloning, no deaths. But that brief sequence, with Superman being confronted with his own dead bodies, and his own fear at having to see the final clone body, supposedly his own…it remains quite affecting.
 
 
 
4. Superman can’t save everyone (Hitman #34, Feb 1999):

Superman and Tommy Monaghan have a brief heart-to-heart talk about what it means to be not just a hero, but a symbol of what heroism is meant to be, during which Superman relates an instance in which his own symbolism adds to an extra level of despair to an already tragic disaster.

A nuclear space shuttle headed for Mars is in trouble, and Superman has his hands full trying to shield the shuttle’s escape craft from the atomic reactor leak, when he notices another astronaut, previously thought dead, huddling in one corner of the bay.

Superman can do nothing…he has to continue shielding the crew from the radiation or they will be lost. The astronaut in the bay is doomed…he knows it, Superman knows it…and, as Superman says:


 
 
 
3. That werewolf cover (Superman #422, Aug 1986):

Okay, the story inside is no great shakes…yes, Superman fights a werewolf, never actually turning into one himself, and yes, all the characters in the story are scared, but nothing in those pages is actually scary.

That cover, on the other hand…no Superman image can top the sheer wrongness of those hideously overdetailed head and hands attached to the smoothly streamlined body, drawn as only that master of the disturbing image, Brian Bolland, can manage. And on top of that, presenting the image in stark black and white, save for the red eyes…this image is one of the epitomes of superhero creepiness.
 
 
 
2. The final Luthor/Brainiac team (Superman #423/Action #583):

Taking place in the near-future, as Superman’s last battle approaches, arch-nemesis Lex Luthor seeks out and finds the crippled body of Superman’s other arch-nemesis, the robotic Brainiac. Lifting Brainiac’s head, Luthor is startled to discover that his mechanical “comrade” is not as lifeless as he seems:

Using Luthor as a host-body, Brainiac trundles off into the distance, preparing whatever revenge he’s planning to exact on the Man of Steel…

…Until the story’s climatic battle, when, face to face with a super-powered Lana Lang (don’t ask), Luthor is able to break Brainiac’s hold just long enough to plead for death from his fellow former Smallvillite:

And if that’s not enough, Brainiac attempts to continue commanding his dead host body, until it gives up completely:

That whole sequence is creepy in and of itself, but what makes it even more affecting is the unique position this particular version of Luthor holds in Superman’s long history. This is the sympathetic Luthor, the Luthor who’s protective of his young sister Lena; who loves the people of the alien world Lexor, who worship him as a hero; who admires Albert Einstein; and who, when the time came, was able to call out to a former childhood friend and beg her to release him from his living hell.
 
 
 
1. The Phantom Zone #1 – #4 (Jan – April 1982):

Of all the Superman stories ever printed, none can top this for what may be one of the most off-model adventures for the Man of Steel. A very basic explanation of the plot sounds like it’s right out of the Silver Age: the Phantom Zone villains escape their prison, trapping Superman (and former Zone prisoner Quex-Ul) in the Zone in the process, and then proceed to wreak havoc on the Earth while Superman tries to escape.

What makes this different, however, is the brutal storytelling of writer Steve Gerber and artist Gene Colan. Colan’s portrayal of the Man of Steel’s adventure is unlike any other artists…dark, moody, and mysterious, all shadows and swirly smoke, when Superman is usually presented as bright and triumphant. For example, the Phantom Zone itself, the extra-dimensional prison for Krypton’s worst criminals, usually looks like it’s just a room filled with grey clouds and transparent “ghosts” who are just normal looking folks colored all in white. Colan’s Phantom Zone looks more like what one would think of as a nightmarish spiritual world:

Gerber pulls no punches from the story’s get-go, as he details the crimes of the various Phantom Zone villains back on Krypton…mass destruction, mayhem, and, in the case of the PZ villain Faora Hu-Ul, tortured and murdered men:

This brutality continues, as the freed Zone villains begin their reign of terror upon the Earth, threatening civilians and easily overpowering the remaining superheroes. And it’s not the typical clean, antiseptic superhero action you’d expect. In Gerber and Colan’s hands, it’s horrifying: buildings are razed, people are burned and broken, and none can stand against the freed Kryptonian criminals.

Trapped in the Phantom Zone, Superman and his companion, the former Kryptonian criminal Quex-Ul, travel deeper and deeper into the depths of the ethereal prison looking for an escape route…and find themselves confronting the alien presence whose being apparently encompasses and creates the Zone itself. Bizarre beings and scenarios are thrown into their path, such as this temple of masked priestesses, whose masks hide a frighteningly symbolic visage for Superman:

As the series reaches its climax, Superman and Quex-Ul find themselves in direct contact with the central alien intelligence controlling the realm, which tries to absorb their spiritual forces into its own. Quex-Ul makes one final attempt at defeating the creature, flying directly into the monster’s maw, only to have his soul destroyed in the process. Superman, angry and defiant, makes his own attack upon the being, avoiding Quex-Ul’s mistake but finding himself in a place that wears heavy upon his soul nonetheless:

Having passed through this final portal, Superman finds himself back in the corporeal world, and the Zone villains are quickly dealt with. But General Zod, the most famous, most notorious of the Zone villains, gets some special treatment from Superman for the part he played in sending Quel-Ul to his death in the Zone:

And of all the elements of this particular story, this is the one that sticks with me the most. This isn’t the staid, mannered Superman of the Silver Age, tricking villains into defeating themselves, or finding himself in a superheroic domestic comedy, trying to hide his identity from Lois. This is a Superman who is showing real human emotion, real anger — this Superman is, quite frankly, pissed off. And, for the 13-year-old kid I was when I read this comic for the first time, back in ‘82, back before “pissed-off” superheroes were the norm, this was indeed just a little scary.

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