I can’t believe Swamp Thing said that about Batman.

§ May 30th, 2019 § Filed under doom patrol, swamp thing, television § 3 Comments

Your reminder that I, a glutton for punishment, have asked you, people what still read the comic blogs, for questions and topics for me to type a lot about, as is the way of my people. Please feel free to pop in over there and let your query flag quiver!

In other news…okay, what I had originally written here was this enormous rambling thing about the DC Universe original streaming shows and how much they embraced or did not embrace their funnybook origins, and boy did it get out of hand. “What, Mike typed too much?” I hear you asking in disbelieving tones. But yeah, it was a mess and too long and nobody wanted to read that. Instead, let me give you my much more brief opinions on the shows thus far:

Titans – while tonally…off, and with limitations on the characters that likely stem from budgetary/suspension of disbelief reasons (no flying for Starfire/only one animal option for Beast Boy) it still remains oddly watchable. The acting is solid, the ongoing plots about Robin trying to escape Batman’s shadow, and the stuff with Raven, are interesting, and the fight sequences are very well choreographed and easy to follow, which I appreciate. Plus, I love the fact that Hawk and Dove pretty much look like they were 3D printed directly from the comic books, even if they seemed to miss the point of, you know, Dove being a pacifist. Still, it’s enough to bring me back for Season Two, where I hope they shift a little more away from “WE’RE DARK AND ADULT, NOT LIKE THAT TEEN TITANS CARTOON YOU REMEMBER” and more toward the goofy superhero stuff. I mean, they don’t have to go all the way if they want, but a little more would be nice. The end-of-season tag gives me a smidgen of hope.

Young Justice: Outsiders – perfectly fine…if you liked the previous two seasons of this show, here’s more, and it’s a fun look at the DC Universe via the perspective of the younger heroes and sidekicks. Nothing against the Bruce Timm/DC Animated Universe style, but it’s nice to have a longform take on these characters that doesn’t look like every other DC TV cartoon. Good thing DC Universe spaces out the releases of their shows, because this would have been an easy one to just watch the entire initial batch of episodes straight through.

Doom Patrol: probably the breakout star of the streaming shows so far, approaching these weird characters and weird situations, often straight out of the comics, with humor and, well, the willingness to just throw the bonkers stuff at you and tell you “here you go, deal with it.” I know initially I thought for sure they’d figure out a way to have Robotman appear in human form most of the time thanks to some, I don’t know, holographic disguise or something, but nope, there’s Robotman, pretty much all the time. And I have to say, Brendan Fraser’s voicework on the character, as well as his dialogue and general demeanor, is just spot on perfect. That’s Robotman.

The other characters in the show are nicely done as well, though I’m hoping to see more of Rita Farr using her stretchy powers properly, rather than just occasionally melting down a bit. And Cyborg fit in better than I thought he would, supplying a contrast between the other Patrol members and himself while revealing to be nearly as messed up as the rest of them.

The metatextual commentary of Mr. Nobody, the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, Danny the Street and Flex MentallO, even the Beardhunter (somewhat in changed form)…this show really gave us something different and off-kilter in the superhero genre, which was desperately needed.

Forthcoming is Stargirl (about the show I know very little aside from seeing shots of the costume) and of course Swamp Thing (starting Frihay – here have a trailer). They look like they’re fiddling with the characters and set-up a bit, but I’m still willing to give it a go. What, you thought I wouldn’t? Here’s hoping it’s closer to Doom Patrol than to Titans…but let’s face it, I’d watch it regardless. I’ll report back after I get a chance to watch my own self.

Anyway, there’s my shorter take on the DCU TV shows. Aren’t you glad I kept it brief?

Yes, I’m taking questions again.

§ May 27th, 2019 § Filed under question time § 25 Comments


Don’t be like Archie and his pals! I want you to (m)ask me some questions (or suggest a topic for a post) that I will discuss right here on Progressive Ruin Dot RU Dot Gov Backslash Flashindexframe Dot HTML, Optimized for Netscape. Not at all a tactic to cover the fact that I ran out of time for my planned follow-up post regarding The Mystery of he Black and White Swamp Thing Scans on DC Universe.

Try to make it comic book related, because that’s all I know about, and please just one question per customer, as I have but one eye as yet to look at them all. So, keeping that in mind, just pop your question or suggestion into the comments and I shall do my best to give you some kind of response! (And before ou ask…I’ll get back to that Swamp Thing stuff next time.)

Thanks, pals!

Was this ever in the New Super-Man series?

§ May 24th, 2019 § Filed under Uncategorized § 4 Comments

So customer Brook told me his brother Nick was currently visiting China, and whllst there he took pictures of this statue near his hotel:


I’m sure thre’s an explanation, and I can probably Google it up, or someone will send me a link, but for the time being I’m just going to appreciate the mystery.

Gonna party like it’s 1989.

§ May 22nd, 2019 § Filed under batman, collecting, retailing, this week's comics § 2 Comments

So I haven’t said a whole lot about new comics and mags lately, mostly because, due to current eyeball issues, I can’t really read comics and mags at the moment. As such, I’m building up bit of a backlog of recent goodies at home, on top of the backlog I already had, for me to attempt to plow though once my peepers are in order. Therefore I’ve been trying to be a little pickier about what I set aside for myself, though sometimes I can’t resist a certain special something.

What I definitely don’t need to be taking home for eventual reading are those magazines with articles and interviews about comics past, like Back Issue…a fine publication, but it just takes me forever to get 1) to them, and 2) through them, so I try to make sure it’s got something I really want to read about…especially right now, as who knows when I’ll finally have good enough vision to properly absorb them.

That said, they just got me for two issues in a row. The previous issue, #112, had a special focus on “nuclear heroes,” with a cover and feature on DC’s Firestorm, a character whose comics I very much enjoyed throughout the 1980s. I always like learning more about the comics I read as a somewhat-younger Mikester, so that’s how they got me there.

Issue #113, the one pictured above, came out this week, with its focus on the 30th anniversary release of the first Tim Burton Batman film, and all the Bat-hoohah and goings-on in the comics industry at the time. As some of you may recall, because I keep bringing it up, there were two major events I had to deal with shortly after I first entered the world of comics retail way back in September of 1988. One was “The Death of Robin,” and the phone calls and large number of walk-ins we had involving that. The other was, of course, that very Bat-film, and the huge explosion of interest in comics that ensued.

I talked a lot — and I mean a lot — about this film and its impact on the business about a year and a half back (here are links to that particular series of posts: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 — and that is a whole lot to take in, but at least check out Wayne’s anecdote at the end of post #9. Trust me on this). But anyway, this issue of Back Issue is hitting the double-nostalgia chord with me…not just learning more about the Bat-comics I read at that time, of which, like most comic fans around then, I read a bunch. It’s also reminding me of a simpler time of comics retail, when I was just a teen, or barely out of my teens, manning a register and shuffling around comics and, okay, it’s not that different from what I do now, but I’m also paying the bills and placing the orders and just plain keeping the doors open. Not like back then, when I just had to focus on ringing up custmers and talking about comics and reading comics without also worrying about owning an actual business. I miss those days sometimes…but overall, I prefer what I’m doing now.

No idea why there wasn’t a #20, the last issue, in the collection.

§ May 20th, 2019 § Filed under collecting, market crash § 2 Comments

So I picked up a pretty sizeable collection of Clive Barker comics on Sunday…issues #1 through #19 of Hellraiser, with multiples of that #1, the assocated Books of the Damned series, some of the one-shot specials (like the Christmas special…yes, there was a Hellraiser Christmas special) and the Hellraiser III adaptation, some of the other Barker short story adaptations (like Dread and Son of Celluoid), a Night Breed #1, a Pinhead #1, one of those Barkerverse #1s (Harrowers, I think) and some others. Whoever collected these really like Hellraiser is what I’m trying to say.

But I’m not here to sing to you of the pleasures of Cenobites and such, but rather to talk to you about how the collection was stored. I won’t single out the company specifically…anyway, I’m pretty sure there was more than one company that made these, but the comics were stored in those stiff clear plastic envelopes, provided as a higher-end protective sleeve for your comics than your standard polypropylene or polyethylene bags, but not quite as high-end as your pricier Mylar bags. All the comics were kept in multiple binders.

Now…okay, don’t keep your comics in three-ring binders, that’s terrible. Luckily, these sleeves were specifically made for comics to be kept in such binders, so there was usually enough space there along the edge of the sleeve to prevent the comic within from getting bumped/creased by the rings of the binder themselves. I’ve seen lots of times over the years where they just used whatever plastic pouches they could find in office supply stores to hold the comics, which would slide about and bunch up whenever the binder was opened and closed, causing spine damage. Also, that seems like it would just take up too much space, frankly. But hey, to each his or her own.

Back to those fancy sleeves these Hellraiser comics were in. I remember selling lots of these back in the industry’s boom times of the early ’90s. Just boxes and boxes of them, of the 3-ring and non 3-ring variety. At the time they looked shiny and nice and felt smooth to the touch and the flaps were supple and hopefully I’m not turning any of you on, but hey, these seemed like reasonably nice sleeves. Even after the market crashed, we still have a number of boxes of these sleeves hanging around, and we could still move ’em out on occasion.

CUT TO: 25 years later, and your pal Mike is trying to go through these comics and get a good look at them before loosening his pursestrings to pay for these items. And the sleeves, once shiny and smooth and easy to open, are now, nearly every single one, cracked and split along the edges. When I open the flap to extract the comic, more often than not it cracks apart on me, usually coming right off. To the credit of these sleeves, the comics inside were well protected, which is the primary goal of putting them in sleeves in the first place. But in some cases, the bottom and/or top of the sleeves had come apart entirely, exposing the edges of the comic within to whatever elements they could have come across. It didn’t look like they had, so at least there’s that, but had they been exposed to any moisture at all, the bags would have done nothing.

My initial thought was that maybe these were just stored poorly. Maybe not somewhere wet, thankfully, but possibly somehwere with extreme temperature changes, that might have damaged these sleeves. There were a lot of people new to the hobby who entered the comics market during that period of time, who didn’t really know much about the care and feeding of comic books, and many of them didn’t stay for long. That means a whole bunch of comics bought in the late ’80s/early ’90s that eventually got discarded or neglected, shoved into some closet or out into the garage, if not just thrown out entirely, once the faddishness and interest faded.

I’m sure many of these comics were kept in fancy sleeves like the ones I’ve been talking about. The collection, ignored and shoved away, allowed to deteriorate until happened upon during housecleaning or an emptying of a storage unit, carted over to the local comics emporium for someone like me to go through them. ,,,My assumption was that poor storage brought about the demise of these sleeves, but I had at least one person tell me that, in his case, even in optimal conditions, they didn’t age well. I don’t know if that’s always the case…I have come across some of those somewhat softer but similar sleeves from the same time period, like some of those on the Wizard 1/2 mail-away offers, and they seem to be okay. But these cripser sleeves…I’ve come across them previously in recent years, and, yeah, I always end up rescuing the comics from them and throwing those sleeves away.

In conclusion…who wants to buy a bunch of Hellraiser and other Clive Barker comics? I sure do seem to have a bunch of them.

• • •

I have more Swamp Thing talk in me…surprise, surprise….including some response to your recent comments, but that’ll come later in the week. Thanks for reading, pals.

Quick. someone Ask Jeeves.

§ May 17th, 2019 § Filed under dc comics, how the sausage is made, publishing, swamp thing § 7 Comments

So the plan was to continue my dicussion of DC’s history of getting superhero chocolate into Swamp Thing’s peanut butter, and to do so I was going to, ahem, “borrow” some images from the DC Universe streaming app/service/comic library thing to save myself the time scanning the appropriate images. But lo and also behold, when I went to check out issue #23 of the original 1970s Swamp Thing series, this is what I found:

…It was in black and white. And so was #24. And when I checked other issues in the series, the available online scans from #14 ’til the end of that first run are all in black and white. Oh, and I eventually noticed the little, um, notice that was in the short text intro for each issue letting you know that, yes, this issue you’re about to read is in blcak and white.

That struck me as a bit…odd. I haven’t come across any other series on the service that was originally in color being presented in black and white. Granted, I haven’t done much of a deep dive beyond scattered issues of DC Comics Presents and some Silver Age Green Lantern, and there are literally thousands of digital comics recent thrown onto the service here, but it seems like this is weird.

Now there never was one of those black and white DC Showcase paperbacks for this series, and the entire run of the book was recently recolored and reprinted in that big ol’ Bronze Age Ominbus that came out not long ago. And other recently returned for regrooving and recoloring issues of other Swamp Thing series, like the 1982 run (also in that omnibus) is on the service, in full glorious technicolor. So why did the ’70s series get singled out?

There must be some kind of production issue involved here, though I have no idea what it is. The first thirteen issues are presented in color, and those same thirteen (representing Len Wein’s entire run of stories) were also recolored and reprinted in a hardcover some years back. So, I guess, maybe since those issues were reprocessed a few years back, they were ready for digitizing and uploading, but the later issues had yet to be recolored for that much more recent omnibus and weren’t ready when it was time to get all this online? But then, the pre-Alan Moore issues of the 1982 series had also never been reprinted before, but they’re all up and newly colored…so I have no idea. I’m really just guessing, and someone’s probably already explained why somewhere, but Alta Vista’s down and I know of no other way to search the World Wide Web.

Anyway, thought that was interesting. I’m still gonna talk about those issues soon, but I’m going to have to scan my own comics like some kind of caveman. I have talked about issues #23 and #24, the particularly superhero=y Swampys, on the site before, back in ye olden dayes of comics blogging, back before the meteor struck and killed 90% of Earth’s comics-blogging population. The scans I used then were tiny little things designed for dial-up, and not the glorious giant bandwidth-hogging pics I try to use now, so I’ll get on that in short order.

To follow up on BobH’s question from Friday’s comments section, about whether or not that final caption from issue #24 is in the currently-available print editions…my answer is “I don’t know.” I got pretty wiped out on much of my trade paperback stock during Free Comic Book Day, so I don’t have those Swamp Thing books readily available to peek at. I’m restocking best I can, and those Swampys are a priority what with the TV show about to debut. When last I investigated this important matter, that caption was missing from the then relatively recent hardcover printing, but present in the softcover edition. I believe we’ve had a repackaging of those issues since, so when my stock of those gets replenished, I’ll take a looksee.

In other Swamp Thing reprint news, DC has a series of “facsimile editions” (new printings of classic comics, ads and all, kind of like what Marvel’s been doing lately) coming soon. And House of Secrets #92, featuring the work of Jack Kirby and alos the first appearance of some swamp creature, is on the docket. That’ll make reprint number…man, I don’t know, I’ve lost count of how many versions of this I have. I made a list on this site long ago, and a later addendum or three, and I was up to, what, 15? 16? Whatever it is, it’s too many, and I’ll be adding to that collection soon, it seems.

Thank goodness I caught the typo in “makeshift lab,” that would have been embarrassing.

§ May 13th, 2019 § Filed under superman, swamp thing § 9 Comments

So when last we met, I had a lot to say about Swamp Thing comics and their treatment of superheroes, which hopefully you all were able to appreciate amongst all the typos*. I was a tad dismissive, in particular, of the Supeman/Swamp Thing “team-up” in DC Comics Presents #8 from 1979, which I described as a typical Superman comic that Swamp Thing happened to be in, and not reflective of the tonal shift superheroes would receive in the post-Alan Moore era of Swampy’s title.

Anyway, thanks to the DC Universe streaming service (as I’m not really able to read print comics due to my eyeball stuff) I was able to reread that issue for the first time in…gosh, a decade, maybe? And it turns out my memory of that book was just a tiny bit wrong.

I’ll explain, but just so we’re on the same page, as it were, and because there was some minor confusion over this point when I posted about it last Friday, the DC Comics Presents issue I’m talking about is not this one from 1985 by Moore, Rick Veitch and Al Williamson that everyone remembers:


…but, rather, this one from, as I said, 1979, by Steve Englehart and Murphy Anderson:


Now it does, on the surface level, look like a typical Superman comic. Supes is drawn in the traditional way (both inside by Anderson and on that greaet cover by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez), he’s fighting a supervillain, it’s in Metropolis, there’s Janet Klyburn from S.T.A.R. Labs, there’s Lois, etc. Oh, and there’s Swamp Thing, drawn in a style that fits right in with Superman’s world, the one concession to his mystery book origins being the drippy caption boxes:

Okay, and let me get this out of the way. The thing that bothered me about this issue when I first read it sometime in the early 1980s, more than anything else, and way out of proportion to the actual offense, is that Swamp Thing’s thought balloons are colored incorrectly. They’re supposed to be yellow on the inside, with the white outline. His speech balloons (all two of ’em) in this issue are drawn and colored the same way, and not as the jagged orange word balloons from the original comics. …I’m bothered less by it now, as I’ve mellowed in my old age, so let’s move on.

The general plot of the story is that Swamp Thing (who at this point still believes himself to Dr. Alec Holland, transformed by a hideous mishap of science into this muck-encrusted mockery of a man) learns about another swamp creature, Solomon Grundy, running around in Metropolis and causin’ trouble. Swampy wants to get his hands on Grundy and run some tests, hoping to find a cure for his condition, which brings him into conflict with Superman, who would take Grundy away and out of his reach:


As it turns out, there is some chemical hoohar in the sewers of Metropolis that is spontaneously generating dupblicates of Grundy, who are running amuck in the streets, forcing Superman to take drastic measures.

Eventually, Swamp Thing’s tests (using a makeshift lab he somehow built in the sewer tunnels) revealed what Superman already know, that Solomon Grundy and these duplicates aren’t really alive, but are instead, well…


I believe that would be the scientic term for it, yes.

Thanks to Dr. Klyburn at S.T.A.R. Labs, Superman has something-or-other that will destroy all these Grundy duplicates on contact that he can just fly around at super-speed and apply to them, saving himself the trouble of any more destructive brawls with a creature nearly as strong as he is. But when Swamp Thing hears of this plan:


He rushes to stop Superman from enacting this plan:


…but his attempt at getting the Man of Steel’s attention is futile:


…and Superman flies off and does the ol’ scrubbing bubbles thing on the Grundy menace:


Ultimately, in its way, this story is a definite precursor to the reinterpretations of DC’s superheroes we begin to see in the previously discussed Saga of the Swamp Thing #24. The Superman comics have always made a a big deal out of his code against killing, while also giving him regular “outs” to allow him to, well, kill things when he needs to (“oh, it’s just a robot,” “oh, it’s just some imitation of life,” “oh, it’s distorted weirdness”).

Solomon Grundy not being “alive” seems to be a case of splitting hairs…he moves, he thinks, he demonstrates understanding of concepts like “friend” and “foe” — that panel above, Swamp Thing realizes that it may not be specifically life as we know it, but it’s something. When Superman flies off to do his thing and save the day, freed by his belief that he’s not really kiling anything, the reader is forced, via Swamp Thing’s perspective, to consider that he is possibly (or, rather, probably) doing the wrong thing, that Superman is just straight-up fundamentally misapplying his code against killing, The story is one of failure: failure of Swamp Thing to prevent the destruction of the Grundys, and Superman’s failure to consider the possibility the Grundys may have some form of existence worth preserving.

I put “team-up” in quotes earlier as, while DC Comics Presents is “the Superman team-up comic,” Superman and Swamp Thing’s inabilit to team up is what leads to, if not a tragedy, at least a highly ambiguous ending. Without Swamp Thing’s involvement, if it were just a Superman story where he was coping with the same Grundy problem, the reader would likely think nothing of Superman’s solution. With Swamp Thing’s presence, with his point of view added into the mix, we suddenly get a superhero story where the flaws in the genre are brought forward and examined in the comic itself. This is as much a part of the lineage of the “realistic” takes on superheroes we see throughout the eighties and later as anything Moore or Frank Miller or Steve Gerber et al. have done. My mistake in dismissing this issue as long as I have.

Okay, the thought balloon thing still bothers me just a little bit.
 
 

* While my vision is improving, large blocks of text are difficult for me to process at the moment, and the irony that I seem to love writing large blocks of text is not lost upon me. Anyway, I’m proofreading best I can, but it ain’t easy…even the little squiggly red lines that the browser helpfully provides are hard for me to spot, so please bear with me.

No, I’m not counting that appearance in Super Friends.

§ May 10th, 2019 § Filed under swamp thing § 8 Comments

So on the DC Daily show on the DC Universe streaming channel, they do a thing called “Book Club” (“tally-HO!”) in which several of the cast members discuss a storyline or series of comics, a few issues at a time over a number of episodes. It’s a thing to encourage viewers to read those same stories via the DC Universe digital comics library. The discussions are fun and spirited and entertaining to watch, and if you like comic books, like I know I do, it can be nice to watch a bunch of folks enthusiastically and positively chatting about funnybooks I like.

And speaking of which, the current Book Club reading material of choice is Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, which of course certainly grabbed my attention. The started with the initial four issue storyline (plus a brief aside to #20, Moore’s first actual issue on the series), in which Swamp Thing discovers his true nature (or does he?) and squares off against the old Silver Age super-villain the Floronic Man.

Now, there’s a certain aspect to that story I kept expecting someone on the show’s panel to mention, but either they didn’t have time (it’s only a 15-minute or so segment, after all) or, speaking as an old person, perhaps they were just a bit too young to realize what a big deal this was. This is the storyline that just straight up puts the Justice League of America into a horror comic, and manages to make them fit into tonally into the proceedings, and what a precedent-setting event that was.

Swamp Thing, of course, had interacted with the larger DC superheroic universe at large prior to this, most famously in issue #7 of the original 1970s series where Batman appeared. Eventually there would be appearances in DC’s team-up books (twice more with Batman in Brave and the Bold, once with Superman in DC Comics Presents), plus an extended guest-starring role in Challengers of the Unknown.

The Batman appearances seemed more in line with Swamp Thing’s particular milieu, while the Superman adventure was more an off-model Swampy story (more like a bright super-adventure than one of DC’s mystery books). (EDIT: since there’s confusion, I’m referring to the 1979 Superman team-up by Steve Englehart and Murphy Anderson, not the later one by Moore and Rick Veitch). The Challs stuff was kind of a mix of the two, closer in style to the “weird heroes” DC comics of the late ’60s. What they all had in common was that they weren’t really trying to…re-present, I suppose, the superheroes in any sort of new context vis-à-vis the tone of a Swamp Thing story. These were generally straight-forward superhero adventures, and also here’s Swamp Thing. Batman feels like the closest fit mostly due to the usually darker nature of his own stories, especially in the post-1960s attempts at escaping the long shadow of the Adam West TV show.

When the second Swamp Thing ongoing series began in the early ’80s, the stories once again felt divorced from the DC universe. There were Phantom Stranger back-ups in the early issues, but were unrelated to the lead feature. Mr. Stranger would of course eventually team-up with Swampy in issues #14 and #15 of that series…possibly a more natural fit than even Batman, given the character’s supernatural nature.

So anyway, back to that Justice League appearance. That happens in issue #24. In issue #21, we get sort of our first hint of what’s to come with the introduction of Jason Woodrue, AKA the plant-themed super-villain the Floronic Man into the series. This is not a transgressive introduction of a superheroic element into the Swamp Thing comics, but rather Woodrue is redefined in horror terms, a twisted, shadowy monster instead of a sleekly costumed nemesis for the Atom or whomever. Swamp Thing isn’t made to fit into a superhero book (like he had been before, especially in that one Superman team-up)…it’s his book, these visiting characters have to play by his book’s rules. And the main rule is “you’d better be unnerving.”

Which finally leads us to the Justice League appearance. When issue #23 contained the line “and Washington called the Justice League,” I remember thinking at the time “whoa, hold on, this is Saga of the Swamp Thing, how the heck is the JLA gonna fit into this?” Y’know, despite the fact that we’d been reading about an old supervillain for the last couple of issues, but he fit in…he was a plant-monster, kinda like Swampy, he was creepy and murderous and didn’t feel like a goofy 1960s villain. But the Justice League, with, like, Superman and Firestorm and such, that seemed like a bridge too far.

But here it was, issue #24:

…with a cover blurb and everything, which you mostly didn’t get on the more horror-oriented Swamp Thing covers. And already you can see that this isn’t going to be a usual guest-apearance by Earth’s Greatest Super-Team, what with them being all dark and shadowy and stuff.

And sure enough, inside, they’re….all dark and shadowy and stuff. And the captions aren’t all flowery and upbeat and “hey look, it’s your favorite heroes.” It’s more along the lines of “these are weird beings dressed in strange ways and can do not-normal things.” Well, hold on, here are some representative panels:

I mean, they’re not even called “superheroes,” but the somewhat more terrifying “overpeople,” for Pete’s sake. You’re forced to reexamine these characters in the title’s horror context, helped along by the shadows and the coloring and their non-conventional portrayals…what is usually idealistic heroism is now creepy and a little upsetting.

Alan Moore had already been reexamining (or “deconstructing,” if you will) the superhero genre over in England with his reintroduction of original Captain Marvel 1950s knock-off Marvelman. What was once bright and cheery with that character is now menacing and mired in modern day goverment conspiracies and violence. But the JLA’s appearance in Swamp Thing set the tone for nearly all future apperances of superheroes in this series. They’re never just “as-is,” it’s always in the context of “what’s wrong with this,” or “here’s what’s really odd about them,” or “did you ever realize this?” They’re all recontextualized in the comic’s tone, designed to make you see them differently, to reconsider them, to be kept off-balance by them. Even when the metacommentary gets a little too much for DC editorial, requiring some changes, the “scary superhero” continues throughout the run.

And this idea of reexamination/descontruction spread to other comics, especially the Vertigo and proto-Vertigo titles like Sandman (itself using an Justice League villain as one of its initial antagonists) and Shade the Changing Man and Doom Patrol (which could be argued that, to an extent, it was sort of approaching this level of “superhero as an other to be feared” even back in the 1960s run). But I think it’s same to say this portrayal of the JLA was, as was described to me when I talked about this briefly on Twitter, one of “the most influential comics ever published.” It’s one of the first of the modern era of mainstream superhero comics to make us look at these characters in a different and disturbing light.

And that’s the thing I think was missed on the DC Daily discussion, just how surprising and shocking this version of the Justice League was. That sort of portrayal is more commonplace in comics now, but it was certainly novel back then. Pretty much a straight line from this to Watchmen, I think it’s safe to say.

Speaking of the DC Universe digital comics ( which I was way back at the beginning, if you remember)…if the DC Daily crew were reading this storyline via that digital library, I hate to tell them but they missed the very last line of the Floronic Man story. Like some of the print editions (previously: 1 2), the line “…and meet the sun” is dropped off that final splash page:


Along with that color-hold error in the digital #21…well, I don’t know what to tell you…you folks should have bought ’em off the stands back in ’83, like I did.
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ADDENDUM: I was also reminded on the Twitterers that we had some measure of Swamp Thing absorbing superheroic shenanigans into its milieu near the end of the original series, as well as a promised (but never published) appearance by Hawkman. This was, if not an influence, at least a precursor to what was to come. Oh, and Steve Gerber’s Man-Thing work in the ’70s should be part of this lineage as well, what with that Foolkiller character an’ all. But holy cow, I’ve typed enough tonight…further coverage to come, I’m guessing!
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cover art by Tom Yeates, interior art by Steve Bissette and John Totleben

The preop postmortem.

§ May 6th, 2019 § Filed under eyeball, free comic book day § 2 Comments


PICTURED: artist’s rendering of the what the Free Comic Book Day logo looks like through Mike’s left eye


So I’m going in first thing the morning for what we can only hope is my final eye surgery for the time being, and as such I’ll try to keep my Free Comic Book Day report relatively short.

And in short…it was yet another highly successful FCBD event at my shop, the most recent in essentially an unbroken chain of successful FCBD events for me since their very beginning. We gave away lots of comics, saw lots of new faces, and did plenty of actual business of the coin-of-the-realm type. In fact, I had in my mind a certain amount of monetary expectations, and we easily blew right past that. Once again, Free Comic Book Day paid for itself many times over.

I didn’t do it alone…as always, my dad and pal Dorian were on hand to help out…especially needed this year since 1) my eyes still aren’t up to snuff given the last year’s travails, and 2) I was told by the doctor not to exert myself or really lift anything, so hefting boxes of comics and moving tables around was verboten. However, one of my very longtime customers, Deon, dropped by the store the day before offering his services if I ever needed them, as he had left his job to go back to school and was looking for the occasional odd job if I had any available. “Boy, do I,” said I, and that’s how Deon made the set-up and break-down of the store for FCBD such a breeze.

(Also, my girlfriend Nora had, and is still recovering from, some form of hideous plague and could not also assist, though she really wanted to come in!)

Speaking of set-up, here’s a look at the giveaway tables prior to the onslaught:

And here’s a pic I took of the back issue tables that were pushed together near the front of the shop and provided sale signage:

And here’s one of the very few crowd photos I took when I had a moment:

We were slammed from the moment we opened our doors — I knew we were probably in for a big crowd at opening judging by the huge number of phones calls and in-store queries asking when the event would begin. Before we opened, we had a line stretching across the strip of businesses I’m in, and when the doors did open, we literally had more people than could fit inside the shop…crowds were building up at the front anxiously awaiting entrance.

Nice mix of folks coming in, from preschoolers to grandmas, all taking advantage of the giveaways. And, once again, my policy of not restricting the number of different books one could take worked out just fine…as I’ve said before, when given the choice, only a few people take one of each, while others are happier voluntarily taking a smaller selection. Either way is fine with me! I did have to reassure some people that they could take more than a couple if they so desired, such as in this tweet I posted that day relating one conversattion:

“So all of these comics are free?”

“Yes!”

“And we can take one of each of them?”

“Yes!”

“And we can just walk out the door with them?”

“Yes!”

I think that poor girl still thought she was gettin’ away with something when she left.

Anyway, I said I was going to keep this short and failed miserably, but there’s not too much to tell, really. Like I said, lots of customers, lot of new people, gave away lots of comics (still have a few in a short box on the counter for anyone who couldn’t make it that day), and lots of sales. No real problems during the day…did have one fella who didn’t quite get that Free Comic Book Day was not the day to ask me to go through his collection and buy it, when, like, the store was at one of its busier points and I had a line at the register, but What Can You Do?

One odd thing…the exclusive Funko Pop for FCBD this year was John Constantine, and I ordered a small pile of them, as previous years’ exclusives went right quick. But ol’ Johnny just kinda sat there for most of the day…I was wondering it the Pop fad finally ran its course and it picked FCBD to start pushing up daisies, but suddenly in the late afternoon they started selling, thank goodness. Think I have one left…well, two, if you count the one that somehow maybe made it back to my house.

Eep. This isn’t short at all. Sorry about that. If I don’t get to bed soon, I’m going to be asleep the entire time the doctor is poking sharp objects into my eyeball, and I certainly don’t want to miss that! Thanks for reading, pals, and let’s do all this again next year!

Free Comic Book Day is today!

§ May 4th, 2019 § Filed under free comic book day § No Comments

Get yourself to the funnybook emporium of your choice (preferably mine!) and grab up some free comics to enjoy! And don’t forget to maybe drop a dollar or four while you’re there to help support the kind retailer (preferably me!) offering up the goodies.

Have fun, and I’ll see you all on the other side!

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