Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Rewriting the Superman/Kenny Rogers PSA crossover by Curt Swan

Curt Swan's 100th birthday was on February 17th, and as such, folks were sharing images and stories of Curt and his work online as a tribute to the greatest Superman artist of all time. Some even shared pictures of the original Swan artwork they own, which was a special treat for me. Swan is one of my favorite comic artists and I'd love to own a piece of his art one day.

Phil Hester, probably best known for his DC work as both a writer and artist (he also drew a cover to Teddy and they Yeti #1, wouldn't you know), shared a piece from his own collection, an anti-drug public service announcement from the Reagan years:

This was from a time when Superman was teaming up with the Nestle Quik Bunny and the Kool-Aid Man had his own special, but I was still surprised to see this one-page team up between the Man of Steel and country star Kenny Rogers. I was even more surprised to see Rogers swinging a mean left hook as he confronted some drug dealers. The signer appears in all eight panels of this story, compared to only three for Superman. Someone's hogging the spotlight!

Another notable thing about this page is that it's presented in black and white, which means that it was easy for me to erase the words in the speech balloons and fill them back in with some nonsense of my own, which I then proceeded to do, because I apparently had nothing else going on at the time.

I wanna say that...I like the results. Now Kenny Rogers is an out-of-control murderer who has somehow blackmailed Superman into doing his dirty work. This is a story we didn't know we needed.

If DC Comics would ever want to hire me to ruin some of their other stories, well, I'd be up for it. Sorry, Curt.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Thing sketchbook, part 21

I've been waiting to show off my new Thing sketchbook for quite a while. I call it new even though I've had it for over three years already - but it's newer than the one I've been filling up since 2003, at any rate. Once I finished posting art from the first book, it finally gave me the opportunity to start sharing these new-ish sketches of Ben Grimm.

This new book is both smaller than the first and more art-worthy; its square pages measure 5.5x5.5 and the paper is both thicker and more archival than the first. Now I don't have to worry as much about one person's drawings bleeding onto the next page (though I still carry something to put under each newly-drawn page as it's being worked on). And while I'll always have a special place in my heart for the first sketchbook, I've found that a smaller working area allows artists an opportunity to spend a little more time making a great sketch and less worrying about filling up all that space of the first book. It creates pages that feel a little more full!

This book has 128 pages in it, which means that it'll take me, like, 15 more years to fill it up at the rate I usually get sketches. That's daunting. Maybe I'll be dead before it's finished! Wouldn't that be something! Anyway, let's take a look at the first five sketches from this new book.

Lonny Chant - New York Comic Con 2016

Lonny is a friend who I know from books like FUBAR; we've worked on a few stories together and I think he's a tremendous artist. NYCC was the first place I took the new book after buying it in 2016, and I'm happy to have this gritty Ben Grimm as the first image in the book.

In the last book, I eventually got another friend to draw something on the inside front cover, which came blank. This new book has a lot of writing on its inside front cover, so I doubt I'll be getting any art on it...though I guess you never know.

Erica Henderson - New York Comic Con 2016

Erica Henderson is probably best known for her work on different Archie titles and Squirrel Girl for Marvel. I walked through artist alley at NYCC with the hope of getting one more sketch for the book's initial run. I really like Erica's blocky, cartoony art - it's perfect for the Thing!

Tim Showers - 2017

After filling up a good portion of the first sketchbook, I would get nervous taking it with me and leaving it with artists while they worked on it (or added it to their to-do lists). The book represented years of effort and I worried a lot about losing it! Once I got the new book, I realized that I didn't have to have the same emotional attachment to it while it was still in its early stages. This was an opportunity for me to not just leave the book for longer periods, but to actually stick the dang thing in the mail and send to various folks to put their own stamp on it.

The first to take up this offer was Tim Showers, a friend I met when I lived in South Carolina; he and I were at a few XCon World shows and I really liked his hip, graffiti-esque artwork. I contacted Tim in early 2017 and he was up to the task. I love the "4" symbol in this one.

Caroline Moore - 2017

Caroline has been a friend of mine since high school, and is a really skilled photographer and graphic designer. She had drawn the Thing for me on a loose sheet of paper before, but I'm happy to get this meme-worthy official entry into the new book. I think I took a drive to her house just to pass off and pick up the book. Was it self-serving? Yes. But I got a Thing sketch out of it. It's a win.

Kurt Belcher - 2017

Kurt is my Naked Man at the Edge of Time collaborator and an all-around good guy. I mailed him the book and he sent back this, dare I say it, Two-in-One sketch with the Thing and Lockjaw. I don't know what it is about it, but I really like the trunks that you can see at the very bottom of the sketch. I guess it's because most artists don't draw ol' Benjy below the shoulders. This one was very fun. And yes, it was getting tough to let the art book out of my sight once I got the first five entries.

I've managed to get a bit of a head start on this new book, so I'll try to update these entries again soon. It's a new Thing sketchbook!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Tick panel at the 2019 Rhode Island Comic Con

One of the nicest things for me in all of 2019 was being invited to November's Rhode Island Comic Con as part of the show's celebration of The Tick, past and present. This all came about because Ian Nichols, artist on many of the Tick issues I've written, did a lot of legwork to contact and book some of folks associated with the character. When he brought it up and asked if I'd be interested in being a guest at the show, I naturally jumped at the chance.

I had a nice time at the show in general - it's a mid-level show that reminded me a lot of the old Pittsburgh Comicon from the late '90s. There were, of course, plenty of entertainment celebrities at the show, but there were a lot of retailers and comic creators and other areas that were represented, too.

New England Comics had a booth there, and they packaged up Ian and my Tick convention story for the show with a new cover by Ian. It was one of two show exclusive comics available over the weekend - the other being X-Men #1 from the current series.

Bob Polio from NEC was there!

Saturday of the show was the biggest one for me, because I was asked to be part of a panel that included Ian, Bob and actors Patrick Warburton and Griffin Newman (Peter Serafinowicz wasn't able to make it). I took a picture of the schedule! I do not regret it!

I've been on a few panels before, many of them very low-level and lightly attended (I've appreciated them all, to be clear). This one was set up to be one of the biggest of the entire convention, with actors I admire from shows I enjoy. I'm grateful to have been involved with it at all - I know that the folks in attendance were there to see the actors on the panel, but I was excited nonetheless to share the stage with everyone else.

The panel started at 11:00, not long after the convention opened for the day. A handler came and corralled me at around 10:40 and took me through the bowels of the building. It was all very official. We picked up some of the other guests and made our way to the ballroom.

When I got there, I got to be one of the people allowed behind the mysterious panel curtain. Once 11:00 rolled around, we were all called out to the stage area.

Did I take a picture once I got onto the stage? Yes I did. At the very left we have our moderator, followed by Griffin, Patrick, Ian and myself. Bob Polio is just to the right.

Let's post a few pictures from the actual panel. These ones come mostly from the convention feed. A big Tick fan, Maryellen, sent me a few of these as well.

There are more, but you, uh get the idea.

It was really enjoyable to get to be able to be on stage with these fellow Tick creators. I knew that most people weren't there to see me, so I tried to keep from jumping on every question (but I have so much to say!). I think that it all went well and that the audience enjoyed it. I even got to ask Patrick a question of my own (there had been rumors that he might have eventually played Barry Hubris on the Amazon show - his answer was, basically, "no"). But more than anything else, it was so much fun to get to talk about The Tick and how much we all loved the characters with a room full of fans. I'm extremely grateful to have been a part of it.

And yes, the whole panel was filmed. There was a crew with a camera and several other pieces of camera-crew-like equipment in the room! I saw it being filmed. I filmed the filming with my eyes!

That might raise the question, "why didn't you just show the recording?" And that is quite the pertinent question. I have yet to see the footage, even though I'm pretty much dying to. I know it's out there. I want to see it. I want to share it! It was a fun panel that I think other people would like to see. If I'm ever able to get a'll be out there to view. The reason I didn't write this post in December is because I've been trying to wait for the footage to appear.

Once the panel ended, I managed to get a few pictures: one on stage with Ian and Griffin...

...and one behind the curtain with everyone (except Bob, who wasn't up for it)!

We all hung around for a few minutes, talking about the convention, the Amazon series, the comic...just The Tick in general. I enjoyed every second of it, and I'll always be grateful that I got to be a part of this panel (and the Tick universe). Now that the Amazon Tick series has been cancelled, will I ever see some of these folks again? I sure hope so.

Let's look at a few other Tick-related images while we're at it. The convention folks snapped this picture of Ian and me on Sunday, before I left. Did I get heckled about wearing Steelers gear deep in the heart of New England? Yes, I did. But hey, all of those people can go straight to hell! I hate them all.

I'm pictured here with some fans dressed as Hobbs and Ramses IV from the Amazon series. On the right is the aforementioned fan who took some of the panel pictures!

And someone dressed up as The Tick himself on Saturday!

Here's the show program.

Open it up the featured guest page, and who do you see? Some well known creators...and there at the bottom right...

...there's my picture! This picture originally included a goat! I demand to know why they cut out the goat!

Here's the Tick and X-Men covers.

After the Amazon show was cancelled, the studio unloaded a lot of props from the series. I got a few things...more on this later (I think).

I found a '90s kids Tick Halloween costume! This one didn't have the mask, but I already have a mask, so now I have the whole thing! It's a kid's large. Maybe I could wear it?

I also was able to get two badges from last year's Wondercon in Anaheim. All of the badges had The Tick on them! It's some of the only promotion Amazon did for season two!

And lastly, I found this sound bite CD from the 2001 Fox series. It's in perfect shape and sealed - which means I can never open it to listen to the tracks. So now I guess I have to find another copy? Such is life.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Where have all the ads gone?

Over the summer, I read through Kirk Demarais's "Mail-Order Mysteries" book, in which he compares the presentation of items in old comic book ads with the actual, physical products. It's a really fun book for those, like me, who hold a special, nostalgic place for those weird advertisements. Some of them even featured the Thing:

But as the world of print has changed, ads in comics seem to be fewer and fewer, with many ads from outside companies being replaced with in-house ads. I don't know why it should matter to me, because ads are generally distracting and comic companies aren't suddenly going to lower the cost on books just because they sell a few more ads, but because of the nostalgia factor, I find myself wondering where all the comic book ads have gone in the last, say, 20 years.

Both Marvel and DC are spending some shelf space on "facsimile"-style reprints, which reprint an old book to look almost exactly like the original, with the old advertisements and all. Marvel's one-dollar "True Believers" line also reprints books, but without the ads. It's hard for me to fathom why anyone would pay four bucks for a reprint when both companies are now reprinting tons of old issues for a quarter of the price, and yet I've found myself purchasing a few - the first of these, I believe, was last year's Fantastic Four #1 facsimile edition.

Do the ads and a slightly better paper stock make up for the three dollar difference? Almost certainly not...but they do give me the opportunity to compare the number and format of ads in the past with those of books today. And I'm going to share it with the Internet! Which is to say, I'm talking with myself and that's okay.

DC recently published a full reprint of Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 from 1985, the supposed death of the Flash. Here's what we find:

On the inside cover, there's an in-house ad about DC's 50th anniversary.

Later, there's an interactive Oreo ad.

This is followed by an ad for Reese's Pieces. It's (slightly) interesting to note that while the story pages look like they were printed from the original files, the ads appear to be scanned from a published copy, meaning they're not quite as crisp as the story pages. I guess there's no reason that DC would have kept stat copies of the ads from outside companies.

Next, we have an offer for a robot watch that, okay, still looks pretty cool, from Bonkers candy.

The next one is two half-page ads, one for the Transformers on VHS, the other an in-house ad for the New Teen Titans.

The next one has a familiar layout - I feel like I've seen any number of things sold with a similar mail-in form. This particular ad is for some glow-in-the-dark posters.

All right - now here's the classic comic book ad layout, with a ton of cheap gags and mailing lists to consider. I wonder if, at any point in the reprint process, anyone at DC considered replacing Red Cross ad with noted spokesman, uh, Bill Cosby.

Here's a subscription ad.

The inside back cover is similar to the inside front, as they both have editorial content.

And finally, on the back cover, there's a Kenner ad for the Super Powers toy line - a classic, for sure.

So let's add 'em all up. We have:

- 10 ad pages total, with 11 unique ads (or editorial content)
- 7 ads from outside companies
- 4 in-house-style ads or editorial pages

I'm counting the Super Powers ad as an outside ad, even though Kenner is selling toys based on characters owned by DC.

Now let's look at a recent book, Superman #16 from the current series.

On the inside front cover, there's an ad for the Adult Swim cartoon, "Primal". Now, Warner Bros. owns both DC and Adult Swim, so the parent company is the same. Did any money change hands to get this ad in this issue of Superman? Who knows! But I'm counting it as an outside ad, because I want to.

Next we have a superhero-themed Goldfish ad.

Here's an ad for a new wresting league. I've never been a fan of professional wresting. It was soap-opera-style storylines and big, muscular men who fight each other all the time with allegiances that seem to change week-to-week. Wait, that sounds exactly like superhero comic books. Uh oh.

Some people apparently hate these Snickers ads, because they're in a comic book style and sometimes you start reading them as if they were a continuation of the story in the book. Well, first, that's the point of formatting an ad like this, but also, how can you hate this an still pine for the old Hostess Fruit Pie ads? They're basically the same thing! I think they're great.

And then we have a long string of in-house ads, the first one of which is for the new Legion of Superheroes book.

And then one for the Zoom-line Black Canary graphic novel.

Here's one for the Doomsday Clock collection.

Here's one for the Heroes in Crisis collection.

And here's one for the DCeased collection.

At the back of the book, we have a "DC Nation" editorial page, followed by a DC Online video game ad. Again, it's tough to tell if this is an in-house ad or an outside ad, because I'm sure Warner Bros. has a lot to do with why this was placed in the comic.

Similarly, the back cover has an ad for a new Wonder Woman animated movie.

So, to the best of my understanding, here's what we have:

- 13 ad pages total, with 12 unique ads (or editorial content)
- 6 ads from outside companies
- 6 in-house-style ads or editorial pages

It looks pretty even when compared to 1985, even though many of the "outside" ads are from companies ultimately owned by Warner Bros.

Now, if I haven't lost everyone completely already, let's look at one from Marvel. This one is Howard the Duck #1 from 1976.

One the inside front cover, we've got an ad for...I've never read this ad in my life. Is it for model airplanes? Paper airplanes? Actual flight school for children? I'll never know.

One interesting thing about this book is that all of the non-cover ads were on two-page spreads, so none of them butted up against a story page. This spread has a bunch of ads, from a Slim Jim ad on the left to some in-house ads for the 1976 Marvel calendar and the "Son of Origins" book.

A lot of these pages are just jam-packed with ads. Who wants to be a locksmith? Who wants to customize a van? Who wants to...grow? Weird.

Another collage of ads on the left. Guitar lessons on the right! The Mail-Order Mystery book was born out of these pages.

Finally, an ad for Grit!

Half of all old comic book ads are for weight loss; the other for weight gain.

On the left we have our Bullpen Bulletins, and on the right - finally! - a Hostess Fruit Pie ad, with Spider-Man tossing pies to criminals! That'll teach 'em!

It's tough to tell if any of these are in-house ads or not. I'm going to say no, even though Spider-Man is featured prominently in both. Nothing like a little cross promotion!

On the back cover, we have a classic ad for Evel Knievel's Stunt Cycle!

This one is tough to quantify. Let's take a leap:

- 16 ad pages total, with 18 unique ads (or editorial content)
- 16 ads from outside companies
- 2 in-house-style ads or editorial pages

I'm counting those ad collages on a single page as one ad. Is that accurate? Uh...yes.

Lastly, here's a recent issue from Marvel, Avengers #24 from the current series.

On the inside front cover, we see the M&Ms cannibalizing one of their own. I think the recap page on the right counts as a story page, as opposed to something editorial.

This ad is for Marvel's online Contest of Champions game. Ugh, this really seems like an in-house ad, but I guess I counted DC's video game as an outside ad, so that's what I'll classify this one as, too.

This double-page spread is definitely in-house, celebrating the company's Eisner and Inkpot industry award winndes.

Next we have a Diamond Select ad for a Spider-Man diorama set.

On the left, we see the Cosmic Ghost Rider's skull, and on the right, we have a skull-themed ad for Venom Island. What can I say? Skulls are cool to draw.

Next we have an add for the new Mary Jane series, while at the bottom there's a code to download a digital copy of the book.

The "next issue" solicitation on the left, now that I think about it, should probably count as an editorial page. It's basically taken the spot of a letters page. And on the right, the inside back cover has an ad for Axe Body Spray.

And here's the back cover, with an ad for the Avengers: Endgame soundtrack.

That means we have:

- 10 ad pages total, with 10 unique ads (or editorial content)
- 5 ads from outside companies
- 5 in-house-style ads or editorial pages

Judging from just these two examples from 45 years apart, it seems that Marvel's ads have shrunk more dramatically than those from DC books - though I'd have to consider more issues than just two to come to any real conclusions. Still, it's interesting to see the shift in ad types over a few decades, especially considering the changes the print medium has gone through since these older books were printed.