Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Unboxing the Marvel Collector Corps Avengers blind box! Plus a quick Avengers: Age of Ultron review!

A few months ago, Marvel announced that they'd be launching a new "blind box" subscription service.  These have become fairly popular over the last year (maybe the most well known is Lootcrate) as collectors and fans apparently like to have random things shipped to them several times a year.  I can relate to this; getting a package in the mail is always exciting and is one of the factors that defines my eBay obsession.  Having Marvel jump on this bandwagon is no surprise as its existing fanbase seems the perfect type of consumer to sign up.

Marvel calls the subscription service the "Marvel Collector Corps", which almost certainly tries to evoke memories of the Merry Marvel Marching Society of years past.  Each kit costs $25 plus about eight dollars in shipping.  Marvel claims that every box is packed with items that would retail for at least $50, and they ship six times a year.  I decided to give it a try, thinking that I could keep what I wanted and sell the rest.  The gamble here is that if I only wanted one or two things from a box, I could conceivably make most if not all of my money back by piecing out the rest; the danger is that I will want to keep everything in every box and lose money and space every other month.

The theme for the first month was the Avengers, which of course made sense because of the Age of Ultron movie that came out at about the same time.  My box came in the mail at the end of April, and it was really a sight to behold, with Captain America's head on the top and "Avengers" printed in bold letters on the side.  The packaging design was a nice bonus on top of the items inside.  Whoever at Marvel and Funko (Marvel's partner in the service) put the box together did a good jab at making even the packaging a collectable item.  The inside of the top lid had comic book panels from various books (featuring Avengers members) printed on it.

The first surprise upon opening the box, and something else that harkened back to the MMMS, was a patch and pin welcoming you to the Collector Corps.  These two items just oozed nostalgia, and they're the little things that collectors will probably be searching for in years to come.

The second lid folded back and revealed the main compartment with four different items.  It was an impressive sight.

The biggest and probably the most desirable item was probably the Hulkbuster Iron Man Funko Pop figure.  This (and each item) was an exclusive to the service and it was without a doubt the centerpiece.  It's a hefty piece, bigger than the average Funko figures from the same line.  It's an impressive figure.

Marvel also launched its "Dorbz" line with this kit.  It's funny that included in this blind box is another blind box, but I guess that's a successful marketing ploy at the moment.  Inside the box is a vinyl figure featuring yet another Age of Ultron character.

Next up was an Avengers shirt.  Apparently every box will include a shirt, and at least this time around, there were a total of four Avengers shirts, randomly inserted, each featuring a different avenger taking on Ultron on what looks like a boxing match promotional poster.  I got Thor.

Lastly was a variant to the first issue of the new Guardians Team-Up series, of course featuring the Avengers.  I'm glad that Marvel didn't forget to include actual comics in this subscription service.

All in all, I thought that the first box was a triumph for the company.  It included so many cool items - presented in a fun, collectible way - that it was hard not to get excited about it.  These boxes are big - bigger than shoe boxes by half, I'd say - and they'll start taking up a lot of room in people's garages before too long.  I signed up for an entire year of the boxes, so I'll be interested to see what June brings and what theme Marvel decides on.

Of course, my big hope is that one day soon there'll be a Fantastic Four-themed box.  Marvel is downplaying the team right now as it tries to reacquire the movie rights, so I don't expect it to happen soon, but eventually...I have to believe that there'll be some FF items arriving at my mailbox.  Now that is a box I'll keep in its entirety.  I might buy two.

Free Comic Book Day and all of the things surrounding that weekend kept me from seeing the Age of Ultron movie when it came out, but I finally got a chance to see it a few days ago.  It was a solid movie worthy of the franchise that has such lofty expectations placed on it.  It wasn't a perfect movie, and I don't think it was as good as the first one - it seemed uneven in places, and I think there was an over-reliance on really long action scenes as opposed to the quieter character moments that made the first movie so wonderful - but it's worth going to see.  It definitely tries to set up the movies that will come after, and seeing how this sequel is bringing in an ungodly amount of money, it's hard to envision a summer without a Marvel tentpole film for many years to come.  Here's hoping the quality remains high and the movies remain enjoyable.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Free Comic Book Day 2015 Tick! Plus signings at New England Comics!

Free Comic Book Day is once again upon us, and just as in 2013 and '14, there's a new issue of The Tick to be had!  It looks kind of like this:

Be sure to head out to your favorite comic shop this Saturday and pick up a copy for free!  And there are probably some other free books being released at that time.  I guess.

Also as in years past, I will be in Boston this weekend signing copies of the book at a few different New England Comics locations!  Here's the schedule for Saturday:

So it looks like I'll be at NEC Norwood from 11:00-2:00, and NEC Harvard Square (my favorite location) from 4:00-7:00!

I will most likely have a signing on Sunday late morning/early afternoon at one of the other stores, though I'm not sure about those details just yet.  Keep checking www.newenglandcomics.com for more details.

Happy Free Comic Book Day!  Go get some comics!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Thing sketchbook, part 17

So many great Thing sketches in this round of the Thing sketchbook show...thing.  This might be the best grouping of five consecutive sketches yet...though I suppose I've said that before.  There are some great ones, though, to be sure.  Check 'em out!

Zander Cannon - Comic-Con International 2014

After pulling in a half dozen sketches at Comic-Con in both 2012 and '13, for some reason I returned from San Diego in 2014 having added only one Thing sketch to the book.  But what a sketch it is!  This beauty, done entirely in colored pencils, is by Zander Cannon, perhaps best known for his work on the graphic novel Heck! and his work on the America's Best Comics line with Alan Moore.  I know him best, though, for his short lived Chainsaw Vigilante series, a spinoff of the Tick line.  The rounded figure and the stubby arms and legs really make this piece for me - along with, of course, the beautiful bright orange and blue.

Dani Grew - Toonseum 2014

I worked with Dani Grew during my time volunteering at the Toonseum in Pittsburgh.  Dani is an artist in residence at the museum, and she does a lot of work in coordinating the various exhibits as well.  I was hesitant to ask her to draw something in the sketchbook as I wasn't sure if she's want to do it or not...but as always, my desire for Thing sketches overrides any semblance of manners or couth.  And this time, my lack of social grace paid off in the form of this great sketch.  I love the subway figures to each side and how expressive everyone is.

Katie Cook - Pittsburgh Comicon 2014

One of my big regrets of going to Detroit's Motor City Con was forgetting to take the sketchbook with me.  I partially made up for it by buying a blank cover and having Katie Cook draw on it, but it's just not the same as getting something in the ol' sketchbook.  When I saw that Cook was coming to the Pittsburgh Comicon in 2014, almost four years after the Detroit show, I knew that I had to add a sketch and I was lucky enough to grab this great, tiny watercolor before I ran out of pages.

Let's check out that sketch cover!

Okay, obviously the scrapbook joke is a theme of Cook's, but I'll go with it.  Now that I think about it, I have a few of these blank covers with sketches on them.  Maybe one day the world will be ready for a sketch cover post.  Who can say?

Christopher Peterson - New York Comic Con 2014

I made it back to the New York Comic Con in 2014 and was able to spend one day at the show.  NYCC is always packed to the gills with people and it's hard to see everything in one day, so I try to make a point to add one sketch into the book when I go there - there's usually not time to get more than that unless that's what I want to do all day.  Anyway, this year I was able to get a sketch from Christopher Peterson, a fellow FUBAR alum who has gone on to work on some fairly high profile books.  Here we see another appearance of the Thing with a trench coat, which I am always grateful for.  This is a very moody piece!  I think Christopher was happy with it and I certainly am as well.

Don Simpson - Pittsburgh Indy Comix Expo 2015

It's pretty difficult not to just stare at this piece when I look through the book.  It's a full-figure drawing, it's in wonderfully rendered color, it's by Megaton Man creator Don Simpson...and it's the Thing!  It's hard to find fault in any of those reasons.  It's difficult to rank the drawings in the book, but if I absolutely had to, this would certainly occupy one of the top spaces.  Not only did I get to strike up a conversation with Don, but I at least hold out a little bit of hope that one day we may work together on something fun.  For certain, he drew one of the signature pieces for the book, and I couldn't be happier with it.  It's, in a word, incredible.

It'll be hard to top these five as a group.  We'll see what I can do with the next batch, some of which have yet to be drawn!

Friday, April 24, 2015

The triumphant return of RANDOM NOTES!! Steel City Con, FUBAR, Kickstarter, Franks and Beans and more!

Selected short subjects:

- The latest of the installment of the Steel City Con was held at the beginning of April.  I'm continually surprised at how popular this show has become.  There are three shows a year and you'd think it'd suffer from fatigue by this point, but it seems to still be gaining steam.  It'll be interesting to see how it holds up after the Wizard World Pittsburgh show later in the year.

I was able to snag a few cool items from the show, including some Thing items and some comics.

All of these books were around 50 cents each, so I grabbed about 40 of them and spent way too much time looking through boxes...but there were some cool finds to be had, including Superboy #101 (in rough shape, but still), the last issue of Strange Tales vol. 2 (the only issue of the series that featured the Thing, a mainstay in the first volume) and the second issue of Simpsons Comics.

There was also a big Dukes of Hazzard presence at the show.  Larry wrote more about it on his blog, and you should check it out!

- I'm pretty sure this Thing magnet is homemade, but when I saw it at Pittsburgh Comics I had to grab it.  I can't quite place the artist, and it's driving me nuts.  Needless to say, I love it.

- The Pittsburgh Indy Comix Expo came and went at the end of March, and it was better than I expected.  I managed to sell some books and buy a few that came home with me.  There was a lot of talent at this small show, which was encouraging.  I also met Don Simpson there, and we struck up a dialogue, at which point I learned that he...works at the same school that I do.  That is really bizarre.

Don is offering up a class for the fall semester in cartooning and character design.  This would be an awesome class to take.

- The second volume of Jennie Wood and Jeff McComsey's is currently up on Kickstarter and it's nearing its goal.  This is a great book and a the kind of comic the industry needs more of.  Check out the campaign and pledge if you can!

And speaking of Kickstarters...the UHF movie campaign is nearing its end with some work to be done.  It's finished on the evening of Sunday, April 26th, so if you haven't pledged yet...there are only a few more days to do so!

Some of the rewards for the campaign are making their way to me, including these 8-bit pins featuring characters from the movie.

- I'm currently catching up on some lettering work.  Whenever I letter, I use a page from IDW's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic as a template.  I type in "that's turtle power!" every time I start a new project to make sure that my letters are the size they should be.  This continues to amuse me, so I'm sharing it.

Just what am I lettering?  Among other things, some FUBAR for the By the Sword collection, including this short story titled "The Leper King", written by Mark Bertolini with art by Chris McFann.

- And lastly, there's a newly released, really short episode of Franks and Beans to watch!  This episode was originally released as a Vine, hence the brief time limit.  There's also a loop of the video (100 times, over and over) in case you want to feel the cold grip of insanity.

Wow, these random notes are fun.  Look for them again whenever the hell I feel like writing them.  See you then!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Teddy and the Yeti process video by Jeff Lafferty

This one goes under "how did I forget to post this before now?"  Because I have categories like that, in a filing cabinet, next to my desk.  Whatever.

Jeff Lafferty is not only a great artist, and not only a great guy, but he's a great artist who's a great guy who has drawn Teddy and the Yeti before.  He's also drawn Doom 2099 for Marvel.  I wonder if he gets tired of me saying that, because it's not like he hasn't done other, more impressive things in the years since then...but I guess I just can't let some things go.

A while back, I commissioned Jeff to draw the above image of our favorite cryptozoological adventuring duo.  I eventually used the finished product for a series of trading cards that I gave out at Comic-Con.  Jeff sent me the final piece, which I promptly had framed:

I wrote about this briefly at the time, but since then, Jeff has created a YouTube video that shows off his process in creating the image (with some of that space age time lapse video, too), and it's worth a look, even a few years after the fact (and he name checks Franks and Beans!).  Thanks again to Mr. Lafferty for producing such a fantastic image of these characters!

Monday, March 23, 2015

"Weird Al" Yankovic's UHF movie screening, 5/31 in Greensburg, PA

Hey folks, it's been a long time coming, but I am finally ready to reveal my very first Kickstarter project: I'm screening a copy of "Weird Al" Yankovic's 1989 classic film "UHF" in Greensburg, PA on Sunday, May 31st.

If you've ever looked at this blog for at least one second, you probably realize that I'm a big fan of "Weird Al" Yankovic and all of the different projects that he undertakes.  UHF marks his only foray into moviemaking (for now) and it has become a cult classic in the years since its release.  Last year was the 25th anniversary of the film, and this year is the beginning of the Mandatory Fun tour, so I thought it'd be fun to put the two together and show the film before Al's May 31st stop in Greensburg.

The movie will be held at Latrobe 30 Theatre and Cafe, which is about 10 miles from Greensburg.  My hope is that fans will want to see the movie in the afternoon before going to see the concert later in the evening.

On this page I've posted a number of the Kickstarter rewards.  Directly above is an image for the full size movie poster, a 27x40 affair with art by Adrian "Bago" Gonzalez.  I'm really taken by it and hope that it's well received.

For those in the Pittsburgh area, I'm offering up tickets to the show itself, with four different images, each depicting a character from the movie with art by Rafer Roberts.

I realize, of course, that not everyone is from Pittsburgh (try it out some time, everyone), so there are a lot of rewards that can be had whether one attends the movie or not.  These pins feature 8-bit art of characters from the movie by artist Randy Riggs!  There's more of this 8-bit art to see if we hit our goal.

I might have shown this artwork before, but it's so great that it deserves to be shown again.  It serves as our opening, postcard reward with art by Pietro.

I'm also offering up several 11x17 prints, like this one with art by Caroline Moore...

...and this one, with art by Joe Badon.

I'm obviously very excited about this project and hope that it's successful.  If you'd like to view the project (and maybe even contribute to it!), just click on the following link:


Think of it as a love note to UHF, 26 years after the fact.  Take a peek and, if you can, share it with (close, personal) friends!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Naked Man at the Edge of Time: Homecoming

The Naked Man lives!  Last month, a friend put a Facebook group called "The Prompt" together, the purpose of which was to create one page stories based on a single theme.  It was a fun idea so I threw my figurative hat into the ring (don't want to waste literal hats) and teamed up once again with Naked Man co-creator Kurt Belcher to create a new story about our favorite nude time traveler.

The theme for this first prompt was "going home".  I probably copped out and went with the most obvious title that there was, but nevertheless I'm happy with the results.  Joining us this time around was inker Silas Dixon and colorist Tomas Marijanovic, all the way from sunny (?) Australia.    The new guys did a great job.  The story may be published this year in an anthology if all goes well, but here's the finished product to read no matter what happens to it.

If nothing else, I got to use the phrase "nude yourself" in a story, so I can mark that one off the list.  I hope you enjoy this short story!