Saturday, January 16, 2021

Is this the worst piece of Thing merchandise ever created?

Let me preface this post by saying that any Thing merchandise is good Thing merchandise, because, after all, it is the Thing that is being...merchandised. Let me also say that I have a number of truly horrible Thing bootleg action figures, many from our neighbors in Mexico, that I love unreservedly.

But there's one piece of officially licensed Fantastic Four merchandise that I've long held to be the worst, most horrendous of all, and this year for Christmas, my friend (and yours) Larry got it for me. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the Fantastic Four Thing lamp:

Now, with one look at this almost obscene item, you might be questioning whether this is actually an officially licensed product, rather than an Etsy project gone terribly wrong. I'm here to tell you that no, this travesty has the official Marvel stamp on it. It is real and it is terrible.

This product came about, as many Fantastic Four items do, in 2005, the year of the first Fox-produced FF movie. The movie itself was okay at best, and that describes many of the scores of products that came out in conjunction.

I've seen this lamp referred to as a "popcorn" lamp because of the plastic bead material that comprises the head sculpt. The head itself is quite pliable and rubbery.

Here's another closer shot with more detail. It reminds me a little bit of the bead art you could make yourself with the unbelievably dangerous use of a clothes iron. Do they still sell those?

In this shot, you can also see the cheap, lifeless stickers used for Mr. Grimm's eyes and mouth. At least they got his blue eyes right, but sheesh, those are both really bad.


The darker brown highlights seem almost haphazard in their placement, although they did manage to highlight the brows, an important component to the Thing.

I mentioned that this product is a decorative lamp that is balanced on a wire stand. It's been over 15 years since it came out - does it still work?


Yes! Somehow, this makes it look even worse.


It's hard to believe that this item got the thumbs up from Marvel on its way down the production line. Even though I'm spending this post discussing how truly awful this item is, I want to thank Larry for getting it for me. I remember seeing it in stores in 2005 and deciding, "well, I guess I don't have to get everything Thing-related that comes out," but I've honestly thought about it ever since and have wondered if I made a mistake by not buying this monstrosity. Now I don't have to wonder if I missed out.

There's one more of these lamps up for sale on eBay right now, and I took some screenshots so we could look at the packaging, which manages to make it look even more terrifying:


It looks like a head in a jar, complete with a pained expression and a wide-eyed stare.


In this shot, you can see the official sticker on the side, complete with imagery from the Ultimate Fantastic Four series.


There were other Marvel lamps in this line, all of which were also bad, but none as bad as the Thing. Here's the Spider-Man lamp: it's still terrible, but the shape of Spidey's head makes it at least a little bit more palatable.


Not to be outdone, Larry got me several other terrible Thing items. These are all products I've been following on eBay for probably at least ten years, but could never bring myself to buy because of their obvious lack of quality. This one is a golf club cover. Has anyone...ever used this?


This small plush toy really caught me off guard, because I've seen - and hated seeing - it on eBay for years and years. It used to be listed with the phrase "Thing bust," one of the phrases I'd use when searching for Thing statues. This is clearly not a statue, though I suppose "bust" does technically apply. Still, I absolutely hated seeing it come up in search results. It almost seemed like it was taunting me from the screen. Well, it appears that I truly am cursed, because now it lives in my house and has infiltrated my collection quite expertly. If I had to guess, this might be a toy you would have found in a claw machine game.

When you've got a big collection of anything, sometimes you've got to scrape the bottom of the barrel to get an item that you didn't previously have. I think it's safe to say that at the very bottom, you'll find the Thing lamp.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Ultimate Fantastic Four original art by Tyler Kirkham

The Ultimate Fantastic Four series was fairly unremarkable during its 60-issue run, failing to distinguish itself in any real way from the "proper" Marvel Universe version of the FF. Showing up on the publishing schedule years after other Ultimate line of books made their impact, the series is probably best remembered for introducing the Marvel Zombies concept in issue 21.

After the series had ended and most of the Ultimate books were coming to a close, the Ultimate FF characters, in a string of miniseries, started to deviate a bit more from their regular universe counterparts: Reed for some reason became a villain, "The Maker"; the Thing shed his rocky exterior to become a purple energy being (though they soon gave him back his classic look); Sue and Ben got engaged.

In all, the Ultimate Fantastic Four weren't very memorable as characters or as a series, but still, 60 issues is a pretty good run for a title, and it stands as the third-longest running FF series after the core title and Marvel Two-in-One. The title had a very brief relaunch as "Ultimate FF" a few years later, but that series was cancelled after only six issues.

I recently came across a page of original art from the first series, and I managed to get it for a pretty good price. Here it is, with art by Tyler Kirkham:

This particular page comes from issue 54 of the series, part of the "Salem's Seven" storyline that ran for four issues. Kirkham was the series artist for 10 issues, from #50 until the series was cancelled with issue 60 (skipping #56, which was pencilled by Eric Basaldua).

Top Cow, an imprint of Image, provided the art for these final issues, with Kirkham's pencilled art skipping the inking stage and going straight to colors. Kirkham's pencils are very tight, I suppose, but the art always came off feeling a bit unfinished to me.


So why did I grab this page? The answer is simple, as it has a rather nice, prominent shot of the Thing:


Kirkham really drew the Thing with a tiny head, without any noticeable joints, and here he's almost as wide as he is tall, but I love stocky Thing in his weird jumpsuit carrying a prop that is apparently from the 2001: A Space Odyssey movie.


Set 'er down anywhere, Thing.


Also in this issue, they literally devote several panels to showing Ultimate Johnny Storm trying to boil an egg. It's true! He's got fire powers, if the previous 50 years hadn't driven that idea home.


This page comes signed by penciller Tyler Kirkham at the very bottom.

And here's a shot of the very top of the page, in which we can see the title and artist, but not the issue number.

This is the first page of original art from the Ultimate Fantastic Four title I own, and I'm glad to have it, even if it is from a rather forgettable series.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Thing sketch cards, part 10

I've got five-ish more Thing sketch cards from my collection to show. Let's see them! LET'S SEE THEM RIGHT NOW!

Corbett Vanoni - Let's start out with this mean-looking headshot from artist Carbett Vanoni. It comes on a  2008 Marvel Masterpieces sketch card, the second in my collection. Wh...what are you looking at, Ben?

Here's the back of the card, which also has a nice shot of the Fantastic Four in their hero poses. This definitely adds something to the card.


Rich Molinelli - This next card comes sealed and graded, which is how I bought it. Apparently it's a 10? That probably means that the Thing is a 10/10 character, to which I heartily agree. This card, with full-frame color art by Rich Molinelli, is from the 2011 Marvel Universe line.


Here's the back!

J. Whitlock - This big-eyed, contemplative Thing is on a card bought straight from the artist, and it looks like it was completed in colored pencil on a hand-cut stock. The use of red to complement the orange and yellow is nice. This is a different sketch but I like it.

The artist also included this Hulk card with my order. I guess he wanted to send the Thing and someone the Thing could beat up.


Kelly M. Powers - Okay, I love when sketch cards have the blue trim/bleed lines on them, as if they were tiny sheets of comic art board. This one was drawn in 2011 on Atomic-brand sketch cards, and that's a classic Kirby-style big-digit Thing hand.



Cameron M. Clark - Lastly, here's one that I just got, bringing my Thing sketch card running total to 50. It's by Cameron Clark on a self-cut brown stock drawn in what I suspect to be marker. It's one of the few full-figure Thing sketches I've got! Love those blue trunks.

That's all for now. Thanks for checking out my Thing cards!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas from The Tick!

Hey folks - here's a short Tick story that Ian Nichols and I worked on for Christmas! Hope you enjoy!






 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Pittsburgh in Journey into Mystery #120: With My Hammer In Hand...!"

A few months ago, I wrote about the two-part Avengers "Peril in Pittsburgh!" storyline from the early 1980s. That story specifically references 1965's Journey into Mystery #120, Thor's debut title, so I picked that one up for the purpose of seeing how Pittsburgh was portrayed in the issue.

The Avengers storyline includes a character who ostensibly picked up a piece of Thor's broken hammer, which, in a convoluted way, let to the creation of a kind-of villain with a sliver of Mjolnir's power. Thor broke his hammer in an early '60s battle, which led him to reforge the weapon in the place he thought most suitable on earth - a mill in Pittsburgh.


Here's the cover. "Thor" was overshadowing the "Journey into Mystery" part of the title by quite a bit at this point. Oh, and there are a lot of jokes - or at least one obvious one - to be made about the caption. We were all thinking it.

This page-one title is a little better, but still...sheesh. Anyway, we're greeted by the all-star creative cast of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta and Artie Simek. This was from the time when Stan and Jack were handling pretty much every book at Marvel. Thor, wearing eye protection and sticking his hands directly into a blast furnace, re-forges his hammer as awestruck onlookers gawk and provide some exposition.


And on page two...he's done! You'll notice Kirby's photocopy in the background of the first panel, which he sometimes did. And the everyday joes cheer! But now it's time to test the hammer out by destroying some property.

Thor, no!! That's a support beam! You've doomed us all!!

During this display, one of the workers exclaims "The Mets would trade their whole first team for a guy who can do THAT!", and are you kidding me, Stan?! You make it a point to note that Thor has travelled to Pittsburgh, PA, and the guy talks about the Mets? This is one of the only times where it's prudent to namecheck the Pirates, and you go with the Mets. The battlin' Bucs, at this point, were only a few years removed from their 1960 World Series championship, and in 1965 they had a lineup that included Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, Vern Law, Elroy Face and Bob Friend! They won 90 games that year! They were a pretty good team! Why is this guy talking about the Mets?!?


Well, anyway, I'm sure there's more to this story, so let's move on. On page three, Thor says goodbye to the workers at the mill...


...and then he flies away, and that's it. He's in Pittsburgh for two pages plus a few panels on the third. All of the connections made in Avengers #192-93 were made up after the fact, including the all important "I found a piece of Mjolnir and made it into a keychain" plot point. This was very disappointing to learn!


But, well, we're here, so let's check out what else happens in this issue! Thor arrives back in New York (sigh) where he finds that Jane Foster is missing. He tries to enlist some help from the Avengers in finding her, but the original members have mostly disbanded, being replaced by the likes of Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.


Oh, here's an ad for some of the other books that were on sale at the same time, including Fantastic Four #43: "Lo, There Shall Be an Ending!", which is a great book.


Later, Thor runs into...is that Zsa Zsa Gabor??


And soon, Thor comes face-to-face with Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man!


There are some real gems here as far as ads are concerned. This one page has the classic X-Ray specs ad, plus one for the Strat-O-Matic!


This issue had a backup tale as well, which also, well, featured Thor and his fellow Asgardians.


The letters page, "The Hammer Strikes!", is a good one in this issue. It starts off with a writer kind of(?) complaining about Jack Kirby's art, but then claims that Thor is the most exciting title around. Thanks, Mike Gable of Ridgefield Park, NJ.



And at the very end of the issue, we have two more great old ads. The one on the right is fun, offering up an old army Jeep for $278, apparently? I'm sure there was some fine print there somewhere.

The second ad, which is maybe the Columbia Record Club for the 1960s, offers up 10 records with a total of 60 songs. This was 1965, so we're talking about the confluence of the British Invasion, Motown, Surf Rock and the last gasp of 1950s Pop. Look at that list! I see the Beatles, Monkees, Kinks, Temptations, Supremes, Dixie Cups...I hope that teens took up this offer and danced awkwardly, just like the illustration suggests.

Well. This was kind of an underwhelming issue to pick up, because I thought that it'd tie in more to the Avengers storyline or at least show Pittsburgh a bit more. And what it did show was pretty generic. But what can you do? At least I got to laugh at the title for a bit.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

DC's Rue Morgue and Death Metal record advertisements

So, we can all agree that DC is in a weird place right now, right? Who knows where the company will be a year from now, but for now, while monthly books are still a thing, I want to take a look at a curiosity for me in the form of DC's new inside cover ads for Rue Morgue magazine.


A few different versions of these ads have been running for several months now, with each promoting a magazine within another magazine. Each features the woman you see above, usually holding a copy of the publication. Heading over to their website, it seems that she is executive editor Andrea Subissati.

It seems odd to me that DC would advertise someone else's magazine in their own publication, and it leads me to believe that one of two things is true: one, that Rue Morgue magazine is owned, at some level, by the same companies that own DC, and this is another in-house ad, like if DC would advertise MAD Magazine. Or two, the Rue Morgue folks decided to pay a bunch of money for ads and DC said "okay", kind of like those "Beats For Reading Comic Books To" ads from around 10 years ago, which were also really weird.

I don't know. The ads don't feel like they were made in-house to me, and they've been so prevalent lately, that I can't help but wonder what the story is behind them. Rue Morgue's "about" page lists email addresses for the staff, so I guess I should follow up.


Near the back of many new DC books is another ad, and definitely an in-house one, but also another weird one. It's promoting a record store-exclusive version of Dark Nights Death Metal #1, which comes packaged with a square vinyl "flexidisc" record of a new single by the band Rise Against.

This, in itself, is kind of weird, but I like weird and unique versions of comics, and it's been a while since I saw a comic packaged with a record. I called a local record shop up to ask about it, and the owner of the store had no idea what I was talking about. She apparently followed up with distributors about it, and came up empty as well. She let me know later on that the book was probably something coming out through comic shops as opposed to record stores.

But the ad, as you see above, specifically says that it will be "available at Indie Record Stores".

So I tried to find out more information online and have found...almost nothing at all. There are a few others asking the same questions I am, but no solid information on when the book will be released and how you can get it. These both seem like important pieces of information if you are planning on selling any copies of this dang book!

The best I can figure right now is that the book/record combo has been delayed, and since the ads were placed months in advance, they're showing up before the actual product is ready. But it's still...really weird that DC isn't offering up an explanation despite running the ad in so many of their books. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

RANDOM NOTES strike back: Allegiance Comics, The Tick reunion, a new Funko Thing figure and more!

Sometimes I have stuff to talk about that doesn't really warrant an entire post, but I want to talk about them anyway, so I put them all in a post called "random notes". Also, there's an X-Men character named "Random". I hate him.


And off we go!

I'm still lamenting the loss of the DC's 100-Page Giant Walmart-exclusive comics, so I was surprised to see a new comic book display for Allegiance Comics on a recent walk through the superstore. This one isn't in the checkout line, but with the books and magazines that are usually near the back of the store, and it's got a pretty prominent endcap display going for it.

I didn't purchase any of these, but one thing I did notice is that they all had big Walmart price stickers stuck on the front of each cover.




The whole thing lasted about 2.5 hours and had different cast members reading scripts from each version of the show, including an unproduced episode of the cartoon!


It was simply incredible to see all of these fine folks together in one virtual space. Between readings, each Tick and each Arthur had their own mini-session to talk about their roles. I had never seen David Burke in anything after his time in the 2001 show, so I especially enjoyed getting to hear from him.


"Crossover", a new comic from Image Comics by Donny Cates and Geof Shaw, came out last month. It features a lot of copyrighted superhero approximations, including re-colored thinly-veiled versions of Captain Marvel and Spider-Man. It also maybe has The Tick show up in one panel? It might just be a re-colored Ant/Giant Man. But this guy is blue, has what looks like antennae, and is causing property damage, so I prefer to think that it's the Big Blue Bug of Justice.


Gamestop released a frightening number of new, store exclusive Fantastic Four Funko Pops for Black Friday (eight in total, ugh) this year. Each new mystery box includes a Pop figure of an FF member with a Venom symbiote. Here's the Thing, and also, I guess, the Dr. Doom/Venom pin that came in the box. There's a metallic version of the figure as well.


Back in May, I posted about the copies of the personalized, mail-in X-Men and Captain Universe from 1994 that I have. I bought both of my copies from eBay, one of which was originally purchased by or for Josh Meinhausen, whose name appears over and over throughout the book.

Well, just a few days ago, Josh himself commented on the original post to tell me that this copy...had actually been stolen from him a long time ago! Yikes! That is not what I wanted to hear. It appears that my copy fell out of the back of a truck, so to speak. Josh, if you're reading this and would like to have a tear-filled reunion with your previous possession, let me know and I can try to make that happen. Or I can just send ransom notes with pictures of this book in peril.


I've been working on a few lettering projects recently. I made these weird balloons and I like them. Here, look at them, too!


So what else have I been doing? Well, I'm staking out potential press conference locations, and I stumbled upon this little-known gem in North Philly.


Also, someone please update my IMDb page to reflect my recent appearance in the Hulu-streaming "Happiest Season" movie. Hey there, K-Stew.