Friday, February 12, 2016

Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore

Steve Geppi is the owner of the Diamond Comic Distributors, which is the only major distribution network in all of comics. There's been a lot said about Geppi in recent months, and a number of people in the industry have some strong opinions about the man. All I'll say about the matter is that the industry as a whole would be healthier with more than just a single major distribution system for comics in North America.

I had the opportunity to share a table at the 2015 Baltimore Comic-Con last fall. After the opening night of the show on Friday, Geppi hosted an event for exhibitors and professionals at his very own entertainment museum. I didn't get to Baltimore until Friday evening, but since my hotel was right next to the museum, I grabbed my badge and went over to the museum, which is located right next to Camden Yards, the baseball stadium for the Baltimore Orioles.

Much of what the museum holds is Geppi's personal collection of pop culture memorabilia, and I was stunned at much of what I saw. I had heard of the museum before, but I never knew what kind of things it had on display. I took a bunch of pictures and thought I'd share a few here.

The layout and display of the museum is thoughtful and impressive, and there's a lot of different items to see, but I was of course most excited by the comics. As you can see at the top, Geppi has some of the most valuable comics in existence for all to see, including Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27, the first appearances of Superman and Batman. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out if these were even real copies or just facsimiles, and I overheard others asking the same questions. The staff let me know that yes, these are indeed the real things. The books were situated on a display that looked appropriate for the Constitution.

The room held hundreds of comics and pulps from various eras, all the way up to ones that were fairly modern.

There was original art from Frank Cho in one section as well. Other than time periods, there didn't seem to be a theme to many of these sections.

In addition to the obvious aesthetic qualities of this space, the movie posters that lined this hallway were simply incredible. There were posters from 80 years ago that looked brand new. How in the world were these kept for so long in such good condition? Maybe there was a sale at a movie studio lot. There was a wide variety of posters and prints to see.

It seemed like there was always another room to see, each with at least one mind-boggling piece on display.

One thing that stuck with me was just the preponderance of different items from all different eras. The different collections just seemed to go on and on.

Oh, look, Larry. He even has some Dukes of Hazzard items on display.

I saw a lot of movie memorabilia, the result of years of collecting and certainly millions of dollars spent.

The museum also had items on loan, including an entire room dedicated to Will Eisner.

There were dozens of pages on display that spanned Eisner's entire, decades-long career.

And there was even some Frankenberry artwork!

This whole exhibit was just a sight to behold. I showed up to the event toward the end, so I didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked. I saw Geppi as I was leaving and expressed my disbelief at everything I had seen. It's hard to imagine that something like this museum even exists. If you're in the Baltimore area, you should take a few hours and take in everything that's here on display. It's impressive, to say the least.

Oh, and it happened that the Cincinnati Bengals were staying at the same hotel that I had booked for the weekend. It was odd, seeing coaches, staff and players walks the halls. My wife wouldn't allow me to run through the halls shouting "THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS HAVE SIX SUPER BOWL TROPHIES", but I did announce my presence at least once. After all of the turmoil between the two teams during the 2015 season, I kind of wish I was a little bit louder, but I'd say there would have been a 20% chance one of the players (you know which ones) would have beaten me up by the vending machines. Can't wait until the 2016 championship season is here, Steelers.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Horizon's Thing model kit

When I was a kid, I went through a phase where I built a number of models - mostly vehicles...and one time the USS Enterprise. I think it was something that my dad got me into, perhaps because he thought I needed a hobby. I usually managed to complete everything that I started, but it was always frustrating because there were often a number of tiny parts and decals that would never end up exactly right. And I would usually overpaint.

Those days, though, have come and gone, and I don't know that I'd have the patience for models anymore, at least in relation to the quality of the product that I'd end up with. That's a lazy answer, I guess, but it's true. I think I'd rather spend my time doing other tedious tasks, such as write on this blog. Wait, that's not true. I love this blog. I do.

Horizon released a Thing model in the early '90s, and in recent years I've been able to pick up both versions. As far as I can tell, there's nothing different about what comes inside, but there are two different boxes, probably from different releases. There's one that has a picture of the finished product on front...

...and another with some artwork on the front instead. I'm not sure when one came first, but like I said, I think the insides are the same. It's almost hard to classify this as a model, as the pieces snap together and there are only a total of, like, six pieces to the entire thing. Most of the work comes from painting the model, which was the part (along with decals) I was the worst at when trying to build my own.

Well, thank goodness for eBay, which lets me totally cheat the system by buying a model that someone else spent long hours putting together and painting. There are always a number of these up for auction, but one recently showed up at a steep discount, so I snatched it up and it arrived recently. Here are a few pictures of it, and also my cat, who was interested it.

The model ended up being bigger than I expected, and heavier, too. It's a real solid piece. It's nearly a foot tall and the detail work is better than I thought it would be. To top it all off, the paint job is great. I like how the painter went with a classic black waistband as opposed to the white '80s/'90s version.

There are two Thing models from around the same time (that I know of - the other one was made by ToyBiz). This is probably the nicer of the two. I'm happy to finally get a version that was built without having to do all of that painstaking work of *building it myself*.

Also, I recently got one of the limited Pepsi Perfect bottles. What will I do with this? Who knows. But dangit, I got one.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Thing sketchbook, part 18

It's time again to check out the Thing sketchbook...which is actually almost full! I've only got a few more spaces and then...I guess it'll be time to start a new one.

Caitlin Rose Boyle - Pittsburgh Indy Comix Expo 2015

Caitlin Rose Boyle set up shop at the PIX show in 2015. I thought her work looked great, so I bought a few of her books and got this Thing sketch as well! Boyle just announced that she'll be working on the upcoming book "Jonsey" for Boom! Studios! I think I caught her off guard with this Thing request, which is inspired by Stuart Immonen's New Avengers cover.

Scoot McMahon - Comic-Con International 2015

I imagine that Scoot's real first name is Scott, but as far as aliases go, "Scoot" isn't a bad one, especially for McMahon, who works on a lot of kids comics with Art Baltazar. We spent a while talking about the Fantastic Four while he drew...and I liked this so much that I got him to draw on the FF villains sketch cover that I'm also working on now.

Seamus Smith - Comic-Con International 2015

While making some of my final rounds on Sunday of Comic-Con, I found a booth for the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. I took a trip to the museum in 2012 after Comic-Con and enjoyed it immensely. The booth was raising money for the museum by drawing sketches, so I took advantage by getting two from the artists at the booth at the time. This first one comes from Seamus Smith, who delivers a particularly angry-looking Thing. I think it's because of the red eyes.

Ron Yavineli - Comic-Con International 2015

The second sketch I got at the Cartoon Art Museum booth is by Ron Yavineli, who decided to play up Ben Grimm's Jewish roots. I think he checked off all the boxes on the list with this one. You'll note that this sketch has red eyes as well.

John Yuskaitis - Comic-Con International 2015

I met John at Comic-Con through mutual friends. John is a Boston native who works on his creator owned title "Boots and Pup". We talked a lot about cartoons over the long weekend and it's obvious that he knows his stuff. John was kind enough to draw this full-figure Thing at almost the very last minute as Comic-Con was coming to a close for the year. Never let it be said that I won't try to squeeze in as many sketches as I can when given the opportunity. I really like this entry.

More to come soon!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

New Fantastic Four original art (From FF #508, FF #538 and Marvel Adventures FF #7)

I picked up a few new pages of original art when I was at the New York Comic Con in October. There's always a big setup at the entrance to artist alley that has boxes and boxes of art from dozens of creators for sale, and it's easy to spend hours just pouring through the stacks and seeing what's available. Sometimes I'm taken back by the price tag attached to some of the pages - there are several pieces of newer artwork with asking prices in the four and even five-digit range. It serves as a reminder as to how serious some fans and collectors can get about comic art. I sometimes wonder who has the means to spend ten grand on a Avengers vs. X-Men page from a few years back, but I guess there's always someone.

For my own part, I tend to buy more affordable pieces. The most I've ever spent on a page is around $300, and even then I think I saw my house lights shutter and dim when I completed the transaction. I guess I went especially cheap this go-round, as I picked up some of the least expensive pages at the table, but I still walked away happy and with some neat original art from some recent Fantastic Four issues.

The first page comes from Fantastic Four #538. This was part of the uneven Straczynski/McKone run that was, honestly, sidetracked by the Civil War storyline too often. When Captain American and Iron Man are featured more prominently on the cover than members of the FF, something fishy is going on.

Anyway, the page I bought is obviously incomplete, with only two of eight panels drawn. This page was most likely one in which Mike McKone redrew the two panels to take the place of two earlier ones. I'm not sure if McKone went ahead and drew directly on this page or if inker Andy Lanning worked from McKone's reproduced pencils. I would usually guess that this is only Lanning's work, but there's no reproduced work on any of the other blank panels, so I'm not sure. I'm hoping for the best.

It should be apparent what drew me to this page: two panels of THE THING! For the price, it was well worth it. In this first panel, Ben is visiting Johnny in the hospital.

And then he makes a revelation, or something? I guess? This was around the time that the Thing left the country for France, which was such a strange decision. It was a weird time for the FF.

This second page comes from Fantastic Four #508, during the wonderful Waid/Wieringo run. Howard Porter filled in for 'Ringo on this storyline, so this page is by Porter with Norm Rapmund on inks.

This storyline ended with the Thing being *temporarily* killed. The FF soon after went to Heaven to bring him back (for real), so he's okay now.

This page was a good deal because, well, the Fantastic Four are nowhere to be found. They're in dire financial straits and they're in the process of shutting down the world-famous Baxter Building. This page is actually the final page of the issue and it has some tv-turning-off drama going for it. It's still a cool page even without the characters making an appearance. And the words "Baxter Building" do appear here, so I'm happy with it.

The last page I got is another "redraw" page, this one from Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #7.

In this book, the Fantastic Four visit/fight Namor in his underwater domain.

The FF are seen here in one of Sue's force bubbles. It's pencilled by Manuel Garcia and inked by Scott Kolbish - I believe that the original line art that is on this page is by Kolbish...the signature at the bottom looks like his, anyway.

The page was originally supposed to be sold as part of a set with the complementary artwork, but I guess these got separated somehow. This means that I was able to pick up this partial page for only five bucks! That works for me.

The total amount I paid for these pages probably could have bought me one decent, complete page. That's probably what I'd do most days, but this time around I'm happy to add these snippets to my collection. I think they're pretty neat.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Pictures from the 2015 New York Comic Con, part 2: Saturday (THE THING, KFC comic, Valiant panel, Small Press Commandos and more!)

I think I'm finally done with convention pictures after this batch. That is, until the next con rolls around. Professional badges for Comic-Con in San Diego are up for grabs I'll be glued to the computer for a while in attempts to grab a few. Wish me luck. (I said do it!!)

These pictures are from the Saturday at New York Comic Con. I apparently took a lot more pictures on this day than the day before! There were just a ton of great costumes to be seen - maybe not quite reaching SDCC levels, but it was close. NYCC impressed me this year. Let's take a peek.

For a cartoon about a man with a horse head, Bojack Horseman is one of the darkest shows I've seen in a while. It's really deep and at times incredibly depressing. And there are jokes, too! Princess Caroline here did a great job with her costume.

Here's a lonely picture of Gambit.

I hear that this version of Angela won the top costuming award in at least one category later this night. It's easy to see why - this person did a fantastic job. Really well done.

If you ventured outside the convention hall, chances are that you saw what appears to be a TSA repository for the magically inclined. No one was really safeguarding any of these, either. Anyone want a Captain America shield?

I assume that these were taken from people who tried to enter the show because they might have posed some kind of hazard...though I saw plenty of people inside with swords and other big, potentially dangerous items. Who can say?

I loved this silver age Brainiac and Lex Luthor combo!

RIIIICHAAARDS!!! The Fantastic Four costume fragment was a nice touch.

The Lich with some light reading material. 

Jean is kind of blocking Scott here, but that's okay. These costumes are mostly comic accurate, except for Wolverine, who just shows up uninvited all the time anyway.

Here's some more X-Men. Jubilee's finger sparklers are a good solution!

This Jurassic World display was the bane of my existence. They brought out animatronic raptors every hour and people swarmed the display. They had fog at times, too, which made it even more annoying. I guess you gotta use the space that's available, but man!

Check out zombie Cap's teeth. Nicely done!

The entrance to the show was re-done with the Jurassic World branding, too. Not as annoying.

Oh, did you know that there was a guy who dressed up like THE THING at the show? He wasn't the only guy, either. What a terrific costume. I bet it was hot as all get-out in there. But this guy suffers for his craft, and for that we're all grateful. Oh yeah!!

Of course, I had to get a picture with Mr. Grimm here. It looks like he took some battle damage. That's okay...I'm sure he came out a winner.

Tom Servo!

Supergirl and alternate universe Supergirl.

This costume had wings that retracted and expanded.

Gorilla Grodd! Complete with gilded human skulls.

DC, which hasn't had floor space the last two years for some weird reason, set up at one corner of the convention center. It took me forever to find this place, because who sets up in the lobby? I was looking for this:

...which I understand is completely ridiculous, but I had to get this stupid promo comic from Kentucky Fried Chicken, especially after picking up KFC's offering at SDCC. This one had nothing to do with the earlier one, which was a shame. Also, Flash's new outfit is terrible. The story inside has an evil Colonel Sanders from - no kidding - the Crime Syndicate's Earth 3. I'm still happy that I was able to find this book.

One of my last stops during the show for the day was at a Valiant Comics panel. Everyone's good friend Rafer Roberts is writing the upcoming Archer and Armstrong relaunch for the company, and this was one of the first big brouhahas surrounding that.

After the panel, Rafer had a signing at the Valiant booth (with Jody Houser)! Really happy for the guy.

Artist alley stays open for an hour after the show floor, so I spent the last hour there. It seemed that it cleared out pretty quickly, though, for whatever reason. Once again I ran into Karin Rindevall and managed to cajole her into drawing in the Thing sketchbook! We squatted at the table of an A-list artist who left early (a legend, really) and Karin left her mark on the book. I've scanned 'em all in and will show them off soon...maybe the next post?

Afterwards, it was a Small Press Commandos dinner at a local Irish Pub with Jeff McComsey, Will and Michael Perkins, Andrew DelQuadro, Oliver Mertz, Dom Vivona and others! It was a great way to end the night...

...but then I decided to walk six miles at night though the streets of New York City to find some Mug Cream Soda. But find it I did, and boy, was it good.

NYCC stepped up its game in 2015. And with the upcoming expansion of the Javits Center, I hope that it will only get better. I'm looking forward to the 2016 version already!