Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Tick FCBD and SDCC issues, and where to get 'em

Folks, Comic-Con would have started yesterday in a non-pandemic year. I know that it was the right thing to cancel the show, of course, but it's hitting me hard right now. I miss it!

For their part, the fine people at Comic-Con are trying to make the best of a bad situation by broadcasting free panels on YouTube, and they've released some official merchandise, too. There's a lot of branded exclusive merchandise for sale, as well, though this might be stretching the definition of "exclusive" to the limit. Oh well! I still went for a few items...and I downloaded a PDF of the official program, too.

Anyway, this is all to say that there is some new Tick merchandise that is out now, including two books written by me, and there's an update on the Free Comic Book Day issue, as well. Let's start with that one!


Simply put, the FCBD Tick Special will be out on August 5th. It'll still be free, but you'll forgive comic shops if they're not advertising the event as much. This is probably happening because most stores have to limit the number of people who can come inside at one time (and for some stores, that number is still zero), but it's also because the folks behind FCBD decided to spread the schedule over a few weeks, between July and September. August 5th will see a handful of titles besides The Tick, including a new printing of Invincible #1 from Image Comics.

I've managed to get my hands on a copy of the book a little bit early. I think it printed well, and I hope that everyone who wants a copy is able to get one.


The Comic-Con special, which reprints the FCBD story with a sketch cover by Ian Nichols, is actually available now, a couple weeks before the Free Comic Book Day version! Weird how that happened. But I'm glad that it's out, because I didn't know if New England Comics would be able to put out anything at all. The book is limited to 300 copies and you can get it directly from the NEC website!


There's also another new-ish book to check out if you click on the link. NEC printed a store-exclusive version of the 2019 Comic-Con special and they just released it! You'll note that, at the top of the cover, it reads "2019 Limited Edition", and yet this is decidedly 2020. There's no great reason that this didn't come out in 2019, it just...didn't. But now it has! This one has a print run of 1000, and I have it on good authority that each and every one comes hand-numbered by NEC art director Bob Polio. Poor Bob!

You can get this one at http://www.necpress.com/TickSearch.aspx?q=sdcc as well. I hope you check 'em out! 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Whatcha reading? Part 3! (Plus some Thing news!)

It seems that comic shops are opening up around the country, and most publishers are returning to a near-regular shipping schedule. That means it won't be long before my "to read" pile starts to build up again, so let's have one more entry into the long-running and highly popular "Whatcha reading?" series.

It would be foolish for me to ignore the grim scenario it took for me to have time for these books in the first place, but I will say that I have enjoyed finally getting to some of these comics that have been waiting around in a box for a very long time. Here's what I've been up to while the comic industry has had a delayed output!


DC's 1980s/'90s Star Trek series were a high point for the franchise's comic adaptations, in my opinion, with long, unbroken runs for both Star Trek and The Next Generation series. The Modala Imperative is something of a crossover between the two series, with four-issue miniseries with the same subtitle for both properties. The first series is a classic Star Trek tale, and the TNG followup is fun, too, with appearances in both series from an older Spock and McCoy. I liked it!


It's been a while since I completed my '90s Marvel 2099 collection, and now I'm getting around to reading them all in order. The first crossover of the line was the "Fall of the Hammer" story, which runs through all of the titles, even the quarterly 2099 Unlimited book. It is...a bit uneven, though I suppose you could say that about the line in general. But at least Spider-Man 2099 is great!


I grabbed the Wonder Woman-focused "War of the Gods" miniseries recently, and BOY, is it dense. as the title suggests, it pits different pantheons against one another as they fight for supremacy. The problem is, I don't necessarily care that much about the various Greek and Roman gods, so this one was a bit tough to get through?


I really like Bongo Comics, though often I find that I like the idea of the books they made more than the actual execution. That hasn't stopped me from collecting a bunch of their titles, though. I'm the proud owner of full series runs of Futurama Comics, Radioactive Man and Simpsons Treehouse of Horror, all of which took me a long time to complete. Simpsons Illustrated is nothing more than a reprint series, but I started picking up issues because it reprinted both Radioactive Man and Treehouse stories in some of the issues. And now I have the compulsion to complete my run of this series. Oh, and next on my list is all of the Free Comic Book Day issues, which I already have most of.


Last up! We've got the "Panic in the Sky!" storyline that ran through four Superman titles in 1992. I started collecting comics right around Superman #75, so these issues are just a few months behind that. I'm halfway through this storyline, and as you might expect, the overall story is a bit predictable, though some of the art is really good.

Well, I guess that does it for this look back. But wait! There are some new Thing items that I want to discuss!


Mondo recently came out with some Fantastic Four enamel pins, so I (of course) grabbed the Thing pin right away. 


These are some stickers that were made. How and why were they made, and why am I using passive voice to describe their production? We may never know. Please look for these soon in your favorite spots for vandalism.


The image was originally from the cover to Not Brand Echh #13. I liked the message, and I think ol' Ben Grimm would approve.


Funko is releasing a limited Thing Pop figure next week, featuring the Marvel Zombies version of the character. This one is another 10-inch giant Pop (with the regular-sized Captain Marvel to scale), similar to the Target-exclusive figure from earlier in the year. This figure implies that the Thing maintains a human-like skeleton in his cosmic ray-mutated form, with five fingers (and, presumably toes). I've seen artists float this idea before, that the Thing's fourth and fifth digits somehow fuse together to create his classic four-finger look. It's an interesting suggestion, I guess.

This one is a Comic-Con exclusive, so I'm going to try and enlist some help in getting one. Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Planet Comics - now on Kickstarter!



Hey everyone! I've been working on a project for quite a while, now, and it's finally made its way to Kickstarter: the first issue of Planet Comics is on the way!

As you might know, "Planet Comics" is the title of a pulp comic from the 1940s and '50s. It's known for a number of things, but I'm most familiar with it because of its amazing, mid-century-chic covers. Check out this one, for instance:


Heck! Look at that beauty!

Anyway, I've wanted to do something similar for quite a while, and wouldn't you know, the title just happens to be in the public domain. I guess that's what being out of print for 70 years gets you.

I want my version of Planet Comics to be more than just a tribute to the original, but something that follows a similar sci-fi anthology format. I'm hoping to eventually publish four issues of the title, each one in an oversized magazine format that hopefully gives it a grand, impressive feel.

Right now, I'm planning on publishing three stories in the first issue. Not all of them are mine (though I'm editing and lettering the whole book), but the first story is - and it's one that I want to serialize through all four issues. It's titled "The Bulwark", and it's about a space-age hero who is somehow partially responsible for Earth's demise - and our main character has to find out if it's true, and why.

Here's the first page:


It's got art by Andrea Schiavone. Andrea is an Italian artist who is doing some amazing work on the story. I've really lucked out in getting to know him over the past few months, because I think we work very well together (and he's a nice guy). Like I said, I want this to be the "main" story in each issue, something that brings everything together, if that makes sense.

The next story in the book is by my friend and frequent collaborator, Jeff McComsey. Here's a look at one of his pages:


This story is titled "The Old Man and The Agean Sea", and yes, it's a new take on the classic Hemingway story. The story will be in color in the book - it's still in its early stages. I'm excited to see where it goes and I think that Jeff is doing some really nice work here.

The next story is titled "The Night Tanya Tucker Uncancelled Earth":


This one is by two of my favorite people: Jennie Wood and Duane Redhead. Creatively, they have opposite approaches to their art (at least in my semi-informed opinion), but I think that their styles mesh together in a fun and interesting way. I know that I'm excited to work with both of them again.

The book will be printed with two covers. The main cover, by Pietro, is at the top of this post. The Kickstarter variant is below:


This one is by Matthew Dow Smith - I must have caught him on the right day, because I really lucked into this cover, which I can't get enough of.

There's other stuff in the book, too: an essay on Lily Renée, artist on the original Planet Comics series, by Diana Krueger, and additional, secret-for-now stuff! The book will run at over 40 pages when it's all said and done.

I launched the campaign on Monday, and it's about halfway to its goal, which I'm happy about. I think it'll make it! I hope it'll make it! Oh no - what if I just jinxed it?! I guess it's possible!

I hope that you'll check the project out while it's running. Here's the link!


Tell your friends! PLEASE!

Now it's off to worry about this for the next four weeks. Hooray!

Friday, July 3, 2020

The Tick prop auction from Heritage



Oh, what a shame it is that Amazon's The Tick series has been cancelled. It had so much potential and I think its 22-episode run will be well remembered. I'm holding out hope that a broadcast TV channel picks up the series to show in the fall, as there won't be a lot of new, scripted content out there for the foreseeable future, and a channel like SyFy or Comedy Central or, hell, Fox, could do worse than showing a full slate of these episodes to folks who hadn't yet given it a try.

Bringing the series back for new episodes will be more difficult, of course, since the show's production company recently auctioned off a lot of costumes and props on the auction website Heritage. This happened back in May, and when I heard about it, I was naturally interested. Now that it's all finished, I thought I could write a little bit about the process and show a few pictures of the items I managed to buy.

 
I had never participated in a Heritage auction before - I was familiar with it, but it always seemed like a place that would sell, I don't know, Picasso paintings to blue bloods living in a Manhattan skyscraper. That is to say, it seemed from a distance like a place that would sell things to rich people, and let me tell you - that assumption was not incorrect. Some of the items sold in the Tick lot went for outrageous sums of money. Several of the costumes went for five-figure sums and a small collar charm, worn by Midnight the dog, ended up selling for over a thousand dollars.

I had my eye on a few items that I hoped might fly under the radar. I didn't want to break the bank, but I realized that this was probably my only, or at least my best, chance at getting an item from this show, so I went in and bid on quite a few items.

One of the things that surprised me about this auction was just how it was conducted. Bidders were able to browse and bid for around three whole weeks on the main Heritage site. And at the end of the bidding period...everything went to a live auction, with the previous high bids setting the opening marks for the items. This seemed rather superfluous to me - why not just jump right into the live bidding? What was the point of bidding early at all? But I'm sure it served to increase the overall sum that Heritage and the production company ended up with. Still, I maintained a steady level of anxiety the entire time the items were listed online.

I managed to win three items, when it was all over with. No, I didn't win any costumes or any of the bigger pieces, but I'm still happy with what I got. Let's take a look!


First up is a notebook used in a season one flashback scene with Dr. Karamazov, who invented the growth ray that created the Very Large Man. I got this for a really good price, probably because the main image for this item was just that of a simple brown notebook cover.


When the book opens up, though...you can see a lot of mathematical and science-y equations and drawings.


And they go on for a number of pages. These aren't hand drawings, unfortunately, but stickers made to look like notebook paper, stuck onto the existing notebook paper. They repeat in sequence eventually. Still, this is a lot of detail for a notebook that barely made it into one scene of the show.


I'd love to know who drew the original images for this. I'd love to think it was Ben Edlund, though I'm sure that's not the case.


Up next is an item I paid considerably more for. It's a "surveillance device" that Arthur used to spy on Miss Lint in the first season.


The opposite side had a sticker on it that is no longer there - I have no idea what it once was. I will probably try and get a case for this item, which has the benefit of being very display friendly. Maybe something with a small stand for it to rest on? I guess we'll see.


Lastly, here's an item that I couldn't let get away. These are two chair backs from on-set folding chairs. I will admit (with only a small amount of shame) that I almost stole one of these on the day I got to visit the set in Brooklyn. I thought better of it, thankfully, but it would've saved me almost $300 if I had. There were three of these lots that were auctioned off, and I bought the second, after the first sold for quite a bit more. This was one of the few branded items being sold, and I'm really happy to get one. Maybe this would look good framed, hanging above a door? I'll think about it.


Each item came with a certificate of authenticity, which will be helpful when someone sees these things and says, "what the hell is this?". The back of each is branded with the show logo. I guess these might be the last "official" items to use this logo?


Here's the other side. They're all signed (okay, I guess) and they include a description and picture of the items.

In all, it was a weird experience. I felt a little out of my depth to begin with. I know the ins-and-outs of eBay, but I had never tried to use this auction site before. One thing that will stick with me is the amount of unseemly fees that Heritage slaps onto everything at the end. I understand that the company is going to get its cut - or else they wouldn't be listing the items in the first place. But in addition to a 25% fee added onto the final bid, they also charged sales tax and INCREDIBLE sums for shipping and handling. I expected my items to arrive on the back of an elephant with how much I paid, but in the end, they came in a simple cardboard box shipped through the post office. It also took over a month for me to receive my items.

This is all to say that I won't be a frequent Heritage bidder - but as I mentioned earlier, I realize that I'm not really the type of client they're trying to draw in.

OTHER TICK NEWS!


The Free Comic Book Day issue of The Tick is still on its way - Diamond recently announced that the issue will be released on August 5th in comic shops, along with a few other free books, like Invincible and Lumberjanes. I don't know if New England Comics has anything planned for that day, but as it's only about a month away, I have to say...I doubt it? But I'm glad that we'll all be able to read the book in just a few more weeks. I hope you'll all (safely) grab a copy in August! 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Requiem for DC's Walmart 100-Page Giants



So the rumors are true - DC's 100-Page Giants line is no more. The once Walmart-exclusive titles that became shared comic store books with new stories have been replaced with pre-packaged collections of existing titles. I went to my local Walmart a little while ago and, for the first time in almost two years, found no new Giant titles on display.

I don't know why this bums me out so much - the overall quality of the Giant titles wasn't exactly stellar, and I'm not really old enough to be nostalgic for the first run of 100-page DC books from the '70s. I suppose that I was enamored by the potential of this line: a small run of titles for a good price point with new material and reprints sold in a popular retail chain - what's not to like? Comic companies don't do nearly enough outreach, and this felt like, for the first time in a while, someone was doing something to pull in new readers with a fun new format.

It's especially a shame that the books had to end like this, because many titles finished up mid-story. May's Batman Giant #5, Flash Giant #5 and Swamp Thing #5 became de facto Walmart exclusives, because those books won't be printed for the direct market, as previous issues had been. And Superman Giant #5, scheduled for June, won't come out at all. I'd imagine that DC will publish the new stories meant for that issue digitally, but it's a shame the titles won't at least make it to their respective sixth issues, when all of their storylines would have presumably wrapped up.


DC's new offerings are cellophane-wrapped four-packs of previously published comics, with, I think, some new covers. This is similar to what Marvel is doing with their shelf space at Walmart, and it feels a bit lazy to me. I never thought that DC would end up following Marvel's lead in this, as opposed to the other way around (I would have killed for a Fantastic Four equivalent of a 100-Page Giant title). The new collections are $9 items as opposed to the $5 Giant books, so they're not the same type of impulse buy I imagine the Giant books were.


Even the display, which was one of the cooler things about the Giant line, is smaller and more subdued. 


This is not to say that I don't remain a sucker for comics in retail stores, as I picked up the five offerings for June.

Part of me is somewhat relieved, I suppose, as my "to read" pile grew considerably over the last two years, mostly due to the Giants line and how I was adding the equivalent of around 20 books to my stack each month after I added titles like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Swamp Thing to all of my regular comic shop titles. Now I'm able to make a dent in some of the books that have been piling up, but I'll still miss these fun titles that always felt special.

Batman Giant, it seems, wins the race for most issues published at 21 between two volumes, just edging out Superman Giant by one issue. I've got complete runs of most of the Giant titles; when the books lost their exclusivity in 2019, I cut back on some books, but now that they're all done for good, why not grab those extra issues of Wonder Woman and Aquaman?

I hope that, if nothing else, DC helped comics claim a little bit of shelf space in Walmart (and the same goes for those two Target Giant comics, too) for the future, and I hope that they don't let the opportunity go to waste. Comic shops are the backbone of the retail industry, but putting comics in high-traffic areas like the Walmart checkout line can be nothing but a good thing, in my opinion.


Here's a picture of the display as it looked in July of 2018. I remember how excited I was to see these new books in a new location. Oh, and I, uh, eventually took the display home with me (but not until they replaced it with a new version). Here's hoping for new and better things in the future.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Whatcha reading? Part 2!


The comic book distribution shutdown is over, and comics are slowly making their way back to stores on Wednesdays once again. Things have changed, though - DC has left Diamond completely and will ship Tuesday-arriving books independently; Marvel is only shipping new comics every other week; both Marvel and DC are skipping their comic shipments for a week in late June; many small publishers won't be shipping any books at all until at least August. These are unprecedented times in the comic book industry.

About a month ago, I made a post about some of the books I have been working my way through since I've now actually got time to read them. With the slow trickle of books that have come out since things started up again, I find that I'm still working my way through my big stack of unread books. And since I had fun making that first post, I thought I'd make at least one more and show you just what I've been keeping busy with while I am making progress with my "to read" stack.


Even though comic store distribution came to a halt throughout most of April and May, the Walmart DC Giants have shipped on schedule. I usually get these three titles through my local comic shop, but it seems that the direct market versions of Swamp Thing and the Flash might be cancelled? When I read this, I drove out to Walmart and grabbed the mass market versions of all three...just in case. The novelty of this line has yet to wear off for me.


Next up on the list are two back issues, Thor #200 and Weird War Tales #93, with the first appearance of the Creature Commandos. They were both interesting Bronze Age books!


I grew up reading the Death of Superman storyline, but I never picked up more than a few issues of Batman's Knightfall saga. These issues aren't too expensive to find, but with Knightquest and Knightsend added on, there are a lot of issues out there. I still need to find just a few Knightquest issues, but I have finally made it through the big Knightfall story, culminating with Batman #500. The issues got pretty repetitive after a while, but I enjoyed it - though I'm sure I would've been mad about DC replacing Batman at the time.


Right around the time of Heroes Reborn, JM Dematteis had a fairly long run on the Silver Surfer title in which ol' Norrin Radd has adventures with (and space-dates, I guess) Alicia Masters. I managed to get all of those issues a while back but only recently got a chance to read them. There were some real moments of brilliance in this run! Plus the Thing showed up in a few issues, which is always a plus!


Next up on my list are two issues of Marvel's Shogun Warriors book, both guest-starring the Fantastic Four. I do not have high hopes for these! But I had to get 'em anyway.


If you're looking for some digital comics to read, why not try out Bad Karma from Panel Syndicate? Art on this new title is by Black Terror artist Ryan Howe!


Lastly, I found this RoboCop vs. Terminator series for a good price and picked it up few weeks ago. Firstly, the concept looks like a no-brainer, and secondly, it's by Frank Miller and Walt Simonson! Let me tell you - it did not disappoint. These two comic book creative giants are at their prime in this four-issue series from Dark Horse. I'm not even necessarily a really big fan of either franchise, yet I loved every page of this gem.


Plus each issue came with a cardboard centerfold cutout! Yeah!!


If you have a chance to pick up this series or the subsequent collection, do it! It's well worth it.

That's it for now. I hope that everyone is well and has enough comics to get them through these tough times.