It's no surprise that many American based comic book companies publish foreign and foreign language editions of some of their books. Many books have audiences outside of the US, so it only makes sense for Marvel, DC and others to reach out and try to sell their stories to different countries.
I don't usually collect foreign editions of books, because they're often hard to find, expensive and overwhelmingly numerous. But "The Thing is Big Ben", the United Kingdom's awkwardly titled collection from the 1980s, is a title that I've had my eye on for a while, for obvious reasons. I finally found a batch that was reasonably priced, so I placed the order and got a few issues.
The book consists of reprinted and repackaged stories from around the late 1970s. The Thing has the lead story, but each of the books also contains tales from other characters such as Iron Man and Captain America. The first volume of "The Thing" was being published at the same time in the US, but this UK version contains reprinted Marvel Two-in-One stories from a few years prior. It's interesting that they started with later stories, near the end of Two-in-One, rather than just starting at the beginning (when the stories were better). I wonder what the publishing arrangement was - if the UK folks only had access to older material or if someone involved really enjoyed the latter 25% of Marvel Two-in-One.
The covers are also an interesting part of these books. Many of them are similarly reprinted covers from Marvel Two-in-One, but some of them feature original art, such as the first issue with the Thing gleefully advertising the free hat offer, or the above new image from artist Terry Austin.
The books are sized at just a little bit smaller than current magazines. They're very flimsy and are printed on newsprint. Even the covers are the same paper stock, which gives the books a newspaper feel from cover to cover. Curiously, the color scheme changes from spread to spread. The first two pages of the above story are colored as you'd expect...
...but the next two pages are printed with shades of just one non-black color. This rotates throughout the whole book, which is interesting, to say the least. If this happens simply as a cost-saving measure, why not print the entire first story in full color, then print the remaining pages in black, white and blue? It's an odd choice.
"The Thing is Big Ben" published 18 issues in the mid-'80s, and it followed the same format throughout its run. So far, I've been able to track down eight of these books, so I've got a little more than half to go. I wonder if these are as easy (and as cheap) to find in the UK as issues of "The Thing" are to find in the US. If there's anyone from that part of the world reading this blog, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this reprint series!
When Amazon's Tick pilot aired back in late 2016, one of the first things I did upon finishing the episode was slowly scan the credits for extras casting information. Once I found it, I began the delicate game of trying to pester the company just enough to let them know that I would like to appear in an episode. March of 2017 came, and with it, the beginning of filming on the first season. Week after week went by before I finally got the email I was looking for, and near the end of June, I traveled to Brooklyn to be in an episode of The Tick!
I have family who lives about two hours outside of New York City, so the day before, I stayed with them and tried to figure out how I was going to both drive and park in the city. I've done both before, and it's not like NYC is an alien planet, but traffic and the availability of parking are naturally two of the most most daunting hassles of a a big city, and unlike any other time I've been there, I actually had a time where I had to be somewhere - in this case, 7:00 am. I was worried about rush hour traffic, so I left...REALLY early. Before 4:00.
This turned out to be much too early, as whenever rush hour starts in New York, it doesn't start at 5:00, so as the sun was coming up, I drove through the Holland Tunnels and into the city. Where was everybody? I drove right past both Little Italy and Chinatown on my way towards Brooklyn. I didn't realize it, but they are actually right next to each other.
Astounded at how quickly I had made it, I then turned onto the Brooklyn Bridge.
Here's a shot of the city from the bridge. I figured that I would be able to use the extra time to find a parking spot. I spent a while the night before looking up parking garages that were near the set.
When I arrived at the designated area, near McCarren Park, I found that I was able to park right next to the holding area, on the street, for free. It was 5:45am. I was stunned that I was able to make it to the destination in under two hours, and that I could park within about 50 feet of my destination. I mean, I'm glad it happened - I'd rather be too early than too late - but I showed up before the production assistants and the catering workers.
I managed to find my way inside the holding area as the caterers were setting up their tables. I put my things down and then walked around town for about 45 minutes. It was a cool, clear day in New York at 6:00, so why not?
We ended up filming just a few scenes on this day, and both of them in the same basic spot. A few familiar faces were there, including creator Ben Edlund and executive producer David Fury, whose TV Guide interview I interrupted for a few minutes in between scenes. Ben didn't know I was going to be there, so when I said hello, he looked a bit shocked until he recognized who the heck I was.
At around 2:00, we all left for lunch. I've been on a few movies and TV shows before, but this is the first time I had heard the phrase "walking lunch", which I guess is code for "you're on your own, kid!". I walked a couple blocks to Vinnie's Pizza, which in addition to having some fantastic pizza (I recommend it if you're ever in town), also had a TMNT-themed bench right outside.
After lunch, we moved onto a new scene. Earlier in the day, the crowd I was a part of was at a memorial for the Flag Five, with François Chau (Walter) and Patricia Kalember (Joan), Arthur's parents on the show, as well as the dogs who play Midnight, voiced by Townsend Coleman. Chau also played the Shredder in 1991's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze, so hey, there's our second TMNT reference of the day.
The second scene was a continuation of the first, after the Terror and The Tick's big fight at the end of the season, and in this one, both Griffin Newman (Arthur) and Peter Serafinowicz (The Tick) were there in costume. I got to talk briefly with Serafinowicz about Comic-Con, which was at that point only a few weeks away. The temperature had risen steadily throughout the day, and by the end of the second scene, it was into the mid 80s. The Tick suit looks like it's just about as hot as you'd expect, and Serafinowicz was drenched with sweat. Somebody get that guy a towel!
I was (thankfully) given a hat to wear during the two scenes, which prevented me from getting too much of a sunburn and also gave me the opportunity to wear a prop for a while. The scene also had a table with Flag Five merchandise on it, with things like keychains, hats and buttons on display.
One of the most heavily enforced rules on a film set is the "no pictures" rule, for obvious reasons. That's why all the pictures I've shown here have been of things that are decidedly not on the set. Do I have other pictures from this day? Absolutely not. Did I keep that hat that I'm wearing in the above picture? Goodness, no. Why would you even ask that? Ridiculous.
The scenes shot on this day were actually used in three episodes - 10, 11 and 12. In episode 10, the memorial is being set up. In 11, Midnight gives his speech and the crowd gets an alert to clear the area. In 12, we're all running for our lives, first in fear, then in jubilation. As expected, I can be seen in these various scenes almost not at all, except for a crowd shot in episode 11, the screenshot here provided by your friend (and mine) Larry. Despite my relative decent position (I was just a few feet from Chau for most of the morning), this is the best that I can be seen. That's okay - this just means that I can come back again for season two!
As I mentioned, this isn't the first set I've been on. I've probably been a part of a couple dozen productions over the last 10-or-so years, but this one, naturally, is very high up on my list. I can say that I was officially part of Amazon's The Tick, even if just for one day. That's something I'll always remember. Now let's bring on season two!
For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, my "Who owns Superman ice cream?" post from 2010 is one of my most popular posts of all time. Maybe a lot of people really want to know the answer to that questions? Sorry to say, but I do not answer it in the above post...but please, click on the link to move it further up the top-10 ladder.
More than seven years later, we now have some officially-licensed Superman ice cream in the form of Edy's Krypton Cookie Dough ice cream. Because this blog is about nothing if it's not about trying comic book-inspired foods, I picked up a container from the local Giant Eagle and decided to give it a go.
The branding on the packaging is, of course, probably more important than the ice cream itself, and DC/Edy's did a good job this time around. I've love to know who drew this lovely Superman on top of the carton. It would look better with red shorts (soon, soon), but that's okay for now.
The carton describes the product as "cookie dough light ice cream with red and gold cookie dough pieces and blue sprinkles". Does this mean that I just bought low-fat ice cream? Or is "light" another way to say "vanilla"? I have no idea.
The ice cream is very, very sweet, but it's pretty good. I'm a fan of cookie dough ice cream and I thought the cookie dough pieces weren't very flavorful (and I can't imagine what the red and gold dye are doing to my delicate insides), but overall, I liked it. It's something I'd buy again.
Perhaps the best thing about this ice cream is that it comes with comics on the back! There are four in total, and so far I've found three of them.
I do wonder what Edy's means when it suggests that you "collect all 4". Do you want me to keep four full ice cream containers in my freezer for the rest of my life? Or should I eat the ice cream and then put the empty cartons in a box somewhere? I refuse to do this. Pictures will have to suffice.
Phew - it looks like Superman wins in the end, thank goodness. Edy's also has a Batman and a Wonder Woman-themed ice cream, which I'm willing to try out...for the good of the blog.
The success of the Tick Amazon show has opened up the door for a few more Tick comics (hooray), a few of which I've been involved with (also hooray), so I thought I'd take a minute to point out just what's out there, and a little bit about what's to come!
The Tick #1 showed up in comic shops in October, 2017, much to the delight of, well, hopefully people other than me, but perhaps most importantly, me! The book had been a long time in coming. Artist Duane Redhead and I managed to get a six-page story printed in the back of this issue, and if I can say so (I can), it looks really nice. Duane provided pencils, inks and colors this time around, which I think adds a different dimension to his work.
The Tick #2 followed shortly after, in December. In between the first and second issues, Duane took over as the regular artist, which is good for him. There's another short story written by me in the back of this issue, one that ties directly to a sequence in issue #1. Art on this story was provided by Alex Harris, a Boston native who drew a short story for the 2016 Local Comic Shop Day comic.
Issue #3 should be out before the end of February, and I also have a few pages in that issue. I hope that you (yes, you) check it out and support the book!
May brings another Free Comics Book Day, and another FCBD issue of The Tick. This one has a few stories in it, with the main story written by me with art by Ian Nichols (Duane drew the cover). This story takes a plot from Ben Edlund, which is both exciting and really intimidating for me. Think of it as Conan meets The Tick, I guess.
Have we all gotten our Tick Funko Pop figures yet? Is there any license that Funko doesn't yet have? (Weird Al Pops coming later this year.) This new figure is the "regular" version of the limited, glow-in-the-dark Tick Pop that came out for last year's Comic-Con. Still no word on when Arthur, etc., will be out.
I managed to find a copy of San Diego Comic-Con Comics #3 recently. This four-issue series ran in the early-to-mid '90s as an exclusive comic co-produced by Comic-Con and Dark Horse Comics. The Tick has a brief cameo in this issue! There's also a RoboCop with a toaster for a head.
Lastly, I got a package in the mail a few weeks ago from Duane, and inside resided some original art - the cover to the Tick 2016 FCBD special! This might be my favorite piece of work from Duane's and my run on the book, so it was pretty exciting to find this waiting for me.
The 2016 issue featured Ticks from all over the Tick-verse (that's what we're calling it), many of which were created just for the issue, but there were also appearances by all of the previously established Ticks, including the Tick clones from the "De-Evolution" storyline...
...Tina, Toy DeForce's Tick robot...
...Jeffrey Whitebread, the Golden Age Tick...
...and my personal favorite, Edlund's original Tick from the character's first NEC newsletter appearance!
Let's keep our fingers crossed for the rest of 2018. There are a few more things on the horizon.
In 1940, more than a year before the United States officially entered World War II, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created a two-page Superman story for Look Magazine, titled "How Superman Would End the War". I had seen reproductions of the story a few times before, and it always fascinated me with how bold it was for the time it was published. I never thought I'd get a chance to even see the original magazine, let alone own a copy, but a few weeks ago, I somehow managed to purchase the issue in question from February 27, 1940.
The issue is oversized by today's standards, probably one and a half times larger than modern magazines. The copy I got is in pretty good shape, minus some stress to the spine. The colors on the cover are still bright and stark, in line with the photo coloring done in that time. The cover features Hollywood star Rita Hayworth shaking...maracas? Well, okay. In the top left, under the logo, Superman gets a blurb.
The "What it Means to be Neutral" article featured so prominently on the cover is a bunch of claptrap about why the US should leave Europe to its own devices and how the First World War didn't accomplish anything good, and I guess is a product of its time. The inclusion of a Superman comic that takes much the opposite stance makes it stand out all the more in a magazine that is mostly filled with puff pieces and large photo spreads.
Incredibly, the page before the comic has a short feature on both Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, something I'm sure National Comics (later DC Comics) would be disinclined to do. The features names Superman as a "new" character, which makes my head swim to think that it was ever the case. This was published fewer than two years before Superman showed up in Action Comics #1, so he was absolutely a new at this point. To put it in perspective, Batman was first published 11 months earlier in Detective Comics #27, Captain Marvel first showed up the very same month as this edition of Look Magazine, and Wonder Woman was still more than a year and a half away from existing.
The comic itself is only two pages long, but Siegel and Shuster, both Jews who were undoubtedly keenly aware of the atrocities happening across the Atlantic, pack it full of action, and it resonates emotionally, despite the odd juxtaposition of a fictional character with real-life despots.
Most of the magazine's interiors are black and white, but adding just one other shade to this story (an extra publishing expense) loans some depth to the story. It's placement almost makes the story seems as if it's published in full color.
Take a second to think about how incredible this page is - and how something similar would probably never be published today. Superman crashes into Hitler's secret headquarters, and then swoops into Moscow to grab Stalin as well, lugging them both to the League (League?) of Nations in Switzerland.
While much of America was still debating on whether or not to involve themselves in the war, Jews often were the most vocal about the need to intervene. The Three Stooges, for example, lampooned Hitler months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
I often wish that today's comics - specifically Marvel and DC - would take a more pronounced stand on social issues like they had in the past. That's not to say that there aren't still brave creators working for those large companies, but their corporate ownership has, naturally, watered down these voices in an attempt to remain as marketable as possible to broad audiences. But comics have a great history of standing up for those in trouble, and they can have a stronger impact than some may think. The above panel is just incredible!
I took a few other pictures of the magazine's interiors, but I don't want to take away from the comic itself in this post. Well, okay, I'll post an ad from (I think) the inside back cover. Is this the first ad for a Nestle's Crunch Bar?? And it's only a nickel!! Lookit that.
The time has come...to look at the rest of the pictures I took at the 2017 New York Comic Con! All of these pictures are from Saturday, October 7th, the second of my two days at the show.
After leaving Penn Station, I was greeted by these obviously (obviously) Futurama-inspired signs.
The first event on the docket for Saturday was Amazon's Tick panel, which filled up fast. I managed to squeeze my way into, I guess, the third row. We all got a look at the upcoming episodes, which appear on February 23rd! They also handed out even more free swag in the form of posters upon entering. It's great how the entire cast has shown up at these big events - they all really seem to care about the series.
After the panel ended, I left the convention hall for a bit, and on the way out, I saw a few costumes, including this one, whatever it was. Video game characters, maybe??
The medieval Spawn character is, interesting story, not actually owned by Todd McFarlane. Another interesting story: after taking the picture, I found out that the person in the costume is the same gentleman who dresses up as Silent Bob every year at Comic-Con in San Diego. Neat!
While outside, I visited the recently completed High Line Park, which was a really incredible experience.
The High Line is a park built on an old elevated train line. It runs for about a mile and a half and is 30 feet above street level, which makes for a stark departure from the rest of Manhattan.
I just happened to be walking under it on my way back to the convention center and decided to climb the stairs to see what it looked like. It was crowded but was absolutely worth visiting. It's a must-see on my NYC list from now on.
Walking from one reality to another, I was greeted upon returning to the Javits Center with the image of someone dressed up...as the Javits Center. Not bad.
Even HawkPeople have to take a break sometime.
I visited the DangerBoat a few times while at NYCC. I had to get all of the Tick pins. Here's a nice shot of the outside of DangerBoat.
This is probably the best costume I saw at the show. Look at how yellow this guy got his arms!
These were pretty good, too.
New England Comics had a small booth on the show floor, and I signed some copies of the new Tick #1 there on Friday and Saturday, and a number of Tick luminaries stopped by at different points. Here's writer and producer David Fury, one of the main driving forces behind the new Amazon show. Fury also had a role in "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog", which I talked with him about just a bit.
Check out these costumes! These guys put a lot of work into them.
That Captain America shield is really great, too!
After the main floor closed, I spent a little bit of time in Artist Alley until the show ended. The Javits Center is under some construction, and will be for a few years, as I understand it, so all of the featured artists were stuffed into a smaller-than-you'd-expect conference-type room as opposed to the usual separate hall. I'd hope that next year they could get a better location, but you never know with NYCC. In the meantime, check out what Geoff Darrow drew all over his table!
And despite what the picture might indicate, I was happy to chat with Rafer Roberts for a little while before the show ended.
NYCC 2017 was a lot of fun, and the weather held up long enough for me to spend some time outside, which was a departure from previous years. I hope they continue to find ways to branch out and relieve some of the crush that seems inevitable with a convention this size. It's a nice way to end the convention year for me!