Sunday, November 29, 2020

Thing sketchbook, part 23

Happy Thingsgiving, everyone! THINGSgiving, right? You got that? Thingsgiving. Yes.

Let's, uh, check out a new entry in the long-running Thing sketchbook post series!

Brian Level - New York Comic Con 2017

This is the only Thing sketch that I managed to get at NYCC 2017, but I like to think that I made it count. It's from Brian Level, a friend from the FUBAR days that has since gone on to work on a number of books for Marvel and other top-tier publishers.

Alex Harris - Free Comic Book Day 2018

For FCBD in 2018, I spent the day in Boston at a few different New England Comics locations, signing copies of The Tick and catching up with friends. Alex Harris drew a short story that I wrote for the Tick #2 (2018 series); I got an opportunity to hang out with him at a signing on this Saturday morning, and, of course, I asked him for a Thing sketch. I appreciate the fact that he knows how to properly spell "clobberin'".

Jay Kennedy/Ian Nichols - Free Comic Book Day 2018

Jay Kennedy is a local Boston artist who took my spot at the signing table once I moved on to another store. He did a quick sketch of the helmeted Thing that Ian Nichols finished up later in the day. This is peak mid-'90s Thing!

Ian Nichols - Free Comic Book Day/Comic-Con International 2018

Ian Nichols is my friend and frequent Tick collaborator, and he provided a couple contributions to my previous sketchbook. This is a new sketchbook, so it's fair game to ask him to draw once again in this book! This sketch is a different one, and I love it for that fact. It's Alicia Masters with a bust of her favorite subject, Ben Grimm.

The evening of FCBD, I left the sketchbook with Ian, who returned it when we saw each other again a few months later at Comic-Con in San Diego. Ian included this rough sketch on a separate piece of paper. Note the bust of Dr. Doom in the background!

Tony Sedani - Free Comic Book Day 2018

Here's the last one for now, another helmeted Thing by Tick contributor Tony Sedani! Tony's a really nice guy and I was happy to meet up with him for a little while at FCBD. And he's right - the helmet doesn't actually have a mouth hole, so wouldn't get it a little, uh, uncomfortable wearing it? Looking back, this was a big day for me as I got parts of four sketches on one day! 

There'll be more Thing sketches later, but before we go, I was in Target a few days ago and, of course, I stopped in the toy section, only to see a long, multi-panel cardboard display showing off a lot of collectibles - including the new Funko Pop Thing! How in the world am I going to convince Target to let me have this giant display, and where am I going to keep it??

While I was there, I (naturally) checked, and yes, the Target-exclusive 10-inch Funko Pop Thing is still available! It's a great Christmas present, folks.

Monday, November 23, 2020

"The Midnight Starr" comic for...The Midnight Star

Here's a new, strange comic strip that I recently put together with my friend and Bulwark co-creator Andrea Schiavone! Read it, look it over, and then wonder what in the world is happening in it! It's okay to be a little confused, because, honestly, that was part of my intent. Why? Well, I have a blog, and I guess I can use it to spend some time explaining. IT'S A BLOG, GUYS. That's what we do here.

A few months ago, I purchased some original art from the "Brenda Starr" comic strip, from all the way back in 1981! I can't say that I'm a big fan of Brenda Starr, but I am a big fan of artist Ramona Fradon, and this strip is from her long run on the syndicated series. I'm really excited to have some more original Fradon art, as she's nothing short of a legend.

Anyway, I like the strip and have been thinking about making one of my own as something of an homage to not just Fradon and Brenda Starr, but to newspaper comic strips in general. The opportunity presented itself just recently (and I, on this blog, will elaborate on that), so I contacted my friend Andrea and we put together the above.

I had a few goals that I wanted to accomplish. I wanted the strip to have a worn feel to it, as if it had just been found in a filing cabinet or something after decades in obscurity. I wanted it to be melodramatic, kind of like Brenda Starr. And I wanted it to be very weird. I think I accomplished all of those goals, but just to put it over the top, the first version I made was written in Italian:

Now, I do not know Italian, but Andrea not only does, but also IS Italian, so he was able to translate the text into what you see above. Andrea also added in the aging effects, which include yellowing, ink splotches, a coffee ring, and some creases along one corner. The original inks looked like this:

I added a Hawaiian pattern to the shirt in the first and third if you were asking yourself if that is supposed to be "Weird Al" Yankovic in the strip...well, to start, this must be the first time you've seen any of the work I do, because OF COURSE it's Weird Al, but further...yes, it's Al.

Giving this comic the title "Midnight Starr" served to pay homage to both Brenda Starr as well as Al, because "Midnight Star" is the title to one of Al's classic original songs from the album "In 3D". It ALSO serves as the name of the premier 1990s Weird Al fanzine, which, in a very roundabout way, brings us to this: for the past few months, I have been working on a one-issue revival of the fanzine, and I put together the Midnight Starr comic strip to include in the issue.

The issue itself has a lot of different things in it - articles, pictures, interviews (I got to interview Al for an "Ask Al" segment!), but as comics and artwork will always be special to me, let's look at a few more highlights in that category.

Here's a one-panel comic from fellow Al fan and Planet Comics contributor Kelly Phillips! Kelly went above and beyond with this comic, which features just a ton of inside references to the Midnight Star song! 

The back cover was meticulously drawn by my friend Ethan Harper. Ethan is a storyboard artist on a number of productions, and I met him earlier this year in Los Angeles for Al's New York Times Magazine photoshoot. Ethan drew a whopping 27 animated characters, each of which is voiced by Al himself.

Here's what the finished product looks like! This is kind of an "I guess you had to be there" thing, as the design is in line with what the magazine looked like during its run from 1993-98. If you'd like to read the thing, I've got a PDF that anyone can view for free, right here:

I've also got physical copies for sale in my Etsy shop! In 2020, this counts as a new publication for me.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

All the Ticks! (Plus...more Ticks)

There's some exciting new Tick content coming your way very soon, in the form of a Tick reunion featuring every television iteration! On Sunday, November 15th at 7pm EST, House Seats will stream the gathering in which each cast will read unproduced scripts. All three Ticks: Townsend Coleman, Patrick Warburton and Peter Serafinowicz, all four Arthurs: Micky Dolenz, Rob Paulsen, David Burke and Griffin Newman, and plenty of co-stars like Val Curry, Yara Martinez, Liz Vassey and Cam Clarke will be there! And to top it off, creator Ben Edlund will be there, leading the charge.

This is obviously a big deal, and it's the first time that all three casts will be together in the same virtual space. Best of all, the ticket proceeds for this event will benefit food banks across the country. If you haven't yet, you can get your tickets here: And if you worry about missing the event because, say, the 8-0 Steelers are going to be playing at around the same time, don't worry, because the video will be available to view until November 22nd!

I'm really excited to see all of these fine folks again.

While we're here, let's look at a few new Tick items that I recently picked up!

The first is an original sketch by Chris Schwartz, who drew this classic Tick for his 2019 Inktober challenge. There's a lot of blue line that the scanner doesn't pick up, too. The artist certainly got the square jaw down.

Next up, here are two more props from the Amazon Tick series that I managed to grab recently. This one is The Terror's world domination speech from the end of season one!

And here's an annual report for the Terror's Brown Tingle Cola company. This is a folder that has a lot of actual, very official-looking graphs and charts inside. 

It looks like BTC's market share is increasing exponentially! I wonder what the secret ingredient is?

Here are the two branded certificates that came with the items!

That's it for now. Spoon!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Talking comics at the Friends of the Beaumont Library annual meeting, 10/24 at 5pm Eastern

I thought about how I could make the title to this blog post shorter. There's a lot going on there. But you know what? It'll have to be long and bulky. That's just how it is.

I was recently invited to speak at the annual meeting of the Friends Beaumont Library District, and wouldn't you know, it's coming up in a few days, specifically this Saturday, October 24th, at 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern, on Zoom. The Beaumont Library District is in Beaumont, California, so it'll almost be like I get to go out and do things! I wonder if they'll point the camera toward the window and let me look around a bit. Also, they let me use my goat picture for the flyer. 

I'm excited to get a chance to talk about one of my favorite subjects - me. Er, I mean, comics. Comics is the subject. I'll give a quick talk about the industry, do a reading of an unpublished story, and talk a little about my own experiences in writing, pitching and publishing.

If you'd like to join in, you can! I'm told that this event is open to the public, so if you feel like showing up and perhaps heckling me, that is something you can do with your time!

You can find out more about this event on the group's Facebook event page:

But I also have the direct Zoom link! And here it is!

I don't believe that there is a password to join in, and maybe that's something I should try and find out, because what if I'm locked out of my own talk? That would be something indeed. I'm excited about the opportunity and I hope that you'll join in, too!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Brad Hill's (tiny, adorable) Thing Peek

So Facebook is undeniably a trash heap these days, any I often find myself wondering if I should just pull the plug and delete it. I would probably live a happier life if I did, but one reason I can't quite bring myself to do it is that I get updates toward the end of every month about Brad Hill's newest Peek releases. Last month, apparently at 3:33pm, I opened up the app and found this staring me in the face:

Brad Hill, also known as "SirCreate", is an artist and sculptor whose work appears regularly in Gallery1988 showings. Every month, Hill sculpts, molds and paints two very limited figures from various pop culture franchises. He calls these "Peeks" because he places the figures in a small wooden box with a window in the center of one panel...where you can peek in at the figures. I first became aware of him and his work when I saw and missed out on buying his "Weird Al" Yankovic Peek, which I'll never forgive myself for. At the time, I didn't realize how popular these items were, as they would regularly sell out within seconds of release. Still, despite my ever-lasting shame of missing the Weird Al Peek, I quickly developed a love for these little things.

We're all pretty aware of my obsession with the Fantastic Four's Ben Grimm, so when I saw that the Thing was up next on the Peek docket, I did my best to try and get one.

And then I missed that one, too, but I was able to get, and subsequently trade, the other offering for the month: Alexander Hamilton as portrayed by friend-of-Weird-Al Lin-Manuel Miranda. Was Hamilton the more desirable of the two? Possibly in 2020, but never for me, and I happily made the trade for the FF's resident orange rock monster.

It just arrived in the mail a few days ago, so let's take a look at it. First, you might be wondering just how big these figures are. Well, here's some perspective:

Contrary to popular opinion (right?), I do not have "Andre the Giant grabbing a can of beer" sized hands, so you can see how tiny these things really are. Each figure, this included, is right around ONE INCH in height. The level of detail for something so small is incredible. In this picture, you can just see the infinitesimal "4" on the Thing's waistband.

He even has blue eyes!

Here's a shot of the whole package, with the box branded with Hill's initials.

And here we can see that this - and every - production run was limited to just 18 figures.

From Hill's website, we can see a picture of the Thing without the cover, which (as the image states) is not removable.

This is one of my favorite new figures of 2020, and I'm so glad that I was able to get one. I've managed to get two others in the course of the last few years: Star Trek's Worf and Howard the Duck. And maybe one day lightning will strike and someone will sell their Weird Al Peek and I can jump for joy.

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Thing Sideshow movie statue and Marvel Zombies Funko Pop!

I've managed to add a few new (rather large) Thing items to my collection. It's (clobberin') time to check them out together!

The first item is a big one, figuratively and literally. It's a 1/4 scale maquette from Sideshow Collectibles.

What we have here is obviously, from the pants to the more human-like face, based on Michael Chiklis and the 2005 Fantastic Four movies. It's been 15 years since the first one came out, and I suppose people have mellowed on it a bit, but only in comparison to the most recent reboot. Anyway, my thoughts on either franchise are well known, so I'll just move ahead and say that Chiklis did an all right job, and I wish his costume had a thicker brow like in the comics.

Regardless of my meanderings on the movies themselves, this statue is still impressive. It might be the biggest I own.

My cat was also, apparently, very interested in the statue.

The sculpt is very precise and the details are intricate. Ben comes with a big cigar and a "4" emblem on his belt.

The 4 also makes a more subtle appearance on his boots.

This particular statue was limited to 1000 copies, and I've got #202.

I got this statue as a gift, and before I got it, I was warned that it wasn't in perfect shape. But the person who gave it to me got it at a substantial discount - if you've seen any Sideshow products before, you know how pricey they can be - because the statue had some nicks in it.

That's okay, because it just means the statue was displayed by someone who enjoyed it...and by someone who likes the Thing. How could I be upset over that? Anyway, there were quite a few bumps and scrapes on ol' Ben Grimm when I got him. The most egregious was a little chip taken right out of his nose, as you can see above.

There was also a rather noticeable scratch on his right boot.

I figured that I didn't have anything to lose, so I bought some enamel paints and took a shot at repairing the statue as best I could. There was nothing major to fix - no broken fingers or limbs - so the work I put into it was a few hours at best. I had to mix some colors to try and find the right shade in several seemed that the closer I looked, the more nicks I found.

This is the result for the nose, soon after I painted it. It's since dried and has become less glossy, making it less noticeable. I think you can spot it now that I've pointed it out, but if you didn't know about the original damage, I doubt that anyone would think that it wasn't as it was supposed to be.

I'm happy with it, at any rate, and I think I've restored a lot of value to it - and I like the way it looks, which is more important than any hypothetical resale value. We all know that I'm never getting rid of this.

Next up is the new Marvel Zombies Thing Funko Pop!

Funko announced this figure in advance of the all-virtual Comic-Con 2020. I made it through the quagmire that was Funko's online waiting room and was able to place an order for this figure.

The stickers are silly, but I'm hypocritically happy that I got the official Comic-Con sticker as opposed to the more generic "summer convention" sticker.

This guy is the second 10-inch Thing figure from Funko, following the Target-exclusive Thing from earlier in the year. The figure is huge and I don't know where to put it, honestly. But I had to try and get it!

Here's some more detail, with undead Ben's bony hand reaching out for you. All right.

Lastly, I finally hung this framed animation cel on my wall. This cel comes from the 1960s Fantastic Four cartoon - I got it a while ago for a greeeeeeeat price. It was trimmed and had a cheap black mat stapled to it that was bleeding color onto the cel. I removed the mat and had it reframed and I think it looks pretty good! It also looks like he's trying to punch his way through the wall, which, hey, is in character.

That's it! Enjoy your lives!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

"Peril in Pittsburgh!"

It's a well-known comic book fact that most superheroes live either in New York City or in a fictional NYC placeholder like Metropolis or Gotham. But every once in a while, there are a few comics that break out of that mold and visit other real-life locations. Pittsburgh, I'd say, has been a bit underrepresented in comics in general, though there are exceptions. Firestorm is probably the most well known mainstream character to call the Steel City his home, and fellow Western PA creator DJ Coffman set his "Hero By Night" Platinum Comics series in Pittsburgh.

I recently picked up the two-part Avengers storyline that brought Iron Man and Wonder Man (and eventually the full Avengers lineup) to Pittsburgh, and I thought I'd give it a look here on the ol' blog. The storyline runs through Avengers 192 and 193. The A+ team of George Perez and Joe Sinnott drew the cover to issue 192, and it seems that Perez had read up on all of the latest Pittsburgh cliches for the non-superhero stuff: men in hardhats (with literal blue collars), smokestacks, industry. Checks all of the boxes.

If you look closely at the guy in the middle, I think his hardhat says "Weiner". Cool.

If you've ever seen a Monday Night Football Steelers broadcast, you've seen this shot. And you've heard them talk about the city's confluence of three rivers. So we're hitting the ground running, right from page one. This issue had a cover date of February, 1980, meaning it came out right a the end of the decade, and when this image still probably fit for Pittsburgh. Fun fact: they do still make steel in Pittsburgh forty years later, but it's actually not the only thing that happens, or has ever happened, in the city.

The plot of the story revolves around this: steelworker Joseph Conroy, who in Journey into Mystery #120 grabbed a sliver of Thor's broken hammer (gotta find that issue now, too), is thrown into a cauldron of molten steel. Simon Williams (Wonder Man) and Tony Stark (Iron Man) are in town, as Stark is considering purchasing the plant.

I have to believe that the second balloon was added at the last minute.

Conroy's co-workers give him a gruesome burial, and then get right back to work, and no one seems too bothered by the fact that someone just got incinerated right before their eyes. What can you do, I guess?

But then, as a result of holding onto the Mjolnir sliver, Conroy is transformed into the Pittsburgh Steeler! No, wait, I guess he chose another name. Okay.

There's a fight, which Iron Man politely narrates...

Oh! And there's a Mr. Fantastic ad for Hostess Fruit Pies! Wait, it's for Twinkies? No, I refuse to believe that Hostess made comics for any product other than their fruit pies. If I'm not mistaken, I'd say this ad has art from Sal Buscema.

I feel like Captain America is being overly dismissive of Pittsburgh here. Has he seen the air quality ratings for the last 50 years?

"Battleground: Pittsburgh!" is a great title. I like it.

Issue 192 was pretty light on any Pittsburgh-specific details. Yes, it takes place at a steel mill, and I guess a lot of folks (still) associate that with Pittsburgh, but this story really could have taken place anywhere. After reading this, my hopes weren't very high for the second chapter:

"Inferno Unleashed!" The other title was better. This issue has a cover by none other than Frank Miller and Bob McLeod! And is that supposed to be an incline car??

On the first page, one thing stood out to me: the plot credit for the Pittsburgh Comix Club. I've gotta believe that the writer or editorial team knew that they had to add a little more specific information in this issue, so they sought out a local fan club to help out.

The Pittsburgh Comix Club is an interesting group worth reading about; you can find more info on them here and here.

The issue opens up with a quick recap of the previous one. Joseph Conroy is now Joe, and the colorist seems to have gotten a note from editorial, as well.

The Avengers come to Pittsburgh, and its citizens make, okay, a pretty good joke.

Everyone decides on "Inferno" for the misunderstood villain's name, as he hunts down those responsible for his untimely demise. One guy narrates his own death, as he is rather unceremoniously crushed by a barge.

Oh, hey! And then the Pittsburgh references start to flow. The Pittsburgh Comix Club is coming through in the clutch, just like Bill Mazeroski in the 1960 World Series! Inferno is apparently near the Liberty Bridge, which is moving away from downtown, and is near Duquesne University, the Civic Arena (since torn down) and the Liberty Tunnels!

This would have been a good time to use "jagoff" instead of "jerk", but okay. You can't win 'em all.

Pretty soon, there's another reference, this time to the famous Duquesne Incline! To make it from the Liberty Bridge to this particular incline station in five minutes would be possible, I guess, if there were no traffic.


And here, on page 18, we can only assume that the artists found a Pittsburgh reference guide, because that is undeniably the Duquesne Incline station depicted.

Yep - it checks out.

Casual misogyny...check...

And wait...there's even a reference to Mt. Washington, at the top of the incline, and maybe even a shot of the fountain at Point State Park (even though this isn't the view you'd see from the observation trail)? Better yet, the story's real villain, the steel mill owner who, through a rather convoluted scheme, had Joe Conroy killed, lives on Mt. Washington, a wealthy part of the city.

The Avengers apprehend him by breaking through the world's largest window!

And then they let Inferno simply walk into the river, I guess never to return? The Avengers sure do like to have loose ends tied up, no matter how it has to happen!

Oh, and there's an ad for Star Trek: The Motion Picture on the back cover!

So, this wasn't a great story overall, but it's obvious that the Pittsburgh Comix Club had a big hand in adding a lot of references to the second half, and that, at least, was enjoyable. Both of the issues felt quite a lot like filler to me, and the story ends with a mystically-powered force of nature walking off unchecked toward a populated city, but I guess we'll have to take what we can get with these issues. It was still fun to see Pittsburgh so prominently featured in two Bronze Age issues of the Avengers.