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 I'll give a quick talk about the industry, do a reading of an unpublished story, and talk a little about my own experiences in writing, pitching and publishing.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.