Sunday, June 6, 2021

Thing sketchbook, part 24

I've been thinking a lot about comic book conventions lately. I will say that after more than a year away, I am looking forward to the opportunity to go to shows once again. The New York Comic Con is preparing to sell tickets to their October show soon and others are on the horizon, as well. So with that in mind, I thought it might be appropriate to show off another five convention sketches of the Thing from my personal collection. Let's get to it!

Nathan Kane - Comic-Con International 2018

Nathan Kane, in addition to having a very comic book-y name, also works in the comic book industry. He was one of the head editors at Bongo Comics, as well as a colorist on many of their titles. I had met Nathan a few years before and would always bug him about letting me pitch some stories for different Bongo titles - he outlasted me, though, because it was at Comic-Con 2018 that they announced that Bongo would stop publishing. This is a bummer. But I did get this Simpsons-themed Thing sketch from him! I guess that's some consolation.

Dave Garcia - Comic-Con International 2018

Dave Garcia is a fun guy and a great comic artist who has worked on quite a few issues of The Tick - first as an inker of Ben Edlund's pencils, then as a penciler/inker on books like Paul The Samurai, also from New England Comics. I had a nice chat with Dave on the day he drew this really charismatic Thing sketch for me. I hope to see him again at the show in 2021 or '22!

Jenni Gregory - Comic-Con International 2018

I was booth neighbors with Jenni Gregory in the small press section at Comic-Con in 2018, and at the end of the show, she was kind enough to add this broad-shouldered Thing to the sketchbook. Jenni is a fantasy artist, caricaturist and comic book creator on books like Abby's Menagerie and and DreamWalker!

Ben Edlund - New York Comic Con 2018

There's not much to say about Ben Edlund that I haven't said time and again. Ben is a creative genius and a comic book hero, not to mention a really wonderful human. He created The Tick and he was a creative force behind Firefly. And he drew the Thing in my sketchbook! Good gravy.

I saw Ben at the New England Comics booth at NYCC 2018. Season two of Amazon's Tick series had recently wrapped and Ben was as relaxed as I've ever seen him; booth traffic was slow so I got a chance to chat with Ben and NEC art director Bob Polio for a while. As Ben was sketching, Bob mused that "All men struggle with the Thing," and thus this masterpiece was created. This is one of my absolutely favorite Thing sketches.

Tom Raney - New York Comic Con 2018

Tom Raney has had a long career in comics, working for both Marvel and DC as well as many smaller publishers. I love the extreme closeup sketches that I've gotten, and I love the "single crack down the middle of the mouth" look that has been so popular with the Thing in the last 15 years or so. Raney's Thing is definitely a great one!

Well, that's it for now. It's time to get more Thing sketches! Hopefully I can add a few more this year.

Monday, May 31, 2021

"Weird Al" Yankovic manga comic in Japan's FM Recopal music magazine!


I am a fairly hardcore collector of "Weird Al" Yankovic merchandise, but I'll admit that there are a few fans out there who have items I've never even heard of before. One of those fans is Kenneth Guinup, a really nice guy and someone who has been a part of Weird Al fandom since right around the very beginning. Ken shared some images from his collection of a copy of FM Recopal, a music magazine from Japan. This one is from 1984:

Inside the magazine is a comic that centers around Al's 1984 hit parody "Eat It," which of course lampoons Michael Jackson's "Beat It." The comic features Al lugging a refrigerator behind him, eating food, and singing in a music video. It also includes references to at least one of his earlier songs, "My Bologna."

I'm posing the full comic below; without having a translation available, I can't offer up much more about the content, besides that it looks...really bizarre, and that I love it. I have two requests: if anyone can read Japanese, I would love to update this post with an English translation, and if anyone owns a copy of this issue, I would love to buy it from you. But for now, let's just enjoy the comic!

Friday, April 30, 2021

Bowen full-size Thing statue

The first Thing statue I purchased was in 2004, as a result of having my first comic story published. Part of what I received for the comic was a gift card to Things from Another Universe, and I used that to buy the Bowen Thing mini-statue. It wasn't until a few years later that I found out that there was a larger version of that same statue. I guess it took 17 years, but I finally managed to grab the full-size Bowen Thing statue, and oh boy, do I love it.

Randy Bowen sculpted quite a few statues from Marvel in the early 2000s, and he recently released another Thing statue. I definitely have an affinity for his work. His Thing is a nice combination of Kirby and Byrne, with thick, flat fingers and toes, and a huge brow that reaches halfway around his head. This is the stocky, bulky Thing of the '60s-'80s.

The colors on this statue are all so rich. I love the lighter orange and yellow that make up the well-segmented rocks. The blue and black trunks are a shiny contrast to the flat color of the Thing's skin.

The base of the statue connects with those of the rest of the Fantastic Four. They're all rather expensive and Reed's statue has a habit of breaking, so this is probably going to be the only one I get. But it's a heck of an addition to my collection.

The base comes with a classic Thing logo and an individual number. This one is #2372.

The box itself is wonderfully branded. The front panel comes with the Thing's patented trademark.

One side shows the statue from different angles.

The other has an infographic lifted from an early issue.

I also picked up the slightly less impressive, but still pretty cool, Marvel Legends Human Torch figure from Kenner. This one is made to look retro even thought it's brand new. The colors, again, are really nice. Johnny is the only FF member for this line so far, but hopefully they'll have the rest of the team before too long!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Another dang Kickstarter!

So I'm teaching a course this semester on comics. Who would've thought that would be possible? I was so surprised when it happened that I took a picture of the flyer I made when I saw it on campus.

Anyway, the class is titled "Comics and Graphic Storytelling" or something like that, and as you might expect, I have not run out of material to talk about as we near the end of the semester.

Beyond talking about comics, one of our big projects for the semester is to actually make a comic book, and I'm happy to say that we actually managed to do that. It's titled "Tales of the 399," and the cover is below:

(The course code for the class is 399.)

We're trying to print the book now, and to do that, we set up a Kickstarter. Yes, it comes directly after the Planet Comics #2 Kickstarter. But it's a different project! And we still want to get it done. Here's a link!

All of the stories in the book are short memoirs from students in the class (I have one in there, too), and there are some really good ones. Here's a page from one of my favorites, by Grace Gilbert:

The campaign ends, er, very soon, so check it out while you can!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Check out the absolute madness that is Gold Key's Star Trek #1

There have been a number of Star Trek comics over the years, from a lot of different publishers. The first series dates back to 1967, just a few months after the show first aired on CBS, published by the now-defunct Gold Key Comics. This series was actually published under both Gold Key and Whitman banners, meaning that each issue was published at the same time and included the same content, under two different company names through different distributors. It's weird.

Anyway, Star Trek has a long and rich publishing history in the comics medium, and lucky for us, most books are easily accessible and relatively inexpensive to find. The one exception is the first series from Gold Key, which ran for 61 issues before the license moved to Marvel Comics in 1980. As you might expect, the first issue of the Gold Key series is probably the most highly sought-after Star Trek comic in general, so I was pretty happy to finally get a copy at a price that wasn't too bad.

The copy I found was a little beat up, but that just meant that I wasn't afraid to open it up and read it, and boy, it did not disappoint. I thought that we could take a look at this bizarre first issue of the Star Trek comic.

Television shows take quite a while to film under the best circumstances, and comics are the same - work on a comic begins months before the final product makes it to stores and readers. So while Star Trek #1 was published in 1967 and the show first aired in '66, I'd be surprised if anyone working on the book was able to actually see an episode of the show before they started working on the first issue. This is pretty apparent throughout the book, from the cover and its mis-colored uniforms, to the interiors with the wide range in character likenesses. I'm sure it was a case of creators doing the best they could with what little they had as far as reference information. Still, looking back over 50 years later, the things they got wrong are pretty glaring, and in many cases, hilarious.

Case in point: the uncredited artist (from what I can find, the script was by Dick Wood, and the art was by Nevio Zeccara) seems to have Leonard Nimoy as Spock nailed down, but William Shatner as Kirk isn't quite there. The first panel directly above seems to feature James Kirk as a mix between Shatner and DeForest Kelley.

The references to technology are pretty much all over the place, with the ship's view screen apparently called a TV Scanner. "Jim, change the channel on this radio device!"

Grace Lee Whitney played Janice Rand in early episodes of season one; both the actor and her character were treated poorly by some measures. But at least Captain Kirk never called her "honey" in an episode. Also of note, her beehive hairstyle was colored as if it were a hat in this panel.

What stands out most about this story is the general ruthlessness of the crew, from the captain on down. The story starts out as you might expect, with the Enterprise crew off seeking new life in an unexplored part of the galaxy. When they find it, however, their response is almost universally, "Kill it! Kill it now!" I mean, no one asked you to beam down to this planet, Jim.

The smaller character moments are off as well, as evidenced by Kirk's penchant for silly space-themed catchphrases, such as "Suffering star dust!"

And also "Great galloping galaxies!" Classic Captain Kirk, am I right?

That's not to say that they creators don't get some things right. As I mentioned, the artist really drew a lovely Spock.

...noted theist, James Kirk...

Here's a particularly well-drawn, Shatner-esque Kirk, who is nonetheless speaking into his tricorder. I would probably also be panicked if trees were trying to "germinate" me. This leads to too many uncomfortable questions.

At the end of the issue, the crew is rescued (except for an unfortunate redshirt, proving that some things are universal), but instead of learning their lesson and leaving orbit, Mr. Spock decided that the only solution to the planet's carnivorous plants is...TOTAL GLOBAL GENOCIDE! 

This was a totally unnecessary ending for several reasons, but especially since the holocaust happened at the very bottom of the last page, almost as an afterthought.

The final panel features images of these alien tree-beings flailing around in pain while they burn. It's a bit of an overreaction, if I can say so!

This is the back cover, a black-and-white photo of William Shatner holding what was probably a repurposed kitchen utensil or something.

This entire issue was an absolute mess, but that somehow increased my enjoyment of it. The creators didn't just mail it in when faced with a lack of information about this new sci-fi series - they made their own ridiculous leaps and doubled down on them. They provide us with an alternate history glimpse into early Star Trek, and the absurdity really helps to make this very weird issue what it is.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

I'm co-hosting a Gem City Comic Con panel on Saturday!


Sometimes I don't know what to write in the title section of these posts. I try to come up with something short, catchy, and optimized for search engines. But sometimes that doesn't work, so I just write full sentences, and thus we get titles to posts like this, "I'm co-hosting a Gem City Comic Con panel on Saturday!" I chose this because...I'm co-hosting a Gem City Comic Con panel on Saturday.

The Dayton, Ohio Gem City Comic Con is having a virtual convention this year (followed by - perhaps? - an in-person event in July) on Saturday and Sunday, March 20th and 21st. My good friend Jennie Wood asked me to help her host a panel that will focus on writing and character development. The event is open to everyone and can be streamed in two places:



We'll have some time during the panel to write and share, so if you're curious about writing for comics and you want to have a space to work on developing characters, I hope you'll stop by!

The panel is from 11:15-noon (Eastern time) on Saturday, 3/20!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Planet Comics #2 is now on Kickstarter!


Last year, the first issue of Planet Comics met its goal on Kickstarter, and last month, I was able to print the issue and start sending it out. Here it is! It exists!

I've decided to press my luck and make a second issue, and now the campaign for this book is on Kickstarter! This one runs until the last week of March. Let's take a look at what we'll find for the second issue of the new Planet Comics!

Like the first issue, issue #2 comes with two cover, a regular cover by Adrián "Bago" Gonzalez...

...and a Kickstarter exclusive by Andrés Muños Setz! This one is a companion piece to the exclusive first issue cover by Matthew Dow Smith.

The Bulwark returns for a second chapter as the lead story of this issue.

Andrea Schiavone once again provides the art for this story! I'm excited to have a story that continues from one issue to the next! Most of my stories have been single-issue tales so far, so it's nice to write one that stretches out over a few issues.

I'm really excited to have the opportunity to publish an original Grumble story from Rafer Roberts and Mike Norton. Grumble just ended its run with Eric Powell's Albatross Funny Books and to have it continue here is a big deal.

Jeff McComsey's "The Old Man and The Sea of Love" continues in this issue as well!

Another new feature in this issue is "Badges O'Keefe, Canine Time Thief" with Dani Grew and your friend (and mine) Larry Franks! I love working with Dani on pretty much anything (Larry is okay), so I'm really excited about this story. There's also a reward where you can have your dog drawn into the book!


There are a bunch of rewards this time around, from other comics to shirts and pins to social media profile art.

I launched the project two days ago, and we're currently a little over 50% toward the goal. This gives me hope! If we reach the goal, I'll have stretch goals that I'll announce soon, but will most importantly include more content for the book.

I hope you can check out, support and/or share this project and help me make another issue of Planet Comics! Here's the link! Look at it! LOOK AT IT!!