Thursday, March 31, 2011

My favorite "Peanuts"

For the past several years, Fantagraphics has been releasing beautifully bound collections, ultimately comprising the entire run of Charles Schulz's comic strip masterpiece "Peanuts".  I've never taken the time to sit down and read any big chunks of the thousands of strips, maybe because such a large work is a bit daunting to try and take on, or perhaps because it's simply always been around and I've always had the idea of "it'll still be around tomorrow".  I don't know that I'll ever own the impressive collections being offered up, but it's nevertheless easy to respect the work that Schulz did over his decades as a prominent cartoonist - he's without a doubt one of America's greatest artistic talents.

I was cleaning out my desk a few weeks ago when I found the above Sunday strip, clipped out and folded in half.  This was published after Schulz's death in early 2000, when newspapers couldn't let go of their longtime stalwart; the paper I got this strip from simply renamed it "Classic Peanuts" and kept printing it.  As far as I could tell, the strips weren't printed in any real order, so even though the language and the art style lend me to think that this wasn't a recent strip, I really don't have any idea of when it was originally published.

It's pretty obvious why I decided to keep this, in that it reminds me of my own dog; Schulz, even though he anthropomorphized Snoopy throughout the strip's history, managed to bring out just what we all love about dogs, and it's readily evident that whichever dog Snoopy was based on, he was loved deeply.

I'm sure that, if pressed, most people could come up with a favorite "Peanuts" strip.  This one's mine.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thing sketchbook, part 2

Here's another installment from my award winning* Thing sketchbook - five entries that I've managed to collect over the years.  There are some great ones included in this batch (check out the first one by Tim Bradstreet!), and another where I need some help with the artist's name.  Let's begin with the showing and the telling:

Tim Bradstreet - Pittsburgh Comicon 2003

Tim Bradstreet (perhaps best known for his Punisher covers) gets the prize for "best intimidating image" for this book.

While sketching, he mentioned several times that he was looking forward to taking in a Pirate game while he was in town.  I then asked him if he knew that they were terrible.

Michael William Kaluta - Pittsburgh Comicon 2003

A few people were getting sketches from Mr. Kaluta as I stood in line toward the end of the day, and he told everyone that he could draw two types of sketches - good ones that would cost money, and not-so-good ones that were free.  You can guess which one I opted for.  He used a can to draw the sunset.

Jimmy Palmiotti - Wizard World Philadelphia 2004

It took Jimmy all of 30 seconds to draw this (nevertheless impressive) sketch, proving to his friends that it could be done.  "Start with the brow and go from there," he said.

Wizard World Philadelphia 2004

This artist (whose name is John, though I forget his last name...and it's such a distinctive signature!!) happened to be sitting right next to Jimmy Palmiotti at the Wizard World show, so I just passed the book on to him.

I mentioned that he could draw any version of the Thing he wanted to - helmet Thing, pineapple Thing, etc. - and he replied that he hadn't enjoyed the Fantastic Four book since Jack Kirby left.  I thought to myself, "wasn't that like 35 years ago?!", but I didn't say anything.

In either case, "Thing in Love" is a pretty good one.

Artboy_X - Wizard World Los Angeles 2005

My buddy (and Mr. Massive artist) Artboy_X has a code name.  I don't know why.  Anyway, I got him to add a sketch to the book, which my wife thinks looks a lot like Wolverine.

That's good for now, eh?  I've got a bunch more, so look for another entry soon.

*It hasn't actually won any awards.  But it is deserves to.  Oh, how it deserves to.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A (kind of) brief Teddy and the Yeti update

Hey folks, it's been a while since we've had a legitimate Teddy and the Yeti update around these parts, but now is as good a time as any, I'd say.

Back in 2009 when artist Duane Redhead and I were putting the book together for publication, I thought we could realistically do three issues at a time.  The considerations at hand were the fact that both Duane and I have "real" jobs in addition to having dreams of working in the comic book industry and the fact that publishing comics is darned expensive!  I wanted to tell a complete story as to not leave anyone hanging, and I think that was accomplish with the first run of the book.  We got trading cards and cool paper heroes out of the deal, too, which was great as well.

In the aftermath of the books coming out and last year's convention season, I think both Duane and I thought it'd be a good idea to continue the title for as long as we could, in the quantity that we could.  Right now, I think three issue bursts are what we can handle.  To that, we are planning on putting out three issues in 2011 using the same format as the first run: issues 4 and 5 will have a two part story and issue 6 will feature a few shorter tales.

Right now I'm not certain of the release date for issue #4 - it's still a little while away before that comes into focus.  I want to at least have issue #4 out by the Baltimore Comic-Con, which is in August, and then follow a bi-monthly printing schedule for the remaining issues.  After issue #6 comes out, we'll have another break in which Duane and I will decide if more issues are feasible.  I will say this - if it were up to me, Teddy and the Yeti would publish monthly for the rest of eternity, but reality sometimes gets in the way.  The only thing that I want to focus on is putting together issues of high quality that people can enjoy.

After issue #6 comes out, I am considering putting a trade paperback out of the first six issues with lots of extras.  TPBs have an extended shelf life and some people are more willing to check out a book in that format than the traditional monthly deal.  Plus they are cool, and that's reason alone, eh?

In any case, we are moving toward more T&Y this year, and that's a good thing.  I'll try to keep everyone up to date on release dates and progress as it's made.  In the meantime, here's two pieces of art: the first page of issue #4 from the desk of Duane Redhead, and (I think) the first look at the final art for that issue's cover, featuring beautiful art by Pat Olliffe and Karin Rindevall.

More to come.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Birthday swag, part 2

Yesterday was my birthday, and as is tradition in my family, my wife went to Ye Ol' Dairy Queen to get an ice cream cake for me.  Here's an interesting tidbit - Dairy Queen ice cream cakes aren't cakes at all, just ice cream and icing shaped to LOOK like a cake.  What jokers, those guys at the DQ.  Anyway, another tradition (using the word as loosely as possible, I guess) we have is to confuse the decorators there as much possible, and all signs point to this year as being a rousing success.  It took a few tries for my wife to get the icing chef to understand that she was saying "it's clobberin' time", and perhaps even longer for them to understand that she was serious in that I actually wanted the Thing's catch phrase on a cake.

This stands in stark contrast to last year's birthday, when we went for something completely different:

Yes!  My cake said "Beast Wars", which really confused the hell out of them at the store.  Looking at this picture now for the first time in, oh, a year, I see that I decided to wear the exact same shirt for my last two birthdays, completely unintentionally.  Perhaps it's just my birthday shirt.  Also, Larry was there.

Anyway, I managed to snag quite a few cool items for the big day, among which were The Walking Dead season 1 DVD, Venture Bros. volume 4 part 2 DVD, and the new Tick action figure from Shocker Toys:

It's pretty cool.

And in another sign that Google is slowly taking over the world, the search engine greeted me with this message when I went to the site yesterday:

That's just weird.  Thoughtful, but weird.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

more references, some more obscure than others

I just wrote about a few random Futurama references in recent and semi-recent comics, and as if someone wanted to point out that I am apparently the target audience for all comic books, I opened up issue #7 of the Tick's new series and lo and behold, I find not just references to other things that I like, but eerily specific references that seem a bit close for comfort.  That's not saying I didn't enjoy them - I did, oh I did.  For instance:

Hey look, it's a Firefly reference - specifically to the character Jayne Cobb and his hat.  You know, like the knitted one I have:

Here's me selling Franks and Beans at the New York Comic Con.  With a Jane Cobb hat on.  And the guy buying the DVD has another Jayne Cobb hat on.  And a shirt.  But okay, now, I know what you're saying (YES, YOU): that wasn't the most Jeff-specific reference that the book could have had, for sure.  Shall I present, exhibit two:

This "biggest ball of time in Minnesota" billboard is a strange reference to the Weird Al anthem "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota".  I have no idea why writer Benito Cereno had this take on the title, but perhaps it'll resurface for another issue in the future.  Speaking of Weird Al, oh yeah, I'm a big fan.  Here's a picture of me at a show last year, awkwardly handing him a comic that referenced him:

Not enough for you?  Well here's a third, from the very same page:

The Corn Palace.  The Corn Palace!  It's located in Mitchell, South Dakota.  How do I know this?  Because I've been there.  Oh, how I've been there:

Interestingly enough, Weird Al was having a concert at the Corn Palace just a few weeks after I found it.

Thanks, Tick series, for getting inside my brain.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Unexpected guest stars

I picked up a copy of Ultimate Spider-Man #153 a few days ago and came across the double page spread you see right above this sentence - it's an impressive shot of Iron Man's workshop with uniforms from all eras of the character's history.  I love all of the references to armors designed in the past (whether in continuity or not): in this picture you can pretty clearly see the Iron Man 2020 armor, a Hulkbuster armor, the Heroes Reborn armor and also...Bender from Futurama.  Seriously, he's there:

Futurama is one of my favorite shows of all time, and it's fun to see that others appreciate it as well.  This reminds me of Action Comics #863, out a few years ago.  Superman traveled to the 31st century to join the Legion of Superheroes.  The storyline dealt with a wave of xenophobia sweeping over the earth, and as a result all aliens living on the planet were being rounded up and deported (an allegory, perhaps?  Eh?  EH?!).  One of those poor alien souls taken in was none other than Dr. Zoidberg:

But don't worry, folks.  Superman was around to save the crustacean from the paddywagon just a few panels later (because that's just the kind of guy he is):

To those who made this happen, you have my gratitude.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wagon Wheel Comics at the Baltimore Comic-Con!

I got official word yesterday that Wagon Wheel Comics (read: me and some friends) will be exhibiting at the 2011 Baltimore Comic-Con, taking place on August 20th and 21st.  This wasn't completely unexpected, and I've mentioned it before, but yesterday was the first real notification that it was honestly happening.  Needless to say, I'm excited to be going - this will actually be my first time at the show in any capacity, and while I hear nothing but good things about it from small press guys to those from larger companies, I'm still open to advice anyone has to give.  I'm not unfamiliar with the Baltimore area, but I'm pretty sure that I know none of the intricate details that will make the trip even better, so really - if anyone's got any ideas, I'm all ears.

If you're in town or can make it to the show (it's still, oh, five months away, so there's plenty of time to prepare), stop by the Wagon Wheel booth for new Teddy and the Yeti.  And also cookies.  I'll have more information - booth designations and the like - as the show date gets closer.  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Teddy and the Yeti: issue 4, page 8, panel 3.

This art snippet just came in from the illustrious Duane Redhead - yes, it's from the long-awaited fourth issue of Teddy and the Yeti.  I think it's safe to say that Duane's still got it, not that it was ever in question.  I'll post a few more panels soon, but in the meantime...enjoy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thing sketchbook, part 1

As a public service and a constant reminded of how awesome it is, I thought I'd release to the world my convention sketchbook.  I got the idea to carry one of these around with me in 2003 and since then, whenever I make it to a convention I try to get a few new additions to this book.  As I have a strange obsession with the Fantastic Four's Thing, I thought it'd be fun to get different artists' interpretation of this one character.  I've got 41 in my book as of right now, and as the book has gotten fuller it's become one of my favorite things about going to conventions in the first place.  I'll add some commentary to each sketch to give some context.

Unfortunately, there are a few sketches where I've forgotten the names of the artist who took the time to add his or her drawing - in those cases, I would be grateful to anyone who had any guesses in those regards.  Let's get started!

Angel Medina - Pittsburgh Comicon 2003

Angel Medina has always had a number of styles he works in, and this is an example of his "big head" characters he was working on at the time.  He was hyped at the prospect of being the first artist in the book.  I wish it were a bit darker, but beggars can't be choosers, I suppose.

I'm considering getting this piece inked at a future convention, but I'm not sure if that would be, you know, sacrilege or not.  Any opinions on that?

Terry Austin - Pittsburgh Comicon 2003

I find it funny that Terry Austin drew a classic Thing here and then goes on to tell some self deprecating joke about not being able to draw him.  Seems pretty good to me.

Pittsburgh Comicon 2003

I used to think that Michael Avon Oeming drew this, but now that I'm more familiar with his work, I realize I'm probably wrong in that assumption.  I got this done at the Image Comics booth at the Pittsburgh Comicon, I know that for sure - if anyone can help me out with the artist's name, I'd appreciate it.

Bill Morrison - Pittsburgh Comicon 2003

Bill Morrison was/is an art director at Bongo Comics, publisher of the Simpsons and Futurama comic books.  There was a long line of people waiting to get a sketch from him, and he seemed a little frustrated because everyone kept asking him to draw Homer or Bender when he made it clear that 20th Century Fox didn't allow him to do so.

He perked up when I asked him to draw the Thing, and he produced one of the most original entries into the book.

Steve Lieber - Pittsburgh Comicon 2003

Jimmy Palmiotti was talking with his friends at the Wizard World Philadelphia convention in 2004, telling them how easy it was to draw the Thing.  He mentioned that his friend Steve Lieber always drew the character in a suit and tie.  I brought the book over to him, opened to this page, and we all had a good laugh.  Hilarious.

I hope you, random reader, enjoyed these first five sketches.  I'll post more soon.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Conventions, The Dark Knight Rises, Franks and Beans and a slew of new random notes!

Here I again, with lots of things to say just a little bit about.  How has anyone lived without these short updates for such a long period of time?  Seriously, I expected people to start killing themselves or something.  Or perhaps something much less drastic.  In either case, let's begin:

- A few hours ago, I sent in the mail an application for the Motor City Comic Con, which takes place in just a few months, from May 13th through the 15th.  I'm optimistic about my chances of attending and grabbing a booth.  I'm not sure what to expect as far as most of the other guests or turnout, but Brent Spiner from Star Trek: The Next Generation will be there, so...I might as well go, too.  I'm still waiting to hear back from the Baltimore Comic-Con people, though as I mentioned before, they've cashed my application check, so I imagine that'll happen as well.  In both cases, we will see.

- Duane Redhead, your favorite artist and mine, was nice enough to send me a Christmas card last year (you know, around Christmas-time), and he included this nice doodle that you see above of Teddy and the Yeti.  I'm thinking of putting it at the end of every T&Y letters page from here until eternity.  It just has that "thanks for reading!" vibe to it.  I like it.

- Speaking of doodles, I'm sure everyone saw the Will Eisner Google Doodle a few days ago.  I thought it was a great tribute for what would have been Eisner's 94th birthday.  Obviously, the Spirit takes the focus in the art, but there are more subtle references to A Contract With God and other Dropsie Avenue stories, which was a nice touch.

Interestingly enough, the stats for this blog show that my Contract With God hardcover review spiked after this art showed up on Google's homepage.  Thanks for the hits, Google.

- Your friend and mine, Larry, half of the machine that is Franks and Beans, went to Pittsburgh's Steel City Con this past weekend and got his picture taken with the Batmobile from the 1960s TV show (for 20 bucks).  He did not pony up the $60 to meet Adam West, also in attendance, which I understand.  Sixty dollars!  Wow.

Here's the picture:

Here's a picture Larry took, what, 20 years ago (?) with the same Batmobile:

Larry hasn't changed a bit, but it looks like the Batmobile has had some detail work done in the meantime.  The bat-symbols are all outlined in white in the more recent picture.  Which is show accurate?  I can't be bothered to do the three minutes of research.

- Keeping with the Batman theme, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that PA Governor Tom Corbett is keeping Pennsylvania's film tax credit program in his new budget.  Never before have I been excited about budget news as this means Pittsburgh will most likely keep the Dark Knight Rises movie; that is, the newest Batman sequel should film in the 'Burgh as I was hoping.  This also means that I will show Batman-like determination in trying to be an extra on this movie this summer.

And to think, to present a balanced budget, all Governor Corbett had to do was cut education spending by $500 million.  I'm sure there won't be any negative repercussions from something like that.

- Last month, Taco Bell offered several promotional comics featuring various Marvel characters; one of which featured the Fantastic Four. Since I've never gone into a Taco Bell before, and since the only time I've ever eaten anything from Taco Bell was when a friend handed me a taco (really) as I was sitting behind a booth at Myrtle Beach's XCon World, I did the American thing and went to eBay to find a copy for myself.

The story contained within is a fun, short tale by the same creative team that worked on issues of Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four (Paul Tobin and...well, that's all I care about).  At the end of the issue, though, there was a one page story by Colleen Coover (Tobin's wife, as it turns out) that featured the following image:

The Thing fights a yeti.  I thought that was pretty cool.

This wasn't the first FF comic that Taco Bell has sponsored, though.  A few years ago they put out another one with another stock cover:

- Congratulations to James from Greer, South Carolina for winning every single one of my eBay auctions over the past weekend.  He bought 74 Spider-Girl and Spider-Girl-related issues that all went out in one big box this afternoon.  Good for you!

Just so you're aware, James, I turned about a third of that money around right away and bought this gem from artist Roger Andrews, who, according to the description, did design work on Marvel's Super Hero Squad toy line packaging art:

It's a Thing sketch card!  Hooray!  I remain shocked at how cheap I am able to get sketch cards online, unless they happen to have a Marvel stamp on them from an existing card set.  Marvel Masterpiece sketch cards, for example, always sell in the $40 range regardless of quality.  And yet I can get the above card, one that features really tremendous art, for a fraction of that.  Go figure.

- Jeff McComsey and I are working on a promotional piece for the upcoming second volume of FUBAR.  Once it's done I'll post the entire image here, but for now, check out one of the panels.  I've seen the rest and they live up to this one.  It's a really fun project and it should have some legs!  Oh, and the first volume of the book is getting a second printing!  Exciting stuff.

- In the picture above, you see stacks and stacks of the second issue of the Magic Bullet, which McComsey and I have another story in.  This is not my car, but that of the any case, it looks like the issue will be out sooner rather than later!

Click here to read the press release for Magic Bullet #2!

- Matt Kuhns of the Modern Ideas website (he who once proved that there was cool stuff to do in Cleveland) put together this great timeline cataloguing the Fantastic Four's ongoing series over their 50-year history.  I'd love to see one that included the many miniseries for a comprehensive look, but I also realize that would be a real pain in the ass to compile.  In any case, I was surprised to learn that there was at one time a Fantastic Four radio program, which I didn't know before checking this graph out.

- Lastly (finally!!), there's some new content on the Franks and Beans official website in the form of animated gifs! I remember posting an animated gif on this site before only to see it sit motionless, so you may not see the "animated" aspect of it until you visit the site, but regardless...go there.  And see them.  And save them to your computer and your phone.  There are more than I'm showing here, but...these are my favorites.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Batman: physically spent, emotionally drained, but not without a sense of style

I recently picked up a copy of Batman #497, a significant issue in that it was the peak of the "Knightfall" storyline that left Bruce Wayne with a broken back and the book with a replacement Batman, at least for a little while.  The issue was, at the time, quite the headline grabber and part of DC's shakeup to try to revitalize its line (apparently by killing and mutilating some of its most recognizable characters).

The story itself is a blur as it speeds through its allotted 22 pages, and it features some classic art by Jim Aparo and Dick Giordano, two creators who have sadly and surprisingly both died in recent years.  Everything plays out how you'd expect: Batman, physically beaten and emotionally defeated by facing his entire rogues gallery in previous issues (apparently over a matter of weeks and months), is tossed around by Bane, the orchestrator of the entire gauntlet, throughout most of the story, culminating with a full page spread of Batman getting snapped in half.  Great.

Throughout this carnage, though, there's still some humor to be found: at the beginning of the issue, Bane confronts Bruce Wayne at (stately) Wayne Manor.  Batman has, presumably, come home to desperately try and rest to mend his battered and broken body.  He's drawn consistently with a nice five o'clock shadow, constant beads of sweat on his brow, and a weary, defeated look on his face.  He's so exhausted, it seems, that he hasn't even been able to remove his costume before collapsing in a heap.

He does have time, though, to put on a robe:

And I'm thinking, is this an issue of comfort, here?  Did Batman come home, pull back the cowl, and say "I've gotta get something to pull over this already bulky and heavily armored costume, complete will full, flowing cape"?  He didn't even think to take his army boots off?  His thick, layered gloves?  His utility belt?  No, there was no time for that.  But a purple robe...oh ho just said the magic words.

I am also a little disconcerted with how hairy Bane is everywhere visible except for his chest.  Arms, shoulders, neck, back, absolutely.  But I guess he shaves his chest or something.  Maybe there's chafing to be considered.