Friday, November 29, 2013

Autographs galore in the "DC Comics 60 Years" Hardcover

It's been a while since I've posted, but fear not!  Neither am I dead, nor do I no longer have anything to write!  Just the opposite, as it turns out...I've never had more going on with comics than I do right now.  At least I think so.  Whatever.  Anyway, let's turn our attentions to what, for all intents and purposes, serves as a precursor to the vaunted Thing sketchbook, an item from years past the I got during my formative years.  It's Les Daniels's DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes hardcover!  And what a treat it is.

I got this book soon after it arrived in bookstores in 1995, and it served as a source of inspiration for years.  In its covers, comic book historian Les Daniels briefly recalled the history of DC Comics, from its early 20th century beginnings to the arrival of Superman to Crisis and beyond.  Now that I look back on it, it's easy to see the book's flaws, but at 14 this was something that I just reveled in.

During my first few trips to the Pittsburgh Comicon in the mid-to-late '90s, I took this book with me and got signatures from anyone who had ever worked at DC Comics.  Looking back at this, it's easy to see how much the convention has changed.  In the 1990s, the Pittsburgh Comicon was home to a number of legendary Golden Age artists, many of whom I didn't recognize at the time but have since come to revere them for their contributions to the comic industry.  As I was just starting my comic collection and didn't have many books to get signed, this hardcover was a great alternative and, as you can see, it took on a life of its own after a while.

Let's look at the title page:

This is still pretty impressive to me some 15 years after I got my last signature into the book.  In fact, it makes me wonder why I stopped collecting autographs, as it became quite the eye-catcher.  But I guess I moved on to other things.  In any case, there are two things that stand out upon first glance of this spread: the DC Comics logo and the giant Hawkman image on the left side:

This image, drawn by Steve Lieber, was one of first - if not the actual first - entries into the book, probably from 1997 or '98.  If I'm remembering correctly, I saw Lieber draw a similar sketch for someone else, and I decided to press my luck.  The gamble obviously paid off.  Once I took the book around to other creators, they were of course confronted by this intimidating image, and many of them then decided to add their own sketches into the book.  Pretty lucky on my part.

Beau Smith is a writer who espoused his manliness in a tongue-in-cheek fashion in all of the comics he wrote.  Instead of drawing a comic character, he decided to draw himself, which is pretty awesome and manly.

Here's Dan Davis, an inker on, among other things, Stars and S*T*R*I*P*E.

Larry draws the Superman "S" in a number of places.  Roger Stern, writer on Action Comics for a good, solid run, does the same.

This classic Batman is by Dan Gotlieb.

Matt Wagner had a great Sandman run, and here is a great image of said character.

Stuart Immonen added this Superman bust.

Peter Palmiotti drew this bearded Aquaman!

Pittsburgh Comicon stalwart Scott McDaniel drew the DC character he's most recognized for: Nightwing.

Darryl Banks was just starting out with his dollar sign signature in '99.  He's best known for co-creating the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern, and he added the symbol here.

Here's Howard Porter's Batman.  Porter had a great run on JLA with Grant Morrison.

Ron Frenz drew the electric Superman symbol.

Right smack in the middle of the title page are autographs from some legendary Golden and Silver Age creators who have since passed on.  I'm so glad that I got their signatures while I had the chance, and I wish that I had the wherewithal to realize just who was signing my book at the time...the follies of youth, I suppose.  Julius Schwartz, Shelly Moldoff, Irwin Hasen, Dick Ayers...all very important creators from the early days of comics.

The inside of the book featured brief articles on a number of topics.  At times, the book became more of a coffee table-style pictorial book as the pictures heavily outweighed the text.  But it was informative and interesting, especially to someone who really had little knowledge of comics before 1992.

Mart Nodell, co-creator of Green Lantern, was also a staple of the Pittsburgh Comic-Con in the 1990s.  I met him and his family a few times and came away with fun stories almost every time.

Here's a page on the Legion of Super-Heroes.  What stands out on this page?

Why, it's a Shrinking Violet sketch by W.C. Carani.  The picture doesn't do it justice - he meticulously inked this until it was perfect, and he did a great job of using negative space in the image.  It's hard to tell that the final product doesn't belong in printed book.

Once the front spread started to fill up, I started going to specific pages in the book to have creators signed.  Here's the second autograph from Julie Schwartz.

And, the greedy bastard that I am, I got another Steve Lieber Hawkman sketch.

Here's a fuzzy picture (sorry) of an autograph from Carmine Infantino, who just passed away a few years ago.

Once I figured that I couldn't possibly fit any more names or images in the front of the book, I moved to the back pages.  It wasn't quite the same and I eventually lost interest, I suppose.  The pages look a little sad and bare now that I look at them...perhaps I'll have to rectify that at some point.  Anyway, the back pages butted up against a recreation of the origin of Batman.  When artist Rags Morales saw where I was asking him to sign, he added in this funny disclaimer.

The back does have a quick Lobo sketch by Mark McKenna!

At some point, I decided to get a certificate of authenticity from the Pittsburgh Comic-Con.  I think they were three buck each at that point, so I guess I decided to get my money's worth as I had them load up on all of the signatures I had at the time.  As you can see, the person filling the certificate out struggled to list all of the names.

I took this book with me to a lot of different places at one time, but it mostly sits on a shelf these days.  Still, it's fun to take it out and look at it every once in a while, and it's astonishing to see some of the signatures I was able to get as a dumb kid who didn't know who he was talking to.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Extended family

I'm happy to announce that Tick and Teddy and the Yeti artist Duane Redhead and his wife welcomed their first child into the world just last month!  Pictured here we have little Alice Redhead, looking fine and proper in her tiny crochet Tick cap.  I have big hopes for Alice.  Maybe she'll grow up one day to be an artist just like her pop.  What a blessing it is to have this new girl in the world!

I wanted to send my best wishes across the Atlantic to Duane and his burgeoning family.  Welcome to planet Earth, Alice!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thing sketchbook, part 14

Lesley Vamos - Comic-Con International 2013

I found Australian artist Lesley Vamos on the last day of Comic-Con at a table shared with Jimena Sanchez.  As I had mentioned before, Lesley and Jimena had collaborated on a number of projects, notably a book a postcards, and I was impressed with the work that each of them did - and really, isn't it great that they could collaborate on comics from different continents?  It warmed the cockles of my heart.  Anyway, both ladies added their renditions of the Thing to my sketchbook and I'm happy to have 'em.  This cartoony Thing is a real treat.

Rafer Roberts - Beyond Comics signing 2013

I'm always happy to join in on some FUBAR-related events, but it's an extra treat when those events produce new Thing artwork.  Beyond Comics in Frederick, Maryland held a big FUBAR signing that I was able to join in on.  In between signing books and meeting with fans, I was able to harangue a number of talented folk into drawing sketches in the book.  First up was Rafer Roberts, he of FUBAR, Plastic Farm and Thanos and Darkseid fame.  I asked Rafer to draw a helmeted Thing, and he immediately knew just what I was talking about.  The Thing wore a helmet for a while after getting his face slashed up by Wolverine (whatever) as opposed to, I don't know, seeing a doctor about it or something.  It was a strange look for the character but it was a notable one.  Rafer did a great job all around.

Steve Becker - Baltimore Comic-Con 2011/Beyond Comics signing 2013

Steve Becker, art director of the FUBAR line, started sketching the Thing at the 2011 Baltimore Comic-Con, but ran out of time.  Since then, I've had a mostly blank page saved in the book in hoped that I could wrangle Steve into finishing the sketch, and he took up the baton at the Beyond Comics signing.  The result is an angry Thing that stands out among the others.  I'm loving the emotion with this one.

M. Giles Crawford - Beyond Comics signing 2013

Giles Crawford is another FUBAR contributor who added his take at the Beyond Comics signing.  Giles, a native Australian (that's two for this post), asked if he could do something goofy for the book, and of course I told him to go for it.  I added in one caveat - I wanted this drawing to be the first image drawn horizontally.  The result is a watercolored Thing mermaid.  Brilliant.

John Shine - Beyond Comics signing 2013

John Shine took the sketchbook after Giles had his way at the Beyond Comics FUBAR signing, and, unbeknownst to me at the time, started drawing his own rendition of the Thing.  He decided to go with the original "lumpy" Thing, though this is more reminiscent of John Byrne than, say, Kirby.  It's a beautiful, moody piece that does the most with the space available.  This here is a classic Thing with a lot of heart, and I'm thrilled to have it included.

That's it for now, but there's more Thing sketchbook to come.  Hooray!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Pictures from the 2013 New York Comic-Con, part 3: the Aftermath

I've got a few more pictures to share from October's New York Comic-Con - these were taken just following the show.  I've also included some of the swag I picked up and feel like displaying.  Let's get to it!

New York can be a lovely city at both day and night.  Above are some of the well-known landmarks, all lit up and the like.

The FUBAR crew got together at an Irish pub just a few blocks from the convention center on Saturday night.  We pulled tables together and had a nice night of it.  Pictured jutting his head in front of Jeff McComsey on the left of the picture: Rafer Roberts.

On Sunday, while the show was winding down, I hit the road to nearby Metlife Stadium to see the Steelers wallop the Jets.  Wins have been a precious thing this year for the Steelers, but this was one of the good days for sure.  As the clock ran down, fans of the black and gold took over the stadium.  Here I am with some new friends.

Unbeknownst to them, I also took some pictures with Jets cheerleaders.

In my one day at the con, I managed to pick up a number of really cool items.  Here's what they all look like piled up next to each other for some reason.

First off, we've got some original art.  Both the above and below pages are original inks over reproduced blue line pencils (so these are both original and not original art pages).  At top is Scott Hanna's inks over the blue lines of Stuart Immonen (doing his best Bryan Hitch impression) from Fantastic Four #569!  Despite my misgivings about the Thing's doomed wedding from this issue, having an image of Ben Grimm in a tux is a wonderful thing.

I bought this page directly from Joe Rubenstein.  It's his inks over the blue lines of Mark Bagely from the very recent Fantastic Four (current series) #12.  We've got all four members of the team, Franklin, Valeria, an alternate reality Human Torch PLUS some weird dinosaur thing!  Super neat.

Upon buying the highly recommended Battling Boy, I was given a poster, a shirt and a limited print for free!  It was quite a deal - and Paul Pope signed both the poster and the book as I waited.

Here's another installment of "it pays to know people".  I met up with Rafer Roberts - artist on FUBAR, Plastic Farm and the above comic - and I convinced him to give me a copy of the newly printed, fantastic mini comic Thanos and Darkseid: Carpool Buddies of Doom.  It's every bit as good as it looks.

Roberts previously worked with writer Justin Jordan on a short Thanos/Darkseid carpool story that knocked everyone's socks off.  How do you top a story like that?  You add in Dr. Doom, of course, and the result is just magical.  I have no idea if any of these books made it out into the real world, or if they were just handed out to fellow creators at NYCC.  It's a great item, to be sure, and I'm happy to have one for myself.

I also met briefly with Jon Goff, a fellow writer who had issues of Big Hitters on sale.  Goff works on Big Hitters with Travis Sengaus, who has done some art for Teddy and the Yeti and Ultimate Hero with me.  The book itself comes highly recommended.  It's an epic space romp and it plays very well.

Lastly, I picked up this tiny page of thumbnail art from Jeff McComsey!  At it says, this is some mini art from the upcoming Mother Russia graphic novel.  I'm a big fan of production art (and pretty much any art, really), so this is going up on the wall at some point.

The New York Comic-Con is a fun place to be.  It's definitely over crowded and it doesn't live up to the hype of, say, Comic-Con in San Diego, but it's still one of the country's premier comic conventions.  I hope to be able to go next year as well.  If I do...I'll take some pictures.

Friday, November 8, 2013

1997's Tick statue from Legends in Three Dimensions

There's a lot of Tick merchandise floating out there (well, not literally floating), most of which revolves (not literally revolving) around the mid-'90s cartoon, when they slapped (not literally slapped) the Tick logo on everything from action figures to buttons to spoons to Pogs to Halloween costumes to shampoo.  There are only a few Tick-related items that I would classify as more high end, and if were keeping score, the two statues made of the character are probably at the top of the list.  Earlier this year, I purchased and reviewed the very lovely (and fairly expensive) Tick statue from Sideshow Collectibles, a limited release from 2009.  The other statue, while not as limited or expensive - and technically a bust and not a statue - was made in 1997 from a company called "Legends in Three Dimensions".  Because it's been over 15 years since it was released, this item is relatively hard to find, and in fact I've only seen it in private collections once or twice before.  When I saw one show up on eBay, I placed a bid and won a great item, and so my collection of two is complete.  Even though it was made in the early years of superhero statues, it's a nice collectible and a testament to how popular the Tick as a character is and was.

Once the package showed up in the mail, I opened it up and took some pictures to share.  Let's take a look at this merchandise!

The box that the statue comes in is pretty '90s-tacular, with some gaudy colors and some clunky branding.  But it's got some character to it and, most importantly, it showed up in pretty good shape for its age and the fact that it was shipped across the country at least once.  The front of the box is, appropriately, an image of the item itself.  One thing to note is the logo used on the box, specifically the "THE" written above the name.  This uses the cartoon logo as opposed to the logo on the book, which is slightly different just for layout purposes.

The sides of the box feature artwork inspired by the Tick cartoon and comic, both painted by the bust's sculptor, Greg Aronowitz.  A quick Google search reveals that Aronowitz is best known as a production designer and makeup artist on a number of movies and shows, including Batman & Robin, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, the X-Files and Terminator 2.  Whether or not Aronowitz is a fan of the Tick or if this project was simply another job to him I don't know, but the artwork was an interesting addition to be sure.

Aronowitz has a website here:

This image, for example, is right from the comic, where the previous image was more inspired by the cartoon.  There's a lot of Edlund in this image, and in fact it might be panel specific if I'm not mistaken.

One concern that every Tick statue owner has is about the antennae - they're central to the character's design but are obviously the most fragile parts of something like this.  Thankfully, the antennae on this statue has help up nicely over the years.  I will, of course, still worry about it for the rest of my life.

The statue itself is really nice looking.  It's got a lot of features that are indicative of the cartoon, most notably the enlarged teeth.  The yellow and blue work nicely in tandem.

Oh, and the box I've got this sitting on is labeled "various", for...various reasons.

I'm happy to add this piece to the collection.  It's obviously got a special place in it.  I long for the day when the character reaches new heights in popularity and we can justify making an Arthur statue.  That'd be something.