Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Thing is Big Ben: Thing comics from the UK

It's no surprise that many American based comic book companies publish foreign and foreign language editions of some of their books. Many books have audiences outside of the US, so it only makes sense for Marvel, DC and others to reach out and try to sell their stories to different countries.

I don't usually collect foreign editions of books, because they're often hard to find, expensive and overwhelmingly numerous. But "The Thing is Big Ben", the United Kingdom's awkwardly titled collection from the 1980s, is a title that I've had my eye on for a while, for obvious reasons. I finally found a batch that was reasonably priced, so I placed the order and got a few issues.

The book consists of reprinted and repackaged stories from around the late 1970s. The Thing has the lead story, but each of the books also contains tales from other characters such as Iron Man and Captain America. The first volume of "The Thing" was being published at the same time in the US, but this UK version contains reprinted Marvel Two-in-One stories from a few years prior. It's interesting that they started with later stories, near the end of Two-in-One, rather than just starting at the beginning (when the stories were better). I wonder what the publishing arrangement was - if the UK folks only had access to older material or if someone involved really enjoyed the latter 25% of Marvel Two-in-One.

The covers are also an interesting part of these books. Many of them are similarly reprinted covers from Marvel Two-in-One, but some of them feature original art, such as the first issue with the Thing gleefully advertising the free hat offer, or the above new image from artist Terry Austin.

The books are sized at just a little bit smaller than current magazines. They're very flimsy and are printed on newsprint. Even the covers are the same paper stock, which gives the books a newspaper feel from cover to cover. Curiously, the color scheme changes from spread to spread. The first two pages of the above story are colored as you'd expect...

...but the next two pages are printed with shades of just one non-black color. This rotates throughout the whole book, which is interesting, to say the least. If this happens simply as a cost-saving measure, why not print the entire first story in full color, then print the remaining pages in black, white and blue? It's an odd choice.

"The Thing is Big Ben" published 18 issues in the mid-'80s, and it followed the same format throughout its run. So far, I've been able to track down eight of these books, so I've got a little more than half to go. I wonder if these are as easy (and as cheap) to find in the UK as issues of "The Thing" are to find in the US. If there's anyone from that part of the world reading this blog, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this reprint series!

Monday, March 12, 2018

My day on the set of "The Tick"

When Amazon's Tick pilot aired back in late 2016, one of the first things I did upon finishing the episode was slowly scan the credits for extras casting information. Once I found it, I began the delicate game of trying to pester the company just enough to let them know that I would like to appear in an episode. March of 2017 came, and with it, the beginning of filming on the first season. Week after week went by before I finally got the email I was looking for, and near the end of June, I traveled to Brooklyn to be in an episode of The Tick!

I have family who lives about two hours outside of New York City, so the day before, I stayed with them and tried to figure out how I was going to both drive and park in the city. I've done both before, and it's not like NYC is an alien planet, but traffic and the availability of parking are naturally two of the most most daunting hassles of a a big city, and unlike any other time I've been there, I actually had a time where I had to be somewhere - in this case, 7:00 am. I was worried about rush hour traffic, so I left...REALLY early. Before 4:00.

This turned out to be much too early, as whenever rush hour starts in New York, it doesn't start at 5:00, so as the sun was coming up, I drove through the Holland Tunnels and into the city. Where was everybody? I drove right past both Little Italy and Chinatown on my way towards Brooklyn. I didn't realize it, but they are actually right next to each other.

Astounded at how quickly I had made it, I then turned onto the Brooklyn Bridge.

Here's a shot of the city from the bridge. I figured that I would be able to use the extra time to find a parking spot. I spent a while the night before looking up parking garages that were near the set.

When I arrived at the designated area, near McCarren Park, I found that I was able to park right next to the holding area, on the street, for free. It was 5:45am. I was stunned that I was able to make it to the destination in under two hours, and that I could park within about 50 feet of my destination. I mean, I'm glad it happened - I'd rather be too early than too late - but I showed up before the production assistants and the catering workers.

I managed to find my way inside the holding area as the caterers were setting up their tables. I put my things down and then walked around town for about 45 minutes. It was a cool, clear day in New York at 6:00, so why not?

We ended up filming just a few scenes on this day, and both of them in the same basic spot. A few familiar faces were there, including creator Ben Edlund and executive producer David Fury, whose TV Guide interview I interrupted for a few minutes in between scenes. Ben didn't know I was going to be there, so when I said hello, he looked a bit shocked until he recognized who the heck I was.

At around 2:00, we all left for lunch. I've been on a few movies and TV shows before, but this is the first time I had heard the phrase "walking lunch", which I guess is code for "you're on your own, kid!". I walked a couple blocks to Vinnie's Pizza, which in addition to having some fantastic pizza (I recommend it if you're ever in town), also had a TMNT-themed bench right outside.

After lunch, we moved onto a new scene. Earlier in the day, the crowd I was a part of was at a memorial for the Flag Five, with François Chau (Walter) and Patricia Kalember (Joan), Arthur's parents on the show, as well as the dogs who play Midnight, voiced by Townsend Coleman. Chau also played the Shredder in 1991's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze, so hey, there's our second TMNT reference of the day.

The second scene was a continuation of the first, after the Terror and The Tick's big fight at the end of the season, and in this one, both Griffin Newman (Arthur) and Peter Serafinowicz (The Tick) were there in costume. I got to talk briefly with Serafinowicz about Comic-Con, which was at that point only a few weeks away. The temperature had risen steadily throughout the day, and by the end of the second scene, it was into the mid 80s. The Tick suit looks like it's just about as hot as you'd expect, and Serafinowicz was drenched with sweat. Somebody get that guy a towel!

I was (thankfully) given a hat to wear during the two scenes, which prevented me from getting too much of a sunburn and also gave me the opportunity to wear a prop for a while. The scene also had a table with Flag Five merchandise on it, with things like keychains, hats and buttons on display.

One of the most heavily enforced rules on a film set is the "no pictures" rule, for obvious reasons. That's why all the pictures I've shown here have been of things that are decidedly not on the set. Do I have other pictures from this day? Absolutely not. Did I keep that hat that I'm wearing in the above picture? Goodness, no. Why would you even ask that? Ridiculous.

The scenes shot on this day were actually used in three episodes - 10, 11 and 12. In episode 10, the memorial is being set up. In 11, Midnight gives his speech and the crowd gets an alert to clear the area. In 12, we're all running for our lives, first in fear, then in jubilation. As expected, I can be seen in these various scenes almost not at all, except for a crowd shot in episode 11, the screenshot here provided by your friend (and mine) Larry. Despite my relative decent position (I was just a few feet from Chau for most of the morning), this is the best that I can be seen. That's okay - this just means that I can come back again for season two!

As I mentioned, this isn't the first set I've been on. I've probably been a part of a couple dozen productions over the last 10-or-so years, but this one, naturally, is very high up on my list. I can say that I was officially part of Amazon's The Tick, even if just for one day. That's something I'll always remember. Now let's bring on season two!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Edy's Krypton Cookie Dough ice cream

For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, my "Who owns Superman ice cream?" post from 2010 is one of my most popular posts of all time. Maybe a lot of people really want to know the answer to that question? Sorry to say, but I do not answer it in the above post...but please, click on the link to move it further up the top-10 ladder.

More than seven years later, we now have some officially-licensed Superman ice cream in the form of Edy's Krypton Cookie Dough ice cream. Because this blog is about nothing if it's not about trying comic book-inspired foods, I picked up a container from the local Giant Eagle and decided to give it a go.

The branding on the packaging is, of course, probably more important than the ice cream itself, and DC/Edy's did a good job this time around. I've love to know who drew this lovely Superman on top of the carton. It would look better with red shorts (soon, soon), but that's okay for now.

The carton describes the product as "cookie dough light ice cream with red and gold cookie dough pieces and blue sprinkles". Does this mean that I just bought low-fat ice cream? Or is "light" another way to say "vanilla"? I have no idea.

The ice cream is very, very sweet, but it's pretty good. I'm a fan of cookie dough ice cream and I thought the cookie dough pieces weren't very flavorful (and I can't imagine what the red and gold dyes are doing to my delicate insides), but overall, I liked it. It's something I'd buy again.

Perhaps the best thing about this ice cream is that it comes with comics on the back! There are four in total, and so far I've found three of them.

 I do wonder what Edy's means when it suggests that you "collect all 4". Do you want me to keep four full ice cream containers in my freezer for the rest of my life? Or should I eat the ice cream and then put the empty cartons in a box somewhere? I refuse to do this. Pictures will have to suffice.

Phew - it looks like Superman wins in the end, thank goodness. Edy's also has a Batman and a Wonder Woman-themed ice cream, which I'm willing to try out...for the good of the blog.