Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Thing sketchbook, part 26

Has this Thing sketchbook approached legendary status yet? I think so. We're all anxious to see the next sketches of Benjamin J. Grimm, so let's go for it:

Franco - New York Comic Con 2019

Franco and Art Baltazar shared a table at this show, and I was able to get very fun crayon sketches from both of them. The simple lines make it look effortless.

Steve Becker - New York Comic Con 2019

I caught up with my pal Steve Becker at his booth at NYCC. He asked to see the sketchbook, then agreed to draw the Thing in exchange for a new orange marker, which is a deal I'll take any day. Steve actually drew this menacing-looking Thing on a sticker, which he then stuck to the page. Note the street sign signature at the top left!

Craig Rousseau - Rhode Island Comic Con 2019

I was lucky enough to get an invitation to appear at the 2019 Rhode Island Comic Con, where I met Batman Beyond and Impulse artist Craig Rousseau (who, as it turns out, is also a big Weird Al fan). Craig's got a style I really enjoy and I think it stands out in this head sketch.

Howard Chaykin - Rhode Island Comic Con 2019

Howard Chaykin is an industry legend, and I had to build up the courage to ask him to draw in the sketchbook after sitting near him for most of this show. He delivered with a classic Thing. I also love his signature.

Rafer Roberts - 2020

This barely merits mentioning, but 2020 was a tough year on a lot of people. At the time, I couldn't have known that RICC in 2019 would be my last show for quite a while. With most of the country on lockdown and comic conventions naturally on hiatus, I took a chance with the USPS and mailed my book out to a few people that I felt I could trust not to lose it.

First on my list was Rafer Roberts, a pal and a writer/artist who has seen some much-deserved comic book success in recent years. I knew that Rafer's style was suited to a different type of Thing, and so I asked him to draw the character as he appeared very early on, as a lumpy, misshapen monster from the first few issues of the Fantastic Four title. The trench coat, angry stare, no teeth and "Bah!" word balloon bring this all together for me.

We're deep into this sketchbook now. Look for more installments soon!

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Fantastic Four: Trapped in the Data Vortex original art by Allan Patrick and Marcio Loezer

I have a soft spot for promotional comics. Most of 'em are cheesy and silly, but every once in a while, one surprises you and ends up being a sought-after book. Fantastic Four: Trapped in the Data Vortex is...absolutely not one of those books, but since it stars the FF, I naturally grabbed it when I could. A few weeks ago, all of the interior artwork from this eight-page story popped up on eBay, and I managed to get two of the pages. So let's take a look!

"Trapped in the Data Vortex" was published in 2011 as a promotional comic for Hitachi Data Systems. The story is about what you'd expect: the company is highlighted throughout the book, and the superhero action is just a thin cover for company promotion. The art, though, really stood out in this story. Publishers usually send in the B (or C) teams when packaging something like this, and books usually suffer as a result; even though Allan Patrick and Marcio Loezer aren't names I'm familiar with, they really knocked the art out of the park for this short story. Industry mainstay Greg Land provided the cover for this short comic.

The better of the two pages I got is the last page of the story, where the team (with indispensable help from Hitachi Data Systems!) wraps up their mini adventure. Ben, Sue and Johnny return from the Data Vortex to find that Reed has taken care of things in this dimension by dispatching M.O.D.O.K. and some AIM henchmen.

Even though I've got a decent number of original Fantastic Four pages, I don't often get pages with all four main characters on it, and to get a nice, half-page splash of some "off into the sunset" superhero action really adds to the deal. Plus, Johnny is on fire, Reed stretches, Ben, uh...smokes a cigar...and they all ride off in a Kirby-designed "flying bathtub" Fantasticar. It's a win all around in my book.

Here's how the page was published. Some of the middle pages were printed with a 3-D effect (whilst inside the Data Vortex, of course). My copy of the book didn't come with 3-D glasses, and I'm not really sure how those were distributed in the first place.

Even though it's not quite as impressive, I was able to add the first page of the story for almost nothing, so I grabbed it as well. At some point, the first panel was cut off and replaced with a second, finished version.

Although there's no Fantastic Four on this page, there is a really nice shot of a menacing M.O.D.O.K. Look at how surprised this office worker is! I sure hope that Hitachi Data Systems can get him out of this jam.

The establishing shot at the top of the page clearly shows the Baxter Building, which made this page worthwhile. The water in the distance doesn't really mesh with this being 42nd and Madison, but I'll let it slide. The Data Vortex messes with perspective sometimes. 

Pencils for this story were drawn by Allan Patrick and inks were added by Marcio Loezer. They gave it their all on what might otherwise be a throwaway promo story that not many people outside of the company have read. The line work is fine and detailed, and the FF are all on-model in their classic suits. I'm definitely glad to add these two pages to my collection.