Saturday, April 29, 2006

The measure of a man

When I was younger (and to a small extent still today) I never really felt like a man. A man was a grown up and a man could fix a car and he could play sports and he could get chicks whenever he wanted.

I'm not really any of those things that (can) make up a man. Let's examine:

1. I am 34 as of tomorrow and I still don't feel like a grown up. I never have. Sure, I have a job and I make money, but I don't really feel all that grown up. Maybe it's because I don't have any kids.

2. I can put gas in a car and I can, if needed, find the dipstick. I can replace washer fluid and I am obviously able to open the hood. And.......that's about it. I could find a carborat.....hell, I don't even know how to spell it. I can't do shit with a car other than drive the fucker.

3. I played sports as a kid and I cannot for the life of me figure out why I did it. First I played pee-wee baseball. We were old enough (or it wasn't around then) to not have to play tee ball, so the coach would pitch to us. I sucked. I played right field (which I came to learn as I got older is where they put people who suck). I played catcher once and with my glasses on under the mask I couldn't see shit.

Later on I played basketball. I even went to a basketball camp for two consecutive summers. Why? No fucking clue. I sucked at that game too. I would never try to actually get to the basket IF I was ever given the ball. Which was maybe twice in the 2 or 3 years I played at my park's local divison for boys.

Somewhere in there I was on a bowling team. At that very young age everyone sucks so I didn't feel like an outcast. That game was fun.

4. In my youth I was never able to get the ladies. Never. In high school I hung out with one girl my senior year. We had fun and drove around and stuff, but nothing ever happened. I never even kissed her. Years later I found out she was a lesbian. In my 20's I always held the notion that a true man could go into a bar or club, pick up a woman and have his way with her...and that this could and would happen whenever the guy felt like doing it. Isn't that what all the other guys around me were doing? What was wrong with me that I felt deficient in that area? Why couldn't I just pick someone and talk them into a fumbly liason?

Do all these things really make a man? Not really. Why did I feel so left out? No clue. Do I consider myself a man?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

My prior writings - part 2

This was also done for Nuvo. I had met Rob through my job and he's just a great guy. Plus, his comic strip is really funny. My editor at nuvo wasn't thrilled with the piece. He claimed to have had to do too much work to it for what is essentially a Q&A piece. I dunno. I'm happy with it (even though it's really a longer piece) and that's all I care about. It's all about me, you know.


Rob Harrell - On his way to the Big Top
By Tony Adams

It’s an exciting, yet bittersweet time for local cartoonist and fine artist Rob Harrell. The first collection of his hilarious comic strip, Big Top, is available in bookstores, joining the ranks of classics like Peanuts, Bloom County and The Far Side. Big Top has also recently been picked up for syndication in Philadelphia, Boston and Melbourne, Australia. That’s the exciting part. The bittersweet lies in the fact that his internationally syndicated comic strip isn’t even carried in his hometown paper, The Indianapolis Star.

The DePauw University and Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla., graduate started Big Top in 2001 and was picked up by Universal Press Syndicate in April of 2002. Ever since then the antics of 11-year-old Pete, Dusty the poodle, Wink the bear, Manfred the monkey and many more have made Big Top an anomaly among most of the other comics in the paper — Big Top is actually funny!

NUVO: Tell us about your artistic background.

Harrell: I started drawing cartoons when I was in fourth grade. I learned by drawing the characters from the comics ... Peanuts, Alley Oop, stuff like that. I drew cartoons for my middle school, high school and college newspapers and yearbooks. After art school, I let the cartoons idle for a while while I focused on the fine art and illustration until I got the idea for Big Top and got back to it.

NUVO: Who are your influences?

Harrell: My cartooning is really influenced by a lot of the big guys. Berkeley Breathed [Bloom County], Garry Trudeau [Doonesbury], Bill Watterson [Calvin & Hobbes] and I love Walt Kelly [Pogo]. As for fine art, I love John Singer Sargent, Lucien Freud and a couple of newer painters, Malcolm Liepke and Ann Gale.

NUVO: Why isn’t Big Top carried locally?

Harrell: I don’t really know other than there haven’t been many changes [at The Star] recently. The last change they made, I think, is when they picked up Baldo, James and Mr. Potato Head. Mr. Potato Head is already gone and they dropped James fairly quickly, but they kept Baldo, and that was probably three or four years ago.

I think it’s kind of a weird time for newspapers right now. They are reluctant to make any changes that might upset potential or existing subscribers. I understand the reasons why newspapers as a whole aren’t making changes, but in my fantasies I’d assumed that they would jump on it right away, but I’m going to keep bugging them.

NUVO: Is there room on the comics page for new material given that there’s so much space being taken up by older strips?

Harrell: Part of that is because so many comics pages have comics from retired and deceased cartoonists still taking up the space. And, please, don’t get me wrong, I still like Peanuts as much as anybody else. I think it’s brilliant, I think it’s hilarious, it’s a landmark, but there are new voices out there that need to be given room to grow. Essentially, I’m just trying to do a strip that I would want to read and one that I would find funny.

NUVO: Can you, as the creator, petition a paper to carry your strip?

Harrell: I’ve done some things where I have had people send in cards and stuff like that, and that might not do anything more than annoy them, frankly, but e-mails, phone calls or whatever from anybody who’s interested would be great … I think they get more feedback when they drop something than they ever do from someone when they want to see something new. But, you know there are a lot of good strips out there, not just Big Top, that I think should be getting more exposure. There’s a bunch of funny stuff out there that people are reading online, but those people don’t make as big a squawk about wanting to see that in their local newspaper as the people that would make a squawk when you pull out Prince Valiant. You do that and some people lose their minds over it. It almost feels like comic strips are like some people’s pets … you check in on them every day to see if they’re OK.

Harrell’s work can be viewed at www.robharrell.com or at www.ucomics.com, where you can have it sent daily to your e-mail. His new collection, Big Top, is available at local book stores.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

My prior writings - part 1


This is the first of the handful of writings I've done over the last few years. I wish I could find more places to write for, but I'm sometimes short on ideas and most places really like for you to have ideas when you come to the table.

Anyway, this is a second draft of this story. The first one appeared in Nuvo Newsweekly out of Indianapolis and can be found here. The intro to that story was weak, so I like this one better. Plus, this version (done for the fantastic retro-themed website retroradar.com) has a better intro that catered towards their retro theme. The title changed from Amazing to Spectacular to differentiate the two and because Spider-man has had books with both titles. It works, trust me.


The Spectacular Spider-Fan
By Tony Adams

The radical social and political changes of the 1960s are a familiar part of America’s historical landscape. Some of us lived through the era while others of us have studied it. Fundamental shifts were taking place in society: Trust turned to suspicion, homes were divided, and once well-known heroes became anachronisms. Something needed to change. People were looking for a new way of seeing things, a new sense of self and a new set of heroes. John Lennon. Martin Luther King, Jr. Spider-man.

It may seem blasphemous to include Spider-man in that list, but look at it this way: by the time of his creation, superheroes (whether real or imaginary) were in decline. Superman’s nigh-invulnerability seemed quaint. Batman’s then-current goofy adventures fighting creatures in outer space seemed out of place and out of character. Spider-man was just like your average kid—unsure of himself, unsure of his role in society and unsure of his future. For the first time in the history of comic books, Marvel Comics brought to the fore a collection of heroes with real-world problems. The Fantastic Four were a family changed by cosmic rays permeating their space ship. The Hulk was changed by man’s progress into the world of nuclear power, and Spider-man was changed by a radioactive spider bite. That may seem inconsequential when compared to space flight and nuclear energy, but for the readers who became enamored with Peter Parker’s adventures, he held within him a relatable factor that the others may have lacked. He could have been you! The power and the responsibility that came with his newfound abilities were daunting, but in the face of a changing world, Peter Parker became the hero it needed him to be—and we needed him as well.

Diehard comic collectors nurture this need, at times feeding it to excess. Of course, when it comes to collecting comics, there are many roads to follow. For example, some folks just buy what they like at the time. Sometimes the cover of the comic will attract the browsing reader. (It was a long-held belief in the comics publishing world that the cover was the main reason kids would buy the comic.) For others, it’s the collecting of a certain title that brings them back week after week and for many, having a complete run of a particular comic series is essential. It’s a pursuit to which they will happily devote countless hours, so that their collection will be as complete as possible…at least until the next issue comes out.

And then, there’s a collector of a different breed. Not content to just search out their favorite title, they carry the adventure one step further. Todd Adkins is one of those collectors, and he’s not alone. Todd’s mission takes him in search of Spider-man. Sure, he could just buy the titles in which Spidey appears—they’re easy enough to find, because they have the word “Spider-man” in the title. But then you have to take into account cross-over appearances. Sometimes, Spidey needs to help out in the pages of The Avengers or The Uncanny X-Men. Maybe Thor needs help today and Captain America could use a hand next week. All of these cameo appearances can be readily tracked down. With a popular character such as Spider-man, the suits at Marvel Comics make sure to put his name or picture somewhere on the cover, so you can’t miss him. But, collectors like Todd know that sometimes Spider-man will show up where he’s not formally (or legally) invited to be. And therein lies a new quest.

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Todd Adkins and pick his brain about his unique passion for the world’s most notorious web-slinger. He shared with me the story behind how he got started with his comic collection, and why he thinks Spider-man is tops among modern day superheroes:

RetroRadar: How did you get started collecting comics?
Todd Adkins: I think I talked my grandma into buying me one at Peachers Drug Store in Irvington (Indiana), when I was a kid. It was Swamp Thing #12, and from then on I was very much into monster comics, horror movies and [former local late-night horror movie host] Sammy Terry…things like that.

RR: When did Spider-man enter the picture?
Adkins: Probably not for a few years; the first few years I collected comics it was strictly the monster stuff. I probably came to Spider-man right around the time of Amazing Spider-man issue #100. So, it had been awhile. But, it was one of those immediate attraction kinds of things. Once I got hooked on reading Spider-man I got sucked in pretty hard. He quickly took the place of the monster books in terms of what my favorite comic was. It was a book I looked forward to every month.

RR: Is there anything you can pinpoint about Spider-man, in particular, that made him your favorite?
Adkins: I think it’s the same thing that made the movie popular and that was the human element. I identified with Peter Parker and he had a beautiful girlfriend, and I was at that age where I was starting to discover girls and I wanted a beautiful girlfriend, too. (laughs) But, I think it was the human element, the stories that revolved around Peter Parker and his world that I enjoyed, and still enjoy the most.

RR: How and when did your Spider-man appearance collection start?
Adkins: Gosh, it probably started about four years ago. I was collecting all of the monthly Spider-man titles and I kind of came up to the point where there were only a few scattered issues that I needed to complete those titles, and I felt like I didn’t want the collecting and hunting to be over. So, actually a friend of mine that I met on the Internet who collects Spider-man told me about how he had started collecting Spider-man appearances in other [non-Spider-man] books. I thought that sounded kinda fun, so that’s where that started. It was by his suggestion. He had all the monthly issues and I had all the monthly issues and it was almost like a little competition to see who could get the most obscure Spidey appearances.

RR: With so many appearances over the years in books other than his own, where did you start?
Adkins: My friend had a list and that helped a lot. From then it was just a matter of going through a lot of my own books and quickly scanning and pulling out the ones where he was on the cover. Some of them were pretty obvious, you know, if Spider-man’s on the cover, well, then that counts. Now it’s kind of this insane little thing, you know, collecting all these references to him. It didn’t get to that for a while. For a while it was just collecting all the major appearances where he was either on the cover or definitely a part of the story.

RR: What are your stipulations or qualifications for when something counts and when it doesn’t count as an appearance? I know that one of the appearances you found [in a non-Spider-man related book] was a Post-It® note with the name Peter Parker on it.
Adkins: Well, that’s what’s insane about it I guess. I count things that are definite references to Spider-man or Peter Parker, or one of the characters that are only a Spider-man related character. Like the Post-It notes. And again it’s a bit of a fine line. The Post-It note with Peter Parker’s name on it is about …

RR: That’s one on the edge?
Adkins: That’s pretty close to the edge. (laughs)

RR: What are some the stranger appearances of Spider-man you’ve found?
Adkins: There are a lot of them, but a small list would include things like in the Fantastic Four his likeness has shown up as the face on a dart board, an inflatable pool toy, a patch on a character’s jacket and on a coffee mug. In Excalibur there was a gorilla in a Spider-man costume and in Ghost Rider there’s a shot of a kid in a crowd holding a Spidey-head balloon. In Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Comic Book he’s seen swinging by in the background of one panel. It’s very tiny, but he’s there. He’s even shown up in an issue of the old romance comic Millie the Model. Parodies and spoofs count, too. Things like Spider-Ham, Spider-Caveman and Bug-Eye. They all count as appearances.

RR: What’s the most expensive item you’ve purchased?
Adkins: Amazing Fantasy #15. The first appearance of Spider-man.

RR: What’s the most expensive book you own? Is it still Amazing Fantasy #15?
Adkins: Value wise, yeah. There’s two ways to quantify value. One is what a price guide says it’s worth and another is what I could get for it on eBay, but it would still be Amazing Fantasy #15. There are some things I have that are really obscure that could start a bidding war on eBay and would give me, you know, a thousand times what it’s worth in any price guide.

RR: What is the most obscure item you have?
Adkins: It is Amazing Spider-man #184, but what makes it obscure is that the copy I found doesn’t have a cover price. Instead it has a large bright green sticker that says that it was a free giveaway with the purchase of All detergent and it’s one of those things that you’d probably say yeah that’s worth a couple bucks … maybe $10. But, if I were to put it on eBay right now I could easily get 500 bucks for it.

RR: What is the most sought-after book that you’re looking for now?
Adkins: It’s a book called Pow Biff Pops. It is a [comic] book that was done as a promotion for the opening of the Boston Pops in 1977. It was a black and white book, and they sold it in the lobby during intermission and after the performance. Then all copies that weren’t sold were destroyed. And it featured both Marvel and DC Comics superheroes. I’ve not seen one, I’ve only heard about it, but I’ve been in contact with the guy who did the layouts for it trying to talk him into selling me his personal copy. I thought I had it but he moved and it got lost in the boxes when he was moving. I’m still looking for that.

Spider-man is © Marvel Comics. Images courtesy of www.samcci.comics.org

Comic books and me

I've been a fan and collector of comics for just shy of 20 years now and I think I'm reaching a crossroad.

You see, over time I have been less and less interested in buying the actual comic books themselves. Sure, I still do, but I prefer to have them in a trade paperback collection (or just plain paperback version for the uninitiated...although I am a sucker for a beautiful hardcover book). And let's face it, the publishers are focusing on trades more than ever now. Hell, you pick up a Marvel comic and you just know it'll be traded very soon. If it's a mini-series, they'll have the trade solicited a month after the mini ends...and sometimes for a cheaper price than what you'd have paid if you bought the individual comics. Outside of that, they can make more money on the trades in the long run so that's why you see so many story arch lasting just the right amount of issues to be traded nicely. i don't begrudge them this...it's business. I just don't know if I want to play along any more.

The problem is I now have many comics in comic form that I also have in a collected form which I enjoy and prefer so much more. Yeah, it's my fault that I bought the same thing in 2 different forms, but the comic itself is a habit and the trade is more desirable. I envy the Japanese in this respect: comics come out by the hundreds there every month and they're often hundreds of pages a piece compared with the US' measly 22 page comic/pamphlet every month. That's a tremendous difference that makes more sense to me the older I get.

I've been attempting to sell off some of the comics in favor of the trades, but that's a tough sell most of the time. You hardly ever get what you paid for them back and I understand this. I didn't get into the hobby to make a profit, but while burning off my inventory in favor of trades I can't afford to just give them away either.

Suggestions? Disagree with me? Let's hear it.

Who me?

So, I've been trying to update this bad boy and it's working little by little. I have links now which I suggest you visit. I wouldn't put them up there if they sucked. Trust me! We're like family, me and you, so I wouldn't shit you or attempt to waste your time, although I might pick your pocket because you're such a bastard.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Describe the above (Top L to Bottom R)



uh huh
ok
yeah
good
yeah
ok
right
great
puke