I met C. Martin Croker in 2010 at, of all places, a small comic convention in Myrtle Beach. He was one of the guests at an early iteration of X-Con World and, as at the time I lived about 15 minutes away from the convention hall, I bought a table at the show. The convention itself was okay - I didn't sell very much, but my costs were low and it was nice for what it was - but the highlight of the weekend was getting to meet and trade stories with Clay.
Of course, I knew Clay from his work on Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, which remains one of the great tv spoofs and is a precursor in tone to many of today's late night talk shows. At the time I knew that Clay had voiced both Zorak and Moltar, which is in itself an impressive feat, but soon learned that he was also art director and one of the main animators on the series. Over the weekend, I learned that we shared a love of the Thing, comics and other pop culture items. I even worked up the courage to ask him to draw in my Thing sketchbook!
Between then and now, he and I kept in touch and met up on occasion, trading stories and mailing each other items. Whenever I'd travel to Comic-Con in San Diego, Clay would talk about one item or another that he had his eye on, and I would usually end up grabbing it for him. A few years ago, he sent me a message on the very last day of the show - with only a few hours before it closed - and asked me if I could locate an exclusive shirt that the Jack Kirby Museum had for sale. I was able to track it down at nearly the last minute, but at that time they only had size XXXL available. As you can see in the picture at the very top, Clay was an XL at best, but as I was kind of on the spot, I went ahead and purchased it anyway.
A few months later, I saw Clay in New York, and he was wearing the shirt. He was swimming in the thing. I'm not even sure if he remembered that I was the one who got it for him, but it was just so funny seeing him wearing the shirt that was obviously much too big for him. But I guess he liked it, because I saw a number of pictures of him wearing it over the next few years. Maybe it was really comfortable?
Last month, I was getting ready to leave for a concert when I got a package from Clay at the post office. I was racing against the clock but I couldn't leave without opening it. This thing was taped so well that it took me probably ten minutes to get it opened properly. But when I did, I saw the above mash-up between Marvel's The Thing and John Carpenter's The Thing in all its glory. Clay had been talking about this (without giving away the subject) for at least four years, saying that he had something to send to me as a thank you for some of the items I had been able to find for him. At this point, I assumed that it was just never going to happen, and that was okay. The joke was almost as good as the product itself (I was telling myself that, anyway). So suffice it to say that I was a little taken back to see this show up at my door in 2016.
Larry drove to the concert that night, and on the way there I sent Clay a message thanking him for the artwork. He responded pretty quickly, and we were able to catch up and talk for a few minutes.
The next evening, Clay passed away pretty suddenly. It was a shock to everyone he knew. The timing really threw me for a loop as I had a conversation with him just 24 hours earlier. Everything seemed normal, but he was gone soon after. I'm so glad that not only did I decide to open the package before I left the evening before, but that I took a few minutes to get in touch with him.
One of the things that Clay brought up with me nearly every time we spoke was his proposed comic book series, "Tales to Admonish". It was supposed to be a sendup of 1950s Kirby monster comics, with farcical and facetious stories about monsters like the Jersey Devil and El Chupacabra. This was always something that Clay had in the back of his mind, but his animation and voice work always got in the way of seeing it through. When he first told me about it, I went home and immediately started planning my story submission with artist Paul Tucker (in may ways it was my way of saying "please notice me!"). After I sat on it for a few years and realized that the book wasn't really going anywhere, I published it as part of the 2015 "Imaginary Drugs" title from IDW:
Just last year, Clay sent me a message saying that he was still working on the title, though I haven't seen much more than a few covers. This is kind of how he was - always full of ideas, always thinking, always creating, and always running out of time to see all of them through. His body of work is incredibly impressive - from TV to comics - but there's always things left undone, and it's a shame that Clay didn't get to finish all of his projects.
During our second-to-last conversation, Clay mentioned to me that he hadn't yet gotten one of the new Funko Pop! Zorak figures that had been released in July as a Comic-Con exclusive. Neither Cartoon Network nor Funko had sent him any, which is, of course, awful. So, naturally, I made up some story about how I "might" be able to grab one at the upcoming New York Comic Con, and immediately went to eBay to purchase two - one for me and one for him. Clay passed away on a Saturday, and the figures were delivered to me a few days later on Tuesday. Opening the box was rather haunting, and now I've got an extra Zorak figure that sits on my shelf as a reminder that my friend has gone.
Clay was such a fun guy to be around, with his exaggerated expressions and self deprecating humor. He's someone I admired and wish I could have known him better. I'm thankful for getting the chance to speak with him so soon before he passed. I think about him often.
Hey! It's the last batch of Comic-Con pictures...until I go to the New York Comic Con in less than two weeks! Here are pictures from the final day of Comic-Con 2016 in San Diego.
My Thing sketchbook had two empty pages in it before this convention. Chris Burnham filled up the very last page on Sunday. There are a few little things I'd like to do with the book before I officially lock it up in a vault somewhere, but this is, I feel, some kind of milestone in my life (right?). You'll notice that Batman and X-Men artist Burnham has a Pac Man lanyard on...we also had a nice chat about old video games. It turns out that Burnham once owned a arcade cabinet himself.
I'm extra excited to bring these two things home with me - signed and sketched comics from both Matt Groening and Sergio Aragones!
I never take enough pictures of the floor. It's hard to get an idea of the scope of this convention even when you're there, let along from an image. But here's this, stretching out as far as the eye can see.
Todd Nauck is a great guy who is kind enough to acknowledge my presence every year when I walk up and bother him at a show. Todd has worked on pretty much every major mainstream character. It's pretty impressive.
The Sideshow booth is always mind-alteringly awesome. Check out this TMNT statue set based on the original movies.
Wanna grab a Star Trek uniform? It's possible.
Due to my foolishly-acquired sunburn (and other reasons), I didn't do much outside of the convention center this year. But on Sunday I decided that I would finally give the Adult Swim on the Green offsite a try. The lines were incredibly long - you'd have to wait a few hours to get one of their screen-printed shirts (I passed).
But I did stop at Meatwad's Dome, which had a new, and very trippy, show this year.
The costumes were impressive every day of the show. It didn't slow down on Sunday.
I ran into Ally Cat, a great artist and a cool gal, at her booth which was situated right by one of the snack bars. They're trying to fit as many booths into the convention center. I guess some of them eventually have to be next to the nachos.
And here's Eric Esquivel, a writer who's comin' up in the world. He just announced that he'll be writing a story in this year's DC Christmas special.
There were a lot of Star Trek costumes at the show this year. These Borg looked great!
I managed to grab a quick picture with Griffin Newman, Arthur on the (greenlit!) Amazon "Tick" series, before he went back behind the New England Comics booth to do another round of signings.
DC's New Super-Man title had only just launched at this point, but here's a really great costume from the last day of the show.
The NEC booth was pretty busy on the last three days of the show. Ben and Griffin signed for hours. It was great to see the enthusiasm fans had for the character. It's funny to see copies of the SDCC exclusive comic pop up on eBay every so often with their signatures on it.
Our last cosplay for the show is a fun one - the Guardians of the Galaxy family, complete with a potted Groot!
One more before the show ends.
I'm always surprised at how quickly the convention clears out when 5:00 rolls around. People are ready to go, I guess. I have to believe that someday soon, they'll extend the hours until 6:00, or at least have panels that go on after the convention closes. It's a taxing show, but everyone seems to have a good time.
This is about the time that I scour around for empty boxes to send stuff home in.
Might as well wrap up some creators for the offseason. It keeps 'em fresh.
Riding a bike on the show floor? There are no rules!!
And thus ends my Comic-Con adventure for 2016. Planning has already begun for next year's show! But thankfully, I had a least a few days to rest up. I stayed in the area for a few days and made a trip to San Diego's Cat Cafe once again.
I then hit up a local state park, where I activated my lobster powers.
And then, at the top of the mountain...
After San Diego, I went out to Los Angeles for a few days, where I was pretty blown away by the exhibits at The Getty Museum. This is absolutely a must see if you're in the area.
It's really impressive.
I ended the trip by stopping by the Santa Monica pier.
There's a new volume of Flutter coming out in 2017 - its third and final - and it's currently on Kickstarter from now until October 13th.
Flutter is Jenny Wood and Jeff McComsey's coming-of-age trilogy about a girl who shape shifts into a boy to get the girl of her dreams. After winning multiple awards and getting some adaptation interest, the story is coming to a conclusion with this final volume.
I was lucky enough to get to letter volume two and be a part of this book. I'll be lettering this new volume, and I've also jumped on in an editorial capacity. Chris Goodwin also returns from volume two to color this new edition!
In addition to publishing the third volume, there'll also be a complete collection with all three volumes in one set. There are a number of rewards offered besides the book as well, from guitar picks to shirts to original art and personalized classes.
Saturday was another really big day at Comic-Con. Let's see those pictures!
The Lego booth is always really impressive, but it's often swarmed with people, so I don't always get to check out the many displays they have to see. I arrived a little early this day, though, so I got to take a few pictures.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but Lego Batman has taken of a life of itself. The miniature Batman and Batgirl models would be impressive enough without the giant likenesses towering over them.
Another shot of quiet Comic-Con.
Comic-Con is so big and there's so much to see that somehow I missed seeing the Fan-O-Rama booth with its life-size Futurama costumes. These were obviously pretty stunning.
Fan-O-Rama is a live-action Futurama fan film that is slated to be released soon. The creators were at the convention letting people know about the project.
The detail was pretty amazing. I can't imagine how much money was put into something like this, something that is ultimately an unofficial (and legally questionable) entry into the Futurama mythos.
It's got to take a lot of love to create a tribute like this. I hope that the film is successful (but not so much that the creators get sued). Knowing that people care about the property gives you a warm feeling. You can learn more about the project at fan-o-rama.com.
Here's a nice Toy Story costume!
And Comic-Con isn't complete with Stan Lee and hordes of people stopping to see Stan Lee.
There were a number of Ghostbuster items on display at the show to coincide with the new movie.
Roaming the halls, I bumped into Scott Auckerman (Comic Connerman), host of Comedy Bang! Bang! It's quickly become one of my favorite shows as the humor really skirts that line between "weird" and "too weird" (very much, actually, like Space Ghost Coast to Coast), which I enjoy. Auckerman also recently wrote an issue of Spider-Man/Deadpool for Marvel.
I think that this is three years in a row, now, that I found Simpsons and Futurama creator Matt Greoning walking around Comic-Con. I was able to get a sketch of Philip J Fry this time, too!
I was able to land a ticket to one NerdHQ panel this year. A little before noon, it was time to head over to get in line.
Nichelle Nichols was leaving as I arrived. All of the actors dressed up for the Star Trek display across the street lined up to salute her as she left. It was neat to see!
NerdHQ is, without a doubt, Comic-Con's best offsite event. I was able to get tickets to Scott Bakula's panel. Despite being a fan of both Quantum Leap and Star Trek: Enterprise, I never formed a strong opinion about Bakula one way or the other...
...until I saw this panel. Bakula came across as smart, caring and funny. Now I'm a really big fan!
I also got to ask a question! Here's my "asking a question" face.
It kind of looks like I'm being stared down by Scott Bakula here.
Aw, heck, let's watch the whole thing! If you watch this and don't immediately become a fan of Scott Bakula, then I'm not sure we could ever be friends. What an honest, sincere guy.
Whenever I don't recognize a costume, I just assume that it has something to do with anime. So, these costumes. Anime?
Classic Wonder Woman. I like it!
I like how this Leela solved the "one eye" costuming issue.
This was a really good Rocksteady and Bebop!
Also walking the floor, I saw Blake Henderson from "Workaholics"! I wonder if there are any other stars from that show nearby...
Yep! Right behind him was Anders Holm!
I! Love! This! Spider-Man 2099! Costume!
Leonard Maltin was carrying Leonard Maltin pins, and I got a few.
Toward the end of the day, I went to two signings. The first was a signing with the cast of the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. Almost everyone was there!
Here's the wonderful Felicia Day. I'm pretty sure she's yet to do something I don't enjoy. Behind her is Jonah Ray.
And here's MST3K creator, Joel Hodgson!
I got a poster signed by the cast, then it was off to the next signing. Along the way, I had to grab a picture of these heroes. And is that one in the middle from Assassins Creed? Maybe?
The next signing was, unbelievably enough, with Firefly alums Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion and Joss Whedon!
They were signing new Serenity prints at the Dark Horse booth in advance of the new comic series coming out in the fall.
This looks like Whedon is waving at me. Let's go with that.
Another TMNT Rockstead and Bebop! I like it.
His watch has just begun.
The "Abigail" yacht from Fear the Walking Dead was docked at the harbor behind the convention center.
And they brought their own zombies, too, it seems!
After the show ended, my group and I went to check out the Adult Swim event. The line for this was wrapped around the display and trailed off to the Hilton in the background. Ah well.
I did get to have a visit from Rick and Morty's Mr. Poopybutthole, though, which was okay. We ended up stopping at FX's outdoor display, where we got to watch some panels with headsets. It was more fun than it sounds.
And that was it for a very busy Saturday at Comic-Con. That was a lot of dang pictures I shared! Let's see one more!
July somehow had the most views ever for this blog, and it was by a lot, too. I know that a lot can go into those numbers, but I appreciate all of you for coming back and reading my dumb blog, which I think has been around for about eight years, now! Thanks, everyone!