21st November 2006

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

Tonight I took some amazing photographs of everybody’s favorite wall-crawler. Pun very much intended.

I can’t wait to merge the manuscript with these pictures. Phenomenal!

Benjamin

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19th November 2006

Farewell to a Legendary Man

A great man, generally regarded as a legend, passed away on Friday morning.

Bo Schembechler was not only one of the greatest college football coaches in history, he was brilliant and caustically funny, a loving husband and father. I have been aware of Bo for as long as I can remember. One could not grow up in Ann Arbor, Michigan without being aware of him; Bo coached our beloved Michigan Wolverines football team from 1969 until 1989, and always remained close to the program. In fact, Bo spoke to the team this past Thursday night, as they prepared to take on the number 1-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. The venerable coach passed away the following morning.

I first met Bo when I was 12 years old (1982), the year I started Middle/Junior High School with his son, Shemy. Shemy and I were were good buddies throughout High School and most of our college years.

Toward the end of High School (and headed toward Art School), I was becoming increasingly “goth.” The black clothes, pointy skull boots and long hair (often dyed in bright colors)… I was all-out punk.

My appearance was appalling to Bo, but he was still Bo to me. However, he refused to call me by my given name. Instead it was, “Shem! Your friend Mary is here!” or “Hey, there, Suzie. How ya doin’?”

He never wavered, to my recollection, always inventing a new woman’s name to replace my own. Sally. Beverly. Sarah. This went on for years, and I loved it. Bo was a “man’s man.” A diminutive force who caused 6-foot tall, 300-lb linemen to quake in his presence. I shared their respect for the man, and took great pride in the fact that I was worthy of his humor.

Bo is a hero to many, many people.

Here is why Bo will always be a hero to me:

One difficult night in December 1987, I was a 17-year old Junior in High School, and home alone. My parents had traveled out of state to attend the funeral of my wonderful grandfather, may he rest in peace. I had spent the afternoon and evening with my brother, then a student at The University of Michigan.

I came home that night to find that our house was in the process of being burglarized. After a thorough search by the cops, it was determined that the burglars had made it out the back of the house, slipping into the night.

The police asked if I could stay with someone for the night, just to be on the safe side. Good and terrified, I was relieved by their suggestion. I immediately called my buddy Shemy.

The Schembechler house was like Disney Land to a teenager; It was huge. It was always stocked with amazing food. There were enormous televisions (something my family had intentionally gone without, for a long time), video games and even an upright pinball machine. It was like Heaven on Earth.

It was pretty late when I called, and I felt guilty in doing so. Bo answered the phone. His wife Millie had taken Shemy out of town, so Bo, too, was home alone. I’m sure this down-time — a chance to kick back and enjoy an empty house — was something Bo had looked forward to and relished. But no matter. Bo took me in and took care of me, gathering bed clothes and towels. “You hungry? Help yourself to whatever you want.”

That was quintessential Bo. A complete hard-ass, demanding and uncompromising. Yet filled with love and generosity.

That same year, Shemy and I attended our Junior Prom. Our friend Greg joined the fray and we split the dinner, limousine and hotel costs. My dad sent me this photo from that night in 1987 (this is before I became a girlie-man in Bo’s eyes).

Bo
Left to right: Benjamin (me), Bo, Shemy and Greg

Bo Schembechler was a brilliant coach and an amazing man. He will be missed by everyone who was aware of him, and cherished forever by those lucky enough to know him.

Bo, thank you for everything.

Laverne
(Guess you never thought of that name, didja Bo?)

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14th November 2006

Sweet Tats and Book Rockin’

Tonight I learned that my friend loves the tattoo design. I can go ahead and create ‘final art’ for his project, which pleases me immensely.

I also got a lot of amazing work done on the book. I finalized the Spider-Man manuscript, took some new photos and even clipped a bunch of existing photographs for the Tarzan chapter. I’m just waiting on the clipped “revolution” photos from Dean and I’ll be in good shape on that chapter.

All in all, a very good night.

Proud Tarzan

Thanks, Tarzan. I appreciate that.

Off to bed…

Benjamin

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13th November 2006

Ankle Tattoo

Ankle TattooI got nothing done on the book tonight. Instead, I was working on an ankle tattoo design for a very good friend of mine.

The night is not over yet, so I may still get something done. It’s only Monday, yet I already feel tired. I guess this is one of those “gut-check” moments, where I have to work even though I don’t want to.

Maybe I’ll shoot some pictures of Spider-Man. Actually, I really need to revise the Shazam! chapter.

Yeah. OK. I’ll work on Shazam!

Benjamin

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10th November 2006

A Good Mego Day

Before I left work this evening, I scanned some very important Mego documents for the book. Never-before seen by collectors, these documents are filled with wonderous “insider” information about the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes.

I’m really excited that the book will include this incredible documentation.

I came home to find a package waiting. Inside was a ©1976 carded Mr. Mxyzptlk, which I picked up for the alarmingly reasonable Buy-It-Now of $249. The card is in much nicer condition that I expected, so I really am thrilled.

Oh, that reminds me of a nice story. Yesterday, the seller Emailed me, writing, “I wanted to let you know you item was sent out yesterday by priority insured mail. I also overestimated the weight of the package and am refunding $2.00 back to your paypal account (the actual postage was only $4.05 plus the insurance amount).Thanks again and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the Mego.”

What a great guy! Lately, it seems the Mego community (insofar as eBay is concerned) is rife with scumbags and con artists who routinely gouge buyers on the shipping. How refreshing to find a seller with integrity and honesty. I told him the refund was not necessary, but that I really appreciated the offer.

It was a good Mego day.

Benjamin

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10th November 2006

The Mego Mini-Book

Mini BookTonight am working on the book mock-up, which I call the “mini-book.” I’m listening to Evanescence. Man, they’re so crappy, yet so enjoyable. I just love that teenaged, “I grew up Catholic and boys hated me” angst. Amy Lee is the Queen of the… Darned.

Anyway, I am on page 86 of my quest to block out the entire book. It’s not much, given that page 86 only gets me through 1973.

The good news is that there will be 86 pages of Mego Goodness, dedictated solely to the first two years that Mego produced the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes.

The bad news is that I still have to block out another nine years’ worth of Mego manufacturing. Still, I made some good progress.

Off to bed.

Benjamin

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9th November 2006

Tarzan’s Knife

Tarzan's Knife

Currently, I am working on the Tarzan chapter. That’s the Lord of the Apes’ knife above.

I’m listening to Blue Rodeo. Great band… a Canadian Folk/ Rock/Alt-Country outfit. If you haven’t checked them out, you really should. I think there have been about a hundred different dudes in that band over the years, but they’re all amazing musicians. I especially love the tracks that feature fellow Canuck Sarah McLachlan doing background vocals. Just… sweet.

Tonight I built a miniature version of the book. I’m stressing out about those parts of the book that I have yet to begin. I decided that making a little ash-can might give me back some control. I plan to use it for sketching and blocking out pages.

I took a huge stack of letter-size printer paper and sliced them along the width, creating 5.5”x8.5” inch pages. Then I hole-punched the whole lot and used the “Brass Plated Fasteners” that screenwriters use to bind their screenplays. I used an old Mego Book Postcard for the cover. It’s kind of cute.

“Cute” in a daunting, horrific, what-have-I-gotten-myself-into? kind of way. But cute.

Actually, I’m excited to finally start fleshing it out more thoroughly. This book has owned my ass for over three years; it’s about time I turned the tables and exerted some control over it.

Benjamin

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2nd November 2006

Mego Sculptor — Bill Lemmon

Today I spoke with Linda McNett, who was (Mego vice president) Neal Kublan’s Administrative Assistant in the mid-1970s. Linda asked me whether I was aware of a sculptor named Bill Lemmon. I replied that I knew he had done work for Mego, but very little else. She told me a cool story, and sent me some fantastic pictures.

In 1978, a sculptor named Bill Lemmon called Mego, soliciting work. Bill spoke to Mego’s Director of Design, John McNett. Already aware of Bill Lemmon (from Bill’s previous work for other toy companies), John immediately invited Bill to come in to Mego’s New York office.
Bill Lemmon Rook
When Bill came in to meet John, he showed John half a dozen samples of his work. “All original sculptures, all amazingly detailed, and all hand-carved out of solid acetate,” John recalled.

Bill removed his representative sculptures from a briefcase, setting them on John’s desk one at a time. John was “blown away by the quality of this perfect professional.”

Lemmon left the samples for John to review, calling back a week later. Naturally, John hired Bill and immediately assigned him some work. Among other things, Bill worked on Mego’s Star Trek license, including the 3 3/4 inch Klingon.

Returning Bill’s portolio, John asked if he could keep one particular piece, the rook of a fantasy chess set (pictured at right). It was John’s favorite, and Bill obliged.

For the next several years, John steadily gave Bill work, just as he did for sculptor Ken Sheller. John used both sculptors, but for different types of projects. John said, “I tended to use Ken when I needed more of a ‘human touch,’ such as muscles and sinew and the like. I tended to use Bill when I needed more of a ‘mechanical look,’ such as robots and the like.” [Ed. note: Accordingly, Bill worked on Mego’s Micronauts line]

John recalled that Bill Lemmon intentionally over-detailed his sculptures. “The pattern piece gets duplicated in reverse to make the molds, which are then used to make the production pieces,” he said. “But in each stage of replication, the details get ‘mushier.’ Bill knew enough to over-detail the pattern piece, so that enough detail would survive [the rigors of] production.”

Linda McNett added, “Bill Lemmon used a Dremel drill and dental tools to make his sculptures and the [fantasy rook] piece is only three and a half inches tall. So you can just imagine how minute the detail is on it.”

Click here to see a larger version of Lemmon’s Fantasy Rook (front).
Click here to see a larger version of Lemmon’s Fantasy Rook (back).

Benjamin

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1st November 2006

Mego Sketch Pad — Tarzan

I do a lot of rough sketches for the book, both on paper and digitally. Oftentimes, the sketches are merely a way to organize and balance imagery with text. Other times, I try to examine a composition or explore an idea. As with all things, some ideas seem fantastic, only to find that they just don’t work in reality.

I’ve been very excited about Tarzan lately, and started sketching ideas for a possible splash page. Here is one of the rough concepts, although I doubt this particular idea will pan out. Regardless, it is fun and evocative, and I enjoyed working on it.

Tarzan

Tarzan is cool.

Benjamin

posted in Book Production, Daily Mego Adoration, Random Musings, Sketch Pad, Tarzan, World's Greatest Toys | 2 Comments