Whether it’s John Mayberry Jr. cracking a 3-2 pitch over the wall for a two-out tiebreaker in the bottom of the ninth or second baseman Wilson Valdez throwing a 90 m.p.h. fastball for the game-winning strikeout after 19 innings, baseball is a game where it seems almost anything can happen.
Apparently, the creators of Dugout Phunnies wanted to take that world of infinite possibilities and run with it.
A comic book that features the current cast of Fightin’ Phils, Dugout is the creation of Fishtown’s Jon Goff and Roxborough’s David Jablow.
And boy, is it outta the park.
A grand slam of weirdness, the first issue features a spring training episode — “Hair Today, Damned Tomorrow!” — wherein manager Charlie Manuel returns from winter break sporting long locks of gray hair. A slumping Ryan Howard, assigned to menial work around the ballpark, tries to get his mojo back by snipping a lock of Cholly’s mane — only to find out that it has a life of its own. Luckily, Jimmy Rollins is within earshot as he clips snowflakes for the Winter Dance and is there to save the day.
The second part, “Aces in the Wild,” has the All Star pitching staff take a camping trip in what appears to be Fairmount Park, with an unlikely villain showing up at the end.
Just looking at the covers, it’s easy to see you’re in for an irreverent laugh: the front sees the Phanatic feeding Mr. Met’s head into a pitching machine; the back has a menacing Manuel dressed in a He-Man get-up and riding the Phanatic.
Jablow, the artist behind those images, is best known for his “Do-it-yourself Doodler” show at the now-closed Bambi Gallery in Northern Liberties. The December 2010 show featured a series of sketches, all based around the silhouette of a woman missing in a few key features. Jablow filled in those features and surrounding scenes to match, and some artistic hilarity ensued.
For Jablow and Goff alike, Dugout is their first venture into comic books. The longtime friends and Phils fans — Jablow, a Philly native, is a lifer, while Goff says he’s “only been a fan for about 10 years” — decided last year to combine their talents in comic book form. Goff does comedic writing, specializing in PowerPoint comedy bits.
The Phillies, they said, just seemed like a natural choice for their first foray.
“We had been talking about doing a comic for a while,” said Jablow, “and the Phillies seemed like a good subject because we both like watching them, and it’s something that hasn’t been done before.”
Of course, they were also hoping to tap into some of the passion that has made Philly a bona fide baseball town in recent years.
“We definitely wanted to be a part of that Phillies fever,” said Goff. “You can’t walk down the street these days without seeing people in Phillies gear.”
With a good chunk of the first issue — they assembled about 800 copies — being bought up and positive feedback coming in from fans, it seems like they might be on to something. Things have gone well enough that a second issue hit shelves at the end of July.
In the latest adventures, “Chuckles Manuel” and Shane Victorino need to be rescued after a mishap finds them lost in a world of video games.
The decision to put the team in bizarre settings rather than focus on the odyssey of the 162-game baseball season was driven by a desire to get creative with a roster of players most fans are very familiar with.
“It’s just something that’s fun to draw and to look at,” said Jablow. “Having the players stand around on the field and in the dugout would get a little monotonous. This is more of ‘fish out of water’ story.”
And while the players might be in unfamiliar situations, Jablow and Goff managed to work in plenty of recognizable character traits — Manuel with his backwoods witticisms, the hyper Victorino and a cool-cat Jimmy Rollins to name a few.
The pair also made sure to keep the comic something young kids could enjoy. And, looking at some of the sketches up on Jablow’s website, it was clear they could have gone a little darker (just imagine Mr. Met’s head going completely through the ball machine).
“We wanted it to be something where people of all ages could pick it up, something that a guy could give to his kids,” said Jablow.
As for the next issue, they’re hoping to have it out in time for some (cross your fingers) October baseball. Goff and Jablow both said they are expecting something spooky to go along with the season.
But right now, that issue is just taking shape, and the Phils are still fighting for their post season appearance.••
Getting Dugout Phunnies
Dugout Phunnies is available for $5 as these local bookstores:
Port Richmond Books, 3037 Richmond St., 215-425-3385.
Bookspace, 1113 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown.
David Jablow and Jon Goff will also have a booth of Dugout Phunnies issues one and two at the Philadelphia Alternative Comic Con. The convention will take place this Sunday, Aug. 14 at Rotunda (4014 Walnut St.) from noon to 7 p.m.
To buy a copy over the web, visit http://dugoutphunnies.com