Northeast Times

Phils Get Some Fan Fiction

Two sports fans are put­ting their her­oes on pa­per with a new com­ic series called Dugout Phun­nies.

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

You can reach at brademaekers@bsmphilly.com.

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