Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

With a new season of baseball underway, it's a perfect time to highlight issue 10 of Rob Hanes Adventures! My pitch for the story (no pun intended): the one where Rob goes undercover on a minor league baseball team to investigate steroid use and gets more obsessed with trying to get a hit and on base than solving the case, leaving all of the work to his partner, Abner McKenna!

As this all suggests, this issue's story, titled "The Pride of the Chickenhawks," was a change of pace from my usual brand of globetrotting adventure, reflecting my interest in doing different kinds of stories. I'm glad that the series and characters give me the flexibility to play in different genres. This issue is as much a sports story (and comedy) as it is a mystery. The climax sequence involves a nail biter of a game that was fun to map out to suit my story needs, culminating with Rob (quite inadvertently) solving the case at the end with a clutch hit!

I loved capturing the feel and atmosphere of a ball park and game. It was also fun to design team logos—at the time, I had fairly recently started using digital drawing applications like Photoshop and Illustrator, which were invaluable in dropping in logos where needed throughout the issue, and placing the player names and numbers on the uniforms.

Sources of inspiration and reference for the story were Will Eisner's Baseball Comics (from 1949, but re-issued by Kitchen Sink in 1991, which were already in my personal collection), as well as a syndicated comic strip called Ozark Ike, which ran from 1949–58, by Ray Gotto. Gotto's strip is beautiful, tight work and his use of extreme perspective really makes the play action pop, which influenced my work in my own story—I've included samples of his strip in the gallery. Baseball films also were on my mind as I developed the story, particularly The Natural and The Pride of the Yankees (where, of course, I lifted the story's name), a favorite "male weepie" since childhood about Yankee legend Lou Gehrig, starring Gary Cooper.

Partly because it represents such a change of pace, I often cite and show off this issue when I exhibit to demonstrate the breadth of the series. The issue also got a bit of recognition when it was included in Tony Isabella's 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, from 2009!

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