Here are a couple of drawings for a short story / mini-comic that I submitted for Hobart Pulp's 2017 Baseball Annual. It didn't make it, but the editor seemed to like it, and it was a lot of fun to make. It was based off of an otherwise forgettable, irrelevant game I attended in 2010, when Akinori Iwamura hit a shallow fly to center that the opposing center fielder lost in the ballpark's lights. It sent my friend and I into a mental conundrum about baseball scoring policies when Iwamura made it to third and it was officially ruled a "triple". Ironically, as I was in the middle of making it, I saw the news that Iwamura had just announced his retirement from baseball.
I will be doing a special reading of "Tunnel-Ball" on Earth Day (April 22) in a few weeks to kick off all of the Earth Day activities at Robot Inside. It's going to be fun!
If you ever happen to find yourself anywhere close to the Midwest, it would be in your best interest to stop by Boxcar Books in Bloomington, Indiana. You will be hard-pressed to find another bookstore like it in the country who does what they do. Poke around their site for a sampling of that, including their Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project. It was, undoubtedly, one of the first bookstores I reached out to when "Tunnel-Ball" was published.
I can't wait to see the newly renovated space the next time I am there ...
T-B and Shel Silverstein, united at last.
Doing some cleaning this morning, and thought I would share a few old "Tunnel-Ball" pieces that never came to fruition.
I wish I remembered the exact chronology of Tunnel-Ball's origin (it was a few years ago and changed quite a bit), but it went something like this. While I was finishing my previous book, I was thinking about a new project, and I had unintentionally doodled a mole-looking character in an over-sized shirt that only later became a baseball jersey. Sadly, I no longer have that original doodle, but I do recall it was in one of those "kona" sketchbooks w/ paper made from recycled brown coffee bags that I was experimenting with at the time. I used to hoard and archive old sketchbooks, until I moved a year ago and now have an even smaller/cramped studio. As usual, I didn't jump in and start doing anything with the character, but he stuck in the back of my mind and I kept coming back to the idea until he became the protagonist for a new book idea. Initially, it wasn't baseball-related. Around the same time, I got an idea for a completely different baseball story in which the mole wasn't used. The next few months, I believe I kind of simultaneously realized that the baseball story was too ambitious, and I was also really struggling with ideas for the mole story. When I thought about combining the two, I immediately felt like it would be a lot of fun.
This is the oldest drawing of Clive Mole that I could find. For a while there, he had ears and an "Earth Worms" logo on the jersey. Most noticeably, he didn't always have arms. I think I eventually realized that just having giant claws was a tad on the scary side (not to mention drawing him gripping a baseball bat with no arms was increasingly tedious).
Page 3 before the colored interior was abandoned for b&w.
There was originally going to be a page with a closeup of the floating scoreboard (which is seen on the page w/ Worms Stadium) right before Clive's big at bat. Of course, it wasn't to be electronic, but one of the charming old scoreboards that had to have a worker change the score manually (while sitting w/ a recliner, footstool and popcorn in the meantime).
This "ticket" was never originally supposed to be appear on the back cover. It was just a postcard design to send to friends/families for advertising. But I liked it so much and thought the simplicity of the message ("here's your ticket, hope to see you at the game!") worked really well to be the back of the book.
And finally, a very, very old rough painting. This page idea was ultimately replaced by the page of Clive reading the morning paper. Originally, the "dream" of receiving the package and invitation was quite literal. Clive's baseball obsession is evident in the fact that the room is filled with thousands of balls.
"Tunnel-Ball" is now available at the following awesome independent stores around the Midwest and New York City. These shops are all fantastic (regardless of the fact that they are carrying the book), so if you are in one of the following areas, please give them your local support!
Quimby's (Chicago, IL)
Boxcar Books (Bloomington, IN)
Carmichael's Bookstore & Carmichael's Kids (Louisville, KY)
Shake It Records (Cincinnati, OH)
Robot Inside (Cincinnati, OH)
The Book Loft of German Village (Columbus, OH)
Bluestockings Bookstore (NYC)
Desert Island (NYC)
Thank you to everyone who came out to the Tunnel-Ball reading and release party at Robot Inside in Cincinnati yesterday. It was truly a blast despite the dreary, rainy weather for mid-May. We even made it through the "song" performance of the reading with the old 70s toy turntable staying in one piece! I will make another post later explaining what that "song" was, exactly, for those who couldn't make it. And the coloring pages, "create your own baseball card", photo booths and cookies seemed to be a hit. Special thanks, again, to my good friend Jacob (who drummed during the performance, as well as revealed that he is a season ticket holder of the Neptune Newts) and Tara of Robot Inside for hosting the thing.
Now available in the online store ... my new picture book, Tunnel-Ball! The book is hardcover (36 pages), and every purchase includes a pack of Topps cards featuring some assorted characters from the story.
There are two buying options in the store ... the regular, hardcover book is available for $15, or for a limited time (while supplies last), you can purchase the "Bases-Clearing Double" bundle for $25. The bundle features a copy of the book, the Topps cards, a refrigerator magnet set, and a 9x18" felt pennant (example pictured below) featuring the team name from the story. Free shipping on either option.
I am proud of this one and have been working on it for parts of the last two years. I hope you and/or your family enjoy it!
Most of you are probably celebrating Opening Day tomorrow, but if you are like me and your favorite team is one of the six to get things started today (it feels incredibly weird to have opening day on a Sunday), today is the day!
Tunnel-Ball is also right around the corner (literally). My original plan was to have the book out by Opening Day to do some cool promotional stuff that way, but it looks like we just missed it. Any last minute setbacks notwithstanding, I anticipate the books to arrive in about a week or so.
... in preparation to ship out books, plenty of felt pennants have been hand-made and packs of Topps cards have been assembles (more details shortly).
Last month I hinted at some details about a new picture book I was finishing up. Yesterday I received the print proof in the mail from the publisher much quicker than anticipated. Due to that, it makes the release date at within a month or so (though I can't officially confirm the exact date yet). However, I can officially announce that the book is titled Tunnel-Ball, and it is the story of a hopeful mole named Clive being selected to represent his home planet of Earth in an Intergalactic Baseball Championship.
I roughed out the ideas for this one before "Saxby" was even finished a few years ago. Completely changed up the plot so that it was not baseball-themed at one point (keeping the initial mole character), but I was too engaged in the original story to not let it see the light of day. I am proud of how it ultimately turned out and can't wait to share it with friends, family and you.
10"x8" hardcover -- more details coming very soon (PS -- the felt pennants will be available!)