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Post by guest contributor Mark Behar

 

Enjoying spring training? I can’t help but feel like Alex Anthopoulos has rewarded my penance for watching 19 years of mediocre baseball. He heard my prayers! And by prayers I mean the sound of my remote hitting the wall. But I digress.

Let me take you back to another hopeful time, following the team’s 2006 campaign. T’was a mixed bag in the post-White Jays era. Warren Sawkiw wrapped up another year of radio colour commentary, BJ Ryan completed an entirely sustainable 3.5 WAR season as the team’s new closer, and the Jays’ sickly logo design continued to inspire a group of young Finnish game developers who searched for just that right look. All-told, that squad won 87 games. That ranked them 7th overall in the American League, but JP Ricciardi could at least point to 5 entrants in the All-Star game—the team’s highest total since sending 7 men (!) to the mid-summer classic in 1993. Postseason hopes aside, the team at least had some star power.

I was still licking my wounds from an early setback to my career ambitions. A couple of years prior to this, I had contacted an author and offered to adapt his popular book about gangsters into a graphic novel. He agreed to let me try, and, in the search for suitable comic book artists, famed inker Joe Rubinstein introduced me to his mentor, the legendary Dick Giordano, a wizard with the brush and the executive behind Watchmen and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.

I still don’t know why Joe and Dick agreed to work with me at that point. Simply put, I had no clue what I was doing, but in the course of putting together art samples and workshopping comic scripts, I learned to write for the format—decently enough that, in time, we found an interested publisher. It all came crashing down on me when the publisher found out that I had involved an original author. “Why create a graphic novel as an adaptation when the original author has no claim to the historical content in the book?” he asked me. I had no answer. More importantly, the original author required that any publication that bore his name contain no swear words—an absurd demand that made the publisher run away and never look back.

Rather than gravitating toward the superhero genre, I had always sought to use the comic format to tell the stories that interested me personally. I read history. I studied the prohibition-era gangsters. And I’ve loved the Jays since, at 5 years old, I watched the team led by Bell, Moseby, and Barfield head to the playoffs. I asked Dick Giordano, my mentor at this point and a man who constantly validated his reputation as ‘the nicest guy in the industry’, if he’d join me in pitching a series of promotional comics to the Blue Jays. A hardcore Mets fan, he replied that baseball was his second religion and that he’d happily help—he’d even draw the pitch for free!

Dick famously inked the Superman vs. Mohammed Ali comic in 1978, and I hoped to bring this graphic sensibility to a series of sponsored Jays comics. I gathered an all-star team of creators in case of future opportunities. I attended Seneca’s post-grad Marketing Management program and made the business plan a partial focus of my work. I spoke with the marketing reps for several MLB teams and struck up a relationship with the Jays’ former Marketing Director before securing a meeting at the Rogers Centre front office.

SupermanVsMuhammadAliFrankly, I think they were kind of surprised at what I had put together, a 5-page sample with a sort-of Dennis the Menace feel, although I suggested that biographical stories about players like Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells would generate more fan interest if they pulled the trigger. The initial meetings seemed positive, but over the course of time their interest dithered. Perhaps my business model didn’t make sense to them. Perhaps they couldn’t convince their sponsors regarding the value of the ad space. Bobbleheads sell tickets, but comic books? At one point I got MLB’s VP, Marketing on the phone and he practically yelled at me for proposing an alternative to the league’s official comic book publisher, who had not produced anything for years and whose work looked downright terrible.

Dick Giordano felt upset (mostly for me, frankly) that the Jays had jerked us around. Even in his early 70s, Dick produced a ton of work, but I, too, lamented the lost opportunity with the Jays, especially when it became clear that I would waste my energies if I pushed for a deal with one of the other teams.

In March of 2010, I returned from my honeymoon in the Dominican Republic to a number of sad text messages. Dick Giordano had passed away from complications related to pneumonia. I was heartbroken, and the industry mourned the loss of a legend. I wish to this day that we had secured a deal for either of the projects that we pitched together, but the guy taught me a lot and our correspondences meant the world to me. His pleasant attitude and his practical wisdom still inform my creative sensibilities.

I certainly have some great memories, too—and the 5-page Jays comic that we pitched to the Jays survives. Please enjoy, and imagine the summertime giveaways that might have been.

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All images © 2013 Mark Behar. All rights reserved. Click each on to enlarge.

Comments (44)

  1. Interesting stuff…

  2. if the dunk happened because the ball was thrown through the wall (vs to the target), that’d be believable. ryan hitting the target on the first (or second…or third…) try? not so much.

  3. That? Was wonderful! Thanks!

  4. Would have liked to see Burnett and League depicted in one of those.

    In the same vein, here’s a fan-made trailer video I found going into that 2007 season full of all the best moments from 2006, cut with an Angels & Airwaves song and Jamie Campbell game calls (which is pretty hilarious in retrospect): http://tinypic.com/player.php?v=sy5p9x&s=5

    That team was truly the last time the fanbase had any real hope, as misguided as it ended up being in the end. Let’s hope it ends up better this team, it certainly looks as it should.

  5. I think that was Rosie DiManno cheering on Glaus…

  6. I’m not a big comics guy but this was fun. Great work.

  7. http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/blog/danny-knobler/21722212/jays-camp-report-likes-dislikes

    Knobler goes a’knobling again. I don’t mind dislikes, as no team is perfect, but all of his dislikes are kinda ridiculous. The only one that’s somewhat palatable is the AL East still being a strong division. The problem is that’s not a reason to dislike the Jays.

    Pessimists will always be pessimists I guess.

  8. When Gustavo Chacin began his windup when someone was on base, he would put on this really creepy smile that would always make me laugh.

  9. team sparkplug

  10. Mark, revisit this idea with this years team?

  11. Love it, Boston drama starting already….

    10:44

    AM ET

    By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
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    Red Sox reliever Alfredo Aceves spent a good portion of the 2012 season butting heads with manager Bobby Valentine, and he didn’t exactly impress new skipper John Farrell during a workout Sunday, as Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com explains.

    During a workout on one of the practice fields, Aceves was supposed to throw live batting practice, except that his tosses were so lifeless that Farrell approached the right-hander to ask if everything was OK. “His session on the mound didn’t go as intended. He’s healthy. It’s been addressed,” Farrell said.

    Aceves is a durable reliever who appeared in 69 games last season, but there already is talk in Boston whether Sunday’s antics were another sign that the righthander must go. Farrell is preaching a “team concept” in Boston, and Aceves already is testing the patience of the new manager.

    Alex Speier of WEEI.com discusses the club’s options with Aceves, such as trying to trade him or even releasing him solely for bad behavior, a move that would undoubtedly draw a grievance from the Players’ Association.

    Our Buster Olney has more on the job status of Aceves in Monday’s blog:

    • There goes Farrell flapping his lip. Way to get Acevedes on side, Big John. He should keep his mouth shut around the media but he

      • Sorry. Somehow I didn’t finish that post. But the intent is there. Farrell can’t stop himself from talking. He should never have talked about his requesting out of here after the first year. I doubt AA would have mentioned it. And he shouldn’t have said AA would want to go back to Montreal. And he shouldn’t have opened his mouth about Romero either.
        And now he’s in Boston. Where there’s no such thing as ‘off the record’…

  12. The Jays had a comic book in the early 90s. I distinctly remember “Dr. Jay” teaching the value of going to the dentist, and the horrors of smoking.

  13. Thanks for the kind words, folks. Stoeten, you’re a peach for posting this.

    Formerly the Smasher, I’d love to (I’d probably even do it at cost), but I doubt the Jays would fund the project.

    • No one is going to give you the world if you don’t ask for it.
      Nadir Mohamed and the rest of the Galactic Federation just ok’d an annual team salary of 125 million, maybe there’s a few extra Loonies laying around. Get on it, I’d love to see these guys graphic novel style.

      Your lead character, in a purple cape: Melky the Marvelous Masseur. His finishing move is slathering his victims in a cream that causes grotesque human growth(available for other villians to purchase off his website)

      • Nadir just said he was stepping down next January gonna have to see if the budget stays up with the new guy coming in

  14. Personally, I never ‘got’ the Dr Jay angle. As a kid– and as an adult, frankly– back in ’93, I would’ve preferred to read a comic about Roberto Alomar’s ‘origin’ story, playing on the sandlot with his father and his brother in early 1980s Puerto Rico, learning from his father’s friends in the big show, etc. It’d take agreement from a front office to make that happen though.

  15. The is the most flattering light JP Ricciardi has ever been portrayed in.

  16. this is pretty sick…

  17. This is great. Reminds me of that Spiderman comic from 93(?) Where the expos help him fight crime…anyone else ever see that?

  18. Watching and Listening to Damien Cox on Prime Time Sports makes me wanna drop kick my own television!!!

    • No shit he’s a fucking moron

    • I also saw some that today.

      Changed to channel to Rules of Engagement. Hilarious show.

      • Man, you guys are just jealous. While most writers/commentators usually stick to one sport, guys like Cox (and Simmons) are super knowledgeable in several. Why read two separate articles from two different experts to find out info on Toronto-based teams, when insiders like Cox can give me the down low on everything? Are the Leafs going to make the playoffs? Can the Argos repeat? Which 2nd baseman gives us the best chance at winning? Who knows?….Cox knows.

        ..I mean just look at him; that body just screams “athlete.”

    • Wonder if he “asked the question” about how Glaus dominated the hammer strength game in the comic. After all, he surpassed the “Home Run King” level, which means he had greater abilities than Barry Bonds…

  19. http://www.1loveto.com/wp-content/uploads/SpiderMan_1.jpg

    I remember getting a copy of this as a child at a school assembly in Saskatchewan. I think its still kicking around my parents house someplace. It was about the coolest thing ever as a 8 year old because both Spidey and the Jays were pretty neat at the time (at least the Jays still are!).

  20. Gustavo Chacin is just loving life in this comic book. He’s easily the happiest man on Earth and it’s fantastic. Boo to the people who 86′d this thing.

  21. yikes.

  22. Lol Reed Johnson… I would have called him the “Difference Maker”. I like the enthusiasm displayed here.

  23. I OWN THESE ORIGINAL ART PAGES!

    OH MAN OH MAN!

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