Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mike DeNero's Neighborhood: November 2009

Mike DeNero's Neighborhood was created by superstar cartoonist Jim Hunt – check out his website at To view a synopsis of the comic strip, past months’ strips, and sketches of the four characters with whom you will soon become quite familiar (Bernie, Tony, Leela, and, of course, Mike), please visit our custom eBay page dedicated to Mike DeNero's Neighborhood by clicking here.

How Mike DeNero's Neighborhood Is Created

How Mike DeNero’s Neighborhood Is Created
What does it take to make a cool custom comic strip to promote a vintage sportscards shop? One brilliant cartoonist and one shop owner who provides that cartoonist with a concept and then gets out of the way! Such is the relationship between us and our superstar cartoonist, Jim Hunt, who published his first cartoon in 1989, and has since drawn cartoons for such notable entities as MLB on Fox (click here to see some of them), MAD Magazine (click here to take a peek at a few), and Kevin Youkilis' Hits For Kids Foundation (click here to see some of Jim's Red "Sawx" drawings), to name a few.
To give you a peek into the creative process for Mike DeNero's Neighborhood, we will take you through the creation of the strip featured in our July e-Newsletter. For that newsletter, I was in the midst of writing an essay on pop legend Michael Jackson's life as a collector, not of sportscards per se, but of a myriad of things from comic books, to art, to Disneyana (to read the essay on our blog, click here). I thought that a "King of Pop" theme for that month's episode of Mike DeNero's Neighborhood would be a fitting companion to my essay. So, I called Jim and asked him to create a drawing that celebrated Michael Jackson in a way that only Bernie, Tony, Leela, and Mike (the Mike DeNero's Neighborhood characters) could.
Jim immediately began to think of a few of the King of Pop's trademark dance moves: the Moonwalk, the Billie JeanThriller zombie. Then, Jim put his pencil to paper and created this initial sketch, which featured Bernie, Tony, and Leela onstage at a Michael Jackson dance tribute and me (Mike DeNero) providing the punchline.
While I loved the initial sketch, I wanted the strip to avoid being dated in any way (i.e., a Michael Jackson "Dance Machine" tribute would illicit thoughts of his untimely death, even to someone viewing the cartoon for the first time years later). So, I asked Jim to move the kids into the card shop, which necessitated a modification: Tony and Bernie dancing on the store's counter worked well, but Leela was now going to lose the "zombie" dance move but provide the humorous remark (as she does so often): "Every time Thriller comes on the radio, they go nuts." Here is the result:
After I instantaneously and enthusiastically approved the revised sketch by e-mail (with several exclamation points), Jim then began the process of turning the sketch into line art: he puts the sketch on a light table, drops another piece of paper on top of it, and starts inking the illustration. He does so in an "old school" manner -- no computer software! The following is the resulting line art:
After Jim completed the line art process, he ran a copy onto card stock, pulled out the watercolors and ... voila!

Keith's Key Kard Korner: November 2009

The 1951 Bowman Emlen Tunnell (Rookie)
If offense wins games and defense wins championships, then what does the player nicknamed “Offense On Defense” give you? Two NFL Championships and a Hall of Fame career. The flattering moniker was coined for New York Giants defensive back Emlen Tunnell after the 1952 season, when he compiled more yards in interception and kickoff returns than the leading rusher had rushing.
When Tunnell retired, he held the All-Time NFL career record with 79 interceptions, a mark that is still second today (Paul Krause). Additionally, Em was the first African-American to play for the New York Giants and the first African-American to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
So how could a 9-time Pro Bowl standout playing a major sport for a legacy franchise in the nation’s biggest city largely fly under the radar? That is a valid question.
Marion Motley and other pioneers are credited with breaking the NFL’s racial barrier. With a Giants franchise chock full of greats, Tunnell’s star has been outshone. In fact, today Em’s Wikipedia page includes the grand sum total of six sentences. At least it couldn’t get worse.
But it gets worse. The most famous photo of Tunnell is probably the one where he is being blocked by the Colts’ Jim Parker while Parker’s Colt teammate Alan Ameche scores the game-winning overtime touchdown to defeat Tunnell’s New York Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship Game.
So where does Emlen Tunnell get any respect today? Cardboard. His 1951 Bowman rookie card is popular and high-grade examples are valuable. The handsome and enduring rectangle is part of SGC’s and PSA’s adored Pro Football Hall of Fame Rookie Card set registries. Examples graded in PSA 8 condition have sold for over $900.
The card booms with eye appeal. It features Tunnell striking his best “Heisman” pose while donning a Giants jersey saturated in deep rouge, a jersey which contrasts sharply with the shaded stadium seats in the background. Em is cradling the pigskin with his left hand as if he has just intercepted a Norm Van Brocklin pass. Logos were more detailed in those days, and that of the “New York Football Giants” appears large relative to the card to accommodate its intricacy. Characteristic of the wonderful 1951 Bowman issue, the card is a sweeping display of artistry, color, and composure that cements Tunnell some lasting respect… at least among vintage football memorabilia collectors.
Our Consignment Program: We offer our consignors affordable and fair consignment rates and the ability to sell their sportscards, ticket stubs and memorabilia through one, two, and/or three channels: our eBay store, our eBay auctions, and our website.
Contact us today to discuss your collection. You can call us at (571) 213-4713 or e-mail us at We look forward to speaking with you.

Bob Lemke's Cool Custom Cards: November 2009

The 1966 Philadelphia Gum Co. Brian Piccolo "Rookie"
In our third installment of Bob Lemke’s Cool Custom Cards, we thought we’d move on to football – the 1966 Philadelphia Gum Co. “rookie card that never was” (as Bob so aptly described it on his blog) of Bears legend Brian Piccolo. As many of you know, Piccolo appeared on only one card – the 1969 Topps “rookie,” which featured Piccolo sans helmet in front of a deep red background. This creation by Bob Lemke captures Piccolo as he should have appeared on his rookie card – cradling a striped pigskin (“The Duke?”) in a pose for photographers with a cool grin on his face, shortly after graduating from Wake Forest and being named the ACC’s Player of the Year in 1964 (his senior campaign). As the card’s back states, Piccolo was never drafted – the Bears signed him as a free agent.
Unfortunately, Piccolo’s story ends sadly; he succumbed to cancer at the age of 26. His friendship with his Bears backfield mate, Gale Sayers, was the subject of the film Brian’s Song, starring Billy Dee Williams as Sayers and James Caan as Piccolo.
Bob Lemke is a collector of bubblegum cards in the 1950s-1960s, Bob Lemke's hobby today is creating cards of current and former “players” in those "golden age" styles. He currently edits the vintage sections of the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards and maintains a hobby blog at