Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Way of the Geek #6: Tommy Brookshire!

Tommy Brookshire is the creature of the Bat-Blog, probably the most popular Batman blog out there! Tommy was born in Oklahoma City in 1964, and has a sister and two small nephews who are into “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.” He's a print and web graphic designer who also deals in antiques and vintage toys. “I was actually an Antique and Collectibles Dealer for over 20 years but the internet totally ruined it.”

It should be no surprise that Tommy's main geekery focus is writing the Bat-Blog and collecting vintage Batman toys. “I prefer the stuff from the 1960's and 70's, stuff I grew-up with as a little kid. I also collect Vintage Metal Lunch Boxes, Pez Candy Dispensers, Advertising Characters, and Fisher Price Pull Toys.”

Tommy was two years old when the 1966 Batman TV show came out. “That's when I totally became a hardcore Batman Fan. Later, in the 1970's, I became obsessed with collecting comic books. I did that for a few years, then quit because my focus became getting a car. Then later, in my early 20's, I got the 'comics bug' again. The funny thing was that I then had a lot more of my own money to do damage
with! I collected a ton of new titles and even bought many rare, older books. I was crazy!” Sounds like a familiar story to me! Tommy recalls that during the holidays, his family still teases him about when he was little and would be at a retail store, screaming “Batman!” and running right to the toy shelf.

Tommy's sister wasn't a comics geek like he was, “But I do remember my Sister totally geeking-out on Strawberry Shortcake Dolls. She's a little bit younger than I am and grew-up playing with all the cool toys of the 1980's. At Garage Sales I sometimes find this kind of stuff and give it to her, as a joke. It's funny, sometimes I tease her about how her room used to have Strawberry Shortcake Curtains, Comforter, Bedding, etc... Her bedroom was totally geeky!”

But of course, we're more interested in Tommy's geekery. He said that his most cherished Batman item in his collection is a Melmac plastic plate. “It's from 1966 and my Grandmother gave it to me when I was a little boy. She died recently and this item has become even more loved by me since then.” He said he's bought “tons of items” as an adult that he used to have as a child. “I try to collect every single thing that has Batman on it but when I come across the few items I actually had as a kid those are very special. I have some of the Mego Dolls from the 70's, still in the original packages. Those are fun. It's total torture trying to keep from ripping those packages open, ha!”

But there's still some Batman items that have eluded Tommy so far: “I really want the 1966 Batman Utility Belt made by the Ideal Toy Company! It had a Flash Light, Ray-Gun, Bat-Rope with Hook, Batarang, etc... There was also a Batman Cowl Mask that was sold separately.”

As you can imagine, Tommy's house is filled with collectibles, “...even the kitchen! My Batman Collection, by itself, is pretty extensive. I mean, I've been obsessed with collecting it for over 20 years! The sad thing is though almost all of it is in storage boxes because I don't have the proper display space. But someday I do plan on converting a bedroom into a special "Batcave", with elaborate shelving and display cases, to see everything.”

Another collection Tommy's proud of his is PEZ collection, which he built up before the days of eBay. “I have a lot of the extremely rare PEZ that are completely impossible to find today. I mean, I know. As a Collector (and Dealer) going to a million Garage Sales, Estate Sales, Flea Markets, etc....I never NEVER see them!”

Tommy's first convention, which he attended as a teenager, was a Star Trek one! “I think it was in 1976. I liked the TV show but was not a crazy fan. My friend John was and he invited me to go. The cool thing was that I got to meet the actor who played Sulu, George Takei. He was extremely nice and even joked about a T-Shirt I wore. It had a Star Wars logo on it and he kept saying I was 'wearing the wrong shirt', ha ha! But he was cool about it (and just joking) plus he said he loved the movie too. He gave me a color photo of himself as Sulu and he signed it in person. I still have it to this very day. The cool part about that was it was free! It's not like today where celebrities are super-greedy and want to be paid BIG for every little thing they do (autographs, photos taken with them, etc...) I think that's kind of sad. If you think about the old movie stars like Joan Crawford or Bette Davis, they would actually COMMIT suicide BEFORE charging a fan for an autograph, ha!”

Like many of us these days, financial issues prevents Tommy from going to conventions as often as he'd like these days, although he pointed out “The real problem, really, is that I live in Oklahoma City and we don't have too many BIG events like that. Usually I have to travel to Texas. There's a Sci-Fi Con in Dallas, Texas that is really great!”

There used to be a comic book convention in his home town, but Tommy noted, “It was a small event, usually at a very cheesy hotel, and I got to meet a lot of famous comic book artists like Alex Toth. I also met Dennis O'Neil who is very involved with writing Batman comics. He was really great! At one show he set-up next to a really famous comic book artist ( sorry, I don't wanna mention his name ). I walked up to his table and asked for an autograph. This was around the time that people started to charge for signing things, I didn't know. He was kind of rude and just said, 'Give me 25 bucks!' This made Denny sort of mad and he said, '(name withheld), stop being a greedy asshole and sign the little kid's book!' Oh man, that was totally hilarious!! He signed a comic I had and was really mad about it.”

Another fond memory from conventions Tommy has is meeting Anthony Daniels, who played C-3PO. “He was very friendly. Later, he gave a big speech about his acting experiences that was very interesting.” Another special convention memory Tommy has involves, naturally, one of the stars of the 1966 Batman TV series! “It's been a few years ago but my good friend Dave and I drove all the way to Texas to hit a sci-fi convention that had Yvonne Craig as a special guest. She's the only person from that series I have met in person. She was totally wonderful and very down to earth. We had a really long conversation. That was great! The funny thing, was when I first met her, I brought a few Batgirl items for her to sign. One of the items was a sealed-package of Batgirl Underoos. Remember those? They sold them in the 1970's. They were basically underwear ( top and bottom ) that was made to look like Superhero Costumes. When my Sister and I were small toddlers we had a few pair, ha ha!

“Anyways, when I handed her the box to autograph she said, 'What are these? I have NEVER seen these before!' I told her they were Underoos and quite rare. She still looked puzzled so I explained to her what they were. She seemed kind of freaked-out a little bit. Like I was some sort of pervert, ha ha! But the really great thing is, awhile later, in the hallway of the hotel, she walked up to me and said my name ( WOW! She remembered that?! ). She also said that she had talked to her Sister about the whole 'Underoo thing' and her Sister told her, 'Oh yeah, I bought some of those as Christmas gifts a long time ago, I remember them.' So, she apologized for being a little freaked out. Like I said, she was a very sweet lady. I was pretty impressed that she remembered my name. She really has a lot of class.” Having met Yvonne myself some time ago, I can attest to that!

As if Tommy wasn't into enough with collecting Batman and PEZ, he also collects Vintage Cereal boxes! “I'm not really as serious about it as I used to be. But yeah,I know a LOT of people who collect that stuff. I used to write an article for a Cereal Box Collecting Fanzine called the 'FREAKIE MAGNET' Magazine. Doing that, I got to meet most of the major collectors.”

Tommy writes two or three posts on the Bat-Blog every day, and that takes a lot of time, but he says he loves it. He also spends a bit of time each week going to garage/estate sales, thrift stores, flea markets, and other places to hunt down old toys and books.

The Bat-Blog has let Tommy meet “tons” of Batman fans from all over the world. “I mean, I do this on a daily basis and talk with many many people. That was one of the very pleasant accidents about me starting that blog. I never knew how connected I would be with so many people. I guess I thought it would be more solitary. But I've been blessed with making many new friends, it's cool!”

Tommy owes thanks to his friend Dave for inspiring him to start the Bat-Blog. “My friend Dave suggested it to me one day. He said, 'Hey Tom, you're an expert in that field and you should do a blog about it.' At first I didn't know anything about how to even do one but I learned pretty quickly. The funny thing, when I very first started it, I was at a Dinner Party with some friends who don't really collect toys or anything. They asked, 'What have you been up to lately?' and I said I started a blog all about Batman. My friend said, '"How the heck are you going to be able to write about Batman everyday?' It was pretty funny! But the thing is, that I have been going strong for over four years now! I do a lot of research to find information and the great thing is a lot of readers send me stuff too. I always say that if my blog is any good at all the it's because of them, I mean that.”

As with all blogs, the Bat-Blog had to go through some evolutionary steps. “I'd have to say that the Bat-Blog has a pretty good design to it now. When I started I had an extremely cheesy-looking template (the code that gives the format to how your webpage looks). I'm always obsessed with trying to make the thing better and better. I'm pretty happy with how it looks right now but I know I'll get completely crazy later and totally re-design it. I guess I love torture!”

The Bat-Blog, for those who haven't checked it out, covers all the brand-new Batman merchandise, “because the site is mainly about the joys of being a Batman toy collector.” But he also covers vintage toys and all other new Batman items, such as cartoons, movies, video games, or books. Every Wednesday is “Wacky Wallpaper Wednesday,” when Tommy posts free Batman backgrounds that can be used to brighten your computer's desktop.

As he said, Tommy's made a number of new friends through the Bat-Blog, which he considers the best thing about blogging. These friends live all over the world. So far as financial rewards, “If anybody out there is thinking about creating a blog to get rich then that's an extremely bad idea, ha! Now, I have got a few gifts from people and that's a very nice thing. I really appreciate that and it's always a wonderful surprise when it happens. It's very flattering that their are some people who love what you do and decide to reward you a little bit.”

Tommy was hesitant to mention all the blogs that he reads for fear of leaving a friend's blog out, but when pressed, he listed a few of them, “The Brave and the Bold: The lost Issues, Plaid STallions, Gold Key Stories, Comic Book Resources, Diversions of The Groovy Kind, The Aquaman Shrine, Toyriffic, Cartoon Brew, and of course, Random Acts of Geekery!” Thanks for that last mention, Tommy!

Tommy's girlfriend is accepting of his being a “big Bat-Nerd,” liking Batman herself, but not as much as he does. Instead, she's more into vampires and New Orleans. “My family doesn't really understand the whole Batman obsession thing but they're totally cool about it. Plus, it's super easy for them to know what to get me for Christmas so I bet they like that!”

Tommy used to do a lot of buying on eBay, although he's cut back on that. He does offer some suggestions to those who would buy there, “Before you fall in love with some item be absolutely sure to check their policy on postage FIRST! Most of the eBay wannabe-dealers are starting to realize that it's difficult to make good a decent living on there anymore and because some of them are totally unethical (with NO honor) they try to totally rape you on postage!” For potential sellers, he said, “Just be extremely honest and show a ton of very good photos of what you're selling. Be sure to list any and all defects in the ad. Also, a lot of bad people have discovered that they can whine to PayPal and get an instant refund, no questions asked. So, insure every single item you mail.”

Tommy's inspirations include Charles Burns, Carmine Infantino, Dick Sprang, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, and Neal Adams. When he's asked why he loves Batman so much, he said, “I guess he's a very solid fictional character that is open to many different types of media (comics, movies, animation, etc...) Plus, he kicks ass!!”

Like many of his fellow bloggers, Tommy has an important message for not only other geeks, but everyone! “Please think about helping the Earth, it's the only one we got! The other day I asked a friend if he was recycling his aluminum cans and he said, 'No, why bother?' I told him, 'Yeah, you're right. Screw the Earth! What has the Earth EVER done for you?!' That kind of woke him up, ha ha! Besides that I would say to try to respect other people regardless of their religious beliefs or sexual orientation. There's way too much hate in the world, and really, diversity is a great thing. PEACE.”

Thanks, Tommy!

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