Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Way of the Geek #9: Rob Kelly!

This week's featured geek, Rob Kelly, is the man responsible for The Aquaman Shrine, which seems to be recognized as the site for Aquaman enthusiasts! In addition, Rob also has two other sites, www.namtab.com and robkellyillustration.blogspot.com. The Aquaman Shrine has ensured Rob's place in geek history, I think... and I'm not just saying that because I'm an official F.O.A.M. (Friends Of AquaMan) member, either!

Rob was born in Philadelphia, “during the dark days of the Nixon Administration,” he said. He's the youngest of his siblings. His girlfriend and he have a pet, Johnny, whom they refer to as their “little furry daughter.” He hopes to someday “have enough land to take in as many animals who need a good home that cross our path.”

Rob says that he's pretty much into all areas of geekery except for gaming. “Other than some good years with an Atari 2600 (Diesel-powered, if I recall), I just never got into video games much, or any RPG stuff. I've loved toys, comics, sci-fi, cartoons and the rest since...birth, it seems like,” he admitted.

As a child, he recalled watching a local UHF station, Channel 48, “that ran an amazing block of re-runs...Batman, Speed Racer, Lost in Space, Gilligan's Island, The Monkees, the Super Friends, and more. I would sit and draw all day (comic book characters on notebook paper) as one show played after the other. I enjoyed doing art, and the shows I watched fed into my artwork, and back again.” Sounds like great viewing, if you ask me!

His siblings weren't much into the same geekery as Rob, but he did have some friends who liked the same toys. His interest in superheroes and drawing them prevented him from being outside and playing sports. “Pretty damn geeky,” he confessed.

Rob got rid of almost all of his childhood geek possessions, “Although somehow my Superman hairbrush (with cool Neal Adams drawing on it!) made it through the purge. Ironic, since I haven't had any hair to comb for over a decade. But I gave up all my toys and stuff when I hit my early teens,” he said. As an adult, he's reacquired some of the Megos he had as a child, such as Green Arrow, “my all-time favorite from that line.” He's also repurchased “A whole bunch of comics that I used to have as a kid I went out and found again--a couple hundred or so. Oh, and I used to have all these DC superhero drinking glasses from Arby's, and I've bought a few of them again over the years.”

The one item that has eluded Rob so far was a DC Superhero Checkers set, which featured a number of DC characters as playing pieces. He recalled, “I got the set for my birthday when I was around eight or so, but I've never seen it again. Not at a convention, in a store, or on eBay. Never. I'd kill to have that again!” I think he may have missed an auction somewhere along the line, as I believe I sent him a photo of a set that was offered a while back.

Rob's current collection doesn't take up much space in his home. “Since I work from home, all my stuff related to that takes up a lot of space, so there's not much extra room for anything else. I do have some bookshelves with a couple of items, like my Universal Monsters Sideshow figurines, an elderly Dr. McCoy action figure, and a few other things. I guess my Marvel 7-11 Slurpee Cups checklist is pretty geeky too!” Indeed it is!

Along with his Mego Green Arrow, another favorite of Rob's current collection is a mint on card Mego Aquaman, which he also loves (as one would expect). He is also the proud owner of a Mego Hall of Justice Playset, “which I bought in installments and it was worth every penny.” Rob also owns a custom-made Creature From the Black Lagoon poster signed by Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning, who portrayed the Creature in the movies, as well as his Aquaman sketchbook, “featuring work by Nick Cardy, Jim Aparo, Craig Hamilton, and many others--is a highly prized, and completely irreplaceable, item. In case of fire, I grab that first.”

Rob's first conventions, though small, had an impact on him when he attended them at 13 or 14. “They weren't that special, but I was blown away by a room so packed with comics and other comic-related stuff! It was a revelation to know there was that much stuff out there,” he remembered.

These days, Rob attends Wizard World Philly and some New York shows each year, and enjoys them. As much as he'd like to attend more, “that's just not in the cards right now.” Rob finds most convention experiences to be pretty much the same; what changes is who he's there with. “The first time I went to San Diego (1998) was really amazing. I was there with a bunch of friends, in a city I've never been to before, at the comic book mecca. A pretty amazing experience.” I can well imagine! “The last couple of NY shows have been great, because, thanks to my various comic blogs, I get to meet people who already know me (usually from The Aquaman Shrine, but not always) and that's a lot of fun,” he admitted.

Another convention memory of his was a 2009 NY Convention where he met Loretta Swit, who played “Hot Lips” Houlihan on the TV show M*A*S*H. “I grew up on that show, and this was the first time I ever met anyone from the show. She was so sweet to me, and I could barely believe I was shaking the hand of someone I've seen on TV thousands of times, over and over. It was one of those one-on-one experiences you really don't get to have outside of a convention,” he recalled fondly.

Due to Rob's comic-themed blogs, he's had the opportunity to be in contact with many of the comics pros whose work he's enjoyed over the years. Some of this contact has been through the Internet, some over the telephone, and some in person. “I got to interview Gerry Conway and go on and on about how I think Justice League of America #200 is the greatest piece of literature produced by Western Civilization, which was simultaneously embarrassing and rewarding,” he admitted. “Many of the comics pros I've met have been great people, very helpful and kind to me, and very generous with their time--people like Paul Kupperberg, J.M. DeMatteis, Craig Hamilton, Mark Chiarello, and James Tucker from the Brave and the Bold show.”

For over a decade, Rob has worked as a freelance illustrator, although recently he's done some writing about comics for various magazines. “I would love to do more of that type of stuff, but comics is a hard way to make a living, let alone writing about comics.”

Like many geeks, Rob has an area of interest that most of his fellow geeks find rather esoteric. “I am an obsessive collector of my favorite book, Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge. I have over 20 editions of it, and while I know fans of the book, I don't know anyone who collects it like I do.” Rob is also a huge fan of Bob Dylan, “and he's a great person to geek over, because there's so much material. I love hunting down some obscure cover song he did in 1981 that I heard once a few years ago but is only available on bootlegs...” Not surprisingly, his most “esoteric” geek interest is Aquaman. “I know lots of Aquaman fans, many of whom are uber-fans like me, but I guess the level to which I've taken it is pretty far.”

Rob said the closest he's come to an Aquaman convention occurred when “One of the Aquaman Shrine's biggest fans, a swell guy named Russell Burbage, came by with his family during a vacation and we met for the first time, meeting up with two other friends who live near me.” Sounds like that must've been a great time.

Rob is working on his geek-related activities “All the time.” Like many geek bloggers, Rob said, “I'm always thinking of stuff I can do for my blogs, and a lot of it involves laying the groundwork for future posts, so its either contacting people, scanning in material, doing research, etc. Way too much time!” I know the feeling.

When it came to starting the Aquaman Shrine, Rob said that it “started as a way to show off my collection of Aquaman stuff--I figured I had about a year's worth of material, but then the thing just grew and grew until now its sort of a perpetual motion machine. And then I realized I enjoyed blogging so much I started ones for other subjects I was passionate about. The amount of people who really seemed to care about what I was doing was startling to me. In the beginning, I didn't take the historical aspect of it as seriously--I said stuff that was factually wrong, I made snide comments that I'm embarrassed about now (and have gone back and deleted), and I gave very perfunctory details about items I was blogging about. Now I'm much more complete and accurate, or try to be at least.”

Among the features on the Aquaman Shrine, Rob said, “I love doing interviews with various pros who have worked on Aquaman--writers, artists, editors, etc. I've done them for almost all my blogs and while they're a lot of work and sometimes very frustrating, I find them so rewarding once they're done. I also spend every weekend just on Aquaman comics, plus a whole bunch of other ongoing features.”

The rewards from doing The Aquaman Shrine have been many for Rob. “I have made lots of new friends, which has been amazing. And as goofy as this sounds, there is a certain level of fame that comes from The Aquaman Shrine specifically. At cons I'll go up to someone and tell them who I am and what blog I run, and they'll get that glimmer of recognition, which is really cool. I have gotten lots of gifts from readers, which is extraordinarily generous. Mostly its material for the Shrine, and I love showing off a new item and telling everyone where I got it from. Very rewarding.”

When asked what blogs he reads, Rob confessed, “Oh, there are so many! I have a pal named Amy Bias who has 5 or 6 blogs all about different comics and she has a funny, distinct POV that I love reading them all, even if keeping up with that many blogs from one person is kinda tough! I love Plaid Stallions, It's a Dan's Word, J.M. DeMatteis' Creation Point, Frankensteinia... so many.”

Rob is fortunate that, while his girlfriend doesn't share his geek interest, she appreciates how much he loves them. “She has her own things she's really into and follows blogs about those things, so we have that in common even if the subjects are vastly different,” he explained.

It should come as no surprise that Rob dressed up as Aquaman for Halloween... but he's not sure that's the geekiest thing he's done as an adult. “Going to a Mystery Science Theater 3000 convention is pretty high up on that list, I'd say.”

Most of Rob's geek purchases are made at his local comic shop, All Things Fun. “They know what stuff I like and will frequently order stuff for me before I even know it exists!” He also confesses, “I've spent waaaay too much money on eBay.”

For those geeks considering making purchases on eBay, Rob advised, “If you see something you really want and its a good price, GET IT. Don't wait a few days hoping you can get it for two bucks less. It'll be gone before then. Also, beware of anyone who charges more than $5 to ship a comic book!”

Rob's sold stuff on eBay, too. “I've collected so much stuff over time and for my blogs that after a while I realize I have too much and don't need a lot of it. As for advice, I'd say sell as cheap as possible if you really want to move stuff. Seems kind of obvious, but there you go.”

The comics, movies, TVs, and books that Rob's been exposed to are his greatest inspirations. “They sparked my imagination as a child and that was so powerful that it dictated my choice of career and how I look at life in many ways. I wonder what would have happened to me if, at age five, I had become enamored of a football game instead of the Super Friends?” We'll never know, will we, Rob?

Rob's geek interests “inform my life, and I think keep me young, at least in attitude. It helps me feel more alive, having these things I'm so passionate about.” For his fellow geeks, Rob says, “Just immerse yourself in it. You might think you're the only one, and maybe you will be, but your passion and energy will draw people to you.”

Thanks, Rob! I appreciate your cooperation in this feature.

For the rest of you reading this, are you a fellow geek blogger who's interested in being featured here? Do you have an interesting geek interest, even if you aren't a blogger? Or do you know of a geek blogger you'd like to see profiled? Feel free to contact me with details at waffyjon at comcast dot net!

5 comments:

  1. An awesome piece on a truly awesome dude. Rob is great, prolific blogger who is one of Aquaman's biggest cheerleaders on the Net... Heck, in the world! DC should be thanking him often.

    And not only are we given this Aqua-site to share, Rob gives us peeks into his professional world, which is not only cool (since his work is so great and fun), but is interesting. Non-illustrators get a peek into that life. Not always easy, as we see, but Rob makes it look like a dream job!

    Kudos to Rob for being profiled, and Kudos to you Jon for a great piece!

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  2. All the posts in this series have been great, Jon...but this one brings home for me just how good they are: I've known Rob in RL for a few years now, and I still learned new stuff about him here!

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  3. Thank you both! The articles have been well-received (if not always acknowledged in the profilees' own blogs, but that's okay). Sadly, the series will be going on a hiatus around February, as I've run out of willing subjects!

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  4. Great article! I did an interview with Rob for one of my Visual Communication classes got an "A". Rob is a terrific guy and I am not just saying that because I am a F.O.A.M.er as well lol!

    Also read the article on Tommy Brookshire (also great!)

    I am proud to know and have both Rob Kelly (Whom I regularly communicate with on FB & email) and Tommy Brookshire (Who I sent a large Batman Arkham Asylum window slick from Movie Gallery to on his brithday) on my list of friends on Facebook and hope to meet them in person some day.

    Keep up the great work!
    God bless!

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  5. images2icons - Sorry it's taken so long for me to respond to your comment! I'm glad that you enjoyed both the articles on Rob and Tommy, and hope you've had a chance to read the others in the series, too!

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