Monday, December 31, 2012


As we close the book on 2012 (thank you for not enveloping us in an apocalytic fireball, btw!), we need to look forward to our future.  The future might seem like a very benign, distant twinkle in the eye of old man time, but what if THIS is the year!?  Not the year of the apocalypse, but the PINBOTCALYPSE!!

The year is 2099!  A vicious chain of political- and revenge-fueled attacks have left the world a ravaged shell of what it used to be.  The main strategy of each side comprised of pin-pointed surgical strikes against the opponent's fossil fuel reserves.  In the midnight of bloody war, Dr. Jujoji devises a long-range form of maser wave that not only rendered fossil-fuel driven devices useless, but also triggered a molecular chain reaction that ignited all sources of fossil fuel.

Under the terrible blanket of perpetual smoke, the horribly mutated survivors battle each other for control of Earth's alternative energy sources.  They roam Earth's hideous visage in mightmarish hate-chassises made from one of the only electricity-based machines to survive the war...PINBALL MACHINES
Behold!  The rise of the Pindroids and their mutated masters!  Wretched slave drivers that FLIP the twisted robots into battle!  Earth barely survived the war!  Can she survive the terrible TILT of the Pindroids!?

When the smoke clears will humanity have any chance at a REPLAY?!  Or have we exhausted our last CREDIT?!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Photos from a Stern Tour Part 5

Twas the night before x-mas and during the Stern tour
Jon Chad had seen wonders like never before
There were wires and translights and parts all abound
Just waiting for the cabinets to come right around
On top of the playfield, where the silver balls roam
All the pinball components snuggled in their new home.

THAT'S ALL I GOT!  I don't have the Oom pah pah to make a whole rhyme about me going to Stern.  Was it magical?  Of coarse!  But obviously not magical enough to imbue me with the power of rhyme! This is short post today!  The pinball machines make their way down the assembly line and getting their components.

Next time I wrap up the Stern photo tour!  I'm getting misty-eyed just thinking about it!  Enjoy your holiday week!  Everybody go play some PINBALL!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pinball Poster!

Pinball was such a huge part of the 60's and 70's that it's no surprise that it keeps on popping up in art forms from that era.  There are many instances that I've seen Pinball imagery in rock posters.  If you even look at the back glasses and cabinets of older pinball machines, you can DEFINITELY see that there is some sort of cross-pollination happening between pinball and rock.

Circle wipe to 2011.  The rock band Wilco has curated an arts festival in Massachusetts.  The theme for their poster, PINBALL!!  The tradition lives on!

I saw this screen-printed run of their poster and the money couldn't have flown out of my Paypal account any faster!!!  Now, believe me, I know a thing or two about screen-printing, so trust me when I say that this is a top notch print.  The colors are really even and the registration is perfect.  It is hanging proudly on my wall right next to (off camera) my autograph from Steve Richie :)

Let's get honest here; am I a Wilco fan?  No.  But I am a pinball fan, a screen-printing fan, and a fan of great graphic design!  Welcome to the intersection of my interested in the Venn Diagram!  Remember the LAST TIME this happened?!

You can pick up a copy of the poster HERE!  Just do it!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Indiana Jones Glamour Shot

Sorry, dear readers, this post is not going to turn out like you'd hope.  Unfortunately I don't have a DTZ exclusive glamour shot of Indiana Jones.  Instead, I have a sketch of the Williams Indiana Jones pinball machine that Alec and I LOOOOOOOVE, that I colored.  Unfortunately, the closest copy of IJ that I have access to is down in Pelham, NH.  Just ANOTHER reason why pinball wizard is the best!
Gosh darn it, guys, I LOVE DRAWING PINBALL MACHINES!  Quick poll: what do people think of the pistol-type plunger for IJ?  Or even in general?


One of the features I'm working on for Drop Target #5 is a comic about a crazy night that I spent with the Crazy Flipper Fingers pinball gang back in November.  My idea was to tag along with them and get a street-level view of what it means to be in the gang, instead of just sending them some interview questions.

We zig-zagged all over Portland, playing pinball in bars, restaurants, arcades, and various private collections.  It was a great time, and I look forward to sharing the story with all of you in DTZ #5.

Jon and I have pushed back the release date again, which I know is a drag, but we are both busy guys and we want to make sure the issue is as good as we can make it.  We've got all the content lined up, we just have to hunker down this winter and create it all.  We promise it'll be out no later than March 2013!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Photos from a Stern Tour Part 4

In this chunk of photos, we're going to look at the assembly line, and how all the parts are going to start coming together.  I'm really having to hold myself back from describing the way that the assembly line is laid out!  Rest assured that it's very smart and will make for a great article : )

Oh my gosh, I've got to wipe the drool off my lip.  Look at that hawt CMYK action on the lower-center part of the image.  Man alive, don't even get me STARTED!

Friday, December 7, 2012

TMNT loves Pinball!

Our Belgian pinball correspondent Max de Radigu├Ęs sent in some screencaptures from the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles computer animated series on Nickelodeon.  In them, we see Raphael working out some of his aggression by playing pinball!

It seems like after going to all the trouble to create a 3D model of a pinball machine, the animation team may want to use it again...  Who knows?  Maybe it'll turn up in another installment of Jon's Pinball Violence posts.  ;)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Revisiting Illustrations 1: Coils

Devotees of DTZ will remember that in the very first issue, Alec and I did a feature on basic pinball terminology to get everybody up to snuff.  You all remember all that, right?  Do you need a refresher?  Well, I always need more coloring practice, so I dug out the images from the first Drop Target and colored them.  It was a lot of fun.  It's also funny how the flipper I show has an end-of-stroke switch, just like my JP!
Here's a really clear video explaining how a solenoid (the ellectronic device that runs many parts in a pinball machine) works.  "Whoa, wait?  It DOESN'T run on MAGIC?"

Friday, November 30, 2012

We've Been Framed!

Drop Target reader Ralph Mandarano sent in this photo of our zines framed and up on the wall next to his Creature From the Black Lagoon!  We are honored to be in such good company, and on the "wall of fame."

Save some room for issues five, six and seven!  ;)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Photos from a Stern Tour Part 3

Phew, remember that time that Jon Chad posted that SUPER WEIRD COMIC?  Well, we're back down to planet earth now with some more photos from the Stern tour I took last summer.  I guess this is a good time to point out that I'm not going to be going into too much detail of what is going on in most of these photos.  That will all be explained in the interview.  For now, just let your mouth drool at this pinball beauty.

As I mentioned before, Stern was making the Limited Edition of the AC/DC machine when I was visiting.  One of the most exciting parts of that game is that the LE had a lower playfield (just like Gottlieb's Haunted House or Black Hole).  On the day we were visiting, the factory had just gotten in a shipment of lower playfields to test.  !!!!?1/1!!!?!?  Color me excited!

Plastic parts (slingshot covers, etc).  If it looks like there is a haze, or goo on them, that's a protective film that they put on before they put out the plastic so that it doesn't crack.


Next time: images of the assemble line and unfilled cabinets!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Playland Not-At-The-Beach

Hi gang, I'm catching up with some blogging this weekend, so I've queued up a few posts.  Between these and the posts Jon has saved up, plus our blog at Stern, there should be quite a bit of Pinball action hitting the internet in the next few weeks!

First up is Playland Not-At-The-Beach. A few months back, Claire and I went to this great bay-area pinball stop.  They actually have all kinds of cool stuff (old carnival games, little model cities and circuses, etc. etc.) but the highlight was the back area, which is a regular pinball paradise.

They had some nice older machines:

An awesome "spooky" themed room with Monster Bash, Scared Stiff, Creature From the Black Lagoon and Haunted House (tragically shut off the day we were there!  I've never played that one, and wanted to try out the lower playfield...).  It had black-lights and spooky paintings on the wall, which was super cool:

Plus a room full of DMD machines.  All the machines were in great working order.  This place is highly recommended!  It was also really cool how they had lit-up backglasses above the machines.  Floor-to-ceiling pinball!

Tucked in the corner was a Star Wars: Episode I pin2k machine, which, if you've read DTZ #1, you know is one of my favorite machines.  I put up a 166M for the #1 score.  It always feels good to leave your initials in at least one machine before leaving an arcade!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Meesa Back!

Oh my god, I TOTALLY forgot that this image exists.  This is from my Star Wars Episode 1 Pinball walkthough (Williams, '99) from DTZ issue 1.  This image doens't get nearly the amount of traction that it deserves.  On this, Thanksgiving day, the most thankful of holidays, let us ALL remember the great motto of that saint incarnate, Jar Jar Binks:
Verily, my friends, truer words have never been spoken.  You CANNOT talk about SWE1 pinball without talking about Jar Jar.  He is covering that game like my aunt's famous cranberry sauce.  This Jar Jar giveth...etc. line was a joke that Alec and I came up with in frustration at Jar Jar and SWE1 pinball, but it has become our de facto go-to line whenever we catch a bad break in pinball.  You know the feeling; you get the ball in a scoop that awards an extra ball, only to have the ball be IMMEDIATELY hurtled straight down between the flippers!  Just take a moment to breathe and be thankful that we are living in a world with pinball.  And, you know what, I know you're thankful for having seen this today.

You're welcome.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pinball Gril Saves the Day!

I drew this comic for back last spring, and wanted to post it here.  Rereading it now, I'm realizing how weird it is.  I don't know what's funnier, though; the joke about getting a replay, or the friend at the end who doesn't get pinball.  We've ALL been there, right?  Enjoy!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Photos from a Stern Tour Part 2

Phew, more photos for your guys from my Stern factory tour this summer.  They were working hard on the limited edition of ACDC, and I am SUPER-DUPER grateful that Jody took the time to show me around!

After the parts are cleared by the first station pictured in the last post, they are stored here.  There were translites, bulbs, boxes of McDonalds toys, you name it!

WIRES!!!!  Even though this mess looks like multicolored spaghetti dinner, it is actually a finely planned and bundled group of wires. 

Using these template mounted on wood, workers measure out and put connectors on different combinations of wires.

The one thing above all else that continually impressed me during the tour was a) how much hands on man hours are put into the making of a pinball machine and b) how finely orchastrated all the different departments and different procedures are.  Just walking through the factory, I could barely fathom making ONE pinball machine, let alone THOUSANDS!  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pinball Buddies on TV!

Hey pinballers!  Looking for something fun to watch this weekend?  Why don't you swing on over to HULU and check out the November 1st episode of X-Play.  Normally, this is a show about video games, upcoming titles, designers, etc.  WAIT!  "This lad's a traitor," I hear you cry, "A regular 8-bit Benedict!  Throw him overboard!"

Before your mutiny gets out of hand, listen to this!  On this particular episode of X-Play, Andrew WK (who is apparently a HUGE pinball nut) goes to Reciprocal Skateboards in NYC to check out some league play, and sling the Silverball around himself!  It's a lot of fun to watch.

Devotees of DTZ will remember that in my Issue 3 Zeroes to Heroes story, I visited Reciprocal for the first time.  Back then, there were only 4 machines in their one storefront.  This was back in, what, 2010?

Since then, the owner Jon has bought the storefront NEXT to Reciprocal and turned it into a pinball arcade!  There are 10 machines in there (last time I went), and they are all in tip top order.  Jon is REALLY great guy, and it's great to see his shop get this kind of attention.  If you are in NYC and like pinball, you HAVE to go to Reciprocal!

Again, HERE is the link to the X-Play Episode!  Check it out before they take it down!!
You can watch the Behind-the-Scenes HERE

Monday, November 5, 2012

Photos from a Stern Tour Part 1

Hey Guys, Man alive, I KNOW that Alec has been a straight up champ taking over the brunt of the posting, but don't think that there hasn't been any pinball in old Jon Chad's life!  Things got a little out-of-control busy this summer, so now I'm going to drip drip drip some of the pinball goodness that has been happening with me!  First, I've got some photos from the Stern factory tour that I was given over the summer.  This was, single-handedly, the most exciting thing that had happened to me involving pinball.  Not only did I get to see the inner workings of how these blessed machines are made, but I got to talk to my favorite designers, George Gomez and Steve Richie, and I got to talk to the head honcho himself, Gary Stern!  I got an amazing interview that I'll be using in an issue of Drop Target TWO issues from now!  I KNOW I KNOW!  Don't worry though, it's WORTH it!


Jody from Stern was nice enough to show us around!

A map of their service stations (is that even the right term?)

The station where they check the incoming parts against the bluprints to make sure they're up to snuff.

A collection of some of the various toys that Stern has made for their games.  Some of them they sculpt in house and get molded in another facility, sometimes they use preexisting figures, like the family guy or Batman figures.  Sometimes, like with the Shrek game, they found that the toys made by McDonalds would suffice for the pin.  All they did was call up McDonalds and say, "could you give us...I don't know FOUR THOUSAND of your Shrek toys?"  " Pull around to the second window." the voice on the other end said weakly.  That's how it went down, right?

Chart of rubber rings, inserts, flashbulb covers etc.

And this is only the beginning!  Wires and parts next time!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Every night after dinner Claire and I play a game of pinball.  A week or so ago, I changed up my strategy.  Usually I try to stack up as many task completions before my multiball (Trolls, Damsel, Peasant, Catapult, Joust) so that I can have some big jackpots going - but lately I have been cashing in the multiball after only one task is completed and with trolls lit.  This provides an opportunity to get Master of Trolls, but also gives you four hurry ups when you complete the other tasks.  10 hurry ups is an extra ball, after all!

Anyway, tonight I booted up a game, got the extra ball from beating castle multiball and another from royal madness.  Then I got the 10 hurry ups one too!  After my second Royal Madness, I had all my blue lights lit except for Castle Crusher, and managed to start my second castle multiball.  I thought, "Okay, go nuts on the castle!" But the silver balls would not cooperate.  A few seconds later, the multiball was over, I had no progress on any shots, and all my extra balls were used up.  I decided to go for it.

I took like seven or eight EXTREMELY risky shots at the castle gate, and finally got it to open.  I lobbed the ball in and Battle for the Kingdom began!  Now, I've gotten to this final mode a few times, but for a long while I had no idea what was going on.  Then, when I beat the game last year I finally figured it out, so I knew what to do this time.

The four balls launched and I started making my shots.  I only had the left joust shot left and I still had three balls, but I just couldn't make the shot!  The balls kept getting in the way.  I sacrificed one ball and let it drain which allowed me enough time to make the shot!  The trolls popped up and I had to wail on the gate.

Luckily, I had one troll bomb saved up.  It cleared the left troll.  I was making shots on the castle and I lost one ball.  Then I started playing VERY controlled pinball - shooting the castle, catching the ball, repeat.  Now there is a 10 second timer between shots (which has screwed me over in past attempts) so my heart leapt up into my throat when the ball got caught behind the right troll.  There were only THREE seconds on the clock, so no time to let the ball saver find it.  I went berserk and started slapping the right side of the machine, about half way up the cabinet.  Luckily I didn't tilt, and the ball drifted out and down to the left flipper where I shot it back up on the fly to hit the gate, buying myself another 10 seconds.  I got two more shots in (from the left flipper only) and the gate finally opened up.

Claire was watching and I said to her "THIS IS IT.  If I hit this shot, I beat the game!"  I had done a live catch and had the ball under control on the right flipper.  I shot it up, it went along the drawbridge and IN to the castle... ONLY TO ROLL BACK OUT (!!?!???!)  It came back to the right flipper, where I dead-bounced it over to the left flipper, which I used to ROCKET the ball up into the castle!

Claire and I watched the final animation and she asked "What happens now?" and I told her, "It starts over at the beginning."  I launched the ball, flubbed a loop pass off the super skill shot and the ball instantly drained.  Game over.  244 Million points.

It was funny because last time I beat the game I still had like three extra balls saved up when I started over, and I played for another half hour, wracking up crazy points (377M) and all kinds of extras (11 castles, and 7 each of Damsels, Peasants, Jousts and Catapults).  It'll be a while before I ever touch THAT score again!

Anyway, last spring my friend Alex Bullet had a 156M game on my machine, so I have been trying to bump his ALX off the high score board, and tonight has brought me one step closer to that goal.  He's down to #3.  Two more games like this and the entire machine will only have ABL in it!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pacific Pinball Expo 6: Day Five!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words... so I'll just say that today we turned this:

Into this:

It was one of the most grueling days of physical labor I have experienced in a long, long time.  We literally loaded up three full-size semi trucks with pinball machines.  It was a pretty amazing team effort.

I got a lot of great material over the last five days, for the next issue of Drop Target (which has a "community" theme).  Jon and I are aiming to have it out before the end of the year!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pacific Pinball Expo 6: Day Four!

The trains were messed up this morning, so Claire and I were a little late getting to the show today.  It was okay, things were a bit slower today, so I don't think we missed too much.

I didn't have any panels I wanted to catch today, so I brought some work with me and spent most of the day behind the table, selling zines while I drew some illustration stuff.

At one point, Claire saw that the Wizard of Oz line was really short, so she watched the table while I hopped in line.  While waiting for my turn, I heard some guys talking about the game.  Supposedly, this was just a prototype.  It wasn't fully playable (you only got 2 balls) and none of the lights or video effects were programed.  But the playfield was populated, and most of the shots worked.

There was a lot going on, and I had a big line of people behind me, so I didn't exactly have the game of my life, but I did manage to get the ball up to both upper playfields, and I also saw some of the lighting effects.  It's such a clever idea to make every insert as a multi-color LED with clear insert plastic.  The designer can make each light whatever he or she wants for whatever mode you are in.

At one point the playfield was up too, which was very bright!  (Sorry it's such a crappy cell phone photo).  Anyway, Claire and I traded off watching the table so that I could play a bit more pinball before the expo was over.

At 5pm we went over to listen to the raffle drawing.  I didn't win a free pinball machine, which is either really sad, or a huge relief, depending on who you ask!  ;)

The show was a total blast, I got to meet so many cool people and I had a great time listening to the panels and playing pinball until my arms hurt.  Thanks especially to the guys at Marco Specialties for letting me sit in on their table space, and to everyone who swung by to check out the zine!

Tomorrow I'm heading back for one last volunteer shift to take everything apart.  What a week!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pacific Pinball Expo 6: Day Three!

Whew! It was another packed day of pinball fun at PPE6 today.  Claire and I started the day with a viewing of Pinball Donut Girl, a short film with some pinball in it.  For some reason (wishful thinking!) I somehow thought this was a full-length feature, when in reality it was only 10 minutes.  Still, a lot of hard work went into those ten minutes.  

Afterwards, I headed back to the Marco Specialties booth, to find that the guys had added a Drop Target image to the slideshow!

The line to play X-Men was already pretty long in the morning, but it got longer during the day as two of the four machines were bought right then and there.  Some lucky pinheads got those machines without having to pay the extensive shipping costs to get it to California, plus they can just go home and start playing right away!

The show was very packed today, with tons of people, but I'll tell you the truth - we didn't sell many zines.  I think I came in to this show with COMICS convention expectations - people who are there to buy things, when really, at a PINBALL convention, people are just there to play pinball!  Luckily, I'm still having a blast talking to people, hitting as many of the panels as I can, and playing a little pinball of my own!  ;)

After lunch, I went to a few more panels, and on my way out, I saw these awesome "Where are you from?" maps.  On the left was the entire world, the middle had the USA, and the right-most one was the bay area.  It was a pretty impressive turn out!

I got to see George Gomez speak, which was awesome, because he is one of my favorite pinball designers.  He teased us all by telling us that all the files for his next game were on the laptop he was using for his slideshow, but he couldn't show us any of it!  

George walked through the entire process of pitching a pinball game to Stern and then the various sketches that are made to get the design process rolling.  We got to see some early concepts from Lord of the Rings and his Sopranos game, which was pretty cool.  Then the whole room all collectively designed a haunted mansion game.  It was pretty cool!  We all shot out ideas while George drew them out on a sketch pad.  I was proud that some of my suggestions made it into the sketch  :)

Later in the afternoon a Wizard of Oz machine appeared out of nowhere and instantly a huge group of people started lining up to play.  I didn't get to play, but I looked over people's shoulders.  It looks pretty crazy!  It seems like every single light on the playfield is a multi-color LED.  There were certain modes where all the lights would come on in just one color.  It was pretty dramatic.  I'm not totally sold on the giant flatscreen monitor in the backbox.  The default mode is a 4-way split (shown above) that has status updates on the different goals you are trying to achieve, then if you start a mode or something it will play a clip from the movie.  It just seems kind of overwhelming - like too much video while you are trying to play pinball.  But then again, I didn't get to play it, so what do I know!  Hopefully the line won't be too long tomorrow so I can get a crack at it.

I ended the day by going to a great Tim Arnold panel where he got DEEP into the numbers involved in starting/running a pinball museum.  He had some great advice for starting your own arcade and/or pinball club, and I took a lot of notes.

Tomorrow is the last day of the show, but I'm also heading back on Monday to help load out all of the machines.  I'm going to need a vacation from all this pinball when this weekend is over!