Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pinball Costume

Hello Pinballers!  The holidays are in full swing here at Drop Target HQ, and I thought that I would give you guys the greatest gift I could give: embarrassing photos of me!

So, for the past couple of Halloweens I've been obsessed with really simple, iconic costumes.  I think I must have watched some sort of Halloween retrospective or something, but all I remember is seeing people dressed as skeletons, ghosts, cowboys, etc.  Classic.  I decided this year I was going to be a spaceman.  My costume was coming together really well, but I wanted to screen-print something on the front to make it a little more retro/iconic.  So I put a simple Saturn on the front.

Later, I was discussing my costume idea with a friend and she said, "a space ranger, Jon?  Why not a PINBALL ranger?" vs. Mothra....   TALK ABOUT A MISSED OPPORTUNITY!  Well, I screen-printed some pinball parts around the Saturn and tried to pass myself off as a cosmic pinball ranger.  Although, thinking about it now, I could have said that I was 3D Pinball Space Cadet from that pinball game that is included on nearly EVERY PC (I also think it's probably the most played playfield ever...ugh, now I'm sad!).  Here's me in my costume:

And here is a detail of the shirt:

Needless to say, screen-printing pinball parts was really fun.  I've been dying to get together some sort of shirt design that Alec and I could sell here, or at shows.  Maybe something like this would be fun.
Anyway, happy holidays!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pinball Violence #3

This week's unfortunate case of pinball violence comes from issue #40 of the 1997 run of Robin.  Besides a particularly angry Robin scouling at us from the cover, the titular character doesn't appear in this issue.  Instead, the scene flips back and forth between Tim Drake talking to his girlfriend, and his girlfriend's vigilante exploits.  At first it's par-for-the-course; the girl vigilante is chasing down and beating up the bad guys.  But then THIS sequence happens.  First, she chases the goons to their getaway vehicle:

(click to enlarge)

So far this is pretty benign.  She jumps onto the back of the truck and starts laying in on this one poor bloke.  Heaving a mighty blow, he is hurled helplessly into a...pinball machine!?!

(click to enlarge)

Not just ANY pinball machine, mind you, but the rare "Gorfinator" pinball machine.  Look at those classic lines peppering the cabinet!  "I'll call you back"  "If he don't get you, his boiler suit will!" (?!?)  What in the world does that mean!?!  These goons must have been wrapped up pretty heavily in black market pinball trafficing.  They even have the uber-rare "Archie Enemy" pinball machine.  "He'll win good"   ahhhhhh, as if taken from the lips of the bard himself!  Anyway, even though the two twins (!?) with the pistols have a clear shot at our hero, they decide to hit her with the Gorfinator.

(click to enlarge)

I guess the twins reasoned that the Gorf was too damaged to part out.  Or maybe they were looking to toss it anyway since that cabinet is so gross.

(click to enlarge)

Or maybe they couldn't part it out because the Gorf is made of the most bizarre assortment of parts compiled in one wretched cabinet.  I DARE you to try and figue out what's going on on the bottom of that playfield.  This merciful machine has no outlanes, but it also has a two inch thick backbox.  My two favorite things to note:

1) The pinball machines drawn in this sequence were clearly done without reference.  Someone thought to themselves, "er...uh...pinball?  it's a box with two buttons on the side? two flippers?  a rule card?"  It's the lowest common denominator.

2) The goons are LAUGHING at her as they peel off.  They look like they're having the time of their lives.  They must have wanted to get rid of the Gorfinator for a long time.  Now they can focus on getting that rollover on Archie Enemy.

I looked at all the pinball machines released in 1997, and have no idea what the catalyst was for the Gorf and Archie.  Until next time, keep you machines safe!  Also, check out Alec's post on the Stern Blog!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Post at Stern

I posted some images over at the Stern blog.  You can check out the post HERE.


Friday, November 25, 2011

DTZ at Expozine 2011 in Montréal!

Citizens of Montréal!  Please note that Jon Chad will be at your 10th annual small press, minicomic and zine fair, expozine this weekend (11/26 - 11/27)!  He will have copies of all three issues of Drop Target, so if you are in the area, swing on by and pick one up.  He'll also have tons of his own cool comics for sale.  We'll have to see if he returns with any pinball stories from Montréal... last time I was up there, I couldn't find ANYTHING!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pinball Violence in Movies No. 2

Sigh...  Violence is never the only answer, you guys!  Especially when pinball is concerned!  Unfortunately, we arrived at another piece of American cinema that uses a pinball machine as a punching bag.  I present, the end of Superman II:

I won't go to much into this one, since many of you have seen Superman II, but at the end of the movie, Clark Kent returns to a diner after he gets his powers back.  Earlier, at the same diner, he was hassled by this guy named Rocky(?).

Well, with his powers back, what's the first thing on Superman's mind: REVENGE!!!!  He lays down some well-calculated insults on Rocky, "I've never seen garbage eat garbage before!" and then swaggers up to him like a boss.  Rocky takes a swing at Supes (like a Grade A Chump) and breaks his hand.  Superman lands his sorry butt in a plate of food and then throws him across the diner into a Buckaroo (?) machine!

Pinball is one of the most American things I can think of, so I thought Superman would put more of an effort out there to safeguard it!  Oh well!

You can watch it HERE.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Hey Everyone (and welcome anybody that is here by way of Stern),

The good people at Stern Pinball have kindly asked us to share some of our pinball love on their website!  As you know, we are ALL ABOUT getting pumped about pinball, and we really appreciate the chance to share that enthusiasm with a wider audience.  We're going to be cross-posting some stuff from this blog and issue 1, as well as brand new content and finds!  As of now, we're shooting to post something there once a week!  Don't worry, loyal DTZ goers, we'll still be posting here a bunch too!  Alec and I have been really busy with teaching and book projects, but we're planning on really digging in our talons to this stuff over the winter!

You can read our first post at Stern HERE.

Friday, October 28, 2011

STERN factory tour!

Oh man, Jon and I really, REALLY wanted to go to Pinball Expo this year, but with our teaching schedules it just wasn't in the cards this year...  The expo event that we were the most excited about checking out was the Stern Pinball factory tour.  Luckily, Darian Glover did go on the tour, and whipped up this excellent video of the trip.  It looks like it was a lot of fun...  Maybe we'll be able to go next year!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Harry Potter Pinball Wizard T-Shirt!

If you have been enjoying the Harry Potter Pinball dream machine playfields I have been drawing for Drop Target, then man-oh-man do I have the T-shirt for you!

This awesome Harry Potter Pinball Wizard T-shirt was designed by Ashley Hay and is available for a measly $11 on   It's only available until 10/20 (about 40 more hours!) so if you want to score one for yourself, you'd better apparate over to there right away!

Thanks to Drop Target reader Don for letting me know about the shirt.  I ordered one and it will be my official pinball shirt from now on!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Max's Carcassonne Pinball Adventure

The "Dream Machine" in Drop Target #3 was created by our Belgian pinball friend Max de Radiguès, who many of you no doubt recognize from our installments of "Zeros to Heroes."  After spending a year living (and playing pinball!) in White River Junction, Vermont, Max has returned to his homeland of Belgium, where he is still playing pinball!

Recently Max traveled to Carcassonne, France to visit his cartoonist friend Pierre Maurel.  While in town, Max and Pierre taught a series of comics workshops at local schools.  As an added bonus, Pierre tracked down a local pinball enthusiast who agreed to show the guys his pinball collection.  Here is Max's description of their trip out to his house:

It's in a farm a little outside Carcassonne. The guy is from Luxembourg and owns something like 30 machines (he had more than 40 but sold a couple of them). They are from a lot of differents time periods... He also as a huge slot machine collection. He just like to fix them. He doesn't really like to play... 
So they're all in his barn covered with blankets, dust and random stuff...  He buys most of them in Belgium and Luxembourg and sometimes Holland and he as a few machine on free play for his clients (he rents rooms for tourist...)  He's getting divorce and looses the house so god knows what will happen to that treasure...  Wish you could have been there !
Below are some photos from their visit - what a collection!  Hopefully they'll end up in good hands.

Sorry it has been quiet around here lately.  We have been spending most of our recent "Drop Target Time" sending out orders to all of our readers! Jon and I have a lot of cool stuff in the pipeline though, and we'll be sharing some of it with you all soon!  Until then, keep flipping!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Drop Target #3 is now available for ordering!

Okay, Drop Target #3 is finally available for ordering!  This is our most jam-packed issue yet.  It has all the regular features as well as two NEW features:  "Special When LITerature" (pinball book reviews!) and "BANG BACKS" which we were going to include in issue #2, but we couldn't quite get it together.

Here is all the information about this issue:

DROP TARGET #3 - The Classics Issue
56 pages - 5.5" x 8.5" - B&W printing
First Printing: 8.5" x 14" full-color centerfold, screenprinted cover

THE REPLAY REVIEW: Classic Pinball Machines
- VIDEO MODE: Tommy (1975) vs. TILT (1979)
- SPECIAL WHEN LITERATURE: Pinball! By Roger Sharpe
PINHALLS: The Pacific Pinball Museum - Alameda, CA
TILT TALK: Interview with PPM director Michael Schiess
BANG BACKS: Interview with Ben Heck
DREAM MACHINES: Zine King by Max de Radiguès, Portal by Jon Chad and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by Alec Longstreth
- FROM ZEROS TO HEROES: Part 3 - Making a Monster

You can order a copy on the DTZ #3 ordering page.  Also, sadly we had to get rid of the combo page.  Even with just three issues there were starting to be a lot of different combinations.  With four or five or six or SEVEN issues, it would have been too much to keep up with.  So for now, you can add issues one at a time on each of their pages and use the "VIEW CART" buttons to see what you've got.  

Thanks everyone for your patience and continued support.  Next up will be the MOVES issue, which we're aiming to have out in January/February.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Drop Target #1 first printing has SOLD OUT!

Well, it's official.  The first printing of Drop Target #1 has SOLD OUT.  All 400 copies have been sold, but the zine is not out of print!  Jon and I have created an easier-to-make second printing, which is still available on the DTZ #1 page.

The second printing has a plain black and white printed cover (instead of a screen printed cover on color paper) and instead of the full-color, fold out center spread, it has a grayscale center spread on the same size paper as the rest of the zine.  Everything else is the same.  Instead of a $5 cover price, the second printing will only cost $4, because it has fewer bells and whistles.

We will be creating similar second printings for each of the Drop Target Zines as their first printings sell out, so that we can focus our self-publishing energy on the NEW issues.  Once the first printings of all seven issues go out of print, we will make a print on demand collection of all the issues.

Just so everyone gets a chance to see the center spread Dream Machine playfield in full color, here is a low-res web version for you all to enjoy!  We will post these each time an issue's first printing runs out.

We are in the process of sending out the comp copies of Drop Target #3 and it will be available for ordering later this week!  Thank you all for your patience.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Well what do we have HERE???

Tonight we finished the first proof copies of Drop Target #3!  In an unprecedented move,  Jon and I are going examine the books for a WHOLE NIGHT, to look for any errors, BEFORE printing.  Tomorrow we'll be slinging paper in the lab, and the book will debut at SPX September 10th and 11th in Bethesda, Maryland!

Also, things are going to be CRAZY around here with the start of the semester and SPX, so it looks like it won't be available until AFTER the show.  Really, that's the soonest that we will actually have time to fill all the orders, etc. etc.  Sorry for the delay, but please know that it will be worth the wait!  This issue is a zinger!

It's off to proofreading we go!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Drop Target 3 is coming together...

Here's what most of today looked like for me:

Sitting in front of the computer, working on Drop Target #3 - the Classics issue!  It's all coming together.  Assuming we don't lose power all day tomorrow, it should all be done by the end of Sunday night.  Either way, it'll definitely be printed up and available for ordering by the end of next week.

Hang in there everyone, I think this one's going to be worth the wait!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ryan Claytor's got pinball fever!

Many years ago, at a long-forgotten comic convention I met a very friendly guy named Ryan Claytor.  Ryan leads a very similar life, when compared to Jon and I.  He self-publishes his own minicomics and like us, he teaches comics, though at Michigan State University and The University of Michigan Flint.  But the similarities don't stop there, because recently Ryan has been getting REALLY into pinball!

He recently posted a list of the top five most enjoyable educational and/or helpful pinball resources that he has found in recent months.  I'm proud to say that Drop Target was his #1 resource!

This summer Ryan went on a tour, promoting his excellent Elephant Eater comics, and he is now posting entries from his tour diary, which also include all of the pinball machines he played while he was out on the road!

The first tour post covers Kentucky and Tennessee, and MAN does Ryan manage to find some awesome machines out there!  If you are living in those areas, definitely check out this post to make sure you're not missing out on some awesome pinhalls.  I look forward to seeing the rest of Ryan's tour diary, so I can learn about some more of the great pinhalls that are scattered across the country.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Slowly but surely...

As you can see here, Jon was super busy last weekend, screen printing the covers for Drop Target #3.  The number of finished interior pages is starting to climb and we should be done with the issue in a few weeks. If all goes to plan, we will be debuting DTZ#3 at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland on the weekend of September 10th and 11th.

In pinball news, over on the PAPA blog they posted part 1 (of 4) of Classic Game Room's coverage of the 14th world pinball championships, which happened last weekend.  I was super bummed I couldn't make it this year, so it's great to see some video of the event.  The PAPA headquarters looks like an amazing facility.  Hopefully Jon and I can make it down there one of these days.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Hey Guys!  Things have been ba-zonkers here at Drop Target HQ.  We're getting all our ducks in a row for issue 3, which will be coming out next month.  I'll be posting some samples from what we've been working on later this week, but right now I wanted to post a link to a nice review we got from the good people at One Minute Zine Review.  You can listen to it here.  Thanks, guys!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Two Year Pinball Anniversary

For the last few weeks Jon and I have been teaching at the Center for Cartoon Studies Summer Workshops.  Today was supposed to be the workshop BBQ picnic, but it was rained out, so instead we hung out inside with the students.

As we were sitting around chatting this afternoon, it occurred to me that it was the EXACT SAME circumstances which drove Jon and me into the (now closed) pool hall across the street from the school, two years ago.  And it was there that we saw the Star Wars: Episode I pinball 2000 machine, which we became totally obsessed with.

It's hard to believe it's only been two years!  Since then we've become fairly good pinball players, we each own a pinball machine and have both learned a lot about fixing them up.  We also put out two issues of Drop Target.

Speaking of which, we are both rocking and rolling on issue three which should be out for SPX in mid-September.  Jon's already knocked out a big stack of pages and we're both working on Dream Machines and some of the spot illustrations.  It's exciting to be putting together a new issue.  It promises to be a good one!

Until then, good luck to everyone who will be playing in the PAPA Pinball World Championships next weekend!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Seattle Pinball Report

Claire and I just got back from a week-long trip to Seattle, where we spent some time with my family and saw her friends Jon and Dana get married.  As ever, I had one eye open for pinball machines while we were wandering around SeaTown.

Monday was a rough start to the trip.  Boston airport?  Dry.  Atlanta airport?  Nothing.  SeaTac airport?  No pinball machines that I could find!  But then the next day my Dad took us down to the Georgetown area of South Seattle to get some lunch, and while we were waiting for the place to open, I found a 1978 Charlie's Angels machine at a bar called The Mix.  I put up a score of like 100,000.  Here's a photo of my Dad giving it a try:

Next we went around the corner to the Fantagraphics Book Store where Claire and I and Liz Prince (who was also on the trip) bought some books and records.  As we were leaving the store I noticed that they had one of Jim Woodring's FRANK backglasses on the wall, which we have blogged about before.  It was so cool seeing one in real life - it looks GREAT!  I hope someone will build the whole machine.

The next day Claire and Liz and I ended up at the great pinball bar Shorty's which had the regular assortment of awesome machines, but this time they also had Rolling Stones and the brand new Tron!  I hadn't played either of these machines yet, so I was stoked to try them out.  Mini review: Rolling Stones was not fun to play.  I personally hate the music of the Rolling Stones, but I still found it annoying that songs I started by hitting a shot would then be abruptly cut off by hitting other shots.  The (Mick Jagger?) narration was totally obnoxious and I couldn't believe that so many parts were simply plastic cut outs that were standing up.  Most of them were already snapped off on the machine I was playing on, and that game is only a year or so old.  Ugh.  I will not be playing that game again, unless I am stranded somewhere and it is the only machine around.  Tron on the other hand was totally fun and had some really tricky shots.  It felt like a simple playfield layout that was still challenging.  While at Shorty's I got a replay on Avatar and Medieval Madness (natch!)

On Friday Claire and Liz and I went to a movie at the Bellevue Square Mall (or the one across the street, the lincoln-something mall?)  The lobby of the movie theater had a Simpsons pinball machine, but it was out of order.  As we were leaving the theater, we hit an upscale arcade that was attached to a bowling alley below the theaters.  I searched for a pinball machine, but all I could find was an Ultra Pin machine:

The basic idea of an Ultra Pin machine is that there is a giant video game in the shape of a pinball machine.  The "backglass" has a monitor in it, which can display an image of a real backglass and a dot matrix display (or alpha numeric display) emulator.  The "playfield" is actually a giant flatscreen monitor, which can be set up for about ten different pinball machines.  Supposedly the machine is rigged to respond to bumps and nudges.

I bought two credits ($1 for the credits, $2 for the card which carried the credits - UGH)  This was my first time playing video game pinball, so I set the machine to Medieval Madness so I could compare it to my own real MM machine, or the MM I played at Shorty's less than 48 hours before.

In my humble opinion The Ultra Pin is a giant pile of digital crap.  It seems like something a video game company threw together overnight, using a bunch of 20 year-old programmers who have never played a real pinball machine in their lives.  The (ENTIRELY DIGITAL) flippers were somehow LESS responsive than real mechanical flippers (??!) and had a crazy 0.5 second delay that made gameplay almost impossible. Also the playfield was stretched and squashed to fit the monitor, screwing up all of the trajectories of the shots.  The flippers flipped up way too high and the machine did NOT respond to bumps and nudges.  Also the slingshots did not behave like ANY pinball machine I have ever played.  Bounces that clearly should have fired them did nothing.  I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  It totally sucked.  It is not pinball.  Not even close.

I'm pretty sure most of my gripes could be fixed by simply consulting someone who has actually PLAYED these games in real life.  Hopefully this company will do just that and improve future versions.  As it stands now, it's a real shame that Williams signed off on this project and allowed its creative property to be misused like this.  You would hope they would have gotten to test it out.  I can't believe they did, or some of these problems would have been fixed.  

I will never play an Ultra Pin again.  I'll save my $3 for a real pinball machine, thanks.

That night we had the rehearsal dinner, which coincidently was at a pizza restaurant in Georgetown, across the street from The Mix!  I headed back in at got a 287,000 on Charlie's Angels (hit all the drop targets at the top and on the right, plus got all the top lanes, which felt good).  Then on Saturday, I dropped Claire and Liz off for pre-wedding stuff and headed back to Shorty's where, after an hour of trying I finally got a replay on Tron on my very last game.  I also got a match, but had to leave the two credits for some other pinhead.  I had to get to the wedding!  

On Sunday, which was our last day in Seattle, I finally made the trip down to the Seattle Pinball Museum, which was EASILY the pinball highlight of trip.  I have added it to our "PINHALLS" list on the right sidebar of this blog so you can easily find information for it next time you are in Seattle!

Here is the entrance, with a sandwich board out front so you know what awaits you inside.  This is only a few blocks from the International District bus/light rail stop.  It's a $7 admission fee and then all the machines are set to Free Play.

Inside the machines are lined up in chronological order, by release date.  This first wall was mostly elecromechanical machines, and a lot of them have information cards on top of the back boxes, so you can learn more about the machines.  I went right down the line and played them in order.  It was really cool seeing how certain innovations were introduced and how the designs got more and more complex.  I also finally got to play Four Million B.C. which is the first game I've played with "Zipper Flippers" which close up the center drain gap when you hit a certain target.  Super fun! 

On the other wall were some games with alphanumeric displays, all the way up to modern day Stern machines (I played everything except Rolling Stones).  You can also see the upstairs area in the above photo, which I got a tour of during my visit.  I gave the owner some copies of Drop Target #1 and #2 which he seemed to really dig, so he showed me around the museum and told me about his plans to expand into the upper level with some more machines.

Lastly I took this photo of some great side art from old machines.  The Seattle Pinball museum also had a ton of backglass art hanging on the wall, which was great to see.  This place already has an awesome start and it sounds like it is just going to get better and better.  The staff was super friendly and there were a ton of families and kids in there on Sunday.  I hope this place will be around for a long time so I can visit it every time I come home to Seattle to visit my folks.  If you are in the area, I HIGHLY recommend swinging by to check it out!

Claire and Liz and I had red-eye flights back to the east coast on Sunday night.  At the SeaTac airport we saw one of those interactive wall screens that was running a hotel ad in the form of a playable pinball machine, with the theme of a hotel lobby.

It played about as well as the Ultra Pin, with a second-long delay between when you touched the flippers and when they flipped.  As you can see, Liz was not amused.  The graphics were pretty neat I guess, and it's cool that a major hotel chain would think to use pinball to promote their services, but I am officially super NOT into video pinball.

Claire and I flew out of Seattle at 1am and landed in Minneapolis three hours later.  We only had a 20 minute layover to catch our flight to Boston, which was on the other side of the airport.  As we were dashing along a moving walkway I saw a small arcade area with THREE pinball machines (Nascar, the Stern Indiana Jones machine and... one other one I couldn't make out).  It was heartbreaking...  Finally, an airport with pinball, but no time to play!  Next time Minneapolis, next time!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Custom Re-themed Pinball Machines

(click on image to view larger)

A few weeks ago, my friend Liz Prince sent me a link to a blog post about this awesome custom-made Akira pinball machine.  In the image above on the left, you can see an image of the original playfield, which was a 1980 Buck Rogers machine.  Then, some very talented artist (I tried to follow the links but couldn't find the original source for this image - Tumblr - UGH!  If you know who did this, let me know and I'll put up a link) re-themed the playfield art for the anime Akira.

This is SO tastefully done!  Most of the scoring stuff is still the same, it's just that the characters and backgrounds have been replaced.  Jon and I saw a few re-themed machines at the Pinball Wizard Arcade that were based on Boston-area sports teams (the Red Sox, the Celtics).

I think this is such a cool idea, especially for old machines, where there was no sound yet, and all the targets just award points.  This is on my list of "someday" projects.  It would basically allow you to have a custom pinball machine about whatever you want.  Talk about a dream machine!  Does anybody know of any other custom re-themed pins?  Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pinball Videos Galore!

The Crazy Flipper Finger gang just posted their first "PAPA Style" tournament video over on their blog.  This is pretty exciting!  I love watching these videos, not only because it's great to watch competitive pinball in action, but also because it teaches me a lot about the game that the players are competing on.

Also, if you haven't seen one yet, starting with the new Stern Batman game, PAPA's video tutorials are now in widescreen format, with multiple view points (birds eye, flipper view, dot matrix).  They are best viewed in full screen mode with HD on.  Check them out!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Well people, TODAY I FINALLY BEAT MEDIEVAL MADNESS!!!  It was, without a doubt, the craziest game of pinball I have ever played.  Below you can read all the details...

For most of this summer, my schedule has been thus: From 9am - 1pm I work on Basewood, then I go home, eat lunch and answer emails, and then at 2pm I go play pinball for about 30 minutes (or an hour if I have a good game!).  Today I was puttering around the house for a bit in the morning, so I didn't get to the studio until 10am.  I worked until noon, and then on a whim decided to play pinball BEFORE my lunch, instead of after.  Oh what a difference a few hours made!

I booted up the machine and put three credits on it.  On my first game I got 122 million, lighting all of the blue lights except for Castle Crusher - I died with just a few gate hits left to complete.  A few weeks ago when I was doing some circuit board repair work on the machine, most of the high scores were reset (all except for my Grand Champ score of 215 million) so this was the new #2 score.  Usually if I have a good game, I stop playing, because I usually can't top it.  But it was my FIRST game, so I decided to play another.  Little did I know it was going to be the game of my LIFE!

Ball 1 lasted FOREVER.  When it was over I had a 42x bonus that cashed in at something like 25 million points, which left my score at 96 million.  On that ball I had the best castle multiball I've ever had - completing all five ramp shots AND the super jackpot with all three balls still in play.  I hit all of the subsequent jackpot shots except for the left joust by the time it was over.  With that extra ball I got into my first Royal Madness, which I screwed up pretty quickly.  Little did I know it would be the first of FOUR Royal Madness rounds for this game.

I kept making shots and kept going for the castle gate.  I got video mode and successfully killed enough vultures to get the extra ball, and soon thereafter I lit Royal Madness again - this time I cleaned up.  Every time I hit a shot, the corresponding blue light came on.  I completed all the shots (for ANOTHER extra ball) and by the end of it, all the blue lights were on except for Castle Crusher.

I only had the King of Payne's castle left to destroy, so I built up the SECOND Castle Multiball, and then when I started it, I used all three balls to attack the gate, which worked great.  I didn't win the round, but I did blow up the last castle.  When the multiball was over, I was all set for Battle for the Kingdom.  I sank the center shot and the final mode started up.

Now, I have made it to Battle for the Kingdom half a dozen times at this point.  The first two or three times I had no idea what was going on, and I was so terrified I would lose immediately.  The last couple of times though, I figured out what I needed to do.  So when the four balls started launching, I immediately set to work hitting shots.  I was on FIRE.  I cleared all of the jackpots in short order (because I KNEW there was a timer running this time!)  All I had left was the left joust.  I hit that (STILL with THREE balls in play!) and then the two trolls shot up and all the blue lights started strobing.

I have died here at least three times, but THIS time I had saved some troll bombs.  BLAM!  BLAM!  Those suckers were gone, and I still had three balls and plenty of time to get my six gate shots.  The multiball attack worked wonders and I got my shots with plenty of time to spare.  The gate opened and I hit the final center shot.

Suddenly, the flippers went dead and thunk thunk thunk my three balls drained.  I was like, "HUH?!" and then the King of Payne started screaming, and I was awarded FIFTY MILLION POINTS.  There was a cool animation with all of the peasants celebrating the King's downfall, I managed to snap a shot of it with my cell phone:

Then the game entered some sort of crazy victory lap mode, where all the jackpots were lit and each one gave me some ungodly amount of points (5 million?)  I only hit three of them before the ball drained.  At this point my score was something like 275 million, SHATTERING my previous high score.

But the game was not over!  I still had an extra ball, and was miraculously, somehow still only on Ball 2.  I went back to work.  I got the extra ball for blowing up the "second" castle (though it was really the EIGHTH), and another for completing my 10th hurry up, which somehow I had not done up to that point.  I lit Royal Madness again, had another Castle Multiball, had another video mode and then lit Royal Madness AGAIN.  At the very end of the game I realized that I only needed one more catapult item to start barnyard multiball.  I started that (which was CRAZY) just before my last ball finally drained.  When the dust settled, my final score was 377,204,710 points.  Which means that even AFTER I had beaten the game, I put up another 100+ million points!?!

Not only did I set the new Grand Champ score, I got the first King of the Realm ever entered into the machine, and records for 11 Castles, 7 Jousts, 7 Catapults, 7 Peasants and 7 Damsels.  I suspect it will be some time before I touch those records again!  I've never beaten a pinball machine before - this is the first time.  It is a pretty amazing feeling.  I've now seen everything this machine can do, but you can always get a higher score, right?  Well, here's to trying!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

More pinball finds from the Quechee Antique Mall!

My old comics pal Liz Prince is in town for a few days, so Claire and I took her up to the Quechee Antique  Mall to look around.  Once again I found some pretty cool pinball stuff for sale!

First I spotted two bagatelle-type games, where you send a marble up a simple playfield with pins and wires and little indentations which redirect or capture the ball.  First was "Kick-Back" and the second was "Trik-E-Shot."  Both had really great looking designs:

Next up was a Smoky backbox, inexplicably detached from the rest of the machine.  It would have been cool to see the whole thing.  I think this was going for like $200?

Lastly was an Atomic Pinball, which was recently reviewed by Classic Game Room (that's a link to a video where you can see this tiny pinball machine in action)

I didn't buy any of these items, but it was just cool seeing them mixed in with all the other artifacts.  It seems like there is a pinball collector in this area, who keeps putting items from their collection up for sale.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Yesterday I visited my sister in Worcester, MA.  On the way back, I got to go to the Pinball Wizard Arcade in Pelham, NH.  We've already written here and here about how much we here at Drop Target HQ love the Pinball Wizard Arcade.  Owner Sarah St. John runs a tight ship, and all the machines were in perfect order.  There were a couple of new machines, including Hook (Data East), Riverboat Gambler (Williams), and TRON!!!!! (Stern).

I was told that the machine had gotten there a day earlier; it was in perfect working order!  This will probably the closest to "out-of-box" that I'll ever get to playing a game.  Here are a couple of my quick reflections on the game.

The shots felt real smooth and satisfying.  I didn't have a problem figuring out the timing and position on a lot of the shots except one.  In the center rear of the playfield there was a gate with targets that protected a spinning light disc that you need to hit to start multiball.  For the life of me, I could not hit the shot from the right flipper.  I know that there are tons of shots on almost EVERY pinball game that can only be hit from one flipper, but since the disc is pretty centrally located, I kept on trying to hit it from the right.  Take all this with a grain of salt.  I'm NOT the best player, an might just have been eff-ing it up.

I loved the music and the color scheme.  The sound effects were really great.  I could tell the video effects on the dot matrix screen were really good, but my eyes were glued to the game, so I didn't get a good look.  I had a great time playing the game.

The only other thing that I didn't 100% love about the game was that more than once I had NO idea what the game wanted my to shoot at.  I started a couple multiballs without knowing it.

Again, I'm not the best player in the world, and I only got to play 2 games.  The game was, understandably, really popular.  I really hope that I get the chance to play it again soon so I can get a better impression on what the deeper gameplay is like.

Friday, July 1, 2011

NY Times Covers the National Pinball Museum!

My buddy Pat Barrett sent me this NY Times article today all about The National Pinball Museum and its recent woes.  It sounds like an amazing place.  Hopefully I'll get to visit it in a new venue this Fall, when I head to D.C. for the Small Press Expo or maybe it will still be in its current location.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pat Wilson plays pinball!

I woke up this morning to find the following picture tweeted by Patrick Wilson, the drummer of my all-time favorite band, Weezer:

Weezer should totally write a pinball song.  Pinball's nerdy right?  It would fit perfectly with "In the Garage" - a place where many people keep their pins!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pinball Violence in Movies No. 1

One of the saddest things, EVER, is to see an innocent pinball machine maimed, scorched, dropped, or otherwise destroyed in a movie.  Pinball is such a good, innocent, pure form of fun, that a pinball machine getting destroyed in a movie can mean one of two things:

-The person doing the pinball destruction is pure, unadulterated evil. 
-S*** is getting REAL!

I don't know where this unimaginable glut of pinball machines comes from!  I'll take them off your hands for you, Hollywood!  Sigh...  I present to you No. 1 in my museum of pinball violence:  Lasterblast.

The basically sums it up.  Billy is a wimp, comes across an alien laser, it bonds to him, and turns him dag-nasty evil.  This is a really weird movie that I think they did a mystery science 3000 episode about.  The pinball scene happens pretty far into the movie.  Billy is pretty far gone at this point.  The scene cuts to him, and with NO provocation...


He lets loose his lasers!  The machine is clearly outside in a parking lot, but in the next scene he's running out of a building, so I guess the machine was inside.  Since he doesn't destroy anything else inside, he was clearly on a pinball assassination mission.  Maybe he was so frustrated that he couldn't put up a decent game with his ugly laser arm.  You can watch the scene here (it's about 6:50 in.)  What gets me the most is how sudden it is!

There's also a scene where billy blows away a Star Wars billboard, which just leads me to believe that he is literally going after everything I love and hold dear!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


One of the coolest things to see out in the wild is a bank of pinball machines that are all in great working order.  That's a pretty big "duh", am I right, players?  What's even cooler, though, is when that group of machines (and it doesn't need to be a LOT of machines, mind you) are all THEMATICALLY related.  I recently had the good fortune to be in Portland, ME for the Maine Comics Arts Festival (MeCAF).  I had gotten a lead the week before from the owner of Casablanca Comics that he was thinking of bringing in  Hulk and Buck Rogers pinball machines into his shop.  By the time me and my posse rolled up, he hadn't, but very nicely pointed me in the direction of Coast City Comics.   Both shops were AMAZING comics shops, but Coast City delivered on the goods.  In the back were four machine, three of which turned on:

-Monster Bash
-Batman (Stern, the one not turned on...)
-Nightmare on Elm St.
-Elvira Scared Stiff

What a lineup!
Besides Batman, the other machines were in PERFECT working order.  I can't stress how clean, and how well these machines played!  It was like they were fresh from the box.  I had never played Monster Bash or Nightmare on Elm Street, both were a lot of fun, but Monster Bash was AMAZING!  What I loved most about these machine, though, is that they all share a theme!  It added a real touch of class that all the pinball machines had something in common.  Since there are so many machines are based on properties, it stands to reason that you could simply round up a number of similar themed properties within a genre and get the machines based on those properties!  It makes me think about what other cool pinball groups you could make...

Whitewater, Gilligan's Island, Fish Tale, No Good Gofers

Attack From Mars, Black Hole, Space Shuttle, Apollo 13

I could do this all day!  Anybody out there have any good pinball theme combos?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pinball Ownership: YEAR ONE

Well, it has been exactly ONE YEAR since I bought my Medieval Madness pinball machine.  As some of you might know, I enjoy being somewhat organized, and so I am here to say that I have kept meticulous records of all of my pinball spending over the last year!  Let's see how it all breaks down...

First off, let me just say that I am going to ignore the large sum of money I initially spent to buy the pinball machine.  I knew I was never going to pay that off, and I was happy to pay it, to bring this machine into my life.  In looking through all my receipts I was more interested in knowing if the machine was bringing in enough money to sustain all the tools and parts I had to buy, to fix up the machine.

The Center for Cartoon Studies graciously lets me keep my machine in their media room, which is adjacent to the senior studio space.  CCS students have 24-hour access to this space, and they have been playing A LOT of pinball over the last year!  Jon and I both donate half of the money made by the machines back to the school (in the form of the April Fog Memorial Scholarship) but even so, the machine brought in $692.50

The biggest expense was PARTS.  My Medieval Madness machine was in AMAZING shape, but it still needed a little work, like all pins do!  In the last year I have put in LEDs for all of the computer-controlled lights, rerubbered the playfield, put in all new coil sleeves, replaced both troll stand-up targets, replaced the castle gate, as well as a million other little repairs as the game broke and needed parts to be repaired or replaced.  Total cost for one year of parts:  $534.26

The other main expense was TOOLS.  I pretty much had to start from scratch here.  Pinball maintenance requires some very specific tools (soldering gear, digital multimeter, etc.) as well as some very basic stuff that I did not have, like a ratchet set.  Hopefully I'll only have to buy this stuff once (unless more of my mail is stolen!) so I see this as a solid investment in the future of the machine's wellbeing:  $244.52
Okay, kids, it's MATH TIME!
- $534.26
- $244.52
  - $86.28
Well, I don't know about you, but I think $86 is a very reasonable price to pay for one year of a fun new hobby.  I learned a lot about fixing up pinball machines and about electronics and circuit boards and all kinds of other things.  Plus I got to play a lot of pinball and share it with a bunch of other people.  Again, I'm not counting the initial cost of the machine here (or other side stuff like pinball DVDs) but even with that stuff added in, it's been a total blast operating this machine, and I look forward to another year keeping it in the best shape I can!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New DTZ Readers and Their Pin-blogs!

Another cool aspect of our recent spike in Drop Target orders, is getting to know some of our new readers!  I thought I'd share two of their sites with you all.

First up is Tyler Hollback, who recently started the Pindiana blog, in which he will be documenting machines on location in the midwest.  So if you live in that part of the country, check it out to find where some pins are located "in the wild."  It also looks like Tyler will be talking about repairs on a few pins that he owns.  Good stuff!

Second, from Portland, Oregon, is Paul Nama, who has a small site where he has been documenting a few pinball machines that he has built himself!  Above, you can see one of the coolest things he has done, which is to project the playfield art onto a blank playfield surface.  This allows him to change the graphics at will, incorporate animation, etc.  It's kind of like Pinball 2000 taken to the extreme!  (Pinball 2011?)  Anyway, check out the rest of his site to see his process.  It's pretty cool stuff!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 = THE BEST!!!

Oh man, most of you pinballers probably already know about but just in case you DON'T, Jon and I can tell you how awesome it is.  We are both still on a big "Repair Rampage" right now, fixing up our machines, and in the last week we have both used this valuable resource to help out with our endeavors. is a usenet group (which is like an online bulletin board system, which was developed at the end of the 1970s). This one is devoted to pinball, and there are a LOT of users on there!  Jon and I have been using the Google Groups version of the group, and it is extremely easy to use.  It's basically works the same way as Gmail, and is fully searchable, with entries going all the way back to 1990.  It is a vast repository of pinball knowledge!

Jon posted a question about getting a scan of some JP plastics and got a response within an hour.  I posted about some mid-playfield G.I. problems that have been plaguing my machine for the past few months and got some expert advice almost instantaneously.

It really seems like the main gathering place for the pinball community.  As I said at the start, most of you probably already know this!  But just in case you don't (as we didn't) I thought I'd put up this post.  I've also added a link in the "PINBALL RESOURCES" sidebar of this blog for easy access in the future!

Friday, June 3, 2011

FAQ: Subscriptions / The Future of Drop Target!

It's been a busy week here at Drop Target Zine headquarters!  Thanks to a link from the PAPA blog and a mention in Jim Schelberg's PinGame Journal email blast, we have been sending out a lot of zines to new readers.  Thanks to both of these great pinball organizations and welcome to our new readers!

One question we have been getting a lot is, "Do you guys offer subscriptions?"  I thought I'd just answer that here on the blog so that everyone will know our current and future plans for Drop Target.

As of right now, Jon and I have plans to make seven issues of Drop Target.  For each issue, we will do a first printing of about 400 copies, which have the screen printed covers and full color center spreads, which fold out - these will cost $5.00 each.  After those 400 copies are gone, we will make a second printing of each issue, with plain black and white covers and center spreads - these will only be $4.00 each.  Then, once all seven issues are out, we are going to make a print-on-demand collection of all seven issues, using (like I have done with my Phase 7 collections) which will have a full color cover, a perfect-bound spine and black and white interiors.

Because we only have seven issues planned, we are not going to offer subscriptions.  We will post on this site when new issues are available, and we also send out complementary copies to key members of the pinball community, with the hope that they will help us spread the word.  Hopefully everyone who is interested in the zine will have plenty of time to get a first edition copy of each zine.

Okay, I hope that clears everything up.  Feel free to leave a comment or shoot us an email if you have more questions!  And thanks again for checking out our zine.  We are already working on issue #3, which we hope will be out by the end of the summer!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Special When Lit - for FREE?!

I know that I might be super-duper late out of the gate on this one, but I just found that the (relatively) new pinball documentary Special When Lit can be seen, for free on Hulu.

Watch it here!

This movie is a real joy to watch!  The opening credits are completely AMAZING!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Big Repair Day!

Oh man, today was a big one.  Jon and I met up at noon and then spent SIX HOURS working on our pinball machines.  It was intense!  Here's a shot of Jon working on his machine in the background, and a pile of burnt out, filthy, junk parts that we had pulled from the machines.

Last week Jon posted all about getting the circuit board from his Jurassic Park expertly fixed by Sarah St. John at the Pinball Wizard Arcade in Pelham, New Hampshire.  That fixed a pop bumper coil and sling shot coil.  Then, today, Jon replaced both of the end-of-stroke switches and red caps on his flipper mechanisms.  He also took the plunge and put in a TON of LEDs for his computer controlled lights.

We also both put red rubber on the flippers (ironically, we both re-rubbered our entire machines with black rubber about a month before learning that white/red rubber is bouncier and more fun to play on than black rubber - ugh!)

Let me tell you, IT'S LIKE A WHOLE NEW MACHINE.  The flippers are fast and responsive, everything's working, it's so much easier to understand the modes and what to shoot with the brighter lights.  It's that great moment in restoring a machine when everything mechanical is finally working, and all that's left is the cosmetic / aesthetic restoration.  

Meanwhile, over on Medieval Madness, I went through the whole machine and replaced every single nylon coil sleeve.  I've seen this recommended on lots of different pinball blogs, but never got around to it until today.  I wish I had done it sooner.  It really breathes new life into the game.  Everything's running more smoothly.  It was also a good chance to learn more about each of these coils.  I found a couple that were starting to swell and will need to be replaced.  I also was able to CLEAN a lot of stuff.

I also went through and tried to replace some of the strain on my General Illumination circuits by replacing about a dozen #44 lamps with the cooler burning #47s and even a some LEDs under the ramps.  My mid-playfield G.I. string fried the triac on the driver board, so that will be my next repair, and hopefully these preventative measures will keep that from happening again in the future.  

ANYWAY,  it was super fun nerding out all day, wrenching on the machines.  Get your tools out on memorial day tomorrow and tune up those pins!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm just trying to fix my pinball machine!

STOLEN Multimeter!
Click here to read at full size!


Oh my GAWD, you guys!  Alec and I had the most amazing pinball vacation last Tuesday!  I'm sorry I haven't gotten around until now to talk about it, but we've both been out of town this weekend with our own little vay-cays (Alec already reported on the pinball-barren Montreal, but I'll report more about mine later!)

Sooo, in this post, Alec talked about the amazing time that he has at the Pinball Wizard Arcade in Pelham, NH.  This relatively new pinball / video game arcade is expertly run and maintained by Sarah St. John.  Let me preface this whole story by saying that she knows EVERYTHING about pinball machines and pinball repair.  Alec and I were exhausted from a busy week of doing thesis reviews and commencement activities at the Center for Cartoon Studies, and decided that a pinball break was just the thing we needed. 

In addition to running the Pinball Wizard Arcade, Sarah also does house calls to fix pinball machines, and does repairs during all hours to the machines in-house.  Since I've gotten my JP machine, the left pop bumper and left slingshot have NEVER worked.  I replaced the coil and he transistor, and TRIED to replace the damage to the burned traces on the CPU board, but so far, no luck!  I was afraid that the burn damage was too deep, or that I had botched it up.  I decided to bring my CPU board into Sarah and see if she could fix the traces.  We were pinbrawlers with a MISSION!

When we got to the arcade, we had about 2 hours before Sarah showed up, so we occupied ourselves with PINBALL!  Oh my god!  I was blown away by the a) quantity of games b) the quality of games, and c) the variety of games.  There were so many of my old favorites there, as well as machines that I have always wanted to sink my teeth in to!  I could go on and on about all the amazing games I played, but I'll mercifully condense it down to a list that got my pinball blood burning:

-Tales of the Arabian Nights
-Banzai Run
-Party Zone
-Doctor Dude
-Strange Science
-Lord of the Rings (which, believe it or not, I had never played until then)
-No Good Gophers
-Blackwater 100 (This game is BONKERS)

And that's just the tip of the ice burg.  After a while, Sarah St. John arrived at the arcade and we met up and talked pinball for a little bit before I went out to the car to bring in my CPU board.

Sarah promptly went to work and whipped out the digital multi-meter (a device used to gauge current / resistance / connectivity / etc) and checked the troubled components.  I was surprised to learn that I had actually done a fine job repairing the traces and replacing the transistor (good job me).  After running some tests, Sarah figured out that it was the PRE-driver to the transistor that was also shot, as well as a malfunctioning 7402 chip.  Holy Multiballs, Batman, she's a real wizard, and I would have never figured that out.  I'll take this opportunity to remind our readers at home that when I figured out how to replace the transistor and fix the power supply problems on the power board it took EVERY ounce of my cunning and smarts.  (I refer you to this picture).  For Sarah, this sort of stuff was like water off a duck's back.

When she suspected that the 7402 chip (which runs the pop bumpers and one of the slingshots) wasn't working, she took us up to one of her workshops that overlooks the arcade to test it.  The machine that she plugged the chip into to test it was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen (so far [that day]), and one of my only regrets about the trip was that we didn't get a picture of it.  It sort of looked like a computer tower laid on its side, with a whole ton of tiny holes punched in the top so that you could plug in a myriad of chips into it.

After confirming a bad 7402 chip, Sarah asked me if I wanted to see her workshop and the CPU board testing device.  Did I ever!  To my horror, though, I suddenly couldn't find Alec.  I was going bonkers trying to find him, but we must have been just missing each other.   I assumed we were just going to go around to the back of the building, or next door, or something, so I finally gave up and went with Sarah.

I'm going to take a break from my thrilling pinball repair tale to recount other awesome pinball tales that were happening concurrently.  While I was heading off to Sarah's workshop, Alec was having some quality time with an old friend.  Oh, you know, just a little darling named STAR WARS EPISODE ONE!!  If you're a regular reader of this zine / blog, you'll know that SWE1 is the wet nurse that weened us onto the wild world of pinball.  In true Alec fashion, he totally rocked that machine, and by the time I had gotten back, had secured a place on the High Score Board!

Way to go, Alec!

Meanwhile, I had arrived at Sarah's workshop, which was on her property.  Every room made me squeal with delight, every desk a pinball nerd's dream come true.  Every sort of machine, part, and tool were at her disposal, and that's not even mentioning the vast amounts of games just sitting around.  With every new room, I would say something like, "Wow, what a workshop!  This is bonkers!"  (I said bonkers a LOT that day.  Sorry Sarah!)  Sarah would reply with, "this isn't the workshop" or something like that.  I was completely blown away by the the sheer quanity of parts that were carefully organized and filed away.  I had been to houses of pinball collectors before, but this was the first time that I had seen such a complete and thorough workshop.

We finally ended up on the top floor in a huge room filled with these wild, huge machines.  There must have been 30, at least.  These, Sarah explained, were CPU testing devices that she had acquired through her years as an operator/collector.  With these, you can plug in your CPU board to test all of the features without having to plug it into a game.  Using a series of buttons, you can trick the board into thinking that you are rolling over switches, activating lamps, launching balls, WHATEVER, and then see how the board reacts.  You can fix / test a board for someone whose game you might not have, and is 1000 miles away!

Each of these machines correlated with a different era of machine from different manufacturers.  Sarah found the one for Data East machines.  With the new 7402 chip installed, the board tested out A OK!!!

(Here's the one for my board!)

However, Sarah is super-duper thorough, and offered to take the CPU board back to the arcade and plug it into the Jurassic Park machine that she had on the floor of the arcade and test it there.  What a class act!  I was really touched by her thoroughness and her enthusiasm.  Once we got back to the arcade, we popped in the board and started up the game.  There was something charming, but also a little nerve-wracking about plugging in my CPU board into someone else's game.  It's not like the board carried anything malignant, or anything like that.  It just goes to show Sarah's confidence in the repair.  Everything, naturally, worked like a charm.

High-fives were had, pizza was shared, and Alec and I played out the rest of our tokens.  We had some awesome games (including this crazy 2-player game on Rescue 911 where we both replayed on the same game!)  All-in-all, there aren't enough good things I can say about Sarah, her staff, her know-how, her collection, or her arcade.  I know that Alec already reviewed the arcade, and I had sort of meant for this to be my take on it, but I realize that this has just materialized into a love letter to the Pinball Wizard Arcade.  I'm not sorry, though, I can't recommend this place highly enough!  One of my favorite arcades of all time!!  Thank you Sarah for your hospitality!