Rediscovered: Once Upon A Dime

In 2003, Mark Hamill had an idea. Working with Creative Light Productions, he would bring some of his best friends in the voice-over industry to the San Diego Comic-Con and shoot a mockumentary. Armed with cameras and sent all over the exhibit hall, Comic Book the Movie is a fun piece almost overstuffed with bits from talent like Jess Harnell, Roger Rose, Billy West, and Hamill himself. It’s also a who’s who of cult actors — even Bruce Campbell shows up for a bit. Looking back on it now, it’s also a terrific love letter to the way Comic-Con International was just before it really exploded — and before Hall H opened.

Hamill played Donald Swan, a high school English teacher from the midwest who was also a superfan of a golden age comic book character named Commander Courage. Incensed that a new publisher had done a grim and gritty version that was about to get a movie adaptation, Swan and his fanzine partner Derek Sprang (Tom Kenny) found the original creator Jackson Whitney’s grandson (West) and was determined to pull the rights back to the people who really loved Commander Courage.

As part of the film’s promotion, Creative Light asked me to work on a website purporting to be “Donald Swan’s” fanzine archives — Once Upon a Dime. A mixture of serious fanzine articles and false comics history, OnceUponADime.com was a blast, but on its own it is no more. But I pulled as many articles as I could over to Fanboy Planet 2.0, and now that we’re on 3.0, it’s time to update it again, so you can at least get a taste of the serious comics shenanigans we were up to — including design work from Mish’al Samman, and articles by Christopher J. Garcia, Daniel DeFabio (who co-edited), Jason Sacks, Carr D’Angelo, and myself.

Commander Courage was drawn by Tony Loco creator Mark Teague, and he supplied enough fake covers and pictures to help give the right air of verisimilitude to Mark Hamill’s dream. Check it out.

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About Derek McCaw
In addition to running Fanboy Planet, Derek has written for ActionAce, Daily Radar, Once Upon A Dime, and The Wave. He has contributed stories to Arcana Comics (The Greatest American Hero) and Monsterverse Comics (Bela Lugosi's Tales from the Grave). He performs with ComedySportz San Jose and ShakesBEERience, in addition to occasional screenwriting and acting jobs. If you ever played Eric's Ultimate Solitaire on the Macintosh, it was Derek's voice as The Weasel that urged you to play longer. Email him at editor@fanboyplanet.com.