Making a name in comic accessories. Props to this Litchfield artist.

As often happens, it appears to have started with mom.

But who would have guessed a few comic books would have led to becoming friends with Joe Hill — yes, THE Joe Hill — big-time commissions and representing at this weekend’s San Diego International Comic Con.

Israel Skelton talks about the evolution of his love for making comic book props, his favorites, his fears and what it takes to rule Asgard and Midgard.

Name: Israel Skelton

Age: 35

Town of residence:

Day job: Distribution supervisor for Geiger’s Manufactured Products Division.

Where did you get your love of comic books? My mom would sometimes stop and pick up comics for me on her way home from work when I was kid. I don’t even think I requested them, but every now and then she would bring a few home. I was pretty young, so she could have brought home “Casper” or “Hot Stuff,” but luckily for me she was cooler than that and introduced me to “Ironman” and “Swamp Thing.”

Did you have a big collection as a kid?
I thought so, and compared to some of my friends I did. But in reality, no more than a thousand comics at one time. Every few years, something else would grab my attention and I would give them to my younger brother. This probably happened three times. I’m not sure if I regret it or not. Every now and then I see a comic that I used to have commanding huge dollars, but what are you going to do? I collect hardcover graphic novels now, and have a pretty awesome collection. They are much easier to care for, and I still have a lot of the stories I loved when I was a kid.

Do you have a favorite character or series?
Spider-Man has to be my favorite character. I love the costume, his personal problems, the fact that he’s pretty average as superheroes go, but constantly gets tossed into situations where he is completely over his head. I love the struggle. My favorite series as a kid had to be the 12-issue mini-series “Secret Wars.” It had it all: Earth’s mightiest heroes pitted against its most insidious villains, the fate of the world hanging in the balance and a seemingly omnipotent and enigmatic grandmaster setting the rules. That series was the catalyst, and after that I was pretty much hooked.

What prompted you to start creating your own comic book props? Every kid at one point in their adolescence grabs a trash can lid and a stick to spar with their friends. That was never good enough for me. I wanted and created Captain America’s shield and Wolverine’s claws. Let’s just say we went through our fair share of Band-Aids.

Your first one? And are you still proud of it? My first prop was a replica of Thor’s hammer, “Mjolnir,” crafted from a wooden mallet. My parents purchased a swing set from Cedar Works when I was a kid, and it came with a cedar mallet to help with the assembly. To a kid, the thing was huge, and it resembled the thunder god’s hammer. With a little silver paint, some medical tape and a brown magic marker, I ruled Asgard and Midgard combined. OK, maybe just the back yard, but I was unstoppable. As for being proud of it, let’s just say it was a piece I had to revisit to get it right.

So, fast forward. You meet THE Joe Hill (A.K.A. author Joe King, Stephen King’s son) at a Bangor comic convention and the next thing you know his publishing company is asking you for your largest commission ever? What was the commission, and was it excitement or fear that flashed through your mind? Yeah, that’s pretty much how it went. Joe wanted me to do a small run of sterling silver Ghost Keys from his comic “Locke & Key” so he could send them out as Christmas gifts. One of the recipients of those keys happened to be Chris Ryall, the EIC of IDW comics. Chris then commissioned me to produce 500 in pewter as an exclusive for this year’s San Diego International Comic Con. It was a sizable job, and I was pretty excited, but more than anything I was flattered. Both Joe and Chris have talked me up on their blogs and were instrumental in making this happen. They’re great guys, and letting them down isn’t an option. As for being afraid, I only find two things unsettling: Great white sharks and Sasquatch.

When you made the prototype for the key, was there a surprising material or technique you used? I don’t believe so, I kind of treated this piece like I was fabricating a piece of jewelry. This piece was getting cast, so I could get away with crafting the prototype using a medley of different metals and clays. I will say, Gabriel Rodriguez’s killer (and consistent) art made the transition from 2-D to 3-D a lot easier.

Just wondering: Did you have any help putting that large order together or was it a one-man show? I always need help, and I’m extremely fortunate to be surrounded by some very cool and talented people. I’d list them, but this is supposed to be a short piece, and they already know who they are. They just may not realize how awesome they are. Thanks, guys.

Do you now have more orders/props in the works? I always have 10 irons in the fire, some I can’t talk about it right now, and some are just for me, but all I can say is stay tuned. I’m just getting started.

What would be your dream prop to create? I’ve always wanted to create Kal-El’s Kryptonian escape pod, or Batman’s 1940s Batmobile. The ’40s Batmobile on a turntable in my garage would kick serious butt, so let’s go with that.

What would be your dream job? I don’t know, that’s a tough one. I can say that whatever I’m doing has to tap into my creative side. If it doesn’t, I get rather bored.

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