Ventura artist Daniel Horine creates comic book covers honoring baseball heroes
Come down from the sky, Superman and Spider-Man! You don’t need to put in overtime.
After all, there’s a new hero in town: the Commerce Comet.
His not-so-secret identity is Mickey Mantle.
And he’s on the cover of a comic book, thanks to Daniel Jacob Horine. The Ventura artist, who founded Pop Fly Pop Shop, is hitting home runs of his own by creating special comic book covers saluting baseball legends such as Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Don Mattingly and Nolan Ryan.
Mr. Horine, 43, blends sports and comic books histories with covers reminiscent of various eras of comic books.
The art is getting sports enthusiasts’ attention, to the point that Mr. Horine’s work has landed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
Specifically, the museum is displaying Mr. Horine’s creations of “The Curse of the Bambino” (Babe Ruth), “The Cobra” (Dave Parker), “Codebreaker: Dark Arts” (Houston Astros), “The Wizard” (Ozzie Smith), “The Green Monster” (Fenway Park), “The Big Red Machine” (Cincinnati Reds), “The Hawk” (Andre Dawson), “World Series 75: Waving it Fair” (Carlton Fisk), and “Rubberband Man” (Kent Tekulve).
“As a longtime baseball fan and artist, it’s a dream come true to have my artwork surrounded by sports history within the National Baseball Hall of Fame,” Mr. Horine said. “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to combine my love for baseball and passion for art into nostalgic works that people can enjoy, and to have that resonate with such a large, loyal community is an incredibly humbling experience.”
Mr. Horine’s special baseball covers started when a friend suggested he create a comic book-style piece based on former All-Star first baseman Will Clark of the San Francisco Giants,
Mr. Horine went on to create his popular digital prints and has operated Pop Fly Pop Shop out of his home since 2020. He sells them at popflypopshop.com for a base price of $50.
With help from his wife Areni, Mr. Horine sends customers the prints, created in the standard comic book size of 7 by 10.5 inches, in a brown bag similar to the ones used at comic book shops.
“The prints are available for one week only. Then the print is retired forever,” Mr. Horine said.
In addition to the comic book cover print, each bag contains old baseball cards. (Their 6-year-old son, Daniel Horine Jr., helps with tasks such as stacking the cards.)
“The art project is bigger than just the prints,” Mr. Horine told the News-Press. “The nostalgic experience is just as important to us.
“Our business card looks like a baseball ticket,” he said.
Mr. Horine has loved baseball since growing up in West Covina in Los Angeles County.
“My dad took me to a ton of Dodgers games,” Mr. Horine said.
But he admitted he was a better spectator than a player.
“In Little League, they tried to get me as far away from the ball as possible — in the far, far right field,” he said. “And I couldn’t hit the ball.”
But nothing deterred a love for art and baseball for Mr. Horine, a fan of Jack Kirby, the legendary Thousand Oaks comic books artist and writer.
Mr. Horine earned his bachelor’s in visual communication in 2009 at Platt College in Alhambra. That same year, he moved to Simi Valley and went on to work as an art director at a small animation studio in Burbank. Later he became associate creative director at LinkedIn’s office in Carpinteria.
Today Mr. Horine, who moved to Ventura in 2017, devotes all his time to the baseball covers, which he creates at home. He discussed his covers during the News-Press interview, beginning with Babe Ruth’s appearance on “The Curse of the Bambino.”
The supposed curse happened when the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, leading to a 1918-2004 dry spell in championships for the Red Sox.
Mr. Horine captures the horror of the curse with the cover.
“He (Babe Ruth) is peering out of the shadows,” Mr. Horine told the News-Press. “All you get is a visual of his face and his hand. Everything else is shrouded in darkness.
“He’s performing a curse with a literal red sock in front of him,” Mr. Horine said.
To honor Mickey Mantle, Mr. Horine created a cover called the Commerce Comet, which was one of Mr. Mantle’s nicknames. Mr. Horine illustrated that by creating a comet trail behind Mr. Mantle as he swings his bat.
Mr. Horine collaborated with longtime pitcher Randy Johnson, who played primarily for the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks, on a comic book cover honoring him.
Mr. Horine said he picks comic book styles from various decades to honor his baseball heroes. For example, he made his covers of Hank Aaron, Darryl Murphy, Rickey Henderson, Norman Wright and Randy Johnson in the style of 1980s comic books. For “The Curse of the Bambino” with Babe Ruth, he relied on a more 1930s/1940s style.
Today, Mr. Horine continues to hit home runs with his love for nostalgia.