The Umbrella Academy mug thanks you for the coffee.

The Pipeline Review Challenge: A Mug

The following is a reprint from a column on November 18, 2008. I’ve cleaned it up a tad and reformatted it for this site.

I’ve been writing this column long enough that nearly nothing surprises me or leaves me at a loss for words. OK, that bit about Gareb Shamus serving on Platinum’s board of advisors is so loaded with punch lines that my overwhelmed brain still can’t pick just one. But that’s a different situation.

This week, Dark Horse is challenging me. They sent me a mug.

When someone sends you a mug for possible review, how do you respond? I admire the thought process which leads a marketing department to send a reviewer a mug in a box. It’s like they’re poking me. They’re daring me to say something about it.

“Here. Take this mug. Drink from it. Experience it. Review it.”

Dark Horse, I accept your challenge!


But How?

How does one review a mug, though? It’s a hunk of dried clay, fired at hot temperatures, from which you’re meant to drink hot chocolate or coffee.

I don’t drink coffee. And my sugar free hot chocolate packets are a year old. I need to freshen those up.

Coffee mugs have long been an easy gift item, to the point where nobody gives them anymore because everyone already has too many. It’s like the cheap t-shirt giveaway you might see at a high tech meeting or convention. But Dark Horse is trying to sell this item to you for $12.99. It’s my job as a serious web critic and bon vivant to advise you as to whether it’s worth your hard-earned savings.

The Umbrella Academy Mug

Umbrella Academy mug with its umbrella logo


I’m talking specifically here about a mug related to “The Umbrella Academy” by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba. It’s the fun and quirky mini-series of the last year focusing on a group of super-powered kids, a talking monkey, a monocled leader, and the dangerous power of music.

The series skips around the timeline a little bit and features a leading cast of nearly a dozen characters, so read it all in one go for maximum impact. (The trade paperback edition is out now.) It is crazy fun.

The mug that I’m looking at this week made its most famous appearance in the fifth issue of the mini-series, as carried around by that talking monkey.

Is this mug, then, a loss leader for the second “The Umbrella Academy” mini-series, which debuts next week? Maybe Dark Horse is playing games with my mind through the vessel of hot beverages known as “the mug?” Should I expect a “Hellboy” pencil sharpener in advance of the next “B.P.R.D.” mini-series?

Shall I Describe the Mug?

It’s a cute mug — jet black, with a logo on the outside, and the words “Thank you for the coffee” written on the bottom of the inside part of the mug. I like the imagination there. I like the creativity. The font is instantly legible. The logo outside is easily associated with the property (and perhaps an insurance company.)

Dark Horse's Umbrella Academy mug packaging box


I like the box it came in, not because it’s corrugated cardboard and thus strong enough to package a mug in for minimal breakage. I like the Gabriel Ba artwork of a monkey in a suit, lifted straight out of the fifth issue. I like the way the art wraps around the box, with nice design choices on the other half. It’s colorful. It’s glossy. It opens easily to reveal the ebony chalice.

I even got a giggle out of the product warning, thanks to the State of California, which warns you that some hazardous chemicals were used in the making of the mug.

What more could you ask for? It’s an honest and legally-proper mug, after all. If a doctor diagnoses me with cancer tomorrow, the State of California will likely “tsk” and say, “Toldja so.”


Shall I Drink of the Mug?

I field tested the mug. I filled it up with water — a clear beverage that would allow me to see through it to any defects in the cup. No problem.

An Umbrella Academy Mug and the water it holds.

How can you tell that my daughter was only a month old when I wrote this? Three little hints.


I measured the liquid to see how much the mug can hold comfortable. It filled three and three-quarters four-ounce baby bottles. (Hey, you use what you have handy sometimes.) The box states the mug can hold 11 ounces, and my tests confirm that. Problem is, you can’t pick up the mug without a very steady hand without spilling something. So stick with ten ounces, max, when you fill this bad boy up.

My right hand holds the mug. For Scale.


The handle fit in my hands and allowed me to tilt the mug to my lips. No problem. My freakishly large hands might dwarf the mug, so keep proportions in mind with that picture.

It delivered the refreshment from the mug to my mouth. When I was done, it sat flat on a table and continued to hold the liquid within.

What more could you ask for from a mug?


Cleaning the Mug


I haven’t washed it. I’m afraid I might chip it or dull the polish. I know that, as a reviewer, I’m supposed to do that. But we don’t fold comics in half after we read them to test their durability, do we? Thankfully, no comic has needed that since the “indestructible” comic covers made of Tyvek in the early- to mid-90s from Continuity Comics. They’re indestructible, all right; they’re also available in a quarter bin somewhere today.

When I use the mug again, I’ll give it a thorough bath in hot soapy water and let you know how it works out.


Mug Summary

So, the mug. It’s cute. It functions properly. It’s sleek and shiny. It’s everything you could ask for in a mug. I give it four out of five stars, docking it one star for not featuring a monkey on the mug, itself. Who doesn’t love a good monkey-with-a-monocle?

“Umbrella Academy: Dallas” #1 (of 6) hits stores next Wednesday, the 26th of November. The first mini-series, “Apocalypse Suite” is available as a trade paperback today. The mug came out to the comic shops and novelty stores who ordered them last week.

And water has never tasted sweeter.

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