Thursday, April 21, 2011

In Appreciation of -- Meeting Our Favorite Creators

Doug: This one's inspired by a comment frequent reader Redartz posted on our Walt Simonson Spotlight last week. He related a short anecdote about meeting and visiting with Simonson at a con when he was 16 (Redartz, not Walt). Today we'd like to hear more of that sort of thing, because let's face it -- meeting one of your idols and actually spending some time with them is way cool and never gets old.

Karen: Doug's asked me to kick this off, so I'll start with my meeting with Jack Kirby. It was at the San Diego Comic Con in 1975 -I was 10 years old, and a pretty quiet kid. I saw Kirby sitting at a table, with relatively few people around. Even though he had left Marvel before I started reading comics, I knew very well who he was from all of the reprint books Marvel put out. So I was, of course, in awe of him. Mom encouraged me to go get his autograph. He was very friendly, asked me my name and if I was having fun. I probably gave him just a word or two in response. Then he asked me who my favorite comics character was. Now I was ready to talk! I enthusiastically told him that my favorite was the Thing. He said the Thing was his favorite too! He was really wonderful and left a great impression.

Karen: In recent years I've had the opportunity to interview several comics creators that I grew up reading. I've spoken with Gerry Conway twice and he's just been a great guy both times; funny, easy to talk to, and very generous with his time.

Doug: As I posted a loooonngg time ago, I've gone to the Chicago Comicon (later Wizardworld Chicago) and various other shows and appearances meeting creators and getting some autographs. Four legends stick out in my mind: Stan Lee, John Romita, Sal Buscema, and Alex Ross. I met Stan only briefly -- if you've ever been to a con where he's been the guest-of-honor, then you know the lines that form when he is going to sign.
Even though I waited for a long time, and only got to exchange a pleasantry or two (mainly I just thanked him for everything he'd done for me -- and I mean that), I was just so amazed that the guy we now see on television, that boisterous huckster, was evident even at the signing table. Stan just seemed genuinely excited to be there and to meet his fans. A great experience. At the same con I met John Romita and Sal Buscema. They were at a table at the Marvel booth, seated next to each other. What a couple of gentlemen. I can't say enough about how kind they were, like a couple of grandfathers (which they were) -- very warm. At the time, which was maybe 2-3 years before John Buscema passed away, I ribbed Sal about bringing his big brother with him next time.

Doug: I later met Romita at an art gallery in the Gold Coast neighborhood in Chicago. He was appearing in promotion of the Spidey/Green Goblin lithograph that he had drawn and Alex Ross had painted. My friend Don Kramer and I went up to meet John. Again, he was just such a warm guy. Don and I were the only fans there at the time, so we had John's full attention, and he had ours. I bet we chit-chatted with him for 15 minutes, and it was just a great, great experience. And speaking of Alex Ross, Don and I first met him at a small show near O'Hare airport right after
Marvels #1 was released. That was back in Alex's longhair, long beard days! He was very humble, and who knew at the time the superstardom that was about to be his. He signed a few things and Don and I visited with him for a few minutes.
Years later, Alex had a gallery show in Chicago and Don and I went. By this time I'd met Alex several times, and Don had even been to the Halloween party that Alex hosts every year. So it was a bit more personal. Maybe the coolest thing about that trip was the presence of Alex's dad, Clark -- the model for Norman McCay in Kingdom Come. I'll admit, that was a little weird, seeing a 2-D character come to life!

Doug: Share an experience you've had -- and I suppose if you had a negative one that disappointed you, add that in as well. Thanks in advance, and again thanks to Redartz for the idea.


david_b said...

As for favorite creators, I've never gone to a comics con where they'd be, but through the wonders of Al Gore's Internet, I was able to email Steve Englehart a few times.

OK, I gushed a bit, but I heartfully thanked him for his splendid Bronze Age writing on Avengers and most definitely Cap & Falc's mag, which typically had me on the edge of my seat during the 'Secret Empire' saga.

He shared a lot of his rationale of how he wrote the characters and what ideas he pushed forward.

He just wrote so many characters SO WELL (Sam Wilson, Mantis, reintroducing Swordsman, the Defenders, you name it..). With the stories and the words he had them utter, he brought so much humanity and depth to 'em all.

I just find it extremely satisfying in life to extend your humble thanks to these folks who colored (and many times, created) your childhood imaginations.

Great subject.

dbutler16 said...

david_b (my name also) that is really cool that you were able to email Steve Englehart and that he obviously emailed you back in detail.
I've never met a creator, either. The closest I came was emailing Roy Thomas to wish him a happy birthday, just last year, and when he replied, he said my email had initially taken him aback because he had a friend in high school with the same name as me! My only other brush with a creator is chatting with Kurt Busiek on the DC message boards.
Anyhow, even though I've never met a creator, I love hearing about other people's encounters, and it especially makes me happy when I hear that the creators are actually nice guys!

Doug said...

dbutler --

I may have told the story here before, but years and years ago I'd met Julius Schwartz at the Chicago Con, and he seemed just a bit curmudgeonly. Now I know -- older guy, long day, etc. For some reason a few months later I wrote in and had a letter published in the Comics Buyer's Guide and referenced my encounter with Julie. Now, I did not do a rip job or anything -- in fact, if I recall I took the high road and remarked what a pleasure it was to meet a living legend, etc.

About two weeks later I got a Superman postcard in the mail -- from Julie Schwartz! I was just floored! I wrote him a huge thank you and mailed it to the DC offices. Well about another two weeks later, a different Superman postcard arrived, saying something to the effect of "Since you liked the first one so much, have another!"

Those are treasured pieces of my collection/library.


dbutler16 said...

That's awesome, Doug. It's awlays nice to get something personalized like that.

J.A. Morris said...

Most of my "con" days took place before they became a big business, we didn't get too many creators where I lived.
In 1985,Paris Cullins(not a "favorite creator",he was just a name on a cover to me) was the guest of honor. I didn't read Blue Devil,but Cullins was a nice guy(just chatting with us 13 year olds and not looking down on us), so I bought some Blue Devil issues & got him to sign. He never became a superstar artist,but it's a nice memory of my collecting days.

The only other meeting took place last November. I saw a flier announcing that Michael Golden would be appearing at the con here in Richmond, I made a point of marking my calendar weeks ahead of time. He was sitting at a table alone, very quiet, friendly guy. I bought several of his sketches as Christmas presents, got him to "personalize" all of them,bought his book 'Excess:The Art Of Michael Golden'. When our transaction was done,I told him that I hadn't been to a convention in 24 years(which was true) and that his presence was what brought me there. Then I said "thank you so much for all the great comics". He thanked me for that, I walked away. Seemed like a nice,down-to-earth guy, seemed to genuinely appreciate that I'd come out to meet him.

Edo Bosnar said...

Man, you lucky ducks! You got to meet Kirby, Lee, Romita Sr. & Sal between the two of you.
The first (and thus far only) creator I ever had the pleasure of meeting is Howard Chaykin - just last year in Zagreb. He was one of the guests (along with Stan Sakai, whom I did not, unfortunately, get the chance to meet) at the local annual comics and cartooning show. He held a few lectures, and on one day he spent about 2 hours in a local library meeting with fans. Since the comic community here is pretty small, and the connoisseurs of American creators is an even smaller sub-set, I got about 15 minutes of face time with him. He's a really friendly, funny and talkative guy. I told him how much I liked his work, not just the classic 70s stuff, and he seemed genuinely appreciative and grateful. He signed a few of my comics (the two issues of Marvel Premiere featuring Monark Starstalker and Dominic Fortune, plus the Iron Wolf reprint edition from the 80s) and drew me a sketch of Monark Starstalker. I was elated, especially since I never had the chance to go to conventions and meet creators back when I was an ardent young comics fan.

Allen W said...

I met Carmine Infantino at the Comic Con in Detroit back in 2000 (or 2001). He was at a little table in the front, with some young guy who was very actively pushing a book of his artwork. I felt kind of bad for Mr. Infantino - there was younger, more current talent all of the place, and no one coming into the convention seemed to even realize there was a legend sitting at this little table. I walked over to him and talked to him for a few moments. He seemed very friendly and receptive, and he scratched out his easily reconziable autograph on my convention booklet. Sitting right next to him was Martin Nodell, the orginal artist for the golden age Green Lantern. He was drawing quickie sketches of green lantern for five buck a pop.

Karen said...

It's nice to come to the blog this morning and see so many good stories. I thought I would share the second half of my Jack Kirby story. The day after I got Kirby's autograph on my little notebook, I saw Stan Lee. I got up to his table and said hello and he was very friendly. I had the bright idea to get both Kirby and Lee's autographs on the same page. Oh boy. Now understand, I didn't know there were any issues or bad blood between these men -I was 10! So I slid my notebook up there, and Lee looks down at it, and he pauses. I mean noticeably pauses. I began to feel like something was wrong. he looks up at me and says, "So you got Kirby, huh?" Feeling uncomfortable, I say, "Yes sir." Stan then turned back to the notebook, turned it around, and signed it, then gave me a big smile and said something nice, like enjoy the con -I honestly can't remember because I was so scared he wasn't going to sign! So now I have this 3" X 5" paper with Kirby's signature on one end, and if you turn it 180 degrees, Stan's on the other! I'm assuming he rotated it so his signature wouldn't appear under Kirby's. But in any case, I was happy to have met him. I've met him two more times and he's been nothing but delightful -and very quick-witted for a guy in his eighties!


William said...

Back in the 90's (around 1995 I believe) I was taking Will Eisner's "Sequential Art Workshop" at Nova University in Davie, FL. Well, one weekend, around that time, there was a Comic Convention at the Ft. Lauderdale Armory building and John Romita Sr. and Jr. were both going to be there signing. I talked my wife into going with me - and who should we run into on the floor (even though he wasn't a scheduled guest) but Will Eisner. I was still taking his class at the time, and I introduced him to the wife and we were hanging out for quite a while talking and having a very nice time. Suddenly this guy comes up and nearly faints at the sight of Will and he starts gushing all over him. Turns out he was one of the convention coordinators and he asked Will if he would mind coming up on the dais as a guest. They made an announcement over P.A. that "Will Eisner was in the building" and a big crowd of people started gathering around us. Before he was whisked away Will said he would actually rather stay there and hang out with us and mingle on the convention floor. After he left, my wife was pretty impressed, and said she felt like she had just met a member of royalty the way that people reacted to him. I told her that in that world - he was royalty. Will was one of the nicest guys I ever knew. He was such a charming and humble man, who didn't let stuff like that go to his head. He once gave me an inked sketch he did for a classroom demonstration. He signed it "Will Eisner, Drawn By Hand".I still treasure it to this day.

At that same convention I met John Romita Sr. and Jr. John Sr. was doing free Spider-Man headshot sketches. (I still have that one too). He was a super nice guy and the banter between him and his son was great. We had a really good time chatting with them for about 10 minutes, and John Jr. said to my wife - "I know whenever I see a pretty girl in my line, they're either here with their husband or boyfriend." We still have a good laugh about that one sometimes.

Around that same time is when I also met Stan Lee at a convention in Ft. Lauderdale. My very awesome wife stood in line for me for 90 minutes so that I could walk around and check out the rest of the show. When I finally got to meet Stan, he was as cool as I knew he would be. As he was signing my books, I mentioned to him that I had a complete collection of every issue of Amazing Spider-Man, including Amazing Fantasy #15. He looked genuinely impressed and said "Wow! Really?" I still feel good that I was able to impress "Stan The Man".

Finally. The very first comic convention I ever went to was back in the early 80's when I was around 18. I saw this older gentleman sitting there drawing the Golden Age Green Lantern (this of course turned out to be Marty Nodell) and I said excitedly... "Wow, are you the guy who invented the Green Lantern?" He looked up and said (slightly perturbed) - "Yes, I am, but in the business we say created or originated... not invented." I thought to myself - "Well excuse me." I have to admit I felt slightly put off at the time. As it would happen, many years later, I was working as a graphic designer at a print shop in West Palm Beach, and who should walk in the door, but Mr. Nodell along with his wife. He had come in to make some color copies of his artwork for the upcoming MegaCon in Orlando. We got to talking and I told him about how I had met him a few years before at that convention. He seemed pretty happy that I was a comic guy, and that knew who he was. He and his wife were really nice people and we talked for quite a while. Before he left he even gave me a signed copy of one of the art pieces. I still have that one too.

Kid A said...

I helped a friend who was putting on a con some years back and had several interactions with different creators, some not so positive. Art Adams was there and I had to have him sign my copies Gumby. He was charging for some nice sketches and my friend asked for a sketch of Gumby. He seemed genuinely shocked and joked about paying my friend to let him draw Gumby. I think it was one of those deals where my friend had to come back the next day to pick the sketch up. He had obviously put some effort into it and the sketch depicted Gumby in peril as he stood perched on the ledge of a skyscraper with a searchlight pointed on him from below. Art Adams is cool.

joe ackerman said...

Mike Ploog. he did a signing at my local comic shop a few years back. I got there early, and Mike was sitting there all on his ownsome. he was brilliant, everything you could ever hope for: charming, funny, and full of great stories about his life in the funny books. he looked genuinely suprised when I gushed at him over his stuff for Planet of the Apes ( always my favourite Ploog work ), and, without any prompting at all, produced a great Gorilla sketch for me, there and then, following it up almost immediately with a cracking good Werewolf drawing!

there were other guys there: Simon Bisley and Liam Sharp, Adi Granov and Alan Davis ( got me a cool sketch of the Joker off Alan! ), but Mike held court, not just with the old sods like me who knew his stuff from back in the day, but he completely ruled the kids who were wandering up, nervously, to get a sketch from this hairy old man they'd never heard of.

he was a joy to talk to, and a joy to watch while he did his thing.

also, recently, I've been lucky enough to be e-mailing back & forth a bit with Don McGregor. I know! how cool is that?!

amazing, hey? I'm forty-eight this year, and I still go all like a little kid where these guys are concerned.

Jonathan Stover said...

I've had pretty much universally good exchanges with John Byrne, Howard Cruse, Ethan Van Sciver and several others either on their message boards or thru the wonders of Facebook. In terms of much older exchanges, the late Bill Mantlo did send me a personally signed No-Prize for a letter I wrote to The Micronauts way back in 1979, when I was 10, so that was pretty cool.

Anonymous said...

I love these stories. I've never met an American author, but have sort of vicariously lived similar meetings through a friend of mine who writes comics criticism here in Spain.
European cons are often more like a family business, and if you're part of the in crowd you may easily meet about everybody who dares cross the ocean.

The stories I enjoyed the most from my friend were when he interviewed Jim Steranko and Will Eisner. Steranko wore a white suit and looked like a movie star, flamboyant and swaggering but in an endearing way.

The Eisner interview was only two or three years before his death. He had a sharp mind and was very vocal about his liberal political opinions. European audiences loved that.

As is the case in some of the stories above, old pros appearing at comics cons sometimes are exposed to sad, even humiliating experiences. There is an anonymity inherent to the profession, and if you add fashions and fads to that, a signing session can become an ordeal.

My friend saw once in Barcelona an old Spanish pro who'd been very popular in the Warren comics era, but nowadays is all but forgotten here. He had an illustration book just out. My friend didn't like his style at all, but he saw him all alone in a convention centre packed with thousands of comics fans. So he went up to the stand and bought the book and had it signed for the author.

Anyway, sorry for the babbling. Like I said, I really enjoyed the stories!

William said...

Many years ago, I used to frequent to this comic shop in Ft. Lauderdale, and I knew all the guys who worked there pretty well. So, one day there was this new guy hanging out with them and he was sitting there drawing in this big sketch book. He was doing the most awesome looking the Avengers drawing I'd ever seen. The detail was amazing. He did every individual scale on Captain America's shirt and everything. I told him, "Man you are freaking awesome! You know, should really be a professional!" And suddenly everybody broke out laughing. I never knew why until a couple of years later when I saw a photograph of Kevin Maguire (the artist best known for his work on the 80's Justice League series) and that's when I realized I'd made a jackass of myself. Yes, that was Kevin Maguire hanging out at my LCS. One of the guys working there eventually told me that Maguire lived around there and didn't want anyone to know who he was. (I guess so nerds like me wouldn't drive him crazy). So, they had to promise not to spill the beans.

Then there was this other time I was at a convention in Orlando with a couple of friends of mine. Two of the featured guests were Adam Hughes and Brian Stelfreeze (best known for his work on Shadow Of The Bat). I got a sweet Wonder Woman sketch from Hughes, and had him sign a couple of copies of Justice League International that he'd done. My friend wanted Stelfreeze to draw him a Mr. Miracle sketch, but as it happens he didn't have a reference. So, Stelfreeze spots my signed Justice League comic and asks if he can borrow it to use as a reference. I, of course, said yes. So later, at the end of the day, we come back to pick up the sketch and when I ask for my comic back, Stelfreeze can't find it. Somehow he had lost it, or someone had snagged it or something. To make it worse, Hughes had already left so there was no chance to buy another book and have him sign it. Stelfreeze felt pretty bad and apologized and all. I told him it was really no big deal. But he insisted that I give him my address and said he would send me a free sketch of anyone I wanted. So, I agreed... of course. (I can't remember which character I asked for, but knowing me it was probably Spider-Man). Well, he wrote all the info down and told me he'd send me a drawing as soon as he could. Well, that was about sixteen years ago and I am still waiting. So, if you're reading this Brian Stelfreeze... you owe me a sketch!

Redartz said...

Wow; lots of great stories here! William, your tale reminded me of an experience I had years ago. At a convention in Indianapolis I attended, they were having a fund-raising auction (don't recall what the funds were for). Al Milgrom was one of the guests, and a nice ink drawing he'd done of Yondu (Gaurdians of the Galaxy) was in the sale. It caught my eye and I won the item. After the auction, Al came up to me and asked if he could borrow the piece back and mail it to my home. That was fine with me, so he took the drawing with him.

About a month later a package arrived in the mail, containing the drawing, plus an ink drawing of Captain Marvel and a nice note of thanks!

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