Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Guest Post - Shared Experiences



Doug: Today Redartz leads us in conversation. I think you'll find his thoughts heartfelt and certainly topical for "people of a certain age".

Redartz: Hello everyone. Over the last couple weeks I've been absent from our little group (although I have been regularly reading all the fine posts, of course). My father passed away following an extended illness, and most of my time and attention has been occupied. During this period of reflection, sorting through photos and mementos, many memories returned to mind; one of which has inspired me to write this little essay.

Often our hobbies and interests are discussed in terms of individual activity or interpretation. For example, what our favorite titles were, where we purchased them, what action figure we desired most. But sometimes our experiences included others -- a close friend or two, a sibling or parent. Did you have someone with whom you regularly shared your comics hobby with, or had a particularly memorable activity with?  I will share today two of these; the first featuring my father, and the second a close friend.

My father had many interests, from history to science to music. He also was a collector; not of comics but of antiques and stamps. Unlike some parents, he never criticized my fascination with four color adventures; rather he encouraged it. Once I started learning some of the history behind the comics industry, we would sit and talk about books both old and new. Dad was a boy during WWII, and like so many kids of that era he read comic books. He always enjoyed telling stories of the comics he remembered from his youth. His stack included Batman, Superman and Captain Marvel (or Shazam, if you like). He recalled Captain America, but also Bugs Bunny, Looney Tunes and various westerns. Unfortunately , the ultimate fate of all those Golden Age gems was the war paper drive. He probably never gave those books much thought afterwards, at least not until I came along and told him what they could have been worth...
           
Anyway, our family would often go to antique shows together. Yet on one occasion, I got Dad to accompany me to a local flea market as I hunted for comics. He was very patient with me as I scoured the market floor for comics, and he looked over many tables of antiques and 'junk'.  We  eventually found a booth that had a small stack of old (as in 1940s-50s vintage) comics for sale. The comics themselves were not in the finest condition, and thus were priced very low. Dad started to leaf through them, finding Mutt and Jeff, Blondie, Roy Rogers and a few others. I think he enjoyed looking at the old ads as much as the art pages; at any rate he ended up buying the whole stack. I provided him with the obligatory bags and boards, and those comics found a spot on his shelf for years to follow.

Over the years there were several times that my parents would surprise me with additions to my comic collection , but this was the only time I recall Dad buying any for his own enjoyment!

My second tale is from that great summer of 1975; and this experience was shared with my best friend Bill. Bill was the one responsible for my return to the comics fold. He reintroduced me to Marvel in particular, and once I started collecting we would frequently visit each other's house, comparing stacks of Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man.

On this warm day in August of '75, there was a comic convention in Indianapolis, and Bill and I were attending. Not only attending, but actually staying overnight there in the hotel by ourselves! Our parents had agreed to let us set up a small table there, and we had the run of the place all weekend. Granted, one or the other of us was supposed to stay at our booth, but we took off after the room closed and pursued books and creators with gusto. One of the featured guests that weekend was Walt Simonson, and he happened to wander over to our booth. He spoke with the both of us, was very friendly and actually purchased a few books from us. As payment, he did a sketch for each of us, and that sketch still hangs on my wall  (and is scanned here as well).

           

We ended up having the good fortune of selling out our whole booth to another dealer, which freed us to hit the convention floor with full attention. Our funds soon vanished, in their place were new books to add to our growing collections. Plus, there were other creators to meet, Bob Layton and Al Milgrom among them. Then, when we finally tired out, we could crash in our hotel room and sort through our newly acquired stash. We were in 14-year old geek heaven...      

Between meeting Walt, wandering the hotel late into the evening (Orange Crush in hand), and leaving with new stacks of back issues to read, this weekend was one of the biggest highlights of my teens. Sharing all those adventures with Bill made it all the better. So, do you have a particular shared experience to pass along?

16 comments:

Humanbelly said...

Oh, great post, Redartz-- great post. I am (soooo regrettably) quite schedule-strapped at the moment, and may not be able to offer my characteristic over-long contribution-- but I still wanted to acknowledge you with five stars for the fine reminiscences, and for providing an engaging way for others to contribute as well.

(NICE Simonson Hulk sketch, btw! Boy, that would be a centerpiece in my little shrine, as well--!)

HB

david_b said...

Wow and WOW.., great stories. I sure wish my parents would have been more permissive.., 'course living in Wisconsin (as did most of my extended family..), the scope that existed wouldn't have allowed for such distance travelled when I was that young. Very envious.

As most here probably enjoyed in their childhood..., having that 'one special comic-collecting friend' early on makes ALL the difference. My Dad also insured I had had a few new comics whenever we got out and travelled. Later on, he was the one who encouraged me to 'just spend a little more' on eBay auctions, to insure I indeed got what I wanted. I've shared that 'permitting logic' with my 20something niece and nephew when they were young and it still pays off in droves (just went to the Kane County Antique Toy Show with them this last Sunday..).

Great story telling, Redartz.., I have something similar in mind from my youth one day soon, but time will tell.

Edo Bosnar said...

Sorry to hear about your loss, Redartz - you have my sincerest condolences.

I really enjoyed reading your reminiscences/stories, esp. about your father. Neither of my parents really understood my fascination with comics, and my dad in particular looked down on the whole hobby as a waste of time and money, so you really put a big smile on my face when recounted how your own father was not only accepting but actively supportive. What great memories those must be.
Also cool that you had a friend who shared your comics fanaticism. Except for a few pals in elementary school who then "grew out of it", I was also pretty much alone among my peers in ongoing love for the medium (o.k. there was one friend who did stick with it almost until the 8th grade, but by high school and our teens, he was out).

Otherwise, as a huge Walt Simonson fan, I am totally envious of that sketch, and the fact that you shot the breeze with him for a while.

Colin Jones said...

Yes, sorry about your dad, Redartz - my father died in 1999 but I still hear him in my mind opining on current events. Only a tiny minority of British kids would have read Marvel comics but I still knew several who did - I met my friend, Carl, directly because of Marvel when we were both nine. We got talking and discovered our mutual interest in Planet Of The Apes and Marvel comics generally and he invited me to visit his house on the following Saturday - I went by bus which was the first time I travelled alone by bus.

J.A. Morris said...

Great post, condolences on your father, thanks for sharing that great story. It got me thinking of how I forget how long Simonson's been working in comics. I didn't really notice him until the early 80s, when he developed his distinctive style.

As for shared experiences:
In middle school, it was common to hit the comic shop with my 2 best friends Matthew and Eric. We would pick up our subscriptions on Saturday afternoons, then go home and and read/skim them and discuss how good and bad they were.

One Saturday in particular was particularly memorable, since it fell during Assistant Editors' Month. I think we spent 5 hours reading the off-beat, comedy issues, laughing out loud, groaning at the terrible jokes. That day inspired me to start my blog dedicated to Assistant Editors' Month.

More recently, last year my wife I had the opportunity to work at a both at a WizardCon. My friends have a 'Walking Dead'-themed booth and invited us to help out. We got to meet folks like Adam West, Michael Golden, Neal Adams, among others. It was a great weekend made better since it was spent with 3 of my favorite people in the world.

Martinex1 said...

I enjoyed reading your reminiscences Redartz. And I also share my condolences on your father. He sounds like a wonderful encouraging gentleman and dad.

It is interesting how much things have changed in the last 40 years. I am not sure if 14 year olds left on their own wouldn't end up with somebody in the clink nowadays. Too bad that that innocence and safety seems to have passed.

I had a few grammar school friends who liked comics. I still remember Nick S. who got me to buy my first Ghost Rider. In high school, it seemed most of my random buddies had a fondness for comics. We used to go downtown Chicago for a Con there. I still recall some choices I made there... I passed up a very cheap and very beat up copy of Avengers #4 (mistake), I chose Silver Surfer #3 over a beautiful copy of Silver Surfer #4 at the same price (mistake), and I passed on a decently priced Giant Size XMen because at that time I did not know who the new guys were (mistake). Ha. I really had to hone my collecting skills at age 13. My buddy Jim always bought original art back then; brilliant for him.

Sometimes on our way home from school on the bus, we would get off early and go to one of the only comic shops we knew of. Just the thought of walking in there the first time and smelling that aged paper and seeing those rows of boxes of back issues still makes me smile.

Thanks for sharing your story Redartz. And that Simonson Hulk is so cool.

Redartz said...

Thank you all for both your comments and for your kind sympathies. I think my Dad would have enjoyed sites like this, had he been so inclined (and a bit more tech savvy). Short on time right now but will tag in later to respond. Be well, all!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your dad, Redartz. You're lucky your parents were supportive of your collecting...my parents threw my collection away...TWICE!

As for friends who shared my hobby, there were a couple; I used to trade comics with a friend who lived next door, but he never got as heavily into it as I did. My best friend in high school was a true collector though, and comics were one of the hobbies we shared (along with RPGs, Tolkien, heavy metal, and so on); we sometimes disagreed on what was good (he never caught my fever for the X-Men and I never understoood his love for Elfquest), but it's always nice to hang out with someone who gets the appeal of comics.

Mike Wilson

Martinex1 said...

Redartz, you mention "Mutt and Jeff". That brought back memories; I have no idea who they are, but my dad used to call my brother and I "Mutt and Jeff" whenever we got into trouble. Ha. I will have to look that up.

Redartz said...

david_b- cool that your Dad supported your ebay activities! Also great that you are carrying it forward with your niece and nephew. Would love to hear your tale...

Edo- yes. I was fortunate to have parents who supported my hobby. And yes, having a close friend absorbed in comics made for many great afternoons (and many late nights reading and discussing comics; there is another point to consider: when was the last time you had a sleepover with a friend?

Oh, and Walt Simonson was very friendly; even then I thought it was admirable that he would pay such attention to a couple teenagers...

Colin- I understand about you hearing your father; while out mowing the lawn over the weekend I felt my Dad's presence, commenting on the abundance of weeds. He loved yardwork!

J.A. - Sounds like a great weekend at Wizard con! That Walking Dead booth must have been a blast, and probably got quite a few visitors...

Martinex1- your comment on the changing times and kids on their own is probably true, sadly. Oh, the things I took for granted...
Also, my sympathies for your missed comic opportunities. Did your friend Jim ever inspire you to pick up any original artwork?
Oh, and Mutt and Jeff were a newspaper comic strip that was published in comic form by Bud Fisher. Seems everybody published their comic at some time or other: Dell, Harvey, and DC all did...

Mike W.- Man, having your collection tossed twice? That had to hurt. Yes, I was indeed lucky that my folks were patient in that regard. Although, my baseball cards did disappear sometime back then, perhaps victim to one of Mom's rummage sales.

Anonymous said...

Redartz, sorry to hear about your dad. I'm glad you have such find memories of him.

Cool story and sketch! I've never heard a bad word about Walt Simonson, and I'm glad he was so good to you two.

I had one friend who read comics into high school, and he was like a pop culture mentor. He knew of all the cool bands and comics before me.

My favorite sharing comics memory is reading Bizarro comics to my son when he was 7 & 8 (he's 10 now). When we got to a story in which the Bizarros sing, I went all out with the voices and noises and I've never heard him laugh so hard. He made me do the song over and over.

- Mike Loughlin

Martinex1 said...

Redartz, I didn't pick up original art until much later. My wife got me my first piece for a birthday. Since then I've collected some with my favorites being a Byrne XMen Hidden Years' page with the Beast and a Perez page from Ultraforce. How about you? What have you collected since the Simonson?

Redartz said...

Mike L- great story about reading to your son; brought a big smile to my face! Reading with our kids is such a great way to share books; comic or otherwise.

Martinex1- Byrne and Perez; what a fine pair of pieces! Would love to see them; perhaps one day we can all have a show-and-tell post on original art!
As for me, I also have an original page from Marvel Presents (Gaurdians of the Galaxy) by Al Milgrom and Terry Austin. Also: Batman sketch by Joe Staton, gag page of Betty and Veronica by Dan Parent, and an original fairy tale illustration by William Messner-Loebs. Just love to look and pen/ink drawings...

Karen said...

Redartz -thank you for your post today, and condolences on the loss of your father. It's so great that you and he were able to share your hobby, and that he was encouraging. I'm sure you will be feeling that hole in your life that he has left for sometime, but having good memories can really help to fill it. Hang in there.

Garett said...

Hey Redartz, sorry to hear about your father. Great that he was so supportive. I also liked hearing about your adventures with your friend and the Simonson drawing.

I had a friend Troy who also shared my love of comics. We'd ride our bikes to the secondhand bookstore on weekends and pick up batches of new comics. During the week we'd trade with each other, and so double the number of comics read for each of us. He was an early supporter of my art, and the only one I showed my drawings to before going to university to study art. I stuck by him early on when other kids tried to pick on him, and he stuck by me later in high school when he turned into a cool and popular kid and I was socially shy and awkward. Specific titles and issues pop to mind that we discussed or bought together--Conan, Killraven, Teen Titans, Daredevil, etc. He died unexpectedly due to AIDS as a result of a blood transfusion when he was 19 in 1987. He was the best friend a guy could ever have. It messed me up for a while. I dreamed about him sometimes, and it felt very real like he was visiting me-- sometimes I still get those dreams. I miss him, and feel sorry that he didn't get to live a longer life, but I'm also so happy I knew him, and all the good things about him stay with me. It's made me appreciate life more, and value the good times with the people in my life. I don't mean to take away from your grief over your father, but it seemed like the right time to share my story. All the best to you and your family.

Redartz said...

Garett- thanks for sharing about your friend Troy. It sounds like he was a true and noble friend, and he lives on in your thoughts and memories. A shame he passed so early. Please accept my sympathies, and thank you for your comments.

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