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.
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?