Sunday, September 15, 2019

Best! Weekend! Ever! (or, "Tales of TerrifiCon 2019, Part Two") ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post

Don't worry, I'll explain the above notation later in this post!

As I warned you last time, the stories-within-a-story comprising my five posts about TerrifiCon 2019 will not be in chronological order. Instead, the various anecdotes will be arranged to suit my own idiosyncratic narrative style.

It's a pretty good guess that the two oldest comic pros at the con were Sy Barry and Joe Giella, both of whom are ninety-one years old. Both were pencilers and inkers who were better known as inkers. Both worked for both Timely Comics and DC Comics during their careers. They both worked on comic strips as well as comic books.

Sy Barry inked (and sometimes penciled) The Phantom comic strip for King Features Syndicate. His run on the strip lasted over thirty years, from 1961-1995. Sy's brother Dan (1923-1997) drew the Flash Gordon strip from 1951-1990, for King Features as well.

Joe Giella is probably best known for inking the Flash, Green Lantern, and Batman. But during his long career, he also assisted both Barry brothers on their respective strips.

Fittingly enough, Sy Barry's table was next to Joe Giella's. I approached Mr. Barry first, holding a copy of King Comics' The Phantom #22. It was the first and only comic featuring that hero which I'd owed in my youth, although the copy I own today is not that same one. Mr. Barry carefully flipped through the issue, commenting that the penciled and inked art on the inside of the book was not by him, but was by another artist (Bill Lignante, according to Grand Comics Database).


I nervously asked him if he had at least drawn the cover. He had. That was good enough for me to have him sign it, of course. Minor catastrophe averted.

Next was Joe Giella's turn. Last year, at TerrifiCon 2018, I'd had him sign three different comics. One of those was the first and only Flash Annual from the Silver Age. This year I brought another Silver Age issue from that series, The Flash #145. This was my first exposure to a villain called the Weather Wizard, one of my childhood favorites from the Flash's fabled "Rogues Gallery" of villains.

The next book I gave Joe to sign was Green Lantern #26, the second appearance of the villainess Star Sapphire. It seemed only fair to bring this particular comic, since last year I'd had Joe sign Green Lantern #16, her very first appearance!

Finally, a real treat... for me! In the mid-1960s, the success of the Batman TV show goosed the popularity of superhero titles, and that ABC-TV program is generally given credit for the proliferation of guys and gals running around in tights for the next couple of years in the world of comic publishing.

But shortly before that TV show premiered, the Archie Comics Group revived several of its superheroes from the early 1940s. Most of these characters banded together as a group called The Mighty Crusaders. Bluntly put, the art by Paul Reinman in issue #1 of The Mighty Crusaders was just okay, and the stories by Jerry Siegel (Yes, the same Jerry Siegel who had co-created Superman roughly thirty years earlier!) weren't all that great, either. But I was nine years old, and hardly a discerning critic.

Anyway, as I learned shortly before the convention, much of The Mighty Crusaders #1 was inked by Joe Giella! And although I was aware of the fact that he'd worked for many different publishers during his long career, I had been under the assumption that his 1960s work was all for DC. So, my secret is out. I don't know everything.

Another guest at TerrifiCon 2019 was Colleen Doran, who first came to prominence as the creator/writer/artist of A Distant Soil. But listing only that among all her other credits is like saying Stan Lee wrote Fantastic Four. Well yeah, sure, but...!

I brought only one comic for Colleen to sign, a stand-alone Sandman issue written by Neil Gaiman which tied up a loose end from DC's Silver Age. (In fact, it's one of the books pictured above in Colleen's TerrifiCon photo collage.) And when she asked if I wanted it personalized to me, I said yes. I generally don't ask for someone to include my name with their signature (to save them time), but if they offer, I always say yes. That shows them I don't intend to turn around and sell my signed item.

Over the years, I've owned, read, and enjoyed a lot of comics by Michael Golden, but the only comic I could think of which is currently in my collection is the 1984 Batman Special #1, featuring a great story pitting Batman against a villain called The Wrath. The Wrath was a villain whose origin and m.o. was similar to Batman's, except his career was devoted to killing lawman instead of capturing criminals. Fascinating story written by Mike W. Barr, but boy am I getting sidetracked here!

Before I got to speak with Mr. Golden, I got to talk with Renee Witterstaetter, who is evidently Mike's manager. However, as you can see if you read what's listed under her photo above, Renee's credentials in comics (and elsewhere) involve quite a bit more than being someone's manager.

After asking her what Golden charged for signatures, I couldn't resist telling her that I already had hers.

To make a long story short -- well, as much as I can ever accomplish that -- in 1994, Dick Ayers (Yes, that Dick Ayers!) and I submitted an original comic concept to Ms. Witterstaetter, who was then an editor in Topps' relatively-short-lived comic book division. Her initial enthusiasm and desire to see more from us was unfortunately curtailed by Topps' unexpected decision to stop buying new concepts.

When  I told her all this (in much greater detail, me being me), she began to apologize, but I ended up telling her the apology was unnecessary because 1) it wasn't her fault, ultimately, and 2) being a comics pro is like being a professional actor. If you can't take rejection, you have no business being in that line of work.

So that explains the illustration at the very top of this post.

And oh, before I forget! I actually did get my Batman Special signed.

More TerrifiCon news coming very soon!

And if you read this, please comment? Especially if you came here from Facebook. Thank you.

And thanks for your time.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Best! Weekend! Ever! (or, "Tales of TerrifiCon 2019, Part One") ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post

Up until about a week before TerrifiCon 2019, I was admittedly getting carried away. Between comic professionals whom I wanted to get signatures from, and media personalities whom I also wanted to get signatures from, I had a list of roughly three dozen people whose autographs I hoped to obtain. If you want to see my original list, minus a few last-minute add-ons by TerrifiCon, click here.

Luckily, almost a month before the convention, my sanity returned. I realized that there were several comic creators whose signatures I planned to get who didn't really matter to me. It was getting to be more like "Hey, Joe Artist is going to be at TerrifiCon! I must have something in my flea market stock I can have him sign!"

Well, two things finally occurred to me: 1. I'd be "collecting" things that didn't have all that much personal meaning for me. 2. Since most artists and writers charge a fee for signatures... I'd be wasting money. Ooh. Can't have that.

There were three cancellations, unfortunately, those being writer/artist Keith Giffen (who'd cancelled last year as well), writer Marv Wolfman (whom I'd met at TerrifiCon 2017), and one of the biggest "name" artists on my list, writer/artist George Perez.

Something else that saved me a s***load of money was when I found out how much the movie and TV celebrities were getting for their autographs. I won't name names here, but the lowest was $30, and the highest was more than $100.

And so... I crossed every last one of them off my must-get list. (The biggest disappointment was having to purge Val Kilmer. I've always been a fan of his, but I loved him as Doc Holliday in Tombstone.)

Okay, before I actually stop rambling and start telling about my two-day weekend (Friday and Saturday, August 9th and 10th), allow me to point out that I've arranged all my little anecdotes to accommodate my outline, so my stories will not be in chronological order.

Let us begin.

The first comic pro I visited was the lovely and charming Barbara Friedlander. As I told here, TerrifiCon 2018 was Barbara's very first convention. I was the one who told her she had a table where she could sit and greet fans. (How she'd missed that fact I'll never know, as TerrifiCon's head honcho Mitch Hallock seems to have almost everything down to a science.) I also had a nice chat with her last year, explaining how and why comic professionals usually charge for their signatures.

This year's TerrifiCon was Barbara's third convention ever, if I understood her correctly. She and I discussed the merits of TerrifiCon, and she implied that she may make this the only convention she'll regularly attend. Our conversation lasted fifteen minutes, maybe more. I loved the information I learned from her, and she seemed a bit surprised at the comic lore that I knew. Evidently, she has yet to learn that at a comic convention, people like myself are hardly an anomaly.

As far as obtaining Barbara's signature once again, she was recently the subject of a lengthy article in the 157th issue of Alter Ego, the comic fanzine edited by Roy Thomas. Since the cover didn't feature Barbara, I had her autograph the first page of the article itself.

I got to see Barbara later at not one, but two different panels. The first was Friday's "Romance Comics with Barbara Friedlander," a title which kinda speaks for itself. The second was Saturday's "Growing Up Is Hard to Do," a panel where several industry pros talked mainly about changes that have taken place in the Archie Comics during the past few years.

One of the great things about comic conventions is that one frequently gets to talk with the pros long enough to make some sort of impression on them so that they remember you from one meeting to the next. Before the first panel, Barbara waved to me and later even gestured toward me when one thing or another was mentioned that she and I had discussed at her table.

Starting in 1959 or so, I've been a comic book reader, collector, dealer, historian, and even the writer of a handful of comics. But the above-mentioned sort of interaction still gives me what comic and sci-fi fandom calls the "goshwow" factor.

There were plenty of goshwows at this year's TerrifiCon!

One of the comic artists I obtained a signature from was Jae Lee. Lee came to prominence in the early 1990s, at a time when far too many of the "fan favorite" artists seemed to have similar styles of drawing. His style was radically different, something I commented on and complimented him for. (Hey, if I didn't like his style, I wouldn't have stood there waiting for him to sign my book, would I?)

One thing I like to do whenever possible is bring something for a creator to sign that someone else probably didn't bring. If Joe Pro has a line where half the fans are having him sign the first issue of Captain Prunesqualor, I want to be the one to make him say, "Hey! This is the nude sketch I drew of my high school girlfriend on the back of a McDonald's bag in 1974. Where the hell did you get this?"

Sometimes what I bring gets a reaction like that. Sometimes not. When I met Jim Starlin last year, one of the books I had him sign was a copy of Star*Reach #1, something I thought would be obscure enough to provoke a reaction. Nope. What he did notice and comment on was that my copy of The Death of Captain Marvel was a first printing. Then he and I discussed how he sneaked Superman onto the back cover of a Marvel graphic novel.

Which segues into the following two stories.

This year, one of the convention guests was Bob Rozakis, best known as a writer for DC Comics who also worked in their production department. Rozakis was also known as DC's "Answer Man," in a long-running feature in DC's titles.

Bob Rozakis and artist Stephen DeStephano created a character called 'Mazing Man in the mid-1980s. "Maze," as he was known, was a slightly addled little fellow who thought of himself as a superhero, and always wore a costume. His superheroics were mostly confined to things like unclogging drains, rescuing treed cats, and babysitting. (The 'Mazing Man character was described in much greater details in my post "The Skivvied Superheroes, Part One.")

The 'Mazing Man series wasn't a big success in terms of sales, but it was critically acclaimed. Personally, I loved it.

I thought I'd pleasantly surprise Bob Rozakis by bringing a 'Mazing Man promotional poster that DC released before the series itself premiered. These posters were sent to retail comic shops, so I assumed they'd be in relatively short supply.

Well! When I made my way to Bob Rozakis' table, I saw that he was selling complete collections of 'Mazing Man, and Hero Hotline (another series he did with DeStefano). The 'Mazing Man collections had all twelve issues, three later one-shots, a 'Mazing Man appearance from DC's Secret Origins title...

...and that damned poster.

Bob Rozakis had a ton of 'em.

I had him sign it anyway.

Seated next to Bob Rozakis was Paul Kupperberg, whom I'd met last year. Between Friday and Saturday, I ended up talking to both of them quite a bit... mostly asking about the ever-changing start time for a panel called "A Look Back at DC History with Bob Rozakis." It was kinda fun how they'd both smile and wave to me whenever I walked by their tables... which was often.

There was someone else whom I was hoping to "ambush" with my choice of an item or items which I wanted signed. Greg Hildebrandt (with and without his late brother Tim) has long been associated with fantasy illustrations, movie posters, calendars, and much more than I should list in a post that's already dragged on for this long.

In the mid-1990s, however, Greg and Tim Hildebrandt spent a year illustrating a comic strip, a revival of the classic Terry and the Pirates, arguably the greatest adventure comic strip ever. The original strip was created by Milt Caniff in 1934 and was later helmed by George Wunder. It lasted until 1973.

Terry and the Pirates was rebooted for the 1990s by writer Michael Uslan, with the Brothers Hildebrandt slated to do the art chores. None of the Massachusetts papers carried the feature, but being a big fan of the Milt Caniff original, I coerced a Webster, Massachusetts, newsdealer to secure me a daily copy of New York's Daily News so I could follow the strip!

When I approached Greg's table, he was busy speaking with someone else. I approached his wife and manager, Jean Scrocco. I asked her about Mr. Hildebrandt's fee for signatures, and then showed her the three Terry and the Pirates Sunday pages that I'd brought.

You should have seen her eyes bug out.

She excitedly called Greg over and told me that I was the very first to bring him Terry and the Pirates Sunday strips to sign.

Greg told me the same thing during a conversation that lasted approximately twenty minutes. He and I talked about our mutual love for the original Milt Caniff comic strip, and how intimidated he and Tim had been to participate in the '90s update, and... well... all sorts of other things pertaining to their take on the strip.

It was Greg's idea to get a photo of himself, me, and the very first Terry Sunday that I'd had him autograph. I hate being photographed, but in this instance, how could I possibly refuse?

Two handsome, white-haired, bearded gents. I'm the shorter one.

This whole meeting with Greg Hildebrandt occurred before I'd spent two full hours at TerrifiCon 2019 on Friday, August 9th. And my weekend got even better, as it turned out.

You'll see.

Now. As it happens, even this relatively trimmed version of my TerrifiCon story will take five chapters, so I'm going to post them as they're written rather than space them out for a month. Therefore, you can pretty much ignore the literal interpretation of "Comical Wednesday" while this story unfolds. It'll be more like "Comical Whenever the Hell I Feel Like It!"

And if you read this, please comment? Especially if you came here from Facebook. Thank you.

And thanks for your time.
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