Wednesday, October 30, 2019

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

By the time the end of my second day at TerrifiCon 2019 rolled around, I had had a great time, a wonderful time, and -- dare I say it? -- a terrific time... and I was pretty relaxed, to boot. So relaxed that the very same guy who'd allowed himself to be photographed only to avoid being impolite to Greg Hildebrandt willingly posed for, and just as willingly paid for, a photo of himself (shown above).

Yep, as the running title of "Best! Weekend! Ever!" implies, I had... well... certainly one of the best weekends I've ever enjoyed, and definitely the best weekend in recent memory.

And frankly, I owe it all to my friend John.

Regular readers of my blog have seen John's name before, usually in relation to some movie or concert he and I have seen together. He and I have a lot in common and have been friends for about thirty years now.

John's job pays pretty well, and it enables him to be extremely generous, to friends, co-workers... It's kind of amazing, actually.

My attendance at TerrifiCon this year -- my ticket, the motel room, meals, and the little "bonus" which will be the focus of Part Five of this blog series -- was an early birthday present from John. (My birthday isn't until November. John's is in December. Just sayin'.)

Now, how do you repay something like that?

I mean, in strictly monetary terms, you can't repay it. Well, I can't, anyway. (And besides, friends don't put dollar amounts on favors they do for each other.)

While I was going crazy on August 9th and 10th getting signatures from almost twenty comic creators, John was being much more selective. There are only a handful of creators in the various entertainment fields whom he follows faithfully. One of those creators is a writer named Chris Claremont.

Those of you who follow comics don't need to be told who Chris Claremont is. And for my readers who aren't familiar with the comics world? Well, let's see if I can sum up the man's influence in only one (long) paragraph:

Even if you don't follow, and never really have followed, the world of comic books, I'm betting you've heard of the X-Men. The original team was created in the early 1960s, and was never as popular as other Marvel Comics characters, such as Spider-Man, Thor, the Fantastic Four, Captain America, the Hulk, etc. They created an “all-new, all-different” X-Men team in the mid-1970s, and almost from the start, Chris Claremont took over writing their stories, and developing their characters, and introducing sub-plots... Roughly 45 years after he took over the reins, they've gotten much more popular. They're one of the biggest drawing points Marvel Comics has. Claremont hasn't been the primary X-Men scripter for many years, but, not to slight any other writers or artists, his influence helped make the team what it is today in the public eye.

And Claremont was going to be at TerrifiCon 2019, so I decided that John's birthday present this year from me was going to involve Chris Claremont somehow. Easier said than done. When John sees something he wants, he generally buys it right then and there. And he was at TerrifiCon, too. He naturally planned to meet Chris Claremont, get a couple of items signed, and probably buy one or two items from Claremont himself...

So I had to get creative.

I've been selling comic books and other collectibles for most of the last 45 years, usually as a secondary source of income. And from the early to the mid-1990s, I was selling new comics and related merchandise. During that time, I received a lot of promotional material, mostly what are called "POP" (point of purchase) posters. I still have a lot of this junk – I mean, quality merchandise – in my boxes at the flea market where I peddle my papers, so to speak.

In 1995, Claremont had left Marvel Comics and was working for DC Comics on a comic title he'd co-created called Sovereign Seven. DC had sent a 3-D promotional advertising display to comic dealers to introduce the book. It consisted of a small holographic poster and a crazy little contraption that unfolded to make a 3-D version of that same little poster.

And I had one. I still had one. And I knew that John didn't have one, nor would he be likely to come across one since it was distributed to dealers only and was never offered commercially.

(I got this photo from eBay. Mine wasn't shrink-wrapped.) 

John and I attended some panels and did some other things together that weekend, but some things separately. So it was easy for me to make sure that John's meeting with Claremont and my meeting with Claremont took place at different times.

For myself, I had Chris autograph a trade paperback collecting the 1980 X-Men stories comprising what comic fans have called “The Dark Phoenix Saga” for almost forty years. This was a thrilling storyline that had me eagerly awaiting each monthly installment in the tale.

Then it was time to have the Sovereign Seven material signed. The 3-D piece was in perfect condition. It had never been opened into its 3-D state. I wanted to have Chris Claremont sign the little poster for John.

But before I asked for his signature, I spent a couple of minutes telling him about my friend John. First I explained how John was a huge fan who had already bought some things from Claremont the day before. I also told Chris about a few things John had done for me in the past. Finally I talked about my “early birthday present,” and all it entailed. I asked Chris if he could personalize the Sovereign Seven piece for John. Really personalize it.

Here's what he wrote:

"To John --"

“Happy Birthday to a True Friend.”

 "Chris Claremont"

John was attending TerrifiCon for all three days, Friday through Sunday. I was only going to be there for the first two. Before I left Saturday evening, I handed John the signed Sovereign Seven material, saying “There is no way in Hell I am going to wait until December to give you this.”

Well, it's only fair. He gave me my birthday present early.

I've been a fan of Paul Gulacy's art since – yeah, yeah, you guessed it – the 1970s. His earliest work was somewhat derivative of comics legend Jim Steranko, something that Gulacy never tried to hide. In fact, an early story from Marvel Comics' Master of Kung Fu actually has a character, Demmy Marston, whose look was based on Steranko.

The quality of Gulacy's work improved issue by issue. And so did his talent for drawing likenesses. In one of his earliest Master of Kung Fu stories, he "borrowed" from television and drew a character based on Kung Fu's Kwai Chang Caine (played by David Carradine).

Eventually, Shang-Chi, star of the MoKF feature, looked uncannily like Bruce Lee (something Lee's widow may or may not have called Stan Lee about, to protest). 

Yes, as I said, Gulacy's artwork got better...

And better...

And better still (note the Marlon Brando lookalike)!

I was lucky. When I arrived at Gulacy's table, there was only one person in the line before me, so when it was my turn, we got to talk for quite a while. The one thing I clearly recall from our conversation was when I mentioned that during his Master of Kung Fu days, it used to bother me that the interiors of the issues contained his fantastic artwork, but the cover art was usually by someone else. Sometimes it was a very well-drawn cover, sometimes not, but when it wasn't drawn by him, it irked me. He admitted that the reason was that he was usually so late turning in the issue itself, they didn't have time to have him draw the cover as well!

And that wraps it up for today, fellow babies.... except to tell you that the fifth-and-final chapter will prominently feature the legendary artist mentioned briefly above, Jim Steranko!

I'll be posting Part Five sometime tomorrow afternoon or evening!

And again, if you read this, please comment? Especially if you came here from Facebook. Thanks so much!

And thanks for your time.


  1. I'm sure it makes John happy to be able to do things for his friends.


  2. John sounds like a standup guy. And so does Chris Clarendon! What a cool thing for you to have done, and how great that Clarendon went along with it.

    I think it's pretty neat that you get to talk one on one with so many of your favorites. That's gotta be a . . . dare I say it? . . . terrific feeling.

    1. He is.

      And it is. ;-) Every year at this convention, I've had a better time.

      I just posted the fifth part of this series. But I think I've got one more post in me, not a comic related one.

  3. Impressive David, and a very interesting read.

    1. Thanks a lot. The next post, up now, should take about a month to read! That should scare a few people off...

  4. So, did John LIKE the gift?....Paul

  5. Your friend John is a wonderful generous human being. That is an amazing birthday present to give. Your gift was heartfelt and I can tell you put thought into his early gift. I just love stories like this. It warms my heart it truly does. A comic lovers dream come true.

    I am not sure when your birthday is in November but, I hope it is amazing.

    Thanks for sharing your adventure.


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