Monday, March 25, 2013

Gem City Report

As I arrived back at the Sunday Comix table in the last hour of the Gem City Comic Con on Sunday carrying my latest, and final, purchase--volume four of The Complete Bloom County Library as well as the complete Outland and Opus volumes, all aquired for $20, or half cover price, each--Canada Keck quipped, "So, do you have enough Bloom County?"
"No," I chirped ('cause sometimes I do chirp), "They didn't have volume five."
So, while my collection of the collected works of Berkely Breathed remains incomplete, with Complete Bloom County LIbrary Volume 5 being the final remaining piece of that puzzle yet to fall into place, I did manage to complete my run of Prez.  I located reasonably priced copies of #'s 1and 3, the issues I was missing, and went ahead and picked up a new copy of #4 as mine was in such bad condition that it really wasn't even much good for a reading copy.  I've been planning to write about Prez sometime here in the near future, and now I'll be able to give a more complete overview of the series and actually know what I'm talking about.  You may not believe it, but I do ocassionally like to know what I'm talking about.
Some of the other Bronze Age books I picked up this weekend, and which I may end up writing about here, include:
  • Hercules Unbound #'s 1, 2 and 4 (I already had a copy of #3) I've been considering doing a series on the many collaborations between writer Gerry Conway and artist Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.  In addition to this series, these include Atari Force, Cinder and Ashe, as well as various Superman and Batman stories.
  • Green Lantern/Green Arrow #113--I mentioned in an earlier post a  December 1978 DC house ad spotlighting four holiday themed issues  released that month.  I now have every book mentioned in that ad.  I also have several other Christmas themed Green Lantern books, so you might just see a "Green Christmas" this December.
  • DC's first and only issue of Sherlock Holmes, featuring adaptations of the Arthur Conan Doyle short stories "The Final Problem," in which Holmes is killed off, and "The Adventure of the Empty House," in which he returns, written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by E.R. Cruz with a cover by Walt Simonson.
  • Three issues of DC Special including #11, entitled "Beware...The Monsters Are Coming Here!", #17 from 1975, which contains several Green Lantern reprints, apparently testing the waters for the revival of the character's series that occurred the following years, and #16's "Super-Heroes Battle Super-Gorillas."  Seriously, how could I pass that last one up?  I do have a rep to uphold, after all, and I'm sure there are some people who might be surprised I didn't already have a copy of that one.
  • Mystery in Space #111---the first issue of the short-lived late seventies  revival of the classic SF title, featuring a great "silent" story drawn by master storyteller Jim Aparo
  • Welcome Back, Kotter #3--I've probably already said all I have to say about this issue on this blog in my overview of the series as a whole and my tribute to the career of Tony Isabella, who wrote this one, which, now that I think about it, may be the first thing I ever read by him.  I just wanted to have a copy and I'm looking forward to reading it again after several decades.
There were only a couple of items that I was really looking for at the show.  I found the Green Lantern/Green Arrow issue, but was frustrated by the fact that out of the dozens of dealers and thousands, hell, possibly millions, of comics gathered in the E.J. Nutter Center on the campus of Dayton's Wright State University, there was apparently not one single copy of Steve Ditko's Shade, The Changing Man #6.  I encountered at least one copy of every other issue of the series except the one I need to complete my collection.
When I wasn't searching in vain for a copy of Shade #6, I spent some time behind the table of Columbus cartoonist group Sunday Comix, where I helped Canada tell people who wandered up all about the group and describe the books by our various members that were on display.  I even managed to sell a couple of my books collecting my Wasted Potential comic strip.  That brought in four dollars, which really didn't do much to offset what I spent over the course of the weekend.  Still, I consider it all money well spent.
As  with every mainstream comic convention, there were many people dressed as their favorite characters.  I saw several Robins, an overweight Captain America, a Dr. Fate and Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash.  Canada got a picture of me posing with Ambush Bug.  As soon as she sends me a copy, I'll share it with you.
There were also a couple of my favorite artists on the guest list whom I was eager to meet. I learned something very important about one of them.  Which is that Howard Chaykin does not care what I think of him.
Or you, for that matter, I'm sure.
I know this because he told me so.
When I reported this to Mike Carroll back at the Sunday Comix table on Saturday, Mike's immediate response was, "Did you try to pay him a compliment?"  As it happens, that's exactly what I did.
When I walked up to his table, Chaykin was already engaged in a conversation with a fan.  As he signed the two books I presented (yes, two--more about that later), he was saying that he considered himself probably the least talented of his generation of comics artists.  At that point I interjected with, "You're probably the only one who would say that."  This is what caused him to respond with, "Well, I don't care what you think about me. Its not my business to care about that." He went on to give an assessment of his progress as an artist.  He characterized his work during the 1970's as "shit."  He said that he didn't do work he considered decent until after "woodshedding" by doing other things such as painted book covers before returning to comics with American Flagg! He went on to say that he makes up for what he considers a deficit of talent with hard work.  
While I wouldn't exactly say call Chaykin's early work "shit," I would agree that his art on Monark Moonstalker and Star Wars, and his writing on the former, is far surpassed in quality by his post Flagg output.
I don't want you to get the wrong idea here.  He wasn't mean or angry and he wasn't yelling at me.  This wasn't a repeat of the Aragones incident from Mid-Ohio Con 1996. (I may tell you about that someday--or I may not.)  He was simply giving an honest, if well rehearsed, self assessment.
I say well well rehearsed because I did get a certain sense of deja vu as I listened to him.  I seemed to remember having read the same sentiments from him in one interview or another in the comics press.  This is perfectly understandable, of course.  Anyone who is in the public eye and has made numerous public appearances and been interviewed multiple times must encounter the same questions over and over again.  The answers to these questions rarely change, so its natural that the responses begin to sound rehearsed after awhile.  
Based on having read a few interviews with him, I found Mr. Chaykin to be exactly what I expected.  He was gracious, if somewhat gruff; self-assured and self-confident but definitely not arrogant; secure in his sense of self, and opinionated and not afraid to share those opinions.  At 62 years of age, though he doesn't look it, I suppose he's old enough to be described as curmudgeonly, though I imagine he wouldn't like it if I did so, so I won't. 
Before I shook his hand and told him it had been a pleasure to meet him before heading back to the Sunday Comix table, Chaykin mentioned that he was currently working as hard as ever.  He is apparently booked up through next year.  He might have mentioned what those projects are if I'd stuck around for a few more seconds, but whatever they may be, I look forward to seeing them. 
By the way, I mentioned above that I got Mr. Chaykin to sign two comics, even though I said earlier that I was only going to present him with one book.  However, Joe Staton was also a guest at Gem City, and someone else I was eager to meet.  While browsing Green Lantern issues on the Comic Book Data Base, I remembered that I possessed a comic on which both Staton and Chaykin had worked.  Green Lantern #196 contains interior art by Staton with a cover featuring a striking image of Guy Gardner by Chaykin.  The remnants of fanboy within me just couldn't resist getting both of their signatures on one book.  It'll be a perfect reminder of a great weekend.
Joe Staton was considerably less argumentative than Chaykin when I told him how much I enjoyed his art on Dick Tracy.  If you haven't read Tracy since he and writer Mike Curtis took over, I highly recommend that you do so.  The Curtis/Staton run have breathed new life into the feature.  In my opinion, this is the best Tracy has been since the early days of Max Allan Collins' tenure when it was drawn by the late Rick Fletcher. 
Staton was there promoting Calling Dick Tracy Volume I, an upcoming e-book from Rabbit Hole Comics collecting approximately the first year of his Tracy run.  I asked if there was going to be a print edition, and Joe said that there might be if the digital version performs well.
In conclusion, I want to publicly and effusively thank SPACE promoter Bob Corby for everything, and I do mean everything.  He sponsored the table for Sunday Comix that got me into the con, drove me down to Dayton on Saturday morning and back the next day, let me crash in his hotel room Saturday night and generally made a wonderful weekend possible. 

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it always surprising when you meet creators whose work you admire very much, perhaps even a writer or artist whose work significantly influenced your own writing or artwork, only to find that they themselves are unsatisfied with their abilities and are, in fact, their own harshest critics?