Impressing The Boss (part one)

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Last weekend was the New York Comic Convention, and, once again, I didn’t go.

The past couple of years I was in Maine during the New York Comicon, so I had a good excuse for not going. This year, however, I was in New Jersey, not that far away, but I still didn’t go. I think it was more the psychological distance more than the physical distance that kept me away .

While it is always great to see old friends at this type of event, and to meet fans and others who profess to have enjoyed one thing or another that you have done, unlike in past years, I didn’t really have anything new to promote– and I would have felt a little silly, and perhaps even a tad embarrassed being there.

It would have been like showing up at a big party for a bunch of your friends and coworkers in your underwear, or not having a present, a card, or at least a bottle of wine.

Or a case of beer, or a cake, or something.

So I stayed home and cleaned out the garage and swept up the basement.

Truth be told, I had been working in New York City in the comics profession for a number of years before I ever attended one of those shows. I wasn’t exactly a big comics fan. In those days, the main focus of my interest was fine art. Years after working in comics, I still thought of myself as a “fine artist”. Although I continued to produce fine art and to get exhibited occasionally, and people seemed to like my work, I never made any money from my artwork, and so, comics, for me, became my default way of making a living.

I should also like to state for the record, that I had always liked to draw from the time I was a small child and some people thought I was good at it, but my interest in art evolved over the years from coloring books to cartoons, to portraits, to acrylics, to oil paint, to lithography, to collage, to bronze-casting, to photography, to performance art, to conceptual art.

By the time I got a job in comics, I had already received a bachelor’s degree in drawing and painting from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in printmaking from Pratt Institute. I had worked for a year or so in a lithography shop in Manhattan producing lithographs for established artists and had begun showing what would become a 12-year series of hundreds of my three-dimentional artworks in the street-level window of my ground floor storefront studio in Lower Manhattan.

But, like most people reading this, I, too, needed money. The art dealers didn’t come looking for me until after I was no longer producing the type of work they were looking for.

My interest in comic art had been fomented mainly by having read the newspaper strips as a boy. I read EC and even spent my last dime on Uncle Scrooge comic books by Carl Barks– and later on, I devoured Mad Magazine. As a youth, sitting alone in the living room of my boyhood home, I poured over dozens of old issues of The New Yorker Magazine going all the way back to World War II, which had been saved by my parents . Richard Taylor’s cartoons held a strange fascination for me.

By the time I started going to the Marvel offices in search of freelance work in 1976, it was the age of the superheroes and judging by Dan Adkins’ reaction to my drawing portfolio, there must have been something very “unheroic” about my work.

I can’t really blame him, actually, because I seem to recall that one of the pieces in that portfolio depicted an ostrich astride a grave.

The big bird was struggling mightily to pull up a “worm” from a few feet in front of a granite monument with the name “PARKER” inscribed on it.

I’ll never forget the look on his face when he turned to that page.

Then he looked away— slowly handed my portfolio back to me— and with nary a word of encouraging advice, slowly stood up, walked across the floor– and disappeared back through the same door to the Marvel Reception Room through which he had emerged only a few minutes previously.

A couple of months later, more desperate for work than ever, I answered an ad in the Help Wanted section of The New York Times and was hired to do lettering corrections on staff at Marvel.

It was the age of the superheroes and having grown up reading “funnybooks”, I could not relate.

One thought on “Impressing The Boss (part one)”

  1. This is so interesting, especially your evolution as an artist, and the fact that you always considered yourself a “fine artist.” All those artistic enthusiasms, and you wound up a cartoonist, to pay the rent. And people love your cartoons. Go figure…


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