If you are one of the lucky people who got to be friends with my friend from Brooklyn, then, like me, you are very sad to think that we will all have to go on living in this world without him.
Still a relatively young man, he lost his life last week to brain cancer.
I first met my friend over 30 years ago when he needed someone to letter his comic strip and he brought it over to my studio each week for years. Then sat down next to me while I worked and we talked about all kinds of things, but mostly about comics.
We had a lot in common.
We both loved Forest J. Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland, horror movies, Mad Magazine, EC Comics, independently-produced comics and wearing black clothes. And while I did it mostly so I wouldn’t have to think about what I was going to wear or worry about spilling ink on myself, I suspect he did it because he felt a strong connection to the newspaper cartoonists of old, like Winsor McCay, E.C.Segar, Frank King, and George Herriman, to name but a few. I have to admit– the man had style–and it wasn’t just in his art, though his art had plenty of style–it was also in the man himself.
And just like a story with a happy ending, he fell in love and moved away from his home in New York with all his pens and brushes and went to live in California with his Ladylove and they were happy there for 25 years.
I went to visit him in his studio once about ten years ago when I attended the San Diego Comics Festival. As I sat there in his studio watching him scurry about gathering up his books and the things he would need at his booth, I thought to myself. “….I don’t think I have ever seen any artist who was happier than he is in his studio this afternoon”. Not only was he in love, but he had created his own original characters and he could be his OWN cartoonist in San Diego and all his cartoonist friends would come out to California every year to see him–!
And while they were visiting him, they could also check out the show.
As I helped him carry his books and things down the street to the convention center, I was genuinely happy for him. “What a big change from the old days in New York”, I said.
And we both laughed.
And then suddenly I realized that I was happy, too, for he had that effect on people.
And he was inspiring to others. He didn’t just “talk the talk“, he “walked the walk“.
And he showed us the way. He knew what he wanted and he worked hard to make his dream into his reality.
For that reason and many others too painful to recall, I have decided that from THIS DAY ONWARD–, for as long as I can hold a pen in my hand, that right next to my drawing board where I can see it EVERY day, I am going to have that drawing I did of my old friend right by my side.
This time, he’ll be hanging out in MY studio –with ME!
He’ll be the first one I see every morning when I sit down to work and the last one I see late at night when I turn out the light. He will be the first to see any artwork I do. He’ll have no choice but to watch me doing it!
I might even ask him what he thinks of it! He was always honest and had a suggestion to make it better.
And maybe this time, I will actually listen to him.