In 1998, I was walking down a corridor at SDCC and saw a sign which said that the legendary cartoonist and teacher Will Eisner was speaking in Room 3 at 11:45 a.m.
It was nearly 1 o’clock, but the door was open so I walked in.
Will had just concluded his remarks in front of a large audience and our eyes met and he held his gaze for a couple of seconds as if to say, “ You look familiar–do I know you?”
As people got up to leave I walked right up to him and introduced myself. ““Hi, Will–I’m Rick Parker, artist of Beavis and Butt-Head Comic Book….“, he shook my hand.
“I just want to tell you how important your work has been to me over the years…”
“Have you had lunch?”, he asked.
“Why don’t you come with me and let’s grab a bite to eat.”
“This is almost too good to be true”, I remember thinking.
I accompanied him down the hall a short distance to the V.I.P. Room. People passing in the hallway didn’t seem to know who he was. On the outside of a blue curtain was a piece of paper upon which someone had scrawled, “V.I.P. Room. “
There were about a half dozen artists and writers getting sandwiches and bottles of water. I didn’t recognize any of them. Will picked up a pre-packaged salad from a table and we both sat down and he quickly began eating.
(I didn’t get anything because I don’t like to eat in front of people I don’t know.)
I told him that I first became aware of his work from army technical manuals twenty years earlier when I was in the service.
“Where were you stationed?” he wanted to know as he put a fork full of salad into his mouth.
“Wow–! He’s eating healthy,” I thought.
“I was an officer and mainly involved with a Pershing missile Battalion at Fort Sill for most of the time.”
The great cartoonist swallowed and took a sip of water from an unopened bottle someone had left on the table.
“And what have you done in comics?” he asked.
“ Well….I started off as a letterer for Marvel.”
“I see….and now you’re drawing Beavis and Butt-Head..”
“Well…actually they canceled it…”
“Oh….so what are you going to do next?”
I had co-written several proposals for new comics that didn’t go anywhere and illustrated a few stories for DC–and tried out for MAD Magazine, but didn’t make the cut, but I didn’t want to tell him about any of that…
…but what I really wanted to tell him was that I wanted do my own graphic novel.
Just as I opened my mouth and sounds began coming out, someone off to our left recognized Will and got up from his table and made a bee-line straight to ours.
The man knelt down and gave Will a big hug as he was putting another fork full of salad into his mouth….
…and that was pretty much the end of my conversation with the great Will Eisner.
NEXT: Meeting Harvey Kurtzman