In the spring everyone starts to ask–“Are you going to Comic Con?” Even if you don’t go, you have to talk about it because it’s so important to the industry. A lot of people have a love/hate relationship with San Diego Comic Con. It’s a gigantic free wheeling circus of an event but there are always the complaints that the comics themselves don’t seem to be as front and center as the movies, TV shows, games and toys. Being late to the party I don’t notice that so much as I’m mostly focused on the comics and can barely keep up with that. The rest of the hoopla is a scenic background for me.
I love cruising down the aisles and seeing incredible new talent like The Strangler Brothers (Judge Leverich, Josh Frankovich, Melinda Davidson) as well as favorite artists like Keith Knight and beautiful work like that of James Sturm’s Market Day. In the midst of all the hordes of people you create pockets of intimacy and visit with the friends you correspond with during the year and then you finally get time to talk and hang out in real time. The panels on the comics are always enlightening with people like Howard Cruse, Gerard Jones, Michael Uslan and Jerry Robinson among many others. It’s extra wonderful in San Diego with gorgeous weather and the Pacific Ocean right before you. And I’ll give a shameless plug for Jackie Estrada who does a phenomenal job. If you don’t believe me attend some other comic events who shall not be named and compare your experience.
It was impossible for me to attend SDCC this year with my southern gothic adventure not yet at an end and then a quick turn around to head out to Pulpfest. I missed seeing everyone and I was especially sorry not to be there for Roy Thomas’s Eisner Award and induction into The Hall of Fame. I can’t imagine that anyone reading this post doesn’t know a thousand times more about Roy than I do but here goes just in case. Roy Thomas is one of the great guys of comics. He was at DC for about a week under the infamous Mort Weisinger and then had the foresight to write Stan Lee who promptly hired him for Marvel. Roy has a ton of stories about that period working with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Denny O’Neil–another of the great treasures of comics–and many more. Roy worked as a writer on all the comic books and characters you all know and love—Nick Fury, Avengers, Doctor Strange, X-Men, Conan the Barbarian, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man among others. He eventually became editor-in-chief at Marvel. In 1981 he went back to DC where he wrote for Wonder Woman and Justice League of America among others. See what I mean, the guy has written for just about every important comic book character created. What a career. This is just a bare bones sketch and there are books as well.
In 1964 prior to all the Marvel/DC work Roy became an editor for the fanzine Alter Ego and in one of those odd twists of fate that’s where he is now having been part of the re-launch of Alter Ego in 1999 published by TwoMorrows Publishing. If you care about comic book history you should be reading Alter Ego. They do an amazing job of chronicling the history of the comic book especially in interviews with the people who made the history.
Here’s where my story intersects with Roy. In 2008 after Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson was awarded a posthumous Eisner Award, John Morrow and Roy Thomas decided to devote practically an entire issue of Alter Ego to the Major with interviews of family members, photos and other archival material. The ace reporter Jim Amash was to do the interviews and I, lucky, lucky girl got the unbelievable opportunity to work with the great comic book writer and editor Roy Thomas coordinating our side of the project. Being the Candide of Comic Books I didn’t have much of a clue who Roy was nor did I know much about his distinguished background in comics. Like every writer who has a story, Roy represented the editor I had to deal with to make sure the story I wanted to tell got told. Meanwhile I was buried in organizing archival material and photos, trying to figure out IP issues between the hard won research and the need to inform–not to mention handling family members and their various issues. I did not come away unscathed and without Roy’s support it would not have turned out so well.
Besides Jim Amash who is the Super Hero of reporters and interviewers and John Morrow, a superb and hard working publisher toiling in a difficult vineyard, Roy Thomas is not only a top-notch editor and a fine artist the way he envisions each magazine, but he is also, in every sense of the phrase, a scholar and a gentleman. I could not have asked for the magazine to be any better than it was—that cover alone was a knockout—and so much was due to Roy’s talent and expertise. He was kind and patient with me and even listened to ideas that I had such as using cousin Ian’s interview with Creig Flessel, one of the early artists for Action Comics who worked for MWN.
Ian’s wife Erin discovered Creig Flessel at the assisted living facility where her grandmother had been living. Ian then volunteered to interview Creig and having a vested interest I dispatched a list of questions that I wanted to ask. I was concerned that I wouldn’t make it to the West Coast in time to interview Creig myself and unfortunately I was right. Thank goodness for Ian’s interview. Since Ian has worked on various magazines on the editing and writing side for quite some time it’s not surprising that he turned in great copy and besides–he does have the dna.
Roy generously made me feel that I was a contributor and I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t say how much fun I had working with Roy and the constant communicating back and forth. It took about a year from the idea to the finished issue and even as we got down to the wire Roy never flinched and continued his calm approach. Once the last t was crossed and I realized it was over, I was genuinely sorry. When you work in media that requires a collaborative approach sometimes things can end in fisticuffs or frosty silences. This was one of those experiences where I was elated and it all happened under the direction of Roy Thomas, comic book emeritus. I consider myself fortunate to have had this working experience and of course, I learned a lot. You can add me to the legion of fans. Roy Thomas’s Eisner Award is well deserved on all counts— creativity, enormous contribution to the industry and role model for those who come after. Many, many congratulations to you, Roy. I wish I’d been there.
Speaking of I wish I’d been there here’s a link to a post that I found out about from one of the discussion boards I’m on. The discussion was entitled I wish I’d been there. The blog is called DC Women Kicking Ass and you gotta love that. It’s a great post and well worth the time to read. Here’s the short hand. Evidently a young woman dressed as Batgirl went to many of the DC panels at SDCC and being astonished at seeing no women on the panels and the poor representation of women in the new line-up she asked a legitimate question—Where are the women? She kept asking it over and over at panels until finally there was a tense moment and a somewhat rude response. In all fairness you never know why someone loses his cool. We’ve all done it.
Batgirl’s appearance at SDCC has gotten a lot of play throughout the web and must have finally hit a nerve with DC. Apparently they are rethinking some of what they intend to do by adding more women creators and looking at the new line-up from the standpoint of including more women. Here’s a link. So far Wonder Woman has been given short shrift from that ghastly new outfit to the supposed TV series that moved somewhere off the planet so I don’t have a lot of hope. If DC can’t do right by WW then I don’t see how it’s going to work for other female characters. And sloppy token gestures are not going to do it. Strong well-written and well-drawn characters and good stories are the name of the game. Here’s a hint guys, according to most publishing industry statistics the female gender is doing the most buying and they’re loyal. Come on DC, you can do so much better. We’re all rooting for you to do the right thing. Stay tuned.
Although I wish I had been at SDCC in real life, I’m happy to say I was there in my own way or rather “the Major” was there, which is the whole point. Last fall J.C. Vaughn of Gemstone Publishing asked if I would write an article for The 41st Overstreet Guide to Comics about the Major—a sort of reintroduction of just who MWN is and what he’s noted for in the comic book industry. Robert Overstreet is one of a handful of guys who knows comics from Action to Yellow Kid and he’s been putting out the invaluable Overstreet Guide for 41 years. That’s quite an accomplishment. I had the pleasure of meeting Bob last year and getting to talk with him a little about his ongoing work. The Overstreet Guide usually comes out during SDCC so I was anxious to get my copy and see how the article looked. It arrived the first week in August, just after Comic Con and to my surprise contained a lovely letter from Bob Overstreet letting me know that Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson had been inducted into the Overstreet Hall of Fame. I cannot thank the guys at Diamond and Gemstone enough especially Steve Geppi, J.C. Vaughn and the incomparable Robert Overstreet. Everything was beautifully done. I was thrilled at the way the article looked and I’m glad that people who attended Comic Con had the opportunity to read about the man who was one of the founders of the industry.
Thanks to Bob, J.C. and Steve I had fun at this year’s Comic Con in spite of not being there. See you next year!
Stay tuned for Part 3 of “How I Spent My Summer: Pulpfest 2011
Nicky, you’re certainly right about Roy deserving the accolades he gets. There aren’t enough true writers in the field of comics. I’ve read the Alter Ego issue about MWN and I’m sure I’ll read it all again. I appreciate the work you have put in to bring to light to the story of the pioneer to whom we comic fans owe much.
Thanks Matthew. I appreciate it. Am I fortunate or what to have worked with Roy even in that small way? I think the world of that man. He is so talented and such a nice guy.