It’s been a busy year on the trail with the Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson Traveling Circus and Wild West Show. Beginning in January with Wizard World Comic Con New Orleans–a short drive from my Gulf Coast winter habitat. Not a bad start–beignets, Cafe du Monde, Streetcars of Desire and all the great food to be had in the Crescent City. The extra lagniappe in New Orleans–the local comic book store named after MWN’s early comics.
Danny Fingeroth organizes much of the programming for Wizard World and he continues to bring in a stellar group of people who know and love comics. I met Dean Haspiel, a talented artist who is part of Hang Dai Studios in Brooklyn, NY. Dean worked with Harvey Pekar who was an obvious influence and I love that he and the incomparable Mark Waid are currently working on The Fox originally drawn by Irwin Hasen.
Ben Katchor, a very fine artist and the recipient of several prestigious well-deserved awards presented his work along with Dean’s. It was a special treat to have the opportunity to see these artists in such an intimate setting showing and speaking about their work. It was obvious from the numerous examples that their environment–New York City–in some form is a character in each artist’s work. Ben’s gorgeous drawings and washes of color were new to me and it was a pleasure to meet him as well.
It was also fun to meet Gabe Soria who knows cousin Ian Wheeler-Nicholson from their New York City days working on various magazines. Yes, it runs in the family. Gabe currently lives in New Orleans and he and Dean discussed their project for Batman ’66, a clever take on the old series and beautifully drawn. Gabe has a new Batman ’66 story out featuring Batgirl and drawn by Ty Templeton. I can’t wait to read it.
This particular con had a number of very fine independent artists including the very cool Jim Mahfood and James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook whose book The Late Child and Other Animals has a haunting memoir at its heart.
Appearing on a panel with Danny Fingeroth (Superman on the Couch, Disguised as Clark Kent) and Travis Langley (Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight) speaking about “World War II and the Comics: The Joker, The Flash and Captain Marvel” along with Sherry Lupkes Craig, an impressive comics scholar teaching at Southeastern Louisiana University was one of the high points.
To top off a super experience Eris Walsh of the MarySue interviewed me. Since I’m often the only woman on these panels I have the opportunity to talk about women in comics as well as the way women are portrayed in comics.
In late February I drove down to Fort Lauderdale for Rich Harvey’s Bold Venture Press first Pulp AdventureCon there. He’s been doing a Pulp Convention in Bordentown, New Jersey for many years and it was one of the first events I attended when I first started getting to know the pulp community. The Fort Lauderdale Pulp AdventureCon took place in a classic Hollywood setting with huge luxury condos on the intracoastal canal and yachts anchored below with palm trees swaying in the ocean breeze. Could there be a better place to delve into the pulpish world?
My fellow southerners and good pal pulpsters William Lampkin who maintains the excellent The Pulpnet.com, and Yellowed Perils and Jeff Shanks, a top Robert E. Howard scholar who is not too shabby in the comics history department, Scott Hartshorn and author Michael R. Hudson were all there for the fun. J. David Spurlock of Vanguard Publishing brought his gorgeous books. I especially love the Margaret Brundage, one of the few women cover artists for the pulps. I’ll talk more about her in a later column.
It was exciting to meet Audrey Parente as there are so few pulpster dames. Audrey has written a biography of pulp writer Theodore Roscoe and she told me about Charles Boeckmann, one of the last of the pulp writers still going strong. She recently edited his memoirs Pulp Jazz: Blue Notes and Purple Prose. I had a chance to talk with Charles and his wife Patty on my way back to the West Coast which I’ll share in a later post. I finally got to meet David T. Alexander of DTA Collectibles, a lovely gentleman whose selection of pulps I have been enamored of for some time. The best part, of course, was the talking, talking, talking pulps, comics, the writers, the artists and the fun behind the scenes stories we all love.
By April I was back in Berkeley and Dan Herman of Hermes Press asked me if I would jaunt down to San Jose with Tom Andrae and participate on a panel celebrating Walt Kelly and Pogo for the Big Wow Festival in San Jose. I was more than pleased as I always love hanging out with Tom. He’s a comics scholar whose head is crammed with tons of facts profound and obscure of everything you could possibly ever want to know about early comics and the super heroes. He’s also written more than a few books. Hermes Press does very fine reproductions of comics in beautifully bound books and their Walt Kelly’s Pogo: The Complete Dell Comics is no exception.
Dan always makes a beautiful presentation for his panels. It was fun to bring in some little known facts to the guys including the knowledgeable Mark Brustein and Scott Daley, step-son of Kelly who know just about everything there is to know on the subject. MWN hired a young Walt Kelly and I brought in a couple of slides of cartoons he created for MWN’s early comics appearing in More Fun 7 and 8. Dean Yeagle came to the panel and afterwards we all got the chance to talk–what else? Comics.
Part of the fun at these events is running into some of your favorite pals like the multi-talented Grant Geissman, jazz musician and writer of books about EC Comics. It was great to stroll through Artists Alley and see the ever dapper Steranko holding forth, as well as Al Gordon and Steve Leialoha among other talented guys. I finally got to meet the legendary Steve Bissette and I thoroughly enjoyed the panel he was on moderated by my good pal and fine artist Mike Pascale.
A short catch of the breath and then on to Sacramento in June once again for Wizard World. Danny outdid himself on this one with panels featuring among others the iconic Howard Chaykin; a reprise of our panel on comics during World War II with Mel Gordon, Tom Andrae (who co-authored Siegel and Shuster’s: FunnyMan) and Trina Robbins; and Travis Langley’s popular panel on The Joker, Robin, The Flash et al. Travis who is nothing if not au courant has a new book out The Walking Dead Psychology.
Seth Everett from the new ConTV interviewed Trina Robbins, Genese Davis (The Holder Dominion) and me about women in comics. Seth did a great job managing three women with strong points of view. Trina, of course is the final word on this subject having written a number of books of the history of women artists in comics with the latest Pretty in Ink from Fantagraphics. She has a new book coming out that I’m excited about and will talk about it in the SDCC post. Seth came by my table later and we had an in depth conversation about “the Major” and early comics. You can hear it here.
Our friend and comics scholar David Armstrong came up from L.A. to join us. Part of the fun for those of us working at these conventions is the opportunity hang out and talk shop. I always learn so much from being with these incredibly gifted artists and writers. The other plus was that we found terrific food in Sacramento. Being from the snobby food scene around Berkeley who knew!
Next stop the big Prom and Cinderella Ball of them all–San Diego Comic Con.