Every morning for the last couple years, I have written down three things for which I’m thankful. I keep a pad and pen next to the bed and write them immediately upon waking, so I begin the day in a grateful mood. They can range from the specific and self-focused (finding a great deal on comics at a garage sale) to the general and altruistic (rain for farmers after a drought), from the physical (a successful recovery) to the metaphysical (support from God). So in that spirit, I would like to make my 25th column a thankful one to keep with the season and ending of the year–and decade. (Whoa! Where did the “0s” go?). Here are a half-dozen art-related things for which I am very grateful:
1. Meeting those who’ve inspired and influenced me. I’ve been blessed and fortunate to meet some of the greatest artists of our time as well as my childhood. Everyone from mentors like Joe Kubert (my storytelling instructor), Gene Colan (my friend) and Dean Armstrong (my classmate/pal) to “encouragers” like Frank Frazetta and Jack Kirby, to quick handshake-thanks-anecdotes-autographs from Stan Lee, Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Bill Elder and far too many others to mention (unless I was Mark Evanier–heh, heh–whom I’ve also met and whose work I’ve enjoyed). They’ve inspired and influenced my work, entertained and enriched my childhood, and given me immeasurable memories of laughter, joy, excitement, awe, teary-eyed wonder, passion and all range of human emotion. One of these days I plan to make a definitive list for myself so I never forget those I’ve met. But for now, I just want to thank them.
2. My original art and print collection. While I’m no heavyweight/big-time collector with pieces in the five- or six-figure range (and only a handful in the four-figure realm), I still consider myself incredibly fortunate to have picked up what I have along the way over the years. Perusing the wonder in my plastic-paged portfolios and our home’s walls has inspired and entertained me in the best and worst of times. There’s a pride of ownership as well as a humility of respect that comes with such ownership and I consider it a rare blessing that not many others have or can even understand.
I acquired my very first piece of art by winning a raffle at one of Todd Loren(aka Stu Shapiro)’s monthly “Fantasticons” back in metro Detroit when I was a teen. It was a page from OUR FIGHTING FORCES #119 and till about a month ago I still had no idea who drew it! (Usually forgot to look for the comic, and when I have, it was either missing or overpriced. At WonderCon, in fact, I frequently came across the issues before and after but not that one!) Or maybe I found out decades ago and just forgot. Anyway, thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database (and Felix Lu), however, I finally found out–after 30 years–that the art is by Art Saaf. Cool pun, I say. And also, I just found out there’s a four-pager by Gene Colan in the same issue! So now my mission to find it is even more purposeful.
I still have that page (below) and the first two I ever purchased–THOR pages by Kirby and Bill Everett. (Thanks to Albert Moy), which I originally bought to use in trading for a Kirby Captain America page. I ended up holding onto them for 24 years…yet I may finally be trading one or both soon…IF I can part with them!
3. My artistic ability/experience/“talent”. While never a believer in what most think of as “talent” (which is another column), I realize I would not be where or what I am today without my Dad’s genes and his encouragement, education and support (and my Mom’s generous support and encouragement). When a 3rd grade teacher complained to my Mom that I was always “drawing dinosaurs and cavemen on my papers” while she was teaching, my Mom asked her how I was doing. “Very well,” she replied. “And when you call on him in class, does he know the answers?” inquired Mom. “Yes, always,” answered the teacher. “Then leave him alone!” came the reply. Cool.
4. The fans, pros, peers and others in the hobby/industry. I cannot begin to list all the amazing, funny, considerate, talented, intelligent, passionate, crazy, philosophical, goofy, bizarre, generous, friendly, compassionate, literate, tough, resourceful, quick-witted, motivated, humble and just plain AMAZING people I’ve met over the years at conventions and online. (Especially my long-time pal and Schism cover artist, Dean “No human draws like that” Armstrong.) You all should know who you are. Thanks for making the often grueling cons and bank-breaking ventures worthwhile.
5. Publication. Speaking of bank-breaking, I am still grateful for having my work published by others and myself. While I was concerned about a Bru-Hed “curse” at one point (people reviewing him suffering misfortune, magazines reviewing him going under–again, another column), over the years there have been a lot more outlets than I initially figured for my fevered mind’s masochistic machinations. Being able to afford to publish my stuff the way I wanted to, for the most part, was a benefit and joy that some of the greatest creators of our field never got to experience–the freedom to say, write and draw whatever you want without editorial interference or alteration is something others have spent decades pursuing, yet it’s about all I’ve experienced since I was 12! (A direct contrast to my advertising and commercial work, of course. Even though several million people have viewed my anonymous work at once on the Super Bowl ®, NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL playoffs, primetime network & cable TV, plus ROLLING STONE, PEOPLE, TIME, LIFE, FORBES magazines and THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, I still get a bigger thrill out of seeing my name on something with a print run of 1,000.) At the same time, I’ve not yet had that blockbuster Diamond Top 25 (or even 100) book either, or the thrill of being published by “the big two”, so it goes both ways. But I’m still glad–and grateful–I started on my own. I hope–nah, let’s say plan–to do more next year. (For which I have to thank my lovely, funny, bright and saintly-tolerant wife Lisa–without her, I’d be stocking shelves at KMart or selling bad caricatures (or “favors”) to tourists at the Wharf. Love ya, babe!)
6. This forum and YOU. Despite my criticisms of certain aspects, I am tickled to have this forum to share whatever I can of value with you, and that there are people who take valuable time from their crazy-busy days to read my little ramblings. I wish more would share their opinions and comments, but I do know you’re out there from what I hear and read, and it means a LOT. Of course, being on the same site with guys like Dave, Eric, Richard, Joe and–DA MAN hisself–Captain Craig “Runnin’-the-show” Rogers, is an honor which I did not think I deserved. Hopefully I can live up to it next year. Thanks, Craig! And everyone else: Take a bow and raise a glass, or piece of toast, in toast to YOU!
Have a safe, happy, healthy and hilarious New Year: May your best day of 2010 be your worst of 2011!
See you next decade,
P.S.: Start the year and decade off right! Order a commission from Craig here. And we’ll both have something even more to be thankful for next year!