Name Dropping, by Mike Gold
I’ve been around the northeast quadrant a bit since the New York show a few weeks ago and I’ve seen a lot of people. Good people, old friends, new collaborators, strange and unusual folks. That’s what my life’s about, and I’m proud of that.
I enjoy going to the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention. Compared with, say, the mass of hustling humanity at comics shows in New York, San Diego or on WizardWorld, the Windy City show is like a weekend at the spa. Anthony Tollin was there along with his latest Shadow and Doc Savage trade paperbacks; we talk about them here all the time. I was able to have a solid conversation with frequent ComicMix commentator Russ Maharas, I got to go over the next Simone and Ajax plot with Andrew Pepoy for a bit, FOC (that’s “friend of ComicMix”) George Hagenauer gave Adriane Nash a swell history lesson on 1950s pin-up art, Rob Davis and Ron Fortier told me about a new project that fascinated the hell out of me, and I had the chance to talk with master cartoonist Jim Engel once again.
The next day we had lunch and dinner with FOCs Charlie Meyerson and his wife Pam (Charlie of Chicago Tribune fame; Pam’s a lawyer and bon vivant) and Rick Oliver and his wife Jade (Honest Rick of First Comics, Jade was a swell comics colorist). George, Charlie and Rick have given us a lot of advice and opinion ever since ComicMix was just a gleam in our eye – Rick is a major commenter in these precincts – and the whole bundle of ‘em are brilliant conversationalists.
Since the best thing to do in Chicago is eat until you burst, we were particularly fond of our dinner with the aforementioned Mr. Pepoy, Simone and Ajax colorist Jason Millet, Hilary Barta (Munden’s Bar, The Simpsons, The Thing, Power Pack, New Mutants, Alan Moore’s Tomorrow Stories), and writer / professor Len Strazewski (Prime, Justice Society, The Fly, Starman, Phantom Lady). Sort of like the fabled Algonquin round table, but a lot more snarky.
All this lead up to the main reason behind my Chicago sojourn. Last week I noted there was to be a celebration at Second City for ComicMix commentator and author Kim Howard Johnson and his bookThe Funniest One In The Room: The Lives and Legends of Del Close (Chicago Review Press, $24.95). Well, that happened, and if I had to walk from Connecticut to Chicago it would have been worth it. Linda and I were joined by Adriane Nash, writer Max Allan Collins and his wife Barbara and son Nate (yep; Al only knows a couple of names), artist Barry Crain (Munden’s Bar, Conan, Sonic Disruptors), and comics movie agent supreme Ken F. Levin and his wife Mary.
The tribute was nothing short of awesome. Howard, Tim Kazurinsky and little-seen improv greats Jonathan Abarbanel, Jamie Swise, and Michael Gellman gave us 90 minutes of Del stories I’d never heard before, the premiere of a one-act play found among Del’s unpublished papers. Deeply personal, astonishingly funny, the event included a half-dozen video clips of Del in his character of “Ozzy Mandas,” commenting on funny subjects like death and destruction… and on his work with John Ostrander onWasteland.
I got a chance to have a lengthy conversation with Tim, a man I’ve long admired but never met. We shared a friend and collaborator in the late Eliot Wald, a man with whom I had worked on radio and at the fabled Chicago Seed; Tim and Eliot were writing partners at Second City and worked together atSaturday Night Live. A great wit with the commensurate keen mind; I’m glad to see he’s got four movies scheduled for release this year.
Howard tells me he might be taking the Del show on the road a bit, at least to Los Angeles, probably June 1 at the iO West and June 2 at the Upright Citizens’ Brigade Theatre. If so, I urge you to attend. I also urge you to purchase The Funniest One In The Room: The Lives and Legends of Del Close.
I got back to Connecticut just in time to hook up with John Ostrander and Mary Mitchell, who stopped by for the evening on our way to join Marc Wheatley, Mark Hempel, Howard Cruise, our own Rick Marshall and the fabulous Jessica Bloustein the following day at the Normal Rockwell Museum’s graphic novels exhibit. John, Mary and I jabbered about their upcomingMunden’s Bar collaboration, and we discussed some unfinished comics business involving Mr. Close. But, mostly, John and I had this massive session planning, creating and posturing a brand new comics series.
Rick will be writing (or has written) up a piece about the Rockwell Exhibit; the event was great fun and the staff was enthusiastic and helpful. I’m told their graphic novels exhibit was quite successful and met their goal of attracting move teens and young adults to the Museum. It’s a great place and I urge everyone interested in American illustration to check it out.
All this means there should be a fair amount of exciting new work here on ComicMix from the likes of Hilary Barta, Terry Beatty, Del Close, Barry Crain, Max Allan Collins, Jason Millet, John Ostrander… some new stuff, some returning friends, some stuff for which we might get arrested.
That’s what my life’s about, and I’m proud of that, too.
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.