In My Life, by Michael Davis
Though I know I’ll never lose affection / For people and things that went before / I know I’ll often stop and think about them…
I was thinking about my departed sister the other day. I always think about her but more so this time of year because her birthday is approaching. My sister Sharon died a tragic death leaving a part of me forever sad. That’s a part of me, for the most part I’m an upbeat guy but there are some times when I have to be alone to just think about her and cry. I’m not talking about tearing up, I cry, sometimes so uncontrolled I shake like a child out in the cold without a coat. I call those times when this happens to me my “chick” moment.
Make of that what you will.
When these “chick” moments happen, I have to sit in place for some time before I can return to normal. Now that’s funny, who would have thought me… normal?
I know that some people see me as a fast-talking driven dealmaker. I also know that some people see me as a lucky SOB or asshole. I’m fairly confident that talking to people about me you will get one or a combination of those three descriptions.
I’m fairly confident that is what you will get. I’m positive that you will not get this: “Michael Davis? Him? Oh, every so often he breaks down and sobs like a little bitch.” Well you may get that now because of my big mouth, but up until now you would not have.
Yes, this is ComicMix and yes there is a comic book article coming but please allow me to have a moment here. Speaking of moments I had a “chick” moment last night. I was sitting in my office and I started thinking about my sister. I was fine for about five minutes until the song You Are Not Alone, by Michael Jackson came up on my iTunes. My sister was attacked and left to die while people walked passed her all night thinking she was drunk or high on drugs. No one stopped, no one helped. Her life, which could have been saved, simply faded away.
Sharon hated to be alone. She was always with friends or family so when You Are Not Alone myself out of these “chick” moments I try and think about what’s good in my life. This time I started thinking about my friends. Man, do I have great friends. I don’t have many but as a friend of mine once told me, “You know good people.” I do know good people. That made me feel a bit better.
Then I started thinking about some of the good people I know. Things started looking way up! THEN I started to thinking about those people who have helped me in my life and there were quite a few. Things were looking way, WAY up! Then I started thinking about something I really love – comics! I was now feeling great! I even started bobbing my head when I realized that Michael Jackson’s You Wanna Be Starting Something was now playing from my computer. LOOK, I could give a crap about Michael Jackson’s personal life. THAT MOFO’S MUSIC IS BAD ASS.
Where was I? Oh yeah I was feeling great! I was thinking about comics and those people who helped me get into comics, and then I started crying…like a little bitch.
So, there I sat again. I wondered why in the Hell I was crying again? I was thinking about comics and some of the people who helped me. That was all good so what the chuck was going on? What in the Hell was wrong with me? I tried to get a hold of myself but I could not for the life of me figure out why I was crying. I became conscious that I was no longer bobbing my head and realized that the Beatles’ In My Life was now playing.
I LOVE that song, so what was wrong with me? Then like a light bulb smashing me over the head. I got it. Comics, people that helped me and that song all led me to Don Thompson.
Shit. I’m losing it now as I write this.
Jack Kirby, Mark Grunewald, Archie Goodwin, Carol Kalish, Kim Yale and last but certainly not least Don Thompson all helped me in a big way. They all passed way before their time.
Both Mark Grunewald and Archie Goodwin spent many hours schooling me on comics. Archie Goodwin really gave me my very first job in comics for the magazineEpic but because the magazine stopped publishing that job never saw print. My affection for Archie was so big that I named a character “Archie Goodman” in a script I wrote in his honor when I heard he died.
I made a film called How To Break Into Comics starring Mark Grunewald shortly before he died. The film was horrible but Mark was GREAT and an even greater sport. He was so cool and he spent a lot of time with young talent.
I used to have lunch with Carol Kalish every month for two years before she died. I was really not working in comics, but I met her when I was up at Marvel with Denys Cowan. She and I struck up a friendship and would just hang out. She taught me so many things about the business side of comics that I owe her a great debt. I remember one day she introduced me to this guy who worked with her in direct sales. After the introduction he left and she turned to me and said “He wants to write comics.” I said “Don’t we all?” She then added “I think he will do fine.” I thought to myself, “Yeah, never happen.”
That guy we were talking about was Peter David.
When I heard she died I almost fell down, it shook me so bad. A few years later I almost punched a guy in the throat for talking smack about Carol. One of the last images I have of Carol is her standing alone at a booth in Mid-Ohio where she was launching her baby the Sci Fi anthology Open Space. That was 1987 and I spent most of my time at that convention hanging out with Carol. BTW, you may not remember Open Space but you may have heard of this artist who got his start there, Alex Ross.
It was at that convention that my comics career really started. I met John Ostrander and his wonderful wife Kim Yale. They introduced me to Mike Grell who hooked me up with the new editor of DC’s brand new imprint Piranha Press. I think that Mike Gold had given me a job at around the same time thanks to Denys Cowan and John Ostrander, but that is a story for another time. John and Kim treated me like an old friend from day one. When the con was over I said my goodbyes to all my new friends and can still feel the hug that Kim gave me. She and John promised to stay in touch with me…and they did.
John, I hope you never forget just how much you and Kim still mean to me. Events have kept us from hanging out too much over the years, but I still remember Time Train and still value you as a friend.
When I heard Kim died I cried as if I had lost another sister because in a very real way I had.
I have a big mouth and very few things leave me speechless. One such occasion was when I met Jack Kirby. It was at a New York convention and I was standing in line to get a copy of Fantastic Four #77 signed. When I got up to Jack I could not speak. Me, Michael Davis, could not utter a word. His wonderful wife Roz took the comic book from me and handed it to Jack who signed it and handed it back to me. I left the line and stood there for a moment staring at the book like it was gold.
Roz asked me if I was all right and I remember saying to her (and I was not making a joke) “Now I can die.” “That is so sweet!” Roz said as she grabbed my hand and led me back to Jack and told him to take a photo with me. I wondered where they would get a camera from then I realized I had one around my neck. “What’s your name kid?” The king asked. I wanted to say “I’m Jack Kirby’s bitch.” But I mumbled out “Michael.”
Long story short, I had lunch with Jack and Roz some years later and that was one of the highlights of my life. When Jack died I was out of the country and sickened by the fact I could not make his funeral.
I was a pallbearer at Don Thompson’s funeral and it was like a member of my family had passed. I will never forget how Maggie Thompson held me after the service. Maggie who had just lost the love of her life was consoling me.
The very first hard cover book I ever brought with my own money was Don’s All In Color For A Dime. I met Don and Maggie (there was a time when you had to say “Don and Maggie” together. It took me a long time to just say “Maggie”) when I was at a convention in Chicago in the 80s. I lost my mind when I met Don; his book was the coolest thing I had ever read up to that point. He and Maggie became a real part of my family and in fact before I took the job heading Motown’s film and TV division I went to ask their council.
For me to ask anyone about anything is a HUGE deal and that meeting was one I will NEVER forget. I love Maggie Thompson so much that when I heard Don died I instructed my staff to stop working on everything and to create a video celebrating Don’s life. The soundtrack to that video was In My Life.
This I hope brings me full circle. I have been trying to write this article since last night and I just got an e-mail from Mike Gold asking where my column is because I’m so damn late.
I’m late because I started and stopped again and again because I was overcome with emotion. I’m late because I was thinking that even for me, this is a bit too revealing and I should not put this out there. I’m late because I gave poor Tatiana NO time to do the art because of my back and forth on rather I wanted to print this.
Well I’m sending this to Mike (typos and all) because I think that the memory of my sister and my fallen friends are well worth people knowing I cry from time to time over their loss.
I don’t know much but here’s what I do know: as much smack as I talk I realize that I am not where I am today because I did everything on my own. I had help and some of those who helped me are no longer here so I’m taking a moment (YES, A CHICK MOMENT) to think about and honor them. There is no greater way for me to do that than to let a million readers know how I feel. I’ve done it and say what you will about it, I’m at peace with it.
And now I feel pretty damn good.
I’ll leave you with no jokes no sly humor and no outrage, just this:
All these places have their moments / With lovers and friends I still can recall / Some are dead and some are living / In my life I’ve loved them all.
I miss you, Sharon.