MARTHA THOMASES: Ennis, O’Neil, and Family
Twice in two days this weekend, I ran into Garth Ennis on the street. Other than industry events, I haven’t seen him in nearly a decade (and then, on the street). Apparently, he lives about half a mile away from me, and has for eight years.
Usually, if I see someone I know in a place where I don’t expect to see him, I don’t recognize him. When it’s family, it’s different.
I’m not claiming to have a particularly close relationship with Mr. Ennis. As the publicist at DC in the 1990s, I monitored to the line for his signings at a few conventions and hung out at bars in the evenings with other comics folks.
I have cousins with whom I’ve spent less time.
There aren’t a lot of businesses with the same kind of family feelings as comics. I think it’s because, until recently, we got no respect. Biff, bam, pow, comics were for kids, and any adult who liked them – or worse, made a living working on them – must be developmentally stunted or a pedophile.
The first person I met in comics was Denny O’Neil. I was completely gobsmacked because he was, at the time, my favorite writer (since then, I have added favorites, depending on my mood. Still, day in and day out, he’s frequently the best). It turned out he lived down the street, and I managed to insinuate myself into his life by watering his plants when he was out of town, and borrowing his Ed McBain books. Besides comics, we shared an interest in anti-war politics, the great 1960s culture wars, and schlocky science fiction movies.
Through Denny, I met the crowd that was then at Marvel: Larry Hama, Archie Goodwin, Mike Carlin, Christopher Priest and the gang. I met a great group of freelancers, too: Frank Miller, Walter Simonson, Howard Chaykin, Kyle Baker, Bobby London, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mary Wilshire, Tony Salmons. I met Mike Gold through Denny, even though we know so many of the same people that I can’t believe we hadn’t met before.
And so on, and so on.
When I got the job at DC (thanks to Denny’s referral), I met a whole bunch more. And even though I’d been shy as a teenager, I found I was able to talk easily to people I’d just met. Maybe because we had business to talk about, or Superman, or Jim Shooter, but conversation was easy, and I felt comfortable around these people.
Just like family.
Comics used to be much more of a New York business. Then Fed-Ex, fax machines and the Internet made it possible for people to live in other states, even other countries. And that’s cool. I have family in Australia, and we’re still tight.
Since Denny retired, I don’t get to run into him every day. He moved out of town and I’m using the phone much less. Even so, I know that, the next time I see him, which will probably be at our Chanukah party, we’ll have a bunch to talk about, and we’ll laugh at our respective wrinkles and gray hairs. We’ll talk about the kids, and their crazy music and hairstyles.
Maybe, if I invite him, Garth will come, too.
Martha Thomases suspects that her teen-age self would not believe how little she uses the telephone anymore.
SATURDAY: John Ostrander