Cue Scooby-Doo flashback…
I was attending Comic-Con in San Diego; it was the early 90’s, and I was a much different person than I am today. I was as they say Happy Go Lucky and Gay. Always upbeat and ready for whatever adventure awaited me.
The only word that still applies from Happy Go Lucky and Gay is gay. I’m still gay and Black. I’m a lesbian— I like women.
I’d just finished a panel when I was approached by this young white kid. And I do mean white. Without saying a word, this kid screamed baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. When he reached me, I said: “Look without a blood test, you’ll never be able to prove I’m your father.” I didn’t say that, but it’s true.
I actually said, “What’s up, Opie?” He just looked at me. “You’re a long way from Mayberry, what can I do for you?” A nervous smile crossed his face, but when he spoke, it was the voice of a distinguished confident young man.
Nah, the kid sounded like a nervous Opie Taylor. He hesitated for a moment but finally got it together. “Can I get you to sign this?” He subsequently got out.
Great, just my luck. Another darn Denys Cowan fan.
I was always being mistaken for Denys, and it was starting to really piss me off. Earlier that day, a guy refused to believe I wasn’t Denys. He stalked me for so long I finally had had enough. I’d told this guy at least ten times, “I am not Denys Cowan.”
“Yeah, ya are.” He said every single time accompanied by this creepy smile. Fed up, I said,” OK, OK, give me the book.” “I knew it.” He damn near yelled. So I took his treasured copy of Deathlok #1 and signed it.
I signed it, ‘I’m NOT Denys Cowan.’
Now, Opie, no doubt, wanted me to sign a copy of The Question or Black Panther or whatever.
As happens every 100 years or so, I was wrong.
He handed me copies of ETC, the book I illustrated for DC.’s Piranha Press. Oh my goodness, here was my first real FAN!
I quickly looked at his wrist to see if there was a plastic band around it. Nope, he wasn’t fresh out of a psych ward.
This was indeed a treat— I have a fan!
Upon a second look, the kid looked nothing like Opie from The Andy Griffith Show. He looked like a young Brad Pitt — Leonardo DiCaprio combined IF those two actors were better looking.
His name was Scott Anderson, and he loved ETC. At the time, I wasn’t at all crazy about my art on the series; that, as they say, is another story.
He said he wanted to be an illustrator. That struck me because most young people at comic conventions that seek advice say they want to draw comics or be a comic book artist or cartoonist. I think Scott was the first to ever use the word ‘illustrator.’
The kid was as well mannered as you can get. Try as I might with silly references to a T.V. show he’d never heard of, the kid stayed on course. He asked if I’d look at his work, and although I had a couple of supermodels waiting for me to bring lunch back to my suite, the wedge of lettuce they were to split between them could wait, so I agreed.
The kid had some skills but needed some advice. Illustration isn’t fine art’s crack addict cousin, it’s an utterly different animal. There are rules that you must learn before you think you can break them. First and foremost, illustrators are telling a story. The best there ever was at doing that was Norman Rockwell.
When I mention Norman Rockwell to young artists, the reactions vary. Often it’s they don’t know who Rockwell is or ‘yuk.’ I attended the High School of Art & Design and hated Rockwell’s stuff. I learned that I was WAY WRONG about his work, but that’s when I was older and working professionally.
“I like his stuff. ” Scott’s answered when I mentioned Rockwell.
That blew my mind. This kid all of 14 or 15 at a comic convention not only knew who Norman Rockwell was he respected the work. That’s a big deal.
This kid was the real deal. I could see from his manner he had an excellent support system, so yeah, I’d be happy to make him a satellite member of my Bad Boy Studio Mentor program.
Scott was a great learner, but I could not sustain the level of commitment needed to be a proper mentor and felt terrible about that. I didn’t want the kid to think I wasn’t serious about him, so I gifted him an ETC cover, so he knew he was loved despite having to pull back from mentoring.
Truth is, its young people like Scott that make mentoring the joy it is. This young man wasn’t just about himself. I could tell he had a purpose that included something bigger.
I used to mentor quite a few young people long distance at some point; all would tell me they would come and see me in L.A. or N.Y. depending on where I was at the time.
Scott actually did that.
Scott came to my studio in L.A. At one point, I took him over to my garage and showed him my sports car SUV and motorcycle. My intent was to give him my ‘its just ‘stuff’ speech. That’s the speech that I give kids that want to be artists, but parents think they will starve pursuing that goal.
“How is my kid going to make a living?”
That’s a fear that still resonates with parents today. Midway into the speech, I caught a glimpse at Scott’s face this young man had a look on his face that said, “Stuff is the last thing I’m concerned about” that may not seem like a big deal, but I’d never before or since known anyone who’s demeanor conveyed a purpose so clearly.
I’ve kept detailed journals since the ninth grade rereading the tale of Scott’s visit does not make it less amazing to me, although I wrote it the day Scott came to see me.
Whatever Scott’s purpose was, it wasn’t narrow or frivolous.
Fast forward to now. I’m proud to say Scott Anderson is one of the hottest illustrators working today. His work is original and diverse. The Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles and New York have acknowledged his work.
Scott was awarded the 2019 Society of Illustrators Bronze Medal in Editorial. A tremendous honor.
I’m sure his career is essential, but that look on his face all those years ago said something other than occupation.
I think Scott’s purpose was more significant than work. One look at his family, and I know I’m right. Although his choice of friends leaves room for improvement, he’s hanging around with this guy Bill Sienkiewicz who’s been trying to break into comics but has NO shot.
Scott has come a long way since his Opie days.
Well done, Mr. Anderson, well done indeed.