Archive for November, 2008

Tom Skulan was owner of FantaCo Enterprises

When I arrived at New Paltz as a fledgling art student in 1972, Raoul Vezina was already a local legend.
His art graced several bars and dozens of flyers posted in places like the Ariel bookstore.
He was in a band and had already published his own comic book (with Gilbert).

The first time I encountered Raoul I never really met him. He was in the back of one of my art classes before the class had started. He was passing around copies of New Paltz Comix and had a large group of students around him talking to him and asking him questions. He seemed like a super hero.

The first time I actually met Raoul was in Peter Maresca’s Crystal Cave comic shop on Main Street in New Paltz. Peter’s shop, one of only 100 such comic shops in the United States at the time was a big draw for me and for other comic fans. I had landed a part time job there and Raoul was a customer. He later would become an employee when the shop moved for the third and last time. He painted the Crystal Cave window sign as well as various small signs inside the shop- just as he would at FantaCo years later.

My first impressions of Raoul pretty much remained the same as long as I knew him. He was very independent, had a great and unusual sense of humor, loved to doodle often brilliant cartoons, usually late to work, had more friends than anyone I had ever met, kept very late hours and was prone to spending the stray night in jail.

After graduating from New Paltz and being hired directly into a teaching position I still wanted to be involved in a comic store.
So in August of 1978 I rented 21 Central Avenue in Albany and started to repaint and renovate the interior for a September opening.
I usually worked late into the night and left the front door open for some fresh air from the paint fumes. Occasionally someone would wander in and ask what the store was going to be. After telling them most people told me it would never work, including several advertising reps.
One of the earliest people who stopped in was Hank Jansen. Hank would become one of the most loyal, responsible and important of all of the FantaCo employees.

It seemed natural to use friends from New Paltz to help. Kevin Cahill and Veronica Cahill were from New Paltz and had just moved to Albany so that Kevin could attend law school. They were a huge help as was Louisa Lombardo and her sister Julie.
I enlisted Raoul to paint the window and store signs and hired him on immediately since he knew the operations of Peter’s store inside and out. Later I would also enlist 2 other New Paltz acquaintances- Roger Green and Mitch Cohn.

The first day, a Saturday, was a blow out. The store was packed and we did great. Raoul’s signs were a huge hit and responsible for much of the success. All of us had stayed up all night preparing the store and there are some great pictures of all of us collapsing after the doors were closed that day.

We planned a “grand opening” for 2 weeks later. I asked Raoul to do a flyer with a “rat in a space suit”, which he did. We posted the flyers everywhere and also used the character in a full page ad in the Overstreet Price Guide. Later that character, sans space suit, would become Smilin’ Ed- as named by Raoul.

During Raoul’s years at FantaCo he did hundreds of small store signs, several full page ads for the Overstreet Price Guide, dozens of flyers as well as writing and performing well over 100 radio commercials with me. The earliest commercials also featured Kevin, Veronica and Julie. We did the commercials at the WQBK studios and recorded them to tape. As far as I know we one of the first comic shops to advertise on radio. They were a blast to do and Raoul and I would spend hours at his apartment writing scripts and practicing them.

Penciled by Raoul Vezina. Inked/scanned/cleaned up/colored by Bill Anderson in 2008.

Of course there was also Smilin’ Ed the comic version. Raoul and I would spend many hours thinking up stories and writing dialog. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th issue of that comic took far longer to create than anyone might think. The first issue was rushed, late, and had to be driven up directly to the printing plant to be printed on schedule.

That Monday morning in November I received a call at 8:30 AM from Raoul’s girlfriend Dee.
I answered the phone and all I heard was “Tom, Raoul is dead”. I thought it was a pretty sick joke. After all Raoul had just started his vacation on Saturday and I thought he would be miles away spending his time with one of his friends in another state.
“This is a bad joke, Dee”, I answered. She then gave me details and assured me it was real.
Raoul had died at his apartment.

It was surreal as it was the first time I had encountered a friend dying. I informed my girlfriend Mary and headed into the store. I put up a sign indicating the store would be closed Thursday and stayed in my office answering the phone.
The days that week are still a blur to me. I partially remember attending the funeral, being a pallbearer and breaking down.
What I do remember is hundreds of people, from all over, attending the funeral.
It was the most people I had ever seen at a funeral.

So that was it. A life was over far too soon.
Raoul, through his good humor, art and music had touched the lives of thousands of people.
His great cartooning, writing and performing skills were a very important part of the early FantaCo.
I still often think about Raoul. I miss having someone to create with.
As time goes by I do not think I will ever have that again.

ROG

It’s oft quoted that consumer spending is the lifeblood of the American economy, comprising of 2/3s or 70%, depending on who you ask, of the economy. It’s also well established that the Christmas season time of the year when retailers and services historically expect to make it into the black.

So:
Will you spend more, less, or just as much on Christmas as you did last year?

Has your shopping been affected by social concerns such as trying to buy locally or buying fair trade items, such as the toys at Green Living?

Do you worry about buying gift cards that will be worthless if the company folds?

Are you concerned about too much stuff?

My answers: less, yes, yes and yes.
***
If you’re interested in equine-related stuff, you might want to check out Silver Horse Studios; not only is it local to me (Catskill, NY), it’s the business of Eileen and Mario Bruni. Mario was the eweell-done but ultimately ill-fated Mars attacks mini comics that FantaCo put out in the late 1980s.

The niece’s next gig – niece on the right.

ROG


About three months ago, my wife got a letter from one of her credit card companies LOWERING her available credit. Understand that she always pays on time. This is so contrary to what had been happening for the past decade or more, where they kept upping her available credit to absurdist levels; i.e., greater than her gross annual salary.

Now, last week, I got a letter from one of my credit card companies. They noted that I had not used the card in 24 months, which was true. In the olden days, i.e., last year, they would have sent me checks to write against the account. Instead, though, they CANCELLED the card. This is NOT a complaint, BTW, just an observation, since I too have more available credit than income.

Meanwhile, gas is going down, but not at the same rates. While the Mobil station nearest my house has that traditional dime’s difference between the various levels (on Monday, $2.199, $2.299, $2.399), a couple other Mobil stations in Albany were $2.199, $2.659, $2.699. I don’t begin to understand pricing for this stuff, but I am fascinated that it could be so different within the same city limits.
or here.
The State University of New York is raising tuition, largely as a result of the state budget crisis; apparently, the state government can’t print money to spend its way out of its crisis as the feds can. Since two of my alma maters were SUNY schools (New Paltz and Albany), I’m interested in noting that the result of this is an INCREASE in the number of people who want to attend college. Do they figure they might as well go to school in hopes that things will be better when they get out?

ROG


From the BLS: What activities do you have planned for this Thanksgiving? Perhaps cooking and enjoying a meal with family or friends, playing sports or watching sports on television, doing volunteer work, or shopping? Here’s a look at some BLS data behind those Thanksgiving scenes.

For me:
Cooking? Perhaps a little, but I’m at my in-laws, so it’ll mostly be table setting and clean up.
Meal – yes, most definitely. I don’t know why I don’t have turkey at other times of the year. I LIKE turkey.
Watching sports – maybe; if my father-in-law is, then I am.
Doing volunteer work – actually I had planned on having done that already by helping move furniture around the church on Monday for the EQUINOX Thanksgiving dinner in Albany, but then my daughter got sick with pink eye, the scourge of day care centers everywhere, and that plan went out the window.
Shopping – not if I can help it. Shopping on Thanksgiving Day should be limited to buying forgotten cranberry sauce. And NO ONE loathes shopping on Black Friday more than I do. Though online shopping is not out of the question.

The American Farm Bureau Federation tells us that the Classic Thanksgiving Dinner is Still Affordable. For those of us lucky enough to still have jobs, I suppose. For which I AM thankful.
***
The presidential cookie poll.

ROG

There are times when my daughter is bold and fearless. In her classroom, for instance, her teachers rave about how well she helps the newer students get acclimated. Other times, she just wants to retreat behind one of her parents.

Her favorite TV show – pretty much her ONLY TV show she watches on a regular basis, as we’re TRYING to limit her consumption – is something called Little Bear. It is based on some 1950s books by Maurice Sendak, for which, quite coincidentally, we received a three-in-volume volume of the book. Little Bear lives in the forest with his parents and has friends with Owl, Duck, Hen and Cat. The TV series was filmed in the 1990s in Canada.

Most of these stories she enjoys, but a few of them made her quite frightened: one with Father Bear arguing with the personified North Wind, a couple featuring goblins, which look more like Santa’s elves.

But the episodes cycle through and repeat after a number of weeks, and Lydia’s discovered that there’s nothing to fear from the wind or the goblins.

I was reminded that, last Christmastime, we were at a party. The kids went upstairs with an adult to play. As it turned out, they were watching Little Nemo. I went to check up on her, and I noticed my child, in ithe midst of a bunch of happy children, looking terrified. She ran to me, and I watched the remaining part of the movie with her, including the scary dentist scene, during which she buried her head under my arm.

It occurred to me while reading Tosy, who has two girls about Lydia’s age, that before we venture on showing Lydia the movie The Wizard of Oz, perhaps I ought to READ the story to her first. Interestingly, my wife has a friend whose daughter had seen the Wizard of Oz a half dozen times, or more, by the time she was THREE, and wasn’t afraid at all. I remember being still afraid of it at age seven; on the other hand, in a pre-video age, I saw it but once a year.

Ah, the power of repetition.

ROG

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