Almost every year, I go out and buy something for me for my birthday. Usually it’s been music, or occasionally a book. But I’ve been going to my old buddy Steve Bissette’s webpage, and he’s been selling some artwork. The above piece was in my price range, spoke to me visually and had a caption that made me laugh. It’s been a long time since I actually purchased artwork, probably 25 years ago or more.

Steve, along with writer Alan Moore and inker John Totleben, created a tremendous run of the comic Swamp Thing in the mid-1980s. I got to know Steve a little when he’d truck over from Vermont to work on various FantaCo horror-related publications. As I’ve mentioned before, we reconnected in part recently both through his compiling the history of FantaCo publications and our collective efforts – mostly successful – trying to get the writer of the FantaCo Wikipedia post to fix up some egregious errors.

I then went back to the site to buy the 16-page promotional “Sweeney Todd Penny Dreadful” by Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli, edited by Steve, as well as The Comics Journal #185 (March 1996) with a full-color dinosaur-collage Tyrant cover by Steve plus a 50-page interview with Mr. Bissette. Yes, I’ve read the W-H-O-L-E thing.

In each package, he threw in something else. In the first, it was a couple Mars Attacks! mini-comics. As a FantaCo employee, I took MA! writer Mario Bruni to Madison, WI in 1988 to the gathering put on by Capital City Distribution, a then formidable comic book distributor, now defunct, to market the product. I must have had the issues at one point, but certainly lost track of them over time. Somehow, Steve, sensitive Piscean fellow that he is, sussed out that I likely didn’t have copies for myself.

Suddenly on a Bissette kick, I went here and ordered SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING BOOK ONE HARDCOVER w/exclusive signed P2P bookplate, collecting SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #20-27. I LOVED those stories, but I must say the bookplate by Steve makes it almost worth the price of admission all by itself.

Anyway, I thought Steve’s natal day was today. Alas, the Intersnet deceived me, as it was yesterday. Regardless, thanks, my friend, for everything, and a (belated) HAPPY BIRTHDAY to YOU!


Art jam

There is a gentleman named Jeff Kapalka, who sent his newspaper review of Fred Hembeck’s new book to Fred recently. With Jeff’s permission, Fred forwarded it to me.

Jeff also attached this item, forwarded by Fred:

Jeff describes it to Fred: “I’m also sending along a scan of a piece you participated in about two decades or so ago. Remember when we’d meet up at conventions, and I’d be toting my big-ass piece of poster board around, getting all and sundry to contribute to a mammoth character jam? Well, it finally got filled up in the mid 1980s, Karl Kesel got roped into inking any penciled characters, and I’ve kept it ever since.

“In the bit I was able to cram into my scanner, we’ve got Cartoon Fred interviewing an Al Milgrom Firestorm (who for some reason is wearing a Clyde Caldwell clown puppet on his hand). Meanwhile, CF is being crept up upon by a Steve Bissette Swamp Thing (“Let’s see if you can grow YOUR arm back.”) with Vince Giarrano’s Haywire lurking in the background. Just out of shot, a Paul Smith Storm is forming a little storm cloud over Firestorm. He doesn’t notice, as he’s busy trying to pal around with a rather disinterested Jughead, a la Stan Goldberg. That’s Brent Anderson’s Shanna in front of a Ron Frenz Spidey, and you can just about see E-Man’s outstretched hand, courtesy of Joe Staton. Can’t remember for the life of me which character from Arion, Lord of Atlantis Jan Duursema sketched, but there’s no mistaking Raoul Vezina’s Smilin’ Ed.”

“Ahh…those were the days.”

Yes, they were. It’s interesting that three people who did work for FantaCo appear in this panel:
Steve Bissette, who was in Alien Encounters, Gore Shriek, Deep Red and other horror projects.
Fred Hembeck, who, in addition to his eponymous series, also contributed to Smilin’ Ed, the Chronicles series, Gates of Eden and Alien Encounters.
And of course, the late Raoul Vezina, who, in addition to Smilin’ Ed, worked on the Chronicles and had stuff in the first four FantaCon programs.

Jeff notes to me: “I loved Smilin’ Ed. (The issue where he heads off to Hollywood, obsessed with cinematic cheese, spoke volumes to me. Even today, when I think of the poster for Angry Red Rabbit, or poor Ray Merrymausen working on his stop-motion project, I smile.)

“We probably have already met, of course. My cohorts and I made many a trip to FantaCo back in the 1980s, and we were always treated right. The feeling there was like the Cheers bar, but with comics. It was there I first found out about the redoubtable Mr. V and his critter creations. Sadly, I have no real memory of any conversations with either him or you, but I do have the sense of having talked comics with fellow fans.

“FantaCo also introduced me to the awe and mystery that is Blotto, but that’s going off on a tangent.” Not really. The FantaCo folks were big Blotto fans, too. I was singing ‘Metalhead’ in the shower just yesterday.

“The piece also features a Dave Sim Cerebus, Wendy Pini’s Skywise, Iron Man by Bob Layton, John Byrne’s Rog-2000, Mike Grell’s Warlord, Walt Simonson’s Manhunter flanked by George Perez’ Starfire and Mary Wilshire’s Firestar, a Totleben Demon squaring off against a Simons Ghost Rider, and an Incredible Vampire Balloon. (The last is a critter from my Cranberry: Certified Public Avenger series. Never heard of it? You’re not alone…) And there’s still more!”

Jeff indicated that if he gets a chance to scan some more, I might be able to share more with you fine folks. Thanks, Jeff.


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