Another FantaCo Recollection


Gates of Eden (May 1982) was arguably the best thing FantaCo Enterprises of Albany, NY, where I worked from 1980-1988, ever put out. Had a great Michael Kaluta cover, and work by John Byrne, Steve Leialoha, Michael T. Gilbert, Trina Robbins, Fred Hembeck, Foolbert Sturgeon, Lee Marrs, Jeff Jones, P. Craig Russell, Rick Geary, Kim Deitch, Spain, Sharon Rudahl, Gary Hallgren, and John Caldwell. It was also a disaster commercially. Comic blog impresario Alan David Doane has put together some memories of Gates of Eden,; the title was inspired by Bob Dylan. See what Christopher Allen, my Internet buddy Johnny Bacardi, and yes, I had to say about it here.

I was looking at the FantaCo Wikipedia page recently and it occurred to me that someone should do a Wikipedia page for the late Raoul Vezina. Not only did he do the Smilin’ Ed series for FantaCo, he also worked on New Paltz Comix with the aforementioned Michael T. Gilbert. With Don Rittner as writer, Raoul drew a series of Naturalist At Large cartoons, many of which I had bnever seen before.

It came out a while ago, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t still be plugging Fred Hembeck’s 900-page anthology again. It includes Fred’s seven magazines published by FantaCo, plus about 700 MORE pages of goodness.
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My, I’ve been feeling crummy the last four days. And I’m supposed to sing this afternoon. I’ve had a range of about a half an octave; wish me luck.

ROG

Autumn of 1988

After eight and a half years, I left my job at FantaCo in mid-November 1988. Leafing through some old journals, I was surprised – actually shocked – to see that I had actually planned to leave a full year earlier. I made a point making sure that people were trained to take on the the tasks I did, with the mail order especially, before I left so that owner Tom Skulan wouldn’t be left in a lurch.

It was odd. I was making more money at the end than i had ever made up to that time, plus paid health insurance, something Tom was providing only to himself and me, though others could get coverage on their own dime; I don’t recall anyone taking advantage of that offer, since they were all pretty young and weren’t making that much.

The problem is that I was making money from all the horror stuff we were selling, and more importantly producing. My old buddy Steve Bissette is currently delineating the Gore Shriek history (and selling some artwork of the period. In some way, it was almost passing the torch to Steve. I was involved in the Chronicles and the like, while Steve was present for the very first Gore Shriek in June of 1988. It was the comic books, not the horror stuff, that drew me to FantaCo, but I balanced the checkbook, and it was the horror stuff that kept FantaCo going month after month.

So I quit. I wasn’t angry, just burned out. Tom felt angry and betrayed, I suspected, and this was confirmed by a couple people. I felt badly that he felt that way but I couldn’t see any real options.

As it turned out, on Thanksgiving Day, I got a call from a guy I knew telling me that our mutual good friend Nancy Sharlet was dying of cancer. I met her when we both worked together at the Schenectady Arts Council in 1978. I started on March 1. March 7 was my birthday; not knowing me well, but wanting to acknowledge the day, she got me this little S.W.A.T. truck, which I have to this day.

The GREAT thing about being unemployed was that I could spend lots of time in the hospital with her, nearly every day for about a month, before her mother came up from Tennessee to tend to her in her last days. She died on January 1, 1989.

After the funeral, I never saw her kids Jocelyn and Jeffrey again. I assume they went to live with their father, Robert, who I did not know well.

I was watching Jon Stewart a couple weeks ago. His guest was a guy named Jeff Sharlet, who is the author of The Family: Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. Could this be the Jeffrey Sharlet, the six-year-old I played SORRY with when he was six? I found this 2004 interview, and the answer is clearly yes.

“I grew up in what seemed like a mostly Catholic town in upstate New York.” Check. “My father is Jewish.” Check. “My mother, with whom I lived, had been raised in a very unusual Pentecostal home.” Jeffrey and his sister Jocelyn lived with their mother; her religion was a bit unclear. “Her mother, a very poor Tennessean”. Check. “She [his grandmother] raised my mother to be interested in everything.” Double check. “Going to other people’s churches and temples, gathering stories — in my family, that was just how you did religion.” Check, and the reason I was unclear of Nancy’s religion.”

I wrote to Jeff; he didn’t write back; that’s OK. I do wonder how his sister is, though.
ROG

SOLD OUT Part 6 by John Hebert (the conclusion)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

‘Twas the day before Hallowe’en ’86, and I’d finally finished what was to be my first comic book art assignment and was on the way to deliver the pages to the printer. The girlfriend and I were in my trusty Camaro, speeding along the NY State Thruway toward the printer in Gloversville with the bundle o’ funnybook art nestled in the back seat whilst bad 80’s tunes (then again, was there any other kind of 80’s tune?) blared from the in-dash Delco. It was pretty darned cold that afternoon, but I kept the heater off to keep me uncomfortable and maintain what little edge I had left as the last thing I needed was to fall asleep at the wheel – I’d been up so long that I was ready to drop and I still had miles to go before sleep.

We alternated between exhausted whimsy and dead silence as we drove on, the whole project had been electrifying yet draining and once we’d completed what we assumed to be the final stretch, we were eager for a return to normalcy, never guessing that all things normal were no longer an option in the life I’d chosen. We hopped off of the Thruway and hit the county roads, passing fields, barns, silos, livestock and some beautiful old farmhouses, the kind of which I had always held a grudging yen for, then, suddenly, it came to me – the entire area looked like the farm town in that awful “Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch” where they manufactured the possessed fright masks. Now maybe it was just a combination of exhaustion, the season and the late night cable reruns that had kept me company at my drawing board talking, but the fact that the town not only looked so similar and was virtually deserted gave me a major case of the creeps (much like many of the editors I would later work with!)

We plodded on, finally pulling up to the printing company – a very basic, nondescript brick and block building that also functioned as a newspaper office – the freelance printing had been a secondary income, utilizing and minimizing the down times between editions, but turning a nice and not-so-little profit for the company as I was later told. We were welcomed by the manager/editor/traffic manager who whisked us inside and gave us the tour of the place, as I’d earlier inferred, it WAS very basic, yet it was also quite impressive in the volume and quality of work produced there. Skulan really had found a true diamond in the rough for his printing needs. We laid out the pages on a composing table and went over everything, stressing certain things we needed and doing a couple of last, last minute corrections that even Tom and Raj hadn’t caught and took in the almost erotic experience of viewing my…very…first…printed…COVER WORK. Since we’d missed the initial, scheduled print run, the company had run all of the covers to avoid idle presses and a few of them were sitting around on desks, in boxes and trashcans. To this day, I regret that I didn’t grab some of the “rough cuts” that were gracing the previously mentioned wastepaper baskets as even flawed, those covers would have looked so cool pinned up all over the walls in my studio and rooms, but, c’est la vie. I wanted to eat and answer the more and more desperate call of Morpheus which I was finding more and more difficult to ignore.

We thanked the manager and left, stopping at a Burger King and filling up on cholesterol for the long drive home. As we ate, I stared across the road at what must have been the world’s smallest Pontiac dealership – basically the size of a gas station, with only 4 or 5 new cars splayed about their meager lot. I respected the quaint, bygone era nature of the area, but decided then and there that “Mayberry” probably wasn’t for me and that when the time came, I’d probably be NYC bound. The girlfriend and I talked about it as we jumped into the Camaro and headed back east, alternating between moments of giddiness at the prospects of being a real, honest-to-goodness working commercial artist, possibly living in the city, and then shifting back to melancholy at the less positive prospects it conjured.

The relationship had been increasingly more strained since I’d taken on the project, especially in the last couple of weeks when we’d bearded the dreaded deadline doom and now, for the first time, as I drove on I really began to wonder where we were going and if it might end up being “me” rather than “we”. She had another year of school left to complete, we’d all heard the stories and seen the effects of separation on relationships. I know what I was running over and over during those awkward silent moments on the interstate that day, and I think she must’ve been thinking about the same thing- either that or she was just visualizing a cow and pig wearing ballroom attire and dancing to “Turkey in The Straw”, it was so hard to read her.

We made it back to Albany, I said my goodbyes as I dropped her at her house, promising to call later on after some much needed shuteye and headed back toward Stately Hebert Manor with the window open and the stereo cranked to keep me awake and prevent me from thinking too much(it almost made me agree with a couple of Reagan’s policies…for a minute) as dusk began to settle. 10 minutes after swinging into my driveway, I had the blinds drawn and was profoundly out cold, having left a wakeup call for 1988 and grinning at the possibilities my future might hold as I dropped off.

Then my Mom came home. I’d only been asleep for around a half hour when she knocked on my door and reminded me nicely, yet curtly, that I’d promised to pick up a pumpkin for the front porch. Damn! I’d been so wrapped up in “The Project” that I’d let the usual, banal everyday stuff like a simple pumpkin get away from me. “Okay”, I muttered, let’s go get one and dragged myself to my feet. Of course, by the time I’d gotten up, gotten dressed, slogged out to the car and made it to the “pumpkin store”, they were: a. closing up and b. sold out(ironic) of the damned gourds anyway. I promised to pick one up at a farm store the next morning, then carve it and have the blasted thing lit just in time for the little vandals to wreck and headed for home and my bed once more.

I’d just dosed off when, off in a hazy distance, the phone rang and a unicorn delivered it to my door, announcing that it was Tom from Fantaco. He was very excited and explained that in the “lag time” we’d created by being late with the pages, the printing company had run every other assignment they’d had on “tap” just as they’d done the covers and now, with nothing else scheduled, they were actually going to print the entire run of “SOLD OUT!” #1 overnight, having it ready the very next morning. The girlfriend and I could drive back out to Gloversville the next morning, pick up a few cases of comics, drive back to Albany, and have them available for the inevitable influx of Friday afternoon customers. Wow! That’d be great…if I wasn’t A. exhausted, B. pissed off at the world, and C. numb from the shoulders up. Somehow, though, I heard my self agreeing to do it, hanging up, then calling she-who-was not-to-be–ignored and telling her of the great adventure we had in store for us the next morning ( AFTER getting a pumpkin of course!), then I hung up and headed for my bed. Of course, I was now so overtired and yet wired that I couldn’t sleep, so I stayed up and cleaned and organized my studio, finally sacking out at around midnight. I’d been up for something like 36 hours at this point and I had another long drive ahead of me.

At around 1 p.m. on Friday, October 31st, 1986, the girlfriend, several cases of my first published work, and a pumpkin, pulled up in front of FantaCo in that very same dark green Chevette that had been a part of the beginning of all of this fiendish plot, somehow coming full circle. We trotted into the store, announced our presence and the FantaCo crew surrounded us, cracking the cases open, diving into the books with joy, satisfaction and relief, just as I when I’d picked them up at the printing plant some 90 minutes before and when I’d stolen more than a few looks at them while driving back and steering with my knees. It had been a job well done, they all agreed and now, it was time to let the general public get a crack at the comics. We opened up a case which Tom personally placed on the floor in front of the main display racks which he always did with whatever was the “hot” book of the week like Miller’s “Dark Knight” or one of the never ending array of X-Men titles and the customers descended on them, picking the proverbial bones clean to a politely positive collective response and more than a few requests for signed copies. I’d done good. I was happy.

Roger wanted to take some photos of the auspicious occasion. We agreed, but first decided to slip into our Halloween costumes that we’d secreted away under the cases of comics…and the pumpkin in the car. A few minutes later, there we were, in full “Rowdy Roddy Piper” and “Cyndi Lauper” attire, leaning up against the logo’d front window of FantaCo, capering for Roger’s camera and…loving it, even when some Tony Danza-esque lobotomy scar wandered up and asked where we were wrestling that night. I told him it was a costume, he started naming venues, again, almost demanding where I’d be in the ring that night. I politely asked him what day it was. He said “Friday”. I asked the date. He said “October something”. I said “It’s HALLOWEEN!!!” He seemed to finally get it, then told me he hoped I’d win my match and wandered off as did we a few minutes later. Fortunately, I had the legs for the kilt.

That night, after all of the relatives and friends had gone over the comic with fine tooth combs (as had we, like, a thousand times), and the evening meal was done and the stream of annoying trick-or-treaters had died down, the hastily carved pumpkin burned on, casting its eerie, yet inviting light across my front lawn, she-who-must-remain-nameless and I lay on my bed, watching “Transylvania 6-5000” on cable, grinning a thousand, satisfied grins. I had never been able to visualize what my first publishing experience might be like although I’d waited, hoped and dreamed on it for so long, and now it had happened, and it was exhausting, exasperating, trying, stressful, draining, straining and countless other “ings”, but, as I dozed off my thoughts trailed off to that quote in “Where The Buffalo Roam” where Bill Murray summed up not only Hunter Thompson’s life, but my own now as well, when he uttered the immortal last line “It Never got Weird Enough For Me”. I couldn’t agree more, even now, on the other, back side of that long lost, sometimes lamented, sometimes not so much, career, but it was ONE HELL OF A RIDE!

John Hebert


Thanks, John. John is living happily ever after with his bride, who is NOT she-who-shall-not-be-named and working on the comic book Captain Action. There was a second issue, the conclusion of Sold Out, but that tale will be told another time.
ROG

SOLD OUT, Part 5 by John Hebert

Before I get to John’s rellections, a couple comics-related things:
1. Len Wein, creator of, among many other things, X-Men staples such as Wolverine, Storm, and Nightcrawler, had a house fire, as I’ve mentioned. Here’s info for the Let’s Restore Len Wein’s Comic Book Collection Project. Contact Evanier before sending anything.
2. Free Comic Book Day is this Saturday, May 2; hope it doesn’t interfere with the Kentucky Derby. In all likelihood, I’ll go to Earthworld in Albany, as usual, get a bunch of free stuff for the kid and for me, and end up buying something i didn’t know I wanted.

Now, back to John, after I show you his X-Men 100 swipe homage with a circus strongman, Rowdy Roddy Piper, every guy who ever worked at an amusement park in the 80’s, and me.

I was a penciling fool- working and reworking pages here and there all that summer of 1986, getting the then-girlfriend to letter and dying to get to the inks. I’d been very fearful of inking my first book because I didn’t think I could ever be much of an inker. When I’d started trying to bust into the biz in earnest a couple of years before, I’d decided that penciling was a little too complicated so I thought to break in as an inker first and learn from whomever I’d inked and go from there. This brainstorm lasted just about a month- or the time it took for me to @*%*&^ up my copy of the Marvel Tryout Book and then be told by Zeck that my inks sucked, but that my pencil work had potential, so I’d gone with it.

Anyway, I’d shortly have to put my brush handle where my mouth had been. Once I’d penciled the entire comic, we’d all set a date where Tom, Roger, she-who-was-not-to-be-ignored, as well as FantaCo stalwarts Matt Mattick, Hank Jansen, and Joelle Michalkiewicz and myself would sit down, spread all of the pages out on the floor of the back office and take the “SOLD OUT!” experience in before committing it to ink, deciding what worked and what didn’t, what needed to be punched up and where we needed to tone bits down. It was a bit frustrating, to say the least. While almost everyone agreed that it was a very tight piece of effort, there was always a bit of niggling back and forth where everybody but one person would just love something, but that one detail bothered that one person which seemed to corrupt the entire apple cart and then we’d rework the damned thing until somebody else wasn’t happy and then…..Suddenly, at some point, after a very long day in the back office and losing the daylight, we staggered out into the early autumn evening clutching the bulging manila folder of pages ready to be committed to ink. My moment of truth had arrived.

One of Tom’s primary requirements for the artist was that he or she could draw a reasonably realistic turtle and hamster.

I’d put everything into the pencils, to the point where I needed to go to ink just to stir up the old creative juices with a change of technique. Even though I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly good inker and with the additional weight of the fear of screwing it all up with bad inks, I think I did a pretty darn serviceable job- especially on the first half of the book when my energy level was high and I was interested, and in fact, thrilled to be doing something other than penciling. I did a really broad John Beatty type brush style throughout most of the book with a swatch of Jerry Ordway and a ton of zip-a-tone tossed in for good measure and just enjoyed the Hell out of most of the experience, but before long, I was tiring of inking as well, especially after we’d begun making last, last-minute changes as I was going along, sometimes scrapping panels after they’d been committed to ink and making me feel like a rat in a maze.

Our deadline was fast approaching too, as was Halloween when we’d hoped to have the book on the shelves, the girlfriend and I went into overdrive, always expecting the project done “the next week”, then still spinning our creative tires in the not-so-creative sand and shooting for the following week. It finally came down to the very cold day before Halloween of 1986, when I, having been up for something like 26 hours, leaned over the drawing board in my humble, yet tastefully appointed studio, forcing myself to ink those last few pesky panels that I’d put off inking for various pointless reasons for so long. The edict had come down from Tom Skulan – the book had to be done THAT DAY!!!! We’d already missed one scheduled press day and it was not to happen again.

The girlfriend had shown up at around 8 a.m. and we’d torn into the unfinished pages immediately, determined to deliver the entire finished book to FantaCo by noon for one more final “look-over” be various staff-eyes, and then we were to drive the entire project out to the printing plant in Gloversville, NY, some 90 minutes away. I was so tried and ragged by that point that I didn’t think I’d make it and longed for the peaceful reassurance of the void I was sure to encounter as I’d fall asleep at the wheel and swing the Camaro in front of a speeding semi on the Thruway…..”Don’t bother calling an ambulance Ferdie- he was a funny book artist, now he’s road pizza!”

So, we made it into the store at around one in the afternoon and dropped the packet of pages on Skulan’s desk, ready for criticism and a very, very long nap. Tom and Raj were the primary editors now, going over every panel and page, never missing a misspelling or uninked eye on some tiny figure in the background that no one would ever notice, but we fixed everything right there in the back room where it had all begun just a few, short, holy mackerel- it was, like FIVE months earlier, what was I thinking?!?!? Anyway, thankfully, most of the required changes were of the lettering variety and she-who-must-not-have-been ignored took care of them with white out and a couple of markers while I slipped closer and closer towards comatose while sitting on that very cold, uninsulated office floor. That cold and the aching in my joints were the only things keeping me awake, but somehow, it was finally done and the time had come to drive the darned book to the printer. The pages were lashed together in a large shiny orange folder and away we went, towards the beginning of the rest of my life, the world’s smallest Pontiac dealership, and the embarrassment of being photographed in a skirt on a busy Albany street.

To be CONCLUDED!

John Hebert
***
Miss Marvel, Mister Roger, Miss Lydia, May 3, 2008, Earthworld


ROG

SOLD OUT, Part 4 by John Hebert


Mr. Hebert continues his reminisces about a comic book I had something to do with because on this topic, his memopry’s WAY better than mine.

Now, it was time to put my money where my mouth had been all those years. I had to actually sit down and produce a comic book- doing the pencils and inks all myself and I’d gotten my then-art student/girlfriend to agree to letter the project. This was the point where a lot of the poseurs and wannabes are separated from the real pros. It’s one thing to draw lots of pretty pictures of Batman, Wolverine and Phoenix standing around and looking dramatic with no real backgrounds, but when you’ve got to TELL THE STORY WITH PICTURES, make it interesting and authentic and throw in some kind of “cinematic magic” to boot, that’s where it’s all at. I’ve seen so many kids and even adults who are SO sure that they’re the next big thing in comic art crumble and drift away sheepishly once they actually get a real script in hand and they see that copying a Jim Lee or McFarlane splash page has virtually nothing to do with actual sequential art that I can see them coming from a mile away now.

This, however, was my turn to shine or fail and skulk off to a lumberyard or some worse fate and I was determined to not allow that to happen. I gave my all on that book, staying up sometimes more than 24 hours straight, drawing, redrawing, hitting the library (pre-Internet) for reference, trying to stay “current” with the look and storytelling of the piece, sometimes second and even third-guessing myself into a near nervous breakdown of worry (which, admittedly, I came to do again and again even once I’d “made it in the big leagues” a few years later) and doing my best to not only impress Tom and Roger, but to try and out-mainstream the mainstream comics that “my book” would share rack space with. I’d pencil a page or 2, then pop into the store to show Tom and Raj what I’d done, then head back to the proverbial and literal drawing board sometimes high as a kite and sometimes near-suicidal as I had to pencil, repencil and even cut and paste up some pages combining 2 or 3 pages into one . This was occasionally very frustrating, but now, in retrospect, I realize that ALMOST every change was for the better and that this was the first real editorial input I’d ever had outside of school work and the volunteer work I’d done on theatrical projects and etc.

There were a few times when I practically begged Tom to let me ink a few pages, to not only get ahead, but to break up the monotony of the thing, but he insisted that, except for the cover and ONE page that would be sent around to the Comics Journal and such for promotional purposes that the entire book had to be pencilled and lettered before we’d all sit down, go over it, making sure evry panel of every page was complete, cohesive and coherent before I’d be allowed to commit the project to ink.

Phew, “tough room”, I thought, but not as tough as the times I’d have with the lettering. As I stated previously, my then-girlfriend had been recruited to letter the book. She’d never really even read comics and was struggling her way through art school, and, in the interest of complete honesty and disclosure, we did end up breaking up during the production of SOLD OUT!- once for a few days on the first issue and then permanently and badly a few pages into the second book. She was in over her head on the book, but in all fairness, she did give her all most of the time and she really had gotten involved to support me and in retrospect some 20 years later, that was a good and decent thing and I’ll do my best to say as little as possible in regards to this subject from here on. I was constantly throwing her copies of Simonson’s Thor which was lettered by John Workman- the only letterer whose work was not only competent, but practically jumped off of the page and actually added to the compositions and storytelling. I wanted “our” first project to be a winner and as strong as possible, but at times, I was too close to it and I didn’t handle the pressures as well as I should have. I’d spend days banging out a page, then I’d drop it at her house for lettering-sometimes only a panel or two, then feeling it all slipping away when I’d come back a couple of days later and find out that nothing had been done. It was agonizing; I couldn’t let this book fall apart, I had to get it done – the right way. It was my portal to the big leagues and out of Palookaville.

I got more and more stressed and was sleeping less and less, spending more and more of my awake time at the board after everybody at my house had gone to bed, and then crashing and sleeping the day away, only to begin again once the sun went down. I was a vampire without a cape and hokey accent, and I was hating it and loving it at the same time. As tough as doing a regular comic is, this was even tougher on some levels because it had to be FUNNY on top of all else and, as many have said before, “Comedy is tough”. We had to load the book up with loads and loads of sight gags, yet not overdo it and burn the reader out, we sought some weird state of balance where we’d go deeper and deeper into the absurd and twisted, then veer back into straight narrative-it was great and a true challenge as I had no problem diving into the absurd, but I sometimes needed (and still need) guidance to find my way back. The sight gags and plays on words and titles that I crammed into oh so many panels were inspiring, when I’d get a small notebook page with “John-go nuts here” scrawled on it, I did, feeding off of the guffaws and giggles I’d get from Tom and Raj when I’d plop the corresponding pages down on the desk for their look-sees.

It nurtured my need for not only reassurance and acceptance that every creative person craves, but it sustained my constant need to entertain- a flaw I still carry with me which is why I still stock a book of office traps and pranks on my desk to this day and why my cohorts at the firehouse and I spent two years planting broken lawn implements in one particular guy’s truck. It’s a sickness like drugs, drinking or gambling (at least two of which I know a bit about), but for the most part a benign one- although the lawnmower guy would most likely dispute that.

There were times it seemed like I’d never finish the project, that it’d never be an actual, tangible book. I kept working and reworking, getting closer, yet further from completion. The comics business was actually writing the damned thing for us with its absurd bombardment of the market with more and more awful small press black and white comics, some so ludicrously titled that we couldn’t even have come up with them. I sometimes think that it was a good thing that the book took us so long as we had had time to look at what was going on and say “Whoa, gotta put that in there!” The first pages completed- both in pencil and ink were actually the cover and the last page, when I got the go ahead to actually ink ’em, it felt like one big psychic enema, it was the break in the monotony that I needed – I could breathe again…for a few days, but thank God for those late night showings of HBO’s comedy specials on more than one occasion, they kept me from running screaming off into whatever night I was in the midst of.

There were a couple of inspirational moments on the project as well. The first started out absolutely horribly. I’d had a “Big Brother” when I was a kid because I’d grown up without a Dad of my own and my “Big Brother” and his family and I were and still are, close. Jack had a son named Erin who’d had a lot of behavior problems for years and had just seemed to be getting a handle on them when he was murdered by his mother’s boyfriend on July 8th, 1986. As a tribute to him, I put Erin in the book, arguing with a doppelganger of FantaCo’s own longtime counterman Matt Mattick over a jacked up cover price and some 10 or 12 years later that very same panel was reprinted in a comics news magazine as accompaniment for a letter on speculation and distribution issues.It was self-serving, but I’d do it again in a minute.

Bottom panel is John’s tribute to Erin, on the left; I had no idea. A pretty good likeness of Matt on the right. – ROG

The second “uplift” if you will, came near the end of that summer when The Comics Buyer’s Guide printed the cover of SOLD OUT! #1 in their coming attractions section. I’d picked up a copy while dropping pages off at the store and retreated with she-who-was-not-to-be-ignored to this great little dive of a mexican restaurant where she had lunch and I stared at the cover art on that cheap newsprint blankly. I’d arrived. It’s funny, that Mexican place was still going strong until the owner died 4 or 5 years back. It’s a coffee place now; my office is basically spitting distance from there, and every time I pass it, I can’t help but think of that warmest of afternoons.

To be continued………

ROG