Saturday, 14 May 2016

Jeff Seiler: Gerhard & Me

JEFF SEILER:
On May 4th, Gerhard sent me an email about the Minneapolis Comic Con that was upcoming on the 6th, 7th and 8th at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I was still recovering from flying home from Panama City Beach, Florida, after my three-week vacation. Ger wanted to know if I were going to be at the ComicCon and even if not, would I like to join him and Shelley for dinner or a drink at some point.

I responded that, yes, I thought I had already registered and I would be there. I told him I would very much enjoy going out to dinner with them and on what evening would they like to do that? Ger said that they had agreed to meet up for dinner with some of the vendors that they see on the circuit because they had begged off at the last show, which I believe was Madison, Wisconsin. But, he didn't know what night. So, I said I would play it by ear. As it turned out, they wanted to go to dinner on Sunday evening, as they were all not flying out until Monday. So, Ger and Shelley and I were good to go for dinner on Friday evening.

I devised a plan based on the location of the Convention Center, which is three blocks from my residence. After the show ended at 8 p.m., we would walk to my residence building and I would show them my cat. After all, I had commissioned Ger to draw my cat last year, so he might as well meet him. My cat, Pud (as in, I tawt I taw a puddy tat), and Shel hit it off just great and Ger liked him, too.

After that, we crossed the street to the brew pub that is located diagonally across from my apartment building. We each had a Belgian beer and then we went to the SuperAmerica convenience store just down the street so that they could buy some smokes. I waited outside and they were back out in seconds. Too many people in line, Ger said -- they would wait. So, then, it was down to the corner and then one block to the restaurant, Ichiban, located directly across from the Hyatt Regency, where they were staying. Ichiban is a Japanese steakhouse, where they cook your dinner at your table. Neither Ger nor Shel had ever been to one before, so they enjoyed the show. Shel was particularly impressed. After a great meal, we repaired to the hotel bar and had a nightcap, chatting all the while. The next day, Ger told me that he had had no idea that we called it quits at 1:30 a.m.

All told, we did all of the above in a 1 square block area, just two blocks from the Convention Center. Gotta love downtown Minneapolis!

Earlier in the day, I opened up my satchel at Ger's table at the Con, and took out all of what I thought were all of the Following Cerebus issues on which he had worked (cover art). As it turned out, even though he was credited, there were a couple of covers on which he did not work, including the Neal Adams issue. "Oh, I thought you drew the waterfall," says I. "No, that was all Dave," says Ger.

And, then, Ger added, "Why don't you take it down to Neal's table and have him sign it?"

What!?! "Yeah, he’s right down there," Ger said, pointing to a table about three stops down the row.

Now, I swear, I had no idea that THE Neal Adams was going to be there. The Wizard World site had no mention of him, and I would have noticed it if they had had notice.

So, I waited a little bit and then told Ger that I had worked up the nerve to go get Neal's autograph on my Following Cerebus issue. I waited in line for a bit and then had my chance. That was when I saw that it was $30 dollars for an autograph. Yeah!

But, in for a penny, in for a pound. I paid my fee, he signed my book, and then I started talking with him about the interview and the experience that he and Dave Sim had shared at Niagara Falls. Neal didn't know or had forgotten that the issue was square-bound and he remarked on that. We exchanged a few comments about THE Dave Sim and that seemed to be about it. I was getting ready to go when Neal reached out his hand and said, "Let me see that for a minute."

He leafed through the Following Cerebus and found the pages on which Dave had reproduced some old Ben Casey newspaper comic strips on which Neal had worked. Neal thought for a moment and then said, "We're putting together a book of Ben Casey strips and we're always looking for original art. Do you think Dave would have any?"

I replied that I didn't know, but that I could give Dave a call. Neal said, "Would you mind?" No, no, of course not, glad to help. So, I called Dave, left a message explaining what had transpired and would Dave get back to me with a response as soon as possible.

I went back to Gerhard's table and told him about what had gone down. Ger said that he thought it was very unlikely that Dave would have any Ben Casey strips, but I said, "you never know and anyway, it’s worth a try." And, then, later, we had our evening out. It wasn't until I got home that I found that Dave had called me back and left a message shortly before the show ended earlier that day.

The gist of the message from Dave to me was, "Hi, Jeff, I think that the best thing is for me to leave a message for Neal on your phone, so when you see him tomorrow at the con, you can hand him your phone and ask him to listen." Followed, of course, by the message for Neal.

Sooooo, the next day, I waited until Neal's table didn’t have very many people to approach him. I had already told Ger about the phone message and said, "How do you think that's going to go over with Neal?" "Good luck," says Ger, giving me a look. "Yeah," I responded, "Neal seemed a little... curmudgeonly, yesterday." "Yeah, a little," says Ger.

But, doing my duty, I approached Neal. I don't know if he honestly didn't remember me from the day before or if he was pretending not to, but he was smiling. I told him that I had gotten a response from Dave. Would you mind if I step around the side of the table and explain? Nope, says he, and pulled up a chair.

I sat down next to THE Neal Adams and said, "Well, as is often the case with Dave, he made this a little difficult, but he also really delivered." Neal sort of just nodded, knowingly. So, I told Neal about the listening to the phone message part, but I added that, if he wanted, I could just transcribe the message onto paper for him, focusing on the pertinent parts. Neal seemed to think I said something about it being a burden on me and said, "Well, not if it's going to be a burden." NO, NO!, says I, "I said, 'the pertinent parts'" Oh, yeah, well, then, yeah, transcribe, if you don't mind.

So, I went back over to Ger’s table, sat down, got paper and pen from Shelley and, an hour later, had it transcribed almost word for word. I asked Ger if he wanted to read it and he said that, no, he was trying to finish the drawing in my copy of The Last Day before the end of the show that day. BTW, three of the four drawings that he did for me in my phonebooks are visible on the right side of the blog entry for the Minneapolis Comic Con at his website, GerhardArt.com.

So, I read it to Ger. He agreed that Dave really does always deliver above and beyond.

Now, bear in mind that Dave could easily just have left a message for me on my voicemail to tell Neal that, no, Dave didn't have any original art from the Ben Casey strips. End of story. But, no...

The message for and to Neal, that I transcribed, said that Dave knew of a guy, Yoram Mapzkin, wife's name Mary Ann, who lived in Woodbridge, Ontario at that time, who knew a guy in Texas who supposedly, at least at the time that Dave became aware of Yoram, has the largest collection of original Ben Casey strip art of anyone he knew of. Dave left Yoram's last phone number in the phone message to Neal. And, then, Dave went on to add that he knew that Yoram, at one time, had a week of Neal Adams dailies that Neal had done ghosting for Al Williamson on Secret Agent X-9.

And, then, Dave added on the phone message to Neal that the only other thing that Dave was aware of was that Syracuse State University, the Bird Library, has the Stan Drake papers, including a week of dailies from The Heart of Juliet Jones that Neal had ghosted for Stan Drake, in, "I'm pretty sure, like nearly 100% sure, that it was the third week of October, 1966. So, at the very least, you could contact the Bird Library at Syracuse State University and they could scan the month of October, 1966, for you. As I say, I'm pretty sure that it is the third week of October. I know Stan Drake's art and I know Neal Adams' art and I'm close to 100% sure that it’s the third week of October, 1966."

Dave closed the phone message to THE Neal Adams (on my phone!!!) by saying thanks to me for helping and wished his best to Neal's wife Marilyn and the kids, "as always."

So, on Saturday evening, a half hour before closing time, I took the transcription over to Neal and asked him if he wanted to read it. He did so, as I stood nearby. He looked up at me and softly said, "Thank you," and offered his hand to shake. I told him I was more than glad to help and that it was my pleasure. On Sunday, I went back by Neal's table, told him that it was a pleasure to meet him and that I hoped that the info I got for him would help. He told me that he was sure that it would and then said, "When the book comes out, you will have a credit."

That night, Ger and Shelley stayed in at their hotel and I went to the Wizard World after party that was held at a bar with which I am quite familiar in downtown Minneapolis. Earlier in the day, a Wizard World rep had given me a badge that was for VIP's, so I got into the private VIP area at the bar and got to sit on a leather couch that overlooked the stage area, for the second of two bands. I sat at a table on the floor for the first band, a country band that played before the official start time of the after party. Both good bands. And, I got free drinks in the VIP area for the latter part of the evening. Got home around 2 a.m., so I wasn't up 'til around noon on Sunday.

Sunday afternoon, I chilled with Ger and Shelley, got one last drawing from Ger, bought some prints. Ger was working on a sketch of Gerebus as pope and got up at one point towards the end of the day and handed it to me and said for me to ink it. So, I got to ink the loose and tight pencils of Ger (on a throwaway sketch that I didn't throw away). A couple of other artists added some of the inks, Ger finished it, and then was the dinner out with their colleagues. I was allowed to join. Nobody knew where they wanted to go, so I suggested a good seafood restaurant. There were originally eight of us, but a couple of guys really had their hearts set on BBQ, so they left.

The rest of the evening was spent telling stories. Ger set everybody up to spoof me at one point when I went to the restroom: I came back and just as I approached the table, Ger said, loudly, "So, that became Cerebus Readers in Crisis!" and everybody laughed really loudly. It turned out to be choreographed by Ger, and he hadn't told the story, so then everybody wanted the backstory. Fun evening.

So, that’s about all I remember from Wizard World Minneapolis Comic Con 2016. There is no better person with whom to hang out at a con than Ger. Trust me. And his lovely wife, Shelley, is equally nice, pleasant, and funny. It was well worth the two (count 'em, two) admissions I paid. Check out the photos at GerhardArt.com.

Gerhard's 2016 Convention Itinerary:
March 18-20: Comicon Toronto, ON
April 8-10: Wizard World Madison, WI
June 17-19: Wizard World Sacramento, CA
July-August: Gone Sailing Georgian Bay, ON
September 8-10: Wizard World Nashville, TN
November 4-6: Wizard World Pittsburgh, PA

12 comments:

CerebusTV said...

Are you SURE you're not Johnny McPhanbot? :-)

Jake Capps said...

Best read of the day. Thanks!

Jeff Seiler said...

Thank *you*, Jake! And, no, CTV, I'm not Johnny McPhanbot, I'm the Effin' Magnifier! There is a difference. And I think that my Neal encounter proved that.

Travis Pelkie said...

I'm going to work on a letter to the Pope to see about getting Gerhard nominated for sainthood, if he's able to deal with Jeff for that long... heh!

Very cool story, Jeff.

A couple things:

unless I'm mistaken, it's merely Syracuse University, and not Syracuse State University. SU is not part of the SUNY (State University of New York) system. As someone who lives a couple hours south of the school, I should know this. (That, and I believe the hospital where I had my heart surgery as a kid was SU affiliated, and as I'd forgotten until reading the Wikipedia page for SU, the college I went to started as an offshoot of SU).

I met Neal Adams at a con in Boston a little over 5 years ago. He was only charging 5 bucks a signature back then. When I was in another line, someone was complaining that he was the only one charging for all signatures (Joe Kubert gave 2 free, then charged for any beyond), and Neal's handler lady apparently responded to the guy complaining something to the effect of "well, he's the only Neal Adams". I got Neal Adams to sign Action 466, a book he did the cover for and that I'd gotten early on in my collecting, and I also had him sign my Anything Goes issue where he drew Cerebus. And because I am dumb, I almost smeared the signature when getting the book back from him! D'oh! I did get to talk with his son (Josh, iirc) who had been on the Niagara Falls trip, and I think I asked about Dave.

I unfortunately didn't get to really watch Neal draw. I wanted to see how his style of sketching worked vs. Howard Chaykin's sketching, whom I was able to watch draw at the show, since Dave had explained before that they each had a different approach to sketching (Chaykin's geometric blocking of shapes vs. Adams's letting lines go on the paper and connecting them later).

Jeff Seiler said...

Hi, Travis--Yeah, I kept wondering how long Ger and Shel were going to put up with me. I thought it was just Syracuse University, too, but Dave repeatedly said "Syracuse State University", so that's what I transcribed. I'm sure Neal can figure it out. I did get to watch Neal sketch a bit and I think "letting lines go on the paper and connecting them later" is an apt way of describing his style. He was doing a large-ish Batman and Robin sketch. I've never seen so many pencil lines on a sketch.

Dave Sim said...

Travis - I didn't know there WERE two Syracuse Universities. I'm sure you're right. I think it's the Byrd Library, not the Bird Library but I'm not 100% sure about that.

I should also mention that the art collector's name is Yoram Matzkin, not Mapzkin. Built-in problem when trying to get a spelling across on the phone.

No, Jeff is not Johnny McPhanbot. I don't know WHO Johnny McPhanbot was but he was definitely in the Baltimore/Bethesda Maryland area (unless someone was faking the stamp cancellations). Haven't heard from him since glamourpuss came to an end.

Travis Pelkie said...

According to Wikipedia, it is the Bird Library.

And in case I created confusion with the other part of my comment, the university I went to broke with SU in 1950 and was absorbed into the SUNY system at that point, so it wasn't really a "second" SU.

About 18 years after THAT, art spiegelman attended there. The first time I read Maus was in the school library, a copy that spiegelman himself had sketched in, presumably when he came back in the mid-'90s for an honorary degree, which was just a few years before I started attending.

Um...not necessarily relevant, I know, but it's just neat from my POV.

Jeff Seiler said...

Well, fwiw, I have a copy of an early issue of "Cerebus", signed by Dave, with a heart drawn over the "I" in his last name. I asked him, not unreasonably, whether Deni had signed his signature.

"Nope. That's me."

Just goes to show (as the great song goes), you never can tell.

Anonymous said...

Some days I wonder about Dave's depiction of things in the Last Day:


In Search For Cures, Scientists Create Embryos That Are Both Animal And Human

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/05/18/478212837/in-search-for-cures-scientists-create-embryos-that-are-both-animal-and-human


A Fake Name

Travis Pelkie said...

I didn't get a chance to read that article yet, AFN, but I totally bookmarked it to look at over the weekend and share here!

CerebusTV said...

Jeff, it was a rhetorical question, in the form of a joke. I know, it falls flat when you have to explain it. :-)

Anonymous said...

Good Lord! there's just way too much information about me on the internet.
-Yoram