WHITE PLAINS, NY, June 11, 2000 — Just as a giant comic book painting provided a visual link of over a half century of comics, the floor of the All Time Classic Convention offered a cascading series of links itself.
It started with Tom Gill, penciler and inker for the Lone Ranger from 1950 to 1970. He was recalling how he had to draw two pages a day in order the meet the monthly publishing schedule when an old friend dropped by — Carol Newman, widow of Paul S. Newman, a prolific writer with a vast range of credits (over 4,000 published comic book stories, including the Lone Ranger). Carol was a special guest of the convention because an award named after her husband was to be presented to Alvin Schwartz and Roy Thomas for “outstanding achievement in comic book writing.”
Schwartz, who writes a weekly column for the World’s Finest Comics website, worked on such Golden Age titles as Action Comics, Superman, Batman and World’s Finest Comics.
Thomas was a writer and editor for Marvel and D.C. Comics in the 60s, 70s and 80s. His Marvel career included a nine-year stint on the X-Men, which is why he was joined by former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter and former X-Men artist Dave Cockrum at a panel discussion tracing the X-Men from 1963 to the new movie coming out soon. Hosted by Craig Shutt, “Ask Mr. Silver Age” columnist for Comics Buyers Guide, the panel discussion led to a viewing of a new trailer for the X-Men movie. The preview got Shooter, Thomas and Cockrum excitedly musing that the movie portraying some of their favorite characters might just be a smash hit — even if Cockrum was a little disappointed over the change in costumes, and even if Thomas wondered whether films and video games were detracting from the comic book industry.
Shooter, however, saw films and games as potential allies. He cited how Marvel benefited from the popularity of Star Wars when it decided to publish George Lucas’ story in comic book form.
“When I started as editor in chief of Marvel Comics, we were two million dollars in the hole… about to go bankrupt. Star Wars saved us.”
Shutt posed one final question for the panel: What are you currently working on?
Shooter, who writes Unity 2000 for Valiant Comics, quipped: “Living by my wits.”
Thomas edits Alter Ego Magazine, which, he explained, covers the history of Golden and Silver Age Comics.
Cockrum is working on Soul Searchers and Co. with writer Peter David. Even though it’s a black and white comic, he said, “I think I’m doing some of my best work ever in it.”
He said he was having fun especially since humor is in Soul Searchers.
Humor was another link at the convention, especially among small press publishers.
For example, writer Eric J. Goldstein and artist Marcus Kelligrew were displaying their preview issue of Captain Courage, which will be, they said, a continuing series as well as an online strip. You’ll be able to find it soon at www.bluemonkeycomics.com.
“First came Wyatt Earp,” Goldstein mused. “Now it’s Captain Courage bringing law and order to the ‘final frontier’.” He sees it styled after Golden and Silver Age books, but with contemporary writing.
Added Kelligrew: “To me it’s like a Marvel-ized version of Flash Gordon.” And, like the original Star Trek, the stories can be open-ended. “They land (on a planet), they have their adventure, they leave.”
A few rows over, publisher/writer Jan-Ives Campbell and colorer Mike Kelleher were showing off the premiere issue of League of Super Groovy Crime Fighters. Campbell calls it “a tongue-in-cheek adventure” which “kind of makes fun of the 70s and superhero stereotypes.” Campbell’s Ancient Studios is also introducing three other titles – Logan and the Bunny Squadron, Crusader Faith and Tragic Heroes. To find out more, check out www.ancientstudios.com.
At another table was a recent graduate of Pratt Institute, Miss Lasko-Gross. Miss (that’s really her first name) established herself in the industry as editor of the school’s funny, sometimes irreverent comic book, Static Fish.
Most recently Lasko-Gross has self-published a comic named AIM.
“Comics are a labor of love,” she says. “The central character is the alter-ego lamenting over the things she can’t do anything about.” Her characters find themselves surrounded by a dark culture, “but they don’t revel in it.” Her characters, she says, are real down-to-earth type people.
She cautions that, because of the circumstances that they face, AIM may be more appropriate for adult audiences.
Finally, Ken Gale, who was scheduled to host a panel discussion titled, “Today’s Comics with Yesterday’s Heroes,” was walking about in green Celtic garb, promoting his Evolution Comics titles. Fitting with panel discussion title, Gale was also showing off “one of my proudest creations,” a reprint of a fanzine tribute to the artistry of Sheldon Mayer. “I think he’s one of the most important persons in comics.”
Gale is also co-host and interviewer for ‘Nuff Said!, New York’s only comic book radio show. You can check it out at www.comicbookradioshow.com.