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Guest column: Remembering Dave Simons

by  in Comic News Comment
Guest column: Remembering Dave Simons

Editor’s Note: Comics artist and animator Dave Simons passed away last week, and journalist James H. Burns sent us this remembrance of meeting the artist over the years.

by Jim Burns (James H. Burns)

The other day, when I read that comics artist Dave Simons had passed, I wrote the following… But then, I realized, I had committed that semi-sin of commemorating someone, by talking more about oneself. Upon reflection, though, I think this may contain a nice Dave Simons story, and one he’d enjoy… (There’s a terrific summary of Dave’s career, elsewhere on this website.)

A NICE DAVE SIMONS STORY

Dave Simons was one of the very first comics artists I ever met.

The January 1976 Creation Comics Convention, at the old, great Commodore Hotel in New York City, was the very first comic book convention I ever attended. I was a kid, just into my teens. But somehow, I was also working at the MONSTER TIMES dealers tables!

My first con had been one of the big STAR TREK wing dings, in 1974.

I was supposed to go to the Phil Seuling show, in July of 1975, but had been hit by a car earlier that year, and was still in a body cast. (Having your thigh bone broken, no fun: three months in traction, four months in a body cast, three months on crutches…) One of the worst days of that convalescence, was thinking of the fun I was sure I was missing, July 4th weekend.

There were few things sweeter when you were in love with comic books back then, then to discover that there was this incredible world where others just like you–and more importantly, a myriad of folks NOTHING like you–shared your love for comics, and other worlds of the fantastic.

That November, at a one-day comics show in Manhattan, I met some folks from that wonderful old fantasy movie magazine, with the unfortunate title, THE MONSTER TIMES. I could always write, looked and seemed, I guess, much older than I was, and within just a couple of weeks, had an assignment from them, to cover a Gene Roddenbery press conference at a local college lecture appearance.

(Larry Brill and Les Waldstein launched THE MONSTER TIMES in the early ’70s, and for a long time, it was the ONLY national magazine to consistently cover comics and fantasy other than monster movies. For some issues, anyway, it also aimed at an adult audience, while still being suitable for kids–following in the footsteps of its then contemporary, and similarly ill-named, CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN, from Calvin T. Beck, and Bhob Stewart.)

I also got a gig to work at their dealers tables at the Creation show–

Great fun!

Now, I had never seen an “artist’s alley” before. (Were they even called that, back then?) But on a break from the dealer’s room, Dave Simons was one of the very first comics artists I ever met, or a struggling comics artist, as he was quick to point out.

Dave couldn’t have been nicer to a kid. He asked me if there was something he could draw for me, and I said that that would be terrific,but I was broke…

He offered to do a sketch, for cigarettes.

I thought he was kidding, but I still have the Killraven he drew for me that day, spectacularly, in black marker.

Now, here’s the weird part.

Through the years, I’d see Dave’s name on the credits of various comics, and think it was terrific that this fella I had run into years earlier,and whom had been great fun to hang out with–two guys, coincidentally, at the beginning of their careers–was doing so well.

But I never ran into him again.

In the spring of 2001, or so, I was attending a preview party for a new TV cartoon, over at the MGM screening room, in Manhattan. The director had shot the works, renting the theatre, and providing some catering.

Sitting at the bar in the MGM lobby, the fella next to me introduced himself as Dave Simons…

Twenty-five years later, Dave and I were again hanging out, shooting the breeze about comics! He also told me something that he felt was important, and that I bet he’d want mentioned here. Dave was confused at all the controversy over Jim Shooter. He wasn’t denying any of the sad stories, but in Dave’s experience, Shooter had been great to him. He gave him a lot of credit for what I remember Dave saying was at least the start of his comics career. Dave felt that there must have been others who were similarly indebted to Marvel’s former editor-in-chief.

At the big Javits Center comics convention last February, I was talking with an old friend of mine, Dave Miley, who managed one of the first comics shops in America, about how, as great as it was to keep running into old faces from the ’70s, it was entirely possible that we could walk right by someone we had known in 1977, and not even recognize them! We also sadly realized that people from years ago can die, with one’s never having heard about it.

Sad to know that Dave Simons is gone.

His accessibility in the ballroom at the Commodore will live with me, always.

James H. Burns

*****
(James H. (Jim) Burns, a writer/actor living in Long Island, New York, has written features for such magazines as GENTLEMAN’S QUARTERLY, ESQUIRE, HEAVY METAL and TWILIGHT ZONE. He can be heard frequently as a guest on radio talk shows, throughout the United States.)

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