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Last Sunday at Seattle Center

by  in Comic News Comment
Last Sunday at Seattle Center

As I have occasionally chronicled in this space, in addition to the two days we spend working the Emerald City Comic-Con, I also like to try and get the Cartooning classes to the smaller Seattle Comic-Card Show at Seattle Center when it comes up.

Which is how Julie and I ended up at Seattle Center last weekend. Attendance from class was not what I’d expected — at least ten kids had said they were coming and we only had one, but showing around young Gavin and his mother was so much fun that it’s worth writing up. And we had a couple of other surprise encounters.

We got there rather earlier than I had originally thought we would, so we had plenty of time to circle the room, say our hellos, and even do a little shopping. We had literally JUST printed the first comic of the year from the Cartooning class at Madison, and I had made it a point to have three proof copies with me so our newer kids would have something to show when the professional artists asked about their work. (They always do.)

I ended up giving one of our proofs to Eric Trautmann, the new co-writer of Checkmate. He was fascinated by it and so was Tom Peyer, who was sitting adjacent to him. Trautmann was especially struck by Marcus’ new strip, Slayer Z. “Check this out,” he said, showing it to Brandon Jerwa, who was sitting on the other side. “That’s hardcore.”

“Oh, yeah,” I said, smiling. “The boys are all about the mayhem. The girls do stories about school and gossip and backstabbing, and the boys do stories about fights and stuff that blows up.”

“I wouldn’t know anything about THAT,” Eric replied. He looked mock-guilty and pretended to hide the top copy of the pile of his Checkmate comics he had for sale.

I laughed. “I know, I tell the parents that comics is one of those things where you either grow out of it or turn pro, and my kids all want to turn pro.”

Eric started to give back the book but I waved it back to him, whereupon he handed me a copy of his Checkmate #17, instead, which I thought was very kind of him.

 

Indie guys trade zines all the time, of course, but it was a nice surprise to find a DC writer subscribing to the tradition.

I had told the kids that the show went all day, but that if they wanted the guided tour that they should be there at one-thirty. Gavin and his mother showed at one-twenty-nine.

Gavin is new this year, but he is getting pretty good and is one of my more ambitious sixth-graders. His entry in the class book was the first chapter of a strip called “Master of Light and Darkness,” about a 13-year old who finds a magic orb while he’s practicing his archery. In addition to the two pages I require of everyone, he did another two pages of story and a splash, making five pages in all. He was a little awed when I handed him one of our proofs. “You might as well keep it, you’re the only one that made it. Now you have something to show,” I told him.

As usual we forgot to take pictures of most of the best moments, and the ones that we did get are not of the best quality. Nevertheless, we got a couple of halfway decent shots. Here’s Gavin, looking a little overwhelmed by it all.

 

Gavin’s mother looked a little nervous, as most of our new parents do. Julie took her aside and gave her the short course on what it was all about, while I led Gavin back to the artist’s area.

Our first stop was Quenton Shaw and the gang from QEW publishing. Quenton’s always a prince to the kids, and today was no exception. He wanted to see the new book, of course, and asked Gavin which one was his. Gavin shyly indicated the pages where his story was printed. “‘Master of Light and Darkness,’ I like the title. Good stuff! You just gotta keep practicing. And come back when you’re old enough to sign a contract,” Quenton added, laughing.

Ben Hansen, one of the QEW artists, was there as well. He said, “Hey, weren’t you guys at Emerald City?”

A young lady sitting further back– I think she was Ben’s girlfriend, but I’m not sure– sat up. “Hey, yeah. I remember you guys. This is a great, great idea,” she added, indicating the class ‘zine. “Are you going to be at Emerald City again this year?”

“Oh, yeah, it’s a school budget item for us now.” I grinned. “Beat THAT with a stick. I can’t believe I get to do this for my job.”

Quenton turned to Gavin. “Is this something you really want to do?”

He nodded. Quenton went on, “Draw more, draw everything. And look at what other people are doing. And read! There are lots of books — Scott McCloud. Understanding Comics. That’s a must-have.”

“Oh, yeah!” The girl leaned forward, excitedly. “Here. This book.” She fished a copy of Understanding Comics out of her bag and proffered it to Gavin, who stood slowly turning the pages in fascination.

Everyone had been poring over Gavin’s story while we chatted. Finally Ben handed the book back to his girlfriend, who in turn handed it to Gavin. He blurted, “Could you sign this?” and pushed it back to her.

She blushed to the roots of her hair. “Oh, but I’m not –“

“He pointed at you, you have to sign,” Quenton said, laughing. Ben agreed, so she did. All three ended up signing. I also prevailed upon Ben to do an entry in our class scrapbook. This is something I’ve been doing for years — I generally have it with me at shows, and I ask professionals to contribute a helpful hint or an encouraging word I can take back to class. Artists will often throw in a sketch as well, but Ben really went above and beyond. He actually drew Gavin.

 

The caption reads, What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Gavin was so awed that all he could manage was a whispered, “whoa.”

The headliners this time were Tom Peyer, Paul Gulacy, and Steve Lieber. Paul was away from his table but Steve Lieber was there with a pile of original art pages from Civil War: Frontline. I said hello to Steve, and then pointed out the pages to Gavin. “See, he pencils it on 11 by 17 bristol and then traces it in ink, just like we do.”

“That’s right,” Steve said. “Then I scan it into the computer. We add a lot of effects these days with Photoshop.” He pulled a copy of Frontline out of a pile of books on the corner and said, “See, here’s how it actually tuned out in print. You can see where I added the hologram effect here and here. You’re an artist?” he added, looking at Gavin.

“Yeah, I’m Gavin,” Gavin said.

“Gavin? I’m Steve.” They shook hands and Gavin showed him his story. Lieber nodded and smiled as he looked it over. “Pretty good.”

“It’s my first one,” Gavin said.

“Really? Great! Work on your storytelling, that’s the most important part.”

Then Gavin asked him to sign the book. Lieber blinked. “Sign YOUR book? Okay, sure,” and did so. It had seemed odd at first to me too, Gavin asking everyone to sign his own class book, but then it dawned on me that it had to be because he didn’t have any money to buy anything. I thought about buying him something, but decided that he was so clearly overjoyed with the autographs he was getting that there was no need to intervene.

Follwoing that we stopped at Tom Peyer’s table, who shocked Gavin down to his shoes when he saw Peyer already had a copy of our new class comic.

Tom Peyer held up the proof copy I’d given to Eric Trautmann, earlier. “I’m loving this!” Peyer told him. “Which one is yours?”

Gavin pointed it out and Peyer nodded and smiled. He also signed Gavin’s book, as did Eric; and Gavin just about levitated when Tom Peyer insisted Gavin sign theirs in return. I prevailed on Eric to sign the class book, as well.

 

At this point I was distracted by a girl’s squeal. “Hey! Mr. Hatcher! Awesome!” We turned and saw a dark-haired woman in a long black coat coming toward us.

I blinked and realized that this tall, willowy young lady was my former student Bryonne, who’d been in my Madison class years ago. I remembered Bryonne as a tiny little thing, awkward and skinny and hyper, and it took me a second to adjust to her fashionably-dressed older self. “How are you? I’m in Bellingham now, I draw ALL THE TIME, we just came down for the thing today, are you still doing the class?” she said, all in a rush.

Okay, I thought, Bry’s grown into a stunning young woman, but still hyper. For some reason that lessened the shock a little. I counted years and realized she must be a junior or senior in high school by now. “We?”

A burly blond young man stepped forward and drew Bryonne to him. “Yeah, we came by just to see what was up. Hey, Mr. Hatcher.” Good God, I thought as I realized it was another of my Madison alums. That’s Sean. Holy sweet jumping Christ, he’s taller than me. I guess the other kids aren’t beating him up any more. He looked like he could bench-press a Buick.

Bryonne burbled happily on. “I’m still all about the Spider-Man. There was a show in Bellingham last week, first one ever in Bellingham! I got all kinds of stuff. And I still draw ALL the time, I have a site up on DeviantArt.com, it’s so great to see you guys! And you’re still doing the comics!”

I glanced over at Eric Trautmann, who was regarding us with amusement. “Alumni,” I explained.

“I gathered that.” Eric said, and grinned.

We ended up chatting with Bryonne and Sean for a while as Gavin wandered on out to see the dealers’ booths. Julie tugged on my sleeve and said, “You need to talk to Gavin’s mother, I think they’re taking off. She needs to know about a book.”

We said a hasty goodbye to Bryonne, exchanged e-mail addresses and a quick hug(“DeviantArt!” she reminded us. Later she e-mailed with the address, you’ll find her gallery at this link. Here’s a sample.)

Then I turned to Gavin’s mother. She said, “Thank you, thank you so much, this was wonderful for him, where can I find the book?”

It took me a minute to realize she meant McCloud’s Understanding Comics. We did a quick check of the dealers’ area, but came up empty. I assured her any Barnes and Noble would have it.

“There’s one by where we live,” Gavin’s mother said. “We’ll find it.” I’m pretty sure they stopped on the way home to get it.

Watching them go, I said to Julie, “Well, even if it was only one kid, I’m still calling today a success.”

“Yeah, that was fun,” Julie agreed. “You should have heard Gavin’s mother.  She was going on and on about how Gavin’s really coming out of his shell now, she was really impressed. Are we done? Or did you want to shop some more?”

I noticed Paul Gulacy was back. “We should say hello to Mr. Gulacy.”

We were delighted to find that Paul Gulacy remembered us from his last appearance here, and I was annoyed that I didn’t have any more proof books to give out; I’d given the last one to Bryonne. “I really liked that last book of theirs,” Gulacy said, which made me even more annoyed with myself about it.

We ended up buying a Shang-Chi print which he kindly signed for us.

 

We did other shopping too. Pretty much cleaned out the quarter box of one dealer, mostly for Halloween — we give comics to trick-or-treaters instead of candy, and there was a run of Gladstone Disney books and Marvel Tales Spidey reprints that were perfect for that. We also found a couple of fun things for me.

 

These are not Great Comics, it was strictly a nostalgia buy. Although it’s interesting to get a look at early Joe Staton art in the Steve Austin book.

And of course we had to stop at Randy’s Reader Comics for my Bronze Age fix. Here’s another Joe Staton job. Aparo did the covers, but it was Joe Staton that actually penciled this.

 

I had fond memories of this, which is really the only reason I picked it up. It doesn’t hold up nearly as well as I had remembered it — I think at the time that my excitement at more Doom Patrol must have overshadowed the basic wrongheadedness of the effort, though Staton’s pencils are still a delight. Virtually every part of this revival ended up being undone, some of it even by the same writer, Paul Kupperberg, in his later Doom Patrol series. (We found some of Kupperberg and Lightle’s DP revival in the quarter boxes too, but I ended up tossing those in the Halloween pile.)

The real find at Randy’s were these.

 

Three dollars each, which is a STEAL. This series only ran a little while in Amazing Adventures — before that it was the Inhumans, and afterward it was Killraven — but in between, it was Hank McCoy.

 

This was the series that got me into ‘new’ Marvel books in the 70’s. I had stuck firmly with the reprints, Marvel Tales and Marvel’s Greatest, up to that point. But this was just recognizable enough to be interesting to me — I knew Iron Man and I remembered the Beast from the X-Men cameos in other books (The X-Men had stolen the show at Reed and Sue’s wedding, as far as I was concerned) and this was a cool new way to do them.

 

Believe it or not, there was a time when an X-Man headlining a book couldn’t make it worth Marvel’s while, and this was one of them; it was a very short run. Seven issues in all. But it was a great book, tight scripting from Steve Englehart with very evocative art from Tom Sutton, and it’s a damn crime Marvel doesn’t put out some sort of collection. At any rate, it was nice to get three of them. Four to go.

*

That was our day at the show. Thanks again to all the professionals who were so gracious. You literally changed Gavin’s life that day, I think. Certainly you made his parents full participants in supporting his art. It may not seem like much, but because of you taking a few minutes to really talk to him, this is a kid who’s never going to have his family in his face about wasting his time on comics. And, as I’m sure most of you already know, that is a great gift.

See you next week.

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