COMIC-BOOK HOMES AND GARDENS
Ever wonder what Joe Quesada's bedroom looks like? Stuff like this really interests me for some bizarre reason and I just can't figure out why. My wife is one of the most intelligent people I know and yet, every week, she picks up one of those lifestyle magazines featuring glossy spreads of movie-stars and TV celebs relaxing at home and, God forgive me, I just can't put them down either. Gossip is just so much more entertaining than actual facts and a little glimpse into the private worlds of the rich and famous who actually INTEREST us is all the more tantalising.
It's with this in mind that I abuse my position as a comic-book insider and become tabloid hack for the rest of this column. I've been in their homes, folks. I know what colour their toilet-paper is and what kind of cereal they keep in their cupboards. All would-be stalkers please take note that the following few paragraphs will be among the most interesting and masturbation-inducing facts you will probably read in your life. I'm going to take you on a guided tour of the real-life homes of a random group of comic-book professionals I happen to be friendly with. Bear in mind that this is all subject to memory, drunkenness, hangovers and long, finger-drumming silences. If you want to read an analysis of why comics are doomed and the green shoots of recovery we've had these past two years are nothing more than strangled weeds and WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE, I suggest you go and read Matt Fractions new column that went up last night. If, however, like me you prefer to be dazzled by trivia and useless, though optimistic, information, I invite you to continue.
COMIC BOOK HOME #1: MARVEL EIC JOE QUESADA
As mentioned in an earlier column, Joe's place is really quite unlike him or, at least, quite unlike the way he's generally perceived. Picture Joe and, for some reason, you think of drive-by shootings, baseball bats cracking heads across spaghetti suppers and crack ho's lap-dancing fresh-faced assistant editors in the Mighty Marvel Bullpen. And yet, the first thing that hits you when you walk through Joe's door is how SOPHISTICATED it all is. It's the artist/ musician Quesada that greets you as you enter his hangar-like loft conversion; fashionable New York originals hanging from the walls, Beatles caricatures, music awards, various instruments lying around his living room and vast dining arena. I can't help thinking about the hit-man in Flight of the Condor and his love of fine wines and classical music as I look around Joe's place, a violent and bloodied street-fighter from Cuba who retreats to his piano as the antidote to a typical day in charge of Marvel Comics. I live in Scotland. Property here sells pretty cheap, but a loft conversation on this scale (four to five thousand square metres, I'd estimate) would cost an arm and a leg. Smack in the heart of Manhattan and a place like this would cost you an arm, a leg and quite possibly your penis. How the Hell does he afford a place like this? Was it the ASH movie deal? Marvel Knights? Does he keep his editorial team dependant on heroin?
COMIC BOOK HOME #2: WRITER MARK WAID
I haven't been to Waid's new place yet (he recently moved to LA), but his detached Brooklyn home was fantastic. He's a wonderful host with a colossal kitchen and yet, surprisingly, never has any food besides some dry, powdered soup. I crashed there a while back after a long transatlantic trip and was starving when I appeared at his door. Waid, slightly embarrassed, took me to a small, Asian seven-eleven nearby where we bought some bread, a two-litre bottle of Pepsi and some cheese slices. He was convinced he had some spread at home, but this turned out not to be the case and so we munched the cheese in dry, slightly out-of-date sandwiches. Tom Peyer and Stuart Moore arrived shortly afterwards with beer so, mercilessly, this was all soon forgotten.
Waid's house was a comic-book paradise. It was virtually a museum to DC Comics filled with artefacts and curios I didn't even know existed. Have you ever seen a genuine Jay Garrick badge from the 1940s? Waid's got one. Likewise, a copy of just about every action figure DC Comics produced from the beginning of time to the present day. Being a Brit, I always pretend to be unimpressed by these things but, before long, all four of us are rummaging through his boxes and finding comics with covers we can only remember as dim and distant childhood memories. It was a vast, detached house and every corner was filled with something interesting that you couldn't help picking up and looking at; whether it was something to do with your chosen profession or just one of the handy gadgets Waid makes for the house in his spare time. The best thing, however, had to be the video collection and cinema-sized TV. Literally every single movie and television program you have ever been interested in exists somewhere in Mark Waid's vast Bat-cave of a home. The Wonder Woman pilot from the 60s that was put together by the men behind Batman featuring Wonder Woman as an gawky, thirty-something New Yorker living with her oppressive Jewish mother? The Superboy movie from the 50s? The Filipino Batman and Robin movie? Jesus Christ, please tell me you'll track this down sometime: A Christian fundamentalist superhero musical featuring an Asian Superman, a midget in a Spider-Man costume and the greatest theme-tune to any movie ever…
"Holy Smoke! Batman and Robin!
Praise the Lord! Batman and Robin!
Oh-my-God! Batman and Robin!
Joker-Riddler-Two-Face! They no good for me!"
COMIC BOOK HOME #3: PART-TIME ARTIST BRYAN HITCH
I know Hitch very well, but he lives five hundred miles from me and I've only ever stayed there once. It's a beautiful, detached property in the most expensive part of England (outside the city of London) and I'd estimate his place must be worth around 600,000 dollars. That said, the jammy bastard somehow managed to trick the old lady who owns half his village into renting him this place for somewhere around the price of a one bedroom apartment. It's a luxurious three bedroom home with a vast, L-shaped living area with a grand piano and well-stocked kitchen. The first thing that hits you about Hitch's place is how well-ordered it is. Everything is white from the carpets to the ceilings and the piano and his colossal video collection (which is built like a movie archive in a room upstairs) again features alphabetical copies of just about every television show and movie anyone on this planet has ever heard of. In fact, the more I type, the more freaked out I'm becoming about Hitch's place because the order was really quite startling for a guy living on his own; right down to the alphabetical and numerically-ordered men's magazines he has lining the shelves of his guest bedroom. He's a part time conductor, an avid concert-goer and plays the piano every night in this perfect white house (when he should be pencilling our bloody comic) and yet, quite surprisingly, this well-known bachelor isn't actually gay. He's got the clothes, the look, the attitude, the trappings and the abdominals of your stereotypical gay man and yet Hitch is actually a very enthusiastic shagger of local nineteen year old girls. All that's behind him now, of course, his new girlfriend having moved in with him and about to give birth to a tiny, little Hitch who will soon be scratching crayons all over those nice, white walls.
COMIC BOOK HOME #4: WRITER/ EDITOR JOHN LAYMAN
Former Wildstorm editor John Layman is comics' nicest man. On a trip to San Diego, he once invited Frank Quitely and I to stay at his place and save the price of a hotel for a few days. Being Scotsmen, we both agreed and sat up all night talking, smoking hash and watching Starship Trooper, etc, on his new DVD player while he and fiancée Kim were trying to sleep in the next room. John has a slick two bedroom apartment in a fashionable part on San Diego not a million miles from the Wildstorm offices but, since one of these rooms mysteriously is home to nothing but loads and loads of Star Wars Lego figures, Quitely and I were forced to sleep on the sofa-bed. Together. For four nights, FQ and I awkwardly shared the same two pillows and, John living in San Diego's much-sought-after gay district, the whole experience felt like some grim, parallel world where I was, in reality, shagging Frank Quitely. Disturbingly, it all got quite natural after a couple of days.
COMIC BOOK HOME #5: DYNAMIC FORCES PRESIDENT NICK BARRUCCI
I can't even remember how we ended up at Nicky's house. I think it had something to do with wrestling, but a crowd of us were all en-route to a major blow-out in NB's neighbourhood six months back and Nick had his limo (he always seem to have a stretch limo waiting for him outside the office) stop for an hour so he could show us a cage-fight on video. Again, like his good friend Joe Quesada, Nick's one of those complex anti-hero types who blends his tough guy, Andy Garcia look with a softer, gentler Italian who quietly took me down the stairs into his basement not to murder me like his cousins might, but to show me some beautiful baby kittens one of his many pet cats had given birth to. Nicky's got a great place out in Jersey that looks an awful like those houses you used to see in John Hughes movies, but don't actually exist in real life. It's a huge, sprawling, perfect American home filled with tasteful, quite classical furniture that I can only assume his beautiful fiancée really chose.
COMIC BOOK HOME #6: BATMAN ARTIST MISTER JAMES LEE
Man, Jim's the Daddy. When it comes to classic comic-book homes, I think Jim's has to be the best I've seen. Bearing in mind that Jim Lee lives in one of the most expensive parts of California, try to imagine an estate with a large sprawling mansion, several out-buildings, his own swimming pool, his own tennis court and what might have been (I'm not sure about this-I was wasted) what looked like his own private golf course. Tucked away in several garages is a collection of sports cars you can only dream of being knocked-down by, Jim is probably the closest thing we have in comics to Bruce Wayne. I know the other Image guys made a fortune in the early nineties (Rob, I heard, made twenty million in 1992 alone) and Byrne bought something pretty amazing with the Superman money back in the late eighties, but I can't imagine any other comics pro having anything more impressive than this. The main house itself was so big that what I thought was a cosy Christmas party we were going to turned out to be hundreds of guests and fifty staff hired to turn the main reception hall in the house into a casino complete with roulette wheels, blackjack tables and buxom croupiers. I remember feeling quite successful when I bought a house with a room big enough to double as a studio for me to work in. Jim bought a place with a HOUSE on the grounds of his estate where he sits, draws, boozes and plays video-games. This place is stacked with boyhood dreams like authentic Darth Vadar and Storm-trooper body-armour from the first Star Wars movie and his very own, very well-stocked bar.
And yet, despite all this, Jim continues to be comics' Mister Nice Guy. Quitely and myself both agreed that, had we Jim's vast wealth, we'd become, at worst, Bond villains threatening global security and, at best, really annoying, taking great delight in rubbing other people's noses in our success. But not Jim. He's actually kind of saint-like, always quietly picking up the bill and never seen without his trademark grin. It's really quite sickening. That said, we both sensed a steely-resolve in young Jim Lee too; you can't be this successful without having some grit in there somewhere. In a fight between all the Image founders, I think he and McFarlane would probably come out tops. Larsen and Valentino would go down with a couple of punches. They're nice guys, but they're just not fighters. Likewise, Silvestri. He's got the height and the range, but he's too much of a pretty-boy. I think Jim Lee would take him down pretty fast. Rob Liefeld, I believe, would surprise everyone, but the final round would really be between Lee and a resourceful McFarlane. Who's win this is really anybody's guess.
So there you have it: A whirlwind guide to the glamorous homes of a few of my glittering, comic-book friends. Wouldn't it be great it we all lived in one town like Jimmy Stewart and Marylin Monroe did back in the fifties and someone was selling Star Maps? If Greg Rucka lived next door to John Romita Junior and Bruce Jones was always out yelling across his fence at the Kuberts for playing their music too loud? Brother, we can only dream.