Category Archives: Smilin’ Ed

Art jam

There is a gentleman named Jeff Kapalka, who sent his newspaper review of Fred Hembeck’s new book to Fred recently. With Jeff’s permission, Fred forwarded it to me.

Jeff also attached this item, forwarded by Fred:

Jeff describes it to Fred: “I’m also sending along a scan of a piece you participated in about two decades or so ago. Remember when we’d meet up at conventions, and I’d be toting my big-ass piece of poster board around, getting all and sundry to contribute to a mammoth character jam? Well, it finally got filled up in the mid 1980s, Karl Kesel got roped into inking any penciled characters, and I’ve kept it ever since.

“In the bit I was able to cram into my scanner, we’ve got Cartoon Fred interviewing an Al Milgrom Firestorm (who for some reason is wearing a Clyde Caldwell clown puppet on his hand). Meanwhile, CF is being crept up upon by a Steve Bissette Swamp Thing (“Let’s see if you can grow YOUR arm back.”) with Vince Giarrano’s Haywire lurking in the background. Just out of shot, a Paul Smith Storm is forming a little storm cloud over Firestorm. He doesn’t notice, as he’s busy trying to pal around with a rather disinterested Jughead, a la Stan Goldberg. That’s Brent Anderson’s Shanna in front of a Ron Frenz Spidey, and you can just about see E-Man’s outstretched hand, courtesy of Joe Staton. Can’t remember for the life of me which character from Arion, Lord of Atlantis Jan Duursema sketched, but there’s no mistaking Raoul Vezina’s Smilin’ Ed.”

“Ahh…those were the days.”

Yes, they were. It’s interesting that three people who did work for FantaCo appear in this panel:
Steve Bissette, who was in Alien Encounters, Gore Shriek, Deep Red and other horror projects.
Fred Hembeck, who, in addition to his eponymous series, also contributed to Smilin’ Ed, the Chronicles series, Gates of Eden and Alien Encounters.
And of course, the late Raoul Vezina, who, in addition to Smilin’ Ed, worked on the Chronicles and had stuff in the first four FantaCon programs.

Jeff notes to me: “I loved Smilin’ Ed. (The issue where he heads off to Hollywood, obsessed with cinematic cheese, spoke volumes to me. Even today, when I think of the poster for Angry Red Rabbit, or poor Ray Merrymausen working on his stop-motion project, I smile.)

“We probably have already met, of course. My cohorts and I made many a trip to FantaCo back in the 1980s, and we were always treated right. The feeling there was like the Cheers bar, but with comics. It was there I first found out about the redoubtable Mr. V and his critter creations. Sadly, I have no real memory of any conversations with either him or you, but I do have the sense of having talked comics with fellow fans.

“FantaCo also introduced me to the awe and mystery that is Blotto, but that’s going off on a tangent.” Not really. The FantaCo folks were big Blotto fans, too. I was singing ‘Metalhead’ in the shower just yesterday.

“The piece also features a Dave Sim Cerebus, Wendy Pini’s Skywise, Iron Man by Bob Layton, John Byrne’s Rog-2000, Mike Grell’s Warlord, Walt Simonson’s Manhunter flanked by George Perez’ Starfire and Mary Wilshire’s Firestar, a Totleben Demon squaring off against a Simons Ghost Rider, and an Incredible Vampire Balloon. (The last is a critter from my Cranberry: Certified Public Avenger series. Never heard of it? You’re not alone…) And there’s still more!”

Jeff indicated that if he gets a chance to scan some more, I might be able to share more with you fine folks. Thanks, Jeff.


Jaquandor's Too Many Lists

Before that, though, I need to note a couple things

1. This Steve Bissette article, the part after Christian matchmaking, where he talks about FantaCo and its publications Gore Shriek and Smilin’ Ed.

2. The passing of Sydney Pollack, who not only directed Tootsie, one of my favorite films, but was one of those hyphenates as well known for his acting as his directing. He was a quite good actor, even in some mot so good scripts.

Jaquandor went quiz crazy. I’m answering the ones I feel like answering, having answered similar questions too recently .

Feet size: 10, although that can vacillate a bit depending on the brand of shoe in question.

Age you act: Thirty-seven. That was, in some ways, my favorite age.

Where you want to live: Don’t know, but living in upstate New York, given the rest of the country’s propensities towards fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes, as good as anywhere. And when global warming really kicks in, it’ll be as warm here in 20 years as it is in Virginia now.

Favorite Saying: “That’s doable.” Actually that’s fallen into disuse of late, for some reason.

Favorite Ice Cream: When I went to Ben & Jerry’s for free ice cream last month, I asked for rum raisin; they had none. Have they discontinued it?

Favorite Alcoholic Drink: Any rum drink.

When Do You Go To Sleep: Generally between 9:30 and 10 pm, except on Thursday night, when it’s between 11 pm and midnight.

Most Embarrassing Moment: Too hard to narrow down.

Stupidest Person You Know: I’m a snob. I tend to avoid stupid people.

Funniest Person You Know: Probably Tim, though most of his comments are groan-worthy.

Favorite Food: Chicken, I suppose.

Favorite Song: Impossible to determine, but I’ll be working on that very topic soon.

Wedding song: “At Last” by Etta James, for cause.

Pets: Only stuffed.

5 years from now? I used to have to do that years ago, and there was almost never a correlation between the aspirational and the actual, so I don’t bother.

10 years from now? Or, conversely, if I looked back 10 years would I said, “Now is what I thought it’d be”? No.

Have You Ever…?

Done Drugs: Even inhaled.

Run Away From Home: Briefly.

Hit A Girl: No.

Lied: Anyone who says they didn’t is probably a liar.

Stolen Anything: Not in a long, long time.

Broken A Bone: No.

Cheated On A Test: Answered before, yes, 9th grade bio.

Gotten Drunk: A few times in my 20s, but not in at least a decade.

Fell asleep in the shower/bath: No.

Gone to Church: Yes, on most Sundays.

Never slept during a night: The last all-nighter was in 1981, when a bunch of my grade school friends all got together.

Ever been on a motorcycle or motorbike: Yes. Didn’t like it.

Been to a camp: Every summer for about a decade growing up. Didn’t like it.

Sat in a restaurant w/o ordering: Probably not.

Seen someone die: Nope, I missed that fine honor by about an hour on two different occasions (my great uncle, my father).

Gone a week w/out shaving: A heck of a lot longer than that.

Didn’t wash your hair for a week: Probably in February 1975.

Broken something valuable: Possibly.

Thought you were in love: Or at least open to persuasion.

Streaked the streets: Interesting question.

Screamed at someone for no reason: well, not for NO reason. The reason may not have had anything to do with that person.

Said I love you and meant it: Why, yes.

Been hurt by a guy/girl you loved: Oh, God, yes.

Stayed up till 4 am on the phone: If so, it was so long ago I can’t recall.

Pulled a prank: Mostly surprise birthday parties.

Which Is Better…?

1. Coke Or Pepsi: I suppose Pepsi, though both are probably poison.

2. Cats Or Dogs: Cats.

3. DVDs or VHS: DVDs because you can get to a section easier.

4. Deaf Or Blind: I suppose blind, because I’d miss music and the sound of my daughter’s voice.

5. Pools Or Hot Tubs: Neither.

6. Television Or Radio: TV

7. CDs Or mp3: CDs, still.

8. Apples or oranges: Apples – macs.

9. Strawberries or Blueberries: I prefer blueberries, but eat more strawberries.

10. Gold or silver: Gold.

11. Vanilla or chocolate: Vanilla, a choice that traumatized me in the 6th grade.

12. Video or Movie: Movie.

13. Park or Beach: Park.

14. Hot or Cold weather: Hot.

15. Sunset or Sunrise: Sunset.

When is the Last Time You…?

1. Took a shower: Yesterday morning.

2. Cried: Yesterday, listening to music.

3. Watched a Disney movie: Some years ago, unless you count Pixar, in which case it was three months ago.

4. Given/gotten a hug: From the daughter last night.

5. Been to the movies: Sunday.

6. Danced: I dance a lot. In my office chair, especially.

7. Did a survey like this: Last week.

What Is…?

1. Your Fondest Memory Of This Year: the ships at Jamestown.

2. Your Most Prized Possession: my signed copy of Abbey Road.

3. The Thing That Makes You The Happiest: having someone be excited about info I’ve shared with them.

4. Your Favorite Food For Breakfast: pancakes with real maple syrup.

5. Your Favorite Food For Dinner: lasagna.

6. Your Favorite Slow Song: “Slow Song” by Joe Jackson.

7. Your Ideal BF/GF: Smart, more sensible than I am.

What Do You Feel About…?

1. Bill Clinton: I never got how great his Presidency was supposed to have been. Much better than his successor though. He’s really annoyed me during his wife’s campaign for POTUS. And though he didn’t come up with it, HATED that First Black President moniker.

2. Love at First Sight: I suppose it’s possible. Never happened to me.

3. Abortion: Legal, safe and rare.

4. Smoking: If I get on an elevator with someone who had been smoking recently, I practically pass out.

5. Death: Even more inevitable than taxes.

6. Rap: I LOVED early rap, but when it got all misogynistic and all, it lost me.

7. Marilyn Manson: I never think of Marilyn Manson.

8. Premarital Sex: What two consenting adults do is none of my concern.

9. Suicide: NOT painless, especially for the survivors.


Why A Duck?

When I did my Simpsons avatar a little while ago, the T-shirt had a duck on it. As a kid, and even now, I like to make sounds like various fowl. One sound is like an even more incoherent Donald Duck. I suspect that I was doing this back in my FantaCo days, because when Raoul Vezina drew me into a Smilin’ Ed Smiley story, I was portrayed as a duck.

But it wasn’t a story in one of the four issues of Smilin’ Ed comics that FantaCo published; it was the story in X-Men Chronicles entitled “If Smilin’ Ed Smiley bought a Case of X-Men #94 When It Was Brand New, What Then?” “What Then” was our way of saying “What If” without actually being in violation of Marvel’s copyright or trademark.

Now, I should acknowledge why FantaCo put out the X-Men Chronicles when it did. It was to beat to market the X-Men version of a series of Marvel Indexes compiled by someone named George Olshevsky. The X-Men Index would be No. 9A (for some reason) and was scheduled to come out later in 1981.

I had forgotten this: FantaCo, probably Tom, had asked Wendy Pini to do the X-Men Chronicles cover. Wendy and Richard Pini were known for doing the Elfquest comic book, and had done a number of in-store signings. She called back on May 21, 1981, to decline, but she gave us Paty Cockrum’s number at Marvel so that we could contact her husband Dave, who had drawn the X-Men. From my journal: “Dave agreed to do the cover for $200-250. I told Tom, but I was less than enthused because Fantagraphics’ book [the Marvel Indexes were distributed by them, I guess] is also going to have a Cockrum cover. My attitude was incomprehensible to Tom.” (The actual cover I did really like, and was a lot more interesting than the Index cover.)

So we got our Dave Cockrum cover, got some local, and not so local people, to draw and write some pieces. I commissioned Arro Verti to put together our own index, short on graphics, but long on text. Oh, who am I kidding? *I* was Arro Verti; Arro=R.O.; and Verti for Green.

While we had published previously (Smilin’ Ed, Hembeck 1980, John Caldwell’s Mug Shots), we had never done a commentary book before. While I now know that we almost certainly didn’t need Marvel’s permission to do what we were doing, we sought it then. And Marvel was…cagey.

On the day I went down to pick up the Dave Cockrum cover, July 15, I met with Paty, then briefly with Marvel editor Jim Shooter, who said that there was no need to license the X-Men Chronicles if we were doing a journalistic piece. Then he said: “If you violate our copyright, we’ll just sue.” He was so matter-of-fact about it. I wrote later that I really liked Paty; Jim, not so much.

Another heretofore lost detail: Dave’s cover wasn’t ready on the 15th; in fact, I think he had just started it. So I took train to Philadelphia, visited friends, took a train back to NYC on the 17th, got the cover from Dave, a bearded fellow with what I described as a “soft Southern accent”, THEN took the still-wet painting home on a bus to Albany. The first copies of the magazine came out July 31.

As the editor of the X-Men Chronicles, one of my great disappointments about the book was the type size, which was 6-point type (don’t remember the font), which I thought was too small, but who our typesetter thought was fine. He was the professional, so I yielded to his judgment, which was, as it turns out, WRONG.

This had created another problem: we were five pages short for our 32-page publication. Enter Raoul Vezina, who, in a remarkably short time, cooked up with Tom Skulan a story about greed and hubris. Raoul’s story ended up to be six pages, and we had to bump something, as I recall, but this tale was my favorite part of the book.

When Tom came back from vacation sometime afterwards, he brought back these polished stone animal figurines from Mexico. Mine, of course, was the duck.

Which brings us to the picture above, which Raoul drew for my friend Lynne late in 1981. It’d been hanging on her wall for a quarter century when I e-mailed her and her husband Dan for a copy. Dan scanned it, Lynne made it into a PDF, and I made it into a .jpeg. ADD had something to do with the process, too.

Seeing it again just makes me smile, and sad, too, for Raoul died in 1983. At least I have his art to remember him by.
Hi, Eric and Joelle! By coincidence, I ran into a guy named Eric who used to work at FantaCo doing mail order yesterday. He kindly said I was “a little grayer”; it was good to see him. His sister Joelle, I believe, was the first female to be on the FantaCo payroll, and, according to him, is the more computer-savvy of the two.
This story says there were only a “handful” of FantaCo Publications; not true, as this roster will attest. Many were published after my tenure there, but FantaCo, in its time, and, especially in its later horror comics niche, was quite prolific.