Your quote of the day: “Guy drew like a dream.”

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Jackie Robinson, who once said that, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Many others are eulogizing and chronicling the life of Gene Colan today, as well they should. Here are a few anecdotes that speak to the impact Gene Colan had on others’ lives, from some people you might not know.

Hero Initiative volunteer Wendi Freeman:
“I remember two years ago, and the greatest experience I could have had at San Diego Comic-Con was getting to hold Gene Colan’s hand walking him back to his table from the Hero booth. Thank you so much for those moments, and for everything Hero does.”

Hero Initiative volunteer Ray Feighrey:
“Gene was extremely gracious to me when I was introduced to him a couple of years ago and he signed my Iron Man #1 print. That image that has great personal significance to me, as my Dad gave me a copy of Iron Man #1 for Christmas when I was a kid. I was a huge fan of Gene’s, as you know, and he will be terribly missed.”

Hero Initiative volunteer Tony Tower:
“I had the great pleasure of interviewing Gene Colan for a Hero Initiative video back in early 2009. Along with my friends/crewmates Mike and Ethan, we traveled out to Gene’s home in Nassau County. Gene could not have been a more gracious host, and I think his humble, almost shocked gratitude at Hero’s support really comes through in the video.

“Our little trio really hit it off with Gene. He was quite the film aficionado, so throwing him in a room for a couple hours with three guys who work in TV (two of whom went to film school)…well, let’s just say there was a lot of classic movie talk in between the proper interview questions about Gene’s career and the good work of Hero. It certainly helped me get past any fannish nerves at talking with the guy who drew some of my favorite Captain America stories, or all the Batman comics I read as a kid, or THE image of Iron Man we all know so well:

“Flash-forward to that fall’s New York Comic Con. I was volunteering at the Hero Initiative table there, and was delighted to see that Gene had his own booth as well. Saturday was my day to look around the convention floor and shop, so I made a point of catching up with Gene. I later got an autograph from actor Robert Culp of Greatest American Hero fame (now sadly departed as well), and chatted briefly with him.

“Sunday morning I was on-duty at the Hero booth, and about 20 minutes before the show opened, Robert Culp was roaming the floor. He paused in front of our table, with a somewhat baffled expression on his face.

“’Morning, Mr. Culp. Good to see you again. Can I help you?’”

“Emphasizing his words in a distractingly Bill Maxwell-esque way, he replied, ‘Yeah. I don’t know what you’re doing here. What’s this all about?’”

“So I went into my version of The Hero Initiative spiel. Mr. Culp was quiet interested. He apparently was a cartoonist himself in his youth, and was conversant with the names of several comic book and comic strip artists from the 1950s and 1960s. Since that was the period he knew, I figured I’d give him a ‘f’rinstance’ from that era:

“’Well, one of the artists The Hero Initiative has been able to help is Gene Colan.’”

“Without missing a beat—‘Gene Colan? I remember Gene Colan’s art. Guy drew like a dream.’”

Remembering our discussion of film and actors, I had a feeling nothing would please Gene more than to know that Robert Culp was a fan. So I described where Gene’s table was, and told Mr. Culp how excited Gene would be to meet him. I would have walked him over myself, but was manning the Hero table alone just then and couldn’t get free.

A few hours later, I managed to slip away and check in with Gene, and asked if he’d had any interesting visitors that day…

“’I did. You know Robert Culp, from I SPY? He stopped by. Said he’d liked my art for a long time.” Gene paused. “’Gosh, that was nice to hear.’”

Gene Colan obviously had a lot of fans, me included. But I have to think that meeting was extra special for him. So in addition to all the other support The Hero Initiative provided Gene in his later years, it helped make that moment happen as well.

And one from a current comic artist, who chooses to remain anonymous:
“I have no idea how you’re feeling right now. But the first thing I thought of when I heard the news was, damn, all of us, without exception, have to go sometime, but there has to…HAS TO…be a difference between dying with or without hope. And however you feel, Jim, I really hope you and everyone involved in the Hero Initiative eventually can feel a sense of pride, or happiness, or SOMETHING positive, for, at the VERY least but possibly MOST important, giving a man hope, especially through a time where I know in my heart people would need it most.

“I’m proud of you. I’m proud to consider you a friend.

“My thoughts are with you, for what they’re worth.”

And there we go. Let’s take this occasion to share some good thoughts all around, huh?

Jim McLauchlin

My Lunch With Joe Quesada

My Lunch with Joe Quesada
By Greg Pelkofski

Yes, I am the fan who spent $536.51 to have lunch with Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada. Yes, it was one of the best experiences of my short twenty-one years on this planet. Yes, it was a “dream come true.” (And I’ve had some pretty strange dreams. No joke, the night before the lunch, I had a dream where Spider-Girl was fighting the Joker in a burning building. Crazy, right?) However, this meeting was even more meaningful as I am a college student looking to break into the comic book industry after graduation.

Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to work in comic books. Well, I actually wanted to be Spider-Man, but by middle school I started to realize that even if a radioactive spider did bite me, it would probably kill me, not make me stronger. In college, I started tailoring my course work to becoming a comic book editor. I even got an editorial internship at AARP The Magazine in Washington D.C., after my repeated applications for Marvel met with failure.

In 2009, during a Friday night happy hour (so many of my family’s stories start this way) my parents impulsively decided to take me to the San Diego Comic Con for my birthday. There I attended Marvel’s “Breaking Into the House of Ideas” panel. I listened as writers, artists, and editors all told their unique stories of how they got a job at Marvel. One of the panelists made the point that each person needs to find their own path into comics, and once someone blazes that path, that trail goes cold forever. I knew I needed to find my own path into comics.

Jump ahead to October 1st of this year, again during happy hour, when I told my dad about how I saw Joe Quesada post on his Twitter page an auction for The Hero Initiative. The prize was lunch with Joe at the New York Comic Con. I mentioned it would be such a great opportunity if I could make it there the next week. Maybe it was the alcohol or maybe it was his parental desire to see me happy and successful (probably the alcohol), but he told me if I paid for the auction, then he would pay for my train ticket and hotel room in NYC.

Anyway, I won the auction. The next Friday morning, Oct. 8, came around quickly. But strangely, I did not feel nervous. I felt confident that the lunch would go well. Armed only with my knowledge of comics that comes from owning and reading over 3,700 of them, and with a pocket full of business cards, I set out to meet Joe Quesada at Five Napkin Burger in Hell’s Kitchen.

My first thought while waiting at the restaurant was “if this is Hell’s Kitchen, where’s Daredevil’s Japanese fortress?” No sign of the fortress, but shortly after noon Joe Quesada came in, escorted by fellow Hero Initiative Executive/Fund Raising Board member, Jim McLauchlin. Now, only seconds away from shaking Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief’s hand, the man who led my favorite comic book company through some of it’s best stories and made me want to work in comics even more, I was suddenly nervous. But I put on a smile and stuck out my hand, and with a firm shake introduced myself to one of my role models.

Almost immediately, Joe began asking me questions about myself and I was able to explain my desire to be a comic book editor. With an attentive ear, he patiently listened to me speak of my college studies and my experience as an intern at AARP. He explained how tough it is to actually break into comics, especially in today’s job market, but he also told of how rewarding the work is. We discussed editorial work in comics and what a typical day at Marvel is like, and I found myself wanting to work there now more than ever. (Also, finding out that I wouldn’t have to wear a suit and tie to work was a huge bonus.)

Soon, my inner nerd broke loose and I had to ask some questions about the comics that I enjoy so much. I listened as Joe explained his reasoning behind “annulling” Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane (also the name of my cat), after which I completely understood why he made that decision. I also got some insight into the timeline of the Marvel Universe that appeared in a two-page spread in Avengers #5.

Throughout lunch, Joe and Jim told some funny stories of their experience in comics. Their stories just made me want to work with these people who sounded so similar to myself and with whom I felt a common geeky connection. Though, I seemed to have the last laugh when I said that I paid for the auction with my profits as an investor after Disney bought Marvel.

Nearly 90 minutes and one big-ass burger later, it was time for Joe and Jim to move on to their next scheduled events. Both were surprised when I said that I did not have a NYCC pass and came up only for the lunch. Jim let me borrow his pass for the afternoon so I could get into the convention and Joe introduced me to a few of Marvel’s staff. Joe and I got our picture taken together at the Marvel booth. It was an unexpected bonus in an incredible day.

While I realize I face great odds at being hired by Marvel straight out of college, I do believe this was one of the best opportunities I’ve had to help realize my dream of becoming an editor. More importantly, I had a great time and got to support the Hero Initiative, which helps the comic book creators who have provided me and countless others so much joy over the years. So, thank you Hero Initiative and Jim McLauchlin for setting up the auction in the first place. Thank you Joe Quesada for meeting me and listening to my little dream of being an editor. Thank you mom and dad for supporting me and my dream by paying my way to New York. And thanks to the comic creators for the heroes they made.

Greg Pelkofski

Stan Lee Day in L.A.!

The Hero Initiative arranged with our friends in county government to have Friday, Oct. 2 declared “Stan Lee Day” in Los Angeles County. This certificate the County presented Stan is just too cool for words.

Big ups, as the kids might say, to the mighty Harlan Wenig, who knows how to make the wheels of government turn.

Jim McLauchlin

Of Steve Gerber, Frank Cho, and Ducks With Pants

So a story relayed to me by Steve Gerber, about a month or two before he unfortunately passed away:

Steve, of course, was having ongoing lung problems, which made it difficult to work. Hero had stepped in and helped Steve with some bills from time to time, and even helped him land a paying gig writing a five-minute cartoon short. Josue Justiano, the artist working with Steve on Countdown to Mystery, also knew of Steve’s health problems, of course. Josue floated the notion to Steve that perhaps he would give Steve some of his original art, and Steve could sell it, auction it off, or whatever to make a buck. Steve’s answer:

“That’s great for me. But what about the next guy?”

To me, this illustrates one helluva lot about Steve’s character. Of course Steve had needs. He was no dummy; he knew it! But he was even more concerned about “the next guy.” Whoever that next guy was.

So it was with alla that in mind that we concocted FOOG, TOO! or “Friends Of Ol’ Gerber,” too. (Your miraculous Interweb will tell you all you wanna know about the original FOOG if ya wanna look it up.) We were gonna create several Gerber-centric products under the FOOG, TOO! banner that would help fund Hero (and thereby, also help Steve out financially in his convalescence). The first outta the gate was scheduled to be this super-cool Frank Cho Howard-and-Beverly print seen here. Working with our pals at Marvel, we got some new Frank Cho/Jason Keith art, and got these suckers printed up. Frank and Steve were slated to sign ’em, and ¡voila! Instant fundraiser product.

So here’s irony, coincidence, “the universe knows something” or whatever. Steve passed away in the evening of Feb. 10. These arrived in Las Vegas for Steve’s signature the morning of Feb. 11.

The good news: We’ll have both unsigned and Cho-signed prints available for sale starting at the Orlando MegaCon, March 7-9, and throughout the rest of the con season. They’re also available via Pick one up if you’re of the mind. I think and hope that’s what Gerber woulda wanted. There is, after all, “the next guy.”

More on FOOG, TOO later.

Jim McLauchlin