Thursday, December 21, 2006

Phone Call With A Legend and Other Stories

Phone Call With A Legend and Other Stories

Me: "Hello?"
Him (in fake Italian accent): "Yessa, may I-ah havah pizza-pie?"
Me: "Excuse me?"
Him: "Bonjourno! I would-ah like-ah pizza pie."
Me: "Who is this?"
Him: "I am-ah Italiano, just like you-ah!"

He wasn't Italiano, just like me-ah. Just an eccentric genre mega-legend who thought it was funny I had an Italian last name. When ever I hear that this guy has stepped into another pile of poo-poo I just roll my eyes and go, "yep!"

Not talking about John Byrne, by the way. Met Byrne once, had lunch with him. A gentleman. Though the editors I was with were a bit unfair, they would go, "Hey John, who was more responsible for the X-Men, you or Claremont?" This is what's known in the nomenclature as "a leading question."

Chris Claremont himself was a pretty cool guy. I had to rewrite a few balloons of a story he did for "Batman Black & White" and I was scared to death of his reaction, because I totally idolized him. And he was so zen about it, so cool. Which was great, because he's God.

Actually, there are many comic book gods. When you're a total geek like me and you finally have the chance to work in the industry you have to learn how to greet these gods. Slavish adoration will put most of them off -- though there are a few of such intense ego that such devotion is not only appreciated, it's required. Your boss will probably brief you beforehand who those bombastic few are and how to deal with them. But chances are, if you are a total geek like me, you won't mind. Unless they start talking to you like some bad Super Mario character because you are Italian.

Someone like Howard Chaykin is such a larger-than-life, impressive figure that you will look out the window when he arrives at the office to see the replica WWII bomber he heroically flew in on. On the flip-side, a guy like Frank Miller just sort of gets ushered in to see his editor and ushered out and you didn't even know he was there, you just hear about it after the fact. And an artist like Walt Simonson will hang out around the office, as down-to-earth as you can get, happy to discuss comics or sign a book.

Out of all the comic creators I have met or talked to on the phone, only one stands out as a total prick. He started out very friendly, then overly-friendly, then I had to avoid his phone calls, then he left a message that he "psychically sensed I was in trouble" and needed to speak to me immediately, then he did something like call the president of the company and try to have me fired. After something like this happens, you try to go back and enjoy some classic comic he worked on and it's really hard. But then you explain it away to yourself by figuring he was so damn talented that the sheer talent drove him completely insane -- and apparently gave him psychic abilities to boot.

However, most male comic creators have been pretty respectful to me, a good number with that chivalrous sort of "Ye fair maiden! Are those gorillas bothering you? I shall bean them on the head with this here Mjolnir!" attitude.

And yeah, I guess I'm sort of feminist but that sort of talk just turns me into a Wally Wood heroine with a Valkyrie helmet, a Smurfette smile, and a freshly-picked daisy pressed up against my nose.


  1. Well, c'mon, they are geeks. I've only met a few geeks that didn't hold themselves to a gentlemanly standard.

    That being said, perhaps I met Chris on a bad day. It was at a comic convention in Boston during his heyday on the X-Men. Some 10 year old kid asked him if he thought of Wolverine's claws as more like claws or blades. Instead of giving an honest answer, he basically said, who cares, whatever the artist wants to draw next question. It shattered this kid that he was dismissed so casually.

  2. I could see certain ones being assholes (especially the guys who USED to be great and still have that ego *achem Frank Miller achem*)

    I see Heinberg, Johns, and Loeb being gentleman. They are so different, yet all have a love for the art form, and are fans themselves.

  3. Oh yeah, I've seen Chris Claremont be sweet and cuddly. Like this one time my friend who did a little independant comic asked Claremont if a new character of his with a suspiciously similar name and look was based on his character (and yes, not only am I sure he read the comic but there are photos of him doing so)and Claremont just gave this shit eating grin that said "there's nothing you can do about it".

  4. I met Chris Claremont once, years ago.

    I'd just married, and my wife wanted to see what all the hoo-hah was about as regards comics. We went to a local comix shop, and there she got an apprehension (in all senses of the word) of the comic fan scene, rubbing against (and being rubbed against by) the great, literally unwashed masses of get-a-life fanboys. She was the only female in the shop, and so was quite popular.

    The crowd scene was due, unknown to us till we entered the store, to a signing that day by none other than Chris Claremont, this in the X-Men glory days, pre-Hollywood.

    Well, I suppose it was technically a "signing", because I never once saw him put marker to paper. Instead, he was swanning about, all attired in ostentatious huge floppy beret and long Tom Baker Dr. Who-ish scarf, deigning to speak to no-one, actually pretty effectively ignoring everyone, the poor store owner included. He never responded to any questions or comments.

    My wife, shrewd judge of character that she was, said of Mr. Claremont, "What a prick." His actions in being so aloof and remote and egotistical actually had her feeling sorry for the fanboys.

    As we left, she deliberately swerved to cross Claremont's path, and growled, "Asshole." His response was no more than an theatrically arched eyebrow, which got her laughing, at him.

    You could sense the fanboy horror, and also a bit of relief that an obvious adult found him to be lacking. The store owner grinned at us, and nodded at my wife in salute.

    This was back some 20 years ago, and as I have matured, I suppose Mr. Claremont has too. I hope so, because my wife has matured also, and she still wants to rip him a new one, just ever so much more nastily.

  5. Uhg..I feel your pain doubly. Not only were you a female editor, in a comic book world of weird men, you're Italian American to boot!

    two words: Nancy Pelosi

    As an Italian American male, I've had my share of pizza jokes tossed on me like so many anchovies on a square slice.

    Bravo for handling much of it with dignity.