Friday, April 15, 2011

I-CON-ic Moments

I'll be among the guests at I-CON 30 this weekend at Stony Brook University, the annual comics and sci-fi convention. It's a family affair this year, with Laurie, Chuck and Rebecca also on the guest list. All of us will be appearing on a variety of panels; in fact, I believe there is one point on Saturday afternoon where each of us is on a different panel!

I've lost track of how many I-CONs I've attended over the years. I was a regular attendee in the 80s and 90s when I was still working at DC Comics, but I've been there less frequently over the past decade.

Perhaps my favorite was the year I got to chat with Scott Carpenter, one of the seven Mercury astronauts who made space-flight history back in the 1960s. I actually had a connection with Carpenter. My Uncle Jimmy had been a NASA engineer and for a number of years had worked at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, where the astronauts were also based. As a result, my cousin Peter went to school and was friends with Carpenter's son Marc, as well as the sons of Gus Grissom and Wally Schirra.

Though it was more than two decades later, Carpenter remembered my uncle and that the community they all lived in was named, coincidentally, Stony Brook. We'd been talking for awhile when we realized that we each had to appear on panels. And both of us wanted the chance to go to the men's room before them. I mentioned that we referred to that as Schwartz's Law: "Never go anywhere without going first."

Carpenter countered with his own story. "After I made my space flight, I was in a ticker-tape parade with (then-Vice President Lyndon) Johnson and he said to me, 'Now that you're famous, there are two things that you should never pass up. One is a free lunch and the other is the chance to go to the bathroom.'"

And that is what we now refer to as Lyndon Johnson's Corollary to Schwartz's Law.


"Back in the day" one of my regular activities at I-CON was an interview by Howard Margolin for his "Destinies" program on the Stony Brook radio station. (It still airs Friday nights at 11:30 on WUSB 90.1 FM.) We would talk about what was going on in the comic book business and projects I was working on. Howard would edit the recording and air it a few weeks later.

The one we did in 1988 took place shortly after I had returned from my visit to Ireland to see the prototype computer program a company called Grafascan was using to do comic book color separations. I told Howard that while this program would initially be used only to translate the traditionally hand-colored guides into a form that could be used for printing, I foresaw a time in the future when colorists would be "painting" the pages right on the computer screen. At the time, it sounded like something out of a science fiction movie.

After each interview, Howard would ask me if I wanted a copy of the recording and I would say yes. But neither of us was in any particular rush for it, so there were times when a few years would pass before got them. In 1993 Howard gave me a collection of four or five interviews, including the one we had done in '88.
As we were driving home that evening, Chuck popped the tape in and there I am, talking about how computer coloring was going to change the look of comics forever.

Well, five years later, it had happened and Chuck was just staring at me, asking, "When did you record this?"

Now, of course, twenty-three years after that interview, I'm sure there are plenty of comics fans who can't remember when the books weren't colored on a computer.


For those of you who will be there and are interested in tracking me down, I'll be at the following:

Comic Book Trivia - Saturday from 11:00am - 12:00pm in SAC 308 (with Chuck)

Would You Mess with Forbush Man if You Saw Him Walking Down the Street? - Saturday from 12:00pm - 1:00pm in SAC 308

Comics We Wish Were Collected in Trade - Saturday from 2:00pm - 3:00pm in SAC 308 (with my pal Bob Greenberger)

The Haunted Journey into the Secret Vault of Suspense - Saturday from 3:00pm - 4:00pm in SAC 306

Dwayne McDuffie Tribute - Saturday from 5:00pm - 6:00pm in SAC 306 (also with Bob Greenberger)

1970-1985: An Age Undreamed Of! - Saturday from 6:00pm - 7:00pm in SAC 308

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