Here are a few photos of our time at San Diego! It was great to see everyone, and we look forward to even more amazing projects to premiere next year!
Above: The yearly staff "family photo," including some of our new posters in the background!
Above: Trina Robbins showing off her Babes in Arms, and Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson with her new book, DC Comics Before Superman!
Above: All of our current Phantom Avon novels, (V1-8), along with our Sal Velluto Phantom comics.
Above: Nicky and Trina during a signing of their books
Above: Our in-progress booth setup before the show starts!
Above: Publisher Dan Herman, author Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson, and Managing Editor Sabrina Herman at SDCC!
ME AND HARLAN
I first met Harlan Ellison at a science fiction convention in New York in the 1950s. He approached me and asked me how tall I was. Satisfied that I was shorter than he, he asked me out. I was 16, he was 21.
Harlan lived down the hall from Bob Silverberg, whom he was in awe of, because Bob was already a much-published writer. Harlan himself had just sold his first book, “Rumble,” later reprinted with the classier title, “Web of the City,” in which Harlan claimed to have run with a teen gang using the name “Cheech Beldone.” He swore it was all true. I didn’t believe him.
We didn’t last a year, and I moved on to a handsome but terrible boyfriend who liked to make anti-Semitic remarks, and when I objected, would say he was just joking. But Harlan had become part of my karass. The word karass comes from Kurt Vonnegut’s book, “Cat’s Cradle.” It refers to a group of people who are somehow linked together for some reason, so that they keep showing up in each other’s lives. Fast forward to the early 1960s; I’m married and living in Los Angeles, and Harlan moves to L.A. to write for Star Trek, and we resume our friendship, adding my then husband, Paul, whom Harlan likes, to the karass.
In 1963, Paul went with Harlan to march for Civil rights in Selma, Alabama. I stayed home because we could only afford airfare for one, and Paul, being a man, was “more important” (It was 1963!). Harlan wrote it up for Playboy and Paul wrote it up for the underground newspaper, The L A Free Press.
Harlan was doing well, writing science fiction, movie and TV scripts, and articles for top-of-the-line magazines. When the Rolling Stones came to L.A. in 1964, he interviewed Bill Wyman for Playboy, and brought us along with him. Because of Harlan, I also got to meet Edie Adams, the very funny wife, then widow, of the incredibly funny Ernie Kovacs.
In 1966, Harlan wrote the screenplay for a movie which even he admitted was possibly the worst movie ever made, “The Oscar,” and in it was a supporting character named Trina, played by Edie Adams. Harlan said he based the character on me. Edie wanted to meet me, so that she could better understand the character she was playing, so Paul and I met her for lunch at the studio. Edie was smart, funny, gracious and beautiful, but when I saw the movie, she wasn’t the least bit like me.
That same year, Paul and I split up, and I moved back to New York. It was a no-fault separation, but even though Paul and I remained friends, Harlan somehow felt he had to take sides, and of course he took the side of the man (it was 1966!) and told everybody that I was an evil vampire who had broken Paul’s heart.
After that, Harlan and I would run into each other at conventions, and although his negative feelings about me cooled down, he liked to tease me by calling me by my maiden name, since he was the only friend left who had actually known me before I was married. I think maybe he was hoping to get my goat, but it didn’t bother me (I have been called far worse than my maiden name!) and I was always pleasant in return
Harlan could be a true friend, too. When “Women and the Comics,” my first history of women cartoonists, which I co-wrote with Catherine yronwode, was published, a certain cartoonist sent angry letters to all the comic industry magazines and newspapers, calling me names like elitist and careerist, because I had left out the names of some women whom he had published in his magazines. Truth told, I had forgotten about them because they didn’t really draw comics, but just single panel cartoons. But Harlan phoned to offer me his support, saying that the cartoonist was just jealous. He phoned me again when Ted Sturgeon, who had been friends with both of us, died.
The last time I spoke with Harlan was when I phoned him, hoping he would blurb my memoir, “Last Girl Standing.” He told me he was very ill, too ill to write anything for me. Once again, I didn’t believe him; I thought it was just an excuse so he wouldn’t have to write anything for me.
I’m sorry, Harlan, I shoulda believed you.
COMING SOON FROM HERMES PRESS:
THE ORIGINAL DICK TRACY RETURNS IN A FULL LENGTH GRAPHIC NOVEL
Hermes Press proudly announces the creation of an all-new film noir Dick Tracyadventure! The story will take place during the 1940s and will be in the mold of classic years of the feature. It is being written and drawn by Dick Tracy veteran artist and writer Richard Pietrzyk, who consulted with Chester Gould during the years Pietrzyk worked on the daily comic strip.
The original Dick Tracy strip premiered a little over a year after the beginning of the Great Depression, on October 4, 1931. It was without any doubt a groundbreaking strip which would be the benchmark for tough, hardboiled, detectives. Conceived by cartoonist Chester Gould, who had unsuccessfully tried for the previous ten years to launch a nationally syndicated strip, Dick Tracy was Gould's reaction to the crime and criminals which held Chicago captive during the late 1920s and 1930s.
This reboot of the series will remain true to the origins of the character, and some of the ideas behind it stem from conversations Pietrzyk had with Gould (see the accompanying interview with Pietrzyk for more details).
With Dick Tracy, Gould created a tough and highly stylized world developing characterizations and concepts which influenced popular culture for years to come. Gould flattened the look of his characters, inked with a bold line, and embraced the surreal possibilities of urban violence by creating characters and storylines that were both memorable as they were bizarre.
Tracy had an unmistakable profile and fought villains who were models for a legion of comic book and comic strip villains to follow. Over eighty years after the creation of villains the like of Flattop, Pruneface, Big Boy, and Mumbles, these characters still resonate as influential archetypes. Gould depicted Tracy's Chicago as a dark, flattened, menacing Gotham City, besieged by evil, a concept still popular in todays comic books and movies.
Coming Late Summer 2019!
INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD PIETRZYK
Eileen Sabrina Herman (ESH): Who is your favorite artist that you never had a chance to work with?
Richard Pietrzyk (RP): Al Hirschfield, the Broadway caricature artist. His use of line was legend. His line flowed at times looking as if he constructed a drawing with one continuous line. As if he was walking with an immense ball of black yarn against a white background. His drawing of a Broadway show often was superior to the show depicted.
An original of Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria is especially delightful in that there is a ghost image hovering next to the inked Julie, indicating Hirschfield drew her first in pencil, erased (leaving the ghost image), repositioned her face before the final inking. It was a great insight into his creative process.
ESH: What was it like to work with Dale Messick?
RP: Dale Messick was a great person to work with. I assisted her on Brenda Starr; I did backgrounds, incidental characters, a little bit of the script every once in a while, we would brainstorm together on story ideas. It was an absolute pleasure to work with her.
Dale used to work on brush and ink. Most cartoonists used pen and ink, which is what I primarily work with, but she was a brush person. When she would work on Brenda’s face, and Dale was the only one that would ever draw Brenda, it was very exciting to watch her draw. When she was penciling she would just use the lightest drawing, the very sketchy sketch, and then she’d refine it with her inkbrush. It was just very beautiful. My favorite part was to watch her work on Brenda’s eyes. And she was a lot of fun to brainstorm story items- she liked to talk through them.
ESH: What was your favorite part about working in the Archie series?
RP: For Archie Comics, I wrote scripts for Katy Keene, who is a fashion model. Katy is a strong, confident woman who could assume any role. That of an athlete, chef, detective, of fall back in time for a story! Since she is a professional model, I had her pose for such artists as Vincent Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Leonardo Di Vinci (Katy made a fetching Mona Lisa).
The best part about working on the character was that I did not have to worry about doing the art. I was teamed with an excellent artist, John Lucas. John was a master at drawing beautiful backs, animated hands, action…whatever the situation required. Never was I disappointed in how John interpreted one of my scripts. We took Katy all over the world- we took her to Egypt, on African safaris, to Washington DC…she was a fun character to work on.
ESH: What was it like to work with Chester Gould?
RP: When I was working Dick Tracy, Chester Gould had retired from active service at that point, and I was working with his successor, artist Rick Fletcher, and I assisted Rick on lettering. He also liked to talk about how the story would be interpreted when he drew it.
I would, however, meet with Chester every two weeks, to talk about what I was doing on the strip, and also to talk about how he created Dick Tracy, the characters, some of the mechanics of his art in the strip. How he drew snow, drew rain, and just about all the different ways he’d bring a character to life. I looked at him as my mentor, because I learned so much from meeting with him while I was working on Dick Tracy.
One his more unique styles was reflected in his way of drawing snow and rain. I recall him showing me how he did snow, and, very briefly, the thing with the rain. He would show the rain coming down over the character, and when he was done he’d take a razorblade and scrape it in the direction of the rain, over the character. He’d do that to give the scene compromised visibility. The first time I saw him do it with the razorblade, just scraping into artwork, I thought, “Oh my gosh! He’s ruining the art!” But looking at it, that technique really created a wonderful image.
ESH: Do you have any notable or fun stories about your time working with Chester Gould?
RP: Let’s, see… well, he lived on a farm, and one day when I came over there he said he would be cutting the grass, and would I mind waiting while he finished? Well, he owned, I think, 130 acres…and his grass cutter turned out to be a tractor. So he’d climb on to the tractor and do the south 60 and the north 70, and it was kind of cool to watch him do that too. He was dressed in a flannel shirt, blue jeans, and college fraternity cap all the while.
And, you know, he liked doing his own farm work. He enjoyed getting back to the roots of the earth and farming.
Once time I told him I had created a character named Pickle Puss, and PP looked a little like a Dill pickle with eyes, nose, and a mouth. And when CG looked at my interpretation of this character, he said, “Drawing a character like that in profile would be very difficult to do.” So he suggested that we go into the kitchen and get a jar of pickles from his refrigerator so we could determine the look and texture of a perfect pickle. There we were, holding it longways and sideways, try to figure out the best way to draw this character. And, of course, we were using a dill pickle for a model, which I thought was quite funny.
He was a fascinating, memorable man. What also surprised me about him was that I knew all the characters that he had created from his first strip, all the way through his entire career. And I when I questioned him, he had no memory of some. He remembered his famous villains, Flattop, Pruneface, Mumbles…but the lesser known characters, he had no knowledge of, and that surprised me, because I assumed he would keep some sort of memory. But he told me, once he created the character, and it was out in the strip, he would move onto the next new idea. He never liked going over old characters, he was always on the move to something new. He said that way the reader would be engaged with his strip too.
Another interesting story…the first time I showed him characters I had drawn in the Dick Tracy style, he actually thought he had created them. I found that incredibly flattering and it just did wonders for my ego and confidence.
ESH: What are you working on right now?
RP: Recently I completed a series of Halloween drawings for the season – one character I created is the wife of Dr. Jekyll when he transforms into Mr. Hyde. I’m a member of the National Cartoonist Society and did the drawings for the group. This character did not appear in Robert Lois Stevenson’s classic. Sporting an austere Victorian appearance, she’s attired in top hat, lacey blouse, and black mourning clothes – her name is Formalda.
I’m working right now, of course, on the graphic novel. I’m doing some of the preliminaries. One of the things about the graph novel- what I want to bring into the story of the graphic novel is a few of the ideas and stories that I brainstormed with Chester. In a sense, he’s going to have a finger in this book. Every time I showed up at his house we’d go over characters, and I showed him some 40 characters over the years. Some of those characters will appear in this graphic novel, and some of those story ideas will be used as well. I kicked around a lot of things with him that I hope to use in the novel. I’m very excited and ready to get started!