If there is one things that I love most about being a music scribe and photographer, it’s that you get the chance to meet a host of wonderful and talented people during your adventures and that is what brings me to this next particular event. Let me scroll back and reflect how during the 2011 Book Expo America we happened upon the Hermes Press booth and met their then publicist Chris Irving. As media outlets both Skeleton Pete and I kept in touch with Chris but as we often find happening in this business, Chris would move on to other pursuits and I would lose track of his adventuring for the time being. Then as luck would have it, while planning out some new events with Pete, he mentioned reading about this happening in Time Out magazine. Apparently Chris and a colleague had put out a book and would be having a discussion about the material at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York City.
The book is called “Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins Of American Comics” and it features numerous interviews with the creative forces of comic book good along with some great photography by his trusty partner in literary action Seth Kushner. The book own origin comes from ideas begun on the NYC Graphic Novelists blog and became this book just a few months ago. It’s available via Powerhouse Books.
Here’s Seth Kushner and Chris Irving (pictured left to right) holding the book just before the event was to take place.
And a healthy stack of the book itself just ready for the hungry consumer to snap up after the lecture was over. That was a very good sight to see.
Here we see Seth and Chris having a little more fun in the shot. That’s the spirit guys.
This is Miss Amanda Bullock who is the Director of Events at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. Here we see Amanda lining out tonight’s entertainment menu and introducing the moderators/creators of the book.
Chris Irving gives us a little insight into the topic while Seth looks on. He would not be at the table doing any discussion this evening but instead taking photos for their future use just as Skeleton Pete and I were doing this evening.
Chris Irving now introduces the audience to two men who really need no introduction to comics fans as they are legends in their own right. Please welcome Mr. Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. Applause sign goes off.
Here’s a shot of Neal Adams and one of the most controversial covers of comics history. This is the issue of “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” where the heroes discover that Speedy is addicted to heroin. Adams would discuss this particular issue and line out the difficulties in getting it out to the fans. This was around the same time that Marvel Comics was doing the drug issue of Spider-Man, and it was very interesting.
A lot of the stories this evening were focused on the late, great Julius Schwartz and their interactions with him. Tonight many of us learned that he was not just a legend in the comic book world but also very instrumental in his youth as being responsible for helping out the careers of many great Science Fiction names. Two writers he represented were H.P. Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury. Perhaps they ring a bell.
Irving led the discussions to focus on the pairs ground-breaking stories in “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” and also their changing the direction of “Batman” after so many years of campy tales that reflected the popular television show of the time. It was thanks to O’Neil and Adams that we got the villainy of Ras Al Ghul and saw The Joker returning to a more homicidal maniac status. The character was back to its original roots thanks to these two and its been that way ever since. No more fighting dinosaurs or circus people.
Here’s some work on the Batman focused title “Brave And The Bold” which was essentially a Batman team-up book at this point in time. It was in B&TB that The Green Arrow was given a new look and direction as well. O’Neil mused at how in this characters own early years how he had an Arrow Cave, an Arrow Car and the trusty sidekick. Sounds a lot like Batman doesn’t it?
While I don’t recall which young lady it was, at one point Adams pointed out that the Great Grand Daughter of Joe Simon was in attendance. Too bad I would have loved to add a proper photo of her to the narrative.
Here is the ground-breaking “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” #76 which took the Intergalactic Policeman and teamed him up with Green Arrow who was essentially a hero of the people. These tales were unlike any that had been done before and the combination of O’Neil and Adams gave us some truly amazing stuff. A new trade paperback of these tales is coming out in sometime in August so please be sure to get yourself a copy if you are curious about them. I recommend it.
Speaking of Batman, we all know how the final chapter in Chris Nolan’s vision for the Detective will be opening on Friday with “The Dark Knight Rises” and with this being the case, the two creators were constantly teasing the audience about the film. They would make you think that a plot leak was coming but it would really not be the case. They had seen it days before and said that it was very good and had been interesting to see how character development worked off from what they did back in those original stories. I’m planning on seeing the film sometime in the next week so plan on avoiding all notes or review postings about it until that time. If they liked it how can I argue about it.
Also in the audience was Dean Haspiel who is a comic book artist himself and a part of this book. He posed a question to Neal and Denny during the presentation but I apologize for not recalling what it actually was.
Neal Adams briefly discussed how he was currently working on two exciting titles. The first is “Batman Odyssey” for DC Comics which had just finished its limited series run and the second is for Marvel Comics and called “First X-Men”. I have a couple of issues of the Batman title already and am debating adding it’s overview to my Comic Booking It series of narratives.
After the lecture was done it was time to sell some books and the buyers wanted to be sure to snare the signatures of these two greats for good measure. Every book sold this evening would find the proceeds going to the support of Housing Works which was a very positive thing to learn.
Skeleton Pete pointed out that Adams was also sketching a little Batman face on the books that he was signing. I did my best to capture one of these being created for you all to enjoy.
Mr. Denny O’Neil signs the book.
Smart observers also asked Dean Haspiel to sign their copy. Always great to see people paying attention. Remember you also had Chris and Seth to get as well. Five signatures on one thing, now that my collecting friends is coolness. By the way, Haspiel is an Emmy award winning artist and has done far too much for me to note here. You can hit his link a little later in the posting and peruse at your leisure.
Sadly they would run out of books to sell but it did not seem to effect all those who wanted copies. Everyone who was on line waiting for a signature essentially had a book in their hands but Neal was excited to be signing so they started doing the event cards for this particular function as well.
Now to some of the people at the gathering. I liked this dudes decorative buttons. He had some cool ones so I asked him to let me take a photograph.
Heavy discussions at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe…..the smashing young lady is Chris’ girlfriend Darlene and she is speaking to Simon Fraser. I would learn later on that Simon is the “Nikolai Dante” artist for 2000AD.
Now it was time for the media shots. Here is Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Chris Irving and Seth Kushner pictured from left to right of course.
I asked our host Miss Amanda to get in the shot as well and of course Mr. Adams was having a blast an on go since the discussion. He had me rolling this evening. I would certainly love to talk to him again sometime.
Great that we got Seth back for this one. I realize he likes to be behind the camera but he deserves his time in the sun as well since he helped make this book come to life.
Two charming ladies at Housing Works Bookstore lending me a moment of their time. Thanks a lot Amanda and Darlene.
Neal Adams had a great tie with little images of The Joker on it. I asked him to let me snap it while we talked and he kindly allowed me. He said he has dozens of ties like this.
One of the tables in the front of the Housing Works Bookstore had a load of comic books for sale and really cheap. I browsed a few that a member of the audience had purchased and he had found a “Justice League International” #1 from the 1987 series and that was a little bit of treasure if you ask me. I didn’t browse based on time restrictions more than lack of interest in that.
Before we close out on this little adventure, I wanted to share what Housing Works was all about so you have some more insight to their efforts. Take a look at this mission statement that comes from their literature.
Housing Works is a New York City based non-profit organization that provides support to victims of HIV/AIDS and works to end the dual crises of AIDS and homelessness through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts.
“Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins Of American Comics” by Chris and Seth features interviews with 50 creative forces and brings you into their process as they offered up some of the best stories in comicdom. Though I managed to peruse the book briefly before the event started but have not yet gotten a copy to do a deeper investigation to its wonders. I hope to do that soon enough and have some words about it for you readers. Until then you can order yourself a copy by clicking the link below. I was very happy to have attended this event because it was something quite different from what I normally present to you all. This was one of those things that you really had to be at to appreciate the most. There was a supportive crowd who remained very engaged from beginning to end and that is never a bad thing to observe.
Oh yes, I also wanted to give props to Housing Works Bookstore for hosting this event and being so gracious to me as I sought to bring back some interesting words for you folks at home. This lovely space is built primarily on donations so if you have books or magazines that you can part with please consider bringing them down to this place so they can be sold and the monies be put to good use for their organization. Neal Adams said to us as the night closed out how they needed more comic books and while I agreed with him, had a laugh when Skeleton Pete teased him at how collector’s never want to get rid of stuff. He is right you know, but there are always exceptions. So think about it, I am sure those old DVD’s and video games would be welcome donations as well. Oh and before I go, I could not resist adding this shot taken by Skeleton Pete of me and Denny and Neal. There was no chance I was going to let that opportunity pass me by. Thanks again Pete. You readers can take a gander at his spin on the event by clicking HERE.