Of all the most stupidest and asinine things I allowed to let slip by me…
While I was out posturing about successfully nabbing all the Free Comic Book Day goodies and making a good sizable contribution to a homeless and healthcare charitable organization dedicated to helping disenfranchised down on their luck comic book artists and writers called the Hero Initiative, I forgot to give pause in celebration to one of the greatest ever writers to ever exist in the genre of speculative fiction. And since I’m not going to have my stats for all of the May Sweeps as it pertains to comic book shows ready until next week and I have to BLOG ‘EM OUT BY FRIDAY, I found a few select gems from my Comic Buyer’s Guide related drafts in my Yahoo files that probably have never seen the light of the day-
Two separate book readings I attended by none other than Harlan Ellision – who slipped beneath my notice and turned 82 on Friday May 27th while I was posting my 2nd part of the Free Comic Book Day Reviews.
I’ve got to give Harlan some form of small credit for the good things that I’ve managed to lucked out in my off and on professional career. It was a phone call from him in 1994 that gave me a much fuel booted kick to the keister when I was merely content with just being a letter hack to the pages of Comics Buyers’ Guide. He had managed to track me across three numbers from my part-time job at an insurance office, to the comic book store, “Rookies & AllStars” in North Hollywood that I managed in the evening to my private residence in Sherman Oaks, just determined to tell me that I had a ‘unique maverick flare’ to my writing and was asking me ‘why the fuck aren’t you writing full time?’ Either that, or maybe editor Maggie Thompson sent him on my original letters or editorials WHICH were typed on an old hand me down Underwood typewriter passed down to me by my grandfather. I never forgot that conversation and as a result of that conversation, I dragged out the pilot of The Deposit Man, rewrote that damn script for the umpteenth time until it became good enough to be noticed by this screwball (later to be accused as the consummate assgrabber of female comic book professionals) editor to get published, but as I chronicled in my blog of last year, ‘LIFE IS NOTHING BUT A SHIT SANDWICH WITH TOO BREAD IN BETWEEN’ – that book turned out not to be worthy of the ass splinter from the paper cut from the ream of paper it was printed on and instead dedicated my first full length Deposit Man comic, “The Deposit Man & the Kaleidoscopic Medicine Freak Show” to Harlan the following year, which prompted a nice call to my co-fiancer, Mark Capuano.
In turn, I had called Harlan Ellison at his home on behalf of the Los Angeles Public Library and the Walter Lantz Foundation to invite him to give a motivational speech to young impoverished children at the glorious spacious beautiful downtown Los Angeles Public Library as the headline panel at the Teen Age Comic Book Festival. It seems as if the producer of the show, Eugene Mandlecorn didn’t have a way to get in touch with him. “What?” I told Eugene with a befuddled look. “Harlan’s in the damn phone book.” So, when I called Harlan, he was more than happy that someone asked or anyone got the notion in their head to ask him to give kids a pep talk about giving career advice. HOWEVER, there was just one caveat Harlan laid out on the front line: “Rob Liefeld better not be there.”
But, I’m probably a lost cause to Harlan’s many upon many of his catalogued miniature heroic deeds of giving advice or lending an ear to a solidary voice just trying to get their foot in the echoing halls of the great creative pantheon. Not many people, with the exception of perhaps, George Clayton Johnson or Ray Bradbury have stories that resonates in one’s mind long after you finish more than Harlan’s tales of wonderment and true slice of life encounters. I credit, Harlan’s love sucker punched tale of ultimate betrayal, “Valerie: a True Memoir” as an instrument of revenge that I applied to the horrid relationship I once had with amateur porn next door star, Rikki Lixxx when it all went south after she stole a credit card of mine and used to purchase a $140 stripper pole. Later on, while I was working for Warner Bros, I heard of Harlan’s legal lawsuit plights with AOL in the unlawful postings of his stories online and I think I slipped him $60 to help pay for the legal fees for that, but other than that, I must have been nothing more than a passing ship in the night.
So last I heard, Harlan has a new forthcoming limited edition collection of unpublished late 1950’s unpublished stories called ‘Coffin Nails” that’s supposed to be limited to 200 copies (?? get the fuck outta here!!) that also includes two unpublished stories from 1969- and as far as I know, as lot of his collections are still in print to this day, so I got my fingers crossed that Harlan’s around for some time to come and hopefully get my damn last two issues of Deposit Man out to the printer sometime in his lifetime. The book is supposed to be released this upcoming fall.
I would hate to leave a fan like Harlan hanging.
Let’s roll out some of the birthday cakes from the book signings past that may or may not have seen the light of day from the pages of Comics Buyers’ Guide:
From July 6, 2001:
Last night ( Tuesday, June 26th ), by no leaps and bounds of my downtrodden imagination without a single twinge of trepidation, was one of the most magical stupendous nights I have ever had the privilege to experience in the glittering neon glare of Hollyweird. Who in their rightful mind would ever stage a book signing and a reading at such a culinary institution such as Pink’s Hot Dogs ? Why none other than that indigenous master of fantastic fiction ceremonies, himself, Harlan Ellison. Harlan was on hand to sign and read in between bites of succulent savory links of outlandish varieties of beef franks and polish sauerkraut sausages ( hey, mine was a mushroom and swiss cheese dog, go figure ) from his new revised 50th anniversary edition of The Essential Ellison, expanded by least 300 + odd pages from the last 1,000 paged 35th one.
In this magnificent tome, we are up to date on works ranging back to the when ‘Harlan was fifteen ‘ warm up exercises of ” The Sword of Parmagon ” and ” The Gloconda ” up to the most recent roman-fleuve sexagenarian masterpieces of ” Mefisto in Onyx ” and ” The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore ” with the usual second and third smattering servings of classics thrown in between but heed my warning: you may be inclined to overindulge- they’re very fattening and high in cholesterol of the intellectual persuasion. If you purchased one softcover book, you got a hot dog on Harlan. If you bought the hardcover for just ten bucks more, Harlan treated you to two hot dogs. The evening was surely a landmark celebration and an homage to an author who has reached outstretched pinnacles of true hard-earned honesty and candor without a hackney of integrity.
The real highlight of the evening ( certainly for me )was the announcement of the return of Harlan’s Dark Horse comic book series, ” Dream Corridor “, to be edited under the scrutiny of Eisner winning editor, Diana Schutz. What followed next was an impromptu reading of his new short story ” Goodbye To All That ” which will be featured in the first re-launched issue. Trust me, it destined to be up on the ranks with his other literary creations.
The stars were also out in force that evening, Walter Koenig and his wife were spotted partaking in the festivities. Len Wein and Marv Wolfman were on hand for support as well as Bill and Sharon Liebowitz. Even my old pal, who wishes he was a celebrity, but indeed is not Sparky Santos, showed up to discourage people waiting in line for Pink dogs from dressing up in Goth attire, but was negligent when I told him it was Harlan who was signing and not Neil Gaiman.
This one here was composed on September 15, 2002. I must’ve taken work off early that day from during the time I was working at Warner Bros to attend this event.
Harlan Ellison’s September 11th appearance at the new Barnes & Nobles over on Fairfax and Third for a contribution he made to a book commemorating a year after 9/11.
Harlan was there, along with three other residing West Coast authors to promote a book he contributed an essay to called, September 11: West Coast Writers Approach Ground Zero just published by Hawthrone Books in Portland, Ore.
The new Barnes & Nobles is situated in a new mall structure made to resemble something of a quaint small European village or a mock-up of Venice, Italy complete with running fountains and tour trolleys as some big name department stores like Nordstrom, Robinson’s May, FAO Schwartz, and a Pacific Theater multiplex acting as cornerstones. This particular store is three stories tall and equipped with a Starbucks cafe on the third floor, where I caved in indulging my first foray of a Vanilla Creme frappuccino in order to ease my churning stomach acids before basking in the syncopated delights of the ever contentious curmudgeonly that Ellison is so famous of conveying.
The first of the opening acts, Lawrence Grobel, a writer on television and media culture, made popular by writing a biography of Truman Capote read a short and poignant essay about the agony of attempting to contact family members in New York shortly after the attacks.
Next up at bat was former boxing coach from U.C. Berkeley now turned poet laureate, Floyd Salas, read some poetry on the feelings he had about terrorism that entwined with his political stance. He was quite a character who looked to be in his septuagenarian twilight years. Nobody could hardly understand a word he was saying as his speech was very slurred but nobody could have walked out of that room that night and not been entertained by him as he approached the podium looking to apply his sparring tactics in the course of his reading. He reminded me of a hyperactive Burgess Meredith. (Later, after the reading as I was getting my book signed, he asked me if I was a writer myself, and I told him I’ve written a few comic book odd and ends here and there. I just happened to have a few ashcans in my book bag of my forthcoming Deposit Man book, so, I gave him one. Floyd was ecstatic that some comic book people were there to listen. All I noticed was Len Wein sitting behind me but there well could have been others).
Then, former Los Angeles Times Magazine columnist Wanda Coleman, read and performed a jarring piece of prose that tackled the issues about prejudices that were intentionally lodged at Arab Americans by our nation’s whacked out rednecks and bigots and she cuspidated that the most heartbreaking thing out of this whole terrorist affair was the name of the young, gifted, and white kid who flew his self constructed plane into a Florida skyscraper Charles Bishop. She reiterated that name over and over in different vocal fluctuations that just left a chill over all who listened. This invoked a hearty applause from Harlan himself.
Before Harlan was to take the podium, Barnes & Nobles management had to make sure that the children’s section next to us was cleared out, as the podium was right next to it. Luckily it was a late hour
(9:00 PM?), so Harlan could proceed without interruption.
At every Ellison appearance that I’ve attended, there’s always a quirky thing that happens to make each one memorable. This time around, I witnessed Harlan almost smashing his microphone into itty bitty pieces as he was enthralled in the passion of reading his essay. Last time I saw Harlan, it was at Pink’s Hot Dogs where he read from his revised Essential Ellison tome, and it was there he had some minor discrepancies with the residents next door blasting some hip hop. Harlan simply went over to ask them to turn it down, which goes to prove that mantle applied to Matt Murdock as the Man Without Fear is highly overexaggerated.
Harlan’s new essay was to say the least, more vitriolic than usual. “Terrorists” takes us through on to why Harlan refused to go on Politically Incorrect in the aftermath of the attacks and why he wasn’t personally affected by the whole thing. During the course of this recital, Harlan made some colorful suggestions on why Jerry Falwell and Osama Bin Laden should meet and have a pow wow together.
Well, it certainly beat staying at home that night with eyes glued to nothing but round the clock drudge shown on television that served no purpose other than to rehash seven years of bad luck on an unpaved road. We don’t need an anniversary reminder every year. Look at it this way: We don’t go yanking Sesame Street off the air to commemorate Pearl Harbor every year. Although, Cartoon Network is airing a 90 min Justice League episode guest starring Sgt Rock and the Blackhawks in celebration of our armed forces on December 7. Would’ve been great if they didn’t wait until the last-minute to those who originally had their VCRs set to its postponed broadcast of September 7th.
Coming up in a couple of weeks: The Comic Book Secret Ratings Wars May Super Sweepstakes.