One of the things that I have always thought that was seriously lacking in the modern world was mentors and apprenticeships. Being able to work for a master of a trade and learn your craft from them. the passing down of skills that could make you a success in the world.
I have learned as I have grown older that Mentors and Apprentices don’t always take on the forms that we recognize. For those that do not know me I am many things two of which are a practicing Pagan (Druid) and a Meade Maker. The crafts for both of which I learned my earliest lessons in from an ex-girlfriend of many years ago named Sara. At the time I would not have called her a mentor and their are many things that I have learn in both areas since my break up with her, but in the purest sense she was truly a mentor to me.
Today I came across a story in a blog by the Author Mark Evanier where he related the story of the first meeting of Author Ray Bradbury and EC Comics & MAD Magazine Editor Al Fledstien, who adapted many of Bradbury’s short stories into comics. The meeting occurred at the 2002 San Diego Comic Con during a panel Mark hosted with Ray and DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz. Mark had planned to have the two meet for the first time but needed to steer the conversation toward comics. When asked about his history with Comic-Con and it’s growth Ray decided to talk about his personal history with comics.
RAY BRADBURY: When I was nine years old, Buck Rogers came into the world. October, 1929. I was immediately in love with that comic strip and I started to collect it every day of my life for three months. I stopped collecting that because the kids in the fifth grade made fun of me. That was 1929, the beginning of the Depression. I listened to these kids and I tore up the comic strips. It’s the worst thing I ever did because three days later I broke into tears and I said to myself, why I am crying? Who died? And the answer was me. I killed myself. I’d torn up the future. I listened to these stupid people. So I said, how do I cure this? I went back and collected Buck Rogers strips for the next seven years, every day, and never listened to one more stupid sonofabitch after that. And that’s why I’m here. I collected Prince Valiant and all the various comic strips, and Tarzan drawn by Harold Foster in 1932. Incredible work. And when I published my first book in 1947, I sent a copy of the book to Harold Foster with a note saying, “You’re one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, and I love your work and I love you.”
Now to most people this would be a sweet story about the inspiration of one of the greatest American writers of all time, but several weeks ago I read a story in a book called ‘The Barbizon Diaries’ by James A Owens.
I’d agreed to do a signing at Comicon for one of my favorite galleries, Every Picture Tells A Story. About an hour into the signing, the owner, Lee, came over to where I was sitting with the other authors and told me someone wanted to buy my book. I responded with a puzzled look (be cause that was, after all, why I was sitting in his booth), and he smiled and pointed to the other end of their floorspace. “It’s Ray Bradbury.” I jumped out of my chair and flew over to him. “Ray!” I said. “It’s
James Owen!” He took my hand (with his left) and shook it. “James! But you do comics! This is a book.” (I’ve sent him copies of StarChild for years — to which he always responded with a counter-gift of his latest book.) “Now I’m doing books, too!” I told him. “It’s a beautiful book!” Ray told me. “I want to buy it ! Right now!” “I have one for you,” I said, and hopped back to my chair where I had a copy with a dragon drawing already done. I signed it to “Uncle Ray ”, and handed it to him. “It’s such a beautiful book,” he said again. “Your drawings are wonderful! I can’t wait to read it!” “I hope you like it,” I told him. “You’re one of the reasons it exists. Thank you for the inspiration.”
Once again I can hear my reader saying this is a great story, but what does that have to do with anything. That is going to require the telling of one more story. This one of a much more personal nature. In the fall of 1993 I was visiting my family in central New Hampshire. My older brother and I drove over to the mall in North Conway because they were having a small comic book show. Dealers from around the area had set up in the food court to sell comics. My brother had just graduated from Massachusetts College of Art. His interest in comics was based on the art and he found a book that had some of the greatest art that either of us had ever seen. It was called Starchild #0, it talked of myths and legends and stories as great things that change the fabric of the world. And it changed the way I looked at Stories. I have had the amazing joy of corresponding with James A. Owen several times in the last year or so and even though we have never met face to face, I consider him a great inspiration on my work and life.
And now I see I am part of a great tapestry of inspiration that stretches from James Owen, to Ray Bradbury and to Harold Foster, and I would suspect back to Edgar Rice Burroughs and from him I suppose Rudyard Kipling. I have to wonder if somewhere there is a battered copy of The All-Story magazine from Oct 1912 with a hand written note saying Rudyard, You’re one of the reasons it exists. Thank you for the inspiration. Edgar.