Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Remembering DragonCon 13 Years Ago

The above picture is a tee-shirt I bought during our 1997 Dragoncon visit.

The Atlanta Dragoncon’s last day for the year was yesterday. By now all the people have packed their super hero and/or space monster costumes and their comic books and have went back to their homes to return to normalcy.

My son Adam and I went to the 1997 Dragoncon and I haven’t been back. We didn’t go dressed up as fantasy characters. What you saw was the real us.

We saw underground comic artist Skip Williamson, who is a friend of mine. In fact, if it wasn’t for him we probably wouldn’t have gone. We also saw the creator of BONE and Peter Bagge, the creator of HATE!*

Denis Kitchen owner of Kitchen Sink Publishing was there. He and I had a nice talk.

He and Harvey Kurtzman were co-collaborators on some publications and he republished all the LI’L ABNER comic strips, among others. His company went bankrupt since our little talk.

I was most moved by seeing and talking to Albert Feldstein. Al was the editor and co-creator of all the EC Horror and Science Fiction comicbooks of the 50s. He is also the one who lost his job when the parents were convinced that these types of comics were bad for their children. At about the same time MAD, edited by my hero Harvey Kurtzman, was the only one of the EC publications that flourished.

Then suddenly MAD changed editors. Al Feldstein was the editor and Harvey Kurtzman was popping up as editor of various MAD’s newly competitor magazine such as TRUMP, HUMBUG, and HELP.

During this period MAD changed its personality. It changed to a mag that appeared to a larger audience. We previous MAD followers, under Harvey Kurtzman, were drawn to its warped and inside sense of humor.

Financially, I’m sure it was a right move, to have Feldstein as editor. But I was still pissed off at Al Feldstein for ruining a good magazine. Although by the time of this Dragoncon I knew the story of how Kurtzman demanded more money and controlling interest and he was let go, not for artistically differences, but because of his own greed. It was Kurtzman’s reason he was fired, not Feldstein’s or publisher William Gaines. But, as I said I was still pissed off at Feldstein for changing my favorite magazine.

Then, at the Con there was Al Feldstein in person. He is a very likeable guy. He was nice and friendly and seemed impressed about how much I knew about different issues. Either he was impressed with my knowledge or thought I was a compulsive nut. Either way we got along fine. At times it seemed that he couldn’t wait to hurriedly sign one of the EC Horror comics to get back to our conversation.

At his booth he was hawing his original art work of the three witches (The Crypt Taker, etc, etc). He also told me he retired after being editor of MAD for 30 years and bought a ranch in Colorado or Utah and has created some great paintings of the surrounding area.

I walked away feeling great, because I forgave him.

*Don’t let the title fool you, HATE is an in-depth study of a typical family as seen through the eyes of the son, who is becoming of age to make it on his own. It was very well done. In fact, it was done well enough to pull out the back issues and re-read sometimes.

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