LET'S LEVEL WITH LEE!

By Lee Hester, owner of Lee's Comics of California.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

TOM AND TAXES


Well, it’s been another crazy weekend. On Saturday, our No Tax event started at both stores. People began coming in and choosing their envelopes from the prize hopper. Five minutes after we opened, Eli Mantel won one of our grand prize $100 shopping sprees. He is pictured above with Walter Fink, the first winner of our T-Shirt prize. Walter chose a Captain America Shirt. Eli wasn’t even sure that he was going to come in that day, so let me tell you, he was one happy fella.





People took great delight in choosing their free Duck and Cover Bumper Stickers. I want to specially thank Jim Buser, the mad genus behind Duck and Cover for providing this special treat for our customers. Did you know that I used to buy my comics from Jim when I was a lad? Back then, Jim held down a position as a clerk at Comics and Comix. In those days they were in Downtown Palo Alto, at the corner of Cowper and University Ave. Jim’s long blonde hair is a thing of the past, but he still keeps his freak flag flying with his crazy bumper stickers. My favorite one is “Eschew Obfuscation”. That’s been my personal motto for years now, as you can clearly see!




Here’s (Jovial) Jason Chen, the first winner of our Free Wall Comic – up to $25 prize. He chose Tales of Suspense #49, with an early appearance of the X-Men. You can see that The Jovial One is beside himself with glee at his good fortune.




Tom Beland, creator of True Story Swear to God, joined us at our Mountain View location at noon. Tom drove here all the way from Napa with his brother Joe. Tom is a delightful guy! I have never seen such generosity from an artist before. He spent hours entertaining them, and doing free sketches. He even added a page of original art from the series for our raffle. Tom was a stand up comedian in San Francisco for a short time, and is a natural entertainer. He kept the fans in stitches for hours.



If you are not reading True Story, you should really give it a try. It is one of the freshest and funniest comics on the market. It’s a true love story too. I haven’t yet heard of anyone reading it and not liking it. My wife, Connie hardly reads any comics, and she loves it. Its popularity is just starting to catch on. Mark my words; True Story is going to be a huge hit. Remember, you heard it here first. By the way, we have copies of all the books and comics coming in soon. So far, there are 13 comics, and 2 graphic novels. One of the graphic novels reprints his earlier comic strip work, and the other one reprints the comic book series from #1-5. The next True Story graphic novel, which presents issues #6-11, is coming our next month.




The law of probabilities did not seem to apply to this raffle. Within a few minutes of adding the envelope with the prize of an original page of Tom Beland True Story Swear to God art to the hopper, along with about 300 other envelopes, we had a winner! It was young Alan Noah, whose dad brings him to Lee’s Comics every weekend. What a great dad! On his way over to pose for the picture, Alan exclaimed “This is the best day so far in my young life!” It might sound like I’m making this up for comic effect, but it’s absolutely true. Swear to God.




Here’s Pat Leong, another Wall Book winner. Pat chose Tales To Astonish #101, another silver age Marvel comic. My efforts to get rid of that wall copy of Huckleberry Hound continue to be thwarted.




Here’s Alyssa Tamajima, who won our second $100 shopping spree in the evening.




Here’s Tom and Me right before we said goodbye in the early evening. I think it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.




Here’s Joe and Tom Beland. As you can see the brothers are quite close. Some may even say they are a little too close!




Lacey leaps in!



While I was having fun at the store, Connie was at a house party at her friend Kevin’s house. She was helping him put up a tent, when she was struck in the left eye with a tent pole. After I got home, she initially wouldn’t let me take her to the doctor. Connie is a pretty tough customer, but the pain kept increasing, and eventually she couldn’t keep either eye open. Finally at around 9 pm she was in so much pain that she relented and let me take her in. Thankfully we were able to leave the twins at Grandma’s house.



We drove to the emergency ward at Good Samaritan Hospital. Since Connie could not open her eyes, I tried to entertain her by reading selections from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader. Sitting in an emergency waiting room late at night can be quite a surreal experience. First of all you never know when, if ever, you’ll get to go in and see a doctor. Second, there are all kinds of people in all manner of dress. You discreetly look over at them, and wonder what affliction brought them at this hour to this awful place. The door opens periodically to let a new soul into this fresh purgatory. It’s a surreal out of body experience when a mother holding a young girl yells to the receptionist “I’m not TAKING this CRAP any more! My son DIED in this waiting room six months ago!!!” After that outburst they let her and her daughter in right away. I don’t even look up, and nobody else does either. But I wonder for a moment if I will need to make an outburst like this to get Connie in. Two years ago Connie made a similar outburst on my behalf at Valley Medical Center as I lay bleeding. Had she not, I would have likely bled to death in the waiting room. No, this time it’s not a matter of life and death, so I just continue to sit and read to Connie. Finally they let us in. The orderly in charge takes a quick look at Connie’s eye, asks a couple of questions, and sends us back out to wait. After another half hour or so they let us back in.



We get to go into a room now to wait some more. They tell us it's a busy night. Finally a doctor comes in to see us. She is a good natured, plump Asian woman. She puts some drops in Connie’s eye that dull the pain in an interesting way. They create so much extra pain that the nerves just shut down. Connie says the drops feel like gasoline. Connie gets a few moments of relief, and is now able to open her eyes. The doctor puts some phosphorescent drops in the left eye, and lets me look at it under a magnification. I can clearly see a gouge over the cornea. The doctor tells us it will start to heal in a few days, and should heal completely in two weeks. A nurse comes in and gives Connie a tetanus shot, and we leave the hospital at midnight with a prescription for eye drops and pain medication. The whole experience wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Connie even managed to have a few laughs through it all. Maybe we’ll see Sin City next week.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

LEE GOES APE!

It was a glorious, bright, sunny day in the Bay Area. I hopped into my car at my home in San Jose, and headed north. To my amazement, it was just as nice in San Francisco, a city that’s fickle with its weather. I bet the local citizens were out in droves. They were probably protesting various things, celebrating other things, roller skating in Golden Gate Park, playing Frisbee on Ocean Beach, and taking their kids to the zoo. I went inside the Concourse Exhibition Center to meet some eccentric comic creators: my kind of people.




The first people I met were Catherine and Billy Martinez. Billy is quite the Renaissance man. He is the publisher of Neko Press. He has his own line of comics, which includes titles such as Wildflower and Kickass Girl. He is a frequent artist in Heavy Metal magazine. He is the leader of his own rock band. He has a teaching studio, and teaches hundreds of people of all ages how to draw. Billy just finished the grueling task of completing 500 original drawings to be inserted as special chase cards into the Family Guy trading card series. Billy, Catherine and their kids will be joining us at the Mountain View store May 7th 2005 for Free Comic Book Day. I am looking forward to having them as houseguests. They are both delightful company. For more information about Billy and Neko press, go here.





Next up, I met Chynna Clugston. She is pictured here with a couple of her camera shy friends. Chynna is a favorite here. We keep her Blue Monday and Scooter Girl graphic novels on permanent display in our alternative new comics section. Shaun Reilly, one of our leading tastemakers here is a huge fan, and he’s been recommending Chynna’s work to the customers here for years. Chynna is a friendly, outgoing person, and we both had the feeling that we had met before. It’s not unlikely since she used to live in the Bay Area. Now she resides in San Diego. We had a nice conversation about the great neighborhoods in the San Diego area that are rarely seen by convention goers.




I couldn’t miss an opportunity to get a picture of all three of the great Hernandez brothers, Gilbert, Mario and Jamie. I told the brothers how much I liked the oversize Locas and Palomar books. Mario joked that the problem with them was that they are too heavy to hold up easily and read while on the john.




Here’s Rick Geary. For the last several years he has been working on various graphic novels about Murder in the Victorian age. The subjects for his books include The Assassination of President Garfield, Lizzie Borden, and Jack The Ripper. I have read every one, and enjoyed them immensely. They are well researched, informative, and whimsical. These books have an interesting juxtaposition. When something disturbing occurs, it is rarely seen. The viewpoint moves away. If there is a murder scene, you might see a hat fly off into the wind, or the view of a shoe. Rick is working on a book about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. I’m looking forward to reading it, and learning a whole lot more than I knew about the subject. It should be out this year.




Next up, a visit to my good buddy Rafael Navarro. Here he is getting probed by an alien creature, and loving it!




While he is detained, let us have a glimpse at his fabulous sketchbooks, rivaled only by those of Leonardo. Here is a rendition of Nick Fury, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Wouldn’t this make a great comic book, or cartoon? Rafael is currently working on a new series of Spawn cartoons. He is also working at Warner Brothers animation. When he has a spare moment, he turns out another issue of the critically acclaimed Sonambulo series. Raphael just bought a new mansion in the LA area. I plan on swinging by in the near future to give it the official Lee’s seal of approval.



Here’s Linda Medley and Eric Shanower. Linda used to write and draw the great Castle Waiting series, which is much missed in the comics field. I’m hoping that Linda will return to comics soon. Eric is the brilliant creator of Age of Bronze. The 2nd Graphic Novel “Sacrifice” will be available in paperback later this year.
For more information on Age of Bronze, go here.




Here’s Sal Abbinati. If his face looks familiar to you, it’s because he’s the model for Alex Ross’ Captain Marvel. Sal is also in charge of Alex Ross Art.com, the place to go to find out about what Alex is up to each month, and the place to buy his original art. What I didn’t know is that Sal is a talented artist in his own right. Sal and Alex met in art school, and have been friends ever since. Sal just launched his own series entitled Atomika. His buddy Alex pitched in by providing a cover for the first issue, as well as the logo. Issue #2 will be out soon. Hopefully Sal will join us for the next Alex Ross event here. You never know when you’ll need Captain Marvel!





Here’s my old buddy Dan Clowes. Dan continues to put out amazing comics. The new issue of his award winning Eightball comic is #23. It’s an oversized issue, and in full color. Its one of Dan’s best comics ever, and it’s a stand-alone issue. If you don’t already have it, make sure to pick one up.




Back in 1993 I put on a comic book convention of my own. It featured a bunch of great Small Press artists including Dan Clowse, Mary Fleener, Peter Bagge, Bill Griffith, and Richard Sala. Adrian Tomine was one of the guests. I think he was still in his teens, and he was an aspiring artist who spent all his time drawing. He was putting out mini comics. He was to develop greatly over the years, but his early works were still terrific, and showed his great artistic potential. I have been following his work ever since. I think his Optic Nerve comics are some of the best ever. I’ll try to get Adrian to do a return visit to Lee’s Comics sometime in the future. Perhaps when the next issue of Optic Nerve comes out.




Here’s John “Bean Hastings” the creator of Smith Brown Jones, Alien Accountant, along with his delightful wife Terry. These are two of the nicest folks that you will meet. John is a terrifically creative guy. He produces some of the wildest handmade booth displays you have ever seen, like the crazy contraption shown here. The whole thing was moving around, and unless I was mistaken, making a chugging sound.




True story Swear to God is one of my favorite comics. I was quite happy to meet the creator, Tom Beland. Here he is with his lovely wife Lilly Garcia who serves as the inspiration for his this true-life romance series. No matter how jaded or cynical we are, love conquerors all, don’t it folks?
True story, which is up to #13 now, is on it’s way to becoming a big hit, just like “Strangers in Paradise”, and “Bone”. It’s honest, heartfelt and funny. I always read the new issue the day it comes out. We’ll see if we can get Tom and Lilly to pay a visit to Lee’s Comics in the future.





Here’s the talented crew or creators for the Flight anthology from Image Comics. Pictured are Johane Matte, Neil Barbra, Jen Wong, Khang Le, and Kazu Kibuisi. The 2nd issue of Flight will be on sale on April 13. The artists generously contributed several signed copies to Lee’s Comics. We will be giving them out to lucky winners at our No Tax event on April 16th and 17th.



I cut out of APE at 5:15 to speed home in time to meet up with Connie. We made it to Santa Cruz in time to see an 8:00 performance by comedian Bill Maher. He’s one of Connie’s favorites. She never misses him on Real Time. The next morning we got up at 6:00 am to run the Mercury News 10k race down the streets of San Jose. After that, I helped install a deck at my mother in law’s house, and got home in time to watch Deadwood on HBO. It was a fun and hectic weekend for me.



I came to APE as a tourist rather than as a reporter. I came to have fun and meet people. I only stayed a few hours, and I didn’t have the time or inclination to attend any panels. I prefer my meetings to be one on one, and interactive. There are lots of cool people that I didn’t have the time to meet. This is just a little slice of the pie. I hope you enjoyed it. Next year, I am going to try to set up a booth for Lee’s Comics, so this might be my last year at Ape as a tourist for the foreseeable future.

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Imagine a World with no comic books. Not worth living.

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