The Passage of Time…
You know how sometimes you're standing in a line and it makes you feel oddly better if others come and line up behind you? You're just as far from the front as you'd be if they weren't there but somehow, it's comforting that you're no longer at the end. There are times when it's also comforting to have more people ahead of you.
I got into comic books in 1970, a date which seems like months ago — sometimes, weeks ago — to me. The musician Eubie Blake used to ask, "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?" I think I'd be around 28…around enough to learn some stuff, including how much I didn't know…but still a kid with a long way to travel. I'm really 61 and unable to process the hard fact that I'm now almost ten years older than Jack Kirby was when I met him in 1969.
Last year at WonderCon, I stunned my friends Marv Wolfman and Len Wein with a realization. There were 40,000 people there and the three people who'd been in the comic book industry the longest were the three of us. As far as I know, no one who set foot in that hall that year had worked in comics before we did. This year, there were a few who had. Russ Heath was there. And Jim Steranko. And Neal Adams. And I heard Stan Lee slipped in for one panel…but I think that was it. This year, there'll be 130,000+ people at the Comic-Con International in San Diego. I'll be surprised if there are ten people in that convention center who were in comics before I was.
People keep asking me, "Why don't you have those great Golden Age Panels anymore?" Well, I didn't do the math on it last year but the year before, insofar as I could tell, there were only three people at the convention who'd been in comics before Kennedy was shot. They were Stan Lee, Ramona Fradon and Jerry Robinson. Jerry's since passed away and Stan won't do panels about "the old days." So that's why no Golden Age Panel. That year, we couldn't have done a Silver Age Panel, either.
Someone called and asked me the other day who's still with us who drew Superman in the forties. I think that would be Al Plastino, who started in 1948. In the history of the Man of Steel, the next person to draw him professionally who's still alive would probably be Neal Adams who started doing covers in 1967. For Batman? Well, with the passing of Carmine Infantino, I think the honor goes to Joe Giella, who began inking Infantino's Batman stories in 1964 and later pencilled the Batman newspaper strip and a few stories. Next in line is, again, Neal Adams.
Those of you who are around my age may remember Neal Adams as "the new guy in comics."
There are still people around who were in comics in the forties — by my count, about fifteen — but they don't get to conventions much. Happily, the guy I believe holds the record for the longest career in comics of anyone alive is still drawing the occasional comic book. That would be Sam Glanzman, who started in 1939 and recently did some new "U.S.S. Stevens" stories based on his World War II memories. He's one of the few people left in our field who has any.
I mention all this not to be morose. We need to be reminded to celebrate the ones we can while we can and I'm delighted to hear that Joe Sinnott will be out for San Diego. Joe began working in comics in 1950. If you make it to the con, don't miss the chance to tell him what his work has meant to us.