In 1977, two friends of mine — Don Rico and Sergio Aragonés — and I founded a group called the Comic Art Professional Society. CAPS, I'm happy to say, is still around. Don, I'm sad to say, is not. I should write a piece about Don here someday. He was an important writer, artist and editor in the history of comics, and a terrific guy, to boot.
Because of CAPS, a lot of folks who work in comics or cartoons in the Southern California area met a lot of terrific guys and gals: Others who did what they did. For instance, Sergio and I both met Stan Sakai. In 1982 when we were launching Groo the Wanderer, we needed someone to letter the comic and Sergio thought of Stan, who turned out to be the perfect choice. Stan was skilled at calligraphy…and equally important was that he was utterly professional and reliable. Until you have had the responsibility of getting comic books to press on-time, you don't know how important that is.
A few years later, Stan proved to all he could do a lot more than letter comics. He could write and draw them, as well. The most impressive example would be his Usagi Yojimbo, which he began in '84 and which is still going strong, zillions of pages later. It is a very popular comic book and I never have any qualms about recommending it to people since as far as I can tell, everyone who has ever read it has loved it a lot. Everyone seems to like Stan a lot, too…and also his wonderful wife, Sharon.
Sad to say, Sharon has not been well lately. Recently, Stan summarized what's been going on…
In 2004, Sharon woke up one morning and said, "I can't hear anything out of my left ear." It was traced back to a meningioma brain tumor. It is benign, but large and inoperable. There was no hope of it getting smaller. The most we could hope for was that it would not grow larger. She underwent radiation therapy, and that seemed to control it. She went in for regular MRIs, and no growth was detected.
However, it started growing in 2010, and very aggressively. She has facial paralysis on the left side (everything happens on the left side). The paralysis includes her throat, vocal chords, and it has even deteriorated her neck bones. She had lost almost 40% of her body weight in a year. She is undergoing chemotherapy. Doctors don't see any end in sight for this. There are complications because of the tumor, medications, or just coincidence — diabetes, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, compromised immune system. She has a tracheotomy tube for breathing and a G-tube connected to her stomach for a liquid diet. She can take nothing through her mouth. She is bed-bound, but we try to give her daily physical therapy — walking a couple hundred feet with a walker and/or sitting in a wheelchair.
She had been in the hospital and nurse care from April to September, but we are glad she is home. She requires 24 hour care, so daughter Hannah and her family moved in with us. This includes 18 month old grandson Leo, and another grandchild due in February/early March.
A lot of you do know Sharon, as she had been a fixture at my booth at San Diego and many other conventions. Thank you all for your help, good thoughts, and prayers.
Okay, this is me again. That all sounds horrible and it's no exaggeration. If anything, what's happened to Sharon is worse than Stan makes it sound, and he leaves out how much of his life has been taken up by taking care of his beloved. I've seen and heard enough of it to want to promote the hell out what CAPS is doing now, which is to raise some funds for them.
They have health insurance but as we all know, there's Health Insurance and there's health insurance, and neither kind covers everything. So this is the first of many postings here that will urge you to participate. Right now, CAPS is seeking donations of artwork for a big auction. If you have something you'd like to toss in, download this form that will tell you where to send items. Shortly, I'll be posting details of the auction, what you can buy, when you can bid, etc. This is a very worthy cause — and who knows? You might get some great piece of art for your collection out of it.
In any case, you'll never get a chance to help better people. More details to follow.