Goodbye, Al Feldstein

May 9th, 2014

Thought I’d write a little about my opportunities to spend some time with and get to know the legendary Al Feldstein, who created tales from the Crypt and edited Mad Magazine for thirty years. 

By 2006, I’d self-published a number of comics, and loaded them with pin-ups of any of my favorite artists that I could find, who were willing.  Al Feldstein was a name I’d wanted to add to that list, but couldn’t hunt him down.

I’d found a website listing his “representative,” if you wanted to commission Al for an oil-painted recreation of an EC cover. The website showed samples of Al’s non-comics landscape oils.  I sent an email inquiring about other commissions and was told Al was only doing oil paints now, which ran thousands of dollars.

Elizabeth and I were travelling to a few distant comic conventions a year, and I saw that Al and George Tuska were listed to appear at 2006’s Megacon in Orlando.  I became very excited.

I never found George.  It turned out he was having trouble with his foot and didn’t make it to the show.  I believe Al was the first stop I hit.  He was very friendly and sociable.  I showed him the work I was doing, the monster stories Dick Ayers had inked, and all the dozens of pin-ups I’d managed to acquire.  I asked if I could convince him to do one for me, and he said, No, no, he doesn’t do that kind of work any more.  He only does oil paintings now.  So I left it at that, and we kept visiting.  And then after a while he asked, So what do you pay these other artists for these drawings?  And I told him, it varies, but I always want make sure I’m giving them a price that they feel is fair for their time and talent and name.  And we kept visiting, and after a while, Al said, I just haven’t done inks like that in such a long time.  So I told him I would be up for anything.  Just a quick little pencil sketch or whatever.  Oh, I’d just want like a quick pencil sketch?  That’s right.  And we visited some more.  So then finally as I was getting ready to leave he said, So you want a drawing of a monster?  Just a sketch?  And he named a price which I found terribly affordable.  The only problem was that I had to hunt down someone with a piece of paper I could have.

Hanging out at Al’s table with Howard Chaykin.

Al gave me this pencil sketch: 

I took it back to my table and showed Elizabeth, and I kind of hesitantly said to her, “You know, if he’s willing to do this, and since the price is less than I expected, I kind of feel like I should go ask him if he’d do another for me.”  And she gave me her assent, so I went looking for another piece of paper.

We popped back over at the end of the show, and he hadn’t finished the second one.  But we invited him to join us for dinner.

The next day he gave me this sketch:

I loved that these sketches look just like his old covers.  But in this one, I gave him a hard time that it didn’t have a giant monster, and somehow that led to me getting one more sketch.  While I was working at my table, Elizabeth went and got it for me.  She said, “Oh, honey, I think you’re going to like this one”:

When I went back to thank Al, he said, “You know what we used to call those aliens?  B.E.M.s.  Bug-eyed monsters.

I kept in touch with Al by email.  He put me on his mailer, and I was surprised to find he’d sometimes send out eight or a dozen of these emails a week!

My son, Oscar, meets Al Feldstein at San Diego Comic-Con in 2008:

Goodbye, Dick Ayers

May 8th, 2014

With the deaths of two comics pros who each passed away in the space of about a week from each other, both living legends, both whom I hold a deep fondness for and got to know just a little, I’ve been feeling compelled to try and say something about Al Feldstein and Dick Ayers.  I met Dick first, so I’ll write about him today and Al tomorrow.

When I decided around 1997 that I wanted to publish comics,  I had no luck with publishers for many years, waiting in portfolio lines, talking to editors, and so on.  So around 2002 I decided that I should self-publish.  At that point, I switched my strategy of talking to companies, and began speaking to artists.  I decided that the book I wanted to publish should include artists who inspired me and shaped my aesthetic and the industry’s, for that matter.  And I went to conventions looking for my favorite artists and approaching them, to see if I could convince them to let me commission them for pieces I could publish in my books.

Comic-Con 2002 was my first real attempt at this endeavor, and I had atrocious luck.  I was an unknown, significantly less talented artist back then, and no one was interested.  Everyone was “too busy.”  At that con, I think I went home with two or three emails tops – but one of them was Dick Ayers.  Dick took the time to look at my art, gave me his contact info, and let my wife and I spend as much time as we wanted at his table, visiting with him and his wife Lindy.  

I had been putting together my first comic, “Tabloia Weekly Magazine,” which was a pseudo-anthology of tabloid tales, and I assumed I would get artists to just draw one of the few characters in it.  But at some point, an idea just struck me like lightning: Wouldn’t that be the coolest thing if I made a Kirby-style giant monster story, in the style of the old Atlas Comics, and if Dick would ink it for me!   I could sign it “Wisnia and Ayers,” the way the old ones used to say “Kirby and Ayers.”  I started fantasizing about this possibility, hopeful but nervous to ask.  I envisioned stories of giant monsters in underpants, exploding volcanoes, UFO’s whizzing through the air, people unmasking to reveal they’re robots.

I sent Dick a long, long letter begging him to ink a story like this, and he responded that he’d be happy to do it.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was flabbergasted.  I rattled out a five page script, then pencilled and lettered it and sent it to Dick, and Dick inked it and returned it, with a note attached that he’d enjoyed inking the pages, that they took him back to the old days, and that he’d love to do more.  Are you kidding?? I immediately sent him two more stories, and soon we’d done five – one for each issue of my Tabloia Weekly Magazine comics (later reprinted in Doris Danger’s adventures).



Along the way, making these, Dick would continue to send little notes when he returned the artwork:

“Enjoyed inking these!!!…We are a good team on the monster stuff. Looking forward to doing more –Dick”

“Terrific pencilling, Chris! I enjoyed every stroke with my #3 brush! …Darlin’ Dick”

“Hello, Chris! Mighty fine pencilling! I enjoyed every panel — Hope it shows! …Bestest, Dick”

“H’lo, Chris.  Rcvd the pencilled 5 pgr and am enjoying inking it. I will probably have it in the mail Monday. I rank you right up there with the so-called king. Just have to get you to be a little more dramatic. Inking-wise my brush and pen are adapting to your pencils very well. Dick”

I asked him in an email about signing the pages, “Kirby and Ayers.”  He said that in those days, no one signed or got credit for their art, and he never knew who the artists were he was inking.  But if he got a page of Kirby’s, he knew whose it was, and then he’d sign both their names to it.

I didn’ get a photo with Dick until the second time I saw him, at Baltimore Con 2005:

I had wanted to do more monster stories with him, but my comics just weren’t selling, and I couldn’t justify the expense.  However, I did have him do a couple pin-ups (one at the time and the other – still unpublished so far – a few years later):



I saw Dick a third and final time at Comic-Con 2007, after my first son was born.

After Dick inked those five stories, I began showing them to artists and asking if they would consider drawing a pin-up of a giant monster for my book.   And it was then that artists who didn’t even bother to look at my art before and were “too busy” would kind of do a second take, and then actually get in and look at the art, and talk to me, and discuss drawing a giant monster for me.  And it wasn’t until then that I really started getting pin-ups from so many of my other favorite artists.  It felt like Dick legitimized me, and made it okay for other artists to join in my project.  I credit Dick for that, and will owe him for his willingness to do so for some aspiring kid.

Free Comic Book Day

May 1st, 2014

This Saturday!  Buy your airplane or boat tickets, and come out to SLG’s “Art Boutiki” in San Jose… where I and many other fantastic SLG artists will be signing – for FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!


April 23rd, 2014

My best friends, Alana and Justin S. Davis, are going to have a baby!  They asked me to make a giant monster-style birth announcement!

Here’s the uncolored page:


And here were the pencils:


Justin posted the image and news in his own MARVEL-ous way (he came up with the “ever conceived” gag above) here!

Kirby-style mural in the stairwell of F St Parking Garage! Davis CA

April 7th, 2014

I was pleasantly surprised when John Natsoulas – director of the John Natsoulas Center For The Arts, and the local art maven responsible (I believe) for filling the streets of Davis with so many fantastic murals and sculptures – contacted me to see if I could help him with his most recent public art project.

He said he’s painting the inside of the F Street Garage to  represent a history of our town, with things like cows and bicycles and double decker buses and all the cool professors and artists who have been here.  The garage is multiple levels, and he wanted a vortex at the bottom of the stairs to take us through time, through this history, and a visual portrayal of time travel going up or down the stairwells.  That was what he asked me to do: the time travel stairwell.

So I immediately thought of cosmic ol’ Kirby, flipped through some Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, and 2001 Space Odyssey comics, and then made these sketches for him:

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I park in the stairwell every day, and one night after work, around 8:30 pm, there were John and his crew projecting my images onto the walls of the stairwell and drawing them into place:


John posted these photos on his Facebook page:


And here’s how the stairwell looks now:

Pretty awesome!  Pretty cosmic!  Thanks so much, John, for including me in this project.  It turned out great!

Everybody, come check out the cool parking garage here in Davis!  Fly out and make a weekend visit, rent a car so you can park in the garage at F St at 1st, next to the theater! There’s a lot of really fun art and history represented!

Comic Book Class/Outing With Chris Wisnia!

February 6th, 2014


Sacramento area locals, BEWARE!  As a fundraiser for my son’s elementary school, I’ll be teaching a two hour comics class to five lucky 10 + year olds, followed by a trip to March 2nd’s Sac-Con!  Details here:

Montgomery Elementary School Auction 

Kirby style portraits!

January 14th, 2014

It’s that time of year again! I’ve completed two Jack Kirby style portraits!  They were rewards for two kind supporters of Charles D. Moisant’s “Zombie Annihilation Issue #2” Kickstarter campaign (now over – but soon, you can pick up the Haunted House Attraction’s comic book souvenir that I drew a third of)!

CrockerCon! The Crocker Museum, Sacramento CA

November 11th, 2013

This Thursday, the Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum is supporting local comics! I’ll be there with all my best friends, Eben E. B. Burgoon, Jared Konopitski, Timothy Green, John Cotrell, A-1 Comics, Empire’s Comics Vault, River City Comics and Games, Metropolis Comix, and more!

See details at !

Crocker members attend free, and museum admission is included for non-members! $5 drinks all night!

Come out, say hi, and check out some great comics!

DR. DeBUNKO IS BACK!… sort of…

November 6th, 2013

SLG has released an anthology with a slew of fantastic SLG artists, including my best friends, Stephen Coughlin, Karl Christian Krumpholz, Aaron Alexovich, Justin Sane, Jef Bambas, and more! Bestselling author and my best friend, Michael Shermer, said that my character, Dr. DeBunko, is “The coolest, hippest thing to hit skepticism since Lisa Simpson began reading /Junior Skeptic magazine (when Homer had his alien abduction experience).” In this anthology, my contribution is a four-page Dr. DeBunko story.  It’s his first appearance since 2006! You can pick up the anthology at Amazon or direct from the publisher (SLG Comics).

October 27th, 2013

My best friend, Glenn Walker, just did a nice Halloween article about Atlas Comics and in particular Lee and Kirby’s giant monsters.  He ended with a nice blurb about my Doris Danger comics!  Thanks, Glenn!

Click this link below, fans: