Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Chicago Comicon and Me

There has been a Chicago Comicon every year since 1976, and I have attended each one of them. Now it's known as WizardWorld Chicago and it convenes at a suburban convention center instead of at a downtown hotel, but so what.

I'm writing purely from memory, but I'm fairly certain that the first year there were exactly four pros as guests: Stan Lee, Jenette Kahn, Neal Adams, and Mike Grell. The panel programming didn't begin until late Friday afternoon, at 3:00 p.m. or it may even have been 5:00 p.m. I was VERY anxious for that panel to begin because I had never seen any comics pros before.

Then when it did begin, it was great. Stan Lee began spinning his yarns (and many of his tales I already knew from his writings in books like the Origins of Marvel Comics, but it was a whole 'nother realm to hear the Man weave it afresh). Jenette Kahn had recently been named publisher of DC and electrical bolts of energy emanated from her. (I specifically remember one of Ms. Kahn's comments where she praised Joe Kubert and the intensity that he imbued into every brick he drew; I was so impressed with Ms. Kahn that I wrote her a letter telling her so after the convention was over.) Mike Grell was the most low-key of the three (Neal Adams didn't show up until later in the convention, as an unannounced surprise guest if I recall correctly), but his folksy charm was also well-received by the audience. The audience, by the way, was really small, like maybe 40 people!

Later in the convention there was an original art auction for charity. All four of the pros served as auctioneers. I bid on and won a Mike Grell Superboy cover, which he personalized to me. Neal Adams startled everybody and pulled out about seven of his DC covers from the late 1960s and put them into the auction one at a time; they went for about $100 each and, as much as I wanted one, I didn't have the moolah. This first Chicago Comicon was a fabulous experience, one that is still in my mind 30 years after the fact.

Later years of the convention had many memorable moments also; please cue the swirling dream-sequence music while I do some serious time-compressing. In about 1978 I was side-by-side in an elevator with the legendary Harvey Kurtzman, one of the Masters of American Comics featured in the museum exhibit. At separate conventions in the 1980s, I was amazed at how Bernie Wrightson and Marshall Rogers and Howard Chaykin each looked in person just like characters they might have drawn. In the early 1990s I watched as a phalanx of unpaid Now Comics freelancers laid in wait for the arrival of the Now publisher at a panel. In the middle 1990s it was my pleasure to take a picture of Jeanette with Harlan Ellison, my favorite of all contemporary writers (and, not even giving you the chance to realize you wanted to ask, I'll reveal that my favorite writer of all time is Damon Runyon). Around the turn of the century I was enjoying the McLaughlin Group panels, and I wish those still ran. I always held out hope that Jack Kirby could be lured to Chicago, but that didn't happen.

For the last few years the highlight of the convention for me has been meeting up with Art Baltazar in the Artists Alley. He's a great guy with a really fun art style. He's in every issue of Disney Adventures digest magazine with his own characters; the next time you're in the grocery line and it's moving slowly, grab the Disney Adventures and take a look in the comics section for a real treat. Just as I was writing this I decided to open up an Art Baltazar Gallery Room over on ComicArtFans to show everyone the great little paintings we get from Art every year.

What will the 2007 Chicago Comicon hold in store for us? Nobody knows yet! But I'll be there.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Metamorphosis of the Hayfamzone

Today is a Red Letter Day in the hayfamzone. For twelve solid months, since August of 2005, I have been dismantling my original comic book artwork collection. Mainly I've been auctioning off the pages on ebay, and today I sold the last of the pages that I will be selling. For another look at some of the great pages that were in my collection, click here.

I started collecting artwork as a teenager in 1975 at the monthly Old Comic Book Club of Chicago meetings in the YMCA Hotel on South Wabash Avenue. I aspired to be a comic book artist, and having the original art in my hands was, I felt, a way to study directly with the masters of comics themselves; I did get pretty involved with drawing and I did get a bit of my own artwork published. I continued adding to my collection of professional artwork until 1987.

I constructed a nice box to house the artwork. I paged through and looked at the artwork once in a while, but mostly it sat in its box for 18 years. Then last year I came to the realization that I didn't need to own the majority of those pages anymore. I will always enjoy looking at good comic book artwork, but the only pages I now feel any need to own are ones drawn by Jack Kirby. To hold a page in my hand that Jack Kirby held in his hands, that's a cool feeling that makes me think heady thoughts.

One year ago I owned 80 or 90 pages of artwork, and now I own two. I cherish my two Jack Kirby pages that I bought long ago. One is a Jimmy Olsen splash page inked by Vince Colletta and Murphy Anderson, and the other is a Sandman page inked by Wally Wood.

Over the past twelve months it has been a pleasure meeting like-minded collectors all over the world via the long-reaching arm of ebay. I send special thanks out to Albert Moy (who purchased the first page I sold, a Frank Miller Captain America cover), and to the nice gentleman who today purchased my last non-Kirby piece, and to Nick Katridis and David Mandel and Keif Fromm, and to everyone else who purchased pages and placed bids and watched the auctions. The links in this paragraph will take you to Member Galleries on so you can see the beautiful collections of some of the very nice collectors I have been lucky enough to get to know a little bit.

Please don't read me wrong! This does NOT mark the end of the hayfamzone! On the contrary, we are all perched on the cusp of a new beginning. I'm very much enjoying writing these little blog entries, so please check back here every once in a while to see what I've been blathering about. (Feel free to post a comment; I've changed the settings so that any reader who would like to is now able to comment.)

And, after a month of downtime, the hayfamzone will re-establish its presence on ebay selling some very interesting comic books and comics-related items; you can click right here to see if anything is up for auction right now.

The best is yet to come!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Art in Milwaukee, Part 4 (Conclusion, Part 2)

Plug in your speakers! Turn up your volume! Download your audio plug-in software! Do whatever it takes so you can hear the newly-programmed backgroud music playing while you take in the Hayfamzone Blog. Does it seem like you're in the Skokie Post Office? Good! Bill the Computer Whiz has tweaked the blog so you can be enveloped by a MIDI version of (YES!) Vince Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy" while you peruse my ruminations. Additional thanks go to B. the C.W. for tinkering and making most of the links in my earlier entries actually LINK to something.

I had thought I was finished writing about the Masters of American Comics museum exhibit, but then Friday's edition of the New York Times printed an article about the exhibit including information heretofore unknown by me and which I wanted to share with you. There are some who say that I (gulp) read too many newspapers, but how else is one to get the news?

The NYT article by Carol Vogel points out that when the exhibition originated in Los Angeles last November, there were a total of 900 works but they were split into two portions that were shown concurrently at two different museums. Milwaukee was the second stop for the show, and (you will remember) that is where I viewed it; the Milwaukee Art Museum exhibit featured only about two-thirds of the works shown in L.A., but everything shown was housed in the one museum. The next (and seemingly last) stop for the exhibit will be New York City starting in September; in NYC the exhibit will be again be split between two museums and will feature a total of 600 works.

Although this exhibit-splitting may have been necessitated by space limitations, I'm glad I got to see the show in a single exhibit space. What I saw was a very cohesive exhibit, smartly designed. I wouldn't have known I had missed out on anything if I hadn't read the NYT article, but I feel that seeing the exhibit all in one museum makes up for having missed out on anything anyway. I am at peace. (But, in a moment of weakness, I do wonder whether the L.A. show had more Kirby pieces and, if so, what.)

Allow me now to toss you a couple of links for further reading. I came across an interview with Brian Walker, co-curator of the Masters of American Comics and son of comics legend Mort Walker. Also I found a blog-review by "Coop" of the MOCA exhibit from its days in L.A.; although he doesn't fully identify himself he is in fact Dave Cooper, one of my favorite comics artists to spring onto the scene in the 1990s (and his blog-review covers only the first half of the exhibit; don't you wonder like I do whether he made it over to the other museum for second half?).

As I sign off for now, I'll go ahead and fully identify myself as Brian Hayes, caretaker of the ambiguous hayfamzone. Feel free to visit but be sure to march past the chaff to get to the links. Good day!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Art in Milwaukee, Part 3 (Conclusion)

The Hayfamzone Blog can sometimes serve as a Think Tank, a veritable pressure cooker of potentially volatile topics. Let's switch into that mode today and examine the Masters of American Comics museum exhibit from a higher plane.

Who is this exhibit aimed at? What does it seek to accomplish? Does it succeed?

On the one hand you have me as an attendee: a lifelong comics fan, something of an artist myself, definitely a collector of original comic book artwork. If the exhibit was aimed at me, that was an easy win, because I thought it was fabulous. But how many of the attendees do you suppose fit my profile? The narrow demographic I fall into might be filed in the folder labelled Preaching to the Choir.

On the other hand you have some attendees who are perhaps uninterested in distinguishing between the dissimilar art styles of Will Eisner's Spirit and Chester Gould's Dick Tracy. Can you in your wildest imagination envision a museum-goer confronted by a Picasso and proclaiming that the artist was just copying Van Gogh? A museum exhibit provides an opportunity for self-enrichment through observation, but the museum-goer must want to grasp the opportunity.

The exhibit was sparsely-attended on the afternoon I went, but it struck me that just about everyone present was entranced by an artform they had not previously investigated. Sure, there were a couple of us on the floor who were already in the Choir and there were a couple of ladies who were not quite ready to open their eyes to something new, but mostly this was a great museum audience standing at the foot of a mountain and realizing there was some climbing to be done.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Art in Milwaukee, Part 2

Pardon my journalistic bent, but I feel the need to begin with Corrections and Clarifications about yesterday's entry. The OFFICIAL name of the exhibit I visited is Masters of American Comics, which is not how I referred to it yesterday. And I was as upset as you were that most of my embedded hyperlinks yesterday led nowhere; while I investigate what went wrong, maybe I'll cool it with the links today.

Now let's go back to the museum, the Milwaukee Museum of Art. (That's one of the few links from yesterday that worked, so I'm not afraid to link it again.) There is a backdrop of music playing in the exhibit space, and what a good idea that was instead of the deafening Eraserhead-like silence one might usually associate with a museum. The only song I could make out was, appropriately, Vince Guaraldi's Linus and Lucy (and this is where, if I were more blog-adept, I could link you to a recording of L and L which you would immediately recognize from the Charlie Brown cartoons. In fact, I did just link it, but I'm taking no bets as to whether the link works. If you know and like L and L, however, I strongly encourage you to dig a little deeper into the Guaraldi catalog to hear his also-great non-Charlie Brown music). There were other songs, not just the one song looping, but I couldn't make out what the others were. (By the way, in the Skokie Post Office they also generally play background music, and I have thanked the manager for enhancing my mailing experience.)

Now let's get back to the exhibit itself. There were some Charles Schulz Peanuts originals, and those were the only strips in the exhibit that I read from beginning to end as I stood there. One of the originals of anonymous ownership was personalized with "For Brian, with Friendship, Sparky." Now if anyone had travelled with me to the museum and was reading that as I was reading it, I would have played a little joke on them and "revealed" that in fact I was the Brian who had lent this piece to the exhibit. Ha, ha, we would have laughed, when I exposed my gag as mere fancy. (Although those who have followed my ebay exploits know that I did have a Superboy cover personalized to me by Mike Grell and a Shining Knight cover personalized by Howard Chaykin.) You may remember people insensitively poking jabs at Charles Schulz because his line got so shaky near the end of his strip's run. Well, having now seen the originals of one or two of these late entries at the exhibit, I can't imagine the shakiness being anything but intentional. You'll have to judge for yourself.

On to the Will Eisner room, and breathtaking it was. There were two complete seven-page Spirit stories and many classic splashes. I would NEVER have gotten to see these originals if not for this museum exhibit. The ownership of these pages was split between the Eisner Estate and Dens Kitchen. I was interested to see that Spirit sections were printed LARGE in Philadelphia after 1947, as opposed to the comic book size that one usually associates with Spirit sections. Actual comment overheard, one lady speaking to another as they both stood in front of a complete Spirit story: "Oh, he's just copying from Dick Tracy."

Just as a high school history course might hustle through a century because of time limitations, let me say ever so briefly that I appreciated seeing Robert Crumb's pencil sketchbook and Art Spiegelman's Maus originals. My favorite pieces in the entire exhibit, however, were the Jack Kirby pages, and a tip of the Hayfamzone Blog hat goes to Tod Seisser and Glen Gold for sharing those beautiful originals with us.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Artwork in Milwaukee

Yesterday I drove up to Milwaukee to see the Comic Art Masters exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum. It was my second visit to this beautiful structure since it opened a few years ago. The building is stunning inside and out, and Santiago Calatrava is defintely my favorite working architect. And when you go, DON'T enter from street level, but instead take the pedsetrian bridge over Michigan Street for a great view of the building's wings. On my previous visit to the museum the weather had been windy and the wings were contracted, but yesterday they were spread wide open. (Only my first real blog entry, and already I'm inserting hyperlinks like a pro! Blogspot really makes this easy!)

As soon as I entered the Comic Art Exhibit, I liked it already. It is so spacious and airy and well-lighted. (One time I went to an exhibit at a different museum, and the experience was one of crowdedness and dankness and darkness; I won't be mentioning what museum that was though, because the Hayfamzone Blog will be a reservoir of postivity and uplift.)

The exhibit is organized smartly in accordance with the historical evolution of comics. Comic Strip artwork is near the beginning, then comes Comic Book artwork, then comes Underground Comic Book artwork, then comes Other Contemporary Comics-Related artwork. There are a few details I could quibble with about the exhibition but I WON'T, seeing as this is an all-positive blog. The exhibit gets an A+ from me and I'm very glad I went to see it.

One thing I was wondering as I drove up to Milwaukee was: who owns this artwork? As a former and future comic art owner myself, I was curious who had opened their collections to share with the public. I will give an accounting below of some of the ownerships that were accredited.

The exhibit opened with Winsor McKay original artwork dating back 99 and 100 years. I was amazed at what great condition these ancient artifacts were in, and doubly amazed at their size which certainly encroached upon 2 feet wide by 3 feet tall. There were five Little Nemo strips, including the 1908 entry in which Nemo's bedposts become elastic stretching legs and take him on a harrowing journey through McKayLand. Some of the McKay originals are owned by Garry Trudeau.

The exhibit continued with some great Segar Popeye pages (two owned by Patrick McDonnell and one owned by Craig Yoe) and some equally great Herriman Krazy Kat pages (also with two owned by Patrick McDonnell and one owned by Craig Yoe). Patrick McDonnell, of course, is the creator of Mutts, which is my favorite currently-running comic strip. And although the details will be for another blog entry on another day, for now I'll just say that it was my pleasure to be invited to and to attend an Artists Party held by artist Craig Yoe in his home in 1983.

I'm skipping ahead a little bit now because my two typing fingers are getting weary
but, two words: Jack Kirby.
Jack Kirby is the reason I read and enjoy comic books to this day. For the past twelve months I've been selling my original art collection on ebay, everyting EXCEPT my Jack Kirby pages. As I was standing (drooling, actually) in front of three double-page splashes and the cover to Kamandi #1, a like-minded individual next to me started chatting with me about Kirby. A big Hayfamzone Blog Hello to Scott Gaulke. It turns out Scott is a comic art collector also, and he knew (like I do) about some Kirby pages that are up for bid on ebay right now. And also Scott has a Member Gallery on Or maybe you'd like another look at my Member Gallery.

There's more to say about my visit to the museum, but that will have to be for the Blog of the Future. As the museum closed and I exited, I saw many people standing on the pedestrian bridge looking back at the museum. They were watching as the wings of the museum swung closed for the day. And I watched too.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Thank you for finding The Hayfamzone Blog.

My fingers are crossed that, the next time you visit, there will be something here to look at.

Have you already been to

There's not much there either. Yet.

Thanks for visiting!