My biological daughter Ruby turned 12 last weekend. I have fond memories of being twelve years old. It's the age I met my best friend Mike Hueston and I decided to make comix a career. It was 7th grade at I.S. 44 in Manhattan. Mike was standing alone reading a copy of The Avengers #3. I was a Fantastic Four fan. Soon after becoming fast friends, we saw others like us -- throughout the years -- interested in comics. Eric Waldman, Sean Smith, Josh Neufeld, Delmo Walters Jr., Phil Dejean, Todd Dixon and more. There were a couple of girls who could draw circles around us, Gina Cole and Jennifer Lui, but they never stuck with the graphic narrative format.
Eventually, our posse formed a comic book club that would regularly visit West Side Comics and Funny Business in the upper west side. Downtown had Forbidden Planet (where I learned of Judge Dredd), Village Comics, and Soho Zat (where I discovered Chester Brown's Yummy Fur and Harvey Pekar's American Splendor). We'd gather at Mike's abode and read comics, play Atari video games, the occasional role-playing game (D&D), watch MTV and the 4:30 Movie; Hammer Horror or Kung Fu flicks.
Eventually, we started a self-publishing "company" called Paradox Productions (way before DC Comics' now-defunct imprint). Xeroxed and stapled affairs. Mike came up with Tempest and Micronaut's-inspired The Night Raiders. Sean designed and wrote underground inspired anthropomorphic comics, while Eric Waldman created sci-fi space fantasies Quasar and Vanguard. I was more of a writer-shy artist who wanted to draw other people's property; Shazam and almost any Marvel comic. But I managed to come up with a character of my own called Night Stalker. A tiny ninja with a stick who infiltrated and trashed nefarious domains and yelled "Ingy Wamba." Years later I would incorporate Night Stalker into a Billy Dogma story.
At Music & Art high school I would meet and befriend Larry O'Neil, whose brilliant writing, our collaborations in both comics, video and film (his father was the legendary comics writer/editor Denny O'Neil) would help change my life (leading me to assist Bill Sienkiewicz, Howard Chaykin, and Walter Simonson in 1985), and confirm my dedication to the mediums of storytelling.
Not much has changed since school. Except almost everything.