Sunday, February 07, 2010


I need to go to sleep early tonight. It was a long day and I'm bone tired and still thinking of how I got soaked delivering mail in 35-degree steady rainfall today.

But I want to get this down before I hit the mattress.

I was talking to my agent just a few minutes ago. It was initially a business call, since he handles very important business for me (and does a fine job of it). But as that part of the call wound down we started talking about other stuff. The topic came, somehow, to each of us having had the opportunity (in his case the job) of speaking to a creative person whose talent and reputation overwhelmed us.

In his case it was having to talk to Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke about short stories that were due for anthologies he was working on. How do you just "call up" Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke? When they're both literary idols. Well, you just grab up the courage and do it.

In my case there were two people I just could never speak to, although I had the chance to talk to both of them. The first time it was Neil Gaiman. I adore his work and, more than that, am so impressed with his talent to create stories that the only term for my feelings concerning that talent is "awe". Very few writers have impressed me as much as Gaiman has, and the ones who have are dead folk. So I found myself at a comic convention and there was Neil Gaiman sitting behind a booth ready and willing to speak with fans and interested parties. I got close to the table and basically just froze. At some point he actually looked my way and gestured as if to say "come on over". And still I couldn't do it.

I mean...what was I going to say? Tell him that he's a great writer? Explain how this or that story he'd written impressed me all to heck? Nothing I could think of to say to him felt to me to be more than fan babble. And so I said nothing, turned, and walked away. Missed my chance to talk to Neil Gaiman.

Neil Gaiman, writer.

Maybe a year or so later I was at another show and Jack Kirby was in attendance. I wanted to talk to him, mainly just to let him know how much his work had meant to me over my life, especially during the years of my childhood. I don't think there was ever a better comic book artist working in adventure and superhero comics. He seemed to be an endless wellspring of stories and art, and more than that--his enthusiasm for the art form of American comic books was as bright toward the end of his life as it had been at any other time in the decades he'd created comic books.

So I walked toward his booth. He was sitting behind a table with his wife, Roz. There they were. Somehow I'd caught them at a moment when there weren't any other fans around and all I had to do was walk up and tell him how much his work had meant to me.

And, again, I froze.

Jack Kirby: the King.

All that kept running through my mind was that he was probably tired of hearing how much his work meant to people, and how great he was, and how honored each such fan was to finally get to meet him. I didn't want to sound like a shallow, fawning idiot.

So I stopped short, turned around, and walked away.

I wish that I hadn't done that, of course. I wish that I'd gone over to Jack and Roz Kirby (Kurzberg) and told him how much his art and stories had influenced me over the years of my life. I'm sure he would have been happy to hear it, and I'm sure that would have made his wife happy, too.



dogboy443 said...

I met Jack Kirby in the late 80's and said hello but his hands must have been hurting because he didn't want to shake hands. I manned the CBLDF booth in San Diego Comic-Con one year and shared time with Frank Miller in the booth and beyond hello, I didn't know what else to say to the man.

HemlockMan said...

Yeah, that's the way it is sometimes with people whose work you respect. You don't know them. You just know their work.