THE EC FAN ADDICT CONVENTION of 1972—the first last only EC Fan Addict Convention—was held on Memorial Day weekend (May 26-28) at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City. I went with the love-of-my-life, Christine Grala, the most beautiful woman in the Big Apple for one weekend! We had a room at the hotel and so were set to have a fabulous, fun-filled, romantic weekend.
Upon paying the $15 fee for two admissions, we were handed a couple of the event’s convention books. The book was titled EC Lives! and featured a black and white drawing by EC stalwart Wallace “Wally” Wood, perhaps the finest comic book artist of all time.
Clutching these beauties, we entered Shangri-La . . .
EC comics were perhaps the finest comic books that the American comic book industry had ever produced.
For the rest of the event, Christine and I met many of the people who had made what were perhaps the finest comic books that the American comic book industry had ever produced.
And I am not going into any detail here on just what made them so exceptional, but suffice to say that EC comics may still stake that claim forty years later—despite all the brouhaha that has accompanied so many of the Marvel and DC product and their movie spin-offs since then!
Wally Wood’s oh-so-perfect cover illustration for the 1972 EC Fan Addict Convention’s fanbook gives us one of his adolescent heroes accompanied by one of his famous voluptuous babes—nearly nakedly going where no voluptuous babe has gone before. They are confronting an unseen tentacled thingie that evokes a word balloon from our intrepid hero: “Good Lord! It’s alive!”
Jim Steranko was there!
The requisite huckster’s room (which wasn’t really very large for a New York show) was filled with anything and everything that could be associated with EC comics or its creators. One of the standout dealers that day was Jim Steranko, one of the hottest artists in the comic book industry.
He was also a single man enjoying his status by showing up with two very attractive female “helpers”—and even he was staring at Christine whenever the opportunity presented itself.
I intentionally strolled her past his table several times, without her knowing she was on display. I was 20-years old and just growing out of my insecure, bullied teen years and knowing that such a cock-of-the-walk recognized Christine’s beauty and envied me made me feel even more special than her presence normally did.1
Weird Science-Fantasy #29 featured this gorgeous drawing by Frank Frazetta, even then a legend in the industry due to his paintings for a line of Conan the Barbarian paperback books for Lancer in the ’60s. Originally intended for a Buck Rogers story years earlier, it was considered too violent for that comic book by its publisher. Many aficionados and collectors considered it to be the most outstanding cover ever put on a comic book.
But Wally Wood was the highlight
During the event, there was an auction and I bid on a couple of Weird Science-Fantasy titles but couldn’t afford to play with the big boys on those—especially the highly sought-after #29 with the amazing Frazetta cover. This was a comic that I longed for yet had never actually seen.
And there were various special events, including three-panel discussions with such EC faves as:
Bill Gaines, publisher
Jerry DeFuccio, editor/writer
Al Feldstein, editor/writer
Harvey Kurtzman, editor/writer
Jack Davis, artist
Will Elder, artist
George Evans, artist
Joe Orlando, artist
Marie Severin, colorist
Al Williamson, artist
Wally Wood, artist
The highlight for me was the one devoted to science fiction as that was the genre where Wally Wood was most prominent. We sat in and listened and I believe that it was then and there that Wally offered a bit of advice to young artists: that sometimes the difference between making a deadline or not depended on reaching for a soda or a beer when you took a break. This was humorous upon hearing, unsettling upon reflection.2
Somewhere during the day—perhaps at this panel—it was made known that while Wally would be signing autographs, he would not be doing any sketches for anyone. This was unlike the other artists, who spent a good portion of their time doing quick pencil or pen drawings for their fans.
When the discussion ended, everyone filed out of the room. Everyone except Woody, who sat alone in the front on a fold-open chair. Christine and I were several rows behind him and we had also sat through the departure of the other guests. We approached him and asked for his autograph. He took my convention guide, opened it to page 9, and lifted his felt-tip pen to sign it.
One of two EC science fiction titles was the justly famous Weird Science. This is Volume 2 Number 14 (July-August 1952) with fantastic (literally) cover art by my hero Wally Wood.
Who’s your favorite?
Before pen reached paper, I interrupted: “Mr. Wood, would you please mind doing a quick sketch of my favorite character of yours?”
He looked up, tired—but not too tired to miss looking at Christine admiringly.
He smiled at her, then me, and asked, “Who’s your favorite character of mine?”
“Pipsqueak—of course!” 3
(Pipsqueak is a child-man, who looks like a naked doll for a little girl. In fact, he is a mature being with mature appetites, including lust for the beauteous nymphet Nudine. Grommett only knows what part of Wood that Pipsqueak represented, but I instinctively knew it was personal and deep.)
Woody smiled, did a profile of the wee one in a few lines, and signed it.
I do believe that I can say that a fine time was had by all who attended. (Especially Bill Gaines.) I was the only person to walk out of the McAlpin that day with a brand new Wally Wood drawing!
And I’ll never be certain whether it was Pipsqueak or Christine that got me that sketch . . .
FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page was cropped from the front cover of Weird Science #14, by Wally Wood. His male figures always ad heroic proportions reminiscent of Hal Foster’s figures in Prince Valiant. For EC, his females were usually lovely and gracious. When in a humorous medium, his females were often the hottest babes in the world of comic art!
1 Little did Christine and I know that a few weeks from this fantastic weekend, Hurricane Agnes would cause the Susquehanna River to flood the entirety of Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania, which would indirectly lead to out first last only fight and our breaking up forever.
2 Wally Wood suffered a lifetime of inexplicable headaches and battled—often unsuccessfully—with alcoholism. The man who took the time to draw a fan a picture had the look that many of us would come to recognize in family, friends, even ourselves in the past thirty years: chronic depression.
3 Did I suspecPipsqueakpsquesk was also Wood’s favorite character? Of course. Was I nonetheless telling the truth? Of course.
This is page 10 of the EC Fan Addict Convention fanbook, a self-portrait by Wood. Wally did his Pipsqueak for me in the upper right quarter of the page, above his last name. My copy of the book with that cherished sketch is in storage, but one day it won’t be and then I will be able to post it here!