Greetings “true believers” and welcome to this week’s AMAZING, SPECTACULAR, SENSATIONAL and friendly neighborhood issue of Have Chainsaw Will Travel. To be honest, this week’s article is anything but what those adjectives indicate or imply… aside from maybe friendly neighborhood‑‑I like to think I’m neighborhood friendly (but nobody comes out of their houses anymore). DISMAL, DEPRESSING and MELANCHOLY would probably more accurately describe this column’s catastrophically created, captivatingly collaborated content.

It was Monday November the 12th when my best friend of 30+ years and long-time comic book collaborator Rob Sherrod broke the tragic news to me. Normally, Rob and I convene during our regular work breaks to pursue our comic endeavors. That day he simply looked at me rather somberly, his next words shattering my world, “Stan Lee died 12 minutes ago.” At that moment my only thought was a deep hate for Thanos (Marvel supervillain) and his actions at the conclusion of the last Avengers film, “Infinity War.” When he snapped his fingers he was only supposed to destroy half, not the entire, Universe.

The remainder of the day was spent in a blurred haze. Friends and fellow comic book connoisseurs constantly confirmed the news via text (including my concerned spouse); likewise I shared the devastation with coworkers who were also Marvel fans. Later that afternoon at home, Lil Red (that’s the wife) respected my thoughtful brooding and respectfully didn’t transgress the subject which was obviously on my troubled mind…I love her for things like that.

The late Stan Lee

Entering my pre-teens during the mid-80’s the desire to pick up a comic book was nil, with interests leaning more towards mythical and classic horror monsters. Being an avid reader, it was dishearteningly disappointing that there was so little written material on said subjects available at the local library. Then one day, a friend, who was already well integrated into the Marvel Universe, pointed out that there were comic books that catered to my interests. That first trip to a comic book store was a skeptical one that changed my life.

A few copies of Werewolf by Night were acquired and soon followed by The Tomb of Dracula, Brother Voodoo, The Living Mummy, Blade the Vampire Slayer, The Macabre Man Thing and even Howard the Duck. The artwork was intriguing, giving visual to exceptional and complex forms of written storytelling with characters and tales I could relate to, (considering those titles, this doesn’t say a lot for my early life). Trips to the comic shop became a weekly request of my folks, who frowned upon my growing hobby. Afternoons and weekends were spent and lost into this fantastic new world… nay this alternate universe.

So a love for classic horror comics was born, but mine own true initiation into the Marvel Universe proper didn’t come until several years later in high school when, during an exceptionally boring history class, a friend passed me a copy of The Uncanny X-men #251. There on the cover was the Wolverine trussed up on a giant wooden X and I was brutally introduced to Marvel’s merry band of mutant misfits. The story line was captivating and considering this was issue 251, the need to know what happened before competed heavily with what would happen after. Thus my allotted comic funds were spent on current and back issues.

It was shortly thereafter that I heard Stan Lee for the first time. No that’s not a typo, the first time I became aware of the driving force behind Marvel comics I literally heard him.

By now I was a welcome regular at the local comic shops, also attending every comic-con within driving distance. It was at one of the latter that a bootlegged VHS copy of the original X-men cartoon pilot episode was acquired. The animation was standard late 80’s fodder with vocals supplied by the same familiar voice actors of the G.I. Joe cartoons of that era; however one voice stood out among the others: the intro and outro were voiced by none other than Stan Lee himself . In that voice you could hear a man who was excited and fascinated by his own universe, one that he himself had created. Something within that voice inspired me, bringing me to the realization that this was the voice of the man who played a huge part in creating the art stylized stories that inspire mine own.

I’ve always wanted to meet Mr. Lee. Initially my desire as a young artist and creator was to present him with characters of my own, in hopes they would someday appear alongside his. Later, as my writing skills overrode my drawing ones, the dream of writing for Marvel Comics and working for Stan came to the forefront. Striking out in my own direction as an independent writer, the dream turned into a desire. If not to write for him, to just let him read something I had written and receiving his approval would be enough. With the passage of time and cameo appearances, this dreamy desire was outweighed by reality. And within this reality there came a moment of pure clarity and realization. When someone inspires you there is no need to seek their counsel, there is no reason to earn their approval. The fact that they inspired you and through their inspiration you created something all your own is a standing testament to the influence they have on your life. In the end all that’s left to do is thank them.

Thank you Stan Lee (December 28, 1922- November 12, 2018) for your inspiration, your art, your stories and for sharing your Universe with us as long as you were in ours…there can never be ‘Nuff Said!

I welcome almost all questions and comments via FOCUS, or email me at [email protected] .

Hope to hear from ya, until then try and stay focused. See ya!