[The following editorial appears in New Blood #8 and Blood of Ten Chiefs #1. --MK]
June 30, 1993.
8:30 in the morning...
My father died today.
You won't read this for five or six weeks or so, but if I don't write it now, the strength of it will fade and grow dim, no matter how clear the memory remains, and I don't even know if this is appropriate for an editorial in a comic book about elves, but it's my name comes at the end, so I'm going to put it into the air anyway.
Maybe it is appropriate. After all, had my father not seen his way clear to advance us two thousand dollars, way back in 1978, you might not be reading these words at all. Or any other ELFQUEST, for that matter. Warp Graphics was quite the fledgling company in those days: a cute acronym on some quick-copy letterhead, a grandiose idea for a fantasy comic book, some good looking artwork, and not much else. Certainly not the wherewithal (on my teacher's salary) to talk turkey with a printer.
And I hated the idea of borrowing money, always have. I'd done it exactly once before and decided that it was the most odious flavor of obligation ever imposed on humanity. But ELFQUEST wanted out, so what to do? The only thing I could. Ask the folks. For two thousand 1978-value dollars to print funnybooks.
They must've decided somehow that it was worth the risk. Or maybe it was that they really figured that they could lose the money, because comics was alien territory to them. They barely tolerated my collecting the things (but they never tried to throw them out, and I still have every one I ever bought), and I suppose that like everyone else in those days, my parents figured that comic books just "happened." That their son suddenly wanted to produce and publish them must have seemed three steps stranger than voodoo.
I don't think anyone could have been more surprised than my father when I paid him back within a month of the loan, on the strength of sales of Warp's first issue. That was his first revelation, that maybe this elf stuff wasn't just some whim, but it didn't sink in just then.
My father was a carpenter. He built the house I grew up in, and most of the houses in our neighborhood. He was a craftsman; he took pride in what he did; he always did it the old-fashioned way. He was old country, anyway, and there was no other way to do things. He was always his own boss, never worked for someone else. Life was usually comfortable, but rarely easy, and because of the way he was brought up, he was always very conscious of the value of things.
Maybe that's why he was so concerned that I went to a "good college," that I always had a "good job." The old cliche of wanting better for me than he'd had for himself, you know? That goes a long way toward explaining his anger and feeling of betrayal when I failed to graduate from MIT along with the rest of my class. (Those were major stress times for me, and I needed another six months to finish up and get the sheepskin.) It helps to explain his confusion when, in 1981, I made the decision to leave a well-paying, benefits-laden job at IBM (and look where they are now!) to devote full time to that same elfy comic book I'd borrowed money for three years earlier.
It should have been so simple, but connection and realization didn't come for several more years, when he finally understood that what I was doing - running a successful business on my own, as my own boss - was exactly the same thing he'd done all his life. And then suddenly it was OK. It didn't matter that he'd built houses and I was publishing comic books. We were both doing the same thing. That's when it sunk in.
I'm so glad we had those few years of connection. What I love doing, we could at last talk about. Screw you, Mike and the Mechanics, nothing personal, guys.
Tim Allen and my father would've gotten along famously. Being a carpenter, Dad loved his tools of the trade. No, he didn't go into Neanderthal grunt-mode over them, but he did have the pegboard up in the cellar and everything had its place. Everything was kept clean and was used correctly - no screwdrivers-as-chisels and pliers-as-hammers for him. The way Stravinsky used a baton or Clapton handles a guitar, that's how my father treated carpenter's tools.
I wish I'd learned more. Now there's no one to take this or that project home to and say, "Do you think you could..?" It's very weird to look at those orphaned tools hanging there, and know they'll never be used again.
At least not by someone who knows how to use them, and that's really the same thing, isn't it.
Oh. If it matters, it was multiple myeloma, a relative of leukemia. I think, at the end, with the pain killers and the brain's own merciful ways of handling trauma, he didn't suffer, and it was quick once "the change" happened. I was lucky; I saw him the night before he died. I got to say good-bye.
Don't wait - any of you. Just do it. Whatever it is, don't put it off.
The rest is silence.
Richard A Pini