Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Freak: PHOENIX

This is one of my favorite possessions from my Kubert school days. We had so many great teachers, just about all of them were famous in the comic world, and a lot of them would knock out a quick sketch for you if you weren't a jerk.
Sal Amendola was one of those pros. He was one of our teachers for "Methods and Materials", or else it was " Sequential Art ", I forget.
He once assigned us a really cool project. We were all supposed to create a comic, by folding layout paper, so if you had four sheets, folded them, stapled in the middle, suddenly you have 16 pages to draw on., front and back.
Hope I made that clear. So we all worked hard, and created our comics. I still have mine. I did a story about a rock that floats down into a canyon, gives birth to a baby rock, and then they both fly away into the distance leaving only the placenta, etc. As I write this I realize how nutty it sounds, but we were supposed to be creating a story that could appear in Epic or Heavy Metal.
Anyhow, this one girl turns in a story that she copied out of an older Heavy Metal, where a woman, after eating some fruit, becomes pregnant, and her belly peels away to reveal this same fruit. Trust me, it looked more artistic than it sounds.
As soon as I saw this project, I called her on it in front of the entire class. Not only that, I had the same issue that she had copied the story from, and brought it out to show Sal.
Everyone started to laugh, she turned red, and Sal got real quiet and said "Fuchs..out in the hall. I wanna talk to you."
Now Sal was maybe 5 foot tops, if he was wearing his boots, and I towered over him like the Minnesota goof that I was, but I was still kinda scared.
We go out into the hall and he asked me why I did what I did.
I told him that I was mad that I worked so hard on my story, doing the roughs and finishes, etc., and that I paying a lot of money to go to the school, and that it just made me furious to see this cheater at work.
He was real cool about it. He told me that he knew she didn't create the story, and that she traced it badly, but that didn't make it right for me to embarrass her like that. He said that he knew she wasn't as talented as me, and that she probably wouldn't even stay in Kubert's for another semester, so what harm would it do to just let her slide on out, unchallenged.
He said that I should concentrate more on what I was doing, then worry about what someone else was up to. That was a lesson I never forgot.
One day, he was talking about some of the awful jobs he had had , and mentioned a book he did for a comic company called Atlas. I instantly perked up and said that I had bought many of the titles that came out. I mean, back in the 70's, to have a company put out first issues...I thought I was buying the next Superman.
At first Sal thought I was busting his chops, but after I told him about my favorite character, Phoenix, he said that that was the one book he had hated to work on.
He told me that the company was almost floundering when it started, and that the name of the game was to crank out the work, because no one knew when the lights would be turned out.
So this comic character, who is an astronaut, gets rescued by these aliens after his experimental ship crashes in the can read the synopsis here,( open this link in a new window, so you can close that and come back here for the rest of the story. It's a good one...I'll wait for you) :
Ok, you're back.
So the crazy part was this this guy was supposed to be like Jesus, and save humanity from these aliens who were going to wipe us out.
The insignia on his chest was supposed to transform into a cross-like shape during the many issue story-arc.
But, because word came down that the book was being canceled, the writer or editor told Sal to make the changes on the insignia, during the course of the last book.
So what you have, is a superhero that, from panel to panel, and from page to page, has a logo on his costume that is changing without any explanation.
I thought that was one of the coolest insider stories I have ever heard.
So at the end of the year, I asked Sal if he would do a sketch for me, and he whipped out the Phoenix.
Plus, he wrote down my phrase that I still use to this day to explain to people how to pronounce my last name: "...FUCHS like BOOKS.."
Sal also did some of my favorite Batman stories.
He was the first guy that I had ever heard sum up the Batman as : " a guy who became psychotic because he witnessed his parents being murdered when he was a kid."
What a cool guy.