My Old Pal!

For most people, friends from childhood are distant memories and/or simply pictures in a school annual. Facebook and other social media has changed that some, now they’re pictures on the computer. Prior to my joining Facebook in 2009, I hadn’t seen or heard from most of the people I went to high school with since my 20 year reunion a few years earlier. And prior to my reunion, it’d been 20 years since I’d last seen or talked to the overwhelming majority of them.

Me with Thomas Florimonte and Barry Gregory, co-owners of Ka-Blam!

Me with Thomas Florimonte and Barry Gregory, co-owners of Ka-Blam!

There are a couple of people, though with whom I have kept occasional contact from way back when. The earliest friend I still speak with every few months is Duane Holland, a friend from my elementary years. Duane and I were comic book geeks together. He was the only one in my school who could talk comics with me…and yes, we’d occasionally trade comics: he liked the Fantastic Four while I was an Avengers fan. He’d probably strangle me if he knew I was going to tell all of you about the time we camped out in a tent behind my house and sang goofy superhero songs thanks to Mad Magazine. Weirdly enough, I can still hear those tunes in my head.

Barry Gregory, however, is probably the oldest pal that I kept any sort of regular contact with. My friendship with Barry goes back to the 6th grade when I was the new kid in class after transfer-induced move. One or the other of us found out we liked comics and we immediately hit it off.

As 7th graders, Barry and I created our own group of superheroes; we mostly liked the same stuff and so mostly dug each other’s creations. I can’t recall who was first, but it was probably Barry who showed me a few pages of a comic he was drawing (and often tracing. We did that in a bunch of the comics we produced) and I was doing the same.

L-R: Barry, Tony Fortenberry, me, Mark McElroy. The Four Horsemen!

L-R: Barry, Tony Fortenberry, me, Mark McElroy. The Four Horsemen!

But, because we did like the same sort of stuff, we ended up doing a “crossover,” inspired very much by the then-recent Avengers/Defenders crossover. We divvied up the chapters and stories and chores and the story line hopped from my comic to his—just like the Avengers/Defenders story.

I still have much of that work in my possession. In deference to Barry (and since he knows nothing about this post), I won’t put any of his artwork here—and I’m not going to put MUCH of mine here; keep in mind I was in middle school when I did this, so don’t be hatin’! Many of the characters I created way back then live still, if in changed form. The least changed character still around is the Demon character from the Cat & Mouse series.

We kept going to comics one way or another and tried a couple of times to do different things. We were writers in perpetual search of artists. After a few false starts, I stumbled across a few and we tried again. When we pitched Cat & Mouse, we also pitched SilverStorm (written by Thomas Fortenberry) and something we called Hero Task Force (the name taken from several years of RPG sessions). Regrettably, the publisher only wanted C&M and SilverStorm and HTF never came to be.

This is the cover to the first full comic I ever did...back around 1976.

This is the cover to the first full comic I ever did…back around 1976.

Barry, of course, continued to work not only as a writer but as a color guide colorist (created guides that computer colorist would then use to color in photoshop) and I was able to hire him some when I was an editor.

Barry is the same one I mentioned a few months back who introduced me to the comic shop and back issues. He’s now not only a comic creator, but the co-owner in the premier POD (Print on Demand) comic printer in the industry. And while I don’t talk to him as much as I probably should, we remain friends to this day. Facebook or not!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “My Old Pal!

  1. ant'ny

    Awesomest. Post. EVER.
    ant’ny

  2. Nice pics! Can’t believe you had a mullet! But, it’s good to know that you still have friends from your childhood. Love it.

  3. That’s so awesome! And I bet your mother(s) never thought your obsession with comic books would amount to much. Just goes to show you…you never know.

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