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.
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.
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.
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!