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Thursday, May 18, 2006


Beginning in the summer of 1980, when I was a squeaky-clean college grad (fresh from the College Formerly Known as Glassboro State), I was job-hunting like crazy. At the same time, I was mailing articles and artwork to magazines in the hopes of scoring a freelance gig. I amassed a modest stack of rejection letters, most of which were "form" letters.

One rejection letter I received was from Heavy Metal magazine, which was an anthology of fantasy comics (mostly reprinted from European magazines) put out by the publishers of National Lampoon. My old college gang and I idolized this magazine. I had earlier mailed Heavy Metal a one-page strip titled "The Rolling Stones Go to Mars." Even before I opened the letter, I guessed that it would be a thumbs-down, but it was exciting nonetheless to see the Heavy Metal logo.

It was indeed a thumbs-down, but to my astonishment, this was a typed, hand-signed letter from the art director of Heavy Metal! He said that while he got a kick out of "The Rolling Stones Go to Mars," it was not what Heavy Metal was looking for. He suggested I send the strip to a certain party at Lampoon.

It's disgraceful that I don't still have that encouraging letter. What's worse: I didn't remember the name of the person who wrote it.

Flash forward to the opposite end of the decade. I was here at the Asbury Park Press writing and illustrating a weekly strip titled "Rocktoons" (which ran from 1987 until 1993). It was a silly little pop-culture thing (well, what ELSE would I do?) that vascillated recklessly between brilliant and head-scratching. Anyway, I'd heard through the grapevine that somewhere out there was a "Rocktoons" fan who was trying to put together a book deal for a "Rocktoons" compilation. Nothing came of it, so I wasn't even sure if the rumor was true.

Still later, as I began covering the comic-book beat in earnest, I became reacquainted with the work of artist John Workman, whose style I sometimes compare without condescension to early '70s romance. (It might sound like a backhanded compliment, but Workman knows better.) When it comes to rendering the female form, Workman's only rival is John Romita. Any comic-book geek will tell you what a powerful compliment THAT is.

You've probably guessed where this is all headed.

It turns out that John Workman is all of the above -- the Heavy Metal art director who once encouraged a green kid, the mystery reader who tried to get a book deal for same, and THE GUY WHO DREW MERA (AQUAWOMAN) FOR "WHO'S WHO: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO THE DC UNIVERSE" (among loftier resume credits).

Yet another crossing-of-paths: All these years later, Workman and I got a chance to collaborate on a really cool project that would take another Web column to describe. But I'll give you a Web link so you can see for yourself. Check it out here.


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