In the autumn of 2010, I was living in New Jersey, and working in Manhattan, 30 miles away. I always took the train to work, because driving in New York City is for people who’ve decided they’re no longer interested in having positive emotions. I did this only once, in Staten Island, which doesn’t really count. Any New Yorker will tell you so; the other boroughs all look down on Staten Island, presumably because it has grass.
I was driving into Staten Island one September evening to attend a signing at a comic shop by Scott Wegener and Jeff Powell, the artist and letterer (respectively) of Atomic Robo, which is the best comic book currently in publication. The best. I will fight anyone who says different. The first part of the excursion was simple enough; about half an hour on the New Jersey turnpike just after sunset, then over a thin, old, rickety bridge to the Island itself, then pay eight dollars for the privilege of being in a car in New York City limits, and there I was.
I immediately, I mean immediately, took a wrong turn. I found myself in a warehouse district, on a straight road that intersected with nothing, with no turnoffs save for those that led to warehouse parking lots. This lasted for a…distressingly long time. Then at last there was an intersection, of the T variety, uncluttered by street signs or other indications of just where the hell I might be. I took the left, as my wrong turn originally had been to the right. And finally I was favored with a street sign.
It was a big rectangular one, with an arrow pointing to the upper right, and above this, the word “TELEPORT.”
Now, normally, I would have found this unbearably exciting and turned that way immediately. But I was lost. And the last thing I needed was surrealism. I bypassed this turn and drove on, and soon came upon another sign, of the more ordinary street-designating variety. It read as follows: “LOIS LANE.”
Remember that I was on my way to a comic shop. “Did I get into a terrible accident on the turnpike,” I wondered, “and now I’m in a coma?”
But no. The street signs coalesced into those of a reasonable world soon enough, and I found my way to the shop. It was, to my simultaneous delight and distress, all but empty, save for Mr. Wegener and Mr. Powell. It was a shame that they were not receiving more attention; but splendid to have them to myself. I told them how much I loved their work, and we discussed its history and future, and everything was Jacob.
Mr. Wegener asked if I’d like a sketch; of course I would. He asked what I’d like; I said “Either a superintelligent ape, a space alien, or a pterosaur person.” (Atomic Robo is a comic concerned largely with mad or otherwise bizarre science, but none of these things had appeared in it to date). He took immediately to the third option, and the three of us discussed the Marvel character Sauron for a bit, and he set to work. In just a few short minutes, he had produced the piece seen above. (Click on it for full glory.)
No mere pterosaur person, as you can see! A full-fledged character! A personality, an implicit role in whatever story he might be in! I knew I liked this guy’s work, but this level of instant character design was frankly incredible. Wegener took a photo of it to send to Brian Clevinger, Atomic Robo’s writer, and I thanked him profusely and was on my way.
The drawing – which I have since named ‘Professor Pterosaur,’ because for God’s sake look at it – immediately became my favorite thing I own, and has remained such ever since. But this was not the end of the Professor Pterosaur saga. Stay tuned!
The Atomic Robo website: http://www.atomic-robo.com/
Jeff Powell: http://www.negativeink.com/
An interview with Scott Wegener and Brian Clevinger by your current author: http://www.playtime-arts.com/playtime-featured-artists-team-robo/