Learn more than you ever needed to know about me...
The year was 1964, the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, Lyndon Johnson was president and I was born in Evansville, Indiana. Totally unrelated events but, one thing is certain... I sure was a little heartbreaker. (Photo: Check out my naturally curly hair and devastating good looks.)
Unfortunately, during my childhood I was plagued with allergies and asthma so, I often had to stay inside and receive allergy shots on a daily basis. This meant I was forced to find less physical activities to entertain myself. That's probably why I developed an early interest in drawing.
In 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the surface of the moon and my brother Chuck was born. A weightless enviroment might have been better for Chuck. He weighed a whopping 10 pounds at birth. With a little brother around I had something new to keep me entertained. Being a big brother can be so much fun. (Evil laugh.)
After our deadbeat Dad left I had to spend a lot of time watching my little brother while Mom worked to support the family. My Mother passed away a couple of years ago and during her life she had to make numerous sacrifices to provide for her two sons. But, I think she knew how much we both appreciated all that she had done for us and how much we would miss her when she was gone.
(On September 7, 1996 my brother gave up the bachelor life and married Beth... whom he met at an Elvis Birthday Party of all things. Then on October 10, 1998 they became parents when Alexander Paul was born. Alex became a big brother when Corrine Rose was born on August 25, 2000. Damn, these kids are almost as cute as I was at that age. Chuck and Beth may disagree with me on that.)
By the mid-seventies I had become quite... husky. Mom would say I was big boned. My asthma had made most physical activity difficult so I was often excused from Gym class. (Photo: My wardrobe choices left a lot to be desired. Egads!) It was at this time I was introduced to the wonderful world of comic books.
My lifelong friend Ed Keller, whom I met in the second grade, had a huge trunk full of comics his older brothers had given him. After school we would spend hours reading our favorite heroes four-color adventures. When we tired of reading we started drawing our own stories. As we drew our mini-comics I thought to myself, this is what I want to do when I grow up. (In 1989, Ed and I would combine talents on our short lived comic, "The Apex Project." We published this book under the company name, Steller Graphix. We combined our names, STone and KELLER, to make STELLER. How clever we were.)
To acomplish my goal of becoming a comic book artist I took all the art classes I could during grade school and high school. I even took an art class at the University of Evansville from cartoonist Tom Armstrong. Tom was an Evansville resident and is best known for his comic strip "Marvin."
In my Junior year it came to the attention of my homeroom teacher that I could draw. He begged and pleaded with me to take his graphic arts class. Now, I didn't really want to learn how to print useless stuff like hall passes or lunch tickets but, Mr. Robling was persistent. By my Senior year I was his assistant and half of my classes were spent in the graphic arts department. I would draw or design whatever was needed for publication, do all the prep work and finally print the job as well. My teacher called me his "workhorse" because I could do it all... from beginning to end.
Shortly after my high school graduation in 1982, I had reached my maximum density... almost 350 pounds! (Photo: My high school graduation picture. No more twinkies for me.) I took a year off to concentrate on drawing and to assemble a portfolio for submission purposes. In 1983 I was accepted into the Joe Kubert school of cartoon & graphic art. Our family didn't have a lot of money but Mom was able to scrimp and borrow enough so that I could attend.
For anyone whose thinking about a career in comic books or animation, I highly recommend the Kubert school. Unfortunately, I was only able to complete the first year of the three year course due to financial considerations.
When I returned home I spent a couple months doing artwork for a local basketball team, the Evansville Thunder. Their mascot was a superhero called... ThunderMan. Duh. I helped design a coloring book and some promotional materials and my compensation... season tickets to the Thunder basketball games. Oh, joy. Did I mention that I really hate sporting events?
Reality sets in... I had to find a real job. One that paid money. Needless to say, there weren't many openings for aspiring comic book artists in Evansville at the time. Fortunately, I had my high school graphic arts training to fall back on. Those were much more marketable skills and in 1985 I was hired as a pressman in the graphics department at Atlas Van Lines. At the time, I thought it would be a temporary job because I was sure I would be hired by DC or Marvel just any day.
While working at Atlas I still submitted art samples to comic book publishers. My big break came during the Chicago Comicon of 1985. I met Will Shetterly there and soon we were working on Captain Confederacy. Will's comic company, SteelDragon Press published a total of 14 issues of this what-if style comic. Captain Confederacy was neither a sensation nor a flop. It was more intellectual than most comics of the day and had what was called the most interesting letter's page in the industry.(Photo: I eventually lost my extra weight... and my hair in the process!)
In the late Eighties I had finally outgrown my asthma and was able to shed a lot of excess weight. In a year's time I lost 100 pounds and have been able to keep it off ever since. One unfortunate side effect of my dramatic weight loss seemed to be my rapidly receding hairline!
By the end of our 14 issue run with SteelDragon Press I thought Captain Confederacy was over but, it was picked up as a 4 issue mini-series by Marvel's Epic line. My dream was realized, I was drawing a book for Marvel comics. One problem, what I used to do for fun was now becoming a job. The money was okay but, the work consumed all my free time. I had been promoted to Senior Graphic Designer at Atlas and had grown accustomed to my 8:00 to 5:00 life.
Besides my hair, there was only one thing mising in my life... true love. That all changed when I met Jo Ann Curl in 1994. (Photo: Me and Jo Ann prior to my brother's wedding in 1996.) Jo Ann is one of those rare people whose life reads like a movie script. She was in the Navy, a Constable in Texas, an Evansville police officer, a Sherrif's Deputy, completed sex crime courses at the FBI, office manager for a local law firm and presently works on Atlas Van Lines' Help Desk. Whew! Jo Ann may be an unimposing figure at barely 5 feet tall but, she certainly knows how to take care of herself. And me, too. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
Jo Ann is a very outgoing person who shines in the spotlight while I am somewhat introverted. I'm a neat freak and Jo Ann... well, she tends to be slightly disorganized. I can be a hard ass at times while Jo Ann is extremely sympathetic. I guess the old adage is true... opposites do attract.
Then, on June 21, 1997, Jo Ann and I were wed in a very untraditional manner. By untraditional, I mean a full-blown Klingon wedding with hundreds of guests and participants in costume, numerous articles in the paper and every local TV news crew present to videotape the event. I even hear that some of our wedding footage ended up on CNN. Did I mention that I met my wife at a Star Trek function and that she really likes dressing up like a Klingon?
Jo Ann was able to get me into a Klingon costume for the wedding but, I drew the line at the forehead and makeup. I did however, get my brother back for making me wear a tuxedo at his wedding. He had to wear my Klingon makeup. (Evil laugh once again.)
When I first met Jo Ann her constant companion, and fellow Klingon, was Sarah Burgett. The pair were inseparable. Things haven't changed much since Jo and I were married. We still spend most of our free time with Sarah... whether that's going to Star Trek conventions, watching movies, traveling or just hanging out. But, I'm not complaining... Sarah's a good friend... and a much better cook than my wife. Pleeeaaasssee don't tell Jo Ann that I said Sarah was a better cook. Jo Ann still has her delusions of being a domestic goddess. (Photo: Sarah and Jo Ann pose with Deep Space Nine's resident barfly, MORN.)
Remember how my job at Atlas Van Lines was only going to be temporary? Well, I've been with the company almost 35 years now and I was recently promoted to Creative Design Manager of Graphic Services.
||"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while... you could miss it."
-Ferris Bueller's Day Off