Monday, December 29, 2014

The Perils of Charlie


Even being one of the most rational, least superstitious people I know, once in a while I find a coincidence so improbable it brings me up short. The latest involves the comic book above: Superman The Man of Steel #44, cover date May 1995.

Karen and I were trolling through an antiques shop on Sunday when I came across a stack of comic books with that issue sitting atop it. Now, you might think that I, being a comics and cartooning kinda guy, would be all over old comic books. Not at all. First, 1995 isn't old. Also, I already have all the comic books I want, and haven't had much interest in mainstream superhero comics in 25 years. I keep up with what's going on through the comics press (yes, there's a comics press), but actually thumbing through a Superman comic book? Haven't done it in years.

But something about that cover grabbed me, and after circling around the vendor's stall I came back to it, picked it up, and opened it. My loud guffaw echoed through the large shop.


I could have randomly picked up any one of a million comic books and not found someone I know, and whose caricature I instantly recognized, on Page 1. 


Son of a gun.

Before Charlie Kochman was my book editor and friend, he worked for MAD Magazine and DC Comics, where Superman writer Louise Simonson and artist Jon Bogdanove thought enough of him to put him in their book. Not just for a one-off cameo, either! Superman took four pages to save Charlie from a bomb planted in his office (click any of these images to see them larger).




Let's break it down. In 1995, a friend of Charlie's puts him in a comic book that nearly 20 years later is sitting on top of a pile that I happen to notice for no particular reason and randomly open to the page he's on.

I can't . . . I don't even . . . I mean, what are the ODDS?

Not that this sort of thing is unusual for Charlie. He's got a lot of friends in comics who seem to take twisted glee in torturing him. I don't have a compendium of examples--maybe he does--but a favorite I have handy is the graphic novel Kingdom Come, a "what if" alternative future story featuring Superman, Batman and the Justice League, written by Mark Waid and beautifully rendered by Alex Ross. 

We first meet Charlie aboard a tram being threatened by a supervillain:

Circled in blue, with a panicky look that I've also seen on his face near deadline.

A couple of pages later, we see Charlie's not doing too well, having been gut-shot in the crossfire:


However, by the end of the story he's made a remarkable recovery, sitting in a superhero-themed diner next to a table where an aged Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, and Diana Prince are enjoying lunch:


Although I'd never seen that issue of Superman, I knew some of Charlie's literary legacy when I did Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow, and I wanted to add to it. Mine was not the best-drawn doom Charlie had ever faced, but I like to think it was the most original. 

I fed him to a giant radioactive prairie dog.

BTW, I still think "furious buck-toothed justice" is one of the best things I ever wrote.

Bear in mind, that's how I treat people I like.

Some days you wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and go out to browse through an antiques store never suspecting that you'll run into a good friend 3000 miles and 20 years from home . . . AND find out he's a close personal friend of Superman's, which enormously increases my ranking in the "Six Degrees of Separation" game. I appreciate it, pal, and look forward to tormenting you again in the future.

This picture's several years old but we both look so sharp and handsome I had to use it.


3 comments:

Marion said...

A bit off-topic,, but novelist-Clark has long hair, Superman now has long hair and STILL no one notices?

Brian Fies said...

Ah yes, Superman's brief, lamented "Mullet Period." I don't think anybody noticed when they later got simultaneous haircuts, either.

I have a better but less funny answer. I think by this time in Superman's history, his writers (led by a reboot by John Byrne) took the clever tack that nobody knew Superman even HAD a secret identity. Why wouldn't they just expect him to be Superman all the time? Why would Superman ever tell anyone otherwise? WE know he pretends to be a normal human but nobody in his world would have any reason to think such a thing, making the Kent disguise a little more credible I think.

Editor Charlie said...

Thanks, Bud. Too funny! I'll have to send you some others! Love that comic and honored Alex Ross and Louise Simonson and Jon Jon Bogdanove made me part of the DC Universe. How fun you stumbled across it after all these years.