I have Tom Yeates to thank for introducing me to Al Williamson. Al was one of Tom’s personal heroes and he’d tracked him down while we were still at Kubert School. It was after we graduated and Tom and I were sharing an art/crash pad with Steve Bissette and John Totleben that one day the phone rang. I picked it up and it was Al. We spoke briefly although I was a little tongue-tied since Al was one of my personal heroes too. Al quickly dispelled such pedestal placing and invited me to join Tom for the next visit.
Accompanied by my new girlfriend, Cindy, we drove up to Al’s place in Calicoon PA. It was a great old rambling farmhouse overlooking the river. Al introduced us to his wife Cori and she and Cindy immediately began a bonding process that lasts to this day. Al invited us up to his studio on the third floor and we went gaga over the EC original art he kept pulling out of the closet.
Al was completing disarming; funny and self deprecating while obviously a fan at heart. He wasn’t like the other adult cartoonists we’d met. He was more like us; very young in spirit, not cynical in the least. Having lived in Columbia and Mexico and traveled extensively to Europe he had an international flair and a deep perspective on what comics really were. More importantly he possessed a strong grasp of the historical roots of our art form as it had been handed down to him by Roy Krenkel. He looked at all our feeble samples and had many encouraging and constructive things to say.
We spent part of the afternoon helping him split wood (which allowed this Vermont boy to show off to Cindy who I was trying mightily to impress). Cori put on a huge meal after which Al set up his projector and showed us a technicolor print of the Errol Flynn Robin Hood. Our little group headed back to New Jersey that night completely dazzled. As kids, this was how we had imagined the life of a cartoonist to be!
A few months later we heard Al and Cori were moving household a few towns over and Tom , I and fellow Kubie Kim Demulder offered to help. We spent a weekend packing boxes, lugging furniture and loading trucks. And we moved original art; lots of it. It slowly dawned on me that these ornate frames I was carrying contained some of the most beautiful examples of comic art ever created. More soon.