This is the recollection of John Hebert, FantaCo customer, who became John Hebert, FantaCo artist. It's always...interesting...to read about yourself with details that you've long forgotten.
Let's see, where to begin, well, how about at THE BEGINNING!?! I'd been trying to break into comics for quite awhile, even managing to get to the point where I was being coached in art from the legendary Mike Zeck- he of Punisher, Captain America and Secret Wars fame due to his growing up in Florida with my life drawing teacher which brings us to the gist of this. I was just about to graduate from The Junior College of Albany with my Associates in Graphic Design, but had no idea where to go from there with no "bites" in big time comics, I, like so many others just graduated or about to graduate feared the onset of the phrase "Would you like fries with that?" but the fickle finger of fate was, as so often in my life, about to beckon out of nowhere.
It was a hot Friday afternoon in May of 1986, and I was on my way to JCA for graduation practice and, for once, I was running EARLY. With time to kill, I decided to slip into FantaCo - the legendary Albany, NY comic shop (and sometimes publishing house) which had been supplying me with my weekly dose of mind-decay for several years and pick up that weeks new comics (that way, I'd have something to read while the windbags were prattling on at grad practice). Anyway, I popped in, grabbed my books and waited patiently in line at the counter whilst one Roger Green rang up customers ahead of me. When it was my turn at the register and the customary greetings had been exchanged, Roger spake the words that legends would be formed from (at least in my mind at the time).
"Hi Raj," I smiled, "How's it goin'?"
"Say, John, are you still drawing?" Roger asked, casually looking up over his glasses while bagging the latest Jerry Ordway opus.
"Yep, sure am, in fact I'm just about to graduate from art school on Sunday, why do you ask?"
Well, we're about to start publishing again.", he said, continuing to bag my books, "... and we might just be in search of an artist."
Oh, man, this couldn't have come at a better time! I immediately went into a long babbling, run-on sentence detailing how I'd been taken under the wing of Mike Zeck, how I was really getting good and how I'd be delighted to grab my ever-present portfolio from the car. I tossed cash on the counter, grabbed my bag o' funnybooks and darted for the door without waiting for my change and ignoring Roger's statements that it could wait. I got out to the steaming sidewalk of Central Ave. and was halfway to the car when it hit me-
"The Car!?!?!" Dammit, for once in my life, I wasn't driving MY car, but that of my grandmother while my beloved, trusty Camaro (which I've owned TWENTY FIVE YEARS as of the day after this writing) sat, with my portfolio nestled in its undersized, yet cushy back seat, in my garage in Wynantskill. Why did I for once, heed my mother's request to give my grandmother's Chevette a "good run and a gas up"?!? I stalked back into the store, hastily explaining my tale of woe to Roger who told me that it would be just fine for me to return on Monday, but I was having NONE of it. Criminals may be a cowardly and superstitious lot, but wanna-be comic arteests are a driven and obsessive lot. I promised I'd be back "in a few" with my portfolio and dashed out the door.
It usually takes around 25 minutes to a half hour to make it from FantaCo's then-location to Stately Hebert Manor in scenic North Greenbush, but that day despite the valiant little Chevy's seemingly anemic 4 cylinder motor, I made it in just over 15 minutes (POSSIBLY bending a speed limit or 3), ran into the house, grabbed my keys, jumped into "Trigger The Wonder Camaro", cranked it over("Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed...") and jetted back to Albany in even less time (POSSIBLY fracturing even more speed limits but I fail to recall). Squealing my tires,I slid into a parking spot right in front of FantaCo, vaulting from the driver's seat, grabbing my battered portfolio and charging into the store, loudly proclaiming that I had returned as Roger stood behind the counter, holding up one index finger for me to wait as 3 oily haired people who looked as though they'd spent way too much time in the basement of some science building stared on blankly.
It seemed to take forever as Roger rang up his customers, at least long enough for me to memorize all of the cast list on the "Dawn Of The Dead" poster on the west wall and the eclectic contents of the display counter while a green latex Yoda mask stared benignly from within.
Finally, Roger beckoned me over to the counter and I threw the 'port up on the scratched glass top and he began to flip through it, closely studying the fruits of my labors, leaving me to fidget and hum. Roger mmm'ed and aaahhh'ed over the Batman and Squadron Supreme pages as I chewed the inside of my cheek raw. By the time he looked up, smiling, I had become sure that one of the tiny glass coffins with "Genuine Transylvanian Dracula Grave Soil" had moved on its own within the case and that the aforementioned Yoda mask had winked at me.
Roger told me that FantaCo was, indeed about to begin publishing some comics once more after a self-imposed hiatus and that an illustrator was needed. He told me that he liked what he was seeing and that as far as he was concerned, I was "it" but that I'd have to wait to talk to Tom (Skulan) the following week as he was on vacation. Great, the carrot was dangled and I had all weekend to sweat it out, but Roger again told me that there shouldn't be a problem as my work had progressed significantly since he'd last seen it and that I was indeed "getting good". I thanked him, vowed to return on Monday and fled to grad practice on cloud nine. Within an hour, I'd told everybody and anybody at grad practice that it looked as though I'd snared my first comic project to the point where I'd been shushed back to the stone age by the rehearsal Nazis, but I didn't care. "It" was happening, and I could tell be the amount of well-wishers,sycophants and out and out suck-ups who were surrounding me, seething with envy and trying to "hitch their wagon to me"- even those who never had anything to do with comics were asking me to get them work. It felt good - too good. After practice FINALLY ended, I popped the T-tops off of the Camaro and drove rather quickly to my then-girlfriend's house to share the big news as I couldn't get a hold of her since I'd spoken to Roger and there were no car phones at that point outside of Banacek reruns. I walked into her house to find her sitting on the front stairs and when she asked what was new I said "Oh, nothing much, I just got hired to do my FIRST COMIC BOOK!!!!" Her eyes lit up, she dove off the stairs into my arms and proclaimed; "Now, we can get MARRIED!!!!"
I was in real trouble but hadn't figured it out yet.
To be continued............
John's bio - written by John: John Hebert has been many things...or he's been CALLED many things. He was a semi successful comic book artist drawing such title as X-Men Adventures, Punisher, Nomad and Deathlok for Marvel as well as Jonny Quest, Wild Wild West and Mars Attacks for various other publishers. After leaving comics, he went on to become a firefighter, EMT, and fingerprint examiner which he remains to this day as a supervisor at the NY State Division Of Criminal Justice Services, helping to keep our streets safe-by keeping himself off of them as much as possible. Born in the far away land known as Wynantskill, NY, he now makes his home in Albany where he dabbles in politics, tending his car collection and pushing the envelope in pretty much whatever he does. The self proclaimed "Hunter S. Thompson of comic book art" has recently begun a return to comics after a lengthy exile, excitedly taking on some Captain Action assignments for Moonstone Publishing as well as a super top secret project involving a character with a red cape and a name that begins with "S" and ends with "N". He can be reached at Hawkeyepierced@yahoo.com
This series will be continued approximately once a week.