I was asked to accompany Janet, Joe and some of their friends for an evening out in New York. We met at restaurant and everyone one was already there, by the time I arrived with Joe. We ordered drinks and looked at menus and then the strangest thing happened they asked me to say something, anything. So I did, I asked them what did they want me to say and there were smiles and a few excited giggles.
It eventually came out that the friends had never heard a Brit accent for real before and I was the token Brit, so they wanted to hear me speak. I remember making them all laugh because we all have different accents, even with neighbouring towns herein the UK, whereas the Americans, seem to think they don’t have any accents, which they so obviously do, as I explained in part 9.
The meal and the company were equally great and I had a great time amongst these new folks, although I was never to see any of them again, except for Janet and Joe, of course.
It was now December and the run up to Christmas, one of my favourite times of year. Once more Su had something new to show me and down at the Rockefeller Centre the Pumpkins had been changed to large statues of Angels blowing trumpets, following the Halloween season.
For anyone who may not know this, the Rockefeller Centre was shown in the final scenes of the original Home Alone film with Macaulay Culkin. The scene where the young actor stands looking at an enormous Christmas tree over looking the ice skating rink is where I was now standing and the film did not show the true scale of the Christmas tree, which was huge! The decorations were beautiful and made the whole area totally Christmassy.
The skating rink, which had been created below the Rockefeller Centre, was awash with skaters whizzing along on their thin blades leaving a line drawing etched in the ice behind them. It was just like looking at any American Christmas movie, which explained why they do them so well.
Saturday morning saw early arrivals from all our little band of video John Woo buffs and the day consisted of us watching, with only refreshment and toilet breaks between each. We watched: Hard Boiled, Bullet in the Head, The Killer, A Better Tomorrow, and A Better Tomorrow 2 – five consecutive films, one after the other. It changed Defiant forever…
That afternoon, before we all went our separate ways, the office was filled with the sounds of gun fire, machine gun fire, ricocheting bullets and explosions, not from the videos, they had long since ended, they came from each of us that had been watching them. The slow motion, used in the films, of actors diving about the scenes firing an inordinate amount of unfeasibly bullet-laden guns, which exploded everywhere, including wood was there to be emulated.
The John Woo session was to influence office gunfight sessions (at every opportunity) to the amusement of the other office staff that had not been privileged to have been present at the marathon video event.
Fellow Brit comic artist Charlie Adlard joined us in the Bullpen pencilling and inking Dark Dominion Issue #4 to give Joe more lead time to the book. Oclair was given the assignment to colour the book, which allowed me to work on the other books and join Joe on Dark Dominion issue#5. He also became my second roommate at the apartment. Yes you guessed there would be more of them. Charlie is also a fast artist and he amazed the guys with the speed with which he pencilled and inked the book and really got the book out very fast, which also helped Oclair who was painting the pages in Brazil.
One day, when Charlie who was sat at the next drawing board to mine was well on with issue #4, I noticed Rob LaQuinta heading my way, walking in the aisle in front of this front row of drawing boards. There was something about his demeanour, which warned me of impending doom, or at least an attack. Maybe it was the awareness I had gained through watching the John Woo videos, or maybe it was just I knew Rob too well, but as he approached I began to rise in slow motion.
As I did so, Rob dropped the sheets of paper he had been carrying and again in slow motion reached for two guns (imaginary of course). As he did I was reaching for a pump action shotgun and my Uzi (again obviously invisible to all except our group of John Woo fanatics). Rob leapt in slow motion, until he leapt for real firing round after round of pistol bullets at me, whilst I leapt in slow motion, until I too hit the office floor for real firing round after round of shotgun ammo at him.
The funniest thing about this was, the others in our little gang of mirth-makers turned and moving in slow motion, each gathered their guns and began firing also, much to the amusement of the rest of the office.
The cacophony of noise as we made the sound FX of gun fire, shotgun fire, Uzi 9mm’s, ricochets and explosions had Charlie in stitches and brought Jim out of his office to see his creative and production staff shooting the heck out of each other with bodies flying all around the office. By this time I had sat down having replaced my imaginary shotgun and Uzi’s back in their rightful places, replacing them once more with my trusty brushes. Jim looked at me, smiled, shook his head and said, “I might have know it was the crazy Brit…” Everyone in the office was helpless laughing and for a while this became a regular occurrence, even with folks outside of the video event.
I was quite often watching two, or more of the guys in some kind of shoot-out. You had to be there to appreciate the humour of it all, but whilst it lasted it was great fun to see and to be involved in and a welcome interlude to the long hours at the drawing boards.
I suggested Su and Ben worked on the book and I would oversee and help out where I could. Ed told me he didn’t think they were ready. I disagreed, having seen their work on the samples they had been producing, since Janet had asked me to taken then under my wing. I felt that without a chance being given how would they ever be deemed ready. Ed still insisted they weren’t yet ready. So I said quite simply that he had a choice to make.
The choice was simple too, either; let the book remain with me alone and guarantee not to be ready on time, or let Su and Ben come on board with me to oversee their work and help out on the paint job giving the book a chance of being ready in time. What was there to lose, if the two colourists didn’t turn in the goods then what had he lost? I was not going to have time to get the book out alone, the pages were still being pencilled, let alone inked.
So it was that Su and Ben got their first chance at a book of their own and to my mind, rightly so, they really were ready. The published comic proved they were ready, maybe it wasn’t as good as their work would be in another three months, but that’s all part of being an artist and working for real on stuff. If you have what it takes your work progresses. Theirs did and I am glad I stuck to my guns. So was Ed when he saw the first of their pages and so was Janet too. It meant the new addition of colourist/painters at Defiant and these two guys had come up through the ranks too, which was even better.
One night I had been working late and before I knew it, it was 5:00 in the morning, so rather then pack up and walk back to the apartment, I decided to sleep on the floor at the side of my drawing board. I opted for the floor rather than the Defiant couch as it was near to the radiator. I soon fell asleep and then as through in a dream I began to hear sounds and then I awoke and, squinting my eyes, saw that there were folks in the office.
As I sat up I saw there was a piece of paper, which had lain on my chest.
It read: “How about a rousing chorus of God save the Queen for the crazy Brit”.
It was signed, Shooter.
Jim had come in to the office early and seeing me asleep had placed the notice on my chest, as I slept, realising it was after working yet again all night at the office.
I stood up and took off my jacket, stretched and sat at my drawing board. Jim popped his head out of his offices, smiled and winked. He knew I was working hard and he appreciated it.
Photos taken by Jim Shooter
And then it was the night before I was to leave everyone and it was decided that everyone was to go to a bar/restaurant, in lieu of my being unable to attend the Defiant Christmas Party. The only problem was there were a few interns, who were under aged and could not get in, despite our trying several places.
The interns wished us all a great night and disappeared into the night, once it had been established they were simply not going to get in any of the places we had tried. It must have looked like a scene from a Conan film with jugs of beer accompanying the meal.
The trouble was most of the guys there just couldn’t hold their drink and the merriment of the evening had folks trying desperately to speak English, without success. You know the kind of nights when all your mates really love you and you are told they think you are great…yes well it was one of those nights, with the only thing missing to my mind being someone swinging from the light fittings above the long table we were all at. The meal was great and as I say there was lots of beer and many drunken folks. I was introduced to Amaretto by Zack and Rob and I have to say I am now hooked on the stuff.
Everyone had a fantastic time and we left in the early hours and some would regret this evening’s mirthfulness, when the next morning finally arrived.
I had packed before going out that evening, so it was just a matter of getting my suitcase, hand luggage and Portfolio to the offices and then to JFK for the return trip home. I got a taxi with Charlie and as I paid for the ride Charlie got the stuff from the boot of the taxi. I turned to Charlie and he said he had all my stuff from out the boot. We went up to the offices and it was then that I asked Charlie for my brushes, as Su and Ben wanted me to finish off a page for them, before I left. Charlie then asked, which brushes…I knew then they were lost. He had seen a plastic bag in the boot, but had not realised it belonged to me.
Amongst the prized brushes I had was a large squirrel hair wash brush, which to this day I have never managed to replace, and it was a beautiful brush to use as well. Charlie was very upset at not having taken them out although he had meant to help me out, but I told him not to worry, it was just one of those things.
As I have already said, all the guys in the office wanted me to stay for the Defiant Christmas Party, but I told them that I just couldn’t and I really had to get back to see my family now. There was a tinge of sadness at this, as I would dearly have loved to join them there in the offices over a glass or two of eggnog and all the other festive goodies, but the lure of returning home to my young family, especially at this season and some five months away from them was no competition.
The party hadn’t finished the night before, however, and a surprise was in store, as the office had arranged for a not quite so impromptu office party had been arranged. There were cakes and pies and sandwiches and lots of nibbles and as you can see in the photo above there was more than my fair share of weight added to my frame during my five months there in NYC.
At the passport control, where all the bags are X-rayed my suitcase went through and the woman operating the machine asked what the odd shaped object was and I told her it was a Nerf Gun. Even back in 1993 that was enough to have several armed security police officers reach for theirs and other members of staff turn to look to.
He asked me to repeat what it was and when I said it for a second time the guy behind her, who knew what they were said, “Oh cool I got one of those for my son last month, which one is it?” So as they were checking the bag anyhow, I showed them which one it was. By now there was a small crowd of security, no longer worried about a gun, but wanting to see this cool toy.
My bag re-packed and checked in I boarded the plane home. The flight home was uneventful with the usual meals and films to watch, which passed the time away quite quickly.
Now I have to tell you guys that at this point no one knew I was coming home having spoken to my family on the previous evening, their time GMT, except my sister-in-law, with whom I had hatched a plot to return home without their knowing, as a surprise.
Well the plane touched down and I met my sister-in-law and she drove me home from the airport. We arrived home and I stayed in the car almost lying down in the front passenger seat, hiding. We had timed it to perfection; Margaret was locking the door, expecting her sister to be taking the kids to school and her to work.
But that was before Margaret opened the door and saw me there. The look of shock and happiness will stay with me forever as one of those magical moments when the world is perfect, just for those few moments.
Well as well as the smiles there were a few tears all around and it was decided that today was going to be one of those days, which would be a day off school and work. A day to play catch up and do all the things a family does, especially one that has been estranged for so long.
The full realisation of just how much weight I had put on was fully realised when I tried to put on clothes from my wardrobe and nothing fit me anymore. It was all too tight. I decided I would have to exercise and eat less, which being back in the UK and eating home-cooked meals and not as many take-aways and more manageable portions, would mean back to my normal weight.
Well it was a perfect time to return home as it was the run up to Christmas, during Christmas week and a time to do more Christmas shopping and high on that was the food list – oh well the diet could wait.
In a quiet moment I remembered the book Joe had so kindly given to me and I opened it to see what he had not wanted me to see whilst at the airport. Joe had written a dedication on the inside first page. I have chosen not to share that with you, as it is something special between two friends, suffice it to say it brought a tear to my eye and I realised why he didn't want me to see it whilst at JFK.
Now for those of you that have been reading about my exploits at Defiant from part 1, you may remember in part 6 I mentioned our family trip to “Gwynt Y Mor” in North Wales, where our car broke down. Well whilst out doing some UK-style Christmas shopping with Margaret the car broke down again, just as we pulled onto our drive and so with only time to take out our shopping I asked Margaret to get back in the car with me, because if it started we were going to buy a new one.
I had only had the car for about three months, before going out to New York the first week, but the car had not been a big enough jump in years between my old car and this, so I knew we needed to get a newer model.
It was soon Christmas day and it was perfect, it snowed. It felt like our lives were taking a total turn for the better and this Christmas was just perfect and it seemed as though life was getting better all the time.
We opened our presents and the entire holiday season week was full of meals at restaurants, parties, and family fun at our house, as well as our parents’, sibling’s and friend’s houses. New Year saw us celebrate with the traditional Haggis supper and life continued to be good. It felt to me like all the traditional Christmas films all rolled into one were being re-enacted before my very eyes.
Joanne and Simon opening some of their presents
A view from the Bottom of the Front Garden
All the while, in the quiet moments, I began to work on the pages of Dark Dominion issue #5, which I had brought with me from NYC, between Christmas and New Year.
Then one evening the day after New Year I received a call from the States from Janet. It was great to hear from her and I wished her a Happy New Year. She wished me the same and then said, “Can you come out again – the deadlines on all the books are shot to pieces again?”
But I’ll share that in my next Blog.
Until next time have fun!