8/10/2011

Fan Boy of Mike Zeck


When I was 16, I wrote a fan letter to Mike Zeck.
I first saw Zeck's work in “RBCC”
[ Rocket's Blast Comic Collector ], and mailed it to the editor James Van Hise.

I didn't know he had forwarded the letter to Mike.

Not thinking about a reply, one day the mail arrived and a package came from Mike. Inside was a thank you note, and I think a few photocopies of pencils he was doing for a fill-in issue of “Master of Kung-Fu” [ MOKF ], for Marvel Comics. Wow...it was fan boy heaven! I can't tell you how many times I must have read the letter and stared at the pencil copies.

I finalIy looked at the return address. It was from “Hollywood!”

FLORIDA!

Hollywood, Florida. A place I had never heard of before but soon found out it was in the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami, Florida area. I knew that the fanzine, “RBCC” was being published in that area, but never thot Mike would be a fellow “Floridian!”

I sent a letter back to Mike directly and included a few sketches, thinking I could impress him with my scarey drawing ability. In about a week, perhaps two, I received another package from my new friend “Mike” and he had drawn over my work with a red marker showing me some of the drawing mistakes I had made on my masterpieces. Also, if memory serves me correctly, privy to a full set of 11 x 17” photocopies of pencils Mike had finished for his fill-in issue of 'MOKF' in this package!

Being one to take another step, I called 411 to find if “Mike Zeck's” phone number was listed in the Hollywood, Florida area. Comes to find out he was. I got the number and asked my parents would it be okay with them to call him. I let them know I would keep the call short and pay the long distance bill when it arrived. For those of you who don't know, long distance calls used to be charged by the minute, and in-state calls were always more than out of state.

My parents agreed and I nervously sat down to call “Mike Zeck!”

After a few rings, a lady answered the phone and I asked her, “Is Mike there?”
She replied, “Yes, let me get him for you.”

It seemed like a long time while I awaited to hear Mike say “hello” to me, but finally I heard the phone being picked up, I began to get a bit nervous and heard someone say, “Hello? This is Mike.”

I answered, “Hi Mike, this is John Beatty...your fan in Daytona Beach.”
Who?” the other voice replied.

John Beatty,” I said again. “You are Mike Zeck the comic book artist, aren't you?”
Oh, no, that's my son. Let me get him for you.”

Another voice picked up and said, “Hello?”

Mike,” I repeated, “this is John Beatty...your fan in Daytona Beach.”
Oh, hi John.” the voice answered.
I hope it's okay that I called? I only have a few minutes to talk.” said in my best, trying to not sound nervous voice. 

I thanked him for the copies and the corrections to my art, and probably told him more than once what a big fan of his work I was.

I don't remember much more of the conversation, but it must have went okay, because I think Mike and I talked for around 15 to 20 minutes, before I told him I had to go and hoped it would be okay if I called again, when I could afford to.

We kept in touch thru the mail mostly. He was always gracious to reply to my mail with notes and copies of his work.

I also found thru talking with him that he had done work for Charlton Comics, and I found some of those books at a used book store that was in town.

At some time, I didn't hear back from him. Thinking perhaps he had grown tired of my letters, I was afraid to call his house.

One nite, must have been around 9:30 at nite, the phone rang at my house. My mother called to me and said I had a call.

I picked up the phone and said, “Hello?”
Hey, it's Mike Zeck.” the voice on the phone said.
No, it's not...” I replied.
Yeah, I've moved to Connecticut to be closer to New York and do comics.” he replied.
Sorry I've been out of touch, but I've been very busy with getting things set up here.”

By that time I did know it was Mike Zeck. I was thrilled he called and we talked for around 30 minutes, maybe more. He gave me his new number, and said for me to feel free to call.

He also said he was going to be sending me copies of his pencils, once the printed book was on the stands. I believe at this time he had just started doing 'MOKF' as his monthly gig, which he got because of the earlier issue “fill-in” he had done in a week. It had impressed Marvel enough that they wanted him to take over the book, and he was ready to be a “monthly” artist with a book.

Along with the photocopies he sent, usually he included the script to the work so I could read Doug Moench's story and see how Mike broke it down. Doug's stories were typed out, usually around 25 plus pages, which Mike fit into 17 pages of art.

It was very informative to see Mike's notes and sometimes ideas on the scripts, maybe a small thumbnail of the pages layout, or something underlined that Mike felt would be an important part of the story.

These package's began to arrive each month, and I got to see Mike's pencils progress and change as he worked issue to issue.

I wanted to practice inking the pages but had no way to do it. I decided that I needed to have a light table so I could put bristol board over the copies and ink them.

I had to find a way to get the money and where to purchase one...

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

this is awesome..wish i had thought of it..but i "know" John Beatty..and i even called his house once.

Mike Cross

Anonymous said...

Interesting story. I hope you will wrote more about Mike.

Jan

Leif Peng said...

What a great story, John -- thanks for sharing this with us! Incidentally, I met Gene Day at a comic con here in Hamilton at the time he was inking MOKF over Zeck - and bought my first ever page of original art from him, from MOKF #78, I think it was. I was a big Mike Zeck fan (and MOKF fan) and still am! :^)

Craig Zablo said...

Nice.

Little John said...

This is a great story. Looking forward to hearing more.

Mike Moran said...

That is cool! I love Mike Zecks stuff also. Huge fan of his GI Joe covers.

John Beatty said...

Mike...you know I inked a lot of those "Joe" covers, don't-cha? :)

Story is going to progress...