Remembering Dave Simons
A year ago I was sitting at this very table just relaxing when Bob Shaw popped up on my G-Mail instant messenger. At the time my heart sank because deep down I knew what he was about to tell me. “I just got off the phone with Bette,” he said, “Dave just passed away.” The news hit me like a truck. Even though I thought I was ready for this as I’d mentally prepared myself after speaking to Dave about a month previously, and I knew he was very, very ill, the shock was incredible. Bob was in tears, without speaking to him I knew that he was in a bad shape. We just sat and talked, on line, for a while, just consoling each other, and then he asked if I could notify those who were close to Dave and make the official announcement. “Better it come from someone close to Dave than from someone who never knew him.” I prepared an email, and, still in shock, sent it out and waited.
Replies began to come in, people were naturally stunned; Gene Colan was distraught; Walt Simonson and Bob Budiansky expressed his deep sadness. The phone rang and I found myself talking with Alan Weiss, a close friend. Alan just wanted to talk Dave, and also wanted to share a toast, which we did, two men on opposite sides of the world, toasting Dave Simons through the phone.
I had been in touch with Dave right up to near the end. The last email contact I had with him was about two days before he passed away. It was funny, one of my cats had gone missing and Dave, whom I’d told, was very worried. In a series of incidents that, as my wife would say, could only happen to me, I got my cat back, but in the process fell out of a tree, leapt over a neighbours fence and broke down a shed door, all the time being scratched to the point of my nearly requiring stitches. When I calmed down I wrote the story down and sent it over to Dave who replied almost instantly about how he’d nearly injured himself laughing at the thought of me leaping over fences and going through doors at 6:00am on a winter’s morning, in the rain. He then made me promise that I’d look after myself, my wife Lyndal and, most importantly, my cats. Dave loved his cat, Smokey, and he knew how upsetting it was to have a cat go missing. That was the last email that I got from Dave.
I’d gotten a large package from Dave in the mail only a few weeks beforehand. We’d talked about the contents as it was packed, as usual, for Dave had decided to send over everything that was lying about the place. We’d recently wrapped up an interview that we’d done via the instant chat feature of Facebook – another of Dave’s ideas – and he wanted to know what I’d learned from looking at his art, in particular the preliminaries, which, to my eye, looked more like finished pencils than most people’s work. I told him that I’d learned that he was able to transfer a lot of the energy that was evident in his prelims over to the finished product. Dave was happy with that.
Dave was self-depreciating about his work. He knew it was good, he knew that a lot of his work, both pencils and inks, were as good as anyone else’s out there, and in a lot of cases, better. When I first spoke to him he found it difficult to take praise, but then that might have just been the way I framed it. Towards the end he knew what he meant and how good he was. He loved his web-site and insisted that I keep doing it. He was loyal as well – once we had the site up and running a few people approached Dave and offered to take it over and build a better site, for a cost, of course. To all of them Dave politely declined and told them that unless they began to pay him, then they’d not be able to better my offer of a free site. He’d make it a point of asking them all for suggestions and then passing the good ones onto me to implement them.
“What were you thinking of for a Ghost Rider? I'll tell you one I had in mind: Ghost Rider on his bike, the cycle in profile, moving from the right to the left of the page. We see a uniformed schoolgirl's legs-she's been flung across his gas tank-plaid skirt flapping in the wind, flash of white panty. One of her penny-loafers has fallen off and bounces down the road. Ghost Rider has his head turned toward the camera and is giving us the finger. All black background behind the flames.” – Dave Simons
One of the things Dave would have been disappointed with was the fact that he wasn’t able to complete a commission that he’d been working on, King Lear, as performed by Magneto and the Scarlet Witch. Bob Almond finished it off and did a brilliant job, but the fact that Dave was still inking it when he was so sick he had to go into hospital proves how dedicated he was. If Dave said he was going to do something then you could put money on it being done, on time, and with a quality that is sometimes missing in other people’s best efforts.
“Here is my recipe for a winning comic book cover: Flame. Gorilla. Skull. Hot chick. Other elements of interest: Nazis, dinosaurs.” – Dave Simons
“The stupidest thing I ever did was turn down being the regular inker on Amazing Spider-Man over John Romita Jr. Idiotic.” -- Dave Simons
Dave Simons was a lot of things to a lot of people, but to virtually everyone that met him he was a friend. He was warm, friendly and genuine. I don’t think I ever heard Dave say a bad word about anyone in public, and I’ve yet to come across anyone who has a bad word to say about Dave. He helped a lot of people get to where they are today and when he needed help those people, and more, all rushed to assist him. Dave was resistant to the idea of an fundraiser at first, but when I told him that Bob Shaw and myself were going to do it regardless, he gave in and, rightly, said that he’d donated so much of his art, time and money, and indeed himself, over the years, that he guessed he was finally due. Indeed he was. He found humour in it, as only Dave could, by donating his own art to his own fundraiser.
It was that simple.
"Are you the Frank Robbins that draws Invaders?"
Some fanboy gushing on my part and he said I could come to his studio. I brought over some of my stuff which was heavily influenced by him. He was really nice, pointed out areas where I needed to improve, which at that time was almost everything. Personally he was a pretty goofy looking guy. Receding forehead and hairline. big beak of a nose. Receding chin. Prominent Adam’s apple. Thick horn-rimmed glasses. Hair a little on the long side.
Smoked cigarettes in a black cigarette holder.
He had these Swedish design sling back type chairs in his studio. You know the kind? From the 60s, canvas stretched over a wire frame. So when I came over he would sit in one and I'd take the other. I think they were red. Frank sat and stood and moved like his characters. Arms and legs at all sorts of odd angles.
So he's sitting in this low-slung chair like that. Invariably he would run out of lighter fluid for his Zippo. For the younger folks reading this, a Zippo has to be filled with naphtha fluid, not butane. In filling his lighter, he would invariably get the lighter fluid all over himself. Then he'd go to light his cigarette (in the cigarette holder) and set himself on fire. Then I'd be treated to the sight of Frank Robbins trying to put himself out, slapping away at his clothes with his arms flapping at all those weird Frank Robbins angles. I had to try not to laugh. Happened every time I visited.
I would only see him about once a month. I didn't want to be a pest. He told me, “You should quit trying to draw like me." When I asked why, he said "Nobody's hiring the real Frank Robbins, why should they hire a fake Frank Robbins?" Good advice, commercially, but somewhat sad.
I didn't see him much after that. Called to say hi a few times.” – Dave Simons
"I am the Melter!"
“Uh...what do you melt?"
"Old crayons, mostly." – Dave Simons
Happy Trails Dave, we miss you and we love you.