Darlin' Dick Ayers
Just when you think you're getting even slightly jaded something comes along that makes you sit up, take notice and realise that even if the world isn't the nicest place to be, some of the people in it are just the best ever.
In stores this past month is the third volume of The Dick Ayers Story. There's three volumes in the series, each as good as the other, and the concept of a comic book artist drawing his life story is nothing short of brilliant. I'm sure there's going to be several people who'll point towards other artists who've done similar projects, but hey - I like it.
I had the chance to interview Dick waaaay back when and I'll say up front he's a true gentleman. I'd long been a huge fan of his, my brother and myself used to pour over Dick's issues of Sgt Fury with a certain degree of glee, and more than once I was removed from a class for calling a teacher a 'chicken scratchin', paper hangin' yellow bellied ratzi', a fact that Dick was most amused at when I recounted it to him. So when the chance came to speak to Dick I lept at the chance and placed the call. During the course of our conversation he told me about meeting Milton Caniff and how nervous he was at the time. I asked him if he knew that he has that effect upon people himself and he's very aware that he does, hence he goes out of his way to be as nice as possible, patient and accessible. Funnily enough Dick was in the middle of issue one (I think) of his autobiography, yet still gave me a full interview - I've encountered some professionals that'll rapidly turn down a request for an interview because they gave one a few years back. I've also come across people who'll not even give you the courtesy of responding to an email. Not Dick.
One of my favourite pieces of art on the wall is a Sgt Fury & Captain America pencilled drawing by Dick - and most people comment about how good it is and it's hanging in an alcove alongside three Captain America drawings: two preliminary covers by Steve Rude and a sketch by Mike Zeck - yet people will sit and stare at Dick's drawing and flatter it. Somehow I think that's the way it should be, and I doubt that either Zeck or The Dude would mind at all to taking second fiddle to Dick Ayers.
If you get a chance then pick up the three volumes of Darlin' Dick Ayers' autobiography. The whole package is full of fun, it has it's darker moments (but then what life doesn't?) and there's some sadness. Overall it's a life, and it's a life well lived and rich in it's scope. I wish I could write or live a life half as full as what Dick has. I don't usually give out recommendations, and I don't usualy review things but this gets my highest recommendation - go and buy it. Hey - I did. it can be ordered by clicking on this link: Century Comics Web-Store. Unlike other web-sites I pay for my stuff, I don't get anything for free. Which reminds me, I'm gonna go and buy another sketch from Dick Ayers.
Here's the covers to the three volumes:
As for my favourite panel in the book, well there's just too many to mention. There's a great panel where a young Ayers chews out a certain Pvt Nick Fury in the Army, but this, to me, was one of the best Christmas presents I've ever gotten:
Hey - that's me he's talking about!!! Mentioned in Dick Ayer's autobiography - does it get any better? I doubt it.
Seeya all in the New Year!