It was towards the end of the summer of 77 on 45th and 9th. The party was winding down and Autumn was falling upon the City. I was in the midst of finishing the first book of Ms. Mystic with Neal Adams and a Princess Projectra back-up story for the Legion with Paul Levitz. Mike Friedrich stopped by Continuity and networked the studio in preparation for the publishing of the 12th issue of Star*Reach. He came into the back room and invited me to participate by contributing the first color story in his above-ground comic book. Marv Wolfman called to ask If I'd like to pencil the John Carter Warlord of Mars series he was launching as an editor at Marvel. "We have a little time," he said, "so maybe, in the meantime, you'd like to come up with the character designs for the book". "Sounds great", I said.
The fall of the summer of 77 on 45th and 9th fell upon me like a boulder falls upon a gnat. I was 21 years old and beginning to awaken to the reality that the party of the summer was an exception and that a far more serious affair now awaited me in the road ahead. It was a time of solemn pondering and hard work. The project with Neal, the work with Paul and the invitations by Mike and Marv were indications that a certain measure of success had been achieved as a comic book artist, yet it all felt rather shallow considering that I'd lost the woman I loved and the daughter she gave me in pursuit of a career in the comics. The socio-political-economic conditions all about had driven me into a corner and were mocking me with the futility of the visions of grandeur I'd sported during the early times in New York, in pursuit of the comics creatorship. The sparks and glamour of life in the comics were beginning to fade and give way to a dark loneliness in a world which gave little hope for change.
As the month of November rolled around I knew I'd arrived at the end of this segment of my life and career. The only question was where to go from here. My friends and colleagues all noticed a change in my demeanor. Howard Chaykin commented several times on how quiet I'd become. I kept it all within and sought to find the answer there. The artwork continued to flow with progressing tenacity, elevating to new heights and eliciting reserved wonderment from my colleagues. Jim Starlin said I was too good for the comics. Neal appeared very happy with the pencils for the first issue of Ms Mystic and Paul was very enthused with the work for the Legion. Marv Wolfman expressed a reserved delight with the character designs I'd showed him for the Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter: Warlord of Mars comics adaptation for Marvel.
But my mind wasn't really on Mars at all any more, no it was far far beyond. The sirens of Titan were beginning to ring within me and beckon me to leave it all behind and to seek their soothing serenade. The sirens of Titan were raising me from the ashes of futility and despair and beginning to fill me with the wonderment of the grand and glorious events they conspired to bring to the world stage of events on the late great planet Earths' all but doomed prognosis for the future. The sirens of Titan were beckoning me to stand tall at childhood's end as the stranger in a strange land who'd dare reach for the proverbial sceptre of leadership for a new age - and with it, help raise my fellow comic book creators - and the comics - to their hopeful and rightful place as the bringers of a bright new world.
It would mean the end of the party of the summer of 77 on 45th and 9th. I could live with it all. Neal would understand and yes, he'd even encourage, support and in his own way, lend a hand to bringing it all about. Many of my friends would remain in dismay for a long time to come, but it was a small price to pay for such a hope. Alan would remain the one friend who'd not desert. Paul would appear to disassociate himself slowly, he was heading for the corporate jungles, after all - no place for such vision. I perhaps garnered some remorse at not producing the art for the Warlord of Mars series. Marv appeared to have rather great expectations of our working together. Telling him that I shall not be doing it was a precarious notion, to say the least.
On the morning of November 19th, 1977, I made the rounds to everyone I was committed to produce work for and informed them that I will not be doing it. I saved Marv Wolfman for last. With heaviness of heart, I told him that it cannot be, at this time. I hoped for best but was prepared to be pressured to explain or to reverse my decision.
"Its alright, Mike." He said. "Thanks for letting me know in time."
Marv Wolfman. A new addition to Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook.