November 19th, 1977. Fall of the summer of 77 on 45th and 9th, the day the Martian went to Titan. I've now severed all my connections with work commitments in the comics. All save for Mike Friedrich and his 8 page story for Star*Reach to be colored by Steve Leialoha in San Francisco. Steve, an artist of exceptional talent whom I'd spoken with several times by telephone, was the only creator we knew in the comics who didn't reside in the New York City area. I planned to pass through San Francisco anyway on my hitchhiking excursion across the great divide in search of America. Hal and Ollie had convinced me that it was a necassary experience in order to begin the mission which the sirens of Titan whispered to me. I'd give myself forty days and forty nights to find America, I thought to myself. Should be enough. America wasn't that big anymore. More significant was this familiar time span which would bring together an all inclusive experience and meaning to the journey. Reports of Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem in search of peace in the Middle East came over the radio during the first ride I received, heading out of New York from the George Washington bridge.
7 days later, on Thanksgiving Day, I landed in San Francisco. Giving thanks, I was answered in kind by a Salvation Army lineup for the holiday feast which interrupted my traverse of the city in search for Steve. I needed to inform him and Mike that I will not be producing the work for Star*Reach before continuing my journey. Giving thanks again, I was back in the concrete jungles where a window pane of an unattended laundromat attracted my attention. I'd finally found the man I sought. The flyer advertised Steve Leialoha's services as an illustrator, leaving a telephone number which I dialed with the last coin in my black ankle-length British civil defense overcoat pocket. Steve, showing no signs of wonder that I was in the city, supplied me with the directions needed to find him within the pastoral Franciscan maze of streets and avenues. 15 minutes later we discussed the situation over a cup of coffee in his living room.
Steve wasted no time and contacted Mike Friedrich who joined us an hour later at his abode.
"What do you plan on doing, if not make comics?" Mike asked. His tone was careful and un-intrusive in light of the intensity I was inadvertently projecting. I thought about this long and hard for a moment. I wanted this answer to count for something and pave the way for things to come.
"I intend to venture into public speaking in order to help bring peace to the world." I said.
Mike Friedrich, one of the excellent visionaries of the comics, couldn't argue with such an aspiration. Not even if it meant he'd be left 8 pages short on his grand debut of a color comics section in his previously all black and white ground-level publication. He thought long and hard in return.
"Maybe this is for the better", he said. "The story you had in mind wasn't the most original, you know."
He was right. It was a stupid story with no point other than how aliens and Earthmen blow each other up in classic juvenile redundance. It was one of the reasons I no longer had any wish to produce it. Mike wasn't a quitter, however, as he reached for another solution.
"Why not give me the story you have on your mind now." He offered. "You could do it from here and get back on the road when you're done. If it's alright with Steve, that is."
"It's alright with me." Steve answered without hesitation.
I was caught unawares, truth to tell. No notion whatsoever of such a possibility. I was guilty of undestimating Mike's creative prowess in his reach for the stars. The chips had fallen where they did and I'd delay my journey with one last creative endeavor in the comics.
In the days that followed, Steve worked on his own projects as I produced the line art for The Old, New and Final Testaments from his living room studio. The experience remains one of the more cherished for me, made even more special by the warm hospitality of my San Franciscan host. More than a month later, back in New York, I'd see the published issue of Star*Reach #12 which Steve colored with an equally warm palette of amazing splendor.
Steve Leialoha, with fond remembrance for his San Francisco treat. Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook.