Thirty-five years ago the very first issue of Ralph Snart Adventures was released. Two months before that, I had had to change the name from Ralph Snarf to Ralph Snart or risk a lawsuit from Denis Kitchen. Three months before that, I had written and drawn that first issue in a roach-infested studio apartment in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago. I was oblivious to the fact that at the time, it was one of the worst neighborhoods in Chicago — a destination for Eastern European transients controlled by a Vietnamese gang whose headquarters was just a half block away.
If I got flashed by a sex worker on my shortcut to the bus stop that would take me West on Devon to Larry's comic book shop, or if I had to walk down to the Thorndale El station because the Granville stop had a dead body on the platform, I thought nothing of it. Just seemed normal to me. Or at least normal for Edgewater. When I drunkenly threw a TV off a fire escape to explode in the alley below, no one batted an eye. Good ol' Edgewater! It was the kind of neighborhood Ralph Snart would have thrived in.
I had never done a comic book before that time. I had done plenty of comic strips, editorial cartoons for my college newspaper, and professionally cartoons for advertising, but I knew nothing about the comic book business. Before all this, I honestly had no idea that comic books were collected or had such throngs of fans or anything about comic conventions. I was totally naive and uneducated about the whole affair.
To do that first issue, I had to figure out a lot of things I knew nothing about. What size should the art be, what style should I draw it, how should I letter it, etc. I had to go out and buy some current comics to see what was being done. A lot of my decisions were wrong, but in the end what I finally handed in to the publisher was good enough for print. It would take me several years to finally put everything together, but by then it was too late; the comics industry would be shrinking and imploding.
When that first issue was printed, it was done the wrong size. A Chicago printer called Sleepeck did the printing, and for some reason had printed it approximately half size — like digest size. The copies were all destroyed, but I saw one of them — cute but ridiculously small. Do over! Aside; I've had a history with printers so, yeah, I wasn't too surprise my initial foray into the comic book industry started out messed up. Luckily it was redone and delivered to the distributors on schedule.
At the time I liked and respected the publisher of NOW Comics, Tony Caputo, and I still do. As long as money, privilege and favors aren't involved, he's a likable, gregarious and very smart man! The first moments, months and years of NOW were exciting and pure chaos as the Black & White Boom came and went. It was a special (and brief) time in the comic book industry, and I was lucky enough to be a part of it, which is cool. Of course, there are regrets but overall it was a magical, fun and creative adventure.