August 25th, 2008

The Zombie

The Answer Is A Riddle

August 24 -  Ah-HA!  Thanks to a note from an anonymous e-friend, I now remember Ted "Somebody's" actual name!  It's...(drumroll please)...

Theodore "Ted" Riddle!

Thanks, unidentified helpful Internet-person!  Thanks also to O.F.O.WOMP Brent Frankenhoff, Grand Marshall of the Comics Buyer's Guide, for posting a CBGXtra link to my August 17th request for Ted's last name.  OK, now to the last two of my 1984-1985 Kubert School teachers, starting with...

Ben Ruiz - You've probably never heard of Ben.  His entire professional career, as far as I know, was spent as a Kubert School instructor.  After becoming a student in the second year of the school's existence, Ben just never left.  He taught anatomy, among other things.  He was an immensely talented teacher, too.  

a sketch of Ben I drew during class...
...uh, when I was supposed to be listening

I believe that Ben was originally from Cuba, but I can't remember anymore.  He was a balding, stocky, mustachioed hot pepper of a guy.  Ben was...well, he's hard to describe.  He was a very thoughtful, logical person, but he was also cocky, streetwise and funny.  I tried to describe him to my wife with the following story, but, apparently, it's only funny if you know Ben; upon overhearing a between-classes discussion we 1C students were having regarding the movie
The Terminator, he told us that he had not seen it...on purpose.  Why not?  He said that he assumed that students would try to trick him into wasting money and time on a crummy movie just to mess with him, so he never followed their film recommendations.  It took much convincing before he finally agreed that he would, if we paid for it, see The Terminator.  A couple of us tossed in a buck or two until he had enough to see the movie for free.  A weekend passed, and Ben begrudgingly admitted that it was pretty good.  He especially liked the ambiguousness of just who was really "the terminator" of the story.  We then told him about how good the film Witness was.  All of us, whether we'd seen the film or not (I had) proclaimed its virtues.  Taking a chance, Ben bought a ticket with his own money and went to it.  The next week, he was so excited about the film that he had to talk to us about it.  Among other things, he again admired the title's ambiguousness ("The kid's the witness, but, by calling it just Witness, it's like it's telling us to witness what happens").  That's when we dropped the hammer.  "You've got to check out this awesome new movie!  It's called The Perils of Gwendoline, and it's like an adult version of Star Wars."  Now, The Perils of Gwendoline may be the single worst film of the 1980's.  It's so bad that the English speaking cast was over-dubbed in English.  It's so bad that by the time barebreasted women are pulling chariots, viewers are so desensitized to nakedness that it's laugh-out-loudable.  Still, knowing full well that it was so awful, we sent Ben anyway.  When he saw us the next week, he was livid!  We'd screwed him, exactly as he'd always feared.  It shouldn't be funny, but it was...especially when Ben used his trademark, hollow-threat catchphrase,
"I'll cutchyou, man!  I'll cutchyou!"

Bill Sienkiewicz - Yes, that Bill Sienkiewicz.  After the first semester, Joe informed us that a guest instructor would be taking over his class.  "Great," I thought, "now none of us will have Joe as a teacher."  When Joe told us that Bill Sienkiewicz would be his stand-in, I nearly fainted.  Mr. Sienkiewicz was absolutely on the cutting edge of the industry at the time, having just come off of his celebrated run on Moon Knight to illustrate New Mutants.  While there was some grumbling from the more traditionalist among us, I was on fanboy Cloud Nine.  On his first day, Bill sat in on Joe's last class with us.  I remember it distinctly.  Bill, a stylish 1980's hipster in his late twenties, was wearing all black, including parachute pants and a short jacket with shoulderpads and pushed-up sleeves.  He was thin and youthful, with extremely blonde hair that was swept high and back from the top of his prominent forehead.  He absentmindedly nibbled on lengths of Red Vines licorice throughout the day.  He also had an oversized sketchbook that he kept with him at all times.  For the rest of the year, whenever he had a moment - and I mean even every minute-or-less moment - he was doodling in it.  He drew all sorts of things, most notably us!  Yes, my classmates and I were featured so often in his sketches that we eventually ended up in at least one of his comics!  George, Joey and I became Beatle-wigged servants to bloated Karma in New Mutants #31.  

Another thing that Bill would do is pointedly appear to be experimenting with his own artwork, encouraging us to "think outside the box" (a phrase which hadn't yet become a cliche at the time).  He once burned marshmallows with a lighter, letting the charred drippings adorn a beautiful cover painting below.  Because of his
attitudes toward comic book artwork, I feel that Bill Sienkiewicz influenced me artistically more than any of my other teachers, even though it probably doesn't show in anything I've drawn.  Our styles couldn't be more dissimilar (his; good, mine; crap), but his willingness to experiment and push the limits still challenges me to do the same.

So, there you have it.  Those are the artists and teachers who are to blame for the basis of my comics education.  All were fun, all taught me something which I still employ on a regular basis...and, yet...yet it wasn't enough in the long run.  Somewhere, somehow, it all began to go wrong for me.  In the next entry, I'll finally begin to get into that, even though it is miserably painful (especially to my last, frayed shred of pride).  Oh, well.  Like I said, twenty-plus years should be enough distance to be able to finally, publicly, examine just what happened.  Until then, I've run out of actual same-class classmates' names to post (there were many more, but I've forgotten their names), so I'll leave you now with your first Joe Kubert School Upper-Classman During John's 1984-1985 School Year of The Day -  Grant Miehm!