As soon as I learned that this year’s Stoker Awards banquet was going to be held on Long Island, I decided to make the most of it. And one way I did that was by bookending the event with lunches that had absolutely nothing to do with the primary reason for my trip.
I planned a Thursday lunch with Frank Cama, the Junior High School drama teacher who changed my life, and I planned a Sunday lunch with Marie Severin, the Marvel Comics artist who’s the funniest, nicest lady I ever met in the business. (Don’t worry—Irene won’t mind in the slightest that I said that.)
As the time for my lunch with the Mirthful one drew near, signs indicated to me that Fate was not indifferent to my trip, and very much wanted us to spend time together.
1) I was asked to present one of HWA’s two Lifetime Achievement Awards to Al Feldstein. The fact that Feldstein was an editor at EC Comics also meant that he was … Marie’s boss.
2) A couple of days before I was to head off to Long Island, I was contacted by Sean Howe, author of an upcoming history of Marvel Comics in the ’70s. He gave me the phone number of fellow Bullpenner Stu Schwartzberg so I could pass it on to Marie the next time I saw her … which Sean had no idea was only going to be a few days later.
3) I had dinner Friday night with (among others) William Freedman, who’s married to the niece of one of Marie’s high school classmates. We’d met online when he reached out to tell me about his encounter with Marie Severin and how she drew on his walls, and he retold that tale at our dinner party.
4) Sunday morning at the hotel, while noodling around online, I discovered that one of Marie’s most famous covers was on display as part of a comics exhibit at an Istanbul museum. Since Marie doesn’t do the Internet, this meant the only way she’d ever know about this honor was if I showed her that pic on my iPad.
You’d think those would be enough reasons to prove the universe was smiling at my encounter with Marie, but no, there was an even more astonishing one …
5) After Marie and I returned from our lunch, who should show up but the very high school classmate of Marie’s I’d been discussing with William Freedman less than 48 hours earlier, meaning I got to hear stories of Marie’s younger days—such as that back in the old days, Marie was the smartest kid in the dumb row and this woman had been the dumbest kid in the smart row. (Or was that the other way around?)
With indicators such as those, if I hadn’t had lunch with Marie Sunday, surely something cataclysmic would have happened.
And as for the lunch itself …
We headed out in search of a Chinese restaurant, thanks in part to a nostalgia for all those Chinese lunches we’d had during our Marvel days, but ended up instead at a restaurant called The Nutty Irishman, which kind of made sense, considering Marie is a Nutty Irishwoman. We talked about how we were doing, of course, but also reminisced about those who are no longer with us, like John Verpoorten, Sol Brodsky, and George Roussos, as well as old friends who are still with us, like Stan Lee and Joe Simon … and you know what? I’m going to stop right there, because you’re not going to hear any more about what we said than that.
I’ll let this photo stand in for the delightful five hours we spent together.
I can’t wait until October so we can do it all over again, this time with Irene along.
We love you, Marie!