I’m thrilled to announce that William Van Horn‘s Nervous Rex comics are being reprinted—at long, long last.
What?!! You want to know why I’m mentioning this? And what this comic has to do with Last Kiss?
Well, nothing. Except…
Bill Van Horn played a huge part in my early comic career. We teamed up together to create a lot of Donald Duck, DuckTales and Uncle Scrooge comics. Without him, it’s likely that I never would’ve done Disney comics or gone on to do Last Kiss.
But we first worked together and became friends when I submitted story ideas for Nervous Rex back in the mid-1980s.
However, the series was wonderful, witty and silly long before I played my small part in it. The humor and art are very much in the tradition of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat. There’s also a smidge of Jack Benny embodied in the character of Rex–a pint-sized, hen-pecked, tyrannosaur who’d rather eat oatmeal than…well, you.
The series—along with some cool extras—is being re-printed issue by issue by Drew Ford’s It’s Alive. Issues aren’t for sale yet. But Drew is going to be offering 100 issues of #1 signed by Van Horn.
Since Bill hasn’t done any comic cons or appearances in many years, this may be the only chance to get work signed by him.
Back in the late 1980s—when dinosaurs (and anthropomorphic ducks) roamed the Earth—I started writing comics for Disney. My first stories were all drawn by the great William Van Horn. And I’m happy to say that many of Van Horn’s early stories—which include most of my earliest stories—have now been collected in a new book.
While I won’t make a penny from the collection, it’s fun to see my work appear once again in Disney’s prestigious “Masters” series. I’m hoping it’ll sell so well that Disney will want to do more of Van Horn’s (and my) work.
And, what the heck, someday maybe there will even be a book or three collecting my Disney stories with other artists!
Today would’ve been our daughter, Laura Lustig’s 27th birthday.
You wouldn’t think there was any connection between Covid-19 and her death. After all Laura died Jan. 17, 2004—-nearly 16 years before our current pandemic.
But here’s the thing…
Laura was born with severe immune problems. Regular immunoglobulin transfusions helped. But Laura was also dependent on herd immunity. So it was critical that other children got vaccinations. Laura couldn’t be around anyone who was ill.
And then, one day, she got sick from a virus. A week later she was dead.
So, perhaps you can understand why Shelagh Lustig and I are always furious with anti-vaxxers. And we’ve begun to feel the same way about people who are determined to ignore CDC guidelines and want to treat this pandemic as if it’s just an inconvenience; rebel against shelter-at-home orders; not wear masks; etc.; etc.
I don’t mind that you’re risking your lives. But I do mind that you’re risking everyone else—particularly sweet souls like our Laura’s.
Jason Sacks is doing three podcasts about my late friend Bill Schelly who many of you knew from his award-winning comic book biographies and histories. The first of the three features Fantagraphics Publisher Gary Groth and me reminiscing about Bill’s truly astounding (and inspiring) comic book life.
Jason’s remaining two podcasts about Bill are tentatively scheduled for Oct. 15 and 22. They will both feature Eisner-winning writer Frank Young and Bill’s close friend Jeff Gelb. I’ll post links to those podcasts once they’re up.
I originally wrote and posted this on my Facebook page back on Sept. 14, 2019. It was to help friends and fans of Bill Schelly understand Bill’s seemingly “sudden” death. It turns out Bill had actually been fading for months, but most people (including Bill) either didn’t realize it or understand how serious his condition was.
I’m posting it here because I thought there should be a more permanent and easily found record of my friend’s final few months:
Sudden deaths are always the hardest. So news of Bill Schelly’s death came as a horrible shock to many friends and fans this morning.
I’ll admit that I’ve known about Bill’s passing since about 3 a.m., Thursday (Sept. 12.) I saw Bill at University Hospital here in Seattle about 12 hours earlier and it was obvious that his death was imminent. I apologize to our many mutual friends for not saying anything ’til now. A friend of Bill’s family requested that word not go out ’til tomorrow so that all members of his extended family and critical contacts could be informed first.
Alas, word started to leak out last night. And this morning it turned into a torrent of grief and shock on social media.
To many, Bill was the greatest historian and biographer that the comic book community has ever had. To those of us who knew him personally, he was also a kind, considerate and witty friend. So, it must be doubly troubling that Bill was not letting most people know that he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
I first learned that Bill was having a problem on June 10. In an e-mail he begged off on going to a movie with me that day because:
“Unfortunately, I woke up yesterday with my back thrown totally out of whack. I know when this happens that it gradually heals itself, but it takes a week to two weeks for that to happen. During that time, I have no enthusiasm for doing anything more than I must. I can get to the store, or I can handle going up and down my stairs very slowly, but that’s about it.
Apologies for my body breaking down more and more in the recent years!! It’s painful in more ways than one.
I’ll let you know when I’m feeling better.”
But, as time went on, instead of healing, he was in more and more pain. After a few weeks, he was initially diagnosed as having a broken rib. Then—sometime later—as having four broken ribs!
Even so, Bill expected to get better. But as the months dragged on, his pain got worse. I started going over a couple of times a week to take out his garbage, go the post office for him, etc. Another friend, Nils Osmar would take him grocery shopping. Family member Renie Jones took him to doctor appointments and helped him in other critical ways. And there were others who apparently helped.
Throughout this Bill never gave into despair—at least when I was with him. I’m not saying he didn’t have moments of panic and depression privately. But, if he did, he didn’t let on. Yes, he was exhausted and frustrated. But that’s about as far as he’d go.
By mid August, his doctor had determined that Bill wasn’t healing because there was something wrong with the blood cells in his bones. Although he still didn’t have an official diagnosis of cancer, Bill knew there was a strong likelihood that bad news was coming. I told me that whatever happened he had no regrets. He’d accomplished everything that he’d set out to do and he was at peace.
Sometime shortly after Aug. 20, Bill learned that he had multiple myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow.) It could be treated, but couldn’t be cured. With luck, he’d live another two to five years. With even more luck, longer.
By Sept 6, though, he was in the hospital getting chemo. By Sept. 8, he had a major complication: a blood clot in his lungs. By Sept. 11, the blood clot had broken apart and was no longer contained. During the night, he passed away.
Maybe this is TMI. But I know people have questions about Bill’s “sudden death.” And it WAS sudden in some ways. But like a train that you think you’ve got plenty of time to avoid, it was something that started off slow (broken rib) and far off (June) but then it comes round the bend at full steam hits you when you get your foot stuck in the tracks.
Comic Book Historian Bill Schelly’s “Sudden” Death—a TimelineI will miss you, Bill. No more movies together. No more long, funny and insightful conversations. No more brilliant books!