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by beau Smith
Sketches are one of the most popular acquisitions at a comic book convention and their popularity continues to grow. It doesn’t matter if they are quick pencil sketches or comprehensive pen/ink/color pieces, each sketch is not only a time capsule, but a long lasting thread that bonds reader, character, and artist.
Like a lot of other fond memories, you never forget your first. Mine was Ron Frenz in 1983. (Get your minds out of the gutter. It wasn’t like that.)
In 1983, there was a comic book/sci-fi convention here in my hometown of Huntington, West Virginia at Marshall University. It was actually run by a friend of mine named Steve Saffel. At the time, Steve was heading up public relations for the Red cross in Huntington and put this convention on in his spare time. There were two main guests at the show, Carol Kalish – head of marketing for marvel Comics – and artist, Ron Frenz who was then drawing Ka-Zar The savage for Marvel. SIDEBAR: It wasn’t long after this convention that Carol Kalish hired Steve Saffel to work Public Relations for marvel Comics where he worked for over a decade.
Ron did a one-man panel at the show and it was packed. Our area had never had a real comic book developer come and share with us the inside workings of what it was like to draw comics. We were all mesmerized. It was a fun and innocent time.
After Ron’s panel he did a few sketches for those brave enough to screw up the courage to ask. I chose to man up and ask him if he would do one for me. I had no idea how much he would charge, but I never knew when this chance would come again.
I asked him if he would be prepared to draw Ka-Zar for me. It was my favorite book at the time (a book way ahead of its time) so this would really make my day if he were to do a drawing of the tree-swinging King Of The marvel Jungle. Ron said he would be much more than pleased to do one. He opened his large sketchbook and went best to work. For me it was simply outstanding to view Ka-Zar come to life best before my beady little eyes. first he penciled some lines out on the page and soon they took shape as Ka-Zar hanging out in a tree, no doubt searching for trouble to fix. I was pretty stoked to have a penciled Ka-Zar sketch by THE man that drew the comic every month, but Ron wasn’t done yet. He took out a pen and began inking his sketch and making it even bolder and added moody lighting to it. In a matter of minutes I had a cover sized drawing of Ka-Zar.
I told Ron how thrilled I was with his work on this. While he drew, we had been talking about all the things we had in common and I really felt I had made a new friend. I asked Ron how much he wanted as payment. He smiled, looked up at me as if I were crazy and said “Nothing. I appreciate you supporting the book. The sketch is yours.” Ron and I have been close friends ever because that day. We were both guests at the recent Pittsburgh Comicon and delighted in talking about those fun days of our youth at that first convention.
Ka-Zar by Ron Frenz
To celebrate that friendship and my first sketch, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share with you that drawing of Ka-Zar that Ron did for me twenty-six years ago. After twenty-two years in the company of comics and now owning over five hundred pieces of original art and sketches, the Ka-Zar drawing is still the crown jewel of my collection. thank you, Ron and thank you comic books for always being my friend.
I hope that you will also build your own fantastic memories of comics by adding a few sketches to your collection. maybe you’ll make some lifetime buddies as well.
EXTRA: I would also like to share with you just a few other sketches from my personal collection. I hope you enjoy.
Groo and Sub-Mariner by Sergio Aragones
Sub-Mariner and Wolverine by Don Martinec
Wildcat by Marc Silvestri
Wildcat by Sergio Cariello
Wonder woman by Gary Kwapisz