ianbrill (ianbrill) wrote,

RIP Arnold Drake

This one makes me really sad. I interacted with Drake for only about five minutes but he really impressed me. I covered the 2005 San Diego Comic-Con for The Comics Journal. When the convention was over most everyone agreed that Drake was the hero of the event. I first saw him at the panel for The Bill Finger Award. Host Mark Evanier and artist Jerry Robinson were already there but Drake was a bit late. Soon an older man with his hands behind his back walked very slowly to the podium, followed by two young men (his sons? I don't know). He looked intense and I wondered what he was going to say. I soon learned that this was Drake and he was a lively speaker. He followed all of his knowledge of creating comics in the early days of the medium with a passion for the creative rights which he and his contemporaries never saw. He didn't sound bitter, though. He sounded like someone who believed that basic dignity and security for artists in this wodnerful medium is a cause worth fighting for.

At the Eisners award Drake received his Bill Finger award for both his writing and his cause. He ended his speech with, of all things, a song. It was a bit funny and a bit weird but something special happened after he sand the lyrics "I hears somebody said it/that Stan Lee would take credit/for Spider-Man to the King James testament." I have never before heard a room of many hundreds simultaneously and with an equal amount of energy gasp and guffaw at the same time. It's an odd sound but an enjoyable one. I was sitting next to TCJ then-Managing Editor Dirk Deppey and he immediately declared "We have to interview him!"

After the ceremony Deppey, TCJ then-News Editor Mike Dean and Deppey's assistant Kristy Valenti and I spoke to Drake for a little while. Dean got Drake's contact information for an interview. I don't know if it ever happened but I hope it did. I told him I enjoyed seeing him at the Bill Finger panel. He thanked me and said that while there have been a lot of progress made there still needs to be more done. Clearly, this was a man who looked ahead and didn't slow down. That's why I'm so sad to see him pass. I read about him entering the hospital for pneumonia and automatically figured "he's a tough guy who'll be up on his feet in not time." Shows what I know. Luckily Drake's work on the gloriously weird Doom Patrol with Bruno Premiani is available in reprint form from DC. That spirit that Drake had shows up in those entertaining and fun comics.

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