Beauology 101: Comic Books, Brawls, and Busting Up Hotel Rooms

Eclipse Table Mid-Ohio Con Circa late 1980's. Left to Right - Tim Harkins, Ron Frenz, Flint Henry (on floor) Beau Smith, and sitting at the table, Chuck Dixon.

Eclipse Table Mid-Ohio Con Circa late 1980's. Left to Right - Tim Harkins, Ron Frenz, Flint Henry (on floor) Beau Smith, and sitting at the table, Chuck Dixon.

by Beau Smith

In the last session of Beauology 101, I told you I was going to share a couple of “behind-the-scenes” stories about what it was like in various creative and business meetings that I’ve had in my time as a writer and marketing executive in comic book publishing. Well, here I am right before Christmas to share a few of these times with you. I hope you enjoy.

Eclipse Comics – The Early Years.

In 1987 I was hired to be the National Sales Manager of Eclipse Comics. I had already been writing some Beau LaDuke’s Tips For Real Men as a back up feature in Tim Truman’s comic book Scout. Now I was walking both the creative and business side of comics. It was a “Have your cake and eat it too” type of situation. Huge thanks have to go to Tim Truman for not only hiring me to write and co-create Beau LaDuke, but also for suggesting me to Jan and Dean Mullaney as the National Sales Manager.

As I mentioned in the last Beauology 101, when me and “the boys” would hit the convention trail there was usually quite a few of us sharing a hotel room. This was done to keep overhead low and just because we were all full of piss and vinegar and enjoyed the all night creative sessions.

Tim Truman

Tim Truman

During these sessions, guys like Truman, Gary Kwapisz, Tom Lyle, Tim Harkins, Flint Henry, Todd Fox, John Ostrander, John K. Snyder III, Tim Bradstreet, and Graham Nolan would all be sketching and drawing their books and character designs that guys like me, Chuck Dixon, and Truman as writers would come up with. Everyone shared ideas and threw stuff out there. If you could’ve bottled the creative energy that was shooting around that room you’d be able to power New York City for a year.

In those days there weren’t all these “events” that you had to deal with. You were free to come up with strong, character driven story lines and insert action that didn’t spill all over the book like a plate of corn in the hands of a clumsy waitress. We were all devoted to making sure everything was realistic and reference was used for everything from guns, knives, clothing and scenery as well as fight scenes. Once, (I lie, it was more than once) while orchestrating a fight scene in a Beau LaDuke story, artist and letterer Tim Harkins and I acted out and did the fight sequence while Flint Henry sketched and made notes as the artist. Tim and I both come from high school wrestling backgrounds as well as bar room disputes, so needless to say we got a little carried away at one point. There were hotel room lamps and chairs broken and I remember having a phone receiver being used as a bolo on my head at one point.

Beau LaDuke - Real Man from SCOUT: War Shaman #13. Art By Todd Fox & Enrique Villagran.

Beau LaDuke - Real Man from SCOUT: War Shaman #13. Art By Todd Fox & Enrique Villagran.

Flint still talks about that evening to this day. He thought that after Harkins and I busted up each other and the stuff in the room that we’d start in on him. He thought we were seriously trying to kill each other. What he didn’t realize is that Harkins and I come from families where we had brothers. As most of you know, when you have a house full of brothers, anarchy and destruction rule. There was also the time artist Tom Lyle tamed a couple of annoying drunks with a table fork earning him the lifelong nickname of “The Fork.”

Anytime I pick up my run of Airboy or Scout, I remember almost every issue of these series being laid out and thought out from those road trips and rooming with Truman and Dixon. I distinctly remember a bulk of those series being laid out while in Madison , WI. at various Capital City Distribution retail seminars. If we weren’t out roaming the bookstores and bars of State Street, we were in the hotel lobby or our room mapping out comic book stories. We also spent a good amount of our time discussing John Ford westerns, blues music and classic TV shows. Every now and then Tom Lyle, Harkins, and I would get to talk some sports, but most of the time was spent talking comic books. We were young and full of passion for the hobby that had turned into our way of making a living. Even though all of us came from different backgrounds, comic books were always the common bond that drove the conversations into the wee hours of the morning.

Jan and Dean Mullaney

Jan and Dean Mullaney

Don’t get me wrong, we gossiped about other comic book writers, artists, peers and vets alike, but I don’t recall us ever getting petty or snarky like so much of what I read on the internet and message boards today. I truly think that we were blessed by the internet not being invented yet during those times. We were more comrades than competitors. Even though I worked for Eclipse Comics, my counterparts at Marvel, DC, First Comics, and other publishers were my friends as well. We shared views and information on trends and I believe it made our industry stronger. The friends I made during those days have turned out to be lifetime friends. I hope that some of the creators and business folks breaking into comics today can experience that as well.

These days a lot of folks connected with comic books seem to feel that they have to pick sides, there has to be an enemy, someone to attack. We weren’t like that. Sure, there were always a couple of people that were from “Turd Town”, but they were few and far between. I can only think of two people who worked in comics that I ever physically chased off or gave the stink-eye to, and trust me, they had to work pretty hard for me to want to give them some “Beau Business”. Those guys are no longer in the comic book industry, not because of my promises of pain, but because folks like that are driven or run out sooner or later when their non-professional ways catch up with them.

Chicago Con late 1980s. Left to right - Gary Kwapisz, Chuck Dixon, Beau Smith & Todd Fox

Left to right - Gary Kwapisz, Chuck Dixon, Beau Smith & Todd Fox

My early Eclipse days are filled with lots of great memories. I cut my teeth on writing 8 page stories, using an IBM Selectric typewriter and carbon paper. No faxes, computers, emails or other high tech pimpery. We had a phone and Fed-Ex and a thermal paper copying machine. In some ways it seems like yesterday and in other ways it seems like a million years ago.

In my next Beauology 101, I’ll fill you in on a couple of campfire tales from my days as Marketing Vice President with Image Comics and Todd McFarlane Productions. I’ll let you in on how the “Yellow Brick Road” got to be the color yellow.

Before I sign off, I want to thank my Westfield Comics editor, Roger Ash and all the fine folks at Westfield for giving me this chance to talk to all of you on a regular basis. I hope all of you students of Beauology 101 will have the best Christmas ever. Let’s hope that Santa Claus puts lots of comic books in your stocking and under your tree this year.

Merry Christmas, amigos!

Beau Smith
The Flying Fist Ranch


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