KC Carlson

KC Carlson

A KC COLUMN by KC Carlson

Tim O'Shea photo from his Twitter profile

Tim O’Shea photo from his Twitter profile

My good friend Tim O’Shea has passed away, after a very long illness, and news started to spread early this week. I had a weird feeling that day, even before Johanna told me on Sunday that he had died earlier in the weekend.

Tim was a substantial part of several group comic blogs, from an era that’s already passing away. His interviews were the best known of his writing, and “Talking With Tim” was well-regarded for getting beyond the usual publicity material.

Johanna met Tim first, online, and she realized that I needed to meet him, and she made sure that happened. I don’t remember the exact situation, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s say that Tim and I met at the always amazing Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC, produced by the indefatigable Sheldon Drumm of the Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find retail stores. I don’t remember much about that first meeting, because I was probably at my 50th or 60th comics convention at that point (after years of going to them representing Capital City Distribution, Westfield Comics, or DC Comics). In my early DC years, I often ended up going to 2 or 3 shows a month during the summers, because DC realized that I could communicate equally well with both comic fans and industry professionals. And, gosh darn it, people just liked me for some strange reason. But by this point, I was tiring of them, especially the awful Wizard shows.


After generally talking about comics, at some point, Tim started talking about music. I knew where there was an awesome record/CD store (Manifest Discs), a place where I was amazed at their inventory and selection. I almost always walked out of there with 5 or 6 (or as many as 10) CDs at every yearly visit — some of which I never even knew existed. I drove him over there and watched him do pretty much the same thing. That became a regular part of our Charlotte trip when we were both at the show. We often spent hours there.

Manifest Discs

Manifest Discs

That first time, he ended up buying more than I did (I also bought a lot there on my first visit). From that point on, the two of us made a point of skipping out of the show every year for a couple hours to go CD shopping. Afterwards, we’d pick up Johanna and Tim’s wife Ellen (and occasionally their son, Colin) and have a nice quiet dinner somewhere far away from the convention. (This is Conventioneering 101: You need a couple hours of quiet away from the madness each day at a comics convention.) Afterwards, we would return to the Westin, and the ladies (and child) would drift off to bed after maybe a quiet drink, if we hadn’t already done that at the restaurant.


The bar at the Westin

The bar at the Westin

Tim and I were just getting started for a very long night. We’d generally plop down somewhere in the lobby, near the bar, and before long, there were three to six more “ploppers” (necessitating moving the furniture around). After a point, Tim would get up and wander — he always had people he needed to get caught up with. I would sit and “hold” the sofa I was on, welcoming anybody who wanted to join me — sometimes perfect strangers (and non-comics people to boot). Usually that conversation turned into “what the heck is going on around here?” and, of course, I made stuff up, pointing at people across the room and lying: “That’s Adam Hughes. He restored the Dead Sea Scrolls.” or “That’s Karen Berger. She breeds rare chipmunks in her back yard.” or “That’s Paul Levitz. He owns a mansion and a yacht.”

Tim would eventually return — and then it was our turn to talk. Both of us preferred not to be disturbed by embarrassingly drunk comic book people (because it was now very late in the evening), so we usually found a quieter place to chat. At the Westin, there were several great places to go and hide for an hour or two. If it was warm out, the hotel courtyard had a fountain where you could sit — at least for a while, until it got too cold or too loud from the drunks looking for a place to swim. (Ah, I could tell stories…) There was also a “hidden” lounge on the second floor that overlooked the fountain, which was a nice quiet place. (Others thought so, too, as we occasionally encountered people scrambling for their clothes.) But on trips where Tim was without Ellen, we usually just grabbed some sodas and chatted until all hours in the AM in his room. I don’t think I ever got back to my room until about 4AM. (Editor Boy Roger Ash can vouch for this — he accompanied us on one of these late night discussions one year.)


We always started talking about comics; who had been doing stupid things, and who was getting screwed by their company, and other fun stuff like that. But eventually, we always switched to talking about music — artists we discovered over the previous year, who was recording great stuff, and who put out a lame CD that year. The main goal of all this was to introduce each other to the “secret” cool stuff you never heard on the radio. We were never at a loss to talk about new artists. I taught Tim about power pop, and not shutting up about it. He explained the magic of a lot of modern roots music to me, especially the rockier stuff. We could talk about music for days, if we had had the time.

I don’t think Tim ever knew, but he was a large part of why I was still going to comic conventions, ever since Johanna and I left DC Comics in 1997. (Something I should talk more about sometime later, although it’s a gigantic bummer of a story — two stories, actually, and one not even mine — so maybe not.) Even though I was generally becoming indifferent to comics themselves in those years post-DC, I realized that I still loved going to the shows and just hanging out with friends. There were always plenty of people to have dinner with and always new stories to tell and secrets to share. And Tim was always my favorite to “steal” for a few hours.


Even after I “retired” from regular convention going, Tim and I would still talk often. We’d start with email: “Call tonight?” Tim would beg off until late (probably after Ellen and his son were asleep). So even then our calls were nocturnal — sometimes after midnight. I didn’t mind. The older I get, the less sleep I need, and if I wasn’t talking to friends in the wee hours, I’d be listening to music at my desk in the dark — trying to make myself sleepy.

Later on, Tim told me he was getting sick. He didn’t have to… I could hear it in his voice. I never brought it up, unless he wanted to talk about it. But mostly he didn’t — usually because it was more important to talk about some new “old” album or artist he’d just discovered. Or what he still wanted to get done.

Then the calls and contact just stopped. I heard that he was in hospice. (Perhaps more than once… It seems like he was holding on for a while, but in reality, I had no idea what was going on and didn’t feel like it was a time for intrusion from me.) I had heard somewhere that Tim’s major goal was to hang on long enough to see his son graduate. I’m pretty sure that if that graduation didn’t already happen, Tim will be there anyway, because of the giant presence that Tim O’Shea was (and is), and everybody in that room will know it.

The wisdom of Warren Zevon

The wisdom of Warren Zevon

If I had to guess, Tim is already trying to set up an interview with his hero, Warren Zevon. They both had a lot in common, in how they both added to this world — and especially in the way that they both left it a much better place. I wish I could sit in on some of those late night discussions…

Happy Trails, Amigo. We all miss you already!


KC CARLSON has something in his eye…

WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. Enjoy every sandwich.


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