When I left Firstlight Entertainment in 1994, I began working on a handful of Shoki Demon Queller pages to present to them with the hope that they would hire me back. I knew there was good chance that wouldn’t happen, so I kept an eye out for the occasional comic convention to show my work. One day, I noticed a flyer at a local comic book store promoting a large convention in Miami with none other than Todd McFarlane headlining the event.
Todd McFarlane was a force of nature in the early 90s. I had followed his work from his original stints on Spider-Man well into his transition with Spawn and to say he had been a huge influence on my work would be an understatement. So when I found out he would be making an appearance, I quickly saw an opportunity. The only problem was the convention he would be appearing at was being held in Miami… a five hour drive from Tampa where I lived. To make matters worse, I had a piece of shit Celica without a working stereo and absolutely no idea if it would even make it that far. But I threw caution to the wind and on an early Saturday morning my sister, girlfriend and I set off on a road trip.
From the start, things were not looking good. About halfway to Miami, the check engine light came on which only added to the girl’s irritation due to the lack of music on the trip. It progressively got worse as the car would overheat and I had to periodically pull over and wait until it cooled off enough to restart and continue. Eventually, we made it to the convention after a torturous 8 hour drive… just in time to watch the convention doors close.
As you could imagine, I was devastated. My sister and girlfriend did their best to cheer me up but all I could do was think about my dumb luck and how the hell I was going to get us back home. Taking some time to reflect on that shitty situation, I sat next to an elderly couple on a bench outside the convention center. Sensing my low spirits, they asked if I was ok and I explained what had happened. They asked if it would be ok to view my portfolio and I took out several pages of work to show them. Without skipping a beat, the gentleman waved to a figure a few yards from where we sat and replied “Todd, come here so you can see this young man’s work”. That nice elderly couple turned out to be Todd McFarlane’s parents.
Dumbfounded and slack jawed, I watched as Todd walked over to introduce himself. He asked if he could look through my work and I quickly obliged. We sat on that bench and talked about the crazy drive to Miami, comics, my artwork and what I could improve on before handing me his personal fax number and requesting that I send him some work the following week.
Well, eventually I sent out my work. I never received a reply back but in all honesty, its never bothered me. Not too many artists of that caliber would take the time to sit and chat with someone they have never met, especially after 8 hours at a comic book convention. I got an opportunity to talk with one of my idols and have him share a world of invaluable information. It was an incredibly kind gesture and something I will always remember.
My remake of Todd McFarlane’s epic cover for issue #6 of Spider-Man, circa 1992: