Remembering Don Thompson

Friday, May 23, 2014

Two decades ago - Don didn't wake up. The day before, he had one of the best days he'd had in months. After weeks and weeks of health crises and now-and-then emergency room visits, he was restored: happy, energetic, and gloating with me over how proud and delighted we were about our kids and our lives.
We'd driven home from Madison after Stephen's graduation ceremonies on Saturday: Both Valerie and Stephen were through with college, both were doing brilliantly, and all was well with the world on a sunny May day. We'd driven by fields where sprinklers had been encouraging just-planted crops - and the sprays of water had made rainbows as we traveled. On his way to the house, Don plunged his face into the sprays of lilac blossoms blooming next to the garage, and we basked in the glories of the day and our lives.
It had been a wonderful weekend.

Don died May 23, 1994 - and, thanks to our work together in those pioneering days of comics fandom, many of our friends in that world thought of him solely in those terms. But he was brilliant in too many ways to list here. Even as a college student in the Journ School at Penn State, he was active in student radio (WDFM, where his work included his "Dead Air" show devoted to comedy and his other stint devoted to folk music) and the student science-fiction club. It was his SF fan activity that led to our meeting in 1957 - and we attended Detroit and Pittsburgh WorldCons separately before we were married and then many other SF cons big and small afterward. His "The New Science" in Venture Science Fiction opened the door to his membership in Science Fiction Writers of America, where he served a term as one of its officers.

His knowledge was encyclopedic, his reading speed was swift, and, wow, he was fun.

Following 1960 graduation from Penn State, his newspaper career lasted for more than two decades at The Cleveland Press (a job he'd chosen to be near to where I was attending Oberlin College), and his assignments included the financial department, police beat, suburbs, and copy desk with byways including writing feature articles and folk music, science-fiction, and fantasy reviews. The Press left Cleveland - and so did we, when our mutual hobby of comics turned into our mutual profession of editing collector publications.

We were lucky: We got to work and live together all day every day for more than two decades. We were granted the delights of two fantastic kids - and those kids continue to be a constant joy. Today, we share the pleasures of remembering their dad. We were lucky we had him as long as we did. Love you, Don.


I Collect So That I Have It

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

This is the week that the first auction of the Don and Maggie Thompson Pedigree comics collection will be held, offering a few of the valuable comic books that we bought over the years. Maybe you've seen this feature or this one - and, at a guess, there will be more. The pricey issues aren't in my house any more. First, it was scary to have valuable stuff in my home. Second, it was intimidating to have to care for them. Third, Heritage Auctions' Steve Borock helped me to work out a way to have them after they're gone.

Because my collecting began so that I could have what I want when I want it.

When I was learning to read and such comic-book creators as Walt Kelly and Carl Barks were telling me fresh stories every month, I also learned that what I didn't buy one month would be gone forever the next. I haunted the newsstand and planned my allowance accordingly, because I wasn't going to get another chance at those issues. I certainly was never going to find them at the library.

And pop culture (a term years away from its coining then) was fleeting. Daily newspapers were discarded. Movies passed through theaters in a flash. Even more transitory were the weekly visits of such favorites as The Shadow, Suspense, and Jack Benny. Gone. They could be no more than memories.

Lesson learned: When you appreciate something enough to want it with you - to be able to have it if you want to check a fact or revisit an entertainment at 2 a.m. - you'd better collect it. This lesson learned has a variety of results. If many other people have that same appreciation for an item but don't have the item, it may become valuable. If no one else gives a hang for it, you're going to have to deal with storing it so that you can enjoy it again.
My collection of old cassette tapes?
Not so valuable to other folks.

But sometimes, belongings become too valuable. What if there's a fire? A flood? A windstorm? What if, when you are scanning a page of a comic book, you actually hear the cover begin to tear at the staples? Given that we are only temporary custodians of what we own, we should take the best possible care of our treasures - and then pass them on.

And - lucky for me - we live in an age in which having kept comics in great condition makes them worth more. Because (as you know if you've followed those links earlier) the goal is to replace them with comics in rotten shape: copies that are so beat-up as to be the cubic zirconia to the disposed-of diamonds. So I'll have them, even while I'm getting rid of them.

And the proceeds from the auctions (of which this is, as I say, the first) will go, first, to paying the capital gains tax and, second, to the custody of the guy who's been my financial advisor since before Don died. Last week, he frowned as he threatened, "You know, you could live 20 more years."

So no mink sandwiches. And I hope the new owners will get as much pleasure and use out of my comics as I did.


Betsy Curtis September 17

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Betsy Curtis was born 96 years ago today - and married 72 years ago today. And yesterday - yes, just yesterday - I finished preliminary proofreading of my transcription of her 14 published stories. Because I'm in the midst of a project that will be a rarity: the edited collection of all the published stories of a pioneering woman science-fiction writer. (Part of the fun will be its existence as a three-generation project: stories by my mom, editing by me, and design by my daughter, Valerie.) My next step will be to edit all 14 (roughly 100,000 words) into my favored formats (Oxford comma, typos repaired, etc.). Happy birthday and anniversary, Mom! Hope my tinkering doesn't bother you - and wish you were here to participate!

Thanks, too, Mom, for providing reproof to me for not posting on this site since I left the offices of Comics Buyer's Guide. Just yesterday (again!), I uncovered the manuscript for a proposed collection of her poetry. She was (in the terms of a George Price cartoon she had attached to the 20-gallon crock she used to make home brew) "a very remarkable woman" - and, I think, a compulsive, playful writer. In honor, then, of the folks who haven't seen posts from me in more than half a year (and who, giving up, may not see this, either), here's Mom's "No Word from Thee." (She guessed at the year of composition as 1938, not long after the time this photo was taken.)

When for a time I've had no word from thee,
Strange causeless fears my mind do oft oppress
And add a terror to my loneliness
From which no reasoning can set me free.
I fear that thou perhaps unwell may be
Or caught in trouble's grip; and then I guess
Thou findst in me some grievous faultiness:
Conscience and apprehension well agree.
     I know thy labors have enforced charm;
I know thine hours for letter writing few;
I'm sure thou hast not met with any harm.
     Why should I fear? Knowing thy love is true,
I need not feel unwonted grave alarm.
--I know not why I should, and yet I do.


A Clean Office at Last!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Photo credit: Brent Frankenhoff

After 30 years!

Now, I begin to organize plans so as to get done many of the projects that have had to wait "until I have more time." It's exciting!


CBG Staff Released Neat Books in 2012

Thursday, January 10, 2013

As I look back over the years at Comics Buyer's Guide, I'm reminded that 2012 saw Brent Frankenhoff and me coming up with three books in addition to the 12 monthly issues of the magazine.

They are Comics Buyer's Guide Presents Dangerous Curves, Comics Buyer's Guide Presents the Greatest Comic Book Covers of All Time, and A Parent's Guide to the Best Kids' Comics. Each is fun, the first two basically being romps through the wonder world of comics images and the last being A New Concept.

A Parent's Guide to the Best Kids' Comics was my concept, born out of ongoing questions I've received in the past couple of years, questions that boiled down to, "What comics do you recommend for my kids to read?" I figured that what was needed was more than an article: It needed, not only recommendations, but samples of those recommendations so that adults and kids could see at a glance what looked good to them. And the recommendations needed to come from experts who knew that specific field, top to bottom. So I came up with the format - and we found top experts (Scott Robins and Snow Wildsmith) to provide the actual information. I see from the link I've just provided that the book is on sale at a whopping discount at the moment: a word to the wise.


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