Tuesday, July 29, 2008

See You In the Funny Papers

While we were at Vanderbilt, we had a lot of opportunities to see and hear from important and famous people. And I am not just talking about the annual IMPACT Symposium.

The poster above celebrates an event from late in our junior year (the weekend of April 28-29, 1972) that saw 10 of the best comic strip and comic book creators and artists in the world come to Vanderbilt.

Even today, over 35 years later, the roster of those present is very impressive:

Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury)

Stan Lee (Spider-Man, The Hulk, Thor, The Fantastic Four)

Mel Lazarus (Miss Peach, Momma)

Thomas K. Ryan (Tumbleweeds)

Dave Berg (MAD Magazine's "The Lighter Side")

Allen Saunders (Mary Worth, Steve Roper)

John McCampbell (Superstar, a comic strip that focused on country music and Nashville)

James Childress (Conchy)

Jack Kirby (Captain America, the Sandman)

Gahan Wilson (cartoonist for Playboy, The National Lampoon)

At the time of the event VERSUS magazine on campus wrote: "To say that the weekend of April 29 will find an interesting program scheduled by Forum is to speak a soft understatement. While "interesting" is an apt word, a better description might be wild, wonderful, wacky, fantastic, imaginative, and, of course, thought-provoking."

The free symposium was part of a nationwide celebration that year of the 75th anniversary of of comic books and comic strips. One of the organizers was Class of '73 member Bill Zimmern, who chaired the Forum. He told THE TENESSEAN: "The goal of the symposium will be a serious look at the past, present and future of the comics", adding, "the comic strip and jazz are described by many historians as the only two authentic art forms that originated in America."

But not all was serious scholarship that weekend. Lunch was provided by Tex Ritter's Chuck Wagon Restaurant and Steve Greil, another Class of '73 member who was instrumental in organizing the event (and who gave me the clippings and other information for this blog posting) also told me he took a number of the artists out for a night on the town in Nashville while they were here.

Where did they go? To Printer's Alley to see Heaven Lee :)

Now I can't remember what I did this April weekend in 1972. Unfortunately, I did not attend this terrific event and have absolutely no memory of it. I wish I had gone and I hope those of you who did will post your memories of it below, along with other memories you might have about other special speakers who came to campus while we were students.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


About all I remember about that comic convention was that Steve Bond, who was a comic freak, covered that story for us at WRVU. He interviewed Stan Lee and Jack Kirby because they were his heroes from Marvel comics.

Garry Trudeau and Doonesbury were brand spanking new, and still centered on the Walden College Campus with B.D. and Zonker butting heads all the time. If memory serves me, the Hustler was reprinting it twice a week in addition to being in the Tennessean.

A sad side note is Thomas Ryan (Tumbleweeds) and James Childress (Conchy) would both later commit suicide.

The other thing I remember about that weekend was we were having trouble with the transmitter (so what else was new?)! So that was the week I skipped my EE class and "missed" the take home final, otherwise I would have gone to the comic symposium with Steve Bond, attended class the next week, and probably aced that take home final instead of making a "B."

Of such things are college memories made!

Steve Womack