Superman has the Fortress of Solitude. Batman has the Bat Cave. Hugh Hefner has Playboy Mansion. (That lucky bastard…)
The great heroes always had a secret lair, a home base, a castle of sorts. These mythic headquarters become a trademarked extension of the person themselves and ad to the legacy of grandeur attributed to their deeds and accomplishments.
I always had a fascination for a “clubhouse” mentality. I remember being about four years old and having secret meetings with my younger brother, Tom, in a dark closet illuminated only by our dim nightlight which we had drug in before we closed the door. This was our secret place, and though I’m sure my parents knew where we were, it gave us toddlers a sense of independence and awareness of self that we didn’t have when we were supervised by adults.
Two years later, Batmania would grip the world. All my brother and I could dream of was our very own Bat Cave buried beneath our house. We would spend hours scheming secret entrances to our gloriously imagined hangout.
As the years passed, there was always some kind of toy cabin, clubhouse, or tree house that anchored my activities with my three brothers and friends.
Given my own propensity for a hangout it is no surprise to me that the defining catalyst for Comico becoming tangible was the availability of office space at 1547 Dekalb Street in Norristown, PA.
Phil LaSorda’s older brother Dennis had just purchased a duplex in which he planned to operate his physical therapy practice. He offered Phil, Vince Argondezzi and me the opportunity to operate Comico from the space in the adjacent half of the building that he had no immediate plans for.
The iron was hot.
Comico, which until this point was as much a dream for Phil, Vince and me as that Bat Cave under my house, was about to become real. This was the moment of truth. It was time to “shit or get off the pot.”
Vince chose to leave the porcelain vacant and, though he would contribute his comic Mr. Justice to Primer #1, his partnership with Phil and me had ended.
Phil and I had grown used to the idea of a third person in the partnership. It especially came in handy breaking stalemates on important decisions. We turned to Bill Cucinotta who had been my right hand man while publishing DUCKWORK at PCA.
Bill knew the Direct Market of the comics industry very well because of his experience working retail at Fat Jack’s Comic Crypt in Philadelphia. As a partner, his knowledge gave us an edge that we did not have before.
Comico’s partnership was once more a triumvirate and we had our own headquarters dubbed simply “Comico Studios”. We generally would refer to it just as The Studio never intending to confuse or compare it to The Studio in Manhattan where Bernie Wrightson, Jeff Jones, Michael Kaluta, and Barry Windsor-Smith hung their hats.
Recently I have heard stories from various Comico fans that had found their way to Norristown and decided to look up the Comico headquarters which, in their mind, was a shining tower of architectural wonder. They were surprised to find that it was simply an old three-story, stone-fronted, duplex building that was once a family home with a wooden porch located on the corner of a busy street in a tired industrial town whose glory days had long passed.
Our main activities took place in what would have been the living room and dining room of the original house, complete with very dated orange, shag, wall-to-wall carpet that covered beautiful hardwood floors. Eventually the bedrooms would become offices as our staff expanded.
At the time all of the guys that hung out at the studio were college age and we had a very fraternal sensibility that had carried over from our DUCKWORK experience.
We tended to play as hard as we worked and seemed to never leave the building, often crashing on the couch or cots that we had brought in for the many all-nighters that were pulled to meet deadlines or to just hang out. The pizza shop on the opposite corner made it easy for us to always have food and drink.
Our families forgot who we were.
Posters and art covered the walls. There was a riddled dart board that was used to shake out those punchy moments in the wee morning hours. It was not unusual to find the mantel of the fire place lined with empty beer bottles.
This would all change eventually as Comico became more of a business and less of an adventure but those early days harbor all of the most romantic memories of young guys setting out to conquer the world of comics as they knew it with little more than hope, a dream and some talent.
We would get visitors. Many with portfolios or scripts in hand. Some just curious. The visitors that thrilled me the most though were heros that provided inspiration so great that I get misty thinking about their visits even today.
Murphy Anderson whose Visual Concepts Inc. was our flat color separator and would visit often.
Joe Kubert, whose school we offered a small scholarship to, and whose sons eventually worked on our books, stopped in to say hi.
Dick Giordano along with Pat Bastienne would stop by for holiday parties.
All of them are comic book legends.
They would marvel at our humble space and it would take them back to stories of the good old days when they, themselves were kids in the industry holed up in hotel rooms knocking out an issue by committee overnight.
The twinkle in each of their eyes as they reminisced is something I’ll never forget.
When I write these articles, I get that twinkle and I remember why I love making comics.
It is more than the art of it. More than the love of the medium. More than the camaraderie of other comic artists.
It is being part of it all.
Being part of the history of all the folks that made the comics that put a smile on the face of a reader young or old.
Being part of a unique tradition of a wonderful medium and passing it forward to the next generation.
The clubhouse is a lot different today. It exists in a technological wonder called the internet. It is not bricks and mortar like the old duplex in Norrisown. It is digital and the visitors stop in from all over the world.
Our new headquarters has a name. It is CO2 Comics.
It has an address: www.co2comics.com
Stop and visit.
Making comics because I want to.