On Monday March 7, I found out that I had lost a dear friend in artist Paul Ryan. I was shocked and hadn’t felt such grief since my father passed away 5 years ago. Today, Friday March 11, he was laid to rest in his hometown of Hudson, MA. Unfortunately I was unable to travel cross country in the allotted time to attend his service. So on the day that his family chose to remember his life, it seems appropriate for me to do the same.
My wife Shelley and I first met Paul and Linda Ryan at a comic show in Seattle, Washington in the spring of 1992. In fact Shelley and I were not even married at the time as we had just recently become engaged. I was a terrible artist, a new-comer trying to break into full time comics. Paul was already an established name in the industry with work on Iron Man and The Fantastic Four. I had a few prints of Looney Tunes characters that caught Linda’s eye. She sent Paul over to buy a couple of them. We immediately hit if off and they invited us to join them for dinner.
We hung out the entire weekend of the show and at the end, Paul suggested we trade artwork. I was stunned. What could I have that he could want? I know he was just being nice to the new kid on the block and I took advantage of it with only a little guilt. I ended up doing a new piece of art for him since I didn’t have anything even close to decent to trade him. He got the short end of the stick on the deal but with Paul, that didn’t matter a bit. I walked away with two great pages and a friend for life.
Later that same year we met up again in New York City and appeared at Fred Greenberg’s Comic Convention. Our friendship continued to grow as we sat next to each other in artist’s alley doing our best to entertain each other and the jam packed crowd in the Javitz Center. My clearest memory is Linda frequently helping my then pregnant wife make it through the pressing crowd to the bathroom.
We next hooked up in my home town of Portland, OR at Richard Finn’s Portland Comic Book Show in June of 1993. As part of the festivities associated with the show we went white water rafting together as well as a brunch cruise. After the show itself, Paul, Linda, Shelley and I went to a restaurant in Portland called the Brassiere where the tables were covered with white butcher paper and the patrons supplied with crayons. We each drew crayon portraits of our wives and then Paul drew Captain America and I drew The Thing, and those we exchanged. Later that night at our apartment/condo we were renting, Paul drew me a picture of SLUDGE (the character I was working on for Malibu’s Ultaverse comic line) holding a rubber raft. I managed to squeeze an Iron Man sketch out of him as well. Once again taking advantage of his kind nature to get free art.
Later we met up in Philadelphia to do a convention and were victimized by a rogue taxi driver and a possessed hotel elevator. One year Shelley and I flew into Boston, stayed with the Ryans with the objective of driving down to New York to do what turned out to be Fred Greenberg’s final New York show. Unexpectedly the east coast was hit by a massive snow storm and we were unable to make the con. The trip was memorable for two reasons. The first was watching my wife eagerly shovel the snow out of Paul and Linda’s driveway as Paul and I watched from the warm confines of his kitchen. Secondly, Paul got the grand idea of dropping in on a small, local, one-day comic show unannounced. When we showed up the guy running the show flipped out to have Paul Ryan, Fantastic Four artist, at his show. He gave us a table and we signed and chatted with many surprised fans all day.
Over the years we went to New Orleans, San Diego, Boston and many stops in between just using the cons as a reason to get together and laugh. Along the way, Paul kept giving me art. He even guest lectured for my comic art class in the early 90’s. He and Linda came out to visit us and do the Portland show again and I talked him into surprising my class with some of his wisdom. He happily obliged and gave the class a real thrill.
If you never met Paul, you missed out. If you did, then you know what a great, friendly, generous man he was. Paul will be greatly missed by all of us and I am just thankful that I had the opportunity to be apart of his life and be the proud owner of so many fantastic memories.