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John Byrne and the Stolen Comic Collection

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Don’t tell anyone, but when I was in junior high I got the gift of a lifetime; someone else’s well curated comic book collection. I’m talking over a thousand Silver, Bronze, and Copper Age comics – delivered right into my parent’s garage by a family friend I never thanked and have only seen once in 35 years.

“There’s like a million boxes in the garage,” Mom said nonchalantly that morning, as if my whole life didn’t just change. I peaked inside on my way to school, grabbed a stack of who-knows-what, and headed to the bus-stop. I’d get motion-sick reading those in transit, so I had to wait until lunchtime. There, in the A/V room, while I shone an old filmstrip of Support Your Local Sheriff to an auditorium of restless kids, I leafed through a small sampling of what awaited me at home; about twenty issues of John Byrne era X-Men.

Yeah, I was an A/V monitor. Wanna make something of it? Can you think of a better way to get out of Gym?

Anyway, I was all alone in that projection booth, flipping through page after page of mutant glory. The only happier kid in school was secretly humping our hot Chemistry teacher. Or so he said.

I was never the best student, and there was zero chance of me concentrating in class that day. So I did what any re-blooded American kid would do – I delayed my gratification until the 3pm bell to ensure a deeper more enduring reward at the end of the day.

Yeah right!! I faked being sick after lunch and got my ass to the Nurse’s office.

“Can you call my Mom? I think I’m gonna throw up,” I said, with a practiced painful expression I used several times a year.

When Mom picked me up, she was rightfully suspicious. Still, I wasn’t up for feigning sickness. I wanted to rummage through those comics in the garage, not lay in bed all day. Any lie I told Mom had to allow me free run of the house.

“I’m OK, Ma,” I said in the car ride home. “I was embarrassed to tell the Nurse the real reason I wanted to go home. I fell on my balls. It was killing me about an hour ago but it’s already feeling better.”

Thus ended that conversation.

Every time I smell an old musty comic book I go right back to that moment.

I don’t know if I can adequately convey the joy of discovery I felt opening those cardboard boxes and riffling through issue after issue of comics from the seventies and eighties. There were even some from the sixties. Every time I smell an old musty comic book I go right back to that moment. It was a dream come true. So many important issues, too. Lots of number ones. The condition wasn’t always mint, but I wasn’t interested in that back then, although within a few months I had bagged each one.

In the early 80’s I was already in love with John Byrne’s work on Fantastic Four and Alpha Flight. There was something about his style that spoke to me – and I wasn’t alone. He was the most popular comic artist of the era with a reputation for getting good work done fast. I heard he was a little difficult, but so are most great artists. For me, that was part of the appeal. I even bought the book The Art of John Byrne and would pour over each page for days on end. Those sketches and doodles filled my imagination with fantasy.

Cut to a few months ago.

ring-ring
“Hey Ma, remember when that guy gave me all those comics years ago?”
“Yeah.”
“I’m starting to think these may have been stolen or something.”
“You’re just realizing this now?” she asked.
“Wait, you knew he stole them?”
“I have no idea where he got them. He said a comic shop closed.”
“Yeah, that doesn’t make sense.”
“I know,” she said.
“Ugh, I hate to think someone out there misses these.”
“Whoever it was they’re probably dead.”
“That’s nice, Mom. Also, just so you know, I didn’t really hurt my balls that day.”
“Your what?”

fantastic-four-by-john-byrne

When I got all those comics I was re-introduced to Byrne in a much more comprehensive way. It was something of a crash course. While it lacked his earliest work with Charlton Comics, there were full or semi-complete runs of some of Byrne’s best work throughout his career. I’m talking Uncanny X-Men, Iron Fist, The Untold Legend of Batman, Avengers, and plenty of back-issue Fantastic Four, The Champions, Marvel Team-Ups, Marvel Preview, you name it. I became spoiled and devoured it all. You could say I became obsessed, buying anything the man was involved in for most of the next thirty odd years. Even his Stephen King-like horror novel Fear Book. I still keep up with Byrne. If he’s working on something, I wanna see it. He’s the Elvis Costello of comics.

He’s the Elvis Costello of comics.

Sometimes I stare at the Dark Phoenix Saga comics, or the Days of Future Past ones and can’t believe they fell into my lap. It’s not right. But I’m the one that bagged them, backed them, bought the long white boxes, and have carried them around from apartment to storage unit and back again for three decades.

So, there’s no real point to this article other than to tell the story. Maybe some of you are jealous. I know I would be. Maybe some of you are angry. I can understand that, too. I spent some time looking into stolen comics but nothing I’ve researched points to my collection, thankfully. Even if it did, I’m not sure how I would react.

To whomever owned these comics before me, know that they are in good hands, well kept, and appreciated beyond measure. I’ll do everything I can to pay it forward at the end of my life, perhaps leaving the lot to an underprivileged child somewhere. I know just how that kid will feel getting all these books at once.

ff252-sideways-issue

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Rest Easy Eric Curran a.k.a M.C Krispy E

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Almost every year for the past 6 years and on the same day, I’ve posted the same pic of me in the hospital  during my temporary and untimely demise  in 2015. A few weeks after I was back to “normal”, I asked Eric “Why’d you take the pics?” And he said, “I knew you would want to write about it if you lived.” Eric was right. Eric was often right and Eric always had my best interest at heart. I am going to miss my friend.

You ever meet someone and become friends immediately?! Well this was not the case with Eric. Before he was my manager at Morgan Stanley, I would often see this 6’4″, giant white guy walk up to the only black woman at work, say something then walk away without any hint of human emotion. Naturally I thought he was a jerk until I asked her “Yo, is that dude bothering you?” She laughed and proceeded to tell me he was a great person, which I ultimately got to experience first hand. Little did I know this Italian from Staten Island was more Brooklyn than most Brooklynites.

Eric was not with the shits!! If there were ever someone who lived their life in direct, honest and no uncertain terms, that would be Eric. He would ask me questions at work like “Why are the other consultants making more money than you?” I knew the answer to that question and so did he. Eric then proceeded to increase my salary by 15K. After arguing with all our managers that “You need to hire Alfred!”, they eventually did 1 year prior to the 2015 incident. In the hospital, one of my friends asked me, “What if you didn’t have health insurance when this happened?” I would be in debt for the rest of my life is the obvious answer. I still am in debt for the rest of my life but at least, it is to those who made sure I had a more enjoyable life and for that, I will gladly repay.

My mom loved to tell me the story of how she met Eric. After they told her I was going to be in the ICU for some time, she told the doctor “Well I’m not going anywhere.” She then hears a voice from that back of the room that says “Well I’m not going anywhere either!” That was Eric and in true form, he was at that hospital every single day until I was discharged.

Eric passed away in December 2021 of stage 4 cancer. After feeling faint on his way to my bbq, he went to get checked out and was diagnosed. During the past 5 years, Eric lost his mom, twin brother and dad. I can’t even begin to imagine what that must have felt like but I’m glad that pain he was feeling is no more.

It’s been a bit difficult to deal with it to be quite honest and I’ve been writing this in my head for years but never had the bravery or grace to accept that my friend wouldn’t be here soon. I also can’t imagine what it must be like to lose your entire family nucleus unexpectedly. In true Eric fashion however, I would like this to not be about me but whomever has lost someone and has been coping. I’ve always intimated that my life would not be as enriched as it was were it not for the people in it. The problem with that is there is also no way to deny that it feels empty without those who helped craft your path. Rather than focus on the negative, I would rather focus on the examples of duty, family and emotional intelligence. All concepts reinforced by Eric that have led me to have successful relationships since I’ve put them into practice.

From being my manager to my business partner, writer, book editor, artistic director, and most importantly, my friend, I am going to miss you MC Krispy E a.k.a “Enrique Pollazo!” And although you told me Enrique means Henry in Spanish and not Eric, it was too late!

Sidebar. The day I was discharged, while everyone was deciding what was best for me, no one had remembered that I would need clothes in order to leave the hospital. Eric shows up (unasked) with all the clothes I had on the day I coded, laundered and ready to go. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve friends like this but i need to keep doing it! Sidebar complete.

Rest in Peace Eric. “Be Good.”

Alfred Obiesie is a writer with over 12 years of online content contribution (Onetrackmine.com, Cartermag.com, Essence.com) and author (You Made It a Hot Line; The most influential lines in hip hop.) The book chronicles hip hop lines from the genre’s most notable artists spanning almost 40 years. It is illustrated by Grammy award winning Illustrator Shah Wonders and has garnered praise from multiple media outlets (Sirius XM, Vibe, Brooklyn Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, etc...)

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Writing Your First Book / Should I Self Publish?

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I had the distinct pleasure of  participating in a panel discussion on writing your first book, presented by the Harlem chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.  Alongside Jim St. Germain, Author – A Stone of Hope: A Memoir and Dr. Keneshia Nicole Grant, Author – The Great Migration and the Democratic Party: Black Voters and the Realignment of American Politics in the 20th Century.  We opined on pain points, benefits and strategies regarding our inaugural voyages into authorship. Feel free to watch for your self and I hope this provides some insight to all those looking to make the same voyage. Enjoy!

Alfred Obiesie is a writer with over 12 years of online content contribution (Onetrackmine.com, Cartermag.com, Essence.com) and author (You Made It a Hot Line; The most influential lines in hip hop.) The book chronicles hip hop lines from the genre’s most notable artists spanning almost 40 years. It is illustrated by Grammy award winning Illustrator Shah Wonders and has garnered praise from multiple media outlets (Sirius XM, Vibe, Brooklyn Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, etc...)

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What the NFT is a BEEPLE?

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On March 11 this year, the digital artist Beeple sold a collage of digital images from his “Everydays” series for nearly 70 million dollars as an NFT, or non-fungible token. And if that sentence confuses you, you’re not alone.

A non-fungible token is a unit of data on a digital ledger called a blockchain, where each NFT can represent a unique digital item, and thus they are not interchangeable. NFTs can represent digital files such as art, audio, video, and other forms of creative work. While the digital files themselves are infinitely reproducible, the NFTs representing them are tracked on their underlying blockchains and provide buyers with proof of ownership.” – Wikipedia

Still confused? Let the artist himself explain it, and learn how he went from NFT newbie to making the third most expensive artwork by a living artist in three months. Not to suggest Beeple is an overnight success. The “Everydays” series alone involved creating a piece of art every day since May 1, 2007 – and he hasn’t missed a day.

Check out some of Beeple’s amazing and controversial work below.

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