The Ian Gibson column: in praise of Al Williamson

Ian's been catching up with comics again, and appreciating the work of Al Williamson...

Christmas brought me a little bundle of comics from a fan in the States. Lee Dunchak, who writes a very extensive comic blog of his own, took pity on my lack of ‘reading material’. Among the strange collection was a copy of Daredevil. This caught my attention as it was inked by my friend Al Williamson.

I’ve been a fan of Al’s work since the 70s, when I discovered what wonderful art he’d been creating on his Al Corrigan Agent X9 newspaper strip. Some folk may have seen his daily strip of Star Wars too.

When I met up with him at the Norcon convention in Portland, Oregon, he was complaining that he’d forgotten how to draw – he’d been inking other people’s work for so long. It didn’t look like he’d forgotten how from the beautiful piece he was creating for a fan at the ‘signing’ tables. I’d seen him posted at a table not far from me in the convention hall. But I’d been nervous to approach someone who I considered a legend in comics! Just as I was settling over another sketch of Halo Jones, for one of the few American fans who’d heard of me, Al came over and said hello!!

It seems that my son, Luke, who I’d taken there as an experiential treat for a nine-year-old, had made friends with everyone in the convention hall, including Al. Easy to do! Luke was a cute little blonde boy with a charming disposition and bundles of energy! Smartest move I ever made! Everywhere we went people fell in love with him. A great ice breaker!! I recommend it. And if you haven’t made one of your own – borrow one! 😉

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It appears that he and Al had been chasing down the same ‘alien figure’ from the trade stands and made friends in the process. A wonderful way to meet my hero! Later Al and I sat together at a special ‘commissions’ table, where we worked on pieces to be auctioned for charity. Again, he was inking in someone else’s work. I expressed my surprise to him, and complimented him on his newspaper strips. They seemed to be a thing of the past. And he was content to ink in Daredevil and assorted characters. I reckon he was starting to relax after a lifetime of creating. It is a lot less strain to finish off someone else’s ideas than start from scratch and face that ominous blank sheet of paper every day!

So, Daredevil‘s gain is our loss.

But I hope deep down, that somewhere Al is working on something that will show us the magic that is the creative genius of Al Williamson. A true comics legend!

Ian Gibson writes regularly for Den of Geek. His last column can be found here.

And you can find his own website here.