I was deeply saddened to hear this morning of the passing of comics writer Gary Friedrich. I met him only once, briefly, a long time ago.
When I was a young lad, sometime in the mid-1960s, I visited New York City for the first time on vacation with my parents. What did I most want to see? The Empire State Building? The Statue of Liberty? The lights of Times Square?
No, I wanted to go to the place where they made the Marvel Comics I loved so much: 625 Madison Avenue (the address listed in the fine print at the bottom of the opening page of the comic books).
My father, dutiful parent that he was, agreed to take me.
When my dad gave the cab driver the address, the cabbie echoed back, “Standard Brands Building.” I was amazed. There were hundreds — thousands — of buildings in this enormous city. How could he know each one?
As we drove toward the location, I gazed at the architecture of the city — the rich blend of architectural styles I had previously known principally through the artwork of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.
Arriving at the Madison Avenue address, my father and I looked up the Marvel office on the building’s directory and took the elevator up to the floor.
I remember arriving at a small waiting area with a cubicle where a receptionist sat. I, of course, was too shy to do anything at this point. My dad went over to the receptionist and spoke a few words as I stood hesitantly in the corner. I couldn’t hear most of what he said, but I recall him pointing back at me saying “… the boy over there would like to see…” as his voice trailed off beyond my ability to hear.
After a short wait, Gary Friedrich emerged from behind a door and came over to greet me. I was surprised by how young he looked. (Friedrich, less than a decade older than I, would have likely been in his early 20s.) And hip — he was wearing what was then very fashion-forward bell bottoms and a flowered shirt.
Friedrich shook my hand and we shared a few words. I have no idea what I said. I really didn’t have anything to say, I just wanted to be there, at the place where Marvel comics were created.
As a much older adult, I’ve been to dozens of comic cons and met and photographed many of the comic book writers and artists I’ve admired. I never again met Friedrich, however — which saddens me. I wanted to tell him how much I appreciated how gracious he was to come out to meet me. It meant a lot to a young fan.