– Chapter Thirty: Out of Defeat Emerges Victory —
Comedy of Errors may also be purchased from Main Point Books in Wayne.
Stewart remained silent as Carol told him the story of how they had met on a photo shoot of plush animals at his studio on the second floor of an Art Deco building on Garrett Road. He had studied photography at the Philadelphia College of Art and played the guitar.
As she spoke, Stewart thought about his most recent phone conversation with Carol and how, at that time, there had been no hint of any change in their relationship. During this call, she told him that she liked her job, was getting along well with the others in the firm, and enjoyed her ability to assert herself and provide opinions and input into the assignments she was given.
After a few minutes of Carol speaking about Gary, Stewart could no longer contain his emotions, and he interrupted Carol in mid-sentence.
“How long has your relationship with Gary been going on? When we spoke last Friday, everything seemed just fine between us.”
“It still is,” said Carol, “but I think that Gary and I are better suited for each other than we are.”
“With all that we’ve been through, you still believe that we’re not well suited?” questioned Stewart, shocked by her response.
“We’re friends, Stewart, and we’ll always be friends.”
“I accept that we’re friends, right or wrong, good or bad, but my feelings for you must be much stronger than yours are for me!”
“We’ve talked about this before, and I thought we were in agreement that our paths in life didn’t seem to be in alignment.”
“When we were in New York with the Whitneys and the Lears, you seemed to get along so well with them.”
“And I enjoyed being with them... a lot. But my ability to adapt to situations doesn’t change who I am inside. I thought I made that clear to you some time ago.”
“Apparently, I had more hope for us than you did concerning our relationship.”
Carol paused before speaking softly, “I don’t want to ever lose you as a friend, Stewart.”
As tough as it was at that moment, Stewart answered. “You’ll never lose me. I’ll always be there if and when you need me.”
Stewart thought back to his friendship with Sharon, and knew that what he said was genuine. He’d always love Carol as he would always love Sharon. Forget till death do us part, he thought. Love is timeless!
“I’d like you to meet Gary...” said Carol.
“Perhaps at some point, but not right now. I don’t think I’m strong enough to meet my competition.
“But if you ever need me, I’ll be there.”
“Thank you, Stewart.
“And you’re sure that you’re alright.... with the loss of your job, and the cartoon... and me?”
“They’re all just bumps in the road. We’ll talk later.”
Stewart quietly replaced the receiver onto the cradle.
Sleep didn’t come easily for Stewart that night... or the next. His future, which just a short time ago had seemed so promising, had been rent asunder by the winds of fate.
After being awake several hours each night, he finally rolled into a fetal position the second night, and, not knowing to whom he was talking, asked for guidance and the strength to handle his defeat. The answers didn’t come immediately, but two days after his call with Carol, he had healed enough to call Whitney at his office.
“Stewart?” Whitney answered. “I’ve been thinking about you.”
“As I have of you, Jock. I just wanted to thank you for all that you’ve done for me.”
“That’s very gracious of you, Stewart, since I wasn’t at my best in the way I handled the dealings between you, Lear and the syndicate.”
“It’s not your fault, Jock. I thought I was capable of doing more than I could do. But I guess that I’m still learning my limitations.”
“I, apparently, haven’t been aware of my own, either,” answered Whitney.
“During my nights of introspection,” said Stewart, “I wondered if you might have the time to help me with an answer. It’s about my contract with Field Enterprises. I believe that at this point I still own all of the rights to my cartoons. Am I correct?”
“Yes!” answered Whitney. “You fulfilled your two-year contract, and Field didn’t renew, so the ownership of all of the rights are yours, for any purpose that you choose.”
“So, if I choose to publish a book of my cartoons, and can find a publisher, I’ll be within my rights to do so?”
“I believe you can.”
“Then, Jock, I have one more question. Do you know of any editor or other executive at any publishing house who might possibly consider publishing a collection of my Kafka panels?”
“Possibly,” answered Whitney. “I know several editors at Simon and Schuster, but there’s been a shakeup at the firm since Bob Gottlieb left for Knopf, a few years back.”
“Since you’ve been my agent for my last two projects, would you be able to inquire with them, or should I?”
“I owe you that much, Stewart. Tell me more about the concept, and I’ll ask around.”
“I actually have two projects, the first being a self-curated collection of my Kafka cartoons. The second project is what I choose to call a graphic novel.”
“Do you mean something like the Classics Illustrated comic books?”
“No. I’m speaking of a novel that uses artwork to be integral with the written dialogue, so that the complete story, as written by the author, is revealed in words and pictures.”
“Do you have a story in mind?”
“When I was at the Philadelphia Chewing Gum Corporation, they issued a series of trading cards on World War II. It was a very popular series that had a photo on the front of a war scene, and copy on the back that explained the photo. What I’d like to do is present a novel by a contemporary writer in words and pictures. At this moment , I have two in mind: The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer; and To Hell and Back, by Audie Murphy.”
“When did this idea come to you, Stewart?”
“Actually, just last night when I was thinking about my father and the horrors he must have gone through during the war. And then I remembered reading Norman Mailer’s book, found it, and started reading it again.
“I’m thinking of it as printed in black and white on the inside pages with a full color paperback cover. But instead of the 48 pages of a Classic Comic, I envision it being as many pages as it takes to tell the story.
“My only issue is that I’m not the correct choice of an artist for what I want to accomplish, so I will need to hire one better suited for the task.”
“Do you mean that you wouldn’t be involved in the creation of art for your own book?” asked Whitney. “You’re artwork is what’s the greatest draw for your Kafka series.”
“I’m beginning to learn what I do well, and what I don’t, and from what I’ve seen from comic artists, they’re pretty amazing, and much quicker and more facile than I am in my processes.
“I’d love to work with someone like Neal Adams. He’s the guy who penciled, colored and planned several of the X-Men series for Marvel.
“My belief is that in the future, fewer and fewer people are going to read novels and that they’ll prefer to listen to them on eight-track tapes or view them on videos without a lot of description.”
“Would Norman Mailer or Audie Murphy even consider having their books made into a graphic book?” asked Whitney.
“Movies have already been made from both their books, but unfortunately Murphy was killed in a plane crash last year, while Mailer’s still alive. I checked on it, and Murphy had a gambling problem and accrued lot of debt before his death. His wife currently lives in a small apartment in L.A. and it would probably be easier to work with her, since she’s in need of any money she can get.”
“And why does the story have to be about World War II?”
“Because that war ended and the story’s over. We still don’t know the outcome of the Vietnam conflict, and in World War II, Americans came out the good guys, whereas our returning vets from Vietnam aren’t being showered with praise for their commitment to the country.
“My dad was in the Pacific from ‘41 through ‘45 and although he wasn’t later much of a provider for our family, his story needs to still be told. “Another reason for creating it is that I have nothing else better to do right now. I’m done with drawing roaches, and my girlfriend, Carol, just found herself a new boyfriend.”
“I liked Carol. So did Betsey!” said Whitney, shocked by the announcement.
“I did too. I still do. But you can’t force someone to love you back.”
“You seem to be taking the breakup rather well.”
“I have no choice. As long as I’m working, I’ll be okay. If I have nothing to think about but losing Carol, I’m worthless.”
“I’ll reach out to my contacts at Simon and Schuster,” said Whitney, “and we’ll see what they think of both of your projects. Just don’t get your hopes up too high.”
“I’ll contact Pam Murphy,” said Stewart, “and see what she thinks about introducing her husband’s story to a whole new generation of readers.”