Ray Bradbury, 1920 – 2012
San Diego Comic Con Memories
by Mike Gold and LFalcetti
“He helped inspire the imaginations of several generations. I can think of no greater tribute.”
Ray Bradbury, generally considered to be among America’s greatest writers, died Tuesday night in Los Angeles. He was 91.
The author of such modern classics as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury was born August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois, on Lake Michigan near the Wisconsin border. From these placid roots came a gargantuan imagination that gifted the world with nearly 30 novels and collections of his 600-plus short stories, helping the fantasy and science fiction genre shake the coils of its adolescent, bug-eyed monsters and big-breasted blondes image.
Heavily influenced as a child by futuristic imagery of Buck Rogers, Bradbury maintained his enthusiasm for the comics medium. When EC Comics William M. Gaines publisher “inadvertently borrowed” one of his stories for adaptation, Ray sent him a polite note informing Gaines that his payment check must have been lost in the mail. An enduring relationship quickly followed, and Bradbury’s work was adapted by such great artists as Wallace Wood and Al Williamson.
On a personal note, I had met Ray several times – the first at the premiere of his first play, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, directed by Stuart Gordon (later made into a movie by Gordon starring Edward James Olmos, Joe Mantegna, Esai Morales, Gregory Sierra and Michael Saad). One of those great moments in life came when I was asked to share an autograph table with Ray at the San Diego Comic Con; we spent some time talking about his fellow Waukeganite, Jack Benny. He was a marvelous, charming man – a surprisingly opinionated man who, despite his reputation as a science fiction author (which he denied; he was a fantasist), Ray Bradbury declined to fly in airplanes.
I saw Ray Bradbury speak at the San Diego Comic Con in 2010. Even though he was wheelchair bound and did most of his speaking through his biographer, he still was there to talk to his fans and share his wisdom. He was funny, sweet, open and honest. For someone at his age then, to go through the insanity circus that is Comic Con, shows just how deep his commitment and love to his fans was.
My father read to me every night as a child, classics from Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, Kipling and of course Bradbury. That’s of course the company he belongs in, with the greatest writers of the 20th century (I know Kipling is 19th century, forgive). The Martian Chronicles, the first Bradbury book (of many) he read to me was not only my introduction to science fiction (a love I’ve carried and celebrated to this day) but my introduction to seeing beyond the world around me.
His characters didn’t have to be royalty or wealthy, they were real people from real places with real dreams, fears and hopes. When they triumphed, I triumphed, when they fell, I fell. He could make the mundane fantastical and the horrifying instantly believable. His contributions can’t be counted, nor can the people he inspired.
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