Let me tell you a very personal story about one of the happiest moments in my entire life.
Of all of the comic creators I’ve known over the years, I’m privileged to consider artist JH Williams III and his wonderful wife Wendy two of my closest, dearest friends. Jim is not only one of the most talented people on the planet, but he is also one of the sweetest, kindest, humble, and most sincere people I have ever met. And despite being a little quiet and a bit shy, he doesn’t seem to mind my somewhat loud and boisterous personality too much. It’s almost impossible to conceive, because I am in awe of his amazing comics, but as much as I adore his incredible work, I like the man behind it even more. And the thing I love about Jim most of all is that he’s one of those people who has that rare quality that I treasure so very much… where they seem to just sparkle.
As fellow life-long Blondie fans (AKA “fanatics” with just a touch of a healthy leaning towards the obsessive side of things) we had an instant connection. And if you ever want to see that rare quality I’m talking about just mention anything about the band, he will light up the entire room with sparkles! For years it’s been a fun little game of one-upsmanship about who was the bigger fan of Debbie and The Boys with him, especially for me back in 2009 when I was lucky enough to get backstage to meet the band after a show in Reno. Poor Jim was inundated with texts from me saying “Oh I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it yet. Did I tell you I met Debbie Harry?!” over and over for weeks (laugh)!
Last year Jim was up for a couple Eisner Awards, Best Interior Artist and Best Cover Artist, which he of course deserved to win for his amazing work on Batwoman. He asked me if I’d accept on his behalf, so I came home from San Diego Comic Con with two of those trophies packed in my suitcase. The day I finally got to give them to him was in a small hotel in Santa Rosa, where we met before going together to see a Blondie show that night, I hadn’t realized he’d never won an Eisner before (how is that possible?). Thankfully the hotel bar had a little stage that I was able to host a tiny little impromptu award ceremony for us and a confused group on onlookers. Here’s a photo of JH Williams III getting his well-deserved Eisner Awards.
Afterwards we went straight to the Blondie show. And this wasn’t just your typical concert, we had VIP passes, so this time we were all going to get to meet Debbie and The Boys. As you can imagine we were all practically vibrating in anticipation. Our meet and greet was scheduled pre-show, so we soon found ourselves backstage waiting for the band to come over to say hello to us. It was one of the most nerve-wracking waits ever. I don’t mind telling you how incredibly nervous we all were, about to talk to our collective favorite band, our life-long obsessive idols, and the most gorgeous woman on the planet. I was just hoping I didn’t say anything really stupid, or creepily confess my undying love, or break out in tears or something.
My brief meeting with the band the year previous had prepared me a bit, and fellow Blondie-obsessive DJ Bearzbub who had met the band several times before was with us too… but Jim? He was a nervous wreck. He’d brought a copy of his gorgeous Batwoman hardcover to give Debbie, lovingly sketched in, personalized, and carefully put in a plastic bag to keep it from damage on the tourbus. With trembling hands he handed it to her and stammered out “You’re… you’re… you’re… my favorite… band… ever…!”
“Oh man, Jim is dying here!” my brain screamed out, and I jumped in. I started to tell the band about what a true genius of a comic artist he is, how I’d just gotten to give him those Oscars-of-the-Comic-Industry awards because he’d swept the show, and how at conventions people flocked to get to meet him. And part way through I realized all my nervousness had disappeared. Because here I was talking about what a genius JH Williams III is and about how awesome that Batwoman comic is… something I do pretty much every day of the week. And suddenly all was right with the world. The band, who love indie art, got interested in talking about comics and comic art, Jim relaxed, and DJ Bearzbub got everybody talking about the band’s new tracks (something everyone in that room was pretty excited about). And we all got to spend some time talking to our favorite band. It was awesome.
How could it get any better than that?! Amazingly it actually does…
After the show we were hanging out at the merch booth, buying CDs from the fantastic Detroit pop-punkabilly girl-group opening band Gorvette who were really, really cool. “You know what, if you don’t have other plans, why don’t you guys come hang out backstage with us and the Blondies? We’ll introduce you guys!” the drummer said with a grin. After a few we-wouldn’t-want-to-imposes they looked us right in the eye and said, “We insist!” And so… we found ourselves backstage yet again at the Blondie show! This time there was no time for any of us to build up any nervousness, gone was the formal meet and greet format and the awkwardly nervous backstage manager. Instead it was just an awesome hang-around with the nice folks from both bands.
Even better, unlike last time… Debbie and The Boys had all had a chance to open up that taped-shut plastic cover and actually seen inside that Batwoman book! And, yes, they were as impressed by his art as all the rest of us are. Backstage that second time Jim was greeted as royalty by all and almost immediately the headliners said to him “we should collaborate” which I’m sure totally blew his mind. I mentioned to Blondie guitar player, founder, and the reason I first thought wearing a necktie was cool, Chris Stein that we’d mail him some comics to read on tour. Chris is into the metaphysical so I suggested he’d probably love Jim’s series Promethea with Alan Moore. Chris suddenly blurted out, “Wait… YOU KNOW ALAN MOORE?!” Jim and Wendy were actually going to go stay with Alan at his house in just a couple weeks. It was truly a great universal nerdgasm!
There are so many wonderful little memories of that night. For me, it was one of the most magical moments ever. Hanging out backstage with Debbie and The Boys, Jim, Wendy, Kirsten, Bearzbub, and The Gorvettes, talking vintage synthesizers, stylish shoes, nerdy keytar bands, and comic books with the members of the coolest new wave band ever. I was on cloud nine. Here’s a photo.
But nothing makes me happier than to see my friends happy. And those sparkles of joy that Jim crackled with that night were truly magic.
Blondie’s new album Panic Of Girls launched in the United Kingdom just this week. It’s pretty fantastic by the way, check out a sneak peek here and here. The superfans like us all pre-ordered the Fan Pack deluxe edition that comes with an exclusive 132 page book, which is apparently available as we speak in shops all over the UK. And in that fat book Debbie and The Boys drop this little tidbit:
“Blondie will be collaberating on visuals for their next album with J.H. Williams III, a DC Comics artist and fan of the band whose previous gems include an epic series with Alan Moore called Promethea, and the current run of Batwoman…”
I’ve been biting my tongue about this news since last August, I know Jim’s been hard at work on the next Batwoman book and the Blondies have a few world tours they need to do before they even start thinking about that next album. But since Blondie has announced it in the Fan Pack I don’t think we have to worry about keeping secret any longer this story about one happiest moments in my entire life… and a real life dream-come-true announcement for one of the nicest guys in all of comics.
JH Williams III will be doing the cover of Blondie’s next album. And probably a lot more too.
It kinda brings a tear to you eye, doesn’t it?