At this year's San Diego Comic Book Convention banquet, in a speech I was asked to give about the much-loved, much-missed Jack Kirby, I
said the following...
"This has been a rotten year: With so many funerals to attend and obits to write, that earthquake in January is starting to look like
the highpoint of my '94. In fact, I am now forbidding anyone I care about to die until at least August of 1996 unless they bring a note from
Unfortunately, neither Frank Ridgeway nor Doug Wildey attended the banquet and so did not hear my warning. I'm sure if they'd
been there or known about my new policy, they'd have postponed passing-away. Just for me. Because they were very nice men.
Ridgeway died yesterday as I write this (10/5/94). This morning, I awoke to the news about Wildey.
This week, I'd like to talk about them and about one other friend I lost this year...these, in addition to Don Thompson and, of course,
Those two names, you all know. Fewer of you know about a delightful, clever man named Don Segall who died unexpectedly a few
months ago. Don was a TV Writer-Producer but he got his start in comics. He did a lot for Charlton and even more for Dell in the
early-sixties. One of his last assignments, before getting out of comics and into television, was the Showcase issue that introduced The
Creeper; Don did the dialogue over Steve Ditko's plot and art. At the time of his death, he had just made a return to comics, doing a few
scripts for Harvey.
Don was on the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild and here is what I wrote for their Journal:
He was tall by any measure, save for Perpendicular. In a restaurant, he would run the help ragged with the changing of tables,
the constant reconfigurations and add-ons of the order, never for his own comfort, only for that of his guests. (Well, I take that back: Those
who write the most complex instruction manuals possible could not compete with Don Segall in the act of ordering a corned beef on rye. He would
specify from which part of the loaf the two slices of bread should be taken, how the beef should be trimmed and laid thereupon...everything short of
which pasture the cow should have grazed in. It reminded me of those scenes in the movies where a doctor on the phone has to talk a layman
through performing a delicate surgical procedure and, thereby, save a life. Only Don was more serious about his sandwich.)
There was always food around Don but, as his pal Chuck Rapoport noted before an overflow crowd at the services, it wasn't because
Don liked to eat. Don liked to feed. Nothing was too good for his friends. If you were one, you were a lucky person, indeed.
I was a lucky person, indeed.
I first knew Don Segall through his work in comic books: During the late-fifties/early-sixties, he cranked out hundreds of stories
for them. Most were pseudonymous but you could usually spot a Segall script: They boasted a slight edge of Crazy and a wicked but Talmudic
sense of justice.
Soon enough, Don started writing and producing for television. His resume was instantly longer than he was...and amazingly
diverse: sitcoms, long form drama, variety shows, game shows, reality shows...
It was on a so-called reality show that we met and I instantly loved the guy. When he laughed, it was not the phony, polite
in-the-industry feigned laugh that so many allow themselves. No, it was a wonderful, full-blown, fall-on-the-floor, no-ego-involved
laugh. We became instant friends.
No unprecedented achievement, there: Don left every room with more buddies than he'd had on arrival...and once you were his friend,
you were his friend forever. No matter how often he moved, no matter what new industry he conquered, he never left anyone behind. His
wonderful wife, Marina, and his two sparkling kids, Greg and Pamela, just had to accept that the Man of Their House was also Host to half of
society...and the kind of Host who never did for himself; who derived his joy from doing for others.
Fate had a way of never allowing him to get too complacent. The classic Don Segall anecdote — and if it isn't true, it
ought to be — came about when his comrade Alan Alda authored a screenplay called Sweet Liberty. One of the characters — a
guilt-ridden, frenetic screenwriter — was clearly based on Don. Bob Hoskins played the role...and more like Don, he couldn't have
been. He'd studied Don, lived with Don, imitated Don to the nth degree...so much so that someone once said to Don, "They should have had you
play the role."
"They had me in to read for it," Don shrugged. "They felt I wasn't right for the part."
Then, in the last few years of what should have been a much longer life, Don faced perhaps his greatest personal challenge...one met
with tireless good humor and spirit: The work dried up on him. A once-constant flow became a trickle and Don lost his lovely home in Beverly
Hills and a goodly chunk of his lifestyle.
Typically, he did not keep it a secret, nor did he even think of cutting back on his substantial Guild service or his considerable
work for charity. Also, typically, he sought no charity for himself. The most he'd accept from you was advice and perhaps a word of
Fortified by the well-wishes of so many, he did something remarkable: He reinvented his life. He launched new enterprises,
chief among them a lecture series targeted to turn civilians into storytellers; to bring out the latent Writer in everyone. He loved making the
speeches and was just beginning to be deluged with offers when the wonderful life of Don Segall came to an abrupt, badly-scripted end.
I will never forget our last lunch at the Friar's Club, Don having asked me out to give him some advice. I offered what meager
counsel I could and spent the rest of the time mud-wrestling over the check. Donny was not about to let a little thing like having no money
stop him from being a good host.
I was hardly the only one so honored: during this time, Don had similar lunches with just about everyone he knew...which made for a
lot of lunches since, if you haven't gotten the message by now, Don had a lot of friends.
They were all working and he'd just lost his home. But I'll bet none of them got to pay the check, either.
That was my piece about Don Segall. I'm sorry you never got to know him; you would have liked him. (Alan Alda was one of
the speakers at the service, by the way. At one point, talking about how Don's memory must live on and sounding for all the world like his
M*A*S*H personna, he pointed towards the closed casket and yelled, "Don't let this man die!" I'm doing my best, Hawkeye...)
If you didn't meet Frank Ridgeway, you would have liked him, too. Everyone did. Frank was of a delightful breed: A
cartoonist who was as funny as his work. And his work — most notably on the newspaper strips "Mr. Abernathy" and "Mrs. Fitz's Flat"
— was very funny. He wrote for Mad and he dabbled in animation scripts and live-action TV.
I didn't know Frank as well as I would have liked; when we were together, we rarely got past swapping jokes of questionable
humor...and, sometimes, taste.
But I can report that Frank was responsible for my favorite magazine cartoon of all time. It was set in a lecture hall of some
sort...one completely filled with empty chairs and absolutely no spectators. Standing on stage in front of all those unfilled seats is a
self-important speaker, pounding on his lectern and smiling, babbling on as if the hall were packed.
The caption was, "Y'know...no one showing up reminds me of a funny story..."
Thank you, Frank. For that and for everything.
And that brings us to Doug Wildey. I just looked it up and was shocked to discover that Doug was 72 when he passed away; he
looked twenty years younger and acted sixty years more youthful.
Doug created and designed many colorful characters for animation and comics over the years but none was half as colorful as the one he
saved for himself. He was an eternally-young, fast-talking curmudgeon with a flair for fun and the habit of carrying Honesty to the point of
being offensive. At conventions and parties, whenever he entered a room and spotted Jack Kirby there, Doug would start yelling, "No World War
II stories! No World War II stories!"
All the time I knew him, I only knew Wildey to lie about one thing. He would claim that drawing comics or working in cartoons
were just ways of making money, nothing more. The first time I met him, he offered to give me, a struggling beginner in the world of
funnybooks, some precious, valuable advice. Eagerly, I listened for what I thought would be some pearl of creative revelation...some wizened
secret of graphic storytelling...
Instead, he said, "Whatever company you work for...find out who makes out the checks and make friends with them."
He professed to care nothing about artistry...but then he'd sit down to work and put the lie to his own defense mechanism. I
refer you especially to a series of Tarzan comics he did for Gold Key, succeeding Russ Manning, circa 1969. The pay was not good but
Doug was honored to be drawing the character. He took no short cuts, trimmed no corners...and, incredibly, imitated no one. His was not a
Foster Tarzan or a Hogarth Tarzan or a Manning or a Celardo or anyone else's; his was the Wildey version and a perfectly valid one on his own
terms. You couldn't draw like that if you didn't care.
Or look at his newspaper strips — "The Saint" and "Ambler." Or his comic book work for Sgt. Rock or Blackhawk
or his own wonderful western, Rio. None of it is the work of a guy who just did it for the pay.
Still, all his life, Doug carried on this "take the money and run" act, though it got thinner and thinner. Eventually, he seemed
to realize that not one person around him — not one — believed it of him. The last time I heard him say it, he said it with a wink
and a touch of self-parody.
What killed the act was his recognition by a new generation. Doug, of course, created the Jonny Quest cartoon series for
Hanna-Barbera. In the mid-seventies, when he went to produce a Godzilla series for the same firm, he found himself surrounded by young
artists, most of whom knew and loved his comic book work, all of whom cited Jonny Quest as a key factor in their drive to become
illustrators. He became a kind of Father Figure to many new talents, including Will Meugniot, Rick Hoberg and Dave Stevens. When Dave
created a comic book called The Rocketeer, the character of Peevy the Mechanic wound up looking and sounding exactly like Doug Wildey.
Producing Godzilla, Doug often seemed to be emulating his star, charging about the H-B building, fighting for the best people to
be assigned to his unit, roaring when something was harming his program, stepping occasionally on people...though always for a good cause. It
is a high compliment to Wildey when I say that the "right" people considered him a loud pain-in-the-butt...the people whose approval meant that you
were putting office decorum and staying-on-budget ahead of producing a good show. Some of the best artists — guys Doug wanted in his unit
— were assigned to Super-Friends. One by one, mostly through his personal charm and their eagerness to work with the great Doug
Wildey, he got them to transfer to Godzilla. When the Super-Friends producer figured out what was going on, he and Doug almost
came to blows in the Hanna-Barbera parking lot.
I didn't work on Godzilla but, like many who did, I found myself often turning to Doug for advice and counsel. He'd been
everywhere, done everything, knew everybody. Even long after he got out of animation forever for the nineteenth time, he was always
accessible...and filled with advice far more valuable than finding out who issues the checks and becoming buddies. I don't know what a lot of
us would have done if not for Doug.
There are a thousand other Doug Wildey stories but I'll close with two. One occurred a day I was visiting him and he showed me a
new, rather spectacular western painting he'd just completed. I admired it (truthfully) but asked him what kind of paint he'd used.
Doug pulled open a large desk drawer and, in there, he had one of every kind of paint, crayon, marker, dye, tint, pencil, pen,
charcoal, eraser and art instrument manufactured this century. He referred to the drawer to jog his memory, then pointed to sections of the
painting: "This part is oil...this is acrylics...the yellow here is gouache except for this part, which is Magic Marker...the hat is Crayola and this
whole section is colored ink..."
I said, "Gee...the first thing they teach you in Art School is never to mix media."
A big, triumphant smile formed on Doug's face and he said, proudly, "Well, I can do it because I never went to Art School!"
(He said it as if saying, "Well, this gives me an advantage on all those guys who brag how they did, doesn't it?" I'll never
forget the pride of that moment.)
The other story: Back in the mid-fifties, Doug drew a western comic for Marvel (then Atlas) called The Outlaw Kid.
Fifteen-or-so years later, Marvel unleashed a swarm of western reprints, our old pal The Outlaw Kid, included. Though printed off very bad
stats, it quickly became the best-selling of the cowboy reprint comics — so much so that, when the Wildey reprints ran out, Marvel had other
hands do new stories of the character. Sales immediately dropped so Marvel began reprinting all the Wildey stories for a third time.
That was when Doug decided that he deserved a little taste. Today, DC and Marvel pay fees when they reprint old comics but, back
then, they not only paid nothing, they often got very insulting if you suggested it might be an honorable, even wise business move. Doug had
been paid $27 a page when he first drew all those Outlaw Kid tales; he wrote a letter to Marvel suggesting that, since they were proving so
profitable, perhaps he deserved a bonus...if not a reprint fee, then how about making up the difference between the low fee he was paid then and
current rates? He was basically asking for about a thousand dollars.
Doug's letter arrived at Marvel. Someone with a red marker wrote "Fat chance" across it in big letters and sent it back to
him. He showed it to me. "That's really rude," I said.
"Yeah," Doug said, "But don't worry. They'll pay it to me, one of these days." Doug seemed less bothered by it than I
I forgot about the letter, So, I would have assumed, did Doug. Twelve or thirteen years later, I was doing a project for
Marvel's animation studio and they suddenly had an urgent need to have some fancy presentation art done. The subject matter was in Doug's area
of expertise and he was probably the only artist available whose name and work would impress the appropriate network exec. Doug was approached
to do the art. He quoted a high price. The producer at Marvel gulped and accepted.
That night, Doug called me up. "Hey, Ev," he said, "you know how I arrived at that price?" I asked him how.
He said, "I figured out what a fair price would be...then I added a thousand dollars in honor of the Outlaw Kid and laid it on
It was then that I realized why no one else could draw that comic. Doug Wildey didn't just illustrate the Outlaw Kid; he
was the Outlaw Kid. I'm going to miss him. I'm going to miss all these men.
I don't know if there's such a thing as Heaven but, if there is, at this very moment, Doug Wildey is telling Jack Kirby to knock off
the World War II stories.
And Jack, bless him, is telling them anyway.