I have the best dad ever. (This is so cool that it
makes me willing to forgive him for making me go to bed early during the 1986 World Series.)
Five days ago, when my parents came over for dinner, I asked my dad to sign my copy of the book. But I didn’t want any old signature. I asked him to draw an original comic strip for me — and I told him to sign it ”from Stu Hample, his dad” instead of simply writing “from dad.” (It’s nice to have an informal/loving inscription every now and then, but this time I really wanted it to look official.)
Here’s what he came up with:
How AWESOME is that?!
But wait, it gets better…
My dad asked if I wanted Woody to sign it, too.
“Seriously?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’ll messenger it over to his assistant tomorrow,” he said, “and you’ll have it back in a few days.” (Random sidenote: Woody’s assistant is this man
He was right. The book was delivered to me this afternoon. Check it out:
All I can say is…wow.
Here are some close-ups, starting with the first panel of the strip:
Here’s the second panel:
Do you see how my dad signed the strip? He signed it “Joe Marthen.” Let me explain…
When my dad first started doing the strip in 1976, he had another strip going with a different syndicate, and he was under some type of exclusive agreement with them. For legal purposes, he had to come up with a fake name for the Woody strip. This was one year before I was born; his three kids at the time were named Joe, Martha, and Henry. So he combined their names into…Joe Marthen. Cool, huh? (My dad explained this story and many others in the book’s introduction, including a detailed account of what it was like to work with Woody, and how the syndicate kept trying to censor him and dumb down Woody’s jokes so that they’d appeal to the masses.)
Here’s a close-up of Woody’s inscription:
I have a lot of signed books. (That’s what happens when you’re a writer, and your dad is a writer, and your mom owns the best book store ever
.) Before today, the best signed book I owned was probably a copy of The Phantom Tollbooth
, personalized to me by both Norton Juster (the author) and Jules Feiffer (the illustrator), who drew one of the characters for me. Or maybe my two-volume set of Maus
, which Art Spiegelman (author/illustrator) inscribed…how do I describe it? He did a major drawing which spans both copies. Half is on Volume 1 and the other half is on Volume 2. In order to see the whole thing, you have to open up both books and hold them together.
But those are nothing compared to this.