Old Friends

When I entered Warwood High School, ninth grade, most of the kids I was friends with at Corpus Christi School, like Mark Michaels and Christine Galloway and Tom Schroeder, went off to Wheeling Central High. So I felt like a fish out of water until I connected with the likes of Mike Darby and, around the same time, this funny smartass kid Scott Rockwell, who sat in the back of Spanish class and made a smart remark to me about collecting comics. 

It turned out Scott wasn’t berating me for it; he and his brother Doug were comics fans, too. We joined the Journalism Class together and were soon contributing to a lot of the school newspaper. We became the best of friends, and I spent chunks of nearly every day hanging out with them in the basement of his home. We shared comics to read, had similar joys and similar complaints, and we wanted to become comic book professionals — him drawing, me writing. 

I recall trying to get a portfolio of original scripts and art off to Marvel one summer day. We were pedaling our bikes as fast as we could to get to the post office before 5 pm. It was like life-or-death important we get that thing out to them that day. We shipped original art; it never occurred to us to mail photocopies. Scott crashed his bike into a parked car. “Go on! Go on!” He yelled, waving me to get to the Seventh Street Post Office in time. The portfolio was rightfully rejected; we weren’t ready. So we wrote fan letters, many of them quite critical of the sub-standard comics we read. We knew they could be better, but we at the time hadn’t lived our ives enough to do them better.

In 1975, I had my driver’s license, and Scott, Doug, and I went to our first comics convention — PittCon! — run by Ben Pondexter. Other people sharing our interests! Plus we’d get to meet real, working comics professionals whose names we’d recognized! It was a heady experience.

As we wandered through an art display, a canny mix of fan and professional artwork, we saw Marvel editor-in-chief Marv Wolfman talking to a tall young kid with a strong Pittsburgh accent, who looked quite a bit like a teen John Travolta. “Marv! My brother Marc drew this! Whaddaya think? Whaddaya think?” He was gesturing toward a pair of pieces of art — one was a Tarzan illustration, the other a published Marvel Spider-Man page.

Marv stroked his beard and said, “Well, it’s not too bad,” he said. “Spider-Man’s perspective’s a little off and the faces could be better. A bit more work, and he might be professional some day.”

The tall kid burst out with the loudest, most infectious laugh I’d ever heard. “Marv! My brother drew the Tarzan page. You just critiqued a PUBLISHED Sal Buscema Marvel Team-Up page!”

As Marv ducked away, embarrassed, we stepped up and introduced ourselves. The kid was David Lawrence, with whom Scott and I developed lifelong friendships. We sent each other comics and scripts we wrote, and Scott drew dozens of cartoons — all in-jokes — on manila envelopes that we mailed practically every month.

There’s a picture somewhere, maybe in Scott’s files, of him and me posing with Stan Lee at West Virginia University in ’78, where Cynthy Wood took a picture for us. As the photo was shot, Scott was saying to Stan, “Smile, and look as much like our Uncle as you can.”

Scott and Dave and I made a vow, which ever of us got into the comics business first, we would bring the others with us. A few years later, me being the most headstrong, I got in first. I brought Dave and Scott with me. David Lawrence developed the mega-popular series The Ex-Mutants and its spin-offs, and I brought in Scott as a designer, art director, writer, cover artist, and colorist. He was a talented guy.

Scott and Dave lived together for some months while we packaged comics for various publishers from my Campiti & Associates office in Warwood, WV. In later years they wrote stories together. We all wrote stories together, in fact.

When I launched Innovation Publishing in ‘88, of course both Scott and David were a part of it. Scott was briefly art director before becoming a writer and colorist for the company; I even hired Scott’s Dad to color for me. You’ll see Robert Rockwell’s name in the credits of some early Innovation books. Scott and I wrote issues of Dark Shadows together. Scott and Dave wrote issues of various Ex-Mutants and The Lunatic Fringe and Overture and other projects together. Some of the things David Lawrence wrote, like Hero Alliance scripts, Scott colored those. Although Dave lived in Pittsburgh and Scott and I lived in Wheeling — a good 75 minutes away with a good tail wind — we never really seemed to be apart. 

When I left Innovation in ’93 to launch Glass House Graphics, Scott Rockwell and David Lawrence were both was part of it. Dave has been writing projects through Glass House on and off for decades, officially becoming a movie screenwriter and a New York Times best-selling author in the process — in fact, he’s writing a new project now. 

Scott wrote and colored projects with me until about 1995, when his life changed via a gal he’d met at Innovation. He drove me to the airport on his birthday on July 13, 1995 for a trip I was making to Brazil. It was the last time I saw Scott, though he called me once a few years later. 

When his favorite book series The Lord of the Rings came out as movies, I sent him a card with a Ring of Power engraved in Elvish; I sent him an invitation to my wedding in 2001. He did not respond or attend. I learned he had essentially become a hermit, rarely if ever venturing out of his home and working mainly on paintings for private commissions to pay the bills. Even David Lawrence had not seen Scott face-to-face in years, as hard as Dave tried to keep in touch with Scott.

He had almost no internet presence, so I tried my best via mutual friends to stay current on his life. Every time I returned to Wheeling to visit family, I’d bring along a stack of books I’d written — such as Stan Lee’s How To Draw Comics, which I wrote to sound like Stan for 240 pages; I figured Scott would appreciate that. But I could never manage to connect with him, despite the best efforts of David Lawrence and of Jeffrey Burton, another great and mutual artist friend since our college years.

I was scheduled to fly back to Wheeling over this past weekend to attend my high school reunion and hoped to try again to see Scott; I had to cancel the trip last minute. Had I gone, I would have still been in Wheeling today.

And today I learned that Scott Rockwell died of a massive coronary at 61 years old. 

We did not see each other in decades, but I will cherish those many years of friendship, of humor, of deep affection and camaraderie that we shared, from kids who thought we knew it all to established professionals who did finally know most of it.

I would never have tried to become a professional writer, or book packager, or a publisher, or even an agent, if Scott Rockwell hadn’t been there at the beginning. He inspired me; I brought him along into the business. We shared many joys and sorrows and ups and downs.

I missed you for the past 20 years, and I’ll miss you even more now. I think you really would’ve liked my books, Scott. And I think you would’ve adored meeting my wife Meryl, telling me I finally got it right.

And David Lawrence? You better stick around a fucking long time, goddamn it.


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