You see, it was on this day, the 7th of November, back in 1999, that I first made contact with Bart Sears.
As most of you know, I've been a fan of Bart's since way back in 1991, and I pretty rapidly became an avid fan, chasing down every item of his I could, but I didn't think to try and contact him until years later. So, one day, I sent off a letter to Marvel Comics care of Bart in early November and received an email from Bart on the 7th.
I can tell you that I was rather excited to receive an email from him, and it is funny how Bart's first line to me still rings true today-
"Thank you for the letter you sent, it just arrived today. I'm overwhelmed, actually, I think you have a better idea of the work I've done than I do."
Since that first email, all of those years ago, Bart and I have gone on to be good friends, and there really hasn't been a time when we haven't been in contact. I've even visited him a few times. The first time, in 2004, was a week of pure magic for me. We hung around his apartment, him drawing Cap/Falcon, me organising his boxes and boxes of photocopies and original art. We'd have bad action movies on in the background, go out to dinner, go to movies.
I think I slept for maybe 20 hours during the whole week! I got to meet all of the gang as well- Andy Smith, Mike Atiyeh, Rob Hunter, Ron Marz, his brother Brett and his family.
Bart even gave me a private art lesson, and let me do a background on Cap/Falcon 3.
Around about that time, I ran the first and only Bart Sears Fan Club, which unfortunately only lasted a year (due to time constraints on my end). There were only a few dozen members in the club, but it was incredibly fun to interview Bart on a range of subjects, not to mention showing to those members of the fan club some of Bart's lesser known work.
I visited Bart for the second time a few years after the first trip, and it was another brilliant time. I got to meet more friends, including distant relative (of mine) Mark Pennington and his family. We had a crazy night out with Rob Hunter, fun around the house with Bart's own family, and plenty of drawing and yet more box organising. Bart was working on Warlord 10 at the time, work that never saw print, unfortunately, because Bart got me working on blacks and a bit of inking-
I haven't visited Bart in far too long now, but have plans in place to do so some time in the future.
But we regularly email each other, or IM as we've been doing lately. We don't really talk about our own history as friends, but I think about it a lot. Like the time Bart sent my wife and I a two-page spread of original art from The Path for our wedding gift, or that first care package he sent me back in late 2000. Or the countless emails back and forth, mostly work related, but the special ones being when we'd talk about the crap in our lives and just be able to let it all out. Or the email, dated 16 November, 2000, where Bart states, regarding me being his Official #1 fan -"I don't know who else could be Number 1."
I often think about my two visits to him, just chatting about Ominous Press and coming up with some incredible ideas (mostly Bart).
But mostly, I think about how thankful I am that Bart answered that first letter I sent him, and how generous a person he is for all that he has done for me since.
Here's to the 10 years, Bart, may many more follow!