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A KC COLUMN by KC Carlson
Tim O’Shea photo from his Twitter profile
My good pal Tim O’Shea has passed away, after a very long illness, and news started to spread early this week. I had a odd feeling that day, even before Johanna told me on Sunday that he had died earlier in the weekend.
Tim was a substantial part of several group comic blogs, from an era that’s already passing away. His interviews were the best known of his writing, and “Talking With Tim” was well-regarded for getting beyond the normal publicity material.
Johanna met Tim first, online, and she realized that I needed to meet him, and she made sure that happened. I don’t remember the exact situation, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s say that Tim and I met at the always outstanding Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC, produced by the indefatigable Sheldon Drumm of the Heroes Aren’t hard To find retail stores. I don’t remember much about that first meeting, because I was probably at my 50th or 60th comics convention at that point (after years of going to them representing capital City Distribution, Westfield Comics, or DC Comics). In my early DC years, I typically ended up going to 2 or 3 shows a month during the summers, because DC realized that I could communicate equally well with both comic fans and industry professionals. And, gosh darn it, people just liked me for some odd reason. but by this point, I was tiring of them, especially the dreadful Wizard shows.
YOU CAN’T stop THE BEAT
After normally talking about comics, at some point, Tim started talking about music. I knew where there was an amazing record/CD store (Manifest Discs), a place where I was surprised at their inventory and selection. I nearly always walked out of there with 5 or 6 (or as lots of as 10) CDs at every yearly check out — some of which I never even knew existed. I drove him over there and enjoyed him do pretty much the same thing. That became a regular part of our Charlotte trip when we were both at the show. We typically spent hours there.
That first time, he ended up getting a lot more than I did (I also gotten a lot there on my first visit). From that point on, the two of us made a point of skipping out of the show annually for a couple hours to go CD shopping. Afterwards, we’d pick up Johanna and Tim’s partner Ellen (and occasionally their son, Colin) and have a great quiet dinner somewhere far away from the convention. (This is Conventioneering 101: You need a couple hours of quiet away from the madness each day at a comics convention.) Afterwards, we would return to the Westin, and the ladies (and child) would drift off to bed after maybe a quiet drink, if we hadn’t already done that at the restaurant.
WHAT ARE CONVENTIONS FOR if not SILLINESS?
The bar at the Westin
Tim and I were just getting started for a very long night. We’d normally plop down somewhere in the lobby, near the bar, and before long, there were three to six a lot more “ploppers” (necessitating moving the furniture around). After a point, Tim would get up and wander — he always had people he needed to get caught up with. I would sit and “hold” the sofa I was on, welcoming anybody who wanted to join me — often best strangers (and non-comics people to boot). normally that conversation turned into “what the heck is going on around here?” and, of course, I made stuff up, pointing at people across the room and lying: “That’s Adam Hughes. He restored the Dead Sea Scrolls.” or “That’s Karen Berger. She breeds rare chipmunks in her back yard.” or “That’s Paul Levitz. He owns a mansion and a yacht.”
Tim would eventually return — and then it was our turn to talk. Both of us preferred not to be disturbed by embarrassingly drunk comic book people (because it was now very late in the evening), so we normally found a quieter place to chat. At the Westin, there were several terrific places to go and hide for an hour or two. If it was warm out, the hotel courtyard had a fountain where you could sit — at least for a while, until it got too cold or too loud from the drunks trying to find a place to swim. (Ah, I could tell stories…) There was also a “hidden” lounge on the second floor that overlooked the fountain, which was a great quiet place. (Others thought so, too, as we occasionally encountered people scrambling for their clothes.) but on trips where Tim was without Ellen, we normally just grabbed some sodas and chatted until all hours in the AM in his room. I don’t think I ever got back to my room until about 4AM. (Editor kid Roger Ash can vouch for this — he accompanied us on one of these late night discussions one year.)
YAK YAK YAK…
We always started talking about comics; who had been doing silly things, and who was getting screwed by their company, and other fun stuff like that. but eventually, we always switched to talking about music — artists wediscovered over the previous year, who was recording terrific stuff, and who put out a lame CD that year. The main goal of all this was to introduce each other to the “secret” amazing stuff you never heard on the radio. We were never at a loss to talk about new artists. I taught Tim about power pop, and not shutting up about it. He explained the magic of a lot of modern roots music to me, especially the rockier stuff. We could talk about music for days, if we had had the time.
I don’t think Tim ever knew, but he was a large part of why I was still going to comic conventions, ever considering that Johanna and I left DC Comics in 1997. (Something I must talk a lot more about sometime later, although it’s a massive bummer of a story — two stories, actually, and one not even mine — so maybe not.) even though I was normally becoming indifferent to comics themselves in those years post-DC, I realized that I still loved going to the shows and just hanging out with friends. There were always plenty of people to have dinner with and always new stories to tell and secrets to share. and Tim was always my favorite to “steal” for a few hours.
LATE night PHONE-ATHONS
Even after I “retired” from regular convention going, Tim and I would still talk often. We’d start with email: “Call tonight?” Tim would beg off until late (probably after Ellen and his kid were asleep). So even then our calls were nocturnal — often after midnight. I didn’t mind. The older I get, the less sleep I need, and if I wasn’t talking to pals in the wee hours, I’d be listening to music at my desk in the dark — trying to make myself sleepy.
Later on, Tim told me he was getting sick. He didn’t have to… I could hear it in his voice. I never brought it up, unless he wanted to talk about it. but mostly he didn’t — normally because it was a lot more crucial to talk about some new “old” album or artist he’d just discovered. Or what he still wanted to get done.
Then the calls and contact just stopped. I heard that he was in hospice. (Perhaps a lot more than once… It seems like he was holding on for a while, but in reality, I had no idea what was going on and didn’t feel like it was a time for intrusion from me.) I had heard somewhere that Tim’s major goal was to hang on long enough to see his kid graduate. I’m pretty sure that if that graduation didn’t already happen, Tim will be there anyway, because of the gigantic presence that Tim O’Shea was (and is), and everybody in that room will know it.
The wisdom of Warren Zevon
If I had to guess, Tim is already trying to set up an interview with his hero, Warren Zevon. They both had a lot in common, in how they both added to this world — and especially in the way that they both left it a much better place. I wish I could sit in on some of those late night discussions…
Happy Trails, Amigo. we all miss you already!
KC CARLSON has something in his eye…
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the silly things that KC says. especially that thing that really irritated you. take pleasure in every sandwich.