Saturday, February 28, 2015

R.I.P. Chris Barat.



Image above is from Chris' Blog: News and Views by Chris Barat. 

Christopher Eugene Barat, devoted husband to Nicky, best friend to me since 1987, and beloved member of our little Blogging community passed away on Sunday, February 22, 2015, from complications following kidney transplant surgery, at the unthinkable age of 52.

At TIAH Blog, we routinely mark the passing of comic book creators and character actors whom I’ve admired but never met – but THIS is not only difficult for me to write, but difficult to accept personally as well. 

Together and separately, Chris and I have experienced too many good times and great things to even begin to count.  Now, those good times have ended – but they will never really be over! 


Left to Right: Chris, Joe, and Dell and Gold Key Comics writer Don R. Christensen, at some unspecified time in the late '80s. 

I’m fond of saying that everything begins somewhere.  Just as someone must have introduced Ub Iwerks to Walt Disney, Bud Abbott to Lou Costello, Dean Martin to Jerry Lewis, Jerry Siegel to Joe Schuster, Bill Hanna to Joe Barbera, Stan Lee to Jack Kirby, John Lennon to Paul McCartney, and Jerry Seinfeld to Larry David, it was Dana Gabbard (through his fanzine “The Duckburg Times”) who introduced me, still relatively new to fandom myself, to a college-age writer named Chris Barat. 

In those pre-Internet days of 1987, I had recently completed a paper-printed index to the MICKEY MOUSE comic book series, and had set my indexer’s eyes on a new animated television series based on the Disney character comic-book work of master artist Carl Barks, called DuckTales. 


Seemingly out of the blue, Chris expressed a similar desire to Dana and, as any good editor would, Dana introduced me to Chris, stepped back, and let unexpected wonders happen. 

Though the mails, Chris and I worked on our DuckTales Index, each taking notes and contributing observations on every episode, then recorded daily on VHS tapes.   All the more incredibly, as I recall, Chris did not have a VCR, and formulated all of his contributions strictly from memory. 

When the project was complete, Dana published it as the double-sized, now-legendary, DUCKBURG TIMES # 24/25, which covered only the First Season and, of necessity, shortened or otherwise limited our commentaries.  

Published by Dana Gabbard. Cover by William Van Horn
A deluxe, full version was privately produced by Chris and myself, covering all episodes with detailed summaries and long commentaries – but, alas, being produced before the Digital Age, we were unable to reproduce it in modern times. 

Reading it then, and all the more so reading it now, the most amazing thing to me is that Chris and I meshed SO WELL that I can no longer tell exactly who contributed what to this research work. 

Some vestiges of this emerged in the text intros to the two trade paperback volumes of “Carl Barks’ Greatest DuckTales Stories”, published by Gemstone in 2006.    

  
From there, we went on to produce complete, to that point in time, indexes to the UNCLE SCROOGE and DONALD DUCK comic book series.  All three of these efforts hold a proud place on my den bookshelves – and I’ll often consult those before logging-on to the Internet, if such information is needed. 


Chris became a true “Friend-in-Fandom” over the years that followed. 

The period of transition from Gladstone Series One to Disney Comics (1990-1991) was an memorable time to share with Chris.  Excited and enthusiastic phone calls occurred almost every Thursday night (recall that “New Comics Day” was then on Thursday, not Wednesday), after 9 PM when the (pre-cell-phone) telephone rates went down.  The third week of the month, when Disney Comics’ MICKEY MOUSE ADVENTURES and UNCLE SCROOGE were released was a “must-call” night.  As soon as these comics were read and digested, we’d be discussing stories and material for our Letters of Comment. 


To one extent or another, this would persist throughout the nineties and beyond, covering such topics as “The Disney Implosion”, some of the high points of DC Comics like “The Death of Superman”, “Knightfall” (Batman vs. Bane), and especially LOBO, Don Rosa’s “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” (…and Chris’ particular objections to the “interfering” and “intrusive” ghosts that talked to and guided Young Scrooge), transitions of Disney comic books to Gladstone Series Two, Gemstone, Boom! Studios, and the coming comics from IDW in 2015



There were frequent visits to my place in Brooklyn, particularly during the period we were both single, where we’d watch hours and hours of vintage live-action and animated TV shows on VHS, and look at older comics.  Chris was for me the friend I did not have, growing up in the sixties and in the Silver Age of comics.  One day, while watching a random episode of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, our mutual sentiment was: “Imagine having a new one of these every week!”  (…and, for me, imagine having someone to enjoy it with.) 

Naturally, the Disney and Warner Bros. animated series of the late ‘80s thru the ‘90s were prime material for us.  We thrilled to the TV animation renaissance that was occurring before our eyes.  Especially, after those dark times of the ‘70s thru mid ‘80s.   
DuckTales was his favorite Disney show, and Pinky and the Brain was his favorite Warner Bros. show.  

Chris began to accompany me on my annual trip to Comic Con International San Diego where, at first, he was overwhelmed, but he quickly acclimated and enjoyed the experience immensely.  Over the years, more and more of our mutual friends would become a part of this, creating some of the greatest memories anyone of the fannish persuasion could have. 


It's all thanks to Dana!  Left to right: Chris, Joe, and the guy who introduced us, Dana Gabbard, at San Diego Comic Con 1995. 



Once the San Diego days wound down after 2003, I would still see Chris every year at Baltimore Comic Con, until I eventually made New York Comic Con my event of choice.


And, no discussion of those “fannish” activities could be complete, without the glue that held everything together, our mutual journey into the world of APA and Fanzine writing, starting sometime in 1994.  It was here that “The Issue At Hand” (aka TIAH) and “News and Views” became our mutual “brands”, which we carried forward into multiple publications (Chris also did “Richville Ruminations” for Mark Arnold’s “The Harveyville Fun Times” , while I simply ported “TIAH” over there) and finally into the Blogosphere in 2008. 



At his 2003 wedding to Nicky, it seemed only fitting that I quoted from Carl Barks' Uncle Scrooge in my speech – and it was a month or so later that I would meet Esther, so 2003 was a “Forever Milestone Year” for both of us.   Nicky was the best thing that could have happened for Chris, and their mutual love was always clearly on display! 



I quoted from this comic.  If you're going to borrow, borrow from the best! 

And it all started with a Mouse… er, “Gabbard”!  See all the great things you’ve been responsible for, Dana?  

Chuck Munson and Chris ride the New York City Subway.  Thankfully, I'm BEHIND the camera for this one!

Over those years, beyond 2003, the enthusiasm continued, though with fewer phone calls and more e-mail – and, of course, eventually the Blogs.  We both found our way into script-writing for the comics we loved, thanks entirely to David Gerstein.
 
When Chris entered the hospital, there was no doubt on my part he’d be free, clear, strong, and well to enjoy the coming Disney comic books from IDW that we both anticipated.  This leads me to my last (and perhaps most unforgettable) memory of Chris.

The last night that we spoke by phone, January 30, 2015, he was in the hospital and sounded very weak. We were discussing those comics and how I expected him to be home and well, long before they began. I had just finished my first draft of dialogue for the backup story to appear in the second issue of UNCLE SCROOGE, which I liked a lot. I ended up READING IT TO HIM, doing the dialogue, and describing the accompanying art. He got a lot of laughs out of that, and told me how good it made him feel.




The upcoming UNCLE SCROOGE # 2 (# 406) from IDW.

He was the only person (other than David, as editor) that had any knowledge of it, at the time. It was so good to hear him laugh. He was looking forward to getting a copy when it came out. So sad that will not happen, but he DID get to experience "that much of it as did exist", and I'm forever happy about that.

Such a final interaction was an extraordinary one that I don't think COULD have happened between two other people!  I’ll never forget it.  

And, Nicky… Esther and I feel so profoundly for your loss!   Chris was truly one of a kind!  He didn’t have a mean bone in his body, or a negative thought in his mind.  It showed in every word and in every deed.  He was the best kind of friend a guy could have and, doubtless, was an extraordinary husband.  


Image above of Nicky and Chris is from Chris' Blog.

Other members of our Blogging community have their own special tributes to Chris.  Please visit them. 




41 comments:

Mark Arnold said...

Thanks Joe, for a fine tribute.

Joe Torcivia said...

And thank YOU, Mark, for your tribute as well.

It's clear that Chris was a great friend to both of us, and he will forever be missed.

Thad Komorowski said...

I knew someone in David's Di$ney comics circle wasn't doing well, but was shocked to know it was Chris. I'm sorry I didn't get to know him better and that I only saw him that one New Year's at your place, Joe. I had NO idea that you and David went back that long with him.

I'll admit I was a little rankled that he got to do the "Love Trouble" article for FGL 6 (but only because about five of us other nuts wanted to do it!) but I'm glad he got it because he did a fine job. I'm sad I won't be reading any further commentary from Chris.

My condolences to all of you for your loss.

Joe Torcivia said...

Thank you, Thad. And I, too, am glad Chris got to make a lasting contribution to the Floyd Gottfredson Library – particularly for a story I know he was very fond of.

Ryan Wynns said...

Joe,

Lovely tribute. I love that photograph from the '80's! And you gave me a lot of '90's "flashbacks", particularly the Disney Comics era -- even though I didn't yet know you guys, I was there for those comics the whole way through, though I was just a child. And I didn't realize that you there was a point where Chris and you were "hanging out" every week -- those sounds like GREAT times, indeed.

I am hoping to write a tribute of my own tomorrow.

-- Ryan

scarecrow33 said...

Thanks for sharing this heartfelt tribute.

You really have the gift, Joe, for celebrating people, and that helps to bring us all closer together, even those we've never met in person.

May you find strength and joy in your memories. Thanks for helping us to share in them.

Joe Torcivia said...

Oh, those were great times all right, Ryan! Hard to believe they were so long ago.

But, no… we were not “hanging out every week”, as enjoyable as that might have been. It was the phone calls that were weekly, while I was in Brooklyn and he was in Richmond, VA.

If you put up a tribute post of your own, I will add a link to it

Joe Torcivia said...

Thank you for your kind words, Scarecrow!

But, if there’s any kind of “gift” involved, it’s the friendship I described in this post – and the company of those who have stopped by to read about it.

Dana Gabbard said...

I am still dumbfounded at the unexpected and inexplicable loss of Chris. And just after one of my cousins recently passed. In a year or two I was hoping to finally be in a position to visit the right coast after too many years since I last visited NY and environs. And besides Joe of course I was looking forward to seeing Chris again. How sad that fate cruelly means that won't happen. He was a remarkable person and I was glad to facilitate what became a great partnership and friendship. Oh, growing older is so bittersweet. Farewell, Chris! You will be remembered.

Joe Torcivia said...

Just think, Dana…

Everything chronicled here and so much more would NOT have occurred, or at least have happened much differently, were it not for you and your fanzine. As you can clearly see, my life would have been all the poorer for the lack of this wealth of good times and fun experiences.

I’m a true believer in the idea that any given day can change the course of your life forever – the day you meet someone, make a key (or, in contrast, seemingly unimportant at the time) decision, etc.

And you, going back further still to your original invitation and encouragement to write for your publication – let alone your later pairing me with Chris, “facilitated” so many of the things that I have enjoyed since 1980 (…the single year that changed the trajectory of my entire life for the better in ways well beyond having to do with any of this). Up to and including this Blog, and writing professionally for the comics I’ve spent a virtual lifetime admiring. Take that with you as you go forward, my old friend.

Only difference now, we’ll have to “go forward” without Chris… and that is a very sad thought, indeed.

Ken Bausert said...

I was very sorry to learn of Chris' passing. Even though I was not as close to him as many others, we still exchanged Christmas newsletters each December and I looked forward to reading about what Nicky and Chris had been up to. I was fortunate to have been invited to their wedding in NYC some years ago as well.

Chris (and, of course, you, Joe) were charter members and contributors to my APA, PASSIONS, for more than eleven years. Ironically, just when I decided to call it quits and stop producing PASSIONS, Chris sent me (as his next contribution) a detailed index to all the previous issues – a resource I still consult from time-to-time whenever I need to refer to some article or reference facts from the past while writing my current zine, the Ken Chronicles.

I know how close you and Chris were, Joe, and I'm sorry for the loss to you, Nicky, and all his closest friends as well.

Joe Torcivia said...

Thank you, Ken!

The time we all shared contributing to PASSIONS was a very large part of the fun, I speak of.

joecab said...

A very touching tribute Joe. I was shocked when Nicky posted the news.

My intro to the Disney Ducks came via Gladstone's Carl Barks Library, which led to watching DuckTales, which also lead to my intro to Chris (and you too, actually) via that DuckTales issue of the Duckburg Times (which I *sob* sold on eBay years ago). I didn't even realize it until I started reading the Gladstone letter cols and found you guys on the internet years later.

It's always a nice warm feeling to discover a tight-knit little community of caring people who share the same passion and also share their love with others. I'll miss reading his work.

Joe Torcivia said...

If we’re anything, JoeC, we are a “tight-knit little community of caring people who share the same passion”. Chris was such a huge and central part of this community that it will never be the same.

Dan said...

A most fitting tribute. Thank you, Joe, for sharing the details of your history and friendship with Chris.

I regret I never met Chris, but figured I eventually would (I've only had nice exchanges with him through blog comments on a few sites.) What becomes astounding to me now is that over the years I DID know Chris via the publications he'd worked on that I picked up: Dana's The Duckburg Times, Mark's The Harveyville Fun Times and Gemstone's two DuckTales collections.

Of course, News and Views was his unfiltered outlet, and over the past few years, I stopped over there frequently to see what Chris was cooking up... proudly linking to several of his posts.

The chance to cross paths with anyone sharing your interests and passions isn't likely... the chances are even less likely that the person is someone you'll get along with or collaborate with well! From the replies already listed on this post alone, it seems that Chris had friends and admiration across the board—as you said, Joe, "He didn’t have a mean bone in his body, or a negative thought in his mind." That's a rare gem, as well!

Sincere and deepest condolences to all who knew and loved Chris, he left behind a wonderful gift of memories and written resource material, both of which will continue to be shared and enjoyed.

– Dan

Joe Torcivia said...

Thank you, Dan.

I was certain that you would eventually meet Chris at some future time, given the way we all interact. But, as you say, you “DID know Chris”, via the many outlets for his writing. What you saw in those venues was the genuine article you’d have meet in person.

Knowing you, as I do now, you’d have fit nicely into that group history we have.

And, we continue to have that vast body of work of his to take us forward, and always draw upon.

Adel Khan said...

Joe, you did a splendid job of painting your friendship with Chris. A deep friendship through the ages. I had a deeper understanding of what your camaraderie was like. I thank you for presenting this tribute to him.

It is bitter-sweet hearing the reboot of "DUCKTALES" without reading his perspectives.

He will always be in my prayers. I send you, his wife Nicki, and his loved ones thoughts of peace and comfort.

Ryan Wynns said...

Joe,

Ah, my mistake -- as you recognized, I conflated the "frequent visits" with the weekly phone calls. But they still like great times, either way! (And being pre-Internet and pre-digital popular media, the early '90's seems ancient now!)

I like that cover for the second IDW issue of Uncle Scrooge quite a bit by the way. Really looking forward to it, and of course, that includes your dialogue. And it will be nice to know that Chris got to enjoy it.

-- Ryan

Joe Torcivia said...

Ryan:

The visits AND the phone calls were both great fun, so no matter on the confusion. The kind of fun I wish I could continue to share with Chris, when the IDW comics finally begin in April. So glad we had that one instance.

And, yes… that cover is really great! It is by Jonathan Gray. We haven’t seen anywhere near enough of his art. And it illustrates his (dialogued) lead story, not my backup, which is the one I shared with Chris.

Joe Torcivia said...

Thank you, Adel.

I’m glad I was able to convey to you – and to everyone – how great it was to have a friend like Chris. Knowing that you had a similar life-experience makes your appreciation of the piece all the more special and meaningful to me.

Ryan Wynns said...

Joe,

Boy, I'm not having any luck today -- I keep mixing things up! :)

Thanks for setting me straight ... looking forward to both your story and Jonathan's! (Oh, and the first issue, too!)

-- Ryan

Joe Torcivia said...

Aw, Ryan… You could not have known from my description, and without any inside knowledge of the contents, that the story I shared with Chris was a 10-page backup, and not the lead.

Fret not, because Chris really enjoyed those ten pages – and I so enjoyed sharing it with him.

Adel Khan said...

Wherever Chris is, I am sure he is delighted by your tribute. When reading it, I relived the heydays with my best friend.

The story of you describing "Meteor Rights" to him over the phone is very touching. I am glad he was able to hear it.

It won't be the same without him. When I start reposting on my blog, I will infuse to the best of my ability the same level of detail as Chris did. I always bless him for the comment I received from him.

Despite not seeing each other in person in our blogging community. We all feel the same level of sadness loosing an esteemed member and friend. When I am watching an episode of "Gummi Bears" and "DuckTales"; I will wonder "What did Chris think of that?"

Joe Torcivia said...

Adel:

I think Chris would be proud to know that he will inspire you going forward.

Chuck Munson said...

Joe,
Your comments, as ever, convey clearly the depth of feeling and loss that you, and by extension, our little community of enthusiasts, are feeling for Chris. It is a tribute to Chris, however, that he will be missed far outside our little circle. Most profoundly by his wife Nicky and their immediate families, but by friends, colleagues, alumni and students from the colleges where he taught and the people whom he touched whom we may never know.

My life is richer for having had the two of you come into my life when I thought I might not ever really get to know anyone on this side of the Atlantic who shared my interest in Disney comics. Little did I know then that I would have two brilliant friends whose interest was like klieg lights next to my candle, and I felt closer to Chris and you all the more for it. I enjoyed so much hearing you and Chris talk about your collaborations, whether it was in phone calls or visits to either of you, or during those all too rare occasions when the three of us could be together. When you two got started, the whirlwind of a conversation just had me figuratively "hanging tight" to keep up. (By the way, thank you Joe, for including the photo; that touched me more than I can say.)

Chris' contributions to the APA in the 90s and later his blog are not only voluminous but deep as well. Chris loved "punny" and satirical titles which peppered his commentaries. Like Chris, they were always smart, even if some were generally funny while others were wonderful "groaners." I always knew that I would get an insight out of Chris' analyses that I would never have formulated on my own. The considered opinions that Chris brought to every subject about which he wrote will be sorely missed.

These are only a few of the things which I will always remember and be grateful for in having been fortunate enough to know Chris and call him my friend.

Joe Torcivia said...

This is most touching, Chuck. Thank you.

Brent Swanson said...

Living in the middle of Idaho as I do, opportunities for meeting enthusiastic and knowledgeable comics and animation fans are few and far between. Meeting Chris in 1990 was, for me, one of the highlights of Comic Con, and I cherish the memories from the decade of meet-ups that followed.

While Chris was conservative by nature, that didn't stop him from expanding his boundaries. I remember some APA tussle about the '60s underground artists led to him sampling "Omaha the Cat Dancer," which he ended up loving and writing about in detail!

After Chris curtailed his 'zine and convention activities, I wasn't in regular contact with him, but I checked-in with his blog when I could, and we always exchanged news at Christmas. I'm saddened there will be no "new" news, but I'm grateful for the memories, and more so for Chris's legacy of scholarship. His voice will always be with us!

Joe Torcivia said...

Thank you Brent.

It's so great to see what Chris has meant to so many of us.

Thad Komorowski said...

I just pulled out FGL 6 to reacquaint myself with what Chris had to say about "Love Trouble." WOW! Kindred spirits, possibly.

He brought in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY/romantic comedy connection and influence, and even worked in "bitchy." Fitting, because I worked in the word "stoner" in my own FGL intro.

But because he brought up all the same points I would've, I don't think I could've written the intro any better. Truly sorry we won't see any more from him.

Joe Torcivia said...

Thad:

I thought bitchy was pretty amazing. And kudos to you for stoner, as well.

Mark Arnold said...

Fortunately, Chris was also a regular reviewer on Amazon. You can click through to his account and read many more of his comments on various items...some quite surprising as they aren't always comic book or animation related.

Joe Torcivia said...

Mark:

That's a great source of material I never thought of.

Just attended Chris' service. Sad and joyous as the same time. Lots of people spoke, including David Gerstein and myself.

Anonymous said...

Joe-
Very touching to hear your heartfelt words about your friendship and kinship with my brother... I recall you being at our house in the late 80's watching a VCR tape of , maybe I got this wrong but I think it was, " Hanna Barbara's 50 th anniversary Special ". I was probably about 16.. Did I recall that correctly?!
I loved seeing you and the rest of his buddies. Such love and gentle respect for one another. I would love contact info on each of you all to stay in touch. I may not know the ins and outs of every aspect of the "animation thing," but I know one thing is for sure...you loved and appreciated my brother and his amazing wife, Nicky:)
Sarah

Dana Gabbard said...

joecab, the DuckTales issue of Duckburg Times is for sale on ebay. My brother recently started selling them on my behalf to reduce the backstock of issues I have in storage.

Joe Torcivia said...

Thanks, Dana:

That would be a good way for anyone, not in possession of this ‘zine, to get a copy and enjoy Chris’ and my nearly 30 year old initial research work.

Joe Torcivia said...

Sarah:

First, please forgive me for the time it took to post your comment and my response. Traveling home form Chris’ service on Wednesday night in a valiant effort to stay ahead of the big snowstorm of March 05 (…and special thanks to David Gerstein for being so deft and resourceful in his dealings with Amtrak), getting home somewhere about 4 AM on Thursday (when it was still only raining), and later waking up to deal with the day-long snow.

Also, let me thank you for being so gracious and friendly to our group of Chris’ friends. As you said, you were about 16 when I saw you last, and I enjoyed becoming reacquainted with you, and the rest of Chris’ family.

Yes, that was indeed the “Hanna Barbara's 50 th Anniversary Special" that Chris and I were watching on a VHS tape back then! Great memory!

Just as seeing your neighbor, Mr. Renshaw, rekindled another ”great memory” of his taking Chris and I to a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game, all those years ago. After the Yankees, the Phillies were my favorite team back then, and it was fun to talk baseball with both of them.

It would be my great pleasure to enjoy additional communication with you – and I’m sure that holds for the others who attended.

The way I usually do this is to ask you to post another comment to my Blog that contains your e-mail address. I will not publish that comment, but will use the e-mail address to contact you.

I’m certain we would each have many great things to share about Chris -- and have all the more to cherish.

Joe.

PS: Yes, Nicky really is “amazing”! God Bless her!

Pete Fernbaugh said...

Beautiful tribute, Joe. Thank you for these "behind-the-scenes" stories.

Joe Torcivia said...

Thank you, Pete!

If there’s one thing Chris has left me with, it’s a wealth of stories such as these. I’m so glad for all of them.

Pan Miluś said...

Thanks for the great article :) I only know Chris for his blog (and occasionally forum and comments on other blog) and while I admire him for his passion about shows he loved this makes me appropriate him much, much more :)

Pan Miluś said...

I remember once on the Disney forum, I ask what is "Duck Tales Bible?" and few hours later I got mail from him with copy in PDF. He was incredible nice guy :)

Joe Torcivia said...

Pan:

No matter if you just knew Chris through his Blog, or if you knew him personally for a quarter century as I did, the conclusion is the same! He was the BEST!