Remembering Mrs. Helen Thompson

Thompson1961Mrs. Helen Thompson, center, with students, in a photo from The Somerset Hills Exponent, May 25, 1961.

I’ve written about my favorite teacher from the Bedminster Township grade school twice before, a little in my article on our school newspaper and magazine, which she ran, and more in my article on the school itself. Mrs. Thompson taught English to my brothers and I in grades 6-8, and we all worked on the school publications doing art and, in my case, writing stories. I remember her as smart, entertaining in class, and very encouraging to me as a young artist and writer. Others remember that she was also a heavy smoker, and I’ve long wondered about how that might have affected her career and life. New information has come to light recently, so I thought I’d share it here.

While I spent lots of time with Mrs. Thompson in and after class, I knew nothing about her personal life except what little ran in the 1965 graduation issue of The Bed-Post, as part of a guessing-game called “Spotlight on People.” Mrs. Thompson was the subject of this entry:

ThompsonSpotlightWhile I saw Mrs. Thompson occasionally when I had moved on to High School in Bernardsville, NJ (when my school bus would stop at the Bedminster School to pick up more students), I lost touch with her at some point in that time. Recently my youngest brother Russ found some copies of the school publications from his grades 6-8 in 1968-70, and entries there filled in some of the gaps in my knowledge. from The Bedminster Tribune of Oct. 27, 1969:

ThompsonBestWishesAs you can see, Mrs. Thompson was out sick in the fall of 1969. I have no information on what the illness may have been, but I suspect that she did not return to the school. In the Spring, 1970 issue of The Bed-Post, this editorial by Ellen Burden appeared:

ThompsonDedicAs you might guess, Mrs. Thompson had passed away before the issue saw print, and with help from Patricia Bankowski, I now have her obituary from March 19, 1970:

Helen Thompson Obit 03191970I may have heard about this from my parents at the time, but if so, I had forgotten it, so it’s good to have that long-lingering question of what happened to Mrs. Thompson answered. The issue of The Bed-Post this appeared has replaced Mrs. Thompson’s long-standing credit as Advisor with “Acting Advisor: Mrs. Stout,” and the following year the Advisor credit went to a new English teacher at the school, Mr. Melovitz.

As noted in the obituary, Mrs. Thompson had no children. Her husband, J. Miller Thompson continued to live in Bedminster, and died in 1992 after remarrying a Mary E. Nevius, who died in 2000.

 

And Then I Read: 75 YEARS OF MARVEL

75YearsCoverImages © Marvel.

Took me a while, but I’ve read it. Or at least as much as I wanted to. This gigantic book is meant as an overview and retrospective of the comics publisher now known as Marvel, previously as Timely, Atlas, and many other lesser-known imprints. As such, it’s about half pictures, but even so, there’s lots of text. I read the first two sections covering 1939 to 1961 the most thoroughly, as it’s the period I knew the least about. I was buying and reading Marvel comics from that point on, and had a chance to catch up with a lot of the issues I missed later, so the period from 1962 to about 1990 was a fun reminiscence of things I was mostly familiar with. From 1991 to the present my Marvel reading has declined steadily, so those sections didn’t mean as much to me, and I generally skimmed.

Roy Thomas has done a fine job with the text, but it’s such a large subject that often he was only able to briefly mention some titles and creators that stood out from the crowd, especially when the output of the company began to grow in the mid-70s. And it’s an official company history, so anything that might make the corporation look bad was glossed over or ignored, but since the emphasis is on the books and the creators rather than company politics and business deals, I didn’t mind that. And there’s always Sean Howe’s “The Secret History of Marvel Comics” if you’re interested in that side of things.

75YearsPages

The art is glorious, lots of larger-than-life reproductions of covers and story pages. To make layouts work, other elements were sometimes a bit too small, but I understand they did the best they could without making the book twice as thick. In all, it’s a fine book, if difficult to lift and read. I’m kind of glad to be done! I imagine I’ll be going back to it for reference in future.

Recommended.

Farewell, Katie

KatieOur older cat Katie has gone to her final rest. She was a rescue, abandoned at a kennel where we used to board our other cats. We had her a little over 17 years, but she was full grown when she came, so must have been at least 18. Katie was not an easy cat to love. Grouchy and feisty, she never sat on laps. She liked to be petted JUST on the top of her head, and when she decided. Any other time and place you might get nipped. When we brought our orange tabby brothers Tigger and Leo into the house five years ago, Katy would have none of them, and until about a month ago, when she got too weak, would hiss and swipe at them if they got too close. Katy had been in decline for a few years. This past year, Ellen gradually went to greater and greater lengths to keep her going, including hand feeding and fluids, but finally she was too weak to walk much, and had trouble breathing, so it was time. Our lives will get a little easier now, but we will miss her.

Incoming: MANHUNTER ARTIST’S EDITION

ManhunterAEFCImages © DC Comics, Inc.

I love looking at original comics art, but I have yet to buy one of IDW’s wonderful Artist’s Editions that reproduce large quantities of such art at original size. This one arrived today from IDW, and I’m not sure why, though I am listed under “special thanks” inside. Maybe either editor Scott Dunbier or artist Walt Simonson will remind me if I did something helpful for this book, I know I didn’t letter any of the contents.

ManhunterAEpagesIn addition to the terrific Manhunter series that ran in DETECTIVE COMICS in the 1970s, this book has an almost as lengthy section of other early Walt Simonson work including a Batman story, Dr. Fate from FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #9, three wonderful Captain Fear pirate stories that ran in UNKNOWN SOLDIER and two issues of METAL MEN. Not everything is shot from original art, but much of it is, and I love seeing all the production notes, lettering corrections, pasted-in art fixes, and everything that brings the creation of the work to life, and of course the stories are great reading.

If you haven’t seen any of these Artist’s Editions, you should try to. They’re fabulous in every way.

And Then I Read: G.I. ZOMBIE 3

GIZombie3Image © DC Comics, Inc.

The storyline in this book keeps surprising me, in good ways. We have a protagonist who is a zombie, but an atypical one: he’s intelligent, well spoken, and working for the army as an undercover agent. In this issue he’s literally rocketed into a small town alongside a payload full of some kind of infectious agent that starts quickly turning everything it contacts into the typical sort of zombies: mindless killers, starting with animals, and working quickly to the human population. It’s pretty out there for a war comic, much more of a horror story, but well written by Palmiotti and Gray, and the realistic art by Scott Hampton is perfect, keeping the tone calm and therefore more believable. Our zombie can take a lot of punishment, but is he a match for a whole town full of mindless killers? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Recommended.