The Art of 77

Star Wars number 1 Marvel.jpg

By Robert Lloyd

In September of 77’ I was entering the eighth grade.

The following year would mark the end of my junior high years. It was the summer of Star Wars and the release of Marvel's Star Wars #1 -- perhaps the most influential comic of its time. Marvel had gone on to publish its own adventures that would take place beyond the movie and I couldn't wait. I must have copied the Brothers Hildebrandt Star Wars poster ten  times. I started drawing and creating my own cartoons that summer because I wanted to enroll in our local high school’s art program.

My grandfather encouraged me to bring in my cartoons to show my art teacher, Mr. Klemczewski. I was totally against it because of all my experiences with my other art teachers. However, my grandfather said that my work would get me an award. He said I should take a chance and show my work. How right he was.  

The middle school I was going to at the time had much better instructors than the primary grades. They were a bit more savvy and tolerant of people’s differences. We had something called the collector’s club. Our guidance counselor was the lead of this group. He would bring in old comics and comic book collectibles and tell us about their historical significance.  We were invited to contribute and participate.  

At the time, I was bracing myself for rejection and a note from the teacher to never bring in my cartoons again. But he showed my Star Wars cartoons and various Marvel characters to the other teachers. They said I had talent and should develop it. I got a lot of good advice on composition, drawing technique and how to place figures on a page. Mr. Klemczewski gave our class some cartoon themed assignments. For the first time I could show my work to other students without fear of ridicule or being sent home. He was unlike all my other art teachers. He respected the fact that cartooning was an art just as much as painting or sculpture.  

I brought the Marvel Comics mini paperback of the first Star Wars issues to art class. I was showing the students how and why I drew inspiration from this fantastic movie saga. Many of them saw the film that summer and it led to lots of discussions on how entertainment influences culture. Science Fiction was being embraced by the media and the public as a positive form of entertainment. I remember that summer so well because Star Wars was everywhere. I played the eight track tape on my stereo so often that the tape wore out.  I played the Meco Orchestra electronic music version on LP almost every day. There was a two record soundtrack that had a giant Star Wars poster by painter Bob McCall. That poster hung in my room for thirty years! It was right next to my black light Mr. Spock poster.

For the first time I entered my work in the local art show and won a blue ribbon prize for a watercolor I painted of a majestic tree. It was very cartoon like and expressionistic. My other drawings were entered in the school exhibition that year. I won my first prize for outstanding art student of that year. It was at that time that my peers looked at me in a very different way.  I was known for my cartoons and my interest in comics. 

My interest in art didn't end that year.

I eventually enrolled in my high school’s art program.  That led to painting and sculpture and  illustrating in mixed media. My cartoon style served me well. It got me a prize for best painting in the show. That was in my senior year of high school. It was of a crowd scene at a local park. My portfolio won a one-year scholarship to Pratt Institute in New York.   

My father promised to give me a place to stay in New York. He quickly recanted and took back the offer weeks before school started, with no explanation. To my disappointment I couldn't attend the school. It was located in a crime ridden area. I knew I wouldn't secure an apartment in Brooklyn (Pratt’s location) in a matter of two weeks.  

I still endured.  I’m no Frank Miller or Neal Adams. However, I still draw and continue to develop my skills. Illustration and cartooning are still part of my personal time and I have no plans on giving up on it.