The Original Mile High Collection Part X

When I first walked into Edgar Church's office, it felt very strange. While I had been purchasing items he had accumulated during his lifetime for the previous month, this was the first time that I actually felt that I was entering space that he had personally occupied. The office was filled with all sorts of memorabilia that you would associate with an artist, such as a little ceramic skull with a "bobbing" lower jaw, and one of the chrome metal female figures that once graced the hood of a vintage Rolls Royce automobile. While these dozens of little items of bric-a-brac were fun, what really interested me were several folios of B&W original art by Mr. Church, and a couple dozen small color paintings. Once again, the heirs expressed an almost complete indifference to what happened to Mr. Church's effects, so I offered them a substantial sum, and purchased the entire contents of the office, except for the furniture.

What made this an exceptionally surreal experience was that I now knew that Edgar Church was still alive! I can't remember any more exactly during which visit that I was told the story, but his heirs told me that Mr. Church was suffering from a very debilitating illness (I think it was either Alzheimer's or a stroke...) that had left him unable to care for himself. His wife had been his primary caregiver, but she was by that time also in her mid-eighties. When she fell in the house and broke her hip, their worst fears were realized. I gathered that she was alone at the time of her accident, and that it took quite some time for her to get assistance after her fall. To keep this from happening again, the family made the decision to find a nursing home for the two of them.

I've purchased items from hundreds, if not thousands, of estates during my career, but finding out that Mr. Church was still alive made me feel very different about this deal. Especially since his heirs were exhibiting such indifference as to the dispensation of his effects. I don't know about anyone else, but when my mother passed away nearly two years ago, I felt a very strong responsibility to preserve a tangible part of her life. I'm still slowly going through her personal effects and paperwork, saving everything which might have an interest to future generations of our family. The Church heirs seemed to have no such thoughts, as I was forced to rescue even some family photographs from being thrown away.

What motivated this bizarre behavior on the part of the Church heirs? I have no idea. However, the thought of Edgar Church lying in his deathbed (he passed away about two months later), while much of what he had accumulated during his lifetime was being thrown away, upset me very much. As a consequence, I went out of my way to gather every scrap of his life that I could salvage, with the thought that I could possibly someday tell his tale. I still have all those records and photographs, and I actually discussed a deal in about 1995 with Steve Geppi (owner of Diamond Distributing and Gemstone Publishing) to write a book about Edgar Church's life and art. Sadly, that was about the time that the comics market went into free fall, so Steve suggested that the timing was probably not right for a book on Edgar Church. We both remain committed to eventually producing the book, however, so don't be surprised if you see it solicited in the not-so-distant future.

In the meantime, if you would like to see some of Edgar Church's artwork, go to our homepage (www.milehighcomics.com), and click on "Edgar Church Artwork." I am going to post a few examples of his paintings, his art deco line art that he did for the telephone directories, and some printed examples of some of his advertising pieces. In total, I believe I managed to save about 1,000 pieces of his art, or advertising items. When looked at as a group, it is easy to see that Edgar Church was a wonderful mimic. He could draw (or paint) in a remarkable number of differing styles. The one public exhibit of his artwork that I've put together, for the opening of the Diamond Gallery, drew rave reviews not only from within the comics community, but also from a variety of traditional art collectors who attended the gallery opening. If you would like to see some of Church's art in person, my present plan is to have a second showing of Edgar Church's originals in our booths at this year's San Diego Comic-Con International. Those plans are still tentative, but I think I can work out the logistics.

Aside from preserving Church's personal legacy, I also felt a strong sense of kinship with him as a comics fan. While circumstances clearly prevented me from contacting him (if he was even still lucid at that time, which I doubt...), I felt a strong need to do something positive to honor his memory. While I didn't come up with anything that seemed worthwhile on my own, the fates intervened when an old friend called me on the phone with a special proposition.

To be continued...

Please send your e-mails to chuck@milehighcomics.com, and your letters to:

Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221



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