An early start saw me heading towards Heathrow and catching a flight to Chicago. On my arrival, for once the long lines at immigration didn’t bother me as I wasn’t catching a connecting flight, but it was a problem for others as could be seen by their anxious faces as the lines moved ever so slowly forward.
ECOF 2019: OAK BROOK, ILLINOIS
Hosted by the Chicago Muckers
A Report and Photos
by Laurence G. Dunn
After collecting my luggage, I had problems of my own in getting a taxi to the hotel. The airport operates two systems of taxis – city and suburban. City taxis are arranged by airport staff and can be expensive, suburban taxis operate by apps and cell phones and are a lot cheaper. Not having the latter gave me two hours of frustration that ended due to the help of an uber driver that made the call I needed. Within five minutes, I was picked up and on my way.
Having checked into my room at the Doubletree hotel in Oak Brook, about 15 miles south of the airport, I returned to the lobby to see the Burroughs Bibliophiles editor, Henry Franke busy at work on his laptop. He had arrived earlier in the day and had the good fortune of Jess Terrell (an active admin for one of the ERB Facebook groups) of meeting him at the airport and giving him transportation to the hotel. As there were only a few arrivals for the event, it meant the majority of the convention attendees would miss out on a major treat in visiting the home of Doug Ellis, about 40 miles north-west of the hotel. I had met Doug a couple of times before, most recently at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Con. At that event, he had invited a few to his home to see his art collection. He repeated that invitation on this occasion for those of us that had arrived early, to that same special treat.
With Jess driving and Henry as navigator, we set out from the hotel car park. We hadn’t even reached the road when Jess thought he saw two squirrels running across the driveway in front of us, but it turned out to be a skunk – the first I had ever seen! Without further incident from our unwanted friend, we reached our destination just as the rain began to fall and it was a mad dash for the front door. Including the basement, Doug has all the floors of his home decorated with art adorning practically every wall, nook and cranny. There are several Burroughs pieces including Michael Whelan’s art for A Fighting Man of Mars and his prelims that show the white alligator with only four legs, an error that was corrected for the final piece.
Jess, Henry and I were amongst the last to leave when I mentioned to Doug that I had recently found out that artist Jim Burns was responsible for the cover of the Tandem edition of The Monster Men and had told me in a private email that his wife had modelled as Virginia Maxon lying on the ground. Doug knew of Jim, having met him at Illuxcon – a convention favoured to meeting artists. Because of my interest in British editions, he then mentioned that besides having J.H. Hartley’s original cover painting for the Bodley Head edition of A Fighting Man of Mars adorning his bedroom wall, he then proceeded to open a plan chest drawer and pulled out the spine artwork for the same edition given to him by Danton Burroughs, mentioning that it had survived the 1958 warehouse fire at ERB Inc. and showed signs of smoke damage.
The hotel offered a splendid breakfast buffet with fruit, cereals, toast, waffles, eggs (and a chef there to cook them any way you want), bacon and sausage, along with juice and coffee all for just $16. Sounds good until you then add the tax and 15% tip. The doors to the dealers’ room was opened early for those planning on selling items from their collection and could set up their table. I had almost a full set of Big Little Books that I had never unwrapped from the cellophane wrapping they were in from the day I had bought them 25 years ago and figured it was time for them to go to a new home. Along with a few other items, I did pretty well over the three-day event, but alas I only sold five of the BLB’s.
Artist Joe Jusko was the guest of honour at the event and had brought along the first six completed paintings that he had done for the planned publication of all Burroughs books in uniform editions sometime in the near future. This is a work in progress event and it was admitted to me that the end date continues to be in a state of flux. The reason for this could well be in the size of these paintings that must have measured somewhere in the region of 600x450mm. Considering that the paintings he did for the FPG card set some twenty years ago measured around 300x200mm, these new paintings are huge and filled with detail. Joe did let on, and it was later confirmed by Tracy Griffin, ERB Inc. are in discussions with main stream publishers to sell this new set rather than the current format of POD using the company’s own brand, and will be available to purchase from high street stores. They are also considering kindle and audio versions to be made available.
One provision Joe did stipulate having brought along these paintings, is that no photographs could be taken of them that might end up on the internet before publication. It is also hoped that once all the paintings are complete, a separate book will be published with all of them included.
Our convention hosts had arranged a pizza party at nearby Giordano’s Pizza restaurant with us being seated in a separate area. Deep pan and thin based varieties were available including a vegetarian dish, along with mixed salad and cold drinks all made available. The staff of ERB Inc. happened to arrive just as food was being served and happily mingled amongst the attendees. Having had our fill, there was a combined Panthan and Mucker meeting that was short in length due to many leaving the restaurant and private conversations were continuing making it difficult to be heard. At past events, these two chapters of the Bibliophiles combine their two journals into one, but binding it in a similar manner to the old Ace two-for-one paperbacks, placed back to back and rotated 180°. However, one of the Muckers responsible for having their cover printed had been rushed into hospital with respiratory problems. He was later well enough to attend the Saturday night dinner.
John Carter of Mars roleplaying game.
In one corner of the dealers’ room, the company Modiphius had set up their table for the John Carter of Mars role playing game, displaying books maps and a variety of figures. Alongside them was Vic Ster, a lady from Canada who is very active in these games, and had brought along her own set of assembled figures, beautifully painted and perfect for waging war on Barsoom. Several figures were mounted on an airship that was very reminiscent of the air ships featured on the Ballantine covers with art by Gino D’Achille. However, this particular airship came from a different game, but is available as a kit from a 3D printer and then assembled. It The maps used are available to buy separately but can be downloaded as a pdf at https://modiphius.net/products/john-carter-of-mars-barsoom-and-korad-maps-pdf.
Across the room, Jim Sullos, Cathy Wilbanks, Tracy Griffin and Christopher Paul Carey from ERB Inc. were also setting up their table with a wide choice of books that included all of the new Wild Adventure series, t-shirts and fridge magnets were for sale. Their appearance at these gatherings help the fans to have first-hand contact with them and to hear news of forthcoming projects. This year as already mentioned; they are in discussions of how best to market the new editions. Having seen Joe Jusko’s artwork for the first six Tarzan novels, they are almost certain to draw in fans both old and new.
That evening we headed across town to Oak Park to visit the restored former fire station, but is now the Oak park River Forest Museum. Amongst other things, they have on permanent display an ERB exhibit that centres on the years Burroughs lived in the area. Several of us then retreated to a nearby burger restaurant called Buona Beef for our evening meal. News then began to filter in that a fellow ERB fan, Jeff Long and his wife Karen, had been travelling to join us at the convention, when a huge piece of metal fell off a truck in front of them. The metal struck the grill of their trailblazer SUV and forced them off the road. Just as they got out to inspect the damage, smoke began billowing from the engine followed a few seconds later by flames. Within moments the car was completely ablaze with Jeff and Karen losing their belongings, driving licences, credit cards and money. This had a knock-on effect that they couldn’t get a rental car straightaway. The state troopers were able to drive them home but as for the truck that caused the accident, he was probably unaware of anything amiss and kept on going.
The final full day of the convention began slowly as people drifted in from having their breakfast. A few more items disappeared from my table going to new homes including my wartime edition of The Return of Tarzan. One fellow had seen a photo of it on my table that had been posted on Facebook. He enquired to see if it was still available and without any haggling, accepted the price I had asked. After an exchange of messages, he had paid for the book using Paypal and I would be sending him the book on the following Monday (it arrived safely on the Wednesday).
Joe Jusko was asked to say a few words about his involvement with the new editions and the process taken to create each painting. For each one, he had done several sketches and prelims before the final piece. He also pointed out that the drying time is often an impediment before the next stage can be developed. You can watch the entire thirty-minute interview at: www.facebook.com/groups/1041446449253161/permalink/2417853831612409/
Several people then took part in the role-playing game of John Carter although time was against them reaching any conclusion, but it did give them an insight into how it is played and what could be achieved.
It was soon time to pack up our tables and it was just as I was clearing my table, the two books by Erling Holtsmark: ‘Tarzan and Tradition’ and ‘Edgar Rice Burroughs’ were snapped up. With the money I got for them, I was able to buy the Marvel omnibus colour edition of John Carter, Warlord of Mars that is a collection of the original 28 monthly issues and three annuals from the ERB Inc. table. I had the cheaper black and white soft cover back at home, but I decided to treat myself by obtaining the hardback colour version.
An auction was then held with items donated by those that had dealer’s tables. The proceeds from these auctions normally goes to the host to help offset any costs unforeseen before the event as quite often they go over budget despite the best efforts of everyone.
The traditional Saturday night convention dinner was held at Sawa’s Old Warsaw restaurant that probably needs no explanation that it had a strong Polish flavour to it, like there was neither of the two well-known coke brands available, but something similar was offered. It was a buffet style event and plenty of food options were available that hopefully met with everyone’s taste. Joe Jusko said a few last words as did our host Ken Manson. A special ‘Billy’ award (named after Billy Byrne – The Mucker) was given to Joan Bledig for her years of assistance to the Mucker group. A final photo call was then made for all past and present members of the ERB-APA that were attending the event.
The farewell breakfast was a drawn-out affair as people left at different times to catch their flights home. Mike Conran and his wife Linda would be dropping me off in Lansing, Michigan where I would be spending the next two weeks before they too made their final stretch for home. On our journey, we spied a sign for the Bindar Park zoo…
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