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