ITEM! Some days it’s good news, some days, sad. Today’s a sad. Charlton Heston, the actor’s actor, has finally made the journey to the Promised Land. I only met Hest a couple of times, and he was more than gracious to a guy who wrote comics that he’d mostly never read.
The first time I met him at a Hollywood premiere about 20 years ago, I asked him if he remembered the Planet of the Apes comic books that Marvel put out in the 70s. Always a gentleman, he said that he’d enjoyed them even though the artist (Gorgeous George Tuska) had done a terrible job with his likeness. I didn’t bother telling him that 20th Century Fox had denied us the rights to the actor’s likenesses... probably because of the very contracts that his own agent had written. He finally lit up when he thought I was the guy who created Captain America, and I was too polite to correct him.
I met him for the second time in the 90s when he was visiting a Hollywood bookstore to do a book signing for his autobiography, Arena: An Autobiogrpahy. Not one to be overly star struck, I was prepared to meet an actor that I knew to be an arch Republican and NRA advocate, but I read his book before going to the book signing. What I discovered was the story of a man who marched for civil rights as an already-famous actor in the 1950s. You heard right, pilgrim — the 1950s! Hest was marching for civil rights about one whole decade before it became fashionable for Hollywood A-listers to do so, and long before Jolly Jack and I were putting African American super heroes into comics. That put a different spin on things.
We were both virtually the same age, Depression-era kids that grew up in New York and Illinois, and that gave us a surprising amount in common to talk about. He was class incarnate, and he played a better Hebrew prophet, Roman gladiator and last-man-on-Earth than anyone I can think of. We’ll miss you, Chuck.