Back when I was 14 years old (1975), many of my lifelong obsessions were already in place. I was into motorbikes, girls, guitars (even though I was just beginning to try to learn to play), and comics. I was especially into comics about my obsessions.
As such, I was a huge fan of Dennis Ellefson, at Petersen Publications. You may know Petersen as the publisher of HotRod Magazine. They also published quite a few other titles including CarToons and CycleToons. And, at that time, Dennis, the editor of CycleToons, was the current artist for the long-running feature "Hogg Ryder". The plots for the HR comics followed a pretty standard form: Hogg would plot to show up his nemesis, The Old Poop, usually through some fantastic modification to his Webley Vickers chopper, and The Old Poop would somehow outsmart him and win the race/prize money/girl, or whatever.
While relatively entertaining, the plots held but a secondary interest to me. What I loved about "Hogg Ryder", from Den-Den's hand, was the same thing I loved about his incidental illustrations between articles in HotRod (or anything else that he did, for that matter). Namely, I was blown away by his art. The cross-hatching, the use of black space, the highlights which gave the illusion of gleaming chrome on a black and white page,, and the depth of field that he accomplished still are amazing to me. I aspire to his level of quality, but miserably fail, to this day.
I was so enamored with his work that I wrote him a letter, telling him pretty much all of that, in the Spring of 1975. I didn't really expect to hear anything back, but I did. Imagine my surprise when, in September of that year, I received a manila envelope in the mail, with the return address of Petersen Pubs!
Inside was a very nice handwritten note from Dennis, and some random original panels of his artwork! I have to tell you that I was blown away by that, and I treasured that package of material.
Unfortunately, in the midst of all of the life changes I went through as I got divorced, in 1998, that package went missing. I assumed that it had ended up in the trash.
Then, when I got to my sister's house, two days ago, for Christmas, she showed me the stuff that she had saved out of the big clean-out that she and my mother had done to my mother's house, just before Thanksgiving. There, in a cardboard box with some old toys and records, was my envelope from Dennis Ellefson!
Even though my name has the common misspelling, I really love having this note! (The graphics on the page are a good example of Dennis's work, btw.)
This panel shows some of the tricks that Dennis used to achieve that almost-3D depth of field.
Brush work! There is some damage to the image, in the right-hand panel, unfortunately.
This is my favorite of the original panels, not only for the execution, but for the subject matter, as well. It's
5-1/2" x 7" of pure delight, for me.
Sadly, Dennis passed away in 1997, according to what I can find on the internet.That makes finding these panels even that much sweeter, to me. I plan to frame these, and hang them in my house, so that I can make up for lost time, enjoying them.
I hope to find the story that htese panels are from, somehow, and get a copy. If you know anything about it...