(Originally I was going to post this yesterday, but didn’t want anyone to think this had anything to do with April Fool’s Day)
A year ago today, I got a text message from my Mom saying that my friend Henry Huie had died. Before I responded back, I had some googling to do and see if I could verify his death before responding. It was April Fool’s Day after all. I came across one news story about his death, but that was also published on April 1st, so I was still suspicious that perhaps I was being pranked. The news article mentioned where the wake was planned, so I went to their website and I found that Henry’s death was true.
Henry was a customer, friend and mentor who I trusted to tell it to me straight and not mince words if he thought I was doing something stupid. I first met Henry when I was attending college and working at Phoenix Comics in Houston in the mid 90s. He only came into the shop once a month, but picked everything up and would flip through the Previews or Advance Comics to see if he wanted to special order anything. It wasn’t until I bought the store in 1995 that I got know him more. He ran a small diner in the neighborhood, called Sam’s Deli Diner, and the reason he only came in on the last Sunday of the month is because that is the only day he closed his diner except for holidays.
About 6 months after I took over the store, now called Genesis Comics, and was running all by myself, I decided to close on Sundays. When I told Henry of this he wasn’t thrilled, but we came up with a solution. I would bring his comics and special order items to him once a month at his diner along with a copy of Previews so he could see if there was anything he wanted to order. This worked out for both of us. He didn’t need to make a special trip on his one day off a month and I discovered a new favorite place to stop and grab a bit to eat on my way home after the store closed.
Over the years I got to know Henry better and we became friends, and I discovered that he was a massive collector of Fantasy and Comic art. He had such a large collection that it practically took over his modest 3 bedroom home in the Spring Branch area of Houston. He had pieces like “Age of Innocence” by Jeff Jones hanging on his walls. “Artemis and Apollo” by Barry Windsor-Smith was hanging above his couch in his living room. He collected a wide range of art, but the Studio guys ( Jeff Jones, Barry Windsor-Smith, Michael Kaluta and Bernie Wrightson) were his favorites. He also liked art from MAD Magazine as well.
At one point in 1998 there happened to be a Comic show on the last Sunday of the month and Henry decided to go to the show as well. It was a small show, but they had some artists there. I was and still am a fan of the Flash and Paul Ryan was at the show and had some of his art with him to sell. Henry suggested i buy a page. I wasn’t sure, but what he told me something about collecting art that started me down the road of art collecting that I still am on today. He said, ” You can buy a comic book and have one copy that is just like the other thousands out there that everyone else can own, or you can buy this page of art and you are the only one who will have it.” That made sense to me and I ended up buying a page where Wally is trying out his newly created Speed Force suit after breaking his leg in the previous issue. I still own that page today, and It’s one of my favorites. My collection has grown from that first page I purchased in 1998 to around 150 pieces currently. Each piece I own has a story on how I acquired it and has a special meaning to me as well.
In June of 2000 I closed down my comic shop and moved to Los Angeles to work with my best friend from high school, Joseph Kahn, who had become a high-profile director of Music Videos and Commercials at the time. I helped Henry move his subscriptions and special orders over to another shop I recommended, and every time I got back to Houston to visit family and friends, I always stopped by his restaurant and we would talk about art and what we would like to buy. I always brought my portfolios with all my new art with me and he would critique my newly purchased pieces. Several years back Henry sold his entire collection off, as he wanted to build up enough funds to make an offer for a piece by Frank Frazetta. He never got the piece he wanted, but as he told me “You’ll never know, if you don’t make the effort.” I last saw Henry over the Christmas Holiday’s at the end of 2013. He had finally moved to a new house out in Katy and was talking about getting back into buying new art again. He discovered some pieces that had never gotten cataloged as part of the deal when he sold his collection off those years ago. I think finding those pieces re-ignited that fire for collecting he had let simmer over the years.
Henry may be gone from this world, but to me he lives on with every piece of art I purchase. I’ve told the story about how I got into collecting art to numerous people over the years and I always credit Henry with igniting my passion for what I do.