Back in 1939, twenty-year old soldier, Nicholas Kenealy, stationed at Fort MacArthur, sent in a short sci fi tale to his favorite magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories. It was not long, five pages or so, a tongue-in-cheek telling of a brave space crew’s encounter with three legged aliens on a world with a chlorine based atmosphere. The science was wonky, the dialog charmingly hokey and the story a clear winner. He received $50 when it appeared the next year as one of the winners in the amateur authors contest the magazine did. He never wrote a story again, because he soon found his time consumed with the business of base transfers, then war, then of marriage, then raising a family, a step son, a son, a daughter and then, one more daughter before they moved home from Germany. That last child was my mother, and by the time I made my rushed appearance in the world, Grandpa was an accountant, and his writing days were past.
So, here’s a little back story on me. When I was born back in 1971, six weeks early, my father was twenty, my mother only nineteen. Neither of them were capable of raising me alone, and considering my dad wanted to name me Brosure Cologne and move to a commune in Oregon where I could ‘run naked in the fields’, it was pretty clear they couldn’t raise me together. So, Grandpa stepped in. My sister Emily appeared fourteen months later, and again, Grandpa helped us. My mother married a couple, three times, and eventually, also ended up with four children, three girls and one boy, and throughout all the rough times, there was Grandpa to help. He paid for my acting and voice lessons (the former more successful than the latter), he saw all my plays, helped me pay for college, took us to Disneyland, the Grand Canyon, Hawaii, Europe… and most of all, when I began to write stories of my own, he encouraged me, letting me come over and bang away on his typewriter, yes an actual typewriter, for hours. He liked the company, he was my first editor, and he was my biggest fan. When he died in 2005, I was still unpublished, living in Studio City, CA, an hour and a half away, but my best friend drove me back home in the middle of the night, so I could be there when he passed. I miss the slightly gross jokes he told, and how he would leave messages on my answering machine in one of the five or six he spoke fluently, none of which I understood, and most of all, I just miss him.
It became my mission to find his story. As an adult, I’ve been pushing my way into the comics industry, meeting people, conventions, I even work at a comic shop. This medium is my passion, and in 2011, I won Stan Lee’s The Seeker contest, and got a contract to produce a five issue comic book based on Stan’s idea of an alien invasion and the disgraced archeologist who has to stop it.
It was, and still is, the opportunity of a lifetime, and after some initial bumps in the road, Stan Lee presents The Seekers is due to release in November. I used this as a springboard to get another writing assignment through Bluewater Productions, and have been talking to Marc Silvestri, a self described talent whore, who invited me to work with him while we were hanging out in the VIP section of MTV2′s Party in the Park, at this year’s SDCC. But, as I worked to rise in the ranks, and started putting my work out for public consumption, my Grandpa was never far from my mind. I sent out feelers through the internet, hoping to find a copy of Thrilling Wonder Tales’ January 1940 issue, so that I could have his story to inspire me. A few months ago, it arrived. Tattered, fragile, and wonderful. I own Conquistadores from Beyond.
I’m a comic book writer. That’s who I am, it’s what I want to be. I need to create, and unfortunately, I am broke as a joke. My dream to make my grandfather’s story into a graphic novel is a labor of love, to honor a good and generous man who is so missed. My plan is a five chapter mini to be collected in a graphic novel form, self published, or submitted to comixology, possibly shot over to Dark Horse, some place that readers can enjoy this sweetly cheesy and softly innocent world created by a young man in a time when his world was on the brink of annihilation. I’ve begun a gofundme campaign at http://www.gofundme.com/45gdzw and I’m hoping to raise enough money to hire a penciller, colorist, cover artist, inker, letterer, enough money to get postcards and fliers, for merch and media and everything you all know it takes to make a book.
This story was a moment in my grandfather’s life that has almost been forgotten. He never won any awards, he has no statues erected in his honor, he never got his picture in Time Magazine. But, he made an impact, he left behind something precious. It needs to be shared.
Nicholas E. Kenealy was here, and he was a writer.