by Alexis Gilliland
The first time I encountered Rotsler was when I was cutting artwork on stencils for the WSFA Journal, back in the late `60s. Bob Pavlat gave me a folder with several pages of drawings by Rotsler, ATom, and miscellaneous. The first time I encountered him in person was at St. Louiscon, in 1969. He was a Hugo nominee in the fan artist category -- and a BNF, and I felt very much the neo. At that time I hadn't started putting captions on my drawings, and I was having a run with a head opening the cranium hatch to show the joke in the conning tower, as it were. I drew one for Bill, and he said: "Why do you always draw those heads?" A very reasonable question which I took as criticism, and sort of wandered off, feeling that I was maybe intruding on his good time.
Time passed, and while I knew him, he got to the point where he knew my work in fanzines (he may have been aware of my work in `69, how else would he have known I was 'always' drawing those heads?), and then, after we were both Hugo nominees together, he began to know my face. At Seacon `79, over at Brighton, he beat me out to win his second Hugo, and at some point we were in a hallway together, autographing program books. I was standing downstream from him, and when he began doing little pictures alongside his signature, I began doing little pictures alongside his little pictures. That is the first time I can remember us doing any sort of collaboration. In the natural course of events, some of the books made their way back to Bill to show him what I was doing to his work. He loved it, and after he got home, he sent me the first of many packages of set-ups, for me to find and develop the jokes concealed within.
Since then, we have encountered each other at Worldcons, and now and then a Corflu or some such. Each time, we get together and draw silly pictures, sometimes on panels. Clearly if it wasn't fun for both of us we wouldn't be doing it. There is also an element of psychic jump-start involved. Collaborating with Bill for a few hours over the weekend is not only one of the highlights of the weekend, it also sets the creative juices flowing better than anything I have ever encountered on a regular basis. (There was the time... but that was a long time ago, in another country, and besides the wench is dead.) What else is there? Apart from the drawing, Bill is excellent company, and tells the most marvelous anecdotes. Some day I shall use one of his throwaway lines to start a novel: "After the war we all went to art school."
Top illustration by Alexis Gilliland and William Rotsler
Middle illustration by Brad Foster and William Rotsler
Bottom illustration by Steve Stiles and William Rotsler
(Rotsler tribute continues in next article)