I was eight years old when I met Jon Schnepp. We were both attending an art class in my church’s basement, and we were given free rein to draw whatever we wanted.
We both chose spaceships, as it was that strange, wondrous time between Star Wars and Empire. To put it mildly, his looked like a spaceship. Mine looked like I should maybe take up accounting. You wouldn’t have known it by the way he treated my work. He was the first person to just point out that I should do rough bits first, think through the functions of the various parts of the ship.
He was eleven. I mentioned that, right?
I never got much better at drawing spaceships, but that didn’t faze him. He introduced me to Starlog and Fangoria and Forrest Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland, places where the strange world of fandom was celebrated, not shunned.
Schnepp was never much good at shunning, then or now, and for that I am grateful. I was a fat kid with glasses, that delicacy among suburban proto-jocks, and knowing that at least one person out there thought my odd lifestyle was like being told I was a Jedi. Schnepp took being weird and made it cool, even then.
He also taught me what the various credits in a comic book were, and how to fall on stage (we were in a production of The Wizard of Oz together; he played the Scarecrow, so the pratfalls were constant…)
I always assumed Schnepp would do great things. In my book, he already had.
We lost touch for a few years, but reconnected around the advent of social media. He hadn’t changed so much as he’d exploded. He now had a million ideas, and a ton of people dying to see what he did next, but the same cheerful lunatic charm. He was just…just Schnepp, really. It wasn’t any kind of surprise to look at his IMDB filmography.
I hope it’s safe, legally speaking, to mention this, but I saw the rough bits of “The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?” just before it was ready. Schnepp had come to town to visit his parents while he was between New York and Toronto conventions, and we met up at a Dunkin Donuts next to his hotel. He swore me to secrecy, then showed me the intro and a number of stills he was integrating. There was more, but he was most impressed by how the opening had come together.
There was more, of course, and it animated him as we passed the small hours. All of the people he’d met or interviewed had kept a piece of the defunct epic because it meant so much to them, and that sort of love was not lost on either of us.
And there we were, eight and eleven again, and he was showing me all the coolest things he could find. Because that’s what he did. He never kept the good stuff for himself.
Bless him for that. He was always amazing, always operating on a level I could barely comprehend, and he never acted like he was too brilliant for, well, anyone.
…even those of us who still can’t draw spaceships worth a damn.
Here’s to him, and to the love he brought so many of us.