Mention should also be made of my award-winning children’s book, The Little Blue Brontosaurus.
Byron Preiss and I co-wrote the book, I designed all of the characters, painted and lettered the cover and did a handful of original illustrations before handing my layouts over to Pogo artist Don Morgan.
The book won the Children’s Choice Award for 1984.
Caedmon Records was the publisher of the book. They also released the book as an LP and cassette, both of which included a Little Blue poster.
Caedmon was a spoken word record company — and that was the problem. This was their first book — and they didn’t know how to sell it. Every store that carried the book promptly sold out of the book. Yet Caedmon wasn’t there to follow-up with more orders. I also noticed just how difficult it was to get copies for myself, so their marketing and distribution departments appeared to be filled with useless individuals.
I felt that Byron and I had a terrific intellectual property. I pressured him to begin the second Little Blue volume. Plus, I wanted to create a Little Blue coloring and activity book. He dragged his feet for what seemed like forever. I finally gave up and wrote the sequel myself. I titled it Little Blue’s Big Race.
This was the cover I designed for the book. Instead of saying “Thank you” for moving this project along, Byron became upset that I had written the sequel without his input. I told him to edit and contribute to what I had written. I was happy to share the writing credit.
There was no more communication on the sequel project for several months. I instructed Byron to return my original. It’s known among artists and writers that worked with Byron that he was cheap. He countered his cheapness by offering artists and writers dream projects to work on. He underpaid his employees, so he didn’t always necessarily get the brightest bulbs from the box.
Byron had one of his interns take care of shipping my Little Blue’s Big Race original painting back to me. The idiot packaged my art between two sheets of cardboard — no bubble wrap or extra padding — and shipped it off. The original arrived with huge gouges in the packaging. The art was folded in two, ruining the carefully airbrushed gradation of the background. There were rips through some of the characters. Until this happened, I had a buyer for the original art.
Fortunately the piece was insured — but I would have preferred to receive the picture in good condition instead of getting the insurance money.
6 thoughts on “Untold Tales of Hollywood #116”
I recall the time at San Diego when I was showing you the hardcover reprint of Ray Bradbury’s Dinosaur Tales – that you were completely unaware of. You asked to borrow my copy so you had something to show your lawyer and the next day you returned it to me, just as promised, but with a little sketch and signature. You reiterated your dealings with Byron then, and that was way back in the mid nineties. Sorry to read here why it’s so damned hard to get a copy of The Little Blue Brontosaurus, a book not so far back in time that my girls would have loved reprints of it. Oh well, they still dig your work. It took no effort at all on my part.
Hi Bill – I had heard that the only artist that got treated fairly with Byron was Steranko – as far as you know is that true? Too bad about Byron – as a fan some of his projects were quite appealing 🙂
You were lucky. Harlan Ellison once explained that he had known Byron since Byron was 14. As he put it, “Byron screwed a lot of people over the years and finally he got around to me.” Byron marketed Harlan’s illustrated “I Robot” screenplay book and got something like $80 thousand for it as a tie in to the Will Smith film, and then paid Harlan none of it, instead using the money to keep his shaky business afloat. Since Byron was in New York and Harlan was in L.A., he could dodge him. After Byron turned his car in front of a bus and was killed, Harlan had to sue Byron’s estate, but I don’t know if he ever got anything.
To James: I’m guessing that Byron was on his cheap-ass cel phone when he had the fatal accident. I had begged him numerous times to get a better cel phone.
I doubt if Harlan got paid; I didn’t, even though Byron had been paid my money by Harper Collins.
Despite that reputation – why did so many GREAT talents do projects for Byron?
Byron kept coming up with irresistible dream projects, catnip to writers and artists. Having worked with Byron a lot, I saw a pattern. I learned that no matter how awesome a project was, there was always something Byron was going to do in regards to the project that was really going to piss me off. I referred to it as Byron’s habit of dropping grit inside the machinery.
Case in point: Byron published a book on The Art of Moebius. In addition to the trade edition, Byron published a special limited edition with nicer binding. The problem with this limited edition was this: Byron left an entire 16 page signature out of the limited edition. The trade edition actually had 16 more pages of art than the limited edition.
I called Byron up after I discovered this egregious error.
“Byron! I guess what you’ve just done gives new meaning to the word ‘limited.'”
Byron’s response was, “The only saving grace out of this whole mess is that, thank God, I didn’t do it to one of your books.”
Byron knew I would have torn him a new one.
There were two Byrons. One was like a brother to me. The other, when it came to business, apparently had no morals whatsoever. Sadly, for all of us who knew and worked with him, he got worse in that respect as he grew older.