DVBack when I was a kid putting out fanzines with Paul Levitz from the office in the basement apartment of his parents’ house on East 58th Street in Brooklyn, I got to meet a lot of interesting people in the comics field, professionals and fans alike. Because of the reach of The Comic Reader (several thousand copies a month to subscribers the world over in an era when the biggest comic book conventions attracted about two thousand attendees), the TCR office became a destination for visiting fans, plus we maintained varying degrees of correspondence with friends, fans, and contributors from everywhere and anywhere…

…Including Indiana, where a small group of dedicated comic book fanboys had their own tight knit niche of fanzine publishing geeks which eventually found a name and a certain notoriety of their own: the CPL Gang, publishers of Charlton Portfolio and Charlton Bullseye). Among the CPL group were names destined to find individual post-CPL fame, including Bob Layton, Roger Stern, John Byrne (from distant Canada) and E.E. Duffy Vohland.

Duffy was born Everett Eugene, a name he detested, on June 20, 1952 to Paul Eugene and Gwenalda Vohland in Rushville, Indiana. Duffy’s stories about growing up in rural Indiana were far from idyllic; he had known for as long as he could remember that he was gay…but he also knew that Clarksburg, his small and small-minded hometown was not a place in which to come out.

Duffy wrote his rambling “Duffy’s Tavern” column for my fanzine, Etcetera, but we didn’t meet until he moved to New York in 1972 or 1973 to work for Marvel Comics. I was one of the earliest people Duffy came out to in NY (I remember it was at the McDonald’s near Paul’s house, on Clarendon Road), but he couldn’t keep a secret if his life depended on it, even a secret about himself, and pretty soon everybody knew and nobody cared. Duffy was a large man, easily a hundred to a hundred and fifty pounds overweight, sporting a busy red beard, longish hair, and favored bright polyester Madras shirts (in all fairness, it was the ‘70s), sweater vests, a deerstalker hat, and a brocaded blue velvet shoulder bag, and when he got to the Big Apple where nobody gave a crap that he was queer, he went Full Flamboyant and lived, often quite dangerously, his lifestyle.

But he mixed that dark side with an amazing naivete and a certain wide eyed innocence. He felt he had been living trapped inside a box in Indiana and New York was freedom. He wanted to try everything and live the life he never thought he’d be able to have back home in the staid Midwest. Even Jews were a mystery to him and he was constantly bombarding me with questions about the whys and hows of Judaism, mostly filtered through the Duffy-described antisemitism of his kith and ken back home. Early on, he rented an apartment in the Georgetown section of Brooklyn, adjacent to my East Flatbush neighborhood. I was visiting and we went into the local deli, George & Sid’s on Ralph Avenue. I ordered what you order in a kosher-style deli in Brooklyn in a heavily Jewish neighborhood: corned beef on rye with mustard, potato knish, and a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda.

Duffy also ordered corned beef. On white bread. With mayo. The counterman just stared at him, then shook his head and said, “Ve don’t do dat here.” I stepped in and straightened Duffy’s deli meat issues, but after tasting the sandwich, he made a face and said he would have preferred the mayo. The deli mustard was too spicy for his Methodist palette.

Duffy died on November 15, 1982 in New York’s Saint Vincent Hospital, likely an early victim of the AIDS epidemic. He was also diabetic and had lately been suffering from a variety of ailments. He was, for several years, one of my closest friends.

What follows is a brief profile of Duffy originally published as a LOC in either (the old, tabloid) CBG or an issue of Alter Ego (I forget which), and which was later reprinted on the LGBT comics website, Prismcomics.org.:

Duffy

Duffy as bartender in (where else?) Duffy’s Tavern in the John Byrne written and illustrated Rog-2000 back-up from Charlton Comics’ E-MAN…making Duffy not only a character in the comic book biz, but an actual comic book character as well.

Duffy (born Everett Eugene, a constant source of embarrassment to him; his Dad nicknamed him Duffy, after the radio program Duffy’s Tavern) was a dear, dear friend of mine for many years. He was part of the Indiana comics “mafia,” and we first “met” when he started writing for the fanzines Paul Levitz and I did in the early 1970s (The Comic Reader and Etcetera). Duffy was a big, lovable screw-up. Not an evil bone in his body, but a definite love for the wicked. He was a big guy with a huge reddish-blond beard—had kind of a demented Santa Claus-look thing going for him—who enjoyed a certain level of flamboyance, wearing loud shirts, bright red sweater vests, a deer-stalker cap and a huge gold-and-silver embroidered blue velvet shoulder bag. He moved to New York from Indiana in the early-70s and settled in Brooklyn, not far from where I lived and where TCR and Etcetera were published.

Duffy worked at Marvel, starting, if memory serves me, editing FOOM. Of course, trying to put out any publication on “Duffy Time” was a hazardous undertaking and I remember many a day in the mid-70s spent at Duffy’s apartment, ghosting articles that ran under his byline or helping him slog through the physical production of the magazine. (As I recall, we also used to get together to write the letter column for some early Crazy Magazine specials, making up bizarre letters and damn near wetting ourselves with laughter… nobody else might have thought the stuff was funny, but we were definitely amused.) Later on, he edited Marvel’s line of British weekly black & white reprint magazines, and, after that, the details become fuzzy. He wanted nothing more than to be in comics, as a writer or a penciler or an inker or editor or production artist or… whatever! He was happy just being on the fringe. I always thought his greatest chance of success lay in inking, but he never focused long enough or hard enough on it to become good enough to ever break though.

BARBARIANbyrne-duffy512 copy

A barbarian character of my devising, pencilled by John Byrne and inked by Duffy, who was an early proponent for Byrne’s work at Marvel Comics. Whenever an editor would say they needed an artist, Duffy would pop up and chant “John Byrne! John Byrne! John Byrne!”

Duffy was a sweet guy who either had a great big smile on his face and a devilish twinkle in his eye… or suffered in a dark room with terrible migraine headaches. He was also diabetic, which he could have controlled through diet and by following doctor’s instructions, but my friend Duffy was a slave to his appetites and wasn’t about to give up pizza or milkshakes just because he was suffering from a potentially deadly disease. By the early 80s, Duffy’s health had started to fail and he was eventually hospitalized for renal failure. He’d lost a lot of weight, his kidneys had shut down… but even then, Duffy refused to follow orders and let himself get better. For all his outward jocularity, infectious chuckle and booming laughter (when Duffy laughed, the room shook and tears ran down his face), he had a dark and decidedly self-destructive side. The last time I saw him was when I visited him at St. Vincent’s Hospital in NYC and wound up yelling at him because he had friends smuggling pizza and junk food in for him. A few days later I got the phone call. His body had just shut down and he died.

He was, to say the least, a character. I could go on and on with stories about him, but suffice it to say, he was a dear, sweet friend who I miss to this day. As Bob Layton once said, he had an uncanny ability to piss off his friends… and an equally uncanny way of laughing his way back into your life. I just thought readers should know a little more about this wacky, gentle giant of a fan.24462480_127757971713

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12 Comments on Duffy’s Tavern

  1. Dave says:

    Great story Paul. Sounds like an interesting and wonderful guy, made all the more so because of his failings.

  2. Carl Potts says:

    My first day in NYC, Jim Starlin took me up to the Marvel offices where I showed my art portfolio. There I met Duffy and John Warner. They were in charge of putting the British reprint titles together. Since those titles split the normally 22 page Marvel stories in half, the second parts of each story needed a new splash page. Duffy and John would often use new (low cost!) talent to do those new splashes and some pin-ups. That is where I picked up my first solo assignment.

    It wasn’t until years later that I learned, in order to secure that assignment for me, Starlin had to promise Duffy and John that he’d also draw a splash page for them.

    Duffy’s initial encounter with a Jewish deli in NY sounds a lot like mine! As a pseudo-WASP from northern CA, I didn’t see a bagel until I was 20. When I moved to NYC, Al Milgrom took me to a Jewish deli in Forest Hills where I tried to order roast beef on white with mayo. I even think I asked them if they had milk shakes. Milgrom set me straight.

  3. Josh Vohland says:

    Interesting to learn alittle about my Uncle Duffy.He died one year after I was born so I never knew him.

  4. nel yomtov says:

    Wonderful remembrance, Paul. I was fortunate to become good buddies with Duffy while we were both working at Marvel in the late 70s. To your point of his inking talent, I always urged him to continue developing his craft, constantly trying to get him to take on assignments I was commissioning as the manager of special projects. He never really cared to work hard at it. His philosophy? Said with his sheepish grin, “As long as I’m as good as the worst inker at Marvel getting work, I know can make money.” What a character. I miss ‘im.

  5. […] including Paul Kupperberg’s Etcetera. Paul wrote a great tribute to Duffy that you can read here. Vohland went on to ink several Marvel titles, and was editor of Marvel’s house zine, FOOM, […]

  6. GEORGE MORGAN says:

    I grew up with Duffy. He was 2 years younger than me, and we were very close friends. I just live about 200 feet from the house he grew up in. I still think of his humor and intelligence, he was a GENIUS as far as I’m concerned. The thing that I most often think of was his imaginary, mysterious organ of the body which he named “the GLOMIS”. It could be anywhere in the body, and if someone had something an ailment he would casual mention that their glomis was probably infected, or swollen,etc. I still miss him to this day. I wonder what became of Eddie Caraballo. Eddie came back with Duffy’s body for the funeral.

    • Thanks for the memories, George. I remember Duffy’s “glomis,” as in its use in response to one of my many bad jokes or puns (he was jealous because I would often out-pun him), “Ooh, my glomis hurts!” I also miss him, the big goof!

  7. Larry L Stout says:

    I never met Duffy but got a phone call from him I guess around 1968. I am from Rushville, Indiana, where he was born and live not far from Clarksburg where he lived. I wrote very few letters but had one published in Wonder Woman in 1968 when WW went mod. Duffy would have been around 16 at the time and saw my letter and my address so he called. We talked about meeting but never did. Then I read great things about him when he moved to NYC and got involved with Marvel. Wish then that I had met with him. Wanted to share my memories of Duffy with you.

  8. Bridgett Vohland DiVohl says:

    I am Duffy’s niece and have been drawn to know more about him basically all of my life. I am an out lesbian and for years chose to escape Indiana to live in a larger city. I am also, as many people describe a character and also battle a very dark part of my being. Thank you for writing this. I would love to know more about my uncle if you ever have the time to email me.

  9. Tina M Ashman says:

    I am Tina. My mother died when I was 8 and Duffy was so good to me. He always took me every where with him until he moved to NY and left me. I have never gotten over losing him. I also remember George who lived next to the list office. Any pics or info would be so wonderful

  10. Tina M Gibson Ashman says:

    I am Duffy’s Sister/ Cousin. We were very close. I remember so many things. He told me when he came home for a visit. I was pregnant with my first child at 17. He told me what I had already known because of our closed minded lives.

  11. Jeffrey H. Wasserman says:

    I recall bumping into Duffy at the corner of Avenue N and Ralph Avenue in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, not far from your East Flatbush neighborhood, Paul, in 1974. We knew of each other from comics fandom. We chatted for a bit and he told me that the first issue of THE SPIRIT could be found for sale at the Hills Supermarket just up Ralph in Georgetowne. I followed his advice and went and bought a copy.
    On another occasion, Duffy was living in an old hotel on 33rd Street in the shadow of the Empire State Building in Manhattan. I recall Liam O’Connor (another comics fan friend of ours who’s up in heaven) taking me to visit Duffy there.
    May both Duffy and Liam rest in peace.

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