Finding A Voice — Again — In The Pages Of A Comic Book | KUOW News and Information

Finding A Voice — Again — In The Pages Of A Comic Book

Sep 22, 2014
Originally published on September 21, 2014 8:15 am

This is a story about love. It's a story about bad things happening to good people, about memory and perseverance — and comic books. But most of all, it's a story about a voice. A mellow, smooth voice, just right for late-night jazz.

The voice belonged to David Rector, who was a producer here at NPR, going all the way back to the days of magnetic tape and razor blades. David left NPR in 2008 and moved to California to be with his fiancee and pursue his dreams of on-air work — but it didn't happen. He suffered an aortic dissection — a tear in a major blood vessel — then a series of crises in the hospital that ultimately left him unable to speak or walk. Now his fiancee, Roz Alexander-Kasparik, is helping give him a voice again, in the pages of an autobiographical superhero comic called Recall and Given.

David was a quiet guy, but he had an encyclopedic knowledge of movies, pop culture and especially comic books. "I tended to be a Marvel comics person, he was a DC guy," recalls Bob Malesky — David's boss for many years at Weekend Edition. "We tended to get into rather detailed arguments."

So naturally, he timed his arrival in California to coincide with San Diego Comic-Con — one of the biggest comics conventions in the country. Roz says they had a blast. "He saw the Incredible Hulk. We went to all the panels, he knew all the people, I don't know any of these people." But they didn't make it back the next year: Eight months later, David got sick. "So he went one day, from basically being on his treadmill while I was in dance class, to not being able to move or speak."

The man who wanted to make a living with his voice suddenly had no voice — in more ways than one. He could only use his thumb. He was given a court-appointed conservator. He no longer had the right to vote. Miserable, he stopped responding to his therapists. Roz fought an acrimonious legal battle to get him out of a series of nursing homes.

Through it all, she kept notes, and she wrote to anyone who could help. One person who did help was their comics industry friend Batton Lash — creator of a long running strip called Supernatural Law.

"Just one day last year, she just said, Batton, I have this idea — David and I want to do a comic book," he says. "And it was like the light bulb going over her head, because David loves comics — it's almost like therapy! Why not, let's do it."

Lash helped Roz find an artist, a mutual friend named Trevor Nielson. He walked her through the steps of creating a comic based on David's experiences. Roz herself says she knew it had to be a superhero comic, because of David's love of Batman and Superman.

And that's the origin story — because every superhero needs an origin story — of the character Recall. Roz describes him as "part specter and part very underground human, who imparts memories, seeds memory in others that's karmic."

Recall is almost like an astral projection: While his body lies stricken in a hospital bed, his spirit roams around, dispensing karmic justice by projecting memories into your mind — do good and you get a dose of good memories, do bad and, well, you get the idea. At his side is Given, who's based on Roz — and she's called that because her love for Recall is a given. Roz says David approves all the story and art choices, and he relishes his editorial role.

"The one thing that brought him back, was the comic," she says. "He would wake up, he would do his little finger things, he would make himself known, he would make his voice heard with regard to the comic that would bear his story."

And while Recall and Given is still looking for a publisher, in one sense it's already a success: David Rector can't speak right now, but his voice is there, on paper, in the curves of pen and ink and the careful lettering of a superhero comic book.


Read An Excerpt: Recall And Given

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

WADE GOODWYN, HOST:

Now we want to take a minute to visit with an old friend. His name is David Rector. He was, for many years, a producer on this program. David left NPR in 2008 and moved to California to pursue his dream of being on the air. But that's didn't happen. He suffered an aortic dissection, a tear in a major blood vessel that left him unable to speak or walk. Now his fiancee, Roz Alexander-Kasparik is helping give him a voice again. NPR's Petra Mayer caught up with Raz and David in San Diego.

PETRA MAYER, BYLINE: This is a story about love. It's a story about bad things happening to good people, about memory and perseverance and comic books. But most of all, it's a story about a voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID RECTOR: I'm David Rector. And we're going to start off things nice and easy with Nat King Cole and "Unforgettable."

MAYER: This is a practice session David recorded after he left NPR. He wanted to get his radio announcer chops back. David was here for decades, going all the way back to the days of magnetic tape and razor blades. He was known as a quiet guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of movies, pop culture and especially comic books.

BOB MALESKY, BYLINE: I'm also a comics expert. That was one of the reasons David and I bonded right away.

MAYER: That's Bob Malesky who was David's boss for many years at WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY.

MALESKY: I tended to be a Marvel Comics person. He was a DC Comics Guy. So occasionally, we'd get into rather detailed arguments about the merits of various super heroes. He knew everything. He really did.

MAYER: So naturally, David timed his arrival in California to coincide with San Diego Comicon, one of the biggest comics conventions in the country. Raz Alexander-Kasparik says they had a blast.

ROZ ALEXANDER-KASPARIK: He saw the Incredible Hulk. You know, we went to all the panels. He knew all the people. I don't know any of these people.

MAYER: But they didn't make it back the next year. Eight months later, he got sick.

ALEXANDER-KASPARIK: We went one day from basically being on a treadmill while I was in dance class to not being able to move or speak.

MAYER: The man who wanted to make a living with his voice suddenly had no voice in more ways than one. He could only use his thumb. He was given a quarter pointed conservator. He no longer had the right to vote. Miserable, he stopped responding to his therapists. Roz fought an acrimonious legal battle to get them out of a series of nursing homes. And through it all, she kept notes. And she wrote to anyone who would help. One person who did help was their comic's industry friend Batton Lash, creator of a long-running strip called "Supernatural Law."

BATTON LASH: One day last year, she just said, Batton, I have this idea. David and I want to do a comic book. And it was like the lightbulb going over her head because, you know, David loves comics. It's almost like therapy. Why not? Let's do it.

MAYER: Lash helped Raz find an artist, a mutual friend named Trevor Nielson. He walked her through the steps of creating a comic based on David's experiences. Roz herself says she knew it had to be a super hero comic. And that's the origin story, because every super hero needs an origin story, of the character Recall.

ALEXANDER-KASPARIK: He's part specter and parts very underground human, who imparts memories, seeds memory in others that's karmic.

MAYER: Recall is almost like an astral projection. While his body lies stricken in a hospital bed, his spirit roams around dispensing karmic justice by projecting memories into your mind. Do good, and you get to get a dose of good memories. Do bad, and you get the idea. At his side is Given, who's based on Roz. And she's called that because her love for Recall is a Given. Roz says David approves all the story and art choices, and he relishes his editorial role.

ALEXANDER-KASPARIK: The one thing that brought him back was the comic. He would wake up. He would do his little finger things. He would make himself known. He would make his voice heard with regard to the comic that would bear his story.

MAYER: David Rector can't speak right now, but his voice in there on paper, in the curves of pen and ink and the careful lettering of a super hero comic book. Petra Mayer, NPR News.

GOODWYN: You can see pages of "Recall and Given" on our website, npr.org/books. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Wade Goodwyn. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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