Carl Tupper, 11/02/1940 – 12/29/2010

Jan 2, 2011 by

Unca Carl & Me

It is my sad duty to relate the death of Carl Tupper, proprietor for more than 30 years of BSI Comics. Carl was a true saint. A remarkable man who cruised through life with an indomitable spirit and always a smartass remark ready for any occasion. Family and friends are invited to attend a Funeral Mass at Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home, 5100 Pontchartrain Blvd. (in Metairie Cemetery), on Monday, January 3, 2011 at 1:00 PM. Visitation will begin at 11:00 AM until service time. Interment will be held in Lake Lawn Park Mausoleum.

Anyone in the metro area who grew up in the comics/sci-fi world in the last thirty years knew Unca Carl. (As did many who did not run in that crowd.) Face it, if you didn’t know Carl, you weren’t a true comics geek. From the early days of the Book Swap, Inc., a used paperback trading store on Kent Avenue in Metairie, to the salad days of BSI Comics just around the corner on Fairfield and later located in Fat City, Carl held court from his wheelchair, behind those huge, hand-built wooden counters, giving out free advice to anyone with ears. As he often said, “I can solve all your problems, but none of my own.”

Walk into the store happy and Carl would ask if he could have “some of what you’re on.” Enter in a foul mood and he’d flat out tell you, “Babe, you know what you’re problem is? You got a bad attitude.” Walk in with a girlfriend and the gloves were off. In fact, some people would bring new girlfriends in to test them; if they could roll with Carl’s punches, then there was hope for a serious, lasting relationship!

But even though it appeared that Carl’s business was selling funnybooks, that was just a front. Carl Tupper’s real business was teaching kids about life. Carl probably “hired” more “employees” over the years than Popeye’s ever will. It wasn’t because he needed the help -there was always at least one semi-reliable, full-time employee at the shop who could take care of most anything- but because Carl knew the kids needed the job for one reason or another. A day, a week, a month; however long that kid needed the work, Carl would always find something for them to do.

We all got paid with pizza, po-boys, free comics or paperbacks and occasionally actual cash. It must have been a drain on his finances from time to time, but Carl knew he could make a difference in our lives, and he did indeed. Even after most of us had moved on and established ourselves in the “real world,” when we came back for a visit we’d find ourselves alphabetizing the racks as we browsed or dusting, or sweeping, or moving things around the store just to pay him back a little bit and Carl would still shove a few bucks or some free merchandise into our hands. It’s just the kind of guy he was.

And through Carl, we became doctors, lawyers, police officers, teachers, retailers, comics pros, (and ams,) and a host of other professions. But above all, Carl taught us how to be friends; how to get along with each other despite our differences. If you think arguments over politics, religion and race are difficult to mediate, you ain’t seen nothing until a pack of fanboys start dissecting the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Marvel vs DC, Golden Age vs Silver Age vs Bronze Age, or Jim Shooter vs John Byrne. Carl mediated everything and you could tell that that was why he opened that store up every day. He loved the comics, but he loved his employees and customers more.

And if you had a problem, Carl was always there. Need your car or computer fixed? Need a gardener or plumber? Looking for someone to help you move? Carl knew absolutely everyone and if he sent you to them, you got a deal. BSI’s current proprietor, Jason, remarked that “Carl was a social network before the term existed” and that’s the God’s Honest Truth. I have about a dozen close friends from high school, but I have at least a hundred friends that I met through Carl and BSI. And oddly enough, about 90% of my high school friends were also BSI customers or employees. Go figure.

And without knowing it, Carl taught us all that no matter how dark the storm clouds are, the sun will eventually come back out. Faced with a myriad of health problems and operations stemming from his original stroke some forty years ago, he never complained about his problems. Yes, he came off as a sarcastic, crabby bastard, but no matter how hard he tried to make you think that was his real self, he couldn’t hide that blinding twinkle in his eye that said, “Shit, babe, life is good… enjoy it while you can.”

Repose en paix, Unc. And open a folder for me up there…

-M Styborski

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8 Comments

  1. Lovely tribute, Stybby. Never met the man but I wish that I had.

    • It has been a great ride! I remember a year ago when you satrted this story, you couldn’t imagine doing more than a page a week, and now, you’ve completed your first graphic novel. It’s a great acheivement and you should take some pride in that.Congrats Ryan!

  2. I echo Adrastos. Beautiful.

  3. Sheila

    This is such a beautiful tribute. I found a new spring of tears over his passing. The world truly lost one of its greats.

  4. Thanks Styb, I could not bring myself to write this so I am glad that you did.

    Even though I worked for the competition (Sheldon was my boss at the Magazine Street Comic Shop) Unca Carl gave me the same good natured abuse and support as “his kids.” He and my grandfather Williams were the two who really taught me the value of work ethic, friends, and a smart ass sense of humor.

    I’ve feared this day since the last time I saw him. I guess we all knew intellectually that his time would come, but emotionally we were all sure he would just sit in his wheelchair and give death the finger.

    I’ll miss you Uncle Carl.

    Thanks- or the comics, for the friendship, for smacking me upside the head when I needed it. Mostly though, thanks for all you’ve done for my circle of geeky friends over the years. You made New Orleans a much better place.

  5. Randall Eharb

    A fine eulogy for a fine man. I frequented his store in Fat City and learned many things from him, some useful, some not so but always entertaining. We spent many an afternoon in front of his store, next to the Dominos, chatting about “everything” and just enjoying being curmudgeonly, which was the opposite of the type of man he truly was.
    He was of the old school and a true gentle-man. May he rest in the knowledge that he was loved and respected by those whose lives he touched. Fair Winds and Following Seas, Sir…

  6. Philip Mason

    It’s hard to believe its been a year since your passing Mr. Carl. Stlll miss ya and love ya as much as ever.

  7. Philip Mason

    God Bless you Mr Carl. You’re still missed greatly.

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