Ann Arbor transient—and Kennedy assassination suspect?—sheltered by words
By Adrian Hedden
At rest coolly among the storefronts, puffing on hand-rolled cigarettes and waving gleefully at the few passersby who do recognize his mythos, Terrance Casey Brennan, or T. Casey as he is known locally, has a long and tumultuous career in comics weighing on his mind.
Brennan spends his days homeless in Ann Arbor, reading, smoking and chatting outside with anybody who will listen.
“If they’re too strict, they’ll come out and yell at me, but if they’re too nice, all the winos will be hanging around,” Brennan said. The majority of people look at me and think I’m a regular homeless guy. They don’t know my back story; the only way is if I show them.”
In his heyday, Brennan estimated that his stories printed by Warren Publishing, out of New York, had a world- wide readership of hundreds of thousands per release. He said that his stories have been translated into more than 20 languages.
Stuffing his pockets and a large, canvas grocery bag, is the evidence as Brennan described. . . of his legend.
Paperback singles, leather- bound archives and various comic-industry magazines are carried in the arms of the transient 64-year-old native of Avoca, a small town about two hours northeast of Ann Arbor. As he moves about Ann Arbor, he relies on friends, he said, for housing and financial support.
Brennan also collects social security funding and enjoys daily free meals at the Delonis Center.
“I have a pretty good support system here,” he said. “Various girls send me money from time to time, but that can’t be counted on.”
Local knowledge of Brennan is built primarily through the grapevine. As his legend persists, workers and residents of Ann Arbor are made aware of his story by word-of-mouth.
“I never knew who he was until about the third or fourth time that I came across him,” said Rachel Douchene, 22, who works at Espresso Royal on South State Street, where Brennan is often found smoking and reading at an outdoor table. “My friend asked me ‘Do you know T. Casey Brennan? He’s a famous comic book writer. I had no idea! It’s really impressive to see this huge body of work.”
Employees at local eateries often witness Brennan relaxing outside on the concrete, most carry on unabated as they see no threat from the aging writer, his nose buried in some volume or archive but always happy to greet and explain his literary history.
“He’s just a stereotypical, old Ann Arbor man,” said Jason Wisely, a 29-year-old dishwasher at The Fleetwood Diner. “He seems like an intelligent dude, though. He did get a comic made; he did a good job, so not all he says can be bullshit.”
‘Just not welcome’
After he was struck by a car, on foot at the intersection of Washtenaw Avenue and Oakwood Drive in Ypsilanti on Feb. 1, 2003, Brennan’s mannerisms and personal outlook were drastically altered by his injuries.
“It changed my personality, how I talked,” Brennan said of the accident. “When I got hit I felt like I was 15 again. That’s why I talk funny. This is now my lifestyle: I go to parties, get high and dig on hot chicks.”
Brennan said that when he first resurfaced among the Ann Arbor college party scene after about two years of recovery from the accident, he was accepted by the youngsters. Soon, new generations of party- age youths became unaware of Brennan’s story and he was made to feel unwelcome, he said.
“I’m just not welcome,” Brennan said. “They don’t seem to understand. I had just been making my comeback, using my position to generate publicity. They didn’t know I was making positive strides.”
After only his third submission to Warren, Brennan’s “On the Wings of a Bird” was printed in the publisher’s “Creepy” series, No. 36., in 1970.
“My name was on comic books across the country,” Brennan said. “But even the biggest geeks only care about art, not the writer. I was a national celebrity, but it took until the 21st century for me to convey that. That’s what’s so amazing.”
Writing for Warren throughout the 1970s and ’80s, and publishing works in renowned series’ Vampirella, Eerie and Creepy, many of Brennan’s most renowned works have been made available at the Ann Arbor District Library. The archived volumes of the three series sell publicly for upwards of $50, Brennan said.
The first volume of the Vampirella archived editions, in which Brennan said he had many pieces published, was ranked No. 1 in 2011 on the New York Times’ graphic novel bestseller list.
“The best anyone I know can do is check it out or read it in the back,” Brennan said. “They might look a little creepy hiding back there, but no one at the library has ever questioned me.”
A Kennedy Suspect?
But Brennan’s notoriety is not confined to just one list. In 2007, renowned attorney and writer, Vincent Bugliosi, published “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” a book delving into the murder of JFK and the events surrounding it. He included a list of 82 potential triggermen.
Brennan was listed at No. 8.
Starting the mid-nineties, Brennan began work on a series of written works, mainly available online, entitled: “Conjurella.” Many of the stories include in the series detail Brennan’s personal accounts of his involvement in the assassination of JFK.
He said that, as a child, he underwent hypnosis therapy involved with a government program, “MK Ultra” that ultimately led to his becoming an unwitting shooter in Kennedy’s murder.
“My current work falls under the category of repressed memories,” Brennan said. “I fired a shot (at Kennedy). Put me on the stand. What I like is to have my fans read my stories and think they’re fiction. They’re not untrue.”
Locals are left mystified by Brennan’s frank admission of guilt. Most hear his claims with a grain of salt.
“I heard he killed Kennedy,” Wisely said. “He did make a pretty compelling argument. I’ve learned to accept it as at least a possibility.”
The son of two, nationally published authors and school board members, Brennan’s abilities in comic writing began as a child. He said learned the layout of a comic strip through his parents’ many writing magazines.
“I had a good blueprint for magazine layout,” Brennan said. “Having a background in the industry really benefitted my knowledge in the beginning.”
After Warren declared bankruptcy in 1983, Brennan was unable to find work elsewhere in the comic industry – leading him to declare himself blacklisted.
“People in the industry told me that they had locked arms against me. It didn’t matter why, only that they were doing it,” Brennan said. “I wanted to tear it down. The comic book industry was of no use to me at that time.”
Now couch surfing within the limits of Ann Arbor, and forever chasing women, Brennan feels ready to move on from town and state that has been he has called home his entire life.
“I’ll probably surf my way down to Miami Beach for the winter,” Brennan said. “I’ve got friends down there, and I don’t need to hang around if I’m not welcome at the parties.”