Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A G.I. JOE SKETCHBOOK PT. 1







The two jobs that I worked on in my career that still resonate with fans these days are first the one hundred "covers" I created for the HBO Tales From the Crypt series that ran for seven seasons. Second there is my association with Hasbro's GI Joe, where I penciled the comic books series (issues #9-20,22-23) and once I moved to LA, worked on storyboarding episodes of the animated series four a couple of years. 






Working on the comic book in the early eighties was certainly not my favorite assignment. It was not one of the "popular" books at Marvel (though who knew what a monster commercial hit it would be), and while everyone insured me it was a  "spy" adventure, I found it hard to get past the "war" connotation. Lara Hama's writing was brilliant and fun to work on, though Larry was a rather taciturn with his comments. The inker probably fit the series well, but it became increasingly clear that no matter what I was doing to improve the quality of my penciling, the results always remained the same. Since I was working in Battle Creek MI and mailing the work in, it was difficult to plead my case.






When I left the series editor Denny O'Neill called me desperately asking my help to do one more issue because the one they had assigned to Russ Heath looked to never be completed. While he couldn't offer me more than the base pay for "pencil breakdowns", he did promise me that there was a heft royalty payment on the issues. So I did the favor,  penciled issue #24 and sent it in. Lo and behold, when the book came out, Russ had managed to get his work in at the last minute, and it was magnificent. However, not a word from Denny explaining any of this to me...and so much for that royalty payment. (If I can scare up all the xerox's I'll print that in a future Vozcomix blog.)









Working on the animated series, because I had moved to LA, had the distinct advantage of working in house and dealing daily and directly with my directors and producer. Once I managed to convince them that I could actually storyboard (another interesting story), I found that my work was not only respected but admired by the other artists.  And while it didn't pay royalties, the animation salary I thought was phenomenal. There were many friends I made in those days that I still cherish to this day. (And speaking of royalties, IDW has never paid any of the creative talent a dime in royalties for all the work they have continually reprinted.)








Growing up after Korea and watching the Vietnam fiasco unfold, by the time the Gulf Wars rolled around, I really wanted to disassociate myself from any connection with the military. And no matter how much they pushed the "spy" concept, GI Joe to me was the perfect fantasy for convincing youngsters that the army and combat was a fun place to be. Consequently, I've always had misgivings about the series. However, meeting all the wonderful fans over the years has eroded some of those, and fulfilling their requests for sketches gave me a chance to pencil and ink my renditions of their heroes. Here's hoping you enjoy looking at this portfolio as much as I enjoyed drawing it.  




Next week, stay tuned for part 2 of the portfolio. Don't miss it!!

2 comments:

  1. That is truly beautiful artwork, Mike! My first issue of G.I. Joe was #12 back in 1983. Many other fine artists followed over the years, but yours remains my favorite run. The combination of Larry's scripts and your pencils hooked me on the series from that very first ish! I would LOVE to see your pages for the alternate issue #24 which Russ ended up doing. Although I was around age 11 at the time, I never thought about joining the army, (I wanted to be a writer and historian) so I never viewed the series that much differently than I did the superhero stuff. Regardless, you're the first guy I think of whenever I talk about my favorite G.I. Joe stories. I'm sorry that your experience at the time wasn't the best and that IDW is not paying royalties for your well-earned work. Looking forward to part 2 of this outstanding portfolio. Best, Joe.

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  2. Really enjoyed your artwork. To be honest, my love of G.I. Joe was a big part of why I enlisted and served in the Navy for 8 years as an aircraft technician. I was a kid growing up with a significant number of gang bangers and drugs all around me, the story of something bigger than yourself and service really appealed to me. I have numerous others that I know that served in the Joe community as military, law enforcement, fire fighter, nurses, doctors, teachers, etc. The biggest thing that most Joe fans have in common is a desire to serve. You sir, helped to foster that. Nothing to feel misgivings over. I thank you for your time on the titles.

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