"Open the door and c'mon in...I'm so glad to see you my friends." Judy Collins
|(Loved doing Starfire. Vinnie Coletta, who inked these pages, did chastise me for inking the creatures below when I sent in the pencils. lol.)|
The beauty of living in Detroit in the late sixties and early seventies is that, in a large part thanks to Jerry Bails, there was a large network of aspiring young comic artists. Besides Starlin and Milgrom, Rich Buckler had started to work professionally. He would soon be followed by Terry Austin, Mike Nasser, Arvel Jones, Keith Pollard, Mike Kucharski, Steve Fritz. There were so many of us. We encouraged each other, critiqued the work we were all doing, and there was plenty of advice not just on what to prepare in your portfolio, but who was the best person to see at each company. When you were ready to start looking for work, if you came out of Detroit you didn’t have the advantage of jumping into the business blindly.
|Terry Austin inking my pencils|
While I didn’t get work from my first interviews, I was pleasantly surprised to find out how many of the people I talked to knew my name from the Masquerader fanzine. Flo Steinberg was very friendly to me at Marvel, and Roy Thomas offered lots of encouragement. Meeting Joe Kubert in person was such a thrill: but I remember being so overwhelmed by Joe that it never occurred to me to ask him for work. And I met fans that I had long corresponded with: Al Weiss, Marv Wolfman and Len Wein. They all offered the same message: don’t get discouraged, but keep trying and come back again.
|A couple of magnificent Kubert covers.|
The other great thing was that you never thought about staying at a hotel. When I came into NYC, Starlin and Milgrom each put me up where they were staying and graciously showed me around the city. They also introduced me to Bernie Wrightson, Howard Chaykin and Walter Simonson, all of whom would become good friends. And the best part was that each of these people would tell you about some artist, or a trick of the trade, of a new editor to talk to if you were looking for work. All in all, those days were such a positive experience and one that I am forever grateful for.
|Milgrom inking Jim Starlin her and below.|
Certainly one of the most helpful people for those of us trying to break into the business at this time was Neal Adams, who had his own agency called Continuity Studios. Whenever you were in town, you were always welcome to hang out at Continuity and schmooze in the back rooms or look over the artists shoulders where they were working in their offices. Jack Abel and Dick Giordano gave me no end of helpful hints on polishing my work. And Jack also introduced me to the music of Benny Goodman. Neal could be intimidating, but never made you feel like you didn’t belong.
|My Pencils, Jack Abel inks.|
|Dick Giordano inking me.|
Al Milgrom continually put me up at his apartment for years when I would come into the city. He was often my personal promoter and scout when I would be looking for work. You couldn’t ask for a better friend. Early on, Al shared an apartment with Walter Simonson so I would got to be good friends with him. He introduced me to the work of Modesty Blaze artist Jim Holdaway, and later took me to the Society of Illustrators to see a show they were having. Once I posed for Walt for an upshot of the head, and I was amazed that artists took the time to do this when drawing comics. Of course if you mentioned this to Walt, he’d probably give that great laugh and proclaim that was the only time he’d ever done it.
|Walt Simonson cover|
Through Al and Walt it wasn’t long before I ran into Howard Chaykin. This brash youngster showed me how to use a wonderful machine for copying photographs and drawings called an Artograph. (Still have one I occasionally use to this day.) He also showed me the Famous Illustrators course and insisted I become familiar with it. He was a walking force of nature; an amazing talent and never boring to be around.
|Starlin and Milgrom|
|A couple of Flagg covers pencilled by myself and inked by Chaykin.|
Needless to say, hanging out with all of these great talents and wonderful folks, my own work not only improved by leaps and bounds, but I soon found that I had plenty of free lance work, and eventually contracts at different times with both DC and Marvel. Having worked as a janitor, in a factory on the assembly line and as a schoolteacher, I was now working at the job of my dreams.
But while I came into NYC to conduct business, I was now living in Battle Creek, Mi. My occupation was as a cartoonist, but I felt much more like a secret agent. I worked by myself at my house and seldom had folks around that with whom I could really discuss the work. I was pretty much working in a vacuum. Fortunately, about this time I met a younger artist who lived in the nearby town of Marshall named Tom Sullivan. Tom was an amazing oil painter and sculptor and soon had me taking watercolor and life drawing classes with him at the BC art center. He was always filled with such youthful enthusiasm. He was then working on independent movie (that I remember not being much impressed with) called The Evil Dead with director Sam Raimi. We had a pact that one day we’d both end up in Hollywood. And we did!
|Don't let the friendly smile fool you....Tom Sullivan above and below.|
With the life drawing and painting I was growing tremendously as an artist, but the work available to me in comics was becoming more limited. I didn’t want to stay as just a penciller drawing super heroes. About this time the the independent comic scene was developing and the direct market distribution opened some new doors. Chaykin had paved the way with American Flagg. To compete with this new avenue, Marvel started their creator owned brand called Epic, and I was soon working on a new series with writer Christy Marx. The best part was I got to pencil, ink and color it all by myself.
|Painting of Christy Marx|
|A couple of Sisterhood covers and in interior page b elow.|
Let me just say here, that besides being one of the most talented and accommodating writers I worked with, Christy had more hutzpah than anyone I knew. She didn’t just write about warrior women, she was one to be reckoned with. During the time I was working on this series, I married my wife Annie and we moved to Los Angeles...and settled in Tujunga and became neighbors with Christy. Since Christy was the hot writer for Hasbro, she was soon encouraging me to look for freelance work in that field.
But more on that in part three next week.