Thursday, August 9, 2018


“I want to thank you, thank you for being my friend.”  Andrew Gold

(Sisterhood cover with my pencils. Christy's late husband Peter Ledger painted the figure and background in the main image.)

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles in 1985, I began looking for freelance work in the field of animation. Not only was Christy Marx a great help in giving me leads and suggestions on who to talk to, but I after attending a meeting of CAPS  (an organization of cartoonists that met once a month) I suddenly found I had a lot of doors opened to me. The animation industry had a healthy respect for artists who worked in comics, and were usually familiar with your work.

At the time I was being forced out of Marvel comics by the current editor, so moving into the better paying field of animation was pretty much a no-brainer. When I was living in Battle Creek, the anxiety always was if I working in comics, where could I work. Once I was in LA, the question switched to how do I get out of comics so I can move into other areas. It certainly gave you a lot more bargaining power when dealing with editors and directors. 
(Frank Paur with two of his drawings below.)

(Larry Houston and a couple examples of his comics and animation work.)

Strangely enough, I went from working at Marvel Comics to working at Marvel Animation, doing character designs and storyboards. The adaptation experience was easy enough, and aided by any number of artist friends. Two of folks who were most helpful were Larry Houston (whom I’ve always referred to as the Jack Kirby of animation storyboards) and a young Frank Parr, who I shared offices with more than once over the years. Both of them were a great source of education about the differences between the static images of comics and the illusion of movement in film. 
And I might also mention that I was continually meeting or working with the likes of Alex Toth, Jack Kirby, Moebius, Russ Heath, Jesse Santos and Alex Nino. 

(Alex Toth, one king drawing another king... from our animation days at Bionic Six.)

Jack Kirby

Russ Heath


Jesse Santos

Alex Nino

As will happen, after a couple of years, animation went through a very slow period. Howard Chaykin had recently moved to LA, and he approached me about the possibility of getting studio space and working together on a run of American Flagg. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance. Howard was a master of design and storytelling, and an accomplished illustrator. He taught me how to me bring my work to a new level of finish. We used a paper called Craftift that essentially added tones so that the effect was much more three dimensional. After poring through his copies of the Famous Illustrator course, I quickly bought my own copies and started studying them. It wasn't difficult to see that all the cartoonists I had admired like Toth, and Kubert and Starr, were all tremendously influenced by these illustrators. 

Chaykin illustration for Flagg.

(Crafttint boards for Flagg. I pencilled and Howard inked and added the tones. He often stepped in on the early issues and added his touches to the art.And Richard Ory supplied the amazing backgrounds.)

(Early Chaykin ...Dominic Fortune. Yes, he liked Alex Toth.)

Over the several years we had the place, my studio mates were Steve Mitchell, Sean McManus, Richard Ory, Don Cameron, Roy Burdine and Scott Hemming to name a few. It was great environment where I started expanding as a painter and learning more about color. While Howard moved on to writing for TV, he taught me the most valuable lesson: better to be a first rate Mike Vosburg, than a second rate anyone else. And he also recommended me for the job of drawing all the faux comic book covers for the Tales From the Crypt TV series, which was my first job where I was doing a comic book style but producing illustration. And it started me working in film.

Steve Mitchell inks

Sean McManus

Don Cameron

One of the artists I had run into at CAPS was William Stout, who hosted an open life drawing workshop every Sunday morning. I had been pursuing this discipline for a while, but it soon became a routine I’ve now followed for 25 years. Yes, those hundreds (thousands) of hours drawing the figure from life do make a difference in your work. And often I was sitting next to the likes of Dan Gouzee, Rod Dryden, Peter Brook, James Goodrich, Terry Gordon,Dave Glover and so many other talented professionals. The conversation is always scintillating, and you are always being introduced to new artists and new approaches

Life drawing by below of him at his studio where we all draw.

Dan Gouzee

Rod Dryden

(L. to r.  Roy Smith, Zahra, me, Denis Woodyard, Tom Nelson.)

One of the first folks I met in animation who has stayed a very close friend over the years was Zahra Dowlatabadi, who was our art department assistant on Bionic Six. That roll was quickly reversed as she soon moved on to producing and has been very successful.  When I was looking for work she introduced me to her friend, Catherine Winder, who hired me to work at HBO animation, certainly the best job I ever had in the field. (She and Zahra have co-written the ultimate handbook on the process called  Producing Animation)  Catherine was the best boss you could ever ask for. And the folks I worked with at HBO still have regular reunions…something unheard of in the profession.

The HBO Animation Crew. In front at the right is Eric Radomski and Catherine Winder. I am behind them in the second row (I was the old man of the crew). Tom and Jen are in the upper left.)

One of the ironies of my career is that when I was young and not very good, work was never hard to find. As I acquired skill and taste, that all changed. For example, after I “won” an Emmy working on HBO’s Spawn, I discovered it was actually a retirement gift from animation;  there were very few  action adventure shows. Likewise, as my comic book style became more realistic, editors were less receptive at that time. After leaving HBO, work was so slow I seriously starting thinking about a different profession. I happened to run into Trevor Goring at a comic con in Pasadena who suggested I drop off a portfolio where he was working on a new Narnia movie. It seemed like a slim chance, but I followed his advice and thought that would be the end of it. A couple months later they called me in where I met Andrew Adamson who hired me immediately and I spent the next five years working on three films and traveling the world. Another serendipitous twist of fate.
Trevor Goring with some examples of his work.

Tevor is a transplanted Brit who at one time had his own ad agency in the UK and also worked in the comics field there on such books as 2000 ad. When he immigrated to the US he started working doing ad boards and in live action films. He is an amazing talent- a first class storyteller, draftsman and graphic designer.  One glance at his IMDB page and you wonder if there is any film project in the past thirty years he hasn’t work on. He recommended me for the first Narnia film, and I returned the favor on Voyage of the Dawntreader.
Tom Nelson character sketches and boards.

The switch to working on live action films came easily to me, though I was a bit daunted at first. Andrew Adamson liked the fact that I also understood animation and asked if there was anyone else in that field I might recommend. Tom Nelson was one of the HBO crew and I quickly sang his praises. Like myself, through trepidatious at first, Tom quickly adapted and animation lost one of it’s finest as Mr. Nelson has continued working on blockbuster after blockbuster  super hero epic such as Thor, The Avengers,etc.. We also gave Tom the nickname “Mr. Wizard” because of his savvy tech skills. He has brought me kicking and screaming into the 21st century with new technology many a time. (Tom, who met her while sharing an office with me at HBO,  is also married to Jennifer Yuh of Kung Fu Panda fame. Don’t miss Jen’s live action directorial debut The Darkest Minds in cinemas now.)

Tom, Jen, Zahra, my wife Annie, Catherine and myself. 

The truth is, you never make it alone in any profession. While it’s always necessary to do all the hard work to prepare for when your lucky break comes along, it’s usually friends who are supplying the connection to that step forward. And when things are slow, the good ones are always there to keep your spirits up. Friends remember you…and if you’ve screwed them they remember that too. More that just as a source of helping you find your next job, friends are there for the camaraderie, and to enhance your life with their friendship. As my late friend Leonard Starr told me: “All we have is each other.” 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


"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. 

Keith Pollard

Arvell Jones

Rich buckler

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. 
Bernie Wrightson

Al Milgrom

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.

Neal Adams

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. 

Jim Holdaway

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.