An Interview With Ramona Fradon - The Woman Who Co-Created Metamorpho & Aqualad

Written by Bryan Stroud

Ramona Fradon sitting in a bullpen, surrounded by male co-workers.

Ramona Fradon sitting in a bullpen, surrounded by male co-workers.

The Silver Age of DC comics contained everything from the sublime to the ridiculous and sometimes you had features that sort of straddled that line.  I've always been fond of Metamorpho, the Element Man, so it was a natural thing to reach out to his original artist, the wonderful Ramona Fradon.  Since that first e-mail interview, she's helped me with a couple of articles I've done for Back Issue magazine, both on Metamorpho and Plastic Man. In 2015 I had the great good fortune to meet her and purchase one of her pencil sketches of Rex, Java and Sapphire in San Diego.  What a treat it was!

This interview originally took place via email on June 12, 2007.


Bryan Stroud:  According to some information I found, you began at DC in 1951.  The industry was pretty much on the ropes at that point.  What prompted you to try comics at that particular time?

Ramona Fradon: I didn't know anything about comics at the time and didn't know if the industry was on the ropes or not. You might say my husband and I were on the ropes financially, having just gotten out of art school and living on 75 dollars a month from the GI bill. A friend of ours, George Ward, who was later Walt Kelly's assistant, urged me to make some samples and take them around to the comic book companies, which I did.

Stroud:  What was your first job at DC?

RF:  It was a four page Shining Knight.

Stroud:  Did you have aims to be a comic book artist?

RF:  No. I had read the newspaper strips when I was a child, but had never read comic books and had never thought of being a cartoonist. I married one, however, and that had an influence on me.

Metamorpho (Rex), Saphire, & Java by Ramona Fradon.

Batman by Ramona Fradon.

Catwoman by Ramona Fradon.

Stroud:  Gaspar Saladino began his career in the fashion industry.  Is your background similar?

RF:  No. I came right out of the Art Students' League in New York having studied fine art. My father wanted me to be an artist so I went to art school, but had no idea what I wanted to do after that. I was lucky to fall into comics, I guess.

Stroud:  How many other women were working as comic artists when you broke in?

RF:  As far as I know, only Marie Severin at Marvel.

Stroud:  Was there any resistance to your penciling super heroes?

RF:  The only resistance was on my part. I always hated drawing superheroes and the editors kept assigning them to me. I preferred drawing the mysteries and goofy characters like Plastic Man and Metamorpho.

House Of Mystery #232. Cover by Ramona Fradon.

House Of Mystery #273 interior page by Ramona Fradon.

The Brave And The Bold #58. Cover By Ramona Fradon.

Stroud:  Did Bob Haney have a specific look for Metamorpho in mind or was the design left up to you?

RF:  I did a number of sketches before I arrived at Metamorpho's look. Bob and George Kashdan both approved it.

Stroud:  Why did they use the Brave and the Bold title for Metamorpho’s try-out instead of Showcase?

RF:  I have no idea.

Stroud: A house ad in the summer of 1966 stated that Metamorpho and Wonder Woman would be appearing in the fall on television in “Colorful Animation,” but it never came to pass.  Do you know why?

RF:  No. I knew at the time that someone was interested in doing a cartoon of Metamorpho, but I stopped drawing it and lost touch with what was happening.

Stroud:  Have you seen Metamorpho’s animated debut on the Justice League series recently?

RF:  Somebody sent me a video of an episode, but I must confess, I haven't looked at it yet.

Showcase (1956) #30 pg1, art by Ramona Fradon.

'60s DC House Ad promising "Colorful Animation".

Showcase (1956) #30 pg6, art by Ramona Fradon.

Stroud:  Why was your run on Metamorpho cut short?  Do you think his magazine’s early demise was influenced by the change in artists?

RF:  I only agreed to get it started. I had a two year old daughter and wanted to get away from deadlines and be a full time mom.
I suspect that it was. Bob Haney and I had a synergy when we were working on that feature, and I don't think it had the same energetic core or humor after I left

Stroud:  Sapphire Stagg was sort of a cheesecake character and she and Rex Mason did something unusual for the day, which was to publicly show affection.  Whose idea was that?  Was there any flack about it?

RFBob Haney wrote the scripts and it was his idea. But even more unusual was having a freaky looking character like Metamorpho be a romantic hero. But that was the sixties, and what can I say?

Stroud:  What sort of model did you use when you designed Java?

RF:  I had my big brother in mind who was a kind of caveman type. He used to torture me when we were kids and I got back at him by drawing Java. I never told him, of course.

Stroud:  Did the fact that Rex Mason didn’t want to be a hero influence how you handled the character? 

RFRex's dialogue and actions spoke for themselves and influenced the way he looked

Metamorpho, The Element Man #2. Cover by Ramona Fradon.

Metamorpho, The Element Man #2 original cover art by Ramona Fradon.

Metamorpho, The Element Man #2. Cover by Ramona Fradon.

Stroud:  Did you prefer covers to interiors?

RF:  I didn't like doing covers, especially since I had to produce sketches on the spot for George's approval and I couldn't think under pressure

Stroud:  Which editors did you work with?  Were they easy to get along with?

RF:  I worked with Murray Boltinoff, George Kashdan, Joe Orlando and Nelson Bridwell. Nelson was the only one who you might say was difficult. He was very exacting and protective of his story lines. He designed a lot of the characters and didn't want any deviation. I preferred inventing my own characters, but these were kind of mythological archetypes and I suppose they had to be what they were.

Stroud:  Were deadlines pretty tight? 

RF:  They were only tight because I would wait until the last minute to do the drawing.

Stroud:  Charles Paris inked a lot of your work.  Did you like his style?  What other inkers did you like? 

RF:  I liked what he did on Metamorpho. I think he contributed a lot of energy to the feature.

Metamorpho, The Element Man #2. Cover by Ramona Fradon.

 
Ramona Fradon

Ramona Fradon

1st Issue Special #3. Cover by Ramona Fradon.

Stroud:  What other pencilers did you like?

RF:  At the time I wasn't aware of who was doing what. My favorite cartoonists are Eisner and Bruno Premiani.

Stroud:  How was Bob Haney to work with?

RF:  I enjoyed working with Bob enormously. His scripts influenced my drawing, and my drawing influenced him. We had such a rapport on that feature you might say we were walking around in each other's heads. . 

Stroud:  I can think of one magazine in the Silver Age you did outside the usual assignments; Brave and the Bold #59 with Batman and Green Lantern vs. The Time Commander.  Was that a fill-in or were the editors trying you out on other characters?

RF:  I don't know. 

Stroud:  Are you still active in the industry?

RF:  I do an occasional story for publication and I do commissions and drawings for conventions.

The Super Friends #39. Cover by Ramona Fradon.

The Super Friends #41. Cover by Ramona Fradon.

Betty & Veronica #275 Ramona Fradon Variant Cover.

Stroud:  What was the page rate at the time and did they pay you the same as your male counterparts?

RF:  When I quit in 1980 to draw Brenda Starr, I think I was getting $75 a page

Stroud:  Have you seen the modern version of Aquaman?  What do you think?  For that matter what do you think of modern comic books?

RF:  Yes, I've seen it. Maybe the changes appeal to current readers, but he's not the simple, clean-cut Aquaman I knew. I suppose sooner or later he had to reflect on his situation, but why the beard, the hair and the hook? Maybe he's become delusional and identifies with Neptune

Stroud:  I spoke with Neal Adams earlier this week and he said he was a big fan of your work.  Did you know that?

RF:  No, I didn't. But I'm pleased to hear it.

Stroud:  In later years you worked on the Super Friends and Plastic Man.  Did you enjoy those assignments? 

RF:  See my answers to #6 and #16.

Ramona Fradon at NYCC 2010.

Ramona Fradon at NYCC 2010.

Ramona and the Super Friends - by Ramona Fradon.

Ramona Fradon holding a page of her original art.

Ramona Fradon holding a page of her original art.

Stroud:  I understand you did work on the Sponge Bob Square Pants cartoon with the spoof Aquaman characters, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.  True?  If so, what was that like?

RF:  I loved it. The goofier the better. I just finished doing a Radioactive Man for Bongo and had great fun doing that, too.

Stroud:  You’re still very active in the convention circuit.  Are the fans receptive to your contributions?

RF:  I go to San Diego almost every year and will probably go to the big New York show from now on. I also do others occasionally. Yes. I sell a lot of pencil sketches and enjoy meeting the fans. 

Stroud:  You still do commission work.  How would someone contact you for a job?

RF:  I can be reached by E-mail at ramonafradon@earthlink.net.  
 


Gallery of Ramona Fradon Commissions

Wonder Woman by Ramona Fradon.

Aquaman group commission by Ramona Fradon.

The Riddler, The Penguin, and The Joker by Ramona Fradon.

The Riddler, The Penguin, and The Joker by Ramona Fradon.

The Demon by Ramona Fradon.

Hawkman group commission by Ramona Fradon.

Plastic Man by Ramona Fradon.

Super Friends group commission by Ramona Fradon.

 

Java, Metamorpho, and Sapphire by Ramona Fradon.

Green Arrow by Ramona Fradon.

Power Girl by Ramona Fradon.

The Spirit by Ramona Fradon.

The Justice Society of America by Ramona Fradon.

2 Comments

Bryan Stroud

Bryan Stroud is a longtime fan of DC Comics, particularly the Silver and Bronze Ages, and has been published in a number of places over the last decade plus, to include the magazines Comic Book Creator andLurid Little Nightmare Makers and websites like The Silver Lantern and Comics Bulletin.  Bryan wrote the afterword to “Think Pink,” is a frequent contributor to BACK ISSUE magazine, Ditkomania and co-authored Nick Cardy:  Wit-LashHe and his indulgent wife have dined with Joe and Hilarie Staton and Jim Shooter.  He owns a comic book spinner rack that reminds him of his boyhood.

An Interview With Neal Adams - Legendary Artist and Creator Rights Advocate

Written by Bryan Stroud

Neal Adams sitting at his drawing table in 1966.

Neal Adams sitting at his drawing table in 1966.

Neal Adams (born June 15, 1941) is an American comic book and commercial artist known for helping to create some of the definitive modern imagery for DC Comics characters such as Batman and Green Arrow; as the co-founder of the graphic design studio Continuity Associates; and as a creators-rights advocate who helped secure ownership rights for creators from all walks of the comic industry. Neal was inducted into the Eisner Award's Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Harvey Awards' Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1999. At the age of 76 (as of this writing) Mr. Adams is still going strong with new comic work being published and a full tour of convention appearances every year.


Who hasn't heard of Neal Adams?  His appearance on the scene was truly a blockbuster event and he changed comics nearly single-handedly with his photo-realistic style and attention to detail.  His work for creator's rights cannot be overlooked either, nor the important work that came out of Continuity Associates.  I actually hadn't seriously considered reaching out to Neal, reasoning that he'd been interviewed any number of times, but during a follow-up conversation with Carmine Infantino, he asked, "Have you talked to Neal?"  "Well, no."  "You should give him a call.  Tell him I sent you."  How could I refuse that offer?  So, I initially sent Neal an email with the subject, "Carmine sent me."  He responded, agreed to an interview and gave me his phone number.  As you'll soon see, it was effortless.  Neal had plenty to share.

This interview originally took place by telephone on May 28, 2007.


The Adventures of Bob Hope (1950) #107. Cover by Neal Adams.

The Adventures of Bob Hope (1950) #108. Cover by Neal Adams.

The Adventures of Jerry Lewis (1957) #103. Cover by Neal Adams.

Bryan Stroud:  When did you start at DC exactly?

Neal Adams:  Golly.  There must be some historians around who can tell you that.  I don’t know.  It was in the 60’s.  I don’t know when that was, but I’m sure some geek around will know exactly when that was, probably the month and the day.

(Note:  Wikipedia tells us it was 1967)

Stroud:  Oh, no doubt.  Carmine was telling me that he knew more than one person who worshipped the ground you walked on.

NA:  That’s ‘cause I walk in very special places.  I don’t walk along those cold cracks.  (Chuckle.)

Stroud:  He also told me…this one kind of surprised me, he said he first discovered you in the bullpen working on Jerry Lewis, of all things.  Is that true?

NA:  No.  I was first introduced to CarmineCarmine was, of course, as with many comic book artists, a bit of a hero of mine, because when the shit hit the fan in the country when the book “The Seduction of the Innocent” came out…

Stroud:  Ah, yes, good old Doc Wertham…

NA:  Many, many artists had to desert the field, or were hidden among the cracks and crevices in various places, like Al Williamson was doing, I guess, ghosting for certain comic strip artists and I guess he would do a comic book every now and then and Alex Toth went to California to do animation, and all these guys really disappeared, and the few guys that were left were the guys at DC comics.  There was Joe Kubert, there was Russ Heath, there was Carmine, there was Gil Kane (known as Gil, Eli Katz was his original name).

Stroud:  Ah, yes, yes.

NA:  And Carmine, had a very unique style.  He then was doing the Flash and his style kind of got covered up, but I was a fan of his original style when he was doing Pow Wow Smith and some of those other things, so as a fan, you know, to meet Carmine…and Carmine was actually working on staff…not really staff, he had a desk in with the romance editor…what’s his name?  Miller.

Stroud:  Oh, Jack Miller?

NAJack Miller, Jack Miller and his girl assistant, and he was in there when I first came to DC comics.  I came to DC to try to get work with Robert Kanigher.  The ‘much beloved’ Robert Kanigher.

Stroud:  Sometimes referred to as “The Dragon?”

NA:  Who was a beast in human disguise.  And I got to work with Bob, partially because he had lost Joe Kubert, because I had recommended Joe to do a comic strip called The Green Beret that I had been asked to do, and the comic strip people had no idea who the good comic book artists were, and when I realized that I really couldn’t do the strip…I was doing Ben Casey and I couldn’t handle two strips.  I took the people from the syndicate and the writer down the path of possibly recognizing that there were such a thing as comic books and rather than try to find somebody in the Ozarks, perhaps they ought to go to some of the best artists that were left in comic books and among which were Joe Kubert, who was the perfect guy for the strip.

The Ben Casey strip from November 26, 1962. Art by Neal Adams.

A Ben Casey strip from 1964. Art by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  Oh, sure.  All his war comic experience.

NA:  Yeah.  So I recommended him for The Green Beret to Elliot Caplin, the writer of the strip.  They interviewed.  They did it and Joe was working on The Green Beret for the longest time and Bob Kanigher, coincidentally, was a little short on artists.  I had ended my syndicated strip, which was based on the Ben Casey TV series, and things were just a little bit slow for me and I had been doing some stuff for Jim Warren - and I realized I was putting way too much effort into this Jim Warren stuff and it wasn’t worth it to me - and I thought maybe I’d give it a crack at DC comics in spite of the fact that when I was a teenager and I left school, they wouldn’t even let me in the door.

Stroud:  Oh, golly.

NA:  Yes.  It was a very bad time.  An old fella came out to meet me, a guy named Bill Perry and met me in the lobby and I showed him my samples, just to try to meet an editor and he told me that he couldn’t even bring me inside.  It didn’t matter if my stuff was good, it didn’t matter anything.  They weren’t interested. 

Stroud:  Oh, that’s surprising.

NA:  No, not at all.  For those times it was very typical. 

Stroud:  Just not enough work to go around, I guess.

NA:  Not enough work to go around and they were feeding the mouths that were faithful to them, and they just weren’t interested.  Nobody really got in easily.  Once in awhile some guys broke through, like John Severin did a little work for a while, but it didn’t seem like that lasted and I guess he found something else in Crazy Magazine.  But when I went there as a teenager, this guy, this very nice old guy just told me I’m wasting my time.  As far as they were concerned, any minute the comic book business would end.

Stroud:  Wow.

NA:  Things were not so good.

Stroud:  Boy, I guess not.  That just blows my mind to consider it. 

NA:  Well, I’ll tell you another story that is actually coincidental to that story.  Timely magazines, which later became Marvel, really wasn’t doing anything, and you didn’t even know where they were, and I was this 18-year old kid who was trying to get some work and so I thought maybe I could go to Archie Comics and work for Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, who were doing at that time The Fly and The Shield and a bunch of other titles for Archie Comics.

Stroud:  Oh yeah, their adventure series.

NA:  So, after failing at DC and searching around for nothing…I didn’t know where anybody was.  I went over to Archie Comics and I tried to get work and I showed my samples and neither Joe Simon nor Jack Kirby were at Archie Comics.  I met the Archie guys and obviously they felt sorry for me, because I was foolish enough to want to do comics.  Nobody did.  Nobody was showing samples.  It was a dead field.  And so they suggested I come back with some samples of The Fly, and I did.  I came back the next week and they’d introduce me to either Joe Simon or Jack Kirby.  So I came back a week later with my samples and it turns out neither one of them were there.

A panel from The Adventures of the Fly (1959) #4 - Adams' first commercial work.

Stroud:  Of course.

NA:  So I showed my samples to the guys at Archie and they looked at them sympathetically with kind of a sad look around their eyes, an embarrassed look, and they said “Well, why don’t we get Joe Simon on the phone for you?”  And so they did.  Now it turns out they had shown Joe Simon the samples I had brought in previously, and they got Joe Simon on the phone for me.  Joe said to me, “Neal…young man, your samples are good.  I’d use you on stories, but I’m going to do you a really big favor.  I’m gonna turn you down, kid, because this is not a business to be in.  It’s gonna fall on it’s face any day now and everybody’s gonna be out looking for other work and you want to get a job doing something worthwhile, so it may not seem like I’m doing you a favor, but I’m turning you down, and it’s the biggest favor anybody could ever do for you.”  “Gosh, thank you, Mr. Simon.” 

Stroud:  How very gregarious.

NA:  So the guys at Archie said, “Well, Neal, do you want to do some samples of Archie?  And you know, maybe we can give you some work doing our joke pages or something.”  I said, “Yeah.”  So I came back with some samples and in the end I did work for Archie for the Archie joke pages for a couple of months, and that’s how I got my first work in comics, because Joe Simon turned me down.

Stroud:  Son of a gun.

NA:  The end of that story is, if you’d like to hear it…

Stroud:  You bet.

NA:  About 15 years later, or so, I don’t know exactly how many years it was, I made my way into comics and the world of comics had changed, the revolution was in, Neal had established himself as a gigantic pain in the ass, but a sufficiently talented pain in the ass that they put up with me, and I was fighting for the return of original art and royalties and all the rest of it and I was helping various people and I helped…I don’t know if I helped Jerry [Siegel] and Joe [Shuster] at the time or whatever.  Anyway, I was up at DC, for whatever reason, and Joe Simon was there and I’m talking to editors and people that I know, and again I had established something of a reputation, good, bad or indifferent, whatever you may think of it, and apparently Joe Simon was up there and the word was that he was fighting a battle over Captain America and some other things, because he felt he owned certain properties and under certain circumstances, blah, blah, blah. 

Superman (1939) #233. Cover by Neal Adams.

 

Joe Shuster, Neal Adams, and Jerry Siegel

Superman (1939) #317. Cover by Neal Adams.

Apparently he was looking for Neal Adams.  So he was down the hallway somewhere, so I went and sought him out and introduced myself and he said, “Listen.  Can I talk to you?  I really have to get your advice on something.”  And I said, “Well, DC has a coffee room.  We’ll go to the coffee room and have a cup of coffee.”  So we sat down and had a cup of coffee and Joe explained to me something of his situation with Captain America and the various characters that he felt he had a right to, and I listened to him and I said, “Well, okay, let me tell you this.  First of all I can give you these two lawyers and I can give you this person here who seems to be fighting for graphic arts and I can tell you this, that you should begin by sending bills in and making a paper trail and establishing yourself with the people that you work with and the people who are in charge of the people that you work with as requiring and demanding that you didn’t have contracts, you have rights to these things, you have to create paper, and then you can go and see these people, although most lawyers won’t think much of this, there are a couple lawyers that you can talk to and also people who are associated with the National Cartoonist’s Society that you should talk to.” 

So, I gave him a list and I wrote down the stuff.  Anyway, so we got up.  He said, “Thank you.  You have no idea how much I appreciate this.”  I said I have a pretty good idea.  And so he shook hands and he was gonna leave, and as he was about to leave I said, “Excuse me, Mr. Simon.”  He turned around, he said, “Yeah?”  I said, “I’d like to introduce myself.  My name is Neal Adams.”  He said, “I know.”  I said, “Well, let me tell you a story…”  He had no idea, no idea that this was the same person that he had spoken to.  Absolutely no idea.

Stroud:  And what was his final reaction?

NA:  His final reaction was, “I guess that wasn’t such very good advice, was it?” 

Stroud:  Oh, how the pendulum does swing.  That’s funny.  That’s just too funny.  You actually have two U.S. postage stamps of your work now.  How does that feel?

NA: Two? I thought it was just one.

Stroud:  I think so, at least they gave you credit on it, there’s obviously the iconic Green Lantern one and then the Aquaman one is attributed to you also.

NA:  Oh yeah?  I don’t think that’s mine.  I think that’s not fair to somebody.  Somebody out there is not getting credit. 

Stroud:  That could very well be, but it does look a little like your style.  I mean, I don’t have the artist’s eye, but…

NA:  I don’t know.  I thought it was just one. 

Stroud:  Okay.  (Note:  I discovered later that the Aquaman stamp was done by Jim Aparo.) 

NA:  It was very nice, don’t you think?  Very pleasant to see that.  Really not so much for me, but I think for an industry that was basically considered to be just one small step above toilet paper.

Stroud:  Oh yeah, exactly.

NA:  To have come so far that the stuff we have done in comic books is appearing on our screens for hundreds of millions of dollars, that is appearing on our postage stamps and on our television shows, that is essentially making a contribution to popular culture across the board.

Justice League of America () # 138. Cover by Neal Adams.

Green Lantern stamp issued in 2006. Art by Neal Adams.

Green Lantern (1960) #89. Cover by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  Oh, absolutely.

NA:  Quite incredible.

Stroud:  Absolutely.

NA:  Amazing.

Stroud:  It was kind of funny, ‘cause…

NA:  I had a little to do with that. (Laughter) 

Stroud:  You did, which is one of the reasons I was pleased to get the opportunity to pick your brain a little bit.

NA:  But you were gonna say…

Stroud:  Oh, I was just commenting…Carmine was even asking me…I think being part of the old guard it was just hacking out a living and he was asking me “Now how old are you?”  I said, “I’m 44.”  “Why all this interest in comic books?”  I said, “Well, Carmine, I…” 

NA:  (laughter) I don’t think actually Carmine has absorbed the impact of what is actually going on here, of what a cultural change this is making.  I think Carmine perhaps even thinks that there are illustrators out there doing illustration work when in fact there is a minority of illustration work out there.  All the magazines that used to carry illustration work no longer do it. 

The movie posters that used to be Bob Peak and Drew Struzan now are photographs for the most part.  You get a Drew Struzan poster once in awhile, but really you know the illustration field, it hasn’t dried up, there’s certainly illustration work out there, but nothing like used to exist in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and before that.  So the question today is what does an illustrator do?  What does somebody who is really good and really professional and loves to create and draw, what does he do?  Who would ever think that somebody would say “Do comic books?”  It’s just a phenomenon.  But that’s what’s happening.  There are more illustrators and artists doing comic books, excellent comic books…there’s not even a question. 

And then if you think of all the ancillary stuff, the computer games, the movies, the television, the t-shirts.  I have people walking around who are proudly wearing Superman t-shirts.  They’re not some 12-year old kid with some Superman t-shirt with a DC logo on it.  There are people who are wearing stylish shirts and clothing with these various logos.  It’s become a major part of our culture and is spreading around the world.

Stroud:  Yes.  I couldn’t agree more.

NA:  It’s really quite phenomenal. 

Stroud:  It’s modern day mythology.

NA:  Ah, you’re a writer, I can tell. 

A Megalith sketch done by Neal Adams.

Challengers of the Unknown (1958) #68. Cover by Neal Adams.

Detective Comics (1937) #418 original cover art by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  Oh, well, I dabble.  Let’s put it that way.

NA:  Well, what’s that “modern day mythology” stuff?

Stroud:  (laughter) And perhaps I lift a little from your old compadre, Denny O’Neil. 

NA:  Oh, yes.

Stroud:  In “Knightfall” he said something to that effect, talking about Superman being a modern day incarnation of Gilgamesh, I believe, but he says, “But you take Batman and what is he, really?  Is he a hero?”

NA:  Well, certainly Batman is a hero, but Batman is the antithesis of the superhero if you think in terms of what superheroes have become.  You know, bitten by a radioactive spider is pretty much the standard.  Batman is the opposite of Superman.  You have Superman, who is the most powerful superhero there is, essentially and almost too unrealistic to consider to deal with and on the other end of the scale you have a person who is in fact not a superhero at all. 

Stroud:  Yeah, yeah…

NABatman is a NOT superhero.  I don’t know who else is a NOT superhero and is successful.  I mean there have been guys around who have put on costumes and have acted like superheroes, but generally they get themselves pasted.  Batman succeeds where no one else succeeds.  He is not, in any way, a superhero.

Stroud:  Absolutely true.

NA:  He wears a costume, but that’s to scare people.

Stroud:  Yeah, yeah exactly.  His primary method is fear, inciting fear.

NA:  So you see between Superman and Batman the opposite ends of the scale, the whole of the comic book industry.

Stroud:  Very much so.  It’s kind of a shame after all of the efforts that you were able to bring forth that you were too late to save somebody like a Bill Finger, for example.

NA:  It’s a, you know, more often than not, as much as I…I don’t look for these things, but what happens is that people don’t come to me and say…basically I say, “I’m at your service.  I owe enough to this industry to be willing to say if you need my help, you just have to reach out and I’ll help.  Whatever it takes.”  And…just sometimes people have too much pride to ask for help and I understand that perfectly, you know.  That’s just such a natural phenomenon, but people don’t ask, and when people ask, very often people will rally around and do things.  It’s just very often the hardest thing in the world to ask.  And so anything that I’ve been able to do has really been when a person is at the end of their line.  “I can’t do anything else.”  Call Neal.  And then we turn things around, and everybody rallies, everybody comes to it, it’s just…

Detective Comics (1937) #395. Cover by Neal Adams.

Batman (1940) #244. Cover by Neal Adams.

Detective Comics (1937) #415. Cover by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  It’s the right thing to do.

NA:  Well, of course.  No surprise.

Stroud:  It’s no more complex than that.

NA:  No. 

Stroud:  What’s right is what’s right…

NA:  Exactly.

Stroud:  I don’t know.  The things I’ve read about both Bill and Bob Kane, you just shake your head after awhile…

NA:  I don’t know, you know I think Bob Kane did kind of okay.  He made a living at it.  I don’t know.  Yeah, he didn’t get rich, that’s true.  On the other hand nobody was getting rich…well, that’s bullshit.  I’m lying.  I just started to lie there.  (Chuckle.)  It’s crap.  It’s always been a Mom and Pop business, it’s always been shit, and the one thing that’s happened is it’s gotten a lot better. 

You know, God bless the people who get into it now.  It’s way, way better for them.  For the guys who were in it at the beginning when it was going to be flushed down the toilet, you know the mere fact that they held on or they were able to hold on is a glory, in my opinion, but nobody expected it to survive and everybody was grabbing for whatever little piece of shit they could.  You know they didn’t even have contracts.  They had “contracts.” 

You know Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster signed a contract, but when I got in they didn’t even have contracts.  They were ready to go out of business.  They had this statement on the back of the check that says, “We own everything.”  I went to a lawyer and he said, “That’s not a contract.  Just write “under protest” under it or cross it out.  It means nothing.  It means nothing in court.  It’s not a contract.”  So we went through that terrible time and it was like being in the Stone Age, it was unreal and it was…you can’t put a definition on it.  And those guys who went through it, who suffered through it…you know God bless Bob Kane who was able to bring his Mom or his Dad down and bring a lawyer down and was actually able to get a contract.  He is, as far as I know, the only guy in the business that actually got a contract.   

Stroud:  Yeah, for that era, as near as I can tell, you’re absolutely right. 

NA:  And he was paid for comic books he never did, he had other people do it, he was able to do it…he got royalties he got some kind of deal at the end, so he was able to take care of himself and they didn’t bother him when he did paintings with Batman on them and he did a TV show.  You know Bob was all right.  I don’t know so much about Bill Finger, but I hear he wasn’t so good for that. 

Stroud:  Yeah, like I say from what I’ve been able to gather Bill toiled in obscurity and unfortunately died the same way.

NA:  But you know most of those guys went home at night and they kissed their wives and they watched the television and they lived a normal life and it was that kind of a business in those days.  You just can’t compare it to today.

Stroud:  Yeah.  A different world. 

NA:  How could you find a Frank Miller back in those days?

Action Comics (1938) #400. Cover by Neal Adams.

Starfire (2015) #9 original cover pencils by Neal Adams.

Starfire (2015) #9 Neal Adams Variant.

Stroud:  Yeah. 

NA:  I went through it.  I tried as much as I could to help, I tried as much as I could to change it, it was a disaster and it needed every bit of help it could get.  I wish there were more people that could repair the…broken animal that it was, but we came out of it.  We came out of it the better for it.  And I don’t know, is it because we’re America and we’re Americans and we have a better attitude?  Why is it?  Is it because we believe in heroes, is it because we’re optimistic, what is it about the nature of comic books that makes it such an American thing?  It makes a universal thing, but it all really comes from America and to think that our greatest comic book superhero came from two little Jewish kids in Cleveland, Ohio, of all places is a wonderful story, so you know so as much as I get pissed off about it, you know I got up out of the fight and I had blood all over me and mud all over me, but you know around me everybody was smiling and moving forward, so I went and washed off and cleaned up and everything’s fine.  (Laughter.)

Stroud:  Absolutely and well, it was pivotal, the work that you did.  More than one person has commented to me that the efforts that you put forth led to that sea change that was long overdue.

NA:  Well, there you go.  Somebody had to do it.

Stroud:  It’s certainly something to be proud of.  You kind of broke out on the Deadman comic, was it intimidating at all to be thrown a project that was started elsewhere?  Did that bother you at all?

NA:  Not at all.  I was just accepting assignments and I thought it was wonderful that Carmine did that first issue and then Carmine wanted to be an art director and then he couldn’t do other issues and then they cast around and I was basically the only fish to be able to fry and to follow something like that and I just loved the hell out of it.  I had to give up the Spectre at the time.  I thought I was giving up something more significant, but Deadman turned out to be a pretty interesting project, and for me, remember I had done this soap opera syndicated strip based on Ben Casey.  I wasn’t really that much of a superhero guy.  I mean, you know, to me, superheroes are a little…if you punch somebody in the face, he bleeds and he falls down and you have to take him to the hospital to get him fixed and maybe he won’t get fixed and there’s lots of problems.  It’s not that you’re battling in abandoned warehouses and nobody really suffers the blow.  I don’t really do very well in that kind of thing.  I’ll do it, because I’m a professional.  But Deadman was a very interesting character.  Once again not only not a superhero, but he’s dead.  (Laughter.)  He’s dead, man.

Stroud:  Yeah, he’s certainly not pleased with his station in life…or death.

NA:  Right.  So it was my kind of comic book, because it had a real gritty sense of reality to it, so you’ve got to remember, too that a lot of those older guys came out of those times where there weren’t that many superheroes.  I guess Carmine did superhero stuff, but he also did Western stuff, he did other stuff, too and he was also a tremendous designer and even his characters weren’t necessarily superheroes, you know.  Flash was, I guess and he became famous for that, but I don’t know, Deadman sort of fit into that, you know, he didn’t have balloon muscles, he had real anatomy, he was a gymnast and a trapeze artist and so if I had to make the choice I’d have picked me first, but I think Carmine doing it really set up a great character and passing it on to me really said basically, “Dinner is made.  Would you like to enjoy it?”  And I said, “Yeah.”

Stroud:  Great analogy.  Now later on you actually took over scripting as well.  What led you to that?

NA:  Well, what was happening with Deadman was that you have a certain standard of writing, of given time, and it flows with the time, and in those days it was, “Here is a superhero; do a story about him.”  You know, do a Superman story, do a Batman story, whatever it is, because there’s going to be hundreds of them, and you’re just going to do one, so you  come up with a story, you know, bring somebody else into it…blah, blah, blah.  To me, that’s not what Deadman was about.  Deadman was about Deadman

Maybe it had an end, but it didn’t matter if it had an end, but the idea was you wanted to do the story about Deadman, you didn’t want to do the story about Fred who is a divorced parent or whatever the hell it is.  It should be about Deadman, it should circulate around Deadman.  It seemed like Deadman became something that everybody threw up in the air and everybody took shots at it.  Everybody wanted to write a Deadman story because it was the only book at DC comics that was getting any attention.  So Bob Kanigher wrote a two-part story, and I went to my editor at the time, who turned out to be Dick Giordano, because it had been passed on to Dick after Miller had left under dubious circumstances.  I don’t know how to say that the right way.  It wasn’t good. 

So Dick had it, and Kanigher wrote a script, he wrote a 2-part script, and Kanigher did kind of that thing that Kanigher does.  He sets up a situation, the character fails at the situation one time, then he fails at the situation a second time and then he succeeds.  If you read Bob’s stuff, that’s how it works.  I was a Bob Kanigher fan and the longer he made the story the more the guy would fail until he succeeded.  So what I did was I took that story and I compressed it into one book, the two book story because it was really only worth one book.  I took the story to my editor and I said, “Dick, it took a lot of work to take that story from two books into one, but if I’d left it as two books it just would have been…”  He said, “I know.”  And then he had some other scripts that were being submitted and he said, “Maybe you should take a look at these.”  And I looked at them and I talked to him and I said, “You know this is just taking Deadman and turning him into the Flash or something.  It’s not a Deadman story.”  He said, “You want to write it?”  I said, “Yeah.  I’d love to write it.  At least it’ll be a Deadman story.”  So that’s what I did.  I started writing Deadman.  You can’t really tell when you read the stories how much it re-focuses on Deadman, because I’d always kind of made it focus on Deadman through the art and the various things that happened, but it became even more re-focused on Deadman.  People seemed to like that.

Stroud:  It did pretty well there for quite some time although of course ultimately it got canceled.

NA:  Well, it got canceled for very interesting reasons.  Are you a historian?       

Stroud:  Oh, a little bit.  Like I say, my focus is more the Silver Age than anything else.

NA:  One of the interesting stories of the Silver Age is the advent of comic book shops.  You’re aware of comic book stores?

An ad for Deadman featuring art from Neal Adams.

Strange Adventures (1950) #207. Cover by Neal Adams.

Deadman (1985) #1. Cover by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  Right, instead of the twirling metal rack at the corner grocery.

NA:  Yes.  The twirling metal rack at the corner grocery was actually the magazine rack at the magazine distribution center or toy store or candy store where they had comic books.  What was happening in those days was that the distribution of comic books and magazines was going way, way down because they had discovered this concept.  Originally they had a concept, and this happened when I was a kid, where what they did was they had a concept of returns, like if they didn’t sell your magazines, they’d return them and then you’d try to redistribute them to various places or you’d try to work out some kind of deal, you know, give them to hospitals or whatever, but it was a big pain in the ass.  You’re doing a magazine and you get these magazines returned to you, what do you do with them?  Well, you take them to a warehouse and eventually you destroy them.  So the distributor said, “Well, why don’t we destroy them?”  “Well, how do we know that you’re telling us the truth, that you didn’t sell so many, because you could just keep the money?”  (Laughter) 

Stroud:  Yeah.  A valid question.

NA:  So they said, “Well, why don’t we do this?  We’ll slice the logo off the top, put them through a machine and we’ll just slice the logo, wrap them in rubber bands and we’ll send you those back.” 

Stroud:  Okay.  Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen those. 

NA:  Sounds like a good idea.  So they started to do that.  Now in my neighborhood I would go to this toy shop that was on the way to Mark Twain Junior High in Coney Island, and there would be this toy shop and you could buy comic books, last month’s or the month’s before, comic books, for 3 cents and 2 cents and 5 cents.  But the top, where the logo is, would be sliced off. 

Stroud:  Ah-h-h-h.

NA:  The two cent ones, the slicer would go through 2 or 3 pages, so you’d really lose reading material, but if you just wanted to read the comic book you could sort of imagine what was there and pay 2 cents for it.  Or 3 cents or 5 cents.  The 5-cent ones, just the logo was stripped off.  So this whole idea of keeping the distributor honest… (Laughter.)

Stroud:  Wasn’t working.

NA:  No.  It didn’t work.  Not only didn’t work, it didn’t work a lot.  I used to trade comic books with kids with the tops cut off all the time.  I don’t know if the comic book fans have those copies, but whatever the reasons and however the manipulations went, everybody sort of agreed that that wasn’t a great idea.  But, then they came up with a worse idea.  An idea so much worse that you can’t even conceive of it.  When I tell it to you, you will say to yourself, “That can’t be.  It’s not even possible.”  They said, “Why don’t we have what is called an affidavit return?  I will say that I destroyed 500 copies, and sign a piece of paper to that effect.”  (Laughter)

Stroud:  Ah.  The old honor system.

NA:  The honor system.

Stroud:  With no honor.

NA:  I will say that I threw them into the shredder.  So now that I’ve said I’m throwing them into the shredder, what do I do with them?  Because I’ve just said, “I’m throwing them into the shredder.”  Now I can either throw them into the shredder, or make a buck.  Hmmm.  Difficult decision.  For an honest man, a difficult decision.  But you know magazine distributors, not exactly honest men, you’ve got those Playboy magazines, you know.  Affidavit returns…I’ve got customers who will take those Playboy magazines and sell them easy to all the barber shops in town.  So, at that time there were 440 local distributors.  Why do I know that?  I know everything.  440 local distributors around the country.  Some of them have consolidated in recent years, but at that time it was about 440. 

If you were an entrepreneurial young man, a teenager, or maybe a little bit older than a teenager, and you had your father’s station wagon, or van, not too many vans in those days, station wagon; you could drive up to the back of your local distributor, 440 of them; one in your area, and you could go to the back, and you could walk in the back, and there would be a table next to the door where the trucks loaded.  There would be a table.  And on the table would be Playboy magazines, Cosmo, tons of comic books, tons of comic books and you could buy them for, let’s say it was a ten cent comic book, let’s say a 15 cent comic book, you could buy them for 5 cents. 

Challengers of the Unknown (1958) #74. Cover by Neal Adams.

Original pencils for a Challengers of the Unknown (1958) #74 splash page by Neal Adams.

The Witching Hour () #13. Cover by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  Bargain basement.

NA:  Bargain basement.  Now there’s no way that you’re going to report as a distributor that you sold those comic books, because if you report that you sold them you’d have to sell them for 8 cents or 9 cents.  If you sold them for 5 cents, nobody’s making any profit, so you just write them off as being destroyed.  Shredded.  So you had guys with station wagons all around the country who would go and do that; buy those comic books and they would go to their friends who were interested and then they would rent a motel room or a hotel room, like in the Penta Hotel in New York. 

And they’d rent a room and they would invite all the comic book fans in the area that they have learned to know and love over the past years because they were all comic book fans and they did newsletters among one another and the announcement would go out that these comic books would be for sale at various prices in this hotel room.  Guys would come up, drink a little punch, buy whatever comic books they wanted at whatever condition they wanted to buy them at.  And some of them would go out and sell some of those.  So all around the country, you’ve got these little get-togethers in motel rooms, in the local church, outside of school, blah, blah, blah, of people buying comic books from the back of the distributor for 5 cents apiece and selling them for 15 for 20 cents, sometimes they’d sell them for two bucks because they got some really nice stuff that you couldn’t get in your local distributors because your local distributors, your local store wasn’t even getting them. 

Stroud:  Oh, golly.

NA:  Wasn’t even getting them.  Those guys, all around the country, became your first comic book stores.  You want to know where the guys who owned those comic book stores came from?  Those are the guys with the vans.  That would buy the books out of the back of the distributor, and sell them at the motel room.  Those are the guys who became the comic book stores.

Stroud:  Started their own sub-market.

NA:  Well that’s how the direct sales market began.  From those guys.  One guy went into DC comics and said, “Look.  Instead of you sending them to your distributor, telling you he only sold 40% of them, I’ll buy them from you direct, and I’ll pay you full price, no returns.”  How could you lose?  They went to Marvel and did the same thing.  Once DC started to do it, Marvel started to do it.  That became Phil Seuling and the direct sales market, the beginning of the direct sales market.

Stroud:  Wow.  Just an obvious, logical progression. 

NA:  Exactly.  Now, put yourself in that historical position.  Forget that the direct sales market has begun.  Think of all those distributors around the country and all those guys pulling up in the vans.  You’re gonna go in and you’re gonna buy comic books, only you’re gonna focus, to a certain degree, on comic books you can sell for two bucks or 50 cents rather than 15 cents. 

So you’re going to get, let me see, Steranko’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Barry Smith’s Conan, Neal AdamsDeadman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow.  What books are you gonna buy?  Batman, by Neal Adams.  What books are you gonna buy?  Sell to your friends.  I go to a comic book convention now, I sign mint condition copies of Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Batman, bought by the box load out of the distributor.  My good friend Carmine, “Gosh, Neal, I don’t know why Deadman isn’t selling better.  I mean, you know, when you do a cover on another comic book it goes up 10 points, but you know your own comic books just aren’t doing that well.” (Laughter.)

Stroud:  Just all that work in the shadows.  Interesting…

NA:  How much sense does it make that the most popular comic books out there didn’t do any better than the other comic books?  Just pick the comic books at the time.  The most popular comic books and the ones that everybody wanted to get, they didn’t do any better than any other comic books.  There’s a reason.  Some of them actually did worse.  Nobody understood why.  The reason they didn’t understand why is because nobody in the comic book business thought to investigate the distributors, and if they did, what could they do?  Arms broken? 

Stroud:  Totally out of control at that point.

NA:  Right.  Now they could have asked for returns.  It’s possible.  The reason I know this is because when we did comic books we got into the distribution business, we didn’t get into the business, but we dealt with the distributors, and my daughter went around to the various distributors in our area, and they were only too delighted to show her the table in the back with this old shit.  “Ah, yeah.  This is the table where we sell shit.  The guys come in; they just pick the stuff up.”  “Oh, really?”  (Laughter.)

Stroud:  Good grief.  That’s quite the story.

NA:  We’re at a comic book convention when we were distributing, and we had some comic book store owner come over with a bunch of comic books to our table, and this is well into this whole idea, because that business didn’t discontinue.  What happened was as time went on, as the comic book stores opened, what they would do is the comic book stores, let’s say they ordered a certain comic book and it did well.  And they discovered that it did well by selling out.  So what they’d do is they’d take their vans and go down to the local distributor and say, “Have you got any of these left?”  Then they’d buy them for 5 cents or whatever amount the percentage was, and they’d take them back to their stores and sell them as if they were the direct market sales copies.  Right? 

So, what happened was certain comic book companies, and us included, we did things with our comic books.  For example, we did a glow in the dark Cyber Rad and we distributed the glow-in-the-dark to the direct sales market, but the regular copy went to the retail market.  One day my daughter is at a convention and we’re selling stuff and some comic book store, local retailer, comes up and says, “Why doesn’t this have the glow-in-the-dark?  This is a rip-off.”  My daughter looked at him and she said, “You got that from Diamond?”  “Yeah.”  “Well, you know we didn’t ship the glow-in-the-darks to the regular retail stores, we only shipped the glow-in-the-dark to the direct sales market.  So are those direct sales market copies or are those from the local distributor?”  “Uh…uh…I’ll go check.” 

All-Star Western (1970) #5. Cover by Neal Adams.

Strange Adventures (1950) #218. Cover by Neal Adams.

House Of Secrets (1956) #85. Cover by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  (Laughter.)  Never to be seen again.

NA:  Yeah, you go check.  Schmuck.  Thief.

Stroud:  Nice try.  Born at night, but not last night. 

NA:  Anyway, so if you want an explanation, and I believe Carmine is still confused about it.

Stroud:  That could very well be.

NA:  “How come they didn’t sell?  They did so well.”  Carmine did a speaking tour, went around the country and did like radio interviews on Green Lantern/Green Arrow.  He was invited to all these places and, “Why aren’t the damn comic books selling?”  “I don’t know.” 

Stroud:  That was quite a watershed event there, too, was it just mainly Denny’s work or was it pretty collaborative as far as the socially conscious effort?

NA:  I would have to say that you have to give Denny total credit for the extremely socially conscious aspect of it.  What had happened was that I was a big fan of Gil Kane and Gil had left DC Comics to do whatever he was doing, Blackmark or some stuff.  So he was no longer going to be doing Green Lantern, which if you had interviewed Julie Schwartz at the time he would say, “Good-bye, good riddance, goddammit.”  But essentially he knew that Gil made Green Lantern.  So they started to hand out the books, the scripts to other people.  Jack Sparling and people like that, and of course the stuff was terrible.  So I went to Julie and I said, “Look, Julie, please, before you cancel the book let me do a couple of issues.”  He said, “You wanna do Green Lantern?”  And I said, “Yeah.”  “Why?  You’re out of your mind.  The sales are diving down.”  I said, “No, man, I really love the character and I love Gil Kane’s work.  I’d like to do kind of a Gil Kane thing; I’d really love to do it.” 

So I had done a kind of a revise of Green Arrow in the Brave and the Bold.  They decided to pull Green Arrow and I thought, “Wow, shoot.  The character’s kind of a nothing character, why don’t I turn him into something?”  So, I had turned Green Arrow into a pretty good character in the Brave and the Bold, but there was nothing for him to do.  Everybody was like; “Wow, he’s cool looking,” but they didn’t know what to do, so it occurred to Julie, why don’t we do Green Lantern and Green Arrow?  Of course he mentioned it to me and I said, “Are you out of your mind?” 

Stroud:  (Laughter.)  They’re both green.

NA:  What is that?  That’s not even funny.  You’re out of your mind.  He said, “Well, I’m thinking of maybe making it a continuing story with the two characters and I’ll call Denny O’Neil in.  You’re working pretty good work with Denny.”  I said, “Yeah that would be good.”  So he called Denny in and essentially Denny, having been a reporter and also being very socially conscious, Denny was a bit of a radical at the time.  They kind of asked me if I minded it going off in a little bit more meaningful direction and of course I said, “No, no, that sounds great.  If I’m going to have to do two green guys, it doesn’t really matter where I’m going.  Let’s get crazy.”  So essentially all I gave was approval.  Denny went off and started writing very, very socially conscious stories.  He knew that I would carry them through.  It’s sort of like a writer and director, you know if the director is going to do the job then you can basically focus on the story.  So that’s what Denny did, he really focused on these stories and we did some pretty darn good stories, in my opinion, until we got to the drug thing. 

Stroud:  Yeah, I imagine the Comics Code kind of tripped that one up a bit.

NA:  Not really.  What happened was we were going along and Denny did a number of good issues.  We attacked President Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew and that got a letter from the Governor of Florida telling us that if we ever do such a thing again he’s going to discontinue distribution of DC comics in Florida.  Florida has managed to keep that reputation, even up to recent years.  So we managed to ruffle some feathers along the way, but essentially nobody actually knew what we were doing until we were about into our third issue and then everybody liked it. 

My good buddy Carmine will tell you he knew what was going on, but he had no idea.  That was the good thing about it was that no one was paying any attention, so we actually got really into the meat of it before anybody kind of woke up, and the books were distributed, you know, you don’t distribute them the following week, so we were into our third or fourth issue by the time everybody goes, “Whoa!  What’s going on here?  This is like cool, or awful,” or whatever the hell they might have thought.

Stroud:  You had a good roll on.

NA:  Yeah.  So we got into a number of issues, but we were starting to get into overpopulation by that point and I was getting a little antsy because, you know I don’t consider overpopulation to be what you call your “issue.”  It’s a phenomenon and people have to deal with it, but you know if you have Americans getting vasectomies while Indians are having as many as 10 to 12 children in a family, this is not the solution to the problem. 

All New Collectors Edition (1978) #C56. Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali cover by Neal Adams.

Batman from the comics meets Adam West. A commission by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  Precisely.

NA:  Not a good direction.  So people who can afford it, not having kids, it’s just stupid.  Anyway, so I was feeling, you know, we’re coming to the end of this run here, but you know what we haven’t done?  We haven’t done anything on drugs.  And it was a big issue and there had been kind of a thing over at DC comics where the state of New York came to DC comics and they wanted to do a drug comic book and Denny was asked about it and I was asked about it, so Denny did an outline and I did an outline of what kind of book it could be and they didn’t like our outlines (laughter) and we had taken a lot of time.  Both Denny and I had gone to Phoenix houses and we had talked to the guys and you know the shit that you hear isn’t exactly the shit you hear from the guys who are really junkies.  Very, very different.  I was also the president of the local board of our drug addiction house in the Bronx.

Stroud:  So you saw it all.

NA:  I saw it all, had some experience and I was taking guys down from 42nd street with their noses running on their bellies and locking them away into our local, what was originally a nunnery and getting people in who were banging on the doors and it was just like…nuts.  Anyway, I knew a lot about it. 

So, because I had a lot of experience I had an awful lot of knowledge and things were not, you know, “Oh, just stop.  Just tell people no.”  That’s not the way it is when you have a kid coming home from school at night and his father comes home and he comes home, he’s got a load of homework to do and a load of things to do and he wants to enjoy himself and hang out with his friends but he can’t because he’s loaded down with homework and his dad comes home, kicks his shoes off, smokes a cigar, gets some booze and sits in front of the television and yet he’s treated like a king and this kid is treated like shit.  A kid can get annoyed at that and perhaps unhappy and if he hasn’t got too much to go to, there’s a very good chance that he will go to drug addiction.  I can’t imagine why… 

Stroud:  (Laughter.)  Yeah, go figure.

NA:  So the problem with society, both of us, Denny and I, realized was that we were not taking care of our kids and we were not giving them alternate things to do and we’re not rewarding them for their hard work and we weren’t doing much of anything.  We were actually making potential addicts.

Stroud:  Disengaged.

NA:  Yeah.  And they wanted us to do something about telling them to say ‘no’.  This is like, “You’re bad.”  No.  We don’t think so.  You’re bad, society, you’re screwed up and you’re making us bad, but we’re not that bad.  So they weren’t happy with what we did, so they abandoned the project.  So we’re going into this overpopulation thing with this Green Lantern/Green Arrow thing and I think, “We’ve got to do something on drug addiction,” but of course it’s against the Comic Code, so I went home and I did that first cover.  You know, with Speedy?

Stroud:  Yeah.

NA:  In the foreground?  I penciled it and I inked it and I put the lettering in and I brought it in and I gave it to Julie Schwartz and his hand grabbed it very briefly and then he dropped it on the desk as if it were on fire.  He said, “We can’t do this.”  I said, “Well, we ought to.”  He said, “You know we can’t do this.  It’s against everything.”  I said, “Well, this is where we’re going.  This is what we ought to be doing.”  So he said, “You’re out of your mind.  Once again, you’re being a pain in the ass.”  So I took it into CarmineCarmine didn’t know what to make of it.  I took it into the Kinney people, who were now running DC comics and were sort of used to this and of course they dropped it like a hot potato. 

I said, “You know guys this is where we ought to be going with this.”  “Oh, no, Neal, please, just go and work.  Leave us alone.  You can’t do this.”  And of course Julie had a twinkle in his eye, but still he knew it was bullshit, it wasn’t going to happen.  He said, “Why did you finish the cover?”  I said, “Well, because it’s going to get printed.”  “No, this will never get printed.”  Anyway, I make a visit over to Marvel comics a week or so later and somebody comes over to me, probably Roy [Thomas] or somebody, I don’t know and says, “You know what Stan’s [Lee] doing?”  I said, “What?”  He says, “He had this guy, this drug addict popping pills and he like walks off a roof.”  I said, “Stan had a guy popping pills and he walks off a roof?  That’s kind of a unique situation.”  (Laughter.)  “I don’t exactly know where you’re going to find that, you know I don’t know who’s going to be walking off a roof.”  “Well, you know Stan read some kind of article about a guy who went off a roof.”  “Oh, okay.  Sure.  All right.  Whatever.” And he said, “So we did it and we sent it over to the Comics Code and the Comics Code rejected it, they said he has to change it.”  So I said, “Well, what’s Stan gonna do?”  “He’s not gonna change it.”  “You’re kidding.”  He says, “No.  Not gonna change it.  We’re just gonna send it out, it’s ready to go out.  We’re sending it out.  It’s going to be on the stands next week.  Week after next.”  “Really?  No shit.  What about the Comics Code seal?”  “Not gonna put the Comics Code seal on it.”  “Really?”

Stroud:  You can do that?

NA:  So sure enough, he sends it out and I go over to Marvel comics since I heard it was out and I go over and I say, “What happened?”  He said, “Nobody said anything.”  “Nobody said anything?”  “Nobody even noticed that the seal wasn’t on there.”  “No shit.  Nobody even noticed?”

Stroud:  What do we do now, Batman?

NA:  What do we do now?  So I go back to DC, you know, and now that word had gotten out, oh shit.  Now try to imagine DC, they’ve got this cover, right?  Could have scooped Stan with something real and solid.  They screwed up.  So within a day or two they call a meeting of the Comics Code Authority.  Remember the Comics Code Authority is bought for and paid for by the comic book companies.  It doesn’t exist independently.  It’s a self-regulating organization.  So DC Comics calls Marvel, they call Archie, they go and have this emergency meeting.  “We’re going to revise the Comics Code!”  Okay, within a week they revised the code and within a week and a half they tell me and Denny to go ahead with the story.  (Laughter.)

Green Lantern (1960) #89. Cover by Neal Adams.

A panel from Green Lantern (1960) #89. Art by Neal Adams.

Batman/Superman () #29 Neal Adams Variant.

Stroud:  Just that easy.

NA:  Just that easy.

Stroud:  Oh, too funny. 

NA:  Well, it took the cooperation of quite a few people, but there you go.  That’s how it happened. 

Stroud:  Incredible.

NA:  So Stan is responsible for us being able to do that drug story, when you get right down to it.  Thank you, Stan.  I’m popping a pill, walking off a roof. 

Stroud:  About as unrealistic as possible, but nonetheless…broke down the door.

NA:  Incredible.  Stan was always kind of like innocently naïve.  “I wonder what would happen if we just threw this out.”  Not, “Oh, the shit hit the fan and we’re in trouble now.”  Just, “Oh.”  Stan in his own way is just wonderful.  He’s like the world’s innocent.

Stroud:  Just go for forgiveness rather than permission and see what happens?

NA:  I guess.  I don’t even understand it, but still he won the day.  He won the day for us.  Incredible.  Stan, thank you.  How do you say thank you?  Thank you, Stan, for having a guy popping pills and walking off a roof.   

Stroud:  Excelsior!

NA:  Excelsior.

Stroud:  Now you went over to Marvel shortly thereafter, did you not?  Did you prefer the Marvel Method for your kind of work or did it make any difference?

NA:  Well, I’ll tell you the sequence of events.  I had done a Deadman story and in the Deadman story I did some kind of special effects.  I did one thing that takes up the page and it’s kind of a double image.  So I was doing this optical illusion because Deadman was going into this mysterious, hell-like place or heaven-like place, or whatever.  To find Vishnu or whoever.  So I’m doing these optical illusions and there’s this one panel I did at the bottom where I have the steam rising up from below going past Deadman.  And if you take the comic book and you hold it at an angle, so you look like down the comic book at a very steep angle, that steam that rises up coalesces into letters.  It squishes down and then you see letters.

 

A panel from Strange Adventures #215. Neal Adams creates a Jim Steranko effect.

The Spectre (1967) #4. Cover by Neal Adams.

 

A panel from The Spectre. Art by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  Okay, sure.  Sure.  Like the old 60’s posters for rock bands and stuff.        

NA:  Right.  It shrinks down, so if you look at it from the bottom it says, “Hey, a Jim Steranko effect.” 

(Sustained laughter.)

Stroud:  Subliminal messages.

NA:  Because Jim was over there with op effects and doing all kinds of things, so I thought, “I’ll do this.”  Cute little thing.  Anyway, the thing comes out and a week or two afterward Jim Steranko comes over to DC comics, seeks me out, shakes my hand and says, “Hey, that was cool.”  I said, “Thanks.”  And so we got to talking and I asked him about what was going on at Marvel and he said “Well, they have this way of doing it.  Stan does so many books that he just lets you do the story and you hand in the pages and you write the story on the side or with notes as to what takes place and Stan writes the dialogue.”  “That’s pretty interesting.  You get scripts over here.”  He said, “It’s a pretty good way to work because basically you’re in control of the story.  You decide what the story is and Stan puts in the words.”  “Huh.” 

That was known in those days as the Marvel Method.  Because there was Stan, you could just do so many books.  At that time they were bringing in Roy.  So anyway, I thought, you know, I would like to do something like that for a couple of issues.  I would enjoy that.  Hmmmm.  So I thought about it for a couple of weeks.  And I went over.  I called Stan and I said I’d like to come over and talk, I’m interested in doing something.  Not that things were slow, it’s just, I just do things like that.  Also some other things were happening at that time that were bothering me.  For example when artists would go back and forth between the companies, they would sign different names. 

Stroud:  Oh, yeah, aliases.  I’d heard about that.

NA:  Aliases.  Yes.  Mickey Dimeo was, uh, I don’t know who the hell he was.

Stroud:  Was that [Mike] Esposito?

NA:  I think so, somebody like that.  Anyway, so they would sign different names, because they didn’t want the companies to know.  Like, you know, you’re not gonna know.  So they were doing it and it was, “Oh, no, Stan wouldn’t like that.”  “Why don’t you sign your name?”  “Oh, I couldn’t.”  So they worked under aliases and I thought it was stupid and also not good for the freelancers.  Very bad.  So, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone.  So I went over and I talked to Stan and I said, “I’d like to do a Marvel book in the Marvel style, you know where I do the book and the dialogue gets put in.”  Stan said, “What book do you want do?”  I said, “Well, what do you mean?”  He said, “Well, you can do any book you want.”  I said, “Stan, that’s very nice.  Why are you saying that?”  He said, “I’m saying it because the guys around here are saying that the only book they’re reading from DC comics is Deadman.”  (Laughter.)

Stroud:  Aha!  Your reputation precedes you.

NA:  “I see.  Okay.”  So I said, “You don’t mean any book.”  He said, “You can have any book you want.  You can have Fantastic Four, you can have Spider-Man, you can have anything.”    

Stroud:  Geez, carte blanche.

NA:  Yes.  So I said, “Okay.  What’s your worst selling title?”  He said, “The worst selling title is X-Men.  We’re going to cancel it in two issues.”  (pause)  Let that sink in.  ‘The worst selling title is X-Men.  We’re going to cancel it in two issues.’

Stroud:  Unfathomable.

NA:  Well, it wasn’t so much if you look at the books at the time.  Barry Smith, one of his earliest jobs at Marvel was an X-Men book and when I say early job, I mean crap.  (Laughter.)  And they really weren’t very good.  If you read them, they’re not good.  So I said, “I tell you what.  I’d like to do X-Men.”  He said, “But I told you we’re going to cancel it in two issues.”  I said, “Well, that’s fine.”  He said, “Why do you want to do X-Men?”  I said, “Well, if I do X-Men and I work in the Marvel style, you’re pretty much not going to pay too much attention to what I do, right?”  He said, “That’s true.”  I said, “Well, then, I’d like to do that.” 

X-Men (1963) #56. Cover by Neal Adams.

X-Men (1963) #56. Cover by Neal Adams.

X-Men (1963) #56. Cover by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  Gonna have some fun here.

NA:  I’ll have some fun.  He said, “I’ll tell you what.  I’ll make a deal with you.  You do X-Men until we cancel it and then you do a really important book, like The Avengers.”  Now in those days The Avengers was a big deal.  I don’t know about today.  Today it’s coming back up again.  It’s not as funny a story as it was 10 years ago.  (Laughter.)

Stroud:  Following in Kirby’s footsteps there, so…hallowed ground.

NA:  So he says, “Then you’ll do Avengers.”  So I said, “Okay, that sounds like a deal.”  So I did 10 books of the X-Men, which you see reprinted all the time.  Then they canceled the book.  (Laughter.)  Why did they cancel the book?  Because sales weren’t so good.  (Laughter.)

Stroud:  Yes, of course.

NA:  Let me see, you have a mint condition copy of the X-Men?  (Laughter.)  How did you get that?  “I don’t know.  Some guy had a box of them.”

Stroud:  Fell off the truck.

NA:  A box of them?  I must have signed more than they actually sold over the years.  I sign them all the time. 

Stroud:  I believe it.

NA:  Where do they come from?  Well, we know where they came from.  Back of the warehouse.  Those X-Men books, they did pretty good.  So anyway, what happened was they cancel the book and the fans jaws drop.  “What the hell’s going on?”  And of course the fans wrote in letters and the interesting thing that happened was fans wrote in letters, they wanted to see the X-Men again, so they basically started to do reprints and then they started to do it again, but every artist, every new artist that came to Marvel comics from that point on wanted to do X-MenDave CockrumJohn Byrne.  All those guys, well not all, but the next group of guys, all they wanted to do was the X-Men.  That was it.

Stroud:  That or nothing, huh?

NA:  Yep.  And if you look at the X-Men runs on the various guys, what you’ll see, interestingly enough, is that those guys have all gone through the basic stories that I did when I did those 10 issues.  They all do Sentinels, they all go into the Forbidden Land, they all have Ka-Zar, one story with Ka-Zar, one story with dinosaurs.  Essentially they just travel through that same sequence of stories to give their take on another version of those stories.  Almost every guy.  Just to go ahead and do it.  “I want a shot at doing that.  Sauron, I wanna do him.”  Sauron suddenly shows up.  New artist, there’s Sauron.

Stroud:  Just like that. 

NA:  It’s incredible.  Anyway, that’s what happened.

X-Men (1963) #63. Cover by Neal Adams.

Fear (1970) #11. Cover by Neal Adams.

Marvel Preview (1975) #1. Cover by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  Oh, I love it.  It seems like you really blazed a trail as far as the more realistic style.  Prior to your arrival the only one I can think of offhand is Murphy Anderson, but following you it seems like you’ve got Jim Aparo and Mike Grell and so forth.  Were they aping you do you think or was it just the new wave?

NA:  (Laughter.)  What do you think? 

Stroud:  It was interesting to me that Grell did Green Lantern…

NA:  “Anybody with a beard.  Anybody with a beard.  Anybody with a blonde beard.    (Laughter.)  In fact, I’ll grow a beard.  I’m growing a beard.”  Hey, listen, shit happens, you know?  To be perfectly honest, between you, me and the fencepost, I don’t feel, you know, guys aping my style was the contribution.  I think the contribution, if anything, was the realization that somebody could be a good artist and do comic books.  There’s nothing wrong with the idea.  There’s nothing incompatible with being a good artist and doing comic books. 

That essentially was the message and it’s the most lasting message.  I mean, you know, you’re going to have guys that will ape your style.  Only one or two of them were really any good, I mean Bill Sienkiewicz, who managed to go on past that style and other people who possibly went beyond it have made greater contributions than the guys who aped the style, but it wasn’t that so much as this idea that here were comic books that were being sold to college students, I mean you talk about Green Lantern/Green Arrow and even the Batman, even the X-Men, they went to colleges. 

They sold very well in colleges.  When I say very well, of course off the back of the warehouse, my fans, all my fans wrote with a typewriter.  They didn’t write on grocery bags with crayons.  They were intelligent, they were well read, they had something to say and the people who followed in the industry, we have a much more intelligent, talented field.  But the only way to get something like that is if somebody says, “Hey, yeah.  I could choose to do anything I wanted to do.  I choose to do comic books.”

Stroud:  Legitimacy as an art form.

NA:  Exactly…well, I wouldn’t give it an art form status.  I’m kind of hoping to duck that one, but to give it a pop culture status that is as good as music, is as good as dance, is as good as film making on a high level quality, we’re not looking to make art, but we are looking to please people and to do good art while we do it.  Mixing good art in there is not a bad thing as long as you don’t get too hoity-toity.

Stroud:  I think that’s a very accurate summation.  They were also showing a lot of artists the door about the time you showed up.  Was that in any way related?

NA:  Who were they showing the door to?

Stroud:  Oh, I was thinking of George Papp and Shelly Moldoff.

NA:  Well Shelly Moldoff hadn’t worked for comics in a very long time.

Stroud:  I was under the impression he was still at it up until the late 60’s, perhaps my information is wrong.

NA:  I don’t think so. 

Stroud:  The Wayne Boring’s…

NA:  I think Wayne Boring was not part of it into the 60’s.  He certainly wasn’t there when I was coming in.  There was Curt SwanCurt Swan was the classic Superman artist.  Wayne Boring was not there any longer.  In fact, I wondered about Wayne Boring.  What was Wayne Boring doing at that time, do you have any idea? 

Detective Comics (1937) #389. Cover by Neal Adams.

Batman (1940) #222 original cover pencils by Neal Adams.

Batman (1940) #222. Cover by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  I don’t know.

NA:  Because I can’t imagine that they would let go of anybody at that time.  They needed everybody that was available.

Stroud:  That’s kind of what I thought.  It kind of threw me. 

NA:  I think you’d have to talk to those people to find out, because you know if you’re in this industry for a long time and then you discover that actually there is somebody else out there who will actually pay you money to draw and probably pay you more than these comic book publishers, you tend to want to do that.  To be perfectly honest doing comic books to a certain extent in the 60’s was like a charity.  I would do story boards for advertising agencies and I would get paid the same for a story board frame as I would get paid for a page of comic book art.

Stroud:  That’s pretty consistent with what Joe Giella was telling me when he was doing advertising type work.  He said the money was much, much better.

NA:  No comparison and if you were able to pick up enough work…and what happened with various people was…let’s say you’re in a city, let’s say you’re in Detroit and you’re mailing your comic book pages in if you’re lucky enough to be in a situation like that.  Suddenly in Detroit it’s a smaller pond than say, New York, so the competition isn’t quite as stiff so somebody like Wayne Boring, and I’m not saying this happened to Wayne Boring, but somebody who has reasonable ability suddenly finds themselves in an advertising agency and being paid a reasonable rate to do a story board frame, what he would be paid to do a comic book page and suddenly somebody from down the hall has work for him and suddenly from this other agency and they’re letting him do freelance work at night, suddenly he’s tripled or quadrupled his income.  Why would he want to do comic books?  Why would he want to be bored to that extent whereas these people are grateful and they’re saying, “Thanks.  Gee that’s great.  You were able to knock it out so fast.  I really appreciate it.”  It’s a different world.  A totally different world.

Stroud:  Sure, sure.  Instead of a Kanigher or a Weisinger, saying…

(Laughter.)

Stroud:  “What’s wrong with you?  This sucks.” 

NA:  There were editors who were, in fact, ogres.  I never had any problem with any of them, but other people, I know did.  Sometimes I’d have to take them aside and say, “Why don’t you take it easy on this guy?  He’s got to make a living.  He’s not going to change if you get mad at him overnight or something.”

Stroud:  Not going to cause a radical shift in what you think it should be.     

NA:  I got along with Kanigher just fine.  I got along fine with Weisinger

Stroud:  It sounds like you’re one of the few. 

NA:  Well, I’m not really the kind of person you want to get angry.  ‘Cause I really just have a positive attitude about everything and to me if somebody crawls up my back it’s like a surprise, it’s “What are you crawling up my back for?”  I’ll give you an example.  I’ll give you my Kanigher story.  I’ll give you my Kanigher story and I’ll give you my Weisinger story.

The Shadow fights Shiwan Khan. A commission by Neal Adams.

A Deadman sketch by Neal Adams.

A Conan print with a Deadman Sketch on it by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  Okay.

NA:  My Kanigher story:  I’m in the room with Bob.  I give him my second war story.  I did a series of war stories.  First war story went just fine.  Handed it in, looked at it, that’s it.  Brought in my second war story.  He starts to look at it, maybe he’s got a little more time, I don’t know.  A little grumpy.  He starts to correct my art.  He starts to criticize my art.  I said, “Hold on Bob.  Just hold on a second.”  So I got up out of the chair, and I closed the door to the room.  I said, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do.  We’ll have an arrangement between us.”  Now you know when you close the door on somebody they kind of go, “Why is he doing that?”

(Laughter.)

NA:  The thought doesn’t necessarily occur to somebody that you’re going to hit them, but if you close the door, nobody knows.  I wasn’t going to hit him, but I said, “Now let’s be real quiet about this, because I don’t want anybody to think you raised your voice at me.  You’re the writer.  I’m the artist.  I’m not gonna criticize your writing, you don’t criticize my drawing.” 

Stroud:  Stay in your lane.

NA:  “Sound like a deal?”  He draws his head back, he goes, “Yeah, I guess that’s okay.”  I said, “Fine.”  Then I opened the door and we went on.  That was the last harsh word, or even partially harsh word I ever heard from Kanigher.  From that point on, we were friends.  He’d come and tell me about his conquests, he’d tell me about the girl he laid up in the Himalayas or whatever the hell it is and I was a friend.  He’d bitch to me about other people and I’d try to calm him down, but essentially we got along easy.  I know that Joe Kubert got along with Bob Kanigher, but Joe Kubert’s the kind of guy that doesn’t take any shit from anybody.  So I think Kanigher was one of those guys that would challenge you unless you got up on your hind legs and suddenly, then you’re okay.  That’s the way it was with Bob.  That’s my Bob Kanigher story.  Now, my Mort Weisinger story.  (Chuckle.)  Mort Weisinger was always nasty to everybody.

Stroud:  That’s what I hear.

NA:  Always, always nasty.  And Carmine wanted me to do covers for Mort WeisingerMort Weisinger had Curt Swan.  Now, between you, me and the fencepost, if I had Curt Swan that would be enough for me, and it was enough for Weisinger, but Carmine kept on him, about “Have Neal do a Superman cover.”  And Weisinger is giving me these glowering looks like somehow I’m part of this…

Stroud:  Conspiracy.

NA:  Yeah, or whatever it is, so finally Carmine says, “You ought to talk to Mort; you know you ought to do covers for Mort.”  So finally I walk into Mort’s office and I said, “Mort, I just want to talk to you for a minute.”  “What?”  “Carmine wants me to do covers for you.”  He said, “I don’t want it.”  I said, “I understand that.  I’ve got it, totally, and I don’t disagree with you, but to satisfy Carmine, why don’t we do this.  You give me one cover to do, I do it, you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it, you don’t like it, you never use me again, we forget about it, but at least we’re satisfying Carmine.”  He said, “Okay.”  “So, one shot, one cover, that’s it.  That’s the end of it.”  “Okay.”  He says, “Fine.” 

So he gave me a cover to do.  After I did the cover, suddenly, “Hey, we’ve got to do some more covers.”  (Laughter.)  Suddenly Mort wants more covers.  Anyway, now it’s a reasonably friendly situation with Mort.  So one day…now I’m working quite well with Mort, but it’s a private conversation, slightly poignant conversation.  I go into Mort’s office, Mort has just yelled at somebody on the phone.  I said, “Mort, you know, between you and me, you know, you treat an awful lot of people bad.  You really ought not to do that and I don’t understand.  What’s the problem?”  And he gets real quiet.  He looks at me, and he says, “Look, I’m going to tell you something.  Never repeat it.”  Now of course I’m repeating it.  He says, “If you got up in the morning, and you went to the mirror to shave, you saw this face looking back at you, would you be a happy man?”  Oh.  And I thought, “No.  That’s really sad.”

Stroud:  Quite an insight.

NA:  That is really sad.  So, I understood Mort.  I didn’t like the idea that he treated people bad, but to be perfectly honest, you know, that’s a hell of a thing to look at in the morning.

Stroud:  Yeah, that would start your day off on a grim note, no question.  That’s very interesting.

NA:  So there you go.  So I got along with him fine, you know, to me they were just guys.  I never had trouble with any of them. 

Stroud:  Good for you.  Was there anyone you preferred interpreting penciling or so forth? 

NA:  You mean as far as an inker is concerned? 

Batman punches Two-Face. Art by Neal Adams.

Joe Kubert: Legacies. Art by Neal Adams.

Creepy (1964) #14. Curse Of The Vampire pg. 1, art by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  I’m sorry, yes.

NA:  Oh.  I prefer Neal Adams.  I think I’m one of the best inkers around.  I know that sounds egotistical, but when I did the Ben Casey strip I did it for 3-1/2 years and I based my inking on the best inkers in the field and I learned skills that other people didn’t learn.  I trained under, when I was in high school at night I did animation for a guy named Fred Ang, who did animation for a Japanese animator and he could handle a brush like no American and he taught me how to use a brush and when I look at Americans ink with a brush it seems to me that they’re like gorillas holding a brush.  The man taught me and I learned from Stan Drake how to handle the most sensitive pen that there is out there.  If you hand a 290 pen point to any typical inker all they’ll make is a blob on a piece of paper, so I learned an awful lot about inking. 

The best inker outside of myself at DC was Dick Giordano.  The best inker for me at Marvel at that time was Tom Palmer; Tom Palmer continues as a terrific inker, but neither one of them, I mean if you look at the work of them over my stuff you see a total opposite of style.  One very rough and very slashy and one very tight and very controlled and mine falls somewhere in between, but it’s more a kind of a classical ink style that you would get from Charles Andy Gibson or the Japanese brush painters or whatever.  So my stuff is better served by myself.  Nowadays there are better inkers around.  I mean since then…you have to remember that we worked at a very, very difficult time where people were slashing and hacking at stuff like crazy.  Now you have inkers that actually know how to ink very well and they’re willing to do the job.  I’m working on a Batman series now and I have to think about, “Do I want to have some other people ink this stuff?” and there are people who, in my view, are tremendously worthy inkers that I’d like to give a try to, and probably will.

Stroud:  Wow.  That’s quite an endorsement.

NA:  Well, things have changed.  Boy, it’s become very, very different.  There’s a half a dozen inkers that I would trust with a page of mine that I think I’m gonna get something close to what I’m able to do and that’s saying a lot, I gotta tell you. 

Stroud:  Do you think some of it is the time constraints aren’t quite what they used to be on these special projects?

NA:  Oh, yeah.  Time constraints are practically nothing.  There are people who have work out now, but there are guys who will take 2, 3 days on a page and not think anything of it, because they know down the line they’re going to get royalties or their page rate is good or whatever and they’re also competing with a lot of very good people.  The drive of competition in the comic book business has become a drive of quality and ability to sell books.  So the link between quality and selling books is very, very firm these days.

Stroud:  So it’s no longer a quantity game so much.

NA:  No.  And if you have people out there who are turning out less work and getting more money you have to think that that’s possibly the future and not cranking out pages.  The day of Vinnie Colletta has gone. 

Stroud:  May it rest in peace.

NA:  I’ve seen Vinnie destroy more pages than any five artists have drawn.  My favorite quote from Vinnie Colletta is “Do you want a good inking job or do you want it on Monday?”  The answer I’ve heard from editors is, “I want it on Monday.” 

Stroud:  I believe it.  I’m reminded of one of my co-workers touting how women can multi-task and so forth, but that’s beyond you men, and so forth and I said, “Well, here’s my theory.  Do you want something done quick or do you want something done well?  Do you want several things done poorly or one thing done well?”  That’s the way I work anyway.

NA:  There you go.  I wouldn’t necessarily equate it to women, just people who just don’t care.

Stroud:  Yes, indeed.

NA:  Because Vinnie wasn’t as much a woman as he was a man.  (Laughter.)  We didn’t have too many women in comic books as I think of it. 

Batman (1940) #237. Cover by Neal Adams.

A Deadman sketch done by Neal Adams.

Batman (1940) #251. Cover by Neal Adams.

Stroud:  No, not at all.

NA:  The ones who were there were of a true quality and there’s the dichotomy.  The women in comic books were…and they’re still alive, are tremendously quality oriented.  Marie Severin and Ramona Fradon.  One of my favorite artist’s.  I never had any idea she was a woman.  I had no idea.  She used to do the Aquaman comic books, the back-up Aquaman comic books.

Stroud:  Right and Metamorpho.

NA:  Yep.  Metamorpho.

Stroud:  At least for a little while.

NA:  And from her you get John Byrne and other people who work in a very similar style.  She’s actually much aped even though people don’t necessarily recognize it or admit it.  When you look at her work and you look at Alan Davis and John Byrne, people that you might say imitated my stuff, actually.  There’s a tremendous influence, in every era, of Ramona Fradon.  A tremendously good artist.  She’s one of my heroes. 

Stroud:  So obviously you haven’t completely left comic books behind, but I understand you do a lot of story boards for movies and so forth, is that correct?

NA:  Nothing for movies.  It doesn’t pay well enough.  I do advertising story boards and I do some designs for film, but not a lot, but here and there I’ll hit something.  If you’re a designer for movies it’s different than doing story boards.  Story boards, you turn out a ton of stuff and you turn it out very fast and you sort of work at it by the gallon.

Stroud:  Just scratching it out, huh?

NA:  If you ever see story boards from film you are often amazed at how scritchy scratchy they are and how quickly they’re done, but they get across the idea.  They get paid well by the week if you get two, three, four thousand dollars a week, but you’re expected to turn out a tremendous amount of work and I can’t dedicate myself to boards for that reason.  What I’ll do is I’ll do story board designs for amusement park rides, like the Terminator T2 3-D ride or the Spider-Man ride, stuff like that.  If you go to my site (www.nealadams.com) you’ll see a lot of the stuff that I do.  You won’t see any movie stuff really. 

Stroud:  Tell me one thing people would be surprised to know about Neal Adams.

NA:  I’m not the pain in the ass they say I am. 

Stroud:  Ah-ha.  Okay.

NA:  The truth is, what happens is that history has a way of coloring things so that is seems as though when you put all the things together that things are a given way when in fact they were nothing like that.  One has the impression that I was just a maniac running around causing problems and getting people upset and fighting and carrying signs and shit.  None of that is true.  The most I would ever do, I would go and have a private conversation with say Carmine or Stan or whatever and I’d say some things that perhaps they should think about and consider.  They were throwing away the Alex Toth stories and the Tomahawk stories and the color guides that the staffers would use because they didn’t give a crap and raised the quality of the color up so that it was recognizably better.

I was really quite mellow and contrary to what people might think, people at DC would call me Smiley.  Oh, there would be days when, “What the hell’s going on?  He brought in this drug cover.”  Now we had this meeting and before we went into the meeting I said, “Look, I’ve been doing a little research and here are some things you should know.  According to the standard of living, if you go to those figures in the 50’s and 60’s to today and factor in simply increases in rates, somebody who was making $45.00 a page would now be making $300.00 a page.”  Now everybody who was there thought I was crazy.  “$300.00?  That’s totally insane.  Neal, you’ve gone off the deep end.”  “No.  I just want to tell you.  We’re supposed to be an organization of freelancers.  I’m just trying to say that if we’re being paid according to the national average that people are being paid and if you were paid $45.00 back in the day, you would now be making $300.00 per page.  That’s how much it has stayed down.  That is why we are not part of the rest of America.”  And people laughed.  “Another hare-brained scheme by Neal.”  But things changed.

Stroud:  History has proven you correct.

NA:  That’s the problem with being right at the beginning.  Nobody thinks you’re right and then at the end, everybody agrees with it.  (Laughter.)

Stroud:  Yeah, what is it?  “A prophet has no honor in his own country?”

NA:  The funny thing now is people saying they were with me and I’m like, “Well, why didn’t you raise your hand?  Pretty lonely out there.  Guys?  Hello?”

Neal Adams.

Neal Adams.

Neal Adams.

 

                                                        

Comment

Bryan Stroud

Bryan Stroud is a longtime fan of DC Comics, particularly the Silver and Bronze Ages, and has been published in a number of places over the last decade plus, to include the magazines Comic Book Creator andLurid Little Nightmare Makers and websites like The Silver Lantern and Comics Bulletin.  Bryan wrote the afterword to “Think Pink,” is a frequent contributor to BACK ISSUE magazine, Ditkomania and co-authored Nick Cardy:  Wit-LashHe and his indulgent wife have dined with Joe and Hilarie Staton and Jim Shooter.  He owns a comic book spinner rack that reminds him of his boyhood.

An Interview With Sheldon Moldoff - The Prolific Penciller Behind Early Batman

Written by Bryan Stroud

Sheldon Moldoff sitting at his drawing table.

Sheldon Moldoff sitting at his drawing table.

Sheldon "Shelly" Moldoff (born on April 14, 1920) was an American comic artist best known for his early work on the DC Comics characters Hawkman & Hawkgirl, and as one of Bob Kane's primary "ghost artists" (uncredited collaborators) on Batman. He co-created the Batman characters Calendar Man, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Clayface (Matt Hagen), Bat-Mite, Bat-Girl, Batwoman, and Ace the Bat-Hound. Moldoff is also the sole creator of the Black Pirate. In his time working with the Dark Knight, Sheldon pencilled: 146 issues of Detective Comics, 121 issues of Batman, and 61 issues of World's Finest Comics.

Mr. Moldoff passed away on February 29, 2012 at the age of 91.


Batman: The Beginning by Sheldon "Shelly" Moldoff.

As my little journey continued and I started to see some success, I began to get interested in certain flavors of creator, if you will.  I was fascinated, for instance, in the many ghosts of Bob Kane so it seemed logical to seek out perhaps the most prolific - Sheldon "Shelly" Moldoff.  Legend has it that at Bob Kane's funeral, Marty Pasko commented to Julie Schwartz that someone should make certain it wasn't Shelly in the casket.  When I called, he preferred that I send him my questions through the mail, so once again, I was unable to influence his responses or get clarification as I'd have liked to, but it's still a letter I treasure.  Later on I'd have the chance to catch Shelly in a talkative mood and he shared some interesting tidbits.

This interview took place through the mail in May of 2007.

Bryan Stroud:  Your major contribution to DC’s Silver Age was your ghost work for Bob Kane on the Batman titles from the early 50’s to the late 60’s.  What was that like?  Did you ever tire of drawing and sometimes inking the character?

Sheldon “Shelly” Moldoff:  I never tired of drawing.

Batman #156. Cover pencils by Sheldon Moldoff.

Detective Comics #352 splash page original art by Sheldon Moldoff.

Batman #156 cover recreation commission done by Sheldon Moldoff.

Stroud:  How did you manage to keep your “ghost” status under wraps?

SM:  I never advertised that I was Kane’s ghost.  But I’m sure some editors suspected it—but never mentioned it!

Stroud:  I understand you and Kane co-created Betty Kane, the original Bat-Girl along with Bat-Mite and Ace the Bat Hound.  Was the last name “Kane” a coincidence? 

SMKane didn’t co-create any characters.  I read the script and developed the characters.

Stroud:  Why were you, Wayne Boring and Joe Papp let go in 1967?  Did it have anything to do with the effort to get some benefits from DC for the freelancers or was it due to the sale of DC and the departure of Irwin Donenfeld?

SM:  Sales of comics were down – D.C. editors decided to change to a more realistic style to accommodate the change in storylines. 

Golden-Age Hawkman commission done by Sheldon Moldoff.

Sheldon Moldoff with Batman & Robin art.

Sheldon Moldoff with Batman & Robin art.

Hawkman recreation commission done by Sheldon Moldoff.

Stroud:  Am I correct in saying you created Hawkgirl?  A husband and wife superhero team was quite a different idea what with all the sidekicks at the time like Robin, Green Arrow’s Speedy and so forth.

SM:  I created Hawkgirl!

Stroud:  Were you involved at all in the daily Batman comic strip?

SM:  I was not involved in the daily Batman strip.

Stroud:  What were your impressions of Bob Kane?  Did you work much with Bill Finger?

SM:  I don’t care to discuss Bob KaneFinger was a good story man – and was happy to be working!!

Moon Girl #4 original cover art by Sheldon Moldoff.

Action Comics #287 original cover art by Curt Swan & Shelly Moldoff

Moon Girl #4 original cover art by Sheldon Moldoff.

Stroud:  Legend has it that Batman was in danger of being canceled in the late 60’s.  Is that true and how could it be?  Everyone knows the Batman. 

SMJack Liebowitz would not permit Batman to be canceled.  He proved right!

Stroud:  I understand you did work on the Sea Devils, the Legion of Super-heroes and Superboy.  When was that and in what capacity? 

SM:  I only inked Sea Devils.  Inked the others.  Did a lot of inking on Curt Swan’s Superman.

Stroud:  The Batman logo has changed several times over the years.  Whose idea was it and who designed the updates?

SM:  The lettering department sometimes changed the logos.

Bat-Mite commission from 2011 done by Sheldon Moldoff.

Bat-Mite commission from 2011 done by Sheldon Moldoff.

Batman commission from Sheldon Moldoff.

Sheldon Moldoff.

Sheldon Moldoff.

Stroud:  Do you still do commissions?  How would someone contact you to get one?

SM:  Very few commissions. 

Stroud:  Have you seen the Batman Returns movie?  What did you think?

SMBatman movies are fair…comic books tend to be more realistic in art and story.  (I suspect Shelly thought I was referring to the animated movies.) 

Stroud:  Are comic books becoming obsolete art forms?

SM:  No one knows why some features become so successful – and others fail – if we did, we would have a hit every time we came up to bat.


Flash Comics #1. Cover pencils by Sheldon Moldoff.

Sheldon Moldoff signing a book.

Sheldon Moldoff signing a book.

All-American Comics #16. Cover pencils by Sheldon Moldoff.

More facts about Shelly Moldoff (courtesy of Mark Evanier):

  • He was one of the artists who worked on the historic Action Comics #1 (1938) which featured the first appearance of Superman.  He didn’t work on the Superman material in that issue but he did have artwork in what some call the most important comic book ever published.  And he was the last surviving person who did.

  • He worked as an assistant and ghost artist to Bob Kane on the earliest Batman stories that appeared in Detective Comics.

  • He drew the cover of Flash Comics #1 (1940) which introduced the original Flash to the world.

  • He drew the cover of All-American Comics #16 (1940) which introduced the original Green Lantern to the world.

  • He was the artist of the original Hawkman feature beginning with the character’s fourth appearance and continuing for several years.

  • He was by some accounts the inventor of the horror comic book, having proposed the idea to EC Comics publisher William Gaines before Gaines came out with his own Tales From the Crypt.

  • He was the ghost artist for Bob Kane on the Batman comic book stories and covers that Kane allegedly drew between 1953 and 1967.  He also worked for DC Comics directly, often as an inker of covers on all their key titles including the Superman books.

  • He also worked for Kane as the main artist/designer of the animated TV series, Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse.

Courageous Cat, Minute Mouse, and Flat-Face Frog - circa 1980. Art by Sheldon Moldoff.

Comment

Bryan Stroud

Bryan Stroud is a longtime fan of DC Comics, particularly the Silver and Bronze Ages, and has been published in a number of places over the last decade plus, to include the magazines Comic Book Creator andLurid Little Nightmare Makers and websites like The Silver Lantern and Comics Bulletin.  Bryan wrote the afterword to “Think Pink,” is a frequent contributor to BACK ISSUE magazine, Ditkomania and co-authored Nick Cardy:  Wit-LashHe and his indulgent wife have dined with Joe and Hilarie Staton and Jim Shooter.  He owns a comic book spinner rack that reminds him of his boyhood.

An Interview With Carmine Infantino - From Penciller to Publisher and Everywhere In Between

Written by Bryan Stroud

Carmine Infantino sitting at his desk.

Carmine Infantino sitting at his desk.

Carmine Michael Infantino (born on May 24, 1925) was an American comics artist and editor who was a major force in shaping the face of DC Comics through the Silver Age. In his early career as an artist, Carmine would freelance for any company that would have him, including Timely, Prize Comics, Hillman Periodicals, and Fawcett. In 1956, DC Comics editor Julie Schwartz would assign Infantino to help revamp the DC line of superheroes. By 1966, Carmine was in charge of the cover design for the entire DC line of books. From there, he rose to Art Director, and eventually Publisher of DC Comics in 1971. In his later career, he would go on to work for Marvel as well - providing art for Daredevil, Nova, and Star Wars, among others. Carmine Infantino passed away on April 4, 2013 at the age of 87.


It's funny the things you remember.  As my journey interviewing my Silver Age heroes was getting up some steam, I somehow recalled a snippet from my copy of "The Deadman Collection" (a generous gift from my life-long best friend) wherein Nicola Cuti wrote a segment - ironically titled "Behind the Scenes: Carmine Infantino."  Here is how it begins: 

 "When I called Carmine Infantino to find out his views on his part in the creation of DEADMAN, he apologized and told me that it was a long-standing policy of his not to give interviews."

Somehow that stuck in my mind, so when it was suggested that I reach out to Carmine, I thought it was a doomed proposition from the start.  Having had a little recent success, though, I reasoned that I had little to lose. And so armed with his phone number, (and after practicing a couple of times with my long-suffering bride), I called him up.  To my surprise and delight, he agreed to the interview!  After it was completed I figured I'd officially hit the peak and it would be all downhill from here.  Fortunately I was very wrong, but when you get to speak to the man who ushered in the Silver Age of DC Comics and did so much more important work along the way (and, not content with that, moved up the ranks to art director and ultimately publisher of DC Comics) - well, it's pretty special, to say the least.


All-Star Comics #40. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

The Brave and the Bold #49. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

Detective Comics #332. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

This Interview took place on May 8, 2007.

Bryan Stroud:  Your contributions to the Silver Age are impressive.  The “Flash of Two Worlds” brought the Golden Age Flash to a new generation and the concept snowballed from there.  You brought Batman back from the edge and of course you ushered it all in by designing and drawing the reintroduced Flash, in Showcase #4.  Was there a sense that something new and exciting was brewing with the revival of the super hero?

Carmine Infantino:  I was not involved in that.  That was an office policy.  They had meetings every month.  Irwin Donenfeld was in charge at that time and he had a meeting with all the editors involved and they’d go around the table and decide what they wanted to do with Showcase.  And then someone suggested The Flash. No, no, I’m sorry, superheroes - someone suggested superheroes and most of them turned it down, but Irwin insisted on it - and then he also insisted on Julie (Schwartz) doing it. Okay, and then I got a call the next day, I believe, and Julie wanted me in the office, wanted to see me and I was on The Flash, like it or not.

Stroud:  So you weren’t necessarily all that excited about it?

CI:  No, I was not.  I didn’t like the idea of doing any more superheroes.  I’d done The Flash earlier, you remember? 

Stroud:  Many great inkers have gone over your pencils, to include Joe Kubert, Murphy Anderson and Joe Giella.  Who did you prefer to have inking you?

CI:  Right.  Frank Giacoia.  He was my favorite.  We went to school together, the School of Industrial Arts and we became close friends and he started out as the penciller.  I was the inker.  I don’t know what happened, but somehow we got reversed later.  We went up to Joe Simon’s and showed our work at Marvel.  It was called Timely Comics in those days, and he offers us both a job, and Frank decided to take it.  We’re both 16 or 17 at the time, and when I got home and told my folks, they said, “Oh, no.  You’re going to finish school first, before you do anything else.”  So my father said, “If they want you now, they’ll want you later.”  And he was right.  I’m glad I hung onto school.  Frank didn’t.  Frank went right on in and went to work there. 

Stroud:  It sounds like your folks were wise. 

CI:  I think so.  Actually, we needed the money at the time, too, but my father could care less.  Very forceful, but he did what he felt was right.  And he was right.  Education is the key. 

Stroud:  100% correct.  Can’t fault him in any way.

CI:  No sir.

Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson - Joker Poster Illustration 1966

Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson - Penguin Poster 1966

Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson - Riddler Poster 1966

Stroud:  What is it like to interpret a script and lay it down in pencil? 

CI:  Oh.  Well the way we worked, Schwartz and I, was very different.  I would create covers, and then he would write stories around them.  It sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Stroud:  Yeah, it sounds exactly backward.

CI:  Yeah, but let me explain something.  I would do one thing…remember the Trickster?

Stroud:  Yeah.

CI:  He’s running in mid-air, right? 

Stroud:  Right.

CIFlash came to a stop on the cliff behind him.

Stroud:  Right.

CI:  Well, that’s a cliff-hanger.  You want to see what the hell’s going on with it.  And that’s how it worked.  So I’d create these covers…you look back at all the covers; they all have that kind of theme somehow on them.  They’re all cliff-hangers in one way or another, and they’re very effective. 

Stroud:  Yeah, apparently so.  I read something somewhere, I don’t know if it’s true, that you were trying to stump Gardner Fox by coming up with the “Flash of Two Worlds” cover.

CI:  That was Julie, not Fox. Yeah, because I’d do a cover, and dammit, they’d write the story around it, so I was getting very upset by this, so I said, “I’ll fix you.”  I did a cover with some guy in the foreground and two Flashes running up, he’s saying, “Help!” and they’re both saying, “I’m coming!”  So I put it on his desk and I said, “Here. Solve this!” and I walked out. By the time I got home my phone rang. He said, “We got it solved. I went through hell.” I couldn’t believe it. It was a great story, a terrific story. 

The 1966 Joker, Penguin & Riddler posters, colored.

Batman by Carmine Infantino.

Stroud:  Oh, yeah, and it started something big. 

CI:  Yeah, it was terrific.  Julie was very sharp in that area.  I always give him lots of credit. 

Stroud:  As I understand it, you both had a pretty strong sci-fi background as well.

CI:  His was more so because he did the magazines.  He represented Ray Bradbury, did you know that?  He was the agent for Ray, and they were close friends, and so it was Julie’s background, actually, and when we did the Adam Strange, he was home.  He was happy again.  It was his bailiwick, you know?

Stroud:  Back in his element. 

CI:  Yeah, he loved doing that. 

Stroud:  What other pencillers do you like? 

CI:  Inkers or pencillers? 

Stroud:  Pencillers.

CIJoe Kubert was terrific.  Alex Toth was unbelievable, and my friend, Nick Cardy, was one of the best, the very best.  There was Irv Novick; a wonderful artist.  I hope I didn’t miss anybody.  There were so many of them. 

Stroud:  How many people were actually on staff at DC?  It seems like everybody was freelancing.

CI:  Oh, no, no.  The only ones on staff were the production people.

Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella original cover art for The Flash #117.

Carmine Infantino in 1972.

Carmine Infantino in 1972.

The Flash #123. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

Stroud:  Ah, so the Jack Adler’s…

CI:  Yeah, and of course the editors, the four, five, six editors they had.  That’s all on staff.  Everybody else was freelancers.  Writers, artists, pencillers, inkers, letterers, everything.  Even the colorists.  Yeah, so that’s how the thing worked.  All lived by the check every week, not knowing if we’re going to work the rest of the week. 

Stroud:  That was something Joe Giella was telling me…

CI:  It was very tough, very tough.

Stroud:  He said you just had to hustle all the time and he said one of the things he loved about Julie was every week he had a check for him and that made all the difference.

CI:  That’s true.  I had no control over the inking, by the way.  He’d put Joe on, or he’d put Murphy on, it was under his control.  I had nothing to do with that at all.  Some were good, some I wasn’t happy with.        

Stroud:  Any opinion about the full script vs. the Marvel method?

CI:  Uh, we tried both ways at DC, and I think the full script…I liked it, but the other way was effective, too.  It wasn’t too bad.  It was Joe Orlando who preferred to work that way.  I had hired him as an editor, remember?  And Joe liked to work that way.  He did it with (Sergio) AragonesAragones had these great little drawings as he wrote a story and it worked very well.  They did some beautiful stories together.  Some horror stories, and then the Western…Bat Lash!  (Note:  Bat Lash ran for 7 issues in ’68 and ’69.)

Stroud:  You created that character did you not?

CI:  No.  Jerry Mayer created the character.  But what happened, Nicky called me and said, “Carmine, I just did the first issue.  I don’t think it’s good, but take a look at it.”  So I looked at it and he was right, it was so bland.  So I tried to re-write it over the drawing…over what was written before.  It was very difficult.  We managed to fix it.  I plotted all of them from there on out.  It was one of my favorites.  But what happened, I gotta be honest, what happened, Joey Orlando, he didn’t give them to Aragones to lay out.  He included things in his own thinking there.  Then, when the drawing was done, he gave it to O’Neill, who dialogued it.  It was a good fit and it worked very well all the way around, I thought. It didn’t sell. (Chuckle.)  It sold beautifully in Europe.  It went like crazy in Europe. 

Stroud:  Huh.  Just couldn’t do it stateside, huh?

CI:  No, the Western didn’t work there. 

The Flash #110. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

The Flash #129. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

Justice League of America #56. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

Stroud:  You’d think there’d be more of a market for that. 

CI:  I know.  We were worried.  We wanted that, badly.  But we did that with Plop, too.  That, too, we tried, you know? 

Stroud:  Plop kind of flopped.

CI:  It did flop.  It didn’t work at all.  But you gotta keep trying things.  You can’t just sit back on your hands.  You’ve got to keep working…everything.  You try, fail and you try again.      

Stroud:  How did you come up with the “Infantino pointing hands” on text boxes?  They’re a true original.

CI:  Oh, I have no idea.  I can tell you why.  As a kid I used to look at these big blocks of copy, and, remember the splash pages?  I would never read them.  I said to myself, if I didn’t read them, how many of the kids are reading them now?  So what if I just break them up into separate little groups and we use the hand to drag them in?  And it seemed to work very effectively.

Stroud:  Oh, yeah.  It got your attention, especially when you’d show one in a “stop” position. 

CI:  Yeah, but they’d read it and that’s the point.  It was very important, so I think that premise worked. 

Stroud:  So you were kind of doing Gaspar (Saladino) a little bit of a favor, there.

CI:  Yeah, pretty much.  He’s very good, he’s a wonderful letterer.  I think one of the best.  But they do everything electronically now, don’t they?

Stroud:  As I understand, it’s almost all done by computer now.  That was one thing Joe Kubert told me was the biggest difference when he did “The Prophecy,” was having everything done on the PC.

CI:  Right.  Does it look any better?

Stroud:  I can’t really tell, but I don’t have an artist’s eye.

CI:  I haven’t really seen any of the latest work, so I really can’t cast a judgment on it.  It must be effective though, if they’re using it.  Both companies, right?  It must be cheaper, too. 

Stroud:  No doubt.

CI:  I’m sure that’s the main reason. 

Lois Lane #89. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

Carmine Infantino in 1958.

Carmine Infantino in 1958.

The Flash #155. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

Stroud:  Yeah, it’s all about cost cutting.  You got all the way up to publisher at DC, so you know all about the process.   

CI:  Oh yeah, oh yeah, and the headaches of answering upstairs, you know?  Every buck you spend.  It was, “Why?  What for?  Where?”  Its part of the job, you know? 

Stroud:  That had to get old.  I bet it was easier to meet a deadline.

CI:  For me, you mean?  ‘Cause I’d lean on all the editors.  Some were good, but Julie was always on time.  He was great.  Julie and Murray Boltinoff were always on time.  And Kubert, I had to push him a little bit, but he got on time.  They were all pretty good.  Murray, every one of them were fairly good.  Everybody got on the stick and we all worked together, and it worked pretty nicely.  We had a great group going there.

Stroud:  Oh yeah, and the quality shows after all these years.

CI:  Yeah, you remember that?  We had some great artists.  Look at Neal (Adams).  My God, he was working on Jerry Lewis in the bullpen when I took over there and I went by his desk, “What the hell are you doing on that stuff?”  “That’s what they gave me.”  And then we changed that rapidly.

Stroud:  His talent needed to be used elsewhere.

CI:  Oh, absolutely, it was a joke to leave him there.  It was ridiculous, but he became quite a star there on Batman, on House of Mystery.  The only problem we had with Neal, he wanted to do his own color and I wouldn’t let him, and I insisted on laying him out, and then we’d fight about that, and then eventually he left; went to Marvel and then Stan Lee called me up one day and said, “Listen, let me ask you a question:  How come you got better colors out of Neal than what I’m getting?”  “Think about it for a moment, Stan.”  “Oh, my God.”

Stroud:  Well, that’s a feather in your cap.

CI:  Yeah.  Of course I enjoyed the writing, too.  I did some Wonder Woman.  I did, what do you call it?  Plotting.  I never did dialogue.  Only plotting.  The Wonder Woman series, you remember that series with Mike Sekowsky and Denny O’Neil?

Stroud:  Oh, I sure do, that was about the time she lost her powers. 

CI:  Yeah, the four-part series, remember that one?  When she leaves the island, comes home and wants to be a woman, not a Wonder Woman.

Stroud:  That was quite a different thing to do, to turn a superhero non-super.

CI:  Yeah, but it worked like hell, the four stories, the four books they went through the roof, the sales.  And then I worked on Deadman when Arnold (Drake) left, and somebody had to write #2, #3 and #4, and I needed somebody to dialogue it, so I had Jack Miller do those.  I plotted those, but then Neal asked me…he wanted to do it.  He wanted to write it and draw it, and that was a big mistake, I think. 

Stroud:  Really?

CI:  The book died under him. 

Strange Adventures #205. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

Carmine Infantino in 2008.

Carmine Infantino in 2008.

Superman #199. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

Stroud:  Oh, that’s true.  I didn’t think about that.  Do you think he took it in a different direction than Arnold would have?

CI:  Yes, absolutely.  When he got back Arnold was very upset by that.  I didn’t like it either after I started reading it I said, “What the hell is going on?”  Of course after a point I watched the numbers go down, you know?  We had put that thing up to 57, 58% of sales and we had printed up to 300,000 copies, and all of a sudden the numbers are diving from 58 every month and then down to 55, 53, 52, 48, and you couldn’t read them.  His writing was bad.  I made no bones about it.  I told him.  Now I’ll tell you an interesting story there.  He had a big fan.  Some guy who worshipped Neal.  And he came to me one day, this was a few years ago, and he said, “You know why Deadman failed?  You blew it.”  I said, “Well, tell me what I did wrong.”  He said, “Well, we found out that over 400,000 copies were stolen of the Deadman book.”  I said, “Uh-huh.  That’s very interesting, because we only printed 275 to 300,000.”  So you get all kinds of theories.

Stroud:  Yeah, there’s always a conspiracy nut somewhere.

CI:  Always, always.  And Neal always felt he was a great writer, and I didn’t think he was.  That war went on, too.  But that’s something else.  That’s a whole different ballgame, but he’s a talented artist.  You can’t take that away from him.  Great talent. 

Stroud:  He’s got quite a following.

CI:  Yes, deservedly so. I don’t think he does comics much any more.  I think he’s doing mostly advertising and those storyboards for TV or movies.  I believe he does that in California.  So apparently he’s very fruitful.  I give him credit; he’s done well for himself.               

Stroud:  How much direction did you take from the scripter? 

CI:  From Julie, you mean?  Julie, Julie, his scripts were heavily edited, by the way.  Heavily edited, I mean very heavily edited.  He had a heavy hand on the stuff.  And I’m talking every script he did, but the end results you saw.  He usually had a pattern to his stuff.  He’d set the villain up immediately, then he’d pitch in the hero, they’d fight.  The hero was in a battle or two and then work toward the end.  That was Julie’s premise and he was effective as hell with that.  I had a lot of fun with the stuff.  My favorite stuff though was Elongated Man and Detective Chimp.  Go figure that one out.  You wanna know why?  I’ll tell you why.  Julie hated me inking.  Literally hated it.  And so the only way I could get to ink, I had to be quick if they had something to ink, so he’d give me Elongated Man, the back features (like Detective Chimp) but never a main feature, but it was like I was saying, it just didn’t carry the volume.  There was nothing you could do about it.  But the penciling, he’s crazy about.

Stroud:  And obviously so with all your work on Mystery in Space and Flash…

CI:  I didn’t start that thing, you know.  Mike Sekowsky did it.  I was in Korea at the time, but he started it.  When I came back, Julie said “It’s your book.”  I said, “Well, what about Mike?”  “No,” he said “he understood it was going to be your book when you came back.”  So I talked to Mike.  I wouldn’t take their word for it, and Mike said, “No, it’s true, I was told I was only going to do it temporarily until you get back.”  And that’s what happened.  So I took Adam Strange over I think about the second or third issue.  I’m not sure. 

Stroud:  I remember in Showcase that was Sekowsky initially…

CI:  Right.  Absolutely.  And Gil Kane did the cover, I believe.  There was a controversy; I don’t know who was right or not.  Murphy claims he created the costume, and Gil said he created the costume.

Stroud:  Oh, boy.  That one will never be settled.

CI:  No, I wouldn’t get in the middle of that one either, I just dropped it completely.  The only thing I changed…he had bare arms on the character.  He’s out in space with bare arms, so I fixed that.  I made some minor changes…

Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella original art for the Mystery In Space #1 story "Nine Worlds To Conquer".

Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson original cover art for Mystery In Space #91.

Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson original cover art for Batman #196

Stroud:  That’s a significant one.

CI:  I would think so.  It was just small changes I made.  But I enjoyed that, and Julie loved doing that.  He loved doing that.

Stroud:  Oh, yeah, back to the sci-fi.

CI:  Oh we did well with that thing, by the way, the book sold very well.

Stroud:  Yes, I’ve got several copies of that title and the plots were excellent…

CI:  That was his forte, remember that.

Stroud:  Yes, and I’ve always been amazed at how productive Gardner Fox was.

CI:  Oh, unbelievable.  You know who was wonderful?  Johnny BroomeJohn Broome was a fantastic writer.  He was very slow.  Very, very slow.  Sometimes he’d labor over a page for a week, but he was so great.  Julie barely touched any of his work, by the way.  Maybe he’d put in a comma or something, but other than that he hardly ever touched it.  So that’s how great he was.  John did a lot of Flash stories, you know.  And then Gardner did some too.    

Stroud:  Speaking of those two, I know you had opportunities in the Detective title to draw each of them into a story.  Did anyone ever draw you into a story any time? 

CI:  I think somebody did at one time.  I think when I was editor somebody did, and it wasn’t very flattering, either.

Stroud:  Oh, no.

CI:  That’s okay.  I think it was Gil Kane if I’m not mistaken.  I know somebody did, but I don’t know who it was.  I can’t remember that. 

Stroud:  That copy of The Amazing World of DC comics that has you on the round table there…

CI:  That was funny, wasn’t it? 

DC Special #1. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

DC Special #1. Original pencils by Carmine Infantino.

The Flash #108. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

Stroud:  You drew that one, didn’t you?

CI:  Yeah, yeah, and that was cute, “Grodd, put the banana down.”  Very funny.  We had a good time with that.  And it was a long time since I’d drawn, so I had fun doing that. 

Stroud:  There was quite a stir from the readers when they reassigned art for the Flash to Andru and Esposito. 

CI:  I know.  They were upset I understand.

Stroud:  Madder than wet hens.  It was amazing.

CI:  Why, why?  I thought they were terrific artists.  I did it.  I assigned them, you know. 

Stroud:  Did you?

CI:  Yes, because when I left the drawing I had to pick somebody and I chose them and I thought they were very good, but apparently the readers were not happy.

Stroud:  Not for a while anyway.

CI:  I don’t understand that. 

Stroud:  Well, obviously you set a standard that was hard to meet.

CI:  I don’t know about that.  I mean, Ross is a fine artist, really a wonderful artist.

Stroud:  I understand he moved a little slowly. 

CI:  Yes, he did, he worked very slowly, but meticulous.  He was very meticulous.  He was a terrific artist.  That’s why I thought he was such a good fit on the Flash, but apparently not.  Look I picked him for…remember the Spiderman/Superman cover? 

Stroud:  Yes. 

CI:  I chose Ross.  I laid it out, but I chose him to finish it off and that was my choice.  Stan (Lee) had nothing to do with that.  And he was working for Stan at the time. 

Stroud:  That’s something I didn’t know.

CI:  Yeah, interesting, huh?  But I wanted him on it.  And he did.  And I think…did Mike ink it? 

Stroud:  That sounds correct.  (Later research revealed it was Dick Giordano.) 

CI:  Yeah, I think Michael inked it.  It was a good cover.  Beautifully done.

DC Showcase #4. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

The Avengers #203. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

Red Tornado #2. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

Stroud:  Whose idea was that collaboration?  Did it come from DC or Marvel?

CI:  It came from Marvel.  I fought it.  I didn’t want it.  Because I thought Superman was much bigger than Spiderman at the time, and I didn’t want to give them much press.  But the guys upstairs thought it would make money and they didn’t give a damn, so they insisted that we do it. 

Stroud:  It was kind of a risk putting something out for two bucks.

CI:  Right.  Yeah.  It sold well.  It sold out pretty much.  So they were ahead of the game.  It was a personal thing, that was all that was.

Stroud:  The first Deadman story…

CI:  That was Arnold (Drake) by the way, he wrote that.  Are you the one that told me he was fired after Deadman?

Stroud:  No.

CI:  Not true, by the way.  I don’t think he was fired from there.  Not that I know of anyway.  Because I think he went to Europe or something at that time.  The story I heard, I don’t know if it’s true, I think he left DC at that time, and I know it’s not true because I was stuck with this thing, this book, so I had to do them myself.  I got Miller to dialogue them and have him come in the office about 6:00 at night and I’ve give him a plot and he’d go home and do it.  We did #2, #3 and #4 and Neal (Adams) came in my office one day and said he wanted to do the writing and drawing and my biggest mistake was saying, “Okay.” 

Stroud:  How did you guys get away with that opium reference in that first story? 

CI:  They never touched it.  Isn’t that strange, huh? 

Stroud:  Yeah, I mean the Comics Code was still pretty rigid.

CI:  Yeah, yeah, apparently it went right by them.  He wrote a beautiful story.  Very different.  I understand there’s going to be a film made on Deadman.

Stroud:  Really?

CI:  Yeah, that’s what I heard.  Some famous director wants to take it on.  The sad part was Arnold dying.  He didn’t get in touch with the director and then boom, he died and that was the end of that.  Unfortunately.

Stroud:  Yeah, in fact I found out he was working on a prequel to the Doom Patrol.

CI:  Really?  He was doing a lot of work before he died.  He was working like mad, but he really wanted to do the Deadman film, I know he did and he was trying to find a director.  He had quite a story for it, you know?  He wanted to write about Boston Brand’s life before being Deadman, which would be interesting, you know?  He had the plot done or something.  But apparently he couldn’t get to the director at all, so that was the end of that. 

Stroud:  And he’d done screenplays before, so that would be old stomping grounds for him. 

CI:  Oh, yeah.  He would have been very good on that.  But you know how they are out there, these guys, they’re comic book artists or writers.  They’re not interested.  They’re above that.        

Stroud:  Did you prefer covers to interiors or did it make much difference?

CI:  Some stories I did.  The Batman I didn’t enjoy at all, by the way.  So then I just enjoyed the covers.  I didn’t like doing the characters.  I didn’t like Bob Kane, frankly.  He didn’t like my work and there was a big to-do when I’m there and he’d complain about it and I said, “Go to hell, I don’t want to do it any more.”  And then they’d talk me into doing it.  I told them to shut up, and so on and so forth.  But I did all the covers then, you remember that? 

Flash Comics #92. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

A panel from Flash Comics #86 featuring Black Canary and Johnny Thunder by Carmine Infantino.

Detective Comics #239. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

Stroud:  Yes, and a pile of them you did.

CI:  Yeah, and we brought the character back.  It was dying, you know.  It was literally dying.  And we did bring it back.  Thankfully.  The truth is, we began to bring it back but then the TV thing hit and boom, it took off like a rocket. 

Stroud:  If I’m not mistaken you were the first artist who actually didn’t have to sign your work as Bob Kane. 

CI:  Yeah, oh, yeah.  He didn’t like that.  He didn’t like that at all.  He wanted to sign them, too.  I said if he signs them I don’t draw them.  So that was the end of that. 

Stroud:  Good for you.

CI:  Yeah, well he dearly wanted to…well, you know him.  He’s a strange individual. 

Stroud:  He was pretty impressed with himself from what I’ve gathered.

CI:  Oh, that’s all he cared about.  In fact, when his wife divorced him, how any woman could leave Bob Kane, was beyond him.  He couldn’t believe that.  That’s all he really cared about.       

Stroud:  You've worked for DC and Marvel.  Were there big differences between how these companies operated? 

CI:  They never bothered me.  Even when I worked for Marvel.  I didn’t even work in the office.  I didn’t even go near them.  They used to send the work to me, and I’d send it back, you know?  And for them I worked on Ms. Marvel, Spiderwoman, Nova.  I did some Ghost Rider, too.  Not many, just a few.  And then of course Star Wars I did, too.  That was a tough one.  Very tough to draw.  I did 12 or 13 issues and just couldn’t handle it any more.  It was too much for me, you know?  The creator, he called me up, you know?  And he thought it was a matter of money, but I said, “No, no.  I’ve just had it.  It’s going to go downhill from here on out.  I’d better leave it.”  It was difficult.  Very, very difficult.  All those characters…even the spaceships.  But the two characters were really tough.  That little R2D2.  Very difficult to draw him.  He has all kinds of doo dads on him…

Stroud:  That reminds me of what Joe Giella told me about doing the Justice League and having to keep everything straight…

CI:  Thankfully I didn’t have to do that damned thing.  I would have had a fit on that one.  It’s difficult, doing all those characters.  Joe did them with no problem, though.  Mike (Sekowsky) was very quick on that, he was very fast.  And he was good.  Don’t sell the man short, he was very good.  Toward the end, he got sloppy.  In his heyday he was wonderful.  He could do anybody.  He could do (Jack) Kirby better than Kirby.  He was very good, Michael

Stroud:  They do things with color these days that was undreamt-of in the 1960s. Do you like it, or do you consider it a distraction?

CI:  Well, it’s not comic books any more, is it?  And then some of the drawings are illustrations now.  They’re not comic books any more.  And also what’s going on, there are no stories.  They’ve got guys flexing big muscles, big battle scenes…and that’s it.  That wasn’t comic books when I did them anyway.  I don’t think they’re selling well either, are they? 

Stroud:  The industry is struggling. 

CI:  I think that’s why we’re seeing some of these (Showcase Presents) 500-page reprint books.  They can’t lose money on those. 

Stroud:  The classics never die.

CI:  They’re black and white, they’re reprints.  Apparently they’re doing well, because DC has put out 5 of them already. 

Stroud:  At least.

CI:  Yeah, ‘cause I’ve done work on all of them.  I’ve got copies, that’s how I know. 

Carmine Infantino and Bob Wiacek original cover art for Star Wars #19

Star Wars # 30. Pencils by Carmine Infantino.

Carmine Infantino and Bob Wiacek original cover art for Star Wars #35.

Stroud:  In the 1960’s you just about locked up the Alley Awards.  Which one were you most proud of?  (Flash of Two Worlds, “Mystery in Space’s Planet that Came to a Standstill,” Flash in “Doorway to the Unknown,” Deadman’s debut with “Who’s Been Lying in my Grave?”)

CI:  Oh, you mean with the comic book fans?  We won everything.  We were fortunate there.

Stroud:  I’d say more than fortunate.  I’d say talented.

CI:  Well, that had something to do with it.  We had some great talents working with us, remember.  I had some of the best guys in the business working there.  They were all friends and I was happy to work with them.  So I was a fan of every one of them.  It seemed to show, you know what I mean?  Everyone put a lot into their work there. 

Stroud:  That was something Gaspar [Saladino] told me.  He said it was very collaborative.  He didn’t think there was much of an ego problem anywhere.

CI:  No, no.  I made sure of that.  I got a room put aside just for the artists and writers so they could bitch, complain, do anything they want.  There were no editors allowed in there, and it worked very well.  We had some great talent coming in.  Bernie Wrightson and of course Nicky Cardy.  When I took over there they were giving him a very hard time, you know, and he was going to leave, so I said, “Nicky, I just took over, give me a chance.”  It worked out and he stayed, thank goodness.  He’s marvelous, just marvelous.  I can’t say enough about him.   

Stroud:  You still hit the convention circuit and were just in Toronto?

CI:  It went well.  The fans up there are very nice.

Stroud:  Good to know you’re still appreciated.

CI:  I think so.  I hope so. 

Stroud:  How does it feel to have your work on a U.S. postage stamp?

CI:  That was interesting, huh?  That was in San Diego that we found out about it and it was interesting.  They took two of mine, I think.  I was very pleased.

Stroud:  I understand you did a great deal of consulting on the first Superman movie, but they didn’t credit you.  Did you receive any kind of consideration?

CI:  Yeah.  My name was supposed to be on the script.  I was supposed to be on the film, and then when they dumped me they took my name off the thing.  You can’t fight that, but I did a lot of work on that.  An awful lot.  That first script was a dog.  It was “Kill the Pope.”  That was the whole plot.  And I said, “Mother of God, we can’t do this.”  And when I went upstairs and complained they said if you can fix it, go out there.  I did and they did.  I worked on Superman I and II and saved both plots.  They’re pretty good, I think.   

Stroud:  Regarding the comics code authority:  Did the scripts/art work have to be sent to someone away from the DC offices for approval?

CI:  Yes, we had to send them to their office and we didn’t send the art, we sent the stats over and they had to give their approval.  Most of them went through fine, we had no problems with them.  But you know the guys got more creative with those restrictions.

Stroud:  That’s true.  I think that’s one of the things that really made the Silver Age.

CI:  Absolutely.  And now what they’ve got…all they’re selling is sex and violence.

Stroud:  And profanity.

CI:  Yeah.  You don’t need that in comic books.  That’s not creative any more, you know?

Stroud:  It’s lazy scripting. 

CI:  That’s right. 

Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson original cover art for Justice League of America #55.

A DC ad featuring the Go-Go Checks.

Batman #190. Cover by Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella.

Stroud:  Who came up with the go-go checks?

CI:  That was Sol Harrison and it was a big mistake.  ‘Cause at that time, the books were not selling, and all they had to do was look at the checks and they wouldn’t buy it.  DC wasn’t selling at that time, so the checks were a great barometer to avoid the books.  They’d see that, they’d say, “Take ‘em off.” 

Stroud:  Backfired completely, huh?

CI:  Yeah, it really backfired.  That was Sol.  That was before I took over there.  Thank goodness. 

Stroud:  So you don’t have to take the rap for that one.

CI:  No, no.  Not for that.  I would have gotten rid of it myself. 

Carmine Infantino.

Carmine Infantino.

Comment

Bryan Stroud

Bryan Stroud is a longtime fan of DC Comics, particularly the Silver and Bronze Ages, and has been published in a number of places over the last decade plus, to include the magazines Comic Book Creator andLurid Little Nightmare Makers and websites like The Silver Lantern and Comics Bulletin.  Bryan wrote the afterword to “Think Pink,” is a frequent contributor to BACK ISSUE magazine, Ditkomania and co-authored Nick Cardy:  Wit-LashHe and his indulgent wife have dined with Joe and Hilarie Staton and Jim Shooter.  He owns a comic book spinner rack that reminds him of his boyhood.

An Interview With Joe Giella - The Inker Extraordinaire

Written by Bryan Stroud.

Joe Giella with a Catwoman commission.

Joe Giella with a Catwoman commission.

Joe Giella (born June 27, 1928) is a comic book artist, best known for his inking work at DC in the 1960s. He started working in the 1940s as a freelancer for Fawcett Publications and Timely Comics, where he got the chance to ink the Captain America comic book. Soon he started working for DC Comics on books like Green Lantern, The Flash and a few others under the direction of Julie Schwartz. He continued working for DC all the way through the '60s and '70s, during which time he was often collaborating with artists like Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, and Sheldon Moldoff among others. He remained a constant staff member at DC until the early 80s, when he moved away from comics and started working on commercial art and comic strips. He was the artist on the Mary Worth newspaper strip from 1991 - 2016.


If memory serves (this was over 10 years ago) Joe was the first creator who called me back when I initially tried to reach him.  It's hard to describe the thrill of hearing the voice of someone you admire calling and leaving you a voice mail message.  Joe was very gracious to me and I'm grateful that he's still with us and going strong, even though he's now retired from drawing the Mary Worth daily strip.  Luckily for me, he's become more active in the convention circuit and after all this time I finally met him this last summer at the Denver Comic Con 2017.  He's as great in person as he is on the phone and we've enjoyed many conversations over the last decade.  I look forward to the next one.

This interview took place on May 3, 2007.

 Bryan Stroud:  You were involved in the Silver Age right from the beginning and indeed I see where you inked Black Canary in Flash Comics back in 1947.  From there you've done everything under the sun, from the cowboy westerns to the Mystery in Space title; Girl's Love Stories, Rex the Wonder Dog, Our Army at War, Strange Adventures, and many, many superhero titles including the reintroduced Flash and Green Lantern in Showcase, the first Adam Strange in Showcase, a segment of the first JLA with Starro the Conqueror, the introduction of Kid Flash and I could go on.  Was any genre better or easier than another?

Joe Giella:  The JLA was rough because of the different costumes, and multiple characters.  Julie would say, "You forgot this or that."  It was a tough one.  Consistency was important or you'd hear about it.

The Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog (1952) #46. Pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Joe Giella.

All-Star Western (1951) #84. Pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Joe Giella.

Strange Adventures (1950) #76. Pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Joe Giella.

Stroud:  Inking is much more than just coloring inside the lines.  Can you tell me a little about the inking process?

JG:  None of us started as inkers.  We were all pencillers, but inking worked out better for me for monetary reasons.  I could ink 2-3 pages a day vs. 1 page of penciling per day.  To be a decent inker, you must know how to pencil.  Corrections and changes are always necessary.

Stroud:  Please tell me your memories of people and events at DC back in the Silver Age.  I'll give you a name and ask your impressions: Gil Kane

JG:  Good friend.  He was one of the best layout men in the business.  He really knew how to utilize space to the fullest.  His artwork was very dynamic.  He was also very articulate and interesting to talk to.

Stroud: Julie Schwartz (Did you work for any other editors?)

JG:  Occasionally. Julie was one of my favorite people.  He was tough, but fair.  I worked for him for 45 years.  Julie ensured I had a job every week and he always had a check for me upon delivery.  That meant a lot to me.  We became good friends.

The very first job in comics was given to me by Ed Cronin at Hilton Periodicals.  I had to pencil and ink a feature called Captain Codfish, but I wanted a staff position in order to get that weekly check.  The life of a freelancer is tough, financially.

Later on I worked with Stan Lee for 3-1/2 years.  I liked the Marvel characters and worked on the Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and Captain America.  I got thrown into the bullpen, doing a little bit of everything.  I pitched in and did penciling, lettering, inking, just everything.  It was great training.  I still needed a weekly check, and needed to contribute to the family finances.  Three and a half years later I went to work for DC comics.

I penciled and inked the Batman comic strip for DC comics and Julie warned me I wouldn't like working with Mort Weisinger.  All the stories about Mort are true.  I wanted to do more than just ink, so I tried the strip.  I quit twice over salary disputes.  DC finally decided that they would pay for the lettering, coloring, and provided me with paper, unlike now where I provide my own supplies on the Mary Worth strip.  After 4 years of working with Mort I got tired and went back to comic books.  Julie welcomed me with open arms.

Mystery in Space (1951) #66. Pencils by Carmine Infantino, inks by Joe Giella. 

Showcase (1956) #23. Pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Joe Giella.

Green Lantern (1960) #1. Pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Joe Giella.

Stroud: Murphy Anderson

JGMurphy Anderson is a good friend and a true southern gentleman, and his wife Helen is delightful.  I have good memories.  We worked together on a few assignments.

Stroud: Carmine Infantino

JGCarmine Infantino's drawings were a little tough to work on.  You had to know how to draw and decipher.  He's a good layout man and a master of storytelling, but his pencils are loose.

I also paint. Carmine made a layout and asked me to paint it.  I worked it out in a monochromatic black and grey set-up.  Carmine trusts me, and knows I'll do a decent job.  I enjoy being with him, and would like to invite him to our Berndt Toast lunch. 

Stroud: Gardner Fox

JGGardner Fox was an excellent writer, but I wasn't really acquainted with him.  We'd say hello in the hallways.

I'd make deliveries to the DC offices once or twice a month.  It was an opportunity to have coffee or lunch with whoever was around, like Gil Kane or Julie.  Sometimes the place was empty except for the editors.  Working at home is like being in a cocoon.  It gets lonely and you start talking to yourself.  When that begins to happen, look out.

Joe Kubert was sort of on staff in those days, too.  You just never knew who would be around.

Joe Giella from Alter Ego vol1, #142.

Joe Giella from Alter Ego vol1, #142.

Joe Giella sitting at his drawing board.

Joe Giella sitting at his drawing board.

Stroud: Mike Sekowsky

 JGMike Sekowsky had a very bad temper.  Anyone that crossed him had better look out.  He drank.  He had a great style and knew how to dress characters in up to date fashions.  We called him "The Speed Merchant."  Mike could pencil 5 to 7, even 10 pages a day.  He couldn't ink, but he could pencil very, very fast.  He was good and was a credit to the company.  He was the go-to guy, but began to deteriorate later.  One day he completed a story and I was asked to ink it, but it was very bad and I couldn't ink it.  I was asked to re-pencil it and I did so gladly, because Mike really saved me once on a job and wouldn't accept a dime for his help.  Wouldn't you know that when I delivered it, Mike was in the office, raging at Dick Giordano?  I told him I had to re-do the whole job and expected him to be teed off at me, but he wasn't.  He was really teed off at Dick Giordano for not giving him more work.  He called about 6 months later from California asking if I had any work for him.  Imagine the great Mike Sekowsky calling me for work.  At the time I was working on the Flash Gordon strip, but it wasn't mine and I didn't have the authority to give him work and the editors didn't want to take a chance on him.  It was sad.  I liked Mike very much, but the drinking was really starting to hurt him.

Stroud:  In the foreword to "The Greatest 50's Stories Ever Told", Joe Kubert wrote the following.  Do you recall the incident?

"I remember a weekend up in Toronto, Canada, when Carmine,  Joe Giella and myself (I was the chauffeur, since I was the only one with a car—the car was owned by me and the finance company) went up to our "northern neighbor" on a date.  We got snowed in for a week.  It's very difficult, indeed, to finish deadline work when you're up in Canada and the artwork's in Brooklyn!"

JG:  We were caught in that snowstorm in Toronto partly because we were driving into the storm.  We were fellow students along with Mike Sekowsky at the Art Students League.  We learned the basics like figure drawing.

Stroud: John Broome

JGJohn Broome was a nice gentleman who lived in Japan for a time.  He was tall and slim and he reminded me of Gary Cooper.  He was a good friend of Julie's and was devoted to his work.  I guess that's what makes a good writer.

Alter Ego (1999) #52. Cover by Joe Giella.

The Mighty Marvel Superheroes' Cookbook (1977) TPB. Cover by Joe Giella.

Stroud: Bill Finger

JG:  I didn't know Bill Finger.  I was closer to Bob Kane.  For awhile Bob had a television show where he would sketch characters on a pad in front of a live audience.  He'd do about a dozen drawings of each character.  What many people don't know is that he was drawing over light lines I'd laid down, using his magic marker.  I was paid by him, out of his own pocket, but my kids used to say, "Dad, that's not fair."  I had to explain to my kids that I was assisting him.

A true story about Bob KaneBob asked me to go with him to the police station to recover his lost wallet.  We walked to the desk and Bob said, "I'm Bob Kane and I lost my wallet."  They didn't know who he was and that made him very indignant, so he practically shouted, "I'm Bob Kane, the creator of Batman!"  I felt like crawling under a desk.  The police gathered around him and started asking all kinds of questions and really rolled out the red carpet.  I stood there in amazement, thinking, "These guys are nuts."  Bob retained the rights to Batman and the characters for years until DC finally bought him out and so when I was doing the newspaper strip I had to sign it as Bob Kane.  Sometimes, though, I'd put a truck in the background with something like Giella's Donuts or Joe's Donuts, just to get a little personal touch in there.  After I left the strip my successor was able to sign his own name since DC got the rights to the characters.

Stroud:  You've done mainly inking, but a fair amount of penciling, too.  Which do you prefer?

JG:  Between pencils and inks, I liked both, but when I was penciling I couldn't wait to do the finish.  That's the drawback to just being a penciller is that you can never finish the job.  The job is finished when it's inked.  The reverse is true, too.  If you could only ink, you could never have the satisfaction of completing a job yourself.  

I did a lot of licensing work, penciling and inking for DC comics.  Those jobs paid a lot more than the standard page rate and I also attended meetings with the client to discuss the assignment.  As I recall, I'd go home and do the layouts and then get DC's approval and then deliver the finished product to our client, the National Biscuit Company.

I also designed 21 T-shirts for Walt Disney Studios through Alison Manufacturing Company and worked for many advertising companies.  Diversifying is the name of the game.  

Stroud:  Have you seen the new Showcase Presents series by DC?  The Flash, Volume I is coming out on May 16, 2007 and I believe includes stories you worked on.  Do you think they lack something without the colors?

JG:  No.  I've been a little out of touch lately with the comics.

DC Special (1975) #16. Gorilla cover art featuring Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Joe Giella, Carmine Infantino, George Klein, and Curt Swan.

The Flash (1959) #163. Pencils by Carmine Infantino , inks by Joe Giella.

The Flash (1959) #163 cover re-creation commission done by Joe Giella.

Stroud:  What was with DC and gorillas?

JG:  Covers were based on previous sales, so if a cover included a gorilla and sold well, Julie Schwartz would say, "That book sold, do something similar."  They used this as a barometer for future covers.

Stroud:  Let me ask you a question I asked of Joe Kubert.   Do you think inking with a brush, as opposed to inking with a pen, is becoming a lost art? It seems few people do it anymore.

JG:  I do 90% of my work with a pen.  It gives a better effect.  Brushes are difficult and can ruin your eyesight after awhile.  I only use a brush for filling in large black areas and I use a flexible pen like a brush.  People often think I use a brush to ink.  

 Stroud:  Your credits list is extensive and I see where you worked on Elvira's House of Mystery in 1986.  Was that the last time you did any comic work?

JG:  My son keeps up with all that, but I think my last comic work was penciling and inking a 23 page memorial story on Julie Schwartz for DC Comics

I still do an occasional job for DC, but it takes time.  I do slow, careful work and if I can have, say, 3 months - I can do it.  My strip keeps me very busy.

Mary Worth by Karen Moy & Joe Giella from August 4, 2016.

Mary Worth by Karen Moy & Joe Giella from February 8, 2015.

Mary Worth by Karen Moy & Joe Giella from January 17, 2016.

Stroud:  Mary Worth isn't your first foray into comic strips.  You penciled and inked the Batman comic strip in particular and also worked on The Phantom and others.  Do you enjoy strip work?  How far ahead do you have to produce them?

JG:  I've worked on the Mary Worth strip for 16 years and I really like it.  I was told when I started, "Joe, you won't be happy with this.  You don't have superheroes flying around and crashing through walls.  Mary Worth is a low-key soap opera."  Initially, they were right.  It was a little boring, but I soon found I could do interesting things with facial expressions and such. 

I get 10 to 15 fan letters a month.  Some drove me crazy.  One guy wrote in and took me to task by saying that Harvard never had a lion on its crest.  Well, that's true except that I was depicting the crest for Harvard Medical School, which does have a lion and I know that because I got it from my nephew, who graduated from Harvard Medical School.  I should write that guy back and set him straight.  I also got a note once saying I'd put six fingers on one character and sure enough when I went back to the strip I'd done it, but when you're working until 2 or 3 in the morning to beat a deadline stuff can happen. 

Doing dailies and the Sunday strip gets hectic sometimes.  Once I got behind and the syndicate fined me $1,200.00!  I thought it had to be a mistake, but they said, "Joe, didn't you read your contract?"  Well, sure, but I figured the fine was much less.  As you can see, I’m very conscious of deadlines.

Stroud:  I understand you still do commissions.  If someone wanted one how would they go about contacting you?

JG:  I do 2 to 3 commission jobs a month.  I paint, do black and whites or color, or pencil, whatever they want.  I enjoy an international fan base and have sent work to the UK, Belgium, Germany and other locations.  I tell them all the same thing when I get a request:  I'll put them on the line.  The line moves slowly, but it moves.  I work to the client's pocketbook.  If they've got a set amount to spend I work with them.  Regardless of whether it's a painting or a simple pencil sketch, the quality is the same.  I'm often asked if I can do a specific character.  After 50 years I've done them all, so it's not a problem.  I'm a freelance artist and I've got the experience.  If someone asks, give them my number.

Stroud:  June 27th is your 79th birthday and you remain very active with the daily strip, your involvement in the Berndt Toast Gang (the Long Island chapter of cartoonists) and other activities.  Do you see yourself retiring any time?

JG:  I have no plans to retire.  I have given up deep sea fishing, but I still do carpentry and lots of walking.  I'm into nutrition, too.  Those of us who are in sedentary jobs can do themselves the biggest favor by getting exercise.

A commission from Joe Giella featuring Superman & The Flash.

Joe Giella in 2009. (Photo credit to Luigi Novi)

Joe Giella in 2009. (Photo credit to Luigi Novi)

Stroud:  Do you appear in any comic books?  Thanks to a reference in the All-Star Companion I discovered Strange Adventures #140, which contains a story by Gardner Fox where he, Julie, Ed Eisenberg, and Sid Greene appear.  I just wondered if anyone ever depicted you.

JG:  I don't know that I've ever been depicted in a comic, but thanks to one of my former students, a silhouette of me is in an episode of The Simpson's.  It shows a group of kids going by an art studio and Matt Groening sometimes likes to poke good-natured fun at Mary Worth.  So, they're going by the office where Mary Worth is produced and they all just walk right by.  My silhouette is shown collapsing on the desk.  I thought it was hilarious and when I recently met Matt Groening in Manhattan I said, "Matt, I love the way you make fun of Mary Worth."

Stroud:  Was there any satisfaction in finally being able to sign your work in the mid-60's?

JGNeal Adams was probably due some credit for our being able to sign our work starting in the mid-60's.  It was nice to be able to do so.

As you can see, Joe is a knowledgeable, wonderful man and he paid me a compliment that still has me grinning:  "You really have a way of putting people at ease."  Frankly, I don't know how anyone could have a difficult time sharing a conversation with this fine man.  I'm very grateful for the opportunity, and I hope you enjoyed it half as much as I did.

Comment

Bryan Stroud

Bryan Stroud is a longtime fan of DC Comics, particularly the Silver and Bronze Ages, and has been published in a number of places over the last decade plus, to include the magazines Comic Book Creator andLurid Little Nightmare Makers and websites like The Silver Lantern and Comics Bulletin.  Bryan wrote the afterword to “Think Pink,” is a frequent contributor to BACK ISSUE magazine, Ditkomania and co-authored Nick Cardy:  Wit-LashHe and his indulgent wife have dined with Joe and Hilarie Staton and Jim Shooter.  He owns a comic book spinner rack that reminds him of his boyhood.

An Interview With Joe Kubert - A Masterful Hand in Comics

Written by Bryan Stroud

Joe Kubert, Photo Credit: Jim Salicrup for COMICS INTERVIEW

Born on September 18, 1926, Joseph "Joe" Kubert was an American comic book artist, art teacher and founder of The Kubert School. He is best known for his work on the DC Comics characters Sgt. Rock and Hawkman. He is also known for working on his own creations, such as Tor, Son of Sinbad, the Viking Prince, and (with writer Robin Moore) the comic strip Tales of the Green Beret. Two of Kubert's sons - Andy Kubert and Adam Kubert - themselves became successful comic book artists, as have many of Kubert's former students, including Stephen R. Bissette, Amanda Conner, Rick Veitch, Eric Shanower, Steve Lieber, and Scott Kolins.

Joe Kubert was inducted into the Harvey Awards' Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1997, and the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1998. He passed away on August 12, 2012.

Tor (1975) #1 by Joe Kubert from DC comics.

Son of Sinbad (1950) #1 from ANC. Cover by Joe Kubert.

DC Special (1968) #12 featuring Viking Prince by Joe Kubert.


My original Kubert interview was kind of frustrating for me.  Joe was one of the greats and a truly nice guy, but he didn't seem to enjoy talking much about himself.  I learned later, seeing other interviews online, that he was similarly brief in his comments - so I felt a little better about it. Since the interview was conducted via e-mail, I didn't have much control or influence over it.  Fortunately I would have another opportunity later (when I interviewed Jack Adler) to speak with Joe on the phone and he had a lot more to say.

One kindness Joe did for me was to autograph my copy of DC Special #5, "The Secret Lives of Joe Kubert" issue.  I'll never forget the thrill when I pulled the envelope out of the mailbox.  Suddenly I was an excited 10-year old again.  It very nearly eclipsed the purchase of his art book a few years later with his original Hawkman sketch on one of the interior leaves.

This interview took place on March 29, 2007.

DC Showcase (1956) #102 featuring Hawkman. Cover by Joe Kubert.

DC Speacial (1968) #5, The Secret Lives of Joe Kubert.

Star Spangled War Stories (1952) #146 from DC comics, featuring Enemy Ace. Cover by Joe Kubert.

Bryan Stroud:  You enjoyed a long and productive partnership with Bob Kanigher at DC, clear back to that first Silver Age story of the Flash in Showcase #4.  How was he to work with?  Which titles were the most fun to work on? 

Joe Kubert:  It was a great experience and I enjoyed illustrating all his stories. 

Stroud:  Did you have any trouble navigating the Comics Code? 

JK:  No.

Stroud:  What were things like in the DC bullpen? 

JK:  Busy.

Stroud:  Who were your friends? 

JK:  Jack Adler and all the guys in production.

Stroud:  You worked on virtually every major character in the DC catalog at one time or another, going back to 1944.  Are there any you enjoyed working on more than others? 

JK:  I enjoyed them all – in retrospect. 

Our Army At War (1952) #102 from DC comics. Cover by Joe Kubert.

Sgt. Rock Special #3 (1977) from DC comics. Cover by Joe Kubert.

Sgt. Rock (1977) #396 from DC comics. Cover by Joe Kubert.

Stroud:  You are particularly identified with the war titles such as Sgt. Rock and Enemy Ace.  Was any of your inspiration from your own time in the service overseas? 

JK:  No.

Stroud:  Your sons have followed you into the illustration business.  Does it feel satisfying to watch them develop their talents? 

JK:  I feel it’s a miracle.

Stroud:  You operate the only accredited school devoted entirely to cartooning and have an impressive list of alumni.  Has this “second career” been as good as or better than your first?

JK:  This (the school) is not my career.  I am a cartoonist – first, last and always.

Stroud:  Are there any Golden Age characters you wish had survived into the Silver Age? 

JK:  None come to mind.

Stroud:  Did you have any concerns about the super-heroes disappearing in the 40’s?  Did it look like your work might evaporate? 

JK:  No.

Original art for the cover to Our Army At War (1952) #193 by Joe Kubert.

Original art for the cover to The House of Mystery (1951) #292 by Joe Kubert.

Original art for the cover to G.I. Combat (1952) #198 by Joe Kubert.

Stroud:  What sort of research did you do for the Viking Prince title? 

JK:  Books, illustrations, Prince Valiant.

Stroud:  Your inking style was unique.  How did you choose to render form at a time when the DC house style was to mostly just indicate stuff with a simple outline? 

JK:  Purely intuitive and never questioned by DC or anyone else.

Stroud:  Do you think inking with a brush, as opposed to inking with a pen, is becoming a lost art? It seems few people do it anymore, but it is essential to your style. 

JK:  I don’t think so.

Stroud:  Your knowledge of military gear is legendary.  How did this come about? Through references, or is it all in your head? 

JK:  Reference.  ALWAYS reference.  

Stroud:  Who were your influences? Hal Foster maybe? 

JK:  Hal Foster, Alex Raymond and Milt Caniff.

Weird War Tales (1971) #5 from DC comics. Cover by Joe Kubert.

Joe Kubert as drawn by Joe Kubert.

Sgt. Rock & Company by Joe Kubert.

Stroud:  Whose idea was Jackie Johnson, and was there any opposition to having a black soldier in Easy Company? 

JK:  Bob Kanigher (the writer/editor.)  No.

Stroud:  Did you enjoy working with Brian Azzarello on "Between Hell and a Hard Place"? 

JK:  Yes, very much.

Stroud:  Do you think Brian stewarded these characters well? 

JK:  Yes.

Stroud:  How long did it take to pencil and ink a typical page? 

JK:  One day.

Stroud:  You recently produced a new Sgt. Rock story.  What sort of differences did you encounter in how it was done today as opposed to the Frank Rock of the 60’s? 

JK:  The use of computers for lettering, color and reproduction.

Cover to Man of Rock: A Biography of Joe Kubert (2008), drawn by Joe Kubert.

Joe Kubert.

Hawkman & Hawkgirl by Joe Kubert.

Comment

Bryan Stroud

Bryan Stroud is a longtime fan of DC Comics, particularly the Silver and Bronze Ages, and has been published in a number of places over the last decade plus, to include the magazines Comic Book Creator andLurid Little Nightmare Makers and websites like The Silver Lantern and Comics Bulletin.  Bryan wrote the afterword to “Think Pink,” is a frequent contributor to BACK ISSUE magazine, Ditkomania and co-authored Nick Cardy:  Wit-LashHe and his indulgent wife have dined with Joe and Hilarie Staton and Jim Shooter.  He owns a comic book spinner rack that reminds him of his boyhood.

An Interview With Gaspar Saladino - The Legend of Lettering & Logos

Written by Bryan Stroud

Gaspar Saladino in the 50's.

Gaspar Saladino was born on September 1, 1927 in Brooklyn, New York. As a young man he worked in the fashion industry, but in the early 1950's he made a career change and moved into comic lettering and logo design. He was taken on by DC as a freelance interior letterer and by 1967 had taken over most of the cover lettering and logo design for the company. In his time at DC Gaspar designed the logos for Swamp Thing, Vigilante, Phantom Stranger, Metal Men, Adam Strange, House of Mystery, House of Secrets, and Unknown Soldier, among others. Mr. Saladino passed away on August 4, 2016.


I was incredibly nervous when I called Gaspar, and he was as nice as he could be (we became phone friends until he passed in 2016) and just seemed sort of baffled as to why anyone would be interested in something he'd done simply to provide for his family.  He wasn't comfortable with being recorded, so I had to do some fancy hand jamming.  Gaspar was, of course, the highly prolific letterer for DC Comics, taking over for Ira Schnapp beginning in the Silver Age up until his retirement. He's probably best known for designing the logo for Swamp Thing and his incredible work on Arkham Asylum, though he did so much more than just that.  I've never heard anyone say anything but good things about him and I still miss his laugh.  To my knowledge, I'm the only one who ever interviewed him.  

Gaspar Saladino in 2014.

An example of the lettering on Arkham Asylum done by Gaspar Saladino.

The Swamp Thing logo designed by Gaspar Saladino.

Bryan Stroud:  You were a fashion illustrator when you started with DC in the 1950s. Did you ever regret the direction you took?
 
Gaspar Saladino:  No.  The fashion business was headed toward photography, so I had no regrets.

Stroud:  When Carmine Infantino came on as DC's editorial director, you were taken off of interior lettering, and took on the lettering for virtually every cover DC published. This changed the whole line's look, from Ira Schnapp's more sedate style to yours. How did becoming DC's cover letterer affect your approach?
 
GS:  It didn't affect my approach, but I enjoyed it much more.  It allowed me some artistic expression that the interiors lacked.  I had carte blanche with sound effects and placement.  There weren't many egos to deal with and it was a very collaborative effort. 

Different logos and letters from Gaspar Saladino. (1)

Stroud:  What do you think of digital lettering? Ever feel tempted to try it?
 
GS:  No.  I’m computer ignorant. 

Stroud: The loopy sound effects used in the Batman TV series opened the door for sfx to be bigger and crazier, and you hopped on this trend with a vengeance. Any comments?
 
GS:  It didn’t really affect my work that much.

Stroud:  Your lettering looks different depending on who penciled a book. At DC, pencillers roughed in all lettering before you ever got at the page. How much of your cues did you take from the penciller? Did your style develop as you translated their roughs into finished lettering?

GS:  Again, it was all very collaborative.  I have some wonderful and warm memories of Ross Andru, Gil Kane, Joe Kubert, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, among others and we always seemed to be able to work well together and to come up with a good product that everyone approved.

Stroud:  Your exclamation marks were one of your trademarks, big and bold. Why’d you adopt this style?

GS:  It was for effect.  If they weren't there I'd add them. 

Different logos and letters from Gaspar Saladino. (1)

Different logos and letters from Gaspar Saladino. (1)

Stroud:  Unlike most free-lancers, you actually worked at DC's bullpen. I think you were living in Long Island at the time. Why’d you make the trip to NYC every day instead of working at home?
 
GS:  DC wanted a full-time letterer and by being present I got first choice of assignments.  I also thought it was beneficial to be able to work hand in hand with the artists.

Stroud:  When you were doing interiors, pencillers used to beg editors to have you do their books. How were these decisions made? Julie Schwartz and Robert Kanigher seemed to have a lock on your services, while George Kashdan and Murray Boltinoff and Jack Schiff hardly ever got to use your work. How’d all this come about?
 
GS:  Julie was the final word on how work was doled out and it was often time dependent, as in how hot the deadline was.  There were certain "cliques" in the offices and some politics but I never found it to be a problem.

Stroud:  Can you tell me anything about Ira Schnapp, whose work pretty much defined DC's covers and logos for 25 years?
 
GS:  "Mr. DC."  He was the original letterer on Superman and Green Lantern in the 30's.  The titles were done by him and he had his own desk in the production department.  It was sad that when he left it was as though he'd never been there at all.  So much of it all came down to business, though.  It was to make money.

Stroud:  Wherever the best pencillers were, you were. Who did you enjoy working with most?
 
GS:  I worked with a lot of wonderful people, but was especially fond of Gil Kane.  I was an usher at his wedding and we lived in the same borough in Brooklyn.  Gil could break down a story in 10 minutes for a rough.  Alex Toth was the best hand in Julie's stable.  He drew quickly and well and was the genius of them all. 

Different logos and letters from Gaspar Saladino. (3)

Stroud:  Did you use a template for your balloons? They look like they were done freehand.

GS:  I did not use a template.  I liked freehand. 


Following are some other random comments during the interview that didn’t relate directly to any questions: 

Gaspar began on the "Cowboy Romance" books in 1951.     
 
Joe Kubert sat next to Robert KanigherBob Kanigher also gave Gaspar complete freedom on sound effects.  He had very good things to say about Ross Andru.  Apparently Ross was agnostic and he and Gaspar made a pact that whoever passed on first would try to make contact with the other.  "I haven't heard anything yet.
 
Deadlines were about a week for pencils on any story. 
 
Bernard Sachs was an inker he really admired. 
 
Original art was stored at the DC offices.  Once the pieces were produced, the artists no longer had any rights to them.  Apparently today the practice is the opposite.  The artists get their copy back. 
  
Curt Swan was a very pleasant gentleman. 
 
On Friday afternoons the writers and artists would gather and the conversations were simply amazing.  It was a "good slice on life."  Many were war vets and they'd swap war stories. 
  
He created the logo for both Swamp Thing and Metal Men among others.  During the conversation I mentioned the way that the Sizzler issue really leaped out and grabbed you.   Gaspar confirmed that covers like the Sizzler did their job:  They got attention and sales at the newsstand.  He pulled his copy out when we were discussing it.  He also did logos for the Vigilante and Eclipse.
  
Irv Novick worked well with Robert Kanigher
 
Lettering for the foreign issues was done in country. 

Different logos and letters from Gaspar Saladino. (3)

Comment

Bryan Stroud

Bryan Stroud is a longtime fan of DC Comics, particularly the Silver and Bronze Ages, and has been published in a number of places over the last decade plus, to include the magazines Comic Book Creator andLurid Little Nightmare Makers and websites like The Silver Lantern and Comics Bulletin.  Bryan wrote the afterword to “Think Pink,” is a frequent contributor to BACK ISSUE magazine, Ditkomania and co-authored Nick Cardy:  Wit-LashHe and his indulgent wife have dined with Joe and Hilarie Staton and Jim Shooter.  He owns a comic book spinner rack that reminds him of his boyhood.