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When I first started working for DC in the early 1980’s they were at 666 Fifth Ave., then they moved to 1325 Avenue of the Americas and eventually to 1700 Broadway. The bottom line is they’ve always been in New York. New York was and is a perfect fit for a comic book company but DC is not really a comic book company anymore. They are a media company. Their characters are a “library” to be exploited in movies and television, toys and video games. Comics are an ancillary business that enables them to add to and expand the library as well as explore new avenues to exploit the characters in an inexpensive manner. California is a perfect fit for this new kind of “corporate” DC Comics.
I’ve spent the better part of 30 years working for DC Comics. I’ve always considered it my “home” and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing and talented people up there.
Some great memories:
1) I used to go in every Thursday and show my portfolio to editors. I chose Thursday because when DC closed, a group of editors used to go out for drinks and I would join them. The regulars were Dick Giordano, Gray Morrow, Sal Amendola (he was my biggest advocate up there), Ernie Colon, and Nick Cuti. Others would pop in and out but I learned a lot by opening my ears and keeping my mouth shut.
2) Sitting in Archie Goodwin’s office as he talked on the phone with a “well established professional”. The old pro didn’t want to do samples for a new project (Archie never told me who it was). When he hung up he told me sometimes editors can’t picture a particular artist’s style on certain projects so they should always be willing to do samples to sell the idea to the editor. Another learning lesson. Don’t get pissed because you are never too big to do samples.
3) Looking at Kirby pencils for his Super-Powers project in Andy Helfer’s office.
4) Sitting in front of Julie Schwartz after Sal Amendola told him I draw a good Superman. Julie looked at me and said “What makes you think you can draw as good as Curt Swan”?
5) Working with two of the most supportive editors of my career, Scott Peterson and Darren Vincenzo. Wish you guys were still editing somewhere. The business could use you.
6) Running into Mark Leonard in the DC waiting room.
7) Riding the elevator with Rod Stewart.
8) Sitting on a bench in Central Park and plotting out JOKER: DEVILS ADVOCATE on 3×5 cards with my good friend Chuck Dixon.
A company is a collection of people. It’s only as good or bad as those that work for it. DC Comics had some great people when I regularly roamed the halls and I am going to miss their presence in New York. I haven’t done a lot of work for them over the last few years but the company is much more corporate than it was. There is less editorial autonomy and more direction from upstairs and that’s a shame. Archie (and Denny and Mike Gold as well) had the attitude: “Hire the right people…then get out of the way”.
You can’t live in the past. Everything changes and moves forward. I wish nothing but the best for everyone that is making the move to Burbank. It is my hope and prayer that under Dan Didio, Jim Lee and Diane Nelson, that DC Comics will once more become a place that creative people will want to go to offer new ideas and concepts beyond the stable of Superhero’s they control. A place where an editor can put a creative team together, get out of the way and let the magic happen.
I want DC Comics to soar once more and if moving to Burbank is what it takes then, up, up and…AWAY!
WEDNESDAY: My daughter, Sarah and I flew into San Diego and got to our hotel around 11:30 am Pacific time. We unwound with a bite to eat and some good Kona beer by the waterfront. Nothing happening that day so we took it easy an tried to acclimate to the time difference.
THURSDAY: D-Day! I hadn’t been to SDCC since ’95, ’97 (?) and let me tell you…it ain’t the same show. It’s grown exponentially since then! We hit artists alley first to see some friends and I was already overwhelmed. It was very difficult to navigate with all those people. I ran into Chuck Dixon and Sergio Cariello and we chatted a bit. NASA had their first panel at the con this year and for a space junkie like me it was a must see. It was also the 45th anniversary of the splash-down of Apollo 11 and Buzz Aldrin was on the panel. Great stuff. We later hooked up with Chuck and Sergio and went to a Brazilian restaurant. Meat, meat and more meat with some wine and lots of laughs.
FRIDAY: D-Day +1. Walked the floor early and met up with Shannon Eric Denton of Lion Forge Comics and fellow Florida boy, Terry Cronin at his booth. Sat on the Batman 75 Anniversary panel with Chuck Dixon and Kelley Jones, moderated by Denny O’Neil and we were presented with the prestigious Inkpot award for our contributions to the comic arts. To say we were shocked is an understatement but to a man, we were greatly appreciative. After that, Chuck and I walked the floor and basked in the glow. We stopped by Neal Adams table and we walked away with “words of iron”. Sat on the IDW presentation panel and got to meet Chris Ryall and Dirk Wood who made it official and announced JOE FRANKENSTEIN on their 2015 publishing schedule. Finished the day with a Phantom panel and shared the stage with Sal Velutto and Dan Herman.
SATURDAY: D-Day +2. More relaxing pace on this day. Walked the floor and ran into Joe Jusko and his lovely wife, Linda. Stopped by the Abrams Publishing booth and talked to my pal Charlie Kochman, who was so generous and presented Sarah with a beautiful Star Wars Storyboard book they published. Signed comics and Joe Frankenstein autograph cards at the IDW booth. Saw my former editor, Joey Cavalieri and met another Long Beach boy, Greg Goldstein, the COO or IDW. Some fun LB reminiscing that made my day!
SUNDAY: D-Day +3. Went to the Mark Evanier Kirby panel and listened to amusing Kirby anecdotes by people that knew him on a personal level. Did a Spotlight panel that was a disaster. I spent hours creating a powerpoint presentation and only 5 people showed up. It was scheduled for 12 noon, the worst time possible. Lots going on and people were too hungry to listen to me yammer on. The autograph session afterwords was much better and I was busy the entire hour. To close out the show I had a Sunshine State signing at the GoComics booth that went very well. I signed all the prints they made and forgot to save one for myself. Also got to meet my editor Shena Wolf and creative director Joel Friday. Good folks that made me feel welcome. Our last night, Sarah and I had a delicious Italian meal in the Gaslight district. A very relaxing way to end the event.
This September the good folks at Hermes Press will be publishing a new Phantom comic that will return the Ghost Who Walks to his original greatness. Written by Peter David and drawn by Sal Velutto, this book will be awesome heroic fun!
They’ve asked me to do a variant cover for the first issue and here it is. Jesus Aburto has done an awesome job on the colors. EXACTLY how I imagined it!
I wanted to do something a bit different for my cover. We’ve seen him in the jungle or fighting pirates ad nauseam. Africa is a huge continent so I thought it would be cool to set him in the mysterious Casbah of Algiers, where crime and wickedness abound (at least in the old movies).
As much as I loved the classic Sy Barry version of the Phantom, I’ve always been more influenced by Ray Moore (the strips’ original artist) and Don Newton’s version. Their Phantom was a man of shadows. Mysterious with a hint of danger.
This was a lot of fun. It’s been a while since I stopped doing the Sunday Phantom strip for King Features and this is my first return to the Skull Cave since then. Hopefully, not my last!
DC Comics art director, Mark Chiarello recently contacted me to see if I would be interested in doing a cover for Batman’s 75th anniversary. I thought long and hard about it and 1 second later I said, “Hell yeah”!
We’re pairing up Batman on all the major heroes covers so I had my choice of a few to choose from.
For this beach boy the choice was clear…AQUAMAN! One of my earliest comics was a great issue of Brave and Bold that had Aquaman handle Batman like a child. I love this sequence because as tough and scary as the Dark Knight is, when you are in the water you don’t mess with the Sea King!
Here is one of the rejected sketches. I LOVE the idea of the two heroes fishing out the Joker. I thought this was whimsical and fun but I understand why it wasn’t chosen. I am probably going to do it up as a finished illustration anyway just because it’s the kind of comics you just don’t see anymore.
Here is the one that they chose. As much as I like the other one I think it was the right choice. There are a couple placement issues I still need to refine for the finished cover.
This is going to be fun!
It’s been a LONG, COLD winter my friends, but sunshine and warmth are coming your way. Mark your calendars for June 2nd because that’s when SUNSHINE STATE will be making it’s debut on GoComics!
When the good folks at Universal Uclick asked me if I would be interested in having Sunshine State digitally syndicated on GoComics, I had to think about it. I had tried everyone in the traditional syndication channels (newspapers) and not much is going on there. Let’s face it, newspapers are not a growth industry these days.
This actually works out better and is a great opportunity for the strip to find a much wider audience. If the strip does well, there is still the chance for it to transition into newspaper syndication as well. Win-win!
I’m very excited about this prospect and Mel and the boys are busting at the seams! I’ll keep you posted as we get closer to launch date and how you can help make this launch a success!