Ebay link here for Captain America sketch
A new sketch done for fun, as I was feeling in a Captain America mood the other day:)
Thursday, March 14, 2013
All Star Squadron, and all related characters are trademark and copyright 2013 DC Entertainment.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
I am posting this scan, of a Superman cover from 1992. This has the lettering on an acetate overlay, and the cover is in great shape, no bends or damage. I had fun drawing this one, and I recall that it is a cover that didn't "fight" me. Any artists out there will know what I mean by that. Sometimes they just flow from the pen or brush, and sometimes (many times) they don't. Back then, cover designs weren't approved by committee, but by the editor (Mike Carlin), and DC's cover editor (I think Curtis King at this time), whose job it was to try and avoid any too-similar designs in a given month.
Superman is trademark and copyright 2013 by DC Entertainment.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
The next set are from issue#12 of Power of Shazam, and fill in some gaps in the events leading up to the origin of Billy Batson as Captain Marvel. Billy's CM persona is based on the likeness of his dead father, so we see his dad in an early meeting with the wizard Shazam.
The Power of Shazam and all related characters are trademark and copyright 2013 by DC Entertainment
Monday, March 4, 2013
Wow, thanks for the outpouring of comments! I appreciate every one of them, and I want to clarify that yesterday's essay had been simmering for a while, and was brought to the surface by a few things. I had seen comments on the internet, that the reason I wasn't on regular assignments had to do with me being semi-retired, or perhaps independently wealthy:) Neither is true. I also was at a bookstore this past weekend, looking at a big book on DC, a history, year by year. It reminded me of how many noteworthy DC universe projects I've been involved in over the 33 years in comics.
My intent was not to garner sympathy, because I have a fine life, and career. I am doing fine, and have more commission requests than I can handle right now. I wanted to pull back the curtain a bit, to show a little of what goes on behind the scenes. I made it clear that I chose my path, I made the decisions, and I don't have any real regret, except for staying with the DC exclusive contract when it wasn't really helping me.
I brought up the contract issue of not getting work, while being exclusive to DC, because I have heard from others who were in the same situation, who might not feel free to publicly say anything about it. DC comics has always been fair to me, and honored signed deals with no problems whatsoever, in all the years I worked for them, except in this one instance. To take this further, I think that if DC had, say six artists, that they DESIRED enough to sign to exclusive contracts, then those six artists should have all been incorporated into the New 52 launch. You assign the folks whom you have obligations to FIRST, then hire others. That's called honoring the contract that you as a company drew up and signed. Personally, I was surprised that I wasn't included. I contacted plenty of editors when I was open, and I wasn't even told of the plans to relaunch. I pitched story ideas, and did my best to contact any who could help me, finally resorting to contacting Jim Lee on Twitter. Jim probably got me onto a list of creators that Palmiotti and Grey saw, when they were planning their Freedom Fighters mini-series.
DC chose 52 artists over me, and let me twiddle my thumbs for a full 3 months while they tried to find inventory work for me. I knew I wasn't currently in anyone's "top ten" artists, but to find that I wasn't in the top 52 was a shock:). If any of you are ever asked to be exclusive to any company, make sure they will incur penalties if they can't keep you busy:) I had that clause when I first signed, but the renewals did away with it because "it wasn't really needed." D'oh!
So anyhow, don't feel sorry for me--I don't want that. Don't use this as an excuse to bash DC over their new books, but DO use this to understand the life of a freelance creator. We pay for our own healthcare, we pay an extra tax known as the self employment tax, and we all work strange long hours trying to make sure your comics ship on time. Support comics by the creators you like! Every sale helps. Support the independent publishers, and the small press comics, because they are putting their hearts and souls into their creations without any advance payments or page rates.
I know it's easy to be negative, and throw out comments like"Everything new sucks, why can't we have 1980's comics again," but don't stop buying comics, and then remain on the sidelines complaining. If you like comics, stay in the game, search out books you think you might like, look for familiar creators you like. Your dollars count, and if you support what you like, and support your local comic stores, it helps us all. Buy from smaller publishers! Competition is what pushed DC and then Marvel to initiate royalties on comic sales, putting creator names on covers, raising rates, etc. With the industry dominated by a few, there is no incentive to treat freelancers better. People joke about the content of the Image comics at their launch, but Image Comics' success forced other companies to pay creators better, rather than lose them to creator owned books.
When I started professionally in comics, in the Summer of 1980, comics were printed on the cheapest paper known to anyone except the toilet paper manufacturers, and the big publishers all bemoaned the state of the business. Then things started to change. DC made great strides, and created deals to lure talent to their ranks. People were offered equity in new character creations, royalties came into play, new formats were targeted to the new, direct sales market, and there was growth in the industry again. People were enjoying more creative freedoms, freelance rates were raised, and this wave lasted through the Image launch and the comic book "boom" time of 1991-1994. Once creator owned books were no longer guaranteed to earn a creator the equivalent of a DC or Marvel page rate, the power reverted back to the publishers with big pockets. Since then, page rates have been flat, and year by year, and with a glut of freelancers available, the publishers have treated everyone with less respect.
The time is now:
I think that the comic fans who feel like they've been abandoned could organize and be a force for change. I hear from so many of you, that there's nothing to buy that interests you, except for reprints of older stuff. If you can all rally around me, based on my blog post, then let's see you rally around books by creators you like. If I had a kickstarter, I would love your support. I know of plenty who have crowd-funded projects who could use your support. Graham Nolan and Chuck Dixon, Jamal Igle, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey, all did or are doing their own stuff. And there are many many others. Support them! Support Image books. We all love comics, or we wouldn't be here right now, correct? Your local comic store probably needs your business as much as I do. If any of your favorite creators solicits a book through Previews, please pre-order a copy, and try and talk it up to the owner, in hopes they will stock a few extras to be discovered by a customer or two.
Whatever ire I've stirred in you, it needs a positive outlet. Hopefully something good can come out of my rantings. Thanks for listening.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
First off, I want you all to understand that I welcome , nourish and encourage new blood in the comic book world. I think it's healthy for any industry, to be welcoming to new talent. When I started in comics, in 1980, many of my artistic heroes were in the same age group I myself am in now. I was thrilled to be in the same club as Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, Gene Colan, Joe Kubert, Curt Swan, John and Sal Buscema, John Romita, Don Heck, Gray Morrow and many many others. They were all valued for their skills, and their experience, and most if not all all worked steadily into their 70's, or until they passed away.
In my own experience, I have worked most of my years for DC Comics, and that was by choice. The people who worked there were good people, and I still call many of them friend. Like any young artist, I had offers to work elsewhere, and occassionally dipped my toe into other company's ponds, but always came back to DC. At DC, I have had many successes, and opportunities. I was thrilled to help establish the All Star Squadron and Infinity Inc with Roy Thomas. I was thrilled to be part of the original "Crisis" as well as "Zero Hour" and "Infinite Crisis," all major DC character event comics. I was thrilled to help DC share in the success of the 1989 blockbuster "Batman" movie by drawing one of the best selling comic book movie adaptations ever.
I poured my heart and soul into reviving the character of Superman, working alongside John Byrne and Marv Wolfman at first, later graduating to writing Superman's adventures alongside people who became my best friends. I left the Superman universe at a time when our successes paved the way for a TV series, "Lois and Clark" as well as an unsuccessful attempt to bring the Death of Superman to the big screen with Tim Burton and Nic Cage. Superman as a property was revived, and led to a ton of Death of Superman merchandise, a higher profile in the public eye, and renewed interest among kids. A cartoon series did make it on the air, and was terrific. Smallville the tv series owes a lot to what happened when I was involved in the comics.
I moved on to pouring my soul into reviving Captain Marvel, and it was a wonderful experience that lasted through an original graphic novel, and 48 regular issues of the monthly comic plus an annual. After that, I seemed to suffer from the cancellation of Shazam, and a firing from the Superman books I had been invited back to, before I even started. Bad feelings ensued, and I stopped working for DC.
I went to work at Marvel for a few years, and enjoyed my work on the Avengers, Captain America, Thor, as well as drawing the company wide crossover "Maximum Security: and the spin off USAgent mini-series. When my opportunities dried up at Marvel, I went to work on a smattering of Wildstorm books, on comics such as Tom Strong, Top Ten, Planetary and a mini-series with Hollywood writers Danny Bilson and Paul Demeo, "Red Menace."
I returned to DC as well, drawing Wonder Woman with Walt Simonson writing, and then fell into the situation of being a "fill-in" artist, jumping from title to title, sometimes drawing a whole issue or two, sometimes drawing only a partial issue, when the regular artists were either in deadline trouble, or unavailable. I was offered, and accepted an exclusive DC contract in hopes that this would somehow help me to land a regular assignment, and steady work. After 9 years of being the guy who was thrown at late deadline material, I was still not any closer to getting regular work, nor was I being treated by the company as a valued employee. In my last year on exclusive contract, I was starved of work. Kind of hard to believe, but there it was.The contract had no clause to require DC to give me a minimum amount of work, as this problem never happened in the past, and could have happen, or so I thought at the time. I drew the last two issues of JSA so that the regular artist could jump onto one of the new "52" comic launches. After that, I spent the summer trying to use whatever connections I had to get work-- any work. I was finally given a short Batman themed story to draw, a story that was never published. Dan Didio kindly invited me to join him on a new Challengers story, and Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey asked for me on their Freedom Fighters re-launch. That manifest itself as the now concluding Human Bomb four issue series, done after my contract expired, but promised while the contract was still in effect.
I am thrilled to be well remembered, and respected in the comic book community, and to have fans willing to pay me to draw commissions, but I got into comics in order to tell stories, not to draw custom art. I still feel vital, and still want to be at that table. Do I think DC comics owes me anything? Yes and no. I understand that no company owes anything that isn't contractually stipulated, but in my heart, I think I deserve better than being marginalized over the last 10 years. I'm not retired, I'm not financially independent. I'm a working guy with a family, working for a flat page rate that hasn't changed substantially since 1995. I may have opportunities at smaller companies, companies that pay less per page than I made in 1988, with no royalties or ownership of any kind. I'm not at all looking down at that, but it is hard to reconcile, as I can't work faster, and refuse to hack my work out to match the rate. I have pride in what I do, and always have. As to my part in the history of dc for the past 33 years, I was a highly visible and successful part of it, not a minor footnote.
Getting back to the beginning of this essay, and to the artists I loved as a kid, all I ask is for some of the same consideration my generation of creators and editors gave to the older guard in the 1980's. My work is still sharp, my mind is still full of stories to tell, and I'm still willing to work all hours of my day to meet my deadlines. Why am I out of work from the publishers? Why are my friends, people who turned in great work, worthy of hardcover and trade paperback reprints, not able to get work?
As a comic reader and customer, the publishers use our older work in collected editions, for what they call first copy royalties, no reprint fees. They publish the All Star Squadron trade, for example and you buy it for whatever the cost. My royalty is maybe a couple hundred dollars, if I'm lucky, for 11 issues worth of work. On a recent Absolute Infinite Crisis hardcover, I had 30-odd pages reprinted in there, a book that retailed for over a hundred dollars-- a book that DC never even gave me a copy of, and the royalty amounted to a few dollars, I couldn't buy a pizza on that windfall. I want to work, I don't want to be a nostalgia act, remembered only for what I did 20, 30 years ago.
Older fans need to voice their opinions, and ask the various companies why (fill in the blank) person isn't drawing or writing comics for them anymore. If you like the Superman books enough to spend a hundred dollars on a volume, I don't understand why your buying power can't wake the companies up to the fact that they have a willing and able talent pool idling.
Oh and put in a good word or two for me as well, why don't you:)