Sunday, June 5, 2011

Autobiography Pt. 40something

I had been pestering Kirby to ink some of his stuff since Captain Victory. I had inked a couple of sample pieces that were never used; one sample page for Silver Star, and a Captain Victory cover. When Jack went to DC, I went in and showed Andy Helfer my stuff. Helfer was Assistant Editor to Joe Orlando on the Super Powers series. I showed him samples and they let me ink one of the covers – the one with Superman as the brute (Vol. 1, #5). Super Powers Vol. 1, #6 was the one Jack penciled. I inked those during the San Diego convention. I was going to the convention during the daytime, and at night I'd go back to the hotel room and ink pages. It was kind of a blast.

But frequently during Super Powers, Kirby was drawing characters that he had no empathy for. Green Lantern was consistently wrong. He didn't memorize the costumes; it was torture for him. At this point in his career, Jack was getting pretty tired of doing comics. He was used to a regimen of single concept illustrations for television cartoon episodes, done three times up; enormous drawings. He was back now to doing six to eight panel comic book pages, with 22 page stories. He swore he would never do a regular comic book again after Super Powers. It was a big grind on him. The pages would come to me in batches of three or four pages at a time. The first page was always very strong; the last page was weak. He was losing steam; he couldn't do three or four sparkling pages a day, but that was the schedule.
Hunger Dogs
There had been a comic book created that would set up the conclusion of the New Gods series. When it was turned in, the powers to be at DC did not like it. Kirby was slated to do the Hunger Dogs Graphic Novel, so they said, "Take this book you've already written, and incorporate it into the Hunger Dogs." It was done in a comic book format, which was 150% larger than the size it was to be printed; Graphic Novels were being done at 200%. So there was a discrepancy in the sizes. Somewhere along the line, the pages were Photostatted at the same size they were drawn, and glued to the 200% Graphic Novel paper. So Kirby had to fill out the top, bottom, and side margins. If the editor had instructed the production department to blow up the pages to Graphic Novel size, Kirby wouldn't have needed to draw out the panels on all four sides. It ruined his compositions. If you look carefully in Hunger Dogs, all of the pages where the type falls to the center of the page are the pages from the original comic book. Any page that has dialogue all the way to the border was done specifically for the Graphic Novel.
       D. Bruce Berry ended up inking the new Graphic Novel pages. In the photostatic process, the Royer pages were Photostatted rather dark, so the line weight beefed up. You had pages with beefy (Royer) linework on a photostat, and incredibly light (Berry) feathering filling out the margin. There was a big discrepancy visually.
       So I was looking at this mismash of style, and Helfer says, "Do you want to color this?" And I said, "Absolutely. In fact, would you mind terribly if I took these with me and worked on them?" And he said he'd love me to do whatever I could to help align the clash of the two styles. So for five or six days, I worked for free, trimming back some of Royer's line work so the weight was a little bit lighter, and beefing up some of D. Bruce Berry's work. In some cases I simply reinked the material. It was just a coordinating project, that I didn't get paid for. I got paid to color it.
       Some of the precision of Jack's work was weaker than it'd previously been. Eyes were sometimes askew; some of the perspective was a bit off, and so on. Kirby had a rule with his inkers that they were not to change anything, so based on Kirby's instructions, the inkers were rendering things that needed to be fixed. Nobody ever told me that I was not allowed to change anything, and to the very end, whenever I inked Kirby's work, I had carte blanche to do whatever I pleased on it.
After the Hunger Dogs, Julie Schwartz contacted me and said "Would you ink this Challengers of the Unknown thing?" (DC Comics Presents #85) So I got to ink Toth as part of the bargain; what a cool deal. Toth had started a job that wasn't big enough for a full book, and had never done the second half, so they got Jack to do a wraparound on it. Jack seemed to care about that one; he did a good job on it.
       At around the same time, I decided to pair my collection back, and set up a table at a Gallager’s Show in Manhattan, in the basement of some forgotten by me church. About half way through the day Luke Skywalker sidled up to my table. I knew it was Mark Hamil, but didn’t want to intrude.
       He was checking out my E.C. paperback reprints with much intent. A dealer whose table was to my back came over and asked Mark for an autograph on some mass-produced Topp card. Mark was kind, and autographed it without hesitation.
The dealer then announced, in front of too many people, “Wow! Now this thing is worth TEN times what I was asking for it.”
       That is ten bucks instead of one?
       Mark rolled his eyes in a way that seemed quite ingrained in his psyche.
       In an effort to balance the situation, I said “If you want all three, I’ll take ten bucks.”
       Mark Smiled, dealer grief, fame grief set aside for the moment. Happy, instead of the feeling you might get if you are raped.
       Flash forward a couple of years to the San Diego Con. Mark, and pal Muigel Ferrar chanced upon me and a couple of other guys.
       Sorry, I just had this big urge to screw with Luke Skywalker.
       Now, Mark was in sunglasses, hiding from God knows what. OOOPS! The public who wanted a part of him.
       Anyway, I sez, “I know you.”
       Mark rolled that trademarked roll of the eyes, behind sunglasses.
       “I sold you my E.C. paperbacks.”
From eye-rolling to excited kid, Hamil’s disposition changed in a heartbeat.
       Muigel split his pants, and you know what I mean.
       I guess he was used to Mark rolling his eyes.

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