Sunday, October 30, 2011

Things I Never Did--2

Raiders of the Lost Art
Back when I was drawing the Dallas and Star Trek newspaper strips, my syndicate (the Los Angeles Times Syndicate) also distributed the Star Wars strip. One day word passed down that Lucasfilm had suggested the Times Syndicate produce a strip based on their "other" movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Indiana Jones' 1930s-serial adventures were my favorite kind of story. Not bothering to consider the fact that I was already drawing two daily and Sunday strips, I put together this promotional piece and routed it to Lucasfilm. I drew it on a 15x20 inch piece of heavyweight Crescent board and colored it with markers and Dr. Martin's dyes (note that the flesh colors have faded with time).That was the end of the story. The syndicate passed on the strip. Later I was told they thought selling their existing continuity strips was trouble enough. Raiders was nowhere near as big a deal as Star Wars and they figured an Indiana Jones strip wouldn't stand a chance. Nevertheless a short while later they launched a strip based on the already-passe (and quite dead) Bruce Lee. Go figure.

A year or so later Lucasfilm returned the art without comment. Some time after that I heard that John Prentice had been angling to draw the Indy strip. Guess who would have got that assignment.

Several years later I drew another Indiana Jones piece just for the hell of it. Thus ended my relationship with Mr. Jones.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Everett Raymond Kinstler, artist

Master Strokes

In my scrap file, under "Pen and Ink," I found these two tear sheets of illustrations by master penman Everett Raymond Kinstler. The first is the inside front cover from an issue of Avon's Prison Break comic book.
The other is from some digest-size fantasy pulp...probably also published by Avon.Everyone knows that Kinstler left comics to become a renowned portrait painter. I'm sure the money was much better. Still it's a shame that when he started painting he stopped producing these incredible pen-and-ink drawings. The inside front covers of Avon comics were the ideal place for Kinstler to strut his stuff. Slick paper meant precise reproduction of his linework, while the montage format let him go wild with elaborately-rendered heads...
...and swirling action scenes.Looking closely at these drawings one is amazed by the apparent haste with which they were inked. The hook-shaped ends of Kinstler's strokes make them look like sketch strokes banged down at furious speed. Yet so precise is Kinstler's control that the drawings never look slapdash.Kinstler learned many of his licks from his friend and mentor, James Montgomery Flagg. To Flagg's classic turn-of-the-century penwork he added more elaborate rendering and a wild sense of drama. I offer this gallery of Kinstler IFC's from Avon comics for your enjoyment--and amazement.

ERK tackles child endangerment:
Kinstler ventures into horror-host country:
A bravura display of Kinstler's ability to build mood:A nice clinch with a dollop of history:And to wrap things up, the best drawing of Broderick Crawford ever (not a bad Barbara Hale, either).
Sidebar: Did you notice that several of these pages were lettered by Wallace Wood?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Things I Never Did--1

Not Becoming a Marvel Inker

Recently my excavation of the Eternal Garage turned up more nostalgic oddities.

I moved Los Angeles in late 1976 or early 1977. Mark Evanier, leader of a cadre of fanboys who hung out together at the San Diego Comic Con, had advised me that if I wanted to draw comics professionally, I had two choices: either move to New York where the majors were located, or to Los Angeles where Disney and the animation industry were based.

I wanted to move to New York, but the prospect of moving across the continent to America's biggest city scared me shitless. I chose LA. However I did make one foray into the Big Apple. I stayed for several days with an aunt living in New Jersey. I took a train into the city to show my portfolio at Marvel and DC. It was to be my only visit to New York.

The difference between the companies was amazing. DC's lobby was an awe-inspiring piece of corporate design, with vast glass doors, expensive carpets, a cold receptionist and a huge logo on the wall. This I remember, but I don't remember much else about the meeting, not even with whom I met. I got a cordial but quick brush-off: some nice stuff here, keep drawing, move to New York.

I don't remember the Marvel lobby at all. What I recall is a nondescript hallway lined with doors. I was ushered into the office/studio of John Romita, Marvel's art director. Romita received me warmly and gave thorough yet gentle critiques of my drawings. He pulled open a drawer crammed with xeroxes of Marvel artwork. He offered me some sample pages to ink . He chose some by Marvel's tightest pencillers: covers by Jack Kirby and Gil Kane, interior pages by George Perez and George Tuska. He suggested I ink a couple on overlays and he'd evaluate them.

I'd planned my trip poorly. I visited Marvel on the next to last day of my vacation. I had no drawing equipment with me. I'd have to mail the inked pages from LA. Therein lay the biggest problem. Not many years later, working by mail became common. However at the time the majors dealt only with local artists. If I wanted to crack Marvel, Romita said, I'd have to move to New York.I sent in four covers and two interior pages. A week later I called Marvel but didn't reach Romita. A week later I failed to get through again. So I gave up. Thus ended my career as a Marvel inker.

These are the only copies I have of those sample jobs. I don't have any of the original pencils. Photocopies were expensive and the copy shop a long ways off, so I often didn't xerox stuff. Stupid. Anyway, I post these not because they're particularly good--they aren't-- but because they represent a crossroads in my life.

What if I'd been brave enough to take on NYC? Not long afterward Marvel underwent a big expansion and hired lots of new kids, some not much better than I was. I might have broken in. Surrounded by kindred souls, I might have learned the craft I never learned. I might have studied at one of New York's great art schools. I might have connected with one of the era's great teachers: Giordano, Adams, Buscema. I might have had some sort of career with the Big Guys.

On the other hand, I was a small town kid already over my head in Los Angeles. My life was in constant turmoil thanks to my undiagnosed manic-depression. I was afraid to ask favors or blow my own horn. I was shy, lonely, disorganized, and broke. Who's to say I wouldn't have been one of the thousands that New York ate alive?

By choosing LA I found a disastrous romance. Its implosion drove me to take a workshop where I met the marvelous lady to whom I've been married for nearly 30 years. Our marriage brought two fantastic kids who make me swell with pride.

It's this paradox that makes time travel stories popular. You're tantalized by good things that might have happened had you decided differently. At the same time you realize the good things in your life are the culmination of the decisions you did make, good and bad. You can only live one life at a time. So you live that one and write comics about the rest.