FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE: THE ART OF MIGNOLA
No. 23 Dec. 2002
$6.95 In The US
Hellboy™&©2002 Mike Mignola
INSIDE: HARLAN ELLISON • JOSÉ DELBO
LIVES & WORK
GREAT CARTOONISTS, WRITERS & EDITORS
THE FRONT PAGE: STERANKO, CHABON, AND BURDEN & BOSWELL’S “FLEMING CARROT”! Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon to meet the supreme “escapist” artist, Steranko! ......................1
Editor/Designer JON B. COOKE
KHOURY’S CORNER: LADRONN’S LOST ADVENTURE Our Man George, CBA’s new assistant editor, takes a look at the missing Silver Surfer story ..............................6
RIDING SHOTGUN: TOM SUTTON AND “THE FADEAWAY WALK” Don McGregor, comics writer extraordinaire, debuts his new column with a look at the late horror artist ..........8
JOHN & PAM MORROW
FRED HEMBECK’S DATELINE @!!?* Hembeck think him funny; put Hulk in strip to talk ’bout Harlan Ellison story. Hulk smash puny artist! ............9 TO HELLBOY AND BACK! THE MIKE MIGNOLA SPECIAL MIKE MIGNOLA INTERVIEW: FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE! IT’S THE MAGIC OF MIGNOLA In-depth, career-spanning interview with the creator of Hellboy and one of the world’s greatest cartoonists ....10 HELLBOUND: THE MIKE MIGNOLA PORTFOLIO Fourteen pages of magnificent Mignola artwork, including unpublished and rarely-seen work ..........................35 DEVIL IN THE DETAILS: THE MIKE MIGNOLA COMIC ART CATALOG Brian T. Rivers shares his exhaustive checklist on the work of the brilliant artist of Hellboy ..............................48
TWOMORROWS Assistant Editor GEORGE KHOURY Associate Editors CHRIS KNOWLES DAVID A. ROACH CHRISTOPHER IRVING Contributing Editors ROY THOMAS JOHN MORROW Cover Art MIKE MIGNOLA
SPECIAL BONUS INTERVIEWS HARLAN ELLISON INTERVIEW: HELL-RAISIN’ HARLAN’S COMIC BOOK WORK The award-winning author on his forays into the four-color world of funny books ............................................63
Cover Color DAVE STEWART
JOSÉ DELBO INTERVIEW: THE AUTHENTIC ARTISTRY OF JOSÉ DELBO The ubiquitous artist on his illustrative career in comics, from Argentina to Gold Key to DC and beyond..........78
Proofreader ERIC NOLEN-WEATHINGTON
COMIC BOOK ARTIST™ is published 10 times a year by TwoMorrows, 1812 Park Drive, Raleigh, NC 27605, USA. 919-833-8092. Jon B. Cooke, Editor. John Morrow, Publisher. Editorial Office: P.O. Box 204, West Kingston, RI 02892-0204 USA • 401-783-1669 • Fax: 401-783-1287. Send subscription funds to TwoMorrows, NOT the editorial office. Single issues: $9 postpaid ($11 Canada, $12 elsewhere). Six-issue subscriptions: $36 US, $66 Canada, $72 elsewhere. All characters © their respective owners. All material © their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter © their respective authors. ©2002 Jon B. Cooke/TwoMorrows. Cover acknowledgement: Hellboy™ & ©2002 Mike Mignola. First Printing. PRINTED IN CANADA.
Hellboy on Earth: The For the love of Mike, CBA talks to the ingenious artist-writer Conducted by Jon B. Cooke Transcribed by Steven Tice
Below: Mike Mignola’s cover art for Hellboy: Almost Colossus #2 (July 1997). Courtesy of the artist. ©2002 Mike Mignola.
As Ye Ed notes in the following interview (which took place on April 23, 2002), Mike Mignola appears to be—stylistically, of course—the ungodly spawn of Jack Kirby and Alex Toth, swiping from neither yet appropriating the best both comic book masters have to offer. Mike’s heavy use of blacks, extraordinary page design, and superb sense of pacing—the Toth approach, if you will—coupled with the sheer exhuberence and manic action found in the King’s work, might be an apt description of the Mignola magic. He is, simply, one of the finest comic book artists—and writers—working today. But no sorcery brought the creator such acclaim; as you will find, it took numerous years of hard labor, combined with a solid, inborn work ethic and sensible practicality. The talk was conducted by phone and was copy edited by Mike.
Comic Book Artist: How do you pronounce your name? Mike Mignola: Minyo-la. CBA: Is that Italian? Mike: Yes. Swiss-Italian. CBA: Where did you grow up? 10
Mike: In Oakland, California. CBA: Did you get an interest in art at a young age? Mike: I drew as far back as I can remember, and it’s pretty much all I ever did. I just drew, and eventually I drew and read, but that was it. No sports, no learning to drive a car, nothing. I just drew. [laughter] CBA: Do you have any brothers and sisters? Mike: I have two younger brothers. CBA: What kind of neighborhood was it? In Oakland, you said? Mike: It was in the Oakland hills. It was very nice, middle class, residential-house kind of neighborhood, which all burned down in the big Oakland fire. CBA: Did you get to San Francisco much? Mike: No. Everything I needed was in Berkeley, so I never had any reason to go to San Francisco. In high school, I spent a lot of time in Berkeley once my brothers and I discovered used bookstores and comic book stores. So our weekends were spent haunting old record stores and bookstores. CBA: How did you get there? Did your parents drop you off? Bus? Mike: We went on the bus. CBA: Were your brothers like-minded? Mike: Yeah, we had a strange relationship with this kind of stuff. I think it started with comics, where we collected everything Marvel put out. I don’t remember how we started, but everything Marvel did, one of us would collect. My youngest brother bought Daredevil, Spider-Man, Marvel Team-Up; the middle brother collected all the monster stuff, Captain America and Iron Man. Then I had the big stuff; you know, Fantastic Four, Thor. The bigger, cosmic kind of stuff. And that’s how we did it. I remember that Marvel would put out some new book and there would just be a discussion among us, like, who was going to collect that? Did it relate to this? Was it in some way related to Spider-Man? Was it a horror kind of thing? [laughter] So I saw everything Marvel did. We didn’t see anything of DC, though my youngest brother did get the Atlas/Seaboard stuff… CBA: Because it looked like Marvel? Mike: I don’t know why, but that was as much branching out as we did. We didn’t stray into DC at all. CBA: Was that you dictating that, or was it a democratic agreement? Mike: I think there was a brief period when we were all really into it, and our decision was all by mutual consent. Nobody was assigned a book they didn’t want. I don’t think it was more than two or three years of pretty intense comic book buying and reading. I remember around that time when we discovered our first comic book store. Somebody told us about this place in downtown Oakland, and we ventured down there. It was a really intense period that went up through… I think I was a senior in high school when I stopped reading the stuff. I was still buying for a while, but… I remember looking in my drawer and there were the last five or six issues of The Avengers, and I hadn’t read them. I thought, “I’m buying out of habit at this point.” I remember Jim Starlin’s Warlock, and I was still buying comics after he’d finished, but that was the last thing that really had me that excited about comics. There was Paul Gulacy’s Master of Kung Fu and Jim’s Warlock. When that was over, I kind of went, “Enhhh, I think I’m done.” CBA: What year were you born? Mike: I was born in 1960. CBA: Do you recall when you first got into comics, and what they were? How young were you? COMIC BOOK ARTIST 23
Magic of Mike Mignola on his comics career & current work in Hollywood movies Mike: I remember my cousin having comics. We’d visit him in Modesto, and I remember specific issues of the Fantastic Four. The issue with the cocoon on the cover [#67]. I loved that comic. I remember he had The Doom Patrol. I remember all those old Tales to Astonish with the Hulk and Sub-Mariner, and that stuff being around. And at the time, I don’t think I read any of that stuff, but I looked at and was fascinated by this really great, alien thing— “alien” as in fantastic, as in this wonderful world. I don’t know if I was really allowed to look at them. I remember going with my cousin to a drug store, where he was buying Sgt. Fury or something by Kirby—maybe Fantastic Four—and I was told, “There’s Richie Rich. That’s your stuff.” [laughter] I remember my cousin’s comics always looked more interesting. I don’t remember how things really started except I know when we were on car trips, my dad would stop at some place where my brothers and I could buy comics, and that might be how it started. Again, I don’t know exactly what year that was, but I remember my brother picking up the first issue of [Amazing] Spider-Man that had the Punisher [#129], so whatever year that was . Around that time, it was car trip stuff. Occasionally, my brothers and I would be sent on a bus up to see my aunt, and I remember devouring an issue of Savage Tales, reading Barry Smith Conan stories, there was a Gil Kane Robert E. Howard thing, and then articles about the old Conan books, and just being fascinated by that whole thing. I remember Conan being a big hook when I first started seriously collecting comics. CBA: It’s almost traditional for comic book artists to have started with the familiar. That is, they usually start out with Mickey Mouse, then go on to Superman, and if they’re of a certain age, they look at the Marvels as—there’s that word again—“alien,” as something that’s strange. But you obviously were introduced to them right off. Mike: Yeah. I knew nothing about Batman and Superman and that kind of stuff. CBA: At all? Mike: Well, I mean, I knew the TV shows. I remember at one point—and I have no idea why, but it must have been because of the artist—I picked up an issue of the Justice League, and immediately I was lost, because there was more than one Batman in it, and there was reference to some Earth-Two thing, and I went, “Nahhh, this is too complicated, I can’t figure this out!” But we knew the Marvel universe, because between my brothers and I, we collected everything! It was familiar and made sense. The DC stuff was so bizarre to us. CBA: That’s the first time I’ve heard that, usually it’s the other way around. So you never got into DC at all? Mike: No. I remember, at the drugstore, seeing the Michael Kaluta Shadows. I remember seeing Bernie Wrightson’s Swamp Thing, and thinking, “That looks really cool, but they’re DCs. CBA: [laughter] They had the wrong emblem on them? Mike: Yeah. CBA: You clued into the art aspect of comics right off? Mike: Yeah, definitely. Again, from the early days, seeing the ones December 2002
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my cousin was reading, it was the art that attracted me. CBA: And was it specifically Kirby that started it for you? Mike: I don’t remember whether it was the way he drew, or what he was drawing. He was long gone from Marvel when I first started really collecting Marvel, but they were publishing all those Fantastic Four reprints [Marvel’s Greatest Comics], so before we discovered comic book stores, I was picking up those. And I loved that stuff. Again, it was the cosmic element of the Fantastic Four, and things like that. CBA: With your brother collecting the b-&-w monster magazines or the Marvel/Atlas reprints? Mike: Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night, and stuff like that. CBA: So you didn’t buy the Kirby non-super-hero reprints? Mike: Somewhere along the way, Marvel reprinted the Kirby monster stuff. I love those comics. CBA: You know, a lot of people look at your work and say it’s the ungodly spawn of Alex Toth and Jack Kirby. Did you have the influence of Toth at a young age? Mike: I have no idea when I ever saw Alex’s stuff, but I certainly never bought it. And I don’t even know if I own a Toth comic now. CBA: [Incredulous] Really? Mike: I never consciously looked at Toth’s work. I think it’s a case of wandering down a similar path. I went through a lot of phases where there were different guys I wanted to be, and Alex was never one of them, because I really didn’t know who he was. I’d probably see something in the Warren magazines, things like that, but I never said, “Wow! This is the guy! I’m into this, I want to learn how to do this!” I never looked at him for that, because I was unfamiliar with him. I remember wanting to be Mike Ploog, and I wanted to be Frank Frazetta in high school, and then, when A Look Back came out about Wrightson, I copied that book from front to back. I desperately wanted to be Bernie Wrightson. But Toth, never.
Left inset: The logo for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, the investigative organization of which Hellboy is a member. ©2002 Mike Mignola.
Below: Mike Mignola, the artist/writer, poses for a rare pic. Courtesy of the artist.
Below: Mike Mignola’s rejected first attempt at the cover for Batman Black and White, Volume Two. (2002). Courtesy of the artist. Art ©2002 Mike Mignola. Batman ©2002 DC Comics.
CBA: You were about 16 years old when A Look Back came out. Mike: I was 17, maybe 18, because I was out of high school, going to a junior college in Modesto, and we had no money. I was living in a crappy little apartment and my roommate and I usually pooled our money to buy art supplies and some food, and that month we went without food, and we bought A Look Back book together. CBA: So you still got nourishment. [laughter] My brother and I shared a collection, too. I would buy The Demon, he would buy Kamandi; he would buy Spider-Man and I would buy Fantastic Four. When it came time, did you guys have the inevitable fight about who owned what in the collection, or did you all have your own caches? Mike: Oh, it was completely segregated. We all had our separate cabinets where our comics were kept. There was a certain amount of reading each other’s stuff, but even that seemed very segregated. CBA: So there wasn’t open access, so to speak? Mike: You know, there must have been, because I am real familiar with what they had. But we never pooled anything. It wasn’t, like, “Oh, we’ll just buy the comics and share them.” Anybody who has brothers knows it doesn’t work like that. [laughter] CBA: Well, that was a wise decision. Were you competitive and collaborative? Mike: I don’t know that it was really competitive. It really seemed to work real well because we didn’t step on each other’s toes. We worked out whose was whose. Even when we were getting outside of comics, just reading books, we did the same thing. My middle brother was into high fantasy—Lord of the Rings, that kind of stuff—and horror. My youngest brother was into Edgar Rice Burroughs and some science-fiction. And I was into Michael Moorcock and Robert E. Howard, those kinds of guys. Also, Doc Savage. At that point, we really weren’t reading what the other guy was reading. We kind of shared that Marvel universe, but when we got into literature, we all got going in our different directions. It was very weird. But, the nice thing about it is, we were exposed to a lot of stuff we didn’t actually read, so it worked out well. CBA: Were you drawing comics as a kid? Mike: Never. I always wanted to draw monsters. I did go through a super-hero phase, when I was real young, wanting to draw that stuff, but I never really thought about drawing comics. I just wanted to draw monsters, especially when I got into Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock, that kind of fantasy stuff. The idea of actually drawing comics wasn’t really in the forefront of my mind. It wasn’t until I was in art school when I started thinking about, “Well, okay, you want to draw monsters? Where the hell are you going to get a job drawing monsters?” Then it became, “Comics is where I would have to go.” By that time, I had stopped reading comics. I’d gotten some distance from them. So, by the time I started looking at comics as a profession, it was like going back to something that had become a little bit more alien. I didn’t think I could draw comics, draw well enough, and to a certain extent, I was lazy. I’d never tried drawing comic pages, and rather than learn, I just said, “Oh, I can’t do that, so I’ll be an inker.” Because I was doing illustration-type work, and I thought maybe, somewhere down the line, I can parlay that into doing covers. By then, The Studio book had come out, and I was looking at Kaluta, Wrightson and those kind of guys, who had done comics and then spring-boarded off into portfolios. I thought, “Ahh, now, that sounds good.” I liked the idea of doing posters, portfolios, stuff like that. And if I could just weasel my way into the comics business, and if I’m around long enough, maybe I can
veer off in these other directions. CBA: Were you exposed to H.P. Lovecraft when you were reading the Robert E. Howard Weird Tales stuff? Mike: It was probably in reading articles about the old pulps when I discovered Lovecraft. I picked up some of the paperbacks somewhere between high school and art school, when we were spending a lot of time in Berkeley searching the used bookstores. That’s when I really started buying up Lovecraft and the other pulp writers. CBA: Was the progression first Robert E. Howard, then Lin Carter, then H.P.L.? Mike: I don’t know that I was ever into Lin Carter, but the Howard stuff was my entrance into the whole Weird Tales/pulp magazine reprint stuff. CBA: Specifically Conan? Mike: Yeah, Conan was where it started because I had the comic book connection. And, actually, that’s how I got into Michael Moorcock, because there was those couple of issues of Conan where he met Elric [#14 & 15]. I remember thinking, “That’s pretty cool,” and then DAW Books was putting out the Elric paperbacks around that time, and I grabbed those up, and that’s where I started my huge Moorcock obsession that went through high school, and the Howard stuff led me into the other Weird Tales stuff. CBA: When I was about 16, I went through a big Moorcock obsession. As I look back at it, the appeal seems to be that not only was the material sophisticated but Moorcock also had this intense, enormous continuity, especially through the Eternal Champion incarnations. Was that an appeal for you? Mike: Yeah, that and the doomed hero. There are a lot of elements in Hellboy where people say, “What about this? What about that?” And I say, “That’s because I read a lot of Michael Moorcock in high school.” [laughter] There were so many things about the Moorcock stuff that were appealing. It was very exotic from a picture-making standpoint, there was just so much fantastic imagery. CBA: Did you appreciate that Behold the Man and Alien Heat were sophisticated, more adult than Howard’s work? Mike: Yeah, I remember that whole Dancers at the End of Time cycle of books, and of all the Moorcock material, those I do plan to go back and reread. That stuff I just loved. There’s bits of that imagery still in the forefront of my brain, that I’m dealing with in my own work, or plan to deal with. It made a big impression. CBA: Starting with a pulp sensibility and then moving into more mature realms? Mike: Right. It’s taking the simplistic barbarian material—and again, the Howard stuff was very well done—and going to places I wouldn’t say are more mature, but more sophisticated. The Lovecraft mythos is certainly a much more complicated world than, say, Conan’s world. And while I was never an obsessive Lovecraft fan, there was imagery and a universe in the Lovecraft stuff that really appealed to me. The same with the Moorcock stuff. CBA: As purple as Lovecraft’s prose is, some of the imagery is simply awesome, such as in “Call of Cthulhu,” with this huge, squidheaded creature, sitting on this giant throne. It’s just… astonishing. Mike: Yeah, what you got in Lovecraft, and actually with a lot of the fantasy guys, is this amazing glimpse of this world, this universe, that is so much bigger and so much more horrifying, you can’t describe it. With Conan, you walk into a room and there’s a guy with an elephant head. And you go, “Oh, that’s pretty cool.” But the Lovecraft stuff, it’s a glimpse of this gigantic other thing, this other world, at which point then Lovecraft would immediately back off from. “Oh, if I described it, my readers would go insane.” CBA: Right. [laughter] “The indescribable horror.” Mike: That was very appealing to me, that… “What the hell is that?” CBA: The nameless terror beyond time. Mike: Yeah, that kind of stuff, the thing crouching at the threshold of our world. That was very appealing to me. And, obviously, I picked up on that stuff in Hellboy. CBA: Obviously, you’re an art student who wanted to draw monsters. What kind of monsters? Mike: Around this same time, and I don’t know exactly where it came from, but I developed this real interest in folklore, and I remember reading lots and lots of books of lots and lots of different folklore COMIC BOOK ARTIST 23
from all over the world, and saying, “Ooh, I’d like to draw that guy. Ooh, I’d like to draw this guy.” You know, this Tibetan blah-blah, whatever it was… any of those kinds creatures where you had the head of one thing and body of something else. I just loved that kind of stuff. So there was this mental list of all these characters I wanted to draw one of these days. And, again, that’s where Hellboy came from. That’s why you have characters like Baba Yaga showing up, because from the moment I heard about this Russian witch that flew around in a mortar and pestle, I said, “Wow! That’s good! I want to draw things like that.” CBA: So the more esoteric, the better? Mike: I don’t know if “esoteric” is the right word, but certainly the more unusual.... Well, I loved Dracula, it wasn’t just that I wanted to draw the Universal Monsters; I wanted to read about stuff I’d never heard of before. CBA: Were your brothers creative? Did they draw? Mike: They drew a little, but they became writers. I would be the artist. CBA: You were frequenting Berkeley, which had the Berkeley Con in the Bay area, with San Francisco just next door. That city is renowned as the birthplace of underground comix. Were you exposed to that alternative kind of material? Mike: I was aware of its existence, but it didn’t appeal to me at the time. I was still a kid who was reading super-hero comics, so my interest into conventions was what I was reading at the height of my Marvel period. So the underground stuff didn’t appeal to me. I remember Star*Reach was a big deal. I was probably a senior in high school when that happened, and I was really into that stuff. But that’s as close as I ever got to underground comix. CBA: Did you stay away from provocative material? It wasn’t necessarily appealing to you? As a kid, you could learn a lot (not that it was all good) from the undergrounds and it could blow your mind. Mike: Yeah, and it has since, but it just never really appealed to me then. CBA: Did you have a very ordered sense of your universe at the time? Was it very calculated that you would pursue this or that, or were you very liberal, just grabbing stuff left and right, writing and art and illustration…. Mike: I was all over the map. I went through this thing where I wanted to be Frazetta. The great thing about it being the ’70s— and especially being in a place like Berkeley, having all the access to all the bookstores and things—there was so much fantasy artwork coming out around that period. The Brian Froud/Alan Lee Faeries book came out, there was a lot of reprints of old fantasy illustration, so I was eating that stuff up. I wanted to be Arthur Rackham, I wanted to be Brian Froud, I wanted to be Frank Frazetta. I was exposed to a lot. So, in a way, much of that period was just trying to assimilate all these different things. I was struggling to find out who I wanted to be as an artist. Do I want to be this guy or do I want to be that guy? I think I settled on a combination of a lot of different guys. CBA: Star*Reach publisher Mike Friedrich was in Berkeley. Did you seek him out? Mike: Not until much, much later, when I actually ended up doing some of the Michael Moorcock comics. I’m sure I met him once I started working as a professional, but as a fan, I didn’t know him. CBA: When you got to art school, did you just ignore comics? Mike: It was probably around my senior year of high school when I lost interest in comics. CBA: What year did you graduate? Mike: I graduated high school in ’78. CBA: That was a pretty dry time for comics anyway, right? Mike: I don’t remember specifics real well, but I remember that real interest in Starlin’s Warlock. I don’t know that there was anything that grabbed me like that December 2002
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Left: To give you an idea of Mignola’s technique, here’s a halftone reproduction of Mike’s cover art for this issue. Courtesy of the artist. ©2002 Mike Mignola.
that much better, or at least it’s got to be as good as the last one.” So there’s an element of… I can’t just belt this out, it’s got to be great, as good as I can make it. So, yeah, there’s certainly a lot of pressure, which is slowing me down a bit. CBA: What is the genesis of Hellboy? Mike: I did this issue of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight for Archie Goodwin. Somebody said, “You should do one of these, you should write it yourself.” I said, “Ennhh, I’m not a writer, I can’t come up with a story, blah blah blah.” Well, I did come up with an idea, and pitched it to Archie, and he liked it. A friend of mine, who happens to be an editor, scripted it, and I was really happy with the result. It was a ghost story that had Batman in it. I thought, “Well, I wouldn’t mind doing more stories like that. Do I come up with more stories like that and shoehorn Batman or Wolverine or somebody like that into them, or do I create a character specifically to be in these kind of stories?” At that same time, Image was going, I was in San Francisco, Art Adams and I were talking about doing something like this. So I said, “Okay, I’ll do something like this.” I had come up with this name “Hellboy” for some little character I drew for a convention book. The name was funny. I liked drawing these kind of monster guys. I said, “Well, this is what I’ll do.” That was it. Again, it was a case of really good, lucky timing that there were people who would actually do creator-owned stuff in those days, you could keep the rights and that kind of stuff. A bunch of us all started talking. Art Adams and I were going to do this thing. Image was discussed. Well, we were more comfortable with Dark Horse. Frank Miller was at Dark Horse. Somehow I met Frank. I mean, Arthur was the famous guy, so he knew more of these guys than I did. But this thing kind of happened where a bunch of guys started talking, we were all going to do the same thing, and we went into Dark Horse en masse and said, “Do you want all our stuff? We want to do all these creator-owned books, and we want to do them for you, and you can lump us under this title.” And Dark Horse said, “Yeah, okay.” And I have to say, of all that group of guys—you had Geof Darrow, Dave Gibbons, Frank, John Byrne, Art Adams— all guys with track records except me. I really felt like, “I’m sneaking in among these guys.” I benefited from the whole Legend thing more than anybody else, because all these guys had solid reputations, big things they were synonymous with, and I was just Mike Mignola, artist of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, who did that one Batman… I didn’t have that one signature thing that so many of the other guys had. So I was very fortunate that Dark Horse didn’t ask what I was going to do. Well, they did say, “What are you gonna do?” I said, “Hellboy.” They said, “Fine.” It was very easy. CBA: Were you pragmatic about this? Did you look at Image and see this incredible success that was going on, these guys suddenly becoming millionaires in the direct market? Was that an influence? Mike: No. I was aware of that, and thought it would be nice. But I knew it couldn’t happen to me. I mean, there was some discussion of doing a book at Image. I had heard through channels that they would have published something I did, and do remember briefly trying to come up with something really commercial to do. But I knew damn well if I came up with something really commercial, nobody would buy it, and I would have spent a year or whatever drawing something that wasn’t really what I wanted to do, and the whole reason for doing it, the money, would end up not materializing. Dave Gibbons and I did an Aliens book, when we said, “Let’s just whore it up and make some money.” Well, what ended up happening was that we did this Aliens book—which I’m very proud of, I think we did a great job—but it never made a dime. So I had learned the lesson: Do not do something just for the money. I thought, instead of trying to make it something commercial, which I don’t really want to do, I will draw December 2002
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the book I want to draw. I will probably only get a chance to do it once, probably no one will buy it. But I’ll do it once, so that, at the end, when I’m laying on my deathbed, I can say, “At least I did it once.” There’s always this deathbed thing with me. [laughter] CBA: See! The fatalism. [laughter] Mike: Yeah, there is a certain element of that.... CBA: But it’s being optimistic within the fatalism. [laughs] Mike: Yeah, it’s a magic combination. So that’s how it happened. I didn’t set out to write it. I thought, “I’ve got the kind of story I want to do.” That’s why I went to John Byrne, because I had this sense that John wouldn’t try to make it his book. We had a good working relationship in the past on a couple of different things, and I thought, “Well, this might work
Above: MM cover art for Batman/ Hellboy/Starman #1, written by James Robinson. Hellboy ©2002 Mike Mignola. Batman, Starman ©2002 DC Comics.
Mike: Oh, yeah. It takes forever. CBA: It’s actually easier to over-render or overwrite. Mike: Yeah, if you’re only using a few lines, they’ve got to be in the right place. I remember one particular artist coming to me once and saying, “I’ve really been looking at your work because I’ve got to do my book really fast.” [laughter] I remember thinking, “Man, if you figure out how to do what I do fast, please tell me, because I’d love to know!” I spend nine-tenths of my time erasing. CBA: In a nutshell, can you tell us, who is Hellboy? Mike: Do you mean is he my father, or… [laughter] …as a character? CBA: No, I just meant as a character. Mike: He started out to be just an occult detective who happened to be, apparently, from Hell. And it turned out as the thing went on that he apparently is the Beast of the Apocalypse, who just happens to be a working stiff, an occult detective. It’s all very strange, I never expected this thing to happen. This whole story snowballed. This just started out to be a fun character to draw, he’d have no past beyond a couple of pages at the beginning of the first mini-series. Then, as happens sometimes when you’re writing stuff, characters start saying things, and you say, “Oh, I kind of like that, let me play up this and play up that,” and next thing you know, you’ve December 2002
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got this snowball rolling downhill, picking up snow. And going, “It’s not supposed to be this, it’s not supposed to have all this baggage! It’s supposed to be just some goofy, red guy who fights monsters.” So now what I’m trying to do is stop the snowball from rolling and get rid of the snow. I’ve got to undo everything I’ve done in the first eight years of doing this comic. “Okay, you’ve turned him into the Beast of the Apocalypse, you did this, you did that, now we want to get him out of that. Solve that problem or find a way to live with that problem.” That’s part of why I did this thing recently where Hellboy leaves the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, it’s just part of this baggage that’s become attached to this character. I just wanted to draw this guy… let him leave some of that behind, then let me deal with this Beast of the Apocalypse problem, and then hopefully get him back to something manageable. CBA: Make him yours again? Mike: Yeah, ’cause he became this other thing that he was never intended to be. It was interesting. Again, it’s from reading Michael Moorcock in high school. Oh, it’s not enough that he’s just a guy… he’s gotta be the guy who’s responsible for the end of the world, blah blah blah.... Oh, crap! CBA: So he was just a cool character to draw in the beginning, with the hand and the sawed-off horns? Mike: Yeah, it was just something that was fun to do. And then, as you spend all your time working on this thing, you say, “Hey, you know what that hand is?” And the hand is this, and it’s that, and these stories grow. And it’s all really cool and it’s a lot of fun, and then you go, “Oh, sh*t. I just made up 20 years worth of work.” I don’t want to work on the same story for 20 years! I mean, in an average shower, I can plot a year’s worth of story ideas.... [laughter] You know, it really doesn’t take that long.
Above: Pencil and inked page from Hellboy’s latest mini-series, the two-issue arc, The Third Wish (2002). Courtesy of the artist. Center inset: Kevin Nowlan (to be cover featured in CBA #25) designed the logo for Mike. Below: While Ye Ed was tracking down this never-reprinted Mignola page, introducing readers to Hellboy in a promo mag called Celebrate Diversity, Mike asked us not to use it in toto as it will be appearing fullsize in a forthcoming Mignola art book from Dark Horse. ©2002 Mike Mignola.
little work on the ruins of Castle Dracula, because Francis wasn’t happy with the model. There were things that weren’t quite right, so I was brought in because I lived around the corner from Zoetrope. I came in to do some studies of that castle and go back to the model-makers just so Coppola could hand them something that said, “Make it more like this.” So that was a simple kind of a job, but it was interesting. “Change this.” “No, it would be too expensive to change the model that much.” So it was these weird, fine-tuning kinds of adjustments. CBA: You did production designs?
Above: Mike’s back cover art for Dave Cooper’s Weasel #4. Courtesy of the artist. ©2002 Mike Mignola.
Inset right: Mike Mignola tells us this is a rare drawing done just for fun, though eventually used as the cover for a rare book catalog. Courtesy of the artist. ©2002 Mike Mignola. 32
Mike: No, That’s a huge job. I just did little stuff. I did some design work. There was a castle you see for like a millisecond in a flashback. Somehow, there was a day where somebody somewhere would fax me their version of that castle, then I would do my version, and it just went back and forth between us by fax. And, between the two of us, we designed that castle. Then, after that rough cut I saw with George Lucas, there were conversations that evening about adding this scene or adding that scene, and I sort of story-boarded those scenes. CBA: Obviously, you didn’t work at all with Steranko on his storyboarding? Mike: Nah, Jim was the early concept guy on that. CBA: Did you see that stuff? Mike: No, but I heard about it. It sounded pretty darned weird. [laughter] CBA: What did you think of the movie as it came out? Mike: I thought it was interesting. Again, of all the things I have worked on, I find it impossible to really have an opinion, because even on Dracula, where I was involved so little, I saw stuff that wasn’t on the screen. I saw scenes that were cut and I read the script, so I had preconceived notions of what certain things were going to be. A lot of times, I look at it and go, “Oh, it would’ve been better if they had done this, or it would have been better if they had used that scene,” or “Why did they cut that scene?” CBA: You’re a bit too intimate. Mike: Yes. CBA: And how did Disney hear about you? Was Atlantis your next film project? Mike: I did a little work on the Batman TV animated series. CBA: What, with [producer/designer] Bruce Timm? Mike: Yeah, but just in the first season. And then out of the blue, I got this call from the Disney producer on Atlantis. I got the impression that one of the directors was a big Hellboy fan. CBA: You never specifically found out? Mike: Well, I would hear, “Oh, we’re all big Mignola fans here.” Weeeelll… I don’t know if that’s true. I know that one director, possibly both of them, were big fans of Hellboy. So they wanted to do this film, they had already come up with the idea of applying my style to that film. So when I actually, physically went up to Disney, they had
already started to work along in this direction of applying my style, whatever the hell that is. CBA: They appropriated your style even before hiring you? Mike: Yes. When I got there, the characters were already designed. You’d look at one drawing that was the Disney version of these characters, and then the next one would be them translated into the Mignola version. CBA: Did they capture you style? Mike: Pretty much. They went through work I’d done in the past, and tried to make some sense out of what I do. And me, I don’t even know what the hell I do. [laughter] There were Dracula pages and Hellboy pages with diagrams all over them explaining how to do what I do and I didn’t even understand what they were talking about most of the time. “Oh, that’s why I do that? Oh, that makes me sound like a genius.” [laughter] So that was very weird. That’s right up there with the most surreal things, walking into Disney and seeing Hellboy art on the walls. It was fun. Mostly I just sat back and said, “Yeah, that would be cool.” I didn’t do that much drawing on Atlantis. Mostly, I was there in a consulting capacity. CBA: What specifically was your title on that film? Mike: I was credited as one of the production designers. CBA: And how long ago was that? Mike: Five years ago? CBA: It takes a long time to make an animated film! Mike: Yeah, because when I was up there it was really early in the preproduction phase. CBA: Did you have any input on the story? Mike: I did. I don’t know that they brought me in for that, but they sat me down, gave me the script. And at the next meeting, I said, “What about this, and what about that, and, hey, what if you had these…” We were talking about these ruins. “What if, at the climax of this movie, these ruins turn out to be actually Atlantean flying things?” That was probably one of my biggest contributions, the idea
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Above: Cover art to the first Hellboy comic book, Hellboy: Seed of Destruction #1. Courtesy of the artist. Inset right: Self-portrait of Mike done for a Witchblade trading card. ÂŠ2002 Mike Mignola.
This page: 2002 Mignola commission drawing featuring the cast of The Avengers #1. Courtesy of the artist. Art ÂŠ2002 Mike Mignola. The Avengers, Loki ÂŠ2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.
Devil in the Details
Mike Mignola Comic Art Catalog Brian T. River’s exhaustive listing of just about all of the artist’s work
COMICS ABE SAPIEN: DRUMS OF THE DEAD (Dark Horse) (3/98) Book design: MM & Cary Grazzini; This incredible checklist of the art of Mike Mignola is Story: Hellboy - ”Heads” Writer, pencils & inks: MM. the work of Brian T. Rivers, a meticulous and informed 10 pp.; front & back covers: MM researcher (and obvious lover of comics), who came to ACTION COMICS (…WEEKLY #614) (DC) my attention when Ye Ed met the gentleman at this year’s 600 (5/88) Story: “The Dark Where Madness Lies” Writer: John Byrne. Pencils & inks: MM. 8 pp. International Comic-Con: San Diego. What must be the 614 (8/23/88) Cover: MM/Ty Templeton (Green Lantern) most comprehensive listing of Mignola’s incredible body of work is only one of many compiled by Mr. Rivers, and ACTION COMICS ANNUAL (DC) 2 (1989) Story: “Memories of Krypton’s Past” CBA is proud to welcome Brian onboard as our Official Writer: George Pérez. Pencils: MM. Inks: George Pérez. Cataloger/Checklist Dude, whose listings will be regularly 19 pp. (pp. 5, 6, 10, 11 (except panel two—color effect), 17, 18, 24, 25, 27 (except panel three—color effect), 28 featured in this magazine. Ye Ed has slightly modified (right-side panel), 31 (panel 8), 32, 33 (except panel 7), 37, BTR’s original list (eliminating the complete names of 38, 42, 43, 46 (middle tier), 48 (left-side panel)); Article: publishers, for instance—simply listing “Marvel,” rather “How I Spent My Super-Summer Vacation” Writer: George than “Marvel Comics, Inc.”—as well as deleting the Pérez. Two character sketches (The Cleric & Cellkeeper 385): MM month’s names in favor of numerical designations (e.g., 6 (1994) Cover: MM March 1990 becomes 3/90), along with some other THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN ANNUAL (DC) minor alterations). Our thanks to Brian for sharing his incredible work. Catalog ©2002 Brian T. Rivers.—Ye Ed.] 6 (1994) Cover: MM THE ADVENTURES OF THE THING (Marvel) 3 (6/92) Cover: Joe Quesada/MM Abbreviation Key: MM: Mike Mignola ALIENS: SALVATION (Dark Horse) (11/93) Writer: Dave Gibbons. Pencils: MM. */*: Names separated by slash conotes penciler/inker respectively Inks: Kevin Nowlan. 48 pp. (including title pg.); cover: MM Artist: Usually denotes a painted illustration ALIENS: SALVATION AND SACRIFICE (Dark Horse) ibc: Inside back cover (3/01) (trade paperback) Front cover: MM; ifc: Inside front cover R: Aliens: Salvation pg.: Page ALIENS VS. PREDATOR (Dark Horse) pp.: Printed pages 0 (7/90) Inside back cover (alternate cover): MM; R: Reprints cover: MM re: In regards to ALIEN WORLDS (Pacific) 6 (2/84) Story: “Pride of the Fleet” Writer: Bruce Jones. Pencils: Frank Brunner. Inks: MM. 19 pp.
Researched and written by Brian T. Rivers
ALPHA FLIGHT (Marvel) 29 (12/85) Story: “Cut Bait & Run!” Writer: Bill Mantlo. Pencils: MM. Inks: Gerry Talaoc. 22 pp.; cover: MM/ Bob Wiacek 30 (1/86) Story: “Enter… Scramble!” Writer: Bill Mantlo. Pencils: MM. Inks: Gerry Talaoc. 23 pp.; cover: MM 31 (2/86) Story: “The Grateful Dead!” Writer: Bill Mantlo. Pencils: MM. Inks: Gerry Talaoc. 22 pp.; cover: MM 32 (3/86) Cover (including masthead illo of Vindicator): MM 33 (4/86) Cover (including masthead illo of Aurora): MM 34 (5/86) Cover (including masthead illo of Puck): MM 35 (6/86) Cover (masthead illustration of Box only): MM 36 (7/86) Cover: MM/Al Milgrom 39 (10/86) Cover: MM/P. Craig Russell 47 (6/87) Story: “You Can’t Tell the Forest from the Trees!” Writer: Bill Mantlo. Pencils: Craig Brasfield, MM & Steve Purcell. Inks: Whilce Portacio & Terry Austin. 23 pp. (total # of story pp.; exact # of MM pp. unknown) 51 (10/87) Cover (masthead illo of Sasquatch only): MM 52 (11/87) Cover (masthead illo of Box (new costume) only): MM 57 (4/88) Cover (masthead illo of Purple Girl only): MM AMAZING HIGH ADVENTURE (Marvel) 2 (9/85) One-pg. pin-up: The American Civil War (pencils & inks: MM) 3 (10/86) Story: “Monkey See, Monkey Die!” Writer: Steve Englehart. Pencils & inks: MM. 12 pp. THE AMAZING SCREW-ON HEAD (Dark Horse) 1 (5/02) Writer, pencils & inks: MM. 31 pp.; Inside front, front & back covers: MM THE AMERICAN: LOST IN AMERICA (Dark Horse) 3 (9/92) Cover: MM ANGEL (Dark Horse) 12 (10/00) Cover: MM ANGEL: AUTUMNAL (Dark Horse) nn (12/01) (trade paperback) R: Cover of Angel #12 as onepg. pin-up (sans type)
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Hell-Raisin’ Harlan Ellison An interview with the award-winning author on his comics work Conducted by Jon B. Cooke Transcribed by Steven Tice Harlan Ellison is one of the most celebrated—and award-winning— authors in contemporary literature, as well as in television and motion pictures (not to mention TV criticism, as The Glass Teat and The Other Glass Teat essays remain Ye Ed’s favorite non-fiction works by Harlan); and he has been a vocal and enthusiastic advocate for comics as entertainment, and as an art-form, since the 1950s. While still in his teens, the writer had his first comic book story published by the legendary EC Comics, in Weird Science-Fantasy. He loyally continues to make occasional happy forays in the field, having, over the last 30 years, scripted issues of The Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Twilight Zone, The Avengers and Batman, as well as having originated and co-edited a series of comics anthologies based on his own work, Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor, published by Dark Horse. Harlan has also scribed articles on particular favorite comics (in All in Color For a Dime and Playboy, for instance), as well as having contributed innumerable introductions to many comic book collections (The Rocketeer, Anthology of Slow Death, Fish Police, etc.). He counts many professionals in the field as long-time friends. Currently, the writer is developing scripts for Doctor Fate and Tom Strong, and he continues to have passionate opinions regarding the contemporary comics scene. The author was interviewed via telephone on Sept. 24, 2002, and he approved the final transcript. Thanks to Chris Day and Susan Ellison for their assistance. Comic Book Artist: Did you collect comics as a child? Harlan Ellison: Yes, I did. The first comic I ever got was World’s Fair Comics from 1939. (I couldn’t have bought it, as I was only five years old, so it must have been given to me.) I was staying in North Carolina at the time, though I’m from Ohio. My parents had to have time-off from me at least two or three times a year (otherwise they would have gone completely up the chimney), so they fired me off to a relative in Shelby, North Carolina (which is where, in later years, I found myself driving a dynamite truck… but that was when I was 14). I remember that comic very clearly. There were sugar cane fields in Shelby, and there were black men (whom I had never seen in Ohio) cutting the cane with huge machetes. I was fascinated, and used to hang out with them. I liked them a lot. I thought they were just terrific guys. They were always saying something interesting, and were singing and they looked magical to me. One of the gentlemen asked if I had ever sucked on a sugar cane stalk, and I said no, I hadn’t. So he cut me one, and it was just wonderful. I was just sucking on the sugar cane, and remember very distinctly taking my comic, lying down in the tall grass, making a big angel—you know how you flatten the grass by moving your arms up and down like wings—well, there I was lying in the middle of the field, like something out of a Kurosawa film, reading the 1939 World’s Fair Comics while dripping the ambrosia of a sugar cane onto my face. That was my first memoDecember 2002
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ry of comics. Can’t do much better than that; no wonder it’s been a lifelong love affair. CBA: Did you get into comics from then on? Harlan: Oh, absolutely. I’ve still got most of my comics in my collection from when I was a kid. And also, I’ve told this story a number of times: it’s what brought Mart Nodell back into the fold. When I was a kid, as I said, every summer my parents would have to farm me out somewhere just so they could recover from the other eight months of existence with me. My parents loved me, but I was a handful. I was my generation’s Bart Simpson. We lived in Ohio, thirty miles northeast of Cleveland in a little town called Painesville, and my parents somehow got conned into believing that this place called Bellevue was a summer camp; but it was actually a big stone orphanage on the outskirts of Cleveland where, in the summertime, they sent the orphans off to “real” camp, and Bellevue was empty. So they had to bring in kids to keep it going until September, I guess, or the end of summer vacation. Here I was in this gulag, and I remember very distinctly, it’s almost like something out of Little Andy Rooney or Little Orphan Annie, where I actually had to wash down stone steps with lye soap and a horsehair brush. I swear, when I tell people this, they say, “You’re making it up!” And I say, “Nooo, that’s exactly what happened!” CBA: “It’s a hard-knock life… for us!” [laughs] Harlan: That’s exactly what it was! It was a hard-knock life, and yet we were supposed to be Summer campers! I mean, I had an older sister, a mother and a father and a home, but here I was in… how shall I put it delicately… It was Perdition! And I wanted out. I was forever going over the wall. Literally, over the wall. Like Burt Lancaster in Brute Force. They had this huge stone wall, and I would scale it, one way or the other. I would get branches that had fallen and pick out the ones that were hook-like, and I would toss them up, they would stick to the top like a claw, and I would crawl up. Of course, I was a very small kid. I was very, very, very small all my life, so every time I would run away, they would catch me. But one day, it was raining, I went out when everybody else was inside, and somehow I got over. I think I took a bunch of dirty towels I was supposed to be trundling in a tumbrel, a smaller version of
Inset left: Harlan Ellison’s first published work was a letter in Real Fact Comics #6 (Jan.-Feb. 1947), when the author was a young teen. ©2002 DC Comics.
Below: Neal Adams contributed portraits of Frank Frazetta, himself and Harlan Ellison (the latter seen here) for the text piece “The Story Behind the Story of Rock God,” in Creepy #32 (April 1970). ©2002 the respective copyright holder.
Above: Recent Mart Nodell drawing of his creation, the Golden Age Green Lantern. Art ©2002 Mart Nodell. Green Lantern ©2002 DC Comics. Below: Ellison is a huge fan of the work of George Carlson, the cartoonist genius behind Jingle Jangle Comics. This splash page (repro’d from The Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics (’81)) originally appeared in #5 (Oct. ’43). Inset right: In his devotion to Carlson’s work, Ellison wrote an article for All in Color for a Dime (1970), “Comic of the Absurd.” ©2002 Richard A. Lupoff & Don Thompson.
what they used in the French Revolution, and I tied them together and got them soaking wet, so they had adhering ability, and I threw the “towelrope” over the wall and it stuck. I managed to pull myself up, “rappelled” up the towels and got the hell out; and I ran like a sonovabitch. I ran and ran and ran. Now, you’ve got to understand. I am not in the middle of Tanzania or the Congo. I’m in the middle of Cleveland somewhere. But in 1939—’40, there was a lot of undeveloped land around there. It was a different country then. I walked and walked and walked. I walked for a whole day, and the rain went away, and then the sun dried my clothes. I walked and walked and walked. I ate berries, there were wild berries everywhere. I was on the street. I wasn’t in the woods, I was on the street. Then, as I was walking, I came to a stretch of sidewalk beside a heavily wooded area… and I saw it. It was lying on the sidewalk face-up: a copy of either All-American Comics or Green Lantern. It had obviously been dropped by someone fairly recently because it wasn’t damaged in any way. It was in perfect, mint condition (it’d probably be worth $30,000 today). By that time, I loved comics, and I had lots and lots of comics, so I picked it up, and read it while I walked. I read that comic maybe fifty times during that long wander. I was walking for two days until somebody in a car stopped and picked me up and took me to my grandmother’s house, which was in Cleveland Heights. That was my second really big memory of comics. Love affair! I also read Supersnipe, All-Star Comics, and Plastic Man. Those were all my comics… Airboy… the comics that I read. And that Green Lantern I found had been drawn by Mart Nodell. So when I was the keynote speaker at the Diamond Retailer’s Convention a few years back, I told that story, and Mart Nodell happened to
be in the audience, and he was very touched by it. A couple of years later, I commissioned Randy Bowen, a very good friend of mine and a magnificent sculptor—this was a long time before anybody started with the busts and the statues of Golden Age figures—to make me a heroic Golden-Age Alan Scott Green Lantern statue, holding his lantern out in front of him. Only three copies were made. One of them was for Randy, one for me, and the third for Mart Nodell. None of the figures done since… by anybody… approaches by one onemillionth the absolute splendor and individuality of those three pieces. CBA: You were pretty eclectic in your comics reading, right? You also read the funny animal comic, Jingle Jangle? Harlan: Oh, yeah. From very early on, I fell in love with George Carlson’s work, little realizing that Carlson was one of the great American artists (who is sadly overlooked now). But I loved “Jingle Jangle Tales,” and loved “The Pie-faced Prince of Pretzelburg,” which were the two features Carlson did for Jingle Jangle. I also collected George Pal’s Puppetoons. I also collected Funny Animals, because it had Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny in it. I was not big on crime comics, but I did collect Crime Does Not Pay, because I liked Charles Biro’s art. But then, since I had already been collecting Daredevil and the Little Wiseguys, that was just sort of a natural stopover. The Spirit I adored because I saw them in the original newspaper sections. One summer, my mother, sister and I went to Cedar Point, to the Breakers Hotel. I remember just as clearly as I could. The Breakers Hotel was one of the old-fashioned kind of resort hotels, like you saw in Some Like It Hot. There was an enormous atrium off which the corridors with the rooms extended. In the center, there was a newsstand. There were a lot of leather chairs, and it would lead out to another pair of French doors that led out onto the beach, so you could go out to swim. There was even a little theme park right next door, the name of which I can’t remember. On the newsstand, I would get whatever paper it was, maybe it was the Cleveland News, and it had the Spirit section. I would lie there in the middle of the floor, so the people had to go around me, like that wonderful image of a kid lying there with his head propped up on his hands with his elbows down. That was one of the most golden moments of my youth. CBA: Do you retain the collection you had in childhood? Harlan: Yes, I have. A lot of it. You know, I’m 68 now, so over sixty years, a lot of stuff vanishes, people cop stuff, you know. My mother never threw my comics out, which is why I have a complete run of Fawcett comics, which are now bagged, but the weren’t bagged for 40 years. Some of them are not in as good condition as they were when I bought them, but I’ve got a complete run of virtually every Fawcett comic, all the important ones. Whiz, Wow, Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel, Jr., Mary Marvel, Marvel Family, Funny Animals, Spy Smasher, the Ibis miniseries, Commando Yank. All of those, I’ve got them all, and they’re all in a vault hidden in the house where no one can find them. I’ve also got almost all of the Quality comics, which are particular favorites. I’m still missing some issues, but the way I get them now is a story: I’m pretty well played out insofar as conventions are concerned. I mean, I’ve been going to conventions since 1950, ’51, and there’s no panel I have not sat on eleven times. There’s no subject I have not talked about 109 times. There’s no convention thing that I haven’t done dozens and dozens of times. So when they call me and want me to come, they say, “Oh, you’ll have a wonderful time!” I say, “No, I won’t have a wonderful time. You don’t understand. I’m 68 and gotta travel to wherever the f*ck it is, and when I get there, there’s the onus and the burden.” At that point, people laugh and say, “Yeah, you really got it hard at the top,” but there is a concomitant weight, a gravitas that is put on you as a minor celebrity. Trust me, I understand that I am a very minor celebrity. But nonetheless, you get people who have expectations of you, and they come up and say the damnedest things. The worst ones are the people who come up and have a combination of a brown nose sycophancy that is melded to arrogance, trying to prove that you’re an asshole, where they’ll come up and say, COMIC BOOK ARTIST 23
Delbo’s Authentic Artistry The ubiquitous artist discusses his varied, full life in comics Conducted by Jon B. Cooke Transcribed by Steven Tice
Below: Courtesy of Jose Delbo, here’s a caricature of the artist/teacher by onetime student (and current Daredevil artist) Alex Maleev (who will himself be covered in a forthcoming issue of CBA!). ©2002 Alex Maleev.
A native of Argentina, José Delbo has worked for just about every major comic book publisher over the last 35 years. After leaving a successful career as a comic book artist in South America, José arrived in America in 1965, starting out on the “ground floor” of the industry, producing art for Charlton and then Gold Key, where he was a prolific contributor. (This interview was originally intended for last issue’s Gold Key retrospective, but room constraints in that issue forces us to print it here, along with our sincere apologies to the artist.) By the early ’70s, the artist worked for DC Comics and later Marvel, also serving as an instructor at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. Today, Mr. Delbo resides in Florida, actively involved in teaching art to children. He was interviewed via phone on July 15, 2002, and José copy edited the transcript. Comic Book Artist: Where are you originally from, Jose? José Delbo: From Argentina. I was born in 1933. I’m an old man. [laughter] CBA: Not too old. And where in Argentina did you grow up? José: Buenos Aires, and I went to school there. CBA: So you grew up in the city? José: I grew up in the city, yes. CBA: Were you exposed to comics at a young age? José: Well, I remember I always liked to draw. In school, the teacher was chasing me all the time because I was drawing. I’m very bad in mathematics and all that. When I was a little kid, I always liked to draw. One day, I saw an ad in a magazine about a school teaching cartooning. I asked my parents to enroll me there, and that was the beginning. As a kid, I used to read most of the American comics (which had been reprinted in Spanish) in different Argentinian magazines. I was reading Batman, Superman, all those characters, including Tomahawk. Mostly American comics, and also some Argentinian comics. One important Argentinian artist opened a school to teach cartooning. His name was Carlos Clemen. He was one of the pioneers of the comic business in Argentina. He was a very good artist, very fast. It’s funny: Al Williamson was influenced by Clemen. When Al was living in South America, he was buying Argentinian magazines and so he was influenced by Clemen, who was a very popular guy in Argentina and some South American countries. To start with, Clemen taught me
all about comics and I was very influenced by his approach. When I was sixteen, I was published in my first comic book, a short story. The comic book’s name was Suspenso. I did a short science-fiction story. CBA: Now, did you do everything, or just the penciling? José: In those days, I was doing everything. CBA: The lettering, too? José: No. I don’t remember who did the lettering. I penciled and inked. Maybe Clemen did the lettering. I don’t remember very well, it was a long time ago. CBA: What was the subject matter of the Argentinian comics? José: Argentinian comics featured the type of adventure such as Jungle Jim, that kind of thing. Characters going to Africa, fighting lions. There was also science-fiction. I remember Clemen created a character who was affected by an atom bomb explosion and became a super-hero. Also, there were funny characters—not by him—but by some of the other artists would do humorous characters like sailors and gnomes. CBA: Did you do funny material? José: I did humorous stories here in the United States, but not in Argentina. CBA: Did your family support you to go to Clemen’s school? José: When I was a kid, yes. But later, not much. I’ve got an incredible story about that: I was studying to be a lawyer, and I had to go for maybe another half-year or a year. Then I decided I wanted to be a cartoonist. I went to my father and said, “Pa, I want to be a cartoonist.” He almost died of a heart attack. [laughter] CBA: He wanted a lawyer for a son, right? José: I tried to convince him I would be an unhappy lawyer and a very happy cartoonist. Finally, he accepted my decision. Then I spent one year in Army, because, in those days in Argentina, when you were 20 years old, you had to go into military service. There was a conscription. CBA: Was Juan Peron in power at the time? José: You’re right, Peron was President when I was a soldier in the army. I left the service a year before the coup d’etat [that ousted Peron]. CBA: Did you enjoy doing comic book work from the start? José: Oh, yes! I loved it very much. After my first short story was published, I start working in the business. I did all kinds of things: stories about pilots and guys fighting gangs. It’s a funny thing: in those days we did comics in Argentina but the names of the characters were all American. I did a character who was a pilot whose name was Terry Atlas. I did another character who was a detective called Tony Macket. All English or American names. It was funny. CBA: Did you enjoy the work of Milton Caniff, Hal Foster and Alex Raymond? José: Oh yes, of course. In Argentina, we used to say there were two great schools of comic strip art: Realistic and the more cartoony, represented by Raymond on the realistic end and Caniff on the more cartoony side. There were guys following Raymond and guys following Caniff. And after that, I started developing my own style, losing the influence of my teacher. I was a great admirer of Foster. I started following Raymond a little bit. Then I discovered Caniff, with all his black-&-white work, and I liked that very much. I’m pretty sure that it’s true in Europe, that they consider the two best American cartoonists to be Raymond and Caniff. CBA: No doubt. José: Hal Foster, of course, was another great cartoonist who I admire personally. Many of my friends also admire the work of Will COMIC BOOK ARTIST 23
Eisner as much as I. CBA: Were you able to see The Spirit down in South America? José: Oh, yes! On the wall of my studio, I’m looking at an Eisner piece as I’m talking to you. You know, every cartoonist wants to be a publisher. When I was a young fellow, after I was in the army, I asked my father for money, and I published four small magazines. One of those magazines reprinted pages of The Spirit which I bought from Will’s syndicate representative in Argentina. The word balloons are in Spanish. You know, they translated and lettered it in Spanish, of course. CBA: Now, when did you self-publish? José: During the political upheavals taking place over there at the time, people just didn’t have time to read comics. The printer also started delivering the books late because they had problems and then we decided to stop publishing. I don’t remember exactly when we started, or when we finished, but it was some time in 1956, ’57, ’58, around that time. CBA: What was the name of the magazine? José: Bazooka. It featured war stories. I would draw some of the stories as well as buy syndicated material. CBA: “Bazooka”? That’s an American name. José: Very American. I also liked Westerns, of course. I liked to draw cowboys. That magazine’s name was Far West. CBA: So you did about four issues apiece? José: Yes. And I also did one other title—which I don’t remember the name of—that was all detective stories. CBA: Did you enjoy publishing? José: Oh yes, because I was doing almost everything! From drawing to giving the printer the pages already laid out according to the position it would be in the printing machine to make it easier for them to fold and cut it. CBA: Pagination. What other artists did you work with in Argentina? José: In those days, Carlos Clemen did some of the work, a few covers.... CBA: Were any of your fellow cartoonists able to come to America? José: A friend of mine, Luis Dominguez, came to the States before me. We used to work together in some magazines. After that came José Luis Garcia-Lopez. CBA: Garcia-Lopez is a fantastic artist! José: A great artist. I don’t know why he’s not as famous as some others, but he is a great artist. CBA: Do you know him? José: Yes. Most of the guys who became famous went to Europe. CBA: To Barcelona in Spain? José: Yes, exactly. José Muñoz was one who became very popular in Europe. And in Italy, Ruben Sosa. We used to work together in a magazine that was published by a great writer, probably the best writer in Argentina, Hector Oesterheld. Are you familiar with Hugo Pratt? CBA: Of course! José: They did together several stories in Argentina. They did “Sergeant Kirk.” Pratt was doing the drawing, and Oesterheld was writing, and he did a character called Ernie Pike. The character was based on the famous war correspondent, Ernie Pyle. That title was revolutionary because the stories took different points of view. In one story, the hero would be Italian fighting for the Fascists, and others would star a German or Japanese or American or British or whoever. December 2002
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This approach was different because previously the stories told were always telling the story from the American or English perspective. CBA: Less propaganda, and more realistic? José: That’s right. I drew for Oesterheld. I did The Battle of Coral Sea. Then Hector took some guys in the business and gave a section of the book to each one. The part I did was from the point of view of the Japanese. I was going crazy trying to find reference for Japanese aircraft carriers because Oesterheld was intent on the stories being as authentic as possible. He didn’t want the artists faking anything. CBA: Like Harvey Kurtzman, a pain in the ass. [laughter] Did you always think about coming to America? José: I was always dreaming of coming to America. I always imagined coming to the United States to be a cartoonist. As Frank Sinatra would say, if I could make it in New York, I could make it anywhere! So I was always thinking about the U.S. I finally made it in 1965. CBA: Were you making good money in Argentina? José: I was making a good living, but the political situation made things very difficult. Army revolts, incredible inflation, etc.
Inset left: Could this be yet another exquisite portrait of a comic book artist at work by the talent photographer Greg Preston? José Delbo in his Florida studio. ©2002 the respective copyright holder.
Below: José Delbo drew about a zillion issues of Wonder Woman in the 1970s and into the ’80s, including this cover detail of WW #253 (Mar. ’79). Courtesy of the artist. ©2002 DC Comics.
There was a tremendously bad situation in Argentina with no tranquility. You would never know what would happen tomorrow. I had my two kids and said to my wife, “We cannot live like this any more. Even if I can get a good enough work, this is not the place to raise our children.” The comic business started to slow down, because people were worrying about more important things than comics. Besides, the people who were selling the books preferred to sell the more expensive, profitable magazines than the cheap comic books, because the profit margin was so much better. So the retailer would just return the comics unopened. The whole thing started to deteriorate, and was much different than when I started. Magazines started to close down, publishers went away, things like that. I needed to make a big decision, and that’s why we decided to come to the 79
No. 23, Dec. 2002 • $6.95 in the U.S.
COMIC BOOK ARTIST
JILL THOMPSON Under the Spell of
From Sandman to Scary Godmother
J I L L
T H O M P S O N :
F R O M
S A N D M A N
LIVES & WORK
T H E
Q U E E N
H A L L O W E ’ E N !
GREAT CARTOONISTS, WRITERS & EDITORS
CBA COMMUNIQUES: LETTERS, MISSIVES, CORRESPONDENCE, NOTES, CARDS,
A missive from the late John Buscema’s wife, Toth on his “lost” Enemy Ace story, and more! ........................2-B MICHELLE’S MEANDERINGS: THE ADVENTURES
You think Demi Moore was the first female counterpart of that “Real American Hero”? Think again!............4-B CBA’S SPOOKY THOMPSON SPECIAL JILL THOMPSON INTERVIEW: SCARY GODMOTHER
Joe McCabe talks with the artist about her work, from Sandman to the undisputed Queen of Hallowe’en! ....6-B THE MAGIC
MIKE MIGNOLA: FROM HELLBOY
Editor/Designer JON B. COOKE Publisher
For the love of Mike, CBA gives the artist the full treatment: Interview, portfolio and checklist! ................Flip us! COMIC BOOK ARTIST™ is published 10 times a year by TwoMorrows, 1812 Park Drive, Raleigh, NC 27605, USA. 919-833-8092. Jon B. Cooke, Editor. John Morrow, Publisher. Editorial Office: P.O. Box 204, West Kingston, RI 02892-0204 USA • 401-783-1669 • Fax: 401-783-1287. Send subscription funds to TwoMorrows, NOT the editorial office. Single issues: $9 postpaid ($11 Canada, $12 elsewhere). Six-issue subscriptions: $36 US, $66 Canada, $72 elsewhere. All characters © their respective owners. All material © their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter © their respective authors. ©2002 Jon B. Cooke/TwoMorrows. Cover acknowledgement: Photograph of Jill Thompson by Dan (Dano) Martin of Chicago, Illinois. First Printing. PRINTED IN CANADA.
JOHN & PAM MORROW Assistant Editor GEORGE KHOURY Associate Editors CHRIS KNOWLES DAVID A. ROACH CHRISTOPHER IRVING Contributing Editors ROY THOMAS JOHN MORROW Cover Photography DAN MARTIN, Chicago, IL
Jill Thompson and From Sandman to Scary Godmother, a conversation with one Conducted and transcribed by Joe McCabe
Below: Before Scary Godmother made it into print, the artist dressed up as her beloved character. Courtesy of Jill Thompson.
Jill Thompson is one of the most vivacious and enthusiastic people in the comics field, both an extraordinary talent and savvy professional. After a stint in the independent funny book world—as penciler on The Elementals and Classics Illustrated, to name two—she rose through the ranks at DC Comics as artist on such disparate titles as Wonder Woman and Sandman. The artist has since branched out into creator-owned territory with her eminently kid-friendly and charming Scary Godmother (the title character based, this editor is convinced, on the writer/artist herself, if at least visually), published by Sirius Entertainment, as well taken a successful foray into children’s book illustration. Always a captivating presence at Wizard World, Comic-Con International: San Diego, as well as the Pittsburgh convention (where this interview took place earlier this year), Jill is a longtime Chicago resident where she lives with husband and celebrated comics writer Brian (100 Bullets) Azzarello. She copy edited the final transcript. Comic Book Artist: Why comics? Jill Thompson: I don’t know. That’s a strange question because I get asked that by people who are not into comics a lot. I started reading comics and I never stopped. It wasn’t something that I decided at 13 years old to pick up, it was something that I had read from the time I could read—comic strips, comic books. They spoke to me immediately as the medium I wanted to tell stories in. I like the mixture of pictures and prose. Though I love to read everything and I was a voracious reader when I was in school, I never said, “Okay, I’m going to sit down and write a novel.” Though I did write a lot of stories, I tended to just do comics stories, about anything and everything, starting out, of course, with my variation on Snoopy, which was just called B Dog. CBA: Was that the first comic you created? Jill: Hmmm, I guess it is. I was always drawing stuff, but that’s probably the first comic strip I wrote and drew and lettered and everything. When I was little I announced to the world (my family ) that I was going draw Snoopy when I grew up. And my mom gently pointed out to me—”Well, you can’t draw Snoopy when you grow up, because you’ve already see him in the newspaper. That means somebody else draws him.” I said, “Okay,” and I drew my own, which was the letter B, with a little dot on the front and an ear on the back and a tail on the back. It was B Dog. He had a spot on his back too, so he looked like the letter B drawn with a Snoopy costume on it. And then I started drawing Archie comic ripoffs. I drew all the kids in the neighborhood as teenagers—I aged them and myself as well. The story was based on my brother Steven and this little girl, Elise, that lived down the street who
had a crush on him. She’d chase him around the block shouting, “My lovable husband!” and try to tackle him and kiss him. At his age— around six—it was “Eww! Girl germs! Get away from me! Me and Davey Johnson have to go put football helmets on our heads and run into the tree and see who will fall over first!”—that kind of thing. But I figured when Steven and Elise grew up, if we lived on the same block, they would probably go out on dates like Archie and Betty. So I would always draw stories about us grown up, and it was pretty much based on that little girl Elise. It was her comic, and everyone else was the co-star, and she was always trying to “get” my brother with her crazy schemes.
The natural progression of my comics interests goes like this: Peanuts in the newspaper—Peanuts pocket books— Archie comics—Marvel comics—all other comics. With some of my biggest artistic influences being the artists who worked for Archie Comics, like Bob Bolling, who did Little Archie—which now I really see coming out in some of my stuff; but I never did before—and Dan DeCarlo. Those people were big influences on me, especially DeCarlo. His work is so amazing. It looks like it took no effort at all to draw it, like it just flowed out of the ink pen or something. CBA: I guess Little Archie found its way into your Little Endless work. Jill: You know, now that I think about it, the line quality of the brush that I use and the way that they’re kind of cute but kind of regularlooking at the same time… that’s similar to the old Little Archie stories. CBA: You like to draw things that are cute and cuddly? Jill: Not more than any other type of thing. If the cute fits, draw it. They’re adorable in a more comfortable way for me, and I know COMIC BOOK ARTIST 23
the Joy of Comics of the most talented woman cartoonists in the comic book field some people would never be able to look at them, because they’re not into that cutesy type of thing, but I don’t think they’re cute in the same way the Care Bears are cute—saccharin-cute. And I’m doing more children’s-book type stuff, but because my work is usually covered in monsters, it’s a kind of fineline between cute and scary. CBA: It would seem to reach a wider audience that way?
Jill: Yes. Well, just that kind of sensibility. Cute enough for the moms to like it, but off-kilter enough for me. The kind of monster stuff I like to see. CBA: What kind is that? Jill: While I do like horror movies, I’m not into gore. I know there’s a time and a place for it which is fine, but I like things that are more classic; I like to collect skeleton stuff and skulls [showing skull ring and big skull belt-buckle]. But they have to be—I don’t know, simpler, I guess. Like Day of the Dead and that whole deal. But sometimes peoDecember 2002
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ple think all I like is skulls, so sometimes fans will send me gifts—and I don’t necessarily understand a lot of them—but things such as skulls with snakes coming out of their mouths, or vampirey teeth ones with blood and eyes dripping out of them. It’s very cool, the amazing sculpture and stuff, but that’s not going to go on my mantle, but the Day of the Dead skeletons will, and the cool carved skeleton from Thailand that I’ve got that’s four- or five-feet tall. He’s wonderful, but I don’t need the one that’s got the intestines hanging out of it. I love to go to the Haunted House and see that kind of stuff, but my scary-monster stuff that I draw is iconoclastic, because they’re kind of variations on icons. CBA: The Scary Godmother and her friends are good examples of that. Jill: Yeah, exactly. The spooky feel is there, but Scary Godmother isn’t going to disembowel anyone in an intricate two-page spread. The closest I’ve gotten to gross right now is a children’s book I’m working on called Magic Trixie which is kind of like “the Little Rascals if they were monsters,” this little group of monster kids. And there’s a little Frankensteinish monster kid that’s all stitched together; he carries everything in his belly because he’s got a zipper attached to his belly-button, which has this button on it, because he’s been stitched together by the scientist. And all of the other kids take advantage of him, by shoving things in his stomach. They’re like, “Hold this for me!” And he’s like… [sighs] Or they get mad because they’re running and he can’t keep up because his feet have fallen off and he’s got to lace them up to his ankles, and they’ll say, “Stitch, will you tie those things in a double knot, please!?” CBA: So this is being published ? Jill: If I have anything to say about it. I hope it will. I love all the characters. They’re fun and enjoyable to draw. My agent is shopping it around to book publishers as we speak, so maybe by the time this sees print, we’ll have an interested party. CBA: You went to the American Academy of Art. What was that experience like? Jill: It was a trade school, a commercial art school. The Chicago Art Institute was a fine arts program. We had fine arts at our school, but we were prepared to get a job in advertising or illustration—freelance work—but the Art Institute was more interested in teaching you about art history and fine arts. I think the ratio of people that went to the Art Institute versus the ratio of people that went to my school who are actually working in the field they want to work in—it’s probably a greater ratio at the American Academy of Art then it is at the Art Institute. And if you wanted to draw comics, no one cared about you. They hated you at both schools. [laughs] Chris Ware went to the Art Institute, and he said that when people found out that he liked and wanted to illustrate comics, it was “Pooh, pooh, pooh. What are you doing in this school?” Guess what: Chris is more successful than any of the people that you have going to your school. [laughs] CBA: Chris is winning all these awards, and other folk from his school are probably designing soup labels.
Above: The comic book creator as a tyke. Courtesy of Jill Thompson.
Inset left: Detail of the good witch and her god child, Hannah Marie, from the first Scary Godmother children’s book. ©2002 Jill Thompson. 7-B
Above: After George Pérez decided to stop drawing Wonder Woman, though still writing the series, Jill Thompson was brought on board to pencil. This splash page detail is from the 50th issue (Jan. ’91). Inks by Romeo Tanghal. ©2002 DC Comics.
Inset right: Pals Jill Thompson and P. Craig Russell smile for the camera. Craig was a great help to the young artist, and was assisted in turn when Jill would pose for reference photos to be used in the production of his opera adaptations. Courtesy of Jill Thompson. 8-B
Jill: Well, those are the people from my school, they’re designing the soup labels. [laughs] It’s all about advertising and computers there now, I guess. I like the Art Institute, but I always thought, I need to go to the American Academy of Art for the technical stuff. If I want to learn about art history, I can go to the library, or I can go to the Art Institute afterwards, because my school didn’t have BFAs or anything like that. We had Associates degrees, two- or three-year degrees, but at the Art Institute you could get a Bachelors, go to school and become an historian or a restorer. There’s a lot of really cool stuff that comes from the Art Institute. I appreciate it now, but at the time I was in school, as a teenager, there was a big rivalry: artistés versus illustrators. CBA: So, did your family approve of your becoming an artisté? Or an illustrator? Jill: My family was always supportive of my becoming anything I wanted to be. I was lucky. I can’t ever remember an instance of them trying to push me towards another career choice. You know, like some parents who want their kid to be a lawyer or doctor or whatever. Lots of students at my school were there without the support of their families. And, by that I mean, their folks put up with it, but thought the students were wasting their time and would have preferred their kids to be doing something else. I guess you can chalk that up to the “starving artist” stereotype. Which, most of the time I guess, isn’t a stereotype. I just knew I wanted to draw comics for a living and they wanted me to be successful doing what I wanted to do. My parents definitely read more comics than the average parent. CBA: They liked comics, too? Jill: They liked my comics. I was always foisting the stories I made up on them to read. I was a one-woman publishing house, with a readership of three or four, depending on who was home. My dad worked downtown in Chicago and he would bring me new comics every Friday that he bought at the newsstand. He read some on the EL train home, but I don’t think he bought them for himself, really. Oh, wait! When I was really into Archie Comics, there were some
Marvel Comics in the bag every once in a while, so I guess he did get a few on occasion. I read those much later, because at the time I thought those were “scary” comics. CBA: “Scary”? How so? Jill: Oh, I don’t know. They looked more “realistic” and the guys were always screaming and in the midst of some battle. And there were those Kirby energy bubbles all over. As a young girl, they fit into the House of Mystery or House of Secrets category. I had read a couple of those somewhere and they were designed to be creepy, so I equated all comics that weren’t Archie-type comics as scary. Which is funny, because I wish I had all of those creepy comics now. CBA: I’d like to switch gears for a moment and ask how working with a major publisher like DC compares with working with smaller, independent publishers? Jill: When I was just working for DC as a penciler, I was younger and I was really precious about what I was doing for them, and I still am because I really care about the work that I do. But when you do work-for-hire, it’s a completely different situation than when you do your own work. But it’s all comic books, and we should all be happy that there’s a great diversity of comic books. Yes, if there’s only one kind, if there was only mainstream comics.... The sales might not be the best right now in this industry, but in terms of subject matter and diversity in comics, it’s probably the best I’ve ever seen it. Working for a larger publisher like DC obviously pays better, but working for a smaller company might afford you larger creative control. I like working for both at different times for different reasons. I’d rather have the control with the larger paycheck… [laughs] but I’m doing pretty well in both arenas. CBA: The first time I was exposed to your work was in Wonder Woman. Was that your first professional gig? Jill: Well, “professional,” as in “I got paid to do it,” was in a comic called Just Imagine Comix and Stories. It was a small anthology comic. Oh, man, that’s what I could have used in my Harvey speech—“My first professional work was published in an anthology, therefore I am presenting the anthology award.” Geez! I presented the [Harvey] anthology award the other night, and right now is the only time that I’m making the correlation! “My first work was in an anthology and this is a good way for people to be exposed to the medium and get their work exposed.” Shoot. I was in high school at the time, and I had met some people at a comic book convention and become friends with them, and ended up working for them because they also had a retail business at conventions. I worked the table, but most of the day, they let me take my sketchbook to Artist’s Alley and meet all the artists. We were at a convention in Michigan one time and they needed four more pages for an anthology comic they had done, they were short. There was a character that Tom Artis had created called Banana Man, just as a laugh. He was this super-hero with a giant banana on his head and bananas on his belt, just kind of a goof. They came out with all these banana jokes and strung them together and I drew them all out with a thread of a story in them, and went around to the artists at the convention and had them each ink a panel. And whatever wasn’t inked at the convention, someone else inked later. It was just filler. That was my first professional job. Then they ended up having me do a couple more parodies with Banana Man. I saw one yesterday that someone had, so that person was probably the most thorough collector of my art. I look at it and say, “God, it’s so bad,” but its still kind of funny. And there’s one unpublished Banana Man story that was a spoof of Superman II— COMIC BOOK ARTIST 23
never a time where you sat down at the table and thought, I don’t know how to draw this, because it was written for you. I have two pages that I kept from one scene at the very end of that arc, when Dream has to kill his son. Everything else is gone—anyone that wants Sandman pages is going to have to buy them off someone else, because it was ten years ago and I have no more Sandman pages except these two. One is the page where Abel is building himself a large, Rube Goldberg kind of contraption to sit on because it’s raining and raining and Dream is so sad because his love has left him, and it’s flooding the Dreaming. It was very Winnie-the-Poohesque; and that was when I knew that Neil and I completely meshed on this collaboration. He would sometimes suggest styles that things should be drawn in—references to, or an homage to, a certain illustrator; but when he wrote this scene there was no reference to anything, and all I could think of was Winnie-the-Pooh: ”And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down, and the rain came down, down, down.” And I thought, I want to draw this in the style of the Winnie-the-Pooh illustrator, Ernest Shepard, so I looked at my Winnie-the-Pooh books and I started drawing in that style. Of course, I didn’t ink it, so I don’t know if it completely translated, but I mentioned to [inker] Vince Locke that this is what I was looking at and this is what I wanted it to look like. I would fax Neil Xeroxes of my pencils, and when Neil got these pages, he said that was exactly what he had been thinking of when he wrote that scene, and it was quite extraordinary that I picked it up without him mentioning it. I have that page and I’ve got the page where Dream has finished washing his hands after he has had to kill his son, and he’s sitting in his chair in his white, white room, and he’s weeping, because that’s how I felt when I had to stop drawing Sandman. I remember drawing that thing—and I was sick as a dog—feeling horrible—and feeling horrible—saying, “I wish I could keep drawing this, it’s the easiest (not easiest as in there’s no effort) and the best job I probably will ever have. It’s fun, it’s great, it’s easy, and it makes a lot of royalties.” [laughs] I remember begging him a couple of times, saying, “Please, please let me draw this. I’ll draw it until it’s over, and it will be on time every single month.” He said, “I can’t do it. I’ve promised arcs to other people.” He has mentioned he wished he could have let me draw the rest of it. CBA: I know I would not have minded. Jill: It was so easy, and I would love to draw another one. That Delirium mini-series he’s been promising me for ten years now, [laughs] I would really like to collaborate with him on that. It would be interesting to see how we would work together now, with so much time and distance between working relationships. I work completely differently now. My style is different, but when I draw Sandman would it be the same? Would I fall back into that comfortable drawing style, like the way I draw Sandman at conventions? It’s weird, you’d think that I’d draw him like Scary Godmother, because that’s how I draw now. But when I draw Sandman, Sandman looks a certain way, and my arm just must naturally go back to that Sandman-drawing, and Deathdrawing, where there’s a little of the influence of Scary Godmother, but this is how Sandman looks to my arm. This is how it’s supposed to happen. CBA: Were you ultimately satisfied with the inking, with Vince Locke? Jill: Ultimately? No. Comfortably? Yes. And originally? Shocked, because at the time my pencils were very tight, and Vince is very loose. I love Vince’s work, and I love that style, but there were instances during Sandman where I would ink things myself. I would ink entire pages, like that page I was just mentioning with Sandman crying. I inked three or four pages of that, because I wanted these certain scenes, because I wantDecember 2002
COMIC BOOK ARTIST 23
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ed their faces to retain these little subtleties that no one has ever picked up on except me. There are exceptions: Al Gordon has inked my convention sketches and there was a slight nuance that other people would have inked over, but it remained. Terry Austin, too, on a pin-up, but I was a teenager then, so that was the hugest thrill. He was such a professional, he could make anybody look good; but the little tiny facial subtleties totallyMIGNOLA kept. There were things that Vince #23: he MIKE Exhaustive MIGNOLA interview, huge fussy art gallery never- I thought, wasn’t getting completely; and being and(with younger, seen art), and comprehensive checklist! On the flip-side, a ca“Oh my!” I didn’t know how to get my point across. I was friends reer-spanning JILL THOMPSON interview, plus tons of art, and studies of Jilland by ALEX RUDE,allP. the CRAIG RUSSELL, with Steve Rude, he ROSS, wouldSTEVE do that time and then write and more! Also, interview with JOSÉ DELBO, and a talk with aucritical comments in the borders like, “You have to learn how to draw thor HARLAN ELLISON on his various forays into comics! New a face,” MIGNOLA or “You’re an artist. HELLBOY cover!You must be an artist before you can be an inker,” which I totally agree magazine) with, but$6.95 I would never insult my (106-page $3.95 working with me while I inker knowing they were(Digital goingEdition) to continue http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_56&products_id=539 was doing so. So sometimes I would just ink things and send them in. I never said, “I inked that. I should get paid for it.” I wanted this certain scene to be all mine. It was selfish of me I suppose, but I thought Vince and I worked well together. We liked each other. We liked each other’s work; we worked together when we were like “What will we do with all these pages?” “Sell them of course.” And we’d say, “Well, what will we sell them for?” I’d say, “I don’t know. Ask Neil, he’ll know.” And Neil would say to us, “Well, Mike Dringenberg says he gets this much money for them. So at the very least you should
Above: Bob Fingerman (creator of the fabulous alt comic Minimum Wage) drew this SG pin-up featuring Jill and her husband, comics writer Brian “100 Bullets” Azzarello (with cigar). ©2002 Bob Fingerman. Below: Another Jill Thompson kids’ book cover. ©2002 Uglytown Productions.
From Hellboy and back, we cover the magic of Mike Mignola with an exhaustive interview (with the talk ranging from his early Marvel days to...