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M O D E R N

M A S T E R S

V O L U M E

T H I R T E E N :

JERRY ORDWAY

Captain Marvel, Shazam TM & Š2007 DC Comics.

By Eric NolenWeathington


Modern Masters Volume Thirteen:

JERRY ORDWAY

Table of Contents Introduction by Geoff Johns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Part One: All You Need is a Little Incentive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Part Two: Keep ’em Flying—the Pages That Is . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Part Three: To Infinity Inc.... and Beyond! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Part Four: He’s an Artist! He’s a Writer! It’s Superman! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 Part Five: It’s All about Family... the Marvel Family . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 Part Six: Marvel, Alan Moore, and the McCarthy Era . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 Part Seven: Storytelling and the Creative Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90 Art Gallery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97


Part 1:

All You Need is a Little Incentive

MODERN MASTERS: You were born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and you were born in November of ’57?

college by the time I really had much memory of him. He came home on school breaks and I remember him working as a coach at the local playgrounds in the summertime. It was a bonus because he was driving, and took us places, almost like an uncle would. My brother Joel, who is two years older than I am, shared a room with me growing up, and we’re still pretty close, even though he now lives in North Pole, Alaska. Growing up in Wisconsin, they were both fishermen and hunters, which I really never was. I liked to draw, and read comics.

JERRY ORDWAY: Yeah. I was a Thanksgiving baby. MM: Was it really on Thanksgiving? JERRY: It really was. My mother, a single mom, raising myself and my two brothers. She ran a tavern as kind of a home business, basically, because we lived in the back of it, and she usually did a big Thanksgiving dinner for all the customers. Most of the customers were retired guys and old war veterans and stuff, and they were regulars and a lot of them were there from 7:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night, so she would generally feed them, as well. But she had a big Thanksgiving spread. And the story that I always heard was that she had the bar open all day, prepared and served turkey dinners to a couple dozen people, and then washed the dishes and cleaned up after this whole thing before she called my Aunt Mary to drive her to the hospital. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it on time and a couple of Milwaukee’s Police helped deliver me. It’s probably the only time I was ever early for anything. [laughter]

MM: Did either of them read comics at all? JERRY: Yeah, my brother Mike was of the age that he read stuff during the ’50s, but it was also during the EC scare—the Congressional hearings and all that. I heard his complaints many times that he was only allowed to read Classics Illustrated and maybe Gold Key. When he got older and dumped comics, he still had a box of comics in the basement of my aunt’s house, and unfortunately there were no super-hero books except for two. One was Superman 3-D, and the other one was Captain 3-D, the Kirby 3-D book. The rest were Classics Illustrated, so I was kind of disappointed. My brother Joel and I probably both discovered comics around the same age. When we were pretty young we used to get bags of coverless comics and beat-up comics from this friend of our family—mostly Superman and Batman. They were pretty worn out, but I know we pored over them before my mom probably tossed them out. We really got into it later though, when the Marvel Superheroes cartoon was on TV,

MM: So you had two brothers. Older brothers? JERRY: Yes, both of them. My oldest brother Mike is 15 years older than me, so there’s a big gap there. My brother Mike was effectively away at 6


around 1966. He and I both used to run home from school to watch that. We discovered the comics later, as an offshoot of that. MM: So you didn’t really become a Marvel-head until later in the game? JERRY: Well, with the giveaway comics that we got, I think I was too young to really register much about them except to recognize Superman and Batman, and I don’t think I was really at a reading age at that point. I was maybe four or five, and not totally absorbing it. When Marvel Superheroes came around, I was closer to eight years old, seeing them on TV first with all the action, and like, “Wow! Cool characters!” My brother really liked Thor, and I liked Captain America and Iron Man, so it was a progression from there. And a lot of stuff happened in ’66, too, because the Batman TV show came on. A lot of people hate the show, but I loved it. I was the right age for it. And I think it helped comics a lot, because it brought comics back into the vocabulary for a while, with Adam West as Batman appearing on the cover of Life or Look magazine. MM: At what point did you start paying attention to the credits in the comics? JERRY: Oh, I think when we first got the Marvels on a train trip to Colorado. We were going to my older brother’s graduation from college in May of 1967. We were heading to the train station to take a train to Denver—it was an overnight train ride. My mother handed us a dollar and we went to the Milwaukee train station lobby, the little gift shop, and found a dollar’s worth of 12¢ Marvel comics. I took a chance on Spider-Man and Daredevil, who were not on the TV show, but they looked interesting. Thor. I think Fantastic Four, even. And then we really fell in love with them on that train ride. We read them over and over. With Spider-Man I just really zeroed in on Stan Lee and John Romita. MM: What are your earliest memories of drawing? Were you drawing before you got into the comics? JERRY: Yeah, I think I was always somebody who used to draw. I was always into craft stuff when I was a little kid. When I was in first or second grade, the teacher asked us to write about, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I wanted to be a clown or a race car driver. [laughter] I never heard the end of that. [laughter] Whenever I was misbehaving and making my mom mad, she’d say, “This is the little clown who’s going to make me laugh?” MM: How long did you hang onto that dream? [laughter] JERRY: Honestly, I don’t know. That would probably have been ’63, ’64, something like that. If you didn’t want to be a race car driver, you probably wanted to be an astronaut. The local TV stations that ran Marvel Superheroes—because it was a syndicated show—a lot of cities ran contests during the show. Kids would send in drawings, and you could be entered to win a bicycle. There were three age groups, and I was in the youngest 7

Previous Page: A 1990s reimagining of Jerry’s childhood creation, Proton. Above: Jerry (sitting) and older brother Joel in their finest cowboy regalia ordering up sarsaparillas at their mother’s tavern. Left: Jerry (age 8 or 9 here) stands guard outside his mother’s tavern. Proton ™ and ©2007 Jerry Ordway.


Right: One of Jerry’s favorite characters— Captain America—in a 2007 commission piece. Below: The Acrobat was Jerry’s very first creation (way back in 1969). Next Page: Jerry’s cover art for Okay Comics #1 and #2 (both from 1975)—the only two issues Jerry and friend, Dave Koula, published. These black-&-white comics were printed on 8-1/2" x 11" sheets, which were then stapled and folded in half. Acrobat, Proton ™ and ©2007 Jerry Ordway. Captain America ™ and ©2007 Marvel Characters, Inc.

age group. I’m sure I sent in more than one drawing. During the show, maybe once a week they would have a little gallery where the TV host would have the camera pan across the winning drawings for that week, and my brother and I would sit there and make fun of the drawings, because we were totally superior. [laughter] “Oh, look at that one, that’s terrible. How can that win?” And here we were, really making fun of these drawings, and then he says, “And in the youth category, Jerry Ordway.” I said, “Wait a minute!” I had drawn a Thor, and had forgotten to draw the wings on his helmet and his cape, or something like that. I didn’t win the grand prize, but every winner in each category got a dollar, and I remember being very thrilled with a crisp, brand-new dollar bill arriving in an envelope from Channel 18. MM: You said you were more into certain characters. Was there a point where you started following creators from book to book? I guess with Marvel it was mostly Kirby, anyway. JERRY: In the period that I started, on the main books, Spider-Man was always John Romita. I believe John Buscema had taken over Avengers around that time, so there were steady guys, and those were the guys that I really learned to love, all the way across the board. My least favorite book was probably the one with Sub-Mariner and the Hulk. I didn’t care as much for it, but I still bought it. I loved Iron Man, I loved Captain America, I loved The Avengers, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Thor. Fantastic Four was kind of like, enh; I wasn’t that into it at the time because it almost seemed too science-fictiony for my taste, you know, the sophisticated taste of an eight- or nine-year-old. But, yeah, I knew all the artists. I was impressed with Gene Colan, I was impressed with John Romita, I was impressed with John Buscema, and Kirby. Nobody seemed to draw those guys like he did. I used to sit down and look at the cover and go side-by-side and try to make my own version of the cover on Manila paper with markers, or pencils with markers—whatever I had handy. I did that for several years. I remember having the neighbor kids, friends of mine, be impressed. “Oh, wow, look how good you did that!” The people in my mom’s tavern would of course see that art, and the first question they would ask is, “Is that drawing freehand, or did you trace it?” So I was always very conscious of the fact that real art had to be drawn freehand and not traced, which I found out later was not the case when I got into commercial art. Everybody traced! [laughter] MM: At what point did you start drawing your own stories? JERRY: I have a whole pile of stuff that I did, my own characters, when I was around that age. Everybody’s got their own really stupid characters. I had Rubber Man, which was probably 8


pointers and stuff, but no work. But he did give us a big pile of Xerox copies of pencils. It was whatever was current at that point—George Tuska, Jack Kirby Machine Man, a couple of John Byrne Marvel Team-Ups—so we were happy with that, even though we were disappointed. Meanwhile, Steve Clement had gotten us an appointment to visit DC and have our work reviewed there, so we still had the afternoon at DC, where I got a portfolio review by Vince Colletta. MM: He was the art director at that point. JERRY: Yes. I showed him finished art for a Messenger story I had done, which eventually saw print in Bill Black’s Americomics in 1983. Anyhow, Vince kept asking me for pencil samples. He was saying, “Go home and bring me some pencils.” I’m like, “Well, I live a little bit away—in Wisconsin.” “Well, I can’t judge this. It’s all inked.” And I said, “Well, can you judge the inks?” “No, I’m only looking at pencils.” I was very disappointed and perplexed, really. I mean, he was an inker. After that trip, I came home and decided that comics didn’t want me, so I would get into commercial art. I started drawing stuff that I thought looked like commercial art samples, and then made an appointment with an ad executive at Hoffman-York, which was the biggest firm there at the time. Really gutsy, and stupid because I didn’t know anything about anything. I made an appointment with the head guy, who actually saw me. He was very nice. He looked at my work which was still very comic book looking, and mentioned his love of Prince Valiant when he was a kid, and how my work reminded him of that. He saw a bit of himself in me. He had no job there, but knew of a place looking for someone to do photostat work at an art studio in downtown Milwaukee, and that it was the type of job where I could work my way up. So I switched jobs and went into the art studio. I worked in the darkroom department for, like, four months, while the regular guy, an old-timer recovering from a stroke, would supervise me. The guy, Frank Helfert, was about 5' tall, with a George Gobels look, and an ever-present cigar clenched in his teeth, had loss of control in his right arm,

so I became his hands, basically. The darkroom had no ventilation fans, and some horrendous smelling chemicals which were hard to avoid. Everyone joked that when Frank started work there he was my height, 6' 3", but the constant exposure shrank him down. [laughter] Eventually, as Frank’s arm recovered full mobility, I worked my way up to a little office in the bullpen. When it was slow, they’d let me practice on stuff, and when it was busy I sometimes got to pitch in on doing layout roughs, ad comps, and things like that. That was really my college, my education. A lot of good illustrators were there, and I started working with color, and the medium that most of these guys used for their stuff was Dr. Marten’s dyes, the watercolor dyes. They worked on giant boards, really heavy-duty illustration board in pencil, with a watercolor wash, which dried fast, perfect for ad work. I would go home on a weekend and I do two or three of these watercolor-type paintings. Then I’d bring them in to work Monday, and the old timers would come in and critique them. I mean, they were pretty brutal, but I needed it at that point. They hammered away at all the stuff that I didn’t pay attention to in high school about color values and warm and cool, and all that stuff. Little by little, I learned. I mostly did watercolors and acrylic and things like that, and worked my way up in the studio after a year to the point where I got to do some coloring books. I guess the first project was a DC super-heroes coloring book for Western Publishing, which was a local client in Wisconsin. I did maybe 30 pages of fun-&-games— find the stars on Wonder Woman’s costume, connect the dots, and all that type of stuff. And it went over really well. 15


Part 2:

Keep ’em Flying— the Pages, That Is

MM: You shared a studio with Machlan and Vey while you were in Wisconsin, right?

ence was really not very good, because a picture would turn black, so all you really got were silhouettes and tantalizing bits of details. But it was clear once I started getting these that the detail was going to be up to me. Rich Buckler, while he was really good and he was doing really good super-hero stuff, he was on the clock, so to speak. He had a book set in the 1940s, but he wasn’t really referencing beyond what Roy had given him, and he wasn’t too careful about it, either. In the preview that ran in Justice League there’s a scene where a mysterious figure, who turns out to be Robotman, is seen wandering around Washington, DC. And in this one shot Rich had found a picture of the World War II Memorial, which he drew as a big element in this page. I get this page, and there’s a big note on the art that says, “War Memorial not there yet because this is 1942.” [laughter] So it was like, “Oh, I guess that’s up to me.” That’s what that was like. I mean, Roy would ask for changes, and it was stuff like “change Robotman into Liberty Belle.” That wasn’t the type of thing that you would do as an inker. That’s penciling. And that was from the git-go, that was the deal. But here’s the worst part: On that preview, I busted my butt, and I was totally scared, and I was totally panicky about the whole thing, but I did the best I could. I would talk to Len Wein because I didn’t know Roy Thomas, and Len was the editor. I turned in the first preview, Len loved it. He said, “Oh, great, beautiful. You did a great job and fixed things that needed to be fixed.” About a week before the first issue, I get a letter from Roy. I still have it. I’ve never really brought it up to him, but it was painful at the time. It had to be about six pages singlespaced of panel-for-panel critique of all the stuff that I did wrong. He started out by saying, “I had

JERRY: Right, we set up in the beginning of ’84 in a studio we called Jump Start Studios. That was kind of instigated because Pat Broderick had moved with his girlfriend from Florida to Milwaukee. She worked for the yellow pages company, the advertising company. He and I hooked up right away, and he was pretty aggressive about wanting to have a place outside of his house to draw in, so he was a good influence in that sense, that he pushed all of us to do a studio setup. Pat had worked at Continuity, and he was clearly better established than any of us. It was exciting, too, because Pat knew people that we didn’t, in the business. And it was fun to watch someone else draw, too, as I had been working in my Mom’s house previously. And, man, he was fast. He did a good job, but he didn’t linger on anything. If he had to do five pages in a day, he could do it. I was working on Infinity Inc., and then that led into Fantastic Four and then Crisis within that time at the studio. MM: With All-Star Squadron, what did you do for reference? Because you had to draw historical figures from time to time. JERRY: Oh, all the time. When Roy found out that I was the inker— boom!—the mail shows up, and there’s a box packed with Xeroxes of old comics. It was like he Xeroxed his whole collection with characters that might be needed, reference, whatever. He Xeroxed some of his military uniform books. Each script he sent would come with a little stack of Xeroxed reference, which was great and I certainly appreciated it, but Xeroxed refer18


hoped that Dick Giordano was going to be the inker on this thing.” So I’m immediately like, “Oh my God, I can’t compete with Dick Giordano.” It totally deflated me. I was feeling nervous, but still really good, and then suddenly it was like someone popped that balloon. This thing is hilarious now, but at the time it was like getting an F on a report card or something like that. I mean, it was a painful blow to my ego. I was used to success, especially when I applied myself, so it was really disheartening. MM: I assume you got paid more than a regular inker. JERRY: Yeah, I was being paid as a finisher, and the finishing rate was a couple dollars more than inks. MM: Just a couple? JERRY: Roy was always fair about this part of it. He really did work me hard, but he did say, “If DC won’t pay you extra, I’ll pay you out of my own pocket.” So it wasn’t like

money was a big issue, it was just that I felt like I was being called upon to do more and more. And the first issue of All-Star Squadron pages doesn’t arrive, and it doesn’t arrive, and it doesn’t arrive. And then I get a couple pages in the mail, and I’m thinking, “Okay, why am I getting these pages?” They were towards the end of the book. I found out that the first twelve pages had been lost by Federal Express; I never got the pages. I was like, “Well, what do I do?” “Well, we’ll send you copies of what Buckler did and you just ink it on vellum.” I never had practice inking on vellum. Vellum is tricky. If you put down brush lines and ink, it wrinkles. When I got the Xeroxes, I only had portions of Roy’s comments, because the Xerox would cut a half-inch off the margin of each side of the page. I had to reconstruct as best I could, and ink on the vellum, and it really was—I mean, it was just not great, coupled with the bad critique I got previously. By the second issue I felt like I was actually making some progress, and I think that there is a distinct jump in what I was doing 19

Previous Page: Commission drawing of The Tarantula. Above: This 2-page spread appeared in 1983’s The DC Sampler.

All-Star Squadron, Infinity Inc., Tarantula, and all related characters ™ and ©2007 DC Comics.


Next Page: Pencils from All-Star Squadron #24, introducing Infinity Inc. Below: Jerry almost got to pencil the Huntress after all. In 1985, he pitched a story pairing up the Huntress with the recently acquired Nightshade. But when Helena Wayne died in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Jerry’s story died along with her. All-Star Squadron, Huntress, Infinity Inc., Nightshade and all related characters ™ and ©2007 DC Comics.

from the first to the second issue. I think you could see that I at least was getting the hang of things. And I was able to use zip-a-tone and stuff on the real board that you can’t really use on the vellum. It was a nightmare way to start. Roy would still send these really long critiques, again, panel-by-panel, single-spaced. Each issue they got a little bit shorter, but they never went away. [laughter] At that point DC put me in a little box, typecast as a finisher but not a penciler. I was good enough to do finishes, but not good enough to be a penciler in their eyes. And I kept working at Len, and I.... You know, when you’re working on a 25-page book a month, you don’t have time to draw pencil samples. So I had sent Len a whole bunch of pencil samples I did just before I had gotten the DC work, of a character I came up with called Proton, which I was doing for myself, basically. I sent him these things, and he thought they had promise, but nobody wanted to upset the apple cart. Then Karen Berger asked me if I would ink the

20

“Huntress” back-ups that were running in Wonder Woman, which Joe Staton was drawing. When I first agreed to do it, I didn’t really want extra work, because at that point, 25 pages a month of that much detail and that many characters was really pretty hard to keep up with, and here I was adding seven or eight pages, maybe nine to my schedule. But I agreed to do it, and she had indicated that Joe wasn’t going to be on it that long. When he left, I could take over as penciler, and it would be a good transition. And I thought, “Well, that’s good, that’s something.” I think I did three of them, and I wound up talking to Joe Staton—I met him at a show or something—and I said, “Uh, when are you leaving ‘The Huntress’‚” And he said, “I’m not leaving.” “Okay, I am.” [laughter] MM: Was it upsetting for you when Rich left that they got Adrian Gonzales? JERRY: Yeah. I didn’t know any of this except I finally got a cover to do by Rich. I think it was for issue #6 with Hawkman. Len calls me up and says, “Rich is leaving the book.” And I


was like, “Oh.” And he goes on, “Uh... I hope you’re not going to leave, too.” And I’m like, “Uh, no, why would I?” And he says, “Oh, great.” [laughter] I didn’t know the business enough to know that a lot of people do that. It’s time to leave, you go do something else. After six issues, I was getting noticed by other people, and I did get some calls from editors, so I understand that maybe that’s your opportunity to bail or something, but not me, “Oh, no,” because I’m just hoping for steady work. Adrian’s artwork was really solid— he was clearly a good draftsman—but Roy had a lot of changes on the stuff. It was little stuff, but it was a lot of panels per issue that I wound up having to do something different, or he’d change a character and ask for something totally different. When Rich left, I then became the dominant art force on that thing. And that worked out. I think that helped my standing, as well, with DC, because I think they respected the fact that I stayed, and I think Len respected the fact that I was making the look of the book my own. Adrian’s work reminds me a little of [Ed] Barreto’s stuff, actually. MM: Yeah, I can see that. JERRY: The work itself was really more finished than what Rich was doing, but it lacked a little of the detail and stuff. Rich’s layouts were like scribbly pencils, but they at least indicated a little more rendering, so I think I got to imprint my style, as it was developing, over Adrian a little bit more because it was traditional layouts, with no rendering. There was more room to render and do Wally Wood-type lighting effects and things like that. I was really kind of desperate, because at that point I didn’t want to get used to the inking money, because I could ink faster than I could pencil. I didn’t want to get used to that income level, because I knew it could trap me into just inking. Meanwhile, for a side gig I kept pushing for pencils, pushing, pushing. Nothing happened. And then I got a call out of the blue from Ernie Colón, who was editing The Flash. He was looking for somebody to take over the “Creeper” back-up. He wanted me to pencil and ink it. I thought about it, and I said, “If I penciled and inked seven pages, the paycheck would be close to what I make

inking 20-some pages. It’d be at least close, plus it wouldn’t be that gigantic of a deadline if I really tanked on it.” So I said sure. And then I said, “But I’ll have to quit All-Star Squadron.” He goes, “Oh, well, I can’t be part of that.” So I called Len up, and I said, “Len, here’s the problem.” Len totally understood, and immediately said, “Why don’t you draw All-Star Squadron then?” I said, “Because All-Star Squadron isn’t looking for a penciler.” And he said, “It’s no problem. Adrian is taking over Arak, and I’ve got plenty of work for him. I don’t think he would mind at all.” I said, “Well, I don’t want to get somebody bumped off the book.” “No, no, no. Honestly, I would rather have you penciling the book.” So that’s how I got into penciling. And they gave me a couple months off to start up penciling on it. 21


Part 3:

To Infinity Inc.... and Beyond!

MM: Had you planned on being on Infinity Inc. for only a short period of time, or was that just kind of the way things happened?

what was selling in the direct market versus what was selling on the newsstand, and Titans was the benchmark we were going for. After a couple issues, honestly, I was just kind of disappointed and I was looking for a change. It’s hard, too, when you invest a lot in a group of characters like that over the ten issues that I did. I certainly felt like I’d developed the characters visually, and developed their powers, to some degree, too. We were still working plot-style, so there was a lot of input on the drawing side as far as how to set up a fight scene or some sequence like that. It wasn’t as simple as nowadays with a full script, where the writer really takes you all the way through what the characters are doing. In a case like this, it was, “Here’s pages 4-8: big fight. Let’s get something good for all the characters to do visually.” [laughter] You basically have to invent, and that’s what we did. With the Obsidian character, a lot of his specific powers were really not defined, whereas Jade was clearly more of a Green Lantern spin-off and could use her green power energy to create things like the Green Lantern had done. With Obsidian, the shadow stuff just kind of came out of nowhere. “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if the shadow kind of creeped up on the wall and it turned out to be him?” The powers kind of came out of finding visual ideas for the fights.

JERRY: No, Mike Machlan and I both had our contracts, and the contracts were written in a vague way to incorporate whether either of us would draw. Mike’s plan was that he was going to draw it and I was going to ink it, and then when that switched at the last minute and I started drawing it, we both had 12-issue contracts. It was open, certainly, to stay on another year or whatever, but my initial feeling was that the book wasn’t going in the direction that I thought it was going to go in, because the initial promise of Infinity Inc. was that it was going to be more akin to New Teen Titans than a traditional Justice Society book. And I think Roy did a lot more with that after we left. I don’t know if he just had this one story that he wanted to get out of the way and then move on beyond the Justice Society, but while we were there, all I was seeing was the same stuff that I drew in All-Star Squadron, and I was tired of it. Not that I didn’t like the characters, it just was.... Infinity was also our chance to grab a bigger audience and break into a wider audience like Titans had. Titans encompassed an audience that read X-Men, for example. I mean, Titans was DC’s best-selling title at that point. People were talking about

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But, like I said, I was ready for a change. And I wasn’t under an exclusive contract with DC, so I was getting a lot of inquiries from Marvel about my availability. I also had kind of a silly dispute. Looking back on it, it’s kind of funny, but I was trying to get a better page rate. I’d been working at DC for a couple years, and they weren’t willing to bump me up to that next rate level. I got an offer from John Byrne to ink Squadron Supreme, which he was going to be drawing with Mark Gruenwald, and I actually inked a promo piece that John drew that ran in the Marvel books as a teaser, which made it look like Marvel was going to do the Justice League “the right way.” It was a silhouette shot of all the characters, who were supposed to look like Superman and Hawkman and Wonder Woman and all that. While I was finishing up Infinity Inc., and after I had done that teaser thing, John left the Squadron Supreme project and asked me to ink Fantastic Four. And I went, “Ooh! Wow! That’s going to be hard to turn down.” And I know Mark Gruenwald was disappointed that I bailed on the Squadron Supreme, but at that point Byrne was my connection, and Mark really wasn’t, so I just followed John’s offer. And that was my first working experience with Mike Carlin, which was to become a long-term friendship. MM: So it was actually John that came to you, rather than one of the editors? JERRY: Exactly. I was pretty loyal to DC, and I felt like if I was getting my steady work from them, I couldn’t do more than a book a month, so I never really looked for trouble. But I had gotten some inquiries, and I know I had some scripts that were sitting in the studio as possible projects to do, but they had no deadline. I know one guy that I had a script from was Carl Potts. I also had a couple of scripts for What If?— a Kurt Busiek script and a Peter Gillis script—but Byrne’s Fantastic Four trumped all that. I agreed to do the six issues of inks on the Fantastic Four as a way to recharge my batteries. MM: Was that the first time you met John? Had you met him before that at all?

JERRY: I had never met him. I had sent him a letter when he’d first taken over the full art chores on Fantastic Four. He was inking it himself, and he was getting trashed in the fan press for, “Why isn’t Terry Austin inking him?” So I sent him a letter basically saying, “Good for you. Go for it. I like what you’re doing on it.” And that turned into a pen pal thing. We exchanged probably three or four letters over that year. To be honest, I never met John in person until I moved to Connecticut in ’87. All the Fantastic Four stuff was done with Mike Carlin as the middle-man. I really had no contact with John beyond that except to hear, “Oh, he liked it,” or, “He didn’t like this.” But going to Marvel and doing the Fantastic Four with Byrne was something 29

Previous Page: Unused pencils intended for the Infinity Inc. entry in 1991’s Who’s Who in the DC Universe #16. Above: Promotional art for the Squadron Supreme mini-series. Pencils by John Byrne. Infinity Inc. ™ and ©2007 DC Comics. Squadron Supreme ™ and ©2007 Marvel Characters, Inc.


where I knew right off the bat, “Wow, I’m going from a book that sells X number of copies to something that sells four times that.” On my part, I was going into this knowing that John Byrne was the leader and I was the support, so it was a good experience, because I knew I couldn’t overwhelm his pencils. I knew that my job was to just bring out the best in them. That was a good primer, in a way, for doing the Crisis stuff, too, because I was in a situation where the burden wasn’t on me, the sales burden wasn’t going to be on me, either. Both Byrne and Pérez were the draws. I was just there to make it look good.

Carlin, “Please have him do pencils. I’m fine with just doing inks.” I didn’t really want to do finishes, because I was afraid to alienate his fan base, y’know? And he didn’t need me, he was already selling; he was the top guy. I didn’t need to have somebody say, “Oh, yeah, Ordway’s ruining him,” or something like that. Looking back on those first two issues I think you see a little more of my rendering and my approach, because, again, there were no black areas. MM: From then on it was full pencils? JERRY: Yeah, after the witch story, which was the first two issues, then he went to full pencils. I don’t think it was a major thing for him, but I heard afterwards John had kind of wanted me to go to town on it, but I just wasn’t prepared to step into that at that point.

MM: Are you a fan of comic strips? Because in that first issue you inked, John had a lot of comic strip characters in there in disguise. JERRY: That was kind of funny when I first got those pages, because I recognized most of them, but there were a couple that I was a little fuzzy on. But he had little margin notes to explain who everybody was supposed to be. I originally was going to be inking pencils, and then the first two issues he did layouts. And I was kind of panicky when I got those. His layouts were very clean and very precise—it wasn’t sloppy stuff—but there were no blacks in it, and my fear was that I was going to lose his style. So after the second one, I just said to

MM: During that time, you inked three covers for Action Comics, and you also penciled and inked a Superman cover, pre-Crisis. JERRY: You know, I think I did some of the covers towards the end of my Infinity stuff. And DC tried to keep me. They didn’t want me to leave. And the funny thing is, the minute I agreed to do Fantastic Four and was off, I got a call from Pat Bastienne, who said, “Oh, Dick approved you to get top rate.” [laughter] You never can

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Part 4:

He’s an Artist! He’s a Writer! It’s Superman!

MM: What kind of lead time did you have on Adventures of Superman? At what point did you actually start working on it?

Machlan was going to be inking. Within the first couple months, there was major trouble. It was just an unfortunate situation, because there was clearly.... I wasn’t party to any friction between Marv Wolfman and John Byrne, but clearly there were some issues. I don’t know if Marv just didn’t like the idea of being subordinate, in a way, because Byrne was controlling the mythos at that point, or if it was something else, but plots were really slow coming. By the time I started on my second issue of Adventures of Superman, the first one was horribly late. Mike Machlan bowed out because it didn’t look good for him. He wasn’t a fast inker, and he wasn’t getting pages. He got through the first one, but by the second one there was nobody to ink it, so I inked it myself, which made it even later. That first year on Adventures of Superman was just painful. And, again, it was a bad time for Marv. I never really bonded with Marv. I never had any contact with Marv during Crisis, so we really didn’t have the benefit of, like, maybe he and George, where they were pals or whatever. All I knew was that I wasn’t getting plots, and when I was getting plots, they were not what I was

JERRY: I started in May of 1986, while I was doing the Fantastic Four stuff. I think the last thing I did was part of this big Fantastic Four anniversary issue, and during that time I remember getting photocopies of what Byrne was doing on Man of Steel. Andy Helfer was sending photocopies, and I knew I was going to be involved with one of the books, but I actually was expecting them to ask me to ink the Byrne Superman. But they said, “Oh, no, you’re going to be doing one of three books,” and the early word that I got was that Alan Moore was going to write the one I was going to draw, and I was like, “Whoa! Cool!” I really liked Swamp Thing, and I thought he was really good on Superman. But, of course, it turns out that this was wishful thinking on Andy Helfer’s part. He had a wish list of people that he wanted. Marv was also set up to be writing one of the books, so somewhere along the line I wound up being teamed up with Marv and Mike 37


Below: Pencils for the Gangbuster entry in DC’s Who’s Who. Next Page: An alternate sketch for the cover of Adventures of Superman #430, along with a Superman commission drawing. Gangbuster, Superman ™ and ©2007 DC Comics.

looking for. Out of that, my first plotting credit is the third Adventures of Superman, I believe. It’s the Legends crossover, with Superman on Apokolips. That was, I think, my first conversation on the telephone with Byrne. Basically Mike Machlan and Al Vey and I sat in the studio and I wrote out stuff longhand, and we plotted that issue out. While Mike was still on Adventures of Superman, actually, we created Gangbuster and plotted out that whole story arc, which we wound up using while Mike was still supposedly going to be inking the book.

We wanted to use Kirby’s Guardian, but we couldn’t, so we came up with Gangbuster instead. But it was definitely a book that was in need of ideas. Again, it was just an unfortunate situation that didn’t work out. That year with Marv—it’s nothing personal, because I didn’t know the guy—but it was a painful, painful year, because, from losing the lead time right off the bat, there was unbelievable pressure, because we weren’t allowed to have a fill-in. A fill-in during the first year of a book was, like, you were going to lose all the momentum. Nowadays, people do two issues and they get a fillin, but we had to make our way through that. And I think I did wind up getting a one-issue fill-in that Erik Larsen drew when I moved from Wisconsin to Connecticut. So I didn’t really get any time off. I moved over a weekend and had to set up shop in a new town, and I started working that Monday. It got better when I moved, because I was within hailing distance of DC Comics, and I was able to then go into the office, and I think that helped tremendously as far as getting my ideas.... I was getting a little more confidence, and I was getting a little more.... You take your frustrations and you apply it rather than complain, I guess. So I would take Marv’s plots and I would retype them and send them back to Helfer and Carlin. I was hoping for coplotting credit, but at that point I knew I wasn’t going to get it, because I was basically rewriting something that they’d already paid for. But there’s competition, and when you’re competing against Byrne... I didn’t want to be the weak link in that Superman chain. MM: Visually it looks like it probably took two or three issues for you to really get the feel of how you wanted your Superman to look. Am I looking at it correctly?

38


remember Beatty instigating me early on about, “You know, Jerry, you should make that Superman have a big jaw, give him that Fleisher look and blow Byrne’s version away.” So I started, little by little, making his jaw bigger and bigger, and it really got to the point where it was, like, “Okay, I’ve gone too far.” [laughter] It is funny, because you realize something like that when it becomes looking a little too buffoonish or cartoony looking. But some of the stuff that came out of the early issues with Marv, it’s kind of funny to look back on, because when the character of Bibbo came out of a story—

JERRY: Actually, I think it took longer than that. I guess you’d have to understand being in that situation. When I first started it, I was kind of following John’s cue as far as drawing Clark and Superman—I was trying to stay somewhat grounded with what he did, even though we had different styles. But I think after the first couple issues, when it became more competitive to me [laughs], I think that’s when I started playing more with the dimensions of Superman’s face. From my All-Star Squadron days, I always saw the Joe Shuster look, because you go back to the source, right? And there’s Joe Shuster’s Superman with the big jaw, and he didn’t have a perfect nose. He had a little bit of a Roman curve to his nose, and to me that was always a visual distinction that I wanted. I wanted to make the character have some kind of visible hook so he wouldn’t look like Batman, so he wouldn’t look like any other black-haired character in comics. And it’s hard to do with line drawings unless you’re using a photographic model, but that was my goal. John Beatty has been a friend of mine for years and was always funny. We used to call him the instigator guy because he was always egging us on. And Carlin, or, at that point, Helfer, would catch the hell from it. So I

MM: I was going to bring him up. JERRY: He came out of maybe the fourth Marv story, somewhere around there. MM: It was issue #428. JERRY: Okay. You know, you always bring your own experiences into stuff. Like I said earlier, I grew up in a tavern. It was a traditional neighborhood bar—not Cheers, more of a Damon Runyan type of [laughs] run-down place that you’d see in some movie—and one of the characters in the tavern when I was a little kid was an old guy named Joe Kominski. Joe was a merchant marine, a dockworker; he was everything that Bibbo became, really. He was a tough guy, but he was sweet. He was a guy who would fight 15 policeman to a standstill by himself, but yet he would take my brother and myself, when we were little, to our grandmother’s house. He was like our watchdog, our guardian, really a 39


Part 5:

It’s All about Family... the Marvel Family

MM: Did you start working on the Power of Shazam! graphic novel as soon as you were done with Superman?

wanted to do something that was kind of all my own, as well. First we had to get approved for hardcover status. Then the next thing was, “Gee, can I color it? I don’t want to do it on blueline, I would like to color the art itself.” And those were all control issues for me at the time, because I knew what would happen if it was done on blueline. They would want all the line art done first, and then the blueline color would be done after the line art, and I didn’t want to lose control of that, because that’s what happens a lot of times. I think it might have happened with the Kuberts when they were doing Adam Strange, where there’s a lot of pressure then, “Well, the pencil art and the ink art is done, so why can’t we get Joe Blow in production to do the blueline color, to speed it up?” So I told them, “I want to do it full-color on the board,” and they would worry about reproduction. Because they didn’t really do a lot of that. It was during the beginning of incorporating computers, but it was still a film process for doing painted artwork. That was my goal, and I painted myself, so to speak, into a major corner with that, because it was a very slow process. It’s one thing to say, “I’m going to color this myself,” but it’s another thing when you start working on the actual drawing itself. The black line isn’t as strong, so your contrast has to be good.

JERRY: Around the time I stopped drawing Superman and switched over to Adventures and was just writing, I think that is when I first got going on it. It was one of those projects that started up really slowly, because I had to get the story approved first. A lot of thought went into setting up what Fawcett City was going to be about, and all the other little details. It was definitely before “The Death of Superman,” so it had to be around ’91, maybe? MM: Yeah, that sounds right. Late 91, I guess. Now, at that time, was it just going to be a graphic novel, or was there a series in discussion? JERRY: At the time the Byrne Shazam! project had just collapsed. I think their ultimate goal was to have a series, and it was one of the few times where I felt like I could call some shots, because Jonathan Peterson was the editor and he really wanted me to do it, so I think I had the option there to push things a little bit. Doing monthly comics back then, there was no guarantee of anything being reprinted in a book form. None of the Superman stuff had been collected, which was frustrating, and I 57


between the end of “The Death of Superman” and the Shazam! book. And DC was very supportive of that. My plan was to finish WildStar and then to finish Shazam!. And Shazam! was certainly interrupted for WildStar, but I think from DC’s point of view, they were holding that character for me. I think somewhere in there is when it became, “Well, would you do the series?” I started thinking about what it would be to do the series at that point, but I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to draw it. I was trying to scale my workload down with the birth of my first child, and I just didn’t want to be on constant deadlines. Because drawing and writing, some people can do it pretty matter-of-factly, I guess, but for me it was pulling teeth. And it’s a grueling kind of thing, month after month. I was able to hedge my bets there, too, when we finally were going to launch the Shazam! book, by getting them to let me do painted covers, and that would be my art contribution for the book. But that also seemed to be in dispute. MM: Were you asking for more money for the painted covers?

Above: Cover art for the hardcover edition of The Death of Superman. Pencils by Dan Jurgens. Next Page: WildStar promotional artwork.

Doomsday, Superman ™ and ©2007 DC Comics. WildStar ™ and ©2007 Al Gordon & Jerry Ordway.

You have to do really clean work, as well, because if you have to erase something or paint a mistake out, it will show. At that point they were nice enough that it wasn’t scheduled. I was doing it as my side job. As I recall, when I finished on Superman—“The Death of Superman,” and “The Return of Superman,” which was ’93— I had maybe 30 pages done, at that point, over a couple of years. It was really slow. MM: You also worked on a couple of other projects, too, during that time, WildStar being one. JERRY: Yeah, WildStar kind of fit in 58

JERRY: You know, it wasn’t even that. Painted covers are a standard now. Back then, they didn’t do them very often because they were very difficult, production-wise. The system was geared towards flat color and being able to reuse the black-and-white line art. There wasn’t a budget for a painted cover—that was a big issue. Their painted rate was much better than a pencil-&-ink rate and a flat color rate. At that time I think it was the difference between getting paid something like $1500 for a painted cover versus getting something like $300 or $400 for a pencil&-ink cover. That was an issue, but I said, “Look, I’ll take the rate of just doing flat color,” which was, I think, $100, “on top of the pencil and ink cover rate.” I did that for the first year’s worth of covers, maybe. There was some period in time when they finally said, “Okay, what we’re going to do is we’re going to come up with a special rate. It’s not the full painting rate, but it’s not the other thing.” They were very agreeable, I just had to prove that I wanted to do it. [laughter]


MM: And that you could turn in a painting every month.

MM: Interesting. JERRY: The other thing I think was interesting was Jonathan Peterson and I knew we were doing this hardcover which was going to be priced at around 20, 25 bucks. We thought, “Well, if you’re going to try to do this and get the audience that you want, the pricey hardcover is going to limit you.” So I drew all the artwork on the Power of Shazam! graphic novel in black line form, then I made really clean photocopies that could be shot from, and then I colored the pages over the black line. That way we had a record of it in line art, because the plan was to break that 96 pages up after the hardcover came out and reprint it in a cheap format with flat colors as a four-issue series with filler pages here and there. It would be a way of helping launch the regular book. But then that plan went by the wayside, so it was a lot of effort that was really wasted, because they just decided they would do editions in trade format. The original orders were something like 16,500. They printed 18,000, from what I understand, and they actually sold the overprinting pretty quickly, which gave them license to put the trade paperback out a little quicker. They pumped out probably 20,000 of those, and that sold out. And then the next edition went down in price from, like, $14.95 to $12.95, and that’s been the one that they’ve kept in their backlist. And it sells consistently; in the years since then, it’s been a real steady seller. Every year I get a royalty off of it, and it’s in its seventh or eighth printing now, which is cool. It’s nice that it’s had a long life.

JERRY: I had to hold my breath until I turned blue. But in any tantrum—it wasn’t even a tantrum—but any type of situation like that where I drew a line in the sand, I always did it over artistic things rather than, “Oh, I want this because this guy got that.” In comics you really aren’t in control of things, you’re part of an assembly line. So the idea of being able to do it all by myself was just a dream. And it’s a tricky thing for them, work-forhire-wise, because part of their loophole with work-for-hire is that you’re contributing to a product rather than creating a product. I believe I had to be incorporated at an earlier point just to be able to write and draw the Superman books. I had to be incorporated just so I could qualify from their legal standpoint, not being able to claim copyright on any of the material I did.

MM: I guess the extra effort you put into it paid off, to some extent. JERRY: It’s also an original story, so I think that helps. It was also the only real Shazam book that they had out for a while, too. So it was gratifying in all the right ways, and it won Best Original Graphic Novel, the Buyers’ Guide fan award. I proudly have my award sitting on the mantle. MM: Let’s go back and talk about WildStar for a minute. You were co-creator, but I think you said before that it was really Al Gordon’s— 59


Part 6:

Marvel, Alan Moore, and the McCarthy Era

MM: Why Avengers next? Did DC not have anything lined up for you?

year. I knew Shazam! was ending, and my third child, my son James, was just born in September of ’98, so I was also a little frightened—I had another mouth to feed. And DC, all they could do was say, “Well, you shouldn’t worry about it. You know you’ll get work.” I got a call around the time I was finishing up Shazam! to ink an issue of Thor over John Buscema’s pencils, which was like a dream come true. That got me into [Tom] Brevoort’s office, and then a little later I got a call from Brevoort asking if I would be willing to write a three-issue arc of Avengers to spell George and Kurt. I said, “Well, coincidentally, I happen to have a hole in my schedule.” So I agreed to do it, and I also said I’d be willing to draw it, too. He said, “Oh, sure, great.” Two days later I got a call from Mike Carlin, who at that point was the managing editor—he was the bigshot. He was calling me from Arizona while he was on vacation to say, “Please don’t make any moves, we’ll make this work, we’ll work this out.” But by then it was already done. I felt kind of hurt, y’know? After putting a lot of years in at DC, to feel that I could be just shuffled off.... I would never dispute the right of an editor to make a change like that, but I had a deal in the works for twelve issues, and all they

JERRY: The last year of Shazam!, Karl Kesel was doing a World’s Finest mini-series for DC. I don’t remember if he was, at that point, writing Harley Quinn, but he had plenty of stuff, and he asked me if I would be willing to come onto Adventures of Superman again, to do the dialogue. He would just plot the book. He and I worked that way for that year, and as he was wrapping up his run on Adventures he said, “I’m passing the torch back to you.” Joey Cavalieri was the editor, and Joey was like, “Yeah, great!” So I agreed to write Adventures of Superman for a year, and Joey put in for my contract. Then Joey was replaced, and the new editor, Eddie Berganza, came on. I thought I was secure; I thought I was going to get a shot, but the word came down that they were probably going to can everybody and start fresh. Berganza called me and said, “I’m starting fresh, so you’re out.” I had had a verbal agreement to do a year’s work, and they had been working on a contract for it, and that was my dispute. My first call was to Terry Cunningham, and I said that I felt DC owed me a commitment of writing for a 78


had to do was call me and say, “Come up with a character or something.” That would have solved it. But it led to a lot of hard feelings, and I tried to make mine Marvel at that point. MM: Did you discuss what the story was going to be with Kurt? JERRY: He said, “Here’s where we are, and here’s where we’re going.” His main thing was to say I get to break Justice’s leg in my story so that it’ll feel like it’s an important part of the continuity, but then I had to kind of shoehorn that into it. But it was my story. It was fun, but The Avengers, Spider-Man, and Daredevil were my all-time favorites as a kid, so working on The Avengers was like, “Oh my God! This is really scary!” [laughter] I had done Superman and all this other stuff, but I felt very intimidated. And I felt intimidated by being at Marvel, because I really didn’t know anybody. I tried as best I could to catch on there, but I’m not a networking guy. I’ve always been an assignment-oriented person. In the case of Avengers, Brevoort called me and said, “Here’s three issues, come up with something,” and I can do that. But I’m not going to sit on my hands at home and say, “Ah, the ultimate She-Hulk story,” and type up a spec script. Number one, I’m drawing full-time, I don’t have time to type up spec stuff. Number two, I don’t think about super-hero battles. [laughs] I liken it to the old Hollywood studio system, where someone would call you up and say, “You’re doing Gone with the Wind on Monday. Report to wardrobe,” as opposed to being Clark Gable trying to develop a role for himself by optioning a book. MM: I’ve always liked the Wrecking Crew. They’re one of those quintessential Kirby creations. [Jerry laughs] Did that have anything to do with you picking them? JERRY: Yeah, in the Thor comics, the issues where the Wrecker first appeared were classics to me. I just thought that was the greatest, and that was kind of the impetus there. When you get an assignment like that, it’s not like they say, “Use whoever you want.” It’s, “Who do you want to use?”, and then you start throwing out characters, and they say, “Oop, can’t use him. Oop, can’t use him, he’s in this. Oh, we just used him.” So I

wouldn’t say the Wrecking Crew was my first choice [laughs], but it was in the top 500. [laughter] It really was like that. But they were available, and the Doomsday Man from Captain Marvel was available, because he was pretty lame. [laughter] Really! I said, “Well, let’s see. When’s this story come out?” And it was supposed to be a March book, so I said, “Well, what about Mardi Gras?” I think Tom suggested using the Cajun Captain Marvel that Roger Stern had done in The Avengers. So that dictated another piece of it. You always try to think of a scene or something that gives you a hook—something that gives you some entry into the story—and what opened that door 79

Previous Page: Cover pencils for Avengers #16. Above: Cap chastises The Wrecker for his between-meal snacking. Pencils for Avengers #16, page 13. Avengers, Captain America, The Wrecker ™ and ©2007 Marvel Characters, Inc.


Below: Romantic intrigue in a savage land. Avengers #18, page 11 pencils. Next Page: This back cover art for Monsterman #2 later became the cover to The Messenger. The Messenger ™ and ©2007 Jerry Ordway. Arkon, Avengers, Thundra ™ and ©2007 Marvel Characters, Inc.

was the vision of the Wrecker with one of them there New Orleans doughnuts. [laughter] “He’s going to crash through some guy’s house, and the guy is just having himself a beignet, and as he’s crashing through he grabs the guy’s doughnut.” [Eric laughs] Then it’s how do you go from that, and how do you make the Wrecking Crew somewhat formidable and all this other stuff. I mean, if I had had my choice, I would have loved to something with Red Skull or Doctor Doom, but you make the best you can. With any kind of story, you have to

find the ingredients and try to combine them in a way that makes it palatable. I’m kind of a half-assed cook, too. [laughter] That’s how I approach cooking. I’m not somebody who goes through the cookbook and says, “Hey, I’ve always wanted to make this!” Karl Kesel is a masterful chef, and he’ll find some recipe that turns him on, and he’ll go and make some really complicated thing. I’ll look at what’s in the refrigerator and say, “Okay, well, we need to use up this, this, and this. What can I make with those three ingredients?” And that’s what stories are like. MM: In 2000, The Messenger—your childhood creation—was published through Image. JERRY: I think I started working on it while I was doing Shazam!. Mike Manley, who was inking Shazam!, was also self-publishing Action Planet Comics. He said, “If you ever have anything you want to do... I can’t pay you. You’ll be part of this other thing.” At that point I was trying to get the trademark for the Messenger, and I had to use it. I had an intent to use, I had the filings and all that stuff, but I needed to actually use it, so I started doing it as chapters. I had drawn something like four or five chapters by the time Mike pulled the plug. I called up Jim Valentino at Image and said, “I have this thing, and I wondered if you’d publish it as maybe two issues.” Because the story worked out to 48 pages. “I can pad it out to make three issues or something, and I’d like to do it in black-&white.” And he said, “Let me get back to you.” I sent him all that I had produced up to that point. Anthony Bozzi was the marketing guy or the sales guy, and he said, “All in one, squarebound, one-shot, full color.” “Ohhhh, okay.” Now, unfortunately, that’s on your back. Image doesn’t pay you for comics unless it makes a profit. And in a good market, that was great. In a bad market, it’s not so great. It was fun to do, and I was glad I did it. I had a great colorist that Anthony really set me up with, Nick Bell, and it came out very nicely. I’m certainly proud of it, but it just didn’t do anything. It wasn’t really a superhero, it was more... I don’t know. It was certainly very fulfilling, but I think it’s still technically in the red for Image. It never made back the margin of sales. I don’t know

80


Part 7:

Storytelling and the Creative Process

MM: When you’re penciling for someone else, are you drawing tighter than when you’re penciling for yourself?

it that I was expecting. It didn’t look like he went into it with a brush, really, too much. You visualize what you’re expecting the guy to do—the stuff you’ve always loved—but I think he was trying to stay faithful to what was down there. So I told Carlin, “Look, this is Dick Giordano. I don’t want to get him mad.

JERRY: When I pencil, if I know I’m going to ink it, I generally don’t pencil. I do a layout and then I scribble around and ink the rough layout. When I’m penciling something I’m not inking myself, I always pencil tight. I’ve had to ink my own stuff when I didn’t expect to, like a couple of pages on US Agent I wound up inking myself, and also a couple of pages on Maximum Security, where the inker wasn’t available. It was pretty brutal. It’s no fun, as an inker, to ink on really tight pencils. When I’m drawing something I’m inking myself, I worry mostly about the layout and making sure everything falls in the way it’s supposed to. Once I start inking it’s, “It’d be good if I threw a little heavy black here.” And I keep doing that with the pages, I’ll ink it with pen, and then I’ll go into it with a brush and try to pump up the contrast. When you’re just penciling, you try to do that in pencil, but pencil’s gray, and when you hit something with ink, that’s when you first know if it works or not. That’s the way I am. If it’s been inked by somebody who’s a little timid and they just basically follow the lines and follow the line weights on the pencils, it doesn’t look as good as if they had a little freer hand. But not everybody is capable of doing finishes. I think it’d be fun to try doing layouts for someone who is really capable of doing finishes. I think it would be fun to try to, say, team up with Klaus Janson sometime, where I’d just do layouts and let him do the heavy lifting. MM: Did you do any of that with Dick Giordano? JERRY: When I took over drawing Shazam!, Carlin convinced me to try to just do layouts, and Dick would do finishes. I’ve never really done layouts, because I really don’t know how to hold back. I did my best, and I left the line weight to Dick. It just didn’t have the punch to 90


But can he go over this again?” So he went over it with a brush and punched up the heavy contrast and then it was much better. But Dick was inking a lot of material for DC. He was probably doing Batman or something at the same time, so you really aren’t getting the loving attention on each page. You’re getting a good job, it’s just not the same job as somebody who’s going to spend 14 hours on a page. So at some point I said I would like to go back to full pencils, and I think that worked a little better. Dick was really nice about it, too. I would have never thought in a million years, but Dick was a Captain Marvel fan from his childhood, so he felt like, “Wow, it’s a thrill to get to draw Captain Marvel.” Who would have thought? I mean, he’s so associated with Batman and dark, shadowy stuff. MM: How much time does it take you to pencil a page versus penciling and inking a page? JERRY: Sometimes things go fast, sometimes they go slowly. But a page from start to finish, you’re talking, maybe six, seven

hours. When I was doing Superman, I think it had to go faster because there was more pressure. But when you’re creating the stuff, it’s not the same as second-guessing a writer. I mean, you’d think it would go faster drawing from full scripts, but it really doesn’t. Full script makes me more retentive about word balloons. When you’re doing full script, you can get a page where there’s a lot of talking, and it can take most of your time just trying to choreograph how the balloons are going to work. From my experience as a writer, I know a lot of artists don’t think about that, but I do. I guess if I can share one thing with Alex Toth, that’s it. I can’t share his genius, but that’s one thing I remember hearing him talk about one time was how the balloons fit, and how it’s important to the balance of the page. And I totally agree. MM: Okay, this is one of those desert island questions: If you were forced to choose between being a penciler or being an inker/finisher, which way would you go? 91

Previous Page: Captain Marvel art for a contest prize. Above: Jerry’s cover sketches for Will to Power #7 and 8 (1984)—featuring the Superman-esque Titan—part of Dark Horse’s Comic’s Greatest World imprint. Captain Marvel, Shazam! ™ and ©2007 DC Comics. Grace, Mecha, Rebel, Ruby, Titan, Warmaker ™ and ©2007 Dark Horse Comics.


JERRY: Oh, I would rather be a penciler. Every time I think about how great it would be just to ink, the reality is just not fun. I mean, I enjoy doing it once in a while, but if someone said, “You can no longer do anything else but ink,” I would get out of the business. I just couldn’t handle it. It’s horrible not to have any control over the drawing. I have a very distinct way of telling a story, and maybe it’s not the most dynamic way in the world, but my goal has always been—and I think I’ve been pretty successful—that you can follow the story without the balloons. You can look at it and you’re not totally lost. Clarity’s always been really important, and that’s the thing that I always gauge when I’m inking somebody else or doing finishes, if I can detach myself enough, then I can handle it. MM: What about drawing covers? I thought these Red Menace covers were very interesting. How did the concept for them originate? JERRY: I like the cover to say something, and sometimes the trends change where people just want cool shots or whatever, but I always prefer something that has a little story to it. So with Red Menace, my thought was that I was going to do something in gray wash. It’s not a full painting, but it’s gray-toned. I wasn’t getting paid extra for it, I just thought that it would be distinctive enough that it would stand out on the stands at the comic shop. And I suggested the red lettering based on Confidential magazine, which I saw in one of my books when I was doing research. Confidential was like the National Enquirer of its day, I guess. And I said, “Well, that would be a good framework for it.” The original editor, Ben Abernathy, was like, “Oh, we like that. That works because then it gives that book an identifying thread through all the issues.” I was ready to break the format by the second issue. There’s a fine line with feeling like someone’s going to look at it

and go, “Wait a minute, didn’t I buy that one already?” That’s tricky. MM: Where do you start when you’re coming up with ideas for your writing? As an artist, do you start with an image, or do you start with a particular piece of dialogue? JERRY: Well, the very first thing that I did that I liked writing-wise, was the story about the homeless guy in Adventures of Superman— the Brainiac story—and that was suggested by the image that Jimmy Olsen kept seeing that homeless guy. That’s where that idea came from. I don’t keep a story file anymore because it doesn’t seem like I’m doing very much writing, but when I was on Superman I kept a story file. I always read a couple of newspapers every day; I like to keep up on 93

Previous Page: Mike Zeck’s pencils and Jerry’s inks for an early ’90s Punisher poster. Above: Cover art for Red Menace #6.

Punisher ™ and ©2007 Marvel Characters, Inc. Red Menace and all related characters ™ and ©2007 Pet Fly Production, Inc., Flyworks Productions, Inc., & Second Row Productions, Inc.


Jerry Ordway

Art Gallery 97

©2007 Jerry Ordway


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Left: Painted cover of Power of Shazam! #15. Below: Painted cover of Power of Shazam! #16. Next Page Top: Painted covers of Supreme #41 (left) and Power of Shazam! #27 (right). Next Page Bottom: Jerry’s color guides for the newly created characters of the Top 10: Beyond the Farthest Precinct mini-series.

Billy Batson, Captain Marvel, Mary Bromfield, Mr. Mind, Shazam, and all related characters ™ and ©2007 DC Comics. Supreme ™ and ©2007 Rob Liefeld. Top 10 and all related characters ™ and ©2007 America’s Best Comics, LLC.

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Modern Masters:

Jerry Ordway Superman... Captain Marvel... the Justice Society... all classic heroes, and no one does classic better than Jerry Ordway. With his keen sense of anatomy, proportion, and detail, he draws superheroes that are powerful, noble... and heroic. What more could you want from an artist? Well, not only is he an artist of the highest caliber, he can write a great story while he's at it. The Adventures of Superman, The Power of Shazam!, The Avengers—all have been critically acclaimed for his scripting. In this latest volume of the Modern Masters series, Ordway’s life and career are spotlighted, as he discusses the work that’s made him a fan-favorite, complete with an extensive art gallery. Also presented is a lavish color section, featuring more remarkable Ordway illustrations. One look at this volume, and you'll see that Jerry Ordway is a true Modern Master! (120-page trade paperback with COLOR) $14.95 (Digital Edition) $5.95 http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=95_70&products_id=569

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Modern Masters Volume 13: Jerry Ordway  

Superman... Captain Marvel... the Justice Society... all classic heroes, and no one does classic better than Jerry Ordway. With his keen sen...

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