Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dark Dominion Part 02...

Another look at Jim Shooter’s Defiant Comics…

Hi Guys

It was late afternoon when the aircraft I was travelling in came in over JFK airport. The weather had been fine when I left England, something of a rarity over here and it was a beautiful sunny afternoon when we touched down on the other side of the Atlantic.

I went through customs; the first time ever I had travelled by plane on my own before, and was greeted by an Indian gentleman bearing a small plaque sign with my name upon it. His accent was such, as to make me wonder had I fallen asleep for too long and arrived back in the UK.

I was taken to a rather smart looking limousine and driven into Manhattan from JFK airport entering the city via the Queens Midtown Tunnel. When we arrived on the other side I was amazed at how tall the building looked. It appeared that we were travelling along man-made canyons.

Once on the Manhattan side of things it was only a matter of a few minutes before arriving at the front doors of the Defiant office building on 37th street, between Madison and 5th avenue.

I had decided to go straight to the offices rather than the hotel. The weather, now I was out of the limo, was incredibly hot, even for late afternoon, early evening; it was around six o’clock by this time. I was totally overwhelmed by the sounds and smells as I stood on the sidewalk; it was incredible. I was promptly helped out with my luggage of suitcase, hand luggage, containing my art materials, and my Portfolio into the lift, or elevator, as I soon found myself adapting to the language and saying.

We went up to the 14th floor and the Defiant offices, where I was greeted by Janet Jackson. No not the singer sister of Michael, but the colourist/editor of Marvel comics fame, who had left the hallowed Marvel halls along with Jim Shooter to help set up the Valiant comics studios three years earlier. Here she was again helping Jim to set up the latest venture, Defiant comics/Enlightened Entertainment.

The first thing she did was offer me a cold drink, which I was certainly ready for. She then asked if I was ready for something to eat and if I had even been up the Empire State Building? The answer to the first was sure and the second was no I had never been to the USA before. She took me outside onto the veranda where I saw we were overlooked by the most incredible sight of the imposing Empire State Building, as it loomed high above us. We were fourteen floors up and there it was, in all its majesty towering way above us…a quarter of a mile above us to be exact.

She asked if I had rang home from the airport and I told her I had not had time to do so. So she told me Jim had said that I could call home anytime, for as long as I wanted, as long as I was there, working for them, which was really nice of him. I made the call and excitedly told my wife, Margaret and my children (nowadays, now all grown up of course) Joanne and Simon all about the trip and what New York was like, or at least the little I had seen of it, if the wonderful city can ever be called little. I bid them goodnight as it was now late in the evening and told them I would call again tomorrow.

Below: The crest above the door to the Defiant Building on 37th Street.

With that I was promptly whisked off out of the offices, leaving my stuff inside, down the elevator, and outside into the hot New York evening air. The sounds and smells, just like when I had first got out of the limo, were overwhelming. We walked over the three blocks to the Empire State Building. Going inside we were greeted by a wall of gold with the embossed image of the mighty building behind the Information desk and the words from the receptionist, "Welcome to The Empire State Building! How may I help you?" We went into an elevator, which took us part way up the building. We then got into a second elevator and were whisked once more up to the 102nd floor observatory.

Once outside the view was magnificent and Janet was quick to point out our offices, way below. The people, milling around in the streets below, looked like ants and it felt great to be so high up and on the same building as used in the King Kong film. We stayed and watched the sun setting and then went down to the milling streets once more where Janet took me to a restaurant, which served Southern food.

On the way my eyes saw something move across the sidewalk with incredible speed and for a second I thought I had seen a small rat, or at least a mouse, when I looked again I saw it was the biggest cockroach, orangey-brown in colour, I had ever seen in my life. It was humongous with muscles on its eyebrows and looking like it worked out with Arnold. Janet saw my averted gaze and said, “Oh they are all over the island.”

I guess it must have scurrying home to the family after a hard day down at the office.

Being from Texas, Janet was keen to have me served up some southern styled chicken, so ordered me the most humongous high-piled plate of chicken I had ever seen in my life. There was every kind of chicken you could think of and it was delicious, my mouth is watering as I write these words, thinking of the marvellous first feast I was privy to in NYC, washed down by a huge glass of coke.

Following this we returned to the offices and I then went around the corner to the hotel I was staying at, the Jolly Madison Towers Hotel and checked in. I was shown to my room and I settled in watching for the first time American TV. The air-conditioning was on, but I opened the windows to hear the sounds below. I was in a corner room and so had a double view of the city. From one set of windows I could see Madison Avenue and out of the others I could see the Met-Life building, all of which was lit up in all their glory.

I unpacked and prepared my stuff to take along to the offices the following morning and retired to bed. It was around three o’clock that I was awoken by loud banging sounds below in the street and the sounds of a large vehicle. I got out of bed and looked below to see what all the commotion was about and saw the refuge collectors and their wagon in the streets below. I soon learned how the waste was disposed of in NYC.

The morning came and I found myself downstairs at breakfast in the hotel restaurant. It was another sunny day, the first of many, and I soon found myself speaking to the staff, explaining whereabouts in England I came from and that, no I did not know the Queen personally. With a hearty breakfast eaten, but a strange cup of tea, which they called English Breakfast inside me, I went back to my room, picked up my portfolio and art materials and made my way over to the offices of the Defiant Bullpen for my first day of work there…yes it was daunting.

As I walked across Madison from around the blocks of 38th and 37th street I wondered what lay ahead for me. I was a little nervous, feeling I was now walking the streets of and working in the capital of the comics I had grown up on. Was I up to the job and could I hold my own amongst my new peers? I would know soon enough.

I entered the building on 37th street and was greeted by the always smiling and jolly elevator attendant, who took me up to the 14th floor. The early morning Manhattan sunlight slipped in through the blinds of the front windows of the office near the reception. I walked up the guys there and introduced myself. I was greeted by all the folks inside the office and felt a little like Elvis had entered the building. I was unsure what had been said before my arrival at the offices, but I felt like everyone was expecting great things from me…now I really was worried.

I was taken to Janet’s office again and then shown my drawing board, which was mine for the week. I was then taken to see Jim in his office and then to the editor-in-chief, Deborah Purcell’s office, where I was met by her and Editor Ed Polgardy.

I was shown around the offices and introduced to everyone formally, folks like Rob LaQuinta, Zach Lynch, Peter Lukic, Brady Darvin, Clark Smith, and the guys at reception and shown where I could obtain cold drinks and snacks from the kitchen fridges.

The formalities done I was shown back to the drawing board, where I sat with Janet for a short while. Back in the UK, whilst working on the card series Steve Ditko had quit the book I had been hired to work on, Dark Dominion. Another artist was due to take over the book, but again he at the last minute had backed out of the book, so the reins had been passed over to the new artist, whose work I had painted the colours for on the cards, along with Steve Ditko’s; Joe James.

Below: The view of the Empire State Building from the Defiant Veranda.

I was then given the first assignment; colour the cover to the card set, the penciller was Steve Ditko. Now I felt the test was truly starting for me. I remember getting a cold drink, pouring some water into a small container for me to use to clean my brushes, sitting at my board and putting the first marks on the background of the cover…Steve Ditko’s cover.

As the morning progressed and folks came and looked over my shoulders, passing very complimentary comments about my work on it, I began to relax a little, but still wondered if the comments were purely just to do that and not the true viewpoint of the folks there, as they just tried to be nice to me…the Brit from across the pond.

Just before lunchtime, with the cover almost finished and folks commenting on how quick I had been (remember, I had taken my time to do the cover, feeling daunted by the task) I began to wonder why they thought I was quick. I would later find out and show them what quick was, as much to my amazement as theirs.

Below: The Issue Zero Card Set Cover.

It was around this time Janet walked over to me and introduced me to Joe James the penciller on the book now and I was asked to accompany them on the veranda, where lunch was ordered and we chatted to break the ice as the new creative team on the book. I had been told my expenses were being paid, so lunch was free for me, which was great. We discussed Joe’s take on the book and what he wanted to do and I explained in pre-computer wizardry terms how we could make this book unique with some painted trickery.

Later that day I finished the cover and took it long to Janet, who then took it into Jim’s office to show him. He looked at the cover and then Janet, then back to the cover and then me, smiled his wide grin and said aloud, “You know, Janet, I really do think we can harness this guy’s powers for good!”

I figured I had passed my first test; they liked the cover for real. I have never heard whether Steve Ditko liked the colours on his cover, but I hope he has seen it and he did.

That day sticks in my mind as a turning point for me in my career, as folks from US comics spoke very complimentary about my work. I was about to make my mark in that company with my next assignment; page one of issue one of the comic book, Dark Dominion.

But I’ll leave that until my next Blog.

Until next time have fun!

Tim Perkins…
May12th 2009


Unknown said...

You make the story come alive, almost as if we were there with you. Great stuff.

Tim Perkins said...

Hi Magnus,

Thanks for your kind words.

I'll have more up here soon.

Thanks for dropping by again.