Well although it was mainly all work, there where times when I also had a life as well. I remember Brady Darvin coming over to me one morning and telling me all about an exhibition at the New York Museum, which were displaying the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was excited about it and, after obviously thinking about it, asked if I would like to go along with him and take a look.
I was not only happy to be asked to accompany him, but also equally excited to look at these ancient artefacts. It was only a short walk of a few blocks in mid-town to the Museum from the offices and took no time at all.
As it always seemed to be for the majority of my time in NYC the weather was glorious. Now you guys may be asking, why does he go on about the weather in these Blogs so often? Well it’s simple and you would need to pay me a visit here to this neck of the woods in England, I suppose to fully understand. It was sunny in NYC and suffice it to say, I wasn’t really used to so much of the stuff, so hey, I was enjoying the good weather.
Below: The New York Museum:
When we got there I noticed how strict their security was. We entered the room where the exhibition was taking place and I saw special lighting illuminating these ancient fragments of parchment, with their tiny calligraphic renderings. We were looking at things thousands of years old and it felt incredible.
There were dozens of these sometimes small fragments of parchment and for all the world they looked so ancient it appeared they would turn to dust if the glass case, in which they each lay were opened and this was not far from the truth.
They were marvellous things to look at and I have to say here that I am forever indebted to Brady for giving me the chance to look at them with him. It was one of the highlight memories for me during my stay in NYC.
One day shortly after this I was asked into Deborah Purcell’s office for a chat. Deborah was always aware I was away from my family and eager to make sure I was okay with it all. She asked if I would care to go along to an Italian restaurant that night, it was Deborah and Jim’s treat for me working so hard there at the offices. Well loving Italian cuisine I agreed to go along.
We met at the office and caught a cab down to the Italian, I cannot for the life of me remember the name of it, but wish I could, it was marvellous. It was a regular haunt for both her and Jim and had really nice décor.
We sat down and were quickly joined by a rather jolly Italian gentleman, whom Deborah introduced to me as the owner of the restaurant. He was the most gracious host and asked how I was finding New York. We chatted for a short while before he asked me what I would like to eat. I turned to Deborah and asked what she was going to have. She turned to the man and said maybe he could suggest something, as it was my first visit to the restaurant.
He said he would like to bring me an antipasto, so I could try lots of different starters. He then asked if I liked chops, which I said I did, so he said he would do me one of his special chops…I would soon learn what he meant by special. Deborah placed her order and the man disappeared inside of the kitchen.
Wine was brought to the table and opened for us and we each toasted to the success of Defiant. I was then treated to the most amazing and massive antipasto I have ever had. It was huge and I mean it too. A giant would have struggled finishing it all of, but I had a good try.
The owner came during the starters to ask if everything was okay, to which we both replied, lovely, thank you.
This was followed by one of the waitresses placing this huge oval plate in front of me with the most humongous piece of meat I have ever seen on a table anywhere. She headed back to the kitchen and I remember thinking, what a great idea this was to bring several people’s food out at the same time and cut it from the bone – unique. She returned with another waitress and lay down several dishes of vegetables along with Deborah’s pasta meal.
I turned to Deborah and asked when they would be cutting the chop up and giving me mine. She answered that the full joint was mine. Now I am not often shocked by food and love to both try new foods and also new restaurants, but this was unbelievable, it was all mine and it could actually feed a group of more than four people really.
Once more the owner returned to our table and asked if everything was okay, again we replied it was.
I managed to eat all of the meat and some of the vegetables, but hardly made a dent on the vegetables, if truth were told. Even the wine did little to wash it all down.
Recovering from the mammoth attempt to eat for twenty, the owner re-entered the scene with a small desert for Deborah and a huge pudding for me. I thanked him and looked at Deborah and figured Jim was fattening me for the kill, so I must be on my guard, half expecting Ninjas or Mobsters to appear at any second and me in no position to defend myself, except to roll on them and attempt to crush them to death.
The evening was spent with me telling Deborah all about my family and my time in comics in the UK and the present situation, living and working in NYC at Defiant. Throughout the meal she thanked me several times for staying on and also for helping to get the books on track and said Jim was really over the moon with both my work and also my agreeing to stay, until things were a little straighter at the offices.
We left the restaurant and Deborah would not allow me to pay for anything, it was what she and Jim wanted, so I thanked her and once she was safely inside a taxi, I got into another and made my way back to my apartment on 54th.
The beauty of working in NYC and especially being part of the comics scene there too is there were more trips to comics shops. NYC had a few great ones too and we could be seen certainly on a monthly basis and to be honest a weekly basis and sometimes a several times a week basis too paying a visit to one or more of them. It was great to meet up with folks in them too, or be introduced to new ones. As the token Brit there I was introduced to lots of folks, who seemed enthralled to hear me speak, with my English accent.
Below: Joe James – I'm not sure if he was looking at a Hot Dog or the Cop here
One evening I had been working with Joe until late having eaten hours earlier and we decided to pay a visit to HMV for Joe to pick up some new albums. We both bought some new stuff and then called at a burger place for something to eat. It was quite late and we walked around New York and then got a cab to a special place for Joe. We stood outside a pizza place overlooked by one of the bridges that span the roads and buildings in certain parts of Manhattan. I can’t remember where it was exactly, but remember Joe having said he was going show me his NYC, off the beaten track from tourists.
We walked along the wide sidewalks of NYC laughing and joking and getting to know one another better all the time. Joe laughed and said that there were no alleys in NYC, or at least not as many or as much like the ones in the movies and on TV, despite them being shown all the time by Hollywood. I was soon to realise this was true as I spent more time there.
We grabbed a slice of pizza and set off once more for mid-town. Once there we got out the cab and Joe showed me the building Steve Ditko had modelled Doctor Strange’s house/Sanctum Sanctorum on. Doctor Strange being one of the seminal early Marvel characters created by Steve and Stan Lee back in the sixties. There, sure enough, was the house, almost verbatim.
As we continued to walk along the streets Joe turned to me and said we’ll cross the street here. We were now outside Central Park and it was just before 12 midnight. We then entered the park – you don’t want to do that, but we did. I have to admit to feeling very alert and very apprehensive at first. It was dark, it was NYC, it was Central Park, it was supposedly VERY dangerous, it was very silly and I was going along with it all. I guess the reason I followed Joe was, he was bigger then me, and the way I figured it, if something did happen, I could always hide in one of his coat pockets.
Inside the park you could see the lamps along the pathways. Above the trees soared the skyscraper lights like a myriad Christmas trees. The sounds of the city air conditioning units gave out their perpetual hum and the crickets added to the low cacophony. Even the smells from the city permeated the parkland, a kind of mixed sweet donut, fried onions, affair mixed with the earthy smell of night time soil.
Then Joe suddenly stopped walking and reached out an arm to stop me in my tracks, so did my heart. He had seen something ahead and not a word was spoken. I glanced at my watch; it was 12 midnight precisely. Ahead under the park lamps figures moved about and then the sound of voices managed to carry our way. I almost held my breath even from that distance then he said it was okay. We headed forward again along the path and came to what we had seen earlier, it was a film crew producing a music video. We stood and watched for a while, from a distance, and then set off once more for the city streets.
I can safely say that I closed the front door to the apartment and secured every lock that night, checking through the eyehole to make sure no one was there outside the door and then once in bed I could hear every sound. Just before I fell asleep I remembered the words of Michael Alexander, “fear is the root of all evil.” I remember I smiled to myself, as I agreed with the sentiment and then eventually fell asleep.
Well we all continued to work like mad to get the books out and then one day the Dark Dominion card series Issue “0” was released and arrived at the offices and we all get a copy. I had produced the colours on the cover and also on a number of the cards in the set. This was the first of my work here in print and it felt good.
I remember the day the proof copies came into the office of Dark Dominion Issue #1, I still have a copy unstapled and we were all blown away with it. All the hard work everyone had done to get the book out to schedule had now paid off for us. It was not too long after this that the courier arrived with boxes of the books for the office and we suddenly realised that Dark Dominion had come out and was now on sale in the stores. We took copies out of the boxes and we all began to sign copies of it, for each other and our families and then for the office as official signed collector copies for conventions and the like.
Jim was in the office and we all knew just how pleased he was. The towering frame of the man, which to some was intimidating due to the sheer size of the man, stood proud of his creative team. Check out the photo of the guy standing next to Joe and I, in a later Blog, and he is stooping into the photograph. It was another book out on the shelves and Defiant was continuing to grow at a pace.
Ed Polgardy wrote a great accolade for us all in the office in his editorial piece of the book and said of me that I was am incredible talent. I still don’t feel that is true, but I am grateful to him for saying so.
The next morning we knew the books were going to be in the stores, so Joe, Ben, Rob, Zack, Dave, and I went over to Jim Hanley’s comic shop to check out Dark Dominion on the shelves and suddenly I looked like I was the most prolific artist in New York. Every time I picked up something to look at, one of the guys would come over and show me a book in which I had work. I remember being so surprised myself.
I have to admit to feeling rather pleased with the fact there were so many books out at the time with my name on them.
“Dark Dominion” card set Issue “0” with Steve Ditko & Marcus David
“Dark Dominion” Issue #1 with Joe and the gang
“Plasm” with David and the gang
“Junker” (4 issue series) with John Ridgway for 2000AD
“Universal Soldier” (2 issue series) with Simon Coleby for 2000AD
“The Way We Whirr!” Full art for 2000AD
“Chopper” Graphic Novel with Colin MacNeil
“Deaths Head” with Simon Coleby for Marvel UK
With War Dancer issue one at the printers and the slew of books on my list on the drawing board, back at the offices, it looked like I was working on dozens of books at the same time. In reality the above list comprised of some comics I had worked on back in the UK earlier in the year and were being printed in US format here in the States or had just been released in both places. That said I really was working on a lot of books at Defiant and it was about to increase even more, as my workload increased again.
It felt great that the books were back on schedule after a massive effort by all to get them all back on track. The buzz around the offices was now absolutely positive and folks were starting to relax a little, with the understanding that we were all part of a new venture, testing unknown waters and starting to move forward as a company.
One of the things we saw a lot of, at Defiant was the increase in the numbers of sleeping bodies in the offices, which grew as more books came on to the publishing schedule. Many times certainly through the nights many freelancers and office production staff would be seen sleeping for an hour or so between stints.
The hours and the workload were gruelling ones. Even sometimes during the days, we were witness to someone having to catch up on a little sleep in this way and we coined the phrase the "Defiant couch", which is where most folks could be found if not at their drawing boards, even me. If the couch was taken then it would have to be the floor and some nights you would have to walk between bodies to get across the office floor.
By the time we turned around from having Issue #1 of Dark Dominion in our hands then it was that we suddenly found ourselves in possession of Dark Dominion Issue #2. The same buzz went around the office and Joe and I felt good about the reviews, which were a constant stream of missives from fans all around the world. Folks genuinely seemed to like our book and what we were doing with it and it felt great. Maybe we were doing something special.
Below: Pages from Dark Dominion Issue 2:
Dark Dominion Issue 2 Page 6
Dark Dominion Issue 2 Page 7
Dark Dominion Issue 2 Page 11
Below: Photos of the world below the streets of NYC - showing the pipes seen in Dark Dominion
Then the office was hit by a bombshell. Deborah came in one day and announced she was leaving the company. She seemed sad to do so, but another opportunity had arisen and she was taking that route with her career. Sadly I have never heard from her since she left Defiant and hope that somehow she gets to see this series of Blogs and gets in touch, as it would be lovely to catch up with her.
I remember going to see many films throughout my stints there with Carlito’s way and Robo-Cop 2 two of the early ones. One evening Joe, Janet and a few others and I went to a movie theatre and sat through three films consecutively and it was a great evening out for us all, especially with the gruelling deadlines and a chance to wind down. There would be other movies I would get to see during my time in NYC.
But I’ll share that in my next Blog.
Until next time have fun!
July 8th 2009