Monday, July 13, 2009

Dark Dominion Part 11...

New York New York, so good they had to name it twice…

Hi Guys,

Well, as I may have said occasionally, the weather was still unbelievable. I cannot remember having lived through so much sunshine in my entire life before, or since. The weeks just seemed to roll along, almost as though I had entered another dimension with my only contact with my real world and life back there being my family, who it was now apparent, although speaking to them every day without fail, was missing me, as much as I was missing them, without the buffer I had of being in a great place doing what I had always dreamed of doing.

NYC unlike my small hometown here in the UK sees many celebrities on a daily basis. The city is electric and almost seems like the centre of the Universe. One Saturday around mid day I was with Joe on our way to a music shop, which he was going to purchase some new strings for his guitar from and as was his want he suddenly stopped me with an arm across my chest. Once more my heart stopped – I had to get him to stop doing it, I smiled. Then across the street coming out of a nearby hotel front door was the rock band, Aerosmith, only to leap in a limo in front of us. I remember saying to Joe, how I had always thought the lead singer was tall and slim, whereas in reality he was slim, but quite small.

We were now well into Autumn with Winter on its way towards us, but only as far as the date, as I have already said in this Blog the weather continued to be sunny. The nights, however, were now drawing in and the hours of darkness were now longer, giving NYC a different air about it. By now Charles had gone home to California, settled his affairs back home and driven back to NYC, with all his important possessions in tow, where he settled into a new apartment of his own, the lifestyle of New York obviously appealing to him, as a young artist.

One day Su and I walked down 5th Avenue, as she wanted to show me something, having spoken all morning about it to everyone in the office. Halloween was her favourite holiday and as such she wanted to show me the ultimate Halloween experience.

We arrived at the outside of the famous Rockefeller Centre and there were the biggest pumpkins I had ever seen. A real pumpkin patch with hundreds of them and some of them enormous. It was awash with bright orange and quite incredible to see. They had just been planted and as I had been spending long hours in the office and had taken to catching cabs on my way in for a few days had not seen them previously.

Su had spoken of me to her parents and having a family of their own, they felt so sorry for me that I was away from home and had been for so long now. She came in the office just before Thanksgiving and asked if I was doing anything at the weekend, which I knew was Thanksgiving and told her no. She then said she had been asked by her parents to invite me along to their house for a family meal there. I gratefully accepted and couldn’t wait to try her Mother’s home cooking.

Su had begun bringing in Chocolate Brownies and all manner of home made cakes and cookie biscuits into the office for me, almost from the moment we met, as in her eyes she felt so sorry I was away from my family. Her boyfriend at the time, Jon Holdredge, a Marvel penciller and her had taken me out to the pictures recently to see The Nightmare before Christmas, which I would see with her and Ben too later again that same week.

So it was that I found myself that Sunday on a train bound for New Jersey. It was the first time I had left Manhattan since the summer and as I looked around on the journey I saw that the trees had indeed started to turn and were starting to lose those beautiful Autumnal colour scheme of reds, golds and ambers, as the leaves began to fall from their limbs.

On arrival at their home Su introduced me to her parents, both lovely people and I was welcomed into the home like a long lost family member. The meal was wonderful, homemade, something, which I hadn’t had for many weeks at that point, and we had a great time discussing my life back home and the new situation here in the USA at Defiant.

I told them that I knew my family were finding it increasingly difficult with my absence from their lives other than the daily phone calls at bed time, which although only a couple of minutes long, at least gave them the secure knowledge I was still there, albeit three thousand plus miles away. Su’s parents really felt for my family and I and made my visit an absolute wonderful event, to which I will be eternally grateful.

Su introduced me to her pet Chinchilla, which was a brilliant little creature to have as a pet. He lived in a huge cage in the room he was in and roamed around like a dog for much of the day. Bright white and very friendly he was a very cool creature. Later on that day Su took me back to the train station and I set off back to Manhattan.

We came to a stop not far from where I was to get off again and a small group of youths came onto our carriage. Dressed with jeans which looked about six sizes too big for them with the groin area almost down to their ankles and with baggy sweaters and jackets and huge sports shoe boots, they looked for all the world like many of the characters within the comic books being produced at the time.

They had a ghetto blaster with them and it pumped out the latest rap artists as they made a lot of noise and laughed and joked with each other. I looked around the carriage and could see the young group were unsettling some of the other passengers, in fact to be truthful, most of the other passengers and yet as I observed the teenagers, aside from them making their presence known with the noise, they were in fact doing nothing wrong.

For my money they were simply having fun as teenagers, but their appearance and the amount of noise they made were the only things, which made the other passengers fear them, which was a shame as they were only kidding around with each other. The stop before mine they arose as a unit and then they got off the train. There were audible sighs of relief from all around the carriage and most of the passengers were discussing how bad the behaviour was from the youths.

I remember getting off the train and heading back to my apartment, smiling inwardly at how easily the youths had made the others feel uneasy, and yet in real terms had actually done nothing, except maybe cause their imaginations to conjure up bad images.

Below: Pages from Dark Dominion Issue 3

Page 2
Page 9
Page 16
Page 23
- The famous 20 minutes page

One day, shortly after Thanksgiving, Bob Downs came along to the offices and brought in some new Flash pages for DC comics, which he was inking over a new guy on the block Mike Wieringo and I was hooked by his stuff. This was Mike’s early work in comics and already folks were starting to talk about him and his work.

I have a natural cartoony style in my work and I remember thinking to myself how much I loved his stuff and was surprised the work had managed to get under the radar with DC, as most stuff at the time was quite grim and gritty in terms of story and art.

I watched Bob working on the stuff at the side of me as I worked on more Defiant pages, listening to his enthusiasm for the new Flash pages. I remember going out a few days later and buying a Flash comic with Mike’s work in it, I liked his stuff so much. There was a lightness of tone and a fun approach to the storytelling, which made it fresh and exciting and something you didn’t want to put down.

One day, around lunchtime, I was on my way to Mid-Town Comics with Joe when we noticed someone was filming outside the hotel I had been staying in when I had first arrived in the states. The road was cordoned off by real Police and there were the film set cordons with the Cop actors.

It was one of the early episodes of Law and Order and was quite exciting to watch, even if from a distance. These kinds of things were regular happenings in NYC and were certainly different experiences for me from any in my small, northern hometown, here in the UK. The shows continue to be some of the best TV viewing for my wife Margaret and I. In fact she is watching an episode of SVU as I write these words.

Work was always the main thing on the agenda though at Defiant and one night saw me in a marathon session for Dark Dominion Issue #3. Joe had been busy on the book and had been helping out with the production team on the books and also had some family health problems to deal with, so the book had become a little behind on schedule at the end of the issue. The pages had Joe using Manhattan references for buildings and such and those you can see above with examples of the photos we used for authenticity below.

We used Trump Tower as a basis for Chasm’s offices and there were the usual plentiful Dark Dominion Denizens. I also added graffiti in the backgrounds of the NYC underworld again and on page nine, I managed to add my daughter and son’s name onto the wall of panel five. You can see their names on the far right hand side of the panel – Joanne and Simon. Joe and I went out taking the photographs of the buildings, as we knew what we need to shoot for reference and it was great fun as we looked for the best buildings and best views to use to utilise our, by now, patented reflections in the windows SFX.

Well, as I have said the book was now running late and an all-nighter was had by others as well as myself on the evening before the deadline to ship the artwork to the printers in Canada. I had seven pages to start and it was 12:00 midnight following an already gruelling day of painting on more of the pages.

By 8:30 a.m. I still had one to start and the office was starting to become populated by other folks. I looked up and folks wanted to speak to me, especially editor, Ed Polgardy who knew we only had half an hour to complete the job and get it on the next stage of production, the flight to Canada.

I picked up all my paints and the pages and walked into Ed’s office asking Joe to bring his ghetto blaster and the fan in too. I then asked Joe to stand outside the office door and let no one in until I walked out with the pages. I remember seeing Ed pacing, like an expectant father to and fro about the main office floor.

His head popped in his office, as I was saying this to Joe, I asked him to go away, politely, saying I was to be locked in the room and I WOULD finish it in time, but I wouldn’t if folks kept interrupting, asking if it was finished. I then said they would know when it was, I would walk out of the office with it.

Well with Joe as the official “Tim is in Ed’s Office” bouncer I set to work, with Pearl Jam blaring out “Jeremy” on loop. It must have seemed a little surreal to those outside on the other side of the door. Ed Banished from his office, Joe guarding the door and me inside promising to paint the final page inside twenty minutes.

Well I put the final touches to the page, which were always the highlights and the final page was indeed painted in 20 minutes. I walked out with the ghetto blaster, still blasting behind me, to a tumultuous round of applause and cheers from everyone in the office, who had, by now, gathered around Ed’s office awaiting my coming out of it, much like the scene in Groundhog day when the groundhog is taken out of his little home.

The pages were still wet as Zach Lynch took them from me to take to the printers in Canada. I told him to blow on them until they were dry enough to put with the others in the production bag, which he did with a beaming smile on his face.

Joe slapped me on the back and Ed shook my hand both with accompanying grins from ear to ear. The office was abuzz with the sound of success. No one could believe I had finished the seven pages over night, let alone this last page in twenty minutes, but I had and although everyone expected us to go home, having worked all day and night previously, we stayed on driven by adrenalin and the need to come down to earth again working on the next batch of pages, which for me meant the Good Guys.

Below: Photos used for Chasm's office block and inner rooms:
Check them out against the Comic Pages above.

Late one night having just worked with Bob Downs helping him ink an issue of Barbie comic for Marvel, as I was waiting for new pages and he was so close to deadline with all the work he was doing at the time for Defiant I found myself, because of a good word from Bob, invited to the offices of Marvel comics for a chat. Bob said he had told them about me and they had asked to see me, so I rang and made an appointment to go along.

It tied in great one morning and as I was waiting for some pages to be completed and then shot onto watercolour paper at Kinko’s I had the time to pay them a visit, if only to look around the New York offices, hey maybe I would meet Stan himself, so what the hey?!

I remember being surprised at not seeing a huge sign outside the skyscraper heralding the fact that this was the home of Marvel Comics - The House of Ideas. In fact the huge engraved bronze plaque outside the reception and elevators to the various companies residing there was the only evidence that they did so. I was greeted by the guy at the reception desk and I told him I had an appointment with Marvel’s editors. He showed me to the elevators and off I went up to the floor, which housed them.

It wasn’t until I reached that floor that I saw the first sign of Marvel in the form of a large logo over the reception and large free-standing cut-outs of Spider-Man and Hulk, etc. I was asked to take a seat and was then joined by Editor, Bobbie Chase. He took me to an office and we spoke for a while, as he looked through my portfolio of work, which contained mainly colour works and not too much of my pencil and ink work, although there were some. The editor asked about my work in the UK, especially the Marvel UK stuff.

We spoke about the inks, helping Bob and he asked me about my work over at Defiant. Things like, what it was like there and what Jim was like and stuff, like that. It appeared that I was being quizzed more about the opposition than I was about my abilities to work for Marvel.

My enthusiasm for Jim and his new company maybe helped to seal my fate as far as work at the time with Marvel. Anyhow, suffice it to say I didn’t get any further work from Marvel, but I did see the offices and as I walked back to Defiant’s offices I have to admit to feeling a little like that Englishman in New York part again. I also have to admit that with the way I was being treated by Jim and the rest of the folks, there would have had to be one ecch of a deal on the table to draw me away from them and one I was already receiving and that was never going to be bettered. I couldn't have left Defiant anyhow, it was just too good to lose.

I felt I had done what I needed to, as Bob had so very kindly opened a door for me, but I had no inclination to look for work from another company at that moment in time, besides I was so busy already. I had been to Marvel and shown them the courtesy I thought due them, owing to the fact they had invited me along. Maybe all the above made me look like someone who would be unlikely to leave Defiant anyhow, even if asked, so they simply didn’t.

The day after this I ended up posing for a character, which Greg Boone was drawing from Good Guys issue #5. Greg tested my acting abilities for the splash page of that issue, in which Flex learnt self-defence. Greg admits to having problems composing that very complex opening shot and I actually did the pose you see Icarus in, whilst he is kneeling down to help Zack. So Greg immortalised me by using me as his model for his great illustration. I often quote this when I teach my students, trying to get them to understand about feeling the characters and being able to act and pose for them too.

Whilst I worked in New York, if I wasn’t working through the complete night I could be seen walking the streets of the city at 4:00 a.m. in the morning, or so. Now at that time of night or day, whichever you prefer, the only folks you will see are other New Yorkers, who don’t give you eye contact, after all you, or they could be packing a gun, or a knife – so it’s better to keep your eyes averted, thus avoiding a complete impasse.

The only other guys you may see, at that time, are the New York Cops, in their cars. Quite a number of times I would be walking along only to have a slow moving Cop car pull alongside me slowly moving at my walking pace with the passenger giving me the top to bottom torchlight search. This I always gave the thumbs up to along with a smile too and I was always carrying my portfolio when I did so. I always wondered if they had known I was this Brit comic artist guy would they have said oh no it’s that crazy Brit again? They never stopped me and always waved back after this and drove slowly on their way.

One of the great things we did as a group was pay a visit to George Pratt’s home/studio the artist behind the enemy ace painted comics. We got to spend the Saturday there and see his original paintings, etc, with Joe, Rob, Zack, Hector and a few others. That was a fun day out and we had a great time talking to George about his work and his thoughts on what we were doing at Defiant. George is a great guy as a well as a great artist and made us all really feel at home.

Some of his comic work was just the usual size, which was amazing, as he was using oils and then he had some humongous canvases, with a variety of subjects on them. I remember his studio/home had artwork, books, photographs and scripts everywhere and it felt like you had to concentrate all the time when moving about in it, or else chance stepping on, or through something of great value. The day passed so quickly and we all went for a meal later in a nearby restaurant, which was great.

We had seen a little rainfall of late, but nothing like back home. It had probably rained about a week out of the entire four months to that point, which was nothing and was, I am sure making the folks back home quite jealous.

Fall was about to turn to winter, although you would never think so, with the wonderful weather New York continued to entertain.

But I’ll share that in my next Blog.

Until next time have fun!

Tim Perkins…
July 13th 2009


Magnus said...

A good installment. It's nice of you to share the human side of life as an Englishman in New York (nice Sting reference btw). How you worked your kids' names into the book is extra nice. Also fun how you modelled for that splash. I looked it up in the comic. I know that Jim Shooter has been the model for some splashes as well. Obviously comic books are very much a team effort (with special individual efforts, you must have had lots of adrenaline pumping after finishing that last page). Thanks and take care.

Tim Perkins said...

Hi Magnus,

Thanks for the kind words.

Yeah, I tried to add all sorts of family and friend's names into the Graffiti in the backgrounds in Dark Dominion.

When my kids got the books they were able to look for the names as part of the fun.

The books were very much a team effort and a team that all loved what they where doing.

I could have run a marathon, I am sure, or at least crushed a grape after the 20 minute page.

I suppose it felt like the end of a football match (soccer to you guys in the USA) when the adrenaline is still pumping and yet you should feel totally drained.

Glad you are continuing to enjoy the tales.

I have Part 12 finished and ready to post later this week and two more, which, unless they over run and I need to split the installments, will see the tale told in 14 episodes.

So we are almost on the home stretch now, but with lots still to tell.

Thanks again for dropping by.

Best Wishes,

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

Had the chance to meet David Lloyd today, nice man . Do you know him well?

Tim Perkins said...

Hi Charles,

Yes, I know David.

He is one of the nicest guys in comics. He is unassumming, talented, courteous, very professinal, hugely supportive of the industry and the folks within it, and an inspiration to many in the industry.

I have known David since my early work for Marvel UK. Always entertaining and interesting to chat with.

Many years at UKCAC and then the early Bristol cons saw the two of us and a small contingent of UK artists and writers going for a meal on the Friday and Saturday evenings followed by a drink or two at a bar discussing comics and life.

We always manage to spend some time chatting at conventions even now and still speak via email.

I am not surprised to hear you speak of him this way.

Hope you had a great time at San Diego.


JayJayJackson said...

Just one little comment on the state of the NYC mind at the time and the teens on the train... Before 1989 I don't think most people in New York City WERE afraid of teenagers all that much, but after the Central Park Jogger (and the other people that same night) were attacked it changed the whole perception of what groups (or mobs) of young people were capable of. So even 4 or 5 years later people were still wary of wild behavior in groups of young people.

I'm sure your take on the kids is correct, but I'm just pointing out that people had their reasons for nervousness.

Tim Perkins said...

Hi JayJay,

Yes, you see from my point of view coming, as I was, from England and being unaware of those events except from afar shows the differences in perspective.

You know the strange thing is that nowadays I feel that I felt safer in NYC than I do over here in the UK, walking my hometown late at evening.

How things change and not for the better here. The zero tolerance which NYC employed, has supposedly been tried here, but to be honest it was a farce, with all the laws which protect the perpetrator and not the victim.

So your comment here is very relevant to me here at home nowadays.


JayJayJackson said...

Being a late night person, I very much welcomed the crackdown on crime. I've gone all over NYC at all hours since I moved here in 84, but at the time you were here it was much better, as far as street crime went. Nowadays it seems that Manhattan has gotten so expensive and developed that hardly any "bad" areas are left. Buildings that used to be deserted heroin dens are now turned into Gap stores and Starbucks. To me, the city has lost a bit of it's rough (and flavorful) character, but it is undeniably safer.

Tim Perkins said...

Hi JayJay,

Yes, I bet New York has changed even more since I was there. I certainly knew the streets were much safer, whilst I was there, than even a few years previous to me arriving, as I had read and seen documentaries which boasted how much safer it had become before I first came out there.

Joe took me to some of the "rougher", or to quote you, "flavourful" spots far away from the ones known to tourists, which gave me a great sense of feeling for the city and, which was certainly very useful to me when portraying the New York of Dark Dominion.

I certainly cannot wait to get out there, hopefully next year sometime, when I come over to promote my "Worlds End" graphic novel.

I guess we should all start making plans now for a mass reunion.

With that in mind, I'll get back to the drawing board now, to finish off the pencils.