Monday, August 31, 2009
I have just received word from my UK comics buddy Paul Gravett, a London-based freelance journalist, curator, lecturer, writer and broadcaster, who has worked in comics publishing and promotion since 1981.
The email relates to the incredible turn of events, which is in this Blog’s header.
As incredible as it may seem Industry Giants Disney are about to acquire Comics Giants Marvel and for an estimated $4 Billion.
I am enclosing the link below with the full story has given to the press by Disney:
Disney to Acquire Marvel
Wow, whatever next?
Until next time have fun!
August 31st 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
The guys at Thought Bubble asked me to put up something to promote the upcoming new Mini Con in September produced by comics retailers, Travelling Man, but the recent workload has been even madder than usual, more on that in my next Blog, so this is the first time I am able to sort something out for them.
Anyhow, better late than never, here is the info to let you guys know all about the convention:
WE LOVE COMICS CON
SATURDAY 5TH SEPTEMBER 2009
32 CENTRAL RD
Travelling Man a Leeds comics store is about to enter the arena of conventions with it's first touring Comic Book Con to be launch at it's Leeds Store!
The owner Nabil Homsi says "Our Leeds store is a perfect place to launch our comic book convention because it is our flagship store! We have been trading independently in Leeds for over 15 years now and our store is going from strength to strength despite the economic downturn." Nabil says "We think this is due to the enormous amount of events we have been running in store over the past year. Rather than just being pure retail we are building a community, which loves and embraces all things comic related. Travelling Man Leeds is perfect for this because we have a coffee bar downstairs with lots of seating. Customers often come in just to have a coffee and read the latest comics."
Travelling Man's 'We Love Comics Con' Launch should prove to be fantastic!
Comic superstars announced to attend are:
Andy Diggle, who works for Marvel Comics and has recently signed a movie deal to turn his cutting-edge title 'Losers' into a Hollywood film.
Adi Granov, one of Marvel comics finest artists will also be in attendance. Adi is famous for his incredible concept design on Iron Man and the upcoming Iron Man 2 movie. He started at Marvel comics five years ago and is now regarded as one of the top art talents in the comics field. He also worked with star writer Warren Ellis to illustrate the ground- breaking 'Iron Man Extremis’, which is believed to be the inspiration for Hollywood to make the Iron Man Movie.
Liam Sharp, will attend to sign copies of last years best selling comic book 'Gears Of War', based on the extremely popular console game. This will be one of Liam's first UK signings for this series and games fans are sure to go wild! Liam has been an incredible talent on the comics scene for years now working for greats such as 2000 AD and D.C. Comics. He also worked with rock legend Glenn Danzig at his comic company Verotika.
Frazer Irving, of 2000 AD and D.C.'s Seven Soldiers fame will also attend to draw some exquisite sketches for his many fans. His illustration work is mind- blowing and he has worked with some of the best names in comics today including Grant Morrison and Mike Carey.
Peter Doherty, a star colourist and artist will be in attendance to keep the party going with his beautiful sketches and keen wit. He is best know for his work on 2000 AD, Grendel and the The Wachowski Brothers (Matrix films) comics company Burly Man. He has been nominated for an Eisner Award for his colour work on Shaolin Cowboy.
The day is sure to be unmissable and a treat for all!!!
Entrance is FREE and guests will be sketching and signing for free all day!
For More Information Contact:
Lisa Wood email@example.com
Or call 0113 2436461
Future Travelling Man Leeds Events are:
*Bryan Talbot signing Saturday 24th October
*Naruto Day Saturday 3rd October
*Thought Bubble Festival signings at Saviles Hall 21st November
The guys at Travelling Man and Thought Bubble are a great bunch of folks, so give ‘em your support if you can. You’ll have a great time I am sure!
Until next time have fun!
August 30th 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Just a very quick Blog from me today to celebrate Jack – “King” – Kirby’s Birthday.
He would have been 92.
It has often been quoted in relation to his contribution to American comics that, “There were Giants in those days!”
Well I have to agree with that sentiment and add that in my opinion Jack was the biggest of them all.
Happy Birthday Jack, I know you’re watching…
Until next time have fun!
August 28th 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
I was looking at Walter Simonson’s new Photo Album on his FaceBook page the other day and it got me thinking…
When we moved to the house we live in now, some seventeen, or eighteen years ago, we sold the house within a week of putting it on the market. Some friends of ours had had their house on the market for eighteen months and only just sold it, so we thought it would be a while before we did the same. As a result of these thoughts we had only tentatively started to look in the local papers and at the occasional house as we drove around, with nothing very serious being done yet, as far as choosing an area or anything.
One week to the day from our sign going up and we had three enquiries on the day for viewings that same evening. I rang Margaret at work and told her and we showed the three couples around the house that night. The people who were supposed to be first were running late and were the last of the couples to view the house. All three had said they loved the house and were interested and would be in touch the third couple though said they would be making an offer the next morning. Margaret asked me what I thought after they had gone and I said, I felt they were just being nice about it.
Boy was I wrong our estate agents called the next morning around ten o’clock and the offer had indeed been made. I rang Margaret and told her; she was over the moon. I spoiled that a little I suppose with my next comment to her, telling her that was all well and good, but we had a month to find somewhere and pack and I was in the midst of working on Triffik comic here in the UK hiring six other guys to help with the workload. I was pencilling and inking the books, with the occasional ink assist, whilst my brother Chris did the lettering, with an assist from another letterer occasionally, and two other artists did the colouring and some was produced by me. So to say I was busy was an understatement.
Anyhow to cut a long story short, we found the house we now live in and Margaret packed the entire household, except for the Studio, as that was my job. On the Friday morning of the move I had worked the entire previous night on the next batch of pencils and inks without sleep. I went to pick up the Luton van we were using to make the move with and the loading of the stuff began in earnest. We were lucky in as much as Margaret went to the new house with the kids and some friends, whilst I drove the contents from the old one, with friends at that end helping with the loading of the furniture and stuff.
Now you may be wondering why I chose not to hire a removals firm. Well it was a simple decision to make, really, as back when I was a student in the sixth-form I got a holiday job, along with a couple of my school friends, which only lasted a week, as I quit. In fact we all did as we found Saturday jobs because of the way the removals firm worked. I saw more expensive stuff smashed without so much as a by your leave, that week as to put me off using any removal firm myself, if the need should ever arrive.
Well the move went fine and by ten o’clock that night, the house was completely moved, except for me, or rather my studio. Now I had packed some things, but they were limited to my Conan the Barbarian comic collection – well at these times you need to be selective with you time. Back at the old house I had worked in the attic, which we had had converted into a large studio with a window overlooking the town. With the help of our friends and family not at the house with Margaret I moved the drawing board, plan chests, and other studio furniture and packed my artwork, comics, books, and art materials. There was one large built in, walk-in cupboard, which I told everyone to leave until last however.
It was when everything else had been packed and two loads had gone to the new house and with a bedroom full of my stuff to throw away, that we began to move the stuff from the last cupboard (There’s a great title for a comic or a book, I’ll have to use that one). Well as I sorted through some stuff I alone could sort out, everyone else had the task of putting the kosher stuff in the van and throwing out the stuff, which I was not going to have the room or the inclination to keep. For me this was a kind of exorcism and a much-needed purge from the past was in hand…my first of many.
Well, as you can imagine, no one other than me knew what was okay to keep or to throw out, so eventually, after constantly being asked is this okay, I decided to be ruthless with myself and I told everyone that after a quick pulling out of definite things I would keep, everyone was to just look at the stuff and decide to throw it or keep it. The rule of thumb was damaged stuff definitely had to go, as did photocopies and other such stuff.
The stuff I had removed was the full photocopied archives of my Marvel UK work, so me works in progress, some sketches, some scripts and plots and ideas packs and a few comics pages and paintings, which I definitely wanted to keep.
We got the rest of the stuff to the house, which I was to keep and then I returned with a couple of friends to load the van a final time with the stuff I was throwing out. Needless to say we filled the van completely, which even now I think was amazing and it proves we definitely horde stuff as creative folks, as it can always be useful, trouble is, it seldom is and with the advent of the internet even reference books are not as effective at times as looking on the Net.
I remember making the trip to the waste disposal site, which is no longer there, before taking the van back and returning to the new home and thinking even then should I keep this one and as the collection of stuff got larger, I decided no you have to be ruthless and get rid of the lot, so I did.
So it was that through the night until I eventually sat down in the new house, having taken the removals van back, with a cup of tea and surrounded by boxes of all shapes and sizes that we packed and moved my stuff.
The sad thing was only a few years later when Joanne was doing art at school and later with Simon, who also did art, that the still-life drawings and paintings from school and some of the comics stuff, would have been great to show them, to let them see how things progress. They had only ever see Dad do the stuff on the drawing board and not seen the stuff I had done years before, when I too was at school.
I could also have used the artwork from way back when to show the same things to the students on my Fantasy Art Unlimited course, as a means to do the same.
It would be nice too, to be able to look through the stuff and display them on the Internet, much like Walter is doing at the moment. I still have some stuff I kept, but it has been years since I looked through this archived stuff, and maybe Walter has inspired me to take time out eventually to do just that.
Since that purge I had a second one only than a couple of years, or so, after the move, which would see me get rid of most of the Marvel UK photocopies. This is now a real regret as aside from two pages given to me during my first couple of months from editor-in-chief at the time Ian Rimmer, which are two pages from my first episode of Zoids that I worked on with Kev Hopgood I never received any artwork back from Marvel UK, as I was told it was then not the policy to return artwork. If I had had the photocopies, at least I could have uploaded some of them onto the website for folks to see, but alas they became a casualty of my second purge. It was not until returning to work for Marvel UK a second time in the early nineties under the leadership of Paul Neary that I receive some of the artwork from that period, some of which is on sale here on the Wizards Keep Website.
I have had several purges since, but not with artwork, only out of date paper work. The last really big purge was when the new Studio was set up and that was done over several months, as a gradual process, whilst all the new computer systems and everything were set up. Nowadays the weekly recycling of old paperwork means a much more streamlined look to the way we work here. Wizards Keep is now much better organised and it needs to be with the studio, storehouse and spare office/store each claiming the equal rights to paperwork.
With the advent of Digital art being produced, less and less artwork ever truly leaves our hands, which means there is an automatic archiving system in place nowadays. With delivery being one of three routes; CD/DVD, Direct down the line via Broadband, or FTP sites, so the artwork remains with the artists.
So a lot of the artwork from my past may have gone forever, but the archives still have the majority of the stuff, which I want. After all there is always new artwork replacing the old, in the cycle we create as artists.
Until next time have fun!
August 20th 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Here is another of my monthly sneak peaks at the cars you’ll see in issue #60 of the Hot Wheels comic, out next month, to whet your appetite. This month, however, instead of just showing the cars themselves I am showing them in situ within a panel setting.
The two cars are respectively:
Canyon Carver – From the story: “4 Wheels Good, 2 Wheels Great!”
Ratbomb – From the story: “All Cut Up!”
This is the first outing of the high-powered Hot Wheels Bike, but the latter car is seeing a reprise of its role in the comics, having appeared in an earlier issue, in a different story, although this time with a different coloured livery.
Edited by –James "Jubilant" Hill
This comic from Publisher, Toontastic is on sale in September.
I am looking forward, as always, to hearing what you think of this latest artwork.
As a postscript, I have some very exciting news in my next Hot Wheels Blog.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Today I thought I would share the cover to Markosia’s Relentless comic with you all, but with a difference, I am showing the process I undertook to create it.
The Book is written by Andy Briggs and Steven Horvath, drawn by me, with beautifully rendered digital painting by Yelena Zomorskaya and is published by: Harry Marcos at Markosia. The cover sports my full digital paints over my pencils.
Markosia have printed a short print run of the books and Harry said he was taking it along to the Bristol International Comics Expo, which took place in May.
The story is a four-part mini-series and if enough folks ask for the rest of the books to be finished then we would all love to see it completed and published as a graphic novel.
Now to the creation of a cover:
First off you will see I produced a cover rough, which is pretty much all there, after I discussed a few options over the telephone with Harry. I had thumb-nailed about three options.
For anyone unfamiliar with my thumbnails, which are something of a rarity nowadays, as I prefer the spontaneity of working directly onto the Bristol Board, they are produced at about a couple of inches high normally, just to give me a feel of a potential layout.
When Harry liked the sound of the one here, which I discussed, so as to not give away the storyline, but keep the reader wondering as to the content, we decided to go with it, at which point I then produced the rough pencils in Blueline, translating them into a greyscale image to send to Harry as a low-res jpeg.
With Harry’s approval I then set about producing the artwork, almost like I would an animation cel as two separate layers by drawing the main image on A3 sized Bristol Board and then using an overlay sheet of bleed proof marker paper on which I drew the claw. Again all of this was drawn, as usual using blue pencil leads.
Once this stage was complete, I scanned the artworks into the computer using Photoshop. I then created a new cover file and added the claw as a layer, turning the artwork into a greyscale image, which I then altered the levels of and then adjusted the brightness and contrast levels, until I was happy with the density of the pencil line, as a holding line, as I had with the inner pages for Yelena.
Then after a little clean up on each of the layers I began to flat colour the entire image, so I had a set of base colours with which to work. Unlike black line inked artwork you cannot really successfully bucket fill the images drawn this way, so flatting it like this is the best way to lay the foundation colours.
Once this stage was complete then all that remained was the fun part of rendering the image as I would a traditional “real” painting, adding the stars, the lighting and shadows, textures and adding form to all the elements, until the desired look is achieved.
I then added the SFX with the blurring of the claw to give the effect it was moving across the cover to slash at the main figure.
I kept a mainly cool pallet to suggest the coldness of the scene, with only a hint of warmth in the flesh tones of the main character. This worked really well with the addition of the Logo, which used warm colours and really popped out of the image as a result.
All the typographical additions were then added at Markosia at the production stage and then using the same guys that produce all my lithographic printing, we went to print.
Below: Stages of Production:
Claw Blueline Overlay Layer
Claw Greyscale Overlay Layer
Claw Blue Pencils
Claw Greyscale Pencils
Claw Flats Layer
Main Image Flats Layer
Digital Painting in Photoshop
Printed Cover from Markosia with additional Typography
Friday, August 14, 2009
I was lucky enough to take a little time off this last week just gone after delivering the latest Hot Wheels pages to Toontastic. Two and a half days may not seem like much, but when you spend such long hours behind the computers and drawing boards then it seems like an age.
Anyhow last Friday I went to the sun drenched sand dunes and beach at Lytham Saint Anne’s near to Blackpool, which is only about forty minutes or so away from where we live. My wife, Margaret and my daughter, Joanne came along with me and in truth it was their idea to do this. We also took a dog each, Joanne took Lucy, Margaret took Bradley and of course, what did you expect, I took along Bentley, he of “Bogtrotter” fame.
We had a fantastic time and I figured this Blog I would let the photos do the talking for me. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did taking them.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Well, as remarkable as it may seem, with all the comments I have made towards the British weather throughout this series of Blogs, it was now sunny here in the UK, but then again Spring was now turning to Summer here and I had Dark Dominion to work on, which Jeff G Jones had pencilled and Mike Barreiro had inked. I was really starting to enjoy what Jeff was doing with the book with his Mike Mignola-esque stylisation.
This was followed, as promised by the first pages of War Dancer Issue #4 with Dave Taylor pencilling, which where beautiful and rendered in what was to become Dave’s trademarked European styled line art.
There was a worried edginess about Jim’s tone now and I felt so sorry for the guy. He had treated us all like family and now his empire was fast collapsing around him and it seemed there was little he could do now, but watch it fall.
Speaking to some of the other guys back at the offices it was obvious the days were numbered and the end was nigh on the cards. Rob LaQuinta was really worried, as most of the freelancers were almost never seen around the place any longer.
Then one evening around eight o’clock my time here, Su rang me regarding the Dark Dominion book. She really felt uneasy being asked to take over the book, which everyone felt I had really put my mark on, but I told her not to silly and take the book. It was never going to come over to the UK for me to do, so I would rather she did it than anyone else and I told her to tell Ben to do the same with the other books if necessary.
I had heard a rumour that Jeff had gone in to see Jim and told him he didn’t like my work on the book and that he wanted me off it. He could not understand why my stuff was so bright. I said I had heard nothing about this and said not to worry about rumours, which obviously prevail in these kinds of situations.
I also added that even if Jeff had said these things, and I had no reason to suspect he had, we had only spoken a few times, but always amiably, I really doubted anyone carried that kind of clout to make demands of Jim, especially when he was trying to stave off the wolves from his doors.
The rest of May was not looking good for me work wise and I looked at my position and a way to keep going. The States were no longer hiring Brits, as the implosion grew larger and stronger, enveloping everyone in its path, like a thing from any number of Lee/Kirby blockbusters.
By September the company was gone and the dream had ended. It is so sad to speak of this even now, even though so many years have passed. I hope the journey I have taken you all on with these tales of my time out there in the USA have shown you this very gradual shift of feelings from one of almost Nirvana to one of absolute despair. It was real and the feelings are still as strong today as they were fifteen years ago or sixteen if you look to the start of the cycle of events.
The friendships made back then though, still exist and the comradeship we all shared has stayed with us. Even recently folks with whom I had lost contact with are back speaking to me again and the view is always the same, as it says on my subheading with this Blog, “It was the greatest of times and nice whilst it lasted.”
One of the things, which I have seen discussed on forums up and down the Internet and which I have spoken to folks about and have corrected when necessary is that all outstanding payments were duly paid and most artworks were returned too. The only things for me personally were a page of Dark Dominion issue 1, which went missing, along with my cover to issue #6 and the complete pages to issue #6 too. As far as I am aware, pretty much everything else was shipped back to me, despite the awful time the guys were having back there.
My next worry was where the next work was going to come from and more so when the work was going to return, as weeks turned into months and I spent most of that time producing sample after sample, after sample, to no avail. I was sending stuff to Marvel and DC and 2000AD and Games Workshop here, as Marvel UK was no longer originating stuff anymore, following the implosion in the States.
During September with no income for now four months something had to give and I chose to lose my pride and joy, the new car, as no work seemed forthcoming. It was a painful thing to do, but something that was done out of necessity. I was lucky the company I bought it off the previous Christmas, heard why I was selling it and paid me back exactly what I had paid for it, especially in light of the low mileage, as I had spent most of the year to that point in the US. My Dad was changing his car and so he gave me his old one, so I at least had transport, which was a superb help at the time.
I continued to send off samples to Marvel and DC, et al, only to hear the same old same old…it’s really great Tim, but still not quite what we are after. You are nearly there and this went on until November, when I awoke one morning looked out the window and decided enough was enough, I could now publish three graphic novels with all the samples and I could keep doing them for free until I lost everything.
I decided I was not willing to take that chance any longer, so called my best friend, Paul and asked him if he would like to do the comic we had always dreamed of doing for real. He asked what kind of comic and we decided there and then, it would be a gothic horror and pretty soon after Dark Crusade was born.
It took me around two weeks to finally rid myself of the shackles put on me by the constraints of the sample making machinations of the big two, but eventually I found myself once more and proceeded to work on the pencils and then inks and then painted covers for the four part mini-epic, which could lead on to more stories around the fictitious northern town of Blackcaster. It also signalled the end of my producing any sample pages for companies unless I was paid to do so.
With the first issue complete I then approached Ed Polgardy, whom I had tracked to Tekno comics in Boca Rotan in Florida. Ed was pleased to hear from me and pretty much offered me computer colouring on the spot. The computer I had just bought, however, was not powerful enough to do that kind of thing and besides, it was all new to me and back then I had no experience of the workings of a PC, let alone computer colouring wizardry.
So it was that I found out there was no work for me at Tekno, so I continued to soldier on regardless, but I was becoming increasingly aware that my wife was really starting to worry.
Many people in the industry and I am speaking of a number of high profile names left the business forever. One guy I heard of had started a job in a video store and too many to think of were out of work suddenly and in a lot of cases, irrevocably. I had been looking at starting work at a local computer circuitry company, although I really had no great desire to do so, but needs must and all that, when I was invited to the SF club in Preston which were held every second Tuesday of the month and hosted by my good buddy here in the UK Bryan Talbot. I rang John Ridgway and asked if he was also going to be going along too. He told me he would and I arranged to take over the finished pages of Dark Crusade issue# 1.
Bryan saw me showing Dark Crusade to John, whilst in the room above the pub, which played host to the group, after the guest speakers and the auction had taken place. John really seemed to like the new direction I had taken, which was more of a return to my roots, rather than a change of direction really, if I am truthful about it all. Looking over John’s shoulder, Bryan paid me some very nice compliments and told me about a new book he was writing for Ed Polgardy at Tekno Comics.
Then three days later I received a Friday morning telephone call from Ed Poldardy asking me if I would like to work on the new book written by Bryan, who wanted me to ink his Phage Shadowdeath book over Dave Pugh’s pencils. Amazing isn’t it, the thing about who you know. I would have expected to be given this shot anyhow from Ed, having worked with him for so long at Defiant, but it never occurred to Ed that I may want to ink, or indeed pencil, despite telling him as much over the phone earlier. Which just goes to prove that sometimes those closest to you, just see things as they think they are in the world they work in, not necessarily as they actually are and we have all done this to some degree in our lives.
This meant I didn’t have to think of work outside of comics, which was great. Ed sent through some test spread pages, which in turn had been sent over from Dave for me to ink. It was to be a marriage of styles made in heaven. I am often quoted as saying there is only one thing you can do with Dave’s pencils and that is to ruin them. I have never, even up to this day received such finished and full pencils, which are beautiful in their own right.
Sadly Tekno comics too fell foul of the comics implosion, although this would not be my last work in American comics and I would work on other books, such as; Captain Action, Chameleon Cat, Raven Chronicles, The Searchers and other independent comics too.
Over the first few months of leaving the States I managed to stay in partial contact with Joe and Janet and for a while with others, before I finally lost contact with Rob, Su, and Ben.
I have now recently regained contact with Rob, Dave Hillman, Greg and Grey and who added to Charles, Joe, and Janet, pretty much make up the core group with a small number of missing personnel. The latest addition to my fun-filled group of “Folks Defiant” is Zack Lynch, with whom I am long overdue a chat.
Since I initially wrote this particular Blog, Defiant1, who runs the fantastic message boards, the Comics Discussion Forum, which you can access through my website links section, as well as by clicking on the link above, gave me a lead which enabled me to track down Su McTeigue last week. I would like to say a great big, heartfelt thanks to the guy, for doing what may have been a simple thing for him, but an enormous thing for me. Thanks once again, mate!!!
Hopefully others like Ben, Big Jim Shooter himself, Bob, Oclair, Pete, Brady, and the rest of the guys from back then in the offices, will also be back in touch one day soon, or at least that is my hope.
I hope you have found them as entertaining to read them, as I have to write them.
Remember, they are my memories of my time back then, as an Englishman in New York, or a younger man with his dream of working in comics in the USA, a dream, which I had had since being about eight years old, and seeing it fully realised.
Writing this series of Blogs has reminded me of the times, back as a kid, when only my parents believed in me enough to realise I had the potential to realise that dream too. I hope this serves as proof that you can make your dreams come true, if you are determined enough.
To the Guys at Defiant, who made my stay there in New York despite being away from my, then young family, the pleasant one I hope I have proved it was by writing about it all. I wish you all every happiness and continued success, wherever you may now be and I also hope that if you haven’t already that you get back on touch with me.
And for all those fans of comics and especially the Defiant ones, who took the time and trouble to write back then, as fans, and since, in response to these Blogs. Thank you guys, you are the reason I am able to continue to live my dreams. Your support means the world to me and my next dream is that you will share my new stories that take place in a place I have come to know as, Worlds End.
There are a few more memories of my Defiant days, which have come to mind and I may eventually share these with you as well, but for now I guess some shorter Blogs are forthcoming from me for a while, to give me time to catch up and you guys to have a breather.
Until next time have fun!
Sunday, August 09, 2009
By the time we started seeing less and less of Jim in the offices, Louis Small Jr had become the next penciller on Dark Dominion. Louis, an ex-US marine had received Jim’s approval and was now on board to take over from Joe, the trouble was there had been a slight delay in getting this sorted and, as a result, the deadline was now quite tight for everyone, once more.
Despite this, however, we managed to get the book out on time, but I remember working very long hours to do so. Louis and I had only spoken very briefly, but he had picked up the vibe from me about the way I been working with Joe and so we adopted a similar approach, with Louis leaving out some details for me to paint them in. As a result this issue became one of the more painterly in look, but this took a lot of time to produce. I had inked part of the cover for Joe on Issue 5 and now with Issue 6 I was inking and colouring the cover.
I still feel the book came out great, especially under such deadline pressures and Louis did a sterling job. I really enjoyed working with him on it and have to say much more than I at first anticipated following on from the successful team-up I had with Joe. I only wish I had received the pages back from Defiant, but they were never sent with the other artwork for some reason and by the time I noticed it was too late to track them down.
I was working on a late issue of Dark Dominion and some more War Dancer pages, some Good Guys pages, as well as some Charlemagne pages and it was now starting to tell on me. I remember switching room from the main office to the side office overlooked by the Pan Am building. I had been away from the apartment for five days by the time I started with a sore throat and I was feeling both tired and run down.
I was desperately trying to keep a pace going with the books, ensuring all of them saw pages fed back to the production department evenly, or at least as best I could. It finally took a toll though, as the sore throat gave way to a runny nose and then a cough, not much at first but then as I ached all over and my eyes streamed and I knew I was getting rougher by the hour.
Ron Zalme came into the office and asked how the pages were just before mid-day. I was still managing to fight off the illness at this point and said I would have them ready the following morning. As the day progressed however my output had almost come to a complete and utter standstill. I was working alongside both Sue and Ben on the latest Good Guys pages and I felt so rough I really was frightened they were going to come down with the same thing.
Su had been coughing all that morning and Ben was starting to sniff and it was obvious they were catching something from me. I refused any lunch, as I just couldn’t stomach anything. By around three o’clock I was lying on the floor coughing and becoming increasingly aware of less and less around me.
I awoke and tried to continue to work on the remaining pages I had promised to finish. This series of sleeping sessions on the floor, although not really sleeping and then trying to work, continued for the remainder of that day and the night too, as I strove, through the hours of darkness, alone to finish in time.
I had managed to get Su to go home, but Ben had insisted on staying on, alongside me to finish off the book, but he too was becoming worse, however. The only other person in the office was Joe, who was becoming increasingly worried about my condition.
By the time daylight had returned and the office was becoming populated again. Ron Zalme popped his head inside the office again. I was still three pages from completion, with Su at home in bed ill and Ben having left to go home feeling equally lousy.
Ron was not impressed with the pages still unfinished and I tried to apologise, but seeing me still working I don’t think he realised just how ill I was. Ron made sure the entire office knew he was not happy, but I couldn’t have done any more.
By the time Janet got into the office, Joe had gone straight to her to voice his concerns over my deteriorating health and about the outburst from Ron. The first thing she did was to take a look at me and then immediately ring Jim to tell him.
I then heard an almighty blow up between Janet and Ron, as she explained in no uncertain terms his actions had been uncalled for and about how ill I was and could he not see.
A short while later Jim popped his head into see me and his face said it all, he was really worried about my health. He asked if I needed a doctor and was about to contact his own, but I remember saying all I needed was some sleep. He asked how long I had been at the office and how long I had been feeling this way.
I explained it had been some six days since I had been back to the apartment, which was insane, but so too were the deadlines. The books were late and I was doing my bit to keep them as on track, as I could. When he heard this and saw how long I had been feeling ill he left me and a few moments later Janet, Joe and Ed came in and insisted I went home. I explained the pages need finishing and I was told they didn’t want that to be at the expense of losing me altogether.
Jim insisted I was sent back to the apartment and to sleep until I was better.
So it was that one short taxi ride later I found myself in the warmth of my much-needed bed once more and then the next thing I remember was the phone ringing. I had insisted that Joe give me a call the following morning at eight thirty. It was now nine o’clock, but I felt better, stronger. Maybe not firing on all cylinders, but the worst seemed over.
I went back to the offices and the first person to come over to me was Ron, who apologised profusely for losing his temper the day before and explaining he had no idea I had been so ill.
I offered my hand to shake his, adding he wasn’t to have known, as I had been in the other side office for days, so he could not have seen me much during that time. Also from the time I had said he could have the pages to the moment he had come back into the little side office I had taken a big change for the worst.
The pages were finished that day and the rest of Dark Dominion was finished too. I still don’t know why Louis didn’t do any further issues with me, but the one we did together was fun to do. This, however, meant we were without a penciller once again - enter JG Jones, whom Jim had met at a convention. And so it was that a new team of penciller and painter was on the books.
Just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse Ed Polgardy told me he was leaving for the sunny climes of Florida. So now we were looking at yet another Managing Editor leaving. Debbie Fix was promoted to Office Manager and Pauline Weiss (Alan’s wife) was added to the team of the editorial staff. Jim continued to give his seminars and appear at conventions across the USA.
With a shed load of pages to produce on the Good Guys, once again, it was decided to have Su, Ben and I work from the apartment over the weekend rather than risk interruption inside of the office. So on the Friday mid-morning we began a weekend session from the apartment. I had been given £100.00 as expenses for the three of us to eat there. On the Friday evening I asked the other two guys what they wanted to eat and having heard me speak so much about them, it was decided they wanted to try an Indian meal.
I looked in the phone book and found one solitary entry in it, which was luckily just around the corner, near Central Park. Now the décor should have warned me, but suffice it to say it didn’t and I ordered three main courses and a nan bread. I waited for around half an hour, but eventually the meal came inside a brown paper bag and so did the bill.
I still have the menu, which I picked up on the way out of the restaurant/take-away in my archives here somewhere filed away, but at the moment I am too busy to make a search for it. I will endeavour to put out more details in a future Blog, if I come across it though.
Now back home, here in the UK, the rice is not usually an extra, or at least not as a take-away. Here was different and the meals did not come with rice included. I was then faced with having paid almost the whole of the $100.00 dollars, expecting to have paid the same kind of money as for all the other take-away meals we had had for the duration of my stays there. This was not to be the case, however and I have to admit to this being the only time I felt ripped off at being charged some $93.00 for three main courses, and a single nan bread, but no rice.
I arrived back at the apartment and checked the contents and immediately rang the place up and explained that they had forgotten to put the rice in the sealed bag and as a consequence there was no rice included with the meals. I was told they didn’t come with rice and it was an extra. I told the guy on the other end of the phone that I could have bought a meal for twenty people with the cost of the three here. But the deal was done and I paid the price.
So for the rest of the weekend it meant I either starved the guys, or foot the bills throughout. I have to admit it did tickle me a little having paid so much for so little and we ate from the regular places for the rest of the weekend and for the three of us eating very well indeed, breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper it didn’t come near the cost of the Indian.
As the unease around the Defiant offices worsened and Jim’s presence was sorely missed, I felt, the crew soldiered on regardless. I felt, however that the original drive was being lost now and something was missing and folks continued to leave the ship, which was still very much buoyant at this point. By now I was in receipt of pages by JG Jones and so was working with yet another artist on the book.
Debbie Fix who had taken over as Office Manager could see I was worried about the state of things at the offices and asked if I would like to take a trip out to West Point Army Academy. So that Saturday morning we set off on the train for upstate New York, using the Metro-North rail service from Grand Central Station in mid-town Manhattan, up the east bank of the Hudson River to West Point. It was a lovely, if somewhat cramped train journey through some wonderful countryside.
It was a great day out and reminded me of many films where the backdrop had been West Point. Having taken a tour around the camp we ate at a nearby restaurant, before heading back to the concrete jungle of NYC on the train once more.
Below: Various Pages of Comic Art:
Charlemagne Issue 1 Page 43
Dark Dominion Issue 8 Page 1
Dark Dominion Issue 8 Page 22
The absolute high point of my 1994 stint in New York was when I was taken to the Brandywine Museum to see NC Wyeth’s work. Originally we were going to see the Frazetta Museum, but this moved in the interim period, and as he was one of the biggest influences for Frank Frazetta, it was decided that we go there.
What a totally idyllic place it was and the epitome of beauty on this wonderful trip. I arranged to meet Joe outside his apartment and we both then got a taxi to Janet’s home in Brooklyn. There we packed our belongings for the weekend in her car and set off through New York across Pennsylvania to the Brandywine River at Chadds Ford.
We went on a thoroughly enjoyable guided tour of the museum and saw the marvellous paintings, which had captured the imagination of a young Frank Frazetta. Dimly lit they had a magical feeling about them, as though at any minute they may come to life.
Walking around the grounds and along the riverside we all three felt the same inspirational empathy with the land, which NC Wyeth and the other artists that formed the Brandywine art school, must have also been inspired by. It was a very tranquil experience and one, which I really feel the three of us needed as a getaway to the feelings of unrest that were rooting themselves in the offices back in the city.
We stayed at a nearby hotel and went to a few shops, whilst we waited for dinner to be served at the hotel. On the Sunday we again visited a small town and its shops, before heading back to NYC via a Lobster Pot restaurant, where we enjoyed a wonderful seafood meal of Lobster, Crayfish and all the other seafood that came with the platters.
With such a wonderful weekend spent with Joe and Janet I could see a massive difference in both the attitude of the staff at the offices, who seemed edgy now and obviously worried about things. There was also the additional worry of the running of the offices without the influence of the captain at its helm, Big Jim Shooter.
Despite the sombreness that could have prevailed had we all allowed it to, the worry was still being fought off by occasional frivolity, even if the brevity of it all made it all the more apparent afterwards. Usually in these situations I try to find some light-hearted thing to make folks laugh and this was one of those times.
Now I had played a prank earlier on my good pal Rob when every time anyone had spoken of him I had started to tell folks he was from the Bronx, or Harlem, Little Italy, or China Town, or Bedford Sty’ or anywhere except where he was from, which was Brooklyn. Now this went on for some time and was a source of sadistic pleasure for me as I saw him laugh, but want to kill me and then it got old and I stopped, which is unusual for me, I know.
Well Rob was very much into the rock band Pearl Jam. Now I was too, but I pretended I wasn’t for a bit of light relief. Now for those of you that know me well you know I love karaoke and that although I sing all sorts of stuff, my piece de resistance are my impersonations of Meatloaf and Phil Collins, which always go down great guns at parties.
Well I knew I could do a passable take off of lead singer Eddie Vedder; not as good by a long chalk as my Meatloaf and Phil Collins, but as I say passable…or should that be, annoying – I guess you should ask Rob. He was threatening to maim or kill me on occasion, so I figured I had him rattled…perfect.
Well I decided for some reason to keep taking him off every time Rob asked someone something, in order to answer him. Rob was okay at first, but then I knew I was getting to him, so I upped the ante and carried on even worse than before, so that the only way I spoke to him was as Eddie Vedder singing…yeah you get the picture. Well at least the offices were laughing again. This went on for some time until one late afternoon Rob had come past me saying something to me as he did so, when I replied as we walked away from each other as Eddie Vedder (well come on you would have thought he would have learnt by now – this had gone on for a couple of weeks, or so, at least, so the warnings not to speak in my vicinity were, for my money, quite obvious).
Without warning and looking like a cross between Wolverine and a Frank Miller Ninja I saw a hurtling shadow coming over me from behind me. It may have looked like that, but it felt like I had been hit as part of a Jack Kirby drawn, Thing versus Hulk slugfest! We crashed to the floor and I turned over to face him as we fell. Once on the deck he knelt over me with his hands around my throat saying, that was it, he could take no more, he had been pushed too far and now he was going to kill me, calling me a crazy Brit so-and-so as he did so.
Despite the death threats I could not help myself, but to laugh my head off and it must have been funny to everyone else, as the entire office soon became aware of the situation of two writhing bodies thrashing about and they all joined in laughing. By this time Rob was laughing and giving me a hug, as we got to our feet. This had been just what everyone needed, a chance to smile and laugh again and it worked.
Then one morning, shortly after the trip to Brandywine, I was told I could now go home, as Dark Dominion was still on track and I would continue to be sent more Dark Dominion and I was commissioned to work on an issue of War Dancer with Dave Taylor, which would be issue 4.
Jim had returned to the offices, at least for a while, by this time, but I still felt there was a growing unease, which had not been there at all when I left for home at Christmas some months earlier. I had been there in total for around nine months by this time.
I figured I wouldn’t be coming back to New York again after this, at least not unless it was under my own steam and so I saw the folks in the office on an individual basis and said my goodbyes and this time, as I say, I felt it really was goodbye. I stood on the sidewalk outside Defiant with my belongings with Janet and Joe and we hugged for one last time and this time it felt more emotional and I felt we all sensed a storm coming, one we may not be able to weather any longer.
Joe had given me a gift, The Art of Arion, a Japanese art book about a forthcoming Anime project at the Christmas leaving, now it was hard to even speak. I for one had an enormous lump in my throat and as I fought off the tears we said our goodbyes and I set off in a taxi to return home to the UK for a final time knowing that soon I would find myself on home soil once more.
This time I arrived at JFK on my own and I was saddened to think Defiant may not be strong enough to survive this period of unease within its ranks, but happy to be going back home to my family once more.
It was a night flight and I had a window seat on the starboard side of the plane that overlooked the wing and although it was still dark I could see the rain pouring outside as it ran down the glass. I had been speaking to an American guy on his way to see family he had in the north west of England in the seat next to me for most of the trip. He was excited about seeing them and I could not wait to see my family again. The weather had been sunny when we set off from JFK but by the time we were coming down to land in Manchester the weather was torrential rainfall. The flight had been made quicker due to the high winds, which had propelled us across the Atlantic and had shortened the trip by an hour.
We were on our final decent, minutes from landing and coming down through the rain clouds when there was an enormous bright flash on the starboard wing outside my window that lit up the entire wing accompanied by an almighty bang. The entire plane full of passengers let out an audible gasp; okay it was almost a scream and then there was darkness. My heart was in my mouth, as I pushed my nose to the window and peered out. I remember turning to the guy sat next to me and telling him, “I think it’s still there!” The plane continued its decent and eventually we touched down, without further ado, but with a deathly silence from its passengers.
As we taxied down the runway towards the airport departure lounge the Captain’s voice came over the cabin intercom system; he sounded Dutch. “ Hi this is Captain (I can’t remember his name) speaking.” He gave us the usual spiel thanking us for flying with that airline and hoped we had enjoyed the flight. He then added he hoped the explosion on the starboard wing had not caused any one undue stress, as it was an arc of electricity, which had caused it to happen. This was caused by the heat of the outside of the plane due to the high speeds of the return flight reacting as a conductor as it was coming though the rain clouds, which in turn caused an arc of electricity to hit the wing.
I couldn’t resist answering his comment and laughing, shouted, “No worries, but we could do with a few changes of underwear down this end of the plane,” which broke the ice and made the entire plane break into laughter. The only regret I have is not being able to remember the theme tune to the film St Elmo’s Fire, as that’s the name for the phenomena we had just experienced.
I arrived home, much to the relief of my wife, Margaret and our children, Joanne and Simon and my close family and friends. I had with me some pages for the next Dark Dominion by Jeff and the promise of a War Dancer book, which was to be drawn by Dave Taylor and more Dark Dominion to come, although I was still a little worried about how long this could last, especially being here in the UK now.
With all the cost cutting measures now in place, I saw myself, as surely they did too, as a very expensive and also potentially expendable asset. I wondered whether the cost of couriering the artwork via Fed-Ex and the time to get pages to and from me, if the pencillers and inkers were late again, would prove the killing blow for me. I supposed only time would tell.
But I’ll share that in my next and final Defiant Blog.
Until next time have fun!
August 9th 2009
Monday, August 03, 2009
I couldn’t believe it, as once more I found myself on a flight to New York, but this time there was a real difference, I really was missing my family and I was only just getting on the plane. The Christmas holidays had been so lovely, especially after being away for so long in 1993 it was hard to come to terms with going out there again, despite having so much fun working out in NYC.
When I landed on the other side of the pond the guys warnings to me, over the phone, of the change in weather were not unfounded it had been snowing heavily and it was freezing to, although to someone living in my neck of the woods, it wasn’t that unusual. I do remembering one of the first things to occur to me with the sudden shift in the weather was; how was Charles coping?
The first feelings I had upon arriving at Defiant was that things in the office seemed much different. Maybe it was me, as I was finding it hard to come to terms with being out there again, after such a short time with my family and one, which was so enjoyable for us all too, but I felt it was something else, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Only a couple of weeks had elapsed since I had left but with all the books suddenly late on deadline again Ron Zalme, ex-Marvel comics, assistant production manager, had been brought in and I sensed an unease in the office.
First night there the guys wanted to take me out to an Irish bar with the gang, as they could see I was having a particularly hard time of settling this time around. Now I have to admit to having worries over the troubles in Northern Ireland at the time and me with my so obviously English accent too, so I mentioned it, but was reassured it would all be fine. Luckily for us all they were right. I had just watched, whilst back home in England a news documentary regarding the relationship with the Irish in New York and the troubles in Northern Ireland. My experience in the bar showed the programme may have gotten it a little wrong.
The bar was a strange place to a guy from the UK with our quintessential English pubs. Firstly there was the seating, which was more like a diner then a pub then there was the service, not by going to the bar, but by ordering with a waitress…from a menu!
I checked out the menu and the only thing I saw in pints was Heineken, so I ordered one of those. Now this was the first time he had heard of pints of beer for Joe, so he asked what they were like. I told him it was just lager served in pint glasses. So the group all followed suit and ordered pints of lager.
Well as I have said before in these Defiant Blogs, my mates there didn’t drink, or at least couldn’t hold any amount of drink, without nearly falling over, so suffice it to say the guys were soon falling over and laughing aloud and making my night as they did so. I think had they not taken me there and had me laughing, I may have asked to be on the next flight back home the following morning.
Below: Pages from Dark Dominion Issue 5Respectively:
I had left in complete sunshine and returned to see NYC snowbound in my first few days back out there. It was incredible and beautiful at the same time.
No longer could the Empire State Building be seen across the way from the front office windows, as snow billowed about the mighty building. Traffic ground to a halt for a few hours and then the snow ploughs came out in force and pretty soon, despite the snow still continuing to fall, the roads had been cleared enough for vehicles to move once more.
What remained were huge mountains of snow at the sides of road, creating a barrier between the sidewalks and the roads. What happened next was holes began to appear in the walls of snow, wide enough to walk through, which were dug by the proprietors of the shops and delis and the staff of hotels and businesses and the residents of hotels and apartments, so that it was possible to cross the roads again once more. It happened quite naturally and without question, with the resident New Yorkers just getting down to business and getting the job done. It was quite amazing to see.
One major difference I saw between the snow in NYC and back home here in the UK was that it never actually goes slushy like in the UK once it began to thaw a little. It simply seemed to go like a foam-like substance.
It was in these first few days that Joe came over to me. He was still working on the pencils to issue five. He told me he had spoken to Jim for a few of weeks now and he had decided to leave the book to pursue the job as head of production in the office. He had mulled it over during the Christmas holidays (no pun intended) and decided he could no longer do both and decided to stay on staff, rather then freelancing as a penciller.
I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed with this, although I was happy for Joe, with his new position. I just felt it was a shame as we had just gotten used to working together and were doing things with the book that were different enough from the other Defiant books to stand out from the rest. I had no idea who was to replace him as penciller and truth told they were still looking.
One day towards the end of Joe’s tenure on the Dark Dominion book, he came to me with the top panel drawn, and as he was working from a plot with the stories he asked what he could do with the scene, which was basically a fight scene between Michael and one of the creatures from the Dark Dominion.
I looked at the drawing in the top panel and saw something straight away, which I thought was amusing, but never expected Joe to take serious. The tentacled creature holding Michael seemed to be pulling him towards its many-toothed maw, and there in the centre was a tongue licking its way towards the hero.
I told Joe it would be neat if Michael could just break free of the creature’s grip, turn and grab hold of its tongue and then pulling the tongue pull the creature completely inside out…that’s what Joe did and the page can be seen here with my fight scene suggestions.
The weeks went by pretty quick and then one Sunday evening as I spoke with Janet the office phone rang, so I went across to answer it. It was short and direct; I was asked if I would tell the rest of the guys there that Jack Kirby had died. I still cannot remember who called and even back then I couldn’t tell Janet who it was, I was just shocked. I had never met Jack or spoken to him, but it felt as though I had lost someone close to me. In a way it was, as I had grown up reading the comics, which he had both written and drawn. He was the reason I wanted to draw comic books for a living.
I remember telling Janet and Joe and the other guys there. The strange thing was usually on Sundays I was pretty much on my own now as, the policy had changed and I was now the only freelancer allowed to work in the offices, after normal working hours, unless someone was working directly with me on a book, so it was unusual that a few other guys were there with me at that moment.
I was not going to have the chance to say thanks to the King now, but I immediately rang the guys organising the Comics Conventions in the UK and told them all about Jack’s passing and asked them if they had room in the convention booklet for a Kirby Tribute illustration from me. I was given the go ahead and promised to send something off soon. The offices were a sombre place to be for a few days then, but the atmosphere was soon to change once more.
It was within this first few weeks into my return to the offices that we saw proof that all the books were beginning to slip into total chaos. Changes were made, the first of which was a cost cutting one, as the soft drinks ran out and were not replaced. The next was a freelancer ban, which in effect meant I was now the lone freelancer in the offices after six o’clock at night, unless I specifically needed someone there with me on certain pages due to a close deadline between inks and colours. This now added to the loneliness I felt during the small hours, which even the occasional burger order at four in the morning did little to satiate.
New York was still covered in a blanket of snow and I remember going back to the apartment early, as Len was due in around 8 o’clock that evening. So armed with a page or two from issue five I walked back through the snow to the apartment. I decided to grab something to eat on the way home, which I would eat at the apartment. So I bought a couple of slices of Pizza from across the road from my apartment and sat on the couch eating them, along with a cup of tea, as I waited for Len to arrive. This time I had taken some of my own tea bags along for the trip to NYC and boy was I now living it up.
It was around eleven o’clock at night and I was working on a couple of the pages of issue five when there was a loud knock at the door. I checked through the little viewing port on the door and sure enough, dressed for all the world like Tom Baker’s Doctor Who, was Len Wein, even down to the hat, large over coat and over-long scarf.
He came in and we introduced ourselves. I showed him to his room next to mine and he took his suitcases inside and quickly unpacked. He came back in and asked if I had eaten and I told him I had had a little something earlier, to which he asked if I could possibly manage a sandwich and accompany him to a sandwich bar he knew, as he was famished.
I told him I would love to join him and could easily manage a sandwich. Now by now you would think I was savvy enough with New York and its cuisine to realise that even a sandwich could prove fatally large, wouldn’t you? Well I wasn’t, although I like to think it was due to being in the presence of one of my hero writers.
Anyhow off we went through the snow-laden streets of New York to a sandwich bar called Carnegies on Seventh Avenue on the corner of 55th. I have to admit to have never heard of the place before hearing its name from Len, but it was a great place to visit, straight out of a fifties film, with its décor. It had photographs of all the film stars, pop and rock stars; in fact its walls were covered by a veritable who’s who of the world s of show business.
Len ordered a sandwich and whilst he did I decide between a burger and a Frankfurter. I decided on the sausage, as I had already eaten earlier, boy was that a mistake.
Len’s order came first and it was humongous. I honestly can’t remember what it had on it, although as it stood about ten inches off the plate, held together by two huge skewers (I kid you not) it is probably safer to say what it didn’t have on it was not worth bothering with. It looked like it had come straight out of a Scooby Doo cartoon.
My Hot Dog arrived, or at least that was what I was expecting to see on my plate. Instead a foot long Frankfurter, which hung off the plate on both sides was placed before me. We ate for what seemed like hours, and it gave Len and I time to get to know each other. It was a wonderful evening and was, I suppose, a precursor of the events of the rest of that week, or as I like to remember it the adventures of Len and his video recordings of the soaps.
Len is a great fan of the daily soap operas in the USA, or at least he was, as he liked to watch them for character studies. He did like all the soaps, as well and would set the remote recorder for several shows. He was very adept at this and I marvelled at his abilities with a VHS machine, which back home I struggled to set for one program, even when it was one I was also watching, whilst it recorded.
That first evening we retired to bed around 4:30 a.m. I arose around 8:00 a.m. and arrived in the offices around nine o’clock. Len arrived around mid-day and went straight into Jim’s office at which point they both came out and went to lunch. I was to get very little sleep that week not because of the workload, this time, but because of soap operas, as the TV and VHS was in my room, which was the largest room in the apartment and also doubled as the living room.
So it was that with blurred eyes and a fatigued back that every evening from around six in the evening until around three in the morning that I sat and painted at the apartment desk until Len had watched his episodes of that day’s soaps. I had always thought my wife was the ultimate soap fan, until I met Len. One evening, during his stay, I pencilled and inked the Jack Kirby tribute sketch for the UKCAC convention booklet, which I would send off via Fed-Ex the next day.
Gradually throughout the week I became more and more tired. More so than if I had worked at the offices all week with little sleep. The biggest difference for me though were the wonderful chats I had with Len, whose company I enjoyed immensely during his stay and whom I admit I really missed when he left to go back home to California, although I honestly didn’t miss the soaps.
No sooner had Len gone than it snowed again and this time it happened so fast and so incredibly strong that Ed Polgardy found himself trapped in the city with no way to get home, as his two hour train journey back home was not going to happen, as the tracks were impassable, so the trains were snowbound and stopped for the duration of the snowstorms.
So it was that I was then joined for a couple of days by Ed, who found himself in a similar situation to the one I had found myself in the previous year, when I had no clothes left and was asked to stay longer. The snows didn’t stay long though and the storm soon blew itself out and soon I was alone in the apartment again and with each successive persons departure so too my homesickness got worse.
Joe and I had not seen as much of each other as we had before, despite still working in the offices, as he was always busy with the production and I was working on the books. We did chat, but not in the same way as when we working so closely together and maybe Joe felt like I did about that. Suffice it to say one morning just before lunch he came over and said, some on let’s go out, so we did. He took me down to the Wall Street area and to the Twin Towers, which were unbelievably massive. He told me he had been meaning to bring me to them, for ages.
We stood with our backs to the glass wall of one of the towers and stared up between the two. I noticed an optical illusion. As we looked up the buildings seemed to get closer, as one would expect with perspective, but then the towers splayed back apart towards the top. I still wonder whether this effect was due to the movement of the towers at the top, as they swayed a metre or so at the very top to stop fatigue literally cracking them apart. Joe said he had done this so many times and had never noticed it before.
One of the main highlights for me during my stint at Defiant in 1994 was going along to the New York comic convention at the Javits Centre. The convention was the biggest I had ever been to and was just a fantastic experience. The Halls were huge, the stands were fantastic spectacles, and representing Defiant was an incredible experience.
The convention was the first I attended where the comics companies had official folks dressed up as their superheroes and as was Jim’s wont, no expense was spared on the Defiant stand, which comprised of a huge walk in Plasm world and a life-size glowing Michael Alexander. It looked absolutely magnificent and was the talking point of visitors to the convention. It stood out a mile with it’s all singing and dancing light arrangements, which gave the stand an eerie glow.
I walked around the convention and saw lots of original artwork and some great looking books. I decided against buying any artwork, something I figure I maybe should have done, now looking back, especially the Jack Kirby pieces, which were still affordable at the time.
Most of my time at the convention though was sitting between Chris Claremont and Joe, sketching and signing comics for the fans, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There was a fleeting moment where a few of us spoke to Gil Kane and I wish I had spoken to him more than I did, but I have to admit to feeling in awe of this legendary comic artist, despite him being a complete gentleman.
Whilst there at the convention I also met up with fellow Brit comic artist Dave Taylor and, knowing he was looking for work with the American comics companies, I introduced him to Jim, who gave him an offer of work. I remember Dave being so excited and the work he produced for them was fantastic. We were to work together on what would be my last work for Defiant later in the year.
Charles offered to come around again for a while as a room mate, as to quote him he just got bored of working alone and, since I had no one living with me at the time, he thought that he would come down and work with me during the day, although he knew I was feeling a little down still with being away from my family again.
It was true I was going through a patch of homesickness and the office wasn’t the wonderful inviting place it had been some months before and it was becoming less inviting with the lawsuit having drained resources and also reports of quite low sales, as against those anticipated, coming into the office, but, as I have said before, we were heading for a complete and utter implosion of comics in the US and the UK following the speculator boom of the early nineties, which gave a false impression of the actual number of comics sold for real, so the sales were probably a true reflection of what the anticipated sales figures should actually have been.
I have spoken to Charles recently and he helped me to recall that the office had a fit over Charles coming around, as if he was trying to "get away with something", when in actual fact he was instrumental in keeping me happy there in the States, when I really wanted to be back home with my family. He really was a rock for me back then and helped keep me relatively sane, to which I am still eternally grateful.
The one thing to remember was the weather had been great when I was out pre-Christmas, but these last few months had been simply winter weather and downright awful, which helped keep an air of melancholy about the office for me.
Charles added that he thought it was rather bizarre behaviour, when they kicked off about him staying over during the day, but with the low sales and the leaking money from the lawsuits, he thinks that they were really paranoid at that point. It seemed strange to me, when they were paying for the apartment for me anyhow and it had more than one bedroom and up to then Charles had stayed over, as had, Charlie Adlard, Len Wein, Ed Polgardy what was the difference with Charles now once more staying over during the day, when I had a spare room, even if he worked late and wanted to stay over until the morning, which he didn’t? The trouble was, Jim was away at the time and I was unable to speak to him about it.
I am sure none of the editorial staff, if I am honest would have stayed on their own for so long, and certainly not without their loved-ones, so surely they could understand why Charles was helping me along. All I can say is thank goodness that some folks are empathic to other’s feelings.
I have to say here too, that the organisation of the office staff hierarchy for me was instrumental in all of this too. As Jim spent less time at the office and more and more time out at conventions, promoting the company and also giving his seminars on comics’ storytelling and there was a shift in management, so too the other external events were taking place with the speculator market.
Add to that the late books, freelancers starting to disappear from the ranks, and the writing was on the wall for an enormous crash of sorts. Looking back, as the changes in the office took place, perhaps Defiant needed its leader more then ever, but Jim was trying to attract new readers and the way to do that at the time was through conventions and seminars.
This for me was a worry, as I saw the ship begin to flounder, without its rightful helmsman at the wheel.
But I’ll share that in my next Blog.
Until next time have fun!