Year odds and year ends:
Pursuant to my bit about Gil Kane's early inking work a couple weeks back, one reader forwarded the following scan of a romance comic story Gil penciled and inked himself – in 1965, well before he started inking his own superhero work:
A quick scan of the Grand Comics Database reveals Gil inked much of his own work during the '40s
but Gil himself was highly dismissive of this work, and it was following this period that he re-taught himself to draw, not in the purely visceral mode he had mostly employed, but in a more formal mode. The '50s are littered with work he both penciled and inked, with fairly rapid stylistic development
though the work appears in relatively low profile books, and Gil appears not to have convinced editors of higher profile work, mainly Julie Schwartz, to let him ink his own work. I suspect it was more a matter of scheduling than anything else, since Julie was also editor of most '50s western books where Gil's self-inked pencils appeared in that era. Gil also inked most of his smattering of work for Dell and other '60s publishers.
While we're on the subject of artists, I was asked by another reader which artists I've worked with I'd most like to work with again. (Gil, of course, but Gil's no longer available.) I dislike the question because I generally feel answering it slights the artists I've worked with who don't make the list. So let me put it this way: not being on the list doesn't mean I didn't like working with an artist, but there are guys, man, I'd kill to work with again, and if someone have me sufficient funds to put together an art staff to work with, these are the guys I'd stock it with, in no particular order:
Anyone who needs an explanation for this, check out our PUNISHER mini-series or graphic novel, DAMNED or the various Silver Age pastiches (LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE, CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN) we did for DC in the '90s.
John Paul Leon
John Paul made our '90s version of CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN one of my favorite comics runs ever, and it's a damn shame the book seems to have been apocryphaed by DC, because John Paul's work on it, a truly strange and tasty intersection of Jack Kirby, Gene Colan and Alex Toth, is extraordinary and deserves to be reprinted. He's on the very short list of artists I'd work with again in a heartbeat, no questions asked.
I've worked with Smitty a few times over the years, and we've tried on a couple other occasions where things just never came together. Great grasp of story, clean and really attractive artwork, and one of my favorite people.
Though he ended up inking a number of my books over the years, I only worked with Kevin Nowlan the penciler in the dawn of his pro career, on a really badly written Moon Knight story we threw together virtually overnight (for me, it was overnight, a night with an early morning out of town trip at the end of it, so you can imagine how much fun it was) to help Marvel stave off deadline disaster. Kevin, even then, was a standout. His art is so much better now.
Chris drew a handful of X stories for me at Dark Horse. Wonderful flair for fast-moving action, beautiful compositions, attractive line. I admit I hadn't paid too much attention to his work before X, but it's lovely stuff. He should've been a contender, and still could be.
David Finch – Sean Phillips – Charlie Adlard
In the early part of this decade I did a series of X-character vignettes for editor Lysa Hawkins in X-MEN UNLIMITED that were generally great fun. (The Paul Smith Lockheed story shown above was one of them.) Lysa was a terrific editor, and kept surprising me with terrific artists for my quirky little pieces. These three really blew me away with just how well they pulled it off and how good the end product looked. They made me look good. I always want to look that good.
I don't have any art for Phil, but we spent a year or so producing a graphic novel for Bob Schreck at DC that seems to have gone into limbo since Bob left earlier this year. Nonetheless, Phil's stuff on it was great, and it was a really strange number where I called for a variety of visual and color effects, and Phil relentlessly gave what I asked for. Besides being a very intriguing stylist, Phil's one of those artists like John Byrne who can be given something impossible to draw, and he'll figure out how to draw it.
Occasionally you run across a comics artist whose work is so good it flat out takes your breath away. Michael did the cover for the first issue of WHISPER and it was that kind of art, and I had no contact with him for another seven or eight years after that. He wasn't always that good – I have a couple DC pieces he did in the '70s that are cringe-inducing – but he's a guy who kicked into gear, and that was that. He has mainly worked with me as an editor (I wrote a number of scripts for DC books he edited in the early '90s, but they were all cancelled before any of my stories saw print) but another Deadline Disaster loomed for DEATHSTROKE in early '92 and then-editor Jonathan Peterson tapped me for another of those all-nighter emergency scripts and somehow conned Michael into drawing the framing device. Four pages, took my breath away. Bad for the other artist on the book; Michael's a guy whose work makes most artists' work look substandard. Last I talked with him, he was largely being wasted on kid-aimed covers for kid-aimed Marvel books, but there's a dark intensity in his work that someone ought to tap into, because it's money waiting to be made.
The guys currently working I've never worked with who I'd most like to work with? Again, in no particular order:
Lieber I've known for years, never worked with him, but, man, his art has gotten sharp. Another guy who seems like he can pull off anything.
If there's one truly idiosyncratic, identifiable action/horror style out there, it's Corben's. He's been at this a lot longer than I have, and his work is still pure visual impact, and fine storytelling.
I probably could've worked with the Dude, years ago, pre-NEXUS. But he wasn't yet what he quickly became once he sank his teeth into NEXUS, and while I thought he had potential, I didn't see he had that much potential. Not that he needs me.
J.H. Williams III
Williams has the most adventurous, contemporary look in mainstream comics today. He's great at everything – faces, sets, character designs, you name it – a totally pure comics vision that nonetheless always seems new and experimental and a little dangerous with every new job.
Okay, I know he runs Marvel these days, fine. I just always liked his art, and wish he'd do more. (Technically, I guess we did work together once – he produced a cover for an issue of X, and I always loved the cover – but I didn't have anything to do with it, didn't see it until after publication, so from my perspective it only half-counts. Could've been, should've been, but that was yesterday.)
Bear in mind these choices are predicated not so much on pure artistic appreciation (though, let's face it, any comics company using all those guys would produce some really great-looking books) as on the applicability of their styles to the kind of work I'd like to produce. Which isn't necessarily the kind of work they'd like to produce, but this is all fantasy anyway so what the hell...
Congratulations to longtime contestant Nicolas Juzda, the first to spot both last week's Comics Cover Challenge themes. The first was "ice" and the second "band." That's double duty. Nicolas didn't include any sites to link to, but if he wants to send one or two in for next week, I'll be glad to run them then.
And now the final Comics Cover Challenges of the year, the rest of the do-it-yourself submissions from readers:
1) From Frank Krulicki, who'd like you to visit Major Spoilers. Frank says no cleverly hidden clue is really necessary; you needn't be a wizard to figure it out:
2) From Eric Henry, who'd like you to visit Polite Dissent, a blog containing everything you wanted to know about... comic book medicine? Unlike Frank, arch-fiend Eric insisted I cleverly hide a clue somewhere in the column.
3) From Neil Abouelwafa, who'd like you to visit the quite intriguing blog slacktivist. Neil wanted me to fill up the column with cleverly hidden clues, but he only gets his ration like everyone else:
4) From Charles Bryan, who sings the praises of the always entertaining Golden Age Comic Book Stories. Charles seems to think his cleverly hidden clue will be easy to break, but I wouldn't bank on it:
5) And, finally, this week's winner Nicolas Judza seems to again be doing this simply for the sport of it, didn't even tell me what the solution was, but suggests his cleverly hidden clue is perhaps not the best.
These were a great bunch, very clever, and they're the last Comics Cover Challenges for this year. You don't have to solve all of them. Any one will do. Just send the entrant's name and your solution, along with your choice of website to pimp (within our longstanding boundaries of taste and discretion, of course, and we continue to reserve our right to quash any pimping) in an e-mail. Good luck.
No notes this week, except
A) To say Happy Holidays to all the Permanent Damage readers, and I hope whatever you celebrate you get huge rewards out of it, and more and bigger rewards from the coming year
B) Can't tell you what yet – it's a surprise – but next week's column is The Big One, so don't miss it. It'll change your life forever!
Those wishing to comment should leave messages on the Permanent Damage Message Board. You can also e-mail me but the chances of a reply are next to nil these days, given my workload, though I do read all my e-mail as long as it's not trying to sell me something. IMPORTANT: Because a lot of people apparently list it in their e-address books, this account has gotten a slew of virus-laden messages lately. They're no real threat but dealing with them eats up time I don't really have, to the extent I can no longer accept unsolicited e-mail with attachments. If you want to send something via attachment (say, art samples) ask me first. If I say okay, then send. Unsolicited e-mail with attachments will be wiped from the server without being read.
IMPORTANT PUBLIC NOTICE OF COLUMN POLICY: any email received in response to a piece run in this column is considered a letter of comment available for printing in the column unless the author specifically indicates it is not intended for public consumption. Unless I check with you or the contents of your e-mail make your identity unavoidably obvious, all letters are run anonymously.
Please don't ask me how to break into the business, or who to submit work to. The answers to those questions are too mercurial for even me to keep up with.
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I'm reviewing comics sent to me – I may not like them but certainly I'll mention them – at Steven Grant c/o Permanent Damage, 2657 Windmill Pkwy #194, Henderson NV 89074, so send 'em if you want 'em mentioned, since I can't review them unless I see them. Some people have been sending press releases and cover proofs and things like that, which I enjoy getting, but I really can't do anything with them, sorry. Full comics only, though they can be photocopies rather than the published version. Make sure you include contact information for readers who want to order your book.