A Tribute to the of

Here is part two of the interview I enjoyed with Greg Theakston

Greg Theakston:  On Friday afternoons, Marvel had started a volleyball league.

Bryan D. Stroud:  Volleyball?

GT:  In Central Park.  Every Friday afternoon at about 5 o'clock during warm weather we'd all get together and play volleyball.  So once all the Continuity guys figured it out, we were there.  Eighteen people.  And it came to this point where there were so many people we had to rotate people out and rotate people in.  So there would be four people on the sidelines watching the game and when that round was over, somebody would rotate out and somebody would rotate in.  It was super cool, because in the heat of the game, you got to see what these people were really like.

BDS:  (Chuckle.)  The guard comes down.

GT:  Absolutely.  No more of that.  Guys that you thought...well, they might have been, but under the heat of the moment they became somebody else.  And look, tell you what:  If you're that nice guy all the time and you're that kind of prick at the volleyball games it sort of counteracts the notion that you're a nice guy.

And the list of guys who played in those games.  It was the Who's Who of comic books at the time.  Jim Shooter was always one of the captains.  Steve Mitchell, Bob McLeod...in fact Bob was part of Continuity for a long time.  He was Neal's left hand man.  Alan Weiss.  Anyway, at any given moment if a comic fan happened by and somebody started pointing out who all these people were he'd orgasm in his pants.

I remember we set up a Saturday game once and 27 people showed up.  We had a whole third team that had to be rotated in and out.  Unbelievable.  I'm not a very big guy, but I've got a tall leap.  The ball would be headed over the net and I'd jump up and just put my hand out and the ball would just fall and there was no way to field it.  I could have smashed it down on somebody's face, but...it was all very subtle.  It became known as the "Theakston dink shot."  Dink! 

BDS:  Un-returnable.

GT:  If it's just going to drop in front of you, yeah, what can you do?  In my first game Steve Mitchell's in the front row to my far right and I'm serving and the ball comes back to me and I punch it up to the far right and I say, "Steve."  And everybody's like, "What?  My God.  We're working like a team here."  "Yeah.  The tall guy in the front row.  I'll set him up.  We'll make the point.  It won't come back."

So that was part of the Continuity experience.

Mike Hinge, from New Zealand eventually ended up living in the back.  He had very esoteric tastes in music.  There was a really nice stereo up front and he would come in at one in the morning and he’d be playing something and it was, "What the f*** is this?  You've got money for records, but you don't have money for rent?"  But it became obvious very quickly why he didn't have money for rent.  He'd say, (faux accent) "Aht Directors are all whores!  They're all whores!"  Well, if you let that seep through during your interview, you're not going to get a job.  He'd be wearing a waffle long-john top and raggedy jeans and dirty work boots and go to interviews dressed like that.

BDS:  Great first impression!

GT:  I always got out a nice suit for my first interview.  I said, "Mike, why do you do that?"  "So they'll think I'm poor and give me work."  "So they'll think you're a failure and can't get work anywhere else, so they'll give you work?"  Terrific!

He worked in rapidograph and "Gehman Mahkers."  Which were very brilliant at the time, but 10 to 15 years later, the markers faded.  It became a completely different piece of artwork 10 or 15 years later.  Not permanent whatsoever.  You'd see him walking down the street and he had this scowl on his face.  He looked like a leprechaun on a bad day.  He had grayish hair and a beard, but with no mustache.  And he always had this scowl on his face as he's walking down the street.  It finally came to the point I asked, Hey, every time I see you on the street you've got this scowl.  What's the deal with that?"  "I don't want to walk around looking like a grinning fool." "You don't have to grin, but you don't have to scowl either."  That was ultimately one of the reasons he wasn't successful: this terrible attitude.

Jack Abel.  Everybody loved Jack.  Old workhorse.  Probably the senior member of the entire office.  He'd be plugging away, drawing and inking Mighty Samson for Dell and he would pin his artwork to his board with a pushpin.  Everybody"s got their own work technique, but the top of his desk was chopped to pieces by 30,000 pushpin holes.

BDS:  Ouch!

GT:  I was very, very interested in 1930s and 1940s popular culture at the time.  I had some common ground with this guy because he'd lived through it.  Every once in awhile he’d say, "How do you know that?" "It's my thing."

BDS:  It sounds like things were happening around the clock.  

GT:  Oh, yeah.  At any given moment something was going on.  I'd go there in the afternoon and take a nap and I would then get up at six and come back in at midnight when all these guys were at their very dead end and it was like, "The Cavalry is here!  What have you got?"

I met Lynn Varley when she was 16.  She's from Detroit as well.  She was dating my best friend who was 18, which I thought was a little bit odd, but on the other hand she was f***ing gorgeous.  And she eventually moved to New York City and was going to the Fashion Institute of Technology.  She was friends with me and my first wife even after she broke up with Tony.  We kind of maintained the relationship.  So she calls me up out of the blue and she says, "I'm miserable at the Fashion Institute of Technology.  Is there any way you can help me get out of here?"  I said, "Yeah, of course.  Come on up to Continuity.  There's always work here."  So she came up on a Saturday afternoon and we were doing some corn-chip storyboards.  Some Frito Bandito rip-off, which you just knew was never going to make it to air.  So I gave her her first coloring lessons that afternoon and she became a regular member of the staff.  And she eventually met her future husband, Frank Miller around there.

I'm having dinner when Julie Schwartz, Harlan Ellison and his wife, Lynn and Frank, and a science fiction writer from Hollywood.  I can't remember his name.  And the guy who co-founded Dragon Con.  And at the end of the meal, this is about 1991, the crowd presses ahead and she turns back and motions for me to sit down and she says, "I never got to thank you for changing my life."  And I just thought, "How sweet."

BDS:  Yeah.

GT:  I don't think Trevor Von Eeden was part of the studio.  I do know he visited there often.

BDS:  He was kind of a wunderkind as I recall

GT:  Yeah.  And Denys Cowan got his start there.  Denys used to come in and sit with me.  I had a record player in my room and a lot of records and I remember playing Chorus Line for him and somewhere during the first half of the record he said, "Hey, do you have Chorus Line?"  (Mutual laughter.)  "What did you think we were listening to?"

And [Carl} Potts was in the office up near the front and he comes in all steamed because he thinks I'm playing my music too loud.  He makes this fist at me.  "What?  You're gonna beat me up?"

There was this thing with the air-conditioner.  If it was left on all night it would freeze up the coils.  It would literally turn it into a block of ice.  This thing was so efficient that it froze the condensation and as studio manager, at 11:00 in the morning when it"s starting to get warm, my job was take care of it.  So I figured out that if you took a blow dryer and just set it in front of it in half an hour to 45 minutes you'd get the A/C working again.

BDS:  Necessity is the mother of invention.  

GT:  There was also a latrine in the hallway.  They weren't really bathrooms because there was no bath in them.  But the one in the hallway had a drain in the center of the floor and I said, "Hey, Neal.  You know it would be really inexpensive, maybe $150.00 and we could put a shower in that room."  He said, "I don't want this place seeming too much like home to these guys."  And it was an unwritten rule that you were not allowed to have TVs.  Certainly not in the front room.  So I was painting paperback covers and wanted to be amused, so I had a little TV back in my room.  I know Neal disapproved, but he never said anything about it.

BDS:  What an experience, Greg.

GT:  So...I'm sure none of these guys give a damn.  Somebody comes in and says, "I know you smoke pot."  "Yeah."  He says, "I'm going to buy a pound.  How much are you in for?"  I said, "What does it work out to an ounce?"  "$28.00."  "Give me two."  Nasser and I smoked a lot of pot together.  We were getting ounces all the time.  Marshall Rogers also smoked pot.  He was there at the time.  So anyway, I cough up the dough and the guy comes in and says, "Here." Big brick in his hand.   So we go back, not quite as far back as Mike Hinge's work area, but Neal had this very large room in the back.  There was this lesbian martial artist who needed the room to practice her martial arts.  She didn't stay very long.  So at some point Neal decides to put three more desks in here in an extension.  There goes the couch that I used to sleep on, but I didn't any more.  So Nasser and Rogers and I can't remember the third person are set up.  This is shortly after the "Russ Heath does not like his desk written on!" episode and Nasser's got this immaculately clean board.  So we upend it so it's horizontal and my dealer starts cutting this pound of pot.  And it was more than a pound because everybody got a really good count.  So there are four or five guys in the back room, all with an ounce or two and everybody starts pulling out papers to roll their own.

I said, "Hang on.  Put your papers away.  I've got an idea."  I take a credit card out of my pocket and I scrape the surface of Mike's desk and there's this really fat little pile of pollen which the wood had held onto.  "Let's make the first one out of this."  It was a fatty about the size of your thumb.  And as we start to pass it Neal shows up.

BDS:  Of course.

GT:  He's not mad, but he's letting us know he's the boss and he says, "Are you guys doing drug deals in my studio?"  "Yeah.  But it's the back room.  Nobody will know."  Neal sits down in one of the chairs, an easy chair somehow got in there, and he says, "Pass that thing this way."  Neal was not all that much of a tight ass.  So we pass him this gigantic doob.  I mean this thing was really a big fatty.  He's like, "Give me that," like it's some kind of challenge.  He takes this gigantic pull and he holds it and he passes the Jay to somebody else.  Then he exhales.  He said something like, "It"s no big deal."  He puts his hands on the rests of the chair and he stands up and he falls back into the chair in a daze.  A man's got to know his limitations.

We're in Toronto in 1972 at a big convention at a university, and all my friends are there.  Weiss, Neal, everybody.  Apparently I'd come in a little late because they're all tripping on LSD.

BDS:  Oh, geez.

GT:  So there's an open staircase leading to the second floor and Alan Weiss has a pack of cards and he's balls-to-the-walls tripping. Look, if you don't want it reported, don't do it in front of me.  He says, "You want to see something cool?"  He stands up and goes to the rail and he peels all the cards over the rail and everybody who's tripping on the floor is like, "Oh-h-h-h beautiful!"  I said, "You want me to go down there and collect 'em so you can do it again?"  He said, "Nah.  Kaluta's down there and he's a Virgo and he won't be able to put up with the chaos."  I look over the rail and there's Kaluta on his hands and knees collecting these cards.   

Neal was perhaps the most gracious artist I've ever known when giving a critique.  There was this thing where you were the big fish in the little pond.  You were the best artist in your high school.  And you would hit New York and you would ask Neal and you'd be expecting Neal to say something like, "Oh, this is the most terrific stuff I've ever seen," and Neal would give you the real deal.  I learned as much from watching him critique other people's portfolios...even more than him critiquing mine.  I remember watching Ken Steacy getting his portfolio reviewed at this convention and I'm wearing this long sleeved polo shirt that's tight at the wrists and real loose and ballooney sleeves, and Neal points to me and says, "Look at the way Greg's shirt moves.  See where it touches his body and where it just floats over it.  You have to remember as you're drawing something that there's this moment where the cloth obeys the structure underneath it and sometimes it's just free falling."  And at the end of the critique, Ken's lower lip was trembling.  This is the last thing he wanted to hear.  But absolutely the most important thing that he should have.   

BDS:  I can see that.

GT:  Here was the real truth.  And it was never done with malice.  I do this to this day.  The coolest thing anybody ever said to me when I underwent Neal's critique.  He would say, "Look, what I'm about to tell you works for me.  If it doesn't work for you, don't discard it.  Put it on the back burner.  Because it will make sense in two years."  So you get, "This is what works for me.  If I can convince you of any of it, it's great, but if I can't, don't throw it away.  It really works for me and you may find it works for you."  There were these moments, too, when I'd slap my forehead and say, "NOW I know what he's talking about!  Of course!  I can see it now."

BDS:  It falls into place.

GT:  He never said no.  Anybody that wanted a critique, he'd always give it.  And really, as a Mecca for comic-book artists, I must have watched Neal do these critiques twenty or thirty times.  It got to the point where I'm nodding my head.  "Yep.  I know that one.  Yep, he's right about that one, too."  I distinctly remember Neal saying the Solar Plexus is like a Roman shield.  And he draws this Roman shield over my terrible drawing and it's absolutely right.

At this point, I'm painting paperback covers while working at Continuity.  Most of these guys haven't done their first comic book job yet.  So I'm kind of the high man on the totem pole.  "This guy is doing oil paintings.  Good Lord."  So I'm there on one of my occasional visits and I'd brought my paints with me.  I had another set at home.  So in a taboret to the left of Neal's table, top drawer, I leave all my oil paints.  I was like, "Neal, if you want, feel free.  Experiment with some oil paints.  It's all here."  I came by about two months later and they'd not been touched.  They were still sitting exactly the same way that I'd left them.  So in some respects I had Neal's respect.

Although unless you were somebody like Gray Morrow, he wasn't one to really show it to you.  There was a closeness that Neal and I appreciated that all of the new crop of guys didn't get to enjoy.  But there was a flip side to that, too.  Because he's a very competitive guy.  I remember I had a really nice record collection and I'd bring them up to the front room to play them and Neal and I would sing along to these crazy old songs that nobody else knew.  And he says, "Is there any period of music that you're not really good with?" "I'd say 1948 to 1952 is my weak suit."  Then he got this smile on his face like, "Ha ha ha ha, well, I've topped you on that.  And there was a competition between Neal and I that no one else had to endure or enjoy, which is probably one of the reasons why we crashed and burned at the end.

BDS:  Just a little too close?

GT:  Yeah, though I wouldn't say close.  A little too competitive.  Part of the whole psychology of Continuity was that Neal was on the top.  He's the guru.  And here is somebody who can do something that he can't.  He never mentioned it, but I think it was a sticking point with him.

Jim Sherman came into the studio and at this point Lynn Varley is still working there and I'm kind of courting Lynn Varley and Jim Sherman, who is blonde and pretty and very talented become part of the scene.  And Neal knows that I'm interested in Lynn and starts being Cupid for Lynn and Jim.

BDS:  Hmmm.

GT:  Now in the summer of I think 1980 Neal took a beach house on Fire Island and around late July I said, "Hey, you know, you keep inviting people out to your beach house.  When are you going to invite me?"  He says, "Oh, you can come whenever you want."  I said,"Cool."  So I show up on a Saturday afternoon and Lynn's there visiting.  At this point the only way to get out of Fire Island is by ferry.  The last one was at about 10:30 at night.  So I said, "Lynn, walk me to the ferry."  So we're walking to the ferry and having kind of a heart to heart and suddenly Neal comes charging down the boardwalk and says, believe it or not, "I'm not breaking up anything, I hope, I hope, I hope."  "Get out of my romance!"  That was that moment where it's like not only is Neal feeling competitive with me, but he's getting in the middle of my shit.  So very shortly after that I said, "Look, Neal, I think I'm going to just start working from home."  I'd come in once in awhile.  I said, "I know I owe you a few hours as the office manager.  I'll come in on Fridays because that's the best day and I'll catch up on my last 15 hours or whatever it is I owe you."

He says, "Oh, no, no, no, no, no.  You misunderstand.  You owe me another 84 hours."  "What?"  "You rented a room that is fitted for two tables, not one."  "We never discussed this."  From the start I thought this was a one-table room and believe me, I could put my hand on my table and turn around and put my hand on the wall.  That's how big it was.

BDS:  Reminds me of a Japanese hotel room I once occupied.

GT:  It was like 6 phone booths.  So he said, "That's a two table room.  You've been racking up that rent and now you owe me 84 hours."  (Heavy sigh.)  What do I do?  I want to keep on good terms with Neal, but on the other hand, geez.  I feel like I'm being raped.  So I call up the New York City Workman's Rights Something to try and figure it out and it's "Oh, no.  Only one person can work in a room that size.  It's not a two person room."  So I tell him that and he says, "Well, Bob Wiacek and Terry Austin share studio space in the same amount of room."  So it comes to this point where, all right, I'm still coming in on Fridays, putting in 3 or 4 hours each Friday in an effort to maintain peace between Neal and I.  And part of the deal was I said, "Look, I don't want to pay any money for this.  I'll work for it, but if I've got to pay money for it I might as well work at home.

So after about two months of coming in every Friday and putting hours in he says, "This isn't going fast enough.  I want doors on all the cupboards in the front room and you pay for the wood."  I said, "That was not our deal."  "Yeah, but you're not working this thing off fast enough."

Okay, so now it's dueling personalities.

BDS:  The classic battle of wills.

GT:  Yeah.  I said, "No, that was not our deal.  I tell you what, this two table thing was not our deal either."  He says, "Well, buy the cabinet fronts or that's it."  I said, "Well, that's it."  That's how Neal and I ended.

I never heard back from him ever again.  We see each other at conventions and we don't even nod.  On the other hand he doesn't shout at me.  There's something to be said for that.

BDS:  Take the good with the bad.

GT:  Also, very interesting, Neal had a 10-year lease on that space and developers wanted to come in and knock down the building on the right and on the left and the building Continuity was in and build a gigantic skyscraper, which they eventually did.  But Neal was a hold out.  He wanted money before he was going to be bounced from this space.  So it came to loggerheads.

Michael Golden worked for Neal at this period.  They came up with Bucky O'Hare.  A brilliant idea that went nowhere.  Golden and Neal sat down and constructed this idea and all of the toy pieces that would go with it in an effort to sell it to a toy manufacturer.  The gun was detachable from Bucky O'Hare's hand and so forth.

Anyway, I won't say the mafia word, but somehow they got all the other tenants out of the building.  Except Neal.  Neal won't budge.  He's got a 10-year lease or at least a long-term lease.  They tried to burn the building down.   

BDS:  Wow!

GT:  They started a fire on the ground level and the last time I snuck in (wicked laughter) to Continuity because I was persona non grata, it stank like charred wood.  Ultimately I think he got 2.5 million to get out.

BDS:  That's a tidy sum.

GT:  Yeah, he was dealing in futures at the time.  Sugar.  Thats where he was putting his money.  And every once in awhile the kids would come up and you'd meet the family.  The Adams family, as we called them.  And I won't even go into that.  It's far too personal. 

On the other hand, my newborn son needed an operation.  Not a very serious operation, but it was $400 I didn't have and Neal sat down and wrote me a check, Boom!  Like that as soon as I told him.  So he's a complex personality. 

BDS:  Complicated.

GT:  Yeah.  He was an Army brat.

BDS:  That I didn't know.

GT:  Yeah, apparently he was dragged all over the United States.  That's tough on a kid.  And fascinating, same thing with Kirby, when they don't talk about a particular topic you know that's a hot-button issue.  I knew Kirby for years and first started talking to him in '69 or '68 and knew him until he died in ['94].  I think he only spoke about his father maybe four times.  And I can't remember Neal ever speaking about his father other than that he was an Army brat and his father dragged him around.  Vaughn Bode had no problem telling me his issues about his father.  It made Vaughn Bode what he was.  He hated his father and made no bones about it.  And the only way to escape his father was to go into a fantasy world and create a new world where his father wasn't there.  Which is one of the reasons he was such a brilliant creator.

I'm talking to Larry Todd and I said, "What happened to Wrightson?  I thought he was going to be one of the most brilliant artists of the 20th century and suddenly it just fell apart."  And Todd says, "Well, his father died.  He can't kill him any more."  Ouch!  And you know, you're right.  So with the artistic temperament, it's one of the reasons I'll never be a great artist.  I'll be a functional, good, solid artist, but I won't be a great artist, because I don't hate my father.  I don't hate my mother.  And I landed smack dab in the middle of all these guys with mommy and daddy issues.  And I was completely unable to relate with them.  "I had a happy childhood.  Why are you so pissed-off all the time?"

Part of the point is that I lived through it to report it.  Believe me the unrelated Continuity stories are just as horrifying...and funny. 

BDS:  I have no doubt.

GT:  Let's see, what else can I tell you about Continuity?  Oh.  The missing Tarzan covers.  Neal was hired by Ballantine to illustrate the Tarzan series they had just picked up.  And he's working on at least six paintings.  You'd have to look it up.  Six or eight paintings at the same time.  And they're pretty good.  There's just no getting around it.  But Neal had this idea that people would wait for him to do his thing.  When he did his contract with DC for Superman vs. Muhammad Ali there was a time schedule.  And if he did not have the project completed by this particular time, money would be deducted from his check.  DC had figured this out.  By this point, Neal's ego is so big he thinks that everybody will just wait for him.  And I am pretty sure there is a contract clause for press time he'll be penalized on if it's not used.  So he's working on these Tarzan paintings for Ballantine and the art director calls him up.  He says, "These are all due next week.  It's now or never."  So Neal I guess decides to finish his eight paintings and they're all pretty much complete, but not done.  And he starts looking around the studio.  Can't find them.  

BDS:  Uh-oh.

GT:  He said, "Greg, you're my studio manager.  See if you can find these."  So, seriously.  I'm the studio manager and I know where these will be?  Not likely.  So I proceed to go through every square inch of ground in that entire place.  This is a pretty big place.  It's the whole floor of the building.  And they're gone.  Neal's thinking, "Who stole my paintings?"  And I would think that, too.  "Which one of my so-called friends is a thief?"  So I'm sitting to his right and I'm thinking, "I've covered every square foot of the floor of this place.  I've looked in all the shelves, I've looked in all the portfolios, I've looked in all the drawers."  And these are pretty big pieces.  These are not easy to miss.  And then it comes to me:  I said, "Neal, I know where your paintings are."  And I drag a chair into the stat room, which doubles as the Art-o-graph room, which is a dark room, stand on the chair and they're on top of the stat camera.  How they got there, who knows?  But it's the only place above the top of my head that I haven't looked yet.  And sure enough there they all were. I saved his ass on that one.

BDS:  Oh, I guess.

GT:  You want to talk about saving ass?  Gray Morrow comes up on a Friday.  He says he's got the assignment to do Space 1999.  So Gray comes up and he says, "I've got this job to do on Space 1999 for Charlton and I'm farming out the work."  The downside?  He only has five stills.  One is costume.  One is the ship.  One is a villain from episode three or whatever and so on.  So Gray heads to the back of the studio.  Everybody around here is going to get one story.  Neal says, "Xerox these stills."  I made five Xeroxes of each of the stills.  So I turn one of the stills over and its ITC and the address is two blocks up on Madison Avenue.  And we're talking 4:30 in the afternoon on Friday.  So I call up the head of publicity at ITC and I say, "Look, we're working at a handicap here.  We're supposed to do this thing for Charlton and we only have five photos."  The guy says, "Come on over."  So I get there and he pulls out this two feet by 18 inches and 6-inch deep box.  He opens it up and it's got the plot synopsis for the first 13 episodes, proof sheets for the first 13 episodes and probably an additional 30 stills and a 16mm trailer.  I said, "Wait a minute.  You keep everything else, just give me the trailer."

BDS:  Jackpot!

GT:  There was a beautiful presentation booklet, 18 x 12 laminated. Twelve pages.  So I come back to the studio and say, "Gray, Neal.  Come into the front room.  It's the mother lode."  I said, "Gray, can I do one of these stories?"  "Oh, sorry.  While you were away I gave them all out to the other guys."  "You're welcome."

BDS:  No joke.

GT:  It was that kind of thing that separated me from the rest of the pack at Continuity.  The young guys.  It doesn’t take too much to figure this out.  And sure enough everybody else in the studio that got in on Space 1999 got paid for it after I saved the studio's ass.    No good deed goes unpunished.  It was all just kind of comical.  "Ive got an idea.  Let's go to ITC, two blocks away on the 15th floor and get some material that might help."  It had not even occurred to Gray Morrow to look at the back of the still, get the address and go get some extra material.  Really it was not a brain-buster.

I contributed to Continuity in a way that none of the other young bucks ever did.  And in some respects it put me at odds with Neal.

BDS:  It sounds like you were perceived as a threat.

GT:  Yeah.  How ridiculous is that?  Me and Neal Adams?  What kind of a threat am I?  Good Lord.

Now there was the Animation House at 50 East 48th, one building over, and we tended to do a fair amount of work with them.  After I left, Neal did this highly erotic thing and they got together and said, "If we could just run this thing one time on television it would make such a stir."  So they did this highly erotic animated spot.  A lot of work.  And WPIX Channel 11 wouldn't run it because it was so sexual.

There used to be this corkboard to the right of Joe Brosowski's table and there was always interesting stuff being pinned up there.  Neal got a hold of a picture of Barry Windsor Smith with his Barry Windsor shirt in gigantic circular signature.  "Who are you?"  I'm Barry Smith." 

BDS:  (Chuckle.)

GT:  "Yeah, I read your shirt."  And Neal meticulously, for nothing, re-lettered it, "Barely Christ."  In the same lettering!  Ha!  And Barry never visited the studio, so he never tore it off the wall, but everybody got a laugh out of it who did see it.  Dear dead days. 

Once or twice a month I'd straighten up Neal's desk.  All the correspondence in the upper left hand corner of the desk, hot projects are in the middle, and stuff that I can't figure out what's supposed to be done is on the right.  "I changed out the matte board on your table.  That was over and above the call of duty and..." (laughter.)  Neal is sitting there inking something and he says, "I'm the best inker in the business", in a very self-satisfied tone.  (Chuckle.)  I kind of give him a fish eye to my left, and I go (hidden in a cough) "Niρo."  And everybody's back in the room stiffens.  "Did you really say that to Neal?  My God!"  And there's a beat, beat, beat, and Neal says, "I'm the second-best inker in the comic book business." (Mutual laughter.)

And that kind of sums up the situation with Neal and I.  The guys would never, ever go up against Neal.

And he'd do these long, long jokes and the payout was like, "Oh, my God!"  Now I admired his creativity in coming up with this thing and trying to sell it and he says, "In Japan, the land where they make all of the toys out of plastic, they have these gigantic cooling towers and the plastic particles that float up are collected in these cooling towers."  I take a piece of paper out and I write, "This is another one of Neal's bullshit stories."  I pass it to Lynn Varley.  She looks at it and laughs.  He continues, "They're trying to figure out what to do with all the plastic in these cooling towers and it's really durable plastic.  The best of the plastic, for some reason.  So they decided to use it to make cars.  And that's how Toy-oter, came to be."  Really?  "Toy-oter"?

Ultimately Continuity was a lovely place to springboard into the business.  Working with the master, complex as he was.  I don't have any bad feelings about Neal.  He did me good turns.  I did him good turns.  It ended up in a loggerhead of ego.

One last memory:  When they were trying to form A.C.B.A., he called a meeting up at Continuity and I swear there were 30 people in the front room who were trying to figure out how to set up A.C.B.A.  Is it going to be a union?  They finally decided it was going to be a loose organization that represented, slightly, the rights of comic book artists.

Marty Pasko was there and said, "I think this whole thing is a terrible idea."  Then why are you here?  Just creating chaos?  Oh, that's right.  You had a terrible childhood.

And in the crowd was Steve Ditko.

BDS:  Really? 

GT:  Yeah, the man of recluse.  He actually came out for it.  And ultimately they chose Stan Lee as the figurehead.  Great.  I wouldn't call it a radical situation, but it was a moment where all of the creators felt like, "It can't go on like this.  We shouldn't be working like the artists in the 1950s and early 1960s did."  Everybody was behind it, but it never delivered.  All of the artists were behind it.  The A.C.B.A. portfolio kept things going.  It was just some sort of symbolic thing that didn't do anything.  It's sad.

I guess for a moment there were 30 of the...I guess I won't say top artists, because a number of them couldn't make it into the city, but a number of the young artists and a good smattering of the older artists who would like to see some change.  I think very shortly after that the companies began giving artwork back.

BDS:  So something good came of it. 

GT:  Yeah, well the fact that thirty artists could get off their asses and meet at some predetermined location was a sign.

And I was there for the Siegel and Shuster battle.  Where Neal came to bat for Siegel and Shuster.  This is another one of those moments.  There were moments when the guy could be magnificent.  And there were moments when you just wondered.  "How can you do this and then do that?"  But people said that about Sinatra, too.

Neal was just a contradiction in terms.  In some respects he likes publicity, but he's not very good at generating it.

Now Neal would go to bat for you.  I was doing a painting for Atlas, Goodman's last company and I said, "Neal, I did a good painting of Frankenstein and Jeff Rovin keeps rejecting it.  I keep changing it to his demands and he's rejecting it."  And Neal got on the phone and called Rovin up and said, "You know Theakston's here and he's very upset.  He's done his very best to fix this to your liking and you keep rejecting it."  There's kind of a pause and "Well, all right."  So he stepped up for me.  And I don't think he would have done that if he'd looked at the piece and said, "This is crap.  No wonder he doesn't want it."

© 2010 by B.D.S.

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