A Tribute to the of

I am lucky enough to own a complete run of "The Amazing World of DC Comics," the so-called "prozine" produced by DC back in the mid-1970's by the fabled "Woodchucks" under the guidance of the production department, including Sol Harrison and Jack Adler.

For those unfamiliar it was an oversized black and white magazine, loaded with treasures, such as interviews, previews of upcoming products and lots and lots of behind the scenes stuff.  The first issue introduces the Woodchucks and while the lineup changed a little before it unfortunately came to an end with issue #17, these names should be familiar to many:  There are photos and short profiles of Carl Gafford, Allan Asherman, Steve Mitchell, Bob Rozakis, Paul Levitz, Guy H. Lillian III, Sol Harrison and E. Nelson Bridwell.

Of particular interest to those of us who love the history of DC Comics, many of the issues contained unpublished stories from the vault, including, in issue "#11 the first meeting of the Secret Society of Super-Villains and #15's, Golden Age Wonder Woman tale drawn by H.G. Peter that had never seen the light of day.  

With that in mind, I'd like to share another unpublished gem (although I suppose technically it HAS been published…in this magazine) that appeared in that first issue of AWODCC (publication date July 1974).  It's called "Murder, Inc!" and it was edited, written and drawn by the immortal Jack Kirby with inking by Mike Royer.

The prelude caption explains:  "Fans and collectors still talk about the special one-shot black and white magazines that Jack Kirby did for us in the summer of 1971.  But did you know that a second complete issue of IN THE DAYS OF THE MOB was also done by Kirby?  Here's the first story from that unpublished classic!"

The splash pages starts things off pretty dramatically as a woman is violently thrown from a vintage automobile "On the edge of the Brownsville area in Brooklyn, New York…"  She cries (I kid you not), "You rat!  You dirty rat!!  You won't get away with this!!"  

The disheveled woman slowly makes her way back to her boyfriend's quarters.  He is described as a "punk" known as "Kid Twist."  A small-timer in the underworld, trying to make his mark.  Obviously he has ruffled some feathers and as she recounts what happens he demands to know who the culprit was.  He then plunges a knife into the table and vows to kill them all, but Meyer, the instigator, will be the first.

Soon Twist is negotiating an alliance with another hood called "Happy."  Visiting Happy and his cohorts with Buggsy and Pittsburgh Phil, Twist proposes they take out Meyer and his brothers, currently the overlords of Brownsville and East New York, affording them the opportunity to take over the rackets and the profits that go with them.

Soon the fruits of the alliance become apparent as the brothers get picked off over time beginning with Irving, who is gunned down with 18 bullets in a hallway.  A year later, Meyer got his and then we witness police digging up a partially decomposed Willie who had been buried alive after a beating that didn't quite kill him.   Now the new overlords are squeezing the local businessmen and extorting their way into theirf ormer nemeses turf.  Houses of ill repute and the waterfront were not neglected as the alliance grew and prospered.  Floating crap games, numbers rackets and loan sharking were added to the toxic brew and the gang grew as its reach grew.

Soon grand theft auto and contract killing became additional specialties and the mergers with other thugs and killers continued until "Murder, Inc." had become a full-blown syndicate and even took it upon themselves to wipe out more ambitious rivals who could harm their operation.  

Of course crime never pays, at least indefinitely and much like Elliot Ness and his famed "G-Men" who cleaned up Al Capone and his cronies in Chicago, the New York gang was ultimately taken down by Federal Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey over a 5-year period of effort.  Dewey used his notoriety to become Governor of New York and ultimately tried for the brass ring of U.S. President, but of course Harry S. Truman prevailed, despite that famous premature headline.

So, this was Jack Kirby at his explosive best, telling a historic tale of 1930's mob activity in his native New York City.  Black and white was the ideal format and this story would never have passed muster with the Comics Code due to the violence.  

All in all, it's a beautiful showcase for the talents of Jack Kirby, with his intricate, detailed backgrounds and dynamic figure work and of course he was more than ably assisted in his efforts by Mike Royer's inks.  

As promised, here is the conclusion to my interview with the great Mike Royer, Jack Kirby's favorite inker:

BDS:  I've read where Jack stated that you were his favorite inker.  Now was it his insistence that you were pretty much exclusive on his DC work?

MR:  It's funny, as I recall it, as long as he was producing comics, he never said who his favorite inker was. He always had nice words to say for everyone.  But as soon as he left comic books I noticed that he didn't have any problem saying that I was his favorite inker.  People ask me who my favorite inker was and I tell them my favorite inker was Joe Sinnott…but I was the best.  Now I don't mean that as any kind of egotistical thing.  It's just that I did what Jack wanted.  I think I retained all of his power and the only time, for example, that I tried to pretty something up, doing Joe Sinnott in my subconscious, I prettied up Big Barda's face, I got a phone call from Jack sternly saying, "Don't EVER change the faces!"  So I never changed Barda's face after that.  I did slim down her ankles once in a while and her waistline, but it was the face that was important, at least to Jack.

Getting back to your original question, I met Jack when he was doing stuff for Marvelmania, a merchandising outfit in southern California, in the Santa Monica area. At the time Marvelmania was producing merchandise, in the late '60's, I got a phone call one evening and I answered it and this gruff voice said, "Mike Royer? This is Jack Kirby. Alex Toth says you're a pretty good inker." That's how it started. I was invited to his house and when he handed me the artwork he wished inked I said, "I'll bring this back to you tomorrow." "No, no, do it here!" he insisted. So I sat at his drawing board and he periodically looked over my shoulder to see my progress. Talk about pressure. It was that page he did for Mavelmania of himself with Spiderman and all the Marvel characters swirling around him as they were spinning off the drawing board.

BDS: Oh, yeah, the one where the Human Torch is lighting his cigar?

MR: I don't remember… and I haven't looked at the piece in ages. I mean, we're talking the late 1960's. I do live in the past when it comes to movies, but as far as my own career , it's not a matter of remembering the nuts and bolts of the individual jobs, but rather the personal involvement with the people I was fortunate to meet and work with…that's what I remember. Anyway, as a result of that first attempt at inking his pencils, which apparently he was pleased with, I started inking a batch of stuff of his at Marvelmania. In fact I even inked a whole group of characters for Jim Steranko for Marvelmania. Steranko came and stayed at our house for over a week. What a visit that was! However, that's another story… one to be told another time. Ahhh…memories…*sigh*

After several Marvelmania pieces, in a phone conversation, Jack mentioned he was going back to New York but he couldn't tell me why at the time, but that he had me in mind for some project. Then a couple days later I got a phone call from Maggie Thompson asking, "What's this I hear that Jack Kirby has left Marvel and is going to DC?" I replied, "Its news to me." Then, not too long after that I got a phone call from Jack saying, "Well, I've left Marvel, I'm going to DC and I wanted to take you with me, but they wouldn't let me." Jack had me in mind from the beginning that I would be inking and lettering his DC work. What Jack wanted to do was to show DC, and ultimately Marvel, that the world did not end at the Hudson River and that one could live on the West Coast and produce comic books successfully. The whole operation: Writing, editing, penciling, inking, lettering, everything. I guess DC didn't want to lose any kind of control over Jack. With the continued urging of Steve Sherman and Mark Evanier, by the time Jack was doing issues #5 of Mister Miracle, Forever People, New Gods, etc. he finally got his wish to have me ink and letter his books. At this same time, he also wanted to make darn sure Vince Colletta would continue to get work If he wasn't inking Jack's stuff at DC. He cared about people in the business.

DC fully expected me to fail, thereby justifying their desire to control things (Jack) on the East Coast. The reason they finally said yes was that they fully expected me to fall on my butt. To their chagrin, I kept up with Jack…the only inker who ever inked his complete output, as well as lettering it. I had to letter a book in two days and ink 3 pages a day to keep up with his creative outpourings. Probably the best thing I ever did for Jack, other than to ink the books the way he wanted me to…he wanted them to look like they were inked by him… was that I helped him prove to them (DC) that his idea of having a West Coast operation was viable. Of course there may be someone at DC who would dispute that. "Oh, Mike, we knew you'd be just fantastic." I doubt it.

I made a "great" impression with Carmine Infantino. In July of 1970 I'd been doing stuff for Jack at Marvelmania and then I was in NYC for the Phil Seuling 4th of July convention at the Satler Hilton and I went up to the DC offices and into Carmine's office and I declared, "You know, you should let me ink Jack. I could do a better job than Colletta's doing." Later that same day I had lunch with Dick Giordano and he said, "You know, Mike, you're going to get a reputation as being cocky, walking into the publisher's office and telling him you can do a better job than somebody else." That wasn't really my intent, but I was still the naïve kid simply stating the facts as he saw them. I really felt I could do a better job.

BDS: Well as the old saying goes, "If you can do it, it ain't bragging."

MR: I don't want people to think I'm anti-Colletta. I just don't think he was right for Jack. Colletta was from the old school and luckily I had mentors from the old school, like, most notably, Mike Arens, Russ Manning, Sparky Moore and others in the mid-'60's, who told me, "Mike, you get your first job on your ability and every job after that on your dependability." Well, there are different rules for comic books now. Many artists are prima donnas producing/dealing with a direct sales market, so if they say the work is going to be late, then that's what the publishers tell the dealers and the work is late. But in my days in the business, if your deadline was the 5th of the month, it behooved you to have it in on the 4th in case the editor wanted changes. Colletta was the man that Stan, or whoever the editor or publisher was, could give a book to and say, "I need it by this date" and Vince Colletta would have it in by that date or sooner. He has his supporters and his detractors and my only gripe about Vince Colletta is that I don't think he was right for Jack. But there are those people who absolutely loved his work on Thor. And…there are those who don't like my work on any of Jack. *sigh *

I can remember sitting with Bill Spicer back in the '64-'65 timeframe, looking at fanzines with the rare Jack Kirby pencil reprinted and asking him, "Why doesn't anybody ever ink Jack?" So when I got that phone call from Jack I thought, "Oh, Gawd, I've got a chance now to ink Jack." Perhaps my feelings about how to ink held me back in my career because whenever I ink somebody I've always tried to ink the work the way I feel that particular artist would have inked it himself. I recall inking a couple of Ka-Zar's at Marvel and John Verpoorten, the editor, called me and said, "Mike, I wanted you to give this job a Joe Sinnott look and really embellish it." I replied, "I wish you'd told me that and also told me how much more you were going to pay me to do that." I inked the two stories, as best I could, to make it look like Don Heck, the penciller, had inked it himself. Remember…I started in comics assisting Russ Manning, and the requirement of the job was to do work that could not be different than that which he had done. Until I actually inked some Korak and Tarzan books completely over his pencils I don't believe anyone can determine what I actually did on those pages of Magnus and Tarzan, etc.

I did get a nice compliment from Ramona Fradon a few years ago. I met her 5 or 6 years ago at the San Diego Con and we were talking about the one and only Plastic Man comic that I inked for her at DC and she said it was the only time that she'd ever had anyone ink her. She seemed to be saying that everyone else put in their own personality and changed her. In fact, bless her heart, she said if she were still doing Brenda Starr (or comics), she'd have me inking her pencils.

BDS: How very nice.

MR: Nice lady. I've met some real talents that were…real talents and I've met some real talents that were incredible people. People like Mike Arens, Sparky Moore, Doug Wildey, Al Williamson, Gray Morrow, Jim Steranko (an institution unto himself) and a whole crew of writers and artists who I toiled alongside with at Walt Disney Studios. What talents. .. what great people. Gawrsh…Al Williamson's mother even insisted I call her "Mom." I digress again. I have my heroes… and not just because of their immense talent alone. Some of whom are still alive, and unfortunately many that aren't.

Did you have any questions? I've been going all over the place. (Mutual laughter.)

BDS: I'm enjoying this thoroughly. There's a legend that you've been to every San Diego Con. Is that true?

MR: No. I've missed a few of them and I don't think I'll be going again. It's not Comic Con anymore. It's this huge marketplace for the motion picture and television industry…and the toy manufacturer's and the game people. One of the problems with International Comic Con, as I see it, is that tickets go on sale for the next year's event at the con and the advance ticket line is full of thousands and thousands of kids who have scraped together every dime to get admittance because they want to get all the freebies…giant bags with the pictures of vampire lovers and Hunger Games, etc., and stuff like that… filled with all the goodies being given out by the film and toy and TV studios…and by the time the tickets go on sale online for the general public, anybody that might have some money to spend finds there just aren't that many tickets left. You have to get them instantly or forget it. Okay..I might be exaggerating a bit, but you've got 80,000 or 90,000 kids there that don't appear to have have any money. Particularly they don't have any money for old comic books or artwork. The people that buy vintage comic books are older and have some money and…they have trouble getting tickets. I may be oversimplifying it, but this is an amalgam of opinions I got from several dealers who aren't looking to be setting up anymore.

I went last year and set up with some friends who always give me a table …I think it's because they like the way I introduce them to every single good looking woman that comes by… and after expenses it became obvious that I should have just stayed home because I wound up "giving away" thousands of dollars' worth of my original Disney concept artwork. If I'd just kept that artwork and stayed at home and then taken it someplace else, at much less expense, I'd have been better off… maybe actually making a buck or two.

I'm not crazy about WonderCon this year because it's going to be in Anaheim. Now it's going to be closer to the studios. Last year I think there were two studios represented at WonderCon in San Francisco. Eventually I think it's going to become just another media circus.

Denny Miller, who was a Tarzan and did 120some Wagon Train episodes and did a TV series with Juliet Prowse and worked with Peter Sellers in "The Party" had me do some drawings for a book he did about 5 years ago. He'd been going to some of the nostalgia conventions, but when he went to International Comic Con he said the sad thing was that nobody knew him or the many things he'd done in his long film career. In other venues you've got the old-timers like me or the generation behind me that remembers things like Wagon Train and everybody remembers the surfer who comes to shore in Gilligan's Island and that's Denny. He was mentioning some other celebrities near his table who did just as badly because nobody knows who they are. I found that the majority of people who stopped at my table last year didn't even know who Winnie the Pooh was, and the new feature was just opening in the theaters at the time. I'm not kidding when I refer to myself as a "dinosaur."

Getting back to your question I've been to at least 85% of the cons in San Diego, but after the first five or six years, while at a weekend thing in Orange County, having lunch with Shel Dorf, he asked if I was coming to Comic Con that year. I said, "Yeah, since you're giving us West Coast guys a room, I'll do anything you want…panels, anything." He said, "Well, we're not giving you guys rooms anymore 'cause you'll all come anyway." I could understand from a budget standpoint that they could no longer comp West Coast artists, and if he'd put it in that context that costs for East Coast guest were enormous, I'd have readily said, "Okay, no problem. I can still be there." But the way it was so cavalierly presented, "Well, you guys will come anyway, so why should we give you anything?" So, for the next couple of years, for one reason or another (family, whatever), I didn't go. My Inkpot is dated 1978, so I probably skipped attending for three years. Most of the people I knew understood it was because of the way the "no more room comps" had been presented to me. Shoot. I really didn't mind not being comped. It had been nice of them to comp us West Coast guys those first years ("If you guys come we'll give you a room."), but as the event got bigger and they got bigger talent from the East Coast it took a lot of money to do that. Anyway, I think I'd "boycotted" it for about three years and then I got a phone call from Gene Henderson. He was always involved with the Inkpots and Eisners and so forth, including security and who knows what else. He's been one of the loyal backbones of the convention over the decades. He said, "Hey, Mike, are you coming down to Comic Con?" "No." "Mike, you've got to come." "No." "Come on down!" "No." Finally he said, "Mike you've got to come, you're getting an Inkpot." "Uh…okay, I'll be there." I wasn't supposed to know, but it was the only way he could make sure I'd be there.

At the Inkpot Awards, which in the old days was always part of the banquet, Jim Steranko was the emcee, knew that I had been avoiding the con for two or three years, (which was really silly of me to do when you think about it), announced "For his loyal, never-ending support of the San Diego Comic Con…" with his tongue rammed up his cheek. I also remember standing in the doorway of a party in '78 at two in the morning and someone coming up behind me, putting their arm around my shoulder and saying, "Well, we got ours, kid." I turned around and it was Burne Hogarth.

BDS: I'll be darned.

MR: I thought, "It took them that long to give an inkpot to Burne Hogarth and here he is looking at me and saying, 'We got ours.'"

I've been very lucky with the people I've met over the years. Way back in the early '70's I went to Phil Seuling's NYC conventions for three years in a row from '70 to '72 and I remember at the '72 luncheon with the Academy of Comic Book Artists and talking with John Romita about the kind of brushes he used. Pros ask pros the same questions that fans do. "What kind of pens do you use? What kind of brushes do you use?" I was so amazed that the wonderful work John Romita was doing was accomplished with a Windsor-Newton series 7 Number 4. Not a 2 or a 3, but a 4. So I took my plate of food and I went to sit down at a table and simultaneously there's Stan Lee with some gorgeous blonde on his arm and we all sat at the same table. This gorgeous blonde with the long, shoulder-length hair had glasses and what I did next Stan "got" instantly and laughed aloud, but she looked at me with a glance that said, "What!?" I looked over at her and asked, "Could you take off your glasses?" She took them off and I said (faux British accent) "My God, you're beautiful!" She didn't have a clue what I was doing, but Stan knew it was an old movie cliché. At least once in my life I made Stan Lee laugh aloud.

BDS: When I got to meet you in Portland and you signed my copy of The Amazing World of DC Comics that contains what I believe is the only published "Murder, Inc." Days of the Mob story…

MR: That's the one they relettered, too. That's not my lettering. Costanza or somebody relettered it. I never understood why they did that. Did they dislike my lettering that much?

BDS: It does seem strange, particularly since it shows your credit as letterer.

MR: I remember when I was inking that and showing it to Richard Kyle he remarked, "Wow! This is Simon and Kirby…the 1950's." If you compare it to the 1950's stuff it may not be the same, but it had the feeling of it and when I was inking those pages that was my mindset: "This is 1950's Simon and Kirby." I really enjoyed inking those pages. Of course I think the very best inking I ever did on Jack was on his "Gods" that hung in his living room. Dark Horse published them a while back and I think it's really the best inking I ever did for Jack.

We didn't have the luxury of scanners and modems back then, so I would deliver the pages directly to Jack. I lived in Whittier, and he lived out in the Thousand Oaks area and while I don't recall how long the drive, maybe 26 or 28 miles, I'd deliver work in person or I'd sometimes send a completed book "Special Delivery," back when the Post Office offered that service…I could just walk to the back dock of the post office, ring a buzzer and someone would come out and I'd just hand it to them (with the appropriate postage attached), but I preferred to visit him in person. My most vivid memories of those times weren't, as I've said, the actual nuts and bolts of the "doing it", but just the pleasant times sitting with Jack in his studio, going over the pages, looking out the window at my kids playing in his swimming pool while my wife visited with Roz and the times when I'd go alone, enjoying milk and chocolate cake at the kitchen table with them both, Jack talking about the movies he loved, etc. I learned early on that his favorite movies were the Warner Brothers films of the 1930's. When you look at Jack Kirby's comic books, or at least when I do, I can make the instant connection. When he said he loved the Warner movies I thought, "Of course." In retrospect, I like to think that I gave Jack Warner Brothers inking and Joe Sinnott gave him MGM inking. If you're not as in love with old movies as I am you might not make that connection, but I can see it. I love the "pre-code" movies and some of my favorites are those with Warren William. There is an MGM film called "Skyscraper Souls" which is the best Warner Brothers movie that MGM ever made. It's a Warner Brothers gritty drama and it's like Jack Kirby inked by Joe Sinnott. Then if you look at Warren William in "Employees Entrance," which is a Warner feature and similar genre, it's Jack Kirby inked by Mike Royer. I always felt that Jack Kirby was the Warner Bros. of comic books. If you don't understand what I'm saying, I don't know what to say…a feeling…anyway, I know there are still people who don't like my Warner Bros. inking and prefer Joe's MGM inking and that's okay with me.

BDS: I think they must be few and far between. I've never run across anyone denigrating anything you've done.

MR: Well, sometimes I look at some of my old work and even I don't like it. As we'd talked about before, I started out wanting to be a straight adventure cartoonist, but by 1979 realized what my real "bag" was. I look at some of the stuff I did for Jim Warren and some it I like a little bit and some of it has me thinking aloud "Gawd, as much as I couldn't stand Jim Warren personally, he took a chance on me and printed a lot of bad stuff I produced. Gawrsh!"

Sometimes I'll hear comments like, "I really liked your work on such and such" and I have to think, "Really? I mean, really?"

One of the things that really ticked me off with Jim Warren was that when he started out he had Wally Wood and Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta and people like that working for him, but for whatever reason he had to greatly reduce his page rate to stay afloat. So what he did was start using new guys like me and Bill Black and a few others. Some of us developed into tremendous talents and some of us went other directions. He paid $29.00 a page. To pencil, ink and letter. But he would not return the original art. So I had just started working with Jack and I knew that I could maybe still make time for Warren jobs or I could just "go out" taking a stand. So the last job I did for him I went to great expense at a local stat office and had photostats made of all the pages for the job I'd just completed. Then I sent him the stats. A few days later I got an irate phone call from Jim Warren: "How dare you make the unilateral decision to not send me the original art? I cannot print from the damn stats and if you do not send me the original art, you will not be paid!" Well…I sent him the originals, but between the time I sent the stats and the phone call, I had "tweaked" some parts of original artwork. I changed a couple of things and added some stuff. I was very angry when the book hit the stands and I looked at it and it was obvious that he'd printed from the stats.

Where this really galls me is that right at the moment there's a complete Jim Warren Creepy story on eBay that I penciled, inked and lettered. In fact, sometimes when I look at something my memory does work. I remember the panel where Alex Toth told me, "Mike, if you really don't understand all that, you don't need to put it on there." Referring to some guy's back musculature details. And here is this 8 or 9 page story on sale at eBay for $99.00 to $199.00 a page. The $99.00 ones are mostly pages with stated panels because it was a time-travel story and rather than re-draw "same as" panels it I just made stats and pasted them down. Here is this stuff being sold that was never given back to me. And itt really rankles me to go to a convention and see one of the Magnus Robot Fighter comic book covers that I did ( an old Magnus painted cover that I was paid by Western to do in a Russ Manning "line" version) on the wall of an art dealer with a price of $1,000.00 on it! I remember very clearly asking Chase Craig, "Can I please have that back?" and the response was "Mike, it's too much trouble." I'm not saying that if I had those Creepy and Eerie and Vampirella pages that I wouldn't be selling them myself on eBay as fast as I could. When you're paid $29.00 for something and 30 or 40 years later you're seeing it on eBay with pages going for $199.00 or more, it's: "Dammit!"

BDS: Tough to take, I'm sure.

MR: Why are other people profiting off that? I can see that if I have the page and sold it for $50.00 and 20 years later somebody's got it for $200.00…okay…that's business. But I had no say in that art being out there. It just really burns me. Of course, I'm referring to it as "art". Silly me.

BDS: It's a sore spot with a lot of your fellow professionals and the debates rage on about "liberated" or stolen or whatever term you like to use.

MR: Oh, yeah. I know some stories about "liberation" and stuff that's been liberated by people who turn around and get on their soapbox about how it's unfair that the artists didn't benefit while they're sitting on stuff that they "liberated," but that's another story for another time.

I still have a lot my Disney store art left and if I ever run out I'll just redraw it, because it will still be my original art and as a freelancer I own it, but as far as my own original art from comic books I have three pages from the Tarzan Twins I adapted and drew, a book which has a lot of what is just godawful and some of it I'm proud of, and I have on my wall here a Tarzan comic book page from one of the European Tarzan comic stories that I penciled and 90% of it is inked by Russ Manning and a tiny background detail by Dave Stevens and it's signed, "To Mike – The only other artist I've had the privilege of inking. Russ Manning."

BDS: Priceless.

MR: Framed next to it is a page from another Tarzan story that I penciled, inked and lettered. I have two pages from that and one is framed on the wall. I'm not even sure if I still have the Sunday Mickey Mouse page that Daan Yippes and I collaborated on. I laid it out and he tightened it up. I inked and lettered it.

Working for Jack, the only originals I got were…he was nice enough to give me a Captain America book that I inked and I think that's all. I wound up giving the art away to friends and trading it to some people because at that time if I wanted to own some Jack Kirby original art I wanted something that Giacoia or Sinnott had inked. I was too close to the work I was doing with Jack and I didn't want to collect his pages inked by me. Of course 40 years later I'd LOVE to have some of that stuff. It's long enough ago that I can relate to it differently now. *Sigh* At the wake for Jack somebody associated with the family gave me a Black Panther book which was only two thirds complete and, if it had been included, I'd have kept the double-page splash, which, of course, wasn't there and I wound up giving and trading those pages away. I was still close enough to it, you know.

BDS: Sure.

MR: Jack's been gone what, nineteen years now? 1993? Has it been that long?

BDS: Hard to believe.

MR: Yeah. We only lived 16 miles apart.

BDS: When you think about the tremendous volume of material he cranked out and that it still commands such a premium, it's obvious his talent was and is well recognized.

MR: There was a big flap last year at one of the comic book original art collector's websites. I had done a dozen superhero pinups. I took pencil pinups that fans had commissioned from Jack over the years and blew them up, traced the pencils and inked them on 11" x 14" paper. Strathmore. I signed them "Kirby/Royer" because it was Kirby's drawing. I didn't think I was committing some sort of sin. I then sold two thirds of them to a guy in Australia who then started trading one of them at a value of $3,000.00! He was apparently hiding the fact that I'd traced Jack's pencils.

So on this website, as they were tarring him with the brush of fraud, they were also labeling me with comments like, "This is totally Mike Royer original art." I will argue to my grave with these folks that that's not so. It was a Jack Kirby drawing that I traced and inked and if it was Jack's pencils actually under the ink I wouldn't have been selling them for only $250.00. Jeeez. They were Jack Kirby compositions, which I reproduced and inked the way I would have inked him back in the day. How anyone could say they were completely Mike Royer's art escapes me. I sometimes wonder what a collector of "big foot" comic book originals, who had a prized page of Harvey Eisenberg Tom and Jerry art, would think if he were informed that the page he covets was inked on a lightboard by an animation inker and there was none of Harvey's carbon under that ink line. Harvey's pencils were on a page of tracing paper and shredded after the page was inked. Does that now make the page of original art solely the inker's?

So I've done another dozen of them that a friend is going listing for me on that same website, but they're signed "From Kirby by Royer." I've got four Captain America's, I've got a Silver Surfer, I've got a Big Barda, the Hulk fighting some four-armed guy, Ka-Zar, The Demon and Thor. For my money, if you want a Jack Kirby/Mike Royer pin- up, this is the closest you're ever going to get. But they now feature, as I said, "From Kirby by Royer" so they can't accuse me of being a fraud. It's all because someone else tried to hoodwink a collector by eliminating the fact that I had reproduced his pencils, but it's still a Kirby/Royer drawing. So I'll continue to take issue with people who say, "Oh, this is totally a Mike Royer original." If it were a Mike Royer original it wouldn't look anything like Jack Kirby. It would have pie-cut eyes and a big nose and big ears and a tail! LOL. Everyone has their opinion on what something is and what something isn't and so to make sure I can avoid any future flap from the purists, all future drawings/pin- ups I do will clearly say "From Kirby, by Royer."

BDS: And that should be the end of that.

MR: I've got one here of the Silver Surfer and it's a great drawing by Jack. It's got the Surfer and all kinds of planets and comets and all kinds of "crackle" going on and if it actually had Jack's carbon under it, it would go for thousands, I'm sure. And there's a part of me that feels funny putting $350.00 on it. Then again, I spent a lot of time on it.

BDS: Did you get credit for the postage stamp that features your Green Arrow?

MR: No, no. What really gripes me about that…I tried to set the record straight in the Jack Kirby Collector, but I don't think it ever resonated with anybody. Everybody talks about the "Green Arrow stamp inked by Mike Royer." DC sent me a scan of a photo-copy of a western Jack Kirby 1950s character named Bullseye. He was in fringe, leathers, a cowboy hat with a feather, pulling back on a bow and inked by somebody who inked his own personality over Jack's pencils, rather than inking it the way Jack would have inked it. DC asked, "Can you take this pose and make it an early 1970's Jack Kirby/Mike Royer Green Arrow?" Which is exactly what I did. It's his pose, his stance, his dynamics, but I made it Green Arrow with his entirely different costume, all the folds, etc., and everything else the way I believe Jack would have penciled it in the '70's, so I don't think it's fair to just say that it's "Green Arrow inked by Mike Royer." It was printed on a comic book; a special one-shot reprint of Kirby's '50's Green Arrow and then a few years later it winds up being on a postage stamp. Its first day issue was at Comic Con in San Diego and I think they figured they might sell $200,000.00 worth of stamps. A buddy of mine in the Post Office gave me the Post Office newsletter stating that they sold over $500,000.00 worth of stamps at Comic Con the first day!

BDS: Whew!

MR: I think I must have signed at least two or three dozen first day envelopes for the Post Office employees. Or at least you'd like to think it was for their employees. Not a week goes by that I don't see a Mike Royer signed first day signed envelope on eBay for $5.00. If I'd known that, I'd have grabbed as many as I could and taken them with me. "One each for my kids and one for myself."…that's all. Just like the Grant Simmons, "Come in and take anything you want!" All right, I took what I wanted (for family) rather than something I thought might make me some money down the road. Oh well….

I'm finding that everything…or anything… sells. I've been toying with the fact that I have this big giant glass jar with the metal screw lid on it that's full of ribbons and memorabilia from conventions and stuff. I've got all kinds of buttons and I have all of my old Walt Disney Company Mickey Mouse credit cards and… I'm wondering in my old age if anyone would pay for a credit card with Mickey Mouse on it issued to me. I wonder if anyone would pay anything for that?

BDS: It wouldn't surprise me for a second.

MR: I used to get letters from guys in prison. Anymore now I don't even open them. They'd ask me to please sign a couple of cards for their children. Then I see them on eBay two weeks later. Or the people that write and say, "You is one of my favorite cartoonists. I would likes a drawing, please." I guess they encourage inmates to write letters to celebrities, even minor ones. It's a way for inmates to make money… by selling autographs or something. Give me a break!

Let me share one last story about a time I was with Roy Thomas on a panel and he turned to me and said, "You know, your name is on the cover of a comic magazine every month." I said, "Really?" He pulled out a copy of "Destroyer," and said, "If you cover up the DEST you've got Royer on the cover every month."

Good ol' Roy. Every time I see him he never fails to remind me that the 11 X 14 color original Mickey Mouse drawing that I gave him and Dann on the occasion of their wedding at Griffith Observatory in L.A. is still hanging in the entryway to their home.

Nice folks.

To steal a line from Stan Lee: 'Nuff said.

Mike was a gem and I certainly got a great kick learning about his long and fruitful career.  

Fear not, faithful readers, this feature will continue.  Join us again the first of the month for another installment and don't be shy with your comments, questions and feedback.  You know the drill:  professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2012 by B.D.S.

Interview copy edited by Mike Royer

This feature was created on 05/01/00 and is maintained by



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