A Tribute to the of

It's fascinating to me how certain comic book titles have evolved over the years.  On occasion they take some dramatic twists and turns throughout their publishing history.  Take, for example, the long-gone Star Spangled War Stories, which began in August of 1952.  It was an anthology book filled with; you guessed it, war stories.  Prior to that, however, it had been simply Star Spangled Comics, which debuted in October of 1941 and the first cover (+ back cover) feature was, appropriately enough, the Star Spangled Kid.  Scripting for his adventures, incidentally, was by Jerry Siegel of Superman fame.  The Kid and Stripesy were the top dogs until Simon and Kirby's Guardian and Newsboy Legion took over with issue #7 through #64.  Then it was time for another change with Robin, the Boy Wonder assuming cover dominance for the next 30 consecutive issues when Tomahawk came along and enjoyed the honor until issue #122.  Robin continued to have a story in the books, however.  With #122, the cover feature was taken over by Dr. Terry Thirteen; Ghost-Breaker and mystery stories were introduced until that incarnation switched to Star Spangled War Stories following issue #130.  Once the title went to war, it was home of many one shot grunts during its nearly 25 year run, but also hosted such well-known characters as Enemy Ace and the Unknown Soldier, who ended up taking over the title with issue #205.

That pretty well covers the history of this book, so now let's get to the issue at hand, which is Star Spangled War Stories #106 from December/January 1962/1963.  That dramatic cover featuring soldiers battling a dinosaur is by that well-known team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito.  They also produced the feature story, "The Nightmare War!"  The subject of this review, though, is the 6-page second story entitled "The Flying Island!"  I cannot determine the scripter, but pencils and inks were done by Jerry Grandenetti.  The setting is World War II aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress, but for some reason the captain, Lt. Blake, insists on referring to the aircraft as the flying island.

Almost immediately the B-17 encounters a Japanese aircraft carrier which begins to issue anti-aircraft fire.  A member of the crew tells Blake that the way they're being tossed around by the flak should be ample evidence they're not an island.  Blake retorts that islands get jostled by earthquakes.  Soon zeros rise from the deck of the aircraft carrier to engage the Americans and the skipper says they're like sharks milling around their flying island.  The bemused crew decides to take on the "sharks" with some .50 caliber "fish-poles."  They enjoy some success, but a kamikaze then rams the plane, taking out two engines and the crew chief tells Blake that his "flying island" is sinking.  Nonplussed, the captain orders a bombing run.

Having released their deadly payload, the aircraft is now rapidly losing altitude and is about to literally become an island floating in the sea.  Blake issues orders to his crew to not ditch.  "Islands are life-savers—so we stay on this one!"  Another crewman mutters that this "flying island" gag is going too far and soon it will sink and send them all to Davy Jones' locker.  Fortunately, however, the plane comes to rest on some submerged coral.

The next menace is enemy torpedo boats, but the captain tells his gunner that they're merely "barracudas" to the "islanders" and to open fire with the .50 cal again.  When they successfully repulse the boats a torpedo is the next threat.  Sticking with his island analogy, Lt. Blake tells them that every island is bothered by "sting-rays."  The idea is to sting them before they get stung.  The guns are out of ammo, but a resourceful crewman lobs some T.N.T. into their path, neutralizing the latest danger.

Finally, a submarine surfaces and the skipper declares it a "whale" that the islanders must "harpoon."  Grimly, he guns the engines and rams the sub, knocking it out of commission, but at last their "flying island" begins to sink into the depths just as another "flying island" in the form of a rescue helicopter arrives to pluck them from the waters, affording our "islanders" safe harbor.

As I mentioned, I don't know who to credit with this tale, but it was a little odd to me.  Plenty of action, of course, but the "island" gag ran thin, even in such a short story.  I'll call this one a middle-of-the-road 5 on the 10-point rating scale; nothing special, other than the realistic depictions, particularly of the war craft, by artist Jerry Grandenetti.

Jerry recently gave me a chunk of his time and memories about his comic book career and I'm pleased to present them to you here:

Prof:  First off I found one source online that said you were born in either 1925 or 1927, but they said there was a discrepancy.

Jerry Grandenetti:  1927.

Prof:  So it was '27.  And your art training was at the Cartoonist's and Illustrator's school and later at the Pratt Institute, is that right?

JG:  No, I never went to the Cartoonist's.  I did go to the Pratt Institute.  I'm one of these sort of latecomers to the industry.  I was going to be an architect because of my father's desire.  I was good with math so I spent time with a drafting board.  I began to switch over when I began to realize it wasn't as much fun as drawing.  So I decided to draw.

Prof:  Well, it's true.  There's not a whole lot of creativity involved sometimes in architecture with all the straight lines and so forth.

JG:  A lot of the guys like Carmine Infantino and Alex Toth, all these guys got into the industry very early.  Joe Kubert got in when he was thirteen or fourteen!  That's unbelievable.  When I began to realize that it was just amazing.

Prof:  It really is and they continue to just chug along, or at least some of them do.  Joe Kubert is still doing work, of course and Carmine is more or less retired and of course we lost poor Alex Toth.

JG:  I did not know that Alex passed.

Prof:  Yeah, it's been just a couple of years ago.  He was living in California, I believe.  When I talked to Irwin Hasen he was telling me a little about it because they were very good friends.

JG:  Oh, that's so disappointing because he was one of the greats in the industry, you know?  Alex Toth made a tremendous contribution.  You probably do know that.

Prof:  A little bit, yeah and everyone I've talked to just raves about his work.  I haven't seen all that much of it, but what I've seen is very impressive.

JG:  I'm just sorry to hear about it.

Prof:  I apologize for being the bearer of bad news.

JG:  It's all right.  Getting back to me, I'm kind of separated from the comic book industry for a long time.  I got into advertising and I've been stuck in it for 15 or 20 years, so I'm not really into that kind of news.  I get it from some of the friends I talk to.  Joe Simon I occasionally talk to, but I didn't know about Alex.  Anyway, life goes on and people of my era are getting up in age.  We're disappearing like World War II veterans.

Prof:  Yeah, unfortunately.  In fact, Jim Mooney, if you know him, passed just a few months ago also.

JG:  Jim Mooney…I know the name, but I don't know of his work.

Prof:  He did a lot of Supergirl and some Spider-Man later on and many other things, but of course he was going to be 89 here pretty soon, so he had a good long run.

JG:  Yes, Toth wasn't that old.  Toth must have been 79 or 80 or am I mistaken?  He was nowhere near 89.

Prof:  Well, I see here that Alex Toth was born in 1928 and he passed in 2006, so I guess about 78 or so.

JG:  Yeah, 78 or 79.  You're the bearer of bad news.  (Chuckle.)  Call me back when you have some good news.

Prof:  (Laughter.)  We'll just move along.  Mr. Grandenetti I read where you were a great admirer of Fawcett and Sickles and so forth.  Did you have any other influences?

JG:  Yeah, actually Noel Sickles and Austin Briggs.  Austin Briggs ended up doing magazine illustrations.  Some of the best in the world.  And actually if you did some checking around, some of your best magazine illustrators drew comics.  Comic books or comic strips.  Austin Briggs drew Flash Gordon.  Austin Briggs was one of my idols and Noel Sickles especially.  Noel Sickles was a giant in the world of magazine illustration.

Prof:  Yeah, and his Scorchy Smith work and so forth.  He was very much the master, no question.

JG:  Talking about passing, he passed very young.  With Noel Sickles I was so disappointed because he was doing such great work.  You hate to see that happen because you want to see what else the guy can do while he's still around.  So he passed kind of young, you know, and it was a great loss.

Prof:  I know you spent a little time in the Navy.  Did you enjoy your service there?

JG:  Yeah, actually in the Navy was where I got a taste of drawing because I got into the Navy with a special X rating because of my drafting experience.  I spent time with a company called C. C. Combs Landscape Architects and so the Navy gave me a special X rating and I ended up in the administration building doing these silly architectural corrections on porches and handball courts.  (Chuckle.)  With that special X rating I told the guy there, I forget his name, he was running the base paper and I wanted to do some drawings, so I started drawing for the base paper and that gave me the desire to want to draw for a living rather than doing this silly architectural stuff with triangles and T-squares and logarithms and all this other mathematical stuff that was boring as hell.

Prof:  (Laughter.)  I can't blame you a bit.

JG:  You know, you've got a fabulous voice.  Did you say you were in radio or something like that?

Prof:  Yeah, I was for a little while and I tell you what, if I could have made a living at it, I would have stayed.  It was such fun, but it was in a tiny little market in Eastern Washington State and anybody with 35 bucks could get an FCC broadcaster's license and they'd work for minimum wage, so you can't raise a family on that.  Anyway, when you left the service I suppose that was maybe helpful when you worked on the war comics?

JG:  I was in the Navy, so I don't really see a connection, to tell you the truth.  I ended up drawing a lot of war stories for National Periodicals.  That was just the work that was available.  It wasn't selective on my part.

Prof:  All right.  That sounds about like what Russ Heath was telling me.  He told me he didn't necessarily choose to be there, it's just where the work was, so he took the assignment and was glad for it.  Did you ever base any of your characters on people you knew?

JG:  Not really.  I wasn't that overly concerned about making my characters believable or somebody I knew or somebody real.  I just drew people off the top of my head.  They'd look like whatever that character called for.  There was no particular rationale.

Prof:  Okay, no models or anything then.

JG:  Yeah.  That's interesting.  Did you find that to be the case with other people you've talked to?

Prof:  Just a couple of them.  I know Neal Adams and Alex Ross, who actually paints his comic work, have used people for models.

JG:  Yeah, Alex Ross.  A much younger guy and he's in this new world, I guess.

Prof:  Very much so and he uses a lot of models.  I just didn't know whether most artists did that or as you described just create a figure and go from there.

JG:  Well, Alex Ross does these paintings and so I can see where you'd almost have to rely on models.  You can't paint off the top of your head.  You have to get some real model looks to your work.

Prof:  You were considered one of the big three as far as the war books at National, along with Joe Kubert and Russ Heath.  Did you interact with them very much at all?

JG:  Not really.  Again, you have to understand where I'm coming from.  I got into the comic book industry by luck.  I had luck in the beginning and in the end lousy luck.  (Chuckle.)  So I got into the comic book industry and from the very first year or two or three, I already had my sights on being a magazine illustrator, so I really didn't hang around with those guys.  I was looking at Austin Briggs and Noel Sickles and comic books…ah, that was junk work.  Of course that's not really so, you know?

Prof:  Right and it ended up being what you became known for after all was said and done.

JG:  Well, that's nice to hear, but to be in the company of Russ Heath and Joe Kubert.  My God, those guys are giants.  I'm not one of these stars; at least I don't think I am.  The only contribution I made to the comic book industry I think was that I started, because of my interest in doing magazine illustration; I think I was one of the first ones to introduce half tones on covers.

Prof:  Yeah, I was going to ask you about that.  That grey tone became quite a big deal and you were the pioneer in that.  Was it your idea?

JG:  Yeah, because I was concerned about breaking into the full color illustrations for magazines, and so my work was geared toward that, so I convinced Bob Kanigher, who is no longer with us, to let me do one in half tone and the rest is history.  I did 10 or 20 of them.  I don't know how many I did, but going back there, that's the only serious contribution I think I made, breaking in that route to doing half tones.  Now of course all the comic books, from what I understand, are either all half tones or have this full color illustration look.  They're a little bit over worked as far as I'm concerned, but that's what they look like anyway.

Prof:  When you worked with Bob Kanigher, I know he wrote a lot of the stories you drew, but was he also your editor?

JG:  Yes.

Prof:  Did you have any trouble?  He's got a little bit of a reputation as kind of a tough guy to get along with.

JG:  I don't know.  I heard that through the years about Bob and I got along with him.  I got along with everybody, I guess.  Again, maybe because I was really not (chuckle) connected to the industry.  I was the oddball guy that was working the field, but dying to get to a different ballgame.  So maybe that's why.  I wasn't as closely concerned like some of these guys who built their whole lives around it, like Carmine Infantino.  His whole world was comic books and he ended up being I think publisher at National.

Prof:  Yeah, he got all the way to the top as publisher.

JG:  Yeah, so these guys are really into it and made a really serious contribution to the world of comic books.  Again, it may be what I said about some of the stuff that we see today.  It's just my personal opinion.  I think too much of the stuff today looks like they're only concerned about rendering.  The stories are kind of weak, I think, and there's no basis for any of the plots.  They're just looking to make pretty pictures it looks like all the time.

Prof:  Yeah, and you know I would agree with that.  My interests are back toward the Silver Age when you did a lot of your work, obviously, and when I pick up the new stuff…that was something Carmine said as well.  He said its all huge muscles and violence and there aren't any stories any more.

JG:  Comic books were so nice in that era, I thought.  The stories were nicely done, nicely written with beginnings, middles and endings, but the stuff today; they're so bent in the wrong direction as far as I'm concerned.

Prof:  Yeah, and obviously the business is not doing as well as it used to.

JG:  Well, you hate to call the demise of the world of comic books, but we're so visually saturated in this world.  Everybody has at their fingertips computers with pictures that are full color and sharp as hell.  You've got cell phones with pictures on them.  So we're so visually saturated that I just don't know if there's room for comic books any more.  Maybe I'm mistaken.  I hope I'm mistaken.  I just think it's a nice media still.

Prof:  Yeah, and it's a uniquely American one, too, so you would hate to see it fall by the wayside, but I wonder sometimes. 

JG:  Do you disagree with me?  How do you feel about what I said?

Prof:  I think you're onto something.  I think there's so much competing right now.  When I spoke to Jerry Robinson that was something he pointed out.  He said back when he started you had newspapers, and the comics in the newspapers and of course later comic books, but that was pretty much all you had.  There were no cartoons to speak of and there wasn't much television and your overall entertainment options were very limited and so they had a stronger footing back then because they weren't competing with much.

JG:  There's so much stuff nowadays in motion pictures with computer generated visuals.  One of the great things about comic books years ago, prior to reaching the peak it's at now is that we were able to boast that we can draw anything you can't do with photography or with motion pictures.  If you had to produce some of the stuff we were doing in a motion picture it was impossible, but now the reverse is true.  They can do almost anything.  Computer generated art is a miraculous development.

Prof:  Oh, yeah, you're absolute right, and they're able to bring some of the comic book characters like Spider-Man for example and the Hulk and so forth.  They can do anything you can do on the printed page and more.

JG:  How can comic books compete with that?

Prof:  It can't be easy, especially since many of them are aimed at a much older audience rather than kids.  It's going to be interesting to see how it finally unfolds.

JG:  When you say the industry is doing pretty bad, is this something you hear or…

Prof:  It's mostly from what I hear from some of the other creators I've spoken to who are still involved.  I don't know if you remember Len Wein or not.  I spoke to him a few weeks ago.  He was the one who created Swamp Thing back in the late 60's.

JG:  Yes, I remember the name.

Prof:  He's still doing some work, but at one time he was an editor at both Marvel and DC at different points in time and he was telling me that he was getting sales figures in on some new books and they sold 7,000 copies one particular month and he said back in the day they'd cancel a title that was selling 250,000, so it's just plummeted.

JG:  That's a tremendous, drastic difference in volume you're talking about from 7,000 to, did you say 200,000?

Prof:  250,000 was what he told me and I was just shocked.  Of course once again we're talking a little bit different world because now there are very few independent comic publishers.  DC is owned by Time-Warner and Marvel is a publicly held conglomerate so they don't have to necessarily keep themselves solely supported like they used to.

JG:  It's a difficult thing with the comic book industry, especially with the people who are doing it now and probably love doing it and they're teetering on the brink.

Prof:  That's the way it seems.  I read where you started out doing more inking than penciling.  Is that correct?

JG:  As I said earlier, I was lucky to get a chance to work in the world of comics because when I got out of the service, whatever drawings I had that I did in the service I went schlepping around and in those days I think they were starving for talent.  Anyway, they would have hired anybody I think.  And I don't think I was a special talent, but I had a portfolio full of drawings and I went up to Busy Arnold…

Prof:  Oh, yeah, over at Quality Comics.

JG:  Quality Comics.  And Busy Arnold, I found out later on, was in some kind of partnership or relationship with Will Eisner, a big name like Will Eisner.  And I never knew these names.  (Chuckle.)  But he said to me, "There's a guy by the name of Will Eisner who's looking for a guy to sweep floors."  (Mutual laughter.)  That was my big break.

Prof:  Oh, mercy.

JG:  And then I went from sweeping floors to inking and actually drawing The Spirit.

Prof:  Fantastic!  Was Will as sweet a guy as I've heard everyone say?

JG:  Will was one of the sweetest guys in the whole industry.  Of course he left his mark on the industry.  He was the man as far as I was concerned.  All the art work.  The whole thing.

Prof:  Murphy Anderson just raved about Will and absolutely adored working with him, so it's nice to hear that confirmed.

JG:  Well, he gave me my big break.  After sweeping floors for a couple of weeks I convinced him to let me do backgrounds and of course with my architectural background experience that was very pliable, and then from doing backgrounds I began to ink some of his pencils which were miraculous.  I always screwed them up and he always had to fix them.  It took me like 100 years to catch up to his inking ability.  I got nowhere near, I should say, to be honest with you, but I was able to do a reasonable facsimile I think.

Prof:  Fantastic.  A great training ground, no doubt.

JG:  Oh, yeah.

Prof:  Apparently you were at DC for about 17 years and you did work on westerns and a little bit of science fiction and some of the horror titles and lots of war titles, of course.  Did you have a favorite that you enjoyed more than another?

JG:  Well, when I was lucky enough to start doing work for Jim Warren who had the Creepy and Eerie books, and I began to realize what I liked was that the free rein he gave all artists and that was when I really began to enjoy the comic book work that I was doing because prior to that I was kind of locked in because I got into the industry late and I was influenced by all these other great talents.  Guys that were my age or maybe even younger and here I am trying to do a decent job and so when I was able to work with Jim Warren on his Creepy and Eerie books and having that freedom was what I enjoyed mostly.  As I began to experiment and I began to do some of my best stuff.  It's too bad that they…actually I left Jim Warren before they folded up.  I'm sorry that he closed up shop.

Prof:  They produced some wonderful material there.  They had some very formidable talent there as well and produced some wonderful work along the way.  Some of your drawings of aircraft and weapons and submarines and so forth were very faithful to originals.  Did you have to use a lot of reference material or was that a natural talent you had?

JG:  My drawings of that stuff were very bad, at least I thought.  (Chuckle.)

Prof:  I would argue with you there.

JG:  I drew those things pretty much like Joe Kubert.  Joe Kubert was like me.  We faked it.  Russ Heath, if he was doing a story about a certain tank, let's say, a German tank, he'd go out and buy the model and build the damn thing and then draw from it.  He did it with airplanes and you could see it in his work.  It had that beautiful, authentic look and of course his rendering is fabulous, but he really did that kind of research and I pretty much did what Joe Kubert did.  I winged it.

Prof:  Okay.  Well, you couldn't prove it by me.  Some of the stories I've seen, the stuff looks just great.  I was just curious if you used a lot of magazine photos or something.

JG:  No, I didn't do anything like that.  Maybe I should have, but I didn't.

Prof:  Well, as I said, the results were wonderful, I thought.  I read someplace that you drew some scripts that Bill Finger wrote.  Do you remember which ones?

JG:  Bill Finger…the guy that created Batman.

Prof:  Right.

JG:  Yeah, I did a couple of Bill Finger scripts.  If you asked me which ones, I don't know.  They must have been pretty routine scripts.  No important characters.  Is that documented, by the way?  I think it is that Bill Finger is really the creator of Batman?

Prof:  Yeah.  That's correct.  Bob Kane never really let him get the credit he deserved, but it's been well established and Jerry Robinson was very quick to tell me that without Bill there would not have been a Batman, and certainly Jerry would know.  (Chuckle.) They say you created the Mme. Marie character.  Do you recall that?

JG:  I created her, but at that point I was making my way into the world of advertising.  I was doing full color illustration for a couple of agencies.  Brochures.  I was doing them in full color, so I was breaking away at that time from comics, but I did the first couple of Mme Marie stories I think.

Prof:  That was kind of a unique character, I thought, because other than some of Arnold Drake's characters from the Brotherhood of Evil, you didn't see many French characters, and so a French resistance character was pretty unique.

JG:  Let me correct that.  I didn't create Mme. Marie.  Bob Kanigher did.  I just did the first stories.

Prof:  Well, I've heard it said that it's a co-creation thing when you draw the character for the first time.

JG:  I guess so, but I really think Bob Kanigher deserves the credit for that.

Prof:  I read where you helped to bring back the Phantom Stranger.  Was it easier when you had an established character to work with or did you find it more difficult?

JG:  It didn't bother me either way.  Again, to reiterate, maybe because I wasn't as overly concerned about my comic book career as I was trying to get the hell away from comic books and into magazine illustrations.

Prof:  (Laughter.)

JG:  As long as I was able to get assignments and pay my bills and maybe someday break into magazine illustration, I was happy.  And the closer I got to getting into magazine illustration that industry began to disappear.  You know with magazine illustration, you hardly ever see it in magazines nowadays.  That's what's happening to the world of visuals.  It's all photography.  It's all mechanics.  So as I found myself getting closer and closer to magazine illustration, I did some illustration for Argosy and a couple of men's magazines, but things like the Ladies Home Journal, the serious woman's magazines that had some great illustrators, that was beginning to diminish and it was gone by the time I was even close to it.

Prof:  Heartbreaking.

JG:  It was.

Prof:  That was something Gaspar was telling me because he was getting his start in the fashion illustration business and then switched over to lettering and was glad he did, because it all went over to photography as you said.

JG:  Gaspar's not still working, is he?

Prof:  No, he's retired.  What a talent.

JG:  Oh, a fabulous letterer.

Prof:  You know there was a credit given to you for doing some lettering on the Spectre when you worked on the book in the late 60's.  Is that correct?

JG:   I didn't do any lettering at all.  I think what happens with that distortion is that I had a tendency, maybe left over from Will Eisner, where I would do some pre-lettering in the balloons…sort of display lettering as opposed to regular lettering.  You know there term display lettering?

Prof:  Like a logo?

JG:  Like a logo except I would disperse it into a regular balloon that I created.  When I would letter it for Gaspar Saladino to letter, I would have a routine line of lettering and then I would bump it up with a display letter.

Prof:  Okay, so that must be what they were referring to.

JG:  Yeah.  I did an awful lot of that and I think maybe that was the second thing I contributed.  Well, I take that back.  That's a Will Eisner swipe, okay?  There's so much overlapping that goes on in any industry.  What's original nowadays?

Prof:  Right.  I remember Chuck Berry saying that there's nothing new under the sun.

JG:  Yes, but let's be perfectly fair and honest.  The genius is going to sprout up like a Bill Gates who came from nowhere and brought us a totally new world.  There's always someone out there ready to forge a new direction.

Prof:  Correct.  So many of the types of comic book work that you did between the war titles and horror and so forth; did you have any trouble keeping in line with the Comics Code or was that a problem at all?

JG:  I don't think so.  I don't remember being told if some of the work went to the Comics Code people and it went back to National Periodicals for corrections.  I don't think we were told.  At least I was never told that I overdid this or overdid that.  Did some guys tell you that they were told that they were drawing too much of this or that?

Prof:  Not so much, although Russ Heath commented that at the time the way the Comics Code was back in the day, he said if a guy was sweating too much that it was considered too violent.  (Chuckle.)  He was being funny, of course, but you get the idea.  You didn't dare show any blood or stuff like that and when you're doing a war comic I just wondered how tough it was to work around that, but it doesn't sound like you had any trouble.

JG:  No, I don't recall any serious trouble at all.

Prof:  Okay.  You did one thing with Denny O'Neil with Nightmaster, the sword and sorcery character.  How was that for a project?

JG:  Nightmaster and I think I did another one with Denny O'Neil.  I liked the character.  I think I did two or three stories and I think Dick Giordano inked it.

Prof:  Given the choice, did you like to pencil or ink?

JG:  I ended up inking my own stuff, so I think I never really fully developed a good penciling technique.  In the beginning I was doing an awful lot of penciling for National Periodicals and other people would ink it, but I eventually ended up doing my own pencil and inking primarily because it was the best way to make good money and I had more control over what the end result would look like, so I ended up doing my own penciling and inking.  Very rarely I penciled for someone to be able to ink effectively enough.  Alex Toth was a master of penciling.  Doing both, actually, but his penciling was superb.

Prof:  I noticed that Murphy Anderson inked after you on a couple of occasions, so I wasn't sure how often you had the occasion to do both or what you really preferred.

JG:  I really preferred doing my own.  Murphy and I did a few stories for the Spectre, I think.  Two or three or four for Julie Schwartz.

Prof:  Did you have a favorite editor you worked with?

JG:  Not really.  I got along with everybody and of course Bob Kanigher was such an exciting editor.  I don't understand these other guys claiming he was a tough guy to work with.  He just demanded some good work and that's how he got it.  I mean Bob Kanigher created some great characters.

Prof:  And many of them, too.  His out put was astounding.  What an imagination.  Just beyond belief.  How long did it usually take you to produce a page?

JG:  I could do a whole six page story in one day if I had to, but no telling how good it would look.  If I had more time I'd spend a couple of hours on the page, but many times I found myself where Kanigher said he needed a story overnight and I would do six pages overnight.

Prof:  Wow.  Just pull an overnighter, huh?

JG:  Yeah, I think a lot of guys were fast.  Maybe even faster than that.  But I was able to do six pages one day very easily.

Prof:  Whew!  That's smoking right along.

JG:  It was good money.

Prof:  Yeah, the more you can produce, the better you do.  Did you like doing covers better than interiors or did it make any difference to you?

JG:  It didn't make any difference except when I began to start doing these half tones, because I began to experiment, and I was very excited that National Periodicals let me experiment.  It was a good deal for me and a good deal for them.  From what I understood, Bob kept telling me that because of those covers their sales went up and it's amazing how you look back upon it now and I think the difference in my rate was, let's see I think I was getting $35.00 or $40.00 a page, and then for doing those half tones they threw in an extra ten bucks.  Now those rates are a joke when you think about it.  Considering today's prices for everything.  I don't know what they're paying comic book illustrators today.

Prof:  I'm not sure either, but the cover prices on Joe Kubert's new Tor series, for example are $2.99, so that's a long way from 12 or 15 cents.  I don't mean to beat the Spectre to death, but you followed Neal Adams on that.  Was he a tough act to follow?

JG:  For me, I'm hanging all my dirty laundry out on the line.  For me, (chuckle) following everybody was hard.  People claim I began to have my own look.  I was very hard on myself because I got into the industry late and I was playing catch up most of my life.  But when I got into the world of advertising, because all of my abilities were applied; I did stuff in coloring…I paint even today for fun, of course, so when I got into advertising it was a big thing to them.  I could draw because I came from the world of comic books and I could paint as well.  I knew my colors, so that's where I really began to blossom.  But in comic books I don't think I blossomed as well as some of these other guys.

Prof:  Well, it's obvious that your talent kept you going for many years, so that's something to be proud of.

JG:  Yeah, in fact now I still do storyboards, but what they do now is…I used to do so many storyboard frames for a couple of agencies in the city per week and now they…again, getting back to this damn computer generated world that we're competing with, instead of buying 20 frames from me, they'll buy 5 or 10 and with those 5 or 10 they're considered master frames.  They'll either zoom in or zoom out or blow it up or low blow it.  They'll do all kinds of trick story telling and they don't have to buy as much stuff from me.  It sounds a lot like the demise of all art work that's done by hand.

Prof:  It does.  With programs like Photo Shop it's amazing what can be done and all the commercial fonts are making it hard on letterers, too.

JG:  I have a computer I use all the time and it's an unbelievable world.  I think in the next 5 to 10 years it's really going to explode even beyond what's already happened.  The electronic technology in this country is so ever changing that it's not giving the consumer a chance to appreciate something they just bought last month.  They get stuck looking at something that's 10 times better.  The electronic world is really going to explode and change things.  It's a great time.  I think the young people will take advantage of it.

Prof:  I see it all the time.  I noticed on your webpage that you're still doing commissions here and there.  Has that been fun?

JG:  Yeah, its fun, but sometimes someone will call up and I'll have to change gears and give something that comic book look because very rarely do I get commissions on stuff that I would love to get commissions on, but it pays well.

Prof:  Are you pretty much retired at this point?

JG:  I would say semi-retired.  I do anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of work per week.  I usually do it in the morning and I have my afternoons free to either go to my chess club or to paint, which I enjoy doing.  I'm a very serious chess player.  I get into a game whenever I can.  I've been playing chess for about 30 years.  In fact, I belong to a large reputable chess club in Manhattan.

Prof:  Wonderful game.  I haven't played in awhile, but it was a passion of mine when I was a kid.

JG:  Great game.

Prof:  Well, I think I've officially run out of intelligent questions, so I'd like to thank you very much for your time, Mr. Grandenetti.

JG:  Thank you.

Jerry was every bit the humble gentleman and I had a great time learning a little about him and his career.  Jerry has a presence on the World Wide Web at: http://www.jergrand.com. Check out his offerings.  Maybe you'll see something you'd like.

Believe it or not, faithful readers, the next edition of this ongoing feature will mark our 200th effort!  As a way to celebrate, we're going to do a little giveaway.  Drop me an e-mail at the address below, and you'll be entered into a drawing for a copy of Secret Six #2 autographed by the spanking new editor of the title at the time, Mr. Dick Giordano!  The lucky winner will be announced next time with the latest review and interview, so you won't want to miss it.

Thanks to one and all for accompanying us on this quest into the immortal Silver Age of DC comics.  Feedback of all sorts and of course your entry in the drawing can be directed to me at:  professor_the@hotmail.com.

Good luck, and...

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2008 by B.D.S.

Interview copy edited by Jerry Grandenetti

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



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