A Tribute to the of

"From small things, big things one day come."  Everyone starts someplace, and in the world of comic book creators, generally one begins on a small project and if things go well, they move on to bigger and better things.  The subject of this review is a case in point.

For those unfamiliar with the title (and generally speaking, I count myself in that demographic), "Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth!" was a series inspired directly by the "Planet of the Apes" movie.  Carmine Infantino told me that during a phone conversation not long ago and of course it isn't difficult to see in the covers.  The partially buried statue of liberty is pretty much a dead giveaway.  So, of course, it's essentially a storyline set in a bleak, halfway apocalyptic future on earth and even seems to involve some anthropomorphized animals, such as in issue #45.  My focus, however, is on the backup story in that issue, which has a publication date of September 1976.  The backup story is from a complementary series titled, "Tales of the Great Disaster," and it also features highly evolved animals that are nearly human.  In this case, the story features a trio of them that include Urgall, described as, "An adventurous young gorilla, exiled from his tribe for idealistically believing in liberty and equality"; Myra, "A beautiful she-ape captured by the rat people for bloody sacrifice, but mercifully rescued by her present escorts"; and Otis, "The prince of New Jersey.  A member of rat royalty.  He helped free Myra and is now himself a fugitive."  Before I neglect to do so, the credits list contains writer David Anthony Kraft, artists Mike Nasser and Joe Rubinstein and Editor Gerry Conway.  The installment is called, "The Apocalypse Machine!"

After the reintroduction of the small band, (I seem to have caught the series well after it began) we join them in the midst of traveling on their horses and having been spotted by a "Copper" scout, whose charter is to capture unauthorized travelers.  When Myra asks Otis what could happen he explains the "toll" system, where one of them would be put to death.  After a bit of bickering amongst the trio, who apparently are still all but strangers, the "Coppers" arrive, astride monstrous, grasshopper-like mounts.  Urgall, Myra and Otis urge their own mounts toward, ironically, the ruins of a wild animal refuge.  Swiftly they dismount and Urgall urges Myra to find a weapon and stay close to him, but the she-ape takes offense to his chauvinism and he in turn takes umbrage to her attitude.  Meanwhile, Otis slips away, thinking to himself that a rat, never mind rat royalty such as himself cannot be expected to stand and fight.  The readers then learn that Otis has a hidden agenda, hoping to use the apes to secure a war machine that will allow him to conquer his tribe.  Just then, he comes upon a mysterious machine, possibly a leftover from the Great Disaster.  As he tries to figure it out, we return to the ape people, who are attempting to elude their pursuers, but with little success.  As the "coppers" draw closer, we see that they are dog-type men and one even boasts of being a pedigreed German shepherd.  As they close in for the kill, Otis arrives in his newly-discovered machine and fires energy bolts, incapacitating the "coppers."

The relieved Urgall and Myra greet Prince Otis, but he shouts that the machine is out of control, driving and firing and he cannot stop it.  The story ends on that cliffhanger.

These six short pages were filled with action and drama, even if it reminded me ever so slightly of "The Island of Dr. Moreau."  I'd be interested some day in reading the other chapters in the story.  It appears that the personnel producing this series changed rather frequently, so I'd be particularly interested to see if the storyline remained cohesive.  In fact, the letter column, "The Time Capsule" starts off with the statement, "Department of Constant Change."  The editor then remarks about the changeup in writers on Kamandi, not to mention the recent departure of Jack Kirby on pencils.  They also responded to the first writer's observations that Kamandi was a long-running effort by Kirby and suggesting ways to keep it rolling without him as they had a "King" size reputation to live up to.  The reply said, "We're well aware of that, and that is why we keep questing for the best possible team to put KAMANDI together—including new Continuity Associates-graduates Mike Nasser and Joe Rubinstein, now doing the TALES OF THE GREAT DISASTER artwork."

It is now my privilege to present to you Joe Rubinstein, inker of the above tale and a man who epitomizes the notion that from small things, such as this short backup story, big things one day come:

Prof:  As I researched some of your work I was frankly amazed at all you'd accomplished for someone of your youthful demeanor.

Joe Rubinstein:  (Chuckle.)  Actually you should see me walking right now.  Uncle Joe is moving slowly at this juncture.  I was in a car accident, so my lumbar is not a happy place to be.  I was on Topanga Canyon Drive, which is a nice, long, narrow downward slope road and I got off this slanted driveway, turned on the car, turned off the emergency brake, started to travel, went for the brake, brake wasn't working, brake wasn't working, car wasn't on!  I'm frantically looking for the emergency brake and it was 10:30 at night, so I hit the side of the mountain and bounce off, about 20 feet down the ravine.  The car is totaled, a little fire inside for good measure and my back is not happy.

Prof:  Ugly.

JR:  Well, it could have been many, many, many times worse, but it still hurts.  And naturally, in my business, it hurts more to sit than to stand.

Prof:  Perfect.

JR:  So, I forget.  Your interviews go into some sort of database on the history of comics?

Prof:  Kind of.  Ten years ago my best friend started this webpage dedicated to DC's Silver Age, and after a couple of years into it he suggested I do reviews of comic books from that era since we're both either still in our first childhood or entering our second prematurely, so I did that for awhile and then through a few interesting twists and turns, about two years ago I started contacting some of the creators and have been having an absolute ball learning first hand how things went back in the day.

JR:  How old are you?

Prof:  I'm 46.

JR:  I don't think I can talk to you.

Prof:  Oh, sure you can.  (Chuckle.)

JR:  All right.  Well, I'm 50.  When you were 13 reading your comic book that I inked, I was 17.

Prof:  That's what I understand.  That was your first professional work.

JR:  Yeah, I was working at Neal Adams' studio as Dick Giordano's assistant when I was 13.  I guess that doesn't count.  I was doing a little ghost assistant things for them with The Crusty Bunkers and whoever.  Then when I was 17 I got three jobs on my first day and now its 33 years later and boy are my arms tired.

Prof:  (Chuckle.)  How many pages do you estimate you've done over that time period?

JR:  I don't have a clue.  There was a real fallow period there for about 7 or 8 years where no one hired me, but prior to that for 24 years I was as busy as I could possibly be.  The worst month, or the best, depending upon how you looked at it, was 104 pages.  The trouble is that because I produced so much work, and wasn't married and didn't have kids and never get out of the house is that all I did was work and work and work and work and I had assistants who would run errands and do my laundry and get me food and so basically I never had to get up from the chair, so the rumor got around that I just didn't do my own work because it's not possible that anybody was doing this much work and so sometimes I would get a job from an editor and they would say, "Okay, but you are going to do this one yourself, aren't you?"

Prof:  Oh, jeez.

JR:  So that began to hurt my reputation quite a bit because people started to doubt that I was the one artist on it.  Kyle Baker, who's quite the genius, was this kid up at Marvel and I saw this wonderful drawing he did called "Captain America and Buckwheat."  Kyle is half black, so he can get away with stuff like that.  So I found out who did it and I said, "You're really good.  Do you want to be my assistant?"  He said, "Okay."  So Kyle, in interviews, has actually given me the credit for changing the focus of his life.  (Chuckle.)  He wasn't quite sure what he was going to do with it until I gave him the job offer.  I also had another assistant at the time, a guy named Jose Marzan, and Jose was better than Kyle, and Kyle wasn't quite figuring it out.  I mean he was okay, or I wouldn't have used him, but he wasn't picking it up as fast as Jose was and then one day the fuse was lit.  Kyle just took off, like the genius that he is; the rocket went into the air and exploded and all that, and Kyle is crazy, but in a good way.  Kyle one day sat down and penciled a 22- page Shadow job and then he inked it the next day.  I said, "What are you doing penciling 22 pages in one day?"  He said, "Well, I don't like to work a lot, so I like to get it out of the way at the beginning of the month."  So, Kyle calls me up one day and said, "I have this issue of "Web of Spider-Man" that's due.  Can you help me out on inking it?"  I said, "Okay."  Then he shows up with this totally untouched 22-page Mark Silvestri job, and I proceed to try and ink as much as I can in one day.  About five pages.  I don't even care what it looks like at this point.  He needs it done; it's done.  Then I'm exhausted and I need to get to sleep.  So the next morning Kyle has inked the entire rest of the book AND a 22-page Butch Guice New Mutant layout job.  So Kyle inked, what is it?  39 pages that night.

Prof:  Holy Moses!

JR:  So when they say, "You couldn't do it.  Nobody could do it all in one day."  Well…  Then once I went over to Tony DeZuniga's sweat shop…Tony is a very lovely guy, but it was a sweat shop, when he rented two floors, like a condo or something on Madison Avenue, and he and his wife Mary lived upstairs, (chuckle) and everybody else was chained downstairs.  There was Alfredo Arcala, a certifiable genius also, would sit there and draw at the table and he had a cot to sleep in when it was too much and I think there was a box or something.  One day I think they did a 25-page John Buscema Conan job in one day, because Tony was doing Conan and Alfredo is doing the bad guy and someone else is doing these guys.  Now that example was a group of people, but yeah, jobs can get turned out if that's the necessity.

Prof:  And here I thought it was always impressive when you'd hear the legends about Kirby cranking out five pages a day.  That puts it all to shame.

JR:  Well, no, no.  I mean, it's Kirby.  It's Kirby when it's done, right?  (Chuckle.)

Prof:  True.

JR:  Anybody can draw five pages, but it's Kirby.  He didn't suck.  And you know, that is a barrier that they talk about in comic books.  You know how you break the sound barrier or the four minute mile or whatever?  If you can produce a comic book a week, and have it at a good, professional level, you have broken the Kirby barrier.  So when Frank Miller laid out the Daredevil mini-series that I inked, Frank did one of those a week, but they were layouts and not full pencils the way the Daredevil books were.  Consequently, I wasn't quite sure what do with this stuff because then…maybe then, but definitely now and for the last ten or fifteen years, my favorite inker in the business is Klaus Janson.  Klaus is just so unpredictable and so spontaneous that I thought Klaus and Frank were the perfect combo.  It couldn't be done better.  I was happy to get the Wolverine series to ink, but I just felt totally inadequate.  I think it's something as if someone asked, "Angelina Jolie is separated from Brad; you wanna sleep with her?"  I'd say, "I gotta follow Brad Pitt?  Really, I'm not sure I care who I'm following.  I get that woman?  Yeah, I'll try."  So I got to do Frank's Wolverine, but if I remember correctly the first issue took eight weeks to do, which is a lot slower than I was in those days.  Then the second issue took six weeks and the third issue took four weeks and then the last one took something like 2-1/2 or 3 because I'd figured it out by that point.   I was still really trying to figure out what to do, so if you look at the Daredevils from that period in comparison to the Wolverine's, they don't have a lot of similarity because Frank laid out one and penciled the other.  Mind you, for decades; I don't remember if Wolverine was '80 or '82 or something, for decades people would compliment me on the thing and I would politely say, "Thank you," but I felt totally and utterly inadequate and I thought it was a very poor job on my part and I was embarrassed.  Then a couple of years ago I decided to actually look at it again just to see what it was all about and now I can look at it and think, "It's not bad."  I'm no longer completely devastated by not being Klaus Janson on the job.  I thought it had its moments.

Prof:  Absolutely.

JR:  There's a splash, like a full-page head…oh, by the way, for everybody; and most people don't know, if you look at the face of Wolverine on the cover of #1, he's based   after Jack Nicholson.  He's got this big shit-eating grin on him, and then if you look at him for the rest of the series, especially the very first splash page, he's based on Clint Eastwood, because I need somebody real in my head to make it make sense for me, not just be a bunch of features, but I have a person I can visualize.  When he grinned, he looked like Jack Nicholson to me.  I don't honestly remember if Frank told me that or not, but that's definitely who he is on the first cover.  But then Frank sent me a "The Films of Clint Eastwood," book with directions to specifically look at the photos of "The Eiger Sanction," because the Wolverine series starts with Wolverine climbing up a mountain, which is what "The Eiger Sanction" has as a part of its plot.  He said, "Really emphasize the crags in the face."  So that's what that was all about.

Prof:  You were following a pretty well-established tradition there.  It was only within the last few years I discovered that Gil Kane's Green Lantern was based on Paul Newman.  I had no idea.

JR:  (Chuckle.)  I didn't until this very second, as a matter of fact.  I knew that Captain Marvel is based on Fred MacMurray.

Prof:  Yes.

JR:  And Bugs Bunny is based on Clark Gable.

Prof:  That's a new one on me.

JR:  In "It Happened One Night," when they're hitchhiking, at one point Clark grabbed a carrot and he starts chewing on it, and Clark was known for having big old ears and that was the inspiration.

Prof:  (Laughter.)  I love it.  And your explanation to being able to relate a character to someone makes a whole lot of sense.

JR:  Yeah.  I don't necessarily have to ask the penciler who they had in mind, and maybe they didn't, but I take an acting class.  I did before I got to Hollywood and now I still do, and when I do a monologue, I don't just speak the words  I say the intention; I ask , "What's it all about?  What are we doing here?  What do I want?  What do I want from you?  How am I getting it?  Who are you, anyway?"  That makes the words come out in a completely other way, so deciding that Elektra looks like Jennifer Garner gets it to  make sense to me.  Actually who I always thought Elektra looked like when I did her was a beautiful actress named Barbara Carrera.  When I did the X-Men with [Dave] Cockrum, every one of them related to somebody I knew.  Kitty Pryde looked like my teenaged niece; I'm the height and build of Wolverine…I mean Wolverine's supposed to be 5'4" and everybody seems to ignore that fact in the movies.  Colossus; my brother's Russian, and he has dark hair like Colossus.  I had a good family friend who's a black woman who liked to dress up as Storm with a white wig, so that one wasn't tough.

Prof:  (Laughter.)

JR:  My family comes from Germany, and there was Kurt and Xavier…I think by that point I was fairly bald, but I don't remember.  Right now I look very much like Vin Diesel.  I'm just like a short, bald, wide-nosed guy.

Prof:  I saw your picture at your mySpace page.  I don't know how recent it is, but it gave me a bit of a notion.

JR:  It's recent enough.  I look like that or Dr. Bernie Siegel, depending on what your orientation is, or reference.  Or actually when I was in acting class and we were supposed to make believe we were talking to an agent, and I said, "I look like Alan Arkin."  A young Alan Arkin.  I do.

Prof:  It's interesting, Joe.  You're the second creator I've spoken to that has an acting background, too.  Frank Springer said that for years he's been doing local theater.

JR:  I didn't know that about Frank.

Prof:  He also said it gave him a wonderful perspective on doing scenes and so forth for his comic work and it does seem like a natural complement.

JR:  Actually, comic books are lousy with people who want to be in show business or to be directors or movie makers.  Kevin Maguire is in an improv comedy group and I know he wants to direct films.  Actually, I had this kid assistant who was 17 years old, his name is Kevin Van Hook, and Kevin Vincent became the editor at Valiant Comics and we lost track for a whole bunch of years and I found him on the internet and asked, "What are you doing?"  "Well, I got a studio."  "Really?  What do you draw?"  "Cartoons." "What kind of cartoons?"  "Well, I'm actually the Vice President of Film Roman.  We do The Simpson's."  "Okay."  Then as it turns out Kevin also had a contract to write and direct live action movies for the Sci-Fi Channel.  I think it's a five movie contract deal.  I don't know how many he's done.  So Kevin's a guy who just kind of left comic books and found himself making the movies that most comic book people wish to make.  Even Neal Adams has tried to get directing gigs, but…what can I say here that won't get me sued?  If I say that Neal's particular view of how it should go did not necessarily jive with the people with the money, maybe.  They didn't want him to direct the stuff he wanted to do.  But believe me, you ask enough people and, well, Del Close used to write comics for First Comics and he was a famous comedy and theatrical coach from Second City and John Ostrander, I think, was an associate who learned a lot from him there.  You'll find that lots and lots of creative types need another venue; another outlet.  If they draw, they've got to play the guitar at night.  If they write all day they've got to go paint pictures.  Even people like Klaus, who does a magnificent job with the black and white stuff; he tells me that he does abstract painting which nobody gets to see, which I guess is his way of getting that creative urge out without being stuck with representationalism.

Prof:  Ah, okay.

JR:  With me, I'm home all day, alone, because if there's anybody around I start telling stories, like I'm telling you, and never get any work done.  Then I've got to go to acting class and that means I've got to get out of the house and talk to other people and access another part of my brain and my emotional life that I ordinarily don't get to and have to collaborate.  And even though I'm a collaborator in comic books, I can do it alone, thank you very much.

Prof:  Right.  It is a very solitary exercise after all is said and done, and it's been remarkable, the examples of your work I've seen, you seem to have an amazing ability to adapt to the penciler.  Some of the things I saw made me think, "Gosh, that doesn't look a thing like what I just looked at."  Case in point:  When you did that work over Carmine's pencils for that famous Batman and Robin one that Murphy Anderson did originally.  It looked to me like Murph.

JR:  That's easier only because I have a very firm guide to follow, but Dick Giordano is the one who taught me how to ink when I was a kid, and Dick very much believed in giving the penciler the respect they're due.  If Dick were inking a Neal Adams job, he would try to be more representational and more subtle about it.  If he got a Mike Sekowsky job on Wonder Woman, then he would ink it more like a fashion illustration.  Big, fat, bold.  Chop, chop, chop.  And that would absolutely decimate a Neal Adams piece.  Or if he got a Gil Kane, he didn't ink Gil Kane like Neal Adams , so I thought that was the way to do it, because if I were to pencil something; and I did something for Dick to ink.  It was a project up at Continuity Associates, the studio he shared with Neal Adams.  Dick inked it, and some stuff wasn't what I wanted to have happen, but he was respectful of it.  Now if most people who are good, good inkers are also good pencilers; good draftsmen; like Murphy Anderson you mentioned earlier, but more often than not, they have this attitude of, "Okay, well your job is done, so now I'm going to make it mine."  And I don't know if it's an ego, or a lack of sympathy, or it never occurred to them that they didn't want me, since they hired me.  Now if you get somebody like Kevin Nowlan, you will get a beautiful, beautiful job.  Kevin is one of the superior artists around, in my opinion, so you're happy to get it, but what happens if Frank Frazetta, by some miracle, comes out of retirement and draws a job and they give it to Kevin Nowlan?  Well, Kevin will probably be in awe and terribly respectful of it, but you'll probably get a Kevin Nowlan job when it's done.  So what would be the point of that?  So when I get some job in front of me; somebody new to me, I make a phone call, and I discuss it with them.  "What do you like?  What don't you like?  Who have you liked?  Who haven't you liked?  What tool do you ink with?"  I try to get a sense of what they want.  Now sometimes, they don't know what they want, and sometimes they tell me, "Oh, you're Joe Rubinstein, you do it any way you want," and sometimes they say, "Well, just do it like Joe Rubinstein" and that's a frustration to me, because I don't know what that means, because I don't know what they were looking at.  Were they looking at my Justice League or my Wolverine or my Superman?  So I very much try and give the respect that I would want because I think of it as a relay race.  Somebody else started the direction, and if I respect them, to proceed in that direction.  Don't say "You know, you guys are getting it all wrong.  I'm going to run over on this course for awhile."  Scott Williams told me one day that he thought that was a detriment to my career because the editors didn't know what they were going to get when they gave me a job.  There were a couple of jobs…. Jimmy Palmiotti called me up once and stated, "Hey, this Erik Larsen Spider-Man/Wolverine job just came out and they gave you credit for it, but you didn't ink it."  Yeah, I did, but I just tried to make it like Eric Larson.  Another time, my favorite time; Joe Kubert, to me, is maybe the greatest comic book artist who ever lived.  Yes, there's Jack Kirby, and Jack Kirby invented everything and Jack Kirby is the Galactus of comic book pencilers, and there's no denying (chuckle) that one of those Fantastic Four splashes in your face is 3-D whether they did it or not, but a piece of Joe Kubert artwork…an Enemy Ace with that thick fur around his face, or a Tarzan with those muscles all sinewy takes my breath away.  I just love Kubert work more than anybody's work and when we did this Heroes for Hunger book which was a benefit book for African relief in about 1986, Starlin organized it, and he asked me, "Well, who do you want to ink?"  I said, "I've always wanted to ink Garcia-Lopez."  So he called up and he said, "Well, we got you somebody, but it's not Garcia-Lopez."  I said, "Who did you get me?"  He said, "Joe Kubert."  I did a Danny Thomas spit take (water shoots out):    "What !!!?"

Prof:  (Laughter.)  Oh, yeah!

JR:  It's like Rembrandt does a sketch and he hands it to me and says, "Here, kid.  Work it up."  So the pages show up.  They were as beautiful as anything you've ever seen by Joe Kubert, because they weren't sketchy pencils like he would do for himself.  They were fully realized pencils, as if the page had been reproduced in graphite from ink.  And now, I'm in real trouble; because if I trace it, I will lose all the vitality that is Joe Kubert.  If I don't trace it, then I will lose Joe Kubert!  How do I do this?  So I inked some of it, after taking a deep breath and probably looking at it for a week.  I would sleep and there would come a voice down the hall taunting me, (sotto voce) "Ink me, you wimp!"

Prof:  (Laughter.)

JR:  So finally I started to do it, and I didn't like what I was doing, and the luxury of that particular job was that I didn't have to have it done right away, so I put it away for several days.  Then I looked at a whole ton of Kubert comics and I tried to absorb it, and then I inked the thing, and I was really rather pleased by what I had done.  I was so pleased that I wanted the okay of the High Father.  I sent copies to Kubert, who is a lovely, lovely guy.  Anything you hear about Kubert, he's a good guy on all levels.  I sent him these Xeroxes, waiting for the feather to drop down the well and hear the splash.  The splash didn't come.  So finally I called him up.  "Joe, did you get the Xeroxes?"  He said, "Yeah."  "What did you think?"  He said, "Well, overall I don't think it turned out badly."  And I was crestfallen.  I thought to myself, "Well, I think I have to give up and do something else now with my life."  But I didn't.  And then I told Joe's sons, Adam and Andy the story, and they said, "Oh, that was like a rave from our father."  "Oh, okay."  I wish I'd known.  (Chuckle.)

Prof:  Yeah, get the translation.

JR:  To settle this all up, Marshall Rogers called me up and he said, "Hey, they got your credits wrong.  It was obvious that Joe Kubert inked somebody else on that page, and it says you were the inker." "I was the inker."  I couldn't do it, if Joe hadn't been there, meaning if somebody said, "Ink this entire job like Joe Kubert."  I'd say, "Well, I'll try, but the fact that he's there establishes the look I'm after, so that made it easier for me.

Prof:  Oh, mercy, and you must be in an extremely exclusive club.  I can't think of hardly anybody else that's inked Joe.

JR:  I think there are six guys, and I told Joe this, and he couldn't even remember one of them.  The six guys are:  Murphy Anderson, Russ Heath, Al Milgrom, and Dick Giordano, me, and kind of, sort of Nestor Redondo, the Filipino on those Bible jobs that he laid out very small.

Prof:  Oh, right, right.

JR:  I don't think he actually penciled them so much as laid them out in miniature, but yeah, they sure look like Joe Kubert.

Prof:  They do for a fact.

JR:  That's why I inked a thing called, "The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe."  I did it on and off for twenty years.  Mark Grunwald, I don't know what I'd inked for Mark beforehand, but Mark was a nice guy, and he said, "We're going to do this thing like an encyclopedia called "The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe," and why don't you ink these three pieces and we'll see how it looks."  I don't remember what they were, but it seems like one was maybe a Dave Cockrum Nightcrawler piece.  So I brought it back and he said, "Okay, good.  How many of them do you want do ink?"  "All of them.  Why would I want to give any of this away?  Just give it to me."  And he did, but you know what?  I think I made his life a much easier place, because as he's balancing 46 different pencilers for this book, he knows to send it to one inker.  One inker who has proven he can alter his approach so that it will still look like Kerry  Gammell and Bill Sienkiewicz and Al Milgrom when it's done, but still have a unifying feeling to it.  As a matter of fact, I was sitting there one day inking four pieces simultaneously,   that's how I work, because I don't want to worry about wet ink smearing, so I just ink some of this, I go to that one, I go back to this one, I go to this one, and I have like four pieces in front of me and they were possibly a Bill Sienkiewicz, an Al Milgrom, a Frank Miller and a John Buscema.  So I'm inking on this one, I'm inking on that one, and I suddenly get to this realization similar to  when you're reading and you suddenly are aware of the fact that each word is a word instead of a concept.  "And_he_went..."  And I looked at this and I thought to myself, "How am I doing this?  Because the pencilers were sort of the four points of the compass, stylistically.  On one I'm using a real short, kind of dot-dash stroke.  I'm inking this that way.  Milgrom used a big, fat thick pencil with a long stroke; I'd pick up a brush.  Sienkiewicz is short and kinetic, I used that.  So it's not like I have so much of a plan as I allow myself to be open for the stimuli to tell me what kind of a stroke happened.  Which is, by the way, in comic books nowadays….. a lot of the work is done where a page is mailed to you electronically, and then you print it out in a light blue ink, which is non-reproducible, and then you ink it in the regular manner, and you e- mail it back.  Well, I do that.  I do that a lot, but I prefer not to, only because I believe there is a physical energy on the page, from the penciler, which I can feel, which is, of course, totally lost in the reproduction.  Because, when you feel a penciler's hand go from left to right, and you can see the dent in the paper, or how his hand sort of smeared it slightly as his hand went across it, I get the understanding that he went left to right.  Maybe I should make my stroke left to right.  I can see where he used the side of his thumb to smear this in.  Maybe I should use a bigger brush or something.  So I just try to be sympathetic and responsive to my stimuli.

Prof:  The results are very telling.  As I mentioned before, I could hold two or three of your pieces up and look at them and think, "Gosh, this doesn't look like the same guy did them."  It's absolutely astonishing.

JR:  I think maybe that's why a lot of pencilers asked for me over the years.  Because they weren't sure what they were going to get if they got some other guy, but they knew they were going to get them if they got me.  So I think that's why people wanted me to be on their books over the years.

Prof:  Yeah, in fact Clem Robins commented to me recently, "Can you imagine what your average penciler must feel like…the helplessness, in surrendering your work to someone else to finish?"  So, yeah, obviously people feel that they're safe in your hands.

JR:  The penciler would say, "Oh, God, who are they going to stick me with this time?"  And the inker was saying, "Hey, who do I get to play with this time?"  And there were some pencilers who…Look; there were a lot of bad inkers.  There still are a lot of bad inkers, but that brings up the question:  If you have a really good job by John Buscema, not any more, of course, but if you have a really good job by John Buscema and a mediocre job, and Klaus Janson is available for work, do you give him the good Buscema, or do you try to give him that bad job to raise higher because Klaus is inking it?  So maybe what you'll have, if the inker on the Buscema is okay, maybe you'll have two pretty good jobs because Klaus can do just so much.  Or, do you have a really great job and a really poor job?  I personally feel that if you're hiring really poor pencilers, fire them, firstly.  And secondly, don't waste the best on mediocre.  Give the best to the best and get Klaus to ink the Buscema job.  But nowadays there's also the situation where the pencilers are expected to pencil so, so, so tightly, that it doesn't matter who the inker is any more.  Even Eric Larson said in an interview awhile ago, "When it was Rubinstein or Janson or McLeod, you knew it was them.  Now you have no idea."  And I actually ghosted a couple of jobs for Top Cow where they broke up some jobs and they needed some help, so I did two or three or four pages for some books for Top Cow and then the comp copy that was mailed to me came in and I looked through it and I couldn't remember which were my pages.  It's because they're not asking for contributions of style, and mind you, I don't think that's the inker's job, but the stuff was so tight that it didn't much matter.  And by the way, when I was doing the Justice League sequels, "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League," and "Formerly Known as the Justice League" with McGuire, I was supposed to go with those guys to do The Defenders, and then when the editor saw how tight the pencilers were, he said, "Why do we need this stuff inked?"  May he rot in hell…

Prof:  (Laughter.)

JR:  He said, "We'll just reproduce from the pencils."  So they saved the money of paying me.  I think Kevin worked just as hard as he always does and gets more money for it because now they're going to reproduce from the pencils and so there were several people who came up to me at conventions and said, "Hey, that Defenders stuff is pretty good, but did you try something different with the inking?  It didn't quite look the same."  I said, "I didn't ink those.  Nobody inked those."  So, there was something lacking.  Not to say the stuff wasn't gorgeous because Kevin's a wonderful artist, but there's something that a brush and a pen can do that a pencil can't, and if you're paying attention, and if you're sensitive to such things, it will be lacking.  Now I think Kevin will never let anybody ink his work.  He just wants it to be reproduced in the pencil.  I think it's probably more in Kevin's case, an economic issue.  It's practically the same amount of time for more money, so why not?

Prof:  Yeah.  It does come down to the fact that it is a business after all is said and done.

JR:  And of course they're trying to get rid of inkers as much as possible.  They're trying to do computer inking and what have you.

Prof:  I was going to ask you about that.  Obviously you've got a vested interest, but is computer inking the wave of the future?  Is it viable?

JR:  Well, there are books being done right now 100% on the computer by the artist.  He does the sketch and then scans it in and makes it his own.  I don't remember the guy's name, but I found him on mySpace.  He's very good and I could be very wrong, but I think he's doing Iron Man and the guy is great, and there was no need for an inker and maybe there won't be really soon, but there has always been people who could draw and couldn't quite figure out how to use ink; there were people who could ink who weren't really interested in pencils and you'd match them together.  Maybe now a person who doesn't know how to ink just needs to know how to manipulate the computer and that's it.

Prof:  That does seem to be the way lettering is going these days.

JR:  It's gone.  There's an entire profession of people who lettered, and now, as far as I know, other than some corrections in the production department, there is no hand lettering.  The only lettering is by people like John Workman who were letterers who just use the computer.  I never understood why you needed to letter first, but I guess it gives you some experience.  So, yeah, it went the way of silent film music accompaniment.  Its like, "We don't need that any more."

Prof:  Despite my use of a computer all the time it seems a bit unfortunate to me, but that's technology, so what are you going to do?

JR:  Well, I think there's a perception problem that if it's been done before, it's not worth it.  It's too old-fashioned.  I didn't work at Marvel or DC for 3 or 4 or 5 years.  I may have gotten a back-up gig once in awhile or something, but for the most part they didn't hire me because my name was too well known.  The perception was that "He does that old stuff."  As a matter of fact I'm doing a book now, Green Arrow and Black Canary for DC; First time in, I think 7 years that I have a series at DC and Mike Norton is the penciler and when Mike worked at another company; he's a fan of mine back from the Captain America Byrne days, and I've been sending samples to this company of a more contemporary look, as a matter of fact. I also ghosted some…just a few pages, but I ghosted some of Scott Williams' pages on the X-Men when he was working with Jim Lee, and nobody ever said anything like, "What are these old-fashioned pages doing in the middle of all of this?" because I was appropriate for the look of the book.  I was doing Scott Williams' style.  Not as well, because Scott does his style the best.  So I sent in these samples to this company of the same look that I'd done it and Mike Norton said, "We've got to hire him."  "No, no.  He does old stuff."  "But look at this work."  But the publisher is still going, "No, he does old stuff."  And that's the end of it.  He wasn't even going to consider what it really looked like.  It's just the perception.

Prof:  Oh, ridiculous.

JR:  Well, thank you, but I mean that's what editors are like nowadays. Here's the sad part about it.  I did the same thing to the generation before me by accident.  I showed up.  I wanted to work.  That's all.  My dream was to be a comic book artist and I wanted to work with John Buscema and Gil Kane and Curt Swan, and so I start getting work and Klaus and McLeod and Wiachek and Austin.  Then Mike Esposito, Frank Giacoia, Joe Giella and all those older guys start finding themselves unemployed.  And I'm sure they looked at our stuff and said, "What is this crap?  It doesn't look like Milton Caniff or Dan Barry or Alex Raymond."  So I was taking work from them, but I was just trying to get work.  That was all.  So I'm doing this stuff and a new bunch of inkers comes around and a new look comes around, and they say, "Well, let's hire this guy and that guy."  I say, "But I can do that," and maybe I can and maybe I can't, but their perception is that, "You've been doing it, and I like this new guy."  Editors like to bring in their own people and have a relationship going and what have you.  So that's how all the old dinosaurs, as they keep calling us, left comic books.  I know Keith Pollard told me he didn't retire.  Work stopped coming.  Lee Weeks who is great; Lee is just wonderful.  I don't think Lee gets much work in comics any more, because his stuff is too illustrative.  It doesn't have the more anime influence to it.  Thank God that they do keep hiring Adam Hughes, who's just a genius and this new guy, Ryan Sook.  He is great.  I really enjoy his work.  Kevin Nowlan is great.  I think there's a guy named SkottieYoung and I saw his work.  He's wonderful.  Tommy Lee Edwards.  Dougie Braithwaite. Great, great artists, but for the most part I think they're looking for the Image derived kind of look.  The Jim Lee stuff.  Now mind you, David Finch; he's wonderful, and he's kind of from that world, so I'm not saying there isn't room for it, it's just that…look; why does one actor show up in everything in the world once he becomes a hit?  Because they know that this guy got sales and people are paying attention.  So that's who's hired and they don't hire the guy who got the attention last year, because that's last year.  That happens in movies and it happens in T.V. and I imagine it happens in literary circles.  The big hit novelist of last year has been done already, so let's find the next one.

Prof:  I'm sure you're right.  I'm reminded of when Al Plastino told me that he was taken aback when they said he was getting to the age he should be retiring and he said something like, "What?  Have I lost my chops?"

JR:  Look what they did to Wayne Boring.  In all honesty, Wayne Boring's work is old-fashioned, as is Al Plastino's, but if Joe Sinnott said, "I would like to do a book at Marvel Comics," I bet you Marvel Comics would give him a book because he is who he is, and there is room for more retro looking work and there's room for modern stuff, too.  I don't think they all have to look the same.  Look, editors aren't necessarily qualified for their job.  Some aren't.  Some are.  Some are great.  Like Archie Goodwin, who was a universally loved, respected, talented man with great taste on what comic books should look like, but there was a woman at Marvel who, when she was editing a book, she looked at something Steve Ditko did, and honest to God, she said, "Oh, Steve Ditko.  What did he do before?"

Prof:  (Laughter.)

JR:  If I were doing some sort of a modern movie adaptation of the next Star Wars movie if there ever is one, I wouldn't hire Jack Kirby either.  Because I don't think he would look right for it.  But if they did Thor again I don't think Jack Kirby would be wrong for Thor, or even Iron Man.  It's just, I think, a bunch of people in their 20's and 30's and 40's and 50's who are trying to figure out what somebody in their teens would think is really cool, and how would you know that because you aren't in your teens.

Prof:  Exactly.  It reminds me of when Bob Haney was doing the writing for the Teen Titans back in the day and the dialogue was just so hokey and then I thought, "Well, wait a minute.  At this stage in his life, how could he even guess what the kids were saying?"

JR:  I hope I don't offend Bob Haney's descendents here, but he always did superficial, stupid stories where he would do a Brave and the Bold and he'd know that Deadman can enter people's bodies, so that was the trick, and they were usually pretty dopey stories and he stopped getting work because the stories weren't very good.  But the same sort of holocaust happened to comic book pencilers as writers.  I think if you hadn't had your own T.V. or movie series, Marvel Comics didn't want to hire you as a writer any more.  You had to be J. Michael Straczynski or this guy who wrote some movie here or something there.  It was, "Well, these are the real writers.  We don't want these comic book guys any more."

Prof:  Just tossed out with the bath water.

JR:  Well, it's a business.

Prof:  It often comes down to just that.  Joe Giella told me once, "Thank God for Mary Worth."  Here he is in his 80's still chugging along.

JR:  Every now and again I call him up and say, "Are you ever going to take a vacation?  Just pencil a week for me to ink.  Just a week.  That's all I'm asking."

Prof:  (Laughter.)

JR:  That's the great thing an inker can do over most everybody else in comics.  Sure, a writer can call up Frank Miller and say, "Hey, you wanna do a project together?" but Frank can write it without you, thank you very much, and I don't call Frank any more and say, "Can I ink something of yours?" because Frank can ink it, but I do go up to whoever and say, "I really like your stuff.  If you ever need an inker…"  And I've gotten several jobs from it just because they said, "Oh, I didn't realize you'd want to ink me," and I'll go, "Yeah!"  The first time I ever did Superman, I had Curt Swan's Superman in front of me.  Not anybody's, but Curt Swan's.  So I was terrified and I did it and Curt was very, very hard to ink because Curt was suggestive in his pencils.  They weren't super tight. There were a lot of tonalities, so you had to turn tone into lines, so there's a lot of interpretation, which is one of the reasons that Murphy Anderson's pages never looked like Bob Oksner's or something like that, but I got to be an infinitesimal part of the history of Superman, because I got to ink Curt Swan's Superman.  Yeah, I guess you could write Batman and say, "I'm now part of the Batman legend," but when I got a Flash job to ink over Carmine Infantino…and I actually said to the editor, "I'm happy to do it, but why aren't you getting Murphy?"  They said, "Well, we'll try something different."  So Murphy was kind of shafted by the ageism there, too.  When the thing showed up and I read the story, and it suddenly dawned on me, "This is not a Flash job by Carmine; this is a Barry Allen/Flash job."  This was a flashback job.  I got to ink Barry Allen.  That's so cool.

Prof:  Oh, yeah.  Clear back to '56 where it all began.

JR:  The recreation you'd referenced earlier.  This guy wanted me to ink this piece and I was thrilled, and I was terrified, and I was thrilled and the thing showed up and it was big.  Comic book pages are about 17" tall.  11 x 17 and the actual working dimensions are 15 x 10 or something.  This thing was 24" tall.  So it was a monster, and it was probably closer to the size it was originally done, because comic book pages have shrunk over the years.

Prof:  Yeah, the old twice-up.

JR:  And I opened up the package and there's this pencil job by Carmine.  He drew it, but he really more or less traced the old thing.  It's not like he re-drew it, but that's great.  He's still got it just the way he wanted it, and inside of the box I pull out another piece of paper, and it's the same size and drawing by Carmine of the very first Flash cover where you see this kid sitting in the foreground and Barry Allen and the Earth Two Jay Garrick Flash are both racing at him for some reason. I think it was the very first time that Jay Garrick appeared in the Silver Age Flash comics.

Prof:  Right.  "The Flash of Two Worlds."

JR:  And I looked at this thing and thought, "They didn't tell me about this."  I called up and asked, "So you wanted me to ink this, too?"  They said, "No, that's for Joe Giella to ink.  After you're done with everything, could you just mail both of them to Giella?"  And I asked, "Can I ink it and give him the money?"

Prof:  (Laughter.)

JR:  It was like, "Wow!"

Prof:  Yeah, when will this ever come up again?

JR:  Absolutely.  Carmine is old.  Speaking of old.  (Laughter.)

Prof:  83, as a matter of fact.

JR:  A lady decided to give her husband a comic book convention for his birthday.  So my art dealer called up and asked, "You want to go to Vermont for the weekend for this guy's birthday?  They're not paying you anything, but they'll put you up and you'll have a weekend away.  "All right.  When do we fly up?"  He said, "No, they're going to send a stretch limo for you."  "Okay."  So who's in the limo?  Carmine Infantino, Joe Giella, his son Frank, Nick Cardy, Irwin Hasen, Julie Schwartz and me.

Prof:  Holy cow!

JR:  So you combine the age of everybody in this thing and it's 347.  And Julie, who is like the classic old curmudgeon…when I got this Superman job, the one I referred to earlier, I had a question about it, so I went into Julie, and I said, "What do you want done here with this?"  And Julie, who spoke with a lisp, said, "Oh.  They're giving you thish job to shcrew up."  Okay.  Like I'm not nervous enough already.  The guy who gave me the job was the production coordinator or whatever.  Traffic manager.  I said, "What are you giving me this job for if Julie doesn't want me?"  He said, "Julie asked for you."  That's Julie.  Julie would never let you know his feelings.  So we're in this Tribunal of the Elders in this limo and Julie, seeing who's in the limo, says to me, "What are you doing here?"

Prof:  (Laughter.)

JR:  I was invited, Julie.  So five times that weekend, no exaggeration, five times; Julie walked up to me personally and said, "You know I'm 85 now, right?"  "No, Julie, I hadn't heard."

Prof:  (Laughter.)

JR:  And then Julie passed away something like three years later.  And you know what?  I know so many personal stories, and I just don't know which ones I can tell to the world.  (Laughter.)  I have a great Julie story.  Julie Schwartz was actually a paid assassin for the Russians…never mind.  Julie worked for the mob and was in this bar…never mind.  Can I tell this story?  Can I not?  Okay.  I can't stand it any more.  Julie was probably born in 1903.  Julie's from the olden days.  Julie must have come from a very orthodox or religious, strict background.  He married an Irish Catholic girl.  So for the next 30 years or however many that Julie was married, Julie would go back to his parent's house as long as they lived and have Sunday dinner.  But he never mentioned the fact that he was married and had a daughter.  I'm sure Julie's parents must have thought he was a fagala   (little bird).  I guess Julie just didn't want to break their hearts or be disowned or something.  I don't know.  But for 30 years (chuckle) Julie Schwartz had a wife and daughter and doesn't mention it to the family.  That's a very interesting dynamic to go through your life with.  How do you not call up your parents when your baby is born and say, "Hey, you're grandparents?"

Prof:  Holy cats.  That's astounding.

JR:  These are the people who are molding the minds of teenagers.

Prof:  That's it.

JR:  I've got lots of these things I could tell you.  Plus, I used to date a woman who was a publisher in comics, not Jenette Kahn, if anybody's asking, though I always thought Jenette was a babe.  I've got to admit that.  Anyway, once I dated her, I started to hear all the stories that I wasn't privy to.  Which parties they would invite the girl to, not me.  Which guy she dated who told her about this person in comic books or that sexual peccadillo and stuff.  I heard a story about a guy who'd gone to an S&M club and was tied up to this rack and was getting beaten and what have you.  (Chuckle.)  So the next time I saw the guy it was very difficult not to imagine him tied up.  You get this vision and sometimes you just don't want to know stories about people because you just can't stop laughing directly into their face.  And mind you I don't judge the guy for having done what he was doing, but then when I began thinking about how often there was a sado-masochistic sort of storyline or subtext to his work, I went, "Oh-h-h-h."

Prof:  It all becomes clear now.  (Chuckle.)

JR:  Oh, absolutely.  When there's a mystery and it just doesn't make sense and then this one little thing is put into place and you go, "Oh, yeah, of course."  Kind of like why J. Edgar Hoover said there was no mob.  He's got a lovely, frilly outfit in the closet.

Prof:  (Laughter.)  Neal Adams had a few choice tales about Bob Kanigher he wouldn't let me tell, either.

JR:  Oh, you'll have to tell me later.  I didn't like Bob Kanigher one bit.

Prof:  You're in the vast majority.

JR:  When I met him, and he was such a jerk, I wish I was older and told him to just go %$#@ himself right on the spot.  But because, "Oh, my God, it's Robert Kanigher and I'm just a kid, I'm new in the business, he's got a reputation."  You know what?  I don't care.  We were talking about Degas earlier.  When they asked Degas what he thought of the Dreyfuss case, which was this very notorious case about a supposed spy in 19th century France who was sentenced to Devil's Island, he said, "Well, I think he should be sent to Devil's Island with all the rest of the dirty Jews."  All right.  Well, you're not getting invited to Passover this year.

Prof:  (Laughter.)

JR:  But, I'd still like to hear how you made that composition work, and then I'll go home.  Anyway, I've expressed my admiration for Kubert, who was a very big buddy of Kanigher's and it's difficult to say, "Hey, Joe.  Is he as big a dick as everybody says and how did you do it?"

Prof:  It's funny.  I kind of alluded to that with Neal Adams, telling him it seemed like Joe Kubert was the only one that grooved with him really well.  He said, "Well, you've got to understand, Joe Kubert doesn't take shit from anybody."

JR:  So maybe what it is is that you put him in his place and Kanigher was more respectful.

Prof:  Maybe so.  Neal told me that Bob was giving him a raft one day and so he followed him into his office, closed the door and said something like, "Tell you what, Bob.  How about I draw and you write and never the twain shall meet?"  Bob apparently said, "I guess that would be okay."  And I guess they never had a problem again.

Joe had plenty more to share and I look forward to bringing you more from the fascinating conversation next time.  Please join us again in about two weeks and let me know what's on your mind.  E-mail me at: professor_the@hotmail.com .


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Interview copy edited by Joe Rubinstein

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