Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving with Don Perlin’s Father


Good News!

The President has pardoned JayJay and me!
JayJay and Jim having a Happy Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving with Don Perlin’s Father

I guess I saw Don Perlin a few times during my early days at Marvel, when he occasionally came into the office to deliver the art for an issue of Werewolf by Night. I was associate editor then, around 1976.

Werewolf by Night was cancelled in late 1976. So, Don was out of work.

About the same time, Ghost Rider needed a writer and an artist. Editor in Chief Archie Goodwin gave me the writing assignment. I had done some save-the-day, last-minute scripting earlier on the series when Gerry Conway and others failed to deliver….

When Don called Archie to see if there was any other work for him, Archie referred him to me. Don called me and I said, yes, I had a gig for him. Later, Don told me he was praying for “anything but Ghost Rider.” Don didn’t want the hassle of drawing motorcycles.

Don came in to the office to find out his new assignment. I said Ghost Rider. He said thank you.

Other than David Kraft, who rode a Norton Commando, I was the only Marvel guy who had motorcycle experience. I’d owned several bikes, including a Yamaha TX750, the fastest four-stroke produced in 1973. And I had skills. I could ride. I could pop a wheelie in fourth gear and blow the chrome off of a Harley, or any other bike. Except a Kawasaki 750 two-stroke. But, Kaws, unless you thoroughly gusseted the frame, had so much torque that under full throttle the frame would warp, the back wheel wouldn’t follow the front and the next thing you knew, you were doing an endo. I had a friend with a Kaw 750 who did a 70-MPH flying dismount when his back wheel headed east while his front wheel was pointed north. He narrowly missed the bridge abutment. Spinning to a stop on his back, he was saved by his thick leathers.

But I digress….

When Don showed up at my office to get the first plot, I was ready for him. I had bought a model of a chopped Harley and had paid one of our staff colorists, Andy Yanchus, who had once worked for Aurora (a producer of model kits), $35 to build it. Andy was a genius with models. If I had tried to build the thing, well…that would have been an atrocity.

I gave the model to Don for reference. He seemed pleased.

Anyway, I tried to psych Don up, convince him we could do something special with the character. Didn’t have to. Don always gave his best to everything. Right away he had ideas. The few issues we did together were great fun. Working with someone who gets it, who is enthusiastic, who cares, who contributes…well, isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

I’ve told this story before, but one night, very late, wee hours, Don called me, all excited, to say that he had an idea for a character that he wanted to insert into a story—Brahma Bill! Wha…? Brahma Bill?  Whuhhh….? I said, sure, all right, whatever, and went back to sleep.

That was Don. Always enthusiastic, always trying to contribute, always creating. Brahma Bill turned out to be great fun to write. Don had a knack for creating characters, both headliners and interesting supporting cast.

Though I was soon replaced by writers who had more time, Don was the lynchpin for keeping GR alive. 

When I was promoted to Editor in Chief at the beginning of 1978, I had my first look at the master rate sheet—everyone’s page rates.

Don Perlin was Marvel’s lowest paid artist. By a long shot. $35 a page for pencils. A similarly low rate for inks. At a time when top rates were far more than double that.

Well, that didn’t seem right.

Don had been passed over for rate increases for years. I suspect it was because he wasn’t the squeaky-wheel type. He wasn’t an ass-kisser. He was an older guy. He wasn’t one of the young crowd who hung out after work, so he was easy to overlook, and he’d been overlooked. Young punks with a fraction of his chops started at rates higher than his.

My theory regarding rates was this: The factors in setting rates should be:
  • Quality of work
  • Creativity, that is, how much they contribute
  • Length of service in the industry
  • Length of service to Marvel
  • Reliability, cooperation, timeliness and professionalism
  • Popularity
Don was deserving of far more than he got.

I gave Don a substantial raise the moment I was able to. I gave him raises every chance I could get away with it until he was in proper territory, one level shy of the top, John Buscema.

I was just trying to be fair. Don appreciated it.

We became friends. My girlfriend and I would occasionally go out to dinner with Don and his wife, Becky. He adopted me, sort of. Don started inviting me to family functions, his daughter’s weddings and such. He has four daughters, I think.

The more I got to know Don, the more I loved him. He is a great guy. He became my “Unca Donald.”

I went to several daughters’ weddings and receptions. One of them was held at his home in Brooklyn. I was invited, but everyone else there was family. I didn’t really know anybody except Don and his wife, and they were busy playing host and hostess.

There was this old guy sitting by himself on the couch. No one else seemed to be interested in him (or me), so I went and sat by him. He was Don’s father. I’m sorry that I don’t remember his first name, but from the moment he introduced himself I addressed him as Mister Perlin.

No one else seemed to be interested in talking to him. I guess they had already heard all his stories.

I was a stranger. A new audience.

I spoke with Don’s father for a while. He asked me where I lived. I said Madison and 38th.

“Manhattan! Then you could come and visit me!” he said. 2nd and 19th. The Cabrini hospice.

I didn’t know what “hospice” was. Just lucky, I guess, that I had never come across that word at that point in my young life.

I promised him I would come and visit him.

Later, I found out what “hospice” was. The old guy was dying.

Weeks passed. I was working long hours. I didn’t have time for a haircut, much less to visit anybody.

Then, Thanksgiving came. I had to appear at a convention the next day, but for Thanksgiving day, I could enjoy a rare day off. Groovy.

My plan: Goof off. Watch football. Get turkey from the deli downstairs. Be a slug. I had a late date with a girl for post-T-Day drinks. Wha-hoo-hoo!

But, I remembered that I had promised Mister Perlin that I’d come and visit him. If not then, that day, when?

How long did he have?

So, I got myself ready, went out, found a store that was open, bought a nice box of Godiva chocolates and marched down to Cabrini.

I think Mister Perlin was stunned to see me. He gave the chocolates to the nurses. They were pleased.

There were 35 hospice residents on that floor.

I was the only visitor.

Thanksgiving Day, and I was the only visitor. For anyone there.

Mister Perlin “shared” me with the other patients. I spent time talking with them all.

I had planned on spending maybe half an hour there, then going home to watch some oblong ball, but I wound up spending the day there.

Mister Perlin urged me to stick around. He said that his son, Donald had promised to come. I should wait for him.

Mister Perlin insisted, as did the many others for whom I was the only visitor, that I stay for Thanksgiving dinner. I did. For an institutional dinner it wasn’t bad. And the company was wonderful. I cherish that time.

After dinner, Mister Perlin regaled me with stories of his youth. He had been in the rag trade. He reminisced fondly about the heady days when double-knit was introduced.

Don called to talk to his father. Don apologized, said he couldn’t make it to visit. You know, the kids, the grandkids, all the chaos. Mister Perlin said it was okay, and by the way, that nice, tall young man had come to see him. He put me on the phone.

Don thanked me.

After that, Don and I were brothers, I think. Twins, he used to say.

Mister Perlin died shortly thereafter.

Very sad.

Some time later, Don insisted on coming to work with me at VALIANT. He did great work with me. I think his pencils on Solar: Man of the Atom were amazing. He made tremendous creative contributions to that and everything else. He had a hand in the creation of many characters: Rai, the Geomancer and Archer and Armstrong and more. He helped train the young artists. He was wonderful. We couldn’t have done it without him.

Some time later, I was forced out of VALIANT.

Don despised the criminals who had stolen VALIANT from me and hated the weasels like Layton and Hartz who served the criminals. They, and their bosses wouldn’t have approved of his hanging around with me, and he still needed the gig there, so Don would meet secretly with me, for lunch, or invite me discreetly to his home. He swore that as soon as I started something new, he’d be there for me.

But, VALIANT books were then selling huge numbers. Don started making a lot of money on royalties and such. He started getting lots of invitations to conventions and appearances. His work had always been great, but for the first time since I knew him, he was getting proper recognition for it. He was a star!

One evening, months later, he invited me over. We went out to dinner, then went back to his home for coffee. I was in the process of starting up DEFIANT. Almost ready to begin.

He wouldn’t say so directly, but I could tell he wasn’t keen on the idea of walking away from the well-deserved success he was enjoying to join me in another (risky) start-up. Though, I think if I had pushed him, he would have kept his promise.

I didn’t push him. I figured it was about time he got his due.

I pressed on without him. 

That was the last time I saw him for a long while.

Years later, after DEFIANT had gone down thanks to a spurious lawsuit by Marvel and a catastrophic collapse of the market, among other things, I was starting over yet again. I had a new company, Broadway Comics, in partnership with Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video Entertainment. Though I hadn’t seen him for years, I invited Don to our launch party. He came. Everyone was glad to see him.

He seemed a little worried at first that I had some grudge against him, or thought ill of him for not sticking with me. Nah. He was my Unca Donald, and I always wanted whatever was best for him, no matter what.

He said, as always, that he and I were twins, but he was the better looking one, and I said, as always, that I was the smart one.

I love Don. And his father was a wonderful man. I’m glad he had a great deal of success and made some dough at VALIANT. I’m glad someone I like did.

Anyway….

Thanksgiving always brings Mister Perlin to mind.

And my favorite Uncle.

Happy Thanksgiving, Don. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Don Perlin  (photo by JayJay Jackson)
NEXT: Dunno

64 comments:

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Jim. I always knew that about you.

R.

Anonymous said...

That was a great read Mr. Shooter. Thank you for continually writing thought provoking and entertaining entries. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving. Thank you Jay Jay for making these blog enteries real!

Jerry Bonner said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Jim and Jay Jay! Always love these kinds of stories, Jim. They always give me a warm, old-school Americana feeling, which is a very good (and rare) thing nowadays. I have one question though...did you make the drinks date after the dinner with Mr. Perlin?

JayJayJackson said...

Happy Thanksgiving to everybody! And we are also thankful to all of our readers outside the US who probably won't be going into a turkey feast coma later! : )

PC said...

Happy turkey day to you fellas across the pond. Today is working late day, I'm afraid, so I get I'll stop by the mall for some third rate sushi or whatnot.

Thanks for the Don Perlin story. I remember his art fondly from his days in the New Defenders. That would have been Just Another Team Book(TM) with any other artist, no matter how nice Peter Gillis' stories were (speaking of which, another name I haven't seen in a while).

Joseph Tages said...

Happy Thanksgiving, guys. There's nothing sadder than a lonely person who doesn't wish to be alone. Glad to know that you provided solace for the elder Mr. Perlin in his final days.

Don has always spoken highly of you during his time at Marvel and Valiant. I've always liked Don's work and wish him the best.

Anonymous said...

"He said, as always, that he and I were twins, but he was the better looking one, and I said, as always, that I was the smart one."

Huh. That immediately made me think of that movie with Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Anyway, happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

It's stories like this that show Jim is actually pretty cool (contrary to his detractors). Certainly if anyone in comics has a heart, he does.

t.k.

Brett Breeding said...

Jim -

As someone who has become all too familiar with hospice over the last few years, I've lost all four grandparents since 2007, both grandmothers this time last year, your story put a tear in my eye. Many a visit I would see all the people without visitors, many who just wanted a kind word or a smile of recognition. This was a great Thanksgiving Day story that I'm glad I did not miss reading today. It should make us all feel that much more thankful for what we do have. Thanks for sharing it, and have a happy and safe Turkey Day holiday.

Brett B.

Harry said...

I know Don Perlin more for the work he did on the Transformers comic. While it is probably true to say that I tended to prefer some of the UK-based artists featured in the original stories published by Marvel UK, I did quite like Perlin's stuff where the American reprints were concerned. In particular, an iconic full-page image of his can be seen at http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Image:AerialbotsoverAmerica-soswearsCircuitBreaker.jpg.

Defiant1 said...

There is a unique quality to Don's artwork that I've never been been able to describe. It has a certain charm to it. I think he was an important element at Valiant.

Anonymous said...

[MikeAnon:] Did a search on Don Perlin and came up with this funny story:

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2006/09/28/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-70/

[--MikeAnon]

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Could there really be two 6'7" turkeys with presidential pardons? Until I saw that photo revealing your secret identity, I didn't know JayJay and you were the same height! :) Reality is stranger than any "mainstream" superhero comic book.

I didn't know you rode motorcycles until you started blogging and I didn't know the depth of your interest in motorcycles until now. Ghost Rider must have appealed a lot to you. How did you come to ride bikes?

One of the longest-running Japanese superhero franchises, the motorcycle riding Masked Rider, is 40 years old this year. Masked Rider was loosely based on the manga Skull Man -- vaguely reminiscent of Ghost Rider without anything to ride! I wonder why Ghost Rider didn't become big in the US until his 90s revival.

I didn't know Andy Yanchus also built models. $35 was a lot of money in 1975, and it's not small change today either. But you were willing to pay for realism. Have you had models built for other artists to use as reference?

I first discovered Don Perlin in Transformers and until a few years ago had no idea his career at Marvel went all the way back to the 50s. Atlas Tales has samples of his early work. I'm glad he got recognition from you and later from fans of VALIANT: e.g., as he said in an interview with the Silver Age Sage,

"I used do store appearances and sign comic books. Collectors would come to see me and get their books signed. This happened when Bloodshot #1 came out."

And I'm glad you were there for Mr. Perlin on Thanksgiving. I couldn't stop thinking about your story when I was with my family today. I second Brett Breeding. Thank you for making me grateful for what I have.

PS: I have the same question as Jerry Bonner. If I couldn't make a date after a day at a hospice, I hope my date would understand.

Matt Hawes said...

Great story, Jim!

Happy Thanksgiving, Jim and Jay Jay, and all the rest of you guys!

Anonymous said...

We have a vague idea here in England about what your quaint little Thanksgiving Day is - the turkey dinner and pumpkin pie and football game, the Survivor Series pay-per-view and the Macy's parade you wrote so beautifully about recently.

I'm thankful to Jim Shooter for giving me something wonderful to read every day. This blog has become a real highlight of my day, I'm almost obsessive about swinging by here a hundred times a day to see if there's a new post to read.

I'm thankful to JayJay for being the world's most delightful Blog Elf and making all this happen with such style and vivacity.

I'm thankful to Don Perlin for co-creating Moon Knight, an inspired creation. I love Don's work work on the Defenders that was so fluidly and energetically inked by Kim DeMulder.

And I'm thankful to everyone who chimes in here to make these discussions so engrossing.

I wonder if there has been a new posting yet? Maybe I'd better check.

Marco

Tue Sørensen said...

I was (and still is) very positively surprised by Perlin's art on the VALIANT books - it was much tighter and modern than his old Marvel work. You can tell he really enjoyed working at VALIANT.

Chris Calloway said...

Dear Jim,

Thank you for sharing these memories. Happy Thanksgiving !

Dylan O'Neil said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you, Jim, and JayJay and everyone reading!

Mr. Shooter, your blog brought a tear to my eye. Thanks for sharing such heartfelt feelings of thanks!

Kid said...

Just a little titbit for those (if any) who don't already know. 'Jingle Bells' was originally a Thanksgiving Day song before it was appropriated for Christmas duty. Who da thunk it?

Mike said...

I feel like I just got Paul Harveyed... I remember you describing giving that motorcycle to one of your artists, but I now know the rest of the story. And I'm glad I do. Thanks for sharing.

M. said...

Funny thing, the bike I owned before the Norton Commando was...a Kawasaki 750, the three-cylinder two-stroke. Fastest production motorcycle made at the time.

It was a bottle rocket. If you aimed it and fired, it beat anything on the road. But if there was the slightest curve or turn in the road, you'd best get off the bike and walk it around the bend. No handling. Seem to remember the bottom of the engine was 14" off the ground, too damn high! Crashed mine on a windy road in Oregon, tore off a good chunk of my left knee.

Used the crash in the second Man-Wolf story I wrote, giving George Perez three pages of breakdowns of the how the crash played out in real life -- first I went tumbling down the road at 60 mph, flew upside down into a ditch, and right around the time I realized I was still alive, looked up to see the Kaw coming straight for me. (In the Man-Wolf story, I changed the bike to my Norton Commando and, little secret behind the comics, George too had trouble drawing the motorcycle, so I erased it and pencilled it, myself.)

--David Anthony Kraft

jimshooter said...

Dear Jerry,

I did, indeed, make it to my date in time.

jimshooter said...

Dear JayJay,

Is it true that in England they celebrate Thanksgiving by persecuting a Pilgrim? : )

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc,

I'm the big one by most standard measures, but who is the bigger turkey, JayJay or me, that's debatable.

When the first huge gas crisis came along in 1973, I bought my first motorcycle. Better mileage. And I could fill the car once, then fill the bike half a dozen times by siphoning gas from the car. Better than waiting five hours in line at the gas station.

I wanted to buy a Harley, but there was a six month waiting list for Harleys. A friend recommended Yamaha. I went to a dealer. The salesman took one look at how big I was and recommended their big bike, the TX750. So I bought one. I came back the next day to pick it up. I got on it and asked the salesman to show me how to work the thing. Which is the brake, which is the clutch, how do you shift, etc. He said: "You mean you've never been on a bike before and you bought a 750?!" I said, "You recommended it! Just show me the controls, I'll be fine." He explained the controls, warned me to go easy on the front brake, I did three laps of their gravel parking lot, then out onto the highway and home.

I later bought a dirt bike. That's where you really learn to ride, in the dirt. Wheelies, brakeslides, jumps.... Learn on dirt, then when you need, really need to do a brakeslide on the street to avoid slamming into the back of a truck, you know how.

Andy Yanchus was a wizard with models. The job he did on that chopper model was worth more than I paid him. I wonder if Don still has it. I used to buy all sorts of toys, books and stuff to give to artists as ref.

That Thanksgiving Day wasn't what I had in mind, but it turned out pretty well.

Dan said...

I agree that Perlin's work was much better at Valiant.

I'm surprised that Perlin was getting near-Buscema rates at Marvel when he wasn't given higher profile titles. Interesting stuff.

Any chance we could see a general breakdown of income for all the notable positions at Marvel in the 70s? It might make for interesting converation.

Jerry Bonner said...

Jim,

Glad to hear you made the date. After doing such great deed for Mr. Perlin, you surely deserved a night of fun and relaxation!

Emilio Torres said...

A very late Happy Thanksgiving Jim.

Xavier Lancel (SCARCE) said...

I'm not gonna lie: I'm not a Perlin fan BUT his last year on New Defenders with Kim de Mulder was amazing: really beautiful and inventive.
He did not like to draw motorcycles? And he had to work on Ghost Rider + Team Maerica (with you again among others). Do you have any anecdote on him working Team America?

Shawn James said...

This was a very moving story. It shows how much Jim cared about people. Going to visit Don Perlin's father at that hospice shows the highest moral character and integrity; Jim's word was his bond. He literally is a real-life superhero.

Oscar Solis said...

Don Perlin. One of my favorite artists ever. I love his Werewolf By Night issues. His Defenders too. His work isn't flashy but it's so solid. Beautiful pencils and inks. Storytelling that does what it's supposed to do: tell stories.

Thanks.

Oscar Solis said...

One more thing. Your visit to the hospice: wonderful.

Defiant1 said...

Mike Ploog didn't like drawing the motorcycle either.

jimshooter said...

Dear Xavier,

It wasn't that Don Perlin didn't like to draw motorcycles, I think, it was more that it was totally unfamiliar territory that would have taken a lot of research in those pre-web days. He was pleased when I gave him the model Andy Yanchus built so beautifully. That made things easier. He was also pleased that, because I knew bikes, he didn't have to learn much about them by himself -- how they worked, how they handled, etc. I provided everything he needed to know in the plot.

Because of GR, I guess, he became the go to guy for bikes. I don't have any particularly interesting tales regarding his work on Team America. He did his usual excellent work.

Antonio Malcolm said...

Hi Jim,
Thanks for sharing the Thanksgiving memory. Hope you had a great one this year, as well.

Roger Owen Green said...

No reason to know what 'hospice' means, until you DO need to know. Lovely story.

David S said...

Don Perlin is, for me anyway, one of those artists who when the name is mentioned, you think 'yeah, he was good', but it's only when you actually sit down and look at his art that you realise just how good he is. Nice story Jim, hope Don is doing well these days and life is being kind to him.

Anonymous said...

Jim, thank you for a post that reminds us what Thanksgiving is really all about, as well as highlighting yet another under-appreciated artist from the Good Ol' Days.

I hope you and JayJay and everyone else are having a great weekend.

Best wishes

-- Denny

Al Bigley said...

I recall that you, in an early 80s issue of MARVEL FANFARE, included a script from US ONE for aspiring artists to use as a practivce script to draw from. You deliberately included intense scenes of motorcycle action, with shifting, gear manipulation, close-ups, etc. as if to say to us young 'uns, "sure, you can draw Wolverine in a cool action pose, but THIS is the kinda stuff you'll need to be able to draw accurately!

I also recently bought a motorcycle toy to use as handy reference while drawing a cycle scene in a new comic I'm illustrating!

Al Bigley

Anonymous said...

I'm aware that this item is technically off-topic but i couldn't resist sharing this tidbit with any/everyone here that might've missed it:

"Bob Layton Olmos Famous"
http://www.statuemarvels.com/f116/bob-layton-vs-new-corporate-marvel-comics-16383.html

Golly! Seems that "Babyface" Bob sure keeps illustrious company these days!

PC said...

Jim? Jay Jay? Anyone? Bueller?

Man, turkey hangover must be a b***h...

Anonymous said...

Jim, I wonder if you would comment on two of the more infamous rumors attributed to you during your tenure as Marvel Editor-in-Chief: 1)Doug Moench asserted in an interview that you once decreed that all of the lead characters in the various Marvel superhero titles would be killed off, replaced by new versions of same - the only actual replacements being Tony Stark by Jim Rhodes and Steve Rogers by the other Cap that became US Agent - both of which were ultimately undone. You refuted this in a press conference, alleging that Doug Moench was lying 2)Sal Buscema asserted in the book that came out about him last year that you "gave Mike Zeck a nervous breakdown" while working with him on the first SECRET WARS....

Anonymous said...

[MikeAnon:] Does anyone know if Mr. Perlin does original drawings on commission, and if so, how I might submit a request for one? Or does anyone know if he still hits the conventions and what his schedule might be? [--MikeAnon]

Bryan said...

MikeAnon -

Don can be reached through his comic art fans gallery: http://www.comicartfans.com/GalleryDetail.asp?GCat=5759

Bryan said...

P.S. If that fails, drop me an e-mail and I can contact him. bryan_professor@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

[MikeAnon:] Bryan: Thanks! I'm a total n00b when it comes to buying original art. Do you have any pointers on how the process works? If I were to request that he draw something specific for me, is that what's called asking for something on commission? Is it bad form to ask up front how much that would cost? I really have no idea what I'm doing here and don't want to make a bad first impression. [--MikeAnon]

Bryan said...

E-mail me.

jimshooter said...

Dear Anonymous (unsigned commenter),

The Moench nonsense has been asked and answered in this blog. Maybe some kind soul will point you to the answers. I was friendly with Mike Zeck during our work together on Secret Wars. It was strenuous for both of us. I gave Sal trouble about relentlessly using stock shots, easy ways out and hacking. He, therefore, has issues with me. Whatever.

cesare said...

HI Jim,

I met Don Perlin in a comic book store in Montreal, he was there signing Bloodshot #1. Still have it. I showed him some of my artwork, and he was kind enough to indulge me and offer some tips. I was maybe 25, thought drawing was all about god given talent. Don opened my eyes but I was too distracted in general at that age to follow through and follow his sage advice. But I've just hit the 10000 hour mark (more or less) and I have a pro credit under my belt, well, I will when the book is published in the new year. When I decided to try once and for all to apply myself, and get some comics work, I remember thinking about Don Perlin and what he said to me that day.

Thanks for sharing man, love your blog.

oh. Ultimates, Volume 2, any issue. That's my suggestion for a review. If you haven't read the Ultimates, you should.

Ole M. Olsen said...

Dear Jim,

I'm a bit late to put a comment on your Thanksgiving post, but I thought it would be appropriate to put it here.

The first Valiant book I ever picked up was Solar, Man of the Atom #2. I thought it was brilliant, but for some reason I hesitated a few more months before I started reading Valiant on a regular basis with Solar #6. From then on I picked up pretty much everything from Valiant through about 1993. I did have hopes that they might be able to keep the quality up even after firing you, but alas...

Yesterday I received a pack of back issues I had ordered. Among them were Solar #1, 3, 4 and 5, filling holes in my collection left open until now.

Yesterday evening I sat down to read the full "Alpha & Omega" story and assembled BWS's "largest ever comic book panel" in its entirety for the first time, followed by reading the "main" story of #1 for the first time and a re-read of #2 for the first time in years.

It's still just as brilliant as it was back in '91/'92. Brilliantly written, brilliant art by BWS in A&O, and brilliant art by the previously very much underrated D. David Perlin in the "main" story, and if this was coming out today, I'd be all over Valiant once again.

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving: Jim, thank you for your time, your creations and your work at Valiant. I'm still sad that it didn't last, but happy that it still brings me just as much joy (re-)reading it 20 years later.

I can't wait to continue with #3 this afternoon.

(Being Norwegian, I don't celebrate Thanksgiving, of course. But it's not a bad idea to be thankful about stuff :-) ).

Defiant1 said...

Two of my favorite action scenes in superhero comics were:

1) Harada reshaping Solar into a ball and telling him he's too powerful to exist. Solar #3 if I'm not mistaken. I loved the value statement and the fact that Harada was perfectly willing to do what it took to resolve the problem he saw. No holding back. I'm pretty sure Don Perlin drew that part of the story.

2) Sting getting pissed off during Unity and leaving a path of destruction. I assume it's a Harbinger issue, but I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure David Lapham drew that.

My favorite comedic moment in a superhero comic was an issue of Defenders where I think Valkyrie goes grocery shopping with the hulk and he loads up the grocery cart full of beans. A few panels later all the Defenders are gathered around a dinner table with a huge bowl of beans in the middle of the table. No one wanted to tell Hulk they didn't want beans. I'm pretty darn sure that was written by J.M. Dematteis and drawn by Don Perlin. I've actually searched for the page of art. I don't know what Don's art sells for, but I'd do my best to pay above the going rate for that page. I located some color guides for the issue on an art dealer's web site, but that page was not listed as an item for sale. I've got to assume it's treasured by another collector out there somewhere, but I'd have been happy with the color guide also.

Defiant1 said...

Sal Buscema's early work doesn't look that different than yhis brothers. As time went by though, I would almost cringe when I saw it. You could see he was just pumping out mediocre pages to get paid. "Stock shots" is a perfect description. He drew characters hunched over all the time so they would fit in the panel. Legs were spread. Eyes gaping open as if they were horrified. Fingers were spread wide as if in the shape of claws. It irritated me so much and he reused those same details over and over. It was evident that he was capable of so much more, but I just started to dread comics when I saw his name in the credits.

jimshooter said...

Dear Defiant,

Trapezoid mouths, floor-level horizons so he didn't have to worry about perspective, butterstick buildings, fake or cartoony backgrounds, glyphs, the easiest way every time to do everything.... Somewhere online -- I can't find it now -- is a side-by-side comparison of a spash page that's a jungle scene as drawn badly by Sal and inked/finished beautifully by Bob McLeod. That says it all.

Phillip Beadham said...

Dear Defiant 1,
The comedic scene with Hulk & the beans was in Defenders # 89, by David Kraft & Ed Hannigan, with art by Don Perlin & Pablo Marcos. I remember it well! As David sometimes appears on the blog, maybe he'll have something to say about it.
As regards Sal Buscema, I'm kind of protective of him. I know exactly what Jim is saying about the trapezoid mouths, etc. As kids, my brother and I used to call that "raw" Sal Buscema, as opposed to with a good inker. However, Sal Buscema is also responsible for some of the best stuff ever - for example, Wonderman vs the Vision in Jim's run on the Avengers (#158), inked by Pablo Marcos (this looked even better in larger panelled black & white, in Marvel Superheroes). Also, the story in which the Hulk was most "Hulkish", to me, was the Mongu story, Hulk # 211 (again better in black & white), in which Sal Buscema, inked by Ernie Chan, made Mongu's enormous axe look like a toothpick in the Hulk's hand, prior to the Hulk crushing it to bits. Possibly another reason why this is the epitome of the Hulk, to me, is it was the first Hulk story I ever read, aged 8, and like a baby duck, you imprint on the first Marvels you read. The subsequent Constrictor & Jack of Hearts stories were fantastic, too. Anyway, for these amazing gems, I forgive Sal any hackwork. Maybe I'm just reiterating Jim's point that, for Sal Buscema, a good inker made all the difference. Also, at one time Sal drew so many different books each month, he virtually WAS Marvel comics, at one time; so disparaging him almost feels like disparaging Marvel, in general, at that time (around '77 or '78?). I know that's not what you are intending, but I kind of identify with that time, up until '81. SB really seemed integral to Marvel, around '76/'77. Going back to the Defenders of around that time, I thought Sergei & Red Guardian were similar to Jim's Korvac & Carina.
Jim, I'm looking forward to the Filmation stuff; it was obviously influenced by Marvel. Morpheus combined the Sentinels powers, just as the Super Skrull combined the F.F.'s.
Fantastic posts as usual, Jim; I very much enjoyed Don Perlin's Ghost Rider - the Manitou storyline, in particular, was good for a cold winter's night.

Phillip

jimshooter said...

Dear Phillip,

Don't get me wrong -- Sal Buscema is a tremendous talent and he has done some very good work.

Sal was, with rare exceptions, doing "breakdowns" for Marvel.

Breakdowns are supposed to be a solid, well-drawn foundation for a finisher rather than fully rendered pencils. Finishing over breakdowns required an inker who drew very well, like the aforementioned Bob McLeod or Pablo Marcos. They were expected to add shading, texture and some embellishments. Breakdowns paid less than fully rendered pencils, finishing paid more than inking. Breakdown pencilers and finishers split the returned art 50/50.

Sal's breakdowns were solid in terms of anatomy, proportion and perspective (when he bothered with it), no issues there. But a finisher shouldn't have to redraw a butterstick into a building or a glyph into a mouth. Many refused to, so, what you got was buttersticks with shading and glyphs (of all kinds, not just mouths) with minor embellishments. If you had a finisher like Bob McLeod, who went way above and beyond the call of duty, you'd get some nice looking work. But, even the best finishers usually weren't about to completely redraw the stock shots or perspective cheats that came in droves.

Sal occasionally did a job that was really good, or one or more pages within an otherwise ordinary job that were outstanding. I don't know what motivated those efforts. Maybe a story or scene he particularly liked? Maybe the writer or editor got him enthused about that particular job? Or challenged him? Maybe every once in a while he just needed to flex his artistic muscles and show off a little? Dunno.

But, mostly he hacked. Thoughtlessly churning out glyphs and stock shots goes faster than thinking it through, innovating, good draftsmanship and choosing the best shot to tell the story rather than an easier one.

I'm sure Sal would defend his glyphs and cheats as "style." Great word, that. You can use it to justify almost anything.

I don't like hacking, even relatively high-level hacking. Sal hacking was still better than most guys trying their best. But, seeing what he was truly capable of on those rare occasions when he applied himself made me feel that the rest of the time he was cheating us -- us being Marvel, the finishers, and most of all, the customers, who I believe were entitled to a better effort.

Mark said...

I dislike Sal Buscema's artwork so much I won't buy the Walt Simonson Thor collection because I'd be getting too much of the bad stuff (Buscema's artwork) along with the excellent stuff (Walt Simonson's writing and artwork).

Andy E. Nystrom said...

One case where I thought Sal Buscema did a really good job was during Harry Osborn's return to being the Green Goblin in Spectacular Spider-Man. This storyline seemed to inspire him to greater heights than I'd seen of him before. The panels of him and Harry in (separate of course) beds fretting about their upcoming clashes didn't have any words and as drawn no words were needed. He really captured the tone of two enemies who used to be best friends throughout the storyline.

Anonymous said...

Mark

Go ahead and buy the Thor collection, you'll be amazed by how much Sal Buscema raised his game for this gig. The Big Guy and Defiant1 have painted a superbly vivid and comprehensive, and very fair, picture of Sal's deficiencies, a reminder of how dismal his art was when he hacked it out. I hope Defiant1 will forgive me if I quote his astute critique from a previous post:

"As time went by, I started liking Sal Buscema's art less and less. Sal drew so much that his quick renderings all started looking alike. Characters were hunched over to fit in every panel. Arms were arched outward with fingers spaced out as if to mimic a claw. The facial expressions he drew was one of straining as if the characters were taking a dump."

I remember reading somewhere that the great Carl Potts had been quite demanding with Sal (while editor of Hulk or Defenders perhaps?), rejecting hackwork, insisting on better quality and more effort and offering support and encouragement to help Sal achieve his potential. By the time he started on Simonson's Thor his work was unrecognisable it had improved so tremendously. He was clearly channelling Simonson, perhaps for the practical purpose of providing visual continuity, and nobody can emulate Walt's genius linework. But the improvement in Sal's work on Thor is remarkable, nothing like the hackwork that you disliked so much.

I understand he continued to improve, becoming a fan-favourite and garnering some critical acclaim for his work on Spider-Man. Good for him.

Marco

Andy E. Nystrom said...

One thing that once upset me was at a comic store shortly after John Buscema's death, someone remarked, "The wrong brother died." Even as a fan of his work I recognize his flaws. However, I would never state a preference for another artist to be dead instead, even ones like Rob Liefeld whom I don't care for. I don't think anyone on this blog wishes Sal Buscema dead so I'm not arguing against anything anyone said; it's just something that this discussion reminded me of.

David S said...

I've always thought Sal Buscema was a better inker than a penciler, interesting that the better quality stuff several posters have mentioned above (Thor with Simonson writing, Spectacular Spider-Man with JM DeMatteis) were issues that Sal (for the most part) inked himself.

I've no doubt that Sal's art suffered at times because he was working on too many titles at once, but for me, Sal Buscema at the top of his game was a hugely talented and entertaining artist.

Defiant1 said...

Marco,

Regarding Sal Buscema, I did not say"

"The facial expressions he drew was one of straining as if the characters were taking a dump."

I don't mind being quoted, but I'd prefer it to be correct. I would never use that line above. It would be a complete swipe. Stealing.

That is what Steranko said about Neal Adams' art.

Defiant1 said...

Sal Buscema was a very capable artist if he took the time. I'm not in any way knocking his ability. I'm criticizing the quality of the output. He opted for quantity over quality. The path he chose may have been better for him, but I'm not going to look at his later work and say it's of the same quality as his earlier stuff. It simply isn't. Less thought and time was put into it.

Michelangelo would not have painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel if all he had been known for was hacking out the bare minimum. Good artists regularly pump out mediocre work and are shocked that they can't sell their pieces for the same amount as someone who took the extra time and care and built their name and artistic style as a brand. That's one main difference between good artists and great artists.

Jim's ability to pair a penciler with the proper inker/finisher has always impressed me. Jim has made careers for people simply by pairing them with talents that make their work shine and look it's best. I've always said I'd rather have a great inker on a comic than a great penciler. A great inker can make average pencils look great. A good inker can make a great penciler's work look not as great.

Anonymous said...

Defiant1

What are you talking about? You make out like I put on a butcher's apron and ripped into your golden prose like Jim Shooter with a Gerber 'Howard the Duck' script, but I quoted you with all the veracity my copy 'n' paste tool will allow. I didn't even have the impertinence to correct the grammatical error with your subject/verb agreement. If you want to review your original post it's here:

http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/06/coming-of-rom-knights-tale.html

No mention of Steranko or Adams.

I'm really enjoying your posts Defiant1, people like you and Marc Miyake help make Shooter's blog the best on the internet, and it's a treat to have industry greats like Brett Breeding popping in.

Marco

Defiant1 said...

Marco,

I'm laughing because I wrote virtually the same text above minus that last line. What are the odds of my words matching that exactly with such a time lapse between posts?

I must've pulled that Steranko line out of my head awhile back without realizing it was a pretty swipe at the time. Accept my apology. I had just looked above and knew I didn't say it above. It is a phrase I avoid saying without proper credit. I wasn't upset or anything, I was just wondering where you saw that above. I guess I did feel that way when I wrote it. Thanks for the kind words, but you didn't have to say all that. My head is liable to explode if it gets too big. I'm used to a few healthy insults occasionally.

nerdylawyer said...

My exposure to Don Perlin came from Transformers, around #15. I very definitely noticed the new style of art, and I really liked it. It had a sort of angular, squarish aspect to it. I totally agree that Perlin is an underrated artist.