Comic Book Artist Collection Volume 1 (book review)

Remember me saying a few months back that I wished TwoMorrows did paper reprints? Back in 2000, they did for their ‘Comic Book Artist’, reprinting the first three issues under one cover and if you look around, like I did last year, might actually be able to still pull a copy. Do I really have to give the places to look?


Anyway, just glancing through the pages, the one obvious thing is that there isn’t the back-up of extra material from ‘Alter-Ego’ like I had in issue 3, but there are 50 pages of new material so even if you own the originals, you’d probably want it for these.

Of course, the real selling point is this book having both interviews with Neal Adams, covering his ‘Superman Vs Muhammed Ali’ (# 1) tabloid and his work at Marvel (# 3) under one cover. Indeed, the cover of this volume and that issue is also included as a colour insert sans text. With the former, there is an interesting reference made that the book is used as inspiration for special effects teams when designing spacecraft, much to Adams’ delight.

From # 1, it’s obvious that the focus is on DC under Carmine Infantino’s editor-ship and starts off with an interview with him. This does give some insight into how the distributors were and are the guiding light of sales and regardless of who the creative people are can have books cut if they don’t sell. It was interesting reading Infantino’s comment of how much could be outside of his hands from above and from sideways. This is probably true of any company. In comparison, I must have an easy life as an editor.

This continues with 1990s interviews with then DC editors Joe Orlando, Dick Giordano and Joe Kubert and the switch from writer-editors to artists as editors. One thing I always felt at the time between the transition was the stiffness of the illustrations at DC and why Marvel managed to get such a big lead, mostly because the artists there were given more space (sic) to actually tell the story than be dictated by the writers who couldn’t draw. This largely led the change at DC to having artists as editors. It’s interesting reading from Giordano’s interview about the difference in business approach between using a stick or a helping hand. If you’ve been picking up these same books as I’ve been reading, it doesn’t take long to realise which schools some editors belong to. Good thing I never liked the stick.

It’s rather interesting counting up the number of reject covers done by Neal Adams that are scattered throughout this volume. Done only up to pencil level, you get the benefit of seeing what they looked like.

The extended interview between Stan Lee and Roy Thomas gives an interesting insight into ‘The Man’, especially in how forgetful he can be. Although Stan says he never researches, I’m not altogether sure if that’s true. We all leech a lot of information from what is going on around us whether we want to or not and a lot of that is processed into potential stories. In contrast, Roy Thomas’ own interview about his time at Marvel ending with his two year stint as editor-in-chief gives some insight into mixing creativity and business and why it’s not a good mix.

I think the two biggest surprises came from interviews with Barry Windsor-Smith, who also dislikes his own early work, and Mike Ploog and his devil-may-care attitude. Both comicbook artists played with characters that they didn’t have any emotional relationship with oddly enough.

The extended extra interview with artist Alan Weiss covers a long career. I liked the way the various artists living in New York mucked in to help on deadline and how it evolved into Neal Adams’ Crusty Bunkers who did this on a regular basis, where each artist concentrated on their speciality to help out. This was all apart from their regular work. I wonder if that would work today? There’s also the argument given by Gil Kane about not going to town on fine line work because it means all the artists would be expected to do the same and brought into perspective by Herb Trimpe who said it was up to the artist how they wanted to draw. Weiss says he found a new respect for Trimpe from that and its making me impatient because I’m now anxious to read the book TwoMorrows is releasing about him shortly.

The main lesson from this review is if you’re after anything, if you’re patient and know where to look, then sooner or later it will become available at a price you can afford. It also helps that this particular book has been a delight to read and I’m surprised TwoMorrows don’t consider doing more like this today.

GF Willmetts

July 2015

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 230 page illustrated softcover. Price: varies a lot (UK). ISBN: 978-1-89390-503-0)

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