Steve Ditko: Inside His Studio Sanctum Sanctorum

I wrote my first letter to Steve Ditko in early 1973, while I was still in high school. It was the typical letter, the type a budding fan-artist back then might send to a seasoned professional comics artist — full of effusive praise, capped with a request for some secret kernel of artistic knowledge that would magically transform overnight a fan’s crude artistic efforts into professional-level artwork. Ditko did his best to answer, giving what was, in retrospect, a solid list of advice.

Two years later, I wrote Ditko again, and this time, I asked if I could stop by his studio for a visit when I was in New York City later that year. He politely declined, and I pushed that idea into the dustbin of history – not realizing that 28 years later my request would become a reality.

More than two decades passed before I wrote Ditko again in 1997. In the interim, I joined the Air Force, learned to be an aircraft avionics technician, got married, had kids, opted to be a career Airman, traveled and lived abroad for nearly a decade, earned a bachelor’s degree, retrained into public affairs during the early 1990s military drawdown, kept drawing, and kept publishing my fanzine, “Maelstrom.” In fact, my third letter to Ditko was a request for what I knew was an extreme long shot: An interview for an upcoming issue of my ‘zine. Again, he politely declined.

I wrote a few more letters during the next two years about nothing in particular – including a couple while I was stationed in the Republic of Korea in 1998. In one of them, I included some terrifically supple Korean-made brushes that were ridiculously cheap, but feathered ink like a Winsor & Newton brush costing 30 times as much.

I retired from the Air Force in 1999 and published “Maelstrom” #7, and dutifully sent Ditko a copy. Our correspondence continued off-and-on until 2002, when I started preparing a Steve Ditko article for “Maelstrom” #8 – along with a cover I drew featuring many of Ditko’s more notable characters. When the issue was published, I sent him a copy, and something about it obviously struck a chord as he sent me several letters of comment. Suddenly, the correspondence was a regular back-and-forth, and as my letters got longer, so did his. Some of Steve’s letters were 10, 12, or even 16 pages long.  Continue reading “Steve Ditko: Inside His Studio Sanctum Sanctorum”

Spotlight Interview with Comic Artist: Joe Rubinstein

Spotlight Interview with Comic Artist: Joe Rubinstein

We were able to get together with a legendary comic book creator recently. Joe Rubinstein began his career in comics as a teenager in the 1970’s. He has been an excellent and prolific inker for a very long time.

He has worked on some truly important pieces of comic history including the original Wolverine limited series written by Chris Claremont and laid out by Frank Miller; Joe did the finishes. He was the inker on Infinity Gauntlet. An interesting claim to fame for Joe is that he was the inker for 99.9% of the character pin-ups for the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe over at twenty year period.

In 2016, Joe was inducted into the Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame which is attached to the Inkwell Awards.

Joe is also a part of a team of well-known comic professionals who are producing a graphic novel called The Liberty Brigade. It was funded using Kickstarter in late 2018 and is in the process of being produced.

Recently, Joe has begun to put together a website to display his art and offer services directly to the public. You can find it at www.joerubinsteinart.com and below is our conversation with Joe about his career and what he is doing now.

Pop Culture Squad: I know that you are excited about the new website, what can you tell us about that?

Joe Rubinstein: It is still being filled, but it is up and running. It has a lot of my art, and also information about commissions and convention schedules. This piece is not up yet, but since a lot of my comic book work has become movies, we are going to be linking to trailers that have come from my stuff, like Infinity Gauntlet and Captain America and things like that. We will also have art lessons and tutorials. I will be posting instructional videos that will have free previews and a subscription service or something like that for full videos.

PCS: What can you tell us about the Liberty Brigade and how that is going? How did you get involved with that project?

Continue reading “Spotlight Interview with Comic Artist: Joe Rubinstein”

Spotlight Interview with David Pepose and Jorge Santiago Jr. of Spencer and Locke

Spotlight Interview with David Pepose and Jorge Santiago Jr. of Spencer and Locke

Welcome back to another Spotlight Interview. We had the great fortune to get together with the creators of the Ringo Award nominated series Spencer and Locke.

Spencer and Locke first debuted in 2017, and was published by Action Lab. It was created by David Pepose and Jorge Santiago Jr.  The creators have described it as riff on the idea of what would happen if Calvin and Hobbes had grown up in Sin-City.

The concept is so audacious, a lot of people wanted to look to see if we could stick the landing.

David Pepose

The collected first volume of this ambitious mashup series can be found at your LCS or on Amazon or Comixology. We highly recommend it.

Capitalizing on the success of their hit series, the guys are back with Spencer and Locke 2, and it is beginning on April 24, 2019.  You can find the preorder information on PreviewsWorld.

Our conversation with David and Jorge covered topics ranging from the inspiration for the series to process techniques, and fan reactions. Take a look below. We think you will be impressed with these guys and definitely intrigued about what you will find in Volume 2 of Spencer and Locke.

Pop Culture Squad: What was the inspiration for the original series of Spencer and Locke?

David Pepose (Writer/Creator):  It took me a while to muster up the nerve to think that maybe I could write a comic. I think there is a lot of mysticism about creating stuff that people think it is kind of magic. Where, to me, it’s more like building a chair.  It’s hard work, but there is a form to it that you can build upon. So, people say to write about what you know, and I thought, “Well I don’t know anything about anything, except for comics.” The more that I thought about that, the more I thought it was not as limiting as one might think. Continue reading “Spotlight Interview with David Pepose and Jorge Santiago Jr. of Spencer and Locke”

Spotlight Interview: Talking about Cupid’s Arrows with Thom Zahler

Spotlight Interview: Talking about Cupid’s Arrows with Thom Zahler

We recently had the opportunity to talk to writer and cartoonist Thomas F. Zahler about his current projects, his thoughts on his craft, and Pop Culture topics.

If you are not familiar with his work, Thom, a graduate of The Kubert School, has had a successful career in comics as a writer, artist, letterer and cartoonist. He has also written for television, including the Ultimate Spider-Man show on Disney XD. He has published a lot of his creator owned comics through IDW Enterprises, including Love and Capes, Long Distance, and Time and Vine.  Thom has also worked on comics for other licensed properties, notably My Little Pony from IDW. You can find some links to Thom’s work at the end of this interview.

Beginning in 2017, Thom published a weekly episodic comic strip on Line Webtoons, called Warning Label. He then collected that story in a printed edition that was funded through Kickstarter last year.

We wanted to catch up with him about his latest project, Cupid’s Arrows, which is set to premiere on Line Webtoons next week.

About Cupid’s Arrows:

Pop Culture Squad: Can you tell us what Cupid’s Arrows is about?

Thom Zahler: It re-imagines Cupids as two-person hitman teams. The idea is that both Cupids on the team have to shoot their targets to get a couple to fall in love, and the story follows a particular team of Cupids named Rick and Lora, who we see go on a number of missions. We also see that they may have a budding relationship with each other, which is not permitted among Cupids.

PCS: What is the inspiration behind this project? Continue reading “Spotlight Interview: Talking about Cupid’s Arrows with Thom Zahler”

Tom King Gave Away Comics to Furloughed Federal Workers!

Tom King Gave Away Comics to Furloughed Federal Workers!

I think it is stupid. I write comics about superheroes, and no superhero would be doing what the President is doing.

Tom King

The United States federal government is still in the midst of a partial shutdown. Over 800,000 federal employees, across multiple agencies and departments, are in some state of either on furlough or being required to work without pay. Today, Tom King, comic writer and former federal employee, tried to bring a little bit of happiness to some of the people affected.

At Third Eye Comics in Annapolis. MD, an in-store signing was quickly set up this week, and as emails and social media posts went out, the word spread that Tom King, current writer of Batman by DC Comics, would be signing comics today, Saturday, January 19th. In addition to signing whatever amount of comics that people brought, King announced that he would be giving away comics books from his own collection to anyone with a federal ID badge. At midday on Wednesday, January 16, the first Facebook post came out about this event. After all the tweets, retweets, facebook shares, and emails, the event was a rousing success with hundreds of people attending and at least three news organizations to cover it.

Steve from Third Eye Comics told us. “This was all Tom. He called us and said, ‘I want to come out and do something.’ We have a lot of customers and employees who are affected by this shutdown, and so we were all for it.”

Continue reading “Tom King Gave Away Comics to Furloughed Federal Workers!”

With Further Ado #023: Winged Passion – Tim Board’s Hawkworld

With Further Ado #023: Winged Passion – Tim Board’s Hawkworld

There are a few select long-lived comic characters who always seem to bring out the very best in creators. Marvel’s Daredevil comes to mind. One can easily list a “Who’s who” of top comic creators and realize they all brought their A-game their time on the series.  Just off the top of my head, I think of talented folks like Wood, Colan, Miller, Nord, Bendis, Waid, Isabella, Rivera, Samnee and Soule and wistfully remember each of their stints on the title.

Hawkman is another character with that same pedigree.  Originally created during the 40s, during the Silver Age when two legendary artists, Joe Kubert and Murphy Anderson each left an indelible stamp of creative excellence during their runs on the series.  Top creators followed in their impressive footsteps, providing memorable work – each arguably at the top of their game – Truman, Gold, Ostrander, Nolan, Morales, Sook, Palmiotti, Isabella (there he is again!), Grey, Chaykin, Simonson…. the list goes on and on.

So, it’s not surprising that Hawkman has inspired great passion among comic fans. It’s always amazing how certain fans carry the torch and pass along their personal passion to other fans.  Sometimes they almost act as an official marketing department.  That’s why I wanted to catch up with one Hawkman fan named Tim Board, who rules the roost of…

…Hawkworld Continue reading “With Further Ado #023: Winged Passion – Tim Board’s Hawkworld”

GrimJack Convention Panel Audio at Baltimore Comic Con 2018

GrimJack Convention Panel Audio at Baltimore Comic Con 2018

Hello there. In the interest of making sure you have something to do this weekend. We are bringing you an audio recording of the GrimJack Panel from Baltimore Comic-Con in September 2018. It is moderated by our own Mike Gold, and is starring the creators of the wonderful GrimJack, PCS’s John Ostrander and Timothy Truman. Former First Comics Art Director and comic legend Joe Staton also makes a guest appearance.  The audio recording tracks the panel discussion from the origins of the character and lets the creators share some of their fond memories of John Gaunt.

 

 

 

With Further Ado #022: The Bat and the Matt: Batbooks and the Holiday

With Further Ado #022: The Bat and the Matt: Batbooks and the Holiday

On several Christmases, Santa gifted me a plethora of Batman toys. My favorite Bat-gifts? Well, I especially loved the Trans-o-gram Batmobile.  My dad and I even built a cardboard Batcave for it!  (#BestDadEver) I always yearned for the Batman Captain Action set, but Santa could never find one. My (wonderful) mother ended up sewing one for me. (#BestMomEver) And I am pretty sure I looked quite dashing pedaling during rush hour in the living room, riding the Marx Batmobile.

(By the way, the commercial for that one is classic. Check it out here!)

After a few more Christmases, I still like Batman but I’d graduate from toys to books. The quintessential Bat-book for me is still Batman from the 30s to the 70s, a collection of stories wrapped up in that gorgeous Infantino & Anderson dustjacket.  But many subsequent Batbooks would follow on many subsequent Christmases. And now I really love giving Bat-books too. It’s never too early for brainwashing, after all.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #022: The Bat and the Matt: Batbooks and the Holiday”

With Further Ado #020: Were the 90s the Best Decade EverrrrRRRR?

With Further Ado #020: Were the 90s the Best Decade EverrrrRRRR?

I used to joke that I didn’t need to participate in all that 80s nostalgia because I was there the first time. And it seems like it never went away. Upon reflection, I think I’ve heard that old Violent Femmes song Blister in the Sun more in the past year than I did in 1983.

The 90s are a whole different kettle of fish. I was kinda busy then and love to look back on that decade. So I’m grateful that TwoMorrows has just published the 1990s edition of the long-running series: The American Comic Book Chronicles. Each volume has been fantastic and this one looks to carry on that standard of excellence.

And of course, this week “With Further Ado” is all about Yuletide Gift. I thought this would be another good book to recommend. I caught up with writer Jason Sacks just to make sure. Spoiler alert: he confirmed my suspicions…it’s a fantastic book for gifting. Here’s what he had to say:  Continue reading “With Further Ado #020: Were the 90s the Best Decade EverrrrRRRR?”

With Further Ado #015: Cat Scratch Fever

With Further Ado #015: Cat Scratch Fever

A Conversation with Stuart Moore

AHOY Comics has burst onto the scene and is quickly becoming known as the comic company that’s a welcome breath of fresh air. And comic shops are increasing their orders for AHOY titles, so they must be doing something right. I caught up with Stuart Moore, who’s an integral part of the AHOY team to learn more.

ED CATTO: How’d you ever get involved with AHOY Comics? Given the initial critical support and comic shop reordering, what’s it been like?

STUART MOORE: Well, I got involved because Tom Peyer called me up. Initially he asked if I would edit his titles, High Heaven and Wrong Earth. The company evolved a bit differently, with each of us basically editing our own titles and providing backup for each other as needed. Tom is editor-in-chief, and he’s also editor of all the books that AREN’T written by him or me.

When we lost a crucial member of the initial team—Sven Larsen, who’s currently doing great things at Marvel—I stepped into the Publishing Ops position on a freelance basis. Wrong Earth has been quite a hit—AHOY has just gone to a second printing on issue #2—so we’ve all been scrambling to deal with success. Which is nerve-wracking, but a hell of a lot better than scrambling to deal with failure.

EC: What do you think is the secret sauce for a new comic company to thrive, or just survive, in today’s difficult publishing landscape?

SM:  I think every new company has to find its own way, its own voice. For AHOY, it’s a combination of engaging lead stories and a wealth of backup features—giving the reader as much value as possible for their $3.99. Tom is also very determined that every book have elements of humor to it.

This is just my guess, but I suspect AHOY is appealing somewhat to lapsed comic readers—without pandering overtly to nostalgia or fanboy trivia. If you have fond memories of the early Vertigo titles or of 1963 (the comic, not the year), you’ll probably want to check out these books. Whatever we’re doing, it seems to be working so far.

Also, of course, we’re hoping to attract cat fans.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #015: Cat Scratch Fever”