Continued After the Next Page #009: Conversation with John Workman – An Oral History of Comics

Last summer, as we were getting this site up and going, one of the first things that I did was reach out to legendary comic letterer and artist John Workman. I had met him at a couple of conventions in the past, and he had told me some interesting stories about how comics were made in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I felt that the stories were amazing insights into the world of comic making, and I wanted to get all the details so that we could share those incredible stories with all of you.

My intent for our initial interview was to clarify some details he had told me about making Thor in the 80’s with Walter Simonson. What ended up happening was an almost two-hour conversation and a truly life changing event for me. I clipped out a little bit of our conversation for a column last year called When Thor Road the Bus.

Before I get too far along, I must say that John Workman is one of the nicest people that I have ever met. He is thoughtful, considerate, inquisitive, and incredibly talented. Since our initial phone conversation, John and I have spoken a couple of more times over the phone, and my wife and I spent a lovely afternoon with John and his wife Cathy at their home last November. He has become a regular email pen pal of mine. I consider John a friend, and I am lucky for it.

The purpose of this article is to share with the world some of the amazing things that we spoke about. The topics range from the page counts for comics in the 70’s to his time at Heavy Metal. There are some funny stories about Harlan Ellison and Wally Wood. There is the tale of the “Lost Mignola Batman Story”, and much more. So hang on and I will try my best to navigate all this history and bring it into the world so that we can all share in its wonder.

Jeannette Kahn and Dollar Comics

I had mentioned to John that the title to my column on PCS would be called “Continued After the Next Page” as a throwback to comic days of yesteryear. He broke out into some pretty cool comics production history.

John Workman: I worked at DC from 1975 to 1977 before I went to work at Heavy Metal. During that time, as had been true since the early 1950s, there were thirty-six pages [thirty- two interior and four for the front and back covers] in a regular comic book. Of those pages, somewhere over 20 (27 in the ’60s) were devoted to actual comics material with the rest being made up of a combination of paid ads and “house ads” that let readers know about other DC publications. Shortly after I arrived at DC, the number of comics pages dropped to seventeen, and I remember two things that we had to do. We [the production department] had to white-out all the pages numbers down in the corner so people would be a little less aware that they were only getting seventeen pages of comics, and we had to go in a lot and put in “Continued After Next” or “Second Page” or whatever, because the seventeen pages of comic material was broken up by more ads. There were a lot of in-house ads to fill out the issue because seventeen pages was only one more than the total number of pages in a book.

I was shocked at this and felt the need to clarify Continue reading “Continued After the Next Page #009: Conversation with John Workman – An Oral History of Comics”

With Further Ado #039: Look! Up in the Newspaper – A Super Interview with Sid Friedfertig

With Further Ado #039: Look! Up in the Newspaper – A Super Interview with Sid Friedfertig

The irony of a reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper appearing in the funny pages of a great metropolitan newspapers, and quite a few rural newspapers, is not lost on me.

Superman in comics, in the movies, on TV or the in the newspaper inspires the best in us. I had the pleasure of catching up with entrepreneur and super-fan, Sid Friedfertig, at the 44th annual Ithacon and it was a such a treat. He’s a guy with great passion inspired by Superman.  Through his Herculean efforts (or should I say “Kryptonian efforts”?) , fans can enjoy so many lost Superman adventures – and rediscover old adventures in longer stories with better, but still vintage, art!  “What is this?”, you say?  Well, read on and enjoy my chat with Sid Friedfertig:

Ed Catto: Can you tell me why you are such a Superman fan, and why do you feel Superman is so enduring? 

Sid Friedfertig: Superman endures because he is unique. With every other costumed hero the plots must be crafted so the hero’s ability is able to counter the menace facing him. Superman is the reverse, he is the All-Good, the ideal. To me that makes him more interesting.

EC:   How did you get hooked on the Silver Age Superman, and how did you develop such an interest in the Superman Newspaper Strips?

SF:  I grew up reading the Silver Age Superman comic books, which featured covers mostly drawn by Curt Swan, while at the same time watching the Adventures of Superman TV series. George Reeves was Swan’s Clark Kent come to life. Sometimes though, the story inside the comics was drawn by another artist. I wanted to see Swan’s artwork that went with those glorious covers. Later I realized that Swan had drawn those same stories for the Superman newspaper strip. Here were the stories that went with those covers, and I decided that I was going to find all of them.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #039: Look! Up in the Newspaper – A Super Interview with Sid Friedfertig”

Spotlight Interview with Comic Legend Gene Ha, Creator of Mae

Spotlight Interview with Comic Legend Gene Ha, Creator of Mae

Hey! Welcome back to our special feature Spotlight Interview column. When we are fortunate enough to get to talk to creative professionals, we love to bring those conversations to you folks.

Last month on March 24, 2019, we were able to get together with comic legend Gene Ha and talk about his current project and his career in comics.

Gene is well-known for working with Alan Moore on Top 10 from the America’s Best Comics imprint of Wildstorm. He has done work for DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and Malibu comics. Gene has won four, count them folks, four, Eisner Awards.

Beginning in 2015, Gene has focused mostly on his creator owned stories. His all ages story Mae was originally published by Dark Horse and has now been picked up by Lion Forge. It is the story of sisters, monsters, and magical dimensions. The second volume is finishing up in single issues and the first volume trade was re-released last year. We are big fans of Mae.

PopCultureSquad: What is your process like these days? Are you still using traditional materials or are you moving to digital?

Gene Ha: Honestly, I have hit the bifocals age. So, it’s hard for me to see anything except for the two distances where my lenses are set.  Having pinch and zoom on an iPad Pro in Procreate and drawing there is a lot easier for doing fine detail. So, I have abandoned paper mostly, unless I am doing sketches at a convention.

PCS: Where does Mae’s voice come from?

GH: It comes from having a lot of female geek friends and realizing that I hadn’t heard a lot of voices that actually talk like them, who are the heroes of their story. There are so many stories that have a female geek character, but she tends to be support or the best friend of the hero.

Continue reading “Spotlight Interview with Comic Legend Gene Ha, Creator of Mae”

With Further Ado #037: Stepping into the Twilight Zone with Nick Parisi

With Further Ado #037: Stepping into the Twilight Zone with Nick Parisi

In one of those summers of my youth, my buddies and I would always wrap up our nightly mischief so that we could get home in time to watch The Twilight Zone reruns at 11 pm. The next day, my buddy David Locastro and I would eagerly ask one another, “Did you see that one last night?”  With our utmost fanboy authority, we’d begin to dissect the most recent episode.

Fast forward to late March when the 44th Annual Ithacon hosted Twilight Zone expert and Serling aficionado Nick Parisi. His recent book, Serling, His Life, Work and Imagination is a fascinating and engaging work. As Rod Serling was a professor at Ithaca College and Ithacon was exhibiting treasures from the Serling Archives this year, it made perfect sense to invite Parisi as a guest.

The show was great fun but, as all shows are, it was also a blur of activities. So, it was after Ithacon that I caught up with Nick to speak more about this book.

Ed Catto: So many of us grew up with The Twilight Zone and we all have our stories.  For me, I have fond memories of watching it on WPIX out of New York City. What was your interaction and how did you become so much of fan that you’re now an author and expert?

Nick Parisi: Ed, I have similar memories of WPIX. I started watching TZ on WPIX when I was nine or ten years old and I still remember the nightly schedule: The Odd Couple at 11, The Honeymooners at 11:30, Star Trek at midnight, and The Twilight Zone at 1 am. I would do my best to stay awake and I would usually make it! The show mesmerized me pretty much immediately and I became a fanatic for it pretty quickly. Then Marc Zicree’s Twilight Zone Companion came out and it kicked my fanaticism into another gear. That was a truly revolutionary book.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #037: Stepping into the Twilight Zone with Nick Parisi”

Spotlight Interview with the Creators of Grumble: Mike Norton and Rafer Roberts

Spotlight Interview with the Creators of Grumble: Mike Norton and Rafer Roberts

Hey! Welcome back to our special feature Spotlight Interview column. When we are fortunate enough to get to talk to creative professionals, we love to bring those conversations to you folks.

Last month on March 24, 2019, we were able to get together with the creative team behind the hit comic series Grumble, published by Albatross Funnybooks.

We interviewed artist Mike Norton, and writer Rafer Roberts at their tables on the floor at C2E2.  The pair have previously worked together on Valiant’s Archer and Armstrong.

Mike is a veteran comic artist, having also done work for DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and Devil’s Due. He is also well-known for the multiple award winning webcomic BATTLEPUG that he both writes and draws. Last year, he published a collected edition of his web comic strip Lil’ Donnie which is a satire of a certain orange infant that resides in a big white house.

Rafer is a writer and artist who has done a lot of work for Valiant, including Harbinger Renegade, and also wrote Modern Fantasy that was published by Dark Horse.

Grumble is a comic about a guy that magically gets turned into talking pug, and with his companion Tala, is on the run from multiple entities that are out to get him. It is fun and action packed. The writing and art are top notch, and the colors by Marissa Louise and lettering by Crank! make this an excellent book all around.

Pop Culture Squad: Where did the idea for Grumble come from?

Rafer Roberts: It started with Mike.

Mike Norton: I’ve always got pugs on the brain. That is not like a hidden thing about me, but I really was longing for a “Howard the Duck” sort of thing. I love those adventures with a character that you can sort of relate to, but it’s a completely alien sort of creature. I don’t know how it happened in my head, but one day I said out loud to the other guys in the studio, “What if John Constantine was Howard the Duck?”  Everybody hates John Constantine, but what if people didn’t want to be around him, not because he was bringing the devil or he was dangerous, but he was just an asshole. Continue reading “Spotlight Interview with the Creators of Grumble: Mike Norton and Rafer Roberts”

Spotlight Interview with the Creators of The Underfoot (Emily Whitten, Ben Fisher, and Michelle Nguyen)

Spotlight Interview with the Creators of The Underfoot (Emily Whitten, Ben Fisher, and Michelle Nguyen)

This month, Lion Forge will be releasing the first volume of The Underfoot: The Mighty Deep. It is the first of what will be at least a trilogy of graphic novels that are suitable for all ages of readers. It will be in comic shops on April 10, and everywhere else on April 23.

It is a post-apocalyptic story of intelligent hamsters and their struggles for survival in a world without humans. We have had the opportunity to read the book, and it is truly a wonderful and inspiring story. It is full of danger, clever concepts, and lots of humor. We certainly recommend reading it.

At C2E2 last month, we were able to get together with the creative team responsible for The Underfoot. It is co-written by Ben Fisher and Emily S. Whitten. Michelle Nguyen is the artist on the book.

PopCultureSquad: Where did the idea for The Underfoot come from?

Emily S. Whitten: So, I have tiny hamsters and other rodents as pets, and I was on Twitter managing an account as my tiny hamster, Izzy. Around the same time, I reviewed Ben’s comic Splitsville, for ComicMix. I guess that was seven years ago. I tweeted at him that I really liked it. Ben then found my hamster account and started tweeting at that account as well. After many real and hamster conversations, we decided that we should write a comic together about hamsters, and that is how it started.

Continue reading “Spotlight Interview with the Creators of The Underfoot (Emily Whitten, Ben Fisher, and Michelle Nguyen)”

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”