Lost Bronze Age Classic!
Mister Miracle 26, 1978
Script by STEVE GERBER
Art by TOM CHRISTOPHER
I arrived in New York in mid January 1978, just as the city was going to get hit by the biggest snowfall of the decade. Through friends i had been offered a place to crash for a week or ten days in Brooklyn while the residents were in the process of moving. I had met one of the housemates previously and spent the evening hanging out with the other in a loft in Red Hook, in the shadow of the men’s prison and the kingdom hall listening to music, smoking hash, drinking imported beer and talking art and revolution.
The next morning I was up early wanting to get to the city. John tried to dissuade me, saying even a little snow slowed the city’s commute, but I wanted to get into the city, and i probably got to DC a little before nine. There was a lot of snow and very few people in midtown Manhattan. DC was in Rockefeller Plaza and easy to find. I think I went to DC because I had done well in their apprenticeship search. I was never in the program, I submitted good samples but couldn’t actually move to NYC at the time. I knocked at a door that must’ve been the right door. I was told nobody was in the office yet, but shown an office to wait in. OK. Eventually Vinnie Coletta showed up wondering why i was in his office.
I pulled out my portfolio which was my best fanzine work and about ten pages of continuity from an underground science fiction story. We talked for a while and he tried to dissuade me from a life of comics, but wished me luck and introduced me to Larry Hama, who was ‘good with young talent’. Actually, he could have just asked me to leave the office at any time and i would have considered it an excellent first day in New York, so what he did was very nice. Larry is just a few years older than i and we got along well. He gave me many of the same critiques of my art as Vinnie and pulled out examples of how to do things better as we spoke. He was right about everything, of course. We also talked about stories, he was interested in the science fiction piece and wanted to know why i was telling the story the way i was and we talked about the business of comics, the importance of deadlines. Larry was an editor and serious about his job and comics, and he liked i had underground experience and connections to LA comics people.
After a fat hour of conversation Larry left the room for a minute and returned with Neal Adams. He needed no introduction and there were some curious observers. Neal was as brutally honest in his appraisal of my art as he was reputed to be, but he was realistic and humorous and in the context i took no offense. Neal also liked the fact that there was continuity art there and it was in various stages of completion and he had a question about every decision i made on the pages about storytelling and the interrelationship between text and art, and i had to explain how i was advancing the story and not just drawing stuff, and that conversation went on for a couple of hours with other people sometimes coming through the room to listen.
“Why is this panel so blank?” “I need space for the lettering.” “you’re an artist, your job is to produce a dynamic comic book page, not worry about where the lettering goes, and it’s a terrible face, you don’t wanna make that face and a bunch of lettering the focus of the page, draw a good dynamic face and break up the lettering or edit it down.” “Well, OK, the drawing is a layout, but the script has to be read clearly, independent of the art, that’s where you get the real story pacing and the give-and-take of the characters.”
Sometime in early afternoon the office started to get busy and people had places to be. I had an appointment for another meeting with Neal at the Continuity office the next day. I thanked Larry profusely and he told me to keep showing him samples.
Next day I went by Continuity. Neal was busy and I was left alone to peruse the books of Neal’s layouts which others have described. They were amazing. They were so small i can’t remember them accurately. They must have been 4 to an 8 1/2 x 11 page, but my memory is more like 12 layouts per page, I’m sure you can find them somewhere on the net. These tiny pieces were as complete as many people’s finished pages, showing a detail of drawing that included faces of minor figures, costume detail, horse bridles, swords, axes and backgrounds all executed with an amazing amount of control over a ball-point pen. It was a humbling experience, and i tried to take in everything i could, but there was so much, and this wasn’t even the best stuff, this was just day-to-day work. Eventually I had another quick meeting with Neal, who again critiqued the weak points of my art that i would have to concentrate on and then showed me around and introduced me to some of the Crusty Bunkers. I hung around for a while, but there was no immediate work and though i went by several times and socialized, i never came around on a heavy work day.
Larry liked the samples i was doing and at some point gave me this script by Steve Gerber to practice on. The Miste Miracle book had been canceled, but it was a nice little self-contained story and he said it would make a good portfolio piece, not just as art but to show people I’d been working with an editor. I think he gave me the Wally Wood Panels That Always Work on that day, too. I know this was close to the time of their creation, because there were a couple of versions and Larry had to go out of his office to find the right art to copy. Over the next several months, while i was in New York i worked regularly on the script, without ever quite finishing it. Larry critiqued it a couple of times, and Joe Kubert came in and offered advice once. Larry also during this time offered me the job of inking backgrounds for an issue of Claw, which eventually ended up in Canceled Comics Cavalcade. Josef Rubinstein was looking for somebody to do backgrounds, and Larry showed him the Claw pages and i helped him out on an issue of Warlord.