Monday, July 02, 2007

More Original Art Stories: Who's Who In The Legion Of Superheroes

Let's start the new financial year off with a bit of a bang. From the pen of the Former DC Staffer comes this look back at the Who's Who In The Legion Of Superheroes. Interesting stuff to say the least and more proof that not everything is as it appears, but then we all learnt that lesson a long time ago. Just because it glitters on the surface doesn't necessarily mean it's gold underneath. Over to the Legion!

I hated the Who’s Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes. It was one of those projects that just never seemed to end. The production department seemed to always be cutting up set blocks of text from the series to remove words or even create new words. The industry was still years away from adopting computers to do production work and having to do these things by hand was a chore. You learn very early on that text has to be accurate and shouldn’t be altered once set. That concept never really worked in comics because editors loved to edit right up to the deadline. As the typeset pages came in art was slow to follow. Keith Giffin, who was instrumental in the Legion of Super-Heroes '80s success, would turn in art but since his style had radically changed since those Legion years some of it ended up being re-drawn and I took on that task at the request of the editor.

Let me point out that Bob Rozakis was the production director and though he and I were never very close in hindsight I could have handled things on the floor better than I did. I tried his patience at times with my constant complaints about the almost puzzle-like way the books were turned into the department. The constant re-lettering, creation of new art and lack of recognition was very hard to take. This project was one of those occasions for my complaints. Rozakis never shared knowledge, as he was very protective of his position. What he failed to understand is not one of us on the floor wanted it, especially me! In the end it was up to me to resolve WWLSH though I do believe that with a little coordination and pre-planning the job could have been handled better than it was. That’s where the knowledge thing might have helped!

I was never into the Legion and these books just bored me. They also became very irritating to do because a certain editor wanted in on the fun, as he was a hardcore Legion fan. He even went as far as to draw a character for one of the issues! Drawing was the last thing this guy should have been allowed to do but there it was and many people in the production department (aspiring writers and artists one and all) took offence at this.

After an eternity in hell the final WWLSH, #7 was finally on the floor and I couldn’t wait to finish it off. I thought it was over until I heard about the cover. Now I didn’t handle the covers at DC. That was the job of the late Bob LeRose. LeRose was a master artist and it was an honor to be taught by him about the aspects of production and printing that I continue to use to this day. He had to deal with a fair amount of abuse from the assistant art director who really thought he knew better than most about comic book production. This cover for WWLSH #7 would test the patience of all involved but LeRose the most. The idea was to have small character headshots from all the WWLSH issues in a grid and spread out over a wrap around cover. The first question was how would it be separated? Well it wouldn’t, it would be scanned from a meticulous color rendering. This was the late 80s and scanning technology was tricky at best. We all knew that the final result would be less than satisfactory. With that said work began to collect and Photostat headshots. I turned down any requests to draw new art for the cover and here’s the reason why, once again this one editor had to get in on it and he wanted his drawing of a character’s headshot on the piece. That was it for me, and several others on the production floor (little did we know that plans were being made in editorial to oust the editor…they were just looking for a reason). Although we all loved this editor he was picking at a sore spot with us as a group.

LeRose mounted the large final stat piece onto board and did a color rendering that was absolutely beautiful. I told him that I thought it was great but worried about the scanning. When the proof came in my fears were proven correct. The scan just looked okay and a little overly red. The cover just didn’t POP at all and looked very flat. It might have been the scanning process and the use of Dr. Martin’s color dyes (which do scan strangely at times). With no other alternative the cover went out and it was a wrap!

With the cover done the editor came into production and up to Bob LeRose and asked for the original color stat of the cover to frame and hang on his wall. Next thing I know LeRose signs and hands me the art! I was really shocked and when the editor found out he was pissed beyond words.

To this day I still have that piece and I share this quality scan with those who really should know how great of an artist Bob LeRose really was.

No comments: