Share It

Monday, September 24, 2007

Looking Back With Bob Budiansky

Bob Budiansky is one of the more unsung heroes of Marvel Comics to emerge from the explosion of talent that took place in the 1970s and 1980s. Originally beginning his career as an artist with the British department at Marvel, he soon graduated to being both a writer and editor, reaching the top of the pile when he became an Editor-In-Chief before his departure in the mid 1990s. Primarily a cover artist, Bob had one regular run as an artist, the incredible relaunch of the Ghost Rider.

Beginning with the issue #68 (an incredible story even today), the creative team of Roger Stern, Bob Budiansky and Dave Simons would go on to re-define the character and in the process made it their own. With the departure of Stern, Bob was boosted to the status of co-plotter with writer J.M. DeMatties. Bob then remained on the title until it was canceled with issue #81. Before it's cancellation the creative team took a second string character and unleashed it's full potential to the comic book world at large. The run remains one of the most talked about in the titles existance and stands alongside Frank Miller's Daredevil, John Byrne's Fantastic Four, Walt Simonson's Thor as one of the must have comic book runs of the early 1980s. It's a shame that Marvel hasn't collected the run, but as third and fourth volumes of Essential Ghost Rider appear more people will be exposed to what made the title great.

If Ghost Rider was all Bob had done then he'd have made his mark. However once he left that title he went onto other things, including overseeing the now legendary Transformers when Marvel published it. Indeed there are Transformers fans who consider Bob Budiansky to be the real creator of the line and with very few exceptions he wrote every issue of the 55 issue run of that title.

Bob Budiansky is semi-retired from the comic book world these days. For a long while rumours circulated about him. The most common rumour was that he had become a recluse, withdrawn from the comic book world, bitter about his treatment and not wanting to speak about his past. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While it's true that he's found other pastures to play in, he now does recreations and commissions. Bob is a great guy to speak to and remains an artist above the rest of the pack.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

(click on any image to enlarge it)
DANIEL BEST: Let’s start at the start. Where were you born? Where did you come from?
BOB BUDIANSKY: That is a start. I was born in the Bronx, New York City.

DB: And where did you go to school?
BB: I went to public school in the Bronx, and then I went to college at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

DB: And when did you first become aware of comic books, what was your first comic book experience so to speak?
BB: Oh, that’s really probing. Ahh, I have two older brothers, so my first comic book experience was no doubt comic books that they brought into the house. In fact I have a very particular memory, are you with me?

DB: Yep.
BB: Right. I have a very particular memory of a comic book, which would have been Brave and the Bold #28, which introduced the Justice League of America, because I remember looking at it and I still remember a couple of scenes from that, and I remember that was about 1960 or 1961. Justice League of America eventually became my favourite comic book. I remember the very first comic book I ever bought with my own money was Justice League of America Number 6. The Wheel of Misfortune! was the name of the story, and I still have it.

DB: Oh, good God. Most people I speak to, they have thrown all their stuff out over the years.
BB: I wish I could say it was in pristine condition, but it’s not quite.

DB: So you sort of gravitated more towards the DCs than the Marvels?
BB: Oh, without a doubt. I was definitely a big DC fan for the first several years of my comic book collecting. But then I shifted over to Marvel for the last couple of years of my comic book collecting while I was still a kid, and then when I got to high school I stopped all my comic book purchases completely. I just turned off to it and then I did not get back involved with comics again until I think around my second year of college. A friend of mine showed me some comics that he had gotten that were unlike anything I remember from the days I used to collect comics.

In the 1960’s, the comic books were, if you’re familiar with that era, very black and white. There were the good guys, there were the bad guys. DC had a very clean style of artwork. Marvel’s artwork was a little funkier, with Jack Kirby and so on. But still, overall they looked like very traditional comic book art, at least to me, looking backward.

Well, anyway, in the 1970’s when I was in college, a friend of mine showed me some Conan comic books. First of all, the character was unlike anything I had seen before. He wasn’t exactly a goody two-shoes superhero. He was quite a mixture of things and very much more of a living, breathing person than a Superman or anything like that, and it added the elements of magic and fantasy. Plus, it had wonderful artwork by Barry Windsor-Smith and John Buscema, and that just blew me away, that feeling of “wow this is several steps ahead of where I left off back in the 1960’s”. So that got me interested in comic books again.

DB: So how did you actually get involved in comic books? I mean you sort of popped up from nowhere as an artist, what was your art training?
BB: When I was a kid I thought about growing up to become a comic book artist. If you had asked me at the end of eighth grade what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would say, “I want to be a comic book artist.” Then I went to a high school called Bronx High School of Science, which was an excellent high school in New York City. It’s still one of the best high schools in the country, in fact, and I always had an interest in science anyway. So as I got older I figured, “Well, it’s more practical for me to go into science. Who makes a living as a comic book artist?” and I actually went to college and I got a degree in Civil Engineering.

So you’re probably thinking, “Well, how does that prepare one to become a comic book artist?”

DB: That was my question.
BB: That’s not the most direct route that I took. Anyway, all that time when I was in college I was also drawing for the student newspaper as a sideline, and after a couple of years I become the Graphic Arts Editor. We had a student newspaper that came out three times as week. I typically had at least one illustration in every issue by the time I was the Graphic Arts Editor. With a friend of mine in my senior year there, I started my own comic strip in the newspaper.

So I had my hand in drawing all the time I was studying Civil Engineering. A friend of mine from the student newspaper graduated the same year I did. He wound up getting a job in New York City for Marvel Comics as an Editorial Assistant. I stayed in college for one more year for graduate school. So when I would come down to New York City during my spring break or Christmas break or whatever it was, I’d visit him at the Marvel offices. He encouraged me to submit an illustration or two, and I got a couple of things printed, and then he quit his job. From my college, 400 miles away, I interviewed over the telephone for his job as an Editorial Assistant in the Marvel British Department. And I got the job after talking to my future boss for about a half hour. My future boss was Larry Lieber, Stan Lee’s brother, and he was the head of the Marvel British Department at the time. Marvel’s British Department was not in England, it was in New York City. Marvel had not opened up a British branch yet.

So anyway, that’s how I got involved in comics. I was at the end of my first year of graduate school. I dropped out. I took the job at Marvel Comics. I already had some drawing ability, although I wasn’t trained in an art school or anything. I picked up a tremendous amount of experience and information just being around some really great artists. The two Marvel Art Directors at the time were John Romita and Marie Severin, and they were just wonderful as far as helping out and giving me pointers. Especially Marie, she was terrific. But John was great too, except I think he was busier so he wasn’t as available as Marie to give feedback. But he was also terrific. So after a couple of years of shuttling back and forth between freelance and Editorial I finally was able to get a gig as a regular artist for a while.

DB: It is a bit unusual because you were sort of doing pinups in one page and a few page stories there.
BB: Oh, you really know my history if you know that. Yeah, I started out doing pinups and things like that, yeah, and even lesser known is like I said, I worked for the British Department. Initially, the Marvel British Department was reprinting American stories in England, and the English schedule was weekly, as you might know, whereas the American schedule was monthly. I think we used to divide up a 20-page story or a 22-page story, whatever it was back then, we divided a story in half and then we would run two halves of two American stories in one single issue of a British book. And so every other issue of every other story needed a new splash page, and so people like myself and Ron Wilson and John Romita Junior and Michael Golden…and I’m trying to think of them all, a whole bunch of guys, got their start this way, drawing these splashes. This is back in the late 1970’s.

We all got our start doing these splash pages for the British books. That was a good way to train. We’d just do a splash page here and there. It wasn’t like a lot of pressure to do a whole comic book. From that a lot of careers developed. I did an occasional pinup, like you said, as well.

DB: I’ve spoken to a lot of artists over the time and pretty much all of them have pointed that “Oh yeah, I worked for Marvel UK at one stage,” and it’s incredible the amount of people. It must have been a good training ground.
BB: Just to clarify, when you say Marvel UK, what I’m talking about preceded Marvel UK. This is the Marvel British Department within the New York City offices, and then a lot of British artists came out of Marvel UK, perhaps, afterwards. But I’m talking about all of these American artists.

DB: I often get Marvel UK mixed up with the British Department. To me it’s all Marvel UK.
BB: Yeah, right, right, okay. But I wasn’t sure if you were making that distinction. Okay, well anyway. As you were saying, I did some pinups, and then, eventually after bouncing back and forth from staff to freelance for a couple of years, I finally quit staff again. I stayed on staff for a year initially, then went freelance. Most of the work I did at that time was actually non_illustration work for Marvel. It was production work, and I did some illustrations.
Then I went back on staff for about a year and a half or two years as an Assistant Editor, and then I quit to become a full-time artist, and my assignment was Ghost Rider.

DB: I always tell people that the Ghost Rider run you did was one of my favourite runs ever.
BB: Well, thank you very much.

DB: It was a great book to start with, but when you came on it with Dave Simons and Roger Stern and the rest of them, I mean, just that one issue where you started with the origin story that you retold with Johnny Blaze getting confession.
BB: That was a conscious effort to relaunch the book. The editor at the time, I think, was Tom DeFalco. Roger Stern was the writer, he was the new writer and the new artist, me. It was a conscious effort to give it a new look and a new breath of life or whatever, and it worked, actually, because sales throughout at least the first half or so of my run kept rising. People took notice, and then after Roger Stern left Marc DeMatteis came on the book and we still kept rising, and the only speed bump we hit in this whole thing was when Dave Simons, who of that team is the unsung hero, left. He used to come to the office dressed in leather. I mean, this was not an act, he’d come dressed in one of these black leather, zipper jackets.

I don’t know if he also wore leather pants. He might have worn them. But anyway, the point is, he knew how to ink leather, which was really important for Ghost Rider.

So when he left the book we never really were able to replace that look that he gave the book. The rest of the team was all somewhat saddened by his departure. Anyway, the book was cancelled, I think it was issue 81, which was about maybe five or six issues after he left. Thank you for saying those kind words about it. I enjoyed doing it at the time.

DB: Why was it cancelled? I mean, because it was just building and building and building. The artwork and the storylines were great; the artwork was some of the best that was appearing in Marvel books at the time.
BB: I don’t know how much you’re aware of what sales figures are in the American books. I’m not talking about Australia or England or any place. But at the time when Ghost Rider was cancelled we had brought sales up to maybe about 120,000 a month in the U.S., and then it started dropping, like I said, when Dave left the book, couldn’t replace that look. It started dropping, and I think it maybe went down to close to 105,000. At the time Jim Shooter, the Editor-in-Chief, wanted to launch a few new books. So he chose a few low-selling books and cancelled them to make room, and Ghost Rider was considered low-selling at 105,000. Now today…

DB: …People would kill for that.
BB: I don’t follow the comic book market very closely. I have been out of comics for, except for some little odds and ends, I’ve been pretty much out of comic books for over ten years. Well, today I think 105,000 would qualify a book to be in the top five or ten of sales. But that number was considered low enough to make a book worthy of cancellation back then.

I didn’t cry about it, I had my run on Ghost Rider, and I was ready to move onto something different and actually write. The day I was told the book was being cancelled I was offered six months’ worth of work as an artist, and soon after I was offered a full-time job as a full editor at Marvel. So, it’s like, “Okay, I did Ghost Rider, it was fun, I’m happy to move along”.

DB: After that you went on to be an editor for the most part.
BB: Yeah, for 13 years.

DB: That always made me wonder: I could never figure out whether you were an editor that drew occasionally or an artist that was an editor.
BB: Well, I was an artist. I was an editor who intended to be an artist and I got sidetracked. Like I said, back in junior high school in eighth grade and years before that too, I dreamed of growing up to become a comic book artist, which I can actually say I did for a while, and then I liked the editorial life. Drawing for me was always a struggle. It still is, and even now I’m struggling over the commissions that I’m doing for you.

It was always a struggle, and so I kind of welcomed the chance to take a break from it when I got the editorial job. At the time I didn’t know if I was going to stay on for a year or five years or ten years, I had no idea. But my job as an editor really developed over the years to a point where I really enjoyed it. It also gave me the opportunity to write. You might be aware that I have probably written more books for Marvel than I drew. But I never intended to be a writer.

DB: I suppose for me, I’m sure for a few other people as well, that’s the frustrating thing because I look at your artwork and especially on that Ghost Rider run, and all I wanted was more of it and it just sort of dried up. It was such a shame.
BB: I appreciate your saying that and I have a similar feeling sometimes. Like I probably should have toughed it out a little bit longer and really made a go of it and things would have all been different perhaps. But by dropping the artwork it released me, it kind of liberated me to try other things, and it got me the opportunity to do things I would never have been able to do if I had been just grinding out the artwork. And, to be honest, I was making a lot more money as a writer than as an artist, and as an editor than as an artist. So money had something to do with it as well.

If I was like a John Byrne who, besides being an excellent artist, was able to crank out a couple of books a month, things might have been different. But I could never do that. I could barely do one book a month. So there was a financial factor as well that I had to consider. I was happy to take the editorial job at that time.

Now looking back, since I’m not in comics anymore, maybe if I’d stuck it out as an artist I would’ve rose to a point of fame and I would be in such demand that I would be some superstar artist today… who knows. But anyway, you can’t look back like that. At the time it seemed like the right decision to make, and like I said, it did give me a chance to write and actually it gave me a little bit of a legacy that’s not related to my artwork, which is that I got involved with Transformers. Transformers may not be everybody’s style of comic book, but obviously there’s a brand new movie that just came out this summer, so it’s still a big deal all these years later. At the time, in 1983, I was given an opportunity to work on Transformers because nobody else in my office really wanted to. I was an editor and Jim Shooter came down the hall and said, “Who can do this work?” and so I was like the fourth person he asked or something. And I was able to do it, and Hasbro Toys really liked what I was doing, and I stuck with it for five years.

And so, again, I don’t know how much you’re familiar with what I’ve done in Transformers, but people have been interviewing me about it for years. You’re a very rare interviewer in that you’re interviewing me about my comic book career. Usually I get contacted on my Transformers career.

DB: It’s almost your legacy. You’re always going to be the Transformers guy, but to a lot of other people you are always going to be the Ghost Rider artist.
BB: Oh, it’s good too. I mean I’m not knocking any of it, I’m just saying by quitting artwork it gave me an opportunity to do things that I probably would never have gotten to do.

DB: Did you see the Ghost Rider movie?
BB: No, but it got terrible reviews. I skipped it. I did see the Transformers movie though because it got good reviews and I liked it. Did you see the Ghost Rider movie?

DB: I did indeed.
BB: And were the reviews correct?

DB: I liked the look of the Ghost Rider itself. I thought that was good. But it wasn’t the greatest movie I have ever seen, that’s for sure. It could have been a lot worse I suppose, but then I’m not a huge fan of Nicholas Cage. He sort of doesn’t move me that much in movies, and then in this one he was right over the top, and as a friend of mine once said “more ham than a pizza with the lot”. It was pretty bad. But again, the Ghost Rider itself looked great.
BB: Oh, right.

DB: As a writer who draws, how does that help you write scripts for other artists, and conversely how did it help you when you were drawing?
BB: When I was writing scripts for other artists, especially Transformers and then I created a book after Transformers called Sleepwalker, I always had in mind what was visual, what would make good visuals, what would be a good cover scene. In fact, on the Transformers and to a lesser degree on Sleepwalker, I sketched out most of the covers. I didn’t draw most of the covers. I drew about four or five Transformers covers. I wrote about 50 issues of it. The vast majority of those covers, I did the cover sketch. So I always had in mind as I was writing it, “Where’s my cover scene?” I would kind of write backwards from that. I’d start with that scene in mind sometimes, not all the time, and I would… I try to give something juicy to the artist so that they can work with it. Sometimes with greater success than others and sometimes I might look back at some of my stories and I think, “Oh, they’re kind of wordy, I wish I could cut a few scenes here and there”.

But anyway, I try to make things visual. Try to make things so that exposition happens while something else is happening instead of a couple of characters sitting around talking to each other. I’ll throw in a little anecdote about Ghost Rider. When I worked with Roger Stern on the book Roger did things the traditional Marvel way. He would turn in a plot, I would draw it then he would get back my drawings and he would do a script.

But with Marc DeMatteis on Ghost Rider, we collaborated. If you look at the credits it was co-plotted by both of us and he scripted. So we would get on the phone with each other and, this is the way I recall it, he might disagree: Typically he would come up with the story, he’d come up with the overall structure of the story and the different emotional changes the characters were going through or whatever angst that they were experiencing, and then I would go back and I would put in the visual scenes, the big action moments. That would be my contribution to the plot: “Okay, now how can we make this thing look exciting and have a big moment where something happens that’s really visual?” So it was actually a really good partnership, we really enjoyed working that way.

DB: It worked well. You only worked for Marvel; you never worked for DC, never worked for any other company by the look of it. Not that I can find.
BB: That’s pretty much true. There was one point when I was freelance years and years ago; I was approached by Al Milgrom, who was another guy that worked mostly for Marvel, but at the time he was working for DC. It was probably the late 1970’s when he approached me to do something for DC, and I tried drawing a story for them, and it just never took off. So that was my one aborted attempt to work for DC.

The only other company I’ve worked for was recently I did a four-issue adaptation of the original Transformers animated movie for IDW, who’s the current publisher of the Transformers. I did that last summer. Summer of 2006.

DB: People were leaving Marvel in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. They were going left, right and centre. They were either going for DC, Jim Shooter took a whole pile with him to Valiant and…
BB: Well, Jim Shooter was escorted to the door at Marvel, too. So he was looking for other opportunities. It wasn’t like Marvel had a place for him… he was told to leave. So there’re other factors there. But I was at Marvel because Marvel was very, very good to me for most of that time. All through the late 1980’s, early 1990’s, my career was on the rise as an editor, so I had no real reason to leave.

In fact, the closest I came to leaving was internal. For a time I was doing a lot of work with our Licensing Department. At one point the Director of Licensing kind of made a half-hearted attempt to have me go over to Licensing and leave Editorial. At that time being a Marvel editor was about the pinnacle of one’s comic book career anywhere. So I wasn’t about to leave. It didn’t last, but being a Marvel editor looked good at the time. So I kind of said, “Thank you, but no, I think I will stay where I am”.

DB: You rose to the top; I mean you rose to become Editor-in-Chief at one stage.
BB: Yeah, I was. Well, before Marvel completely busted in the mid-1990’s…

DB: Fell apart.
BB: …Marvel was decentralised. There were five editorial lines and I became the Editor-in-Chief of the Spider-Man line for the last, about last year and a half of my time there. Then it was restructured again, and then I was out of there. But for that last year or so I was the Editor-in-Chief of the Spider-Man line.

Prior to that I was Executive Editor. I was in charge of all the Marvel trading cards, I was in charge of the Marvel poster program, I had a lot of other responsibilities that were not specifically about comic books, which I liked because I had been an editor of just comic books for a number of years and then I kind of branched out. I liked the diversity of opportunities there.

DB: You were an insider at the time, so how did you see the implosion of Marvel because, it just really went belly up there in the mid-1990’s?
BB: Well, interesting question. There were a lot of setbacks to Marvel from the early 1990’s until the late 1990’s. I left in January of 1996, and it was kind of like watching a train wreck in slow motion up until then. First, there was the defection of all the guys to Image. Okay, there were reasons for that. Comics were hotter than ever, and these guys had made names for themselves and they felt that Marvel was exploiting a lot of their creations. I guess they wanted to go out and create their own stuff and own it. I couldn’t blame them.

A couple of years earlier, in 1989 I believe, Ron Perelman and his group bought Marvel. Perelman is a billionaire. I don’t know, I can’t put it into words exactly, you probably have some familiarity with him, but basically he buys up companies and tries to leverage them into big profits for himself and for his partners and so on, and I guess that’s the way of the world.

Well anyway, so he soon took Marvel public, which means he made a public offering on the stock market so investors could buy shares of Marvel, and for the first couple of years, this is like around 1990, 1991, comic book sales were just booming. For the first couple of years it was terrific. The stock price kept going up and up and up, and everybody was making money and there were big bonuses.

When you put your company in a position like that, the investors expect that if you made a 50% increase in profits last year, then they expect that that you should be making a 50% increase in profits next year. My feeling was that Ronald Perelman went ahead or his management group went ahead and they had Marvel acquire all these other companies to try to add more money to the bottom line.

Meanwhile, they were expecting Editorial to continue producing comic books and continue to grow at the same rate that we had started growing in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. And I remember being in meetings with Tom DeFalco, who was the Editor-in-Chief at the time, and some of the other senior editors, and we were kind of laughing, because on the one hand our heads were on the line, that sense of, “Hey, you guys, you’ve got to keep doing this”. But on the other hand we knew there’s a limit to how many people are out there who are going to buy these comic books. You can’t expect a huge, whatever it was, 50% increase in sales and profits every year, it doesn’t work that way. So… but that’s the pressures of the financial markets.
So anyway, one of the responses was for Marvel to acquire all these other companies, which included Panini, Fleer and Skybox, which are trading card companies, what was it, oh, Malibu Comics. I mean, they bought up a distributorship. Anyway, they bought up all these companies and none of them performed well for various reasons.

So Marvel, which initially was a small publishing company, went from a small publishing company to a conglomerate with about $600M or $700M in debt by 1996 or 1997, and it was heading that way for a couple of years. So there were huge waves of layoffs that started in 1995 because they had to cut back somewhere to start saving money.

I’m not sure what your original question was. But we saw all this coming, one catastrophe after another, because of the mismanagement of the people who were running the company. They just took Marvel and they put it into an impossible position.

As far as my personal experience, in January of 1995, I think it was two days after New Year’s Day, there was a big wave of layoffs, like 100 to 200 people got laid off. Okay, it wasn’t me, but maybe 20% of the editorial staff, all up and down the company, all the different departments. A year later things were still going bad. By this time there was a new president of the company. He had realigned the realignment of the five Editors-in-Chief and went back to one Editor-in-Chief, which was Bob Harras.

So I remember the week before New Years Eve going out to lunch with a bunch of my friends who were also Senior Editors, fellow Editors-in-Chief, and going down the line of the editors who were sitting at that table, and I said, “Okay, January 1st is coming around again, there’s going to be another big wave of layoffs”. We all knew it, we all could feel it, and I predicted exactly who at this table was not going to be here anymore and I predicted myself as one of them.

So that’s how I looked upon it, it was very obvious what was going on, and sure enough, two days after New Years Day, just like the previous year, there was another massive wave of layoffs in 1996, and I was one of them, as well as many other editors of that era. And so that’s my story.

DB: It’s just insane in a way. I’ve read about it in a couple of the books, but just to think of how badly it was managed at the time and everything was just going…
BB: Did you read the book Comic Wars?

DB: I did.
BB: Yeah, that explains it probably far better than I can.

DB: I was just sort of wondering from your perspective.
BB: From the inside point of view, I wasn’t sitting in the circle of power that was making all these decisions, obviously. But we could see, we, editors who don’t have any MBA’s, we’re not corporate managers or merger and acquisition gurus or anything like that. We could see that they were just driving this company into the ground. They were just making one bad decision after another. I don’t think any of us had an idea of the amount of debt that Marvel was acquiring. But we knew these were bad business decisions that were following one on the heels of another one, and it almost killed the company. It certainly ended my career there and it ended many other people’s careers.

DB: What did you do when you left Marvel or when you were shown the door at Marvel, I suppose?
BB: I wasn’t sure what to do so I went back to school. I knew at that time, this is 1996, that there was something called multimedia out there. I wanted to learn multimedia, so I went back to school, took a few classes in different multimedia aspects like marketing on the Internet. I don’t even think the Internet was such a big name at the time. I think it was more like coming up with product ideas for CD-ROM games and things like that. I forget the names of the courses.
But I also took Photoshop and Illustrator classes and things like that. Eventually I gravitated toward being more of a graphic designer working on a computer. I kind of reinvented myself, and so eventually I wound up as an Assistant Creative Director at Scholastic, which is a children’s book publisher here in the States.

DB: Now, was there ever any temptation to get back into comics? Did anyone ever approach you or you approach anyone else?
BB: I made some initial inquiries. Right after I left Marvel, I went over to DC Comics. I spoke to a couple of people there. But my gut feeling was that comic books was a shrinking industry, at least at the time. In fact, it’s still true to some extent; I’ll get back to that in a minute, but it was a shrinking industry. I compare it to what radio was like when television came along—too much competition for comic books from computer games and the like.

With a shrinking industry, sales were going down. There were a lot of people chasing a shrinking number of full-time jobs. I didn’t want to be one of them. I felt that it was time to move on. Although I loved comics when I was a kid, I wasn’t as passionate about them as lots of people at Marvel were, who were probably as passionate about comics as adults as they were as children, even more so. I wasn’t one of those. I enjoyed working in the industry, but it wasn’t my entire life. I didn’t feel like I had to be there for the rest of my life.

So I made a conscious decision not to pursue another job in comic books. I didn’t feel it was prudent. I thought it’s a shrinking industry, and to some extent it’s true because what comics has really become today is not so much a huge publishing industry… it’s a huge licensing industry. So the amount of publishing that’s going on today I don’t think compares to what it was like in the 1980’s as far as sales go, and probably the number of titles have gone down also. I don’t know that for a fact, but I do know sales are nowhere near what they used to be and the publishing end of the business is not as healthy as it used to be.

But it does support the licensing, which is the movies and all the other products and all that that are created based on comic book characters these days. Perhaps if I had made a decision to try to get back into comics I might have hung on and gotten back into the licensing aspects of it or something, who knows what would’ve happened. But as an editor and a sometime writer, sometime artist, I didn’t feel like it was a good place to further pursue a career at that time.

DB: Now, back into the comic books, I mean, was there ever a title you wanted to draw that you never got to?
BB: I guess two of my favourite comic book characters when I was at Marvel were Conan and Spider-Man. I liked Daredevil too. Ghost Rider would not have been my first choice for a lot of reasons, but that was what was offered to me and I kind of felt that it was a good opportunity. It was one of these second-tier characters that had been kind of left on the sidelines for a while. I feel I had a chance to make it mine with that opportunity. So I appreciated that.

If I had drawn Spider-Man, I would have been a fill-in artist and just another Spider-Man artist that people forget as soon as John Romita Junior came back on the book or something. So if I had stuck it out, I think I would’ve liked to do one of those characters that I just mentioned.

DB: You edited Spider-Man, you edited Daredevil at one stage.
BB: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and so I had my hand in it in different ways. With Daredevil I might have been involved in helping out some plotting. With Spider-Man I know when I was Editor-in-Chief I was involved a lot more with plot and with cover ideas and so on and so forth, and hiring different creative talent to do the books and so on. So I had a different set of responsibilities when I was the Editor-in-Chief. That was good too, except, unfortunately, my timing was poor because I walked into the clone saga, which you might be familiar with, and I had to pick up a lot of storylines that were already laid out for me, and they were not good storylines. I was kind of thrown into a lion’s den the way I look at it now. And maybe I did as good a job as I could’ve, but I think I could’ve done a better job, because those stories were not the highlight of my career.

DB: And you mentioned that you worked on Sleepwalker. I think you created it, did you not?
BB: Yes I did.

DB: Yeah, what happened there? How did all that come about for you?
BB: Like I said, being an editor allowed me to do other things, and one of them was write because, and this is no slight on writers, but as far as I’m concerned, it takes me a lot less time to write a book than to draw a book. So whereas I could write a monthly book and keep a full-time job as an editor, I could never illustrate a book on a monthly basis and keep a full-time job as an editor.

So after writing Transformers for five years and begging to get off of it because five years was more than enough, I finally got off of it. I had been kicking around this idea in my head for several years about this Sleepwalker character. I fleshed it out, I submitted a proposal to the Editor-in-Chief at the time, Tom DeFalco, and after he kicked it back to me a couple of times for some revisions we agreed on doing the book, which was quite an accomplishment, because at the time we were getting dozens of proposals from all sorts of people. Many were people who had established comic book careers. It wasn’t just because I was editor that I got the chance to write my own book. But people who had great comic book credentials would submit ideas for new titles, and they would go through a whole committee process, and some would make it but most of them would be bounced out, out the door, because they just didn’t add up.

Anyway, so I had the chance to write Sleepwalker, I went through the process, the people on the committee and the Editor-in-Chief. In fact the Editor-in-Chief wouldn’t even read my proposal until it went through, I think it was called the New Projects Committee, and it got passed through. Only then would it go to Tom DeFalco, and once he approved it I had the opportunity to write it.

So I was real happy that I was able to create something and write it and it was a modest success. It lasted about two and a half years, maybe almost three years, and so I had my chance.

DB: You coloured that book as well.
BB: I did as much as I could without drawing it. I designed the character, I designed most of the villains, I designed a couple of the secondary characters, I coloured as many of them as I could. I just couldn’t draw it [laughter] because I was still a full-time editor. But I did get my number one choice to draw most of the first 17 issues, so I was real happy about that. Brett Blevins was the artist, and he’s a far better artist than I ever was, so I was real thrilled that he was able to do it.

DB: I think you sold yourself short a little bit there. You didn’t do much inking over your time though.
BB: That’s true, yeah, I was not known as an inker. I barely ever inked anything. Just another skill. Most pencillers just pencilled. If they could manage to pencil and ink a book in a month they would do that. Eventually John Byrne started inking his own work, and so on. But I consider myself a penciller so I stuck to that pretty much.

DB: And you’re fairly well known as a cover artist back in the day as well; you did a lot of covers. BB: Some covers, yeah. The reason I got involved with Ghost Rider is because I started illustrating the covers probably about three years before I started drawing the book. I’ll give you a little anecdote about the first cover of Ghost Rider I drew. I forget the number of the issue, I think it was in the 30’s (it was issue #33). But Don Perlin was the artist and it had a spaceship on the cover. So I was given a cover sketch—I may have even done the cover sketch—and I guess at the time the editor, I think it was Jim Salicrup, felt that the book needed a fresher look on the cover or something, I don’t know.

Anyway, he asked me to draw the cover, and so I saw the pages that Don had drawn and they showed a spaceship, which is kind of funny when you think of Ghost Rider and a spaceship in the same book, but that’s another subject, I didn’t write the story, so no comment. [laughter] But in any case, there’s this big spaceship hovering overhead, and it probably is around the time of one of the Star Wars movies, one of the first three, not the second three. And so I saw what Don drew and then I drew that spaceship on the cover, but I added all that little noodly detail that Star Wars spaceships made famous. Up until then you had flying saucers and rocket ships; Star Wars really kicked it up a couple of levels.

So I took what Don did and I added all these details to it and then when Don Perlin saw what I did he took back his pencils and changed all the spaceships to match what I did. So I influenced him, I guess. But anyway, I guess from that cover on, the editors, whoever was the editor of the Ghost Rider book, felt I was a good choice for the cover art.

DB: One of the things that got me back into reading Ghost Rider was the covers.
BB: Well, I guess the editors knew what they were doing there. [laughter]

DB: Some of them don’t match up, yeah.
BB: That was the idea.

DB: You probably did more cover art than what you think.
BB: Perhaps, yeah, it’s been a while. But I know I did it, like I said, from somewhere in the mid 30’s or so until issue 81. I did probably the majority, I’m sure I did the majority of the covers. I don’t know how many it adds up to.

DB: You did some iconic covers.
BB: Oh, that’s good to know. [laughter] Yeah, and it was definitely fun to do, but again, I was on staff at the time so when I was drawing Ghost Rider I was an Assistant Editor and I couldn’t handle more than an occasional cover. I still had a full-time job and I was not the fastest artist around. So I was just happy to get an occasional assignment like that.

DB: And the second issue that sticks in my mind of Ghost Rider is the Freaks issue.
BB: Freaks issue, right.

DB: It always reminds me of Bernie Wrightson.
BB: Well, I was looking at Bernie Wrightson at that period of time. In fact, he had a graphic novel around that time called Creepshow, and I know I had that. Anyway, I don’t know if it came out before or after I had Ghost Rider in my hands, but I was definitely looking at Bernie Wrightson stuff, and I think a lot of the look of Ghost Rider is due to Dave Simons. He really added so much to the feel of that book. You can’t say enough about what he added to it. I was also looking at the early Mike Ploog stuff and I was definitely looking at Bernie Wrightson, without a doubt.


DB: Probably after Ghost Rider and Sleepwalker and obviously the Transformers stuff, the longest thing that you did was with Sub-Mariner.
BB: That was just a four-issue limited series and frankly that was not one of my stellar moments. That was one of those jobs I referred to earlier when I was told that Ghost Rider was being cancelled and I was offered six months’ worth of illustration work. That was one of the jobs, that was a four-issue limited series, and I took that and then soon after I was offered the editor’s job. So I was doing that while I was starting up an editor’s job, and it was really too much for me.

I look back at that Sub-Mariner series and go, “Well parts of that job I’m very happy with, but a lot of that job I’m sure I didn’t spend enough time on to bring it up to the level I might have brought it up to if I felt I had more time to spend on it”. That’s a very long-winded way of saying, “I probably hacked out a couple of pages here and there”. [laughter]

So anyway, I’m not really happy with it, and also, as much as I loved working with Marc DeMatteis on Ghost Rider, he wrote that limited series, not my favourite limited series, not my favourite storyline that he came up with. I thought the storyline was not great, it was okay.

The one thing I’ll tell you about that Sub-Mariner series that I really liked was the covers. I really enjoyed drawing those four covers. A little known fact is those four covers fit together as one giant image. If you have those four comic books, put them together one and two on top, three and four on the bottom, and they’ll fit together.

DB: I wasn’t aware of that. Who were some of the standout people you worked with other than obviously Roger Stern and Marc DeMatteis?
BB: Oh, well again, most of my experience was as an editor. So I worked with some great people among my fellow editors, like Mark Gruenwald, Tom DeFalco, Ralph Macchio, Carl Potts. I learned an awful lot from Jim Shooter. He wasn’t always the easiest boss to work for, but he was brilliant in his way and he really taught me a lot just by being around him. I appreciate everything I learned from him. And like I said before I worked earlier in my career with Marie Severin and with John Romita. John Romita was there for basically all the years I was there, as Art Director. He was always a great guy to work with.

Generally, most people over the years that I worked with up there are pretty good people. So I’m mentioning a lot of people I felt either I learned a lot from or I was just good friends with, and plus they were talented as well. Some of those guys were good friends of mine back then and they were terrific editors and good writers and so on.

I could go down a list. But I have very fond memories of most people I worked with, so I’ll leave it at that, and I’m not going to talk about the people I don’t have fond memories about. [laughter]

DB: No, it’s alright. Despite what may appear on my website, I’m not always about the negative stuff. [laughter] I’m getting known now as the guy with that Vinnie Colletta interview. [laughter]
BB: That’s right. I looked at that. When Jeff pointed me towards your website, I noticed that Vinnie Colletta interview right off the bat. I didn’t read the whole thing, but I was there during that period when Shooter was evicted. Vinnie was a very close buddy of Shooter, and that was obviously his point of view on what was going on. But I wasn’t really in the middle of that. But, yeah, Vinnie was a character. [laughter] He was a very interesting character.

DB: One of the most common questions that most people I know ask me, “Does he sound like a gangster?”
BB: Who, Vinnie Colletta?

DB: Yeah.
BB: He sounded like he could play one [laughter] in The Sopranos or something like that but, [laughter] you know, he was an artist. But he had a certain accent that placed him in a certain social rung, which could include being an artist. Did you ever see or hear John Buscema speak?

DB: I’ve heard John Buscema speak, from a tape once.
BB: Okay. John Buscema, in my opinion, he just draws, when he was alive obviously, he just drew beautifully just like, you know, he was like… he could draw anything, and draw it with grace and power and beauty. If it was a woman she was beautiful. If it was a man he was handsome. He could just draw anything. But when he talked he didn’t sound like an artist, not in my opinion anyway, and he himself said he would rather be running a restaurant. [laughter] He sounded like a truck driver to me. He sounded like some blue-collar guy. But you look at his artwork, and especially the more he moved away from superheroes and to fantasy and drawing other non-superhero stuff--it just had so much grace and beauty, and you would just not associate this guy drawing that if you heard him talk. He’d just talk one way and he just drew another way, well, at least in my opinion. So my point is, you can’t tell what a person does by the way they talk.

He gave one of the best art lessons I ever took. My first year up at Marvel, he invited all the up-and-coming young artists to a one hour seminar that he gave, and he was brilliant. He just kind of cut right to the meat of the problem, he said, “This is how you do it, this is how you approach it”. This is going back 30 years; I’m not going to remember every detail of it. But I learned a lot.
He was just brilliant, he just had it down, he knew the whole science of it. So, anyway, the seminar didn’t make me as good an artist as John Buscema, but it helped.

DB: I mean, I always looked at John Buscema and thought, “how does this guy draw?” I mean it just doesn’t look like he would be able to pick up a pen and draw but… BB: There you go.

DB: He just didn’t look the part.
BB: Exactly, that’s my point, that’s my point. Except for the goatee, the little artist-type goatee. [laughter] I think that was his only deference to being an artist, is that the right word? His only way of saying, “Okay, I’m an artist”. [laughter] But he was a wonderful guy. I had the privilege and pleasure of working with him on a couple of projects and it was a lot of fun. He illustrated Labyrinth for me, which was a movie adaptation. He probably did a couple of other odds and ends for me also, and he was always great to work with.

DB: He seemed to have no limit to his talent. There’s always that story that he saw The Wizard of Oz once and then drew the comic book from memory. [laughter]
BB: I didn’t hear that one but it wouldn’t surprise me, and he probably made it look better than the movie. [laughter] He probably drew it the way he imagined the movie looked [laughter], which was probably better than the movie. The movie was no slouch, the movie was pretty brilliant, you know.

DB: Oh yeah, he had imagination.
BB: Yeah, yeah.

DB: Now it’s a shame that you never worked at DC because I can only think of how something like a Batman would have looked especially after that Ghost Rider stuff.
BB: Oh, well thanks. Marvel did it’s best to keep me around. In the early 1980’s, as opposed to the mid 1990’s, Marvel wanted people like me. They weren’t showing me the door. As soon as Ghost Rider disappeared they were rushing to keep me. So at no time did I say to myself, “Oh no, I think I’m going to try DC Comics now”.

DB: There was a bit of an exodus though around about that time.
BB: In which time?

DB: From about the early to mid 1980’s onwards, where George Perez, Frank Miller, Marv Wolfman, John Byrne, Gene Colan, a whole pile of Marvel creators.
BB: You probably know the history better than me if you’re, I guess you’re somewhat of an historian with all these people you’re interviewing. A lot of that was just personality clashes. I think a lot of the people you’re mentioning had difficulties working with Jim Shooter as Editor-in-Chief. I wasn’t in the middle of it, so I’m not going to say for sure this guy couldn’t get along with that guy. But I knew there was a lot of dissention as a result of Jim Shooter being Editor-in-Chief, and it was accumulating. When he first took over in the late 1970’s he was great because Marvel at that time had a reputation of not meeting deadlines. Books would have a cover showing a new story in it, and then you’d open it up and there’d be a reprint in it. He ended that.

Jim Shooter was excellent at organising the editorial teams and getting books to be shipped on time and getting away from all those reprints. He was excellent at expanding the line. There was a big period of expansion with him as Editor-in-Chief. I think he brought a lot more discipline to the way stories were created and produced, and he worked to get writers to actually put stories into each book and so on.

But on the other hand, I think there were certain talents that at one point or another just chafed at working with him for whatever reason, so they moved on.

DB: He certainly was a polarising sort of a character, that’s for sure. How did you find working with him?
BB: Like I said earlier, he was very instructive. He gave me a lot of opportunities, which I really appreciate. Toward the end of his reign as Editor-in-Chief, I, like many of my peers, was probably having more difficulties with him. I think he was just going through a phase. I think Jim Shooter is actually a perfectionist and when you’re a perfectionist sometimes there’s only one way of doing it and it has to be your way. If you see somebody else doing something a different way, it’s hard to accommodate that. And in a creative field like comic books, certainly there’s a terrible way of doing comic books and there’s a perfect way of doing comic books. But there has to be some wiggle room for some other points of view, otherwise when you do get to working with certain talents who really can go to any company and find work, if you don’t give them a little wiggle room then they’re going to leave.

So as an editor I worked with him very well, generally. But I could see the writing on the wall then that he was becoming, like you said, a polarising figure. He became a polarising figure not only with the creative community but within the company itself with his superiors.

DB: Hmm, it’s such a shame. So ten years, no comic books.
BB: Who me?

DB: Yeah, you. [laughter] You sort of dropped off the planet…
BB: Oh, well I appreciate your saying that. I don’t know if there’s a huge audience out there saying that but…[laughter]

DB: For a while there it was, like you’d dropped off the face of the earth, the planet. [laughter]
BB: Well, you know, you move on. Right now I’m a freelance graphic designer. Another job that came to me through virtually no effort of my own, I live in a small town in New Jersey and I became my town’s Recreation Director, which I hardly prepared for in my previous career. It’s only a part-time job. Even though you said I dropped off the face of the earth, people in my town know who I am! [laughter] So it all depends on what part of the earth you’re looking at, you know.

DB: Too true, too true. I mean, and then you started to do the commissions. How are you finding that?
BB: I’m enjoying it, I’m enjoying it, but I’ve lost my discipline. For instance, the commissions I’m doing for you, I started doing them in July. It doesn’t take me that long to do a drawing, but I get another job that has a deadline or the Recreation Department work comes up or whatever, and I get distracted. Anyway, my goal in the next month or two is to become much more disciplined. So I sit down, I get this work done and I get the positive feedback of having it done and enjoying it, and maybe what you’re alluding to, which is me getting back into the comic book business, will actually come about as a result of that.

Part of me thinks I’ve always been a frustrated artist. You know I always wanted to be an artist when I was a kid, I gave it a go, I got detoured in a major way and maybe now is the time for me to get back to it, I don’t know. But it’s a very labour-intensive and time-intensive process for me. So it’s not the easiest thing for me to do.

DB: But if someone came along and said “Look we’d love a pinup, we’d love a cover”?

BB: Yeah, I’d do it. When I was working with IDW on that four-issue comic book series for the Transformers adaptation, at one point the publisher, Chris Ryall, suggested that maybe I would do an alternate version of one of the covers. But he never came to me and asked me to do it actually, and frankly the artist that he had doing the covers, doing the whole series, he was far better at drawing robots than I ever was. [laughter] But I had drawn a few Transformers covers for Marvel. Actually, when I drew the Transformers covers that I did I typically picked out the ones that featured a human prominently on it [laughter] because although I drew the robots too, my sole interest was not just drawing robots. I wanted to draw people.

DB: I’m waiting for word to get out that you’re doing commissions because you’ll be swamped.
BB: Yeah, well, I have to get more proficient at it, I have to get more of them out there. But you’re right. Jeff [Bob’s agent who provides him with art commissions] is great. Every time I send in a finished commission, the next day or later that same day he says, “Okay, I have another person lined up for you”. So it’s really up to me to get the work out because it seems like there’re some interested parties out there.

DB: Oh, I think there’s a long list that he’s got, he’s probably just not telling you how long. [laughter]
BB: Okay, he doesn’t want to make me sweat, okay. [laughter]

DB: I know when I initially approached him about something else and he mentioned it and I went, “Wow, put me on that list”. When he finally came around to it I said, “I thought you’d forgotten or, you know, you’d stopped drawing,” and he went, “No, no, no”, “Good, good”.
BB: Yeah, people come up with all sorts of theories about me. Not that there’re so many people out there talking about me. But over the years I’ve learned people come up with all sorts of theories about me who have never spoken to me, who don’t know me. And then it was probably like what you said, I dropped off the face of the earth. So they hear, “Oh, he doesn’t do interviews”. Well, I do interviews if you ask me! [laughter]

DB: I’ve got to admit that was one of the ones I’d heard. When I launched the site a few years ago I said to a couple of people, “I have a list of people I want to interview,” and your name was up at the top of them because of the Ghost Rider stuff for a start, and pretty much everyone I’d spoken to said, “Oh no, he hates comic books, wants nothing more to do with them and doesn’t do interviews.”, and I thought, “Oh, okay”.
BB: But see, no, that’s not true. [laughter] I hate comics? My point is people come up with all these theories about me based on the fact I’m not in comics anymore, so I must hate them. I don’t know, I don’t know why they think that. But no, no, I still, like I said, I still have the number six issue of Justice League of America. If I hated comics I would’ve gotten rid of it a long time ago. [laughter]

DB: Absolutely. No, because that’s what surprised me when I’ve asked Jeff, I said, “Just sound out the waters very delicately and see whether or not he would be interested in doing a little interview,” and when he came back and said, “Yeah, he’d love to”, “Holy crap you’re kidding?” One artist told me that he considered you to be something like the Howard Hughes of comic books, only without the money.
BB: What was that, one artist said what?

DB: Said that you were the Howard Hughes of comic books only without the money. You are just a recluse. [laughter] And I thought, that didn’t really give me much hope. I thought, “Oh God”.
BB: I’m only a recluse because people haven’t approached me. I don’t go out there. I’ve been asked to go to a couple of conventions and things like that. I don’t go make an effort to spend my weekends in some other city away from my family to just be at a comic book convention. Does that mean that I’m a recluse? No, it means I have other things to do with my life.

So it doesn’t make me a recluse, it just makes me, it just means, like I’ve told you, that I’ve been out of comics for most of the time for over ten years. I worked at Scholastic for six years, I’ve been a freelance graphic designer, Recreation Director for my town. It’s not like I’m living in a hole under the ground. It’s just that I’ve moved on and done other things. So comics is not especially a vital part of my life right now. But it doesn’t mean I dislike them or anything.
Same thing with Transformers. People came up with these theories about me without ever talking to me, and as I’ve explained in a couple of interviews about Transformers, I take it you’re not into Transformers which is perfectly fine, I’m not making any judgment of you so, perfectly understandable.

But there are probably thousands, tens of thousands of people your age who grew up with the Transformers. I’m assuming you’re probably around that age, growing up in the 1980’s, and they’ve never let them go. They’re 20-something, 30-something, whatever age they are, and they are just totally immersed in the Transformers universe.

And so when they’ve contacted me for one reason or another, like for an interview for instance, they don’t understand how I’m not as passionate about the Transformers as they are now, even though I worked on them for so long. All I could basically say is, “Well, I enjoyed working on them while I did it, but it was a job, and then after I finished that job I moved onto the next job”. And that may sound very mercenary, but that’s just the way it is. It’s the same thing with comic books. I did comic books. I was in comic books for 20 years and it was great while it lasted and then I made a conscious decision to move on.

DB: No, but it is an interesting thing. I suppose part of the theories that surround you is because a lot of artists now, pretty much anyone that’s everyone and even people who weren’t anyone, have websites, they have galleries everywhere, they have representatives, they sell their art all over the places and…
BB: See, now you’ve touched on my biggest frustration, which is I started working on a website like a year and a half ago. [laughter] I built one for my Recreation Department in my town but I haven’t built my own. [laughter] So I do aspire to do that. [laughter] So stay tuned and one day there will be a Bob Budiansky website and it will have all my various services available. I know I’ve checked out some of the other artists’ websites to see what they’re up to. So it’s not like something I’ve turned my back on, it’s just something I haven’t got my act together about.
I’m aware that once I get my name up there I’ll be contacted by more people than probably I would be able to handle. But I’ve been busy up till now. So, even though I could probably be a little busier, with my various other enterprises I’ve been busy enough. Actually, I’m approaching a slow period in my other work right now so I’m hoping to get back to building the website. I’m aware my website will get a response if I just have it up there, because a person like Jeff is a great example. Jeff did excellent detective work to track me down and find my email address. And he’s not the first one. There’re several other people over the years who have contacted me from out of the blue, and this is without me even trying. I don’t even have my name up there on a website yet.

So I’m aware that once my name is up there it will be a more publicised way or easier-to-reach way for people to contact me; other things might happen.

DB: You’re probably better off with the recluse. I mean it’s your reputation, you know. [laughter]
BB: Well, I’m not a movie star. Nobody’s going to be knocking on my door, I don’t think. [laughter] I’m not that big a name, so I’ll take it as it comes. If and when I get the website up I’m sure I’ll be able to handle it. Have you ever visited Mike Zeck’s website?

DB: Yes I have, yes.
BB: I visited his several months ago, and basically what he says is, “Enough! I can’t handle anymore, I’m not taking anymore waiting-list people”. So if I should ever get to that level of success like Mike Zeck, I’ll worry about it then. [laughter]

He’s another nice guy, since you’re asking about all the nice people I worked with. I loved working with Mike Zeck over the years, he’s a great guy.

DB: Were you involved in the Secret War series? It seems everyone else I’ve spoken to had a part.
BB: I was the editor of the second series.

DB: It seems everyone I’ve spoken to that drew anything from Marvel at the time drew something in those books.
BB: Well, probably because the books were so late, you’ve probably heard this story if you’ve talked to other people. The books were so late that people had to be dragged in left and right to do the books. Now, I’ll give you another little anecdote about that Secret Wars 2 book. As you know, Jim Shooter was the writer of it and he was also the Editor-in-Chief. There was an office tradition at that time, whenever an editor took over a book that Jim Shooter was writing they would fire him [laughter] because the only chance anyone had to fire Shooter was when he first became the editor of a book Shooter was writing. Shooter was a nightmare to work with because he couldn’t keep to a schedule. It wasn’t as if he was a prima donna to work with as a writer, it was just that he was always really late, and Secret Wars is the prime example of that.

So I became the editor of the Secret Wars 2 book and Jim Shooter was again the writer, he was the creator of the whole idea. Carl Potts, who was also an editor at the time, was a real stickler for meeting deadlines. We were friends, and he came to me and said, “You’ve got to fire him”. [laughter] Because when Secret Wars 1 was around everybody else’s books got bumped to the side of the production room, or the Marvel Bullpen as it was called, so that Secret Wars could be produced, because it had to be done at the last minute and all hands were needed on deck.

So when Secret Wars 2 came around, Carl Potts, it may have been after the first issue, which was probably another one of those disasters that had to be done at the last minute or redone at the last minute, Carl Potts said to me, “You’ve got to fire him, you’ve got to fire him,” and I said “No, because it would be worse if he was the Editor-in-Chief looking over my shoulder. If I hired a different writer what would happen is I would get the whole book put together, drawn, written, coloured, etcetera, it would go to his desk and, because he didn’t write it, at the last moment he would ask for it to be redone all over again. So I’m better off keeping him as the writer where he’s doing it all along, even if it’s late. At least he’s involved in the process along the way and he’s not going to reject his own story. I’m better off if he’s doing it that way than if I fire him as the writer, because then he’s going to, as Editor-in-Chief, change everything at the last moment”.

So that was my logic anyway. [laughter]

--------------------
FURTHER INFORMATION: As you would have gleaned from reading this Bob is avaliable for commission work. There is a list though and be warned, Bob does take his time, but quality doesn't come rushed. For more information feel free to email Jeff Jawarski - he'll handle it all for you. Make sure youy tell him you saw the interview.

While you're at it you might want to revisit an old interview of mine, with Dave Simons. Dave is another great guy and inked a lot of the classic Ghost Rider material over Bob's pencils.

2 comments:

Bob Almond said...

It'll take me a while to get through this feature over meals periods with my present work schedule but, like most of Daniel's interviews, I absolutely cannot wait to finish it. I personally love the retro '70s and '80s Marvel coverage of all these veteran talents who I adored. In fact, a few issues ago in CBG, after I was asked to do their "Top 10 fave covers" feature I ran a 2-part letter in their lettercol and listed Bob as one of my faves. Funny how it took him like 3 years of consistently great GHOST RIDER cover art before he 'graduated' to doing the interiors;-) This was a great reward for those of us who were fans of the character and had somewhat bowed out over time. Roger Stern at that time seemed to be Marvel's troubleshooter, often rejuvenating titles that had waned and then moving on after a few months. Rubenstein also often was temporarily placed on such 'jumping on' points for an issue or two. Yeah, Dave Simons was so good over Bob here and I'm not quite sure that, even though I know he did much more subsequent work, I don't remember anything else. It's not often that you here that the inker was one of the key reasons that sales dropped...in fact, this is the first time I've ever read that info in an interview. Usually, inkers are considered generally interchangeable by editors, today especially, and it's the writers and pencilers who are the key sales factors...a reason I believe that inkers are often not credited today in PREVIEWS solicitations and for things like handbook & encyclopedia sample art anymore.

As a closing note I wanted to express that the client who owns the Spidey Team-up treasury cover recreation posted here has promised me that I would be inking it over Bob down the road. This is an honor for me (especially since I love lotsa covers Ernie Chan worked on) and I hope that I can bring something cool to the table.

Best,
Bob Almond

The Bob Almond Inkwell
http://www.almondink.com

Don Hudson said...

Bob is incredible! I am printing out this interview and I know a bunch of guys who would love to read it as well.