Thursday, May 06, 2010

Klaus Janson Talks Rich Buckler

I was recently asked in an email about the latest entry in Rich Buckler's life story in relation to Klaus Janson's first job.  Now Klaus is one of those guys who, it would almost seem, has been around forever, so I guess the idea that he started somewhere was a bit alien.  Klaus is most famous for inking Frank Miller on both Daredevil and the first Dark Knight series, The Dark Knight Returns and has become a mainstay of the comic book industry, and rightly so.  Klaus is one of those rare beasts who can pencil as well as he can ink, and he colours as good as anyone else to boot.   But before any of those jobs Klaus did some excellent work over Rich's pencils in both Deathlock and Black Panther

In late 1988 Klaus was interviewed by Andy Mangles for the now long defunct Amazing Heroes magazine, issue #155.  Naturally Andy asked Klaus how he started out in comics, and where he got his first real break.  Klaus responded as follows:

AH: Did you get any artistic training or did you just keep practicing?
JANSON: No formal training, which I don’t think is a good idea if anybody thinks that. It’s not. I think schooling is really important, but I had no formal schooling. The only art training I really had was when I met Dick Giordano when I was about I6. I apprenticed with him for a little while, and he kind of gave me tips and taught me things not to do. He kind of took me under his wing for a while. I was doing backgrounds for him for some of his non-comic book work. I did one story for him when I was still living at home. It was a Batman story that Bob Brown had pencilled. After I moved to New York at 2l, I did some more backgrounds for him. I did some Conan stuff and the Dr: Strange he did with Frank Brunner. I did all the backgrounds to those. That’s really it in terms of formal training. I also did backgrounds for Mike Esposito and Frank Giacoia, who were up at the Marvel Bullpen at the time. I was just kind of hanging out really, trying to pick up work where I could.
AH: When did you start being recognized as ‘Klaus Janson the artist’ or ‘Klaus Janson the inker’, as opposed to ‘Dick’s assistant’ or ‘the background inker’?
JANSON: Well, pretty early on. I didn’t establish that' strong a reputation as Dick’s assistant. He was also using, you know, a hundred other people besides me. But the first job l did was the Black Panther over Rich Buckler, and I don’t know to what degree people recognized my work. It was about when I was 21. I broke away and moved to New York and started doing -work on my own. As a matter of fact, I think I had the Black Panther account before I moved to New York, and I think that’s why I moved. It was the promise of steady income. I remember having come up to Marvel and DC for two summers in a row, taking my portfolio around. Both companies had rejected me, and very soundly I might add. Deservedly so, I think. Those were great times though. You know, coming into New York from Connecticut and going to the comic companies and meeting people. I used to sit out in Bryant Park - which is now a drug park on 42nd Street - and I’d look over the Xeroxes of the Gil Kane or Sal Buscema samples they gave me so I could ink them over vellum. I would get home and it would be like eight o'clock at night, and I would eat diner and work for a couple of hours, and then work the next day. Then I’d come in the day after with the finished samples and be rejected! Then I’d go back to Bryant Park looking at the new samples that they gave me. I was full of youthful enthusiasm. I loved the city and that great sense of adventure one has when you’re 20. Rejected by everybody? No problem! This went on for two summers in a now. I was eventually doing production work for Marvel. Sol Brodsky had hired me to do some homework on the old black-and-white stories they had lying around that they were reprinting as some of their monster books. It was awful work, totally awful, but I loved that period. Rich Buckler had seen my portfolio and was looking for an inker. He asked me if I was interested in working on the Black Panther, and of course I said yes! That’s really how I got my first work on my own.
AH: That was in about '73 or 74?
JANSON: Yeah, about that time.
If you want to read the rest of that interview, then I suggest that you track down a copy of Amazing Heroes #155.  It's a cracking read, as are most of the issues of that magazine.  Certainly it was titles such as Amazing Heroes and Comics Interview that made me want to do what I currently do, so get it and get inspired.


The Seditionist said...

Fascinating. So Buckler *was* involved. But could he have grabbed the pages from Verpoorten, given them to Janson, then Janson gotten paid for job Marvel didn't know he did? At least without a hassle? I can easily believe Big John going to bat for Janson if he knew what happened but still. I'm not saying the Buckler isn't true, just that it kind of smells -- pending verification. Danny, if you have trouble getting in touch with Janson (if interested), last I recall he taught at NYC's School of Visual Arts.

George said...

I've said this so many times, I feel like a broken record, but Frank Miller and Klaus Janson's run on Daredevil is the single greatest comic book run in comic history.

Without Janson, Miller has never impressed me. I am a tremendously huge Klaus Janson fan, and this article sounds fantastic. I will track it down.

Thanks for the insight.