Thursday, November 04, 2010

Original Art Stories: Gene Day In His Own Words

Gene Day is one of those artists that not many people remember much anymore, mainly because he passed away so young, and passed away before the advent of the internet. Now that’s a phrase that’s horrid, but it’s the truth. Artists such as Werner Roth, Dick Dillon and Don Newton fall into the same category, as do quite a number of others, and it’s a shame really as the quality of work produced by a lot of these guys was stellar, and Gene Day was no exception. Born in Canada in 1951, Day passed away in late 1982 of a heart attack in his sleep, at the age of 31.

Day came to prominence with his work for Canadian underground comics and his fanzine illustrations, which showed a depth and talent that, at times, lifted him above the average fanzine artist of the time. After a short stint with Skywald, it didn’t take long for Marvel to reach out for him and he was duly hired to ink Mike Zeck on Master Of Kung Fu, which saw Day following in the footsteps of Paul Gulacy when he took over the pencilling duties after Zeck left the title. Day also inked the likes of Alan Kupperberg (Marvel-Two-In-One), John Byrne (The Avengers, Spider-Man), George Perez (Avengers, Marvel Two-In-One), Jerry Bingham (Black Panther, Marvel Two-In-One), Ron Wilson (Marvel Two-In-One), Carmine Infantino (Star Wars) and Keith Pollard (Thor). Possibly Day’s best known, and best loved, work, was his Star Wars inking over Infantino and his two issues of pencilling the title, but the quality of pencillers assigned to Day shows how highly regarded his inking was held. As an inker Day was very similar to Dave Simons and Rudy Nebres, in that, in the words of Christopher Priest, “Some inkers are actually better pencillers than the people they're inking. Dick Giordano, Dave Simons, and Rudy Nebres are all extremely gifted artists who could go toe-to-toe with some of the industry's top talent. Inking is where their efforts are concentrated, and for their own reasons.” Day was a stunning penciller in his own right and he was easily a better artist than most of those who he inked. Also, much like the top quality inkers, such as Tom Palmer and Dave Simons, Gene Day was always able to make an average artist look great and a great artist look stunning. His inking over John Byrne was as good as Byrne looked at the time, on a par with Terry Austin, and Day had the innate ability to bring out the best in the artwork before him.

Day’s work ethic was incredible and his output was stunning. Working from his home in Canada, it was long rumoured that Marvel believed that he had a stable of assistants to produce the work that he did, but as his friend Dave Sim recounted, “…it was just him. When I'd go and visit him, he'd have piles of 11x17 photocopies of the jobs he had done - he traded his weekly Cap'n Riverrat cartoon to the local weekly newspaper, The Gananoque Reporter for free photocopying.” Sadly this work ethic would prove to be his downfall. Day wasn’t a fast penciller, despite his obvious talent, which is why he preferred to ink. When he was assigned to pencil Master Of Kung Fu, his revenue source dropped and as such he began to work harder and longer to keep the money coming in. There were also other issues that Day had to contend with, as Dave Sim later recounted. “He also ran afoul of then editor-in-chief Jim Shooter's strict rules about storytelling,” said Sim in an interview, “that you needed to do the basic six panels to a page method with occasional lapses if you had a good reason for it. Gene, of course was a major fan of Jim Steranko - style storytelling which was exactly what Jim Shooter was opposed to and they locked horns over the subject many times with Gene doing continuous backgrounds in his panel-to-panel continuity (one large background on the page with the action taking place in individual panels set against the one background). Shooter would tell him not to do it and Gene would do it, finally doing I think a five-page sequence that was all one background.”

It didn’t get better for Day. Try as he might he couldn’t keep up the standard of quality that he was known for, nor could he keep up the fast turn around that he’d become famous for. Unlike a Vinnie Colletta, Day was fast, but very good, but when it came to both pencilling and inking his speed was greatly reduced. Things came to a head over an inking job that had been assigned to Day. Marvel contacted Day and informed him that because he was late with the pencils, the job would be inked, in a rush, by the nom de plume of Many Hands. Many Hands, and his brother, Diverse, was a pseudonym that Marvel used to denote that several artists had inked a job, usually in a hurry, and usually any artist that could be found nearby, or in the Marvel offices. Day was naturally horrified by such a thought and accepted the offer of travelling to Manhattan in an attempt to ensure quality was maintained. According to a report by Dave Sim, “Gene showed up at Marvel and they gave him the address of the hotel he would be staying at. He went there and the place was covered in cockroaches so Gene went back to Marvel and asked to be put up in a better hotel. Nothing fancy, just a place without cockroaches. Tom DeFalco gave him the choice of the roach-infested hotel or sleeping on the couch in Marvel's reception area. Gene chose the latter, not realizing that they turned the heat off in the building overnight (this was in the dead of winter). So he slept there with his coat pulled over him and developed as a result, a kidney infection which stuck with him the rest of his life. In retrospect, I think the problem Marvel had was that they had no policy for the situation. When Gene insisted on coming down to work on it, it just didn't make sense to them editorially to pay for a hotel room for him given what that was going to add to their costs on the story. For Gene, it was an obvious plus-by coming down and working on the story it would be that much better looking than it would be being inked by whoever happened to be around at the time. But, how the job looked wasn't as big a priority for Marvel as having the job done. What to Gene looked like a sensible improvement solution looked to Marvel like a needless expense and intrusion by a troublemaker.”

Adding to Gene’s anxiety were his conflicts with Jim Shooter, a man that Day respected and admired. For Day, what he was attempting to do was logical – Master Of Kung Fu had been a fringe title since the departure of Paul Gulacy. Day’s unusual panel designs and unique art approach was intended to replicate, without copying, the feel and sense of excitement that Gulacy had brought to the title. Sadly Shooter wasn’t on the same page and clearly felt that Day was bucking the trend that he had introduced, the six panel pages with action following a logical flow, which was a hark back to Shooters days at DC Comics and Legion Of Superheroes. To be fair to Shooter the six panel grid pages were an accepted industry norm and history always shows that innovators don’t always mean sales, as artists from Neal Adams through to Barry Windsor-Smith and Jim Steranko can attest. In Day’s corner was the fact that sales had increased on the title and, thanks to the combination of Zeck and Day, and the Day solo, the book was once again a talked about fan favourite.

It was a battle that the ailing Day could never win. Although Day had been approached by DC, as the following comments will show he only ever wanted to work for Marvel Comics. Shooter, faced with Day slowing down and not abiding by his rules, saw no other choice but to fire Day, which was the final blow from which Day didn’t recover from. “His heart and soul were at Marvel Comics,” said Sim, “His lifelong dream was to work in the House that Jack Built. Of course, what he failed to see was that working in the House that Jack Built even became an untenable prospect for Jack.” Not that long after Marvel sacked Gene Day he passed away.

Gene Day didn’t have the longest career in comic books and worked at Marvel for less than ten years. Sadly we never got to see what he could have done at DC – a Gene Day Batman or Superman might well have taken the world by storm, in the same way that Paul Gulacy’s Batman is one of the finest and John Byrne’s Superman is still fondly remembered. The irony was that at the time of his death, Day had apparently negotiated a switch to DC where he was to be assigned a Batman related book and had managed to complete only one impressive cover. The ‘what ifs?’ of the world are amazing at times.

What Day did leave is a legacy of fine art; both pencils and inks – especially inks – and an impressive sense of design.  For an excellent example of all of those skills take one look at the story below, Hive, read the first line and then look at the panel designs of the entire story once more.  Subtle, but incredibly effective.  Due to Day not having a lengthy career and also partially because he lived in Canada, there are very few existing interviews with him, and only one real one where he talked in length. This was published in the Canadian magazine, Orion, and one of the interviewers was none other than Geof Isherwood. The interview in question was conducted in November, 1981, but didn’t see publication until 1982, shortly after Day passed away. Presented below is an edited version of that interview, with only Day’s comments, showcasing his views on artists, the comic book industry, Marvel Comics and how he started out. Gene Day might not haven been with us long, but he shouldn’t ever be forgotten.
I started out working for Skywald, which was Nightmare, Psycho, etc. They were newsstand. I actually started on newsstands, found out about fanzines afterwards. I started to dabble there, found out you could even get paid money to work there. That'd be about '74. Anybody who would pay me five, ten bucks I'd work for them. I sort of set a limit of... I knew I needed to make twenty dollars a day or something, so I figured that was three or four illustrations a day. I like The Comic Reader, but I wish they were a little more in-depth. The Comics Journal digs a lot more, but they dig too much. I mean these are human beings you're talking about, not fodder to be chewed up and spit out! They play off of petty arguments and things of that sort a little too much.

I consider the Orb work out of Toronto professional. I suppose more recognizable would be the Myron Fass stuff: UFO, Space Wars and whatnot. Also Star-Reach and places like that. Marvel of course... I started there in the summer of '78. The first pencil job just came out in 1981. That was done for them in April, 1978, which is why it looks dated. I realized I was a little slow at pencilling, so I applied for an inking job, and I landed that in July '78. That was the last time I was ever without work with Marvel. I've worked constantly day-in with them ever since then. I sold to DC a long time ago. I sold them a story, a written story, some people are not aware that I write as well. I don't think it ever came out however. I've been a short story writer under another name; I paint... mind you, fantasy per se, science fiction or whatever, no I don't want to leave that. I used to do commercial art too, and I worked for Dodge and Chevy and all those guys and I hated it. It was terrible. I'll do anything that's imaginative, anything that involved bigger than life stuff.

I think the only problem with being a Canadian is customs. Other than that, and there's not too much problem with them, there's no problem with being Canadian or whatever. Some women have come up and asked me why there are not more women in comics: Well, I don't know because no one cares what you are. That's the great thing about the field.

I do a lot of war.., anti-war stories. I'll call it historical for lack of a better term. Historical and adventure. I like anything that's science-fiction, and anything that takes from World War II, back. If it takes place today, I don't like it. I don't really like superhero stories very much. There’s nothing wrong with them, it's just that I don't do them very well. I feel I'm better suited to a historical setting. Plus I find it more interesting.

We're doing a story right now in France, and I would say that within reason it's probably more the France of the slight past anyway. We replaced the fact that they have no steam trains running there. We're using a steam engine instead of a diesel, simply because I like steam engines a lot better. They only quit in '72 or something so... I really like working with these kind of things. I think props are really important to comics. I think Steranko and people like this worked really excellently with props. Their backgrounds were as important as their figures, sometimes more important. Steranko always does one-up on everybody else. He does things different, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, but he does everything, and he tries it once. I think experimentation is a necessity. It's the only reason for doing it. Who wants to do the same thing month in month out?

I think how the only company I haven't worked' for any set period of time is probably DC. I've worked for Warren, Heavy Metal, you name it. Well. I think Marvel is the one I've obviously had the most enjoyment out of, and the one I continue to have enjoyment with. I really think highly of the company. I'm a big Marvel supporter. I think they're a great company. Despite any problems you hear about, I think the personnel are really good. They're good to get along with. There's a lot of stuff being printed in places like The Comics Journal, let's say I wouldn't necessarily agree with what they say about the people involved, particularly Jim Shooter. Opinions should be listed: "This is only an opinion" instead of "This is fact." Mind you, they put together a beautiful magazine. One of the things they have said in the past that I agree with is that it's too bad that we couldn't have a little more variety. That we couldn't have a few more comics like Star Wars and Johan Hex. I hear they don't sell as well as -superheroes, I don't know. I hope it isn't true.

You always have to do some things that you're not happy with. They know that people are going to do a better job on something they want to do. I just did a story called "Silhouette" for Bizarre Adventures. I got that mainly because the editors on the book, Denny O'Neil and Ralph Macchio, knew I wanted to do Star Wars-like material, and that I wanted to do black & white. Well, it was both put together and they gave me a lot of rein to add stuff to the plot and whatnot, and I had a good time with it. They seemed to really like the finished pencils. Unfortunately, deadline problems arose though, and it had to be inked by me and a couple of other people in four days. I feel it really seriously hurt the finished quality of what I thought was going to be a really good story.

I don't like doing character design, so that sort of puts me in awe of doing new characters. I'd never done any character design up until I started on Kung Fu. No. 107 is the first villain I ever drew in my life. I just don't do that kind of thing. But it's always nice to get a piece of the action. On the whole, if I'm working on something like Shang-Chi or something, no, of course not, because I didn't come up with it. It wouldn't say so. I wouldn't say it means that much to me. My home is the house that Marvel built. It's their money that gives me all the pleasures in life that I have now. Before them I didn't have too much. Everybody runs around thinking that every character they come up with is going to be worth a mint, and nine out of ten times, the character is worth a dime and a doughnut. Once you're hired to do it, my only advice would be that you'd better do it to the absolute best of your capabilities. You know, there'd be no point in cutting back on the quality of your work simply because you don't own it. It's not going to do you any good.

I'll tell you what the biggest problem is: Wanting to do your best but not having the time to do it. Theoretically, it takes about two weeks (to produce a book). That's the pencils. Maybe two weeks, but it never works out that way. I'm always late with my pencils, I'm slow at them, and I always seem to get the dead-end jobs, the tight jobs, with inks. The last day I had off, really physically had off, was last Christmas. If it's near the first and its not too pressing, (I’ll work from) probably around eight am to ten pm. Near the end, as much as it takes to get it done, which I've seen run thirty-two. Some guys plot very meticulously, almost a finished story; other people plot really loose and leave a lot up to the artist. It's just a paragraph. Sometimes the paragraph stretches into five pages, but theoretically it's a paragraph. Something along the lines of... say, when I did Caleb Hammer with writer Peter Gillis: "Caleb Hammer comes to the door, has quick fight, main villain is knocked to the floor, Caleb picks him up and throws him against the wall." It's up to you to figure out how many panels you want to do that in, what angles, what you're going to do with it afterwards from that stage. It's up to the artist to make it work. I refuse to work from scripts. Doug (Moench) and I especially work really well together. He leaves me a lot of room, a lot of the fight stuff now I get to add things to. In No. 109 of Kung Fu there's a fight at the end in a graveyard. I got to do a lot of that on my own. Only through the Marvel method would I be allowed to do that. All of a sudden if I come up with an idea when I'm sitting at home I can choreograph it to fit it into the story. If it's not in the text of a finished script, you don't do it. Everybody has their own preference. You talk to some artists and they'll say that this is the worst method to work with because it's too hard. Too time consuming.

You don't know before you start that there's going to be six panels on the page. You've got to sit down and figure out how many panels there's going to be, and how you're going to get it to work out. And the first thing you always realize is that there isn't enough room, I can't get it to work. You usually come up with fifteen really good ideas for a book and you have to throw out about twelve of those. You develop a feel for what's going to take place in the length of the book. When it comes down to the end, of course, you're still left executing page by page as it follows through. Sometimes you come up with an idea and you say: "Oh, I've got to go with that." In No. 110 of Kung Fu I wanted to do an assault up the side of this tower that's in the story. To do that I really had to condense some of the later parts of the story. I needed two pages minimum, I actually needed three, but I crammed my thing into two and then crammed a few things later on. You're always getting yourself into trouble. Theoretically, some writers, not all writers, but some writers could have written a seventeen page plot and the artist could have expanded it to twenty two and had lots of room to work around. Some writers give you a forty-seven page plot to clam into twenty-two. You know, it depends on the writer, it depends on the artist.

With Master Of Kung-Fu it's just that most actual kung fu stuff, if you went directly from a photograph, it's usually very stiff. It's too stiff, and the kung fu artist, even though they look fine in the photograph... take Bruce Lee: You couldn't take a photo of him and use it directly, because the guy has really tiny hands. His hands look like these little miniature hands on the end of these big arms. It really looks terrible in art form. I look at it though, sure. If you want a key drawing, you usually go to a photograph. Otherwise you try and make it up. Mind you, some guys are real natural artists, they can just sit down and whap off anything and it looks great. I'm not like that, and a lot of guys aren't. I've got to labour a long time to make even the most miniscule figure at least look passable. Sometimes things just fall into place; usually you use a lot of different methods, and end up with whatever you feel comfortable with. John Byrne probably uses very little outside reference because he's become so stylized. I went out and bought things like Enter the Dragon on film and video. I've got a lot of photo reference; it's just that a lot of it isn't really that usable. But you get the feel of it. The big trick is to give the illusion that you know what you're doing. Even if you know kung fu really well it's still hard to draw. It's like anything else: You can know airplanes, you can be a great pilot and an artist as well, but to sit down and draw, you'd better have an airplane sitting in front of you. I don't think you should do any machine or background prop if you don't know exactly what it looks like. You can do cars that look like boxes; they're done all the time, look around, you'll see a lot of them. I don't like it, I think it's terrible. I think it means a lot when somebody calls you or sends you a letter and says: "Yeah. I saw the splash page you did with a bunch of weapons. I really liked the luger and that switch-blade is a 1951 something-or-other." It takes a lot longer to draw though. Consequently, every prop that you draw, you've got to have a photographic file on. I have large prop photofiles.

You can't replace the feeling of pencilling something; you're starting right from scratch. But for pure out and out enjoyment I'll take inks any day of the week; pencils are too much like work!

I hope Pacific Comics does really well; it's nice to know that if you got into a fight at Marvel or DC that you're not going to starve to death. I hope it pays out. I think though that the alternative guys have got to realize something: I've heard that they're having difficulties getting personnel to come over and work for them. They're going to have to pay more money. They're going to have to pay more money than Marvel and DC are paying; because that's the only way people are going to leave. I've heard a lot of things: "Well, yeah, but you can go over there and do what you really want to do." I'm doing what I really want to do; I'm not going anywhere else to do it. I'm getting paid really good money. A lot of people are calling with offers, but they're offering peanuts. They want me to come over: "Well, yeah, but you can do that great strip you've always wanted to do." I really don't know many guys in the business so I can't evaluate how much more money I can make. Offers, I've got a lot of offers, but which ones do I take? I could've jumped to DC last year, but I didn't opt to. I figured it was a wise decision, but you can't know when you make it. I was really sick when I made it. I had to call up, after Roy Thomas personally put in the word for me to come over and do Arak, I had to call up Joe Orlando and say: "No, I owe Marvel too much and I won't come across." Five years from now that may really screw me. Probably won't, Joe is really fair I hear, and he seemed to understand and respect my wishes. I felt I did owe... I was working for Jim Salicrup at the time. Jim was the guy who got me into comics. It was Jim that pointed me out to Roger Stern and said "We'll give him a try on some stuff." I owe Jim a lot, I owe him my career. Too many guys forget who did what for them, all of a sudden they're big, and they're successful, and they forget everybody else. I won't mention any names but there's a lot of them.

I make as much as I should have working in a factory or something. A lot more headaches; no weekends. You earn your money; comics are not an easy way to earn it. Mike Zeck says he can get by on the amount of money he can make on one book, that's why when he did Kung Fu that's all he pencilled. He works basically, within reason, about five days a week. When I did the job for Heavy Metal it was six months before I got paid; this was for pencils. When I do anything for Marvel I get paid immediately. Caleb Hammer was done a year-and-a-half before it came out, but I was paid when I did it. The first Kung Fu that I did was done three years before it came out, but I was paid within two weeks. Big difference. It's almost like having a real job.

You've got to have feedback. It's just like anything else: Why be a musician if you're going to sit in a room and play to yourself? You could be the greatest musician since Beethoven: Who cares if nobody's listening to it? You've got to have feedback, and conventions are great for that. Plus I want to promote Kung Fu a little more; it doesn't do well in the specialty shops. It does really well on the newsstands, which is totally the opposite of how that book should do. I want to talk to the fans. In Ottawa I was invited to fourteen conventions within the next four months. I can't go to that many.

There's no such thing as a "bad" comic artist. Don Heck works just as hard to turn out his stuff as anybody else, maybe harder. Frank Giacoia: I spent years thinking that Giacoia was a pretty good inker, but he'd be really fast. He's painstakingly slow, every line is deliberate and laid in, and yet to do that he comes out with a style that a lot of people think is just a serviceable style, it's okay, and that's it. The next guy, everyone loves him, then you see him working and he doesn't pay any attention to what he's doing... he's watching TV and inking over here or something. I run into many of the younger fans these days, and they'll ask me who I like: I'll say Reed Crandall, Angelo Torres, Russ Heath. "What? Those guys are terrible; they don't know how to draw!" There isn't an artist in the business today who didn't come out of those kind of guys. They all came out of those kind of guys. Everybody comes out of somebody. Ross Andru: Very few people seem to like his stuff a lot, he happens to be one of the best layout men in the business. He does things with perspectives that nobody else has ever done. Everybody always does something better than somebody else. Don Heck when he inked his own stuff back in the early sixties; those monster stories, incredible work. What an amount of talent went into that. He should always ink his own work I think. Very seldom in your lifetime will you run into another artist who you're totally compatible with. Dan Adkins in one of the few guys who does a good job on just about everybody. I couldn't say enough about him. Joe Sinnot's a great inker, but if I had anything to say about Joe's stuff maybe it always looks a little too much like Joe, and not enough like the guy he's working under. But his knowledge, he's an incredibly knowledgeable inker, one of the best in the business.

Jim Steranko I think is just wonderful; Joe Kubert, Jack Kirby, Reed Crandall, Russ Heath. Heath's work got me interested in working with a lot of shadows, and working with machines. He's a great machine artist. Steranko has influenced me for years. He's my favourite. His drawing is still great. Nothing looks as good on a page as a Steranko drawing, and his thought pro-cess is incredible. Nobody's ever been able to tap those directions the way he can. Everybody does something great. John Buscema...he can draw anything. You can come up with the most inconceivable position for a human being to be in, and he can sit down and draw it and make it look real. I've heard he prefers the non-superhero stuff. But whether that's true or not, I don't know. I would say that it's sort of obvious just by looking at it. I must admit that I'm a big supporter of North American artists. I find that North American artists, a lot of the time, actually understand the field better. The Heavy Metal artists all draw really well, but I don't think they understand comics. I've read numerous interviews with... well, I won't say who, but numerous guys who say the story doesn't matter at all. It doesn't have to make sense at all. They don't care; all they want to draw is exactly what they want to draw. That's fine, then be an illustrator, that's why you should have two areas. Be an illustrator, that's wonderful. I love illustration, probably even more than I love comics, but when you do comics, you've got to do comics. The big thing about it is: It's got to be a movie on paper. It's got to moue. It'd be great to be able to do them like animated films where you could actually see every little step, but you can't, you've got to jump from here to here to here to here, and still give that feeling, so the reader knows what took place in between the panels. There has to be the feeling so that you can visualize this imaginary scene which took place.

I love films. I think that every comic-book artist probably wants to be a movie director. That's one of the attractions of comics, that's what got me interested in actually doing them, rather than just reading them. Films I didn't really understand, I didn't know how to go about getting into them at all. Plus it's very costly to get into. Comics you can sit down with a piece of paper and come up with something. When you're the comic artist, you're the director, you're the actor, you're everything. And when you work the Marvel method of working from a loose plot, you're the cinematographer; you're the storyboard artist, etc. I'd like to do storyboards, storyboards would be great. A lot of guys are going into it. In Japan I find it really strange that many of the comic-book artists seem to eventually get around to being movie directors. They actually go to the comic book field and get guys out of there because they have such a developed visual sense. A producer can come in and look at what they've done; they know what their visual sense is like. Comics and animation is an art form over there, I mean really an art form. Here it's only an art form to the people that like it, and to everybody else it's junk. It's almost an embarrassment out in public to admit what you do sometimes. "Oh, you draw those things, they're for kids." Oh sure, you get put down for it a lot, you have to fight against it constantly. There's a real stigma in this country against it. That's why sales are down: Television, everybody watches television. People aren't reading as much, there's phases where the sales go up because they're "in vogue". Now how many do you run into who say: "Oh yeah, I used to read those." That's like saying "I used to breathe." All forms: film, books, television, and comics are there and should be used. Comics are an art form, Japan realizes that.

You can make a lot of money, I've heard, in France from being a comic artist. It's a highly respected field. I think is just starting to realize again, for the first time since the thirties, that there are a lot of advantages to comic-book material. I've talked to a lot of people who hated (The Legend of the) Lone Ranger, I've talked to a lot that liked it. I'm just happy they did it. It may not have been totally successful, but then how many films are? Consider how many films are made in a year: How many are really successful? I mean reasonably successful, they can't all be Star Wars. I've really liked a lot of films I've taken flak for. I think Saturn 3 was a serviceable film. I didn't like the ending; I liked it right up to when they exploded in the water. That was great, I love, it, they should have cut it right there. I don't care it was similar to The Fury; leave it alone, it worked. That little shot of Farrah Fawcett at the end going back to Earth that they didn't even bother to explain was just a waste of time, and it left you with a bad feeling when you left the theatre. Cronenberg's Scanners, another quite decent film. If you're talking about films it's definitely on the upswing; if you're talking about comic books it's more dead now than it ever was. This country's cheap! I hate to say it, but I really think it's the truth, that if you say to an American: "Sink a dollar into this and I can make you ten cents profit." He'll think about, and chances are, if he's got the money to spare, he'll go for it. You say to a Canadian: "Put in a dollar and I'll make you ten cents." He'll say: "No, I want it guaranteed I'll get the dollar back, and I want a dollar's profit, and I want this and I want that." and it always falls through. I've worked for two Canadian firms in the last year. They both came to me, they both asked me to work for them, I had trouble from both of them. One just canned the job completely and decided they didn't want to do it anymore, and the other guys only paid me half the money they owed me. I said "That's it!"

The Canadian fans are wonderful, at times. As for the actual field, no, forget it, I don't want to work in Canada. I don't want to move to the States. Canada's my home. I'm pro-Canadian, I'm 100% Canadian. The only thing is, if I work here I starve to death. I can't give my stuff away. People know who I am down in the States; I get letters from Israel, Germany, you name it; and I go to a Canadian publisher and the first thing he does is put the screws to me. He wants to get it for nothing. I hate to say it, but it is.

Some fan letters come to me from Marvel now and again, but not much of it seems to get through. Most of it's addressed to the magazine so it stays there. You don't see it unless comes out in the magazine, and since they only run three or so letters, you hardly see any of it. Many people do write straight to me. I have not kept my address secret like some of the other guys have; I'm still considered fairly accessible. It's getting a little hairy lately; we get some strange calls sometimes from some really weird people. I'd say at any given time we have one fan or professional visiting us about every two weeks. Sometimes it's a big surprise when they come; it's a fan or something. We don't get anybody quite that weird yet, but they're out there. I know they're out there because I have run into them. There are some weird fans, and some very demanding fans. Things like the John Lennon murder scare everybody; you don't have to be that big to be scared by it. Dave Sim has got an unlisted phone number because he was getting really weird calls from this dame who had real designs on him. No, I mean she sounded dangerous at the same time. Deni didn't care much for it. I think she's the one who insisted on the unlisted phone. Dave was really scared by it, she sounded like a loony. I had another friend who met a girl at a party, brought her home... she ended up staying, she had a duplicate key made, she moved in, she chased him around at knife point. The cops wouldn't remove her because there's no law against somebody moving into your home, which is kind of surprising. She was really loony, and she was a fan. The fan. I mean really... but, so far I haven't kept my address hidden, and consequently I do get a lot of mail. At any given time I would say I get about seventy letters a week, which is why I don't write back much any more. Five years ago I used to get maybe 150 pieces of mail a week and I attempted to write back over a period of time, sometimes about six months. I attempted to write back everybody, even if it was just a note. Now, no. Near the end I used to have to write mail three to four hours a day. That was crazy and I couldn't keep it up and meet deadlines and everything else. Something had to go. I've got mail stacked in boxes and corners, I try to get back to some of them, but unfortunately, it's not even a tenth of the stuff that comes in. In fact I've got business mail from people with wonderful, lucrative ideas, and they just sit around for a year-and-a-half and they get really mad at me. I just tell everybody, if you want to talk to me about business, you phone me. If you don't phone, forget it.


Kid said...

Extremely interesting. Great blog.


Thats a sad story...i remember hearing about Gene when i first started at marvel in '82...i didn't know about his problems with Shooter,but it doesn't suprise me.I knew he had a heart attack at a very young age,and i distinctly remember picking up that Batman cover that he did...very underrated artist....

Joseph Tages said...

My very first Marvel comic was a double-sized, B&W reprint of Marvel Two-In-One #48/49 done for the Spanish market. I fell in love with both Marvel's characters and Gene Day's outstanding artwork thanks to that book. He left us way too soon and had so much more to give us. Rest easy, Gene.

Christopher T. Shields said...

I remember Gene Day had a hardback of some of his sci-fi stories. I once found it at the local grocery store, sat down and read it from front to back while my mom shopped. I thought his artwork was amazing.