More Original Art Stories: Who's Who In Star Trek
"I was always good with design and logos. I also knew exactly what a printer needed to execute a quality job. That skill developed before my actual drawing skills did and because of this I was able to adapt to DC Comics emerging design criteria. It was new territory for them as established by the late Neal Pozner. By the time I joined the DC staff in 1986 Pozner was no longer Art Director but he had left guidelines to follow and the new AD, Richard Bruning, would not only follow but also enhance those guidelines as the years went by. Through him I received a fair amount of work on the more upscale tiles the company produced.
"Only a few months after I started in production Bob Greenberger handed me the Who’s Who in Star Trek (1987) project to prepare for print. Greenberger was always one of the more likable editors at DC and he was also one of my strongest supporters in the early days. He knew I was eager to create and I drew more images for Greenberger than any other editor I can think of. He was a very generous guy but wanted nothing short of quality in the final product. With WWST I had the opportunity to do spot illustrations and some minor design work. I was faltered to see that I also received one of my first production credits (and that would cause all kinds of problems later). I don’t know if I asked for it or if it was assigned to me but I had a chance to draw Benjamin Finney for WWST #1. I was really excited by this and Greenberger’s one request was that I make the character look nothing like the TV version. That was due to copyright issues and that made sense to me.
"I wasn’t sure how to approach Finney at first because in that particular episode of ST he isn’t seen until the last act. There was a good deal of madness about him but at one time he was an officer of great pride. I decided to approach it as the latter and use the fight scene in the final act as the backdrop. I did a layout and Greenberger approved it and I went to work. I did a few roughs but finally finished and I thought it was okay. Seeing it now I see a lot of youthful enthusiasm and promise. Hopefully I’d get a good inker to fix the rough spots.
"Art from freelancers started to come in for the project and it was quite good at times. I kind of got lost in the design aspects of it and really wasn’t responding to the world of Star Trek as a whole. That’s what happens when you become part of the any industry you love. You end up becoming very aware of how elements fit together and how the final end product will look. When I saw the final inks on Finney I was incredibly pleased. Del Barras had been chosen to ink it and he really brought a sense of realism to it that I couldn’t do at the time. I even phoned to thank him. With issue #1 out of the way we immediately moved on to issue #2. Since #1 was relatively easy to produce I didn’t think #2 would be a problem and it wasn’t, I was the problem.
"For book #2 Greenberger assigned me the character Vina. Vina! I couldn’t believe it. That was really one of the more prominent characters in the ST universe. I’m not sure what I said but thank you was most likely all I could get out. For Vina I really wanted a strong streamlined design, borrowed more or less from advertising, and a good deal of symbolism to carry the narrative. What I came up with impressed Greenberger and I went to pencil the piece.
"Work went smoothly on WWST #2 until Greenberger came into production with a board in hand, looked at me and said, “You’re going to have to fix this.” I’d never heard that tone in his voice before. It had a ring of disbelief to it. He handed me the board and I was shocked beyond words.
"Greg Brooks had been selected to ink Vina. Brooks has been the subject of much talk in the industry and I won’t try to delve into his personal problems and eventual incarceration but what I can say is that at that time I had never heard of him as anything more than a student of Klaus Janson. What I saw of his inks just insulted me as an artist. The work was crude and raw, almost as if it had been inked with broken pen points. There was this sense of it trying to be Janson but none of the style or skill was present. The design and detail I so carefully rendered was obliterated. I stammered, “How…how am I…I suppose to fix this?” Greenberger walked away and said over his shoulder, “Fix it”.
"How did Brooks arrive at this conclusion? I stared at the piece and then it hit me. What he had done was a technique I had heard of but had never seen. The pencils had been completely erased first and Brooks inked what impressions remained! How do I know this? When you ink over pencils you then have to erase over your inks to remove what remains of the pencil lines. The sheen of the ink is removed along with the pencils, but not in this case. This technique can work but the inker has be a truly gifted artist in his own right to pull it off, which Brooks was not.
"I tried to fix it but each fix required another fix and then another. Todd Klein who sat next to me smiled and shook his head. Klein had seen it all and done it all. I respected him more than any other person I have met in the industry. He more than once tried to tell me what I had walked into but I was too young and inexperienced to understand. I made a decision at that point and it would have consequences down the road. I went into Greenberger’s office and told him I couldn’t let this piece go to print, as it would be a poor representation of my abilities as a penciller. He said there was no time or money to recreate the piece. The book had to go out that week. I told him I’d do the piece completely overnight and it would be better than what we had. This was pretty tough talk from a guy who hadn’t really proven himself. Greenberger decided to give me a shot so off I went.
"I stayed up all night with the piece. I’m not sure what I used to do the work. It looks like brush and ruling pen but overall I was pleased with the results. Greenberger also said it was better and we used it. Unfortunately I was now cautious of inkers. I felt I had good reason to be. It was at that point I started to take that art form very seriously.
"I don’t know what happened to the Gregg Brooks piece. I may have torn it up in disgust, as it was truly worthless. The end result was that I now had a new label at the company as a “rebel”. I don’t believe it was deserved in this instance but I would be called that from time to time during the next 3 years at DC."