Alan Kupperberg Looks Back: THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERCIA
The JLA was always one of the flagship titles for DC. Some of the company's greatest talents have worked on the book, Neal Adams, Mike Sekowsky, Gardner Fox, Murphy Anderson, Nick Cardy, George Perez, Jim Starlin, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Dick Giordano, Joe Kubert - think of anyone who worked at DC and the odds would be good that they worked on the JLA at some stage. Artist Dick Dillin, an exceedingly under-rated artist in my eyes, enjoyed one of the longest runs on the tile, drawing it for nearly twelve years, and after his untimely passing the book had a revolving door of artists.
Alan Kupperberg moved from Marvel to DC in the mid 1980s and was promptly given the task of drawing the JLA. The results were mixed. Much like his earlier work on Marvel's The Avengers, Kupperberg drew some good issues, one above average issue and one issue so bad that more than one person has pointed at it and claimed that it's the reason why Kupperberg should not be allowed near a pencil. In this interview, Kupperberg displays nothing by honesty and agrees with the assessment that his last issue was sub-par. In his defence, the scripts for his last two issues weren't the best to begin with, but that one issue shouldn't detract from his overall output.
Let the fun and games begin!
DANIEL BEST: How did you go from Marvel to DC?
ALAN KUPPERBERG: I met Andrew Helfer at a DC Christmas Party, I think. It was held downstairs at the Nathan’s Famous on 43rd St. in Times Square. And we liked each other. We didn’t have extensive talks about anything in particular, and we didn’t hang out outside of the office. But I used to lounge in his office at DC and we’d comment on life as it went by. We didn’t have any big philosophical discussions but we enjoyed each other’s company and had an almost unspoken simpatico about a lot of things in comics. Alan Gold was the editor on Blue Devil as well as the Justice League. I think it was Andrew that pointed Alan Gold at me. Or pointed me at Gold. I always enjoyed the Justice League work much more than the Blue Devil. It looks more mature to me. I’m sure that I enjoyed drawing these characters more than drawing Blue Devil.
DB: Was there much of a difference in the way you were treated as an artist between Marvel and DC?
AK: I felt better treated at DC Comics. DC Comics was always a more professional operation than Marvel Comics. This was after most of the old DC editors had retired. I think the only old line editor left at DC, at that point was Julie Schwartz. I don’t think he retired until about 1986. The new guys treated me with respect at DC. And they didn’t know me. I came in at Marvel before most of the editors when I was a young artist. This was at the end of Roy Thomas’ stint as editor-in-chief. I think Jim Salicrup was there when I first came to Marvel. And Shooter was skulking about. I think that was about it, editorially. The other editors drifted in after that. But, you know, familiarity breeds contempt [laughter]. So I didn’t feel well treated. All that Ralph Macchio kid-stuff. Roger Stern and Salicrup always treated me well. Nobody was rude like Macchio at DC Comics. Alan Gold was a perfect gentleman. He was an adult as regards business. He wore a tie. He may not have worn a jacket in the office, but he wore a tie and nice shirts. He dressed well for the office, which I could appreciate and he was usually in the office by 10 o’clock. I think editors should be at their desks at 9 o’clock. If I need to know something and I need to call an editor? Why do I have wait for an editor to show up in the office at noon? If I’m at my desk working at 4am, then why do I have to wait until noon to speak to an editor? That was too often the case at Marvel.
DB: It’s unusual that you crossed companies and straight away you landed JLA.
AK: I didn’t cross over per se, I just added DC to my client list. I was working for DC and Marvel and I was also working for Archie Comics during that period. And the National Lampoon.
DB: What I’m trying to get at is that you go to DC and start working on one of their flagship titles.
AK: Right. But I was also inking Firestorm, a book I’d never heard of. [laughter]
DB: I know you were familiar with the Justice League…
AK: Right. What’s not to know?
DB: You didn’t have any problems with the characters that were in the book at the time?
AK: Not at all. I don’t care about Firestorm, or the Red Tornado or some of these guys but I think I did a good job on them. I love the Martian Manhunter, in his original incarnation.
DB: Your first issue was #229. You have Jim Shooter in the second panel of the splash page.
AK: Yes he is. I put Jim in there. That’s a cute astronaut chick there. I like her.
DB: Is it anyone we know?
AK: No, just a nice drawing.
DB: Why have Shooter in the panel?
AK: I don’t know if there was any specific reason except that when I envisioned the scene, it’s what came into my mind as a kind of a boss-guy. The credits on the next page say ‘Gerry Conway: Writer’ and I’m looking at the balloon placement and trying to recall if I drew this story from a full script or from a plot. I can’t really tell or recall, so I can’t remember what the script called for.
DB: You’re listed as ‘Guest Penciler’. George Tuska was the regular penciler at that stage and this book is part two of an on-going story. Was there ever any thought that you’d be more than just the ‘Guest Penciler’ on the title?
AK: I’m not a guest penciler on the next issue. I drew four issues straight and then Mike Sekowsky followed me very soon on this. I lobbied really hard to ink that Mike Sekowsky issue. I’d have given my left nut to ink Mike Sekowsky. Back then I was also stupid enough to think that I was going to ‘fix’ Mike Sekowsky, so I’m glad it didn’t happen that way. When I was inking Firestorm I finally got over that kind of stupid idea. I was changing Rafael Kayanans pencils and it wasn’t working.
DB: You didn’t draw any covers for the series.
AK: That doesn’t bother me, as you know.
DB: it would have been interesting to see how you’d have handled it.
AK: Yeah, or Superman. Now this issue’s credits say ‘Pablo Marcos: Inker’. Do you think this was inked by Pablo Marcos?
DB: It doesn’t look like Pablo’s inks to me for some reason.
AK: The only thing in the entire job that screams of Pablo Marcos is that space shuttle being severed by the laser in the double page splash, those Kirby dots. That’s the only thing that looks as though it were inked by Pablo in the entire job. And I don’t have an alternate theory as to who might have inked this job. It’s a mystery to me. But I like it. It’s nice and clean. Which are not words I’d generally use to describe Pablo’s work at all.
DB: How do you remember the pencils on this one?
AK: I don’t really remember the pencils per se. I remember the finished job much better. Just looking at the book, they must have been pretty good. I like this job a lot. I made an effort. It’s also got sensational John Costanza lettering. I love John Constanza’s work.
DB: Page 7, you have a great J’onn J’onzz figure there that reminds me of The Vision.
AK: Yep. The same theories regarding the Manhunter’s and the Vision’s emotions were at work in this story. I really like page six, it was nice to draw J’onn J’onzz in action. On page eight, I see panel two is my George Tuska panel. I drew the Tuska teeth.
DB: That’s a good Zantanna figure.
AK: it’s not bad. I had more fun drawing her in this job than in the Blue Devil. If you’d asked me about her, I wouldn’t have even remembered that I drew her more than once. As I mentioned before I don’t give two hoots in the world about Zatanna. OR Zatara.
DB: You draw a nice Zantanna. I have to admit that I never really got into that dodgy soft-core porno outfit that she used to wear with the fishnet stockings.
AK: I don’t care for magical characters. It doesn’t take any imagination to write magic.
DB: You have Aquaman, Hawkman and Hawkgirl in this too, and President Reagan, who doesn’t look very Reaganish.
AK: Not as much in this job, but the next job, which I inked myself, I think he looks fine.
DB: It’s odd because some of the faces don’t look like your art.
AK: it’s the inking. This guy, I don’t know who it is, but he’s got a Mike Royer/Kirby type of feel. He inked some kind of strange shapes. And the angles of the blacks are not what I pencilled. It’s kind of an interesting thing that he’s doing with my artwork and because he’s using a thick and thin line and it kind of works. It’s not what I’d do if I were inkling it. I would do more feathering in and out of the blacks to show the graduation of the shadows and such. But I think it’s a legitimate approach and I think that it works.
DB: I look at Aquamans face and I see Joe Staton, that cartoony vibe that he used to have.
AK: I see what you’re saying. I kind of looks like a Statonish thing.
DB: That makes me wonder who did ink this job.
AK: That’s what I’m saying. I have no clue. I don’t recognise this style of inking.
DB: Someone out there must know.
AK: I hope so, because I’d be interested in knowing.
DB: Were there any characters in this issue that you didn’t want to draw, or any that you did but didn’t turn up?
AK: I like the DC big guys of course. I get as excited as Aquaman does at the prospect of Superman coming out of the teleporter on page 11. But it’s only the Elongated Man. However, I like the Elongated Man. I like all these characters. Aquaman, by this point, has been around sixty five years or more. That’s fine. His character has history and I like drawing these guys. These characters were all around long before I started reading comic books. It’s as though a movie director of today were getting to direct Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney and Clark Gable in a movie. They’re still alive in 2007! And I get to work with these classic icons.
DB: The double page spread on pages 15 and 16 are impressive, plus you get to show Aquaman having a bath.
AK: The big panel across the bottom of the page does not work for me as a successful composition. There’s no sense of depth. All the ships are isolated from each other. And they should be some overlapping. There’s no fun for me, sitting there, drawing a hundred spaceships. There’s no personality to the ships. It’s very boring drawing spaceships.
DB: Is that Jack Adler on page 18?
AK: No. That’s also one face that I might say Pablo Marcos inked. I’m trying to think if I was going for anything in particular on that guy but I don’t think so. I think it’s just a guy!
DB: That’s a great Green Arrow on page 20.
AK: Yeah, that’s a nice panel. I feel I almost got a Neal Adams type of feeling going there. That’s a couple of nice pages. I like the action that’s going on on the bottom of page 19. That outfit on the guy in the golden suit must have been established before me, because it doesn’t look like anything I would design if left to my own devices. I wouldn’t design anything that complex because I’m lazy. [chuckles]
DB: The next issue, #230, you finished the story line off. I have to say that splash page doesn’t really work for me.
AK: Yeah, I can see a lot bad things in it. But I did get to draw the main heroes in that portrait. I think I inked the first page on my own volition. Then I took it in and showed Dick Giordano and asked him if I could ink the book. And he said, “Sure, go ahead.” So that’s how I got to ink the job.
DB: This issue takes a while to get started. I expect that it was due to the fact that it was the last part in a three part story and it needed some explaining.
AK: It’s the way the writer wrote it and the editor accepted it. I have no idea why it’s paced the way it is.
DB: Is that Brother Voodoo on page six?
AK: Oh! Ha. It could be. I don’t know. I remember there was a character called Brother Voodoo, written by Len Wein and drawn by Gene Colan, but I don’t remember much more about it. It’s just my casting for the Secretary General of the United Nations. A proto Kofi Annaan. [chuckles] I see my friend Andy Lederer at the right hand bottom of the first panel, raptly watching the UN Building. People are staring at the UN Building, intensely. Wow. You’ve got Ronald Reagan in conference with General Secretary Constantin Chernyenko of the USSR. Actually if I was working from a full script then that shot was a bad choice. I wasn’t trying to have Reagan say, “two hours,” there. I was having him press his two fingers against his forehead, to portray tension. Then, of course, he’s getting a two fingered salute in return, from Chernyenko.
DB: Were you ever given the option of writing an issue of the Justice League?
AK: I did write an issue of the Justice League. I plotted it out and did the thumbnails for it. They were beautiful little pictures, just lovely. In my work book it is just listed as an “inventory job.” I did it in August of 1990, but I don’t know what issue it appeared in.
DB: As I said, it takes until page 12 before any heroes turns up, with the Hawks. The book is almost a Justice League book without the Justices League because they don’t really appear until about half way into the book.
AK: Yeah, this is a Martian Manhunter story more than anything else. But what are you gonna do?
DB: How did it sit with you?
AK: Well these Martian people are strangers. They don’t mean anything to me. I’d much rather draw the main heroes. But this is the hand I was dealt, so I had to play it out. If the editor, in his wisdom, thinks his readers want to see pages like page 11, if he thinks this is interesting, it’s his call. Maybe in a movie this would be fine, but on a comic book page it’s just, ‘okay, not very exciting.’
DB: With a page like page 11 are you going to draw every panel or just do paste-ups?
AK: They’re all each individually drawn. The rotation of the Earth changes and I can see variations in the space craft.
DB: It’s a good shot of the Hawks on the next page.
AK: I like panel three and panel two, the profiles. It looks nice. Panel four looks a little bit dodgy. I wouldn’t have skewed that panel at that angle if I had it to do over again. But I guess it worked out. Does it read that the Justice Leaguers aboard the satellite are wearing space suit versions of their costumes?
DB: I can’t quite work that out.
AK: At some point they all got bulkier. These are space suit versions of their costumes.
DB: Firestorm popped up.
AK: Those are nice shots of Firestorm.
DB: I’ve never had a great love for Firestorm, but that last panel looks odd to me.
AK: That last panel looks odd to you? The drawing?
DB: The bottom half of the body doesn’t look right.
AK: Okay, I guess you’re right. I was going for something and my mind tells me that I achieved it. [laughter] But looking at it through your eyes, I think I can finally see what really happened. That’s something I’ve noticed a few times this morning. Sometimes I believe I’ve accomplished the effect that I set out to achieve. And then I look at it really hard, and I realise that for twenty five years, I’ve been deluded. I did not get what I wanted. So I guess in this instance, you have pointed out another one of these to me. Talk about a soul killing moment. [laughter]
DB: I’ll admit, it’s not one of my favourite issues. Perhaps it’s the lack of the Justice League that ruins it for me.
AK: I like it. There’s a whole bunch of my inking that I think turned out pretty well. I don’t know. I mean, the last panel on page 16. I bet a lot of people don’t like that but for some reason I really like that panel. It’s got some weird inking on it and doesn’t look like your standard thing. I was trying something and I don’t know if it worked. Again this might be another case where I’m fooling myself and I’m asking for your opinion.
DB: It’s different. I don’t see a nose.
AK: Ah. Well. I was sort of going after the same effect in panel three on the next page. This is the subjectivity that I’m talking about. With a written word, most of us look at that word and know its definition. It means what it means. With artwork, what I think it means is one thing. But you may not react to it the same way, at all. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.
DB: I love the fight panels on page 19.
AK: You like the fight scenes?
DB: Yeah. The last panel is great.
AK: Just two guys artlessly pounding at each other. If the size of the figures varied a little bit more it might have been better, but I’m picking nits. I like those panels too. I like the panels on page twenty, also. I don’t think I got what was exactly necessary on panel four on page twenty. I wanted to suggest an exhausted lull in the battle, a moment where, chests heaving deeply, they pause to catch their breath. And I don’t think it really comes across. The colourist also blew the colouring in panel five on page twenty. The bad guy is supposed to be invisible. If you look at his right leg, the background goes through it, which would indicate his invisibility.
DB: Nice below the belt hit too.
AK: Well, just above the belt. He’s properly invisible on the next page where he gets clobbered.
DB: As I said, it’s not an issue that sits with me.
AK: Well, where are the heroes?
DB: Exactly. Where are they? The very next issue, issue #231, which was one of the JLA/JSA crossovers.
AK: Now, does the inking on this issue look the same as my inking on the previous issues?
AK: It was inked by Rich Buckler.
AK: I don’t know why he didn’t get a credit. Maybe they were looking at the credits on the previous issue and assumed it’d be the same crew.
DB: The whole issue is Rich?
DB: It’s a great splash. The Batman looks terrific and you’ve got Lucy and Desi in there.
AK: If you look at the Hitler profile you can see that’s Rich Buckler’s inking. Also on the caveman, it looks like Buckler’s inking. Batman’s not in the story, but that was my chance to do Batman. That might be the only time I ever drew Batman for DC Comics. Well, come to think of it, a version of my Batman was in a lot of DC Comics. Neal Adams was pencilling a cover for Detective Comics [#420, Feb. 1972]. And those books had the heads of the featured characters of the title running down the left side of the cover of those twenty five cent books. Neal was drawing the cover and when he stepped away from his board, I just penciled in a Batman head on the side of the cover where there would have otherwise been a stock shot pasted in later, during production. Neal inked it when he inked the cover. So they used it. They picked up that head and used it on a lot of stuff. On Justice League covers, on Batman covers, on Detective Comics covers. The first issue it was on was Detective Comics #420. The next issue, #421, Neal pencilled another Batman cover and I did the same thing again. But this one was inked by Dick Giordano. So you can see the difference two issues in a row. I’m pretty sure this Batman head appeared on other covers too. These were not the two best Batman covers Neal ever pencilled. They’re okay, certainly better than almost anyone else could do. But for Neal, not so hot.
DB: Back to the Justice League/Justice Society cross over.
AK: Yeah, I got to do one of those.
DB: And you were able to throw everyone into it. On your second page you have Green Lantern, Phantom Stranger, on page three there’s Superman and Wonder Woman.
AK: I pencilled and inked one issue of Firestorm where I got to do the Phantom Stranger as a guest star. Drawing Superman and the Flash, that was very exciting.
DB: Your Phantom Stranger panels looks very much like a Steve Ditko panel.
AK: Oh sure! Whenever I have to do that weird, inter-dimensional stuff, I fall back on Ditko.
DB: Which artist did you model your Superman after?
AK: I would say John Buscema. I don’t know if it worked. Before the fact, I’d always felt that John Buscema would have been the perfect Superman artist. As I’ve mentioned before, I’d longed to see it. So I was very disappointed when John Buscema pencilled the second Superman/Spider-Man cross over. I was going for the John Buscema Superman that I wished he’d delivered. If he couldn’t do it to my satisfaction, what the hell did I hope to accomplish? I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten Wonder Woman right. I don’t think she looks terrible. But it sure doesn’t sing.
DB: That’s a really good action panel going on there on page five.
AK: That was no fun. That was another case of having to pull so far back from the action in order to get it all in, that there’s nothing really to focus on. Maybe the Superman figure could have been larger. I’d have been happier if I’d been able to get something more dynamic to focus on happening there.
DB: Being that is was a cross over you got to the JSA.
DB: Who’s the freckle faced kid in there?
AK: Just a cute kid. I don’t think I had anything more in mind there. That’s my friend Andrew J. Lederer standing behind him there. The Andy Lederer of Earth Two. I like the way Buckler inked that panel three, it’s very nice. But panel five the colourist miscoloured the Flash. And that kills me. It’s the only time I drew the original Jay Garrett Flash in a comics book and they coloured him wrong. [laughter] it’s not impossible that the problem occurred in the colour separations, though.
DB: It’s a good splash page on page seven.
AK: I’d have liked to have seen some bigger figures on the page so that’s my gripe about that, but everyone is nicely drawn.
DB: The only thing that doesn’t work for me is Superman’s right leg.
AK: Well then, it’s Buckler’s fault! [laughter]
DB: Blame Rich.
AK: Why not? Every job I ever did, Buckler snuck into the office and tampered with it. [chuckles]
DB: Who’s the big woolly head there on page nine?
AK: Ah yeah, the father. This job has nice Ben Oda lettering. I tell you, lettering can make or break a job sometimes. This is nice, invisible lettering.
DB: It’s a good issue all round. Page eleven is a good example of your non-action storytelling.
AK: It’s just me trying to keep the shots interesting and tell the story, even though nothing is happening, action-wise. For me that’s where the fun is, the acting.
DB: The girl’s face in panel five is good.
AK: The girl’s head got knocked out of alignment in panel two. She must have got knocked on the side of the head and her eyes moved over. This woolly guy doesn’t work for me at all, in either story. Actually one of my favourite pages I ever did for DC is page 13. I love the people disappearing in the last panel. I think that’s a great Superman. That’s my Buscema Superman. I would have been happy if all my stuff looked that good.
DB: It’s quite good. I see what you mean there.
AK: I like the guy on page 14 in the third panel.
DB: Did you model him on anyone?
AK: Not really. He was supposed to be a generic, disaffected teenager. A leather jacketed wanna-be kind of a guy. Now on the bottom of that page, [chuckles] that’s the lousiest looking drawing of the Pentagon I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t find decent reference, or I didn’t bother to find decent reference on the Pentagon. That’s just awful.
DB: That’s a real oddly shaped building.
AK: Not only that, but technically the Pentagon is five of those, concentrically. They’re rings, five concentric rings and they make up the Pentagon. This is one fat, ugly, badly proportioned ring.
DB: Skipping forward to page sixteen, panel two, that’s a very odd pose for Superman.
AK: I understand what you’re saying, and you’re right. It looks like he’s taking a dump in his cape. Superman is floating, stationary. Everyone else is on the undulating surface. They can’t keep their balance and stand up straight. So Superman’s not bothering. He’s just hovering. That’s why his cape is hanging down, limply, in those panels. I tried. If it didn’t work, then it didn’t work.
DB: You’ve got another good Superman head on page 19.
AK: What about my Kirby Superman on page 18? [chuckles] My Jack Kirby/Vinnie Colletta Superman.
DB: You’ve got a Neal Adams one there two panels before.
AK: Right. Has Superman ever carried five people at once before?
DB: Not that I’m aware of, but then he should be able to.
AK: Not strength wise, but dexterity wise. Five people. There’s that floating thing again with Superman on page twenty. But in that panel, I think, it works. Again, the previous issue I had to draw a billion spaceships. In this issue I had to draw a billion people. Not fun. Thank God they were all in very long shots.
DB: Your Dr Fate on page twenty one…
AK: Dr Fate taking a dump on the last panel?
DB: Yeah [laughter]
AK: ‘Dr Fate on the toilet!’ Kirby says, ‘Just buy it!!’ Okay. We’re very scatological this morning.
DB: It’s been a long day and I’m half delirious.
AK: I like page twenty two alright, I think it really happens there, and then, it’s, ‘To Be Continued’.
DB: It led you to your last issue, #232.
AK: Yeah, which was the worst of the lot in my opinion.
DB: Did you ink it?
AK: Yes I did, I’m sorry to say. This is a really botched job.
DB: What happened?
AK: I don’t know if I expected to ink it or not. I don’t recall. I think I did not pencil it tightly enough. Maybe I knew I was going to ink it and I didn’t pencil it very tightly. I went ahead and inked it prematurely and this was the result.
DB: It is one of those issues that is often pointed at as being the example of what is wrong with you as an artist.
AK: I can see well enough to realise that without having it pointed out to me by anyone else.
DB: Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being cruel.
AK: No, I realize that. I’m just saying, that I always knew that this job was the biggest bomb since Yucca Flats. I like information. I didn’t know what people thought. I lived in a vacuum. I didn’t get any feedback on this stuff, not from the editors, not from anyone. There’s not many letters about my artwork in the letters pages and that’s probably because they didn’t receive many positive letters about my art. And the editors didn’t show me the letters that they didn’t print.
DB: This issue has a pre-Crisis tie-in on page two.
AK: That’s right; I thought that was the case. I probably read the Crisis when it came out. I hated the whole concept of Crisis. So I didn’t think about it much.
DB: What did you hate about it?
AK: Leave things alone! Leave the universe alone.
DB: The idea behind it was that the universe was confused and convoluted and that they wanted to relaunch things and get themselves free of fifty or sixty years of continuity.
AK: And how soon was it before they wrote themselves back into a corner again?
DB: Not that long.
AK: Then why bother? Why alienate the people you’ve already got? Why does every S.O.B. think he has to re-invent the wheel?
DB: I could never understand that if they wanted to relaunch things then why not just relaunch them? I have to admit I do like the Crisis, but in hindsight I don’t see the overall point of it. The end could have been done easily enough without it.
AK: Yeah, either way it didn’t make me happy. Why have different guys assume the identities of the heroes? What was wrong with them to begin with? Are you out of ideas? If so, then move over and give someone else a chance. Changing a character’s identity is not going to do anything. If you don’t have stories, then what difference does it make if it’s Hal Jordan, Bob Smith or Joe Blow. Leave it alone. What’s wrong with Barry Allen and Iris West? I understand that you may need to get a new generation to feel these characters are unique to them. This is not your father’s Oldsmobile. Then there may be a certain sales point. I understand that. But I don’t have to like it.
DB: For me, and this was in 1985 when I was a lot younger, I’d grown up not really liking Superman because he was just too unrealistic for me.
AK: You were a Marvel man.
DB: He was too powerful – a god. Why would you commit a crime in Metropolis when you’ve got a guy there who can hear a pin drop a galaxy away, see it and be there before it lands? That’s why I could never get into because I didn’t see how anyone could write a decent Superman story that was believable, however with the Crisis de-powering him, making him more human, made him more interesting to me.
AK: Both sides of the issue are valid. DC just did what they thought was best and they sold a lot of comic books for a couple of months. But after it was over, what did they have?
DB: On page five, the Superman in the second to last panel…
AK: I was going for a 3D action effect on that page. What I did was shrink the drawn borders for the page and draw out to the actual borders to make everything jump out of the panels. Do you feel it worked at all?
DB: I feel the Superman figure definitely works. Sadly they coloured his cape wrong, and the Supergirl figure doesn’t work for me, but Superman does.
AK: Yeah, I can see that.
DB: I can see the effect you were getting at. Every panel is broken on the page.
AK: Yeah. Of course, the effect is spoiled in panel three. If the kid’s head isn’t overlapping, then why should the debris behind him overlap the border? I like the Wonder Woman in panel five.
AK: You don’t have to like it. I like it.
DB: That’s alright. You’re allowed to like it. You drew it. I should have to like it.
AK: Page six is kind of boring. These heroes are supposed to be stressed out at the beginning of page nine. Superman is supposed to have this weird effect on his face but it just looks like dirt.
DB: It is a disappointing issue and a shame.
AK: Yeah. I don’t know if it’s me or the script, or both.
DB: I think it’s a combination of both. It’s not one of Kurt Busiek’s best scripts and it’s far from being your best art job.
AK: Yeah. I apologise to the world again.
DB: Then again the big green guy on page twelve looks good.
AK: I can’t help it, but every page I look at, I can’t help but wonder what would Mike Sekowsky have done. Page fifteen is probably the most boring page I have ever seen in my life. Bad, bad, bad.
DB: I still believe it’s a combination of the script and your art. Clearly you’ve drawn what the script has asked for.
AK: Well, within what was called for I think I could have done much better. Oh God we were just talking about the Justice League and we’re almost out of it. [laughter] And we’re ending on such a lousy note.
DB: No, no, we can find some positives. On page sixteen your Wonder Woman is quite good.
AK: Alright, I’m glad you’re satisfied.
DB: You don’t like it.
AK: Not particularly.
DB: Why? What do you find wrong with it?
AK: I don’t know. It looks like a bad Joe Staton drawing to me. Which is not quite as bad as a bad Alan Kupperberg drawing, I guess. There you go. On page seventeen, panel three, my Superman is almost a cartoon Superman. [chuckles] An animated Superman. Not ‘the’ animated Superman though, but it looks kinda goofy. Not a good page.
DB: The Supergirl figure in the next panel doesn’t really work.
AK: Bad, bad, bad. Page eighteen isn’t that awful.
DB: Yeah. The splash page on page nineteen isn’t that bad either. The book gets better as it goes along.
AK: It looks very DC Comics, I can tell you that. It could have used stronger colours in the background. I guess with so many superheroes there wasn’t much colour choice. They could have gone for a dark purple. That might have made it stronger. The colour choice is not that great in that panel.
DB: You also have Captain Marvel popping up.
AK: Ah yeah, that was nice.
DB: This was one of the few times you drew Captain Marvel?
AK: It was probably the only time I drew him for print in a comic book. I did a cover for the fanzine Etcetera, back in 1972 I guess. But that wasn’t for DC.
DB: Did you pattern your Marvel on anyone?
AK: I could never really capture what CC Beck did when I was drawing Captain Marvel. I wasn’t able to do what he did, and I wasn’t able to get very close. I think it was another failure. On the last page that shot of the Flash in panel one looks like a Toth Flash, [chuckles] which I kinda like.
DB: There are redeeming features in this book.
AK: Oh, there are. There are nice touches here and there, but overall I understand why it distresses people. Because the book distresses me. It’s another lesson. If it’s not tightly drawn, don’t ink it. Unless you’re a genius, like I don’t know whom, don’t start inking a job that’s not tightly pencilled. For me, if I don’t have a definite line to follow, it’s a dangerous voyage to embark upon.
DB: You didn’t get anymore JLA jobs after this.
AK: Like I said, I wonder if this is why? [laughter] It could be. I’d get scared if I were an editor and I hadn’t seen the jobs before this. And then I got this one? Holy smokes!
DB: I’d be wondering if you’d had assistants on the previous jobs.
AK: Not a good situation. The only person that ever touched a job of mine was that Chaykin figure in that romance job. That’s about the only time. There was another figure or two in a National Lampoon job that Chaykin did for me, but that’s about it as far as having assistants. In fact, talking about assistants, it probably got me in trouble once. When Joe Orlando was in charge of the special products division at DC, I went in and showed him my book, hoping to get some from him. He was looking through my book and he commented, saying, “Every job looks different. They each have a separate style.” I said, “Well, you know. I just kinda get the feeling that I get from the job and I just do it how I feel it.” He was right. A lot of my non hero stuff looks very different from job to job. I said, “I just do it how I feel it. I don’t use assistants or anything; my whole gig is doing it myself. That’s what turns me on about drawing. It’s all me.” And then I suddenly realized, “Oh my God. Joe Orlando probably has someone draw every job he signs.” I said to myself, “Eeeewwww.” Which in an I Love Lucy script, is called a “spider.”
DB: Even from the splash page this job looks totally different to what came before it. In a way it’s a shame because it’s not a good way to go out on.
AK: Yeah. There’s so many characters in every one of these panels that there’s nothing to focus on. Even on page two, which has got it’s share of bad stuff, has got a nice close-up in panel five to focus on. On pages like that I think it’s more interesting, if you can get something big to focus on in at least one panel. But often on these pages, there isn’t. In addition to being badly drawn, there’s no one bad drawing to focus on. [laughter]
DB: Any regrets, other than the art in the last issue?
AK: I don’t think I was ever thought of, or slated to be, the guy who was going to go on and draw the book. I think they found themselves in a transition period and it was just easy for me to be the placeholder. I guess after the Crisis they cancelled the Justice League. Again this is another case of Kupperberg being the placeholder until they were ready to reboot. The issue I wrote and laid out was after the reboot, so I wasn’t totally exiled from the title. Andy Helfer hired me to do that one issue.
DB: Did it ever see the light of day?
AK: It was Blue Beetle: The Movie. One of my movie studio plots that I always resort to. I know that I was lobbying to ink the Mike Sekowsky issue that came soon after this and I didn’t get it. And this job couldn’t have helped the situation. Other than that last issue, I really like my work on the Justice League. I like it so much that I don’t even think about the last issue when I think about it. For me, liking a job means not being offended by it when I look at it. I’m as disappointed as the fans when they complain about this stuff because I can see as well as they can.
DB: If you could go back and do it again?
AK: I’d do it better. Sure would. I’ve gone back and redrawn stories. For a reprint I’d fix it up, because I’m not Neal Adams. When Neal Adams redraws stuff for a reprint I take offence because it was pretty good the first time.
FURTHER READING: Alan Kupperberg's Official Web-Site
The Justice League Companion by Michael Eury