Looking Back With Alan Kupperberg: Evil Clown Comics
Frenchy, The Evil Clown, was the brainchild of Nick Bakay, the man who went on to become better known as the voice of Salem, Sabrina The Teenage Witch's talking black cat (and if that doesn't spin you out then check out the link - yep, ole Salem has his own web-site! And people think I'm odd...). Appearing in the pages of National Lampoon, Evil Clown Comics soon became a cult, yet it was over all too quickly. Gross, offensive, disgusting and confronting, Evil Clown was everything that mainstream comics could never be, and yet it wasn't that far removed from Alan Kupperberg's previousl clown comic, Marvel Comics Obnoxio The Clown. The main difference was that what Obnoxio hinted at, Frenchy, the Evil Clown, did, in full glory and in glorious black and white.
For years now Evil Clown has existed only in it's original form, in the original magazines, and only avaliable if you were willing to dig through back issues when they appeared. That's all about to change with a collected volume of Evil Clown comics being planned for the near future. The new volume not only collects the original material, but will have two new, previously unseen stories by Bakay and Kupperberg, new artwork and, best of all, new colouring by the incredibly talented Tom Ziuko. This will be an essential item for the bookshelves and an ideal present for both grandparents and the kids as it'll provide hours of entertainment and enjoyment for all. Then again, perhaps not. One thing is for sure, once you read Evil Clown Comics, you'll never look at clowns in the same way again.
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW CONTAINS VERY STRONG LANGUAGE AND THEMES. DO NOT READ IF EASILY OFFENDED. Don't say you weren't warned.
DANIEL BEST: The Evil Clown, that’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever read.
ALAN KUPPERBERG: Are you serious?
DB: No, actually it’s offensive and vile. [laughter]
AK: “Dat’s baby shit!” as Jackie Gleason’s Sheriff Buford T. Justice said in “Smokey and the Bandit”.
DB: It is, I mean it is offensive and it is a bit disgusting in its own right.
AK: In comic books it’s offensive, but in real life, it’s just real life. Spider-Man is not real life. The Evil Clown is real life. It is for adults. I’ve lived in New York City proper since the 1970’s through to this day, and I’m telling you, the clown stories are real life. It’s not everyone’s life, but real people live as Frenchy does. Who lives like Peter Parker?
DB: Now, how did you end up doing Evil Clown?
AK: I don’t really know. I never knew why the Lampoon gave me any particular assignment. No one ever told me why, and I was always so happy to get these assignments that I didn’t want to jinx the thing by inquiring too closely. They didn’t handle too many superhero things at Lampoon. But they knew that the superhero artists were the artists that could draw “real.” Actually, on the first few comic strip jobs I did for the Lampoon, I was afraid they were taking advantage of my lack of ability. That they wanted a tacky looking job! I’m talking about 1976 here. The Evil Clown was over ten years later, thank God. By then, I could handle that stuff. But to try and answer your question, it might have been as simple as; I was available. Maybe they asked Frank Springer first, and he wasn’t available. Who knows?
DB: Did you do Frenchy before Obnoxio?
AK: No, no. Larry Hama created Obnoxio around 1979, I think, for Marvel’s humour magazine, Crazy. And the Evil Clown started in 1988 or 1987, I believe. And I don’t know if the Evil Clown was generated by the writer, Nick Bakay. Or in Editorial, by Larry “Ratso” Sloman. Or elsewhere.
DB: Because I wonder whether someone had seen Obnoxio and probably handed it to you because you can actually draw a clown?
AK: I don’t think so. I don’t think these Lampoon guys looked at Crazy magazine. Or Mad magazine, for that matter. They didn’t consider themselves to be in the same category. Of course, evil clowns are not a new thing. It’s a very well known story device. Lon Chaney famously played an evil clown once.
DB: He did indeed, yep.
AK: The Simpson’s Krusty the Clown goes back to 1987, I think. And it’s not a new trope in comics either. Batman’s got the Joker. On the Adventures of Superman television program, there’s a crook that disguises himself as a good clown, and frames the poor sap. [laughter]
DB: Well clowns, I mean you either like clowns or you’re afraid of them. I’m afraid of clowns, I hate them.
AK: Oh, I’m totally neutral on clowns in their natural entertainment setting. I don’t care. I don’t like clowns or hate them. [laughter] I don’t need clowns. At least, not in the classic, Barnum and Bailey Circus sense. A clown like Jerry Lewis or Red Skelton can be a lot of fun. Or Laurel & Hardy. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are sublime clowns.
DB: I suppose I’m thinking more clown as in, yeah, circus clown. I mean you look at… what killed it for me was that Stephen King novel, “It.” Once I read that I thought “No, that’s it, no more clowns for me,” and of course…
AK: Bobcat Goldthwait did a clown movie too; “Shakes, The Clown,” in 1992. I thought that one might actually have been a rip-off of our strip.
DB: Yeah, and then of course there’s John Wayne Gacy the serial killer who was a clown. [laughter]
AK: I’ve actually seen a John Wayne Gacy clown painting, “in the flesh,” so to speak.
DB: I have as well. A friend of mine used to import them, believe it or not, back in the 1990’s. He used to contact all the serial killers and get them to send over paintings and drawings and came up and showed me four of them and wanted me to buy them and I went, “No.” I’m kicking myself now because they were about $150 a piece and I could’ve done that ten times over by now. [laughter]
AK: I was up at the Comedy Central Network, in Eddie Gorodetsky’s office and he had one on the wall.
DB: I don’t think I’d want to know why you would have one on the wall.
AK: I wouldn’t, but Eddie Gorodetsky would. At least he didn’t buy it. Gacy sent it to Eddie because he liked Eddie on television.
DB: I’m just saying I’m wondering why anyone would pop one on the wall.
AK: Oh, because it’s Comedy Central, man.
DB: Yeah, true, okay.
AK: Irony, irony.
DB: Irony, yep. Too ironic for me. Nick Bakay, how did you work with him, was it the traditional comic book way, Marvel method or full scripts?
AK: Well I didn’t work with him, per se, but I received full scripts with full dialogue. I believe I always received all my assignments, all my instructions from the Art Director at National Lampoon. The Art Director at that time was Peter Kleinman, I think. When I started out at the Lampoon, the Art Director was the original A.D., Michael Gross. Michael went on to design movies and stuff for Terry Gilliam. I used to see the Monty Python guys in Michael’s studio shop. But I would see Nick Bakay up in the Lampoon office once in a while. And we did go to a couple of… I went to a Comedy Channel party for Allan Havey’s show or something, a couple of things with him. I did know him and we did like each other and we hung out a little bit.
DB: Were you ever asked to make it more offensive or more…?
AK: I don’t remember receiving any overt instructions other than what were written by the writer in the script. As I said, it was a full script. No, no one asked me to make it look gross, or cruddy or anything like that. I tried to do a clean job on it because I just wanted the pictures to speak for themselves. But now that you mention it, I really could have gone in a whole different direction and made it really, you know, kind of a real Graham Ingels type of thing. Which might have been more interesting, actually. What you just asked me has made me call into question my whole approach, my whole conception of the way I did these stories. Suddenly, I think I may have missed the boat.
DB: I mean it’s some of your best work. It’s so completely foreign, yeah.
AK: Oh yeah, yeah, I think it’s well done. Actually the story you’re looking at now is the redrawn version.
DB: Which one’s that one, “Weekend Rampage?”
AK: Yes, the first two, “Weekend Rampage” and “Hollywood Producer.” These two have been redrawn. What you’re looking at, you’ve never seen before, no one has ever seen before. In 1994 Heavy Metal was going to publish a collection of the Evil Clown stories. I didn’t feel that the artwork on the first two stories was up to par with the rest of the stories. So I re-lettered and re-drew them. The project did not go forward because Nick Bakay didn’t seem to be interested in signing the contracts or something like that. I don’t know what it was. He had an agent involved and I think it just got too complicated. But I don’t know what was going on, and it just fell apart. I don’t know whether the comic book industry crash in 1994 or something like that had anything to do with it. And I think Heavy Metal went away also. But these are the new versions of the stories.
DB: So the other ones, like “Blood and Sand,” they’re the originals?
AK: Oh yeah, the rest of them are the original versions. We are going to include the original versions in the new collection, as well. It helps fatten up the book.
DB: I remember when I was reading it, some of it was coming back to me and I thought, “Yeah, I remember that one before, I remember that one, I remember seeing that one”.
AK: What I did was to put the original pages on a light box and traced them off. And I just tried to do them better. Same compositions, but the lettering is better. And I was a better artist by that time. I had made a breakthrough. I had actually made my breakthrough, on one of these jobs. “The Prodigal Clown, You Can’t Go Home Again,” whatever the name of that story is. But I made a breakthrough and I wanted to retrofit the rest of the series to try to be almost that good. So that’s why I re-did those two stories.
DB: Did anyone that you know ever comment on them and say, “What’s this, what are you doing?”
AK: Well it’s for the National Lampoon. That’s what’s in the National Lampoon. It’s not unusual material for the National Lampoon. Actually, it’s kind of mild for the Lampoon.
DB: It may be quite mild for the Lampoon but, you know, you are Alan Kupperberg, you’re a Comic Book Artist and most people equate that to Spider-Man.
AK: But the whole group I hung out with, everyone I knew worked for the Lampoon. Joe Orlando, Don Perlin, Russ Heath, Frank Springer, Frank Frazetta, Neal Adams, you name ‘em. These guys, like Nick Cardy, they all worked for Lampoon. They all did this gross stuff. So why should I be any different from them? Ralph Reese, Larry Hama, Alan Weiss, Mike Kaluta, Vaughn Bode, Chaykin, everyone. Gray Morrow, Barry Smith, Wrightson, we all worked for Lampoon. I lettered jobs for Gray Morrow and Neal Adams. Gray did the “Oral Passions of William Howard Taft” and I lettered that. And Jack Adler of DC Comics often did the colour separations for these jobs. By hand. When I worked for Jack in 1972, I used to order the blue lines that he did the separation work on from Altag Press. I remember that I’d speak to Frank Tag on the phone. Then I would dry mount the Bristol board blue lines on poster board for Jack so that they wouldn’t warp when he “worked wet” on them. We did all this on DC’s time.
DB: I always remember with Neal Adams is that, what is it, the “Son of Christ” strip that he did… Jesus...
AK: “Son O’ God,” yeah.
DB: “Son of God,” Jesus is a superhero, yeah.
AK: Yep, I lettered a word balloon in the first story. A balloon coming from the White House. [laughter] DC cover letterer Gaspar Salidino lettered that whole job, though. And Jack Adler did the color. And Neal drew a great deal of that story up at DC. “Dragula,” too.
DB: I don’t know. I suppose where I’m coming from is that because it is different from what people would equate with you…
AK: Well, to you. You don’t know me. No, I’m an evil, dirty, fuck. So this, you know, this is, I guess even to me, “dis is baby shit.” This was the kind of humour I grew up with at home. My father was a salesman, and he could tell a dirty joke like nobody’s business. I grew up twisted. This was my metier.
DB: So none of this ever offended you when you were doing it?
AK: Not a bit.
DB: Not one thing in any of the Evil Clown stuff when you were doing it that you looked at and you went, “I -- I don’t like that.”
AK: I’m much more vile than the clown is. I’m much more vile than he is, but I don’t write and draw stories about it. I don’t want to be the freak show. That’s what the clown is for. I’m just guessing, but I’d bet you a chocolate malted that Nick Bakay would say the same thing.
DB: Fair enough.
AK: You haven’t had your nasty moments?
DB: Oh, every second of the day.
AK: Well … ?
DB: I mean to me it doesn’t offend me at all. I could see how it could offend people and where it would offend people, but to me, I mean, to me to it just makes me laugh. I find it amusing.
AK: Oh no, the more perverted this stuff is, the better. You know, unless you’re hurting people. I don’t want to see people get hurt, or draw real people getting hurt. But depicting consensual sexual perversion doesn’t bother me.
DB: I think the only place I’d draw my line is kids and that’s about it.
AK: Yeah, well, kids can’t give consent and that would be hurting someone in any case.
DB: So what’s prompted Nick Bakay to put it out now in a collector’s format, did he refuse or sort of reject it before?
AK: I don’t know. He’s been the producer of a long-running television program called “King of Queens.” It just ended production. I don’t know why now. Because, there are no contracts or anything this time. This is all a “handshake deal.”
DB: Did he contact you about it or did a publisher? I’m just wondering…
AK: The Publisher came through my web site, AlanKupperberg.com. Nyles Bauer is the publisher. Yeah, he’s a member of the website.
DB: Yes, he is.
AK: Nyles is a research microbiologist. And his father, Eli Bauer, worked for Terrytoons Cartoons and wrote Heckle and Jeckle cartoons as well as Mighty Mouse. Eli also created the Hector Heathcoate cartoons. Nyles was a fan of the Evil Clown. He contacted me through the website and he wanted to buy some Evil Clown original art. I said, “sure,” and he sent me a down payment. He sent me money for about a page and a half’s worth of art. I went to look for the artwork and I couldn’t find it. I tore my studio apart. I tore my storage space apart. As it turned out, I eventually discovered I didn’t have it; I had sold it to Frank Giella. And odder still, this guy Nyles, his sister was friends with Frank Giella. Totally outside the context of comics or art, just in real life. So Nyles contacted Frank. But Frank wasn’t even interested in looking though his stuff to find the pages. But to make a long story short, I had two scripts, Evil Clown scripts left over. From 1994 or maybe even from earlier when Lampoon went out of business. Or stopped publication. Nick had written two stories. I hadn’t illustrated them yet, because there was no money for them at that time. But I had lettered both stories on the board, back in 1992 or ‘94. So these pages sat blank for almost 15 years, other than the lettering. So I said to Nyles, “I will finish this two page story for you, you will have an unpublished Evil Clown story.” We went back and forth and eventually he said, “I want to publish them all, I want a published collection.” So that’s how this new collection, with new material happened.
DB: It is good stuff, it is. I think on the whole…
AK: I think it’s a lot of fun.
DB: ... it’s some of your best work and the irony is that…
AK: Technically, yeah.
DB: … that not a lot of people, well when I say, “Not a lot of people,” a lot of people who would be more familiar with your work via Marvel or DC, the mainstream, might be surprised and a lot of them probably would never have even seen it because they might not have picked up the Lampoon.
AK: Well, that’s what kills me about it. Like, the Streetwise story published by TwoMorrows and stuff like that. You know, I think, nobody sees this stuff. If 5,000 people see it, you’re lucky. And whether or not they’re the right 5,000 people.
DB: But your best work is not always the stuff that’s out there, that everyone gets.
AK: Yes, yes. I think some of the best stories I ever did, by far, were for Lampoon and Cracked Monster Party. I sent you a story about that fat, rural, police chief in the squad car? I think that’s the best job I ever did, or one of the three or four best jobs I ever did. I don’t know how you feel about it. But I’m sure no one ever saw it.
DB: Does that frustrate you?
AK: Oh, it’s very frustrating. Very.
DB: I mean it’s more than good that the Evil Clown stuff’s coming out. Because the irony was, I was in the comic shop today that I go to, to pick up some stuff, and one of the guys there who owns it is a very close friend of mine and he said, “What are you working on?” “I’m talking to Alan Kupperberg tonight.” “What about?” And I said, “Oh, the Evil Clown stuff.” And he went, “Obnoxio?” I went, “No, no, National Lampoon, Evil Clown.” “Never heard of it.” And I thought, “Geez, there’s that many people out there that just have not seen it, would never have seen it.” Maybe with the reprint they will.
AK: Yeah, well, I sure hope so. Well, the collection is going to be around for a while. It’s not a periodical, so it will stick around, be on the shelves. So, maybe with luck…
DB: Yeah, oh, but this would have a, I mean I wouldn’t be surprised if this would have a lot of, in fact I know it would, it would have a lot of commercial appeal to people.
AK: Well, I think and I hope the book is going into real bookstores, as well as comic shops.
DB: Yeah, the stories themselves, one thing I’ve noticed looking through them is a lot of your regular cast members are in there.
AK: Oh sure. “A Good Cast Is Worth Repeating,” as they used to say at the end of old Warner Bros. films. On the first page of the first story, that is me, as the bartender. And the girl that the clown is hitting on was my girlfriend at the time, Thea. She is now married to Bea Arthur’s son, Danny Saks.
DB: Oh God, I thought you were going to say she is married to Bea Arthur.
AK: No, no, Thea’s mother-in-law is “Maude.” She had also dated Danny in college before I met her. So I heard Bea Arthur stories. And Thea’s father-in-law, Gene Saks directed a whole slew of Neil Simon’s plays on Broadway. Oh, the best part is, that in between dating me and marrying Danny Saks, Thea was engaged to George Carrigone, the one-time editor of Penthouse Comics! He’s the moax that committed suicide by doing a swan dive off of the top of the atrium lobby in the Marriott Hotel on Broadway? Splat! I knew George. He was a pig. A male chauvinist pig, and cocaine pig as well as a pig, physically. I sure speak well of the dead, huh? Because of these things Thea had broken up with George by that point, but I sure got a hysterical call from Thea that morning. George’s suicide made all the papers that day.
DB: Oh, good God. Well that’s a good claim to fame.
AK: Oh, yeah. [laughter]
DB: I was flicking through it and noticed, I’m pretty sure Jack Adler’s in there more than once.
AK: He could be. You know, all those people in the background in the bar panel, are wonderful, I think. There are wonderful characters drawn back there. They’re all different people and they’re all “real” people, they’re not comic book faces.
DB: That’s the thing that Erik Larson pointed out to me. That your background people are all different, distinctive and unique, which we’ve talked about before. Whereas a lot of other artists, their background people are just ovals with dots.
AK: Yeah, they can be. These scans are very low resolution, but I think you can see in panel one on page two, on the wall behind Frenchy’s agent are photos of Bob Hope and others.
DB: George Burns is there.
AK: Bob Hope, George Burns and those teeth belong to Milton Berle.
DB: It is rich in detail, and certainly rich in background detail.
AK: Well, you know, these Lampoon things pay much better than the average comic book would.
DB: Well, what were the comparison of rates? I mean you don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to.
AK: I’ll look in my account book.
DB: For the same time, for example, what were you being paid for a Marvel or a DC page as opposed to what you were paid for one of these?
AK: I see that for Evil Clown number three, yeah, with the lettering and inking and all, I got $470 a page. And, let’s see, and for an Iron Man I did for Marvel at about the same time, I think I would have received about $180 a page for pencils, inks and lettering.
DB: Jesus, so why didn’t poor people just work for National Lampoon exclusively?
AK: Well there’s… how many pages of comics did Lampoon run a month?
AK: Maybe six pages, some issues.
DB: Which is why they could pay more obviously.
AK: Well, no. They could pay us more because they were a high-end glossy. They sold the magazine for a lot more than comic books sold for. And they had real, high-end advertising. You can’t pay the page rates I quoted by advertising Sea Monkeys and Grit. That’s why Lampoon could pay more; they got more. That’s why comic book people liked to work for them. We all wanted to do illustration for slick magazines. But at that point in history, illustration had almost completely disappeared from slick magazines, replaced by photography. And, as the years went on, from, say 1976, every several years, I’d ask the Lampoon for a rate raise and get it. Through to the nineties. One day I happened to mention to art director Peter Kleinman that I knew Frank Springer. He got nervous and he said, “Look, Frank Springer has never asked for a raise. He still bills us for the same $200 (or whatever) a page as he did in 1974. Please don’t tell him what you get.” I must have been up to about $500 a page by then, so I felt badly for Frank. I didn’t see Frank regularly, so it didn’t come up.
DB: With the ads, the funny ads that go with them, like the “Elite Marauding Clown Squad” ad. Did you just draw that or did you write and draw that as well or was it a collaboration?
AK: It’s all in the script.
DB: In the script.
AK: Yep. Boy I didn’t like drawing that ad, the Evil Marauding Clown Squad. I see that I didn’t do a good job on it.
DB: Why’s that?
AK: Because, why don’t I like it? You think it’s okay?
DB: Evil Marauding Clown Squad?
AK: The artwork, you think that’s okay?
DB: It’s not your best effort.
AK: This will sound awful, but I didn’t care about it. See, I didn’t care about drawing military themes. And there’s nothing there to get any personality into. The clown figure up front is okay, but everything else is like, “Oh, Jesus, this is just tedium. This is just a diagram.” That’s not engaging comic book art to me. That’s a diagram that needed doing. And it didn’t have anything of any interest to me in it. Tiny, little guns and a little picture of an elephant. I didn’t care. I don’t feel the same way today. Boy, I’d love to write and draw an issue of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos!
DB: I suppose for me it’s humorous because I remember the ads on the back of the comic books.
AK: Oh sure, but Russ Heath cared about the stuff he was drawing. He did a wonderful job on those ads. Russ is great.
DB: And the “Hollywood…”
AK: The artwork on the ad is contemporaneous with the original first job. This is not a redo.
DB: The one that got me was the Charles Atlas ad, I thought that was hilarious.
AK: Oh yeah, well that one was a lot more fun to do. My father went to high school with Charles Atlas, strangely enough.
DB: But the new stories, when were they done? So they were done…
AK: Oh, 1994.
DB: Yeah, I wondered why Wilson Philips was suddenly there.
AK: Pardon me?
DB: I wondered why it was Wilson Phillips. Now it makes sense.
AK: Oh, yeah, yeah. The two pagers?
DB: The two pagers, yeah.
AK: I drew the last two this year, 2007.
DB: When were they written? This year?
AK: They were written in the early 1990’s. I’m not exactly sure if it was 1992 or 1994.
DB: Does Nick Bakay know all about them and he’s fine with that?
AK: Well, he wrote them. I don’t know if he’s seen them finished, though. I don’t even know his email address. Nyles is dealing with Nick, I’m not.
DB: I just love the punch line in “Three On A Clown.” I just thought that was hilarious. He’s opening for cockfights in Tijuana. “Any regrets?” “No, I still get to fuck the headliner”. There’s a lot to go through and most of it speaks for itself. “Blood and Sand”.
AK: Nick writes very funny stuff. I like the cover of “Blood and Sand” very much. The covers ran in colour originally, by the way. The “insides” were all run in black and white. In the collection, all the stories will be in colour. Tom Ziuko is colouring the book. Tom is doing the most beautiful job of colouring I’ve ever seen. He’s been a collaborator in the truest sense of the word. Tom has generated or inspired most of the ideas for the 2007 art contribution I’ve made. I consider him the de facto co-art director and co-editor for the book. If this book succeeds, I think it will be due as much or more to Tom’s contributions as anybody else’s. He’s given me great encouragement, and I can’t thank him enough. Tom literally saved the project on several occasions. I just wasn't going to proceed with this new collection unless Tom came on board.
DB: Oh, that’s good.
AK: That’s not bad brushwork on that cover. That’s me inking with a brush. As opposed to the first two stories, where I’m inking with a pen. If I’ve got a good brush and my hand is steady, it can really juice up my work a good deal. But that’s my opinion, how do you feel about it?
DB: I agree with you.
AK: It’s juicier.
DB: It’s juicier. On page four, on the second panel, the “Alfred E. Neuman”, it’s a woman.
AK: Oh. You see, that’s Courtney. Here’s a perfect example of the difference between people’s perceptions. That face, that you read as being Alfred E. Neuman-esque, that is the face that Nyles was in love with for his entire teenage years.
DB: Oh, Jesus Christ.
AK: That face is why Nyles is publishing the book.
DB: I see Alfred E Neuman.
AK: You’re not wrong. But neither is Nyles. But it’s Courtney. I was just following the script. It never, ever occurred to me that she looked like Alfred E. Neuman. That’s not where my head was. But in hindsight, I see what you’re saying. So you see, you never know how you’re going to be “read.”
DB: Oh, good God.
AK: Is it chicken shit or chicken salad? There’s no accounting for taste.
DB: True. Oh my God. I mean that’s a fairly…
AK: I really like Frenchy dancing in the next panel. I love that panel, you know? “Who has the Chivas and milk?” “My man, Frenchy T. Clown.” “Do he be French?” Love that dialogue. Some of my characters in that panel almost have a Will Eisner-ish touch. Especially the woman who says, “Do he be French?” If you told some people that Will Eisner had drawn that woman, they might not argue with you. I’m being delusional again. I like the next panel too, that’s swell.
DB: Back to that other panel, you’re right. That is a very… they’re very Eisner-ish, the dancing girl.
AK: I love the “up periscope” line. And I like the whorehouse in the next panel. That is story telling for you. We can see out the window, silhouetted against the moon, is their shop sign. A cat.
DB: It’s a cat.
AK: It’s a cathouse.
DB: A cathouse, yep, I know I saw that one.
AK: And in the background a client is going upstairs behind a girl.
AK: I like it. It’s nice. It’s got some juicy details. Sometimes there’s too much ruler work, you know, ruling lines. But there’s a lot of freehand brushwork in this job. Like on the couch. You know, you can either ink it straight with straight edge like a ruler or try it freehand and hope you will get a more organic feel with a brush. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I was lucky that week. I had a brush that was cooperating.
DB: How different were your techniques and the brushwork on this, as opposed to the mainstream stuff that you did?
AK: Only as different as … you have to look at it and decide for yourself. I just think the brushwork looks different, lusher. I’m too cheap to buy good brushes. I buy cheap brushes or brushes on sale because, cheap or expensive, there’s no guarantee a brush is good. Or that they will stay good for more than a few strokes. And if you don’t take care of them properly they will absolutely not stay good for very long. I’m not going to spend $40 plus on a brush and then get home and find out that it’s a lemon. Guys like Dick Giordano and Joe Sinnott know how to pick brushes, I don’t know if I do. So if I get one that works well with India ink, I’m happy. I buy brushes for filling in blacks and colouring with Dr. Martin’s dyes. And for whiteout. But sometimes I find one that will take a point and keep it and is suitable as an ink brush and I just use it until it dies.
DB: Hmm. I mean for me I suppose the difference is, is I can’t find a bad panel in these. I’m sure you can.
AK: Oh yeah. Well in this job, at the end, I can find a couple of panels that I don’t care for. But, by and large, they’re not bad. I was really on the cusp, whether or not to redraw this one also. And I gave it a pass. I said, “There’s enough okay stuff in here”.
DB: Are you ever tempted to sit there and say that you’ll redraw just select panels, you know, just say you don’t like the last panel, redraw that one?
AK: The problem on this job is, that the panels I did not draw well the first time around, I still have no enthusiasm for the subject matter. So I don’t know if I could do them any better now. If you saw my colour schemes for this particular job on page four, once they got into the military stuff I lost enthusiasm for it again, I couldn’t even colour it. I could not gin up the enthusiasm for that stuff enough to colour it. The fornication in the first panel is a different matter. That, I could get into. By the way, the waitress is holding onto a jar of mayonnaise…
DB: And dill pickles.
AK: … and pickles! So don’t let the subtle symbolism be lost. That was my contribution. That was not in the script. That’s my sophisticated take on sex. Pickles and mayonnaise. That’s why I’m big with the ladies. That is class.
DB: Yeah, I think it’s quite obvious, actually.
AK: Maybe that’s why they didn’t ask me to write.
DB: How would you have written one?
AK: I would have figured out a scenario into which I could have shoe horned things I like to draw. Like, Alex Toth. Give Toth his head and you get Errol Flynn and biplanes. I think Frenchy’s expression in panel five on that page is priceless. That’s Jack Nicholson playing Frenchy the Evil Clown, see.
DB: Were you ever tempted to write one?
AK: It was not up to me. The editor has got to decide the theme of the issue. Then decide if he wants an Evil Clown story in this particular issue. Then he contacts the Evil Clown writer, Nick Bakay. This isn’t like Marvel Comics. Nick and I own the character, not the National Lampoon. “So dat’s da name o’dat tune.”
DB: But you were never tempted just to do one just…
AK: Well, in a sense I am writing some Evil Clown stuff. Because, I’m writing some new material for the collection. I’ve done a whole bunch of new “covers” for stories that had never had covers before. And I’ve done a brand new cover for the collection. Actually, three covers. I did a version of the cover, that big wrap around thing with all the faces. And Nyles took it up to some publishers. And they said, “This cover is not the best way to go.” And I got real pissy about it, and I said, “No, I’m not doing another cover. If this is a deal breaker, then let’s just forget the whole book.” And I reported this to Tom Ziuko. And Tom said, “Well, I’m kind of glad this came up. Because I don’t think it’s the right cover either.” When Tom said that, I came back down to the real world and said, “Oh, okay.” And I followed Tom’s fine suggestion for a new cover. And that’s going to be the cover of the book.
DB: Is that the one with him sitting down with the two girls?
AK: Yes. Based on Tom’s suggestion.
DB: I was going to say, it’s a good cover.
AK: If you know the character, you can write the character.
DB: Hmm. I mean it’s a good cover, I like it.
AK: It’s alright. There are problems with it.
DB: You’ll find problems with everything.
AK: I hope no one will even notice.
DB: Now, “Man of the Year,” I remember seeing that one at the time it came out.
AK: Yeah, “Man of the Year.” Yeah, I think I should’ve gone bigger on that Times Square splash panel, though. I had hoped for more impact in that panel. But there was a lot of information to put in there.
DB: Now, is that Julie Schwartz there?
AK: No, definitely not.
DB: God, it looks like him.
AK: That is actually… I definitely had a particular actor in mind there. I can’t recall his name at the moment. He was doing a lot of television in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. A guy that mostly did bit parts. He did Perry Mason often. Almost everyone in that panel is a real person that I’ve seen in life. Or based on someone who is like someone. But they’re real people even if I don’t know who they are.
DB: Fair enough.
AK: The checkout girl in panel three there, she’s supposed to be kind of a brain damaged person.
DB: You’re a cruel man.
AK: I am.
DB: I remember seeing it at the time. The panel that always made me laugh was on page four, the first panel, “If you don’t stop wriggling your back, it’s the paddle.” I always thought that was hilarious. I don’t know why. Then, of course, you have Jerry Lewis make an appearance on the next panel.
AK: I’m not sure whether or not I swiped that first panel. I might have swiped that girl from a Wally Wood dirty story. Wally Wood drew a lot of girls posed that way. That actually might be a swipe, I don’t remember. Except for the machine, which, in perspective, is really out of whack. I suppose it’s kind of okay because of the supposed weirdness of it. There is Jerry Lewis in the next panel. Not a great… I wish I had done a better job on Jerry. I tried to get kind of weird, to do the weirdly angled panels.
DB: Hmm, I was just going to say, on this one I’ve noticed that there’s no real structure to the panels. It’s not a traditional panel arrangement at all.
AK: Well, it’s all supposed to be a weird, out of kilter dream.
DB: Yeah, it’s very surrealistic.
AK: That was what I was going for. I didn’t set the art form on it’s head, but…
DB: No, the panels come back to normal when he is awake.
AK: Yes, they surely do. That’s a nice panel, where the critters are carrying the clown.
DB: Hmm. And you’ve got the cosmic panel when he’s waking up.
AK: Oh, yeah. Ditko-cosmic.
DB: Yeah, and “Sea Honkeys.” Now did you like that ad?
AK: Did I like that?
DB: Yeah. I’m hazarding a guess that you didn’t overly get into this one.
AK: Well, I was trying for a Joe Orlando take on that one, because he’d drawn the classic Sea Monkeys ad. But I guess it didn’t come off. And before I forget, there’s Jackie Gleason. That’s Ed Norton and Ralph Kramden in the next panel.
DB: Yeah, oh yeah, there is, too.
AK: Oh, you hadn’t noticed that?
DB: I hadn’t noticed it; I’m just seeing it now, yeah. It’s Jackie Gleeson and Art Carney coming on down the fire escape stairs.
AK: Dealing with those little creatures was kind of a challenge for me. Once you make them up, you’re going to have to stay on model. You have to design the characters to try and reflect the particular sin that they represent. In panel two on page three, in the upper right hand corner I drew a Groucho Marx creature. To me, that was the most exciting creature to draw. But those guys are all fun to look at. I think their intended personality comes through. I could get into the panels on page three, the top of the page. That stuff was fun.
DB: Stealing money from an orphanage.
AK: Yeah. Well, not stealing. He’s just not donating his money to the orphanage. And Frenchy is running down Fred Mertz with a golf cart at the Unemployment Office. Then there’s another cathouse scene, which is always fun.
DB: Now the panels that really impressed me on this one as well, it’s on page four, those last three panels, especially that last one, that’s just pure maniac.
AK: Oh yeah. He’s the lunatic. I’m glad that came across, because I wanted him to be a lunatic. And he warms up to it. He gets into it, you know. We pull in closer and closer in a series of panels.
DB: It’s very effective. Now you said Jack Nicholson earlier, is that what you’ve based the clown on?
AK: Not in this sequence. I think he came out looking like Ron Jeremy, the porn star here. Do you know who he is?
DB: Yeah, I try to avoid him.
AK: Yeah, well this is only his face, which is bad enough. But there he is. My friend Andrew J. Lederer is a background bystander, fully clothed, an extra in a Ron Jeremy film.
DB: Oh, God.
AK: I’ve never seen it, but Andy said he was standing there in the background while Ron was humping away. Andrew is so versatile.
DB: Clearly. I don’t think I would want to be anywhere near Ron Jeremy when he’s on the job.
AK: Or off.
DB: I can’t think of anything worse. I think the one story which really, for me, I think is probably the pinnacle; the peak of the whole lot is “Too Much Funny.”
DB: Now you will disagree with me.
AK: Well, it’s not my pinnacle, no. I would say my favourite job is, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” That’s my favourite job. I think the cover for that one is magnificent. Of course, it’s based on the iconic Norman Rockwell painting. So it’s me “inking” Norman Rockwell. And I think it came out incredibly well. I think it’s beautiful. You may not agree, but I love that cover.
DB: No it’s a great cover, I do like it. I do like… I was highly impressed when I first saw it and I’m still impressed now with it.
AK: I just got the colour on that cover from Tom Ziuko, and I’ve got to tell you that he absolutely put me away. Its just beautiful, just stunning. Tom spent three or four days on it. If time is money, Tom lost a fortune on it. The man is a true artist, a passionate artist. And that makes him a hero in my book. And I like the Clown Comics Checklist, those little covers in the advert on the bottom of the inside cover.
DB: Yeah, well those are just sick. “Spastic Mutant Squad,” “Little Spastic Mutant Squad,” “The Glans Gang.”
AK: That third little cover …
DB: “Junior Wet Nurse.”
AK: My illustration is based on a cartoon that Wally Wood drew. It was in his private file. In Woody’s cartoon, the male wet nurse was Bill Gaines. And Gaines is suckling an artist at his teat. Otherwise, I think I just made up the rest of those cover illustrations based on the titles Nick indicated in his script. I like the heading for the letters page, too. It took me back to my days when I was designing all those headings for the Atlas Comics letters pages.
DB: I noticed Nick Fury gets a letter in.
AK: Oh, you’re right. That’s in Nick Bakay’s script. I really did have fan letters printed in Sgt. Fury #’s 59 & 79. I really like page one a lot.
DB: Well, the lettering, the lettering in the scroll in the first panel is great.
AK: Well, that’s computer generated…
DB: There you go, ruined.
AK: In the original printing of that story, it’s terrible. It’s just awful. I think I hand lettered it. And I really can’t do that calligraphy stuff, so it’s awful. So, if for no other reason than this panel, I’m so glad it will be reprinted with the nice calligraphy. But everything else is hand lettered by me. I also made a kind of a breakthrough on my lettering in this job. That was before my hand went on me. I can’t letter a whole job anymore. My hand can’t take the concentration that you need. After a few panels, it’s agony. Luckily, with computer lettering, it’s not necessary. But I like to do my own balloons. I don’t like the perfectly generated computer balloons. My favourite letterer is Sam Rosen. Though I do have a soft spot in my heart for Artie Simek’s television screen shaped balloons.
DB: So what is it about this story that really grabs you more than the others?
AK: I don’t know if it was the subject matter in particular, but I was just full of it, so to speak. I was great that weekend and when I’m good it often comes out of me very fast. And I think this job came out of me pretty damned fast. I was just boiling.
DB: Page three, where they introduce him at the party. Some very exaggerated faces and very, what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, I can’t think of the word.
DB: Hmm, no I don’t think it’s cynical.
AK: Ahh, decayed?
DB: Decayed, that’s it. Yeah it could be.
AK: I think if all the Clown stories had this type of texture to them, this decayed, or Drew Friedman type of overwrought delineation to them I would have been much happier. This job was the main reason that I went back and re-did those first two stories. I wanted to get them closer to this one. But I didn’t accomplish it totally. I mean, I could go over every panel with you, in detail about what I put into this story. For instance, the cab driver is letterer Tom Orzechowski. The clown’s parents are my parents. There’s an awful lot of stuff in there.
DB: It comes across, the enjoyment that you’ve had in it. The enjoyment that you’ve obviously had doing it. It’s a very enthusiastic and to use the cliché, it pops off the page.
AK: Thank you. I’m glad the work I put into shows.
DB: It does, it shows. It just really leaps out.
AK: You know, I was in -- sometimes you just get in a zone and I was in the zone. Everything worked. Almost everything. There were a few little things that didn’t come across but, you know, that’s just quibbling. That’s just wanting the moon.
DB: No, that’s good.
AK: I’m very happy with this job.
DB: And as I said in the other one… the one I like is the “Too Much Funny”. I don’t know why I prefer it over that one.
AK: Oh, that job is good. I thought… I was thinking that that was a different job. You’re right. This one is very good too. This is the original splash page, illustrated as written. Lampoon got scared at that point. I don’t remember why, but they really pulled back. I redrew a lot of that nasty stuff and put a patch on the art. A lot of this stuff wasn’t in the printed version. I cleaned it up. Something was going on in the country.
AK: So we will finally get to see the true version. I peeled off the patch. That must be Andrew J. Lederer there in the middle of that crowd in the splash panel. I was looking for real people real people in this job.
DB: Well you’ve got Charlton Heston; you’ve got Bob Hope.
AK: Yeah. In the bottom panel of page one that’s me, and my then girlfriend sitting there, on the subway, being harassed by the panhandling clown. Oh, and you’ve got Ed McMahon on page two.
DB: Well you’ve got Charlton Heston. Who’s Orville Redenbacher?
AK: Do you know who Arsenio Hall is?
AK: Oh, okay. Orville Redenbacher is a person and a brand name of popcorn. And that’s the old guy himself. He used to appear in the television commercials.
DB: Oh, okay.
AK: Now his grandson does the commercials, but it’s a brand of microwave popcorn.
DB: On the next page you’ve really taken out on Bob Hope.
AK: Yeah, this whole job is kind of built around that panel, in a sense. If I can find a panel that sets me off right, I can build a whole job around it. This is one such panel. I really got off on that panel. There’s Jack Nicholson sitting in the lower left hand corner.
DB: Yep, is that Ronald Reagan next to Bob Hope there?
AK: Yep, yep and there’s Milton Berle standing…
DB: Is that Dolly Parton or is that Loni Anderson?
AK: Ahh, no it’s supposed to be Dolly Parton and Johnny Carson is standing behind her talking to Kenny Rogers. And if you look all the way in the upper left hand corner of that panel, there is George Burns in a stupor, a senile stupor. Yeah, maybe I could’ve gotten a better Bob Hope if I tried, but it’s pretty keen, it’s okay. That’s actually a real outfit that Bob Hope used to wear back then. In the colouring it becomes clear. It’s kind of a white or cream coloured jacket and a brown shirt with dark slacks. Hope wore that outfit often back around that time. If you look at the drawing of Milton Berle, you’ll see that this is the only spot in the whole job that has zip-a-tone on it, on his head.
DB: Oh yeah it does, oh yeah.
AK: Because if you look at the lines that I inked, that’s Milton’s real hairline. The zip-a-tone indicates the area that Milton used to paint on his head. Milton would paint his head grey. And before that he used to paint his head black. I spent quite a few hours with Milton, so I know what I’m talking about.
DB: I love hearing about people with hair paint.
AK: It’s so weird. I can understand it on television. It almost works. If you’re not looking for it, it works on television. But in real life, it’s so very strange.
DB: Get a wig or go bald.
AK: No, a wig is worse.
DB: Just shave it off and let it go.
AK: Well, just be what you are. It’s not as though Milton was a 25 year old heart throb and was prematurely bald, or sick. Then, maybe you have to try to do something about it. But Berle was a 90 year old tummler. Be a 90 year old tummler! I like the girl in the inset panel above Dolly Parton, there. She kind of turned out Kubert-like. If you see what I’m saying.
AK: Maybe not. But that’s how it always struck me. And then on the very next page the clown is walking along the dry bed of the Los Angeles River. That’s where that’s supposed to be. The Los Angeles River is paved! And it’s dry for a good portion of the year.
DB: Oh, okay.
AK: Have you ever see the movie “Them”?
AK: With the giant ants.
DB: With giant ants, yep.
AK: That’s the riverbed that at the end of the film, when the army goes through the storm drains, hunting the ants. And then, it’s always fun drawing circus freaks. I’ve got to tell you that and I like the Siamese triplets, because one of them is white, one of them is black and one of them is Chinese. But they’re Siamese triplets.
DB: Yeah, I noticed that.
AK: That panel where he’s scoring with the triplets? That also was a replacement panel for the original. The original panel was incredibly graphic. Lampoon didn’t want to show that.
DB: Why did they suddenly crack down on the censorship of it?
AK: I don’t remember what the reason was, but they suddenly got scared. Things that they hadn’t thought twice about before suddenly brought them up short.
DB: Well something must have happened, I suppose, yeah. Something must’ve happened.
AK: I don’t think it was anything to do with the Lampoon itself. I think it was the climate in the country at that point. Do you know when this story was? It must’ve been around 1990, let’s say. Wasn’t “Murphy Brown” having a baby then? And Dan Quayle was all bent out of shape?
DB: It would’ve been. Yeah, that would’ve been around about that time. I used to watch Murphy Brown, believe it or not. When he was screaming about how an unwed…
AK: I watched it too, it was brilliant. She had an out of wedlock baby.
DB: “An unwed mother who didn’t know who the father was shouldn’t be on TV.” It’s like, a television show, get over it. But surely, I mean that wouldn’t cause National Lampoon to suddenly censor everything or lose their image.
AK: I don’t know. Maybe they were in the process of trying to sell the magazine, as they regularly were back then. Could have been that. Did you know for a while the actor from “Animal House,” Tim Matheson and a partner owned the magazine?
DB: I didn’t know that. Now, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Frenchy,” did that come after the “Too Much Funny?”
AK: That came after “Too Much Funny,” that’s the next story in the sequence.
DB: Was any of this censored? I mean you’ve got him hitting a crack pipe with a, you know, with a, I don’t know, it looks like a child prostitute in the background there.
AK: On page one?
AK: Oh yeah. No, that’s a fully mature, but totally wasted, skanky, crack whore. Well, apparently the fright was over at that point. What can I tell you? [laughter]
AK: I just run with the script as I get it, and they either get scared or not. But I think I’ve pointed out all the instances I’m aware of. It hardly ever happened.
DB: I was going to say, they’re freaked out about the other ones and they’re not going to do anything about that. It just makes me wonder what was going on at the time to make them…
AK: Well this story involves children. Frenchy is corrupting the hell out of these kids.
DB: Yeah, clearly.
AK: He’s not physically abusing or mistreating them or anything, but he’s still not doing good things here. Actually, all he’s really doing is telling the kids about real life, when you get down to it. [laughter]
DB: I mean this is another one of those bizarre stories, “The Call Of The Wild.”
AK: Yeah. For some reason this guy, the Graham Bishop character there, I always thought I was channelling Neal Adams when I did that guy. I know it’s a delusion, but I felt this character was a choice Neal might have made. But I don’t know why I think that. I just… sometimes I make these weird associations in my head. But as long as the end result is satisfying to me, it doesn’t matter what I thought. Now, that next panel, panel three there. That stuff is all pasted up. There is no drawing in that panel at all.
DB: Did you paste up the…
AK: That’s all clipart. The park, the van, everything.
DB: The van is very consistent, it’s the same pose in every panel.
AK: That’s all clipart, the whole panel.
DB: Hmm. Did you then paste up the van for all the other panels?
AK: Yes. I had a great Xerox machine back then and I just xeroxed the van any size I wanted it to be or I could reverse the picture if I wanted to. I know it’s obvious, but I don’t think it’s offensive at all. I hope not.
DB: No, I was actually going to ask you about that because the van is the same in every panel.
AK: Yeah, I hate drawing things like that. Mechanical things, with no personality. So I took the cheap way out and I hope it’s not too offensive.
DB: No I don’t think anyone, I mean it actually adds to the appeal of it.
AK: Oh, okay. [laughter] Good. Cheap chic.
DB: Yeah I was going to say it adds to the tacky appeal of it. It’s tacky and it’s just, it’s apt.
AK: So it’s got a legitimate artistic reason for it, huh? There you go, instead of taking the cheap way out, it’s artistic, it’s chic. [laughter]
DB: It’s got a very violent ending to this story as well. It looks like a “Lord of the Flies” type thing and then the kids invade the countryside.
AK: Yeah, and I like the van going off the cliff with the lemmings.
DB: Yeah, yeah.
AK: Some of the story telling in those panels is kind of like a jigsaw puzzle to put together when you’re composing it, you know. I think about some artists in this business and what they might have done with stuff like this. It could have been a mess. But I had a lot of fun with this job.
DB: You know, kicking a bunny in the next panel there.
AK: Oh yeah. I like the wolf chewing the kid’s the kid’s arm off.
AK: I felt that I achieved some kind of, almost Wally Wood and/or Harvey Kurtzman type figures posing in these particular panels. Which was fun. If the story suggests those types of poses, in my head, that’s where I wind up going. I think for the wolf, instead of doing real research, I went to my copies of Kubert’s Enemy Ace.
DB: Oh, yep.
AK: I love how I’ve got the kid pointing off panel with his arm stump. I always thought that was the height of grossness. Okay, and there’s another, different clipart van in the next panel.
DB: Yep, I picked that up. The minute you confirmed that the other one was a paste up I knew that one was. I mean, again it sort of adds to it really. It doesn’t detract from anything.
AK: I really got into some of these panels because once the background is established, you can pull in and just concentrate on the human beings and do some “acting”. You have to worry that your viewers always know where you are. I always seem to get Frenchy nice and maniacal when he’s putting war paint on people.
DB: Yeah the expressions you put on his face, you know, they really are good.
AK: Yeah, when I get what I want, it can work out well. For instance, panel five on that page; I think those guys are wonderful. The upside-down guys.
AK: There’s a lot of stuff packed in that panel. These are very dense panels, story-wise. I think the clown in the next panel is an excellent drawing. It’s really wonderful.
DB: Well there would be a lot of people that’d be happy to have done that and that’s what I’m saying there’s a lot of, it comes back to what I was saying before, there’s got to be a lot of people that would be very surprised to see it.
AK: I hope they’ll see it and be pleased.
DB: Now, the next thing is the two-pager, “Tales from the Road,” is that where it all stopped, with this two pager?
AK: In fact, yes. I think maybe what the Lampoon wanted to do at that time was to get a clown two-pager into every issue. I was told that it was a very popular feature. Maybe that’s why Nick wrote a bunch of two pagers. It’s so long ago, I don’t remember. But Lampoon just stopped publishing. So there are three, two page stories altogether. One illustrated in 1992, two illustrated in 2007.
AK: I think Nick may have written them all at the same time. But only “Luscious Martyr Mission” was drawn back then.
DB: And you can see the difference in them. Mind you, the first panel you’ve got on the “Luscious Martyr Mission,” which is the first two pager, you’ve got every clown known to man in there. Is that Obnoxio up the back?
AK: Oh yeah, there’s a whole bunch of clowns, yes. That’s Obnoxio the Clown at the back of the line there. But there isn’t every known clown in there. Hardly. And then, in front of Obnoxio is a guy I called Ditko Clown, because he looks like a Steve Ditko character to me.
DB: Is that Clarabelle the Clown in there as well?
AK: No, it’s not. It may look like him, but I didn’t reference Clarabelle. I made up all the clowns in that panel. Behind Frenchy is my friend Andrew J. Lederer as a clown again. Andy plays Pippo the Clown in “Hollywood Producer.” In all these stories over the years you can watch Andy lose his hair. You saw him on MTV recently and he is totally hairless there. In this splash panel I really like the amount of crap hanging around Frenchy’s neck. It’s all clustered together there. That panel worked out well. I like to mix things up and I was going for a differently shaped splash panel. Vertical instead of horizontal. I think it worked out well.
DB: Now, I do like the second page. The whole page and especially that top panel in the nightclub, yeah.
AK: Oh yeah, that’s really nice. It’s fun when you can get a big panel in there with something good going on and then carry it off well. Ahh, yeah, there’s a lot of good character work and acting in there. Very gratifying.
DB: No, I do, I really like it. And again the crazy face in panel four, that really comes across as nice and maniacal.
AK: Yeah, that page worked out really well. I’m very happy with it.
DB: But you can certainly feel the difference between those pages, I suppose, and the artwork in those as opposed to the newer stuff you’ve done. The newer stuff you’ve done it’s very… it’s very heavy on the blacks.
AK: I wish the original stories had had more blacks. I think it reads better because there’s more contrast going on.
DB: It does. And if it doesn’t sound too weird, going heavy on the black means you’ve got more detail going on in it.
AK: Well, not really. But it makes the detail that’s there pop. Because, if there’s all detail and no black, it just kind of turns to grey. There’s another reason for all the blacks. Actually, when I said this job was only lettered back in 1994, that wasn’t totally accurate. I had very roughly laid this job out in 1994. Not much more than scribbles. So when I finished this particular job up in 2007, I was not starting from scratch. But it could have been another unfortunate case like my final Justice League of America, number 232. Like the JLA story, I did not pencil the job tightly enough before I started inking. Woody used to say, “When in doubt, black it out.” So that accounts for some of the heavy blacks. Unlike the JLA story, there was no deadline on it. So when I stalled on the job and it sat there half-finished for months on end, I didn’t have to force it, and ruin it, like the JLA. The whole time Nyles is asking, “Where’s my story, where’s my story?” I would not finish it until I sat myself down and finally finished pencilling it properly. Then I finally went ahead and inked it. I did not want another Justice League 232 on my conscience. So “Three On A Clown” turned out okay, but it could’ve gone the other way.
DB: It’s a good thing it didn’t.
AK: And even still I’m not really… I don’t know who Wilson Phillips is, you see, I know who they are, but I don’t know them. So I’m drawing these kids from photos, but I don’t know them. They are not in my viscera. I can only do my best not being very familiar with the source material.
DB: And “Mr Johnson Comes A-Calling,” I mean that’s the last one you’ve done. That’s a great splash page.
AK: Ahh, well, yeah it’s got a kind of simplicity to it. Actually, my original artistic conception for the job really was… really, I don’t think it was in the script but the feeling suggested by the script made me think of the famous Edward Hopper painting, “Nighthawks.” The diner on the deserted street corner, at night. Very stark. Very desolate.
DB: The diner, yeah.
AK: I really wanted to repeat Hopper’s composition over and over again in this piece. But practically speaking, I didn’t think the shot was close enough to the action to show anything. So this is a compromise. This is a different camera placement on the same angle. You know what I mean?
AK: So this is what I wound up with. On the second page, I wasn’t so sure about being that static. But it’s supposed to be static and repetitious. I could have moved my camera around like a mad man, but I felt that wouldn’t have properly told the story.
DB: Yeah, I mean…
AK: There’s virtually no movement called for in the story, it’s just, you know, it just is what it is.
DB: Yeah, but with going the static shot of every panel, you know, his head being the same in every panel I think would make it more static and, yeah, you’re right, there’s not a lot going on it in but to have something the same in each one of them would just, for me, make it boring.
AK: I like the fact that his expression, his body language changes in each panel. He’s getting more and more depressed, you know, to the point of settling for the donut, which is a panel that puts me away. You know, not being a subtle fellow, I wanted Frenchy’s finger pointing right at the hole.
DB: Leave nothing for chance.
AK: I’m kind of hoping Tom will put something nice on the counter top texture wise or, you know, marble or some neat Formica, or something like that.
DB: How close are you working with Tom on it?
AK: Back when Heavy Metal was going to publish this book in 1994, we were going to do it in colour. So we shot two sets of Photostats from the originals. One set was for backup. I started colouring the first set. I had finished colouring about 90% of it before the project ground to a halt. So now Tom’s got my colour schemes. Tom’s free to use what he wants from my schemes. Or not. I totally trust Tom. We seem to be of one mind on almost everything. We both come out of the same “schools.” Jack Adler High School and The University of Neal Adams. And we’ve both got the scars to prove it.