"[X-Men] Re-creation done for John Harrison," Dan writes. "On original
I used Ditko Spider-Man swipe and the other figures are swiped from
Kirby." Art ©2000 Dan Adkins. Spider-Man, X-Men ©2000 Marvel Characters,
Dan Adkins' Strange Tales
In the World of Wood and the House of Ideas
Conducted by Jon B. Cooke
Transcribed by Jon B. Knutson
Book Artist #7
Last September, after I had already spoken to Dan Adkins proteges
P. Craig Russell and Paul Gulacy, I thought it might be cool to include
interviews with Val Mayerik (another Adkins alumni) and hopefully
Big Dan himself, and make a "Adkins School" section for
CBA #6. Well, subsequently learning that Val had zero interest in
talking with us—and dividing the issue into a two-parter—put
an end to that concept; but I did get a riotous interview with a true
comics original and penciler/inker/art director extraordinaire, Mr.
Adkins himself. I can only hope this is the first of many interviews
cuz Dan is a hoot to encounter! This interview took place via phone
on September 19, 1999, and was copy-edited by the artist.
COMIC BOOK ARTIST: When did you first start thinking about
a career in comics?
DAN ADKINS: I never had any idea of becoming a comic book
artist until I went to Wally Wood's apartment. I met him through
Bill Pearson, and I was working on a fanzine I was going to put out.
This would be my second fanzine; I'd done the first one in the
CBA: Was it an EC fanzine?
DAN: It was a science-fiction fanzine. I discovered s-f fandom
in probably '54, '55... very early. Joe Noel had put
out a fanzine called Vega. I went on to discover the fanzines Dimensions
by Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg's Spaceship (or something
like that). I got into all kinds of s-f fanzines...
CBA: So you were a voracious reader of s-f?
DAN: Yeah, and I had letters printed in letter columns. I
met Bill Pearson, who had a letter printed in Amazing Stories, and
I happened to be stationed with the Air Force in Phoenix when I was
19. I saw his letter and noticed he lived near the base, so I gave
him a call and said I wanted to meet him. Of course, we had similar
interests (and he had no interest in meeting anybody!). [laughs] I
went out there that night, and we met. Later on, we put out Sata together.
I started it when I was in the service using a lot of their equipment.
Pearson took it over with #6. Later in New York, after I got married,
I wanted to put together a better fanzine—because by then I'd
met Archie Goodwin, Al Williamson, Frazetta, and Steve Ditko, and
I was working for the s-f magazines—the professional ones—in
my spare time (I had a steady job). I was also working for the fanzines
like crazy then—I was art editor of Amra, which George Scithers
put out, and it had Krenkel and George Barr artwork. So I went up
to Wally Wood's studio. I was working in advertising at the time,
and like I said, freelancing for professional s-f magazines, and doing
art for the regular fanzines. I had no idea of becoming a comic book
artist—I was going to be a studio man; but I took out nine pages
that I had done for a magazine, and I took up a story Jack Gaughan
had given me, and I took up a story Archie Goodwin had given me, called
"The Sinner" (that was reprinted in the Comic Book Profiles
devoted to Archie—it was originally given to me to print way
back in the beginning of the '60s, for my fanzine). So, when
Wally saw all this stuff, he was impressed, and he said he'd
do something for me, but he was busy. He said the sooner I helped
him out, the sooner he'd work for my fanzine! [laughter]
So, I started helping Wally, and later on my planned fanzine became
Wally's and it was called witzend. In his book The Golden Age
of Fandom, Bill Schelly was almost correct in writing I was too busy
doing other things to do witzend; but when it came out, I hadn't
worked for Marvel yet, so I wasn't too busy working for Marvel,
as it says in his book, I was too busy working for Wally! [laughter]
Wally, by then, had gotten contributions from Al Williamson, Frazetta,
and Reed Crandall, so he and his people were contributing more than
my people to the first issue. But the main reason he published it,
I think, was money. I had enough to publish 500 copies, and Wally
had enough to publish 3000 copies—and we already had orders for
like 1500—so that's how come it became Wally's fanzine.
CBA: Was that your title?
DAN: No, Wally came up with "witzend." It was originally
to be called Et Cetera. For a time, we hadn't really come up
with a title, so we just called it Adkins' Outlet (we didn't
want to use that name for the fanzine, of course, because people would
confuse it with the name of a store) [laughs] but we just called it
Outlet as a going title and we were using the name in some of the
promotions and stuff.
That's how I ended up doing comics; I was working for Wally
by 1964, and after working for him three months, I quit my studio
job, because I was making about the same amount of money—about
$135 a week at my studio job, and I was making about $200 or so a
week from Wally. Of course, I was doing three times the amount of
work! But it was more fun, and I was able to work at home or go over
to Wally's. I started with my first story in the back of T.H.U.N.D.E.R.
Agents. I penciled that "Iron Maiden" story, and Wally and
I inked it. He didn't like my inking, so he took me off that
and I didn't go back to inking for about six months.
CBA: You were ghosting and doing layouts for Wally?
DAN: Well, I got about 60 jobs from Wally in a period of 16
months, and they were a lot of different things. I would pencil. Most
of the time, Wally would do breakdowns and then I'd tight-pencil
it—and, on occasion, I would do the job from scratch, from just
a plot, like the Marvel way; but both of us almost always ended up
inking it. Wally very seldom inked a whole job by himself. Either
I or Ralph Reese (who was there at the time when he was only 15 or
16) did the inking.
After that, I did "Overworked" for Creepy. That was the
first job I got credit on, as Wally put my name on it. The only reason
I got credit, I'm sure, was due to the fact that Jim Steranko
had come up to Wally's apartment while I was there, coming in
with a blonde on one arm and samples under the other arm—and
Wally said, "Leave the blonde, take the samples!" [laughter]
Anyway, Jim came up there looking for work, coming over from Harvey,
I think. Sooner or later, he ended up working at Marvel, and I'd
seen this "Nick Fury" job he did, inking Kirby, and I pointed
it out to Wally and said, "Here's that kid that came up
here with the samples and had that blonde with him!" [laughs]
Wally could tell I was a little envious, because the guy was working
now, and the next thing I knew—maybe even the same day—my
name ended up on that job we were working on, "Overworked,"
but I'd already done a lot of the jobs for Wally.
Tony Coleman from England—actually he came down from Canada—was
working as Wally's assistant for six months while I was there.
So we had Ralph, me and Wally's wife, Tatjana—she also did
some inking and coloring and stuff. We had all of us in a little room
CBA: What was Wally like?
DAN: I don't know what he was like! [laughter] I'm
not sure what I'm like after all these years, and I'm very
close to me! [laughter] He was always telling me I should go to a
shrink, and everybody else, too! [laughs] His main problem was that
he was an alcoholic. I never knew it at the time, and he never drank
except for two weeks during the whole 16 months that I was on the
job. He was on the wagon, you know? Which means he was pretty happy
with the way things were going in his life. He went back to the bottle
for that two weeks, and first thing, Tony and I came in and we found
these nudes pasted all over the studio—this was an old building,
and we were on the fifth floor, and it had 17-foot ceilings, real
high. He had cut up issues of Sunshine and all these nudie books,
and he'd taken these girls and pasted them up while Tony and
I were out—and we were only out about 12 hours or so, away at
home to rest up, and when we returned, there were a thousand or two
thousand nudes pasted up! On the third day, the nudes had been taken
down. So, that was the weirdest thing, during those two weeks...
Wally came to me and told me that he was an alcoholic, and he'd
tried to drink again on rare social occasions, but he couldn't
stop drinking! During these two weeks, I had more of a workload, we
were doing these six record album covers—I don't know who
they were for, but they advertised them...
CBA: Was it those Journey to the Center of the Earth and The
Invisible Man album covers?
DAN: Yeah, and Warren was pitching them. I got $60 each for
penciling them, which was above my comic book rate (which started
out as $4 a page, and then going up to $18 a page). So, I received
more than the page rate and it was for just one drawing—except
in the case of The Invisible Man, which we broke down to three panels.
I came up with the whole idea, laid them out, then I helped ink them,
and that's why I got paid better. This was during a period when
we also did an ad for some kind of book club in Argosy that involved
all the fictional detectives, like Perry Mason and James Bond...
I'd taken a lot of swipes from Mort Drucker, who worked for Mad.
Wally was good at certain stuff, but I wasn't very good at caricatures,
so I used mostly Drucker swipes. So, I did all these high-paying ads
when Wally couldn't during his drunk period—but I didn't
notice he was drunk... he didn't go throwing things around
the building like I heard he did later, when he took an axe to a studio!
He did a lot of those things up in Connecticut, when he was living
in Derby, at the end.
CBA: Was he moody?
DAN: No, he wasn't moody but when he got angry, you were
afraid. Wally had a stare that could scare the Hell out of you! [laughs]
But I guess he was pretty tough, though he wasn't a big guy.
He was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne. I was in the Air Force,
so I know what it was like to go through that training. They'll
let you drown... I couldn't swim very well, and I practically
drowned on this maneuver we went out on—and they shoot live bullets,
too! They're supposed to shoot high, you know? But you had to
stay down! [laughter] So, if you jump up, it's your own fault.
Wally ran away from home at an early age, I understand. The only
thing was, he used to say, he took his mother with him! [laughter]
His mother did come over once to the studio while I was there, and
she would make this noise by cracking her fingers, and Wally said
she did it on purpose to drive us crazy, and she did drive us crazy!
[laughs] Al Williamson came around, and I talked to Reed Crandall
on the telephone, things like that. Otherwise, it was mostly work,
work, work all the time.
CBA: You plotted some Tower stories, right?
DAN: Yeah, I plotted a couple of Towers and I plotted Douglas
Bauder's story... Douglas was a one-legged pilot in the British
Air Force, Wally made me read this 300-page book so I could write
this three page story! On "The Death of Menthor," Steve
Ditko did the pencils, but those were from Wally Wood's breakdowns.
When I killed Menthor off, I was writing that story right up there
in the chair while Wally was drawing, and I'd hand Wally a page,
and he'd say, "How are you going to get him out of this?"
And I'd say, "I don't know." [laughs] And I didn't
know, so I decided not to get him out of it, and killed him off! Wally
had to call Samm Schwartz and talk him into killing Menthor. It took
us a couple of hours. So some kids came up to Samm's office to
protest killing Menthor, begging him to bring him back. Wally had
Ralph come up with the idea of Weed and the peanut butter factory,
CBA: What was the story? Weed was based on Woody, right?
DAN: Yeah. So was Dollar Bill Cash, the Flying Tiger pilot
in the Harvey series. Actually, Weed could've been based on Ralph,
CBA: Did you follow his method of working late into the night
at the start of your career?
DAN: Well, I've always been nocturnal. I think we're
both best nocturnally. So are most of the artists I know. Steranko
will be up till 5 a.m. I was nocturnal before I met Wally, but Wally
was not only nocturnal, he'd just hardly ever sleep. He'd
go 20, 40 hours without sleeping. It was just amazing...!
CBA: Did you perceive him as a tragic figure at the time?
DAN: No, I thought he was a very busy guy. That might be tragic,
but I always had this saying, "In motion, so you don't feel
emotion." So Wally was in a daze all the time, and just worked.
He did love comics, but he just hated editors. I don't reckon
you've heard the bitter things he's said about editors.
He rated them pretty low, and always had this cynical approach to
drawing, you know. There was a saying, "You copy it, if you can't
copy it, you trace it, if you can't trace it, you cut it out
and paste it up!" [laughter] Whatever value there was about originality,
it didn't particularly matter—but the funny thing is, of
the loads and loads of stuff Wally swiped, the moment he inked it,
it became Wally Wood, you know?
I swiped. One thing I don't have is a style like Wally Wood,
and I avoided developing a distinct style. I tried not to get a specific
style, because I'd seen Wally trapped in that style, like Kirby
was in his own. You get to this style so you can work fast, but it's
basically a way of thinking that has little room for any other deviations
after a while. So, I found that non-creative; and Wally wasn't
that original, except in his cartoons—everything else was derivative
from Foster or Raymond. His lighting was a helluva lot like Raymond's
Flash Gordon, but Wally took it and did it more so—double-lighting
So it was kind of weird. I was a big EC fan, and Wally was my favorite
artist. So I was a fan who ended up working for Wally, which was a
wish come true, so I had one of my most creative periods that time
working for Wally, and working for Creepy. The stuff I did for Wally
was my best work! [laughter] I didn't get credit for the most
part, so it was just a strange thing. I think it was because I wasn't
getting credit that I could afford to do whatever I wanted and take
CBA: Did you work with Wally when he was doing Daredevil?
DAN: No. There's a graceful figure on a building or something
looking down in the story where there's a cat-girl or something,
and Craig Russell keeps talking about that all the time! He must've
asked me on five different occasions if I penciled that cover for
Wally! Because it's a long, lean figure, a little unusual for
Wally, you know? I didn't do it, I don't know who did! [laughs]
But no, I never inked on it. He was just finishing up Daredevil when
I came in.
Wally didn't like working for Marvel, because he wanted a bigger
cut of the money. He had some wrong idea that Kirby was getting a
percentage. Kirby was getting bonuses, but a lot of us were getting
bonuses! Jim Steranko and I got bonuses when we were sharing Strange
Tales with our "Nick Fury" and "Dr. Strange."
The book went up in sales when we came on, so I got a $400 bonus,
and Jim got a bonus. I know Kirby used to get like $10,000 a year
bonuses, and Wally wanted some of that, but he wasn't getting
CBA: He was only on Daredevil for what, seven issues?
DAN: Yeah. He's the one who made the suit into that dark
red suit, you know.
CBA: When did you go off on your own? When you were working
DAN: Yeah, and I did it in a cowardly way, according to Wally.
[laughs] I went down to Archie, and had to beg him for about six months
to let me do a story for him, which turned out to be "The Doorway."
I was still working for Wally, until my third Warren story, "The
Day After Doomsday." When that came out, I took my samples—I'd
had my name on three jobs for Wally, and I had three jobs published
on my own, including a one-page filler for Blazing Combat, plus my
science-fiction stuff for years—and I went to Marvel. I saw Sol
Brodsky, and went in to see Stan, and they gave me a Bill Everett
"Sub-Mariner" job to ink. So I inked that, brought that
back in, and they gave me my first pencil job, which Stan wrote. He
gave me a plot written out on index cards. It was "It Walks Like
a Man," or something like that. A thing from radiation. So, I
did that story with Stan, and the second half I did with Roy Thomas,
and those were my first stories.
When I started working for Marvel, I stopped doing stuff for Wally
and Tower. Tower was up to about the 16th or 17th issue of T.H.U.N.D.E.R.
Agents by then, and I don't think there was any sign of trouble,
so I wasn't quitting because the books weren't selling.
I was just out of there because I wanted to draw bigger panels. I
always had arguments with Wally about the way to pencil the jobs,
because I wanted it bigger, and I wanted to turn torsos, and Wally
didn't like to turn figures too much—he had this sort of
stock way of drawing everything. Most people assume when I was working
for Wally, I was just an inker—because I became an inker most
of my career—but actually I was mostly a penciler with Wally.
It just happened that I did inking. So, I was wanting to create my
way, and that's the reason I left, nothing to do with our relationship
But once I quit [laughs], I didn't tell Wally I was going to
quit, I just said, "I can't do a job for you this week,
Wally, I've got to do some other stuff!" So, my wife took
the last job I did for Wally up to him, and figured she'd get
a check, and Wally said, "Dan was too scared to come up, right?"
[laughter] So I knew he was really mad at me. We didn't speak
for a couple of years. (We finally met at a convention and we talked
and had dinner together.) So I went out and started painting covers.
Actually, I think I painted a cover for Creepy or Eerie before I left
Wally. At the time, only Frazetta, Jack Davis and Gray Morrow had
done covers for Warren, so Wally said, "Too much competition!"
[laughs] But I went up and sold a cover anyway, "The Wanderer"
or something, this guy floating down from space. Frank Frazetta said
something to the effect of he'd never thought about using brown
for the sky or something... I don't even remember what the
sky looked like now, but I remember the quote from Frank! [laughter]
CBA: What did you learn from Wally?
DAN: He taught me about 90% of everything that's incorrect
about my work. The other 10% I learned myself! [laughter] But again,
Wally taught me to burn brushes—we'd burn the tips with
a match (never a lighter) and you wet it a little bit, and you get
a very good tip to a #3 Windsor-Newton Series 7! You've just
got to bring it up to the match with your right hand, and jerk it
away the moment you see it coming into contact. This gives you what
they call a "bedeviled edge,"—it's long one way
and thin the other way, and we had a way of inking and twisting that
brush automatically so that it just gives you almost perfect control
instead of the stringy little thing that comes with it. It's
a very small part you'd burn, but this gave us a very good, controlled
line for our outlining and we only use the sharp brushes for the feathering
CBA: When you were illustrating and inking your own work,
was the first regular strip "Dr. Strange"?
DAN: No, I did the first two issues of "Sub-Mariner"
with Stan Lee. These were the 11-pagers in Tales to Astonish. After
that, I did 11 issues of "Dr. Strange" in Strange Tales
starting with around #160. I started doing the covers first. I've
seen an interview with Marie Severin in which she said I did a nice
job inking her "Dr. Strange," but I've never inked
Marie's "Dr. Strange"! But I did ink some Marie Severin
covers. I used to call her up and tell her masturbation jokes. [laughter]
Dan Adkins' re-creation of his Dr. Strange #169 cover. Courtesy
of the artist. Art ©2000 Dan Adkins. Dr. Strange ©2000 Marvel Characters,
CBA: You shared Strange Tales with...
DAN: ...Steranko, which is why I'm now living in Reading,
Pennsylvania. As Steranko and I tell it, it was love at first sight
when I first saw him in that white suit. He'd wear this white
or light blue suit all the time to conventions. [laughs] So I live
over here because of Steranko. I came over here for two days, he showed
me the town.
CBA: For an inker who can be described as very chameleon,
I distinctly recall your "Doctor Strange" work as being
very lush and very Adkins, very you.
DAN: They started out as looking like Ditko, because I was
told to draw like Ditko. I was never told to draw like Kirby—but
I was told to draw like Ditko. I was actually told to swipe Ditko,
and this was by Stan, up front. So, I did; but then I started going
towards my own style, which is realistic and just a different style.
CBA: Did you kind of draw yourself into a corner by putting
in that much detail? I really recall a lot of cross-hatching...
DAN: No, I met the deadlines of the first three when I penciled
and inked the whole book, 22 pages a month, but it may be that one
of the reasons I switched to inking is because it was hard to do a
monthly book, pencils and inks. I was still very young at the time,
and had a lot of energy. I didn't have much of a problem with
that, but I always went up there and turn in these jobs, and I'd
see these gorgeous jobs by Buscema and Kirby and Gene Colan back in
those days. So I just wanted to ink these guys. John Severin, in his
Comics Journal interview said he hated to do the inking, but I loved
the inking, the finishing off. I think the inker makes the final statement,
even when he's inking a guy that's tight, like Neal Adams.
CBA: You had a reputation for swiping.
DAN: When I started out, Wally had loads of reference to work
with that went way back; but I would swipe from something that came
out a couple of months ago when I was first starting, and I still
hadn't made up my mind whether it was bad to swipe or not. It's
bad to swipe the way I did, and it's certainly bad to swipe the
way Rich Buckler did, but somehow, when Esteban Maroto swipes from
Gil Kane, he gets away from it. I adored Marie Severin who used to
kid me about my swiping.
CBA: So, if you could do it again, you'd do it differently?
DAN: I just did it to meet the deadlines, it was so hard,
CBA: Many artists have historically swiped from Foster or
Lou Fine, or instance...
DAN: Wally did it, but of course, when Wally and I were through
with it, it looked like Wally!
CBA: But your swipes were from pretty current material.
DAN: They were current, and there wasn't much changing;
but a lot of it was like when you take Tarzan and you'd put Dr.
Strange's costume on him. I was actually redrawing it, and just
stealing the pose. That's mostly what I swiped for—so I
didn't have to think up the poses and I didn't have to repeat
myself so much, using the same poses. It's hard for me to draw.
CBA: So you pretty much gave up penciling?
DAN: Well, I only penciled something in the neighborhood of
25 to 30 stories (and of course that doesn't count the 16 or
30 I did for Wally). Yeah, I went to inking for a long time, and then
your mind changes; the actual physical work doesn't change, but
your mind changes, and times where if you're inking Dick Ayers
when you're young and starting out, it's like "Oh,
God! They gave me Dick Ayers! This is just going to make me look bad
and hurt my reputation!" But when you're older, it's,
"Oh, man, they gave me Dick Ayers; what a break! I can do this
in a day!" [laughter] So, there are different ways of looking
at all these things. After a while, you run out of good artists and
so they started giving you a lot of "fix-up" art. That was
basically after Don Newton died. I did 49 stories with Don Newton,
I lived down the street from him in Phoenix. That's why we ended
up working so much together. You know, we did a lot of Batman stories.
CBA: You could really adapt to styles. If I recall, you inked
some Captain America stories by Kirby?
DAN: Yeah, I inked Kirby on #104 and #105.
CBA: But you could really adapt, you didn't necessarily
DAN: I didn't like the idea that Wally had a stamped
style, you know? So, I can usually adapt to other people and the direction
they were going in with the pencils, because my ego doesn't want
to get in the way. I basically tried to go the way they were going.
I'd try to fix little things. I just inked the Kirby cover for
your friend there...
CBA: Yeah, the Captain America cover [for The Jack Kirby Collector
DAN: If you look, you'll see I've added shadows
to the ear, I've added little highlights to the eye. So, I do
not follow these people exactly, but it still looks authentic. If
you compare Kirby's pencils with my inks, you can see that I
do change things.
CBA: But it's a faithful adaptation...
DAN: Yeah, what I call, "Going in the same direction
they drag you into." I do add Wally Wood eyes.
CBA: And you inked Bill Everett. How was he to ink?
DAN: I found absolutely nobody hard to ink. The only person
where I got a little nervous about inking, is when I inked a "Challengers
of the Unknown" story by Alex Toth. I felt inhibited inking Toth,
mainly because I didn't want to get killed! [laughter]
CBA: You worked closely with Wally in a studio environment.
Have you always sought out camaraderie with other creative types to
work with them?
DAN: I wasn't like Wally, no. He always had people around,
but I hate assistants!
CBA: Have you had any?
DAN: Well, Craig Russell, Val Mayerik, and Paul Gulacy, we
worked together on things, but I never really thought of them as assistants.
Bruce Miller helped me on a few jobs.
CBA: But pretty much you're solitary?
DAN: Yeah, yeah. Although I get very bored with myself, you
know? I just don't like assistants. I don't think it's
a problem with delegating authority, either. I used to be a control
freak. I don't know why; it would be smart to have a good person
to help with some of the work, but I want to do it all. I like to
do all the work.
Getting to Craig Russell, and how that started: There was an article
in the local paper about me, and his father saw it, and wanted me
to do a drawing for him, and that's where I learned about Craig
and his collection of comics. His father asked could Craig drop by
and see me. He did, and I ended up helping him get work.
These guys really weren't my assistants or anything, I was just
helping them get into comics. Val was next after that, and Val—his
art teacher in Youngstown knew me, so he came around because the art
teacher sent him, and I laid out a job for him, and without even asking
Marvel or anything! I just thought of this story, laid it out, and
said, "Go on, I'll make you a star!" [laughs] He brought
it in, and we had it written by John Jakes and inked by Joe Sinnott.
It was "Spell of the Dragon" with John Jakes' Brak
I broke down these stories Craig worked on, one called "Thirst,"
where Steve Gerber did the script; but I did all the plotting, and
laid them out.
Anyway, after Val came along, he had a girlfriend who was going up
to Pittsburgh on the bus and she met Gulacy on the bus. They got to
talking about comics, and she said her boyfriend was drawing comics,
and Gulacy gave me a call in the a.m.! [laughs] That's how Gulacy
got started, anyway. Then we had all three of them there, you see;
and then we had the one that's not mentioned, Mark Kersey, who
looked like Al Capp's Li'l Abner, had these brogans on—these
great big shoes—and he used to walk three or four miles to come
out to the studio. Anyway, he only worked one job, "Ant-Man,"
that Craig worked on, too. Anyway, Mark didn't like the idea
of TV dinners and sleeping in his day clothes, and went home to momma!
[laughter] Not that it's a hard life!
CBA: What became of him?
DAN: Well, for one thing, he was a serious artist, and he
had some really great samples for a guy who was only 19. He was going
to become to the comic book and art world what the Beatles were to
the music world... but he didn't. We gave him credit in that
"Ant-Man" book that Craig was drawing. So I helped most
of those guys get started.
CBA: You just did layouts and plotting gratis, just to help
DAN: Yeah. Actually, we went through a lot of dumb things
together, and one of the things Barry Smith loves to recall...
Barry Storyteller-Smith [laughs] took the name "Windsor"
from the Windsor-Newton brush [laughter]... honest! That's
a tribute to that brush, which was the Queen's brush. (Windsor
came up with the Series 7 just for the Queen of England.) Anyway,
we all worked on this horrible job we did for Conan that Barry laid
CBA: You know, I remember as a kid opening that up and thinking,
"Something went terribly wrong." [laughter]
DAN: A lot went wrong there! For one thing, it was a bad deal,
because John Verpoorten, who made the money arrangements, thought
it was a good idea to give Barry Smith something like $30-40 a page,
and then give us $7 a page to finish it off! It should've been
the other way around, from the layouts we had. So, we were all working
on it, and Barry can't lay out—he's like Joe Kubert
(Hi, Joe!) [laughter]. Kubert is impossible to ink, and Howie Chaykin
ain't too easy, either. I turned back a whole job by Kubert,
because I thought his layouts were so vague. Who was the German guy,
or the good guy? I couldn't tell... he just doesn't put
down any information there. I'm talking about layouts, not tight
CBA: What job was that? Kubert almost always inks his own
DAN: This was just one of those jobs when I was working for
DC and he was an editor there. They gave me a job that was laid out
by Kubert, and I said, "I can't get anything from this thing.
I don't even know what's going on here!" So I gave
it back. Joe probably knew what the hell was going on there. Wally
could almost ink with no information, a lot of times, and just turn
it into Wally inks.
The thing about Barry is that he has to take his time, and has to
really overwork it. So when he does layouts, it's just not right,
he's just not a guy who can do layouts like John Buscema. John's
a natural artist, he knows how to draw. Barry only knows how to draw
by redrawing and redrawing, so there was just no way we could get
this done on the time schedule they had. This was when Barry was very
CBA: It was tight already?
DAN: Yeah, it was always tight. See, I was late with a number
of jobs, you know? I cannot ink real fast. I've inked nine pages
during an 18-hour session, a page every two hours. That was a Marie
Severin story, Sub-Mariner vs. the Hulk, for Tales to Astonish #100.
So, I inked a page in an hour, and I've penciled 11 pages in
one 18-20 hour sitting; but basically, I can do a page-and-a-half
a day. So, when you get Barry and what you call the slow pencilers...
and he's slow. I don't know how fast he is now, because
if you look at Barry Windsor-Smith: Storyteller, he's a fast
penciler in there, and a fast inker, and a fast artist! [laughter]
The first issue of Conan, I inked and there were no problems, probably
because it had been sitting around forever (I think Barry had gotten
#4 started before I even started on #1). But when I got to #7, I think
I only did about seven pages before Frank Giacoia, I think, came in
and helped finish it off. But Barry's slow, and if you give me
his job, it's usually already late before I start; but if you
give me John Buscema or Jack Kirby, who are both fast... I did
eight John Buscema Silver Surfer issues with no problem, you know?
And it was no problem for two reasons: 1) These guys don't put
in as much detail as Smith, and 2) What they do put in, they put in
quickly, therefore they've got some kind of system. So, you can
handle problems with deadlines; but you take a guy that's meticulous
like me, and a guy who's meticulous like Barry, and you're
asking for trouble!
CBA: What brought you out to Ohio?
DAN: Running away from crime. In the Summer of '68, I
got mugged coming from Wally's. I used to work up there until
two or three a.m., and would come home by taking the subway, then
a bus home. The bus was very late, so I started walking home—about
a mile walk—and I wasn't quite sure of the direction to
get home anyway. These guys followed me from the subway stop and they
mugged me, cut me underneath the armpits where the guy (who was holding
me) put a knife under my arm from the back. So I got home, I called
Wally up, and I said I got mugged. So, that was one incident. Then,
a couple weeks later, I was working real late and guys broke into
my damn kitchen while I was working! I was able to get rid of them,
and the cops got there real quick and they were chasing the burglars
over the back of my yard! So, I decided, "This is enough of the
Big City, I'm going home to good old safe Ohio." [laughs]
So, I gave my parents a call. I have two brothers and a sister, and
my two brothers came up in a big truck, and helped me load up. Those
guys broke in on Friday night, and by Sunday I was living in Ohio.
CBA: You'd had enough.
DAN: My mother and dad, they had 11 rooms in their house,
and three acres, so they had plenty of room for me and Jeanette...
I had one kid, and he was only about six then. So, I was there at
my parents for about three months, and then I bought a house, and
I stayed there for six years. My dad ended up dying, and after my
dad died—when you see someone die, it makes you think about your
life, and I decided, "That's enough of Ohio!"
CBA: You served at art editor of the Marvel b-&-w line?
DAN: I was art editor up at Marvel on the b-&-w books,
which I did for two years. Marvel had about 16 titles, I think. When
they put out whatever they put out—Monsters Unleashed, Vampire
CBA: You were in New York at the time?
DAN: I lived in New Jersey, in Edgewater. I went to New York
not exactly for that staff job, but for a steady job. I'd been
in Phoenix—that's where I went after I left Don Newton's
area—and I moved to New Jersey. I was up there probably only
about two months before I started working for Marvel. Marv Wolfman
is the one who got me that job. They were putting out titles, and
needed somebody to talk to artists on the phone, and make sure the
production stuff went through (although we had a production man of
our own—besides John Verpoorten—Lenny Grow). Anything that
needed fixing up, I would do; any talks with the artists about how
to correct something, I'd do; and I'd help with designing.
After two years, these books stopped selling and they started bringing
work from upstairs—on the ninth floor, they put out the men's
magazines, the gossip magazines, and so forth. They started bringing
down advertisements that would appear for Simon & Schuster for
their books. They were always making changes, and were always so critical
about things. That wasn't a thing I wanted to do; I'd been
spoiled by all the drawing! [laughs] This is the stuff I used to do
in the studios, what they'd call paste-ups. I wasn't an
illustrator so much as I was a mechanicals man. So, I'd been
spoiled, and when Marvel started doing that, I went over to DC and
they put me on Superman or something. Return of the New Gods was the
first thing I started doing, with Don Newton, somewhere around 1976,
1977. I did a lot of Curt Swan. I did Warlord for a long time, with
Dan Jurgens, one of the artists I had to fix up.
Let me tell you a Dan Jurgens story: I was down to six teeth (they
said I had no teeth in a Wally Wood article in Comic Book Marketplace—I
had teeth, guys!) [laughter], and I went down and had them pulled
at 11 a.m., and the surgeon gave me Novocaine. But the night before,
I'd been up all night inking a Dan Jurgens story, and—I
forget who the hell the editor was of Warlord at the time... anyway—maybe
it's better if we don't mention his name [laughs]—the
editors got $500 bonuses if their books were put out on time that
CBA: If they came in on time?
DAN: Yeah, the editors would get bonuses! So, you see why
they would go after people. So, this guy was always telling me to
add more texture to Dan Jurgens—which means "Add more work."
So, after a three-hour trip to New York, I went in and there was still
gauze in my mouth because I was still bleeding from having the teeth
pulled. I was standing there with no sleep, up all night, and the
guy looks at the job and says, "Adkins, this needs more texture!"
I took out the gauze and started wiping blood on the paper. "Here's
your texture!" [laughter] That's the way it is sometimes;
it's rough. And unappreciated!
CBA: What was the highpoint of your career?
DAN: Well, my Warren work was probably the peak of my creativity.
What was not so creative was the swiping. You get a reputation and
it's too bad you can't erase it, I guess, because you do
get to be a better artist later on, and overcome most of that. Those
guys wrote the articles about me and swiping in the fanzines—there
was one called "Dan Adkins and the Amazing Tracing Machine"
by Jim Vadeboncoeur—I'd be glad to sit down and draw to
make it up... I could back then, too, but I don't think I
particularly cared to. I guess I've always felt guilty about
swiping. I don't think I'd do anything like that nowadays.
I've learned how to draw, and how to meet deadlines! If you try,
you can avoid situations where you have to do things too fast, and
can take your time.
CBA: What was the highpoint working for Marvel in the '70s?
DAN: It was inking those guys, and not the penciling. I loved
those Buscema Silver Surfer issues. I did three Sub-Mariner issues
he did, and that was when he was doing his tight penciling.
CBA: Russell and Gulacy told me you were a big Elvis fan.
DAN: I was an illustrator while in the Air Force at Luke Field.
I did the calendar for the base, library signs, what's at the
movies this week sign, and basically kept the base filled with information.
I got $90 to buy supplies with every month, and I had to go down to
the art store and keep track of it with slips, but what I did—because
the guy wanted me to spend all the money, or we wouldn't get
that much all the time, the guy said, "Be sure you spend at least
$90," so I printed out my fanzine with the $90! [laughter] I
bought the paper with it, and everything. We actually had an article
in the fourth issue of Sata on Elvis Presley—this was '56.
Elvis was out there at one of the baseball fields performing on the
stage at the pitcher's mound. He'd come up in a station
wagon, and they got out there, and the mike wasn't working or
something... so he got another mike, and said, "If this motherf*ckin'
mike don't start workin', I'm going to leave!"
[laughter] Elvis was only about 23. This thing was four or five feet
off the ground, this stage, but he got clear off that stage and was
singing from the ground. So, I became a big Elvis fan.
CBA: From that moment on?
DAN: Yeah. I was crazy about Elvis, and I could do a pretty
good imitation of Elvis when I was younger. He had this way of moving
that he stole from strippers, in the way that he moved across the
stage, wiggling. We sent that issue of Sata to Memphis, and we got
a letter from Elvis' mother!
CBA: Get out!
DAN: Yeah! [laughter] I wish I'd saved the letter! It
was on lined paper, and it said, "Elvis isn't home now,
but I'll show him your magazine. He's never home much anymore."
[laughter] It was just great.
CBA: Paul and Craig mentioned taking you to the drive-in...
DAN: Gulacy took me to see Charro!, and that was one of Elvis'
worst movies. We saw that practically in the rain at the drive-in.
[laughs] So God couldn't have picked a better movie! [laughter]
CBA: You're still working pretty steadily, right?
DAN: Well, I don't like to work too much, but then again,
doing nothing is even worse than working. I hate what people call
a "good time," because getting drunk is a total "no-good
time" for me. I can't see why kids are out there drinking
booze and everything. I never drank booze; it upsets my stomach or
makes me drowsy.
I certainly wouldn't want to be a workaholic like Wally. I used
to work harder, where I didn't get much sleep. It's very
strange, because the only thing that happens when you slow down working
is you think more. I don't know what else there is to do! I still
work, and I think I draw better than I ever did before, and I've
certainly got over that swiping thing they used to kill me for! [laughs]
To make subscription and back issue orders easier for our readers (especially
those overseas), we now accept VISA and MASTERCARD on our secure
Sign up here
to receive periodic updates about what's going on in
the world of TwoMorrows Publishing.
Click here to download
our new Fall-Winter catalog (2mb PDF file)