Comic Book Artist Edited by Jon B. Cooke Comic Book Artist, Eisner Award winner for "Best Comics-Related Magazine", celebrates the lives and works of great cartoonists, writers and editors from all eras through in-depth interviews, feature articles, and unpublished art.

Still an item, it's Joe and Hilarie, photographed by
Rocco Nigro this past January. Courtesy of Rocco Nigro.

Joe Staton, Man of Energy!

The prolific cartoonist on E-Man, Mauser & Charlton Comics

Conducted by Rocco Nigro
Transcribed by Jon B. Knutson

From Comic Book Artist #12

As far as CBA is concerned, Joe Staton can do no wrong. Not only was he (and interviewer Rocco Nigro) patient enough to wait over six months for the following interview to appear, but the onetime Charlton star artist also drew us a spiffy new "From Horror to Heroes" cover plus he illustrated Nick Cuti's E-Man script for us, featured as our delightful centerspread! Joe has worked for just about everybody, from DC to Marvel to First (serving as the latter's initial art director), but perhaps his Charlton material is his most endearing work, dramatic yet whimsical, alternating between frolic and fear with the ease of an accomplished, confident cartoonist. This interview was conducted in Joe's New York home on March 23, 2000, and features brief and welcome interludes with his wife of 25+ years, Hilarie. Joe was also kind enough to expand on some topics via e-mail at the last minute. The artist copy-edited the transcript.

Comic Book Artist: Joe, when were you born?
Joe Staton: January 19, 1948. I grew up in Tennessee, and graduated Milan High School in 1966. Then I attended Murray State University, graduating in 1970.

CBA: Did you gravitate towards comics as something you wanted to do as a youngster?
Joe: As best I can recall, I've always wanted to do comics. I can remember sitting in the floor, trying to trace Dick Tracy and The Phantom out of the Sunday funnies. My dad taught me to read from Superboy comics, and my long-suffering mother put up with me getting ink and paint all over the kitchen table.

As for me getting into comics, we can blame Julie Schwartz. Back when I was 12 or so, he ran a couple of my letters in early issues of JLA and Green Lantern, and he ran addresses. Bill Plott, a science-fiction fan from Alabama, saw my letter and sent me a s-f fanzine and through that connection, I got into s-f fandom, especially fanzine fandom. That's where I got accustomed to drawing for publication and for deadline, and made the acquaintance of artists and writers, and eventually the people who formed my support network in New York when I headed that way. I was active for a long time in the Southern Fandom Press Alliance. Through SFPA I made contact with fanzine fans all over the country. Via Buck and Juanita Coulson's Yandro, I made the acquaintance of Dan Adkins, who, though he tended to be a bit pessimistic, was generous with advice about making a living as an artist. I got in contact with a fan group in St. Louis which centered around Ray and Joyce Fisher. I spent a lot of time on Greyhound buses and in the St. Louis bus station to hang out with them. Just as a sidenote, the St. Louis group included Chris Couch, who is now editor over at CPM Manga. In St. Louis, I met an painter named Mickey Rhoades, who I think was the first in-the-flesh person I knew who was making a living as an artist. It was important to know there were people out there who did that. Through SFPA, I got to know people in the LASFAS circle in Los Angeles and of course the Fanoclasts and Insurgents in Brooklyn. Good ol' Steve Stiles, a really good cartoonist from that circle, put me up when I moved to New York. (Truth be told, I was sort of left on Steve's doorstep, but that is another story.)

Cover by Joe Staton for the fanzine FreeFall, edited by Mike Main, featuring Primus and E-Man (and friends) and a by-mail interview by a 16-year-old Paul "Concrete" Chadwick! Courtesy of Paul. Art & E-Man (and related characters) ©2001 Joe Staton. Primus ©2001 the respective copyright holder

CBA: How did you and your wife Hilarie meet?
Joe: How about we met somewhere off the coast of South America in 1968. Or more likely the North Atlantic. There is a college program in which you take classes on an ocean liner and visit ports enroute, with the ports more or less tying into the class content. When we attended in my junior year, it was called World Campus Afloat and was out of Chapman College in California. (These days it's called Semester at Sea and is, I think, run by the University of Pittsburgh.) I came on from Murray, Kentucky, and Hilarie is a native Angeleno.
First time I became aware of Hilarie, we were in an art history class and the teacher was having various people in class give little lectures on their interests. Not surprisingly, I gave one on the history of comic books. Hilarie's hand popped up and she asked me about the history of animation. At the time, I knew nothing about animation, and my response was something like, "Uh, duhh...". She put me in my place even before we were properly introduced.
We did, of course, get to be on better terms, but at the end of the semester I went back to school in Kentucky and Hilarie headed back to Los Angeles. When we graduated, I headed for New York. Hilarie was in Special Ed and Ronald Reagan had started cutting the education budgets in California. She had relatives on Long Island, so she came East to look for a teaching job. So we both wound up in New York. And that's how we got together.

CBA: When did you start working at Charlton?
Joe: That was in April 1971.

CBA: By that point, was George Wildman the managing editor?
Joe: Well, when I went in to see Sal [Gentile, managing editor of the comics line]. George was there then [as a freelancer], and Sal retired about a year into that, I would guess about a year later.

CBA: So, did you work with Sal at all?
Joe: Oh, yeah, I got my first assignment from Sal, and he inked me on some stuff.

CBA: So Sal was an artist himself?
Joe: Yeah.

CBA: Was his background in comics before Charlton as an editor?
Joe: I don't really know. I know he did work on the romance books, but I don't know what his background was before that.

CBA: So, you'd get the assignments from Sal, and the scripts would be from whoever was working for Charlton at that time, like Joe Gill?
Joe: Mostly Joe Gill. I think Joe wrote a script in the morning, a script in the afternoon, and... [laughter] He'd just sit there and write scripts!

CBA: Did you ever meet Steve Ditko during the Charlton years?
Joe: No, I met Ditko later at DC, and never during the Charlton years. I had messages relayed from him, but I never met him at that time.

CBA: So, he was aware of your work at Charlton when you were doing it?
Joe: That's what George told me. When I first went into Charlton, George was trying to tell me what they wanted, and he said, "Try to come in between these two guys," and he went and got a bunch of Ditko's pages and a Jim Aparo "Wander" story and gave the originals to me for reference, so I was working toward Ditko at the start, and occasionally they would relay to me a message that Ditko liked what I was doing, he liked the angles.

CBA: That's a big compliment.
Joe: Yeah, I liked it. Jim Aparo and I were at the Big Apple Charlton Show this past September and I returned the eight-page "Wander" story to him. I told him I'd been holding on to it for him for the past 29 years. He said it was the only Charlton art he'd ever gotten back.

CBA: So, when you met Ditko at DC, how was that encounter?
Joe: It was just a little hero-worship, but he was polite, and seemed to be aware of me, so I guess that's the way it's always been.

CBA: I've been looking through all the Charltons, and the three names I saw the most were Steve Ditko, your name, and Pat Boyette. Pat Boyette just did volumes of work there, and it seemed like all three of you guys—including Ditko, though not as much—did romance comics.
Joe: I did some romance, I don't remember Ditko doing any romance.

CBA: It's weird: I was going through these Charlton books, and Charles Nicholas seemed to draw everything. There was one story that was his, and I don't know if Ditko just
happened to be there for the day, but there were two pages drawn by Steve! It made me think: Even though DC and Marvel were phasing out of doing all the genres—DC didn't have that much in the way of romance and westerns and Marvel gave up on horror and romance—Charlton kept plugging away....
Joe: Well, DC and Marvel didn't have hot rod books!

CBA: Yeah, they didn't have hot rod books! [laughter] Well, DC had Hot Wheels for a little brief period...
Joe: Great art, Toth and Dick [Giordano].

CBA: Yeah!
Joe: And Joe Gill wrote that book.

Nick & Joe's cover art to Charlton's dramatic reentry into the super-hero genre, E-Man #1. ©2001 Joe Staton.

CBA: I just re-read a bunch of E-Man, so that was a lot of fun, because I haven't read those in some time [laughter] and they hold up really well...
Joe: I think they do. I think that run was good.

CBA: You had a ten-issue run, did you get any indication what the sales were like?
Joe: I never really knew, but sales just weren't good enough to keep going after ten issues.

CBA: The writer of E-Man, Nicola Cuti, did he start working at Charlton the same time you did?
Joe: He was George Wildman's assistant, so when Sal retired and George moved up, George hired Nick to be his assistant (Nick had previously been one of Wally Wood's assistants). Eventually, Nick moved over to DC to be an editor.

CBA: Is Nick Cuti as nice as he seems?
Joe: No, of course not, nobody could possibly be that nice. In fact, Nick is a really rotten guy who only pretends to be the nicest person you ever met, so he can sneak around and steal your shoes and pocket change. [laughter] You realize I'm kidding, right? I'd say Nick is one of the Good Guys—the enthusiasm is real, the kindness is real.

Nick and I are definitely still pals. There's nothing quite like sitting around watching old Space Cadet videos with Nick. One way I am still involved with Nick is through his Captain Cosmos project. I'm sure he'll tell you all about it, but that's his retro-SF property, starring a spaceman much like Nick himself. He is dedicated to placing the property. Every couple of years, Nick writes and I draw an issue of a comic book telling the adventures of the good Captain. When he meets with producers, that gives Nick something a little different to leave to remind them. This past summer at San Diego, I helped Nick man his Captain Cosmos table.

CBA: In the E-Man letter pages, some fans wrote that they had seen your work in the science-fiction magazines...
Joe: Amazing, Fantastic...

CBA: Right. Were the people at Charlton aware of that work? Did that help you get jobs?
Joe: [laughs] No, I just went in blind.

CBA: So you were hitting on all the publishers at the time?
Joe: Yeah, I'd been trying to get work with Marvel and DC, and I'd done some work for Warren—one, two, three stories, something like that.

CBA: You've mentioned you did one story for an early Eerie or Creepy, like #44, which Steve Skeates wrote.
Joe: Okay, I'll take that. [laughter] I also did a story for Warren that showed up in something Sal Quartuccio published years later. I don't know if there were more, I think that was it. I wasn't getting any work from Marvel or DC, and I had actually decided to go back to school. I was going to go to Hunter College, to be in museum restorations, and I had quit my regular job. I'd gotten married the day before I got work at Charlton. [laughter] That's my favorite story: We were very broke, so Mystic, Connecticut was as far as we could get for a honeymoon, but Derby was between New York and Mystic, so I asked Sal if I could show him my stuff. Sal agreed, Hilarie and I stopped at Derby on the way to Mystic, met Sal, and he gave me some work. That's why I know exactly when I started at Charlton, the day after I got married.

CBA: Wow. The science-fiction stuff you'd been doing were interior drawings or covers?
Joe: I did some covers, a lot of interiors... Ted White was editor of Amazing and Fantastic. I'd been a science-fiction fan in Brooklyn, and was still connected to s-f fandom. I was in a group called "The Fanoclasts" and another one called "The Insurgents." That all kind of circled around Ted, so I had ties with Ted from science-fiction. I think Nick was aware of that, because he also had a lot of connections in the field.

CBA: Did you get a full script from Nick for E-Man #1?
Joe: I'd done a lot of Nick's science-fiction and horror stories at Charlton, and was accustomed to how he worked. He'd just mark off a sheet of typing paper and draw up five boxes in it, and there'd be dialog and some descriptions, and he'd do it in pencil like that. Eventually, he went to typing out his scripts full script, but I don't remember if the first issue of E-Man was done out in pencil or if it was typed out, but whatever it was, it was a finished script.

CBA: E-Man #1 has such a smooth flow, the humor making fun of super-heroes, but still being a super-hero comic, and even the relationship between Nova and E-Man, when she meets E-Man, she's a little bit shocked, but she doesn't really ask anything about him. [laughter] She's like, "Let's go on with the story!" One could tell you had a lot of fun.
Joe: He popped out of a light bulb, right?
Hilarie Staton: Nick and Joe would talk about on the phone a lot about what would happened in the story.
Joe: Yeah, but mostly Nick would come up with stuff, and sometimes I'd kind of say, "Nick, this isn't gonna work," and he'd say, "Trust me," and I'd do what he said, and it worked! So, that's what a lot of the stuff turned out to be.

CBA: You mentioned you were doing a lot of stories before Nick. Why don't we just start with your first work for Charlton, which was...
Joe: I think my first work was a horror story.
Hilarie: Nope, I think they gave you a romance to try you out, that's what I remember.
Joe: I did some romance when I started, but I thought the first story was a ghost story, but...
Hilarie: It was for an anthology title.
Joe: Oh, yeah, they were all anthology titles. You had one editor and an assistant doing somewhere between 20 and 30 books at Charlton!

CBA: It's really amazing how many books and titles they had, and then some of the genres crossed, like there's Haunted Love.
Joe: I worked on Haunted Love. [laughter]

CBA: Do you know they made a magnet of one of your covers?
Joe: No! [laughter]

CBA: They made a magnet right out of one of those Charlton covers, and I was like, "I didn't even know they did Haunted Love." So, you went in and started doing romance, horror, and science-fiction....
Joe: Maybe not so much science-fiction, most of it was pretty much horror or suspense, whichever. But there were science-fiction stories in the horror books, like space horror stories and stuff like that.

CBA: Your first regular series would be Primus?
Joe: Yeah.

CBA: I guess you'd better tell people what Primus was. [laughter]
Joe: I'm sure it's gonna show up on cable any day now! Primus was a licensed character from Ivan Tors (the producer of Sea Hunt) and it starred Robert Brown (who starred in Here Come the Brides). It was another skin-diver TV show, set in Florida, and there was a lot of international intrigue and stuff. It had a lot of potential, but it was shot so cheaply that there wasn't a lot on the screen, really. Joe Gill wrote the comic, and he would throw in all kinds of stuff: Lots of spies, drug smuggling....

CBA: The drug smuggling one is mentioned in the Overstreet Price Guide.
Joe: It was before the Code allowed drug stories.

CBA: Primus #2 has a photo-cover, which is unusual for Charlton.
Joe: Sal liked to do photo-covers, he'd get carried away with them and spend days cutting up photos and making stills, collages. Somebody remarked how Sal would get lost for hours, putting those covers together.

CBA: Now, was that something they did often with the properties they licensed?
Joe: I think they did it in the teenage magazines a lot.

CBA: For a show I don't think was all that popular [lasting 26 episodes in 1971], the comic lasted seven issues—over a year! [laughter] That's pretty amazing, considering the show wasn't even being aired in reruns. [laughter]
Joe: I know. Basically, Charlton had those licenses, and the licensees wanted to keep the property going somehow. That's how Charlton ended up with the Hanna-Barbera stuff. When I'd talk to people there, that's what they'd tell me, so that Charlton could keep books going longer than anybody else, just because they had such low overhead. At one point, George told me that Charlton came within half a day of having the rights to Super Friends, because DC didn't notice they should be picking it up, and Charlton almost got it with a package of other things [laughter]. It should've happened! [laughter]

CBA: Charlton not only picked up live-action shows like Emergency!, Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Space: 1999, but then the cartoons, like Yogi Bear, Top Cat, and even some of the strip-related stuff, like Hi and Lois, Abbott and Costello, Blondie, The Phantom, and...
Joe: Yeah, after King Comics went down, they picked up Flash Gordon and Mandrake.

CBA: Flash Gordon...
Joe: I think they picked up Jungle Jim, they did some real nice covers.

CBA: And Steve Ditko with Wally Wood did some great work for Charlton. It seems odd, here were these properties that Charlton would pick up, and in some cases, they'd have a really long run, and in some cases, like Jungle Jim, it didn't seem to last very long.
Joe: They had a very long run with The Phantom. And they had a long run on The Flintstones and the spin-offs. I mean, Dino, whatever he was, got his own book, and that space guy, The Great Gazoo, who granted people wishes.

CBA: I even think there was a series of Pebbles & Bamm Bamm. It seemed like The Flintstones stuff was doing really well for them.
Joe: That had a long run, they did better with The Jetsons than Gold Key.

CBA: The story is that the reason Charlton was so cheap with its page rates was because comics weren't their bread-and-butter.
Joe: The things that I was told were told while I was there, or I heard otherwise (but Nick could tell all this stuff first-hand), was it was cheaper to publish comics than it was to shut the presses down. Originally the comics were just filler, to keep the presses going.
Hilarie: Didn't they start out doing sheet music?
Joe: Yeah, the story was that the guys met in prison, started publishing sheet music, and went into Tiger Beat and things like that. Charlton was mixed up somehow in Monarch Books, I think—I don't know if they published them or not, but that was all connected. They published anything and did it cheaply. At one point, they had a deal with somebody where they'd reprint their old comics under the Modern Comics logo. That was kind of at random, with no numerical order or anything.

CBA: All right. So, you went from Primus to drawing a lot of other TV properties. You worked on Emergency!
Joe: That was a lot later. From Primus to ghost stories and romances, and then E-Man came up.

CBA: So E-Man comes in before Space: 1999 and Emergency!
Joe: Right. I think I went on to Six Million Dollar Man after E-Man was canceled. I don't swear to any of this timeframe. [laughter] I've got to remember the sequence. Maybe somebody knows this better.
Hilarie: Tell him the Six Million Dollar Man reference story.
Joe: We had moved upstate by the time I was working on Six Million Dollar Man... actually, I moved up, I'd just finished Primus. Because I was working on E-Man up here, doing The Six Million Dollar Man up here, and we lived way out, even past Jim Starlin. [laughs] Did we have a TV?
Hilarie: We were in West Shokan then. We did have a TV, but we only got one station from Connecticut.
Joe: One station from Connecticut, and Universal would never give you enough reference on anything, on any of these licensed properties, so we didn't get The Six Million Dollar Man on the TV. But we needed to get some reference, they just gave me a few photos, and not much else.

CBA: And this was pre-VCR days.
Joe: Oh, right! [laughs] I lost my train of thought there. Now, if you need reference, you just...
Hilarie: Hop on the net!
Joe: ...hop on the net, or you tape it in the middle of the night; whatever you need is always on, or you get the video tape, or if you're working for Disney, they have a video capture system and just print shots from the tape. I was just recently doing something for DC's Special Projects, and the client downloaded some animation on the internet, so Hilarie ran it for me back and forth until I had what I needed. Everything is much nicer now! [laughter] Back in the days when dinosaurs drew comic books, we had one TV
station, didn't get the show, we didn't have any photos, so we came into town to the Ramada Inn in Kingston here, got a room, because somebody told us the Ramada Inn got the station it was on. [laughter] We didn't have a tripod, so we piled up some books under Hilarie's camera in front of the TV in the hotel room, trying to shoot photos off the television! That was most of the reference I had for the book.

CBA: Wow! That's devotion! [laughter]
Joe: There was always a lot of trouble to get the reference. For Six Million Dollar Man, we called up an Air Force airbase, the same airbase the Six Million Dollar Man crashes on in the pilot episode, and they sent me this whole official pile of photos on airbases. If I were a Russian spy... [laughter] If anybody needs good photos of secret defense installations, call up and say you're doing a comic book [laughter] and the Air Force is very

CBA: So, you were doing all the licensed stuff in the middle of all the other projects you were getting from Charlton—the horror and romance?
Joe: Just the horror stuff. I didn't stay on romance too long. They wound down the romance stuff. I think Nick wrote a lot of romances. Nick wrote a lot of everything.
Hilarie: I used to read the romances, and I was very disappointed when titles like Haunted Love disappeared because I used to enjoy the Gothic stuff, remember?
Joe: Yeah.

CBA: Somewhere along the line, Charlton got into magazines, and there was Emergency!, which had covers by Neal Adams.
Joe: Yeah, Neal's studio did a bunch of that stuff.
Hilarie: And Space: 1999, Gray [Morrow] was on that one.
Joe: Right, yeah. We all went to an ITC presentation promoting Space: 1999, and they gave us a nice preview of the first episode, and Joe Gill was there, and anytime something was about to happen (and Joe had never seen the episode before), he'd say, "Okay, now he's going to do such-and-so," and then the guy would do exactly what Joe said! And then he'd say, "Okay, now she's got to say..." and the gal would do it! [laughter] Joe had all these plots in his head, and he could tell you which ones they were using, click, click, click!

CBA: He was always thinking!
Joe: Yeah, and he would figure it out.

CBA: That's probably how he was able to produce so many stories.
Joe: Yeah, plot number 84B, whoops, there it goes! [laughter]

CBA: Now, did you ever meet Joe face-to-face?
Joe: Yeah. I met him up at Charlton a couple of times, and hung out with him at some conventions. He was a character and a funny guy. It's hard to describe him... kind of like Popeye. [laughter] Is that fair? His favorite story he always told me, he was sitting with Mickey Spillane, and since Spillane was writing comics, he tells Joe Gill about this idea he has for a detective, and Joe tells him, "Forget it, it'll never sell." [laughter]

CBA: You worked as an assistant to Gil Kane?
Joe: Right.

CBA: What time would that be, roughly?
Joe: I think I was still on E-Man, I'm not sure. I know Gil had seen E-Man, and he said I composed panels in depth, which is what he did, so he wanted me to do layouts for him. So, that's what I did for less than a year, but somewhere in there.

CBA: So this would've been mostly Marvel assignments?
Joe: Yeah. No DC stuff, it was mostly all Marvel... some Spider-Man, a Conan, a Ghost Rider...

Joe's character designs for Scary Tales host, Countess R.H. Von Bludd. ©2001 the respective copyright holder

CBA: Gil was all over the place at that point.
Joe: There was one thing that I wish I could see of his—if somebody knows if it exists or if it was done—it was a graphic novel (called an album then, for somebody in Europe) titled Jason Drumm. It was similar to his Blackmark, and I did rough layouts for that. It was like this big, heroic fantasy on some alien world. I did a lot of stuff for that, and I never heard if it was published, never heard if he finished the pages, or what happened with it. If it exists, I'd love to see it. Oh, yes, and I did layouts for that unpublished issue of The Prisoner that keeps on turning up in Comic Book Artist. That was a hard thing to get reference on. There was somebody in Boston who had film of the show, and would get me some stills, and I think Marv Wolfman was putting it together, and he had some reference. That was terrible for me, and nobody had pictures of that Lotus car.

That was a weird episode. It's strange seeing those things I did layouts for turning up now, I thought they were gone for years. I had no memory of what it looked like. I have vague memories of being out at Marv's apartment when we were talking about this thing, and there was talk of Gene Colan doing a sequence about the CIA infiltrating The Village, and I don't know if that was ever drawn, and if it exists...

CBA: It was just an espionage-type story?
Joe: Yeah, and I thought Colan would be the perfect artist for The Prisoner, but I don't know if he ever actually did them or not, I thought it was something that...

CBA: So this was related to The Prisoner, this CIA story?
Joe: It was a Prisoner story, and would take place in The Village, the CIA working against Number Six, and not knowing if it was their Village, or somebody else's Village... a very surreal thing. Somebody should ask Gene if he was ever even approached for it, but I have memories of that coming up.

CBA: Was the experience with Gil Kane good? Was that a good learning experience, or was it just Gil saw your abilities, and said, "This is the guy who can make work for me, and we can work well together"?
Joe: It was good! I mean, Gil is my hero. I tell everybody that Gil Kane died owing me money, and he died being my hero. [laughter] I don't think he ever paid me for the last job I did for him, and every time we'd see each other at a con, we'd make a joke about it, so it was just a running thing, but Gil was always going to owe me money!

CBA: Was this for The Life of The Flash, or another project altogether?
Joe: Oh, it was probably for the Jason Drumm stuff, probably '74 or '75.

CBA: I was thinking the last thing you'd done was that Flash graphic novel...
Joe: Oh, that was for DC, and they just remembered I used to "be" Gil. [laughter] The book was something like two years late, and they need 40 pages by next Tuesday. So by 4:30, I was back where I started, doing layouts for Gil. [laughs]

CBA: How did DC find out that you worked with Gil?
Joe: It's just one of those secrets everybody knew.

CBA: So, in a way, you were working for Marvel, and Marvel didn't know about it.
Joe: Right.

CBA: I'm assuming you went to Marvel to get work?
Joe: Right, but I was never actually able to get work there on my own at the time, but I worked through Gil. I guess when Roy Thomas called me to start inking The Avengers, that was independently based on my work on E-Man as well. I was never able to really get penciling work—although I was penciling for Marvel "disguised" as Gil—I was never able to get penciling work from Marvel under my own name.

CBA: When you were doing the layouts for Gil, were you working consciously in a Gil Kane mode?
Joe: Oh, sure, I was trying to "be" Gil, and would take everything of his that I had and try to understand his layouts, his figures... I think I came pretty close. I never understood how he constructed heads, but the figures and the especially way he told a story, I think I was real close.

CBA: What about the nose?
Joe: Everybody talks about that! [laughter]

CBA: Everybody asks, "What about those noses that Gil Kane draws?"
Joe: I know you're joking about the "up the nose shot." But I could never figure out how he constructed skulls, to get the nose like that. That was something I couldn't quite do. So, probably if I could've figured out how he did skulls, I could've gotten penciling work.

CBA: And you also tried DC at that point?
Joe: Yeah, I tried everybody.

CBA: A lot of people would say that your work is more cartoony, which is your own natural style, yet you're able to do this Gil Kane-type work, understanding how he does the layouts. Yet the thing I noticed—that really surprised me—and I even see it in your work now at DC with Scooby-Doo (but even more so with this Charlton stuff that's licensed) is your ability to capture likenesses. Space: 1999, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Emergency!... It seems odd to me that someone who's got that kind of ability, you'd think DC and Marvel would've jumped on giving you work. But that doesn't seem to be the case, because there's a big gap between doing even the E-Man stuff and then getting regular work from even DC, and certainly Marvel, it was a lot later, I believe.
Joe: I don't remember the exact timeframe, but yeah, Roy Thomas hired me at Marvel, and then Paul Levitz hired me at DC from Marvel, because I was still looking to do penciling work. Even though I was working for Marvel, I couldn't get any penciling. I wanted to do some penciling along with some inking. I was spoiled at Charlton, doing everything.

CBA: At that point, you weren't doing any more Charlton work?
Joe: There was a transition period that I don't remember at all, I know I kept on doing work for Charlton as long as I could, I must've just eventually got overbooked with everything else. I don't remember how the transition came.

CBA: So Paul Levitz gave you the chance to pencil, based on your inking?
Joe: Well, he originally hired me to do finishes, I was doing finishes at Marvel on The Hulk and The Avengers, and Paul hired me to do finishes in Karate Kid and eventually he let me do some penciling, so I was able to make the transition.

CBA: You did beautifully painted covers for those Charlton books....
Joe: We did the painted covers because Charlton found some outfit down in Texas that could do separations for paintings cheaper than they could have the covers hand-separated. It was cheaper to do the painted covers.

CBA: Did you like the look of those? Those were kind of unique looking, even on the racks I remember looking at them, and they stood out.
Joe: Yeah, they were fun. They came out kind of flat sometimes, some of them got washed out.

CBA: Yeah, some of them got kind of muddy, too. I remember one of The Six Million Dollar Man, and then there's a Space: 1999 that has a red background, and it's like, wow, they really stuck out on the rack. My next question, I guess, would be back to E-Man. When the ten issues were done, and then Charlton, many years later, started to break off and reform itself in different guises and duration's, where does E-Man stand now? Do you own the copyright with Nick?
Joe: This is complicated. [laughter] The deal with E-Man was that I had an arrangement with First Comics so that they bought the rights to E-Man from Charlton, and then I was to repay First all their expense out of my royalties. The rights to E-Man were then supposed to revert to me completely. But some of us needed more lawyers than we knew, and the end result of how it stands, as I understand it, is that I have the right to do any new E-Man stories I want to, and I have the right to license any new E-Man material I want. Ken Levin, the lawyer for First, controls the rights to what First published. To keep the rights unified, Ken and I decided he would represent the whole E-Man package. Ken's the lawyer and he has lots of contacts in Hollywood, so any inquiries I get, I refer to Ken, then I call Nick. So, we're partners by default.

CBA: Oh, so you willingly split it with Nick, or is that one of the agreements in whatever contract that exists?
Joe: No, that's the agreement between me and Nick, so whatever I get in, Nick gets 50%, but so far, it's been nothing. [laughs]

CBA: It sounds like it ended as peacefully as it could without going to lawyers and court battles and stuff.
Joe: Right, I think how things worked out, if anything actually develops, I'm in a better position with Ken being able to control things and deal with the legal parts and the representation.

CBA: So if you wanted to, right now, you can do a new E-Man series.
Joe: Yep.

CBA: So if DC said, "Hey, we want to do a mini-series with E-Man"...
Joe: Well, actually, DC did say that. Neal Pozner wanted to do it, but at that point, First Comics still actually existed, or some version of it. But whoever was controlling things at First wasn't willing to work out a reasonable deal with Neal. So, that didn't work.

CBA: First also reprinted the Charlton run, if I remember. Were they claiming copyright on that at that point?
Joe: I have no idea. Probably, but you should probably talk to Ken about all that. [laughter] I'm certain he knows! That's what he does when it comes up, he knows how the licensing goes.

CBA: How does it stand with Mike Mauser?
Joe: It's the same deal.

CBA: Mauser has seen different one-and two-parters from different companies. Do you remember any of the companies off-hand?
Joe: I know Alpha, and Chris Mills had a magazine, Noir, that was publishing some Mauser stories.

CBA: Was that an overall comic anthology?
Joe: No, it was all short stories with an occasional comic short. And Alpha did The Detectives Collection.

CBA: That was an all-comics anthology?
Joe: Yeah.

CBA: That one, I remember. I'm not familiar with the magazine. How long did that run?
Joe: It ran several issues, I'm not sure. Also, Apple Comics did a one-shot of The New Crime Files of Michael Mauser. I used Craftint all the way through that one and was very pleased with how it came out. Nick did a nice, complicated mystery script.

CBA: Did you enjoy working on Mauser?
Joe: I'm always happiest working on crime or detective stories (check out Family Man that I did for Paradox Press a few years ago to see what I mean.) And I think there's something really special about Mauser. He can be really hardnosed, like a proper P.I., and he's also sort of beat-up and loveable. I've told Nick that I'd be perfectly happy to sit down and draw Mauser stories for the rest of my life.

CBA: Jon Cooke remembers seeing some mythology series...?
Joe: Oh, yeah, The Gods of Mount Olympus.

CBA: Where does this fit in the timeline?
Joe: It fits in during the great paper shortage, it was somewhere in the first... okay, it happened, I was up here in the mid-Hudson area, so it would've been '74, somewhere in there.

CBA: Still doing work for Charlton?
Joe: Yeah, there was a paper mill strike in Canada, or something, that created a huge shortage of paper, and I got this notice from George Wildman, I remember it very well, it said, "This is a black day. We have nothing left to print on." At that point, Johnny Achziger in Washington state contacted me. This is all before the whole direct sales market started, and I think it was the old distribution network, but we did a tabloid-size magazine about the Greek myths in comics form. Johnny Achziger published them.

CBA: How many did he do?
Joe: I think he did three. It died out because Charlton got back printing, the paper shortage was over, and I kept on trying to do the last issue while I was doing everything else, and couldn't do it! [laughter] The first issue I was so proud of. I didn't have anything else to do, so I put a whole lot of work into that first issue.

E-Man, Nova, and Mike Mauser were revived at First Comics in the early '80s, the company where Joe served as art director. ©2001 Joe Staton.

CBA: Since Charlton was the first name comic book company you worked with, I thought I'd ask the traditional question of influences, if you have certain comic book writers that you cited, influences you grew up on...

Joe: I liked the detective stuff, Lew Archer, Sam Spade and all that material. A lot of science-fiction stuff, a lot of comic strips... Chester Gould was the big influence. A couple of the incarnations of The Phantom were a big influence on me. A lot of strip influence, and... Wayne Boring. Every once in a while, I have to sort of fight myself not to draw a certain Wayne Boring pose. And then there's Jack Cole, who's loosey-goosey all over the place, and Wayne Boring, who's really stiff, so... a little bit of everything. A lot of Ditko, and certainly Gil Kane later.

CBA: Did you like Jim Aparo's Phantom run?
Joe: Oh, I loved it. I think Jim's Phantom was the first time I actually noticed Charlton, because it was coming out before I was working there. I was going through a lot of trouble to find his Phantom, and it's very much some of my favorite stuff.

CBA: It's beautiful work. The work he did at DC then, The Phantom Stranger, The Brave and the Bold, and Aquaman—that stuff is pretty nice.
Joe: I think the stuff Jim did at Charlton was more distinctive than what he did at DC. I always thought that at DC, somebody was leaning on him to do more work like Neal Adams. I'd like to have seen Aparo pushing his own style—the style he had at Charlton, which was brilliant. I think Aparo's run on The Phantom was one of the all-time great runs in comics. It is painful, though, that it was printed that badly. If somebody had the licenses and the film to do a nice reprint job of that run, that's something I'd love to see.

CBA: Did you know Pete Morisi?
Joe: The first time I went into Charlton, Sal and George showed me different stuff that different people had done, and Pete's stuff was signed "PAM." I think it was George who said in his office, "You know, there's PAM, that's Pete Morisi," and I guess Pete's been around a long time in comics, and they said, "Well, he can't sign his whole name on anything, because he'd get in trouble," and they were being very mysterious. "Well, Pete is a New York cop, and he can't moonlight." That was the whole thing, he was a New York cop who was moonlighting.

CBA: Mike Zeck?
Joe: I don't really know much about Mike, just ran into him at shows, and this was later. I remember when he was showing samples at the time, and Nick was impressed with them, when Nick was still editing at Charlton.

CBA: John Byrne?
Joe: I saw John's stuff, and Nick picked up "Rog-2000" as a backup in E-Man, and then Byrne did Space: 1999, and Doomsday +1, and a bunch of other stuff.

CBA: And he did Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, right?
Joe: Yes, he did! [laughter] We alternated drawing Wheelie, and Joe Gill and Tom DeFalco alternated writing them.

CBA: Did Tom start off at Charlton?
Joe: I don't think he started off at Charlton, but he wrote a bunch of Wheelie's.

CBA: Oh, wow, did he write anything else there?
Joe: That's all I know, because I drew a bunch of his stuff for Wheelie. I think it's time; the world is ready for the return of Wheelie.

CBA: I should say, there's enough fans out there who remember the show [laughter] and your work and John's work [laughter] I don't know if John wants it...
Joe: I don't know if John wants to be reminded of it! [laughter] Like I said, I got a very good return over Wheelie.

CBA: Tom Sutton.
Joe: Tom Sutton, I love Tom's stuff. He was one of the regulars with all the horror stuff, and I met Tom maybe once. He doesn't get out a lot, so he doesn't come to cons or anything, unless it's up north somewhere. There were a lot of books that were me, Tom and Ditko. Tom did absolutely one of the greatest comic book covers of all time, which was a killer teddy bear with awful fangs. He did some great covers, those painted covers, really nice stuff. I remember he did some nice inking for Gil Kane on Conan, it was real nice. Sometimes people would hire Tom to give atmosphere to things that didn't really have atmosphere to start with.

CBA: Were there any effects from Dick Giordano's departure from Charlton?
Joe: You'd have to ask people who were actually in the office more. From what I've heard, I think Dick tried to get Charlton to be more competitive with super-heroes and stuff, but once he was gone, things went back to business as usual. You'd really have to talk to somebody who was in there and knew what was going on.

CBA: It seems like DC just picked up... not only from that period, but from your period, I mean, with Don Newton, yourself, Glanzman, and even Ditko, I think Ditko ended up doing more work for DC.
Joe: That's right, because... '68, he was doing The Hawk and the Dove, and Creeper...

CBA: But then later on, he was doing his own characters in those horror books, and Starman, and Shade, the Changing Man, Stalker with Wally Wood, I mean, all these books were DC books. He did work for Marvel, too. So what are you doing these days, Joe?
Joe: I've been the regular artist on Scooby-Doo for DC's Cartoon Network line for the last three or four years. I really enjoy the challenge of Scooby. The Scooby crew travels the world, and I try to get the settings as close as I can, relying on a huge stack of old National Geographics and tracking down curious sites on the Web. I don't want some little kid to have his or her faith in Scooby shattered by running across conflicting information on the Discovery Channel. I also do a lot of work for DC's Special Projects division. There I answer to Marty Pasko, who wrote some of the First Comics run of E-Man, thereby proving that there are indeed only 48 people working in comics—they all just keep on turning up in different places. I've done things like a custom comic for Claritin, in which Robin almost succumbs to Poison Ivy's deadly pollen dust. One of my best jobs ever was a Joey Cavalieri script done in the Superman Adventures style to introduce all of the villains in that continuity. That went out with a Tetris Superman video game. It's a question of being able to produce any style on any deadline. I can do that.

One interesting thing I did for Special Projects was the art that was flash-animated for the Batman Challenge for On-Star (which I think may still be up at <> or through the DC site.) That was another time when the job came into DC two months late. So Marty set me and inker Rodney Ramos in an abandoned office and said, "Draw!" And we did it. I'd like to plug one thing that I'm doing strictly for fun: Chris Mills shares my liking for detective comics and I've crossed paths with him at Alpha and Tekno. Now I'm doing a Web strip for him, by the name of Femme Noir. Great name. I think I'm doing it just because of the name. It started out to be a female take-off on the The Spirit, but it now includes elements of Dick Tracy, the Fleischer Superman cartoons, Republic serials, maybe some Mighty Mouse. A new installment every week at <>. The site should be up around the time this issue comes out. Check it out. And that should finish it. I have now heard more about myself than I ever wanted to know.

CBA: I think we're winding it up here. Thank you, Joe!

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