Friday, May 28, 2010

Local boy makes good: Emmett Lynn

I thought I knew all about any former residents of my home town who had made it in the arts/entertainment field -- but until recently, I'd never heard of Emmett Lynn.

Emmett was born in Muscatine, Iowa on Valentine's Day in 1897 and passed away in Hollywood in October of '58 (I was nine months old then). He was an actor who played the comic relief in many Republic Studios Westerns, was in nine episodes of The Lone Ranger TV show, and made his last appearance in 1956's The Ten Commandments (unbilled as an old slave in the golden calf scene). Variety credits him with over 500 films! if that's correct, the imdb list must be incomplete at 164 (including TV shows).

Characters credited include: hobo, town drunk, saloon drunk, drunken stage driver, barfly, old panhandler, old timer, old timer in bathtub (!), old codger, bum, hermit and hillbilly -- some character names: Leatherface (!), Jackpot MacGraw, Fiddlefoot, Tombstone Boggs, Pancake Comstock, Grubstake Higginbothom, Elmer, Mr. Fuddy, Coonskin, Blizzard, Gumdrop, Paydirt, Twitchy -- and multiple appearances as characters named Ezra and Whopper.

I say the town should erect a statue of the guy - complete with beard stubble.

Other notable Muscatine natives include Ellis Parker Butler (author of "Pigs is Pigs"), my comics collaborator and novelist, Max Allan Collins, "Veggie Tales" creator, Phil Vischer, and my classmate and fellow artist, Kerry Grady -- and while he wasn't born there, a young Samuel Langhorne Clemens lived in the town for a while -- his brother Orion editing the local newspaper. None of them ever played "old timer in bathtub," though.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fan mail funnies!

Sorting through my own art files, I've stumbled across a few pieces by others, and thought this one was worth sharing. One of the cool things about being a comic book artist is that you sometimes get fan mail -- and sometimes that mail includes a nifty drawing, like this one of Ms. Tree by Jim Benton. We published this in black and white in the gallery section of Ms. Tree #50 -- but this is the first time anyone outside of my studio will be able to see it it color.

No apologies needed, Jim!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sample art and a letter from Dick Giordano

In 1980 I prepared several sample superhero pages in an attempt at getting work from DC Comics. The Batman page below is one of them. I also drew a Superman and a Wonder Woman page, but haven't seen them lately. The inking is better than the drawing here, and the storytelling is a little clumsy. Details in the background of the second panel came from my parents' living room! I still kind of like the Robbins-influenced Batman in the first panel and the extreme Joker close-up in the middle of the page (gun is too small, though).
I'm not surprised this didn't get me work -- but I did get a nice hand-written letter from the late Dick Giordano in response. The positive tone of it was encouraging, and while I didn't send more samples to DC right away, I plugged away at my own projects -- notably my collaboration with Max Allan Collins, Ms. Tree.

A few years later, thanks to Batman editor Denny O'Neil taking notice of Ms. Tree (and me taking the time to introduce myself to him at a DC sponsored party at the San Diego Con), I was invited to pencil something for an anniversary issue of Detective. Dick Giordano inked my pencils. I was thrilled with the results.
Ms. Tree eventually ended up at DC as well, for a ten-issue quarterly run. When that ended, I drew some more superhero samples, since I'd been drawing crime comics for over a decade, and wanted editors to know I could do more. The Superman sample below was part of a promo package I put together -- I did an inked version as well. Like my first samples, it didn't get me any more work from DC, and I spent a few years working for Warp Graphics, Tekno-Comix and others. DC would later invite me back, but that's another story.
The Spider-Man page below is one of two I did for the promo package (pencils and inks -- this is scanned from a photocopy of the pencils prior to inks) -- there was an Avengers/Iron Man page, too. It also, got me nowhere with Marvel (my total output for them, in my three decades in comics, is one spot illustration and five pages of inks) -- but resulted in a very nice phone call from John Romita, Sr. -- who told me he wished they could publish comics that looked like this. At the time, the "Image look" was all the rage, and I was bucking the trend by being too traditional, I suppose.
I'm still sorting through my original art and photocopies -- I'll be posting more items "from the vault." Keep watching this space!

Self Portrait (with friends) in pencil

Here's another piece from my art sale sorting (already sold!) -- a pencil self portrait from a few years back. The glasses, facial hair and haircut have all changed since then! I know I did an inked version of this, too -- but haven't stumbled across it yet. I think I did this for the cover of a sample book of my art. An inked version of the Creature head was used as an entry hand stamp at a convention (Wonderfest maybe?) one year. I still have the rubber stamp someplace....

Anyhow -- that's me -- or a previous version of me -- with some of my favorite characters.

Monday, May 24, 2010

400 faces!

I've been sorting through my original art files, finding pieces to list for sale on my website, and thought it'd be fun to show some of what I'm sorting through here, and tell the story behind them -- some that I'm listing for sale, and some that I'm not. Early in my career, I was a regular contributor to Alan Light's The Buyer's Guide for Comic Fandom, a weekly tabloid format fanzine, which consisted mostly of buy/sell/trade ads for comics and related collectibles -- but it did have regular columns (I wrote one for a while), articles, interviews and cover illustrations.

Most of the cover art was contributed by fans looking to get some exposure -- with a pro cartoonist cover in the mix once in a while (even Milt Caniff got involved). But the weekly schedule left Alan needing more cover art than he was getting for free -- so I was hired as the semi-regular cover artist. As far as I know, I'm the only artist who was ever paid to draw covers for TBG. I used the opportunity to pay tribute to cartoonists I admired -- and to experiment a bit (we did a 3-D cover!) -- and to just plain have fun -- which is what I was doing here.

This is TBG #400, from July of 1981. To celebrate reaching the 400 mark, I decided to challenge myself to draw 400 characters on the cover. I marked off a grid of 400 squares and started with comic strip characters, then moved on to Golden and Silver Age super heroes and on through the underground comix and ended up with my own characters (and me!) -- with some faces from the movies, TV and the music scene thrown in for good measure.

If you can name them ALL, you are a true pop culture fiend! Click on the image to see it bigger.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


SpringCon is done and I'm back to the drawing board. We're on a tight deadline for finishing Unemployed Man -- but had to make room on my schedule for the wraparound cover of the upcoming 75th issue of Scary Monsters! This is ink on paper with digital color. Can you name all the movies referenced here?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

MCBA SpringCon!

I've been chained to the drawing board lately -- working on Return to Perdition (180 page graphic novel), Bela Lugosi's Tales from the Grave (8 page story), Unemployed Man (inks on Rick Veitch and Ramona Fradon) and inking what is most likely my last issue of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. There's been little time for posting to my blog, but I'm turning out a lot of work that I hope you all will want to check out when it's published.

If you're in the Twin Cities area -- please consider attending SpringCon, the local comic book convention next weekend (May 15 and 16) at the fairgrounds in St. Paul. Admission is $11.00 ($1.00 off with a canned food shelf donation). I'll be there with original art and back issues of some of my comics -- stop by and say hello!