Friday, January 30, 2009
The music of MagicDreams' first animated feature, Kiddo the Super-Truck, is being hailed as "some of the most wonderful ever written for impressionable young minds." Mothers the world over are praising the cartoon for its positive influence on their children.
"Bumpy Road," written by Venessa Hart and Lloyd Bread McDonald, depicts Kiddo's young friend, Hummy, learning how to be everything he can be! It also introduces one of the most popular characters in the feature, the Jaimican traffic light DeLight.
It's a purely magical clip from a sweetly magical cartoon.
"Squeaky Clean" is a tribute to one of the most wonderful men ever to share his powerful voice with the public. Roger Ridley created "Squeaky Clean" with Venessa Hart and William Roberts for the Kiddo the Super-Truck cartoon. The message is powerful.
Sadly, Roger passed shortly after recording this. It's a song that will let him live on in the hearts of all who hear it.
Life is better clean!
Friday, January 16, 2009
Time Castle Books is a new imprint for some classic graphic story characters. With a few new ones liberally sprinkled throughout our schedule.
We’ve launched with an Internet site that provides free access to all of our works-in-progress. http://www.timecastlebooks.com/
Right now, we’ve got a set of twenty volumes on the schedule featuring the classic adventures of The Rook, the time traveling chess master Budd Lewis and I created for the old Warren magazines.
You can see some of our other titles on the sight, as well. The Goblin. The Fox. The Sentients. Octobrem. Spooky Tales. String of Pearls. The Microbe Patrol. And, for your five year-old, Kiddo the Super-Truck.
All will remain posted online until the books are published and begin to be available in the spring.
This gives readers the opportunity to become familiar with our entire line without our ever having to kill a single tree.
It should finally quiet the cries we’ve heard for years from old readers who’ve almost universally griped that they loved The Rook, but hated that they could never find it on the newsstand. And when they did, they invariably came in at the beginning, middle or end of one of our three-part story arcs--and missed out on reading the entire adventure.
It’ll also offer graphic story aficionados a continuous source of free online entertainment during our problematic economic times. Something we’re hoping they’ll appreciate.
2. Sounds like either excellent business strategy or certain publishing death.
The business we’ve loved has evolved since the days of the Warren magazines, and continues to do so.
Launching a line of comic books in troubled times will challenge any publisher attempting to find a market niche.
Additionally, today’s top graphic story publishers will no doubt agree that they’re as much in the IP business as they are in selling books or comics. A well-maintained character franchise, whether it’s Superman, Batman, Spider-man, Hulk or Hellboy will generate more revenue in licenses, be it film, lunchboxes or Underoos (Do they still make those?) than the entire comic book run.
With The Rook, we have the most romantic, intelligent, dynamic and appealing hero (to both men and women) ever to languish in disuse for a quarter of a century! And, it’s been neglected simply because Budd Lewis and I have continuously jumped from one television or film project to the next without ever looking back.
We both knew that we’d have to one day readdress the property. This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the last published Rook story. I think we both realized that if we didn’t do this now, we probably never would. So, we’ve pushed all else aside and jumped in with both feet.
Basically, we’re collecting all our old stories, polishing away our youthful transgressions and emerging with old work that’s brand new again.
Take a look. http://www.TimeCastleBooks.com/free comics See if you don’t agree.
3. Time Castle is basically a reference, then, to you opening a literal time capsule of graphic story treasures?
Yes, there is that somewhat honest inference. But, the fact that The Rook is a chess playing time master who swoops quickly and directly through history in a time castle is more accurate.
Readers who remember the character will pretty much instantly associate the name Time Castle and the image on our logo with The Rook.
4. It sounds like you’ve been thinking about doing this for a very long time.
The genesis of Time Castle Books extends all the way back to my mother’s grandfather--a wonderful California pioneer named George Lucas. He passed when I was eight years old. The family--Lucases, Sears, Spreckles--three generations of San Franciscans--gathered at my uncle’s estate in Woodside. My brother and I were the only kids among the adults and I don’t really think they knew what to do with us.
So, my uncle put a couple of books in our hands and told us to go off and amuse ourselves.
The books were Herge’s TinTins.
My brother, Chik, didn’t like them. He wandered off to taunt the horses.
I dove in and devoured both books, only to emerge a couple of hours later to ask my Uncle for more.
He sent me home with six TinTin volumes and said they were my Christmas presents.
And when the good little Catholic boy said his bedtime prayers that night, he asked God if he could, maybe one day, make something equally as wonderful.
I recently told my uncle that it took all these years for that prayer to manifest, but here, at last, it is!
My love of comics continued through those formative years, into the time I started working professionally at eighteen and through my burn-out by thirty. (Giving anything your all will do that to you!)
My first stint editing the Warren magazines was both memorable and exciting for me. But it was also fraught with what I felt to be a lot of unnecessary difficulty. It culminated in my writing a book-length Vampirella story that revolved around and guest starred Will Eisner’s Spirit, (Vampirella #50.) the first time Will had ever allowed his character to guest star with another comics icon.
As a life-long fanboy, I didn’t think it could get better than that. But, working for Jim Warren, as grateful as I was for the opportunities he accorded me, had been hell and I felt completely fried, utterly exhausted and thoroughly used and abused. So, I wrote the most gentlemanly farewell editorial I could muster, lied to Jim about my assistant being ready to take my place and walked away.
I had no plans and figured I’d let life take me where it would.
Pretty much right away, I got a call from Marv Wolfman, asking me if I’d like to contribute to Marvel’s new humor magazine Crazy. Silver-tongued devil told me he’d always liked my humor art and said that my style would “mesh perfectly” with what they wanted and where they were going.
So I joined them.
Then Jim Warren called. He told me that things weren’t working out quite the way I’d promised with the new editor. He said there was a “flat-out refusal to take any of his guff!”
He made a generous offer and asked me to return.
“At least write or draw a few stories.”
I told him I’d think about writing, and that was all, because I felt that I’d pretty much found my niche as a cartoonist.
But this was Jim Warren. You know that old maxim about a pit-bull never letting go? Jim Warren! Relentless to the core!
So, he made another offer: twice my monthly mortgage--every month--for the use of my name on the mastheads of his titles.
I think he listed me as consulting editor in Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella and The Spirit.
This went on for more than a year.
I was enjoying my work with Marvel’s Crazy magazine and I think it showed, because other offers kept coming in. National Lampoon. International Insanity. Sick. Even Playboy.
Then I got a call from The Harry Chester Studio. They were producing Cracked for Bob Sproul and wanted to know if I’d like to join their team of “usual idiots.”
I knew Sproul. I’d worked for him on his Web of Horror title. And I didn’t like him very much. So, I declined, explaining that I’d had my fill of needlessly acerbic publishers.
But then they told me how much he was paying.
And my only question was, “Where do I sign?”
I think I did some of my best work for Cracked. But, I continued with Crazy, too. And, though Marvel’s rates were about 20% of my Cracked page rate, I reduced neither my volume nor quality of work for them. I just continued to enjoy every job, no matter who it was for.
It was in that period, when I was being inundated with humor art assignments, that I asked Budd Lewis and Jim Stenstrum my top two Warren writers--and excellent cartoonists themselves, to join me.
We established and incorporated The Cartoon Factory and set up shop in a beautiful old Victorian on Main Street in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Then Warren called again. “Got a big job for you! Come on down!”
When I got there, Jim introduced me to Howard Peretz of Package Play Development, a toy line packager.
He and Jim wanted me to design a new series for Eerie magazine that would enable them to reuse old toy molds from the ‘50s on brand new ‘70s toys.
The old molds? Cowboys and Indians, complete with horses, stagecoaches and trademark plastic edgeflaps.
Jim wanted me to “make it fit” into Eerie because he and Peretz were certain that cyclical trends were about to make “cowboys popular again!” despite the then-recent demise of even the most stalwart old west stays, Gunsmoke and Bonanza.
The prospect wasn’t particularly attractive, but, back at the studio, I laid it out for Budd and Jim.
They were even less enthused than I.
Nonetheless, we went to work.
Unlike Warren and Peretz, we didn’t think westerns were coming back. We just couldn’t see Jim readdressing his Wildest Western title, but thought that if there was going to be a new trend, it would probably have more to do with robots and spaceships. (This was in 1976, a year before even the first Star Wars trailer.)
We explored everything from cowboys and aliens to cowboys and monsters and cowboys and rocketships. And ended up settling on a time traveler who looked like a cowboy and partnered with a gunslinging grandfather from the old west and a wise-talking sentient robot in a ten gallon Stetson.
Stenstrum thought the entire premise ridiculous and announced that he wanted no part of it.
So, Budd and I pressed on, added the chess master facet to the development and brought Jim and Howard The Rook.
They wanted it at first sight.
But, I had stipulations. The biggest one being that Budd and I retain all rights. The second one being that no one touch a word of anything we turned in.
Warren agreed, drew up the papers and The Rook was launched.
Though Budd and I had a great time writing, and Luis Bermejo, the artist we’d chosen to illustrate, was clearly having just as much fun, we didn’t know how our “cowboy” series was going to be accepted by Eerie’s readership until Jim called me in, months later, and proudly flaunted the magazine’s sales figures. They were climbing!
I remember telling him that it was, no doubt, due to the inspiring quality of work coming from the editorial department since my departure.
Then he showed me the sales figures for Creepy, Vampirella and The Spirit.
Sales on all three titles were slumping, while Eerie, for the first time ever, was outselling everything, including his flagship title Famous Monsters of Filmland.
The increased sales corresponded with the first appearances of The Rook.
But, there was something he wanted to try just to be sure.
He proposed a Rook one shot.
I recognized that it was his sneaky way of luring me back onto his editorial team, but I bit anyway.
Much of this story was recapped in the introduction published in that one-shot.
Long story short, sales figures of that trial issue justified the publication of a regular Rook title.
Warren’s Rook magazine was off and running.
The book had a solid, loyal following, which I attribute in great part to the excellent caliber of art published throughout its run. Lee Elias, Luis Bermejo, Alex Toth, Nestor Redondo, Alfredo Alcala, Jose Ortiz, John Severin and so many others, produced the absolute best work of their long, lustrous careers.
Years into the magazine’s run, when Warren ran into financial difficulty, his Comptroller, Dan Tunick, called our studio and told me that the company’s lawyer was advising me to come down and collect The Rook material because he was closing the office doors for good.
Dan put the package together for me. I signed it out, dropped it off at a storage facility in Ridgefield, and proceeded with my life.
Thirty seconds later I found myself in California with a guy named Stan Lee who asked me to help him build a new animation company.
A new facet of my life began and I haven’t looked back in twenty-five years.
5. Why now?
We did a lot of great work at Marvel. We zipped from zero shows and no network confidence in this little upstart studio to twenty-two on-air series and high network confidence in the studio we’d built into the largest animation production facility in the world--in a little more than two years.
All those series made the studio extremely attractive to corporate raiders.
After Marvel was sold to New World, I was offered and accepted a position heading my own creative department at 20th Century Fox. I continued on a string of film, television, licensing and development projects for them until they sold their animation and family assets to ABC/Disney in 2000.
Since then, a great deal of the episodic animation work that was once so abundant in LA has dissipated.
I’ve been more fortunate than most creatives and have found a fairly steady stream of employment overseas. But now my family’s demanding that I stick closer to home. My daughter gifted me with twin grandsons in April and is making a great deal of fuss about me being a “proper grandfather.”
So, it seemed as good a time as any to readdress the contents of some of those long-stored Warren Publishing boxes.
Besides, I hear there’s some new-found interest in our old work.
About three months back, my baby sister Dani walked into a comic shop with her son Luke. I guess the owners were talking about the new Dark Horse Creepy and Eerie Archives because she jumped in. “Hey! My brother edited those magazines!”
“No way! You’re Archie Goodwin’s sister?”
She told me these were serious fans who knew everything about everything Warren and, embarrassingly enough, way too much about me.
And then there was the Inevitable Question. The one I’ve heard for a quarter of a century.
When’s he bringing The Rook back?
If I had a buck for every time I’ve been asked that since Warren stopped publishing, I could fill out my old funnybook collection!
Oh, my! I just flashed back to a conversation Will and I had the very day we started talking about reprinting his work.
He said almost the same thing about The Spirit. More in reference to Park Avenue real estate than funnybooks, though.
He said that he’d managed to stay away from comics for a quarter of a century to that point, but now we were pulling him back in!
Oh, no! Another one! It’s been just about the same length of time since The Rook’s been in print!
Wow! I didn’t plan it this way, really! But Will Eisner’s influence is everywhere fine comics are sold!
Anyway, my sister had never been subjected to such a gushing outpour of enthusiasm for her big brother’s work before. She’d had no idea. (Actually, I didn’t either!)
Not being there, I also have no idea how accurate this scenario is. I retell it here as it was related to me.
For weeks! And weeks!
And then I was offered a directing job on a PBS series. In China. A respite, I thought, from my sister’s badgering.
But Daniella screamed! “You can’t go! You have to do The Rook! People want it!”
“Two boys in a funnybook store asked about it!” I countered.
“No! We need it! The family needs it! You always said you wanted to do your TinTin!”
And that was it.
My sweet little pit-bull of a sister got her way.
I made my apologies to China, knowing I’ll probably never be asked to work for them or PBS again!
Then I called Budd and asked him what he thought about the idea of maybe readdressing The Rook.
“Funny you should ask,” he smirked.
He told me he’d been working on a new Rook novel for about twenty-five years.
He dropped the manuscript in my lap.
And I devoured it.
And saw, without question that it is the most exciting, most intelligent, most emotionally hard-hitting time-traveling magnum opus I’ve ever enjoyed.
But, then, Budd knows I’m his harshest critic! I’m his second from least favorite editor and have made impossible demands of him for more than thirty years.
He knew that anything he handed me would have to shine.
So, I’m going to take at least a little of the credit for his new Rook novel being so good.
It should be posted on the web site (www.timecastlebooks.com) just around the time you’re reading this.
As for the enthusiastic young men in that comics shop--Gentlemen, I have no idea who you are. But, you’re no doubt going to read this. And I just want you to know the trouble you’ve caused.
And, yes, I’d be more than happy to drop by.
6. You started working in comics first for Charlton and then did some work for Marvel in the 1960's, correct?
Yes, but there’s much more to the story.
The first books I remember reading on my own were Dell Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck comics given to me by my grandmother. So, I got hooked early on visually sequential tales.
Years later, when I learned about comics fandom, I realized that telling picture stories was what I wanted to do with my life. So, from the eighth grade on, I spent hours at the drawing board and studied every comic book I could lay my hands on.
Like most young artists, I copied those drawings I really liked and tried to incorporate the artists’ styles into my own work. Earliest influences were, in the order I remember discovering them, Joe Kubert, Carmine Infantino, Wally Wood, Al Williamson and George Evans.
I labored over my early fanzine work, trying to attain their level of professionalism.
Then I met Jack Burnley. A true gentleman and genuine artist.
He was the very first one to point out that I seemed to have a natural style suited better for cartooning than the super-hero art I’d been struggling to produce for various fanzines.
He sat me down, told me to pencil a simple three panel story--with beginning, middle and end--using no reference and nothing but my own talent pushing a number two pencil.
Because he’d been DC’s top illustrator during the forties, and I respected his work and experience, I knew I could only benefit from his direction.
The whole exercise took maybe fifteen minutes. By the end of it, Jack had made his case.
He pointed out that my innate style was reminiscent of a cross between Jack Rickard and Bob Clarke, two men whom I considered to be among Mad magazine’s finest. But, I was disappointed. And then he noted that it was also reminiscent of his friend Jack Cole’s art.
Jack who? I remember asking. And he laughed. “You kids!”
Burnley was also the first to point out that trying to break into comics would only lead to disappointment. Without elaborating, he told me that DC had always been a “closed shop.” And, although he’d been one of their top artists, two decades previous, he felt that, even if he’d wanted to (And he didn’t!), they wouldn’t’ve even allowed him through the doors again.
I couldn’t believe that. The man who’d created Starman and ghosted the best of the Superman and Batman stories, kept on the outside by the powers-that-be-at DC?! It seemed preposterous.
He threw together two packages of some of the best sports and editorial cartoons he’d produced for our local San Francisco paper. Work that was superior in quality to even the best material produced during his decade-long stint at DC. And he sent them to Julie Schwartz and Jack Schiff, two of DC’s top editors.
I remember waiting for what seemed like an eternity, pestering him daily, I was so eager to hear.
Eventually Jack got his tearsheets back from Schiff. “Sorry. Nothing for you.”
I’m pretty sure we never got Julie’s response because it was lost in the mail.
But Jack had again made his point. And I was crushed.
Gentleman that he was, however, he offered another idea.
Let’s do the same thing with Marvel and Charlton. “This time we’ll send your work under my name. But, if they send me an assignment, you’re doing it, DuBay!”
There was no response whatsoever from Marvel. Guess they were just too busy being Marvel at the time and probably didn’t know who Jack Burnley was.
But Dick Giordano, who was heading up Charlton, knew. He sent Jack a four page story for a comic book named Go-Go.
I remember Jack showing me Dick’s letter, apologizing for sending “a script that was a little different from anything he’d ever done before, but that his ‘new style’ (my art) seemed to show he could handle it.”
It was a humor story parodying super-hero comics.
“He nailed you, Billy-boy!” Jack twinkled, no doubt from having his own evaluation of my talents validated.
So I penciled, inked and lettered the pages and turned in the job with a note from Jack apologizing for letting his assistant handle the assignment. “Sorry. Not my cuppa tea. Didn’t want to hang you up, so I had my eager young helper work it up, start to finish. Boy’s got a flare for humor, don’t you think?”
I was more proud of him and grateful for his support than I was for that first paying job.
And Dick didn’t seem to mind too terribly much. He sent a check for the princely sum of $72 ($18 a page for pencil, inks and letters) and a follow-up script.
I remember that I was in my last weeks of high school at the time. I’d also just turned eighteen and had to register for the draft, where I learned that my birth date had won the lottery! My draft number was in The Top Ten!
I found myself in the U.S.Army about thirty seconds after sending off that second Charlton story.
I wrote Dick to tell him and he promised that he’d have more work for me when I was discharged. But, well…that’s a whole ‘nother story.
While in the army, I basically had two jobs. The first was Command Illustrator to the Commanding General of Ft. Bragg, N.C.
I got to meet Robert Kennedy, who’d come to Ft. Bragg for the dedication of the J.F.K. Center for Special Warfare (Home of The Green Berets), John Wayne, when he and his crew came to film their embarrassingly pro-war feature, and heads of allied states, like the Prince of Nepal.
Every week, I’d be whipping out one or two new paintings for some visiting senator, congressmen, military figure or foreign dignitary.
It was a great place for an empty-headed boy with zero interest in politics or world affairs.
Definitely helped to mold, shape and educate this hopelessly helpless uninformed funnybook reading kid.
The post’s Office of Information was at the end of the long basement hallway where I had my closet-sized Command Illustrator Office. Howard Cruise, the editor of the post newspaper there, visited often with various requests for cartoons, illustrations and caricatures. So, I found an outlet for my work that pretty much let me see all my mistakes in print overnight. Another great learning experience!
When Howard was mustered out, the Command Information Officer, Colonel Campbell, asked me if I’d like to take his place--being more qualified than anyone he knew (with my high school funnybook work in print!). Fat chance, I figured. He was only a light colonel and I worked for a three star who wasn’t about to let me go.
But he informed me that the three star was about to get his fourth star and replace a guy named Westmoreland as Commander-in-Chief in-country and that his entire staff was headed for ‘Nam.
Oh, there was one minor stipulation. Since I was the only “leg” in the entire 18th Airborne Corps, (the elite, command corps), I had to win my wings.
A “stateside leg” was a shameful thing to be among combat paratroopers. It basically meant you weren’t “man enough” to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and rush off to kill somebody!
I edited the paper for more than a year after that and continued to write and draw something in almost every edition. (Yes, I’ve always been a workaholic!)
And somewhere in that timeline, I got a call from Roy Thomas who wanted to put some of the old fanboys in the last issue of Marvel’s Not Brand Ecch magazine.
I was elated, honored and grateful, of course.
That was the first time I both wrote and drew for professional comics. A little story about Stan the egomaniacal slave-driver and his whipping boy Jack.
When the check came ($140 this time--$25 a page for pencils, $10 per page for script) Roy was complimentary but apologetic. The magazine was finished and he had no more work. But, because Tom Sutton, the guy who’d inked my story had been so complimentary, (“Easiest and most complete pencils I’ve ever inked!”) Roy asked me if I’d like to draw some Millie the Model stories.
I explained that I already had a day job with Uncle Sam, but that I’d be more than happy to do whatever I could.
In the next several months, I penciled two or three Millie pages a day. Even had copies of some of them in my portfolio when I went to New York and made the rounds to the comics houses, a month before mustering out.
Roy “had nothing” then. The Millie and Chilli titles were being cancelled and he didn’t want or need to be shackled with a struggling young wannabe super-hero artist.
Giordano, now at DC, “loved” my work and promised to assign “all I could handle--just as soon as I was discharged.”
Jim Warren was, by far, less complimentary, less welcoming and less civil. “Who the hell are you and what makes you think you’re good enough to work for me?”
As he did with almost everyone he met, he proceeded to needlessly humble, belittle and humiliate. And reveled in it!
To me, he was just a little man with a nasty mouth and an unjustifiably over-inflated ego. So, I gave as good as I got, then turned and headed for the door.
He stopped me, said he liked “my guts!” and threw an R. Michael Rosen script at me. “See what you can do with this. Mess up and you’ll never work in this business again!”
The story was called “Movie Dissector” and I did what I could to make it make it fun, but it was purely awful and utterly predictable in that embarrassing way that most Goodwin-emulated Creepy stories were in those days.
When I turned it in, Warren was pleased enough to hand me another script. Again by R. Michael Rosen.
I cringed. He saw. “Only one I have. Take it or leave it.”
I grimaced through every panel of that one, too. “I Scream.” And I did!
When I brought that one in, Jim told me that he’d shown my first story to Rosen who requested me as a regular collaborator.
I told Jim I was going to write my own stories. “Take it or leave it!”
“Frog Prince,” “Final Ingredient,” “The Devil’s Hand” and Life Species” followed. All were pretty horrible. But, I kept working throughout college and even took on the occasional script written by someone else. (“Don Glut’s “Girl on the Red Asteroid" is actually one I fondly remember! I put my three favorite college instructors in that one!) But never anything by R. Michael Rosen! (Though I was offered!) (Every time!) (Jim thought it was funny to see me squirm!)
For me, the most satisfying story produced during my college days, though, was “Like Cats and Dogs,” a tale I wrote that was assigned to Jerry Grandinetti.
I think it was also the very first of my scripts that I didn’t illustrate. And, I absolutely loved what Jerry did. I asked Jim to team us again. By then, though, Jerry had moved on to DC. And this one story remains the only thing we’ve ever done together.
The entire time I was producing those stories for Jim, I kept checking in with Dick at DC, who continued to promise assignments that never materialized. I learned later, from several of the young artists coming into the field, that Dick wanted to be considered “Mr. Nice Guy” and pretty much made the same promise of giving “all the work you can handle” to everyone walking through his door.
He seemed oblivious to the damage he was causing to the young creatives who kept believing his promises and hanging on long after their funds had run out.
As acerbic as he often was, Jim didn’t make promises he had no intention of keeping. Nor did he ever seem to care about being Mr. Nice Guy!” (Is that an understatement!)
So, I promised myself early on that if my turn ever came to sit in the editorial chair again, I’d be bluntly honest with anyone coming to me for work. Honest, but respectful, with no Warren-style derision!
And that’s how I conducted myself not only during my Warren editorial tours, but those at Western, Pacific and Red Circle, as well.
Of course, early on, I began to see why Dick acted as he did. Almost no one took rejection well. No one wants to hear that they need to learn anatomy, storytelling or perspective…or to stop emulating another artist’s work. I’m told that a few artists “loathe me to this day” for turning them away. But there are others, like George Perez who seemed to have actually heard what I suggested and address their youthful shortcomings.
Years later, I bumped into George at DC. He was so warm and welcoming and told me that my rejection had actually helped him to work smarter.
One success like that is worth all the vitriolic indignation any offended wannabe can muster.
7. You became editor of the Warren line in 1972. I assume this meant all titles except for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Forrest J Ackerman’s magazine?
For many reasons, Christmas of 1971 was one of the worst holidays of my life, And then I got a letter from Jim asking me if I’d take Billy Graham’s place as the company’s art director. He explained that the job paid $10 thousand a year and “all the Jim Warren crap you can take!”
I’d already worked for him long enough to know what that meant, so the entire package wasn’t particularly attractive. It meant that the California boy would have to go back to New York in the dead of winter and give up any idea of actually finishing college.
But, I’d already taken all the journalism courses that were offered and was even in a special advanced studies program, publishing a weekly inter-collegiate newspaper called The Bay Area Entertainer. Taking the Warren job meant that I’d have to leave the paper behind.
My family encouraged me to “jump for The Big-Time New York Publishing Job.” And life-long buddy Marty Arbunich, who was already editing the paper, promised to step up and keep it going. So, I jumped.
I arrived in New York January 10, 1972 and showed up at the Warren offices at 9:15 the morning of the 11th, my twenty-fourth birthday.
The streets were icy with dirty snow piled high with garbage! And Jim wasted little time in taking his displeasure with the weather out on me.
There was no official welcome to the company except by John Cochran, Billy’s editorial counterpart. And he explained that, as soon as he found a new job, he was “going to tell Warren what he could do with his manic insanity!”
John never saw any reason for Warren’s “blatant vulgarity and incessant rages” and flatly refused to indulge him.
He and I became good friends, especially when he saw what Warren referred to as my “intensive basic training,” demeaning me at every turn while mercilessly attacking my “crippling ineptitude.” Jim was, of course, only showing me the “right” way to do things! “The Warren way!”
I didn’t much care for his abuse, either, however, and walked out before the week was over.
But, Dick Conway, Warren’s Comptroller, ran after me and stopped me in the street.
He took me into the nice warm coffee shop around the corner and explained that I only had to put up with Warren’s “nonsense” because the company had been through such a rough period that Jim was determined to re-attain the quality the books once enjoyed. And, that he was rough on me because he was pinning his hopes of returning to those glory days on me.
He laid out Warren’s plan for me, explaining that both he and Jim were aware of Cochran’s intention to bolt and that Jim was trying to groom me for the editor’s chair. He claimed that Warren was convinced that a long-time contributor--especially a writer/artist with editorial experience--was exactly what they needed “to turn things around.”
He persuaded me to try to make things work--just once more--“before you slink back to California with your tail between your legs!”
I went back, took Warren’s abusive insanity for a month or so more before John walked.
In the interim, however, and unbeknownst to me, Jim had been interviewing other editorial candidates. So, I was pretty surprised when Marv Wolfman showed up one morning and made for Cochran’s old office.
I asked Dick about it, of course.
He explained that Jim didn’t think I was ready for both jobs, yet (art director and editor) and just wanted to give me “more time to develop.”
The wait was short. Marv didn’t care much for Warren’s ways, either, and ended up accepting an editorial position with Marvel less than a month after joining us. (And, truth be known, my assistant, Billy Mohalley, “The Kid,” and I, didn’t make Marv’s stay particularly pleasant, either. Billy and Marv were like oil and water and The Kid was constantly coming up with new ways to torment him.) (Some great stories here, but I don’t think Marv would appreciate my telling them!)
Day before Marv left, Warren called Dick and I into his office and told us, flatly, that he’d hired a new editor--and that it was “the best decision he’d made in years.”
I could feel my temper flaring and was pretty sure Jim could see it, too, because he quickly added, “Congratulations on your new position, Dube. I know you’ll shine!”
The titles I was assigned were all the same ones I’d been working on as art director, Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella--with the single exception of Famous Monsters of Filmland--the easiest title to produce, which had always been edited by Forry Ackerman.
That was, I believe, sometime around mid-’72. Thirty seconds before my first “Big Push.”
8. Big Push?
That was Jim’s term for the nightmare period just prior to summer, when warm weather pushes magazine and comic book sales to their yearly peak.
In the two to three months prior to the first summer issues of all his magazines, production geared up to an absolute frenzy. Every issue had more pages, a higher price tag and increased deadline frequency.
The entire production staff could be found in the office pretty much around the clock. And, since Jim was never one to hire “frivolous hands,” we had to do it all with our same meager year-round editorial/production team.
So, by the end of The Push, the entire crew was either ready to lay down and die of exhaustion or to chip in for a hit man to go after Warren. Because, as hard as The Push was, he’d do his level best to act even more insanely and make our jobs an even-worse-than-usual Hell!
And that insanity didn’t stop with his in-house staff, but extended to virtually every freelancer who walked through the door. Screaming! Mocking! Criticizing! Humiliating! And often mortifying everyone who dared enter his den.
The only two people I ever saw him strain to be civil for were Frank Frazetta who we all knew would sooner knock Jim on his scrawny rump than put up with his nonsense--and Will Eisner, who was so iconic that even Jim genuflected in his presence.
After one particularly humiliating instance, wherein we lost a top talent, I told Jim that I was walking if he involved himself with “my Creatives” again.
From that point forward, none of our contributors had to deal with him. I was given final editorial say and complete responsibility for all titles. And Jim got to spend more time at his beach houses in the Hamptons, wherein he devoted his time to painting everything he owned the gaudiest shade of dazzling yellow with which you’ll ever be blinded.
9. What were those years like as Warren editor? What were some of the challenges you faced?
You should’ve gotten by now, that working with Jim left a deep lack of joy in my life.
If a ‘t’ hadn’t been crossed or a period was a fraction of a millimeter out of place (literally) the wrath of God paled by comparison!
Jim was one of those remarkable men who could always do everything better than you, I and everyone else--ever! If you mentioned that you were army airborne, he boasted that he was an Army Airborne Special Forces Ranger. If you boxed, he’d brag about his undefeated Golden Gloves record. If you painted, he was better and could prove it with some of his desperation-days FM covers.
He was a better writer, artist, editor, art director, advertising man, publisher and company head than anyone who’d ever lived--and the absolute greatest cab driver in the entire New York metropolitan area! And he always had the “proof”--right there, spilling from his lips.
One freelancer, with a career-long love/hate relationship with Jim, once told me, “He glorifies himself with every breath. The rest of the world is the dogcrap sticking to his heels!”
He gloried in crowing and made the lives of everyone working for him utter agony.
And then there was the flip side. The fatherly Jim Warren, who looked out for his “family” and threw lavish parties for new writers, artists and staff and provided us with beach houses, apartments and generous Christmas bonuses.
I saw him in his most wonderful moments and at his most insanely horrifying worst.
He treated me like the son he never had. And I both loved and disliked him as much as I did my own father--whose personality was so similar in so many ways. And I took it all in, knowing that his end goal was simply to make me a much better extension of himself--whether I wanted to be or not!
I can honestly say that I never found editing his magazines to be particularly challenging--especially after having worked in newspapers. Jim was generous with his freelancers, knowing he had to be to lure the greatest of them back to his magazines. And, as long as he didn’t interact with them, they smoothly provided a steady stream of excellent work. Which made my job easy!
Wally Wood once said, “I don’t know how you do it. I tried editing for him once (on a shelved titled called POW!) and I wanted to pistol-whip him on a daily basis.”
Jim concurred when I was finally able to lure Woody back into the fold. “We can’t work together. One of us is going to end up killing the other!”
And, sure enough, the first time Warren invited Wood into his office, was the last time Woody ever worked for Warren Publishing.
In the years since, I’ve heard several people say that they’d heard Woody had left Warren because he “couldn’t work with that upstart young editor DuBay.” The real truth is actually far more colorful--and one of those stories that I don’t think either Jim would or Woody would’ve enjoyed repeated here.
10. You served as editor, not once but several times over a ten year period. I assume that meant you had a pretty good relationship with Jim Warren?
I did my absolute best to give Jim magazines he could be proud of again.
After that first nightmarish year of “basic training,” he trusted me enough to pretty much leave me alone. He began spending more time at his Hamptons homes and less in the office. And that pleased everyone!
Instead of reviewing every page of every magazine before going to press--(which was always a nightmarish experience that usually ended up with a lot of screaming, crying, cursing and threatening, plus three days of extra staff work adjusting page numbers, balloon tails, misaligned type, art he didn’t like and anything else he could maniacally slash with his angry orange grease pencil) he’d review the printed magazines at his poolside, rip them apart (with that same venomously heated grease pencil) and send it all back in an envelope crammed with invectives, dictates and obscenities (on shredded strips of yellow legal pad ((God, I came to hate that color!)) and little yellow post-its clustered on every page).
Then there’d be the follow-up phone call. “Why did you? How could you? Never again! It’s your last--, It’s your ass, you blankety-blank-blank-blank! “
Some of those comments were soooo good that we had to print them in the letters pages.
I mean, this is a man with intelligence, wit and demonstrably slapstickian acerbity! How could we not?
At first, I figured Jim knew what we were doing, and was letting us, because we used his comments verbatim--and always signed the same pseudonym. (And it was a good one, too!) (Won’t say what it was, but you’ll know it when you see it! ‘Cause it’s…appropriate!)
My first inkling that he wasn’t getting it, though, came months in, when one of those fresh-off-the-press issues, thick with its usual folio of fresh yellow and orange Warrenisms, noted one of those letters in a big grease penciled circle. “See!” he wrote. “This guy agrees with me!”
After that, I think he unknowingly became the most prolific fan writer we published.
If nothing else, everyone who knew him would agree that Jim was colorful!
11. Did you ever keep any of those comments?
Are you kidding? This stuff is priceless!
Especially to a Big-Kid Funnybook Fan like me!
I have his comments on every magazine he reviewed.
And you think I’m a prolific writer!?
Jim had something to say about every page of every story in every issue of every magazine I ever edited for him.
AND…it’s all in his own hand--which is ostentatiously flamboyant unto itself.
You could usually tell how passionate Jim was about anything by the size of his handwriting. Or, more accurately, hand-printing. Though he has wonderfully over-practiced cursive penmanship, he clearly leaned more toward excruciatingly bad comic book lettering in his day-to-day memos and penned correspondence. And the larger, bolder, more italicized his comments, the greater his passion and, usually, rage!
One could even see a frustrated comic book letterer here. (Now, that’s an idea, too! Anyone out there know how to program type styles? Warren Bold is waiting to happen!)
I always wanted to put everything together in a big Jim Warren tell-all scrapbook, just for old fanboys like myself. Instead, that notion has sat, untouched and unrealized, in storage boxes for the past thirty years.
When we left the East Coast to return to California, we bought a big house with an old stable. I renovated the stable, added a second story and piled boxes of old Warren material to the ceiling.
If I didn’t feel that I had more important things to do, I might actually revisit them. If nothing else, for a few good chuckles.
Or--maybe somebody out there would like to take this off my hands so I can get on with enjoying life.
12. Warren has always intrigued me as such a mercurial person. He published magazines which have become legendary and remain enormously popular today. However there are lots of stories about him being, shall we say, thrifty when it came to talent, while enjoying a lavish lifestyle of his own.
If you’ve spent any time in comics at all, you know that rumors, no matter how big or small, fly fast and furiously about anyone and everyone and are usually heartily embellished along the way.
You’ve just repeated what I consider to be one of the most repugnant Warren-rumored untruths.
Mercurial? Absolutely! To the nth degree!
Once, during one of his more vivacious outbursts, I had to calm myself, put my pencil down, stand up and walk out of his office in the middle of his rant.
He didn’t take that well, at all. But I explained later that I'd once had a bayonet instructor who told us that once we visualized ourselves sticking that blade into an enemy combatant, the next thing we’d remember would be being led away from the body.
It took Jim about three seconds to understand. And then I saw his gaze shift to that nice new blunt #2 I’d dropped on his desk.
And, believe it or not, I honestly don’t remember too many more raging Warren moments after that. I think that was about the time he started sending his packages of orange grease-penciled, yellow post-ited magazine critiques from the safety of his South Hampton beach house.
Mike Richardson told me that he “did quite well” on the first volume of Dark Horse's new Creepy archives. So I guess some of the material is still timeless enough to attract interest.
As for the last part of your question--that’s the part that always rankles me. Because it’s shamefully fallacious.
The stories and art in the early issues of Creepy and Eerie were among the best produced until that time.
Jim and Archie took enormous pride in that.
But, both understood that that level of quality, which can only be achieved through colossal talent and unlimited passion, must be fairly compensated for it to continue.
For a professional Creative, the amount of time you allocate to a project is always determined by how much you’re being paid. If you have bills, a roof and a hungry family, the pay had better be pretty good if you’re going to take the extra time to inject any level of noteworthy quality.
Jim launched his titles paying a better rate than any comic book artist had, previous to that, ever enjoyed.
He ran into financial trouble because of it.
To his credit, he recognized that the titles could be profitable if he adjusted operating costs.
He did so at the expense of the earlier quality levels. But, he continued to publish. And a lot of young artists desiring to be the next Wood, Toth, Crandall or Frazetta were grateful for the opportunity to work for the same magazines that had once enshrined their idols’ talents. (Myself included!)
I’ve already mentioned how much both Charlton and Marvel had paid me for my early work.
To me, it was fair, because I young, raw and eager. And enjoyed the medium.
But, even though Jim and I shared a love/hate relationship from our very first meeting, I was elated to be working with him. And the $75 a page rate he paid me for my art was three times more than I was getting from Marvel during that same period. And Jim didn’t even particularly like me!
Of course, when I learned what he was paying for scripts--$25 each, no matter what the page length--I began to understand why R. Michael Rosen’s work was as it was.
Warren’s rates remained pretty much the same all the time I was freelancing for him. He upped the script rate to $35 somewhere around my second or third story--not just for me, but for everyone who was complaining about his stinginess with writers.
By the time I was invited to join the staff full-time, rates for art had started to improve, as well.
Having learned a valuable lesson with his earlier financial problems, Jim was careful not to overspend. But, as sales increased and the magazines became more profitable, he was quick to adjust and improve what the company was paying.
By the time Jose Toutain (Actually, the third man, now that I think of it, whom I never saw Jim attempt to belittle, humble or humiliate!) (You couldn’t! He was such an elegant Catalan.) brought his Spanish artists into the fold, Jim was once again paying better than any other comics publisher. And all the powers at both DC and Marvel knew it! Which is when the rumors started. “Warren’s paying $5 a page because Spanish labor is cheap!”
Well, Spanish labor wasn’t cheap. Spain’s cost of living index was, and remains, pretty much equal to ours’. And the best artists--which they were--expected (and got!) the best pay!
But, to me, that $5 a page comment was the tip-off as to where the rumors were coming from. Though many didn’t know it, it was the very price DC was paying the Philippine artists working for them! (The long-overused political tactic of calling the kettle black!)
After we learned that, I told Jim I was going to bring the best of the Filipinos into our camp. He told me, “Only if you pay them what we’re paying everyone else!”
Alex Nino and Nestor Redondo were the first Philippine artists I approached.
Both flew to New York and practically wept they were so grateful.
And then I was inundated with Filipino art portfolios.
And almost every one of those artists posed the same question. “How can it be true? How can you pay so much when mighty DC can’t afford to?”
To this day, I still hear the rumor of how Warren exploited the Spanish and Philippine artists with his, as you insinuate, frugality.
Let’s bury that lie once and for all!
Oh! And the script rate improved dramatically, as well. As sales rose, Jim raised rates from $35 per script to $35 a page. Better than most rates being paid then at either DC or Marvel.
As for his lavish lifestyle--! Oh, yes! There was that, too. The yellow houses, yellow taxis and yellow Spad in his driveway are legend!
Jim lacked for nothing. He had every toy he’d ever wanted. And a houseboy named Kato to keep it all in order while catering to his every whim.
But, if you knew Jim, you begrudged him none of it. Because he generously shared it all with everyone around him.
Outside the office, we never saw Jim the Monster. There was just this gentle, charismatic man who wanted his guests to be comfortable and happy.
13. What's your best Jim Warren story?
There are so very many! It’s like asking, “What’s your favorite moment in life?”
Jim would have me drawn and quartered if I even hinted at some of the best ones!
I’ve tried to sprinkle a few of those unforgettable moments throughout this interview, to help give a more accurate picture of that era. But they really don’t even begin to scratch the surface of The Warren Legend!
When he was in the office, there was constant drama.
The one thing Jim didn’t like to be was bored.
And the one thing he enjoyed being, more than anything else, was outrageous!
Put the two together and you have a lifetime of stories crying to be written.
Which, by the way, I’ve got an appreciable start on!
You see, a quarter of a century ago, when I stopped working in comics, I did so not because I no longer enjoyed the medium, but because I was completely fried. There came a day when I just couldn’t face another deadline! And that soured everything.
It didn’t mean that I no longer liked to write or draw. I did! It just meant that I consciously decided that I’d only do either on my own terms from that point on.
Since those days, I’ve continued to carry around one of those same little black and white composition notebooks in which I wrote my three hundred-odd published Warren stories.
As was my practice back then, I’d fill those pages up and transcribe the best work.
Since 1983, I’ve filled up hundreds of those little black books with literally thousands of stories. All types of stories! Rook stories! Goblin stories! Good stories! Bad stories! True stories! And stories about every irritant I’ve ever experienced, including many many Jim Warren stories!
I’ve found it to be as enjoyably cathartic as it is psychologically purgative.
Matter of fact, I've found that the more passionate I am about an issue, the easier it is to write about. So much so that, what I call “passion and dander” stories, almost always write themselves!
I was thumbing through one notebook just the other day and came across a story I wrote in 1984 when we were building Marvel Animation.
Someone in the studio got caught in a compromising position in his neighbor’s pool and it reminded me of Jim and his big yellow beach house. (Come on! He’s always been a gold mine waiting to be exploited!)
So, I whipped off a story called “Pook’s Flag!”
The story really goes nowhere and does nothing other than explain one of the beach house’s more interesting phenomenons.
As I mentioned, Jim was always a gracious host. He actually went out and bought a full-sized flag of whatever country his guests were either from or identified with their heritage.
He’d run the French tri-color up the flagpole whenever I visited. For Billy, The Kid, it was the banner of the Black Irish. The Union Jack for Mike Carreras. For Will Eisner, Sherry Berne and Jeff Rovin, the Magren David. And for the young lady Jim was seeing at the time, the national crest of her homeland.
A wonderful, hospitable practice! That actually conditioned the cabaña boys from the adjacent beach club to salivate like Pavlov’s dogs.
You see, Jim had this magnificent salt water pool that was about three steps from the Atlantic. But, it was heated and used year-round.
Jim was proud of his pool and didn’t particularly like guests contaminating it with all the wicked germs found on, around and in most people’s bathing garments. So, the rule was, you were more than welcome to enjoy the water, but had to do so without any germ-ridden clothing.
Well, never being one to flaunt my shortcomings, I never once so much as dipped a toe in that pool.
But, Jim’s girl friend did. And was quite comfortable, really, as was Jim, with “letting it all hang out,” as he used to say.
It really didn’t take long for the cabaña boys from the beach club next door to put one and one together. Crested flag = Pook in the pool! Pook! His pet name for the young lady!
There’d be the inevitable excited exclamations, the predictable too-eager finger pointing to “The Flag,” and the hurried but desperately quiet scurrying to the fence!” Then, there’d be all these pretty suntanned boys suddenly hanging over the railing, trying to make nonchalantly casual conversation with the lone lady in the pool!
More often than not, though, she wouldn’t remain in the water alone for long. Jim would appear and perform some memorably audacious act that silently taunted, “Look what I have--and you don’t!”
On more than one occasion, while waiting on Jim for some meeting or review, I was invited to lounge poolside while he finished “more pressing business in the water.” I usually just excused myself and waited inside with Kato, who made sure that houseguests wanted for nothing.
Most gracious! Truly!
Rough estimate, there’s probably sixty or seventy of these stories in those notebooks.
I figure if I will them to some comics historian, my immortality-by-association should be assured.
14. in 1974, Warren began publishing reprints of Will Eisner's "The Spirit." With Warren known primarily for horror and fantasy titles, why did you choose to revive the character, and how did the 1940s Crime Noir hero go over with fans?
How it all came about? This is one of those oft-asked questions.
Long story short, for those who haven’t heard it--
Will had an office at 32nd and Park, one block away from Warren’s offices.
I dropped in unannounced one day and we had a great “remember when” chat about the time he gave Mike Ploog a job that I wanted.
No hard feelings! Things worked out! Ever think about republishing--!?
I went back to the office, told Jim about the chat. He got excited and made the call. “Dube tells me you think I should publish The Spirit!”
Jim was, like most of us, an Eisner worshiper!
I’m pretty sure he knew Will’s office was only a block away.
And I’m pretty sure Will knew Jim was just down the street.
But they’d never connected…even though Jim had actually once published one of Will’s Spirit stories in Harvey’s Help.
I only knew that Will was up the street because I’d answered a Times ad a couple of years earlier, after leaving the army. He was looking for a good production artist with military experience to help him out with PS--Preventive Maintenance, his army-contract magazine.
Ploog got the job!
One day I may still forgive him.
As for why we published The Spirit--
I think it’s pretty obvious that Fan boy Number One here would’ve given a lung for the chance to work with Will Eisner.
And Jim pretty much felt the same way.
When a couple of determined men, used to getting good things done together, focus on a common goal, miracles happen.
Warren’s Spirit magazine was one of those miracles.
The fans seemed to like it, too.
There wasn’t much criticism from readers or reviewers. As you’d expect from anything Will touched.
And average sale was initially in the 70-75,000 copy range--only about 1500% more than your average comic book sells today.
Breakeven was, as I recall, around 40,000 copies.
By the early double digit issues, sales had dropped to nearly 35,000, though the format and the contents had remained consistent throughout the run.
Readership erosion! It happens to the best publications.
The magazine was cancelled because Jim couldn’t sustain the losses any longer. Memory of those hard years wouldn’t allow him to continue.
We all parted sadly. But we all enjoyed the ride together.
And Dennis Kitchen picked up where we left off.
15. Any thoughts on the upcoming Spirit film?
I’ve seen the trailer. Nothing more.
I loved Frank’s Sin City. It was fresh, gritty, hard-hitting and original.
The Spirit trailer looks like Sin City II and not like any Spirit with which I’m familiar.
Will was always a stickler about keeping his character in character and context.
He flatly rejected two different Spirit covers, one by Sanjulian, the other by Ken Kelly, because neither “looked quite like” nor was “in the style of” his Spirit.
We worked together for years and I’d like to think that I knew Will pretty well.
My first thought after seeing the trailer was, “I don’t think he would’ve liked this!”
But, I also understood him well enough to know that he was never quick to condemn. He’d always look at all the facts and see everything there was to see before offering his opinion.
I’ll see the film when it opens. It can’t be any worse than Sam Jones’ TV Spirit movie.
At least, I hope it can’t!
16. You’ve worked alongside Will Eisner, Stan Lee and Jim Warren and have been editor to almost every other legend this industry’s ever produced. And yet, people haven’t heard Bill DuBay’s name for a lot of years. Is there anyone you’d still like to work with or anything you’d still like to do?
Haven’t you been listening? This is Fanboy Number One you’re talking to. The guy who got to script The Spirit into Vampirella! The man who brought Flash Gordon, Mandrake and The Phantom together with Prince Valiant! And gave them all unexplained children! I won’t be happy until I can team toddlers Kal El and Deidi and have Dickie Dare adopt Dondi.
And then there’s MAD. The only humor magazine I wanted to but didn’t contribute to. If I wasn’t so obstinate about working on my own terms, I’d like to think we’d’ve already had a long and wonderful association!
As for my writing--! The stories keep pouring out. The composition books keep filling up. But, see, I’ve got this little tic that won’t let me publish until I’m completely satisfied with what I’ve written.
But, then, that’s what Time Castle Books is about! Old stories that an old (and hopefully wiser) man (with at least some small editing credentials) is polishing to satisfaction!
A great man once told me that there’s no such thing as good writing. Only passable rewriting!
No! Wait! That was Jim Warren! Well, in his own way, he was a great man. And, like most of us, certainly A Legend in His Own Mind!
17. A final word?
I’d love to hear what you think.