Drawing Steve Gerber’s Jungian Phantom Zone

Back in the mid 1980′s, DC decided to reboot its SUPERMAN character; giving it to John Byrne to write and illustrate.  This created an odd situation concerning the existing SUPERMAN continuity and books in the pipeline.  One of those titles was DC COMICS PRESENTS in which SUPERMAN had traditionally appeared with another DC character. The title was cancelled and editor Julie Schwartz gave the final issue to Steve Gerber to write. I got the assignment to pencil.  I don’t think anyone in publishing or editorial gave a hoot what was in it.

With no one paying attention, Steve turned in an absolutely nutty script in which the Phantom Zone was revealed to be a living being made of of billions of dead souls.  I don’t know what was going on with Steve at the time, but it was written in a wildly disjointed style:  “Again the self is pierced and again and again–and the begin time is now and now is the begin time and the else-ones multiply like– HATE! Fingers (what are fingers) gouging (what is gouging?) into faces (what are faces?) into–COWARDS!  WHY DID YOU PUT US TO DEATH? …death was the begin time…” and came in pieces; three or four pages at a time.  Julie was fretting, Steve wasn’t returning his phone calls and  the whole project was wildly late so I hammered the pencils out in record time so Bob Smith could get them inked.

I never got to meet Steve, so I don’t know if he was consciously referencing the Jungian SELF in his depiction of the Phantom Zone, but the connection is unmistakable with his Phantom Zone SELF being a gigantic heart shaped diamond, and I played it up as time allowed.  Since it wasn’t my finest hour in terms of the art job, I thought I’d never see the story again, but yesterday I received comp copies from DC for a SUPERMAN VS ZOD tpb that includes it.  And Amazon.com is showing a special Steve Gerber collection from DC that uses it as well.  Good news for me, as DC does a fine job of paying royalties on old Work For Hire material.  And good news for Steve Gerber fans.  As crazy as the script was (and as rushed as my part was) I think the story was direct from Steve’s heart.


How Low Burns The Lantern?

Inker extraordinaire Shawn Van Briesen has posted a cool blast from my past.  It’s the complete 8 page flashback sequence from SUPREME #49 that he inked over my pencils.  What’s especially cool is that he reproduces my pencils alongside his inks to compare.  We were going for a 70′s look in this particular bit and I think we hit it pretty good!  Script by Alan Moore and lettering by Todd Klein.

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I Woke Up And Drew The Comic I Was Drawing In My Dream

The curvature in the line behind the guy in the second panel was very important!


Move Over Django

One of my first solo SGT. ROCK back-ups, the 6 page GO DOWN MOSES has been posted on Mars Will Send No More.  It’s a quicky bio-story of Harriet Tubman with a script by Val Eads, me on pencils, inks and letters.  Not sure who colored it, but everything turns purple and green at the end!

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Alan and Rick by Dave and Ger

Sim skewers Moore and Veitch in Cerebus 239, with backgrounds by Gerhard and my dialogue lettered by me.

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Past Blasting!

Here I am circa 1965, maybe 14 or 15 years old,  learning to draw by copying Wally Wood figures.

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Bosom Buddies

Digital sketch executed in Manga Studio on a Cintiq.

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The Nose Knows

An unused character sketch from the Prepare To Cope educational comics project that I’ve been working on for the last couple years.

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The Complete Magazineland USA

A while back, I ran a few scans from this little gem I assisted Joe Kubert on back in 1976.  You can peruse the whole thing now as 20th Century Danny Boy has the complete book on-line. MAGAZINELAND USA was a special promotional comic book created by and for the printer of almost all comics books in North America, World Color Corp. The story walks the reader through the printing plant,and since I was the studio guy who was pretty good with machinery, Joe had me pencil most of the backgrounds for this.  And I think did the color guides. Looks like Elaine Heinel’s lettering.

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Absolutely Sweet Marie

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the wording of the Marvel rejection letter seemed so final that I was sure no one up there saw any redeeming qualities to my samples.  I was so destroyed over this I barely noticed that Marie Severin had taken the time to write me a lovely note with some wise words of encouragement.  She seemed to dig TWO-FISTED ZOMBIES!  She’d snagged the copy as a gift for her brother John Severin!  She added a PS with a quick and honest assessment of my stuff that offered hope!

Any other young artist trying to break in would have begun sending fresh samples to Marie on a regular basis; maybe even traveled to New York in hopes of getting a meeting. But I was so torn up by the formula letter from John Romita’s assistant that I was blinded to what Marie was offering.

Things worked out for me in the long run, of course.  The Marvel samples were included in the portfolio that got me into Kubert School.  They came in handy when I applied for a CETA grant to pay my way.  But man, what a dope I was at 23!

At least now, all these years later, I can send a big belated thank you to Marie Severin.


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