I never got a chance to read the complete SENTRY series after it finally came out but I did see a couple issues. It looked really good and important elements had changed considerably with the new creative team. Jenkins and I had envisioned SENTRY as a completely original mid-level superhero, on the level of IRON MAN or DAREDEVIL. In the series he became one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe; pretty much a SUPERMAN clone dressed in the requisite cape and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound etc.
In the issues I saw, the retro element was scaled back too, with much more focus given to the present day SENTRY. I think that was the part of the character Paul really wanted to write and it certainly played to the strengths of Jae Lee’s dark brooding artwork. I do think those guys make a fantastic team. By an odd coincidence, I happened to read their TWO-FACE graphic novel right after I’d seen THE DARK KNIGHT movie and was struck by how much the filmmakers had lifted from it. The visual tone, the police procedural, whole scenes and many panel layouts are taken directly from Paul’s and Jae’s work.
Above: 60’s SENTRY by Rick Veitch
Now anyone who knows Paul Jenkins knows he can be direct and to the point. And when he called to let me know how THE SENTRY meeting had gone with Joe Quesada he immediately told me he was doing the book with Jae Lee. This set me back on my heels a little bit. I mean you hear about concepts and storylines for existing characters being hijacked by publishers and editors all the time, but not so a completely original concept!
Thing is, bringing in Jae made a lot of sense. He and Paul had done a corker of a job on an INHUMANS mini-series which had even won an Eisner. And I couldn’t fault a publisher, starved for hits, with maximizing box office appeal even if it meant me being thrown under a bus. I had plenty of other projects to keep me going and, more importantly, Paul had been there for me more than once back at Tundra. So I didn’t make a stink.
But when Paul enthusiastically went on about marketing plans being built around “Chick Rivet” I had to gently remind him that he really couldn’t use the anagram of my name and should stick to “Juan Pinkles”. Ultimately he and Marvel decided on “Artie Rosen” as their imaginary artist/creator and even brought Stan Lee in to help perpetuate the hoax. Concluded tomorrow.
Above: 1990’s SENTRY by Rick Veitch
Jenkins and I followed up our diner plotting session with a bunch of phone calls, further honing and developing our pitch. Paul wrote an outline and I did the concept art you’ve been seeing here. We were both excited; Paul was going to get to do his “What if SUPERMAN was real?” bit and I was going to get to play in the Marvel sandbox of characters (and art styles) that had heavily influenced me growing up.
We knew our idea asked a lot of Marvel continuity, but the company was on the skids and that is often the best time to pitch something revolutionary. The Marvel Knights line was proof of that.
Paul set up a meeting with Quesada and took the train down to the city. I waited for Paul’s call letting me know if it was a go or a dud. More tomorrow.
Above: 1980’s style SENTRY by Rick Veitch
As Paul and I gleefully riffed on how we would depict THE SENTRY through the various decades, we realized we couldn’t use the names of any real artists or writers. The crux of our scheme was that the character had been around for sixty years, but it wouldn’t be fair to say he’d been written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby, John Romita, Neal Addams, Jim Starlin, Frank Miller or Rob Leifeld. So we decided to create our own nom de plumes.
I’d been playing around with an anagram program on my computer and come up with a variation of my own name that I liked: CHICK RIVET. Paul quickly anagrammed his name and decided he’d be JUAN PINKLES.
The addition of our literary doubles implied how SENTRY had not only been forgotten within Marvel continuity, but by the real world as well. More tomorrow.
Above: 1970’s SENTRY by Rick Veitch
I’m quite sure it was my suggestion that something so horrible happened to THE SENTRY that all memory of the event, and SENTRY himself, had to be wiped out, probably by some Marvel character on the scale of THE WATCHER. Right there Paul and I knew we had it; SENTRY’s quest for a return of his memories and powers, a solution for his absence in Marvel continuity, and motivation for an attack by his own unconscious.
We quickly ran through some of the other Marvel characters, plotting out how they would figure in to a mass amnesia. Most would have their memories erased, but some, like THE HULK, wouldn’t. And a few, like REED RICHARDS and DOCTOR DOOM, would be smart enough to figure out what happened. More tomorrow.
Above: Kirby Style SENTRY by Rick Veitch.
So Jenky and I started talking about how to build his long-gestating plot idea into the Marvel Universe. We met at a diner in Brattleboro, Vermont and fueled by greasy burgers and french fries got the old creative give-and-take giving and taking.
Paul saw the character as a guardian type, with a watchtower. We tossed around possible names and initially hit on THE CENTURION which seemed a bit clunky. It was Paul who boiled CENTURION down to SENTRY which sounded so good we couldn’t believe it wasn’t already taken.
What I brought to the table was the retro angle. I’d been involved in two major retro projects (1963 and SUPREME) in which Alan Moore and I had developed a sort of “deadpan” approach to the genre. Then and now, most retro stories you see tend to be over-exaggerated. The dumbness is caricatured; played for laughs in both the writing and art. Alan and I believed such an approach was to be avoided; that in fact the mad random lunacy of a Mort Weisenberger SUPERMAN or a Lee/Kirby THOR needed no exaggeration at all.
It was this close-as-you-can-get-it mimicry approach that I wanted to bring to SENTRY, creating a false history of the character with versions going back to Timely Comics in the 1940’s. Paul liked the idea but wondered how we could explain the character’s absence in sixty years of company continuity. That’s when the light bulb went on. More tomorrow.
Above: Golden Age SENTRY by Rick Veitch
At the time Paul Jenkins and I came together to work up THE SENTRY concept, Marvel Comics was a financial mess. The once successful business had essentially been looted and cratered by Ron Perlman before spiraling into bankruptcy. Toymakers Ike Perlmutter and Avi Arad had ended up with ownership coming out of bankruptcy court and were running the company on fumes. Sales were lousy with the exception of the Marvel Knights line; a side imprint produced outside the Marvel offices by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palomatti.
Paul had a good connection to Quesada and the plan was to create a brand new character we would pitch to Joe and Jimmy for the Marvel Knights line. Continued tomorrow.
SENTRY concept art by Rick Veitch.
While organizing my studio recently I stumbled on a folder full of concept art for a project I worked up with Paul Jenkins called THE SENTRY. This week I’ll be running that art and telling about my (up to now unknown) role in creating the character.
Paul and I were old buds, having met while he was at Mirage Studios. We worked closely together on BRAT PACK and THE MAXIMORTAL at Tundra. Paul was focused mostly on production and editing back in those days but clearly had potential as a writer. He and I had often discussed a story he wanted to develop concerning an over-the-hill guy, struggling with addiction, who had a tight relationship with his dog. Paul was trying to come up with a way to show the character’s addiction problem as a manifestation of the unconscious. At one point, if I remember correctly, Paul pitched a horror version of this plot to Steve Bissette for TABOO, although nothing came of it.
It was in the late 1990’s that Paul and I came together to try and develop it into a superhero pitch for Marvel. More tomorrow.
Above: Concept art for ROBERT REYNOLDS (secret identity of THE SENTRY) and his dog by Rick Veitch.