Sunday, October 08, 2006
In the Fall of 1986 I published my first comic book. I'd always wanted to draw comics, but it was a lot easier to break in to the Advertising Industry. Can you imagine that? So, from '78 to '86 I worked on storyboards for TV, and comp art for print ads on accounts like Miller Beer, Kodak, Coca-Cola and others, for clients like J.Walter Thompson, Backer & Spielvogel, etc...
It wasn't as glamorous as it seems. I worked at one of, if not THE Best studios in NYC- GEM Studios, owned by Joe Blangiardo and Mel Schlossberg. The first position I held at the company was "mechanical/ paste-up artist", a very exacting profession- because if you were off by a few picas your ad art and/or copy could wind up in the binding of a magazine, or cropped off altogether. This kind of mistake rarely happened in the industry because studio managers always checked the boards before they were delivered to the client. If it did happen, people died and accounts were lost.
I was one of, if not THE worst "paste-up" artist ever to work at GEM. But I was lucky, the owners liked me enough to make me an Illustrator. I failed upward. At first I would render products, like sweating Lite Beer bottles for print ads and in frames of storyboards, while the figures and backgrounds were rendered by some of the day's best Illustrators. Men like Ken Bald, John Moody and Bob Tremaine, who had all been in the field for decades by the time I met them. This was my art school, my church. These men were generous with their knowledge and time and patient during my learning curve. I was extremely fortunate to be working alongside them.
However... there was still that burning desire to draw comics smoking in my head. One day I visited a Comic Book Shop in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and struck up a conversation with the owner, Norm Abramoff. At the time "Mutant Ninja Turtles" were causing mighty ripples in the industry, especially because it was self-published and selling nearly 100,000 copies (maybe more, maybe less) per issue.
I don't remember how it happened, but Norm said he wanted to write and edit his own comics. I mentioned that I'd always wanted to draw comics, and that my portfolio was in my car outside. Somehow we came to the conclusion that it would be great to create a comic book based on the "Honeymooners" TV series. We might have been looking at a pile of Dell Comics, they made comics based on almost every TV show on the air in the '50s and '60s. In fact, if they were still in business today they'd probably be doing a comic book based on Neal Adams' "Flonase" Bee commercials.
So we hired a lawyer, and approached CBS/Viacom about it, and they were open to the idea. I drew a batch of samples and model sheets, and they were submitted to, and approved by Mr. Jackie Gleason in two days. Imagine that? Next stop was finding a small publisher who was already up and running. We found one, he pulled some shady stuff - so we pulled our book away from him and found another publisher.
We published 12 issues under Roy Burman & Ron Merians' TRIAD imprint, only stopping when Ron passed away from a stroke and complications. With our business leader gone, we had no other choice but to fold up the tents.
So I went back to advertising. But not for long. I joined the WB Stores in '95 and worked there until they closed. I've been with Disney Consumer Products for the past three years. Great place, with plenty of creative people and exciting projects to work on.
But I did get to do Comic Books.