Sunday, October 08, 2006

Burning desires...


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.

8 comments:

Chris said...

Hey Vince, it's nice to see some other aspects of the animation/illustration world showing up on blogger here. Looks like this'll turn into one of my regular stops. So many now! It's good to have some New Yorkers on this coast.

Vince M said...

Thanks for stopping by, Chris. Yeah, I'm from back East, been here for ten years now. I like it, but I miss my family. Took a look at your Blog before replying. I always do, so that it's not all about me- and at least I get an idea of who I'm writing to.

Great Hulk drawings, nice to see Kirby is still influential. As a kid in the early '60s, seeing the Hulk, Issue #1 was mind-blowing. Very different and powerful. My Dad brought it home for me. He thought it was Frankenstein, and he knew I was crazy about the Monster.

That was forty-four years ago, but I still remember reading it at the kitchen table. I can't remember what I had for lunch last Friday, but I remember that.

I've heard your theory of watching cartoons without sound before, but it was used in comics without reading the balloons or captions. Just visuals. I agree, if you can't follow the action; all the copy in the world won't make it read better.

So sad to hear you're too "cartoony' for animation storyboards.
Take the "Revisionist Job", whatever the heck that is. Just to get your foot in the door.
It's not how you start, it's how you finish.

Take care Paisan.

Kimberly M. Zamlich said...

I remember being a paste up artist. What a pain in the butt..We would use these messy wax machines and cut out tiny, tiny type and paste them in the college paper. And the real teeny words would fall off. The wax would yellow; and we were always searching for a sharp blade for the exactos.
Thank god for the computer!

Chris said...

Vince, thanks for the kind words. The family thing is tough, thats for sure. I think it's nice and rare that you actually want to know who your talking to. Yeah, I love Kirby. Don't most people? My first intro to the Hulk was actually the TV show. I didnt know anything at that point.
I knew I wasn't being original with my cartoon theory. That theory just hit me a little harder that day than normally.
I figure, being too "cartoony" is a compliment. It just makes me want to do better work when I finally get in. As for the job search, still trying. I look foward to checking in again.

Vince M said...

Kim- I used a waxer when I worked at a newspaper publishing house in the mid '70s. The biggest pain with them was keeping them full of wax, but it was a lot easier to deal with than the Rubber Cement we used in advertising.

My "very sharp" X-Acto blade would roll off my desk and stick in my leg at least once a week when I worked in newspaper production. We had desks that were almost straight up, like an easel.

Chris- You can never be too cartoony! I was hired for some of my favorite assignments because of it. Keep pushing on.

I can see the Lou Ferrigno in your Hulk, now that you mention it.

Dan Thompson said...

Wow! Nice stuff. The past week has been a flurry of posts. I am still planning on linking you to my blog one of the years. so busy and lazy.

Vince M said...

You're busy, lazy... and very talented.

Hope you're doing well, Dan.

Kimberly M. Zamlich said...

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the exacto blade wounds...good point, hahahaha