Monday, October 18, 2010

Planet Terry-fied!

No superhero drawings this time. Promise. Instead, let's hop in the Wayback Machine™ for the story of the images you see here. 

Back when I got out of art school, I really didn't have a "career plan". I just sort of assumed some sort of career opportunity would present itself, and I'd be on my way. That didn't happen, of course. I had to go out and actually search for a paying gig.

What made it harder was that I wanted to draw comic books, and the "funny" style of comics I liked had pretty much dried up. Harvey and Gold key were gone, and I wasn't sure I was a good fit at Archie Comics.  One  place that was publishing the style of comics I liked to draw was Marvel Comics, with their (soon to be short-lived) Star Comics, a line of books "for kids". Apparently, titles like "The Hulk" were considered far too sophisticated for young minds.

I wasn't really crazy about the titles Star was publishing. They seemed watered down versions of the Harvey titles. This was, of course, because the staff of Star Comics was made up of most of the creative team from Harvey, including the great Warren Kremer and editor Sid Jacobson, among others. The art was great, but the stories...? Well, let's just say "Royal Roy" was no "Richie Rich".

Still, Star was publishing stuff I could do, by people I admired, so I set my sights on getting a gig with them. I drew up the samples you see here. The featured character is "Planet Terry", one of the less-derivative books Star was publishing at the time. I put together a portfolio of this and other pages I had done, and made an appointment with editor Sid Jacobson.

It was exciting and terrifying to actually be in the offices of Marvel Comics, a place I had been reading about for years. As I waited for my appointment, though, the thrill wore off. The Marvel Bullpen was far less exciting than it had been described as being. Except for a  few superhero posters, it could have been any office anywhere in the world.

When I was finally escorted to Sid's office, I was pretty confident. I thought my samples were great and I was sure I would walk out with an assignment. (Actually, I still think these pages are pretty good. Especially when you consider that I was  twenty-one  years old! ) Alas, Sid was unimpressed, and thought I wasn't ready. He told me to practice more, but he didn't tell me he'd like to see my progress, or even offer me a glimmer of hope that I might be ready to work there one day. I was devastated, and left the office really P.O.'ed. Sid was I jerk, I felt. He didn't even give me a free tee shirt or anything. I never did work for Star Comics.

The story has a happy ending, though. Eventually, I did break into comics, becoming the household name I am today. I also worked for Sid Jacobson, not on Star Comics, but on various Hanna-Barbera titles he packaged, and on the new line of Harvey Comics he edited. He is a very  dear friend now, and he is still the best boss I ever had. Actually, a few years after we started working together, I told him this story. He had no recollection of the incident, and when I showed him these old pages he said, "I can't believe I didn't hire you! What was I thinking?" I don't know, Sid, but I'm happy we got to work together, and hope we will again some day.

He still has never given me a tee shirt, though! 

(BTW, These characters are  all  still copyright Marvel Comics. Not they they know what to do with them!)

UPDATE: From Sid Jacobson, himself: "I still can't believe I didn't hire you after seeing these pages. They are terrific, for a thirty  or forty year old, let alone a 21- year old. In any case, you'll get that tee shirt one of these days soon".

I'm waiting, Sid!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, these pages are quite good. i imagine mr. j had more artists than work, and had no need for a newcomer, but i can't understand why he would tell you that you weren't ready.

i can think of several star artists that i would have liked to have seen booted out and replaced by you.

btw, a few years ago a certain star comics artist proposed a collaboration with me, which ended in unfortunate (but on my part not unexpected) failure.


October 19, 2010 at 5:57 AM  
Blogger Mykal Banta said...

Bill: This is great stuff! I wish you had worked on the series. I have the complete run of Planet Terry as well as Wally the Wizard; and consider them both glorious.

Your stuff would have fit right in!

December 1, 2010 at 11:38 AM  

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