Back when I first started working there, as is no doubt still the case today, there were a lot of talented artists going in and out the door at Marvel Comics–young artists as well as seasoned veterans– artists who looked like they had come back to work after fighting in the last war.
My first day on the job, I remember seeing a stack of penciled pages by an artist named John Buscema and another stack of pages with ink on them by some guy named Tom Palmer that really impressed me. There was a lady on staff by the name of Marie Severin, who could seemingly bat out, right before your eyes, full color originals to suit any occasion on a few moment’s notice. Just down the hall, sat a fellow they called John Romita, who was the artist of that Spider-Man comic the young man in the comics store had sold me, when, a couple of months earlier, I had ventured in and asked for an example of something “good” that Marvel had published.
I was surrounded by artists and writers who could make people fly, cause human figures of both sexes to tumble like acrobats across the page, create entire cities from scratch, and make visible fantastic alternate universes to anyone with 25 cents in his pocket.
Instead of being inspired by all this drawing ability and creativity, I found the whole situation rather intimidating.
I held those original comics pages which crossed my desk in my trembling hands and gazed at them in wonder. Week after week, month after month, for years, I stayed in my seat, did what I was asked to the best of my ability, and dutifully lettered captions and drew balloon after balloon around the dialogue. I had no earthly idea how all those artists managed to do what they did. But, if I could, I was determined one day to join them.
Still scarred from my initial encounter in the Marvel Reception Room with Dan Adkins, a year or two earlier, I kept any latent drawing ability I had a secret. I was not about to suffer the indignity of having someone at the office tell me something I already knew: That my figure drawing was not up to par.
The main subject matter in art is people.To be a successful artist in comics in those days, you must be able to draw people realistically and convincingly– and they can’t just be standing around talking– you must be able to draw them in all situations–in dramatic and exciting poses. While there are a few exceptions, readers of comics, for the most part, want exciting stories, sequentially delineated with style and filled with pathos, something to engage them intellectually, or in a few cases distract them, if but for a short time, from the boring sameness of their otherwise mundane existence.
Since I couldn’t draw realistic muscular figures or even emaciated ones, and had only scant knowledge of anatomy, I wondered if perhaps I could do this with stick figures……