Anna The Cleaning Lady

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Anna

Anna The Cleaning Lady cleaning up after us slobs. This is my only picture of her and I had to sneak it! As soon as she caught sight of my camera Anna would raise up her broom quite menacingly!

Anna The Cleaning Lady! She came with the building.  The secret weapon of the Marvel Bullpen. Anna was Polish. Within two words out of her mouth one could tell; she spoke with a thick, wonderful Polish accent. Anna seemd to take care of a major part of the building, which included both of Marvel’s floors at 575 Madison. Her white hair was pulled back into a tight, industrial bun. She was perhaps 5 foot tall. Anna seemed to have some trouble with her legs. She walked with more than a shuffle but less of a stride. Though she never mentioned any pain.

Since us Bullpenners would often work after hours, we saw quite a bit of Anna. She tried to wait for us to leave, but many times we out-stayed her.

 Around 5:30 every work day, Anna would appear. Dressed in an anonymous baby-blue work uniform, pushing her cart and broom, she would begin my throwing open every door in the office! Then she would disappear for an hour. Eventually, she would bustle around, easily whipping full garbage cans up and into her larger roll-around bin. A trick of the trade would be, since we generally had paper trash, all she had to do was dump the paper and leave the plastic liner in place– done! She could go several days before she needed to replace a torn bag.

Anna once went on a notable vacation, visiting Reykevic, Iceland. How she settled on Reykevic, one can only speculate. All the warm, cozy places already seen and bored by? Of note was that particular year, 1980 or 81, there was a huge volcanic eruption that we all suddenly paid attention to. Anna was there! News reports of layers of ash everywhere sounded dangerous. But, at the end of two weeks, Anna came bustling in as usual. She had a rather large open wound on her forehead, no dressing of any kind that I remember. It was scabbing up nicely. She had been beaned by a volcanic ember! Didn’t seem fazed by it at all. Reykavic was a very beautiful place, even with snow and volcanic ash all over the place!

Editor (B&W line, originator of EPIC Magazine and chief wrangler of Weird World) Rick Marschall once struck up an after-hours conversation with Anna. Rick, interested in all-things Germanic, discovered that Anna had been a young girl when the Germans “annexed” Poland. She well remembered seeing Hitler roll through her town. “Addie” she referred to him as. Suddenly, I recall, her quick and vivid blue eyes flashed with something I’d not seen in them or her before. Anger. It was a fascinating moment. Anna was the very essence of cool and collected.

The only other time she got visibly angered was at me. My “stat camera” area of Marvel was about as far away from the nicer, business end of the office as you could get. So I felt rather apart from most norms of office behavior. I had taken to wearing my sneakers loose, with untied shoelaces. I also had taken to whipping my sneaker at a target on the wall– well, one had to be prepared, right? Well, one shot took off at a bad angle and I knocked a hole through a fairly prominent wall. Near an exit, hard not to miss it. Anna came in with her pushcart and usual regal dignity, caught sight of the hole and turned on me like a veritable mad dog. She pointed her finger at me! Making “Ah!” noises and “You!”

Mercifully, she could not really get up much of a head of steam. I evaded her easily. Did I mention that she had a stout broom that she weilded like a cavalry officer’s sword? She blamed me for the hole, even before I had a chance to tell her all the perfect lies about it that I had conjured up that afternoon. I was outraged that she would leap to that conclusion. I stuck to my guns, insisting that I had nothing to do with it. Hinting that Robbie– my next-door neighbor who ran a similar stat camera– had slipped on some chemistry, which she dismisseded with a snort. I went over to the hole and pointed out how shoddy the work was. Anything could have done it– not my shoe. That this bit of sheet rock was hanging on by a scrap of paper like a hinge. I even pulled it right back out with a pen, so that it almost fit back in the hole it came out of. Looked pretty good, I thought. Anna did not.

 

It was harder saying goodbye for the last time than I would have thought. Friday night, the weekend before we all trucked ourselves down to our new digs (April, 1982). The last three: Robbie Carosella, Jack Morelli–youthful Bullpen letterer– and myself were yakking after hours talking of the horrors we were expecting downtown (the move was from 57th Street down to 27-28th Street). We left and made our way out, looking for Anna. We found her near the Marvel bathrooms, which were in a little hall near the mailroom. We three were inarticulate, knowing this would be the final time we would see her. As it turned out this was her “last day” too– something about the building contract changing where she was working. She said she was going to turn in her equipment and be done with it. I asked if I could break her broom over my knee; she was quite happy to hand it over. Again those blue eyes flashed, but strangely they were tearing up a little too. We hugged and she told us boys to be good and she pointed at me with a grin.

 

One last note: Jim Shooter, of Polish extraction himself, tried to hire Anna down at the new offices. Jim being a high muckity-muck, he could discover things like how to get in touch with her. I heard she came in for a meeting with Jim. This gig was just for us, if she was interested. I heard her high-pitched voice and nipped in to say a big hi. There she was in street clothes; I realized I had never seen her out of uniform. She thought the offer was very nice, but she wanted to retire. And who could blame her? She had lots more places to adventure off to . . .

Christopher Priest aka: James Owsley

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Owsley looks tough

James Owsley around 1982

James Owsley has changed his name to Christopher Priest. The reasons are unimportant for this rememberance; I really don’t know them. The Owsley I knew was the energetic and intelligent, multi-talented young guy I spent a lot of after-hours time with. Owsley started at Marvel, working with Paul Laiken who was the editor of Crazy Magazine when I came on-staff and before Larry Hama took over. For those who don’t know, Crazy was one of Marvel’s typical “trailing edge” humor efforts, patterned after Mad Magazine. Whatever Larry brought to Crazy is not important here; what he kept was James Owsley. When I arrived at Marvel, the Crazy working area was a small office only a couple of doors down from my stat room. (Later, the typesetting computer room was only a door down from that room. All rather cozy.)

One of the most impressive things about Owsley is that he attended a trade school and he learned a skill. Alas, it was using a Linotype Machine– generating “hot type” for newspapers. In what must have seemed like hours after his graduation from that process, hot type gave way to cold type. I know; sounds funny. Basically, hot type is made in a nutty and gigantic contraption that gives you a poured metal version of a single line of a sentence on a newspaper page. Yep, made out of molten lead! Cold type is the result of a computer assisted photographic process. Which brings me to how Jim and I became chummy. Jim wanted to learn to use the typesetting machine. I am not certain, but it was probably Carl Gafford, the original typesetting machine operator, who taught him the basics. Since there were actually two, wildly different typesetting machines and Gaff decided to leave at one point, Jim and I basically taught ourselves the newer machine. (Along with Marion Stensgard, the second typesetter! But that’s a longer story.)

The new machine was made by Merganthaller Linotype– the same German company who had made Owsley’s mechanical Nemisis. We learned together, because we both knew the principles of what the machines could do. The machine itself was so new, the operator’s manual had not been translated from the German yet!

Owsley saw learning the machine as a way to quickly set type for any Crazy projects that needed doing. Since everything was always late, being able to slip in after hours and do what needed to be done, was a good thing. A special note to Crazy fans out there: look over the indicias carefully. If you know when Owsley and cold type coincided in time, then was when Jim started writing slightly “off” indicias. I haven’t seen them since– they seemed mighty funny at 8 or 9PM. Since Jim worked for Larry, sometimes the “black & white” Conans or King Kulls would get the same treatment. It was also a source of freelance money, never a bad thing at Marvel.

Of note was that Jim had scrimped and saved to make a record album of his own original music featuring himself as lead vocalist. This was around late 1981. Very nicely, he asked me to take some pictures of a recording session and the pic for the album cover (shown below, Jim hanging on to the entry of 575 Madison! Mid-morning, one day, I had my camera in hand, he threw on his suit and we ran downstairs to shoot that shot, as he set it up!). I also pasted up the entire album cover. He insisted I charge him! Usually us Bullpenners all worked as one back then. But Jim was adamant. I also know that he had Larry Hama, a musician as well, in for a session to lay down some tracks.

Time goes by. Owsley is made an editor of the Spider line of books. Great stuff. Now I’m going to tell this story and try to apologize at the same time. I am apologizing for the fact that this took place during the time when I tried to be taken more seriously. I used to be all over the place, taking pictures of people doing all manner of things. When I was moving up, from assistant editor to Special Projects Editor, I was trying to be more business-like. And so, I did not take pictures of:

Owsley’s office! Owsley infuriated pretty much everybody at Marvel by setting a style that was remarkable and forward-thinking. But who knew at the time? Jim spent his own money to buy the first Editorial Computer at Marvel. I kid you not! Jim was the guy. Now Marvel itself had been involved with the infamously-named Wang computer system– which was a really simple-minded word-processor– deeply flawed in that it followed a series of document templates and nothing else. But that was gone by then. Now Jim comes along with the original Macintosh desktop computer! Yes, what we now call the Mac Classic. This was, uh, 1983? Of course, he had to get his own printer. Secondarily infuriating was that he then moved in his own office furniture. A sleek glass desktop supported by a chrome steel frame. Amusingly, for anyone visiting, he had chairs more akin to beach use than office– with clicky, adjustable backs and all.

But the most enraging single thing he did, in his all-new office was: get an answering machine. No small thing, either. Back then they were relatively new and quite large, using cassette tapes for out-going and received messages. They were attached to the very new, quite elaborate new phone system that Marvel had just installed. Those birth-struggles were long and hard. There went Owsley, just ramming his answering machine between the wall socket and the new phone. But it worked.

Amazing. One must know that no one had ever done this before. Very few people had bubbled up through the pipes of good old Marvel and not run around stealing office furniture. Which, in fact, Jim and I would often do– working after-hours has its perks! Even “outside” editors would come in, sniff gingerly at the provided office equipment, perhaps make a request or two for a chair. But that’s it. Jim couldn’t have been more non-plussed or seemingly even able to detect the furor around him. I felt a little outrage, more because I didn’t have the wherewithall to rent office furniture! But I sidled up to Jim to ask, why the answering machines? His response was typically intelligent. People would call in at any time of the day, Jim calmly observed, interrupting whatever it was he was doing. This way, he would call back when he felt best able to focus on the caller. Of course, it sounds rather appropriate now. But back then, Marvel and Bedlam had much in common. The three-ring circus was never ending and irritating phone calls were the lesser of office-evils.

A word should be said about Owsley’s assistants. I have no idea of how Veronica Lawler– forever Ronnie thereafter– found her way to applying as Jim’s assistant. I must have asked, now forgotten. But there she was, a beautiful child; for, I believe she was 20 (I think younger than that, but memories… ). I mean, she was dressed in her school-girl uniform! I did have the sense to crack out my camera for her; seeing one of those pictures recently, Ronnie cracked, “Who the hell was that kid?” Ronnie did her Yeoman duty and did the rare act of moving from assistant editor into production. I was lucky enough to nab her when it came time to fill out my team at Special Projects. Not long after that, sweet Ron connected with Mike Carlin, Editor, seriously enough for a marriage! They even honeymooned with Don Ho! As time and tide would have it, they got divorced and both are now happily re-married! Ronnie is a wildly talented illustrator; an early book of hers is “I Dream To Come To America” a book about emigrants and Ellis Island.

After Ronnie moved to the Bullpen, Owsley needed a new assistant and found– in a similarly mysterious manner– Adam Blaustein. Adam was a compact young fellow but endowed with a vastly deep voice. Such a good voice, that he was a voice artist. The best examples of that were I recall him trying out for the voice of Mr. Magoo, when that was being modernized. The most amazing pop-culture voice that he did make his own: Mewtoo of Pokemon fame! The only character of that string of oddness that spoke words and sentences; the rest of the hundreds only said their own names. Hearing that voice in the theater (with my Pokemon fan son) allowed me to “hear” Adam doing his Brooklyn accent!  Adam moved on from Marvel after I did, so I knew little of what he was up to. But the grapevine was still in place and he was working over at DC for a while. Adam struggled with gender identity, new to the country in the late 1980s and early 90s, the most visible sign was that he changed his name to Addie Blaustein (in the Pokemon movies credits). Sadly, he passed away much, much too young a short while ago.

It would be remiss of me not to point out that James Owsley is the first African-American editor at Marvel Comics.  I find it hard to believe that he was the first Black comic-book editor, but in the “big” houses; pretty sure.

After I had mustered out of Marvel, I lost contact with a lot of Marvelites and comic people; Jim as well. I was visiting some chums at DC and there he was, with an office and all (–a much more staid but discretely-lighted office!). He had been tapped by Dwayne McDuffy, the head of DC’s imprimatur line of African-American oriented books, Milestone, to edit books. Jim was busy but graciously invited me in and we chatted for a short while. I asked him about the rumor that he had been a bus driver for a while. I was frankly curious about being on a high at Marvel, getting the boot and then coming back “across the street” so to speak– working at DC. He answered in that thoughtful and direct way of his. That his time as a bus driver was simply great! You do your route, at the end of the day you park the bus, hand in the keys and your’e done! Nothing like comics. Which is endless.

Some time after that, I was perusing the bookshelves at Barnes & Noble and spotted a book by ”Christopher Priest.” I knew that was Jim. It was a hardcover book “Green Lantern.” I was delighted for my old comrade, looked about some more and left. As I hit the street, I was struck by a vivid memory. Back in the “lounge” area of my old stat area, Jim and I were winding down from the regular flurry of day-to-day stuff and we were talking about “them.” The competition, DC. I said I had not read much, preferred Batman to Superman, had dipped a toe in Green Lantern, but didn’t quite see it. Jim then went on to give a perfect precis of the GL mythos, down to the little blue, big-headed Oas, the Battery and The Corp and finishing up with a recitation of  the Green Lantern oath, “In brightest day…” Rather impassioned; it’s different when a believer says it. Comics can be like that.

 

 

Ows Copies

Owsley using Marvel’s first plain paper xerographic process copier. Sometime in 1980.

Hollis Stone

James Owsley outside of Marvel’s building on Madison Avenue.

Owsley as a Crazy Magazine character

Owsley posing as a doctor-like person to appear in one of Crazy Magazine’s ads. Jim was very near-sighted and before he got contacts, his eyes were reduced to the size of pin-points!

James Owsley

Taken at the same time as the above! A world of difference– this is the Owsley I remember. The big-eyed one.

A Few Words About This Picture…

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Bullpen of 1980!

Mark Rogan operating the Pos One System photostat camera. C. 1980.

When I entered Marvel Comics, roughly in late 1978, Mark Rogan was there to “show me the ropes.” I had used an old fashioned monstrous photostat camera and these Pos One cameras were little wind-up toys in comparison. A word about historical technology: Photostat. Before electrostatic photocopying (ahem… Xerography) became wide-spread, photostats were the only way to enlarge or shrink a piece of art or a photograph. Yes, you could use an “overhead projector” or Lucy Machine and re-draw things by hand– but this was the 70s Man! The Pos One System was a compact– very compact– stat camera. It was small enough to fit through doorways and could roll around on the floor. Mark’s hands were inside the part of the camera where you could place light-sensitive paper. There was a little light-tight paper safe in there as well. The image plane where artwork image was focused was the only part of the camera that didn’t move. Everything else did.

You can see the upright black shape, the copy board, which was what held the artwork. There are some very bright lights that were on arms that moved in and out so as to evenly illuminate the copy board. Not so easy to see is the lens, which was moved along with the light bars. All motor driven and fun to operate. There was a very nice chemical processing lab– four chambers filled with different chemistry that needed to be fussed with every day. (A black&white “monobath” chemistry for those that care!) Dozens of little rollers moved the paper through the compact labyrinth in about 3 minutes. Finally there was a fan that blew hot air over the prints, on top of the machine. Very neat.

Marvel used the stat cameras for a lot of things. Making full-sized copies of proof rolls of entire past comics for foreign markets. Making art corrections– the use of durable photostat paper meant you could cut it, rubber cement it, add black ink or White-Out correction paint to it. Most logos were copies of an original, same for cover copy and those floating heads on covers that heralded who was going to appear within the comic. Page numbers! Typeset once, copied many, many times. “Special effects” when an image needed to be copied or shrunk so as to appear several times or made a “negative” or artwork copied on clear “acetate.” All done by the versatile Mark and his Pos One.

Mark ran one of three machines that Marvel had in use. Stu Shwartsberg ran a literal antique stat camera, probably made just after WWII (Stu and his machine, had been at various Marvel office locations as far back as I can remember; and I had been a messenger boy, taking stuff to Marvel and parent company, Magazine Management, at age 13-14) and I ran a machine identical to Mark’s but for the “Black & White” and “British” Departments. Mark was all Bullpen.

Mark was a very nice co-worker, worldly and light-hearted. He knew “things” like why one should invest in a leased automobile. If you thanked him for something, his return catch phrase was, “Don’t thank me; thank God for making me so good.” For some reason, that didn’t get worn out. Mark invented “stat soup” because we were so poor on the day before payday, we would make a sandwich of old comic books and stats, with a little stat soup on the side. Mark moved on from the Stat Room, to the Bullpen proper. He did what were called “paste-ups and mechanicals.” When the Letters Collumns needed to be put together, or a house ad– he gathered materials, had myself or the “new guy” (Robbie Carosella) make some stats and he would slam it all down with old-style and deadly rubber cement!

Then, about mid-1981 to my crumbling memory, Mark departed altogether to a huge art department in some magical, high-paying advertising agency, he started as a lowly rubber cement pick-up maker. Within a year, he was barking orders and demanding fealty. Now he owns and runs a fabulous, 1000-person office, in the digital age doing wondrous things. (Alright, I don’t remember what he does now, but it has something to do with print; maybe magazines– it’s been a while…)

George Roussos Artist, Photographer, Friend and Colleague

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A few words about George Roussos. The unusual thing one noticed about George was that he dressed identically every day. Charcoal grey suit, white shirt and a modestly colored tie– cycling between dark blue with red diagonals and burgundy with dark blue diagonals. Every day! At marvel Comics– the staff colorist! And never spilled a drop of watercolor on his shirt!

He carried a very neat, even spiffy attache case. After we got to know each other a bit better, I asked him about his form of dress. His answer was revealing. He commuted to work on the Long Island Rail Road. Dressed as he did, he slipped in and out of the railroad cars blending in like a pigeon mingling in a crowd of pigeons. Whenever asked about what he did, he replied, “I’m in publishing.” George told me he never wished to stand out or call attention to himself.

At 575 Madison, George and I were only a few doors apart. I soon learned of his photographic endeavors. The man processed his own color film, no mean feat. He had made his own darkroom and we swapped techniques and tips a lot. I had been introduced to fast film and print-making from nightclub darkroom men. George was a strictly by-the-book scientist. But on lenses we agreed that you couldn’t have enough of them. I was a Nikon man, George a Canon. I liked Kodak film, George liked Agfa. My quest was wider and wider lenses, his was higher precision. Eventually I wore him down. He got a $700 17mm wide-angle lens. I wouldn’t say George was cheap, but let’s

just say he may still have had his third or fourth nickel! I had explained that wide lenses had distortion when you started fooling around with them. If you set them level and square to, say, the lines of a room, they merely took in more. George was passionate about documenting a private residence on a nature preserve out on Long Island. We usually had new things to talk about every Monday morning as he had spent time photographing something at the residence that weekend. One day after the purchase of the wide lens he came in to my office and proudly showed me a shot of a hand-carved newel post taken from the stair side, maybe only 2-3 feet away. Straight and precise, the shot was artfully printed showing all the curves with highlights. Lovely. Of course he invited me out to see his laboratory/darkroom workshop but I was not smart enough to manage that.

George is gone now. Whenever I read old interviews with him, he tells stories I now wish he’d told me. But the one that I was told and have not seen elsewhere (yet) is that he was the inker on Bob Kane’s first Batman comic book and that it was he who who decided to make the night sky solid black around the Moon on page 1. That’s quite a step back in time; 1938 I believe. No one really knew how old George was when he died. He was an orphan since very young. He seemed to have found a family– of sorts– in comics. To be sure, never

replacing his own family. Like many of us though, the small universe of comics has its own language and mores– when you’re in it, it’s like nowhere else. His happiest time in his office as staff colorist was when John Tartaglione was the staff correction artist, in with him.

George Photog 2

I can’t imagine what George was looking so satisfied about! What is not well-known about George Roussos is that he was a conservationist. In particular was a tract of private property out on Long Island, where he lived, that he was documenting. He worked on an elaborate brochure for several years!

575 Mad 35PC fix

This is what George and I were looking at! A very nice, shabby genteel office building. 57th Street was to the immediate left, the corner led down 56th Street (where I lived, for the shortest, sweetest commute known to Man!). You can see my Nikon 35PC lens is fairly wide– I had wanted the 28PC but it was too expensive– and can just straighten out the building. Marvel’s offices were on the 6th and 9th Floors. The Bullpen was on 6.

George Roussos tries out a new camera lens, 1979.

George Roussos was one of Marvel Comics’ great talents. We shared a common interest in photography. George and I often talked lenses and methods. I had purchased a Nikon 35PC lens, with the ability to add distortion to an image that would “correct” perspective, or straighten out converging image lines. George had recently bought a 17mm lens, a very wide angle lens. He was concerned about the look of wide-angle lens’ distortion. So out we went to take pictures of 575 Madison! Across Madison Ave was the recently demolished IBM Building. You can just see that George is holding his camera body vertically, not tilting upward. This was to see how much coverage he got.

 

Looking very relaxed, George Roussos

George, here pictured at 387 Park Ave South– the “new” offices– looking very relaxed. I visited the Marvel Bullpen the day of their moving back up to 10, from where they languished, on 4, while they rebuilt the whole place. I am using a rented super-wide 15mm lens, which makes George look like Egghead. George intensely disliked being out in the middle of the Bullpen floor, in fact at a corner of heavy traffic. He had had his own office for most of his time at Marvel. But, as he reminded me at the time, he was just keeping his head down. This was late 1992, of note was the Dr. Marten’s standard 36 bottle coloring set, filled with Luma Color watercolors. Coloring correction was all done by hand. Corrections were one thing, George was often asked to do entire covers as part of the job. I particularly like seeing George as relaxed as I’d ever seen him. Also of note: his very casual slacks!

March, 1979 Bullpen Random

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The Marvel Bullpen, March, 1979. 575 Madison Ave, NYC– between 56th and 57th Streets. Marvel had much of the floor, the stat rooms, storage closets and “Stan’s Closet” were all in the back end of the space. Fellow Stat Man Robbie Carosella and I were located right next to the Service Elevator. These shots were taken over a period of time. By which I mean that the film was usually left in the camera for a while. I would try to space out my use of photographic supplies because I was a poor but hard-working Stat Man. So, I would save them up and process the film myself in Marvel’s slop sink. There was a supply closet that was nearly totally dark and a good place to load a film developing tank. I could do that and wander out to the sink to run chemistry in and fool around with the sink. There was also an old office desk in that closet– on it I set up print developing trays and an enlarger. Add some safe-lights and Marvel Photographic Services was on the job.

 

Well… sometimes the negs were spotty. And sometimes, I must not have agitated the chemistry enough because there were spots of undeveloped film, or too heavy a negative– just enough for me to blame Marvel’s water! I am guessing Marvel’s tap water was pretty hard. I also didn’t know to pre-wet the film and so there are some spots here and there, where air bubbles clung for some of the process. So things can look a little rough here and there. I was a pretty good printer, so I felt I could fix any real problems. But Photoshop is a lot drier to use!
 

One reason I was taking pictures was to have them used in a Marvel Calendar. I got several shots in a 1979 Calendar (or was it 1980?) but they seemed to have done away with that, I never saw another actual hang-on-the-wall calendar. So this is just me, walking around taking “grab shots.” A random day.

Click to view larger version of the photos.

 

 

Click to view larger version of the photos.

All these photos are © by Eliot R. Brown. Don’t copy them and don’t use them. Written permission may be granted. Ask.

 

Friday April 18, 1982 The Marvel Wack-Offs!

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Mark Gruenwald, boyish Marvel Comics Editor, was always looking for slightly risque activities or pranks. Someone must’ve given him a paddle-ball as a gag-gift. That was all it took– the Marvel Bullpen was never the same!  After the traditional stagger to the bank to cash our paychecks, we reassembled to move furniture around to make room for the Only Annual Wack-Offs!

Who could get three wacks in a row? The results will surprise you! Okay, maybe not you, but it sure surprised us. Mark went to the trouble of giving each of us personalized paddles! 

These two rolls begin as many did– just a roll of film in the camera. I would walk around and take pictures of my friends and colleagues doing whatever we did. For example, this roll starts off with us cashing our paychecks in the bank.

What is hard to relate about this entry is that this Friday was the very day of the weekend that Marvel moved its offices from 575 Madison down to 387 Park Avenue South! A testament to the hard work of Bernie Shacktman, an old hand from Marvel’s “Magazine Management” days, we moved down to nearly complete facilities. That Monday morning, we simply opened up our boxes, picked up the still-tacky artwork and finished the paste-ups, made the lettering correction or typeset an indecia!

Click on any photo to see a larger version.

 

 

Click on any photo above to see a larger version.

All these photos are © by Eliot R. Brown. Don’t copy them and don’t use them. Written permission may be granted. Ask.

Standard Disclaimer: I had a strong desire to become a photo-journalist. Not sure why– but I loved Life Magazine, National Geographic and Playboy. But I worked in the most interesting playpen a fellah could ever want, The Marvel Comics Bullpen. These pictures are presented, as much as legal and societal mores allow, “as is.” This means, since I often processed the film myself, they aren’t that good. But this was the way it was… These images are presented, as much as possible, as they were taken. They represent a timeline of sorts. Sometimes minute by minute, hour by hour or even week to week!

Misc DC Comics Index

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Iron Manual

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Icarus Spaceship Story

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The Story Behind the Guardians of the Galaxy’s
Icarus Spaceship Schematic

Click to see a larger version of Icarus, the Guardians of the Galaxy Spaceship
For the first time!
Read the technical specifications and descriptions OMITTED from the 1994 Guardians of the Galaxy Annual No. 4
Page 1 of 2

I never had a great affinity for the Guardians of the Galaxy. Yet another space-faring group of super-heroes running around and doing stuff. There’s anger, yelling, hinted-at romance, doing battle, avoiding battle, etc., etc.

I think I zoned out of space-faring super-heroes when Chris Claremont had the X-Men hook up with the Shi-Ar . . .  Then Bill Mantlo took a hand-axe to old pirate stories with his Swords of the Swashbucklers. By then I was propping my eyes open with toothpicks. Whoo boy.

But when Marvel Comics editor, Craig Anderson called for me to do the Guardians of the Galaxy’s big ole spaceship, Icarus, I said, “You betcha!” You see, 1994 was a dark year for this comic book professional. The comic book biz was sinking and no one knew why. (If you want a better idea, read Comic Wars by Dan Raviv Hardcover: 320 pages, ISBN 0-7679-0830-9. This is a terrific account of much of what went wrong. Us poor bums doing the work had very little idea so much was going sour around us.

I started by learning about the good ship Icarus. I was put in touch with the very nice comic book creator, Kevin West, and we yakked up a storm. I got what I needed from him and then I was put in touch with Michael Gallagher, another very accommodating comic book creator. Between these two guys, I had little to do in terms of searching for reference! They very kindly sent me their concept ideas and sketches and some good reference from the books. When you need to know something about a comic book the pencilers are the guys to seek. They have to know even more than the writer, as it is they who add the visual twists that place the story in “a” reality for the reader/viewer.

So, why am I writing about this middle-of-the-road team and their spaceship?

Because each of my complicated “tech” pages is a home run for me. An over-the-horizon, air-traffic-controller-alert home run. Each ship, each headquarters page, is a stand-alone beast of varying complexity which takes days of design and penciling and then days or weeks of inking and finishing and writing.

And because the Guardians of the Galaxy 1994 Annual No. 4 is the only comic book that contains a work of mine that was printed in a severely compromised fashion.

Now there is enough of the “call out” labeling done, so that readers may not have expected any more. But there is that gaping, yawning acre of empty space that tells a different story.

But before this perfidy occurred, Kevin, Mike and I were gamboling happily along. See below? Happy and unsuspecting . . .


Icarus Guardians of the Galaxy

Kevin West wrote, “First let me say how thrilled I am that you’ll be able to do this piece. I’m really looking forward to it. The following is a quick diagram of what I had in mind for the practical features of the Icarus when I designed it. Feel free to add any of your own ideas for weaponry or facilities. This is a large spacecruiser so there’s plenty of room for everything.” Kevin, who was as gracious as one could hope for, provided me with as much time as was needed to get all the details right. Michael Gallagher also started me off with reference and sketches.

Icarus Guardians of the Galaxy

Great Ceres, indeed! So there’s a good look at the Icarus.

Icarus Guardians of the Galaxy

The above sketch of the Icarus, the Guardians of the Galaxy Spaceship, came from Michael Gallagher. I found this angle was not sufficient to allow one to see far enough “into” the ship. With a ship as large as this, scale and what you could reasonably expect to see plays a big role in how lazy I can be. The more you can show, the more details you have to draw. When you can get down to seeing door-knobs, for example, you have to draw thresholds, hinges, door mats — well, you get the idea.

Icarus Guardians of the Galaxy

The splash page above is the Guardian of the Galaxy’s old ship, Drydock, getting turned into space dust. This is from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1 No. 26, May 1993. A nice reference picture.

The sketch below of the Icarus, the Guardians of the Galaxy Spaceship, is from Kevin West, showing slightly better proportions. I liked a leaner ship. Sure, we all know that spaceships can look like flying office buildings, but it’s harder to hear them go “whoosh” that way. The pointy end goes thataway.

Icarus Guardians of the Galaxy

Kevin West wrote, “The interior of the ship should include such standards as a med center, galley, gym (complete w/some kind of “virtual reality” danger room), various labs, workshop, recreation areas, conference rooms, an abundance of crew quarters & some type of green house to grow food.”

Icarus Guardians of the Galaxy

At right is my first sketch of the Icarus, the Guardians of the Galaxy Spaceship. This was the angle I liked and stuck with. I had heard a little bit about Prof. Bussard’s ram scoop concept. Of course, I had read all about it in early

But the idea that gigantic magnetic fields could be set up in a fan-shaped scoop pattern to guide in hydrogen atoms — located liberally throughout inter‑stellar space — and shove them into a fusion reactor to generate electricity was a totally real one. Who knows? They may happen some distant day. In the meantime, I had to switch the techno-babble generator to “overload” for this ship.

One thing I’d like to point out are those skinny, antennae-like masts sticking off the back end. There’s something about the Japanese and these things. There was a pretty cool Japanese anime movie that started a whole lot of space hardware on its way. But they had these kooky mast things sticking off them. What did they do? For me, it was what could they do! (They could put your eye out!) So you may note that my comrades-in-art shied away from explaining these things. But me? I waded in and labeled them, uhh, several things. I eventually settled on “Warp Wave Field Conditioner.” Yep, that’s right.

1994, the year this work was rendered and printed, was not long enough after for people to completely forget it. The look of the Icarus was clearly influenced by the shape of the Battlestar Galactica. The look of Galactica was okay — not bad for 1978! Now a lot of people hold that show up as a high water mark of sci-fi brilliance. But it was producer Glen Larsen capitalizing on Star Wars and demonstrating how “economical” TV could be with using footage over and over again.

Usually I am stuck with whatever oddball shape the comic book creators — to be fair — either spat out or labored mightily over. When I got to do something on my own, like with this piece, I could have some fun. I figured there would be a variety of shapes and in that way, perhaps a variety of ways to suggest that they were designed by engineers of different world races. I thought it would be fun to show just how big this thing was by showing how many other ships it carried. I finally got to design something for myself.

Then came the writing part. I was particularly proud of the serious foundations I had laid down. The highest high-technology I could come up with — this was in the days before “nanotechnology” was a part of everybody’s toothpaste! The entire hull was made out of carbon-60, which was brand new (as a discovery) back then. No one knew that it couldn’t be made into a super hull! I was really hoping to introduce new ideas to the series, suggest potential for the writers . . .  Let’s just say I worked really hard on the copy.

Next — Page 2:
I thought, finally comic book madness has claimed me. I look but I do not see. Where is my super special hard-worked for text?

Punisher Armory 1 Cover Art Story

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The First Cover to the Punisher Armory Series

The Punisher Armory. Put out by Marvel Comics. Hardly seems likely? No superheroes, no super powers. No stories, as we knew them; no panel-to-panel continuity. No page of small panels. Sort of a narrative that has only the character’s voice as the constant. Sometimes the technical guy (“Micro” Chip) threw in an entry. Mostly a gun on a table. As happy as I was with such a project I admit I found it strange. The Punisher was already one of Marvel’s most controversial characters. Not a “fantasy” doing veiled parallels to modern society—no; a kind’a real guy doing very human things right out of today’s headlines. And I was trying to make it even more real. But it was a good gig and going to be printed. Eventually, it would need a cover…

What to do? Covers are always hard—the fun kind of hard that Marvel thrived on. Back then, doing covers was the icing on the cake for the artist who did the interior. Except when the book was late, then having another person do it just saved time. Technically speaking the cover is slightly larger than an interior page and cover art rates were 120% of an artist’s page rate. So it was a good deal. That little extra bit of money was to encourage one to “go to town” on detail or execution of action. More than the usual design “oomph.”

Don Daley had been doing Punisher covers for months and months at that point. He was the Editor of the whole line, so he knew what went into a Punisher cover. Big booms, guns and screams—those were the elements of a good one. I had taken on the Armory as almost an “answer book” to the regular line of Pun titles. The character was giving comics a hard time; too violent, unrealistic, glorifying vigilantism, etc., etc. I was putting in a slower, more thoughtful Punisher. The man who has to train in order to be able to pick up any weapon, any time and deliver bone-blasting justice to—well, you know… (continued)