Read Alex Grand’s Understanding Superhero Comic Books published by McFarland Books in 2023 with Foreword by Jim Steranko with editorial reviews by comic book professionals, Jim Shooter, Tom Palmer, Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, Alex Segura, Carl Potts, Guy Dorian Sr. and more.
In the meantime enjoy the show:
Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview comic artist, #JoeStaton discussing his career from his early fanzine days in the 60s to starting his professional comic’s career with Jim Warren Magazines, Charlton with their bullseye fanzine and the CPL gang, co-creating E-Man with Nick Cuti, Space: 1999, Six Million Dollar Man, inking Sal Buscema on the Avengers and Herbe Trimpe on the Hulk in the mid-1970s, the Marvel black and white magazines and his work on Mike Friedrich’s Star Reach, All-Star Comics, The Justice Society of America, Earth 2 Superheroes, #GreenLantern, #OmegaMen, collaborations with Paul Levitz & Marv Wolfman, conflict with Sol Harrison, his art director career with First Comics working with guys like Mike Gold and Howard Chaykin, over 100 issues of #ScoobyDoo comics, and his current Harvey Award-winning project with the #DickTracy comic strip.
🎬 Edited & Produced by Alex Grand, ©2021 #ComicBookHistorians Sound FX – Standard License.
Joe Staton Biographical Interview 2020
📜 Video chapters
00:00:00 Welcoming Joe Staton
00:00:35 Early days of Joe Staton & Reading comics
00:02:11 Drawing at an early age
00:05:49 Julius Schwartz responsible for you getting into comics?
00:04:00 Bill Plott, Maelstrom Fanzine, SFPA
00:05:38 Wally Wood EC Comics?
00:05:52 Dan Adkins
00:07:10 SFPA, LAS and FAS communities
00:08:29 Career intent moving to New York?
00:09:30 While graduating, studying comic artists
00:10:10 Meeting wife Hillary in 1971
00:12:22 Ronald Reagan, California Educational System
00:13:19 Museum Restoration | visit Marvel
00:15:29 George Wildman
00:17:04 Joe Gill
00:18:42 Jim Warren
00:19:53 Tell us what Primus was?
00:21:23 How did Joe generate the stories?
00:21:54 How was meeting Steve Ditko?
00:23:19 Was Morrisey a police officer? | Charlton Comics
00:24:50 Co-creating E-Man with Nick Cuti
00:28:22 Nova Kane · The Girlfriend of E-Man
00:29:05 Co-creating Detective Michael Mauser with Nick Cuti
00:31:40 Nick Cuti, American artist
00:33:23 Working with Gil Kane | Did he influence you?
00:35:25 French comic project, Gil Kane’s Jason Drum
00:36:30 Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch with Tom Defalco
00:37:27 Other cartoon stuff at Charlton comics
00:38:03 Space: 1999, Six Million Dollar Man
00:38:32 Getting reference for drawing
00:39:43 Beautiful painted covers for Charlton | Pat Boyette
00:40:59 Simultaneously working with Marvel through Roy Thomas
00:42:09 One issue of Spider-Man, entirely my work, Ghost Rider
00:43:06 At Marvel, you inked not pencil | Black and white magazines
00:43:35 Archie Goodwin was your favorite editor
00:44:27 Hulk issues: Inking Herb Trimpe and Sal Buscema
00:47:48 Marvel artists that you wanted to ink
00:48:19 Charlton bullseye fanzine and the CPL gang
00:50:58 Hillary photojournal of your career?
00:52:00 Working on Mike Friedrich’s Star Reach
00:52:55 Tom Orzechowski, Comic book letterer
00:54:42 Paul Levitz, inking on Estrada’s Karate kid
00:55:45 Middleman and Doom Patrol
00:57:02 Superboy, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern
00:59:03 Guy Gardner | Steve Englehart
01:00:15 Justice Society of America, All-Star Comics, Power girl
01:00:57 The Justice Society of America
01:02:05 Earth 2 Superheroes
01:03:50 Worked on Legion of Superheroes?
01:05:16 Started at First Comics, 1980?
01:06:53 First Comics Art director
01:08:56 E-Man revived at First Comics
01:09:33 Rights of E-Man character
01:11:06 Marty Pascal
01:12:01 Writing E-Man | Hillary
01:13:23 Full-time Art Director and full-time artist
01:14:22 Howard Chaykin
01:16:33 Joe Staton and Scott Shaw! Destroyer Duck #1 “Gimme My Check!”
01:18:04 Millennium Series, New Guardian
01:19:43 Working with Steve Englehart on Green Lantern
01:20:58 Arisia Rrab in Green Lantern
01:21:42 Guardian, Chip, Teresa, comic characters
01:22:23 Did you design Kilowog character
01:23:22 Eisner Award for World’s Finest book
01:24:36 Working on Wonder Woman
01:25:34 Citizen Wayne, Elsewhere Batman, Suffer The Children
01:26:50 Plastic man, Brickface | Jack Cole
01:28:03 Elfquest 1.2
01:29:17 Relationships with Jenette Kahn, Carmine Infantino, Dick Giordano
01:31:16 Joe Orlando, conflict with Sol Harrison
01:32:28 Gaspar Saladino
01:33:32 Max Allen Collins
01:34:09 Mickey Spillane, Chandler
01:35:00 Crime comics
01:35:47 Scooby-Doo? | Bronwyn Taggart(Bronwyn Carlton)
01:37:42 Femme Noir Crime strip | Christopher Mills
01:38:43 Take over of Dick Tracy comic strip
01:40:23 Checking back for references | Mike Gold
01:40:59 How does feel to win Harvey Award?
01:42:25 Boston Children’s Hospital, Scooby-Doo fan
01:44:43 Hiatus from Dick Tracy
01:46:25 What did you do during your hiatus?
01:47:12 Favorite inkers on your work
01:47:50 Wrapping up
#EMan #Staton #GreenLantern #ComicBooks #ComicHistorian #CBHInterviews
Transcript (editing in progress):
Alex: Welcome back to the Comic Book Historians Podcast, with Alex Grand and Jim Thompson. Today we have a very special guest, Joe Staton. Born in North Carolina, grew up in Tennessee, and graduated from Murray State University in 1970. Then he’s been a professional comic artist since the 1970s and beyond. Now working on the Dick Tracy comic strip. We have the detective comic artist Joe Staton, thank you for being here with us today.
Staton: Well, thank you for having me.
Jim: I’m a big fan and I’m looking forward to this a lot. I know you’re originally from North Carolina but you moved to Tennessee. How old were you when you moved?
Staton: Born in North Carolina air force base, we got back to Tennessee. And then I grew up in West Tennessee… Yeah, that’s my part of the world.
Jim: So, your father was in the military?
Staton: Yeah, in the air force. Pope Air Force Base is where I basically hailed from. Starting comics, they always had comics around, and I was always reading the newspaper strips. I go back to Dell Westerns, and Dick Tracy, and The Phantom from the strips. I just go way back when.
Jim: Were you reading comic books too? Or just what was in the newspapers?
Staton: I was reading comic books a lot. Like I said, I started, I guess, with the Dell Westerns, The Lone Ranger… I remember The Lone Ranger a lot, Roy Rogers… Yeah, I was reading a lot of those, actually, before I knew much about superheroes.
Jim: Were you starting to draw then? I know, when I was a kid, I was always copying pages out of the books and things. Were you doing copying, at early age?
Staton: Oh, yeah. The family story is that… I don’t remember if it was age three or four, but I was found in the middle of the kitchen floor, trying to trace Dick Tracy and The Phantom from the daily strips.
Alex: That’s awesome.
Staton: So, trying to be a comics guy, I go back, at least till three or four, but before that, I don’t know.
Jim: Tell us the story about at age 12, how Julie Schwartz is partly responsible for you in getting into comics. I love that story.
Staton: I guess that would be, when I realized that Julie was publishing letters of comments, that story?
Staton: I started sending letters to Green Lantern, Justice League, and Julie actually printed a few of my letters… I actually wrote a letter to the Justice League, like commenting on everybody who was at the Justice League. I remember, I said, “Green Lantern was a rotten Robin Hood”, and Julie edited my letter to say he was a second-rate Robin Hood.
Staton: So, my contact with the world of comics is being edited right off the bat.
Alex: By Julie Schwartz, that’s awesome.
Jim: From that, your address was published in those letter columns and then you got connected to fanzines, and science fiction fandom, because of that. Correct?
Staton: Exactly. It’s funny. Bill Plott, who is a science fiction fan in Opelika, Alabama, sent me his fanzine, Maelstrom. And that was the first I knew of the world of science fiction comics fandom. So, I kind of went from contacts to with that Bill to SFPA, Southern Fandom Press Association.
Staton: I started doing my own fanzines. Now, the kind of funny connection there is that Bill Plott contacted me on Facebook. So, I am back in contact with Bill, after all these years. Everybody is still around doing…
Jim: That’s great.
Staton: Bill on his fanzine now.
Jim: Now, is this science fiction comics or science fiction like Ray Bradbury and other writers?
Staton: Yeah, it was mostly writers, you know, novels…
Alex: Novels, yeah.
Staton: Yeah. I was a big Philip K. Dick fan, that sort of thing.
Jim: Oh. Yeah. Have you read the Wally Wood EC Comics? Or was that a little before your time?
Staton: That was a little bit before my time. I didn’t really get exposed to those till a bit later.
Jim: And you were exposed though to some comic professionals, during this phase, right? Like you had some contact with Dan Adkins?
Staton: Oh, yeah. Danny kind of was my contact to assert me with the whole Wally Wood circle… He was always kind of a depressing guy but he [chuckle]… But that was kind of his persona. But he was always willing to answer questions, and just give me tips.
When I came to New York, I stayed with Steve Stiles in Brooklyn. Steve was a good friend of Danny’s, so we kept up the contact there.
Alex: So, you’re saying that Dan Adkins was kind of a depressing guy.
Staton: Well, it was kind of his persona. He always wanted to tell you just how awful it was trying to make a living and…
Alex: I see.
Staton: How hard it was to, just keep going. But I think he was just kind of keeping, I guess, a realistic attitude on things.
Alex: Yeah. Okay.
Jim: Now, you were involved with SFPA but you also interconnected with other regional science fiction groups as well, like the LASFS in Los Angeles, and also a New York one. Was there a real sense of community back then about this?
Staton: Yeah. There were, I guess, in SFPA, the Southern group, there were members from outside the area, from L.A, Broodspell and people like that. I was in contact with the L.A groups. And Lyn Bayliss and Ernie Katz were in the New York groups. And they were still part of SFPA. I guess we’re associate members or… I don’t know… Expat members. I don’t know, but they were part of SFPA. I had lots of good contacts in New York, especially in Brooklyn so, that I had those contacts to fall back on when I came to New York.
Jim: Let’s talk about that for a few minutes because I’m curious about that. You moved to New York after graduation from Murray State. What was your intent in moving? What were you trying to do? Trying to work for Marvel and DC?
Staton: Yeah, that was my intent. I was going to give it a shot. Basically, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do, was to draw comics. And I’m not sure if I actually believed I’d make a goal of it. But I figured, I would feel awful if I didn’t give it a try.
Alex: What was your major in college?
Staton: I was an Art major.
Alex: Art major, okay.
Staton: I guess, mostly, more Art History, but a lot of Studio Art, and minor in Journalism… Yeah, I’m still in contact with other Art majors from Murray. Still all around.
Jim: At this point, as a graduate, were you studying other comic book artists? Were there ones that were influencing your developing style?
Staton: Oh, yeah. I was kind of always studying everybody. I was always a great Steve Ditko fan, and certainly, Chester Gould and Flash Gordon. Bernie Wrightson was coming around in those days, with his EC style. Yeah, I was kind of following everybody.
Jim: And then in 1971, or I’m not sure if it was ’70 or ’71, your future wife joins you in New York, correct? Could you talk about her a little bit, when you met her. I know it was during college, at a program… But I want to hear it because you all have been together an awfully long time, and that’s great. I’m a divorce lawyer, by the way…
Jim: So, I especially appreciate it.
Staton: Yes, I always introduce Hillary as my first wife.
Staton: We were on a program called World Campus Afloat, where we kind of recommissioned a cruise ship, went around the world, and stopped in various ports. We had college classes all the time on the ship, and excursions in ports. We were in the port with Europe, hit a bit of Africa, and came around South America. I managed to spill a Pepsi on a leading socialist artist in Uruguay, things like that. But you got to meet all kinds of people.
Actually, I got Hillary’s roommate early in the cruise and didn’t really make contact with Hillary till pretty much toward the end. Various people in the classes were giving like guest talks. We were both in Art History class, and I gave a talk on comics, obviously. So, of course, Hillary likes to remind everybody that she asked a question about animation which I couldn’t answer. She embarrassed me, first time I had public dealings with her and we went from there. And it keeps on going.
Jim: And she decided to move to New York as well, to start her career?
Staton: Yeah. Fortunately, Ronald Reagan… She was from California, and she was going to be a special ed teacher in California but Ronald Reagan had come into office, and was in the process of destroying the California educational system, so that there weren’t any jobs for her. But she had relatives on Long Island, and she set up some interviews back East. She came out to check that out. I hoped part of her motivation, she was coming to check me out… We wound up back together in New York.
Alex: That’s awesome.
Jim: By the time you got married, you were becoming disheartened about your potential in the comics industry, and you were actually thinking about going back to school to study museum restorations. Is that correct?
Staton: You have done your research.
Staton: Yeah, I actually had enrolled at Hunter. They had a Museum Restoration Program but when we got married in April…
Jim: Oh, I know… Then I’m going to go transfer to Alex to talk about your honeymoon because that’s one of the best stories ever.
Jim: So, the day after you get married, you’re off to your honeymoon, and you only have enough money to go to Connecticut.
Jim: And Alex, take it away.
Alex: Yeah. I remember we spoke, at the LA Comic Con recently, about this. And so, you’d just gotten married, and you drove to Kirby, Connecticut over to Charlton. Is that right?
Staton: To Derby. Derby, Connecticut. Yeah. We were just headed to Mystic, in Connecticut, for kind of over-night out of town. I had taken samples up to Marvel, and DC, it hadn’t made any progress. And Charlton which was, you know, recall, Charlton was the bottom of the barrel in comics, but bad pudding, not much pay. But they were on the way, and they were comics. So, we decided, “Let’s give it a try. I’ll take in my samples on the way.”
Actually, Hillary went in with me. George Wildman, with the editor said, I was the only one who ever came looking for work, with his wife.
Staton: So, we went in, they were very nice to us then, and I left with an assignment, a ghost story. So, I was actually in comics at that point.
Alex: You mentioned George Wildman, who’d you meet in that meeting that you spoke to that led to you being hired?
Staton: Well, Sal Gentile was still the main editor then, and George was his assistant… I think George was kind of my good luck there. George kind of poked Sal, “This one might work.” And Sal, retired not to long after that and headed to Florida. So, George was still the main editor then.
Alex: And then, did you show any of your fanzine art, as part of that? Or did you just kind of meet them and through verbal conversation, you got the assignment?
Staton: Well, I had some ghost story samples that I had done.
Alex: There you go.
Staton: I had done, one, two… Two stories, I think, for Warren but that never led to anything else. But I don’t particularly count that as a start… I still had sent samples from that.
Alex: Oh, from your Warren stuff, okay.
Staton: Yeah, I still had those samples. They thought it matched with their ghost stories, their horror books, just fine. They gave me a Joe Gill script and I was…
Alex: Joe Gill.
Alex: And that was what I was going to ask, is who wrote that script. Because you did a lot of short stories. You did anthology romance, horror titles… Was Joe Gill the main script writer that you had worked with in the beginning? And did you meet Joe Gill?
Staton: Oh, yeah. Joe was quite a character. He was like their go-to guy for writing everything. Joe would just come into the office, and sit down and start writing. He’d write, I don’t know, five or six short sometimes horror stories, sometimes war stories, a lot of romances. By the end of the day, Joe wasn’t quite sure what he’d written but he’d have a stack of script and he’d pass them out.
Alex: Wow, that’s awesome. Like a force of nature.
Staton: He was.
Alex: He was, huh? So, when you say he was a character, like what? Did he joke around a lot? What do you mean by that?
Staton: I kind of always described Joe as being like the embodiment of Popeye. He was kind of a grouchy gruff sort of guy but had a real sense of humor. If you keep the Jim Beam away from him, he could just keep going, writing…
Staton: Joe was kind of an old-time newspaper sort of guy. I don’t think he did newspapers, but he was like a pulp writer. He’d stay on and just write.
Alex: That’s awesome. At his typewriter, that’s cool.
Alex: You mentioned, the Warren story. You might be talking about the story that you did for Creepy #42, in 1971. Did you meet Jim Warren? How’d you get that job there? That assignment.
Staton: Billy Graham was the editor then. I did meet Jim. I never quite got a handle on what to do with Jim. The office at that time, they didn’t really have a waiting room or anything. You kind of had to wait around downstairs until it was time to come up and talk to Jim. So, I never quite got a handle on what to do with Warren.
So, I did… What did I do?… I did at least one story that was published, and another one, I think, that was published later, after they closed down the company. It’s published somewhere else. I did a couple of stories for Warren.
Alex: And that was when they were in Pennsylvania, when you met him?
Staton: They were in the city.
Alex: Oh, they were in New York at the time.
Alex: Okay. So then, your first regular series for Charlton was Primus. Is that right?
Alex: Tell us what Primus was, for people who haven’t read it.
Staton: Primus was a syndicated story about skin divers.
It was put together by Ivan Tors, who produced Sea Hunt, it starred Robert Brown. It had some stuff about spies and adventure. And sometimes, it was done really cheap but…
But it was fun. I would go around to boatyards and such place, trying to get reference for boats and skin divers. I got a lot of reference on boat, on fish. We had some good stories about barracudas. Joe Gill was writing it… Actually, Joe did a really good job.
Alex: It ran for about seven issues. It was a short-lived TV show, though. Is that right? It didn’t last very long.
Staton: It didn’t last long, yeah.
Alex: Yeah. And do you know on your end, did Joe get plots from the TV people and then he came up with the stories, or would he have to kind of generate the stories on his own for that?
Staton: I guess, they’re “bibled” on who the characters were.
Alex: Yeah. There you go.
Staton: But certainly, you just give that to Joe and he sits down, and suddenly there’s a couple of books worth of Primus scripts.
Alex: Yeah, that’s awesome. He sounds like an interesting fellow… So, you were there at the same time as Pat Boyette, Jim Aparo, Steve Ditko, did you get to know any of them while you were at Charlton?
Staton: Well, I kind of came after the big move. A lot of the guys moved with Dick Giordano to DC.
Alex: DC, yeah. In the late ‘60s, yeah.
Staton: A lot of them… Yeah. Jim Aparo left with Dick. But I certainly met Ditko, and Pete Morisi, most of those guys.
Alex: Pete Morisi, yeah. So, how was meeting Ditko, and under what circumstance was that?
Staton: It was just at the office. He liked what I did. He was nice to me. I was actually in awe of him. I met him again when he was at DC later. He was always very nice to me.
Alex: Was he kind of quiet?
Staton: He was kind of quiet. He could always come up with something to do at Charlton. He did a lot of his own writing. He did, got a lot of the scripts from Joe Gill.
Jim: Did you know that Morisi was a cop?
Alex: Yeah. I think I did hear about that before. Yes, but…
Jim: Joe, you can…
Alex: But only in passing.
Jim: You can verify that, right? He was a police officer?
Staton: That, in fact, is one of the first things I found out about Charlton. When we went in that first day, and Sal Gentile was still the editor.
Talking about who worked there, and he says, “Oh, you know now, Pete is a New York cop”, and they were telling me just like, up front. They’ve got these moonlighting rules, you can’t take other work while you’re a New York cop. That’s why his stuff was signed PAM.
Alex: Oh. That’s cool.
Staton: I guess it was an open secret. But he was moonlighting on the fly there. That’s one of the first things I learned about Charlton.
Alex: So then, with Charlton, was it mostly just mailing your stuff in or were you going to the offices a lot?
Staton: I didn’t go up to the offices a lot. Mostly, it was mailing stuff in. And that was before Federal Express, so that was kind of iffy. But I would go up to the office a few times, you know, hang out.
Alex: Right. Sure. Now, tell us, you co-created E-Man with Nick Cuti, who recently passed away, and that was in 1973. You guys did a lot of work together.
Staton: We did.
Alex: And that was, you and Nick, right? Yeah. And you guys did, initially, a 10-issue run. First, when that book came out, tell us about the Origins of E-Man. I read a bit from him, from a trade, that he had written about the Origin, a little bit, that there was initially the idea that he would be some factory worker that was caught in some experiment, some accident. And that you specifically didn’t like the idea about that, and wanted to make something a little more interesting. Tell us about the co-creation of E-Man.
Staton: Like you said, I did a lot with Nick. And Nick had come on as the assistant editor, working for George, and doing a lot of writing of the short stories on his own. I did a lot of Nick’s horror stories. His stuff was different from Joe Gills, that it was kind of humane, and had a lot of humor.
We hit it off, we liked working together. At one point, there were some, I guess, Dick Giordano had had the action heroes, tried a line of heroes. And there was some talk of Nick starting a line. But the management kind of stopped that, but they let Nick go ahead with his E-Man character. And because I had worked well with Nick, he called me up and wanted to know if I’d be interested in working on that. Like you said, we came up with a different origin, and it worked out well.
Alex: Yeah. I love the Origin, because I was reading over it last night, I love the art in it, first of all. And the humor in the text is fun too because you have Nova Kane who was an exotic dancer trying to pay her way through college. And then I really like the origin of this energy manifestation that gains consciousness, and then starts kind of figuring out what he is, and interacting with humans. It’s a real unique idea.
Verse so it went for 10 issues, were you sad to see that the book was cancelled? Did you enjoy doing it?
Staton: I loved doing it. And I was sad when they shut down so quickly. Nick had plenty more ideas to keep going. But it really didn’t sell at all well, actually.
Alex: Yeah. And it surprises me because it is really fun. It really got everything a lot of people like about comics, in it. Maybe it was a distribution issue or something, I’m not sure.
Did you think at the time that that was the end of the character and you just basically had to move on to other projects? Did you think, “Okay, that’s it for E-Man.”?
Staton: That is what I thought at the time. I really didn’t have any idea that there would be other possibilities.
Jim: Joe, I just want to add that, I was 13 at the time. And I got to say, Nova Kane was a big thing for me.
Staton: [chuckle] You’re not the only guy I’ve met who was about 13 at the time, who really liked Nova.
Jim: It spoke to me. That’s for sure.
Alex: Yeah. She’s a foxy character.
Staton: It was brought to my attention that there’s a shot of Nova in an Egyptian… A milk bath, I think, with slaves… That seems to have had a good reception.
Jim: I remember that to this day. It’s in my head.
Alex: Now, you and Nick co-created another character that a lot of people love. The detective Michael Mauser, and what a funny character that is. And even some of the dialog between him and Nova Kane is fun. The way he’s depicted with kind of a bit corrupt, just from years of being a detective. With kind of the gruff old kind of face and there’s a fly hanging around him a lot. Tell us about that character, and how that came about.
Staton: Well, certainly like Mauser, he actually had a Bowser at one point. A lot of guys who hung out with Wally Wood had gotten some of the…
Alex: Oh, that’s funny.
Staton: Well, that’s kind of the origin of the name. But the look, Nick, originally called for him to look like Arnold Stang. Nick was a great admirer of Arnold Stang and his voice. But this was before Google, so I couldn’t quickly find any pictures of Arnold Stang. But I had pictures of Dustin Hoffman. Papillon was on at the time. Everywhere you looked there were these ads for Papillon. And that was my original look for Mauser, based on Dustin Hoffman there.
Alex: [chuckle] Yeah. That’s right.
Staton: Nick thought, Nova, being a decent person but pretty tough at her way, you’re going up against Mauser who is… He’s not really corrupt, but he understands the ways of the world.
Staton: And E-Man, coming from outer space is still very innocent. So, we had the conflict of Mauser and Nova, as to who brings E-Man in to the world… Is he corrupted or is he just exposed to reality? Or is he still just a sweet guy who doesn’t got a handle on how the corruption of the world is.
Alex: Yeah, because there is this one funny line where she’s like, “Well, I just think he’s kind of a bad person.” And he’s like, “Oh, he’s not bad, me and him think you’re real nice, or you’re a real sweet broad.”
Alex: So, then she’s like, “Hmm… I don’t know if I like this friendship…” or something like that. It’s really fun stuff. Talking about Nick Cuti, he was actually a really good friend to our Facebook group. He would always chime in when there were questions about Wally Wood or whatever projects he had worked on. What would you like to say about Nick Cuti? You guys were good friends.
Staton: Oh, yeah. We stayed buddies, kind of right to the end. We would get back together over the years that E-Man would pop up from another small publisher or something, and we’d do something new.
He had a character, Captain Cosmos. We did a few issues of Captain Cosmos, self-published, to kind of keep the idea out there. But Nicola’s just a great guy. The thing was, you have so many writers coming along in the last few years, who think you’d have to have six issues to tell a story. Let Nick alone and he could tell a perfectly good story in six pages or 18 pages, or one page.
He just loved comics. He loved telling stories. And he was a really sweet guy but he comes from a long line of Sicilians so he… Sometimes, trying to sound tough but he wasn’t very good at it.
Staton: And he always would call up, and say, “Hey, Guiseppe!” And so, yeah… And I would go, “Hey, paisan!” … We were buddies for a long time. We just…
Alex: That’s awesome.
Alex: Now, around the time of E-Man, you started working with Gil Kane? How did that come to be?
Staton: I was at home, we had moved upstate by then, and I got a call out of the blue, from Gil. He occasionally used assistance, and guys who help him with the layouts and some stuff. He said, “Hey, you want to work for me?” And I says, “Oh, yeah. Sure.” And so, I started doing layouts for Gil. I did that for a while.
Staton: I learned a lot, paying real close attention to how Gil broke down pages, told stories, that sort of thing.
Alex: Oh, that’s awesome. So, what was he like to work for? He was a big influence on Howard Chaykin as well. Would you say he was an influence on you?
Staton: Oh, yeah. I think there are similarities in how Howard and I break pages down that can be traced back to Gil.
Jim: That’s interesting.
Staton: Yeah, I think, if you follow the way things move around on the page, you can see similarities in what we do.
We went over to see Gil, just a couple of times over in Connecticut. I didn’t work closely with him but I worked it through the mail.
Alex: That’s awesome. Would you guys have phone conversations? Like would he give you feedback and things like that?
Alex: He would.
Staton: Yeah… And of course, I always mention that Gil died owing me money and…
Staton: And I’m not the only one. That’s one of the things you accepted, to work with Gil.
Alex: Right. Right. And I think hear that just about, in comics industry in general, back then. It just seems, there’s a lot of debt there… Now, I’ve read that you worked on a French comic project of his, called Jason Drum, that looked a lot like the Black Mark work that you’ve done shortly before. What can you tell us about that?
Staton: Basically, you’ve covered what I could tell you. It was a project, kind of a fantasy-barbarian sort of thing, but with a lot of space stuff. For years, I did a lot of layouts for him on it. And I had no idea if it was ever published or what happened to it.
But a few years ago, somebody, I guess, from France actually published. They reprinted it in the States or wrote about it to prove that it actually existed, and that it was, at some point, published.
Alex: Oh, in France, I see. So, it wasn’t intended for a French audience, but it did end up getting printed out there, just to show that it existed.
Staton: Yeah. I’m not quite sure what the details of that was…
Alex: What the intent of that was. Yeah, okay… Now, you also did Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch with Tom DeFalco? Is that right?… At Charlton.
Alex: So how did that come about? Did you guys meet in person? Was that by phone call? How did that all happen?
Staton: Golly, I don’t even remember. I don’t remember meeting Tom till we were both at DC, and working on Superboy. But I must have met him at Charlton before then. It was just something that came up. I guess, George wanted me to give a shot at it. It was always my mother’s favorite book that I had done. Every few years, she’d ask me if I was ever going to do anymore books about the cute little cars.
Alex: That’s awesome. And you also worked on other licensed cartoon properties like Scooby-Doo around this time. So this is before the later Scooby-Doo, right?
Staton: No. I never worked on Scooby at Charlton. I just worked on Scooby at…
Alex: Okay… Just the later… Like in the year 2000 or so.
Jim: But you did a lot of other cartoon properties though, at Charlton, right? Jetsons?
Staton: Nope. I must have done other cartoon stuff there, but Wheelie is what comes to mind.
Alex: That’s the one that comes to mind. Now, then you also did live action licensed property like Six Million Dollar Man, and Space: 1999. Right?
Staton: Yup. Uh-hmm.
Alex: First, who would write the pieces that you get to draw? Was that Joe Gill also? Or who would do those?
Staton: Sometimes it was Joe, sometimes it was Nick. I remember Nick wrote some good Six Million Dollar Man stuff. He had a feel for that.
Alex: Now, would you watch the TV shows, just to kind of get the likeness correct? Or did you draw him a little more generically? How did that happen?
Staton: The producers gave us some reference, some photos, and we did the best we could to see the TV shows. I guess it was Space: 1999, Hillary would set up a camera, and actually shoot off the TV screen, trying to catch a better reference. Because we were always short of reference.
Alex: Yeah, oh, that’s awesome.
Jim: I had read a story that you, at one point on Six Million Dollar Man, had to check into a hotel, to watch it because you did not have a functioning television, or you couldn’t get reception. Is that true?
Staton: Yeah, we lived way out in the woods, up at the Catskills. We checked in to a motel that actually get it. That was how we were getting the reference.
Alex: You also did some beautiful painted covers for Charlton. Were those fun to do?
Staton: They were fun to do. That Pat Boyette, down in Texas, had found a color separator who accepts seps for the printing for painted material very cheaply. And he brought it to Charlton, and Charlton was willing to let us, Don Newton, John Byrne, Ed Patt let us do painted covers, as long as we didn’t expect to be paid more than we would for just a regular cover.
Staton: But that’s what we were doing. It was a lot of fun.
Alex: It was fun. Yeah. What would happen to the original, once you’ve turn it in? They pretty much gone at that point? Would you get it back?
Staton: We never got them back. There are still some around. Well, Nick would salvage some, and I think Don Newton got some back. I don’t think I’ve got any of the painted covers back.
Jim: Okay. So, we’re going to move to Marvel. It’s running sort of simultaneously with Charlton. But you finally got some work at Marvel, and was that through Roy Thomas?
Staton: That was Sir Roy, yeah. I had taken samples around Marvel. A few times, while I was still at Charlton. One day, Roy called up… This is how I get things. People call up out of the blue.
Roy calls up out of the blue, and he introduced himself, told me a lot about himself. And then asked me if I would like to start inking The Avengers. And I says, “Oh, yeah! That’s sounds good.”
Actually, I kind of cornered Roy, a couple of years ago, at the Heroes Con, and asked him, why did he call me out of the blue like that. And he says, “Gee, Joe, I don’t remember. We must have been desperate.” So that was how [chuckle] I got to work at Marvel. Roy couldn’t think of anything else to do.
Jim: Had you already been at Marvel when they didn’t know it? Were you doing anything for Gil Kane that was getting published?
Staton: Yeah, I did quite a bit of stuff for Gil. Some of it would be published pretty much as I did it, some, Gil would redraw a bunch. There is one issue of Spiderman, that’s entirely my work except for one arm that Gil redrew, an L… Ghost Rider. So yeah, things like Ghost Rider, that Gil wasn’t particularly interested in. He would just tell me, “Do my Gil impersonations.” And he’d turn them in.
Jim: `When Roy hired you, you didn’t say, “Well, I’m already working for you, you just don’t know it.”?
Staton: I did not think to say that.
Jim: Okay. I want to talk of… Primarily, when you were at Marvel, during this period, you were primarily being used as an inker, correct? Not a penciller.
Staton: Mostly. It was almost entirely inking, The Avengers and then The Hulk. I did some black and white work for Archie Goodwin, the black and white magazines. So that was penciling, but mostly I was doing the inking there.
Jim: I had read somewhere that you said that Archie Goodwin was your favorite editor that you have worked with. Is that true?
Staton: It’s very likely. Archie was kind of my patron saint. He would keep an eye out for me, and then send things my way. He figured projects that other people wouldn’t think I would be good for, he’d think that I could do them. And so, yeah… I’m not the only person who’s like that. That Archie just have that kind of presence in the world.
Jim: Oh no, we get it from almost every single person we’ve ever had on the podcast. That that’s one of the too common… A lot of the common comments are, “We love Archie Goodwin.” And a lot of them say, “And we don’t love, Gil Kane.” Those are… So, you’ve covered the two.
Alex: Yeah. That’s right. It’s true.
Jim: All right. I want to talk about, I know you did some black and white magazine stuff, but I remember you, as the inker, especially your two runs on The Hulk. Both with Herb Trimpe and with Sal Buscema. Talk about those a little bit. How it was working on runs of that character with two different artists? And what your thoughts were at the time?
Staton: Well, I got on to The Hulk, I was inking The Avengers, perfectly happy with Sal. And then, one day, a package of Hulk art showed up. Len Wein was the editor. And I called Len, and Len says, “Oh, yeah, we thought you’d be good on The Hulk, so we switched you.”
Nobody told me that I was doing a different book. I was suddenly inking Herb Trimpe. That worked well. It seemed we matched okay. I tried to pick up from Herb’s style, so that it didn’t clash. Then, I guess Herb just finally decided that he’s had enough. Enough Hulk.
Staton: Then Sal’s Hulk was showing up. I tried to keep a little of Herb’s style in the transition into Sal. It was different. They were different approaches to the art. I guess Herb was more idiosyncratic than Sal. Sal is more generic Marvel style. And Herb, really wanted to be Jack Davis. With Herb alone, that’s what he would do. So, he had to discipline himself to do the Marvel style. But he did it fine.
Jim: I never knew what to make of him, as a Hulk fan, because there would be these beautiful John Severin pages, and then you would get Jack Abel or something, and would be like it was looking at a different artist in a lot of ways. And they were both interesting but so different.
Staton: I think what Herb…
Jim: And yours was, it seemed like you captured what Trimpe was doing, without any, putting your own on it as much, which I enjoyed. When it came to Sal Buscema though, like I recognized you in it a lot more. Was that deliberate?
Staton: No. I was trying to follow each penciller, as best I could. I got finished pencils from Herb more often, and I got layouts from Sal.
Alex: Yeah. There you go. What you’ve said, that would be the reason there. I do know what you mean by that Jack Davis. I’ve seen some Herb Trimpe faces in The Hulk like on some military person that looked like Jack Davis faces. I remember seeing that.
And then in the ‘90s, remember Jim, you did like that image look for a while too.
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Alex: He could kind of change a bit.
Jim: Are there artist at Marvel that sought you out, that wanted you to be their inker? Or were there artists at Marvel that you really wanted to ink or that you never got to ink? And you would have liked to of?
Staton: Well, I’ve always wanted to ink Gil but never got the chance. Other than that, I was assigned to either Sal or Herb, and that’s who I was inking.
Alex: Then, as far as Charlton, so there’s the Charlton Bullseye Fanzine, from ‘75-’76. What work did you do with that Charlton Bullseye fanzine?
Staton: Well, there were some E-Man stories that hadn’t been finished up for the comic when it shut down. So, they were being finished in the fanzine. We had a reprint a few years ago of the early E-Man stuff. The material that wound up in the fanzine was actually printed in color for the first time.
Alex: Nice. So then, the CPL Gang was a group of comic fans who published the fanzine. The Contemporary Pictorial Literature. CPL, in the mid ‘70s, and is founded by Roger Stern, Bob Layton. The CPL Gang included Duffy Vohland, a young John Byrne, Roger Slifer, all these people became comics professionals by the end of the ‘70s. Did you have much association with them?
Staton: Yeah. A little bit. For the fanzine, saw early John Byrne stuff. I guess I sort of saw Duffy around New York, when he came out… Oh, and Slifer, yeah. You know, the guys were around.
Alex: The guys were around. I saw also in Charlton Bullseye Fanzine issue #3, there’s a fun black and white panel picture, of you, Nick Cuti, Roger Stern, and Bob Layton, and you’re talking to two people in the audience, and it says on the side, Picture taken by Hillary Staton. Do you remember that?
Staton: I’m not sure of the specific picture but Hillary took a lot of photos back then. That would have been from the early cons and so… Yeah, she took one at DC when Chris Reeve got a Hugo, at the World Con in England. Hillary took pictures of Chris Reeve getting the award because DC hadn’t thought to have somebody take pictures. So whatever pictures they put out of that event, those were Hillary’s photos.
Alex: So, she probably has kept kind of a photo journal of your career. Is that right?
Staton: Not keeping it in order, but there are random shots here and there.
Alex: Yeah, because a lot of the artists that are kind of the stag artists, kind of single, a lot of them just don’t have any pictures at all. I mean, you probably have more around than they would, because she was there, kind of helping you out, a lot of times.
Staton: Yeah, and she was a good photographer kind of in the predigital days. And now, she’s still a digital photographer.
Alex: That’s awesome.
Staton: We have proof sheets around the house of who knows what.
There are pictures of Nick Cuti from the old Seuling shows, it goes back a while.
Alex: Now, how did you get set up with Mike Friedrich’s Star Reach. You’re on issue #7 and #76. How’d that happen?
Staton: I had been doing a self-published, well I wasn’t self-publishing, Johnny Achzinger… I was doing The Gods of Mt Olympus, and I was doing that for him. And when he shut down, there were some issues of that left. He found a possibility with Mike Friedrich to print them there. So that’s really my only dealings with him. It was just…
Alex: It was basically, just finishing off that cancelled Charlton story. Yeah.
Staton: And then John Workman finished up The Gods of Mt Olympus.
Alex: There you go. And then Tom Orzechowski lettered some of that stuff as well. Now, was that a Canadian project?… And there was a paper shortage here so that opened up your time to do it? Like how did that all turn out?
Staton: Yeah. There was a shortage… That was still at Charlton. We had got a note from, I guess from George, one day and says, “These are dark days, there’s nothing left to print on.” All the printing paper, newsprint was cut off for a while.
We just kind of scrambled around, and Johnny contacted me. There was time to do other projects. Eventually, the paper supply came back and I went back to whatever I was doing.
Alex: Uh-hmm. Cool.
Jim: You enjoyed that there, right? The mythology of that. I’ve read interviews where you said that you were really happy with that work, The Gods of Mt Olympus.
Staton: Yeah. I really enjoyed doing it. Yeah. It was definitely something different.
Jim: Has that ever been reprinted? Or where it’s accessible to our listeners today?
Staton: I don’t think it’s ever been reprinted at all. I only have like one set of the original run. Had a couple of those, because somebody at a con found them for me. At one point, I had a nice bound set, but I don’t know what happened to them. And certainly, they’ve never been reprinted.
Alex: Well that’s awesome, Joe. Thanks so much for shining light on a lot of these questions we’ve had about the early half of your career.
Jim: 1976 or so, you finally got some work at DC. Specifically, Paul Levitz brought you in to do some inking on Karate Kid over Ric Estrada’s pencils. Is that right?
Staton: That’s right. It’s just like everything else, a call out of the blue, from Paul. It’s amazing to think how young he must have been at those days. He wanted to know if I’d like to do some work for DC. I was a little stifled at Marvel, I thought at the time, with just getting, mostly inking. So I was, I guess, going to do some finishes for DC.
Jim: DC actually, relatively quickly, let you start doing pencils as well… And they were on, not the main comics, but on things that were coming back or they were trying to give them another chance. When you started doing pencils, Joe, it seemed like you were being given assignments that were like fan favorites, but not necessarily, the big heroes. You were doing Metal Men, and then you got to revitalize Doom Patrol over in Showcase, and then on its own title. Right?
Staton: Right. And a lot of that I was doing my own pencils and my own inks. Which was a real attraction at the time, because it’s what I’d been doing at Charlton.
Jim: Were those comics that you had followed when you were younger, did you have any attachment to those characters?
Staton: Well, I definitely had an attachment to the Metal Men because I was a big fan of Andru and Esposito. I loved what they did. I really didn’t know much about the Doom Patrol. That was just because Paul Kupperberg and I work, kind of in the office with Paul Levitz one day, and he says, “We’re doing the Doom Patrol. You want to do that?” I kind of said, “What’s that?” And we did it. It was kind of lucid those days, if you were in the office, you wound up doing something
Jim: Then at some point, you were moved up to bigger heroes. You did Superboy, but you also did Wonder Woman. This is in the late ’70s. And you got to do Green Lantern, which must have been exciting for you because of the Gil Kane connection.
Staton: All right, and I was a big Green Lantern fan, ever since Gil… Since Green Lantern had come back on Showcase. So, I’d been, kind of, putting my name in for Green Lantern whenever there would be a chance. Eventually, Jack Harris was the editor, and Jack and I were buddies, and he put me in to take over Green Lantern.
Jim: In that run you were doing with Roy Thomas some, and Marv Wolfman some, is that correct?
Staton: No. Never with Roy.
Jim: He got some credits for it, but it’s story credits, I guess.
Staton: Oh, okay. I didn’t know that, or I lost it. [chuckle] But, I started at the very end of Denny O’Neill’s run. I did the story where Green Lantern and Green Arrow broke up, and they weren’t traveling buddies anymore. And then after that, I had a run with Marv Wolfman. So that was my first time out on Green Lantern.
Jim: Was this after Mike Grell had done? He had been doing some Green Lantern, Green Arrow. Was that before you?
Staton: Yeah, Grell was before me, and Alex Saviuk had been immediately before me, and Alex went off to draw Spiderman.
Jim: And this was a kind of a hit. People like your Green Lantern quite a bit, didn’t they?
Staton: Yeah. Actually, my Green Lantern had a good reception. I still feel it does. People seem to like it and it gets reprinted a lot?
Jim: Now, was Guy Gardner brought in during that run, or was he brought in during the Steve Englehart run with you, that was done later?
Staton: That is, strictly, with Steve Englehart. Guy had been pretty much written out of the continuities and, Dick Giordano apparently specifically asked Steve to reimagine Guy to do something that the character wouldn’t be lost. Steve brought in a completely rethought version of Guy.
Jim: It took comics by storm; people love that character at that point. And you were strongly identified with that character, even to the point of doing limited series in Prestige format things and other work involving Guy, right?
Staton: I figured Guy as one of my characters, yeah. I’m always pleased to be identified with him. He’s not a role model, but he’s interesting.
Jim: Talking about your characters, let’s talk about when you were also given the Justice Society characters that had been revitalized with Wally Wood in All-star. And then from that you played a hand in making, you did the Power Girl series for Showcase, the first time she was leading in a story. Also, you were totally part of the creation of the Huntress, correct?
Staton: Correct. I’m co-creator on two different versions of the Huntress. So yeah.
Jim: Talk about that, and your love for the Justice Society. Because I know, at that time, that was one of your things that you were really enjoying doing.
Staton: Yeah, I really liked the whole Justice Society thing, and it worked that I was coming in following Wally Wood, because it gave the Earth-2 projects look a little different from the regular DC universe, and that’s what I was trying to keep going. Fortunately, DC had been doing a lot of the 100-page reprint books, for the last, I don’t know, few years. I’d really gotten interested in all their characters from the 40’s, who would then be in Earth-2, especially like The Flash, and Wildcat and those guys. It really fit me. I tell people, I’m always most at home on Earth-2.
Alex: Oh, that’s awesome.
Jim: You drew one of my favorite Earth-2 stories ever done, which was Brave and Bold #197, that Alan Brennert wrote.
Staton: Oh, yeah.
Jim: With Batman and Catwoman, I’m skipping ahead to that. That’s in 1983, but I love that story so much. When you saw that script, did you realize, “Wow, this is a really, really good piece”?
Staton: I did not realize just how good it was until after it was done. I was very impressed with how it all turned out. George Freeman had just really great inking, and Alan Brennert… I talk about how Nick Cuti had like a feeling for the humanity of his characters, and Alan Brennert, that’s his strength. He can take a superhero characters and it’s like they were real people. You know, they had feelings, they had relationships. And I think this is, maybe one of the very best of that sort of story. I was really pleased with them. I’m very proud of it.
Jim: Yeah. It holds up really, really well. It’s one of my favorites, and your work was great in it. If you didn’t realize, subconsciously, you must have, because you really up the game. It’s a beautifully illustrated piece.
Staton: Well, thank you. It was that whole trying to get the ’40s look, the Earth-2 look. And I had had a chance, with All-Star to kind of develop how I handle those characters. And it just kind of all came together there.
Jim: How much work did you do on Legion of Superheroes? You did at least a short run on that as well. Did you enjoy that at all?
Staton: I never really got a good grip on the Legion. It wasn’t a series that I had followed, so I was kind of trying to figure out who everybody was and what all these costumes were. I never gave the Legion a good run. I didn’t get into the Legion the way I should have. There are stories in there that I think worked well. I’ve always liked the character of Mon-El and, Paul Levitz’ stories about Francis Projectron, Karate Kid. There were some good stories there, but I never quite gave it the interest I should have one. One of these days, in a different reality, I’ll go back, and Paul and I, will do a nice Legion story.
Jim: I remember your Blok, and I thought, well that’s a good Blok. I like that. But it wasn’t your Justice Society, that’s for sure. There was a passion there, that you could see.
Alex: So, Joe, tell us first how you got hooked up with First Comics? What year was that? Was that ’81, or what exact year was that?
Staton: Oh, golly, asking me dates is never good. But I think it was 1980?
Alex: Just straight up, 1980. Okay. So how did that connection happen?
Staton: Well, Mike Gold had been brought in as a PR guy, information guy at DC. He’s out from Chicago, had connections with the other groups out there. One thing led to another, for those connections to be putting together a new comics company in Chicago. I was getting to feeling a little stifled at DC at that point, and Mike asked me, would I like to come off out to Chicago, and be art director, and do a book for a new company out there. And it was the time when, I don’t know, there were Eclipse Comics, I don’t know, various smaller publishers were started in those days.
Alex: Yeah, because the direct market was starting to take hold and there are a lot of independent comics companies, and then a lot of comic stores everywhere. So, it was a boom, economically. Okay. So then, Mike Gold set you up with, and you became art director of First Comics. So, what did that entail, being art director there?
Staton: A little bit of everything. A lot of dealing with the printers, trying to keep various freelancers online. And things with the printers, like we were still printing at Sparta in Illinois. I would fly into St Louis and rent a car, and go out into a corn field where there was this many acres of a building where all the printing was done. And it was an adventure.
Staton: I’m just figuring out how everything in comics was done. There was a point at first, where I think I could honestly say I was the only person who could do every step in the production of comic book. From generating an idea to helping unload the trucks out to the store, all of which I had done. I am now a master of many obsolete technologies.
Alex: Oh, that’s cool. It’s funny that you mentioned that because we had Erik Larsen on this show also, and you guys were both at that LA Comic Con. And what’s interesting is, he says the same thing, Mike Gold hooked him up with a lot of work, and that he also can kind of from beginning to end put a comic together. That’s a fascinating connection that you guys have.
You also had E-Man revived at First Comics. How did that get set up there?
Staton: Eventually, all these people signed up to do books for First were generating their own new characters. And I was working on a new character, kind of a mid-Western superhero. And Mike Gold says, “Why are you trying to do this? We already have a pre-sold character, so why don’t we just do E-Man?” So, it was actually, Mike Gold walked into my office one day and says, “Oh, let’s do that.” So, then they got to work getting the rights from Charlton and undoing a lot of copyright work. And so that’s why we did E-Man.
Alex: Did you, as a creator of E-Man or co-creator of E-Man, were there any royalty issues that had to be worked out during any of this? How did that exactly work?
Staton: First Comics length, there was a copyright lawyer in Chicago by the name of George Bullwinkle, who somehow got all the rights to E-Man straightened out. And the deal was that FIrst would front paying for E-Man, all the expense to get everything from Charlton. But that, my royalties from E-Man would go to cover what they paid. So, we have that deal.
Alex: Like who then, after all that, who owns E-Man at this point?
Staton: Well, it’s kind of a thing that is split between me and a guy named Ken Levin, who’s the lawyer who was involved at First Comics. So, Nick and I could keep on doing new E-Man material, but Ken controls all the media rights to E-Man. So, if there’s ever a E-Man movie. It’d have to be dealt with by Ken.
Alex: Oh, that’s cool. Okay. It’s kind of cool knowing about that stuff. So, then it ran for about 25 issues. It went from ’83 to ’85 as far as cover dates and cover year. And then, Martin Pasko wrote most of the first eight or so issues. And how did you feel he was, as a writer, on the character compared to Nick?
Staton: Well, Marty is another of my buddies, but he and Nick have a different approach. He had a more explicitly satirical take and Nick didn’t deliberately parody things as much. So, it was a different take. Really, E-Man is certainly at home mostly when Nick could still make him.
Alex: Right. That makes sense. You also wrote for the character, a little bit as well, before Nick started writing him, right, again. So, tell us about writing E-Man.
Staton: Well, actually, I’m credited in several issues of E-Man. But the process there was, I would go into the office with three or four ideas, whoever was in the office that day, like Rick Oliver, the assistant editor, was there and Bruce Patterson, and I don’t know, various… We kind of sit around and figure out an idea we could do in the next issue. And I would draw something up…
Actually, Hillary, there she goes again, would do a lot of the dialogue. So, it was just kind of everything was put under my name because I was identified there.
Alex: Oh, that’s cool. So, she did a lot of the actual scripting of that.
Staton: She did. Yeah.
Alex: Yeah. She definitely has a lot of trades, that she’s able to kind of make things happen.
Staton: Yeah. She’s very clever.
Alex: Yeah, that’s really great. Yeah, I had that impression when I met both of you together. That she’s kind of like really organizing a lot of things at the same time. Okay, so you were art director at First Comics from ’80 to ’83, but you kept doing E-Man even past that, right? Because those dates are from ’83 to ’85. Is that correct?
Staton: That’s right. Yeah.
Alex: Yeah. So, a lot of those issues were, while you were not the art director. Right?
Staton: Right. But at that point, Nick had come back and was available to be writing the scripts again. Certainly, that was something I wanted to be around for. I kind of burned out, on staff at First, being a full-time art director, and a full-time artist, and several other things at the same time. Kind of got to be a little bit too much.
Alex: So, you were excited, at that point, to just go back to doing art again.
Staton: Right Yeah.
Alex: Yeah. You were ready to go back to that. So, now, were you interacting with guys like Mike Grell, Chaykin, Starlin, around this time?
Staton: Yeah. Well, I certainly would. I was dealing with all those guys there because they were doing the books, and I’d have to talk to them if there’s something needed adjusting or like, “Oh, Howard, you’ve forgotten to draw Flagg’s hip over here, would you…?”
Staton: I really enjoyed working with Howard. Howard’s my hero.
Alex: Oh, that’s awesome. Yeah. We’ve had him on this show. Fun guy to talk to. And that’s interesting that you both have that Gil Kane lineage. So, when you were seeing pages from him, with his American Flagg! which I think is highly critically regarded, as being in a similar status as the Frank Miller Batman and Alan Moore Watchmen, that he kind of brought that serious storytelling in the 80s. Did you feel like you and Howard had kind of, more of a special bond, than maybe with some of the other people you’d talk to?
Staton: Yeah, I think so. And certainly, with the Gil Kane background, and just the approach. You know, Howard came out and talked to us at First. We had real nice meetings with Howard and Mike Gold, and the whole crew, when Howard was talking about what he’s going to be doing with Flagg. I think that the name American Flagg came out of one of those meetings.
Alex: Oh really? How fun.
Jim: Those were great comics, Joe, Sable, the Dreadstar. Those were all really fun to read. How did it go bad?
Staton: Basically, the company was underfunded and we never were able to sell the advertising, we hoped to, to cover the difference. And basically, that we’re just underfunded and couldn’t keep going.
Alex: So now, you also did a story with Marty Pasko for Eclipse’s Destroyer Duck #1 called Gimme My Check. Scott Shaw did the inks… I remember I made a post about this. And there’ve been different renditions of this, Alex Toth – Julius Schwartz story, of Alex not getting his check, throwing him out a window or threatening to, then he got fired. Now, looking back on that artwork, that’s interesting in that the person that looks like… That is that I think represents Toth, kind of looks like Toth. He’s got the Pierre hat too, which is kind of funny because there’s that artist personality, that Toth has of kind of…
Staton: [inaudible 00:17:25].
Alex: Yeah, yeah. That kind of difficult artist… But then there is the Schwartz character, which actually looks more like Robert Kanigher…
Staton: It was my understanding that it was Kanigher.
Alex: I see. So, when you did it, you thought it was actually Kanigher in that story. Is that right?
Staton: That’s the story I was told.
Alex: I got you. That’s why you drew him like Kanigher because you actually thought it was Kanigher. Okay. That’s cool… Yeah, because I made a post about that a couple of years back, and I think that that whole concept of an editor not paying the artists, the artists throwing them out the window, I feel like… Even when Jim and I have interviewed some people, they would say, “Oh yeah, I think…” And it was completely different editors and artists, say, “Oh, I think that artist threw this editor out the window”, when it probably didn’t happen. But it’s such a piece of the folklore of this comics’ history. Why does it resonate so much with a lot of people, that satire? That relationship between artist and the editor.
Staton: It’s one of those stories, if it didn’t happen, it should have.
Staton: That the people with the money need to be thrown out windows, occasionally.
Alex: [laughter] That’s awesome. Now, before I go to the next section, Jim, did you want to finish up DC?
Jim: Yeah, I do want to finish up DC. Let’s talk about a few things, in terms of that, you did the Millennium Series, and then New Guardians came from that. What was it like doing that? Because that was somewhat controversial, wasn’t it?
Staton: Yeah. I mean, I don’t think I was involved in the controversy just in getting it done. But in terms of getting the book done, weekly or whatever it was, and the book was being rewritten daily, and I was not originally assigned to do the book. I just kind of was thrown into it. And Steve Englehart had a lot of political material he wanted to get into the book, that DC at the last minute, wouldn’t allow him to. So, it was amazing that the book got done at all… I got it in.
Jim: Speaking of Englehart, let’s talk about his run on Green Lantern. What was he like to work with? Did you enjoy working on Englehart scripts?
Staton: I did, very much. I think I’ve said it a couple of times that Steve was not the best writer I ever worked with, but he was definitely the most fun. I never knew where he was going. The stories would just go off in a whole different direction than I was expecting. If you give me a Marv Wolfman Green Lantern script, it’s going to be very well written, and no problem writing. But, after the first couple of pages, I know how it’s going to end. But with Steve, I never knew. I never knew where he was going, what was going to be in the next issue at all because he was always coming…
He kind of have had more ideas going on than he could get organized in like any rational reason. So, it was just, it was fun trying to keep up with what he was doing.
Jim: So, it was kind of a surprise when you would turn a page and he had aged Arisia to being a fully grown woman instead of a girl, and they started dating all of a sudden. That had to be a shocker, wasn’t it?
Staton: That was a complete surprise to me. Yes. Right.
Jim: Did you think at all, “I don’t know about this one”?
Staton: [chuckle] I may have had a few hesitations, but I was having so much fun just trying to keep up with him, that it’s not like I would say, “Oh, maybe we should stop and think about this?” No, that never occurred to me. I’m not going to claim that I tried to reign him in or anything. I just tried to keep up.
Jim: With the Guardians, several of those characters were new characters. Were you instrumental in their concepts, in their creation with Englehart? Characters like Chip, obviously, and Arisia. Although I think she had been around a little bit…
Staton: Arisia, is a Mike Barr character from a miniseries from a few years ago.
Staton: You know, obviously, I designed a lot of the characters, but I don’t think I had, you know, real input on what the thinking was.
Jim: Did you design Kilowog?
Staton: I did. Yeah.
Jim: He’s got to be one of the most beloved ones you draw, the concept of it. You must get a lot of feedback on Kilowog, don’t you?
Staton: Yeah, well, Kilowog is one of those that everybody loves. I’m more likely to have people ask for drawings of Kilowog in shows than hardly anything else.
Alex: Oh, that’s cool.
Jim: That makes sense to me, because as soon as I saw him on the page, it’s like, well, you just love him. And Englehart knew how to write him, and you know, the catchphrases with the poozer and everything. It was just a perfect character.
Staton: I think so. Steve just gave me a very general outline and said, “This is… It’s a big guy. So, we got to… Big and lovable.” So, we go with that.
Jim: And that was a pretty long run you did with Englehart on Green Lantern, wasn’t it?
Staton: Yeah, I think it was.
Jim: You later did a Batman/Superman Adventures book that you got an Eisner for, correct?
Staton: Right. Yeah, I really like working in the animated style. I never had a run on any of the animated books, but I had a lot of one shots and fill-in, Batman Adventures. Yeah, a lot of that. I really liked that style. It worked very well in that Superman/Batman.
Jim: Were you using, Bruce Timm – Paul Dini model? Or did you hark it back to Alex Toth as well?
Staton: Mostly the current Bruce Timm, but I’m always trying to go back to Alex Toth whenever possible, you know, so… I really liked drawing that style.
Jim: Were there any other books or projects you did at DC during your run there, that you really enjoy doing? I know you did a pretty long run on Superboy. You did a run on Wonder Woman at some point. Did you use the Ross Andru model when you were doing Wonder Woman?
Staton: I think not. I probably should have. I think Ross’ style on Wonder Woman, wasn’t really what they were going for by that time. I guess, I was shooting more for a Dick Giordano look on Wonder Woman. I was kind of an in between style for Wonder Woman. She wasn’t the Andru, she wasn’t George Perez, I was just kind of in there, keeping her going.
You talk about things, that I like to mention I did, a one-shot, Citizen Wayne. Who wrote that?… Mark Waid, I think.
Jim: I remember that.
Staton: It was set on alternate reality, Elseworlds Batman. And I had an amazing inking job, Horacio Ottolini, an Argentinian. It was like a pulp magazine all the way through. I’m really proud of that book. And there was a book about attempting to ban landmines, Suffered the Children, I think was the title. That was written by Denny O’Neil, and Bill Sienkiewicz did beautiful inking. Those are two books… It’s funny, I’d not really that identified with a run on Batman, I’ve done stand-alone Batman material that I think, probably some of my best.
Jim: What about Plastic Man that was in Adventure Comics? Was that intimidating to try to do, follow Jack Cole in anything?
Staton: Well, Jack Cole is one of those guys, I can’t help but follow. It’s like I can’t help but draw them animated style. I can’t help but draw like Jack Cole, as much as I fight it. I love doing the Jack Cole stuff.
And, speaking of working with Marty Pasko, Marty had some of the goofiest of villains for Plastic Man. My favorite was Brickface. There used to be an ad on TV all the time for, some kind of Adobe process where you could have things stuck to the outside of your house and they would draw bricks on it. That was Brickface, and that’s where that villain came from. So those were cool. I liked doing those.
Jim: That was a fun series. And this is not DC, but we don’t have it anywhere else. I want to mention that you were actually inking, Elfquest at one point too, for the Pini’s, correct?
Staton: A miniseries, Siege at Blue Mountain.
Jim: When was that?
Staton: Oh golly, when was that?… Maybe in the ’90s. I don’t know. Somewhere in there. I’ve lost track.
Jim: And were you bringing a Wally Wood flavor to it, or what were you doing with it?
Staton: Well, I was trying to be faithful to Wendy, and Wally Wood look really did seem to work well. With the Wally Wood’s slacks in Wendy’s cartoon characters, and everything in cartoon, but solid, like they were real. So, that was Wendy, that was Wally Wood, that was me, I think it worked out pretty well.
Jim: You enjoyed that project too?
Staton: I did. I enjoyed it a lot.
Jim: I liked that a lot. It was a good matchup of people… So, let me ask you a question about DC editorial, during the fairly long period you were there. Did you have relationships with Levitz? Obviously, he brought you on board when he was very junior there, but rose to the top. What was your relationships with the publisher and people in charge?
Staton: Well obviously, with Paul Levitz, he’s still a good buddy. We’ve one of those things that lasts forever. But when I came in, Carmine was still there, I guess Paul had started, but mostly with Carmine. Julie Schwartz took my samples in to Carmine, and Carmine says, “Oh, I don’t need to see these. I know what Wally Wood can do.” So, I took that as a compliment.
Alex: Oh, cool. Yeah.
Staton: I never really had any direct dealings with Jeanette. I saw her occasionally, and say hello. I guess, Dick Giordano was the highest. Other than Paul, I would deal with Dick. And you know, just the regular editors then.
Alex: Did you and Dick have any, like was there like a mutual acknowledged Charlton connection, even though you guys were there at different times?
Staton: Actually, I don’t think so. I never quite… I mean, most everybody clicked very well with Dick, but I never quite, was on the same wavelength. I guess he thought my stuff was too Charlton-ny, a little too goofy for what he was looking for. But we, you know, we worked fine. But I don’t think we ever saw exactly what we were doing.
Alex: Right. And how about, Joe Orlando or Sol Harrison? Any contact with those guys?
Staton: While Sol was still around. He didn’t… He left not too much after I started. And Sol, I’m told, Sol didn’t actually think I should be working, but I never got mad at that person.
Alex: Oh, no. Okay.
Staton: But I’ve managed to survive Sol, and Joe Orlando was one of those guys who was one of my partisans. Joe was a little bit like Archie. He would get me into things that, he would think I should be doing.
Alex: Oh, that’s awesome.
Staton: Yeah. So, one point, Joe had me do a job for MAD, you know… Then the Power Girl book was, I think that was with Joe. The Huntress, Joe worked on design with us. So yeah. Joe and I were buddies.
Alex: Well, Gaspar lettered over you quite a bit. Did you have any contact with him? Did you like his lettering? Do you have a tendency to like one person’s lettering more than another’s?
Staton: I don’t think I’ve ever met Gaspar. But I certainly really liked his lettering a lot. At first, I always loved Ken Bruzenak’s lettering. He lettered American Flagg!. He did Hulk. His lettering was an amazing part of the art. Lettering’s important.
Alex: Yeah. Now, before we get to Dick Tracy, you did some other crime strips prior to that assignment. In the early ’90s, you did Mickey Spillane’s Mike Danger Sunday strip, with Max Allan Collins. What was that like?
Staton: It was fun. Chris Mills, was an editor, what was that Tekno? They were putting it together. It was as close to Dick Tracy as I thought I was ever going to get.
Alex: Are you a fan of Mickey Spillane?
Staton: Not specifically. I’m more of a fan of Raymond Chandler…
Alex: There you go.
Jim: Me too.
Staton: And more, Dashiell Hammett, more sophisticated versions of the detectives.
Alex: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Steranko, we had him on the show. He’s a big fan of Chandler, which obviously, we know that because he did a Chandler graphic novel. And actually, he told me that he stood in front of Raymond Chandler’s house and took a picture in front of his house. He was that big of a fan, which he was like, “Take a picture of me, in front of Raymond Chandler’s house.” So that’s a fun story.
Okay, so those are your favorite crime writers, did you ever look at, Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond’s Secret Agent X-9? Did you ever check those out?
Staton: Oh yeah. Yeah. I love that stuff.
Alex: Okay. Do you enjoy crime comics in general?
Staton: Yeah, actually, given my druthers, I think I would do crime comics rather than anything else.
Alex: Rather than anything else. Yeah, because you were a sci-fi fan just in general, and then you’ve done quite a bit of superhero stuff. It seems like you have a lot of fun with the crime comics.
Staton: I do. Yeah. I go back to Mr. District Attorney, so I like the crime stuff.
Alex: That’s cool. Does that involve like crime TV shows and things like that too?
Alex: Oh, that’s awesome. So then, now this is a funny… The most successful crime solver character of all time, you also did Scooby-Doo, and that’s funny. You did about a hundred issues of Scooby-Doo starting in 2000. How did that come about?
Staton: I had been doing… What was I doing before that? I guess, Guy Gardner. I lost Guy. Guy was, being changed. And I was walking down the hall, and, Marty Pasko was the head of special projects and they were taking care of the Scooby-Doo books and Bronwyn Taggart was the editor.
Marty says, “Hey, you want to do a couple of Scooby-Doo issues?” So, I started working with Bronwyn. And I love Bronwyn, she understood my humor. We’d hit it off. And everybody was kind of doing a Scooby-Doo issue here and there. Then she said, “This is too much trouble. Why don’t you just do the book?” And that happened. So, I wound up drawing Scooby-Doo for 13 years.
Alex: Yeah. That’s huge.
Staton: I was perfectly happy just with Scooby and the Mystery Machine, and the whole thing.
Alex: Yeah, because you can do cartoon, and I guess that explains why you like a Plastic Man and that he’s kind of a mixture, but he’s kind of a cartoon character at the same time as the superhero genre. So that’s kind of an interesting…
Staton: Plastic Man is, you know, he’s kind of a basis for E-Man, so it all comes together.
Alex: Yeah, because E-Man can manipulate his body and do all sorts of weird things with it as well. That makes sense. That’s a funny connection there. So then, now you also did a crime strip called Femme Noir? What was that about?
Staton: That was with Chris Mills, his own character. Our original idea of what Femme Noir was that she was going to be a female version of the Spirit. She’d wear a blue raincoat, another character in a hat. I like drawing hats. Chris was developing a whole city to surround her, and some of these were just a very traditional pulp type horror. Well actually, some of them was horror, some of it was science fiction, but it was all in a crime tradition. Maybe one of these days we’ll do some more Femme Noir. I really liked that character.
Alex: Uh-hmm… In 2011, you took over the art on the Dick Tracy strip. Was that a dream come true for you?
Staton: It was one of those things that I’d always been wanting to do. I had always tried out for Tracy. And, it just kind of fell into place because, Mike Curtis and I, great Tracy fans. At the time, it was kind of generally understood, you could do like tribute versions of copyright characters, and there’d be no trouble as long as you weren’t really infringing. I’ve since learned this is not true. You can be sent away for doing this. And we were sending it to the Trib, and the Trib was realizing that, we were doing our own Dick Tracy strip online, just for fun.
Staton: At that point, Dick Locher, who’ve been doing the strip for a very long time, finally decided to retire and they said, “Well, there are these guys, who we should have sent to jail. Why don’t we just hire them?” So that’s how that became. Now, they called Mike and says, “You guys want to take over the strip?” And he says, “Well, I’ll ask Joe…” and “Yeah, we’ll do it.”
Alex: How fun…
Staton: Either people call out of the blue with things or things just fall into place. Things I tried to do, you know, don’t quite work. But things that just fall in, those turn out pretty good.
Alex: Yeah. So then, did you go back and read some of the 1930s Chester Gould stuff as well, or had you already done that?
Staton: I’d read a lot of it. At this point, Mike has actually read all of it, the IDW reprints. They send them to the Trib, Trib sends them to us. So, we have good reference. We can go checking back. We bring back a lot of the old characters, do a lot of our own, but a lot of the old characters and yeah. It’s a tradition. We’re keeping it going.
Alex: Oh, how fun. And you actually received Harvey awards for Dick Tracy for three years, 2013, 2014, 2015. So, you’re receiving a lot of, critical as well as fan praise. How does that feel? Were you surprised to get your first Harvey award for that? What was your thinking on this?
Staton: We were surprised, yeah. Very, very pleased to see that something we’d always wanted to do is being appreciated. So, we’re surprised and we’re very happy that it’s getting a good reception.
Alex: Yeah. I was looking at some of the free samples you’re giving out at the convention, and I was really impressed because it feels like it’s continuing that Chester Gould vibe. So, you’re really kind of summoning this force here. So how long do you want to stay on this strip?
Staton: It depends on the week end. Sometimes, I’ll just be around till Tracy’s a hundred. Sometimes, I figure, I’ll be around till the end of the week. I can’t give you a definite answer there. Depends on how tired I am at the moment.
Staton: It’s a lot of work.
Alex: Yeah, it’s a lot of work for sure. All right, Jim.
Jim: Okay. Just a couple of random closing questions and things. I’m going to assume when I ask you who your favorite collaborator was that you’re going to say your wife, because the two of you do comics together, things for the Children’s Hospitals, and things like that. Tell us about that a little bit, because that’s awesome.
Staton: The, Boston Children’s Hospital, it turns out that the head of gastroenterology is a Scooby-Doo fan. His son was very young at the time, and he was buying him Scooby-Doo comics. He he sent out a letter to DC, Scooby fan letter. And I sent him a drawing and we talked a bit, compared notes. And as a comics fan, he had always wanted to use comics to explain diseases and dealing with hospitals, and things like that. He realized, when he found out that I could draw this, and my wife, Hillary is a writer. He realized; he’d found his team.
Our first book was about Crohn’s and colitis, and we dealt with the national group and went to camps for kids with the diseases, and it did all kinds of research. It worked out well. We actually did a book about a little kid who has Crohn’s, and how he deals with the whole thing. And we did a couple of more books after that. We’re actually doing another one at the moment. It turned out well, you never know when you’re going to find a comics fan in a useful position.
Jim: You took a hiatus from Dick Tracy, a couple of years ago. Was that when you were working on the Ayn Rand Anthem book? Or was that not connected?
Staton: The Ayn Rand was before that.
Jim: Before that. Okay.
Staton: I took a…
Jim: How did that come into being? It seems like an odd project for you.
Staton: It is. I occasionally work with, Charlie Santino, who’s a packager and a writer. And it was Charlie, yeah, he put it all together. And I’m also a fan of Classics Illustrated. I first did Classics; I did A Christmas Carol. And so, it’s not that I was that interested in this philosophy or anything, but it was a book to be adapted to become a comic. That’s how I got into it. Some of Ayn Rand’s science, and it needs to be explained. So, Charlie did more designs of how the electrical stuff is actually done. So, it was fun. We did it as a YA romance? It’s about two cute kids who want to go out in the woods and start their own civilization. That was fun. I think it was definitely fun.
Jim: And what did you do during your hiatus? Why did you take the time off?
Staton: From Tracy?
Staton: Well, occasionally, I’ll just want a break and, we’ll get somebody to do a Minit Mystery, which there’s a tradition of short mysteries in the Dick Tracy comic books from Harvey, from the 50s and 60s. So, Rick Burchett did a really great one, Charles Ettinger also. It’s fun to see how different people will handle Tracy, without having to turn the strip over to somebody else. It gives a break and it lets us see what other people would do.
Jim: And Rick Burchett, he was an inker for you when you first did the E-Man.
Staton: That’s right.
Alex: I remember that because he was a good match with you. Who are the inkers that you thought that you enjoyed seeing their inks on your work?
Staton: Well obviously, Rick, and Bill Sienkiewicz, Horacio Ottolini, Bruce Patterson. I always liked Bruce’s inks on Green Lantern. Yeah, there’s been several good ones.
Jim: Joe for me, this has been a real pleasure. You’re a favorite of mine. And I wanted to thank you. I’m going to turn you over to Alex to close out.
Staton: Well, thank you.
Alex: Yeah. Thanks, so much Joe. It seems from career you’ve been a fan of comics from the beginning. You set out to do it. And what it looks like is just through patience and hard work, you’ve managed to hit all sorts of aspects of the comic industry. Hitting up all sorts of characters, creating new characters, co-creating new characters, even having production experience. Looking back, it’s a huge career, and we’re excited to see more of your work. And it seems like sometimes some artists, they kind of peter out, but you just keep going. I’m just really impressed. You’re just this really, hardworking, creative dynamo. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Staton: Well, thank you. I appreciate it.
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