First, you must understand that from the age of five on I never wanted to be anything but an artist for Marvel Comics. My whole life was planned around it.
Back when I was still in art school (I have a BA from the University of Washington) circa '79, I sent some samples (a humorous 8-page story starring Volstagg from Thor) to Marvel Art Director John Romita in hopes of getting some feedback. It was Jim Shooter who responded. While he complimented my plotting, he was quite frank about my shortcomings as a storyteller (“too coy” was how he put it). His suggested I study Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man stories to see how it should be done.
It was good advice. I bathed in Ditko (and Kirby and Colan and other artists I admired) for a year and then tried again. I sent a five page sequence of the Fantastic Four battling a villain I’d designed called the Vibranium Man and asked what he thought. This time Shooter said both my storytelling and my anatomy were professional level but I wouldn’t be able to get work until I’d mastered perspective (Neal Adams separately offered the same criticism). So it was literally back to the drawing board.
A year later, in the spring of ’81, I drew another 5-page sequence depicting Spider-Man and the Falcon battling a new villain I’d created called Thunderbird (I hadn’t heard of the X-Man of that name). This time, instead of mailing my samples, I made an appointment to meet Shooter at that summer’s San Diego Con. (I also did some Batman pages to show Dick Giordano.)
One thing I had not told Shooter up front was that I was physically handicapped and drew with my mouth. My dad, who went with me to the convention, worried that would make a difference. I hooked up with Shooter. “Oh yeah, I remember your work,” he said as he leafed through the pages. “You’ve kept working at it, I see. Good. I think you’re ready.” He then bought a comic reprinting an old Kirby Human Torch story (Strange Tales #114, if memory serves) and spent the next 45 minutes going over it with me and explaining his philosophy of comics storytelling. When we finished, Dad asked him if my drawing with my teeth mattered. Jim, bless him, said, “I don’t care if he shoves the pencil up his ass and scoots around on the paper as long as he makes his deadlines!”
What neither Jim nor I could foresee was that my disability *did* make a difference. Despite five years of college, I’d never had to do any sustained work until Marvel. I was assigned a Doctor Strange fill-in issue (at least it wasn’t Star Wars or Micronauts?I never have been any good at sci-fi). I discovered that drawing eight hours a day, every day, put a tremendous strain on my jaws, neck, lower back and even my eyes (my face is only two inches from the page when I draw). Backgrounds were particularly time consuming as manipulating the drafting tools took forever. By the end of the first week, I was in agony.
It broke my heart to give up my dream of being a Marvel Comics artist, especially after Shooter told me he felt I had “the potential to be another John Byrne” (that was a compliment back then ), but facts is facts: I was never going to be fast enough to maintain a professional career. So I walked away (so to speak).
I'm still pursuing my creative muse but I'm now focused on writing. Last July I completed a long novel about the DC super-heroes (which, for various reasons, will probably never see print) and I'm currently researching my next project, a novel and/or screenplay which will hopefully prove more marketable.
I tried to attach a sample of my art but the images keep turning out too big to download. my avatar is my work, if that helps.
Hope that was what you were looking for, General (as a fan of both Steve Rude and Nexus, I heartily approve of your nom de CBR). Thanks for asking!
I summon the old news!