January 26th, 2008


Imps I Have Known And Drawn

We've been doing a slow and sporadic Spring cleaning here at the H.O.F. for, oh, about the past three years or so. Recently this has taken me to the flat art file in the workroom, to see just what we've amassed in the drawers over the years that we've forgotten about and don't need anymore, as well as to pull some of my art to scan and put up for sale. I'm finding a lot of odds and ends, mis-filed roughs and pieces, art from friends, art we've bought, prints, portfolios, xeroxes of penciled pages from most of the DC comics we've written, assorted comic-related paper artifacts and whatnot. When and if time allows I am going to try and post some of these items; late 80's convention sketches I bought from cartoonists like Dan Clowes and the Hernandez Brothers, freebie head shots from Walt Simonson's appearance at the comic shop I used to work at,  Instant Piano-era birthday cards and doodles from Kyle Baker and Stephen DeStefano, pin-ups and pages we bought or were given by friends in the business, etc. A lot depends on what's small and will fit in my scanner, eventually I hope to be able to get Sarah to help me with some of the larger pieces when time allows. I already bug her enough with computer help. We'll see what happens.

First up from the files, the only piece of art I was allowed to draw for the Superman and Batman: World's Funnest book for DC Comics. Not that it appears anywhere in the book. Long story short, part of which has been covered here before: DC has a clause that prevents folks from writing and drawing material unless said person is on the payroll or incorporated. Fear of lawsuits from freelancers claiming their work-for-hire entitles them to ownership of Batman or whatever the hell under some newly-inaugurated copyright laws or whatever the hell. I guess based on DC's history they fully expect people to try to do whatever underhanded thing they can to chisel money and ownership of other people's characters when the opportunity even vaguely arises. Or whatever the hell.

End result, I wasn't allowed to draw a page of World's Funnest even though I tried to get around it by various means, all of which went bust. Can I have someone else write the page I would draw? A hassle, apparently. Pretend Sarah wrote it? We'd get in trouble and the world would break in half. Use a pseudonym? It could mean jail time and Siegel and Schuster regaining control of Pete Ross. Sign an agreement that I wouldn't pursue my questionable rights to the DC empire if I drew a goddamned page of a comic? No, no, a thousand times no. They wouldn't put me on the payroll for a lousy single page, and I wasn't going to incorporate for a lousy single page, so, no go (Somehow this hasn't been an issue at Marvel, expect them to lose the rights to every one of their characters any minute now. I've got dibs on Fight-Man and whoever else is left over after the great purge).

Anyway. I did get to draw the Bat-Mite and Mxyzptlk promotional pins, however. So, that made me feel a bit better and was fun to do. And since the buttons were part of the design for the book's back cover, I'd get my art on there in some small fashion, right? Nope. Some of you might notice that the back cover uses clip art from the interior pages for the buttons, and not my drawing. Because, good lord and choke, since I designed the back cover and wrote the back cover text, I could then apparently sue DC for the rights to the back cover and Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk and Batman and Superman and Paul Levitz's Aurora models collection and the skeleton of E. Nelson Bridwell or whatever the hell. So, curses, foiled again to contribute a drawing to my own magnum doofus. A minor frustration, true, but it always bugged me. On the whole DC left me alone and I'm grateful for that, but I'll never understand some of the silly and arbitrary decisions companies make that stem from fear, laziness or just tight-assery. Like this, which was minor in the scheme of things, and not allowing us to incorporate a Vertigo section in W, which drove me nuts. And which Karen Berger had approved, so it wasn't just me who thought it was a decent idea. Grrr.

Here's the two little drawings for the pins:

World's Funnest got me another gig at DC, which was designing the Silver-Age Mr. Mxyzptlk statue for their DC Direct line. I'm still surprised they asked me. Here's the pencil drawings for the design:

Originally I had the idea that Mxy's name would be spelled out on his little cloud seat, so it could be seen backwards from the rear (the cloud being produced as nearly see-through). That didn't pan out. I don't think it would have worked, anyway.

Anyway, there's all the amazing fun we have time for today.

Next up: something else, eventually.