Haven't done one of these in awhile. I believe this is the tenth "Failure", but I didn't tag my older posts, so I'm going by a Google Search. Not that it really matters.
Anyway, here's an oddity. Sometime back around 1996 (to the best of my recollection), Vertigo editor Lou Stathis asked me to try out for the penciling job on Animal Man. I did three pages, fairly quickly because of the deadline, two of which are reproduced below. I ripped up the third page in Lou's office, because it was terrible. It was a domestic scene, taking place in a kitchen, people talking around the table while baking or something like that. I botched it completely, working on it last after spending a lot of time on the first two, more "interesting" pages. I didn't get good enough reference for it, and I didn't come up with interesting layouts or good, solid figure work. Lou called me on it, I agreed with him, and I tore up the page and dumped it in his wastepaper basket. It was an amateurish page, I'm still smarting over it. Lou told me most everyone trying out for the job turned in a weak page 3, as a lot of artists have trouble with the quiet stuff. He had some nice things to say about the other pages, but, obviously, I didn't get the gig. I'm ambivalent about the pages, I don't think they're garbage, but they're not confident, they're not ready or "right", for lack of a better way of putting it. Maybe a good inker could put them over, but there's some awkwardness in the drawing and a few of the panel compositions, and my figure work has always been weak. But there's certainly mainstream jobs out there that look worse, if that's any consolation.
It would have been interesting to see where my drawing would have gone if I did get the job. My style was deeper in limbo between cartoony and mainstream then, and while working on this might have improved my chops, it might be for the best that it never happened. I think I'm supposed to be a cartoony cartoonist, despite the 70's Marvel instincts that still dog my style to this day.
I liked Lou Stathis, he was smart, straightforward and honest in his assessments. Sometimes he was harsh, sometimes brutally so, but I don't really have a problem with that if it has a point besides just ripping someone. He was one of the first people I met (through Kyle Baker), who rightly called me on my bullshit when I'd act like an idiot in public. Some folks would get back at my drunken shenanigans or big mouth at the dinner table by stabbing me in the back or stirring up trouble, but Lou told me point blank I was being a jackass. I appreciated that, I really did, and it was a bit of a wake-up call when it happened. I always thought he hated me, so it was a real surprise when he called me about the Animal Man tryout, and we had some really good talks during and after the process. I ended up pitching a series to him, something I'm still sitting on, and have been since 1987 or so. I never spoke about it to another editor, weirdly enough (even after a pre-professional Frank Cho did some concept art for it). Anyway, it meant a lot to me. I was sorry he passed away so young. I can't say I knew him well at all, but I thought he was a good guy and I appreciated his candor and sense of humor.