Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview comic artist, Joe Staton, 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 in this first of a 2 parter. Edited & Produced by Alex Grand. Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders, CBH Podcast ©Comic Book Historians. Thumbnail Artwork ©Comic Book Historians.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians)
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.
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