Last updated 3 Feb. 2010. The latest version of this document can always be found at  See last page for legal & © information.

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The Warren Magazines

Interviews by Richard Arndt



                                                                A 2005 Interview With Bob Toomey!


RA: Thank you for the interview.  Could you give us a little background on yourself?


BT: I was born in Hartford, Conn. in 1945.  Lived most of my life in Springfield, Mass.  Twelve years of Catholic school.  Two years as a reporter on a daily newspaper.  Moved to London in the late 1960s and wrote a science fiction novel there to no great acclaim.  Moved to New York City.  Read the slush pile at Galaxy Magazine.


RA: When did you become interested in comics?


BT: I read comics from an early age.  My favorites were the duck stories of Carl Barks; John Stanley’s ‘Little Lulu’; Walt Kelly’s ‘Pogo’; the whole EC line, particularly the Kurtzman mags, ‘Mad’, Frontline Combat’ and ‘Two-Fisted Tales’.  I liked the art in the EC horror and SF comics, but the endless captions bored me.  Never cared much for superheroes, other than Plastic Man and Captain Marvel.  I enjoyed Biro’s stuff—‘Daredevil’, ‘Boy’, ‘Little Wise Guys’.  I still reread Barks and Stanley, and I’ve been collecting the Plastic Man Archives.  In the sixties I got into the underground comics.  Crumb and Shelton were my favorites, plus some of the horror books like ‘Slow Death’ and ‘Death Rattle’.


RA: Was your work at Warren your first professional appearance?  I know you wrote stories for DC Comics.  Have you worked for other companies?


BT: I freelanced at DC for a couple of years before going to Warren.  I got in through Denny O’Neil.  We met at a party in Greenwich Village and hit it off.  He got tired of hearing me complain about being broke all the time and suggested I try writing comics.  My first comic book story was a very crude six pager starring Krypto the Superdog.  It was called ‘A Bad Day For Junkyard Blue’ and appeared in Superman Family #182.  I remember getting the idea for it after listening to Jim Croce’s ‘Bad Bad Leroy Brown,’ that line about “meaner than a junkyard dog.”  I was paid $15 a page for it.  Later my rate went up to $17 a page, with a little extra now and then for coming up with a cover or editing the letter columns in various mags.


After I’d been writing for DC for a couple of months, one of my stories fell into the hands of Joe Orlando.  He tore it to pieces, showing me everything I’d done wrong, which was basically everything.  Orlando, of course, was one of my heroes, being among the EC artists I’d loved as a kid.  He sort of took me under his wing and gave me a terrific course in how to write comics.  I can’t draw worth a lick, but Joe trained me to look at a story from the artist’s point of view.  He was a very harsh critic of my work, and if I know anything about writing comics, it comes from what he taught me.  I’m aware that some people found Joe a little too harsh, but he was giving me the accumulated wisdom of a lifetime, and I appreciated that and felt lucky that he was willing to spend the time with me.  Joe was the best teacher I ever had, may he rest in peace.


Most of what I did for DC went into their mystery or horror books, although I did a bit of everything, from romance to war comics, and even an occasional superhero story of sorts.  I did the first ‘Alien Green Lanterns’ series, for example, and I continued writing about Krypto for two years.  In general, DC gave me a lot of freedom in what I wrote, even though many of the stories I did weren’t typical of their horror or mystery books.


RA: How did you get your start at Warren?


BT: One day at DC, Paul Levitz took me aside and told me the company was getting ready to cut about half the line, and a lot of the newer writers like me were going overboard.  This was the great 1978 DC Implosion.  He suggested I call Weezie Jones, now Louise Simonson, at Warren and see if she had any work for me.  It was nice of Levitz to point me there.  It was the right time for me to go.  I don’t really do superheroes, and that’s all that was left in mainstream comics around then, so I probably wouldn’t have been happy anywhere but Warren.


So I made an appointment and trundled on over there.  Weezie turned out to be about the sweetest and most generous person I’ve ever met.  But on that first meeting, she didn’t hold out much hope.  She didn’t really have any open slots for freelancers, and she’d also found that most mainstream comic book writers couldn’t cut it at Warren.  But she said she’d look at a spec script if I felt like writing one.  Two days later I gave her the script for ‘The Caretaker.’ She bought it for $20 a page, and told me she could probably handle a story a month from me.  So for a while I did a story for Warren and a couple more every month for DC until the axe fell.  At that point, Weezie gave me a raise to $25 a page, Warren’s top rate, and said she’d take as much as I could produce, so things worked out okay for me, even with the loss of DC as a market. At no time was I on the staff at DC or Warren.   I was always a freelancer.


RA: What were the editorial differences between DC and Warren?


BT: Well, one big difference was that DC was operating under the Comics Code, so there were all sorts of taboos and lines you couldn’t cross.  I only came afoul of it once or twice, but it was always there, looking over my shoulder.  Warren, of course, was outside the Code, and the only restriction there was involved the use of foul language.  Sex and violence were okay, but going potty mouth was a no-no.  How times change.


Other than that, the main difference between working at DC and Warren was editorial involvement.  At DC every story had to be cleared with an editor before you wrote it.  There was always a conference first where you presented a synopsis of the proposed story for approval.  Sometimes the editor would give you an assignment.  I was handed the title ‘My Boyfriend’s Best Friend Was My Rival,’ and told to write a romance story based on it.  That was the first story, by the way, that Joe Orlando tore apart for me.  On another occasion, Paul Levitz suggested I write a story for Weird War Tales #66 where a modern technological weapon found its way into a magical universe.  That became ‘The Iron Star’, one of the better stories I did for DC.


Over at Warren, I started off giving Weezie a synopsis before I wrote a story, but she said she trusted me and preferred to be surprised by what I brought in.  She did, on occasion, suggest an idea or a direction.  One time she asked for a sports story for an issue that was supposed to be all sports stories.  The issue never happened, but I did write a story about a golf game where the fate of the Earth hung on the outcome.  I did it mainly to amuse my father, who was a professional golfer.  Another time I wrote a story for an issue where the stories were based on a Corben cover, and one for a theme issue on Earth shattering disasters.  On several occasions, I was given the art for a story where they’d decided they liked the art but didn’t care for the story, and I created a new story around the art.  But most of the time, I was on my own, just writing the stories and turning them in.  Weezie was a wonderful editor.  She gave me complete freedom to write anything I felt like writing, and she liked my work and paid me for it on time.  No writer could ask for more.


[As for the other Warren staff] I met Jim Warren once, I think.  He might have shaken my hand and congratulated me on winning that Best Writer Award.  Bill DuBay I saw around, but we never said much to each other.  He seemed nice enough.  I remember he complimented me on a couple of my stories.  Weezie was my editor and she was…a sweet person, very friendly and positive.  I was living in Massachusetts while I was writing for Warren, and I’d take a train into NYC once or twice a month for editorial conferences.  It was strictly a business relationship.  Maybe if I’d lived in the city we would have got to know each other better. 


RA: Do you have a personal favorite story from your Warren days?


BT: My favorite stories for Warren were ‘Shrivel’, the fractured fairy tale about the gluttonous overweight dragon; ‘There Shall Come A Great Darkness,’ where the universe ends in a whisper; ‘The Fianchetto Affair,’ because of the sheer audacity of the ending; and ‘Nobody’s Kid,’ the most intense story I ever wrote, and my final sale to Warren.


RA: You also wrote stories under the name Gary Null.  Can you tell us why?


BT: The Gary Null stories were the ones where I created a story around existing art.  I didn’t sign my own name to them because the stories weren’t wholly mine.  According to your index, two stories, ‘Nursery School’ and ‘Scream,’ went out under my name, but they were created around existing art, and should have been signed by Null.   I did sign them as Null, but my own name got on them somehow.


One of the Null stories, ‘The Clockmaker,’ was originally Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’.  At least one reader saw through my disguise and wrote in that it looked a lot like the Poe story.  Both ‘Nursery School’ and ‘Scream’ had story and art by Leopoldo Duranona, and I guess Warren only liked the art, which was pretty good.  [For ‘Nursery School’] it was the first time I’d ever tried creating a story out of raw art, and I remember spreading the Xeroxed pages out on my living room floor and pacing back and forth in front of them and free associating like crazy.  After about half an hour it just came to me, and I got down on my hands and knees with a pencil and wrote the whole thing on the art itself, right into the panels, without a pause, in about 45 minutes.  It was almost a mystical experience, a complete story just coming into existence and fitting exactly into the art.  To this day I have no idea what the original story was, but I do know that [Duranona] was unhappy that his story had been thrown out and replaced with something utterly different.  Can’t say I blame him.  But it wasn’t a bad story, you know?  The readers liked it and nobody noticed any dissonance between the art and the tale.  On the others I did, I still don’t know what the original stories were, and all of them were written very quickly.  I’d just pace back and forth in front of the art, absorbing it, and then something would click and out came the story.  I wish they’d given me more like that to do.  It made a very enjoyable break in the routine of thinking up stuff from scratch.


I remember they gave me the art [for ‘Scream’], and then didn’t want to pay me for all those pages where I just let the art carry the story and didn’t write anything.  I told them, “But it took me a long time to decide to leave it silent, longer than it would have taken me to write dialogue.”  So in the end, they paid me for doing nothing.  Bill DuBay bitched about it, but Weezie just laughed and cut me a check.


In the one Vampirella story I did, ‘Flame Spirit,’ it was my idea to mostly leave out the cheesecake and dress Vampi in jeans for her desert vacation.  It was an experiment on the magazine’s part, never repeated, to let me write a Vampi story and take her out of her costume.  I enjoyed it a lot more than they did. 


RA: Do you have any favorite writers or artists in the field today? 


BT: Well, bringing the list up to date, I’d include in no particular order: Stan Sakai for ‘Usagi Yojimbo,’ Sergio Aragones, Neil Gaiman for ‘Sandman’, Alan Moore for just about everything, Bill Willingham for ‘Fables’, Terry Moore, Garth Ennis for ‘Preacher’ and ‘Hitman’, David Lapham for ‘Stray Bullets’, Will Eisner for ‘The Spirit’, Warren Ellis, Jeff Smith for ‘Bone’, Masamune Shirow for ‘Ghost In The Shell’, Linda Medley for ‘Castle Waiting’, Mark Schultz for ‘Xenozenic Tales’, Art Spiegelman for ‘Maus’, Matt Wagner for ‘Mage’, Batton Lash for ‘Wolffe & Byrd’, Judd Winick for ‘Barry Ween’, Makato Kobayashi for ‘What’s Michael’ and ‘Club 9’.  That’s off the top of my head.  I’m sure I’m leaving out many I should include and the list would go on forever if I included comic strips.


RA: How about outside the field?


BT: Outside comics, I read pretty widely.  Again it’s hard to come up with a short list of favorites, but somewhere near the top you’d find: Philip K. Dick, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James Thurber, Joseph Heller, Connie Willis, Craig Rice, Richard Bradford, Leigh Brackett, Peter Rabe, Richard Stark, James W. Hall, P. G. Woodhouse, Lawrence Block, Evelyn Waugh, Fritz Leiber, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Heinlein, Nelson Algren, Erskine Caldwell, Isaac Bashevis Singer, William Goldman, Dorothy Parker, Fredric Brown and a million more.


Why did you leave Warren?


BT: I left because [I thought] the company folded.  All I remember about leaving Warren is that Weezie, who was always my only editor there, told me one day that she was leaving and that Warren wouldn’t be buying any more stories.  From that I made the assumption that Warren was shutting down, but clearly it was just the end of Weezie’s tenure and that [Jim Warren and Bill Dubay, who’d replaced Weezie, had started a] story freeze.* In any case, it was the end of my comics career. 


RA: Thank you, Mr. Toomey.


·         In his book Variable Syndrome, Don McGregor has also mentioned a story freeze that took

place at Warren at this time.





                                                                A 2005 Interview With Clark Dimond!


RA: Could you give us a little background on yourself?


CD: I was born in New Jersey in 1941.  My father was an engineer at Bell Laboratories, working on radar technology during the war, computers [and such] before 1946.  He played flute in the Bell Labs Orchestra.  My mother was a school administrator and an English and History teacher.  She played piano.  I am a musician, started piano at 5, guitar at 17, banjo at 30.  I have a recording studio in the Colorado Rockies.


RA: How did you discover comics?


CD: I learned to read from Carl Barks’ Donald Duck.  I was big on flippism in the second grade.  I pretended I was the Sub-Mariner {“NOT SUBMAREENER!” corrected by schoolteacher mother} when I cavorted in swimming briefs in the lawn sprinkler.  I remember that, because a big wasp stung my toe and [suddenly] I wasn’t the Sub-Mariner any more. 


My friend Billy Hands, the White Sox pitcher, loaned me a three or four-year run of Lone Ranger comics.  I was fond of Blue Beetle.  I suspect it was [because of] Reed Crandall’s art.  My cousins in Milwaukee had a stack of Daredevils from Biro, but Daredevil had disappeared from all but the covers. 


Then in 1950, came EC comics and the Korean War, the reinstitution of the draft, the military consciousness of every boy of that age, pumped with the slick Hollywood war propaganda that played continuously on the back channels of that radio-replacer, television.  No more live music or radio drama, but in Camp Waywayanda, when the dads went to their meeting, the Tales From The Crypt would come out from under the covers and get read aloud in the dark.


RA: Were you a fan?


CD: From the day the concept of an artist [actually] drawing the stories first struck me.  I realized that ‘JPS’ and John Severin drew a lot alike, and I started matching the different kinds of stories to the different artists.  It was an issue of Frontline Combat, I think, that got me started.


But I became what John Benson said was a ‘fringe-fringe’ fan.  One who wrote occasional fan pieces for fanzines, but didn’t write letters, didn’t publish my own zine, etc.  John Benson was the first serious fan I met.  He was a year ahead of me at Grinnell College and had already annotated the library’s copy of ‘Seduction Of The Innocent’.  John had a stack of tabloid Spirit sections from 1948 that he kept under his bed.  It was an awesome opportunity to read a connected swathe of Eisner.  John and I became friends.  We shared a deep and serious interest in film as well.  I wrote a few pieces for his Image and Squa Tront.  John wrote of our visit to Kurtzman’s Help offices in the Chock Full O’ Nuts building.  Help magazine was, I believe, a Warren publication.  [We met] Jim Warren, Gloria Steinem, Robert Crumb.


The office, if memory serves me, was on the second floor of a modest though modernish building on Madison Avenue in the high 40s, low 50s.   These were Kurtzman’s offices.  Gloria Steinem was at the desk.  Kurtzman had his own office.  It had the very busy feel of a shoestring magazine.  Kurtzman had moved from the marginal Humbug!—black & white plus tints, through the Hefnerian excesses of Trump (wonderful stuff), and had developed the fumetti {an Italian word for a photographic graphic story} as a way to fill pages even more cheaply than with art, and was reprinting humor from college humor magazines.  Kurtzman was no stranger to advertising and commercial art, which he also did out of this office, while Steinem was at this time enlisting as a Playboy bunny for Esquire magazine.  John Benson and I were in awe.  Kurtzman knew who John was already from fandom, and John had known Arnold Roth in Philadelphia, so it was exciting enough a visit for John to write it up for [either] Image or Squa Tront.  I read the article, but have forgotten where.  I remember seeing R. Crumb’s cartoons {before his underground days} and some Arnold Roth stuff that had come in that day. 


RA: How did you become a writer at Warren?


CD: John Benson, Bhob Stewart {his roommate}, Bill Pearson, Ted White and some of the top fans organized an inter-shop professional comics group, called the New York Professional Comics Group, where information and erudition could be shared between working artists and writers.  Wally Wood, Roy Krenkel, Ditko, Kane, Roger Brand, Archie, Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, Vaughn Bode, Jeff Jones, Bhob Stewart, Bill Pearson, Ralph Reese, Dan Adkins, Nick Cuti and more were members.  I met Otto Binder once at a meeting—he was carrying Shaver Mystery stories.  It was still meeting when I left in 1970.  What a literate bunch of guys!  I listened and learned a lot.


[Anyway,] Archie Goodwin needed help with scripts, since Creepy and Eerie were running on his stories virtually entirely.  John Benson & Bhob Stewart wrote a Famous Monsters/Creepy hybrid called ‘Scream Test’.  John and I teamed up and wrote ‘Snakes Alive’—the Lizard King of Rock and Roll meets the Vaudaux Priest, steals his songs and gets lizardated.


RA: Was it your first professional appearance?


CD: As a comic writer.  I was editing True Experience for McFadden-Bartell at the time, so I was editing women’s confessions at my day job and writing on the side.  I later, in my downward spiral of magazine employment, edited For Men Only, the men’s sweat magazine at Martin Goodman’s shop.


RA: Many of your stories were co-written with either Terry Bisson or Bhob Stewart.  How did you meet them?


CD: I met Terry at Grinnell the year after I met John Benson.  We met again after several years at a subway news kiosk in New York.  Terry got me the job where he was working at True Romance.  I said “Terry, why don’t we write comics?”  We’d split a six-pack and write after work.  Bhob was a Texas/Louisiana fan.  He’s an excellent editor.  I worked with him on witzend and Castle Of Frankenstein.  I was on the comic book “Council Of Ten”.


RA: What was the Council Of Ten?


CD: Cahiers du Cinema, the French magazine of film criticism, had “Council Of Ten” critics whose pronouncements were voiced as if they were gospel.  Same for Bhob’s Castle Of Frankenstein reviews—which at the very least influenced Stephen King.  {See Danse Macabre}


RA: Did you meet any of the Warren Staff when you were writing for them?


CD: [At that time] I don’t think there WAS a Warren staff.  Archie had an office in the Graybar building where we’d talk over script ideas and assignments.  Archie also had a collection of Saul Bass movie titles so he was another film fan.  After Archie left, there was the Captain Company office with a secretary, somewhere on 42nd Street where I worked.


RA: What was your experience with the staff that was there?


CD: I only saw them when I didn’t get paid.


RA: Your work appeared at the time when Warren was apparently undergoing a great deal of internal upheaval.  Archie Goodwin had left and Bill Parente had not yet come on board.  Jim Warren was the editor.  Could you tell us a little about those days? 


CD: An editor friend of Warren’s, [who was from] Gold Key, did the issues between Archie and Parente.  He commissioned the script that appeared in Creepy #18.  Warren never edited a damn thing.  The guy at Gold Key did.  Then Warren stopped paying.  I knew I wasn’t getting paid.  Jeff Jones wasn’t getting paid, so he didn’t care about whether his art was any good.  The best work comes from those who care.  I camped out in Warren’s office at lunch hour every day until I got my money.  He finally paid me and told me I’d never work for him again and neither would my grandson or anybody he knew unto 7 generations.  I said thanks for the money and left. 


I think, but am not sure, that Parente came on board after I left.  I don’t think the Gold Key guy lasted more than one or two issues.


RA: Have you worked for any other comic companies?


CD: Web Of Horror after Warren, until [publisher Robert] Sproul stole the art and ran off to Florida.  [My stolen story was] about pirates and spacemen, illustrated by Ralph Reese, which I’ve never seen or heard of again and presume to be lost.  It was a chance to actively work with the artist to shape the panels, to hone the dialogue, to collaborate.  Bisson, Reese, and I all cared about that one.  It’s possible Sproul was sleazier than Warren.  Both together weren’t as sleazy as Chip Goodman, Martin’s son.


RA: Do you still keep up with the comics field?


CD: I read an occasional Comics Journal, but mostly read reprints of EC, and follow the continuing work of the EC artists.


RA: Do you have any favorite writers or artists in the field today?


CD: Tom Yeates and I are mutual admirers.  I wrote two pieces for Bhob Stewart’s Wally Wood book, published by Two Morrows last year.  Terry Bisson and I are still close and keep in contact.  Art Spiegelman is a fave.


RA: How about outside the field?


CD: I have an extensive library of horror stories.  Algernon Blackwood, Robert Aickmann, Lovecraft, undiluted REH and Clark Ashton Smith.  Weird Tales.


RA: What are you doing today?


CD: Recording and producing music of original musicians.  Working on the fourth Planet O album at the moment.  Funk.  But also play jazz, Celtic, folk, classical and rock.


RA: Thank you, Mr. Dimond!







                                A 2005 Interview With Barbara Leigh!



RA: Hi, we’re talking to Barbara Leigh--model, actress & author.  Between 1978 and 1979 Barbara was the cover model for seven Vampirella covers.  Barbara, first we thank you for taking the time out of your schedule for this interview. 


BL: You’re welcome, and thanks for the interview.  Jim Warren was the king of his time, and his field.  A real legend.  I liked him a lot.


RA: Where and how did you first hear about Vampirella?


BL:  I first heard about her in a general casting call being held here in Los Angeles.  It was for the movie, VAMPIRELLA, produced by Michael Carreras & Hammer Films.  I went on the interview, and that was the first time I’d heard of the character.  She’s more of an Eastern [US] type comic book hero.  A lot of people out here in LA didn’t know who she was, not then anyway.  Maybe the comics didn’t sell that well out here or something.  In any case I hadn’t heard about her before the casting.  Of course, after that it didn’t take me long to get right into it, she being the ultimate vampire that she was.


RA: You mentioned Michael Carreras.  What can you tell us about him?


BL: He was the producer and owner of Hammer Films.  He loved women heroes, especially Raquel Welch in 1,000,000 Years B.C., which he produced.  And he loved Jane Fonda in Barbarella.  Films like that.  He liked Sci-Fi films with the woman being the lead.  Unusual for his time.  He did all the GREAT vampire films with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.  Even today, those are my favorites, like “The Horror or Dracula”.  I loved Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and got a chance to meet them both.  I would have done Vampirella with Peter Cushing if it had actually happened.  That was a disappointment.  Peter Cushing was my hero.


RA: Cushing would have played Van Helsing?


BL: No, he was cast to play the character Pendragon, Vampi’s side-kick.  He was an incredible actor and a special man.  There’s a book about Peter’s life, on, by Christopher Gullo.  It’s titled  “In All Sincerity”, a must read for any Peter Cushing fan.


RA: Was the movie script ever completed?  Do you remember the storyline?


BL: Yes, the first or second draft was completed.  Vampirella comes from another world where they drink blood as water, she tries to survive on earth, and you can imagine the rest.  Sorry, it’s been a while!  I looked at the script not too long ago and it seemed boring.  Not very good at all, {laughs} but then it was written 25 years ago in 1977 or 1976.  Nowadays, we see movies made from comics with special effects that blow you away, so that Vampirella script definitely needed more action.  Movies are superior today then from those times.


Did you see the last Vampirella movie?  The one that was made by Jim Wynorski?  I did but it wasn’t that good.  They didn’t have a large budget and they didn’t GET the costume right.  The costume was the number one thing about her.  The movie was a bit ridiculous, I guess, maybe even laughable but I thought Talisa Soto did a good portrayal of Vampirella.    Jim could have done better, had he had the budget he needed and wanted.  Jim’s a cool guy, a good director, and a friend.


Anyway, back to me!  {laughs} I got cast to play the part a little while after that first casting call with Michael.  He decided I was it, so I signed a 5-picture contract and went to New York to do the Famous Monsters convention with Peter Cushing and Michael.  Jim Warren introduced me there as Vampirella, both as a model and as the actress who was going to portray Vampirella in the movie.  I think it was the first time anyone had seen the costume on a live person.  That was spectacular.  At that convention they had the famous poster of Vampirella drawn by Jose Gonzalez where she’s pointing her finger with a bat on it.  The kids that attended the convention thought it was me.  I signed many, many posters but I did tell them that I wasn’t the model for this poster.  “We just looked alike.” But in their mind, they thought it WAS me.  Some still do.


RA: What year would this have been? 


BL: 1978?  No, wait, don’t hold me to that.   It’s been a long time now.


Barbara with Forry Ackerman


RA: Did you make the costume that you used for the cover shots?


BL: Western Costumes, a costume company back in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, made it.  They costumed major movie stars in movies and TV, and were located right next to Paramount Studios.  They did a great job.  Western Costume was famous.  Later, when that type of business started winding down, one could go in and rent costumes for private affairs.  It was an enormous warehouse with every type of costume possible.  Everything was set in divisions so if you went to this section, you’d feel like you were a cowgirl in the wild, wild west.  Another section, you’d be looking at space suits.  Another would be tropical islands.  Just amazing.  They had the celebrity section where they made beautiful couture costumes.  The dressing room was like being in Paris.  Designers would come in and out measuring you.  This is where Vampirella’s suit was made.  It was awesome.  The jewelry was done there too, made to match Vampirella’s jewelry, the arm bands and earrings, from the Jose Gonzalez painting.  They used that painting as the guide for the final result.  I love that poster. 


The boots were made by DiFabrizio, who designed shoes for the stars.    Most movie stars had  DiFabrizio’s shoes made for them  


RA: What were your impressions of Jim Warren?


BL:  I really liked Jim Warren.  I regret the way things ended with us.  We had issues with how the cover photos were handled.  I don’t want to get into specifics here but the way it turned out didn’t set well with Jim.  There was some bitterness.   We settled and I received $500.  I was supposed to get all my art back but I only rec’d 3 or 4 pictures out of the 8.  So someone, somewhere, has the original artwork of the rest. I wish it didn’t end the way it did but he was a New Yorker, very hard-nosed.  He was angry, a matter of pride, I suppose.  Anyway, it’s long over.  I really like the man, I really do.  There’s something about Jim, very charming, very cocky too, and now I can look back at this whole thing, almost like an outsider, to see all of the picture and not just my side of it.  I like him.  Bottom line is I thought I should have been paid for the use of my photos that he used on his covers, since I was a model and that is how I survived.  Looking back, he did me a favor. I will always be remembered as a part of Vampirella’s legacy.


RA: Bill DuBay, who was the writer of Vampirella at the time, has an amusing anecdote about the day you met Jim Warren.  His account was that Jim Warren was getting himself spruced up to meet you later that day and that DuBay ran into you in the elevator, stammered out his name and that he wrote your stories.  Later that day, while you were meeting with Warren, he invited DuBay into his office to meet you and you basically jumped up, said “Oh, Dube!” and gave him a big kiss in front of Warren and that Warren’s jaw dropped about six feet.  It’s a funny story and I was just wondering if you remember any of that.


BL: {laughs} I kind of remember us in the elevator.  It does sound like me, like something I’d do.  That’s my good nature.  I’m sure it must have been ok with Dube!


RA: I think he said it was one of the best days of his life.


BL:  How sweet of him to say that.


RA: At one point, after you’d appeared as Vampirella on a number of covers, one of the folks writing into the letters’ page asked if it was definite that you were going to be Vampirella in the movie and the editorial reply was basically “don’t count on it”.  Was that after your trouble with Warren?


BL:  That was from Jim Warren?


RA: I don’t know.  I don’t know who wrote the editorial reply.


BL: Well, that’s ok.  By the time I started appearing on the actual covers, the movie was already cancelled.  Michael Carreras had gone back.  Everything was on hold.  Jim and Carreras were already fighting about all kinds of stuff.  There was an outside party, too, who was trying to get the studio to make or fund the movie.  There was stuff going on about the merchandising.  The movie may have fallen through because there were arguments over who would have the rights to the merchandising.  That’s what I heard.  There were a lot of people involved in that movie.  Too many egos, too many chiefs and not enough Indians.  Something like that.  You never know the complete truth because you can’t see everybody’s motives and their perceptions.  There’s the underlying truth and there’s the part of the truth that you can see.  It’s hard to see all of it, especially if you’re involved in it at the time.


RA: Did you actually read any of the comics themselves?


BL: Before being cast to play Vampirella I had not.  I wasn’t into that sort of thing.  Superman, maybe when I was young.  I grew up fast, my life took me in a different direction.


Do you do conventions or appearances today?


BL: I do!  My favorite convention is the famous, “Chiller Theater” in New Jersey.  I love the Halloween show.  It’s fun!  I hope to do it again this year.  Kevin Clement is the greatest.  He puts on the best shows of ALL.


It makes me happy to get the fan mail that I do.  I try to write everyone back with a picture.  I understand, and do realize, that a lot of that fan mail is from autograph collectors who write to everyone but if someone takes the time to write me, they deserve a response.  Also, one can visit my website at to view my Vampirella photos/covers.   I’ve co-written a book with Marshall Terrill called ‘The King, McQueen And The Love Machine”, which you can find on .  My address for people to write is PO Box 246 Los Angeles, CA   90028.


RA: What are you doing today?


BL: I’m the “Photo Project Coordinator” for Playboy.  I work with the legendary Marilyn Grabowski who’s been the Vice President and West Coast Editor for the magazine for the last 40 years. 


RA: Any final words or thoughts you’d like to share?


BL:  I wish that Jim and I could be friends again.  I hear that he’s still angry with me, and that he hates me or at least doesn’t speak kindly of me which is sad.  It’s been a long time.   We should forgive and forget.  I guess if I’d have known then that Vampirella would come back into my life with fans remembering me forever just for those covers, I would had handled things differently but I was a model.  I was young.  It was my livelihood and when you’re making a living doing something, you have to protect yourself, and the job that you’re doing.  I just wanted to be paid for using my image.   I think most people would understand this.  I hope so.  I’d like to see Jim Warren back in Vampirella’s life.   He brought her to the public and he should be remembered for that.  I think he will be.  He deserves it.


Barbara in 2006 & 1978!


RA: Thank you, Ms. Leigh.  Fans or readers interested in more on Ms. Leigh’s life might want to check out the Jan.-Feb. 2005 issue of Filmfax.  It features a cover photo of Ms. Leigh as Vampirella (from Vampirella #74) with a newly painted background by legendary artist Harley Brown.  There’s also a five-page article with plenty of photos.





                                                A 2005 Interview With Don Glut!


RA: We’re interviewing Don Glut, who has a long career in writing almost every form of media.  Welcome, Don!  Can you give us some information of your background?


DG: That’s a very long and meandering story and I really don’t know where to begin. Most of my biographical information can be found at my professional website ( So, cutting to the chase, I was born in Pecos, Texas in 1944, “more or less” grew up in Chicago, then eventually moved out to Southern California in 1964 to attend USC film school (came in as a junior and graduated in 1967 with a BA degree). Since then I’ve had a number of careers of varying degrees of success…musician, actor, stuntman, etc., basically anything to avoid getting a “real job.” After a while, when all of the smoke generated from all these “careers” had cleared, I settled into being a freelance writer (articles, novels, nonfiction books, scripts, etc), although my real dream since childhood had been to make movies. It wasn’t until 1995 that I got to direct my first feature-length, professional motion picture Dinosaur Valley Girls for my production company Frontline Entertainment ( In more recent years, after realizing I had too long been spreading myself too thin, I’ve focused upon just two careers – making independent movies for Frontline and also writing serious books about dinosaurs.

RA: When did you first get interested in comics?


DG: I’ve loved comics ever since I can remember, and recall actual individual stories from Tarzan, Superman, etc. that came out in the late 1940s. In the middle 1950s I – as did many of us – wrote and drew a lot of my own amateur comics stories, mostly centering around Frankenstein’s Monster and his Universal Pictures cronies, or King Kong and dinosaurs. By the latter 1950s I’d mostly “outgrown” comics, except for retaining an interest in some of the pre-Code horror titles, especially Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein and the ECs. Then, one day, I got sick and had to stay home from school. My Mother went to the corner confectionary store and brought something back she though I might enjoy reading – the second tryout issue of DC’s revived Green Lantern character in Showcase. Until that time my knowledge of superheroes was mostly limited to the caped characters like Superman, Batman and the Martian Manhunter. But I was totally captivated by the look of the GL character (no cape, no string for the mask, etc.), Gil Kane’s “new” art style, and other such “innovations.” Needless to add, I came back to the medium as an actual “fan,” writing LOCs, doing fanzine work, collecting, all of it. Before long, like many fans, I also had the ambition to write comics someday.

RA: You appeared to write nearly every story for Vampirella #1.  How did that come about?


DG: Forrest J Ackerman was my literary agent. I’d written articles for his magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland and his Boris Karloff paperback book The Frankenscience Monster, etc., and he knew that I also wanted to write comics. Forry called me one day and said Jim Warren was looking for new writers for Creepy and Eerie, and asked if I’d like to get involved. You can guess what my answer was. This was my big opportunity to get into professional comics-writing, for which I’ll always be thankful to FJA – even though Warren was paying only $25 a story in those days, and you had to submit a completed script, not just a plot idea or synopsis. Anyway, one day sometime after writing my first-ever professionally published script for Creepy, Forry called again and told me that Warren was putting out a new magazine focusing upon sexy women and starring what both he and Warren then referred to as a  “mod witch.” Forry would be writing the latter’s stories, but I could do some of the others. As it turned out I wrote most of the stories in the first issue of what would finally be called Vampirella (the name, of course, inspired by Barbarella). Nicola Cuti also wrote a story in that initial book. But my early Warren stories really weren’t very good and some are kind of embarrassing when I see them today. I was actually just learning how to write comics back when I got my comics writing break with Warren.

RA: There's some question as to who actually edited that first issue, whether it was Forest Ackerman, Bill Parente, Archie Goodwin, Jim Warren or any combination of the four.  Who was the editor you dealt with?


DG: I remember, at the time, Jim Warren – or maybe Forry, possibly both -- telling me he was going to edit Vampirella. Whether he actually did the editing or not, I don’t know.

RA: Did you meet or interact with Jim Warren?


DG: My first meeting with Jim Warren was at the 1962 World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, where I was still living at the time. I shot 16mm movies of Warren doing the “twist” at the convention. He was a cool guy, I thought, kind of like monster fandom’s equivalent of Hugh Hefner. But I didn’t actually interact with him when I was writing for Vampirella and his other titles, except for an occasional in-person conversation when he would come to Los Angeles to see Forry or whatever. Warren was based in New York and I lived in California.

RA: You wrote at least one story for Skywald, which was illustrated by Juiz Xirinius.  Who were your contacts there?  Were you happy with the results?


DG: That was for Psycho. I had no contacts at Skywald, so I just mailed off a script with a cover letter introducing myself and stating what I’d done in this field. I wish I could have done more for that company. Yes, I was pleased with the way that story came out.

RA: You also wrote & adapted a number of Solomon Kane stories for The Savage Sword Of Conan.  Usually the Robert E. Howard adaptations were adapted by Roy Thomas.  How did you get the gig?  Who were the artists you worked with?


DG: Roy had moved to Southern California and wanted – as I did -- to get into the movie business. I believe he was also trying to get away from his New York life and memories, just coming out of a divorce. Consequently, he didn’t have the time he used to have to do so much comics writing – and he farmed some of it over to me. Also, Roy and I were long-time friends, and he tried to keep me working to pay the bills, etc., a gesture for which I will always be indebted to the “Rascally One.” One of the things Roy gave me to write was Solomon Kane. I didn’t particularly like the character – too prudish for my tastes -- but I wrote it and tried to remain as faithful to Howard as possible. There were various artists who worked on this series, but I especially liked Dave Wenzel’s work.

RA: I remember a particularly fine adaptation of Stanley Weinbaum's 'A Martian Odyssey' that you did with, I believe, Reuben Yandoc.  Did you enjoy doing adaptations?


DG: Thanks for the compliment! I wasn’t crazy about doing adaptations, except for the facts that I didn’t have to come up with an original plot, and that I could simply mark up a book and tell the artist to “draw that.” Then, after the artist broke down and penciled the story as to my markings, I – working in the so-called “Marvel style” (art first, script later) – I wrote in the dialogue, captions and sound effects over the art, then sent it back for lettering and inking. So, in a sense, adapting from the printed page could be quicker and require less original brainpower at my end. I didn’t, however, always enjoy the stories I had to read for adaptation. By the way, all of my scripts for Warren and Skywald – except for my last Warren story, “Devil Woman,” which I did with artist Alfredo Alcala for Vampirella, and which was intended to kick off a series -- were written in the old so-called “DC style,” from full scripts.

RA: Did you work for any other B&W companies or magazines?


DG: I wrote “The Ghastly Dummy,” a story about a mad ventriloquist for Marvel’s Haunt of Horror, which was bought but (because the magazine got canceled) never published. Marv Wolfman, who became a friend, bought that one. And, of course, I wrote a number of stories for Warren’s Eerie, also.

RA: Who were your influences in the comics field {if any}?  In the writing field in general?

DG: As far as comics are concerned, I was probably most influenced by Stan Lee, Al Feldstein and Dick Briefer. Regarding writing in general, my biggest influences were most likely Edgar Rice Burroughs, Edgar Allan Poe and such “pulp fiction” authors as “Shadow” creator Walter Gibson (aka Maxwell Grant). The characters of Frankenstein’s Monster and Dracula, as created by Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker, also influenced me, although the “old-fashioned” writing styles of those authors did not have much influence.


RA: What do you consider to be the high points of your comics career?


DG: I was quite fond and proud of The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor, which I created for Gold Key, despite the sometimes very strange and archaic rules and attitudes that prevailed at that company. Doc Spektor was a very personal character to me and I identified with him a lot. Other “high points” would include Tragg and the Sky Gods (which I also created for Gold Key), some of the Tarzan comics I scripted for Russ Manning, plus some of the What If? and Kull the Destroyer stories I did for Marvel. Oh, yes, there was also an adaptation I did for the revived Classics Illustrated of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World – which unfortunately never came out.

RA: Any final thoughts or anything you’d like to plug? 


DG: Ah, something to plug! How’s this…?


Our company Frontline Entertainment is currently putting the money together to shoot our sequel to The Mummy’s Kiss, to date our most popular and successful low-budget/campy/sexy horror movie. We already have a small percentage, but need more to get the film shot – hopefully in time to sell at this year’s American Film Market (November). Minimum investments of $5,000. If you or anyone you might know might be interested in coming in on this project, let me know and I’ll give more details.


Thank you for listening!


RA: Thank you for participating, Don. 


                                                A 2005 Interview With Timothy Moriarty!


RA: Thanks for agreeing to the interview!  Can you give us some background on yourself?


TM: I was born in Cleveland in 1951 (the late medieval period).  I attended Boston College, studied theater and literature and graduated in 1973.   Came to New York in 1976 to be an actor and writer, and quickly dropped the acting.  I’ve written many novels, but the actual published material includes one novel (Vampire Nights from Pinnacle Books, 1989) and six culinary books as a co-author.  These include Chocolate Passion (1999, John Wiley & Sons) and the Grand Finales series of pastry books, also for Wiley.  Lots of articles on various subjects.  I’m the father of two grown lads.


RA: Where did you get your first experience with comics?


TM: As a kid, I loved Batman and Superman.  I loved comics based on science fiction and horror movies.  Mostly, though, I read Classics Illustrated.  I had a huge collection of those, and read them over and over again. 


RA: How did you discover the Warren line of magazines?


TM: As a kid, my other obsession was Famous Monsters Of Filmland.  I was a total bozo, subscriber, hoarder, re-reader.  Huge fan of Forrest Ackerman.  The combination of grisly images and punny humor was irresistible to me.  And, of course, horror and science fiction movies were my very favorites.  I ordered cheesey products from Captain Company.  (Remember how bad those Frankenstein masks smelled when you wore them?  That was me.)


RA: How did you get your start as a professional in the comics field?


TM: After a few years as a bachelor and bum in New York, working in Village restaurants and writing my going-nowhere novels, my bride-to-be urged me to get a career.  I chose publishing.  I started applying for jobs—Time, Newsweek, etc.  No go.  Eventually I found Warren Publishing, and remembering my love for Famous Monsters, I applied.  I didn’t even know they published comics.  A gentleman named Chris Adames gave me a shot as a part-timer.


RA: How did you end up with the lead editorial position there?


TM: I believe I became editor-in-chief of the whole thing within a year.  It was a bizarre situation.  Bill DuBay and Chris really didn’t like each other at all, and I was caught in the middle.  Chris went on vacation, and never came back.  I believe DuBay fired him, though I was told he quit.  And then, because of DuBay’s budgetary extravagances, DuBay himself was sort of pressured out, or decided to quit.  I never knew the whole truth.  All I know is, I looked around, and suddenly I was top of the heap.  Even more bizarre: around the same time, Forrest Ackerman quit his beloved Famous Monsters, and suddenly, if I wanted the title, I could become editor-in-chief of that, as well.  A dream since childhood.  But I decided I couldn’t.  I thought the fans would resent it.  So I hired Randy Palmer, a long-time writer for FM, and we produced one issue of FM with me taking credit as co-editor, before the whole company went under.  Really, all of these goings-on can be explained in one way: there was no money.  The company was dying a slow death.


RA: Did you meet any of the regular Warren contributors of the time?


TM: Jim Stenstrum I met a few times.  Great guy, and I was a huge fan of his work.  Jose Gonzalez sent me a personal sketch of Vampirella which I have to this day.  I spoke with William Gaines, of Mad & EC fame, a few times.  Most of our artists were in South America, and I never met them.  The one episode, which makes me cringe to this day: I was a huge fan of Ray Harryhausen, all my life.  The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts…loved them to tears.  So when he came out with Clash Of The Titans in 1981, I had a chance to interview him by phone.  And I was in that young man/aggressive reporter/total a-hole mode, and I actually managed to offend him, by asking him “Bubo the Owl is one of your weakest animations.  Was the budget low, were you rushed?”  Junk like that.  My one chance to tell the man all he meant to me, and I just irked him.  Stupid.


RA: What were your impressions of Jim Warren & Bill DuBay? 


TM: Jim Warren I met maybe twice.  He was never there.  But his office was just skyscrapers of paper.  A mess.  I heard many, many stories about him, but not being witness, I can’t repeat them (or even remember most of them).  Bill DuBay…he was a volatile guy.  Very funny and creative, both on the writing and art ends.   Sort of like Bruce Willis, physically and from the way he carried himself.  I learned a ton from him, about comic storytelling, writing cover blurbs, composition.  We got on well.  But toward the end, he was writing, what—60% of the stories in the comics, and that one style dominating, I felt the comics were getting stale.  The company folded not long after he left, so I never got a chance to make my own imprint.


RA: You wrote a number of stories while at Warren.  Do you have a favorite among them?


TM: We sometimes got eight page stories from artists from Italy and other foreign countries, and, having no idea what the actual story was, made up new dialogue to fit the art.  I loved that challenge.  But my favorites were, of course, the ones I created myself.  ‘The Micro-Buccaneers’ and ‘Wizard Wormglow’.  There were about three installments of each [in The Goblin].  They went nowhere, got no recognition, but I’m very fond of them.  The artists were terrific.


RA: Warren went through a rather lengthly fallow period just before your move to editor-in-chief.  However, just before the line was cancelled, the content of the comic pages began taking a turn upward, with a number of good stories from Don McGregor, the debut of Torpedo, a nice adaptation of an A. E. Van Vogt story, and a distinct upswing in the quality of the Vampirella stories.  What were your future plans for the magazines?


TM: I was still very much an apprentice when I was suddenly vaulted to the throne, so I can’t claim to have had long-range plans.  But more diversity of artists and writers [was a definite goal].  My good friend David Allikas, had a couple of series in mind that I planned to publish.  Some clever superhero ideas with a witty treatment.  I know I like the epic form, so there would have been sprawling stories and cliffhangers.


RA: Do you remember any unpublished stories?  There were a few that saw the light of day—a DuBay/Elias story that appeared in Epic Illustrated and possibily some material in Renegade’s anthology Revolver from Stenstrum & DuBay.  Were there more or were the coffers bare when the books ceased publication?


TM: Stenstrum was done with us by that time, as far as I know.  I can’t recall what else was in the works.  I was working on a Vampirella epic with one of her best artists—a full-issue story of her fighting an army of ghouls living underground all over the world, traveling via tunnels connecting graveyards.  I had about three of the six stories written and illustrated when the plug was pulled.


RA: What were the final days like at Warren? 


TM:  The final days (meaning weeks, months) were sad and frantic.  A lot of artists and writers were begging for their payments.  It gradually dawned on me that some would never be paid, which was heartbreaking.  One by one, in-house people were being laid off.  The editors were trying to return artwork we knew we wouldn’t be able to use, and the big bosses were bugging us about payments to the post office.  We were working on stories we weren’t sure would ever be printed, working with artwork and scripts that had sat on the junk pile for years, because there was no money to buy new work.  People were looking for jobs while working this one.  Some employees were snapping up Captain Company items (we had bins full of Star Wars action figures).  If I’d been smart/unscrupulous I’d be a millionaire today.  There was nothing sudden about it.  For most of us, it was a slow death.


RA: Why exactly did the company fail?


Why did it fail?  I was never privy to the details, but think about it: Warren Comics were selling for $3 or so when the Marvels and DC comics were maybe 50 cents or 75 cents.  (My numbers are probably way off, but the proportions are roughly accurate.)  They were color.  We were black and white.  They, of course, had a superior lineup of superheroes.  No comparison.  This was at a time when publishing was becoming more expensive with paper, printing costs, office rents and postage all on the rise.  Meanwhile, if I remember correctly, [the tradition outlets for Warren magazines] were dying and the industry was at an ebb.  I also don’t believe that Jim Warren was the most fiscally responsible person on the planet.  So it all added up to fizzle.


RA: Looking back, what would be your most vivid memory of your time at Warren?


TM: My first taste of publishing.  My first taste of authority.  Problem solving, managing.  Getting to go to screenings of so many great science fiction movies.  Talking to Forry by phone a few times.  Wandering the aisles of the Captain Company, with all the toys, masks and action figures waiting to be shipped out.  Mostly: the sheer joy of seeing my words, my stories, turned into brilliant images by all those wonderful artists.  That was truly a thrill.


RA: Have you done comic work for other companies?


TM: Not a word.


RA: Do you still follow comics in any way?


TM: Sorry to say I don’t.  My path in life has become being a managing editor, responsible for getting magazines to printers on time, managing staffs of writers and artists and photographers and editors.  I go with whatever the subject matter is…fitness, chocolate, health and, now, wine.  I’m currently the managing editor of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, based in Elmsford, New York.  It’s a good gig.  I continue to write novels.


RA:  Thanks for sharing.  It’s much appreciated.




                                                A 2005 Interview With Jerry Grandenetti!


RA: Hello, Mr. Grandenetti and thank you for this opportunity!  How did you get your start in comics?


JG: I really got started in comics by luck.  I was very good in math so in high school I decided to study architecture.  My father’s influence, there.  My first job was with C. C. Combs: Landscape Architects.  I was a junior draftsman and was only 15 at the time.  In those days comics were sold at most stores and newsstands.  They were all over the place.  I had always liked to draw and I started to copy the art in the comics.  After high school I went into the navy with a specialist X rating.  Working aboard ship or on the base I did a lost of cartoons or drawings for the base and ship’s papers.  I was also a draftsman in the administration building on base. 


When I got out of the navy at the age of 21, I decided architecture was not as much fun as drawing so I put together a portfolio of some of the stuff I did in the service to see if I could get some work in the comics industry.  The first place I went to was Quality Comics.  Busy Arnold, the boss there, told me Will Eisner was looking for an assistant and sent me over.  I didn’t know who Eisner was.  Will hired me and I don’t think it was because of my drawing ability because for the next two weeks I did nothing but erase pages and white out lines.  Then I started inking backgrounds.  Then I began to do my own backgrounds.  Then I began to ink figures as well as backgrounds.  Nothing much impressed me at the time because I didn’t know the greatness of Will Eisner until some time later. 


By this time I was going to the Pratt Institute and hoping to do full color for the slick mags.  John Spranger was penciling the Spirit when I got there but he left in a couple of months.  Will did his own penciling and inking after that.  Abe Kanister was lettering.  Jules Feiffer was hired then {laughs}, would you believe, to erase and do the white outs!  Later on he began coloring the Spirit’s silver proofs.  It was at this time that I realized the guys like Infantino and Kubert were drawing their own comics at the ripe age of 15 years old!  So for the rest of my career I’ve been playing catch-up.


RA: What was it like working with Will Eisner? 


JG: Working for Eisner was exciting.  Although there was no such thing as teaching or showing you how to develop your craft.  I think at this time he was trying to make the Spirit pay off and become a success.  Which it never really was.  Before its demise he tried everything.  Had me penciling the Spirit, later on it was Wally Wood, but nothing could save the Spirit!  Sad, too.  It was probably the greatest comic strip ever created.


RA:  How did the Dr. Drew strip come about?  At that point your artwork looked very much like Will Eisner’s.


JG: Will Eisner created Dr. Drew and I was to do it in the Eisner style.  Which I did, badly.  Anyway, after a couple of stories I began to do my own thing. 


RA:  How did you get involved with Warren Publishing?


JG: I think I began to do stories for Warren around 1965 or 1966.  I’m not the best guy for interviews of this sort.  I never kept records, etc.  I started out for them by ghost penciling stories {see below for titles} for Joe Orlando.  I think it was only about 5 or 6 stories.  Then I started doing my own for them.  I also penciled stories for Joe when he became an editor at DC.


I had a good relationship with Joe.  I think because we both strived for a different look in out work.  Besides the Warren work I also helped Joe create two books for DC.  One was called ‘Scooter’.  I’m not sure what the title of the other book was.


RA: Did you meet Jim Warren?  You also worked for a number of editors while at Warren: Archie Goodwin, Bill Parente, Billy Graham, J. R. Cochran and Bill DuBay.  What do you remember about them?


JG: Yes, I met Warren.  He was a very interesting talent and publisher.  As far as the editors, I only worked with Archie Goodwin.  He was a great talent.  His scripts always came with little thumbnail drawings that he did.  They were a very good guide to the artist.  He thought like an artist.


Like I said, I was playing catch-up for most of my career, until I got to Warren.  Then I really began to experiment.  In fact, from one story to another I would change styles…looks…approaches. 


RA: Do you have any favorites among the dozens of stories you drew for Warren?


JG: If I had to pick a favorite…I guess it would be either ‘Bernice’ or ‘The Adventure Of The German Student’.  Both of those were scripted by Archie. 


RA: You were doing odd panel angles and perspectives long before they became popularized by Jim Steranko and Neal Adams.  What brought about this?


JG: I would have to say Eisner influenced me in the beginning.  Maybe I went a little too far with some of that stuff.  My architecture background was also behind it. 


RA: You were often paired with scripts from T. Casey Brennan.  Was that by choice or by editorial decision?


JG:  It was mostly editors who made the decision on who to pair me up with.  I’m not sure at this point who wrote most of the scripts I drew.  I may have done some T. Casey Brennan scripts.


RA: From 1968-1969 you didn’t appeared in the Warren books and then you stopped altogether around 1973.  Was there any particular reason for this?


JG: From 1965 to 1974 I really bounced around.  I was doing some comics, some advertising illustrations.  Some of it was in color and some in black & white.  Around 1990 I took a staff job with Young & Rubicam as the art director/illustrator.


RA: You did a lot of work over the years for DC, particularly in their mystery and war books.  Do you have any favorites from that period?


JG: Nah, I don’t have any favorite DC stories.  Anyway, at DC, I was doing the commercial DC look. 


RA: What are you doing today?


JG: Today I’m freelancing for a few advertising agencies in New York.  I also do fine art paintings in watercolor, acrylics and mixed media.  I’ve had a gallery showing of my watercolors.  Sold a few. 


RA:  Who are your favorite writers or artists in the comic field, both from yesterday and today?


JG: The foreign market has a bunch of very good comic artists.  Don’t know their names, though.  The American comic book artists are more involved in special effects tricks and production impact.  Greats from the past are Krigstein…Kubert…Infantino…Toth and many more. 


RA: Which comic pro {writer, artist, etc} do you think has been overlooked in the field and deserves a spotlight show on them?


JG: Irv Novick.  I think his work has been overlooked.  It really is great work.


RA: What impresses you {or depresses you} about the comic field today?


JG: The books today have no diversity.  No individuality.  They don’t have the personal touch which makes for good readership impact.  The drawings are not good.  The stories are bad.  The books today have good special effects, good production, good rendering and shading but good shading is not good drawing!  I think comics are on the way out.  This is certainly only my guess.  I don’t know what current sales are like.  I hope I’m wrong because comic books are the last frontier for artist illustrators. 


Computer generated art/graphics seems to be a good vehicle for illustrators.  I’ve been doing some interesting stuff on certain programs like “adobe”, “pro 9” and “art studio”.  Right now, for me, the problem is getting a large hard copy without losing too much to distortion.  For comic books you don’t need too much enlargement.  Maybe that’s the way to go.  For all I know, all the current comic work is being done on computers today.


RA: On a personal note, I’d like to thank you, not only for this interview, but for many years of reading and comics pleasure.


Warren stories ghost penciled by Jerry Grandenetti


1. Special Forces (Blazing Combat #3)

2. Ahead Of The Game (Eerie #2)

3) Under The Skin (Eerie #3)

4) House Of Evil (Eerie #4)

5) Vampire Slayer! (Eerie #5)  



                                                             A 2005 Interview with David Allikas!
RA: When did you first enter the world of comics?
DA: First time I held a comic in my hands was age five. All I clearly remember is seeing The Thing (and having nightmares about him). This was 1962, so I obviously had a single-digit issue of Fantastic Four in my possession!! I know I was buying comics regularly by 1963 because I remember the price jumping to 12 cents. By early 1964, I was buying every DC superhero comic published. In the summer I’d get a quarter from my mother every day walk five blocks to the candy store and buy two comics.
RA: Do you recall your first experience with the Warren's line of magazines?
DA: I remember buying my first Warren: the 1965 Famous Monsters annual. I read some Creepys and Eeries at a friend’s house once or twice, but due to the high price tag {35 cents, almost three times the cost of the average comic!}, didn’t buy any myself until years later.
RA: How did you become a professional in the comics world?  How did you get the editorial position at Warren?
DA: I started out by writing for the humor mags (Mad, Sick, and Cracked) while in college. During grad school I started writing for Murray Boltinoff and eventually other editors at DC: horror, sci-fi, war. This experience probably helped me get the job at Warren when I answered their ad in the New York Times. Tim Moriarty interviewed me and hired me. Bill DuBay was still the editor, but came in only sporadically while Tim handled things day-to-day.
RA: Did you meet any writers or artists while working in editorial?
DA: Not many freelancers showed up at the Warren office, compared to DC or Marvel. For one thing, most of the artists lived overseas. And we didn’t have many writers. At the time, we were trying to use up a massive inventory of stories. A previous editor, I was told, couldn’t say no to writers and bought EVERYTHING. Wish I’d met even one editor like that during my time in comics--but anyway, we had all these stories to use up, and because the best had been used already, we were left with the dregs, including a lot of art for which the scripts were missing and we had to concoct brand new stories without even knowing the plot. Most of it could best be described not as inventory but as stuff that had been shelved because it was deemed unusable. 
RA: Did you meet Jim Warren and, if so, what was your opinion or impressions of him?  You also worked with both Bill DuBay and Tim Moriarty.  What was that like?
DA: During my year at Warren, Jim Warren showed up twice, I think. His office was kept closed. One day I passed it to find the door open and him standing inside. His secretary happened to be there, so she introduced us. He seemed very pleasant, very personable. Said something to me about how he planned to start coming in a lot more often and really get things in shape again. The next time I saw him was at the bankruptcy auction.
Before I met Bill DuBay, one of the production artists described him as “a prick, but a fair prick.” I can appreciate why the art staff would think of him that way. He was tough on them, very demanding. He created a lot of extra work for everyone by insisting that the magazines conform to rules that were important to him but probably didn’t make them much better. Like, on the letters pages, a new letter had to begin at the top of each column. Hard to achieve in the days of pasting up type; we were constantly cutting and adding lines from letters. And, when we did an issue of reprints, if even one of the stories was from the later era when the word balloons were typeset, we would have to go back and set all the hand-lettered balloons on the other stories in type and paste them over the original ones. All this led to a lot of late nights. I think the problem was that DuBay was at heart a big budget guy in what was, or at least what had become, a small budget company. He had high standards and wasn’t real flexible. Significantly, he left for good just before the money dried up almost completely. I think if Marvel or DC had been smart enough to grab him, he could have made waves. Just look at what he did at Red Circle/Archie right after Warren, around 1983: some real revolutionary stuff that went unnoticed because it was about 10 years too early to take an independent (or an imprint like Red Circle) seriously.
But as far as DuBay being fair, one incident will always stick with me. We were in the middle of our worst deadline pressure ever. I mean, so bad that he was coming in every day. And I needed a week off. Not for something life-or-death, but something that was important on a personal level. Tim advised me not to even ask DuBay. But I did go in and ask. He spent about five minutes listing the reasons I couldn’t have the time. “We have this to do and that to do and what the f#$% is wrong with you for even asking,” etc. And when he finished he paused a moment and said, “But if it’s that important to you, go ahead and do it.” DuBay, see, was a free-spirited guy. He could easily see himself having to decide between doing the right thing for the company and doing something really important for himself. And being fair, he gave me the same slack. But he had to holler at me first, because it was important to him to act like a prick. He wasn’t. In fact, he was a soft touch for several writers and artists.
Tim Moriarty, who has remained a close friend through the years, was the perfect editor for the days of economic freefall. He had never written comics before taking the job, never read them much as a kid, though he had been a fan of Famous Monsters and horror movies. But he sat down and started writing and editing them better than most of the people who’d been doing it for years at the major companies (which isn’t saying much, but still…). He eventually published a novel, Vampire Nights, which is one of the four or five truly frightening things I’ve ever read. So, the justice of this world being what it is, it naturally went nowhere, although it came close to being made into a movie. 
Bill Mohalley, the art director, I’ve also remained friendly with. He’s been art director at Starlog since shortly after Warren folded. He had been there about as long as DuBay, since the early ’70s. I would say that if there was one person on the premises who truly loved the company, it was Mohalley. He would get excited about little things like an ad pulling well and selling out our inventory on a particular toy. He did the covers for all the magazines and laid out Famous Monsters in its entirety. The rest of us had little to do with Famous Monsters. Tim wrote some articles on a freelance basis, and I wrote photo captions and contents page blurbs. 
RA: What were your duties at Warren?
DA: Most of my time was spent writing ads for the items we sold through the books (toys, books, model kits, etc.), writing the blurbs and other promotional copy found throughout the magazines, and “specing” word balloons, that is, retyping the scripts into captions and word balloons that the typesetter would set line by line (though more often I’d typeset them myself). We were the first comics company to do this, by many years. I guess the others waited so long because at the time there was no font that looked anything like real hand-lettering. We could get away with it because we, obviously, had less of a traditional comic book look to our mags.
RA: As well as editing the Warren books, you wrote a number of stories.  Do you have a favorite?
DA: Tim gave me the Pantha series (in Vampirella) to write. A well-known Marvel writer was given a shot first, but any time a Marvel or DC writer tried to write for us, it was the same story: As bad as the stuff they were hacking out over there was, they managed, amazingly, to drop it a notch further for us. Anyway, Tim wanted a new direction for the character. I came up with the idea of Pantha learning that if she were to have children with her longtime love interest, Adam, the kids would come out deformed due to the combination of her Drakulonian genes and Adam’s human ones. She crossed paths with the world’s most famous big game hunter (Tim’s idea), who was in search of a missing European prince who could also turn into a panther. And she joined the hunter in his search for him, hoping that he was also a Drakulonian and, therefore, the only man on earth she could safely marry. My plan was to hook her up with the hunter eventually. Two stories were published before the company folded.
RA: Looking back, what was your most vivid memory of your time at Warren?
DA: Combat journalism, always racing deadlines. Waxed type stuck all over the floor because no one ever had time to scrape it up. Yet the place shut down every Friday afternoon for a party, with liquor provided by the company--the same company which gave out $10 bonuses at Christmas--go figure. The best memories, of course, are of the people. Several of us wound up working together again shortly after Warren’s demise at a publishing company founded by two guys who worked at Warren, Mike Schneider (circulation director) and Jeff Rovin (consulting editor on Famous Monsters). Bill DuBay worked there for a short time; Tim, Dan Tunick (controller) and I were there into the 1990’s. 
Dan was more or less the boss during Jim Warren’s years of absence. DuBay had creative control and reported to Jim, not Dan, but Dan was the money guy, and older, and I think DuBay respected that. None of us appreciated Dan at the time we worked there. We blamed a lot of our problems on him. Like, he wouldn’t spend $500 for a floppy drive for the typesetting machine. That would have saved hours and hours of work every week, inputting the same stuff over and over. But we didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes: Warren would call Dan every few months and order him to send whatever profits the company had made, and refuse to discuss business. Ultimately, Dan had to file for Chapter 11 without Warren’s knowledge because he couldn’t reach him. And then Warren threatened to sue Dan for ruining his company. I got to know Dan better at Haymarket; he was a rare human being. Two things in particular I remember about him. One: he would never walk past me at the typesetting machine without slapping me on the back. Two: No matter what he was doing when you walked into his office for help, he would drop it and help you. Every time.
RA: Have you done comic work for other companies?
DA: I wrote for DC for a couple of years after Warren, and also for Marvel (Crazy magazine and What If?). Other than occasional sales to Mad and Cracked, I haven’t done any comics work since the mid-’80s. Unless you count Dr. Wonder, a title of my own which I published five issues of from 1996 to 1998.
RA: What are you doing today?  Are you still following comics?  If so, do you have any favorite writers/artists/titles? How about writers or artists outside the field?
DA: I’m an editorial packager, putting together newsletters and magazines for various publishers. I don’t follow comics. I wish I could; in fact, I have a recurring dream where I’m at a newsstand and the rack is full of comics like the ones I enjoyed in the ’60s and ’70s. Always disappointing to wake up from that and realize that all we have today are comics that are unreadable. I have enjoyed most of the recent superhero movies, and I think the Justice League and Teen Titans cartoon series are outstanding. I don’t know why DC and Marvel refuse to publish comics that tell a story like those cartoon series do. If they did, perhaps they’d sell more comics. I guess we can’t get them to care much about that, though, when a single Batman or Spider-Man movie earns more money than Marvel does for an entire year. And of course DC loses money every year, but who cares (see previous sentence)? Creatively, I’ve spent the past few years writing comedy songs, in the tradition of Tom Lehrer and Allan Sherman, and planning to release an album of them on my own. If anyone reading this is interested, go to for a few samples.
Doing this interview has brought back a lot of memories, especially of how good the Warren magazines were. But, realistically, if the company had survived until the present day, their standards probably would have sunk unimaginably low along with the rest of the industry. Everything was good in the late ‘60s because Marvel was so great that the other companies had no choice. It was like what the Beatles did to pop music. DC was good. Tower was good. Hell, Charlton was good. When Marvel began its decline in the ‘70s, it was like the boss going out to lunch. Everyone else stopped working as hard. Warren might have been the exception. DuBay and later Tim tried to hold it together, but the company didn’t have the deep pockets it needed, and then of course there was the problem of having an owner who gave every indication of having gone insane. Maybe it’s better that Warren folded when it did; we get to remember it at its best.
RA: Thank you!

                                                                A 2005/2006 Interview with Don McGregor!


RA: Thank you for the interview, Mr. McGregor!  Can you tell us a little about your early life & your discovery of comics?


DM: Well, if you’ve read ‘Ragamuffins’, and I know you have, the first story pretty much recounts my initial encounter with comics better than I could tell you here.   That’s pretty much on the money about my discovery of comics.  I guess I was about five years old.  I would go to kindergarten and there was a store along the way where they’d hang the comic books on the racks.  There was just an immediate love for them.  I never really thought about writing them, you know.  The impulse to be a storyteller was there from the start and I don’t ever really remember a time when I couldn’t read the comics.  I probably could literally read them by the time I was five or six.  I don’t know if I could read every word but I got enough that I could get what was going on….  People didn’t read them to me.  I think my love of comics compelled me to want to read.


The first comic I bought was a Hopalong Cassidy comic.  Hopalong Cassidy #65.  I got a dime a week as an allowance.  When I bought that first one, my dad came home and said “What’d you do with your allowance?” and I said “I got a comic book!”  My father said “No, no!  No son of mine is going to read comic books!  You took your whole allowance and wasted it on a comic book!” 


The next week the next monthly issue of Hopalong Cassidy came out with a new cover and I had to have that.  So I came home that second week and dad came home and said “Well, what’d you do this week?”  “I got another comic book!!!!” {laughs}  I think that got my allowance taken away for a little bit.  Many years later when I became a comic book writer, I said to my Dad “Well, Dad, what’da think now?  There’s a comic book right in front of ya and your son’s writing them.” 


I loved comic books very early on but it wasn’t comics that I really thinking of writing when I started putting pencil to paper, it was other mediums.  I have always loved having a story told to me, or loved telling a story.


I started writing stories when I was seven or eight or nine.  They were always prose stories.  I loved film though.  I loved comics.  I was always reading comics.  I just hadn’t given any thought to writing them.  About the time Warner Brothers were doing all their private eye shows in the early 1960s, which I really loved, I would do comic strip versions of 77 Sunset Street, Bourbon Street Beat and Hawaiian Eye.   My little stapled comics would mix the titles of those series and it would become a weird hybrid, something like 77 Bourbon Eye!  {laughs} And I would mix all the names up.  I don’t know what locale I’d put them in though and I couldn’t draw to save my life.  I suspect my mom still has those comics, buried somewhere in the cellar of her home.  No one’s ever seen them and I have no plans for that to ever change!  {laughs}  I loved comics that much but most of the time I was writing prose stories.


By 13 or 14 I was working on mystery novels.  I had a couple of private eye characters I was playing around with.  Then at 16, I got a hold of my dad’s 8mm bolex camera.  At 16, I realized that if you wrote the film and directed the film and acted in the film several things happened.  One, you always won the fight.  So if somebody was ten times your size it didn’t matter.  They’d say “Listen, Don, I could tear you in half.  I could beat you to a pulp.” and I’d say “You know that and I know that but. see, in the script here it says I win, so this is how we’re gonna do it.” 


Amazing how if the word is on paper, people look at it, shrug, and go “Well, okay, you’re right.  Says it right there.”  This was infinitely preferably to real life.  Then, number two, on top of that, you always got the girl.  I loved this!  This beats real life and, on top of that, it becomes real life.  Playacting can get real real quick.  I don’t know if I thought this in actual words, but there was a definite attitude of “Damn!  I’m going to dedicate my life to this.”  I was really playing around more with film and prose than comics. 


But then I went to one of Phil Seuling’s comic conventions in 1969 and that was the start of my comics career. 


RA: I know your first professional story to appear was ‘The Fade-Away Walk’ in 1971.


DM: It’s not the first one I sold though.  That was the first one to see print.  My first comic script to be purchased was ‘When Wakes The Dreamer’.  It was years before it saw print {in Eerie #45 (Feb. 1973)} and what held it up was that Billy Graham was going to draw it and he’d done a spectacular opening page for it, but for one reason or another, it just didn’t happen.  That opening page was one of the pages I let Jon B. Cooke reproduce for THE WARREN COMPANION book, after we went through the art I had.  I don’t think we ever found the finished art for Billy’s version of another early story of mine, ‘The Vampiress Stalks The Castle This Night’, or I’m sure Jon would have wanted to use it.  Yet, I’m certain, if I knew where to look, I still have that art.  One of these days, while I’m looking for something else, there it’ll be!


Anyway Billy was going to draw that vampiress  story, which also saw print many years later.  It’s a very early script.  I thought it was the second, but somehow, thinking on it, I believe that’s a twelve pager, and if it is, then I did two before it, at 10 pages, so it can’t be the second one.   Billy had actually drawn and inked finished pages of that story and, as the lead characters were about two runaway young people, he had drawn my ex-wife and me as the characters in the story.  But, again, it was just something Billy didn’t finish.  He was probably too busy with various other projects, not to mention being the first black Art Director in comics.


RA: Well, he did become the Warren editor right around that time.


DM: I’m pretty sure Billy was already working on staff when I started writing for Jim Warren.  I often stayed with Billy up in Harlem whenever I came to New York to try to sell stories to magazines like Mike Shayne, Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen and other places.  He was very kind to take me in whenever I needed a place to stay.   I would get a roundtrip bus ticket from Rhode Island, where I lived, to New York City and stay in New York as long as I had money.  Billy and I…ohh, it was a great time.  We had many adventures together.  If I ever had the chance to reprint his Sabre art for An Exploitation Of Everything Dear, I hope there’s enough room for me to do a memorial to him, and tell the anecdotes that were wild, but not ones that I can be blackmailed with.  When I’d run out of money, I still had my roundtrip ticket to get back to Rhode Island.  Billy was just a renaissance guy.  He was just terrific. 


RA: Was Billy Graham the editor who bought your first story or was that Archie Goodwin?


DM: Archie Goodwin.  When I first met Jim Warren—trust me, this all bears on ‘The Fade-Away Walk’—I was at that Phil Seuling convention and I had done a comic version of ‘Detectives, Inc.’ which my good buddy and stunt fighter/actor companion Alex Simmons drew.  It was 1969 or 1970, I’m not exactly sure which year.  It was a long time ago!  This was the time when Jim Warren was thinking of taking all of his magazines and going mail order with them.  Remove them completely from the newsstands so that he could circumvent the censorship stuff that was going on and he wouldn’t have to deal with the dictates of the distributors and stores and everything.  We had taken ‘Detectives, Inc.’ down to New York but, being young guys, we didn’t want to sit around some table trying to sell them.  At that time, they actually had somebody there to take over your table and sell your books while you went around to the various tables and do whatever you wanted. 


I had gone to one of the panels that had Jim Warren and a bunch of other editors on it.  They were discussing the state of the business or some such.  As they were going up on the dais, I handed the participants copies of ‘Detectives, Inc.’.  Not that I had any particular battle plan, but I figured that a lot of times the people up on those panels got bored when somebody else was speaking.  If they had something right in front of them, maybe they’d read it.  I had used a bright, Pepto-Bismol pink for the cover so I could seen whenever anybody was picking that magazine up to look at it while they were up there.   I was like Pepto-Bismol neon that you could see all the way to the back of the room!


Anyway, Jim was giving a speech about how he was publishing the greatest comics in the world and how nobody could compare with them.  Now he was going to go mail order which was going to be the greatest thing ever.  And…just to show you I had no battle plan for selling ‘Detectives, Inc.’ at all or asking these people for work—I raised my hand and they called me up.  I said “Mr. Warren, if that’s true, then why are you publishing the kind of crap you’re publishing?”  Jeez, Jim just went ballistic!

{laughs} And I probably don’t blame him!


So there was a big, thunderous response to this.   Then after the panel was over, Jim Warren came and stalked me out.  He said “Who in the hell are you?  How dare you ask me a question like that?”  I said “Well, it’s true.  You publish a lot of good stuff but you also publish a lot of really bad stories.”  That may not have been the most political thing to do.  In my defense, I hadn’t thought it through.  I really, truly believed it when I said it but, in hindsight, if I’d have thought about how it sounded I might not have done it.


He then asked me to name a story—“Name one story I ever printed that was crap!  Name one story!” and I named a story.  It happened to be one that Billy Graham drew.  Keep in mind it was not the art I was talking about though.  It was the story.  So Jim says “Follow me!” and, in those days, at the comic-cons, they ran movies 24 hours day and night.  There was a separate room, a screening room, where they just showed movies.  We went into that room and, of course, it was dark and a long room.  Jim was going down the side and beckoning me and Alex to follow.  I had no idea what we were going to do.  He suddenly stops midway down and he motions to somebody sitting, motions him to come on out to the aisle.  This guy gets up, makes his way to where we are on the side of the room, the room flickering with image from the screen.  


Then Jim goes “Billy Graham, this is Don McGregor.  Don McGregor, this is Billy Graham.  Don McGregor, tell Billy Graham his work is crap!”  {laughs}


RA: Nothing like putting you on the spot.


DM: So I guess Jim feels he’s got me there ‘cause I don’t know Billy!  But I didn’t say the artwork was crap.  I never did.  I told them both “You were talking about story and that’s what I’m talking about!”  The Warren books had great artwork.  And some really great stories, too.   But at that time, they also had a large quantity of crap! 


Then, about five minutes after this, Jim says to me “I’ll tell you what, Don, play your cards right and maybe I’ll take you out to dinner tonight.”  I think he did that because Jim respected you if you had an independent thought and were willing to back it up and believe in yourself.  If I’d have come up fawning to him I’m sure he would have said “Kid, get out of my way!”  So he took Alex and I out to dinner that night. 


Then the next morning I come walking into the convention hall and Jim Warren is standing right in the entrance way to the hall.  He’s got a painting with him with a cover over it.  Jim got into the habit that weekend of calling me Hotshot, after Hotshot Charlie from Milton Caniff’s Terry and The Pirates strip.  Also, I guess, because I’m a little short guy and I’d had the audacity to say that stuff to him the day before.  Anyway, Jim called me over “Hey, Hotshot!  You think you’re so hot.  Come over here.”  I walk over there and he’s got a Vaughn Bode painting underneath the cover.   Jim says “I’ve got a lot of writers who want to write a story for this painting.  I’m going to give you ten seconds.  I’m going to lift the cover off this painting, let you look at it and give you ten seconds to come up with a story for this cover.”  Well, I just panicked.  I’ve got nothing!  My palms were sweating, etc.  And, of course, Jim knows the effect he’s having on me.  He’s going for the drama of the scene.  It’s his version of put up or shut up. 


He lifts the cover off very dramatically and he starts counting down—10…9…8…7…and so on.  I’ve got nothing.  I’m frozen like a deer in the headlights.  My mouth was probably gaping open.  He keeps up the countdown and I’m thinking I’ve got nothing but it doesn’t matter because when he gets to one I’m going to start talking.  I’ve got nothing but I’m gonna start talking.  He gets to 1 and I go “OK, there’s these two guys and…”  He flips the cover down and goes “Forget it!  I’ve got professional writers.  I’ve got good writers on this thing.  Why would I take something from a nobody like you, Don.  You think you’re a hotshot?  I’ve got…”  and he starts naming off all these writers who want to do stories for this Vaughn Bode painting.  Then he says “I’ll tell you what.  I’ll let you submit a story to Archie Goodwin.” 


So I did.   Archie bought it and I got really distorted ideas of how writers and editors could work together and trust each other, and that the ultimate goal was to make your story the best story it could be, but still be your story.  Archie was just terrific. 


In those days they paid you $25 dollars a story.  So I wrote “When Wakes The Dreamer” and I got $25 for an 8 page story.  You didn’t get paid by the page but by the story.  So I did an 8 page story and—no, no, no, it’s not enough room.  So I did two 10 page stories and said “No, that’s not enough room to tell the story I want to tell.” and so I started doing 12 page stories.  But I was still getting paid $25 dollars a story!  Jim was just getting extra pages {laughs) for the same price.  What wasn’t there for him to love about me?  This kid’s got to be nuts!


Anyway, Archie took the first story, then I guess within about four scripts I wrote ‘The Vampiress Stalks The Castle This Night’ and I thank Archie for saving me to this very day.  I had these two teenagers, with the girl pregnant, and they’re considering getting an abortion.  Which goes to show you I was doing hard-to-swallow storylines right from the start.  I thought if I could get that in, that  it would give the story a real human impact.  But then I ran right away from it.  I went “Ah, geez, they’ll never go for it.”  I knew it was going into unknown territory here and I wrote a really god awful ending for the story.  I sent the script in to Archie and he calls me and says “Don, if you’re going to do the story, then do it and do it right..  What’s with this ending?”  He was so right.  To this day, I would have been so embarrassed by that original ending.  It was worse than the story I criticized because it squandered an important, delicate topic.  On top of that, it was a silly, insulting ending!  Thank you, Archie, for saving me from putting that out in print.  Just thinking about it haunts me even as we talk about it and I’m the only one that knows what it was.


I thought it was always going to be that way with editors but Archie was a very unique and special editor.  He only had your story at heart.  If it made it better, that’s what he was after.  It was separate from what he might do as a storyteller or as a writer but it was what was best for you and your story.  He wasn’t caught up in having everything sound like him.  He would allow you to tell your kind of story.  Archie was just terrific, a terrific guy and a great editor.   I love him to this day for not letting that story get into print that way, and for the way he conducted himself throughout the years, whenever we worked together.


Anyway, I’d written and sold four or five stories to Archie.  Then Jim Warren calls me and says he’s going to send me three or four stories that had been written, based on that Vaughn Bode cover I’d seen at the Comic-Con.  He wanted me to take the script or rather, the plot, that I liked and do a new story around it.  I told him I’m not interested.  Jim says “What are you talking about, Don?  I know how much I’m paying you.  You can’t afford to turn this down.  This is a come-on.  I’m giving you the cover!”  I said that I was interested if he’d send a copy of the painting and I could do my own story on it.  That I would be interested in.  Otherwise I don’t want to do it. 


I’m sure Jim thought that this kid was out of his mind.  “What was McGregor thinking?”  I just didn’t want to write other people’s stuff.  So Jim sent me a print of Vaughn’s painting and I wrote ‘The Fade-Away Walk’.


I didn’t know ‘The Fade-Away Walk’ was being drawn or that it was being drawn by Tom Sutton.  I wasn’t in New York at the time.  Then that issue of Creepy came in the mail one day.  I was still living in Rhode Island and I got this package.  I open the package up and there is Creepy with my story in it, with my name and Tom Sutton’s on the cover!  That had never happened before—that any writer or artist got their name on the cover, never mind a novice writer.  In fact, some people thought the name Don McGregor was a pseudonym for a writer who was under contract to DC or Marvel.  Mostly because they couldn’t figure out why my name was on the cover.  I think my name got there directly because of Billy Graham.


RA: Well, it was Billy Graham’s first issue as editor. 


DM: Could be.  I don’t know why Billy did it.  I think Billy designed that cover.  I remember the reader was in the gunsights and originally the painting was all in red.  It didn’t have that black background, like a gun barrel, that appeared on the actual cover.  The gun barrel motif was from one of my lay-out designs for the interior of the story.


Then when I saw the story I thought “Oh, Tom Sutton did everything I wanted!”  I wanted continuity shots, reverse angle shots, views through the sniper scope and Tom gave me everything I asked for and more.  It was just a beautiful job, done all in a style I’d never seen from Tom before, all in a graphite pencil approach.  I thought to myself “This is great!  I can write anything I want and the artist is going to add to it and that’s great!”  {laughs}  Of course, that wasn’t and hasn’t always been the case. 


RA: Tom Sutton appeared to be Warren’s go-to guy for new writers during that time period.  He worked on Nicola Cuti’s and Rich Margopoulos’ first published stories and did several other writers’ first appearances as well.  He did great work on all of them which, I suppose, is why they went with him on those stories. 


DM: Well, Tom was the sort of artist who would do everything you asked of him and more.  I worked with him on ‘Alexander Risk’…


RA: Oh, I loved that story.  I wish it had been finished.


DM: Thank you.  Me too.  Because the whole script has been written.  It was supposed to have been drawn by Dwayne Turner back in the 1990s for Marvel’s Creator OwnedLine.  I still think it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever written.  Dwayne drawing it would just have been great.  It was just one of those things where Marvel dropped their Creator Owned Line and so it never got done.


Risk is still mine and I’m still waiting for it to become a reality that readers can hold in their hands.  In 2006, it seems a definite possibility, so for people like yourself, Richard, I hope it happens.  Keep your eyes out for it.


Mike Mayhew did pages for it that are up on a website called  I would love to this day to be able to finish it.  I’m hoping somebody comes to me and says “Don, we’re ready!” Because of the subject matter that it deals with—I just really love those characters.  I really wish I’d get a chance to do it.  It’s one of those things that just breaks my heart that it’s not in print.


RA: Well, I just had the pleasure of having a tiny part in getting the first Will Franz/Sam Glanzman story in 30 years published in Negative Burn (Vol. 2 Summer 2005 issue).  Will hasn’t had a new comic story in print since Weird War Tales #5, back in 1972, so I’m happy about that.  I guess you never can tell, things you thought you’d never see completed can sometimes come back.  V For Vendetta had a 4 year gap between episodes and the Roy Thomas/Dick Giordano Dracula adaptation had a 29 year gap.


DM: You know, it’s really odd, on these serendipity kinds of things, that you had sent me that email on doing the interview.  I get a bunch of requests for doing interviews.  I print them out a lot of times and I mean to get back to them but time goes by and I don’t see the emails, or the letters get buried, and then in the wake of things they get lost.  Sometimes, I run across them months later.  But right after you sent yours, Frank Lovece had sent me to the Internet Encyclopedia, I guess that’s what it is, called Wikipedia, which I don’t really know anything about, to be honest with you.  On one of those pages there was a  reference link, or something like that, to work you’d done, I guess on the Warren Magazines, then right after that I get an email from Dean Mullaney, saying that he’d done an interview with you and he wanted me to see the interview and see what I thought of it. 


It’s funny because there’s a story in it that Dean tells you and I called Dean and said “Dean, you’re wrong.”  He was talking about when we first started Sabre.  He did come over to my place in the Bowery.  I used to show 16mm films down in the loft there.  We spent the night talking about films, having a good time, went out to dinner, whatever and that’s when he saw the original poster of Sabre.  I babbled to him about my concept and the character.  However, that’s not the night he approached me.  He called me several days later to ask me if he could publish the book. 


I said “What are you talking about?  You’re not a publisher.  You don’t publish comics.  I don’t understand what you’re talking about.” But he said, “No, I want to publish comics and I want to do the Sabre project.”   I told him, “Look, Dean, you don’t have a company and, besides which, I want my copyrights to the material.”  He said fine.  I said I wanted to have final say on what happens with my copy.  He said fine.  I had a number of other things so I rattled them off.  He said fine to everything!  So I said “Well, I guess you’d better come on over and we’ll talk about it.”


So I got on the phone recently to Dean and was telling him this and he said “Ahhh, I don’t care, Don, my story is better than yours.”  {laughs} So I figure you can pick and choose versions. 


RA: It’s all in the perceptions, I guess.  You wrote for Warren between 1970-1973 and then from 1979 right up to the very end. 


DM: Yeah, I went back over there.  Some of those stories—‘The Vampiress Stalks The Castle’ and ‘When Wakes The Dreamer’—ended up being published years after I wrote them.  I don’t remember exactly when but it was much, much later than when I wrote them.


RA: Actually, ‘The Vampiress Stalks The Castle’ appeared in Vampirella in 1972.  Felix Mas did the artwork for it and it came out very shortly after those Luis Garcia stories you were doing. 


DM: Really?  I thought it came out much later, in the early 1980s.  I’ll take your word for it because when I saw your indepth analyses of the Warren and Marvel Magazines I realized how thorough you were with them.  That’s one of the reasons I decided to get back to you.  I know that Billy Graham did three or four pages of the Vampiress story and in his version the two young people were modeled after me and my ex-wife.  It was a totally different approach than what actually appeared.  The version that appeared was very well designed but story-telling wise it did not follow my lay-out suggestions or the detailed art descriptions in the script.


RA: Thank you for the complements.   After the first couple of interviews and the first checklist I did I figured if I was going to do something like this I’d better do it right.  When I personally read something that purports to be fact I want it to be right, not half-assed.


DM: That’s what I respected and that’s why I’m doing this interview.  It’s funny, because I’m doing something for Jon Cooke (Editor of Comic Book Artist) and when Jon originally approached me at a comic convention—I’m always very careful at comic book conventions not to commit myself because you can totally regret getting swept up in the enthusiasm of the moment—he wanted me to do some stuff for the Comic Book Artist magazine and I didn’t even know what it was.  But once I got home and had a chance to see what he was doing, I thought this is good stuff, and I immediately got back in touch with him.  I wanted to know what he needed and if I had the time and ability to help him and if it all worked out we’d do something together. 


Back to Warren, when J. R. Cochran became editor, I did a story called ‘The Ones Who Stole It From You’.  The story’s about a ghoul digging up people and eating them.  The editor thought the ghoul was too much of a metaphor.  For what, I don’t know!  {laughs} Whatever he was thinking, it had nothing to do with what I was writing, that’s for damn sure.  So, the editor wanted me to add material so I did a prologue—the story itself remained the same—but I did a two page prologue showing how this guy became a ghoul.  The prologue took place at the end of World War II, with the ghoul trapped in a bombed out building where he had to eat corpses to survive.  He’s taken to a VA hospital when he goes stateside and there’s a line in there about him raiding the Purple Hearts cemetery.  It wasn’t any kind of a comment on the military or the Vietnam War or whatever.  Clearly anybody buried at a VA hospital would be a military veteran of some sort.  But the line wasn’t intended as a slam or a social comment, just that he was going to eat bodies where it was convenient. 


Remember I was still up in Rhode Island and I had no idea really what was going on down in New York.  Basically a story I wrote, if it was accepted, would finally appear.  I’d have no idea what was being done with the script or who the artist would be.  I wouldn’t even know if the story was being drawn.  Sometimes, if there was a comment or a problem with the story, like with Archie Goodwin on ‘The Vampiress Stalks The Castle’, I say send the story back and I’ll rewrite it.  If they wanted stuff changed and I didn’t agree with it, I’d just say send the story back.  I don’t want to change it.  Apparently this was bordering on heresy at time but I thought I had a right to my own stories.  My name was going on them.  If I was going to blow it, then it would be on me.  It would be an honest failure though. 


When ‘The Ones Who Stole It From You’ was being done, Billy Graham had set it up to be a cover story.  Then the prologue came in with the line about the Purple Hearts cemetery and the editor hated this.  He felt compelled to take the story because Billy was having a cover done on it.  But I’m in Rhode Island and I don’t know any of this is going on.  So I was on the phone with somebody and the operator cut in—and this was the first time anybody had cut in on a phone line when I was talking—and the operator said “There’s an emergency phone call from Jim Warren.”  I thought something drastic had happened.  Billy was going with a woman at the time who had to have some eye surgery done.  It was a bad situation for him and when I got this call I hoped nothing had happened to him.  This emergency voice scared the hell out of me.  I got off the phone and it ranged with Jim Warren on the other end. 


He said “Don, I’ve got to fire you.”  And I have no idea what he’s talking about.  It was over ‘The Ones Who Stole It From You’.  Jim said that Billy had had the cover done and he really shouldn’t have done that as the story really wasn’t accepted yet.  The editor doesn’t want to do the story now but we’re committed to doing it because we have a cover for it.  It’s really Billy’s fault but I can’t lose Billy.  He’s more important to me than you are so you’re fired. 


It was really pretty dramatic.  I was like “What?  What?”  It just came out of the blue.  Some time later, I was forgiven, I guess around a couple of months later, and allowed to come back into the fold and do some more stories.  Jim Warren loved drama.  {laughs} 


RA: Did you work for Bill DuBay at all? 


DM: No.  I think he came on after I left for Marvel.  When I say Billy, I’m talking about Billy Graham.  There were stories of mine that appeared in books that Bill DuBay edited but I think I wrote them for other editors and they ended up in his books after the fact.


RA: Clearly, you wrote stories for Louise Jones, because I’ve had numerous comments from Warren editors that she bought a lot of stories from you.


DM: Yeah, but that was years later, in the late 1970s, I guess. 


RA: Right, there’s about a five year gap in your Warren work from about 1974-1979, when I supposed you were doing most of your writing for Marvel.


DM: Yeah, I was on staff.  I’d come to New York by that time to work in editorial at Marvel Comics.  I was on editorial while I was writing Black Panther, Killraven and Luke Cage. 


People seem to either passionately love or passionately hate my work.


RA: Well, that probably goes with the territory when you’re passionate about your work and that passion is undisguised; part and parcel of the story.  I was quite young when I was first reading those stories.  When you hit all the right notes, it was a great story.  Other times it could be a great story but too much message.  Or I liked the message but felt the story was weak.  Of course, there were also times when the story was good but the art wasn’t so hot.  Nobody can like everything a particular writer does.  Especially if you read a great deal of his work.  If you’re a good reader, you know when he’s on top of his game and when he isn’t.  On the whole, though, your stories hold up pretty darn well down the road.  I particularly like ‘Panther’s Rage’, the Black Panther novel.


DM: I wanted those stories to be about something.  ‘Panther’s Rage’ was the Black Panther story that got finished.  When I did the story dealing with the Ku Klux Klan, I was in serious trouble. {laughs}  I’d been in serious trouble before that but that one really put nails in the coffin.  I think the Marvel staff knew I was going to be pretty hard willed about doing it and wouldn’t abandon the story after a couple of issues.  During ‘Panther’s Rage’ editorial wanted white people in the storyline.  When I started doing the Panther vs the Klan, I said “Hey!  You asked for white people and now you’re still pissed off at me!  Sheesh!”


RA:  I also liked your work on Morbius, the Living Vampire. 


DM: There’s some stuff about Morbius that you may want to know.  There was a two part story where Tom Sutton drew the first half and did a tremendous job…


RA: God, I’m a huge Tom Sutton fan.  He was so good.


DM: Yes!  It’s unfortunate that the two times Tom worked on Morbius he couldn’t stay with the whole story.  We did one, a western, that was called ‘Where’s Gallows Bend And What The Hell Am I Doing There?’, that was a two-parter.  Tom drew the first one and Mike Vosburg drew the second half.  I just wish Tom had been able to finish it because he really had the ambiance and the sensuality and the perversity and the locale down.  Mike’ approach was much cleaner but Tom brought the grotesque atmosphere and mood up to the forefront, exactly as I envisioned it. 


RA: Tom liked the gruesome, grubby stuff. {laughs}


DM: Earlier we had done a Morbius story called ‘Lighthouse Of The Possessed’ but, originally, that was a Vampirella story.  The Warren people had approached me about writing Vampirella and that Morbius story was originally my tryout Vampirella story.  The story has a political background.  It’s about somebody running for office and there was a campaign slogan I used called “No Chicanery with Mannery” which was in the Vampirella version.  It was in the story synopsis, I think. 


I went through all of Archie Goodwin’s Vampirella stories, the only time I’ve ever done this, and cut out key panels which had Vampi’s history or her ways of expression that were pertinent.  I made a little bible notebook that I could go back to when I was doing key scenes and know what her past was and how she felt about things.  So when I sent the script in—I don’t remember if it was a full script at that point—the editor didn’t want me to use the word chicanery.  I had it in the dialogue or something like that.  So I wrote the full script and I didn’t use the slogan in any actual dialogue but, in the instructions I sent to Tom, I had a sequence where Vampi & her buddies were walking by a wall with a campaign poster up on it, and I had that slogan on the poster.  I didn’t know whether it would get seen or not.  Tom could have put heads in front of the words.  You might see part of it.  You might see all of it.  But it was just background.  The editor just went ballistic.  So I didn’t end up doing Vampirella.  {laughs}  Because I wouldn’t obey.  Because I put that word in there. 


That kind of stuff is all so arbitrary and subjective.  That same editor wrote a story called ‘The Disenfranchised’ and that was used on the cover!  It was the lead story used to sell the magazine.  I’m using a word on a poster in the background.  Chicanery was considered by editorial as being too hard for the Warren readers to understand but the word disenfranchised is okay on the cover because this is really all about power, who had it, and who doesn’t.  It’s often that, and nothing more.


So all I did for the Marvel version of that story was take Vampi out, put Morbius in, along with changing the various supporting cast members and it ran.  The readers seem to like it fine.  There was some controversy over the Marvel version too.  At the end of the story, when the very idealistic, naive kid gets his brains blown out and he really gets his brains blown out, some people thought it shouldn’t be depicted as graphically as it was. 


Oddly enough, there were times when I got more flack on the black & white comics than I did on the color ones.  The first Morbius story I did had a scene where the cops come in and find some drugs in this place where an innocent guy is staying. The cops arrest the wrong kid and they’re pounding on him.  So while I’m writing that scene, it was a hot July night and I was living in the Bronx.  We had no air conditioning and I’m working alone.  I used to always write late at night and it was midnight or later.  I’m in my undershirt and underpants.  I writing this scene where the cops batter this guy and the doorbell rings.  I thought it was Alex Simmons, come to visit or stay overnight.  I didn’t bother to get dressed, walked over to the door and it was the police! 


I don’t know why but when you’re not dressed you feel vulnerable.  I’m writing a scene where the cops beat the bejesus out of this guy and the cops show up at my door!  My first thought was “How did they know?  Nobody knows!  Even the people at Marvel Comics won’t know until I turn the script in!”  They yelling at me “Open the door! Open the door up now!” I’m yelling “Let me get some clothes on!” {laughs}  Eventually they came in but they had the wrong apartment.  Apparently there had been a domestic violence thing going on down the floor somewhere and they thought it was my apartment.  When they realized I was alone and that nobody else was in there, they finally backed off.  It was just a freakish kind of thing and was kind of scary.  Really hairy for about five minutes!  I was caught up in a real horror story.


When I handed the story in, editorial insisted I add lines.  You couldn’t have this raid happen {which is all too real, and I was basing it on a real situation a friend of mine was in and its dangerous potential} and have an innocent kid pay a severe price, which was exactly the emotional truth and impact I was after with the story!  Well, that and to tell a damn good horror story, as well.  I knew that Marvel would want some justification for the cops coming in and doing this.  I had to add something in there that would mollify them or whatever.  I forget exactly what I did but I always considered it odd that those types of problems cropped up a lot more in the black & white magazines than the color ones.  No one, for example, said a thing about the four issues of Killraven dealing with Death-Birth, one of the few times a storyline was inspired by something actually in H. G. Wells’ ‘The War Of The Worlds’, wherein the Martians breed humans to dine on the babies as a delicacy.  Go figure, huh?


RA: It does seems strange, since the black & white books wouldn’t have been under the same kind of restrictions.  No comics’ code or what have you.


DM: They weren’t.  I don’t really know why.  It may just have been the individual person responsible for the magazine.  Their taste, whatever they might have been worried about.  I just don’t know.  I think it was probably an individual person’s thing.  What passes one person’s desk may not pass another person’s desk.  It could be something as simple and hard to detect as what they ate or did the night before.  You may hit them one time and it’s ok, another time and it’s “Nope”. 


RA: ‘Alexander Risk’ was something of a Sherlock Holmes takeoff, but you also had a Sherlock Holmes’ character that you did for Marvel, called Hodiah Twist.  He appeared in a virtual reality story for your Killraven strip and in two solo stories.


DM: Right. 


RA: There was some questions I had about the second appearance in 1978.  The story itself has no credits.  It’s listed on the titlepage as being written by Rick Marschall, who was the editor of the issue of Marvel Preview that it appeared in.  Yet in Marschall’s own editorial he cites you as the writer and, clearly, you had been talking about Hodiah Twist and this story for at least 3 or 4 years.  It reads like your script.  I don’t know if Rick Marschall had any writing or scripting credits during his time at Marvel.   Was that a miscredit or mistake of some kind?  


DM: {Heavy sigh} Well, you’re going to get into some bad stuff here. 


RA: I know you didn’t write anything for Marvel for several years after that story’s appearance.  But if you don’t want to get into it, I understand.


DM: It’s a long story.  I’m going to start from the beginning and wind back into your question.  The original Hodiah Twist story was an 11 page story, beautifully drawn by Rich Buckler and inked by Klaus Janson & Carlos Garzon.  Rich and I did a lot of stuff together.  He was terrific.  I liked the story a lot.  That story was also originally planned for Warren magazines.  At one point, Jim Warren was going to do theme issues, with the idea that one writer would write all the stories for that issue.  I’d been asked to do one of these solo author issues and came up with the idea that the entire issue was going to be a vampire genealogy tree.  One story was going to be set very, very, very early on with every story in the issue linked to the story that came before it.  A person who was bit in one story would become the lead vampire in the next story.  The first story would be set very early on, the second story was going to be a western, which eventually became my long story ‘Moral Blood & Soiled Doves’ {this story appeared in the last three Warren issues of Creepy in 1982 as ‘Moral Blood’} If you read the story, the woman who was bit inside the bar in the Warren story ‘Moral Blood’ becomes the madam of the whorehouse in the Hodiah Twist story.  So the Twist story was planned to be the third story in the Warren one-author book.  The next story was going to be a contemporary one which may have ended up as the story ‘A Dark And Violent Place’.  I’m not sure.  That last one was another Warren story, set on a campus in modern day.  That was intended to be the fourth story, then there would have been a fifth, set in the future.  So the book would have gone from historical times to a science fiction tale, all with vampiric horror elements. 


For some reason that I don’t recall, the book never happened.  Sometime after that I went to Marvel and placed the Hodiah Twist story there.  Later on, I actually wrote the western story for Louise, I think, I’m not really sure. 


RA: Well, ‘Moral Blood’ didn’t appear until 1982 but in your book The Variable Syndrome, you mentioned writing it in 1979 for Warren, so Louise would have been the editor at that time. 


DM: I just don’t remember.  I do know that I liked getting the chance to go back and do the story, expanded from the original idea. 


But you were asking me about the sequel to Hodiah Twist.  Gene Colan drew that story and it was the second time we’d worked together.  Gene had done a Killraven with me but I think he’d kind of forgotten it in later years.  Adriane, Gene’s wife, told me—see, when Gene draws a story, he never reads ahead—and she told me that Gene was very excited about the Hodiah Twist story.  He was going “Look what happens next!”  {laughs}  I guess he really had a good time drawing that story and we talked about doing Hodiah as a series.  Unfortunately there were a lot of political situations going on at Marvel at that time. 


The black & white department liked to say they were separate from the color books but that wasn’t really the case.  They would say that in private but when Jim Shooter would show up they would give a different story.  I’d written the Hodiah Twist story and Gene had drawn it.  I’d been invited over to England to be a guest of honor at a convention in London. 


This was an intense, exciting time in my life, full of possibilities and great passion.  I’d met Marsha Childers, and the days were an incredible time of being in love in this exciting city of Manhattan.  We’ve been together 27 years and I still can’t get enough of her.  Marsha was pregnant with our son, Rob, when we went to England, and it’s one exciting story after another.  We were actually taken off the plane at Heathrow when we were going to return to the States and told that Marsha would have to have Rob in England.  But that’s a real life adventure for another time.


Just before going to England,  I’d just finished writing the Hodiah story.  Gene did a terrific job on it and I had Xeroxes of it.  Just the pencil version, since it hadn’t been inked.  I loved what he did with it.  


If you’ve read The Variable Syndrome then you know some of the background, how Detectives, Inc. came about…all of that came out of this incident with Hodiah Twist.  At the time, the comic companies were trying to get writers to sign a work-for-hire contract, so that we couldn’t come back at a future date and say that we owned something.  That we had done the stories as work-for-hire and were not the creators of anything we wrote for the companies.


RA: That would have been about the time of the first Superman movie, the first comic book movie in decades.  There were plenty of stories in the press about Siegal’s & Schuster’s loss of their copyright to the character and how they were living as janitors or messengers at the time.  That might have had a lot to do with the comic companies’ fears. 


DM:  Anyway, I said no, I wasn’t going to sign it.  The Hodiah Twist story had already been written so it wasn’t covered by the work-for-hire contract.  It was a part of what arrangements Marvel had been doing before.  But the story was being used as leverage to try to get me to sign the work-for-hire contract.  I was also doing a story with a character from Luke Cage, a character called Quentin Chase, who was a cop.  I’d written a story about Chase for an intended new magazine that would deal with contemporary stuff.  The story was called ‘A Touch Of Euphoria, A Touch Of Death’.  It dealt with drugs and had an inter-racial relationship in it.  It had a white guy married to a black woman. 


I got called into the office and they did not want an inter-racial couple in the story.  One of the actual quotes was “How can you take this Nordic blood and taint it.”.   I don’t even want to finish where that conversation went.  It was just disgusting.  It was basically if you want to do the story than you can’t have a black woman as the white guy’s wife.  So at this point they just weren’t going to do that story.  They were talking about Marshall Rogers doing the police story and I called Dean Mullaney up and asked him if he wanted that story  “Cause right now I’m going to yank it from Marvel Comics”.  I wish I had done it.  I wish I had just yanked that story. 


Dean said fine and I went back to Marvel.  They said ‘Fine, if you’ve found another home for it, then we still want it.”  They paid me $50 bucks for the plot and it ended up never being done.  However, it became the basic for Marshall & me doing Detectives, Inc.  Detectives, Inc., with Marshall as the artist, grew out of that confrontation. 


The thing was still going on with the work-for-hire contract.  I got called to come into the Marvel offices.  I said that if they wanted me to sign that contract for that single, particular story, then I didn’t care.  The Hodiah Twist story, entitled ‘The Hero Killer Principle’, was already drawn so I said I’d sign it for that one individual story.  Jim Shooter was waiting outside the office and I could see him pacing back and forth.  I realized that I’d been set up.  Shooter came in and said “Do we have a problem with this person?  No special deals!  Nobody gets a special deal!”  They just pushed so hard, twisted everything.  I would have been willing to sign it for that individual story because it was written under the old Marvel rules already.  But I was not going to sign a carte blanche contract that took all of the creator’s rights away forever! 


I was told to leave the offices and never come back. 


It was really pretty scary.  Once I left, the editorial edict was apparently that I didn’t write the story.  I don’t know how he thought he could do this and nobody would say anything about it, but Rick Marschall actually went to an audience and told people that he wrote the story.  Of course, people were calling me up on the phone that night, telling me that word was I didn’t write the story.  Now they did cut a one-page flashback out of the story and they did cut the central motivation.  Apparently all the vampire violence was ok but let’s cut out all the sex.  But that story’s mine—right down the line.  There’s nothing in there that anybody else wrote, but me. 


My credit was taken because I wouldn’t sign the work-for-hire contract.  That’s how Rick Marschall’s name got on the thing.  He came up to me at a convention in Philadelphia, in the men’s room, in the urinal, and he wanted to apologize and shake hands.  I told him, “I’ll tell you what.  You go up on stage and you tell people you stole that story from Don McGregor.  You stole it from me in public and if you’ll admit it in public, then I’ll come up on the stage and I’ll shake your hand.  Don’t come to me in the men’s room and want to shake my hand and think I’ll forget that you stole my story.”


A much more complete version of that episode appears in the back of The Variable Syndrome book.  There’s a review that said it should be required reading for people who want to have careers as writers in comics.


RA: After you left Marvel…”


DM: Wait!  Another story I’d like to tell, as long as you’re doing this kind of complete thing.  It’s about a Warren story called ‘The Men Who Called Him Monster’.  It was one of the first stories of mine that was done by one of the overseas artists that Warren hired.  (In this case the artist was Luis Garcia.)  It was a great looking story but it taught me a lesson about how careful about you need to be in describing to the artist, whom you many not know, about what is drawn.  Contrary to what Wikipedia says, to my knowledge, that Warren story featured the first inter-racial kiss in comics.  But the kissing scene makes absolutely no sense! 


RA:  If I remember the story correctly, the kiss comes totally out of the blue.


DM: Totally out of the blue!  That happened because my descriptions in the script were completely misinterpreted by the artist.  Remember, I wrote the script probably before my first story appeared in print, so I didn’t know it was going overseas.  The story was about a young guy, a teenager, who is turning into a werewolf.  His mother has gone to this black private eye to hire him to track down her missing son.  So the private eye goes to a McDonald’s to talk to the boy’s girlfriend, who’s working there.  Only the overseas artist had no idea what a McDonald’s looked like in those days! 


RA: The private eye looked exactly like Sidney Poitier.


DM: Yeah, he’s an older black private eye and she’s a teenager.  In my instructions to the artist I wanted to end the scene on a high, dramatic point.  I wrote in my details to the artist “This is the clencher!” for this sequence because I want that drama brought out about how much the girl felt for her boyfriend and everything.  But the artist, or whoever interpreted the script, took that to mean they clench and they kiss!  So it’s an inter-racial kiss, with no motivation, for no particular reason…while she’s talking about how much she misses her boyfriend she’s kissing this older man, who’s pretty much a total stranger!  The very first inter-racial kiss in Warren comics!  The story was already illustrated.  Already done.  So it went into print.


RA: Do you know if Warren got any protests about it?


DM: Not a clue.  It didn’t seem to create any fuss.  But to go on further, to do an inter-racial kiss in Killraven a few years later was a big deal.  That’s a whole ‘nother story.  That was a long, big deal to get that kiss in a color comic book.  That doesn’t really fit in with your focus, however.


RA: Well, never hurts to hear a good story.


DM: But it’s a long, complex story that would take way too long to go into here.. 


RA: You did a really good story with Mike Ploog, which appeared in one of the Marvel Preview issues after the horror line collapsed.


DM: Yeah, I liked that story a lot.  I liked working with Mike Ploog.  Ploog is great.  I love those stories that he and Steve Gerber did on Man-Thing.  I was really impressed with what they were doing.  Just impressive stuff.  A lot of that was political material too, but also so full of human drama and incredible ambiance.  The kind of work that just makes you realize how great comics can be and why you love them so much.


RA: Political stuff seems to enter into comics only when the publishers aren’t actually reading the books.  There are lots of stories about low-selling books getting a new creator assigned to them, who does something new and the book sales take off.  Whereupon the publisher or the editor start interfering with the title, causing the creator who caused the sales to jump to leave the title.


DM: One of the things you need to know is that in comics, is that if it hasn’t been done a thousand times before, you going have a hell of a time convincing the people in charge that you should be allowed to do it.  If you have to ask, most of the time they’re going to say no.  They have nothing to gain from you doing something no one’s ever done before.  To them, it’s like the sky is falling.  It’s best to keep your own counsel, write your stories, see where the openings are where you feel you can do something innovative that would be interesting to an audience of a vast range of human beings.  It’s not enough to do something.  You have to find a way that you can get to do it and make it a reality, or it will never reach the reader’s hands.


I’ve never understood that if green is the major color for comic publishers, why would they want to exclude various religions, various races, various sexual orientations as their audience?  I just don’t understand it.  All of those people have money. 


RA: It would seem like a good way to broaden the audience.


DM: They’re afraid of offending the audience they’ve got.  They’re always afraid that certain areas of the country would get crazy over certain stories.  Certainly Sabre probably did that. 


RA: At one time, I heard that you were going to do a second graphic album about Killraven.


DM: You know I did write 50-60 pages of the final Killraven story, entitled ‘Final Lies, Final Truths, Final Battles’ and Craig was set to draw it in the late 1980s.  Back abut the time I was writing ‘Panther’s Quest’.  I actually started the Killraven story before writing ‘Panther’s Quest’.  The reason it didn’t get done was that Craig wanted an assurance that Marvel would publish it in whatever their best format was at the time.  It was the only thing he wanted, and they wouldn’t agree to that.  That’s the only reason the story never got finished.  Otherwise, you would have seen the big finale, where I kept my promise to the readers that Killraven would take that war back to the intruders. 


RA:  That would have been pretty cool to read. 


DM: I wish we’d had a chance to do it.  There were some big twists in the finale.  I believe there were events that would have surprised even the readers who’d followed everything I’d written.  Dramatically I think it would have been very effective.  It would have been a good story. And one worth the telling.


RA: Well, that seems to bring us back full circle to your later work for Warren.  Your first story when you returned was ‘The Trepassers’ with Paul Gulacy.  The lead character looked like James Coburn. 


DM: Yeah.  That was probably the first one I wrote when I returned to Warren.  Louise Jones bought it. 


RA: Just before it actually appeared, there was a story freeze at Warren.  It apparently occurred in Nov. 1979, with Louise Jones leaving within a matter of weeks for Marvel.  Was all of your material that appeared in Warren from 1980-1982 written before that time period?


DM: I don’t know anything about a story freeze.


RA: You mentioned it in The Variable Syndrome, which is the only reason I brought it up.  You stated Warren “had to use all its inventory material, before any more new stories could be bought.”  You even cited a date, Nov. 29, 1979.


DM: OK, I don’t recall it.  I know a lot of my stories appeared years after I wrote them.  Some of the artists weren’t what I could hope for either.  There were problems with that on ‘The Mist’, a serial I wrote.  ‘The Mist’ was a story set in New York City and some bad things happened with it.  They initially assigned it to an artist who apparently had no reference to New York City or what it looked like—there were three artists who worked on it, one was Val Mayerik, who was great—but this was the first artist, and the editors at Warren then cut four pages from the first installment.  The stated reason was that they didn’t like the artwork and they thought the artist had New York City all wrong.  They just cut it without anything to bridge the installments or whatever.  On top of that, I had two CIA agents who were keeping the lead character and her husband and family under surveillance.  Their version had these agents making racist comments that I did not write.  The magazine came out on a Friday, I got my copy in the mail or picked it up on a comic book shelf—I don’t remember which—but when I saw what they had done I was so enraged that they would put out this dialogue under my name, as though I had written it, that I knew I didn’t even dare call them on the telephone that day.  I knew I would just be yelling and would probably be incoherent.  I was that mad.  One of the few time I’ve ever gotten that furious in my entire career of writing.


I called them on a Monday and I’m supposed to be writing the next episode of ‘The Mist’.  I probably had already written the second one.  It was a long story so I actually may have written up to episode four.  But there was no way I was going to finish the story if this was how they were going to butcher the material, and put material in there that I would never, ever do.  As happens often in this business, if the powers that be think you’re going to do something outrageous, they want it as public as possible but if they’re doing something dastardly, they want it behind closed doors where there are no witnesses.  {chuckles}  So they said “Come in, we’ll take you out to eat, Don.”  I said “I’m not here to eat.  We have to get this settled.”  We went to some restaurant and when I brought up the race stuff that they had inserted in this story, one of the people said “We know how your characters would talk, Don.”  I took the magazine and flung it across the room and said “If that’s the fucking case, then we’ve got nothing to fucking talk about.  I can’t write the next story so what do you want to do?”  I guess they didn’t think I would take that firm a stand on it and, eventually, they left the story alone. 


You know, your name goes on this stuff and no way was I going to let them do this.  Do what you want with your stories under your name but I have to live with these stories, and if I blow it, I blew it honestly.  I blew it because of my own inadequacies.  But the readers, who have followed me from story to story, company to company, will hopefully know that I failed honestly. 


RA: Can you tell me, since it never actually ended, what the conclusion of ‘Sweetwater Nessie’ was supposed to be?  According to The Variable Syndrome it was supposed to be a 70 page story.


DM: I don’t know.  I didn’t remember that the ending never appeared.


RA: It appeared in the last few issues of Vampirella or Eerie.  Two episodes with pretty good artwork from Rafael Auraleon. 


DM: Yeah, I remember liking the artwork a lot and the script was followed pretty closely.  Sorry, I just don’t remember the ending.  There are some stories that I’m aware that I never got to finish. But in that case, it was all written, unlike others where I never had the chance to finish a series and show people where I was going.


RA: There may have been unpublished stories that you wrote for Warren that never appeared but that’s the only one that was started but never finished.  All the other serials you did had a conclusion.


DM: I’m sure I wrote an ending.  I’m sure they had it but, off the top of my head, I can’t remember it.  There are stories that got cut or ended prematurely that I wish I could finish.  The third Sabre story.  The last segment of Ragamuffins.  The Panther KKK story.  Especially the third Detectives, Inc. story, which dealt with abortion clinic bombings.  Those are the ones I really wish I could finish.  Those I remember quite vividly.  I guess because I actually finished ‘Sweetwater Nessie’ the memory of how it ended isn’t as vivid as the stories I’d like to complete.


RA: There was a long stand alone story you did with Isido Mones, who did some very nice full page panels for it.


DM: Oh, was that ‘The Alien Who Wept For Children?”


RA: In that issue of Creepy it was titled ‘The Spectator Who Wept’.  It’s about 28 pages long with most pages a full page panel.


DM: That’s the way I designed it.  It was very well drawn.  I worked very hard on that story.  The artist did a great job but the visual approach, the full page spreads, were dictated in the script.  I like the fact that the visual concept worked and that the artist understood how to make it work.  I was  very exact about the visuals and what I hope to achieve, and this artist nailed them.  I’ve learned not to put any “And this is the clincher” type lines in the art directions.


RA: We’re at the point now where you worked for Eclipse.


DM: I loved working for Dean Mullaney and Eclipse.  When we did Ragamuffins, I always wanted to see Gene Colan’s pencils reproduced.  When I worked at Marvel in editorial, I would see the pencil work when it came in, before inking, and I loved Gene’s pencils.  Ragamuffins was a concept that I’d had for years and I held onto it, just as I did with Detectives, Inc. 


‘Ragamuffins’ was intended to be a very comprehensive look at childhood, and a look at various decades in American, what changed and what hadn’t changed.  What stayed the same, what parents thought they were teaching kids and what kids were actually learning.  It’s something I really wish I’d had a chance to continue doing.  Not being able to tell more of those stories is an ache that stays with me, through-out the years. 


Since Dean was willing to publish the thing, I grabbed the chance.  Some people said “Well, why don’t you do a superhero thing or a heroic fantasy thing?”  My feeling was that the superhero, fantasy work was what people knew me for at the time.  It’s a genre that I love, because I do believe in heroes, but I also had the desire to do many other kinds of stories.  I didn’t just want to do one kind of genre.  I love all genres.  And I thought I could do more kinds of stories than just one to any specific genre. 


After Detectives, Inc. I knew there was a market there for alternative comics.  Not just superhero.  Not just heroic fantasy.  Still, ‘Ragamuffins’ was an unknown quantity.  There was some thought that I really should stick with the superhero fantasy material, since a lot of people had forgotten my horror work.  Before I went to Marvel I’d been known as a horror writer.  Later, in the 1980s, I became known as a private eye writer because of Detectives, Inc. and Nathaniel Dusk.  Since I’ve been doing Zorro, I’m known for my western stuff.  The memory is sometimes not long in comics.  {laughs}


In your comments on Ragamuffins, you mentioned that Gene’s pencils weren’t reproduced all that well, but if you look at the color one-shot that Dean published, his pencils come out very nicely.  Very strong. 


RA: Yes, they did.  You also did a 20 page ‘Ragamuffins’ story in the color book, Eclipse Monthly, which had inking by Klaus Janson.


DM: Right, but the pencils for that story exist and if we reprinted it now, we’d do it directly from Gene’s pencils, like all the other stories.  There’s also one story that never saw print that I’d include in such a collection. ‘The Pack Rat Instinct’. 


RA: One thing I’ve always wondered about is how printing processes changed from company to company.  Warren seemed to have no trouble printing penciled artwork.  Eclipse seemed to struggle with it.  Marvel did horrible reproductions of penciled art. 


DM: Pencils can be reproduced better in black & white than color.  Putting color to pencils was a whole different ballgame.  When DC was producing the first Nathaniel Dusk books in color, the first series, ‘Lovers Die At Dusk, came out terribly, with Gene’s line-art dropping out.  Gene saw the book first and called me to ask what happened and I had no idea what he was talking about.  The thing is, I had gone to the people in charge at DC and told them that Dean Mullaney could advise them on how to do a good job reproducing the penciled art with color.  Dean had done a great job on that Ragamuffins one-shot and he was perfectly willing to talk to whoever was going to work on the book.  So I thought it was all taken care of and then I got this emotional call from Gene Colan.  Gene is just so upset about the production and I said “Gene, I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I haven’t seen the book yet.”  When I finally saw it I asked DC if they had called Dean.  If a small company like Eclipse can do great reproduction, than DC certainly should be able to.  The response, at the time, was that a big company couldn’t call a small company like Eclipse for advice.  They were too big for that. 


RA: In his interview Dean told me they had talked to him but then they completely ignored him.


DM:  Ahhhhh!  {heavy sigh}  At the time, I thought they’d just never called him.  I couldn’t understand how they could put out a book that just destroyed Gene Colan’s artwork and all because they were unwilling to ask for advice.  That kind of stuff just drives me crazy. 


We did do a second Nathaniel Dusk story though, ‘Apple Peddlers Die At Noon’, and that series is one of my favorite books.  Working with Gene on that series was just incredible.  Page after page of his incredible, beautiful art, capturing everything I’d hoped for, in terms of the time period, the city, the characters, the mood, the noir tone, the shadows and light, everything.  Gene capturing the time and place and mood and, most importantly, the characters, just knocked me out.  We had plenty of room to tell the story that I wanted to tell.  That second Nathaniel Dusk is in my top 10 projects of all the work I’ve done.


Tom Zuiko, up on my website, writes a piece in the guest writers section about my being the first writer to ever come visit him to discuss the approach for the coloring of the book, not what he had to do in every panel, but the approach that would define the look of the book, reflect the attitude and themes of the series.


But even before ‘Ragamuffins’ I did Sabre and Detectives, Inc.  When the chance came to do the first Sabre story and approach it to the comic stores, there would be debates about what Sabre was—as to whether it was a graphic novel.  I never felt it was a novel.  It was too short.  I don’t believe that 38 pages approximates a novel.  Still don’t.


I knew that those 38 pages were going to have to complete with 2½ to 3 years worth of stories of mine that people followed from issue to issue, while I was at Marvel.  This was 1976 to 1978 and, to be honest, nobody knew if a book could sell directly through the comic books stores as the only major outlet, whether it would be economically feasible or not.  It was unknown territory.  I thought it would.  I felt strongly that it would.  If you had an artist and a writer whose names were known than the comic books stores could support such an endeavor.  There was no data to base it upon.  Certainly within the industry, I know most people thought the independent market was a small, small percentage of the market at the time and that it couldn’t support a book. 


Dean came out with Sabre and Phil Seuling went “$6.00 for a comic book?  Are you out of your mind?”  {laughs}


RA: Yeah, they were pricey. 


DM: It simply reflected the prices that Dean was having to pay.  Paul was paid above his Marvel page rate.  Annette Kaweki was paid above her Marvel page rate.  I myself was paid $300 by Dean to do that book.  If I’d known it was going to take so long for Sabre to be completed, I probably wouldn’t have done it but I never thought it was going to take so long to get the book before an audience.  I just wanted Dean to be able to afford to do it.  So I took a flat fee in the hopes it would make money when it came out.  If it did, we’d be fine and if it didn’t, well… 


RA: You did sell reprint rights to Heavy Metal so that must have helped.


DM: That only came about after all the pages were drawn.  The book had been in production for a long time when that happened.  When you start your own project for a market that’s really unknown, everything and anything can go wrong.  For instance, Paul did the first six pages of Sabre. He didn’t insure it or anything, and it was mailed to New York when that big blackout happened in Manhattan.  So the first six pages of Sabre never showed up.  Paul was hoping they would show up in time because he didn’t want to redraw the pages.  In fact, he didn’t redraw the pages until he had finished the rest of the book.


I actually started scripting that book on page 7.  I would not normally have wanted to do that under any circumstances.  {laughs}  I recall that the first panel focused on Sabre and Melissa where they were walking away and Willoughby is lying flat on the ground, unconscious.  When the first six pages were redrawn, with page 6 being the last page I actually scripted, the last panel has Willoughby standing with Sabre’s sword at his throat.  I got on the phone, saying “Paul, what am I going to do.  Willoughby’s obviously awake on page 6 and out cold on page 7.  Page seven is already lettered, inked and it’s ready to go.  It’s all done!” Paul says “Aw, you’ll figure out something.”  For days and days I kept looking at those pages, wondering what I was going to do with them.  How can I bridge this and make this work?  Finally I came up with a line in the last panel of page 6 where Willoughby thinks “I’m going to faint.”  {laughs}  That explained him being unconscious on page 7.  It was maybe the last line I wrote on Sabre. 


I’m actually starting to write the first Sabre series in years.  It went through different forms.  Call it the freelance writer’s nightmarish times.


But I’ve been in touch with Joe Pruett, of Desperado Publishing, and we’re working on SABRE: The EARLY FUTURE YEARS, and I’ve just written the first five finished pages.  Joe’s philosophy on comics matches much of my own, so this is a terrific thing to be happening.


The series is coming out from Desperado Publishing, and will be a 4 issue mini-series with a double-sized first issue.  Many of the fans’ favorites are in the story, including Melissa Siren, Blackstar Blood, Crimson Dawn and Midnight Storm.  And a lot of new characters including Doctor Painless.  It includes many of the first meetings between these characters that fans of the series have been asking about for years.  I haven’t even mentioned this yet on the Don McGregor Discussion List for Yahoo. 


I’m also at work on a new Detectives, Inc. story for Joe—‘A Fear Of Perverse Photos’.  Rainer’s first line is: “So, let me get this straight, you want us to break into your apartment, and steal the dirty pictures you’ve been printing off the Internet.”


And therein hangs a tale.  The idea came when I was talking with Paul Bishop on sex and the Internet, when I was reading him some material I’d written for a The Batman project that eventually I was turning into a Dragonflame series, about kidnapped kids.  Almost every home has sexually explicit material in it.  And I thought, this is not only a timely piece, but very human, and the kind of stories I like for Denning and Rainer.  Detectives, Inc. was never supposed to be a series where every story had to have a murder mystery.


But if all goes well, I will finally get to write what was originally going to be the second Detectives, Inc. series: ‘A Horror Of Burning Places’.  I didn’t go with that storyline because it was about the bombing of abortion clinics, and I really wanted to do that story, but when the opportunity came to write and direct a video on the characters, and to write a part for my wife, Marsha, as Deirdre Sevens, I knew I wouldn’t have the budget to go about blowing up buildings.  I came across statistics on domestic violence and that became the focal point of the actual second Detectives, Inc. story: ‘A Terror Of Dying Dreams’.


If this new series sells, looks like I’ll finally get the chance to write the abortion clinic story.


Plus, I’ve just heard from Kevin Burton Smith, who does the website, which is the biggest private eye site on the Internet, that there is a producer who is expressing interest in Detectives, Inc. as a noir film series.  We’ll see.


The whole video and done and thanks to you can see stills from the video up there.  Plus he did a tremendous 4 minute trailer for the 2 hour 10 minute video.  Please check it out.


RA: One of your stories I really liked that you did for Eclipse Magazine was one called ‘The Twin In The Doorway’. 


DM: Oh, really?  That surprises me because you didn’t mention that story in your commentary for that issue.  You mentioned the other stories—apparently you do a little thing for each issue and mention the stories you liked—but that’s one you didn’t mention.   


RA: {laughs} Maybe that one hit too close to home.  {much laughter}  A couple of your stories dealing with childhood could have come out of my own biography.  When I read that story, I went “Oh geez, I know this guy.  Damn.”


DM: It just surprises me because you didn’t mention it at all and you apparently liked ‘A Walk Up Avenue U’ quite well.  ‘Avenue U’ was a very accurate story.  It really captured the way it was on that avenue at that point in time.  I gave Tom Sutton, who’d never been in Brooklyn, a lot of photo references and he captured it with all her vast ability to draw any type of story, though I’m sure Tom would rather ‘Avenue U’ be replaced by a swamp.  He loved to draw swamps. 


Tom was so good to work with.  When I was doing the Alexander Risk stories or the Warren stories or the Eclipse stories, you could give him horror stuff, big city stuff, flying airplanes and all the toggles and switches that are in there, estates on Long Island, horse drawn carriages and he could do it all.  He would change his style from story to story.  It was just amazing.  You look at ‘The Fade-Away Walk’ or ‘The Night The Snow Spilled Blood’ or ‘Not A Creature Was Stirring…’ and he was stylistically different in every one of them. 


RA: He could do quite bizarre artwork as well as much plainer stuff.  His art on Planet Of The Apes is just breathtaking.  He has double page spreads on those that are as intricate and beautiful as anything Moebius or Geof Darrow have done.  His tribute to Will Eisner that he did for Warren, ‘Boxed In’, is just perfection.


DM: That’s why I loved him on Morbius.  No matter what you gave him to do it didn’t faze him.  I liked working with Tom a lot.  He would call me at home all the time, at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.  {laughs}  Finally, at around 4:00 or so, I tell him “Tom, I gotta go.  I gotta get some sleep.”  Seriously, he did that all the time.  He was a real character.  I remember meeting him the first time up in Massachusetts.  That was when we first started working together.


RA: I ask this question of everyone I interview, mostly because I, personally, find it interesting.  But who were your favorite comic writers and artists when you were growing up?  Well, not just in comics but anybody.


DM: Most of them, the writers, weren’t in comics.  Milton Caniff, Will Eisner, Hal Foster, Chester Gould from the comic strips.  I said to Stan Lee once “C’mon, Stan, admit it.  You brought to comic books the kind of stories and storytelling that Milton Caniff & Chester Gould brought to comic strips.  The kind of continuity where you follow the character’s lives.  Where there was a great supporting cast of characters for the hero to fall back on.”  That’s exactly what Stan did and he admitted it.  I also enjoyed work by Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, and a lot of other people from Marvel.  What an amazing time and what amazing creativity!


RA: Yeah, those early Marvels weren’t like any other books on the stands at the time.


DM: Right.  And they produced so much material that holds up today.  Just amazing.  But you were asking me about writers that influenced me and nobody did more to do that than Evan Hunter {aka Ed McBain}.  Those books just influenced me profoundly.  Just incredible work.  His humanity and his sense of storytelling.  He was also, to me, the great New York City writer.  Long before I ever came to New York City, one of the reasons I wanted to come was his stories.  New York City didn’t hold surprises for me because he didn’t just write about where things were but he wrote about what the city is.  The love part of it and the hate part of it.  He caught that better than anyone I’ve ever seen.  He had a profound influence on me.  He was also writing series work, the 87th Precinct books number over 50 books since the first one in 1956 to the last one in 2005.  I loved his stuff a lot.  {note to readers—many, if not all, of the 87th Precinct novels are in print; plus the new & great paperback line Hard Case Crime Files has revived a number of great McBain novels, among others—look them up on the internet.  Great stuff!} 


Sterling Sillaphant, who wrote the TV shows Naked City and Route 66.  Sillaphant was the writer who taught me that you could bleed on that page, every time.  You could just give everything you had to a story.  I loved his stuff a lot.  Naked City is on DVD from Image, and you can order some of the sets on the Internet.  I’d love to see Route 66 on DVD.  Episodes like ‘Incident On A Bridge’ or ‘Most Vanquished, Most Victorious’ are so beautifully done.


I was a big fan of Ian Fleming.  Fleming took this incredible material—there be a centipede crawling up James Bond’s groin or drinking the sweat off his forehead—incredible suspense narrative and he’d make it very, very real.  He was certainly an influence on the heroic aspects of comics. 


Richard Matheson.  He took the paranoid daydreams of just about anybody and handed them off to you.  A shrinking man?  Vampires?  He made it all real.  And like Evan Hunter and Sterling Silliphant, never lost the humanity that is the heart and soul of the work.


RA: I was reading some Richard Matheson stories to my 10 & 12 year olds just the other day.  They loved ‘Born Of Man And Woman’. 


DM:  Geez!  Well, there ya go.  What a story!  {laughs}  Still works to this day.


RA: The 10 year old also liked ‘Dress Of White Silk’.


DM: I don’t remember that one.


RA: It’s a sort of vampire story about a little girl that he published early in his career.  Quite creepy. 


DM: Richard also wrote the great American vampire novel, I Am Legend. 


I also loved Robert Culp.  Culp and Bill Crosby influenced me profoundly when they were doing ‘I Spy’.  I got the chance to meet a lot of my heroes in later years—Evan Hunter and Robert Culp—that’s one of the great things about being a writer.  Getting to meet your heroes.  Evan died this year.  There was a rumor going around this summer that he was thinking of retiring from writing and I wrote him and said “Evan, you can’t!  You promised that you would write right up to the end.”  Of course, I had no idea of how sick he really was. 


RA: Is there anyone who impresses you nowadays, as opposed to when you were starting out?


DM: Sure, Joss Wheaton.  Joss has gone and done in television what we were doing in comics.  Trying to get people to come back month after month.  Although for TV, it’s week after week.  Trying to be coherent in terms of the mythology and the cast of characters.  I think Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly are all tremendous works.  And the guy can even write musicals!  Is there anything Joss can’t do?


J. Michael Straczynski with Babylon 5 came in and brought that same feeling—individual stories that served an overall, cohesive, visual novel with power and emotion.  That’s an amazing piece of work because J. Michael Straczynski wrote almost all of the episodes!  Probably 90% of the scripts were written by him.  An amazing piece of work.  I don’t know of anybody who’s done that much finished work on a series since Stirling Silliphant or Susan B. Harris.


I know I’m leaving out some very fine writers—{laughs} I’m actually looking up at my DVD shelf at the moment to see if there’s someone I’ve overlooked.  Oh!  Here’s one!  I can’t think of the creator’s name but he did The Wire.  This guy just blows me away!  It’s amazingly accurate, telling material, on where we are in this time!  He tells that story and he doesn’t care if everybody is going to get it all.  It’s all there though and it’s so rich and dense and complex!  Beautiful character stuff!  Oh!  The guy’s name is David Simon.  I really love his work!


Then there’s Tom Fontana.  Some of his work on Homicide was phenomenal.  Andre Braugher brought such an emotional depth to his work, created an indelible character in Pembleton, but it’s fine, complex work by all the principals, and Kyle Secor often gets overlooked for what he did as Tiom Bayliss, because Pembleton’s character is so flamboyant and complex.  Bayliss’ character is more subtly complex.  More than one realizes until the very end of the series.


Those are some of the writers today who wind me up.  There are probably others but the ones I’ve mentioned are the ones who spring to mind.


RA: Thank you so much for the information and I really appreciate you taking the time.




                                                                A 2008 Interivew with Bruce Jones!


RA: Thank you, Mr. Jones, for agreeing to this interview.  Can you tell us a little about the influences on your writing and your art?


BJ: Like everyone else, I suppose, my influences were a product of my times and environment.  In my case, I was born during that nether period somewhere between the War Babies and the Baby Boomers.  I think of myself as a child of the 1950s, but my influences bled into both the decades preceding and following. 


Comics-wise, this made me late to the EC era and pretty much jaded by the time of Marvel’s big resurgence during the early 1960s.  By then I was getting too old to read comics, or so society assured me.  It may be chic to be a nerd or geek today.  It wasn’t in 1956.  you were a boy who read comics and then you were a man who read magazines and there was little gray in between to ‘find your way’.  What’s widely regarded as the ‘Stan Lee’ era of the 1960s felt like a “watered-down” period to kids raised on pre-code horror comics, film noir movies and post war guilt. 


To me, most comics after 1955 felt colorless and apologetic.  It was like someone ‘else’ had started running the store.  I don’t think anyon who didn’t live during the advent of the Comics Code can understand it.  You had to be there.  The same thing, to a lesser degree, was happening in the paperback field.  There was this general ‘cleaning up’ attitude.  Let’s make the nation safe for white American…while black America continues to sit in the back of the bus.  At least the change of art direction among the paperbacks lent an air of respectability to the format it probably needed and actually profited by.  Anyway, you didn’t have to feel like a lowbrow to have one on your coffee table anymore.  [Still] I missed the lurid covers and not so subtle blurbs.  After 1955 everything felt sanitized.


The only two national publications with any kind of iconoclast mindset were Playboy and Mad.  Young people today may laugh at the idea of Mad magazine as avant garde but by ‘50’s standards they were pratically anarchists.  You just can’t imagine.  In retrospect we laughed perhaps too long and harshly at our own expense.  I think it may have been a sort of smirking revenge disguised as rebellious humor.  But it was a great time to be a rebel.  Really easy as almost anything within spitting distance was worthy of rebellion.  So when they took away the horror comics it was like being herded by Big Brother, a slap in the face.  Even though I was too young to have actually bought or collected pre-code comics, I could feel the cold breeze left in the code’s wake.  It was probably the only time in my life when I knew I was absolutely right about something and adults were absolutely wrong.  It was a hollow feeling, frustrating beyond articulating.  Like being betrayed.  Great practice, though, for dealing with girls later on.


Anyway, some of us turned to short fiction, novels, film and TV—the other forms of American ignominy.  Playboy in particular was a great source of beautifully illustrated science fiction.  Every kid’s dad or uncle had a stack somewhere in the house.  You just had to wait for the proper moment.  The keepers of history rant at how Hefner began the whole sexual revolution and brought heterosexuality out of the closet, but they fail to realize how much his magazine’s science fiction did to legitimize that genre for future generations.  The old joke goes: “I only read Playboy for the articles.”  The truth was many of us really did savor the fiction and cartoons as much as the pulchritude.  Playboy was a kind of badge, our Mad sans the sniggering innuendo that Ma forced itself to dance around with.   Besides, if we weren’t supposed to be reading horror comics we sure as hell weren’t supposed to be reading Playboy.  It was the last remaining forbidden fruit.  So naturally we bit.


RA: Your first artwork appears in print on the Warren Magazines fan pages.  Then you published a story, ‘Morgan’, in the fan magazines of the day.  How did the printing of that first story come about?


BJ: In the late 1960s I became acquainted with Vern Corriel, the Kansas City publisher of the Burroughts Bibliophiles and all thing Tarzan.  I used to go over to his house in K.C., Missouri to gawk and drool at all the great original J. Allen St. John paintings and Frazetta art gracing his walls.  Vern either thought I had potential or he was just a nice guy—either way he offered me the chance to write and draw my own Tarzan comic story for his publication.  I leapt at it.  I mean, where else was I ever going to have the chance to both write and draw a Burroughs character almost bereft of editorial control?  I may have been a callow kid, but I was smart enough to know that.  ‘Morgan’, as I recall, was a filler story to pad out the issue of the Bibliophile that included my early take on Tarzan.  Pretty dreadful stuff.  I ruined everything in the inking stage.  Just wasn’t ready yet.  Why oh why are we forced to look back?  The curse of print.  This was about 1968, I think.


RA: How did you get involved with Skywald Publishing? 


BJ: My style of writing and drawing was just about anathema to the kinds of things being done in comics when I chose to break into the field.  That sort of sums up my business acumen.  I’d had some success doing spot illustrations for Galaxy and some of the other remaining sci-fi digests but comics didn’t know what to do with me.  The editors at Marvel and DC would look at my portfolio and scratch their heads and say things like, “Well, that’s some pretty nice line work but can you draw more like Jack Kirby?”  Skywald, like Warren, was one of the few games in town doing non-superhero publishing.  They liked short pieces with horror or science fiction settings—beginnings, middles and ends—something that came naturally to me.  So I tended to gravitate there the same way I gravitated toward the other artists in New York who drew in a more illustrative style.  You know, the Foster/Frazetta school as opposed to the Kirby/Anderson school.  I remember showing my portfolio to Carmine Infantino when he was head honcho at DC.  He smiled graciously and grunted and said “Huh.  You draw like Frank Frazetta.”  I was naïve enough to think this was a compliment.


RA:  Where did the Philip Roland pen-name, which you used on your first Skywald story, come from?


BJ: Philip Roland came from my brother’s first and middle name.  I used it, if memory serves, because Skywald asked me to draw and rewrite a script by another writer.  Maybe I didn’t feel the final product justified either of our names, I don’t recall.  Anyway, there was no Writer’s Guild around to arbitrate the thing so I just used a non de plume.  It probably helped save the other writer’s career.  I’m not terribly proud of most of the work I did for Skywald.  Seems very rushed and crude to me now, even for back then.  I was frantically trying to make comics a real, paying job, always racing the clock.  I should have treated it more like a hobby as my friends did.  Looking back, I wish I’d taken more time with it, gone the extra mile.  As Krenkel said: “If you’re feeling rushed or not in the mood to draw, don’t.”


RA: You also had a number of early stories/art jobs in 1971-72 for Warren Publications.  One of them was the lead-off story for a Steve Skeates scripted series in Eerie.  The stories were about an underwater prince of Atlantis and were probably leftover scripts or plots from his tenue on DC’s Aquaman.  Do you remember that first story?


BJ: I couldn’t figure out what that Skeates story was about, let alone what it was doing in a horror magazine.  It was just a script lying around the office that the editor handed me.  I wasn’t known as a writer yet so I took what came my way.  I think I saw the script as a chance to do my Al Williamson/Roy Krenkel thing—have fun with exotic flora and fauna and indulge in weird machines.  I made the pencils very tight for some reason, I think because Jim Warren insisted on seeing his artist’s pencils before the job was inked, or maybe before the lettering was put on.  In the elevator on the way up to Warren’s office, I remember Bernie Wrightson sifting through my pages, nodding.  He turned to me and said something like, “You know, you should tell Warren these are the finished pages.  He can print half tone art.  This thing looks great the way it is.”  So that’s what I did and that’s what got printed.  I believe that was Bernie’s subtle way of suggesting I don’t screw the job up with my lousy inking.  Good ole Bern.


RA: The 1974 story ‘Jenifer’, which appeared in Creepy, seems to have put you on the map as a writer of interest.  I myself, reading it for the first time that summer, was struck by how little it seemed to have in common with the average horror story that appeared in comics and  how closely it tied in with the prose writers I was discovering at the time—stories like ‘Lover When You’re Near Me’ by Richard Matheson, ‘Bianca’s Hands’ by Theodore Sturgeon, ‘The Snake’ by John Steinbeck and ‘Miss Gentibelle’ by Charles Beaumont.  All five stories dealpt with psycho-sexual themes that seemed a good deal deeper and more mysterious than the average prose story I’d encountered before.  Certainly stranger than most comic stories!  It also seems to be the first time you appeared in print as a writer rather than as a writer/artist.  Can you tell us some of the background regarding that story?


BJ: As I said, by the mid 1950s I pretty much quit reading comics.  Most of my inspiration came from short story writers.  These were in paperback collections, mostly, or Playboy.  I gravitated toward the Ray Bradbury school of writing: Ray Russell, Robert Sheckley, Charles Beaumont, guys like that.  I read Asimov and Clarke but preferred the ‘soft’ science fiction writers.  I remember, while reading them, having that epiphany we all eventually have—“Hey, I can do as well as that!”  Some ego, huh?  I was so clearly cut out to be a novelist and not a comic artist.  I don’t know why it was so long in coming.  Anyway, I’m sure some of that Bradbury School was still in my head and leached into ‘Jenifer’.  I’d been writing short stories regularly for my own amusement from about the age of eight and ‘Jenifer’ was just one more to me.  I was amazed at the ruckus it made.  It must have struck a core.  Or maybe it was Bernie’s art.  I remember that at the time, my wife Yvonne and I were looking to get out of New Jersey.  Tramping the streets of Manhattan for comic work had begun to get old and I was sick of the high rent.  Her folks were fighting or something back in K.C. and we decided to move back and act as a buffer for a while or some such stupid thing.  I wasn’t getting much work anyway.  Bill DuBay, who edited the Warren books at the time, wouldn’t look twice at my stuff.  But Wrightson and Jeff Jones dropped by my plance one day after leaving Warren’s offices and told me DuBay had read ‘Jenifer’ and gone ape.  Bernie wanted to draw it.  I was in shock.  It was too late to celebrate, though.  I was already committed to moving back to the Midwest.


RA: Following ‘Jenifer’ I began consciously searching the magazines for stories with your byline. You began to appear regularly over at Marvel in their B&W magazines but even with ‘Jenifer’s’ success you only had a few more stories appear in the Warren books until Louise Jones (now Louise Simonson) became editor.  After that, the floodgates opened, with dozens of your stories appearing regularly at Warren through 1982.  How did you get along with Louise Jones as opposed to the previous editor, Bill DuBay?


BJ: I know it’s only a typo, but your original question read: “How did you get ALONE with Louise as opposed to Bill DuBay?”  I don’t know about Bill, but any red-blooded boy would have loved to get alone with Weezie.  She was cute as a bug.  We all had crushes on her.  She was married to Jeff Jones at the time though, who’s one of my best friends.  So while I didn’t exactly get “alone” with her I knew her very well almost from the first day I arrived in New York.  Jeff was one of the first artists I sought out having seen his work in Larry Ivie’s magazine.  Jeff’s place became a kind of locus for illustrative artists.  Mike, Bernie, Archie Goodwin, Steve Hickman, Steve Harper, Vaughn Bode (not exactly illustrative, but--), Roy Krenkel, we were all over at Jeff’s constantly for parties or just hanging around, goofing off and feeling inferior to Bernie’s artwork.  Anyway, when Weezie took over editing the Warren books, she called me in K.C.  She asked if I’d be interested in contributing some scripts.  I was trudging the humid avenues of Kansas City looking for advertising work at the time, so you can imagine my immediate response.  Anything to avoid drawing cattle feed ads and wheat products.


RA: Shortly after Louise became editor you almost took over the Nov. 1976 issue of Creepy, writing four great stories, including ‘Country Pie’ with illustrations by Carmine Infantino & Bernie Wrightson, ‘Process Of Elimination’ with art by Russ Heath, ‘In Deep’ with art by Rich Corben and ‘Now You See It…’ with art by Al Williamson.  What can you tell us about these stories?


BJ: With the exception of Carmine Infantino, all those other guys were friends of mine so it was a pleasure knowing they’d be doing the illustrating.  Now that I think about it, the Weezie years at Warren were perhaps slightly nepotism-oriented.  Well, not really, but a lot of us worked and hung out together socially both before and after her Warren tenure.  It was kind of grand, really.  She was certainly the best editor I ever worked with.  It was also the kind of genre I was most familiar and comfortable with, which helped.  But I also think Weezie made a concentrated effort to improve the magazine.  She really cared about it and her work there was very professional.  She was the picture of brains and beauty.  The comics editing community could have learned a lot from Ms. Jones about both the art of publishing and how to handle artists’ and writers’ egos.  No mean feat.  Sadly, few listened.


RA: Do you have any favorites among the stories at Warren?


BJ: No, but if I did the list would probably contain stories associated with the top illustrators.  It is a collaborative medium, after all.  No one’s immune to that, no matter how celebrated a writer they may think themselves.  You always look at the art first.  Always.  This is true even when the art is stinko.


RA: When I re-read the Warren stories while working on the Warren checklist, I remember being particularly impressed by a two-part story you did with Gonzalo Mayo called ‘Francesca’.  I liked it for both the gothic tinge of the story and the different approach Mayo made with his artwork.  Very much outside his usual style.  What did you think of the many Spanish artists who worked on your stories?


BJ: For the most part I thought they were pretty terrific.  I’ve been blessed with some really superior talent over the years that made my stories look better.  Interspersed with some really under-superior talent.  The best artists seem to come in clumps.  The first time at Warren, I suppose.  The next—and the only time it was my own doing—was at Pacific Comics in San Diego.  The third I’d say was my run on The Hulk at Marvel.  Little highlights in-between to be sure, but those, cumulatively, were the best runs in terms of art.  Luck of the Black Irish, I guess.  The average twenty year old today, of course, wouldn’t be familiar with half the names I’ve mentioned.  How’s that for a wake-up call, Rich?  Brrrr!


RA: Only a few days before Louise Jones left Warren for a position at Marvel, Jim Warren began a story freeze, stating that no new stories could be purchased until the inventory was used up.  Both Don McGregor and Bob Toomey mentioned to me how this edict messed up their careers at the time—in fact, Toomey left comics, believing that Warren was going out of business.  What effect, if any, did it have for you?  Your byline vanished shortly thereafter for over a year, then returned only periodically in the year or so before Warren went under.  Was this why a number of your short stories began to appear in DC’s mystery books?


BJ: That’s something of a blind spot.  I do remember Weezie calling with the bad news.  But it seemed no time before she was calling back to invite me to Marvel to write Ka-Zar and Conan, etc.  I think I was also busy with some early novel work around that period.  Sorry, I can’t remember it more clearly.  Some days my brain cells just don’t want to do the Time Warp Again, I guess.


RA: You and Russ Heath had a left-over, possibly unfinished story from your Warren days, called ‘Odysseus Descending’.  Is there any possibility of it being published?


BJ: I really have no idea.  Dark Horse Comics is planning to republish the Creepy and Eerie line of Warren magazines and eventually offer new stories.  Perhaps the Jones/Heath job will finally surface at that time.  I’ve always loved Russ’s art.


RA: Who was or is April Campbell and what did she do as co-editor for your anthologies from Pacific Comics?  How did your involvedment with Pacific Comes come about?


BJ: While hanging around at Al Williamson’s place I discovered the European fumetti comic magazines he had lying about—it’s panel art told with photos in lieu of art—and ever since then I’ve wanted to do something with that format.  As mentioned, I was writing stories for the Warren books under Louise Jones until Warren shut his doors to new stories.  Around that time Richard Corben, who lived just a few miles from me in K.C. got to thinking about projects we could publish on our own without editorial intervention.  Rich had his Fantagor comic line but I wanted to do something that would reach mainstream audiences.  I was constantly doing that back then, convinced that all it took was the right product and the average guy on the streets would read comics.  Hah!


Anyway, I decided to try the fumetti idea and launched my own imprint—BJA—working with photographers instead of artists.  I had a kind of neo film noir-meets comics idea in mind, something I could shoot in black and white to keep the costs down.  I felt a comic story that looked like a movie was a good hook and was fooling around with that idea when Star Wars came out.  It was all everyone was talking about.  So that prompted me to do something in the science fiction genre but that also meant it had to be in color. 


Corben had a convoluted photographic coloring technique he used then (this was before computers) and a couple of assistants working the mechanics with him. I struck a deal with them, shot the first ten pages in black and white, had them colored at Corben’s and set off for New York to find a publisher.  Warner Books bought the book which I named Amberstar.  It was actually pretty cool looking, with all kinds of split-image photo techniques clearly in the Star Wars vein.  At that time I think you could have sold a cookbook based on Star Wars.  The black and white pages turned out nice, but I was less than happy with what the coloring people did to it.  Corben was too busy to watch them and it all got pretty muddy in places and it all ended up with a kind of “colorized” feel rather than the vibrant hues Corben got into his line work.  The whole thing just worked much better in black and white. 


So, after Amberstar I started my next fumetti book Dime Novel using the film noir idea, this time to avoid the color problems.  I was casting roles for the parts and one of them was a young local model named April Campbell.  We did some modeling work together for the Kansas City Star’s newspaper ads and got to know each other.  April was very bright, looked terrific, had a Playmate figure and—most importantly—had acting experience.  I hired her and we began shooting Dime Novel and a second novel, Vampira, simultaneously with April in both lead roles.  Some of the location stuff for Vampira we did with the Colorado mountains substituting for European mountains and in the beautiful, downtown Empire Theater.  The Empire is one of the original ornate movie palaces of the 1930s which we used for the vampire castle interiors.  It worked wonderfully.  Both projected books were period pieces, which is the worst thing you can do to yourself budget-wise, but we were very lucky.  We found people who let us use their art deco apartments and their classic Untouchables-type 1930s’ roadsters for Dime Novel.  There was even one guy who had his own gangster-style machine gun.  We had our act down after shooting Amberstar so the brochure and test pages looked fabulous, period wardrobes and all.  Nothing in the frame showed a single modern item.  It was killing work but worth it.  Both projects were akin to a film in terms of setups and lighting sans the movement.  Blocks of text were linked in with the images with every ounce of design-Jones I had in me so that both would flow together throughout the books.   There were no word balloons.  It was exhausting but we all learned a lot.


However, neither presentation interested New York publishers, which was the only game in town back then.  So, broke and weary, I closed up shop and went back to comics.


April and I had been together every day for months, meanwhile, working far into the wee hours and the close proximity eventually evolved into a romantic relationship, though a complicated one as both of us were married to to others. 


When Neal Adams called and offered me the graphic novel that became Freak Show with art by Bernie Wrightson, April and I moved in together and she helped me plot the graphic novel.  After that we began working together on things like Ka-Zar and Conan for Marvel, always with the idea of getting BJA up and running again.  Soon after this, Steve Schanes at Pacific Comics called and offered me some writing work.  I countered with my own offer to package a group of comics the way BJA had packaged Amberstar for Warners—but only if I could retain editorial, writing and design control over the thing and pick out the artists.


April and I met with Steve and Bill in San Diego and cemented a deal.  You could see right away though, that having the control I insisted on was only going to work if we were in their proximity, so April and I moved to California and rented a house on Coronado Island across the bay and not far from the Pacific offices.  The result was Twisted Tales, Alien Worlds, Somerset Holmes, Pathway To Fantasy and Silverheels. 


April and I were very hands on, right down to the fonts used on the covers and how to advertise the books.  It would never have been possible if I didn’t have so many talented artist friends in the business.  I had the cream of the crop.  Brent Anderson, Joe Chiodo and other artists we worked with eventually followed us out there and we had a little art colony there for awhile.  It was probably the hardest I ever worked and the most fun I ever had.  I’m still pretty proud of those books.


RA: What is April doing today?


BJ: April and I were married in 1984.  We left San Diego for Los Angeles in 1983 to pursue film and TV work, which is where we thought we were headed.  Somerset Holmes was created with the idea of attracting the film community and that’s what happened.  It’s what got us our Writer’s Guild cards and our first film deals and TV work.  We made a lot of money but boy oh boy did that ‘hands on, total creativity’ thing go out the window!  Hollywood hates creativity, which sounds strange, but is nonetheless essentially a given.  Movies and TV projects get green-lighted for reasons you would not conceive, rarely based on a project’s inherent worth.  After Warren and San Diego it was like working in a straight jacket…that paid really well.  It’s very seductive.  Stay away.


RA: In a conversation with me, Steve Bissette said you wrote great horror stories but that it was because they were actually twisted love stories.  He particularly mentioned your Twisted Tales’ story ‘Shut-In’, with art by Libertore, as a prime example of what he was talking about.  Do you agree with his assessment?


BJ: Well, I think maybe the emphasis on love or sex some people associate with my stories is more from the format they appeared in than anything else.  Sex was a common writer’s tool in short stories, novels, movies and TV writing whether it was blatant or danced around.  But, the underground comics aside, it was new at the time to graphic story telling.  I was probably taking advantage of the relative freedom I had at Warren and Pacific instead of the more child-oriented strictures of Marvel and DC.  It was like the difference between writing for network or for HBO.  But I wrote an awful lot of short fiction back then as well as novels and most of them had little to do with sexual situations.  To me it was just one more legitimate theme to be mined.  As John Updike said: “Everybody’s interested in sex.”


RA: Your story ‘Banjo Lessons’ in Twisted Tales #5 was obviously an attempt at an EC-style Shocksuspense Story.  It actually worked fairly well in that respect, but you and April also included an editorial defending the story before anyone had actually had a chance to read it.  I thought at the time—and I suspect a number of other people did as well, judging by the letter’s page—that the editorial undercut the story, giving an air of timidity that I don’t think was intended at all.  In retrospect, do you thing that editorial was a mistake?


BJ: Actually I did everything I could to avoid writing EC type stories as I knew the comparisons were likely inevitable.  Every time someone mentioned how our stories were like the old EC material I just rolled my eyes and walked away.  I wasn’t interested in nostalgia.  I saw Twisted and Alien and our other books as a way to continue the kind of adult-oriented stories I’d been doing all along.  Sounds crazy, but I really wanted adults to read comics, too.  If it came off as pandering it wasn’t intentional.  Manga is the closest thing now that comes to what I was attempting at that time and even that is mostly for an adolescent audience.  But at least it’s a step away from traditional superhero fare.


‘Banjo Lessons’.  Let’s see.  That was quite a little adventure—actually quite a headache.  After I wrote ‘Banjo Lessons’ (in long hand in those days) I handed it to April and she said, “This is one of the best things you’ve ever written.”  I thought no more of it until Steve Schanes called.  He said “…uh, we have to talk.”  His parents helped fund the company and his mother, at least, was offended by some of the elements in ‘Banjo Lessons’  To this day I don’t know how anyone could find the least racist thing about the story.  [The story concerns a group of racist rednecks who are trapped in a cabin during a snowstorm who decided to eat their black servant and the subsequence mental breakdown and massive guilt of one of the rednecksp--RA]  But Steve wanted some kind of editorial to appear after the story assuring readers we weren’t the KKK and to also to eliminate the last panel showing the rednecks cooking the black guy.  I thought doing either would both ruin the plot and make us appear defensive.  I finally elected to pull the story.  I think it was April who insisted “don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.”  She suggested moving the editorial to the front of the book to look more like our regular letters page and less like a clumsy apology.  I agreed.  For all I knew people weren’t even reading the letters page.  I think she also came up with the idea of putting a dark Zip-a-Tone dot pattern over the last panel to lessen (cloak) the visual impact.  I agreed to that too.  Problem was, the heavy-handed dot pattern of Zip-a-Tone called attention to itself and made the art look even more salacious that everyone was worried about.  I think I talked to Steve and tore the Zip-a-Tone off the art at the last minute.  I don’t recall.  We weren’t really obligated to answer to Pacific contractually but they’d been good to us and kept their word up to then about a hands off approach regarding our books, and I didn’t want to create a climate of mistrust or hard feelings.  Pacific and Warren (under Louise Jones) were the two most freely creative places I ever worked and I appreciated the freedom, believe me.  Anyway, there was little gray area among readers when it came to their reaction to the published story.  People either derided it out of hand or applauded our efforts at pushing the envelope.  I never promised anyone Twisted Tales would be a pleasant read, just an entertaining and sometimes, hopefully, an insightful one.  I mean, what the hell was I apologizing about?  It was a horror comic.  Personally, I’m just glad ‘Banjo Lessons’ saw the light of day.  In some ways it made up for all that hard work on Dime Novel and Vampira that never did come out except as promotional ads or brochures.  Those two books were some of the best unfinished work I ever did.  Kind of a shame.


It’s just about impossible to think up these stories, then commit them to paper, then get the artwork back on them, then see them colored and published (pant-pant) and still retain any kind of distance from them.  If readers went through in reading what we went through in creating and manufacturing the comics, it would kill all the fun.  Happily it doesn’t work that way.  They don’t have to get exposed to all the frustrations and time limits and egos of production.  But readers also don’t see the disappointment when, for whatever reasons, something you’ve slaved over and nurtured and think is really exceptional just doesn’t live up to expectations on the printed page, no matter what you do.  This happens more often than we like to admit.  It’s collaborative like movies and TV—you can’t be everywhere at once, oversee every line and nuance.  You just have to live with it and move on to the next thing.  Comics and movies and even novels are like trying to control your dreams.  You can look like you are to a point, but ultimately, like your children, they go their way.  In reality, there is no control.  I think knowing this and secretly loathing it is the reason most writers write—to keep trying to exercise a control they don’t find in real life—but with something that just won’t acquiensce.  It’s like nailing Jello to a tree.  But we keep doing it anyway.  We keep doing it.  It really makes much more sense to sell insurance for a living.


RA: I very much enjoyed a story called ‘The Inheritors’, which was illustrated and colored beautifully by Scott Hampton.   Do you have any anecdotes about Alien Worlds, your science fiction anthology?


BJ: I don’t remember it that well, sorry, except that it was beautifully illustrated by Scott.  I seem to remember it had a kind of typical O. Henry twist ending, which is hard to get away from in any form of story, but I do remember that people seemed to like that story a lot.


RA: Why wasn’t the Three-Dimensional Alien Worlds one-shot simply published as Alien Worlds #8?  The 3-D effects certainly didn’t seem to do the artwork or stories any favors.


BJ:  Alien Worlds 3-D took longer to produce than the average issue so we had to slot it in when it was finally done, hence the “special”.  But I think Ray Zone did an exceptional job with the 3-D conversion and some of the artists really took full advantage of the format.  It’s generally the most sought after Pacific title we did.


RA: What was your understanding as to the collapse of Pacific Comics?  How did Eclipse Comics come into the picture?


BJ:  That part of my life is a blur.  There were so many things colliding simultaneously I don’t know how we wrapped our minds around it.  Somerset Holmes had been sold to Ed Pressman at Warner Brothers so April and I were working on the screenplay and on staff at HBO and trying to move our stuff from San Diego to Thousand Oaks—and then Pacific calls to say they’re throwing in the towel.  We took our line of books to Eclipse.  They began meddling with the editorial pages and making life more difficult, just not getting the feel of the books at all.  There were also some unscrupulous things going on in the background from various parties.  April and I ended up paying some of the artists out of our own pockets which was a hell of a drain, especially at the time.  Even then, a few people apparently still never got reimbursed for their work, or so I’m told.  Let’s just say I learned pretty quickly who my friends were.  I prefer to think that the good times and good people of San Diego made up for the bad, and leave it at that.


RA: Transforming your graphic novel Somerset Holmes into a movie in 1984 put you waaaay ahead of the curve of the present day transformation of comics into movies.  Since Somerset Holmes doesn’t seem to be very dated and someone like Charlize Theron would be ideal as the lead, are there any plans to represent (and reprint) that graphic novel to the studios?


BJ: Brent and April and I have talked about it over the years but so far nothing has worked out.  You never know, though…


RA: During your Hollywood days you kept your hand in the comics world by writing a series for Rich Corben as well as writing and illustrating a dozen or so back-up stories for a number of mini-series he was doing in the late 1980s-early 1990s, all of which I like quite a lot.  What prompted this work?


BJ: Money prompted it.  Movie scripts are hard to sell and TV jobs are always seasonable, even once you’re in the Guild with a good agency.  Hollywood is always a crap shoot.  I needed money and I could draw, so that’s what I did.  Some of the comics jobs I did for Corben worked out pretty well, I think, and some look a little rushed now.  You do your best with what you’ve got.


RA: I haven’t seen your great-looking artwork since the last issue of Andrew Vachss’ ‘Hard Looks’ anthology in 1996.  Are there any plans to take up the illustrating side of your talent again?  I love your artwork.


BJ: Well, thanks.  I was never a fast artist and I had an eye injury in 2002 that’s made drawing harder and produces headaches.  But I can still do it. If the right project came along in the right time frame I’d jump back into drawing, sure.


RA: You’ve been working at DC now for a number of years.  Can you give us a glimpse of your working future?


BJ: Writing fiction, I imagine.  It’s about all I’m good at.  And scribbling pictures here and there.  Probably remaining rootless.  I’m easily bored.


RA: Thank you!






This bibliography is copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008 & 2010 Richard J. Arndt.

© 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006,2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 R. Arndt.


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