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DECEMBER 1954 - JUNE 2009
[Conversation, May 2008]

Dave Simons: I'm doing the Trapster-"Don't call me Paste-Pot Pete!" right now.
Daniel Best: Good ole Paste-Pot Pete.  A more useless character there never was, other than Tappin' Tommy.
Dave Simons: Yeah, basically he's a guy with a caulking gun.  But he was a founding member of the Frightful Four.  I was also just looking at the Melter.
"I am the Melter!"
" Uh...what do you melt?"
"Old crayons, mostly."

I'm going to have to move on to the late 60s soon- the villains were cooler, but Jack started drawing complicated armor on lots of them such as Ronan the Accuser.  I've been trying for the simpler characters so far,  Can't get easier to draw than the Silver Surfer!  A bald naked guy in space!
So this weekend I'm working on the FF cards.  I decided to start with Mr. Fantastic because he seemed very easy to draw.  Indeed, I've pencilled 5 cards in 1 hour.

The thing that struck me was how many characters are at least loosely based on him.  Of course, he's a stereotype of the 50s hero scientist of B movies, as is the Professor from Gilligan's Island.  There's the hilarious FF satire in the Venture Brothers, of course, but I also see Reed in Professor Utonium from Powerpuff girls.  The lab coat, the pipe...and that shadowy figure of FATHER from Kids Next Door looks very like a silhouette of Reed.

--Dave Simons
[April 2008]
I've been working on a series of Fantastic Four cards for Rittenhouse Archives.  It didn't take long before I found I needed some inspiration.  Jack Kirby was the first place to look.  It wasn't easy.  Of course, when I Googled "Fantastic Four" and hit "images" I got a lot of shots from the movie.  Same as when I Googled "Silver Surfer".  About the third page in I started getting images from the comics.

When I went to do the Black Panther, I was having even more trouble finding images I liked on the internet.  I found one or two nice Kirby pieces, but I'd seen some John Buscema while I was searching the Surfer.  I thot I'd like to see John's take on the Panther.  Not easy to find online.  Then I remembered I had Essential Avengers #3, loaded with John B! 

An examination of the volume revealed lots of Panther.  John captured the feline grace of the Wakandan monarch as well as the all-out action poses.  I occasionally forget (shame on me!) what a great artist John is.  Just amazing.  Anyone could learn a lot about how to draw super-heroes by looking at John's work, even the stuff that was inked over breakdowns.

Don't bother writing to tell me John passed away a few years ago.  I used the present tense above because to me ALL artists are as alive as we can view their work.

I took John's workshop class at the old Commodore Hotel 1975-1976.  It was the only art education I ever had.  A fair amount of pros came out of that class: Bob Downs; Bruce Patterson (an Adams assistant at the time); Juan Ortiz, who worked for DC briefly and then left comics; Bob Hall, who was already working for Charlton; and Larry Mahlsted.

We mainly learned by watching John draw stuff.  He wasn't the world's greatest teacher.  Straight outta Brooklyn.  He spoke with "dese" "dem" and "dose".  And people make fun of my accent.  Watching him draw anything was worth double what we paid for the class, tho! 

I hope some of the guys currently pencilling comics take a look back at his pre-Conan stuff to see how super-heroes should be done.

Getting back to the cards...My method for these was to loosely pencil a figure, often based on a pinup type shot I found online.  I'd do a set of ten of each character.  After pencilling in enough to know what I was doing, I inked them with Micron Sakura markers.  I principally used the 01 with some use of the brush marker.  I've also used the Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen in the past.  I see no difference between the two products.  Gerry Acerno swears by the Pitt.  I use the Sakura because I like the name.  It's prettier sounding than "Pitt".  I colored them not with markers, but with good ol' Dr. Martin's Dyes, just like Marie Severin taught me.  Dr. Martin's (not to be confused with the boots) come in little bottles.  They can be diluted and mixed like watercolor.  They're also brighter than watercolor.

In fact, you have to mix them for a flesh tone.  The formula I use is 2 drops chrome yellow, 2 drops rose charthame, 1 drop olive green.  Then that gets diluted.  If it looks wrong, I add a little more of one of the above until it looks right.  For you PC types, yes, I know everybody's flesh isn't that color.  Maybe I should call it honky tone.

For the effect of Susan Richards turning invisible, I wet the figure down first so that the blue of her costume would thin out and appear to fade.  Then, when it was dry, I scratched it with an X-acto knife.

Hope this was informative.

--Dave Simons