Friday, May 29, 2015

My first professional job in comics.

Back in 1977 when I was pursuing a promising career as a Seven Eleven counter clerk on the graveyard shift (the only job that allowed me to carry a gun) I heard that Country Wide Publications were starting up a magazine to compete with Heavy Metal.
I dragged my portfolio up to New York along with Bob Walters, a pal of mine who is now a renowned dinosaur artist working with several museums, and we met with a guy named Jeff who was the nephew of the publisher. He told us of his plans for a magazine called GASM. After wincing at the name I explained that we didn’t need to be a shadow of Heavy Metal, we could do homegrown stories that had heart instead of just pretty pictures accompanying obtuse stories.
He looked at me with a blank stare and asked if I’d seen Star Wars.
I answered that I’d seen it a dozen times since its opening. He said “I want Star Wars but with more sex and violence.” I asked him what the page rates would be like.
“Forty bucks a page,” he said.
“Is that for writing or penciling or inking or…” I asked.
“Forty bucks a page for everything,” he said.
I asked what kind of story he needed. “Eleven pages.”
“But what kind of story do you want?” I asked.
“Eleven pages by next Friday,” he answered.
On the train going back my head was swirling. I’d be doing comics and pick up a check for a whopping $440.00; the largest paycheck I’d ever seen. Bob suggested I should do a cop theme since Starsky and Hutch was popular on TV at the time. And so I did an 11 page story called Corny and Zorn about two bounty hunters on a planet called Limbo where every felony was punishable by death. (I was heavily influenced by a new Brit character called Judge Dredd.)
The publishers were pleased and I thought I’d continue their adventures in the next issue. But Jeff wanted something different.
…So I did SPEEDY, FLIP AND DUKE about three moronic punks who travel through time causing trouble. I honestly don’t remember what my next story was. I seem to recall it was a satire on space operas. But the third issue was my swan song as Jeff started buying reprint material ’cause it was cheaper.
They rejected my last story even though they assigned it, and when I complained Jeff suggested I go see his uncle, the publisher and owner of Country Wide Publications, Myron Fass.
Myron Fass had been a comic book artist himself in the ’50s. he specialized in jungle girl stories and was actually pretty good. He then formed MF Productions (a more aptly named company there will NEVER be.) and began putting together magazines of an exploitative nature like, UFO, JAWS OF DEATH and .44 MAGNUM. He was also the publisher of PUNK magazine.
If Myron smelled a trend he put out a cheap rag filled with public domain or staged photos and had staff writers hack out text. When I stormed in on Myron he was sitting at his desk. I had at least a foot and a hundred pounds on him and I was angry, but he just sat, calmly regarding me.
I read a profile of him in the Village Voice a while later and it reported that Myron’s interest in .44 magnum revolvers went beyond his editing a magazine about them. He had four loaded revolvers in his desk drawers while I was railing at him about unscrupulous editorial practices. He could have shot me full of holes and would probably have taken photos for a pictorial in BLOODY SHOOTOUT MONTHLY while waiting for the meat wagon to arrive.
Myron sagely sat while my rage exhausted itself and then showed me to the door.
And that was my first brush with working in comics

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