Through the Mail Slot

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A few questions from a reader named Davide Giurlando…
Approximately 10 days ago I registered at your Forum under the nickname “Myskin.” Since then, I didn’t receive any permission to start a topic or reply in the forums. I thought that I would be allowed to do it in a couple of days after the registration, but perhaps I made some mistake. Could you clarify my problem? In alternative, I report here some questions which I wanted to pose in a topic: I’d be happy if you could give me some answer even in this form.
We’re working on adding “Captcha” software to the site to fully-automate registration, but in the meantime, part of the process is (as covered at the Forum):
“Once you’ve signed up through the site here, to COMPLETE your registration:
1. SEND AN E-MAIL to webmaster-at-comicworldnews-dot-com with the username you have chosen.
2. Check your e-mail for a registration message, and click the link in there to confirm your address.
We manually verify all registrations, so you will not be able to post or reply to topics until we have activated your account, which is usually within 24 hours.”
Hopefully, things will be simpler soon, but in the meantime that’s the only way to do it to keep the auto-spammers out. Still, as long as we’re both here, the rest of your questions…

1-About your recent Superman run. I reread some pages recently, and I think that the beginning is an extremely interesting start, but it’s intuitable that along way not everything went as planned. Some of the most recent Superman works (by Johns, Robinson or Rucka) apparently depart from the plans you had for the title. I remember that at a certain point you had some project for a Luthor mini with Guedes. More or less at the same time, in the pages of Countdown appeared this “Lex Luthor origin” which is completely different from the one Geoff Johns is dealing with in Superman Secret Origins.
Could I suppose that this “never realized origin” is the one you were proposing then?
I don’t know which one you mean by “never realized origin,” but that Countdown origin feature was one Geoff and I consulted on, to make sure it didn’t conflict with our plans. So what would have happened in Lex Luthor: Strange Visitor would have matched up to the Countdown origin, though there was considerably more that would have gone on in that story that wasn’t even hinted at in the Countdown feature.
As to how it matches or doesn’t match what Geoff and Gary are doing in Secret Origins, I can’t say—I’m way behind in my reading and I get my comics later than most readers anyway (I get a big box from DC every month that’s generally a few months behind whatever’s in the stores, and mail-order the other comics I buy, mostly), so I think I only have Secret Origin #1 so far, and haven’t gotten to reading it yet.

2-The Toyman. In Up, Up and Away, you and Johns created the mechanical Toyman (similar to the one from the Superman Animated Series). My impression was that you wanted to establish this Robot as the one, final Toyman, heir to the classic Toyman, Schott, who was possibly dead. Am I right?
I liked the new guy, though I considered him mostly Geoff’s character, as the new take on the Prankster as “distraction for hire” was mine. I don’t know what his final role would have been—we’d talked about doing a “Toy War,” as all three extant Toymen fought it out for the title, with Metropolis as the deadly playing field, but hadn’t gotten around to working out details before I headed off to Trinity-land.
Winslow Schott wasn’t dead, though—in that story, we established that Luthor was delivering Schott to the new Toyman as payment for his work on Luthor’s behalf. Looks like the delivery went awry, though.

3-Why did you give Riot a cartoony face instead of the old skeletal one?
I’m not sure I remember fully. A minor part of it, I think, was that we had Silver Banshee in the same story, and we didn’t want to have two skull-faces around for clarity’s sake, but the major part was to set up Riot for a new approach. He seemed less like a scary skeletal guy and more like a scary crazy guy, so the cartoony face, meant to resemble a demented child’s crayon drawings, that could shift to show his mercurial moods, would help visualize the new approach. I think.
4-Final one. Which were your original plans for “the big Brainiac story” which in the end was realized by Johns?
I almost never answer “what would you have done” questions, for one simple reason: If I didn’t tell the story I set out to tell, well, the ideas for it might turn out to be useful in the future. My original plans for a Brainiac story are actually a story I’d like to tell someday, in some form. So I’ll hang onto them for future use. Sorry.
And while I’m answering mail, let me toss in this, from Scott Edelman, writer of that Captain Marvel issue I praised in my George Tuska write-up—and, for that matter, the writer of the very first page of original art I ever bought, an Al Milgrom/Terry Austin Captain Marvel page where Mordecai P. Boggs shows Rick Jones a concert photo trading on Rick’s relationship with the Avengers, and Rick tears it up. Someday, I’d like to commission Al and Terry to do a full-size piece of art of just that poster. Great stuff.
But anyway, Scott writes:

Nice Tuska piece. Thought you might be interested in this one.
At that link, Scott goes into the untold story of why that issue has one page in it drawn by Dave Cockrum, and shows off the original last page of the story, as penciled by Tuska. So it’s more secrets behind the comics revealed, and a look at some cool unpublished George Tuska art. Go check it out.
And thanks, Scott!

George Tuska

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George Tuska passed away a couple of months ago at age 93, after a career drawing comics that lasted almost 70 years. His life and achievements have been covered by people far more knowledgeable than I (including Mark Evanier, who discusses George here and here). But I thought I’d add a couple of thoughts, from the point of view of a longtime reader, a fan and a writer who had the pleasure of working with George once-and-a-bit.
Plus, it gives me the chance to show off some Tuska work very few people have seen.
I always liked Tuska’s solid, sturdy storytelling—I heard for years that he wasn’t suitable for superhero stories and was much better at the crime drama he’d drawn earlier in his career, but I barely got to see any of that material. What I saw was superhero stories, and that was more than enough to make me a fan. His art had heft and power and impact that served him well, whether he was illustrating Iron Man in combat with Ultimo or the Avengers reacting to a comatose, hundred-foot-tall (and growing!) Yellowjacket. It wasn’t flashy, but it was good, solid comics, always a treat to see.
The other truism about George Tuska, back in the circles I hung out in, was that he regularly got the worst inkers. And while it wasn’t always true, it often felt like it was. He seemed to be regularly teamed with Vince Colletta, Mike Esposito or others who, while capable of doing fine work over other pencilers, seemed to settle for “adequate” over George. One friend suggested that the reason Tuska was so often indifferently inked was that he wasn’t considered important, so he got the leftovers, the inkers no one else wanted to work with. Another suggested it was because he was too much of a pro to complain. Me, I had a different idea. I thought it was because George’s work was so solid, so clear and so direct that it was essentially inker-proof. Put a bad inker on Neal Adams and you’ve ruined so much of what Neal brings to the table, you’ve missed the whole point of hiring Neal. Put a bad inker on Gene Colan, and you’ll mess up the textures that make Gene’s work so good, and the art falls apart. Put a bad inker on George Tuska, though, and the result is solid, readable comics, even if it’s not as pretty as it might be.
So Gene Colan would get the Palmers and the Leialohas, because Gene’s work demanded it, and George would get the Espositos and the Collettas, because his work could survive it. At least, that was my theory.
But I always wanted to see what you’d get if George was inked as well as Neal or Gene. If that solid storytelling was matched up with sensitive rendering. We got to see it a few times—Nick Cardy inked George on some gorgeous Teen Titans stories, and Terry Austin inked a memorable Captain Marvel fill-in that for a long time I thought was the best-looking Tuska book ever. And George was an excellent inker himself, but by the time I was reading comics rarely inked anything; he was in demand as a penciler, and it didn’t make sense to have him ink his own work when he could use that time to pencil another story.
Such was life for the professional comics artist of George’s era. Or eras, considering how long he lasted.

George did two assignments that I was connected with, and they managed to demonstrate the heights and the depths of how pencils can be treated.
I wrote an issue of World’s Finest Comics, back in 1984, that George was tapped to draw. I wrote it plot-style, meaning that I wrote a page-by-page, panel-by-panel breakdown of the story, George drew the pages from that, and then I wrote dialogue and captions to fit the art. And I was thrilled, seeing George Tuska pencils for the first time. They were rich, they were energetic, they were powerful—and every character, even the nobodies who were just there to move the story along, looked great. I started to understand why people had raved about George’s crime stories, since some of the best stuff in the issue involved some criminals right out of Damon Runyon, squirrelly looking quys in flat caps, with wonderful character in their faces and expressions. I had a blast scripting from those pencils, and I wish I could show ’em to you, but I don’t have copies any more.
I’d also stumped for George to get a top-notch inker on the job, and was happy when the assignment went to Rick Magyar, who had a nice crisp line that’d serve George’s pencils well. I’d gotten to work with George Tuska, and it was going to look great!
Alas, Rick had to beg off the job after inking only one page. He was late on some other, more pressing book, and it had to take priority. So the book was turned over to a young guy who was just starting out, who I think had been working in DC’s Production Department. And I won’t name him here, because I don’t want to beat him up. He didn’t have much experience and he didn’t have any time, because by the time he was handed the book to ink, it was very late. So he did the best he could under the circumstances, and went on to do better stuff later.
But the results weren’t good. For all the people who complain about inkers who leave out backgrounds (and George suffered from any number of those), this time he had to deal with an inker who left out foregrounds here and there. One memorable moment was when Superman came down some stairs to see a gem sitting on a lab bench. In the first panel, he’s coming down the stairs and there’s the bench and the gem in the foreground. In the second, he picks the gem up. But the lab bench was left out when the page was inked, so given the perspective, it reads as if Superman’s coming down stairs toward a boulder-sized gem sitting on the floor, and then presto, it’s magically egg-sized when he picks it up. I mentioned above how I thought George’s work was so solid that it could survive indifferent inking, but when the inking messes up the storytelling, that’s hard to recover from.
I was crushed. I know it wasn’t the inker’s fault—he was essentially tossed into the deep end without time or preparation—but oh, that book could have looked so good. If you own a copy, check out that first page. That’s Rick Magyar. The whole issue could have looked that good.
Ah well. Such was life for a professional comics artist—and a young, wet-behind-the-ears writer, to boot.

But the next time I got the chance to work with George, I made sure things worked out better.
In 1995, I was launching Astro City, and I wanted to make it as cool as possible. So one of the things I did was commission some classic artists to draw spot illustrations of the Astro City characters that I could use in the lettercolumns. Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson drawing Samaritan. Jim Mooney drawing Jack-In-The-Box. John Romita Sr. drawing Winged Victory.
And George Tuska drawing the Silver Agent.
George did four gorgeous pencil drawings of the Silver Agent in action. He actually exceeded the terms of the assignment—for our design set-up, we just wanted figures with no background, so we could flow the text around them, and George drew full panels that would have been perfect for a story. Vivid, energetic stuff.
And this time, I got to assign the inker. So I asked longtime Marvel great Joe Sinnott to do it, and Joe did a beautiful job. The kind of inking George’s work deserved every time, not just on occasion. I’d show the finished art here, but can’t find my copies. You can see what Joe did in Astro City vol. 1 #4, though.
Joe did leave out the backgrounds, at my request—so I suppose there’s another inker leaving out backgrounds on George, though in this case it was a design requirement. But what that means is that the art shown here is the first time George’s full drawings have been made public.
To see the image bigger—as well as the other three Silver Agent drawings George did—just click on the following links:
Cats and Chicks
You’ll Be the Rage
When You Show Off
A Tuska Page!
Burma Shave.
Great stuff, huh?