Friday, November 28, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
A few weeks ago, I read about the Barcelona comics salon and I really wish I could've attended. I've been to quite a few and they're always great fun, meeting with fans and other artists, some of whom were my heroes. But no artist has influenced my comic book work more than Moebius who was the guest of honor at this years comics salon. Reading about his appearance reminded me of when I finally met the creator of Arzach and what followed in the years after.
It was 1994 at the San Diego Comic Con and the first GIRL series was well done by then. I was at the Rip-Off Press booth doing drawings and signings and took a break to browse the room. This was one of the first years the con took place at the convention center that it's held at now, and, although much bigger today, it was still a good walk from end to end back then. After a while as I walked back towards the Rip-Off booth, I see the young couple who was manning the booth then waving to me frantically. They could barely contain themselves as I got there and told me that Moebius wanted to meet me. They were a very good looking couple and it hurts me to say how much I laughed at that statement from them. I sat down behind the table and picked up my sketch pad and pencils to finish some requests and they kept asking me "What are you doing?! Moebius wants to meet you!" I decide to pay attention and they explained that his assistant Randy Lofficier-a lovely woman-came by the booth and asked about me, whether I was there, then gave them the message to ask me to come to Moebius' table. About this time Kathy Todd, one of the publishers, appeared and confirmed this. Okay, now what do I do? Attempt to meet the artist who cemented in my mind that the shape of comic book panels don't necessarilly tell a great story as much as what is in the panels without vomiting on his shoes, or just ignore this amazing opportunity and fly back to New York without so much as a "How ya doin'?" I decided to risk vomiting and meet the man.
(A small note: The Moebius story that dictated how I would forever do comics was a five page story that appeared in Heavy Metal called "The Long Tomorrow". If you can find it, it's simply beautiful.)
So, I trekked over to the Moebius stand only to be confronted with one of the longest lines of fans I'd ever seen outside of a Star Wars film. What do I do? Obviously, I go to the end of the line like every other fan, figuring it'll be quite a while. About two minutes pass when Randy, Moebius' assistant, comes to the back of the line, reads my name tag and says "Mr. Taylor. No, no, come with me." She introduces herself and takes me to the front of the line where I see Moebius doing a drawing in someone's book with a pen. No pencilling to ink over-and it was perfect. I'm thinking, okay, I'll wait until he's finished. But Randy says "Jean! Jean!" (Moebius' real name Jean Girard) And she introduces me. A big smile appears on this man's face and he stands up to shake my hand. Now, anyone that's attended a comic con has probably noticed that artists rarely, if ever, stand up to greet people, especially when it's really busy. And, not only did he shake my hand, but he made a hand sandwich with my hand between both of his hands! I was trying to tell him how much his work has influenced and shaped my own comic book work, but he kept telling me how much he loved my work and my comics and that he had them all. At that time there was only MODEL BY DAY, THE GIRL, some pin-up books and a few self published books, but it was still a shock. By now I noticed people on line peering to see who I was and trying to read my name tag, but I was thinking "Hey, screw you, pal. this is the moment of my life." And the "piece de resistance": Moebius summed up his thoughts with the five finger kiss. You know, that french thing where a person likes something so much they join the tips of their fingers of one hand, kiss them, then open them up like a budding flower. I thought "Okay, that's it. This is someone in a Moebius mask." But it was the real deal.
I went back to the Rip-Off booth and they were all eager to know how it went, so I told them. I then gathered all the new stuff I had and brought them back to Moebius and I was given a copy of all the stuff at his table, including prints. This all happened on either a Friday or Saturday, and I don't remember whether I made any money at that show, but meeting this man more than made the trip worth while. The very next time I saw Moebius was in France at the International Comics Salon in Angouleme, an incredible salon, and he pretty much greeted me the same way. Since then, whenever we would meet we would exchange any new products and chat for a bit and it was always a treat for me. It's been a while since I've met with him and I hate that I missed the opportunity in Barcelona, a place that I know very well. But I'll try to make the next Angouleme show and see if he's there, if only to say hello. I would go on to try and describe what it's like for an artist to meet one of his heroes, but it would be pointless. I've told this story over the years to anyone who would listen, and sometimes I got the feeling that people thought i was bragging. But how could you not sound like that if it happened to you?
I thought for a long time whether or not I should tell this story, for fear that it would sound like I'm full of it. But a friend summed it up by saying to me, "No one else is gonna tell it for you".
So, there it is. Moebius is a Taylor fan. How do you like that?
Thursday, March 13, 2008
I first met Mr. Stevens in the early 1990's after I'd had "Model By Day" and "The GIRL" published and had by then become infatuated with THE ROCKETEER comics and, naturally, Mr. Stevens' great girl art. It's fascinating that this man single handedly revived the career of Batty Page which spawned countless books, artwork and even TV specials. And I must admit that I've only done one painting of her, a private commission done two years ago. At that first meeting in San Diego, I merely told Mr. Stevens how much I liked his work and he seemed slightly embarrased. When I shook his hand he read my name tag and said "Kevin Taylor...I've heard of you." I wasn't sure if he was joking or not, but when he told me that Mr. Kaluta showed him a couple of my books (I always gave Mr. Kaluta any new products whenever I met with him at a con) I knew he was being honest. By that time I had made it my personal policy to never go out of my way to meet artists who I admired because I didn't want to not like them, but that day I was glad I had met Mr. Stevens.
Years went by before our paths crossed again and I reintroduced myself to Mr. Stevens at another San Diego con and the first thing he says is "Hey, I remember you." And that's how it went over the years- until one San Diego con in the late nineties which was to be one of the last times I would see him in person.
I was sharing a table with Sandra Chang and Laura Molina who had dated Mr. Stevens some time before. Miss Molina showed me her latest work-a large painting of Dave Stevens nude. She went on to tell me the story of she and Mr. Stevens and of the series of paintings she´d made and would continue to make. I won't go into details of that story only to say that it doesn't flatter Mr. Stevens. But I will state that, in my adult life, I've learned that people rarely blame themselves for their own problems. This is particularly true of most women and relationship problems. You simply cannot avoid problems in any relationship. That's just how it goes. I believe the first thing a person needs to do when a problem arises is ask themself "Okay-what's my part in this mess?" And I have yet to meet the woman that can do that, except maybe with their female freinds. I even know women that actually sabotage their own relationships by projecting how long it will take for things to go bad. When you think about it, there´s always enough blame to go around.
After a few hours of hearing from Miss Molina, I decided to mention it to Mr. Stevens, just to find out his take on those paintings. Miss Molina didn't mind and, in fact, encouraged it. I waited until some people left his table-I didn't want to embarrass him-and he seemed in good spirits. That is, until I told him who I was sharing a table with and the painting I'd seen. His face actually got longer and he scratched his head, saying "We broke up about twelve years ago. It's really embarrassing. I wish she could move on." He had nothing bad to say about Miss Molina and I thought that showed real class. And I felt bad for bringing it up because I couldn't escape the fact that I probably ruined his day. I even apologized for it but he didn't blame me which was a relief, albeit only a little. Twelve years. I'm no psychiatrist, but wouldn't that kind of obsessiveness be unhealthy?
Those are my recollections of my run-ins with Mr. Stevens-as I remember them. There weren´t many and, as I said, I didn´t know him well, just well enough to share a few words every now and then. It was enough for me.
Since I started in comics, I've met with lots of American and European artists and it's been great sharing stories at dinners and in bars with them. It seems I've only really gotten along with other artists that have bypassed the mainstream market and made names for themselves independently. There seems to be that kinship of having run the gauntlet and coming out the other side in one piece. I guess that's why meeting mainstream folks thus far has been leaving a so-so taste in my mouth. I've been a fan of lots of artists, but over the years the number of those artists have severely dwindled. I guess that's why learning of Dave Stevens' death this week is rather depressing for me-we both ran similar gauntlets. Believe me, I don't in any way put myself in the same league as Mr.Stevens. But, judging from the few times we've spoken, he'd probably disagree. He was as classy as they get.
That's why I'm still his biggest fan. And I hope he can rest in peace.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
After graduating the High School of Art and Design, I didn't really want any more schooling and thought I'd take a chance and see what would come of persuing an art career. Seeing published work on the art boards around the school by artists who got gigs as professionals right after they graduated the school, like Joe Jusko, was encouraging. I knew I wasn't that good, but I was determined to try and break into that world.
My friend Lance Tooks was an intern at Marvel Comics from the 11th grade and worked there many years after graduation, editing scores of books. After months, almost a year after high school, at Lance's insistence, I went up to Marvel Comics to see about the whole interning thing. I was asked to bring a portfolio of some of my work, so I did. I was no child prodigy able to paint beyond my years, and I knew it. But I've always had a thing for drawing anatomy which I've always worked on to get better.
So, I went on up to Marvel Comics one afternoon, not really looking to impress anyone, but just hoping be around artists to learn the comics business. After meeting with Lance I was told the only person available to see me was an editor named Larry Hama. I had no idea who this was, but he was an editor who I was told I had to deal with. After a handshake, I sat across Mr. Hama's desk as he picked up my portfolio just as he answered his phone. While chatting on the phone, he flipped through my work rather bruskly, finished his conversation, closed my porfolio and, after sliding it back across the desk to me very blandly said "It sucks".
Like I wrote, I wasn't looking to impress anyone.
Strangely enough, that experience didn't mean much to me. Being a young, aspiring artist, it didn't have any negative affect on me. It could be because I had no idea who this guy was and he didn't make any impression on me. I just knew he had a job at Marvel Comics. I know many artists who told me they had similar experiences with editors and were so devestated that they couldn't draw for a while. After that incident, I had lunch with my friends, went back to my job as a messenger then went home and drew all night-like I usually did then.
A few weeks later, I went to meet with Lance again at Marvel for lunch and was hanging out in the lobby waiting while talking to the receptionist. I just happened to have my portfolio, but with only a few large drawings and a sketchbook. After a few minutes the door to the offices open and out comes Marie Severin. I thought, "Hey, that's Marie Severin!" Almost immediately she spots my portfolio and says to me "How ya doin'? You an artist?" I think I said something intelligible and she says "Mind if I have a look?" I again muttered something and before my head cleared, Ms. Severin was sitting next to me looking through my sketchbook, then the larger drawings that I had-and she did so with her complete attention. The best part was she kept commenting on how good my art anatomy was and asking where did I study. I knew she was being sincere-if those lines had come from an editor, it would have come off as sarcasm. I was talking with an artist. And I knew who SHE was.
Ready for the rest?
Before Ms. Severin was through looking at my work-and she sat with me for no less than a half hour-the door opens again and out strolls John Romita Sr. "Hey, that's Jazzy John Romita", I scream in my head. And Ms. Severin says, "Hey, Johnnie, come look at this guy's work." And there I was, on a sofa with Marie Severin and John Romita checking out my work, both giving me laurels for my figure drawing. Afterwards, they both shook my hand and recommended I put more work together and keep knocking on the comic book doors. I then had lunch with my friends and related the whole story. Now, THAT experience affected me.
Years after that, after going my own way and self publishing, I would look at the work I had shown Ms. Severin and Mr. Romita back then, and realized just how bad I was, and how gracious they were in taking the time to encourage another artist. And even though I've developed my own style over the years, it's very difficult to say anything negative to a young person who asks me to critique their work. I just think maybe they'll develop a style that I can learn from and they'll be succesful with it. Since leaving the hospital last month, I've thought a lot about what I've done with my art and there've been quite a few things, the most rewarding being I've gotten better. The picture above is from 1998 after I've finished installing my pieces for my first exhibition at the International Erotic Film Festival in Barcelona, Spain. I'll save that story for another time, but, man, it was wild.
I've been wanting to show my work to Ms. Severin and Mr. Romita now for the last few years and recount my story to them. I'm sure they've forgotten. But I know they'd still be just as gracious, regardless of whether they personally liked my work or not. It would still mean a lot to me now, just as it did then.
One thing is for certain: I will never tell any aspiring artist that his or her work 'sucks'. There's a name for people who do that: they're called "editors".