TCJ ARCHIVE

An Odd Man Out: Tom Sutton

WITHIN THE MAINSTREAM

GROTH: Your career is interesting, because you almost always worked within this commercial context, but I think you can see within it these peaks and valleys. Books that I tend to think were closer to hack work, and then other books that were much more inspired, where you really poured your craft into it.

SUTTON: Yes. And it’s not just me. It is the writer. I did three or four things, Harlan Ellison things, for… What is that company that releases his things?

GROTH: Dark Horse.

SUTTON: Dark Horse. I had heard all of these horror stories about Mr. Ellison. I found none of them to be true at all.

GROTH: He was easy to work with?

SUTTON: I wouldn’t say easy, but you could talk to the man and you would get considered opinions. It wasn’t a thing where it’s got to be my way or no way. And of course the artwork was substantially improved by that. “Now I understand why he did this. I didn’t understand it. Now I understand why he did this. It’s a damn good idea,” etc., etc.

GROTH: He certainly must care about his stories more than many writers you’ve worked with.

SUTTON: Yes. Yes. He does. But those are few and far between.

GROTH: Well, there’s one story you did for Warren that I wanted to ask you specifically about, and then I want to move on to other companies. One was called “Spawn of the Dread Thing.”

SUTTON: “Spawn of the Dread Thing?” Did somebody actually say that?

GROTH: You wrote and drew it.

SUTTON: I was responsible for it?

GROTH: Yeah. And it’s highly unusual. It’s much more design-oriented and intricately and ornately drawn than your usual work. I was even surprised that you drew it. It looks influenced by the Spanish school. I was wondering if you remember that story.

SUTTON: Is it a horror story, a vampire story?

GROTH: I would characterize it as a horror story. It’s an Eerie. 1973.

SUTTON: No.

GROTH: You don’t remember it?

SUTTON: Huh-uh. You’ve done many of these things like you’re doing with me. Does this kind of thing happen to you very often where the fellow doesn’t remember what the hell it is?

GROTH: Too damn often.

SUTTON: Wow. I’m sure at the time we loved it.

GROTH: Well, you were working at Warren from ’67, and I don’t know when you stopped, but it was in the early ’70s I believe. The earliest stuff I’ve found that you did for Marvel was Rawhide Kid, in ’67. You made some reference to Kid Colt, which must have been around then. And you also did humor work for Not Brand Echh in ’67 and ’68 I believe.

SUTTON: You know why that humor work was so important?

GROTH: No.

SUTTON: It was because of this ridiculous creature that they made, the Forbush Man?

GROTH: Forbush Man. Right.

SUTTON: I’m a little hazy on who designed that. I certainly didn’t. I think Jack Kirby did it. I think I remember a sheet of standard Marvel paper where he had done this thing like in two minutes with a blue pencil, a non-repro blue pencil. They were famous at that time. Then I think he handed it to… It probably went to Stan. Stan handed it to Marie Severin. That was the time I met Marie. No, it was not the beginning of a great romance. Marie, I discovered, was this extremely intelligent woman who lived most of her life, it seems, in these strange places.

GROTH: Physically or metaphysically speaking?

SUTTON: She was a teenager, wasn’t she, when she was at EC, right?

GROTH: She was young.

SUTTON: She was young. Right. She was the only woman there. Her brother was in and out of there. I don’t think he was there all of the time.

GROTH: He was a freelancer.

SUTTON: There she was, over at Marvel, in her own… Marie had a way of building a little cubicle for herself.

GROTH: A safe haven.

SUTTON: Because there were maniacs out there. She used to call herself the Marvel den mother. She could do fantastic, and she does, fantastic caricatures. Which is a thing I never could do. Isn’t that odd? You can draw an accurate face but you can’t draw a caricature. At least, I’m talking about myself now. And she was so helpful. And she was sitting there talking to me and she was drawing dozens of Beatles. That’s John, Ringo, and the boys from Britain. It was nothing at all. I hope she got something out of this whole deal.

GROTH: Well, a living at least. So she was on staff there.

SUTTON: There was a beautiful shot in your magazine, a couple of issues ago, about the girls in San Diego there. There was her and Flo, who I told you I lusted after. Who was the other one? She had a little strip at one time. She was an underground cartoonist lady.

GROTH: Trina Robbins?

SUTTON: Trina. That’s the one. Have you ever seen the photo of Trina, buck naked, sitting on Forrey Ackerman’s lap? Hey, Forrey, is that a tiny monster in your pocket?

GROTH: How could one forget that? Yeah.

SUTTON: I would sit there looking at… How the hell did that ever happen? Never mind. Moving on.

GROTH: Tell me what it was like working at Marvel, from ’67 into the ’70s.

SUTTON: Chaotic.

GROTH: You did a variety of stuff for them.

SUTTON: Yeah.

GROTH: First, did you deal directly with Stan all of the time?

SUTTON: No. Not all of the time, but enough.

GROTH: Much of the time.

SUTTON: Yeah.

GROTH: Tell me how getting assignments at Marvel worked. How did you go about doing that?

SUTTON: Take it or don’t take it. There was no negotiation.

GROTH: Would you initiate that, or would they call you?

SUTTON: Oh, somebody would call. Roy [Thomas] would call, or one of the other people would call. They would say: “We have this thing with Indians and Martians and Gila monsters. You wanna draw 10 pages of that?”

Uh-huh.

GROTH: You were never known as a superhero artist.

SUTTON: No. Thank God. But I inked some of those.

GROTH: But that must have limited the assignments you were given.

SUTTON: Yes. It did.

GROTH: Your not drawing superheroes… Was that your preference, or was that more of an editorial decision by Marvel and DC that you just weren’t suited for it?

SUTTON: Oh, I wasn’t suited for it, and I think I had made enough blabbermouth remarks about… I considered all super creatures to be fascists. Over at DC it would have been worse. He won’t ink Superman because Superman is invulnerable. No way! I don’t trust any fucking alien that you can’t control. Why is he doing this? Did you ever think about some of those scripts that they wrote? They have endless power, and they’re here to help you. Do what? I’m sorry. That’s the way my head would work with these things. And it was also the fact that anybody who gets dressed up like that needs help. And it’s not the way you’re supposed to look at it. You’re supposed to look at it the way a fanboy… That’s true to my old age. That’s still where I’m at. I could never be a fanboy. It didn’t work. I’ve seen other men who’ve drawn beautiful things who can turn right around and draw one of those creatures. It doesn’t bother them at all. I just can’t do it. I don’t think that I’ve lost much along the way. I think the biggest moneymaker with the superheroes was John Byrne.

GROTH: Did that inability to draw superheroes, or that predilection not to draw superheroes, limit your career options severely?

SUTTON: No. No. There were enough other things around at that time that you could get somebody to get you in or whatever.

GROTH: What was your working relationship with Stan like?

SUTTON: Here’s some pages that I drew, Stan. Stan looks at pages. Stan says, “They look great, kid.” He’s on four phones. That’s your working relationship with Stan. No. Stan did not pat you on the head and say, “Oh, you’re a nice boy.” No. On the other hand, because I wasn’t there all of the time, I never got the other side of the hand. I think there probably was one, but I never got that. I would take what was mine and I would probably… Oh, if there was a little piece, there was a place in Manhattan that I could stay. And I would stay there for a little while and I’d do it there. If it was a bigger piece, I’d take it back to Boston. They were fine. There was a situation that occurred where there was so little money it was desperate. Of course, cartoonists, as you may have noticed, never save anything. They’re worse than movie stars. I would call Flo, and maybe I shouldn’t be saying this, I don’t know. I would say: “I don’t have any money. I’m doing the ‘Thing That Ate the Statue of Liberty’, and I don’t have any money.” “OK, Tom. Where the hell are you, now?” There would be a check. Find anybody whose going to do that for you now.

GROTH: Hey, you’re talking to him.

SUTTON: Oh. Thank you, sir. I didn’t mean it that way. Call Marvel up and ask them for a loan. I don’t know if that was because of her, or if that was just the policy, because if he dies of malnutrition we’ll never get the artwork.

GROTH: It is in their best interest to keep you alive, if only barely.

SUTTON: Yeah. But it was never, that was not the… She was just so nice about that.

GROTH: So she would essentially pay you for future work? Apply it to future work that you were doing?

SUTTON: Yeah. Of course. It would be withdrawn from the final lump of money. What a way to live!

GROTH: You did a lot of odd characters at Marvel. You did Sergeant Fury.

SUTTON: [Chuckles.] Me and Johnny Severin.

GROTH: You penciled and Severin inked.

SUTTON: Didn’t I tell you about that? Very briefly. I had never handled a script that had seven guys in it in almost every panel. That had every piece of ordnance that existed in the U.S. Army and the German Army in WWII. I was way out of my depth. Sheesh! The other side of your head says, it’s 22 pages. What can I get for 22 pages? You sit down and you do it, and you do the best that you can in the time allowed. It was one of those times when people, I think [Dan] Adkins used to do a lot of stuff for John. Somebody was stockpiling something else. I had to do just this one. I sent it off and I never heard anything. I thought, “My God! They’ve thrown me out.” I saw it on the newsstand. There it was! There was my cover. Gary, I picked it up and I said, Jesus I’m good! That man. That man is extraordinary, truly extraordinary. I don’t think he re-penciled anything. I think he went through that the way he’d go through any one of his books. I think Woody was like that, too. He could change anybody and it all looked like him.

GROTH: Tell me how the Marvel Method worked for you. Would Stan give you a plot, orally or verbally?

SUTTON: Let me see. How did that work? Yeah, it had to be a typed… It was not a panel-to-panel breakdown. It was a synopsis. It was up to you to make it fit.

GROTH: So it was written.

SUTTON: Yeah. In this case, yeah.

GROTH: How detailed would the plot be?

SUTTON: Not very.

GROTH: So it was up to you to flesh it out and pace it.

SUTTON: Yeah.

GROTH: Walk me through this. You would pencil this, submit it, and John Severin inked it?

SUTTON: Yeah. It would be lettered by Artie Simek after I had penciled it. And then it would go to John and…

GROTH: …and he would finish it.

SUTTON: Oh, God. I hope so. That’s another thing I never want anything to do with. Didn’t DC have another one of those, a commando gang who was saving the world?

GROTH: Boy, I don’t know. They had Our Fighting Forces and they had McCloud, the Haunted Tank material. And they had Sgt. Rock.

SUTTON: Kubert did 10,000 of the damned things. Which is certainly is not to diminish his skills. The man is amazing. But the multitude of stuff that you have to know, because you can’t afford, you don’t have time to do research on all of this stuff. You can’t get all of these tanks in there and weapons. You have to know that. John, I’m sure, if you took his brain out it’s all in there.

GROTH: I’m sure he’s internalized all of that. You’d submit the pencils and Stan would write it from the pencil pages. Did he consult with you after you had penciled it to find out. Did he have any questions?

SUTTON: I think he dropped out at the very beginning. This is, do this. Mostly it wasn’t Stan at all. It was somebody like Roy Thomas, if Roy Thomas was there at that time. You always had this feeling with them that: Hurry up! I ain’t got it yet! Hurry up! Gotta have this. Gotta have this. I often thought that Roy, at first, was going to have a fit or something right on the phone. He was talking so fast.

GROTH: Roy talks fast.

SUTTON: Yeah. You can’t understand what he’s saying. Later I came to understand it wasn’t just me. It was anybody. This is the way that he did it. He did get to me one day, and I said, “Whoa! Back up! I can’t understand anything you’re saying.” Ooh. There was a silence. You could see that he was forcibly enunciating each syllable.

What else did we do there? I never worked in that bullpen in my life. I would take my stuff and go.

GROTH: Let me get back to the process for a second. Did you write the descriptions on the sides of the pages explaining what was going on, moving the plot along and so forth? So that the writer, whoever it might have been, understood?

SUTTON: I may have. I honestly don’t know. I was so overwhelmed by this thing. And of course Severin was one of my champions. The idea that this thing was going to go to him was a heavy thing, see? How kind that he never mentioned it. The other thing, there were a lot of one-shots that I did. I inked a Bill Everett… Do you remember Bill Everett?

GROTH: Of course.

SUTTON: Sub-Mariner. This was a thing that I grew up with! It was long before Aquaman from the other joint. Do you ever notice that when one of them develops a character the other one immediately develops two?

GROTH: Is that right? [Sarcastically.]

SUTTON: Anyway, Sub-Mariner was supposed to go down to Atlantis or some damn thing.

GROTH: How did you get an inking gig on Bill Everett?

SUTTON: He had drawn this thing and I think he had an illness, or he had a flu or something. I don’t know. I could do that kind of line thing that he did and emulate him, imitate him. I had a great time with that. And I added a lot of stuff to the Atlantis thing, because I love backgrounds. He said some nice things about it, and that’s about it. That was the way it was there. Nobody lavished praise on you. That’s pretty nice. We like that.

GROTH: How did you come to ink Gil Kane on Warlock? That was odd.

SUTTON: Wasn’t it though. What the hell is a Warlock?

GROTH: You don’t remember that?

SUTTON: No.

GROTH: You inked about a dozen issues of Warlock, penciled by Gil Kane. You don’t remember any of this?

SUTTON: No.

GROTH: I guess I can’t ask you how it was to ink Gil Kane.

SUTTON: Yeah. What I do remember is, later on, for some unknown reason Kane was drawing Conan. I remember inking that book. That was a very bizarre experience.

GROTH: Why is that?

SUTTON: Because Gil’s elegant pencils would consist of Conan riding his horse with or without a barbarian wench over the rear. There would be some little kind of very accurate but not very detailed figures coming along (his serfs or slaves or whatever the fuck they were) and in the background is supposed to be this huge Mid-Eastern fair or marketplace. He didn’t draw it. This kind of thing would go on throughout the entire book. There would be things that he had apparently thought of as being, “Well, I’d better take care of this.” And at the same time saying, “Well, he can handle the rest of it.” I got that feeling very strong.

GROTH: I’m sure it was a matter of expedience that he needed to get that much work out and he’d…

SUTTON: Oh, of course. Did I think he was in love with the thing? No. No. I inked a couple of pin-up things that John Buscema did. And they’re more or less the same thing. You take care of the rest of it. There are 700 figures back there. You worry about that. And I’m not saying that these guys are lesser for that. I’m saying that…

GROTH: That’s what happened.

SUTTON: That’s the way it goes.

GROTH: Tell me, if you can… Gil Kane and John Buscema are known as great figure artists. Was there any special pleasure that you got out of inking draftsmen that were that good?

SUTTON: Yes. Because I learned things I didn’t know. Yes: if you work with some of the best, that’s when you learn. If you just keep working with the people who, maybe they’re passable, and you can make them look terrific, but you’re not going to learn very much.

GROTH: Can you explain a little bit about how or what you learned by inking Kane and Buscema? Was it figure construction?

SUTTON: Well, you had to know inking to begin with or you’d never get anywhere. I think Gil seems to be much more difficult. Because if you accentuated what you shouldn’t accentuate… It’s rather like music, Gary. The total thing would be truly warped.

GROTH: You had to follow those proportions exactly; any deviation would somehow throw it out of kilter.

SUTTON: Yeah. And those proportions weren’t natural to me at all. But I’d say, OK. That’s not mine. In this one it’s not mine to determine. It’s his: because it was Gil’s great strength. His great strength was design. These things were beautiful because they were done that way. The line was even more or less. When someone comes in there like Steranko or something and tries to ink Gil Kane you’ve got trouble.

GROTH: No feathering allowed.

SUTTON: No. No. I’m a great fan of Jim’s. Really, Jim, I am. But Jim is always best when he’s doing his own stuff.

There were problems with Kane and inking those things.

GROTH: Tell me what those were.

SUTTON: Mainly it was the figures always seemed distorted to me. That was my problem. That was not Kane’s problem. I think there was a great deal of jealousy there too. This was not in reproduction. The pencil line was right in front of you. You could see how he had taken his pencil and he’d gone all the way around the back of the horse and down the side. And it was like one line. However, when he turned the horse’s head this way, I said, “It doesn’t disappear in perspective quite this much.” Well, it does now. I don’t know. What can I tell you? He almost said the same thing in his story to you. He said so much of this stuff he tried to accomplish in the shortest period of time. It certainly wasn’t doing that much for him!

GROTH: It was not a labor of love.

SUTTON: He may have gotten $10 more, but I don’t think that’s really what Gil wanted. The other fellow, Buscema, Buscema is a consummate artist. By which I mean he would flourish in the galleries or he would be someplace else. Almost like a man who’s out of his time.

GROTH: He had a classical approach: and of course a great draftsman.

SUTTON: I didn’t have that much trouble with him. But again, I learned more stuff from him. Yes, I saw a lot of shortcuts. These were valuable, too. You would get that kind of … Warlock! What was it?

GROTH: Well, it was more or less a superhero. Maybe a supernatural superhero, I don’t know. It looked like everybody and his brother wrote it. Roy Thomas wrote it. Mike Friedrich wrote it. Ron Goulart wrote it. But you inked most of it, as far as I can tell. It does not look, frankly, like either your or Gil’s most shining moment.

SUTTON: Oh, shit no. That was Marvel, and I was highly appreciative of that too. The fact is that I don’t think there was ever a time that you called there for work that you didn’t get work. It may not have been the work you wanted, but still there was work. I certainly can’t say that for good ol’ DC. No. No. That was a creepy, strange business.

GROTH: DC was.

SUTTON: Oh, yeah.

GROTH: Well, we’ll get into that. Let me backtrack a little bit. When you started working for Marvel, I’m curious as to what they told you they were buying, or if they told you what they were buying. I assume there were no written contracts.

SUTTON: No.

GROTH: Did they have the back-of-the-check legend?

SUTTON: Yes. I think they did.

GROTH: Did anyone sit you down and tell you the terms under which they were buying things?

SUTTON: Oh, no. No, Gary. No. I came in and I had my folder with stuff that I’d done in Boston in advertising, and blah, blah, blah. Stan had seen so many unfinished fanboy things that here was a guy who had done this thing for two and a half years. And would deliver it on time hopefully. And you started. He didn’t trust you with that much to begin with. He trusted you with these little five-page Western things that we talked about. And you got those in there and they were very usable. They were interesting, and they were on time. And you were in. There was never any discussion about. You were told how many bucks you would get, per-page rate. That’s all.

GROTH: Did you get your original art back?

SUTTON: No.

GROTH: You didn’t even bother asking for it back?

SUTTON: No.

GROTH: Did you enjoy doing the Western work?

SUTTON: Yeah.

GROTH: Did you enjoy Westerns?

SUTTON: Yeah. Yeah. But of course at that time, that was the very first stuff that I’d ever done for real comics, right? I enjoyed anything I did.

GROTH: Because it was all so new and fresh?

SUTTON: Yeah. I knew it didn’t make any damn sense. I also immediately came back to poor Stan, with this… I had a bunch of scripts. He rifled through them and said, “Nope. Nope. Nope. Oh, no. Nope.” I said, “Well, how come?” “I don’t have time for how come.” Something like that. But that didn’t deter me either. As a matter of fact, I think that was a plus. Because that shows that you not only want to draw these things, but you want to write them, also. And if I were in his position I would see it that way. I don’t know. I think there were a lot of people around there who had been around for a long time who really didn’t want to do anything except what they were doing. And couldn’t understand what your aggravation, what the ants in your pants were all about. That’s OK. You stayed away from them. Again, it was in and out, in and out. Loved John Verpoorten and Flo and whatnot. Other than that, nothing new. I remember at the time — what street was that? Right around the corner was Grand Central Station.

GROTH: They would’ve been on Madison Avenue, wouldn’t they?

SUTTON: Yeah. Madison Avenue. I’d be right around the street. I’d have a few beers in the train station and I’d get on the fucking train. Without stepping under it like Joe Maneely did.

GROTH: The best work you did at Marvel, it seems to me, was Planet of the Apes. You really went to town on that stuff. Do you feel that way as well, that that was a cut above?

SUTTON: It should have been. It was very expensive for me to do that.

GROTH: How do you mean?

SUTTON: It took forever. And there were things there that didn’t work out. I designed that ship out of nothing. That ship never existed. I designed the whole fucking ship with all of these rigs that did this, that, and the other thing. And then they painted it? Sorry, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. There was no way you could incorporate that into how much this thing costs! And that was for one of their oversize books, wasn’t it?

GROTH: It was a black-and-white magazine, so it was a larger page size than a comic book.

SUTTON: I know Moench was hot, hot, hot for that thing. We would spend a lot of time talking about that on the phone. We had it planned for eight issues, and I don’t think there was even a number three.

GROTH: You certainly did more than three issues. In front of me I have numbers one through five. It’s possible that you did more than five. But you obviously put a lot of work into it.

SUTTON: So did Doug. He dealt mostly with them.

GROTH: With Marvel management?

SUTTON: Yeah. Because he had more clout than I did. He had a certain diplomacy about it. He still was very difficult to dissuade.

GROTH: Dissuade from what?

SUTTON: From doing it any other way except the way he wanted it done. And he had arguments with these people. Oh, you know the story. This is going to be all about apes? Oh, no. There’s a few people there. But the movie wasn’t like that. You with me? Meanwhile, they had other books, which were on the stands that followed the movie and the TV series. This thing was a gigantic phenomenon in its time.

GROTH: That’s why there were five movies.

SUTTON: That was another one of the problems. Do we need to have another goddamn ape book?

GROTH: I was going to ask you, what possible arguments could you have about a Planet of the Apes comic? I mean Planet of the Apes is Planet of the Apes. But there was friction between what Moench wanted to do and what…

SUTTON: But you see, the one we were doing was not entitled that. It was called “The Chronicles of the Apes”. But it was in a book that had a cover that said Planet of the Apes!

GROTH: It said Planet of the Apes. Right.

SUTTON: And therefore, it should look just like the TV series.

GROTH: Did you generally enjoy working on that book?

SUTTON: Yes. Yes.

GROTH: Would Moench give you a full script?

SUTTON: Yes.

GROTH: So you did not work Marvel style.

SUTTON: That was another impressive thing. Doug had figured this whole goddamn thing out — everything! It was like he was writing a novel or something. And he was not very happy when they decided, after three, four, five issues, whatever there were, that they just aborted the thing. But then again, he was always much more professional than I was. On to the next one! What are you going to do? Stand there and cry?

GROTH: Well, it sounds like you cried a little bit.

SUTTON: Yeah. Because I didn’t have to deal with costumed superheroes and I didn’t have to deal with a lot of other things I didn’t like. These guys I really did like. They were relevant. They were almost different folks getting together, trying to get along within a highly confined situation like a city.

GROTH: It looks like you used mixed media on these stories.

SUTTON: Yes. Yes. Everything.

GROTH: That’s I assume because you were just having such a good time doing it that you wanted to.

SUTTON: I would make enormous drawings. These things were twice the size, easily twice the size. And I’d make these very, very tight drawings, which I hardly ever did.

GROTH: Clearly, Tom — tell me if you disagree with this — but you weren’t getting paid commensurate with the amount of work that you were putting into this?

SUTTON: Oh, Christ no.

GROTH: And yet you put the work in anyway.

SUTTON: Yes.

GROTH: And I assume that’s just because you were enjoying it so much that you felt compelled to do that?

SUTTON: Yeah. I think I would have done almost anything. I wanted that book to work. There are things that you want to work, for your own reasons, whatever they are. I can understand. If it doesn’t sell, that’s the end of it. I don’t sit around and wonder about that. I think I sent a painting of that ship to him, to Doug so he could put it over his sofa or something, and that was the end of that.

GROTH: Let me skip over to DC now. You started working at DC in 1970. I understand that you did some mystery stories for them. You originally spoke to, I believe, Dick Giordano.

SUTTON: I think. I talked to a suit — an ominous, very serious suit.

GROTH: The contrast between DC and Marvel was that DC was much more corporate.

SUTTON: Yeah.

GROTH: Tell me a little bit about what working for DC was like. You worked for DC for quite a long time, from 1970 through the ’80s at least.

SUTTON: It was mostly the same kind of thing as Marvel. Once you’d gone through your initiation of two or three simple little stories, you would then get… They did turn out full scripts. You would get one of these stories. I don’t know if at first, but eventually Archie Goodwin made the same move. He moved over there.

GROTH: From Marvel to DC. Well, everyone kept bouncing back and forth. That’s pretty standard. Who did you work with? Who were your editors at DC? Shift gears and put yourself into DC mode.

SUTTON: On the very early things I don’t remember. Or if I ever did remember, I seem to think that I got more money.

GROTH: From DC than from Marvel?

SUTTON: It was done in the same way. You know, it was like, OK. We like your stuff. Do this. Page rate is this. There’s no equivocation. There’s no debate.

GROTH: There was no negotiation.

SUTTON: No. No. There’s no smoking in the building, and get a clean shirt. Hey! Nice to talk to you guys, too. Huh? So eventually Archie was there, and we had a great time.

GROTH: You and Archie?

SUTTON: Always. Always.

GROTH: Archie was one of the few human beings that worked at these corporations.

SUTTON: Yeah. Many days he looked like he suffered from it, too.

GROTH: I’m sure he did. When you started working at DC — this is going to sound like a silly question — but did anyone sit you down and tell you what you were selling and what rights they were buying and what the deal was?

SUTTON: No. No. There’s the door. You’ve already taken up 10 minutes of our time. A charming, warm bunch of people. Have you noticed? No. Huh. Huh. Ol’ Archie came through with these war stories that he wrote, I think. Then after a while I started writing war stories again. And we did one called “Dirt” which I loved. It was a Frenchman who was trying to stave off the Germans on the dirt of his farm. Winds up buried in it. So do they. I like things that happen because that’s the way they really do happen most of the time. You get killed anonymously. There’s this big fucking thing that comes out of nowhere. Boom! Everybody’s gone. Yeah, we did a zeppelin story called “LZ9,” which is a true story.

GROTH: Archie was the editor of these books?

SUTTON: Yes.

GROTH: I thought Bob Kanigher had kind of an iron hand on the war books.

SUTTON: Yes. I think so, too. You’re right.

GROTH: I’m surprised to learn that Archie edited the war books and that you drew some of them.

SUTTON: I was there one day because I was in New York, and I was going to see Archie about something. I wanted to see Kanigher, because I had heard the same thing. You have no idea how obscure I can be. It was very obvious that Kanigher had no interest in seeing me whatsoever. OK. Let’s get a beer.

GROTH: Give me some more details on that. You wanted to see Kanigher. Did you call him and ask for an appointment?

SUTTON: No.

GROTH: You just dropped by and wanted to walk into his office.

SUTTON: No. I wouldn’t go into anyone’s office without being invited in. I remember Archie looked like he was not very happy about this, or he was a little disconcerted about it. He went in and he talked about it, and he came back out and he said, Kanigher doesn’t have any time to see you right now. If I recall right, I heard, probably through your magazine, some very unflattering stories about Mr. Kanigher. But I also think that Mr. Kanigher probably met everybody he ever wanted to meet.

GROTH: And didn’t meet anyone he didn’t want to meet.

SUTTON: Yeah. That’s OK, too. I don’t care. Is this a big thing in my life? No. No.

GROTH: Was that symptomatic of working at DC? Were editors somewhat imperious?

SUTTON: Yes. It was a whole different ballgame than working over at Marvel playground. That’s my take on it. If I got the wrong office because I dialed one digit wrong, I would get a really offended person. What is your problem? We did some science-fiction stuff. I don’t know who wrote the stuff. Not me. But there was not the volume of stuff that Marvel had. I think I had it in my head — I was also doing Marvel stuff. I had it in my head that I didn’t want to belong to just one of them. I’d rather belong to two of them. I’m just not an outgoing person. I later could have used these people, but I didn’t. I think that if I had made any… I don’t know.

GROTH: So you were a real loner.

FILED UNDER: , ,

12 Responses to An Odd Man Out: Tom Sutton

  1. patford says:

    Was the promised second part of this interview ever done? If so why not post it here?

    • Dan Nadel says:

      There is no second part. It never happened, according to Gary.

      • patford says:

        Dan, Since there was no second part it makes me wonder if Gary wasn't making a self referenced joke when he mentioned a "part two" (as if part one wasn't exhaustive), and Suttons second career as a "pornographer."
        Did Sutton in fact have a later phase as a pornographer? If so was he ever published by Eros?
        My interest in this is strictly academic of course, really the only Eros comics I ever bought were "Cannon", and "Birdland"
        (subject of one of the best pieces of comics criticism I've ever read, and one of the first things to appear at TCJ.com's previous relaunch).
        BTW although I bought Cannon, I missed out on Sally Forth which is now going for something like $200.
        Any chance of a soft-core Woody for hard core fans?

      • zack soto says:

        My understanding is that part 2 never happened due to Sutton’s untimely death.

  2. bkmunn says:

    reading alot of tom sutton in old charltons and Marvel horror stuff these days werewolf by night, etc. never really liked his stuff as a kid but can appreciate it more from a brushwork pov today. did his own inks, colour too, I think?

  3. ChanceFiveash says:

    Regarding Mac RaBoy:____Groth: 'Did he draw Flash Gordon?'____A bit suprising he didn't know that…____

  4. grapesgrapes says:

    thanks for the introduction to this wonderful artist who i was previously unfamiliar with. did people ever actually read this much continuous words though? daunting, to say the least

    • Zack_Soto says:

      lol. The TCJ interview is usually quite long, and often better for it.. but that said, some attention to breaking up the text with more pertinent illustrations would be nice..

  5. Bhob2 says:

    I went to Newburyport around 1984 to interview Tom. I was too busy to transcribe the tape, so I mailed the tape directly to Fantagraphics. After months, when no interview appeared, I phoned and asked about the tape. No one seemed to know what I was talking about.

  6. Joe McCulloch says:

    I actually tracked down all four issues of Squalor based on this interview, and MAN – that stuff reads like a lost Revolver serial! And coming from almost exactly the same time period too… except I'm almost certain nobody involved with the series was aware of what was going on in the UK scene…? Sutton's art mixes really well with the shiny, clashy Brendan McCarthy-ish psychedelic coloring Paul Mounts imposes… kinda elliptical, slightly awkward writing from Stefan Petrucha, though it's his first-ever extended comics work – apparently he turned the concept into a YA novel series later on, and wrote a whole bunch of Disney comics for the Danish market. And he's doing kid-targeted comics work at NBM now…

  7. ChanceFiveash says:

    I have this issue of the Journal stored away…and it was easirer to read through when I was younger…when rereading through it here I had to break it up into hours and days! It was like dropping acid…you enjoy it but you can only last so many hours!

  8. Pingback: Ink Stains 53: Scream Door 1 | ComicAttack

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>