From the TCJ Archives

An Odd Man Out: Tom Sutton

GROTH: How did you go about solving your problem?

SUTTON: I ran out of bars.

GROTH: You ran out of bars?

SUTTON: One by one, and there must have been a dozen in Newberryport, I was a persona non grata at ever single one of them.

GROTH: I’m not sure I entirely sure I buy that. There also liquor stores.

SUTTON: No. I couldn’t do that. I would never sit home and drink.

GROTH: Oh. You had to have a bar.

SUTTON: I had to have an audience.

GROTH: How did you make yourself persona non grata at bars? You’re such an amiable guy. I would assume any bar would like to have you.

SUTTON: Don’t give me two beers.


SUTTON: You know fellows like that, don’t you? You know fellows whose personality changes?

GROTH: Oh, yes.


GROTH: So you’d be a mean drunk.

SUTTON: Not mean, but I sort of demanded attention. Pay attention to me. Pay attention to me. I’m a pain in the ass! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! And it all ended. Thank God!

GROTH: So you were deeply unhappy during what we will call the Star Trek Years.

SUTTON: And yet, I never missed a day. I worked from 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning until happy hour. What I did screw up was I screwed up a marriage: I screwed up other things that need never have happened. I really want to tell you this one, because we’re running out of tape I imagine.

GROTH: There’s not enough tape in the world for you, Tom.

SUTTON: There isn’t? The famous DC fix-up jobs had come along. These were things that somebody had done half of Hellraiser or some such, and I would get this thing. Ink the other half of it like the first half was inked. Wonderful!

GROTH: That sounds like a really thankless job.

SUTTON: There were a lot of these different things, half a book and such. I got a book of stuff one time. It was more or less penciled by this lady who had spent most of her time I guess penciling or drawing children’s books or some such. Once again, I’m not out to pop people. You don’t need to mention her name, of course. God, Gary. I never could believe this could happen.

GROTH: What happened?

SUTTON: This is a corker. It’s good; it’s right at the end. She had drawn this epic about cops responding to a robbery or some fucking thing. She had this big panel — you know the Clint Eastwood pose of the magnum up your nose. Well, there’s the cop and he’s got the pistol out, only it’s not a pistol. It’s like a stick. When we were kids — maybe not you or I — but really poor kids, they made guns out of strapping two pieces of wood together. That’s what it was! And there were two other cops behind her, in no uniform that I’d ever seen in my life. And there was a large rectangle that filled up the rest of this panel. The center of the rectangle was carefully lettered: Car.

GROTH: I see. So you actually had to draw the guns and the car.

SUTTON: I wouldn’t do anything. I went ballistic. I got one of these dodos on the phone. I said, “What the hell is this? This thing isn’t penciled.” “Oh, well she doesn’t work from swipes, ever.” “Oh, she doesn’t?” I mean, there are cars all through the goddamn yellow pages. It’s not like you have to have a filing cabinet.

GROTH: Or outside your window.

SUTTON: Yeah. “Well, we’ll get you some more money, Tom.” Oh, good. Do get me some more of her stuff. I had the impression that this lady, this person. I don’t know. If we get political here, are they called ladies or persons these days? That happens to me all the time.

GROTH: You can’t be too careful.

SUTTON: I have a female friend who corrects me on this nine times an hour. I don’t get it. How can this go all the way through DC and out to me? Either nobody looks at it, or they say, “He’ll fix it.” What do you think? I get really pissed at that.

GROTH: I’d say that’d be further cause for demoralization.

SUTTON: You see it that way? Maybe we can get them to bend the staples over, too.

GROTH: When you were going through this period. I don’t know how you’d characterize it. You were demoralized or possibly depressed about your creative life. How did you pull yourself out of that?

SUTTON: I got scared. I got scared. Like I told you, Do you want to draw, or do you want to be a zombie? There’s nothing new about that. I’ve heard that before, too. Some of us get lucky. I consider myself lucky. Not only was it an incredible waste of time, it was a great waste of money. I think some of the people reading the magazine might possibly get something out of that.

GROTH: Tell me what steps you took? Did you just abruptly change your behavior or was it a slow process?

SUTTON: Oh, yeah. I wouldn’t say anything to anybody unless I was in a bar. I don’t think I saw much of my wife at that time. I would go in the house, go upstairs and stay in the studio. Oh yeah. And paint pictures of people in bars. One day, it all just… And nobody’s going to believe this. But this is God’s truth. One day it all ended. That was it. ’Course by that time, everybody had left. I don’t blame them. No. I also left. Hello, bank? It’s yours. No. No. That’s no way to treat yourself and it’s no way to treat other people.

GROTH: When you say you left, you physically left?

SUTTON: Oh yes. Oh, I had to. I had to.