From the TCJ Archives

An Odd Man Out: Tom Sutton


GROTH: Where did you go and what did you do?

SUTTON: Oh, I rented a little place. I was there for a while. For a little time I was down in Gloucester. I was still doing this crap, but it didn’t bother me any more. I can’t really explain anything better than that. It just didn’t bother me any more, and I didn’t have this incredible anger.

GROTH: So doing work that didn’t fulfill you creatively didn’t bother you any more? Is that what you’re saying?

SUTTON: No. No. I don’t know why. I know from doing this stuff for so long, stuff that I really disliked, that this terrific anger was building up. I was a very angry person. You’d go around holding it back and holding it until you couldn’t hold it any more. Somehow inside you made some arrangement with yourself where you say, “You’re being an asshole. Stop doing it.” There’s no way it won’t come out sounding simplistic. You know the other weird thing that happens when you do this? All of a sudden you don’t have any good buddies any more, cause they’re all down there in the bar, and you don’t know anybody else.

GROTH: It sounds like you were pretty isolated professionally, as if you didn’t have that many peers.

SUTTON: In Newberryport? Come on.

GROTH: But that was obviously a choice that you made, to live in Newberryport and to be isolated.

SUTTON: That’s true. Yeah.

GROTH: Is that just because you’re sort of a loner, or what?

SUTTON: Yep. Good enough for Dad, good enough for me. I think at one point I said, “Oh, my God. If I’d just stayed in New York I’d have so much money and I’d be so much better and have so many advantages, but I’d also be dead.”

GROTH: Why dead?

SUTTON: Oh, because New Yorkers don’t tolerate a lot of stuff that I was doing.

GROTH: It also seems to me that if you had peers and colleagues and friends, professional acquaintances and so on, you might have been able to deal with a lot of these problems better because you would have had a support group of friends and associates.

SUTTON: Yeah. It would seem that way. What happens is there’s a voice inside of you that says, You’re fine! You don’t need help. Enough of this. Enough of this.

GROTH: Let me ask you just a couple more things and we can segue into Dementia. You also did some work for Eclipse, and I wanted to touch on that. Between ’82 and ’86. Do you remember that?

SUTTON: I remember Eclipse… Who was that? Was that Dean Mullaney?

GROTH: Right.


GROTH: What was working for them like? Because they were also an alternative, although they didn’t position themselves as directly in competition with Marvel and DC, but they were certainly, in one way, an alternative to them.

SUTTON: Mostly I talked to her. What was here name?

GROTH: Cat Yronwode?

SUTTON: I can give you this. It’s easy. Cat wouldn’t mind, I’m sure. Back when I was doing fill-ins for Gene Colan doing Dr. Strange. I did a couple of Doctors. Maybe I did half a dozen Dr. Strange books. I started getting these letters from Cat. She was out in a cabin out there someplace in the middle of nowhere having a baby or something, God bless her. And she would send me these magic witch sticks and other strange things. And because she did this, you know the Dr. Strange character has a band around the outside of his cape? So I worked her name into there. She was so… I couldn’t believe it. I thought she was putting me on. She was so happy.

GROTH: That’s sweet.

SUTTON: Maybe she didn’t have much to be happy about at that time. Then I had met Don McGregor, the mighty McGregor. God help us all. God bless you, Don, wherever you are. He wrote the stories. They were detective stories and mystery stories and whatnot. I would try to find places to draw. Don, as we discussed before, writes heavy.

GROTH: A little word-heavy.

SUTTON: And doesn’t like to give any part up. “But you said that in the last panel!” That’s all I really remember about them and the negotiations I had with them. Oh, I did a weird little book for them. I did a book about the same time that the Turtle people came out with their books. We did a book about gerbils.

GROTH: Oh, yes. Right. It was a parody of the Ninja Turtles. You did that?

SUTTON: I loved it. They were nice people to work with. I think they were fair. Unfortunately, that’s about all we did, as far as I can recall. I think it was right after the gerbil adventure that they had a falling out of one kind or another.

GROTH: So you don’t remember Eclipse being an exceptionally promising experience, or…

SUTTON: No. And I didn’t get that feeling when I talked to her, either. It would start out being very up, but it was like they had a very limited projection chart. But anything they took they paid for. I must have talked to Don about this.

GROTH: Tom, tell me about Schlomo Raven.

SUTTON: Schlomo Raven. Byron Preiss. We did two or three things for Byron. Byron stayed at my house in Newberryport for a while.

GROTH: For a while?

SUTTON: Overnight.

GROTH: So a short while.

SUTTON: A short while. Yes. I liked Byron. I think it was the first time in my life I realized how young some people were. Which was also telling me how old I was getting. We did Schlomo Raven.

GROTH: Schlomo Raven, as I recall — I couldn’t find a copy — was a square-bound slim trade paperback. I don’t have the year for that, but my guess is it was in the ’80s some time. Can you tell me how you got hooked up with Byron and how that came about.

SUTTON: It was his story. “Draw this for me.” He had some connection with the paperback market. So I did, and I got my money. That was that. The Marx Brothers were hard to draw.

GROTH: Schlomo Raven was sort of Gothic humor, as I remember, with a rat?

SUTTON: He was a rat, but not a rat.

GROTH: Almost a rat.

SUTTON: Do you remember that character, midget detective?

GROTH: Yeah.

SUTTON: Who did that? The guy who runs The New Yorker now, right?

GROTH: Oh, sure. Art Spiegelman.

SUTTON: Yeah. Spiegelman did that: apologies to Mr. Spiegelman. I stole your totally short rat detective. Yeah. It was a public detective. What else did we do? We did a book of cats, because everybody was doing a book of cats. And some kind of game book: which I never understood but did anyway.

GROTH: Were these all work-for-hire projects?

SUTTON: Oh, yes. While I was having my car fixed this morning, I was looking at — I think it’s also a Harlan Ellison book. Some deal that Harlan had made with him.

GROTH: With Byron Preiss?

SUTTON: Yes. We did a 10-page story in there. It was square-back and glossy, and there were many good guys in there. My story was “Discarded.”

GROTH: Your story was discarded?

SUTTON: No. The title of the story: “The Discarded.”

GROTH: Oh. “The Discarded.”

SUTTON: The title of the oversize paperback was probably Harlan Ellison.

GROTH: No doubt.

SUTTON: I can’t imagine why you say that.

GROTH: How was working with Byron? Was that a pleasurable experience?

SUTTON: Yes. At first, it was fine. I don’t know what happened. He became rich or famous or something. Couldn’t talk to Byron any more.

GROTH: So things went sour?

SUTTON: I think I do know what it was. He wanted me do something, a book. Or he wanted me to draw this book or something and I didn’t want to draw it. He really took offense at that. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it goes. You don’t have to draw them all!

GROTH: So that ended the relationship?

SUTTON: Yeah. He was doing many of other things. He was doing that newspaper strip that was so elegantly drawn by Ralph Reese.

GROTH: Didn’t that appear in National Lampoon or something?

SUTTON: I don’t know. I thought that was terrific for what it was.

GROTH: How were you paid? On a page basis?

SUTTON: With him? Yeah. Oh, wait a minute. I think so.

GROTH: But again, it was work-for-hire.

SUTTON: Or it may have been just a flat hunk of money. Just do it. We had a nice relationship there for quite a while. And there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have. He had a pretty good setup or so I’m told. I’m trying to think of the ladies that were involved. Now they’re all over the place. You notice?

GROTH: I’m not sure I have noticed.

SUTTON: Really? Your thing about females doing comics. Are they too smart?

GROTH: Well, that might be it.

SUTTON: Yeah. You get paid what for what? Or maybe it goes right back to the time when we were small. The girls were never into these comics at all, Gary. They were into these very specific things that don’t exist any more.