Joe Staton – Co-Creator of Huntress! Green Lantern Corps!
Casey got the change to sit down and have a chat with legendary creator Joe Staton about his career in comics, both writing and drawing.
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Interview scheduled by Jeffery Haas
Theme music by Good Co Music:
Joe Staton Interview
[00:00:00] Casey: and everybody welcome again to another episode of spoiler country today on the show, we have a comic book legend, Mr.
Joe Staton. Is it good? God, let me start over. Is that stat inner state and
Joe Staton: it state. Awesome.
Casey: Okay. I should, I normally ask those dumb questions before I do anything. but, yeah, you know, It can only go up from here. If you, if you start on the bottom, you can only look up. So, all right, everybody.
Welcome again, to another episode of spoiler country today on the show, we have a comics legend. Joe statin has been in the comics industry. Well, for a good long while. right now he is the artist for the Dick Tracy comic strip, but you may have seen him in email and you may have seen him in Greenlandic corpse.
you may have seen him, working with guy Gardner. So I’m Joe, how you doing man?
[00:01:00] Joe Staton: There? I’m done. Okay.
Casey: Awesome. Okay. So, Let’s get down to it, man. How did you get into the comics industry? Like what, what made you want to get into comics?
Joe Staton: Well, it it’s just, it’s, it’s what I always wanted to do. I mean, you, you mentioned Dick Tracy, and when I was a little kid, I, I think before I could read, I was attracted to Dick Tracy and the comics, just the, you know, the bizarre drawing and that, design and, that got me interested in, in, in comics and from the newspaper strips to, to, to reading comic books and.
I, I think I learned to read from Superboy comics. So, and I’ve just always what I wanted to do. after I got out of school, I, I took, it, took a shot at it, and I never particularly thought I would actually wind up doing comics. So I’m still kind of surprised that that’s what I do.
Casey: That’s awesome.
That’s [00:02:00] awesome. And the passion is still there, right? You still.
Joe Staton: Yeah, I am still interested in comics and, you know, and doing them and, and, and saying no. So I did
Casey: still there. Awesome. Awesome. understand that Roy Thomas was, I guess your first boss in comics, did he kind of help you get your bearings in, in regards to, how, how this crazy thing works?
Joe Staton: Well, actually, Roy was, kind of came to me after I had been an in comics for a while. Oh really? Yeah. I, I started at Charlton comics. That’s what, that’s where I did, email, lots of those stories and story, things like that. I w after I’d been doing things like email and prime, a $6 million man, that kind of books for Charleston, I had shown my stuff around at Marvel and it never made any real progress.
And then, One day out, out of the blue, Roy Thomas [00:03:00] called up and, you know, he, he talked to me for a good long time, and then he says, Oh, would you like to thank the Avengers? And I said, yeah, I’d like to do that. And he says, great. The, the job is on its way to you. So, I hung up and waited for the, for the package.
So that’s, that’s what I started getting from Marvel.
Casey: That that’s amazing. That’s amazing. So you, you, you were, you were talking about Carlton for a minute. That is a as a company I’m, I’m not too familiar with. And I think just by the, the sheer. Mass of work done by the big two, they kind of get overshadowed, but they really had some amazing creators there, especially when, when you were there in the seventies, can you talk a little bit about working for
Joe Staton: Carlton?
Yeah, we, we had a pretty good crew there. I, I was there, John [00:04:00] Burns started there, Don Newton, Tom Sutton, and, although Ditko was constantly working at Marvel, he would come and go at at Charlton because. Charlton, let him do anything he wanted to do and he’d come in and, do good, do some ghost stories for a while to do some horror stuff.
Then he’d be gone for a while. So, so yeah, we had a pretty good crew, but the thing with Charlton was that it, paid, much less than, the big companies. It was a really small operation up in Connecticut and, Supposedly they, well, they, they published, magazines, all kinds of things, but supposedly they started doing comic books only because it costs too much to shut the presses down and they needed something on the presses at all times, so that they started doing comics on the cheap, just to keep the, keep the equipment occupied.
So, it wasn’t, it wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t a priority. [00:05:00] But, it was a great place to start because they paid you something and, and, it was good people and it was, it was fun to do so it’s a great place to start.
Casey: Do you think that just kind of, I guess in essence, being the redheaded stepchildren of the, the, the company, doing comics instead of the other magazines, do you think that gave you guys a little bit of creative leeway?
Joe Staton: Oh, definitely. Yeah. I’ll say that the redheaded stepchild that we have, I have a friend who refers to Charlton as, as the, the three legged dog.
Joe Staton: The one that just doesn’t doesn’t fit anywhere, but, yeah, they, they pretty much let us try out anything. at, at one point, as long as it was done cheap, they were willing.
And at one point that point yet was, was one of the artists. Nick found a color separator in Texas who had worked really cheap. So Charleston, started allowing us to do painted [00:06:00] covers, as long as they can just pay what they did normally. But this really cheap separator would, you know, Take the paintings and we’ve lined up with, painted covers.
So I was, it was kind of an unusual thing at
Casey: the time. So while, while you were there, you worked on a title called eman and I brought it up a little bit before we officially started recording. I happened upon an issue of email and one time while I was, being drug around by my mom at a, It was, I think it like a used bookstore and I saw it and I was like, Oh, cool.
look at this weird X-Men type comic. And at the time you guys were, were parodying the, the X-Men and the comic. And it was my first experience of, the first time I’d ever encountered somebody doing a parody or a satire of, Of anything. And, it really kind of blew my mind with possibilities of, what you [00:07:00] can do in, in that medium,
Joe Staton: right.
Th this, this was like the second coming of email. This was, when I was at first comics in Chicago, that was quite a bit later. but yeah, like I think that was like the, the F man we did the F Matt and Saturday. And, there was a character who kept on swearing by the great white dog or something like that.
But yeah. so I guess, I guess if, if email was your first. Exploded exposure to, to satire you, you hadn’t run into mad magazine yet. Huh?
Casey: I, I was, I think I I’d kind of avoided it a little bit. it may have even been roughly around the same time, but, yeah, and it, I guess I’d never really put the two and two together.
I was really young when I ran into man.
Joe Staton: Oh, yeah.
Casey: Like new reader. Yeah. So probably shouldn’t have been reading it, but my mom was like, Oh, it’s a comic. How bad could it [00:08:00] be?
Joe Staton: Right. I brought them to, guys fairly often who run into evil, whether they’re fairly young or they run into Nova Kane, you know, his, his girlfriend.
Joe Staton: working her way through college as a stripper and she becomes a superhero and to be a sidekick. And so, you know, Nova was a good, a good example of womanhood. So, I, I think she, she’s good to run it while you’re young. Get, get a good idea.
Casey: Oh yeah, yeah. so you guys kind of.
Had a little bit of a soap opera with, with that character. how did you guys end up getting the rights transferred to you? Was it, was that like a, a big to do or did it just kind of, was it an easy transition?
Joe Staton: I don’t know which what’s your time? What are we talking about here
Casey: in that the rights, Originally owned by Carlton, were transferred to you and, and Nicholas Cuddy.
Joe Staton: Oh, well actually, when I [00:09:00] was at, at first comics in Chicago, they decided that they should bring back and have me bring back, Emad and, everything was still at Charleston, but it was fortunate that the, that, first had good connections in Chicago. And we ha we had of all people, a copyright lawyer by the name of George Bullwinkle.
Yeah, who is a parent? I’m very highly regarded copyright lawyer. And, he, he handled the, the rights and that was a deal where, I’d have, deductions from my royalties, to pay, first expenses, paying for the, paying for the rides and, and tag for the rider paying for the, the lawyer. so it, you know, it worked out there and, and first, wound up publishing, publishing Emad.
But it was, it was a little tricky, you know, figuring out who w when Charlton, it was always hard to figure out who owned [00:10:00] wat and, we, we got Emad away from him. So
Casey: that’s awesome that that’s not really a story that you hear often, when it comes to, to. Characters that were created by, you know, people that, that love them.
Joe Staton: Oh, no. Howard, Jacob did, American flag first and Howard has wound up, with the rights to flag. I mean, a lot of this stuff plays out over the years. so I think, I think Tim Trovan and John Ostrander, Are are doing, grim Jack. there’s so they’re hanging on to that. it, it comes around.
I’m never quite sure who has what at any given time, but, yeah, I, I would do email, every so often.
Casey: Yes, it’s such a fun character and, you can kind of. Be fairly versatile,
Joe Staton: very versatile. It can be anything he wants to be.
[00:11:00] Casey: So you, you weren’t at Marvel for, for too very
Joe Staton: long. Yeah, I think I was there a little over three years.
Casey: And I’m sorry.
Joe Staton: No, I, I inked, the Avengers for, I guess a year or so. And, and then, and then one day in the mail came on some Hulk pages and, I thought, the shipping had gotten confused and I called Len Wein, who was my editor that it’s, Oh, I got pages today. And he says, yeah, we decided to good look good on, on herb.
So, you know, nobody told me that, I was changed to a different assignment, but. But that’s what I, what I did that, Marvel, ink, the Avengers, and then, and then the Hulk.
Casey: Oh, that’s awesome. That’s how did these people that when you came in, I mean, a lot of them were legendary. I’m sure. To you even, [00:12:00] Did you have any, encounters with any of the people like, I don’t know, Kirby or Stan or anybody
Joe Staton: like that?
yeah, it it’s, it’s, it’s funny these days, it strikes me that, that I did come in at a time. You know what legends walk the earth. It’s hard to think that, you know, the people I worked around or with, or, you know, are just, legends now. I worked as, while I was at Charlton, I worked as, as Gil Kane’s assistant for awhile.
Casey: Oh, wow.
Joe Staton: and I, ran into D you know, I’d run into Dicko at, Charlton and, and when I was it’s funny, when I was inking, the Hulk, every time I went into these into a. The Marvel, Lynn Wayne would introduce me to a, to stand and says, Hey Stan, this is, you know, this is the guy who’s inking, the halt.
And Stan would do, you know, Stan stuff face front, true believer at all. Those things very friendly, always [00:13:00] said, huh? I didn’t never remembered who I was every time. Every time I to stay out and he was, he was always thrilled to meet me, but, so, yeah, that’s it. I never quite figured out who I was though.
Casey: did you ever have anybody, that kinda took you under their wing while you were there?
Joe Staton: no, I don’t think so. I had, I guess more direction from, from Gilt chain than from anybody else. Oh yeah. At Marvel I had, Archie Goodwin. Archie was the, I wasn’t editing the black and white books and I was kind of, Stifled a little bit at Marvel.
I wanted to do some, more things than just inking. And I got, very, typecast as just a, you know, not just an anchor, but, that’s basically what I did. And, and Archie was doing the black and white books and they’ve found, stuff on the Kung Fu books for me to do, including a, life story of Bruce Lee, gel.
Cool, which is silly. One of my [00:14:00] very favorite, jobs. And, I was going, they were showing Bruce Lee movies at a local college. And this, this was before you could just look up things. There was no Google, but, so were going around finding Bruce Lee movies where we can find them. That was a lot of fun.
Yeah. And then I did some of the regular issues, deadly hands of Kung Fu strangely enough, since everything you’ve ever done is now being re reprinted. My, my Kung Fu issues were, reprinted in a hard back, no last year. So everything is still around somewhere.
Casey: That’s great. And, I’m sure that’s, that’s not a, an unwanted paycheck to just like I needed this like 40 years ago.
Joe Staton: Okay. Yeah, it’s cool. you know, things, I, every once in a while, I’ve got a royalty check for. Things I’ve forgotten. I did. That’s good. Sometimes they’re, you know, a buck [00:15:00] 80 and sometimes they’re more substantial. So it’s. But money that I’m not
Casey: expecting. That is what we call it. Live in the life right there, Joe.
It’s awesome. So I’ve never heard a bad word said about Archie. Good one, by the way. everybody seems to love them.
Joe Staton: Yeah, there are no bad words to say about RG Goodwin. Archie is, you know, like likely the ultimate example of, of a mentor editor, our writer, you know, if Archie told you something, you know, you can trust it.
It’s a good guy. I, yeah,
Casey: that’s awesome. Did, did you get, you got out of there before shooter came in, right,
Joe Staton: right. yeah, my editor there was still, still living when, I, yeah, I, I, didn’t never mesh very well with shooter. I’ve never had a long-term relationship with them, so, [00:16:00] yeah. so I was basically out by then.
Casey: Yeah. And, then Paul Levitz kind of poach you, right?
Joe Staton: He doesn’t do you, that, that was another one of those, Occasionally just when, I got a call out of the blue that I didn’t know, Paul, I had no idea why he was calling me. but he was, you know, was recruiting me to do finishes, at DC, they were actually short of people to produce all of the books and they had, in my case, Rick Astrada was, doing very rough.
Layout for several books and like, you know, while it would, was doing finishes on, on all-star and, but, I was recruited to finish, Rick Estrada on our. the karate kid, also I did finishes on Rick on backup for, the creeper. So,
Casey: yeah. did co-creation
Joe Staton: I, yeah,
Joe Staton: yeah. I’d like that one.
[00:17:00] Casey: So assume I’m a moron, which you probably already have.
Joe Staton: No, I have
Casey: break downs and finishes. And just that, that terminology goes over my head. And I think a few other people, we will, you tell us. But breakdowns and finishes are
Joe Staton: all there. There’s that’s, that’s one of the things I don’t think it’s ever been totally settled.
the degree of the degree of, of, well, the nature of how much work is actually on the page, sometime, The people will know, or, that there are pencils and there are inks, but there are also other degrees of, I’ll just put on the page. there are thumbnails which are, you know, very small sketches of what’s on the, on a page and then break downs.
Are there, w very, very rough drawings, a, of the, of the art, with, the drawings not finished sometimes it’s, very, very, very loose. And, I remember when I was hired [00:18:00] to work on Rick, I was told that, that, he, only put out shoe boxes for, city scenes. So his buildings were shoe boxes.
So I was expected to put in windows and blacks and bricks and all that sort of thing. so that, that would be breakdowns. so I would rather it, rather than the penciler. Taking it to a foundation pencil, I would take it, you know, partway to the finished John salon and I would finish it in ink. sometimes you get very tight, very tight, layout way out to burrito.
so when I was working, with, herb on, on the Hawk, his, his, layouts for, I’m pretty pretty finished. no blacks, not a lot of the texture, but a, was pretty close to a finished drawing. So that was more, more inking than finishing, but, and, it, it varies, who you’re working with, what the deadlines are, what’s the best way to get it done.
So, you know, [00:19:00] layouts are, are very rough pencils.
Casey: So, what did you prefer? Did you like it when they were loose with it? So you, so you can kind of put your own snake on it or was it something that like, Oh, wow. That’s just really time-consuming. I would much rather it be tight, like, like herb.
Joe Staton: Well, I like, there there’s, as long as there’s some room to get my own stuff on the page a little bit, so that’s, that’s good.
and it’s good to get the, the loose stuff too, because I. I basically know how to draw the page, but if, if the storytelling’s there, that gives me a good a heads up, I go into the story. So that, that helps a lot. So either way works. I don’t, well, actually, Yeah. I’ll, I’ll work on anything from real, really loose, really loose pencils to, to really tight pencils.
I don’t warm up so much to really tight pencils, but, I’ll I’ll work out. any, any variation?
[00:20:00] Casey: That’s that’s good. I really that’s one thing that’s always kind of gone over my head and it, like, it sounds like it’s not a, an exact science either. Whenever I would see that in the credits bar.
Joe Staton: Yeah. You can never really tell from the credits bar exactly what anybody did so that somebody will be credited with something and maybe they did it, or maybe they did part of it or maybe. Maybe they had three or four guys doing something, or Marvel. There were the crusty bunkers, which I did it a little bit on, which happened to be anybody who was walking through the office, who could hold a brush.
Okay. Say here, Oh, okay. Put some trees over here and some buildings over here and then pass it on to somebody else. you you’d never really know quite who’s doing wat.
Casey: So while you were, while you were at DC, did you have any particular title that [00:21:00] you just really enjoyed working on?
Joe Staton: yeah. I, I got off pretty early with, The, the all-star the, return of, of the, JSA, the justice society.
and that would, that tend, Molly would, hadn’t been doing that. And so I came in after him and I had been, had actually read a lot of the. 1940s reprints. so I, I knew who these characters earth two was basically the characters who had been around in the forties. So I knew who they were and I really liked them and it was a really a different reality.
and, I, I, I keep, I keep on telling people that I’m really most at home on R two. I, with what the Jew justice society and those characters I’m, very, very comfortable.
Casey: we felt comfortable enough to kill Batman, so,
Joe Staton: Oh yeah, that was, that was, just, I write up on CVR [00:22:00] that, about the time we’ve killed that Madden and he’s still dead.
He hasn’t come back, not our Batman. but that was, that was a fall Lovett story. we did a lot of good stuff with Paul. Yeah, but, with the justice society, that was the, that’s where we created the Huntress, who was, Batman, his daughter, the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. so that, that was one time I got to be involved in creating a character and she was, she was, she was an earth to care.
Casey: Have you been paying attention to any of the, Berlanti universe? television shows, they kind of go into some of the earth to stuff. And, I haven’t, I have two kids. So if the TV isn’t on Disney channel, it’s my wife watching something. So I rarely am able to watch TV,
Joe Staton: the [00:23:00] new series star girl, a lot of the earth tune character, the justice society. Athlete. It seems to be a dislike the next generation of the justice society. Most of the originals that I worked on have been killed in action, but there’s, there’s another generation, know on Stargirl, but they’re the references to, to all the earth to characters there.
Casey: That’s awesome. I, this is one thing, hopefully. I don’t know. Maybe I can start getting them to bed earlier. Now, school stuff, I can catch up on some of this stuff.
Joe Staton: So the kids, aren’t all going virtual. So
Casey: virtual for now in hope. Hopefully we’ll be able to get him back in school, but man, I have a kindergartner and a fifth grader and I cannot imagine. How anyone could keep a mask on a kindergarten or all day?
Joe Staton: I [00:24:00] don’t think that would be easy.
Casey: No, no, no. So yeah, they’re, they’re going to make models and they’re, they’re doing their school stuff.
They’re on the computer and, my wife is actually teacher and she, Has been doing two grades worth of, students and, virtually while the rest of the school is, going in for actual class. the students that have opted out of coming into physical class are in my wife’s classroom.
Joe Staton: Oh, wow.
So she’s, she’s doing two classes and your kids are going to, I guess that would be your mothers too,
Casey: to my in-laws, which they, they live about two miles down the road. So it works out well. Yeah. And, and MIMO has, has learned how to, How to use the computers.
Joe Staton: Lots of people are like quickly learning to use computers though. It’s kind of a
[00:25:00] Casey: shock. Oh yeah. Yeah. I’ll get a, a text out of the blue, like, from, from my mother-in-law and it’s like, how do you, how do you document or whatever I’m like, so it’ll that real quick. And I’ll get back to my client, but.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. So, yeah. You, you enjoyed your time at DC.
Joe Staton: yeah, I came in, went along a lot at the DC. Yeah,
Casey: yeah, yeah. so you, you did a guy gardener. how was it illustrating. The most unpleasant, compact character DC universe.
Joe Staton: Well, I, I love guy. And, I was working with, Steve Englehart. basically the original version of guy had been run totally into the ground.
There wasn’t, there really wasn’t anything left to do with that. Character. it was the original guy. I think he was, was a [00:26:00] gym coach who big become a temporary green lantern. he had, had suffered terrible injuries at a fight with semester and had brain damage. And basically he was. It was written out.
He was in a coma and, some kind of facility and, Steve Venmo, Steve Englehart was kind of, tak tasked with, making something useful out of the remains of guy gardener. Sorry. could you hang on a minute while I get a drink of water here?
Casey: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. And I’ll no, take this on the thing, so, okay.
Joe Staton: No.
[00:27:00] Okay. Are we, are we still here?
Casey: Oh yeah. Yeah.
Joe Staton: Yeah, when I’m, basically, well, my wife’s in the house, but, I, you know, I, I say hi to her occasionally, but I think talking to people other than that, so, an extended period of talking, drives me out. So that’s
Casey: and being an artist, a solitary work in and of itself,
Joe Staton: right?
Yeah. Oh, you used to be the only person I would see for days would be the, Beth, the, the FedEx girl. So,
Casey: so you worked as the art director for first. did, did you enjoy working there?
Joe Staton: They enjoyed the prospects, but we [00:28:00] kind of, I’m trying to prove that I had no managerial skills whatsoever.
I, really it’s a back, keeping, keeping people on track and making sure things are, are done. right. We had a good record of getting along books out what I was there. so I was pleased with what I did, but, it was a different kind of, stress that I was accustomed to. And, I haven’t tried it again.
So it’s a tight, tight. Met some awfully guys, people, and we did some good work and, I, I totally burned out. I was, I was like among the walking wounded when I got back from Chicago.
Casey: Oh, wow. And while you were, I’m guessing while you were the, the hard director there, man, you guys put out some titles. We do my gosh.
Y’all put out a ton of what I’m thinking. A lot of people regard as like [00:29:00] the. The birth of like the modern indie comics
Joe Staton: we were there. Yeah.
Casey: So, so while, while you were there, I’m sure you had at least a little bit of a hand in, helping out with the American flag and the Badger. And, let’s see, lone Wolf and Cub.
Joe Staton: that was just a matter of picking up, Japanese. Well, I don’t think we, I didn’t really you think to do with that. but, but, I would, basically go through, chickens material and basically just being impressed by,
Joe Staton: You know, I have to ask him, Oh, no, you you’ve drawn flag without a pelvis over here.
Joe Staton: how it works a lot fun to work with. I love Howard and, Tim true grim Jack. And, I knew we were doing something different there when, crim Jack had to chop the [00:30:00] head off the zombie baby, and all those episodes.
Casey: So you, you were y’all were constantly pushing the envelope.
Joe Staton: well, we were, yeah.
try trying different stuff. And, we, we promised we wouldn’t do any elves. but, other than that, we were kind of open to stuff that we didn’t get into. we did, superhero parodies, but then, and Badger was kind of a superhero. He was a little bit strange himself. So, yeah, we, we tried all kinds of stuff.
Casey: That’s that’s awesome. And, later on, like in the nineties, you, you won an Eisner award.
Joe Staton: yes, I did. That was,
Casey: I forgot. They’re just piled up in the corner. They all blend in together after awhile,
Joe Staton: the adaptation, the animated, Movie about when Batman, first met Superman, the [00:31:00] animated version.
And, I, I worked on, on the adaptation there. I, I w I was really pleased with that book. I think that came out well, Terry, Terry BD inked it and, was good. I really, I did a lot of work in the animated style actually, but, this was probably the best, best job I did.
Casey: That that’s that’s great. I, one thing while I’m talking to you, it kind of made me think you started out on a lot of the titles as an anchor.
now it seems with everything going digital, the, and with the new coloring techniques and all that, it seems almost kind of like the. Anchor the, the importance of the anchor is going the way of the Buffalo. What, what do you think about that? And have, has it influenced how you do your work now?
Joe Staton: well, every, every once in a while you will see mentions that people say [00:32:00] that that, inkers are a dying breed, but, still needing them for a lot, a lot of the books now, but not, not so much.
actually a lot of, lot of the books that the penciling is done. so tightly that, you know, with, if you adjust the levels or something, you have a dark enough, image to, different from them. So I think really. With the, Photoshop adjustments and everything. it’s, it’s possible to do away with the necessity for anchors, but so you used to have to, you know, who, who was good together and who looked, who looked?
Was it, was it best to have Joe Senate? Thank you. Or of course it was a good class scans and look better, or so, but now so much of it as is. The one sort of drawing, going through the computer and the, in your wound up with that, and then the colorist. But, it it’s, like I say, it, there are different degrees [00:33:00] of, of what every step in the process is is done.
So that’s, that’s, one way it’s moving now.
Casey: What were there any particular creators, and especially anchors that, you enjoyed working with while you were at the, at the big two? My, you just felt jelled with you?
Joe Staton: Well, I, I w I worked a lot with Bruce Patterson, yanked a lot of my green lantern stuff.
I really liked, what Bruce did. and, I did, plastic man with, Bob Smith, Bob Smith, and a great line. I, I loved doing that. and occasionally I would do, something completely different. one, one job that stood out was a Batman story for the campaign to end landmines. The book was called.
Casey: I remember that stuff when I had that.
Joe Staton: And, Bilson Kevin inked it and it was beautiful. I was, people asked me that, you know, did bill completely obliterate what I, what I was doing. [00:34:00] And, and no, he, he just found what I was doing and pull it, pulled it all together. And, so I really liked that, that, that look I’m, I’m really pleased with that one.
Casey: Yeah, I don’t, I don’t think anybody would ever complain about having had, Been able to collaborate with Bilson cabbage?
Joe Staton: Well, I certainly don’t, don’t go blind about it. No, I don’t know if it was CVR again or what it was, but somebody just reprinted, put up online. a job I did was the origin of Dr.
Fate and Michael Masser and that, and he had a kind of Neil Adams finish to what he was doing at the time, which was, I still saw my stuff there, but, it gave it a different look and I liked seeing what he found in, in what I was doing. a good, a good anchor will teach you something about yourself.
Casey: That that’s cool. So who, who were your inspirations when you, [00:35:00] when you first started and in terms of artwork?
Joe Staton: well, I Gil Kane to certainly one of my basic, influences and I think, I think Ditko was my basic guy. I kind of always loved deco more than anything else though. The drawing and the weirdness, and of course, going back to gesture Gould, and I like to bird a lot.
And, it’s funny. I, I used to say I was the only one who wasn’t influenced by Jack Kirby, but actually I wasn’t watched by Jack Kirby, the stuff he did, like the, the fly and that, Double life of private strong and the monster stuff before he actually created all the Marvel stuff. I never looked, never warmed up quite so much to, you know, what he did for the main Marvel stuff.
But the weird stuff, I really liked that I liked what he did on the challengers of the unknown a lot. so yeah, I, I did have some Kirby influence there after all.
[00:36:00] Casey: It took me a while. when I was first started to read his stuff to get past the, the big, weird Lego man heads.
as far as like drawing Saifai though, that man was fantastic.
Joe Staton: Yeah. I remember, Kirby did all kinds of things. And at some point he did, one kid Cole. It was a Western and a kid called was attracted to the schoolmarm, that led to, gunfire. And it occurred to me. That was the ugliest.
Okay. Before it was, was, not, not that Kirby strong boy. Well, you have very strong points that I could live with an ugly school bar if necessary.
Casey: So earlier you talked about Chester Gould, And, so [00:37:00] Kim, can we talk a little bit about Dick Tracy?
Joe Staton: Oh, we, we can always talk about Dick Tracy.
Casey: So this is a strip, I’m sure you grew up reading.
Joe Staton: I did. And like, I grew up following the pictures before I could read it. So I think it’s the first, influence I had in ever. So yeah, I go back always with Tracy.
Casey: It, it blows my mind that that you’re able to, to now carry on this tradition and, carry on the story.
Joe Staton: It is, it is odd. I kind of do, I started with Tracy and it looks like I want to up for Tracy.
So, you, it comes around, but I, I still try to pick up, as much as I can of, of the, the Gould look. the, some of the design work, the way he handled blacks, the design, the exaggerated characters, So, yeah, I am, definitely, definitely trying to keep as much of Chester Gould as possible.
[00:38:00] Casey: I, I remember when I was a kid, I had a, a collection, a massive like doorstop of a collection of, the, Dick Tracy strips. And it always blew me away. Just kinda like through the decades, how he would just slightly change, in terms of like facial characteristics and stuff like that. And, he always looked like a.
A guy that could take and give a punch, but there was always something that, that would change a little bit. And sometimes it looked like he had too many punches to the face, but
Joe Staton: there was a while that Tracy had a mustache and then you had a crew cut and, every, everybody at the, police headquarters got crew cuts at one point, except for, police, woman, Liz.
Casey: but, Thank goodness.
Joe Staton: Tracy. Tracy did change a bit over the years.
Casey: So have you, integrated any of the crazier characters into, into your strip? [00:39:00] like the, the, the hippie character from the sixties and seventies.
Joe Staton: Oh, groovy. let’s say there was a competent group. Yes, yes. but. I actually, speaking of hippies, we’re we’re we have a new character that we’re going to be introducing to the strip, is, named a query as, who was actually, on, on unreconstructed hippie from, I guess the, the seventies 60 seventies.
So he’s, So we’re, we’re still having hippies turned up as, as, problems for, for Tracy. we, we brought a lot of, we brought a lot of the older characters back and we’ve done a lot of our own new characters, but we bring back, BBI is, no, a little face, which has a weird character.
And, the only thing is we, we promise, flattop his dad. we will never bring flattop himself back because we’re, you know, he’s, he’s the, he’s the main, Tracey villain. So he, needs, deserves the [00:40:00] respect to stay dead.
Casey: So, yeah, he’s kind of like the, the joker to, to exonerees he’s Batman,
Joe Staton: right?
Although we bring back, Broadway Bates, who is a really old character as a character who was actually the pin Glen was stolen from the, the visuals of Broadway Bates. I buy Bob Cade way back with, so I mean this, all of this stuff, it goes back so long. but we, we bring characters back from, you know, days gone by and, and then we have our own characters.
We’ve, we’ve got a good character as well. The, silver nitrate and his sister were, film, film pirates. And, we, I really enjoyed those guys and there’s a character called double up who, every time he says something, he says it twice.
Casey: When you first started this strip and in 2011, did you get any, did you have anybody that kind of gave you some a hard time for, you know, cause [00:41:00] it’s ch changes weird.
Nobody likes change, especially when it’s a comment geeks and their favorite stories.
Joe Staton: It’s funny when we took it over, we actually got a good, very, very good reception too. when we started out we’ve, now that we’ve been on it a few years. Everybody, you know, people follow it online. And we, we do, after we were exposed for awhile, the Snickers would turn against us.
And so we have people who, are making, you know, harsh co comments as well. But, I think in general we got a pretty good, pretty good react.
Casey: That’s awesome. And it to be. Honestly, at least in my opinion, you’re, you’re like the, the most well-rounded artist, it, it seems to be, you know, to me on, on the strip ever.
Joe Staton: it’s well, I don’t know. I, you know, I thank you for saying that, but, you know, Chester gold [00:42:00] was. Was a genius. He was, he had the vision and, and Rick Fletcher, was a really good, really good draftsman. I, I mean, I think it’s, I think we’ve had good, good people to look up to.
Casey: So since you’ve been there, you, you’ve kind of done a few crossovers with other strips.
How, how did those happen?
Joe Staton: it was, actually I did not realize, my, my writer, Mike Curtis, I did not realize this was actually his grand design that when we started, I thought we was just doing like police stories, but he had a plan of like integrating, like, I guess the, the mega verse of all comics characters.
he’s. He’s. Pretty well on his way to it. so the, we had a good long continuity bringing over a little more financially, which when, when the anime strip was canceled, the, the trip got, Blow back on [00:43:00] that because, adding had just been captured, my Guatemalan pirates or the strip was canceled.
So, my, my, my courteous thought, that Hani deserved a better resolution than that. So we wound up doing a, a good long run with, with Annie and. And her character is daddy Warbucks and the ASP and the whole bunch. So, I love drawing Sandy, a little water from Annie’s dog. We had a shot where, Dick Tracy met Sandy and Sandy jumped all over Dick Tracy and they, they just hit it off.
So, so yeah, there are characters there that are really like, you know, that’s that kind of set the, set the path of the pattern with, with Annie Aleve. we actually had a Popeye crossover. We had one, one day, crossover where a Tracey went to hoot and holler about some of the Snuffy Smith characters.
just kind, kind of weird, Yeah. let’s see who I’ll always just, if [00:44:00] you more, Steve, Robert and Mike nomad, we just did a crossover with them. we have, right now we have, Brenda star is doing a cameo appearance. It’s not a, not a proper crossover, but she’s showing up and she’s she dull looking.
so yeah, I think Mike is going to get them all in there at some point.
Casey: That’s awesome that you’re able to kind of play in that sandbox and mess around with those, those characters. is it a different, discipline going from like a, you know, a 24 page book to, to a strip and telling a story in, in, you know, however many panels you’re allotted for, for the strip.
Joe Staton: Oh, yeah, it’s a completely different way of thinking. But, for, for a book, do you think in terms of the page and you can break the page down, any way you you’re like what, weird angles or whatever you’d like to do, just however [00:45:00] it’s, as long as it fits on the page and break it down, however you like.
But the, for the strips there, there’s a, just, Oh, limited number of little boxes, little, there that you could, you could use. so the design has to basically you think in terms of the panel rather than then so much even the, even the strip it’s panel to panel. But with the comics, it’s, it’s the page, a lot more variety of how you break it down.
So it’s, it’s, it is a different way of thinking of how you’re telling the stories.
Casey: Is it more difficult to, to accomplish a, a concise strip than say a page of dialogue in a standard comic?
Joe Staton: it, it is, yeah. And, sometimes you would really like to have, be able to go into a full page spread, and strip out there.
There’s no way to do that. [00:46:00] So, you have to get a lot of, a lot more into, small spaces than, than you would for, for a book
Casey: that, it sounds difficult. I actually run a, A site as a group for, for comics and it kind of is it’s a word I’m sorry.
Joe Staton: Surprise. Surprise.
Casey: Yeah. Yeah, I know. But, we, we do one page comics each week wherein, we pair up an artist and a, A writer together, the writer has a week to produce so one page script, and then we give the artist up, you know, two weeks to do the, the actual page.
And we have a, a letter come in. And one thing that immediately hit me as not having a, there is such a massive. Advantage to having somebody who knows what they’re doing in regards [00:47:00] to lettering
Joe Staton: that can.
Casey: So, I’m sure as, as our director of, you know, of a, of a publisher, you you’ve seen that first.
Joe Staton: Oh yeah.
Yeah. that was talking about working with, with Howard shake and, Howard brought in, Ken bruiser knack, as his, his letter for a flag and our Ken was. Responsible for a lot of the design work and, and Howard had a lot of, ideas of how to handle, visual representations of sound, actually, various noises overlapping each other, or, you, you can really do a lot with, with lettering, representing, different, dialogues, different, different voices.
Ken, Bruce Mack was, was great at that sort of stuff.
Casey: Yeah. It’s stuff like that. Just it’s it’s the little things that you, you don’t [00:48:00] think of immediately that, that just really transform a page. Yeah.
Joe Staton: Your letters. Are you lettering on the boards? Are you doing it? A
Casey: computer? Yeah, it’s all digital. They, we have one guy that will occasionally, do the lettering, like, you know, on the actual paper, just as a, I guess more or less a practice for himself.
See if he can stay sharp, but it’s, you know, they’ll, they’ll let her in and Photoshop and, and do it as a layer over the existing art. Yep.
Joe Staton: That works. And, and that’s how it’s mostly done. Now. I really miss, you know, lettering on the boards. the, where obviously our lettering on Tracey is all digital.
would it be impossible to do the strip, and not do it digitally because we’re going to our, corrections [00:49:00] over the phone or on computer. And, we have to be able to turn things around very quickly and that’s, that’s really the only way to do it. Now. Is your
Casey: art physical or is it digital?
Joe Staton: It’s it’s both.
I do all my, Basic drawing. The, the, the daily strips are, are, are just penciled. I console them and, Shelly Plager out in Oregon, inks them digitally. And does the lettering and, Then I, I actually think the Sunday’s on, on the board. just, basically because she has so much to do like, do my, my bed there.
so we have, it’s, it’s a mixed, digitally and, virtual and physical. Okay. Every, every way you do it, we, we do a little bit of it.
Casey: How far in advance, do you guys have it, like done out? Like, is, is it, you know, a few weeks in [00:50:00] advance or?
Joe Staton: well, the, the Sundays have to be done a lot, farther out than the dailies because the Sundays have to go to the color printers and be, shipped out to the, to the newspapers.
So the, the Sundays have to be done, six weeks ahead, printing and the dailies are done. four weeks. I had, we have had occasion where. things about, a week’s worth of strip has to be done overnight. so it, it sometimes, but it gets really tight sometimes. So you try, you try to give yourself a good bit of a good bit of leeway there never, never quite so works out as much as you’d like, but, as well, that’s what we’re trying to do.
Casey: When I was a kid, I had a paper route and get up at three in the morning, and, on, on Saturdays and Sundays. And. We’d have to put together [00:51:00] all of the different sections of the paper. Yeah. So I was, I was 12 when I started my paper route. and I did that until I turned 16 and was able to get an actual job.
but I remember, kind of tuck in one of the, One of the comic pages off to the side. So I could read it later when we at the end of the paper route. So we we’d always stop and get, get breakfast at a, at a fast food chain and read it at the, at the breakfast table. Yeah. Got it. Got it. Got it. Got to keep one for yourself.
Yeah, probably got in big trouble. If they saw me do that.
Joe Staton: One of the perks of your job.
Casey: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. So what, what do you do now? Like to keep things fresh, like, cause I’m sure. You, you have to refill that. Well, you have to have [00:52:00] something that, gets you excited about creating. So what, what do you do.
Joe Staton: Well, certainly what the w reprints of all, all of the Tracy, the Gould stuff. I tried to read a good bunch of those, you know, final, continuously, because like you said, Tracy changes and I try to try to just see the, the changes of over the years. So I try to pick up things there and, you know, I try.
Try to keep up a bit of, watch what’s happening on, just in, in the world of comics. Now, I, I don’t keep up with the superheroes so much, but, you know, seeing, graphic novels, like the black Panther, you know, black Panther is cool. so yeah, I, I try to keep aware of what’s happening.
Casey: Are there any artists that are kind of blowing your hair back these days?
Joe Staton: well, you know, I are really pleased with what Jerry Kraft is doing these days. Just, the [00:53:00] kids meet, get fitting into the schools and, good, good things there. so yeah, I, I was certainly impressed with all of the, the John Lewis stories and, keeping up with all that.
Casey: Oh yeah. Yeah. So we always like to ask our creators that come on.
Comic book shops are the lifeblood of the comics industry. It seems like, especially, you know, as crazy as things have been lately, we want to, we want these places to stay open. Are there any particular places that you, that you enjoy going to?
Joe Staton: well, you know, it’s always, Heroes God. And, Sheldon, heroes are hard to find.
It’s always great. When you go to the show, go out to the, to the store and see, you know, see what he’s doing. around me here in, in ER, there’s, kind of a cool store called mega brain and Rhinebeck, New York. I like to get over there. there’s there’s a [00:54:00] good one to Newpaltz called, October country.
So we, we still have some, some good stuff. Good storage around here, actually just, just lately. I don’t quite really know, quite know what some of these stores are there, but a few little stores popping up, kind of on the streets around here. So I’m going to have to check them out and see what they’re doing.
And I really hope that, you know, we still have the stores. If it wouldn’t be, I heard, you know, that they’re, they’re not happy if they’re having a hard time with, you know, the lockdown and everything, but, we really do need to keep them, keep them going.
Casey: Speaking of things that have changed, with the lockdown, do you have any plans on, getting back out there?
when, if and when the, the cons start happening again?
Joe Staton: W whenever they, they get going again and it seems reasonable to [00:55:00] get back to them. I, I do miss them. I like getting up, with, with fans and other people in the business. So, I, I have lost a lot of contacts that way. but you know, gather got to see how things go.
Casey: Are you able to do your, your strip mobily while, while you’re out and about at the cons?
Joe Staton: I have done done that. Yeah. Right. what I was on green lantern, I, I, at the San Diego show, I had to get a, issue done. So I would draw it to the, Show all day and then go back to the room and the green lantern pages.
So that’s, that’s not on that. Not that unusual.
Casey: I’ve heard stories. I think it was, goodness. It was a story about, an artist. They saw this guy at a con, he was doing his, Is, what you call it? commissions for people,
Paul Levitz [00:56:00] saw, a commission that, this kid had and, Where’d you get that? And he said, Oh man, he’s, he’s doing all these commission pages. You should go check it out. And, just so happened that that guy was behind like so far. So, so Paul Levitt has got up and, gave him an F
Joe Staton: you have to be careful. Well,
Casey: I don’t want to take too much more of your time up. I think it’s getting late, out there. and, speaking of deadlines, I’m sure you have a few
Joe Staton: always that’s that’s, it, that, that’s one of the main differences. When I was doing books, I would, I would do a book. It would be B work.
I, I get it. I’d buckle down, get it done. Then I’d have. Oh, no, three or four days till the next book was here, then I get that done. So there was always, it was a, a routine to it and I could get, get to get a little break now out of [00:57:00] here, but the, the strip is always there. It’s always light, no matter what.
So there is a difference. Ramona Fraden, from the star for a good long time. She says any, any one day, you don’t draw, you’re suddenly four days late. So that’s, that’s the rule. That’s that’s the math. No, it’s, it’s, it’s kind of hard to keep up with your schedule, but I’m I’m into my 10th year.
So I guess, I guess I’ve kind of got the knack of it.
Casey: That’s the swing of it now. What do you do to relax?
Joe Staton: I actually, I, I think yard work, and, work around the house. I, I really like working out trimming, trimming bushes, clear clearing up, the yard that’s, doing, doing something physical is, is a good break from sitting at a table all the time.
Casey: Oh yeah. Yeah. I’ll be I’m working on a [00:58:00] deck tomorrow. So we have a new puppy that, decided to eat or DEC
Joe Staton: was that just came in the
Joe and appears on being summoned.
Joe Staton: Okay,
Casey: Joe, thank you so much for talking to us. and, we, We will post up.
I love my daughters 80 real quick. Say, say, Hey, Mr. Joe. Hey Mr. Staton
Joe Staton: either.
Casey: Thank you very much, Joe. So she is, She is our, our youngest and, our wildest. So you’ve ever had the pleasure of having kids, but, Oh my gosh, they’re a handful. Well, [00:59:00] Mr. Stayton, thank you so much for talking to us. And, we will post links up to, to your personal site and to, to the, Dick Tracy strip as well.
Joe Staton: thank you again. Nice talking to you,
Casey: same to you, a mask up and wash your hands and stay away from people. Because my granny up in North Carolina just got six.
Joe Staton: Oh, okay. We will, we’ll try to observe all precautions.
Casey: Yes, sir.
Joe Staton: Thank you. Bye-bye.