The Epic Life of Carl Potts
Sumner is joined on this week’s Hard Agree for a wide-ranging comics-heavy conversation with one of his all-time favorite comic book editors: artist, writer & thirteen-year Marvel Comics veteran Carl Potts. Carl joined Marvel in 1983 and, in addition to co-creating Alien Legion, he oversaw the reinvention & redevelopment of The Punisher (transforming Frank Castle from an occasional Spider-Man/Daredevil supporting player into one of the two most popular Marvel characters not created by Kirby, Ditko or Lee) and served as the executive editor/editor-in-chief of Marvel’s high-quality Epic Comics imprint from 1989. Throughout those years, Carl worked alongside many legendary comics creators, from Al Milgrom and Neal Adams to Jim Starlin, Jim Lee and the peerless Steve Ditko. Sumner and Carl talk about all of this at length before discussing Carl’s latest creative project: two beautiful volumes of Pacific Theater graphic novels that he’s creating with artist Bill Reinhold – The Flying Column and Guests of the Emperor – inspired by Carl’s family’s unique experiences during WWII.
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Carl Potts – Interview
Carl Potts: Our parents having gone through the second rope war and all of that, um, you know what we consider.
You know, horrible inconveniences. Now they would have been happy to, to exchange places with
Andrew Sumner: exactly. Oh, it’s so true, mate. I couldn’t agree more. I talk about this point all the time, and I think that’s part of the reason we have part of the reason there’s many complex reasons why we have climate change deniers while we have anti-vaxxers all of this kind of stuff, because people can’t get out of this world of extreme convenience.
That in fact, we are the beneficiaries of science that it’s science. That’s brought us to this point and it’s allowed some people, it’s almost like an episode of star Trek where it’s allowed some people to divorce themselves from the cause of the comfort, which is, is science and human ingenuity, not faith.
And, and people are taking this refuge into kind of faith in ignorance. Uh, R and D and aren’t prepared [00:01:00] to deal with the amendments that you have to make to retain what it is that we’ve got as a result of human endeavor. I find it so fascinating.
Carl Potts: Yeah. It’s definitely fascinating. It’s also scary as hell.
Andrew Sumner: That is exactly what it is. Yeah. I know for sure that it’s absolutely terrible. Um, outside of the, uh, the, uh, the global catastrophe, fuck that we’re living in at the moment. How have you been
Carl Potts: mate? I’m done pretty well. Thanks. I just want to ask good. I’ve got the, um, the fan on the air conditioner going. I don’t know if you’re picking
Andrew Sumner: it up.
I’m just getting your vocals. So now we’re fine. We’re absolutely fine. I lent in and like, you could hear it. It was so it was, but actually it’s all in my head, but yeah. Now I can just hear your vocals, Johnny. My editor’s going to say, man, why didn’t you turn off the, a there, but I can’t hear it. So
Carl Potts: if you want, I’ll be happy to turn it off and, uh, it just to be safe for your [00:02:00] sound guy.
Andrew Sumner: I, now that I’ve, I’ve put the, I’ve put the, the volume right up and I can hear it. So it gets, that’s not such, if you don’t mind that it’s not such a bad thing. I hope you don’t. If you start baking or you, or your face turns purple light, like Elmer Fudd in and what’s opera doc I’ll uh I’ll uh I’ll.
I’ll tell you.
Carl Potts: All right. There we go. Yeah.
Andrew Sumner: Excellent. So one of the things that we were talking about when we were corresponding you the day after you’d listened to my heart degree episode with, uh, with Dave Gibbons, you, you were saying, remind me to tell you about, uh,
Carl Potts: yeah, I hope I remember this, right?
You might have to double check this for them, but my first trip over there was, um, for you CAC in 85. And I went to every UK for a decade after that. But at first, first one I think is where I met Dave and. So neither an 85 or 86. When I [00:03:00] was, uh, in my office at Marvel, I got a call from somebody who, uh, worked for Ripley’s believe it or not.
Yeah. And they were looking for someone to do a television host, a television program where they did episodes about Ripley’s believe it or not, but someone who would sort of play the modern incarnation of Ripley and do sketches, uh, while they were talking about, you know, the episode that or something like that.
And someone had given them my name, which was like a huge mistake. I, you put me in front of a camera. It’s like, oh, I’ll be frozen. Um, uh, plus, you know, drawing well, you know, thousands of people are watching me. Isn’t going to make things in a user easier. So, um, I, and then I said, they said something that mentioned that.
You know, I guess Britain is a big market for the Ripley’s. [00:04:00] So I, I told them, well, you know, the guys you want to talk to, or either a couple of guys that I met over in Britain who are excellent artists, very personable, they look fabulous in the camera. So I mentioned Gibbons and Bolton. Yeah.
Andrew Sumner: Very good looking man
Carl Potts: and excellent artists and nice people.
So, um, uh, so they had the Berkeley’s folks that asked me to come and talk to them in their office in New York. So I went there and I mentioned, uh, Gibbons and Bolton. And the only one I think I had the number on me for some reason was given. So they call him up while I’m in the office. And they start talking about, you know, we’re looking for a host for Ripley’s nothing, and Kevin’s doesn’t know whether to take this seriously or not.
It turns out I forgot the date that this happened on was April 1st. And it turned out that I guess, [00:05:00] that, um, for Dave, when he was growing up Ripley’s was like a big thing. He was, you know, interested in that strip. So he thought someone was just playing a practical joke on him. Uh, I’m not sure, you know how that didn’t happen or whatever, but I think I’m not sure that may have eventually been the show that they had Dean Kane.
Oh, right. Okay. Yeah, yeah, no, yeah, yeah,
Andrew Sumner: no, no, of course that makes sense. Interesting. Rugged I’ve often thought. And one of the things I’ve talked to Dave about is that, uh, you know, I, I think, I think Dave should do do his own podcast cause he’s very personable and he’s, he, he talks really well. And you can imagine Dave hosting a TV show, you know, he he’s, he’s gone back.
He’s got that extreme. I mean, he’s an amazing artist. There’s amazing talent, but he’s got that extreme personability as well, which not everybody with that super high level of [00:06:00] talent has that. I mean, That you know, the great Jack Kirby, um, you know, one of our, one of our mutual heroes, Steve Ditko, there are tremendous artists, but they’re not guys.
I mean, Jack Kirby did go on camera quite a lot, but he, he was never, he was never a public speaker. And, and of course, Steve Ditko didn’t wanna engage with that at all. And now at this moment, I will just say welcome to Hardegree I’m Andrew Sumner. And today I’m privileged to be joined by artist writer, teacher editor, Carl Potts, best known for paps for creating alien Legion pros.
Incredible run as an editor at Marvel comics and for founding the Marvel comics. Epic comics. And also for overseeing the transformation of the Punisher from a minor supporting player into one of the key comic book characters of the eighties and a character [00:07:00] that has abided since, and pretty much in the image that you and the guys set up for him back then.
So how I it’s, it’s good to see a car. Thanks so much for joining me.
Carl Potts: My pleasure. I don’t, I don’t want to crack one thing. I did not help found the epic imprints that was Archie good one who, uh, I had the unpleasant task of trying to fill the shoes of when he left Marvel and go to DC and. You know, it would be hard to name a tougher pair of shoes to try and fill then Archie Goodwin.
So I did my,
Andrew Sumner: yeah, I think you did a great job and, you know, I think I made that mistake because people I actually should have known better. Cause I do of course, remember Archie Goodwins time epic, but I think a lot of people associate you with that period of time, you know, so strong where the, where the, what was your contribution?
I think, I think that’s the key
Carl Potts: that was, um, and in the midst of that was when, uh, that was around the time Marvel, the new owners of Marvel came up with [00:08:00] this really bizarre situation where they decided to create fiber, actually six different publishing divisions each with its own editor in chief. Yeah.
And, um, so. And then right before the night, there were just before that time, the Falco was the editor in chief and there were three of us that were executive editors and each executive editor oversaw, a third of Marvel’s publishing line. And my third included epic in a batch of the Marvel stuff as well.
Um, but, uh, yeah, I mean, that’s. That’s a whole nother subject, you know, stuff. I don’t know when and how you want to get into that
Andrew Sumner: one. Yeah. Well, I guess the way I kind of, because the other thing you’re very well known for, of course, is during your period of time, as an editor, you discovered and or mentored a lot of very significant comic creators, whether that’s Arthur Adams or John Bogner, or Jim Lee, Mike [00:09:00] Mineola, um, I actually, I’m going to ask you about somebody that I’ve never been sure, my entire life, whether I’m pronouncing his name correctly, because I’ve never actually heard it said out loud.
Um, and I’ve, I’ve said it many times myself and it ties into that period of time on the Punisher Ashley’s wills. Portacio how, how have I got that?
Carl Potts: Well, I’ve always said and if I’m wrong, he’s never corrected me.
Andrew Sumner: Brilliant. Okay. Fantastic artists. But so you, you made a substantative, um, like contribution or open many doors for all of those guys.
Not the least of which I did touch upon them as Jim Lee, you know? So, so, uh, what, before we talk about that, what was your particular route to getting into comics and working at Marvel? And when were you first exposed to comics as a medium?
Carl Potts: Well, kind of like, uh, you, I imagine I, um, grew up reading comics and, [00:10:00] um, you know, initially I didn’t buy them.
My parents bought them. They were just interested in anything. I would help them. You interested in reading, which was pretty progressive back then, because that was back during the time when comics are being bombarded by, you know, all of this negativity from the Senate hearings. And so, um, and, um, but they weren’t buying me like ISI comics.
Uh, if I was like homesick from third grade, my mom would go to drugstore and pick up a handful of comics and bring them to me. And they weren’t the ones that I normally would have wanted, like, uh, you know, the DC word books I was into. She’d be bringing home Lucille ball comics and, uh, Herbie and, um, you know, things that I normally wouldn’t.
But if they were comics, I was going to read them. Uh, but I, I used to take my, uh, You know, Saturday morning lawnmowing money, uh, down to the local variety store drug, start by a [00:11:00] candy bar and get at least one comic. And I started out when I was buying my own. I was buying, uh, the DC work comics mostly, or some of the other imprints.
And I that’s where I first started noticing differences in artists, Huber. And, um, he said, uh, uh, what’s his name? Uh,
Andrew Sumner: quite a few, uh, war comics back in the
Carl Potts: day. If I remember that, but who is the guy? Did Johnny cloud. Excellent artists.
Andrew Sumner: Was it? I did seven D Johnny. I can’t remember. Was it John 17? Was it? No,
Carl Potts: I saw him later. Um, it’ll kill me.
Andrew Sumner: Oh, seven did cloud on the losers. Cause several dental, a lot of great issues with the losers.
Yeah. I’m sure. Irv. Novick. Yeah. Yeah. Great, great artists send a lot of Batman as well, back and later after that, didn’t
Carl Potts: they very [00:12:00] versatile artist. Yeah. And there were some other more stylized things on some of the other books, like, uh, the gunner and searching like that. Jerry Grant and Eddie who was a very fast
and somebody else I got to know later, uh, when I was working at continuity, he worked up there as Jack April. Um, but, uh, My father was a Navy man for much of his career. And I used to take to go with him to the PX and Alameda, California, and they used to have a big selection of comics there. And my first exposure to Marvel was I’m looking for the word books.
And I see the first issue of Sergeant fury. And I thought this is wonky looking thing here. It’s just so bizarre. It’s like nothing else. So I picked it up, take it home, read it. It was just this incredibly bombastic thing, but Kirby’s [00:13:00] actual rendering style did not appear to me appeal to me. Uh, but I found myself every day, going back to my drawer where I kept the comics opening up, pulling up the gun and paging through it.
Again, it wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that it was his sense of dynamics and his visual storytelling that had me hooked it. Wasn’t the actual renderings. And then there is, uh, I started buying Sergeant furious, I house ads for the other Marvel titles, and I started picking them up. And that’s how I discovered Ditko and Ditka ended up being my first big influence, uh, as an artist.
Yeah. I just went on from there, after that I was buying almost exclusively Marvel titles. I jot most of the DC stuff, um, for quite a while.
Andrew Sumner: Yeah. Okay. So, um, so mobile became your primary focus at that point.
Carl Potts: And, um, you know, I was always drawing, uh, as far as, as long as I can remember, and I would occasionally try and draw comic related stuff, but, [00:14:00] um, it hadn’t really occurred to me that there were people, you know, making a living doing this, uh, until maybe some late high school.
But I, I didn’t think I would ever have a chance of doing it. First off. You had to be living in New York at that point to do that. And I was growing up in the CEO, Cisco. Um, so, um, oh, I remember too. Um, my, my junior year in high school, I was doing this big combination painting illustration and my high school art teacher looked at it and goes, where did you learn anatomy?
And I go, Steve Ditko. So, uh, I had explained to him who Steve Ditko is, but, um, uh, so when I went to college, initially I was torn between pursuing commercial art music and, uh, aquatic or Marine biology and theology. And, [00:15:00] um, the counselor there said, oh, so you were in the high school orchestra. Well, thank you.
I’m a music major. And I, I started out in the music program but quickly switched over to the commercial art program. And I figured I have a better chance of. A career in there that I did in music, even though I was in a band back then it was mandatory if you grew up in California. And, um,
Andrew Sumner: what did you, what did you play
Carl Potts: kill a combination.
I started out mostly on base at a copy of McCartney’s Hofner, Japanese coffee, and, um, men switched over most of the time to a guitar and a Guild Starfire three from the early sixties that I still have today. Um, I really liked that. Um, so somewhere around in, um, early 75, uh, I’d been showing my artwork to some local comic book pros.
Who’d moved from New York to California and that included Jim Starlin and Alan Weiss [00:16:00] were both very nice to me. And whenever I had a new batch of samples, they invite me over to give them critiques on it. And, um, one day starlet asked me if I wanted to help. Uh, over like a four day weekend penciling, an emergency issue, Richard dragon Kung foo fighter for Denny O’Neil.
Uh, so I stayed over there at his place with Alan Weiss and we bashed out this thing. I did mostly backgrounds and some background figures, and then Cornell Milgrim had to quickly ink it and try and make it look like it was so much consistent because it’s hard to find a more different sense of rendering styles than startling and Weiss.
Um, uh, but, um, it, uh, it kind of like really made me feel that I might have a shot if I moved to New York and tried to break in. So I decided to do that. I told Starla and he said, do you know anybody there? And I did not know anybody. I was [00:17:00] very naive. I’d never moved away from home before, uh, you know, after I had played pay for my plane ticket, I only had like a hundred or 200 bucks in my pocket.
Uh, Extremely naive, which I always say is the nice word for ignorance. Um, but, um, so Stan says, let me make a few calls. So he calls up Milgrom and well, Al Milgrom and Walt Simon Sen, who are, uh, roommates, uh, apartment building in forest Hills Queens and says, um, this kid’s coming out here. Can you put them up until he gets his feet under him?
And they said, sure. So I fly out there and knock on the door. These guys welcomed me and they’re very nice. And then that same apartment building or living Bernie writes in an hour, and they’re all constantly palling around together. And I’m like, you know, my head is like dizzy from, from this experience.
And startling had decided to time one of his occasional trips back to New York to lineup new [00:18:00] work, um, around the same time. So I think it was my second day in New York. He takes me into the Marvel offices to show my portfolio around. And I show my work to Archie good. One who at that point was in charge of the Marvel black and white comics magazines.
And he liked one of the pieces I did in there, a science fiction piece. He said, I can use this as a subscription ad for the science fiction magazine. And eventually he had wild Simon Seneca. Um, so as Archie is buying this piece from me, his assistant is coming out with a stack of unsolicited submissions that had come in over the previous months that had never been answered before with typed up, you know, rejection that nice rejection letters on them for Archie to sign.
So. While we’re waiting for the voucher to go through whatever she’s going through. These things, Simon. And it turns out it gets to the one I’d sent in like two months before. So as he’s buying a piece from me, [00:19:00] he signs my rejection letter and smiles enhance it over to me. That was my introduction to Archie Goodwin.
Since the humor Starling took me into the, what was the British reprints then were done in New York? Yeah. They were all for the weekly format you got there. So they chopped those 22 page stories in half, and they would need new splash pages for the second halves. And a lot of times I had to sign them to new folks to test them out.
Andrew Sumner: Carl, let me ask you, what about, what year are we talking about this point? The
Carl Potts: summer of 75? And if you recall, that’s when Atlas folded all the people, all the people that had gone to Atlas are now scrambling back to Marvel and DC for work. So I picked the worst possible time. I had a break in.
Andrew Sumner: So the British books that you work in would have been mighty world and Marvel Spider-Man comics, weekly, the Avengers, all those books,
Carl Potts: I guess they never, they never showed me what the finished product looked like.
They just said, you know, they, they give me a copy or tell [00:20:00] me to go buy a copy of whatever the original comic was and said, you know, do a splash range for page number. Yeah,
Andrew Sumner: this is so fascinating to me because there’s an as a British fan, you know, I had two ways that I consume Marvel. One is the actual Marvel books when they would make it over here of which I bought a ton in.
And because I grew up in mercy side where, uh, where American comic books were used as ballast in the returning ships into the port of Liverpool. So you, you, you, British furniture would go out to New York and these empty ships would come back full of comic books and, and vinyl records and whatnot as balancing.
That’s why in, in Liverpool and side, you could always get readily, get hold of a ton of America comic books. And, um, and so I had access to a lot of marbles, but at the same time, from the moment that Marvel UK started, which is in about 1972, I bought all of the Marvel week is [00:21:00] probably for 10 years, you know, which has, you know, where, uh, where it’s exactly as you say the original stories, but say now, and again, some word balloons will be altered to put anger size words in and things like that, or, or strange, you know, changes or be like, I’d like the red ghost was renamed the mad ghost, for example.
Yeah, because the original, the original, uh, appearance of the red ghost are very much tied into the cold war. And in, in, in Britain, in the, in the seventies that wasn’t really a cultural touchstone, any of the America Russia stuff. So any of that stuff got edited out of the books and edited out of the dialogue, said they, they changed a couple of characters along the way like that.
But interesting. I I’ve always wondered when I saw things like newly drawn splash pages and all that kind of stuff. I’ve always wondered if he did it. And the funny thing is in all the conversations we’ve had in the past, I never [00:22:00] realized that you were one of those guys that is fascinating to me.
Carl Potts: Yeah. I think I did, you know, between six and 10 of them.
Uh, there’s a group somewhere that is actually into those. I was contacted by somebody a while back that they actually collect the original art for those, for some reason, I guess it holds some nostalgic appeal to them because it certainly isn’t the drawing ability exhibited on those things. Uh, so, uh, I sold a lot of the pages that I had to, to this group, but, um, I was talking about, uh, Starlin introduced me to the editor at the time whose name escapes me, uh, for doing the British reprints.
And, uh, when I walked out of there with those assignments, I found out years later, uh, that the only reason I got those assignments was that the end of the textile and the side out of my earshot and said, I’ll give this kid some work. If you do a cover for me. And Starlin did that. He never told me, I found out from Al Milgrom years [00:23:00] later, that that happened.
So Starlin was a major factor. Um, and helping me break camp, particularly during that summer of 75,000, what a great story he’s got major, uh, you know, brand new points in my book. So, um, a couple of years before at the San Diego con, the first San Diego kind of went to, was in 73. And I showed my portfolio to Neil Adams who looked at it with, uh, uh, an expression of disgust on his face and, uh, and, uh, turned around.
And as he turned around to walk away, he said, these aren’t even worth commenting on. So I was like stunned and somehow me stammer out, well, what can you at least tell me what to work on? And so he pivoted background proceeded to name every aspect of drawing and design and kind of, you know, that there is.
Um, and then he said, if I worked really hard for at least 18 months, he’d be willing to look at it again. [00:24:00] So when I moved to New York, I called up continuity studios, which. Uh, he, um, uh, dicked your Dano around. And, um, and I told him I was in town, reminded him about what he said. So they had me up to look at my portfolio, which should improve somewhat since those times, but they were beginning to package these three large black and white comics magazines for Charlton network based on TV shows at the time, $6 million man emergency and space, 1999.
And they hired four or five of us young guys to pencil it. And then, uh, they would ink it up there by committee. What we used to be called prestige bunkers, I guess this kind of evolving group of anchors that were headed by Dick Dr. Donna and Neil. And, uh, so I had my earliest work. I was having it being inked by picture nano Neil Adams [00:25:00] recipes.
And then, um, Most of the backgrounds are being done by future stars, Terry, uh, Terry Austin, about why check. And, uh, so the way I learned that there mostly it wasn’t because anybody was giving me lessons. So that was pretty rare. It was by seeing what I originally turned in and watching it evolve as these other people worked over it.
Um, but, uh, it was a, it was a great learning experience. And I also got into actually making a living up there by getting into storyboards for ad agencies, because I could make a lot more money, uh, in the same time period, working for ad agencies, night confer, drawing comics. Yeah. Very interesting. And then, uh, at some point, well, I guess in early 1983, I got a call from Jim shooter who was editor in chief at Marvel at the time.
And, um, I’d met him at some [00:26:00] of the social functions. That had been, you know, the New York common is going to street. We would play volleyball all day on Sundays in central park. Um, every first Friday of every month, Neal Adams would have a gathering at his apartment in New York for the comics industry. Uh, I believe it or not.
That’s actually where I met Steve Ditko for the first time at a party.
Andrew Sumner: How was that call? How was, what were the circumstances of that and how was it meeting? How many times did you meet him over the years?
Carl Potts: Uh, I don’t know, maybe six times and then correspond occasionally. Um, he, he, uh, you know, somehow Neal Adams tucked Ditko into showing up at this party, which was very unfit, but like, and when I got there, he was sitting on the sofa by himself and everybody was too afraid to go near him.
And [00:27:00] Starlin walks over to me. And Starland had known Ditko for a long time because when Starlin was still a fan trying to break in and he’d come to New York and he’ll just look at, go up and went up to his place and go let them in. And they would just talk and shoot the breeze. And, um, so Starlin walks me over.
Cone says, Steve, this is Carl. Do you thinks you’re God, then Starlin, pivoted, and walked away. That would be tough enough to, to. You know, move forward with, for anybody, but especially for Ditko who, uh, due to his and Randian objective, as points of view thinks, you know, out religion is, is opiate for the masses.
And, um, uh, so to be compared to a guy was probably not a real compliment, but we mentioned the talk for a little while. And then several years later when I was on staff at Marvel, when I, uh, shoot her dad’s speed to join the staff as an editor to replace Alan Bell Graham, who was leaving to go freelance.
Um, but that co had started working for Marvel again, and he’d come by [00:28:00] the, to sometimes and, uh, stick his head in the door of the editors he knew. So he would often stop by and chat for a while, but usually he’d go on, uh, about some sociopolitical topic and, you know, he had such a, a dogmatic view of those things.
Anytime you put up any server, a butt or a challenge or something, you had a very dogmatic response. It was hard to have a real conversation on those particular topics. So you learn quickly just to sit there and kind of nod. And, but, um, you know, and he could go on a long time about this stuff, but there’s no way in hell.
I’m kicking Steve Ditko out of my house.
Andrew Sumner: Oh no, of course. Yeah, of course I get it.
Carl Potts: I get it one time. Um, I know, and he’d done some humor stuff like it cracked and, and, and, uh, for a while he would on Whitson and so on. Um, so I was getting [00:29:00] ready to put together the first issue of, uh, our new self parody magazine called wetback.
Uh, and I asked it co if he would draw a story for that. And he said, uh, I will, if it only parodies villains, I don’t parody.
So I, um, I asked mark Grunewald to write a story and mark did it under a pseudonym because it was a parody, I think, related to secret wars. Nike was a little afraid from the feedback from on high, so to speak.
So used an early, you know, money, Python name, which was Gwen Dibley, uh that’s. That was the name they were considered using started on Monty Python. So that was his bike byline. And then I got John Severen to ink it. So I was really happy. Wow.
Andrew Sumner: I’ve you know what, that’s something I’ve not seen, but I would imagine that Ditko and several, it was a [00:30:00] great combination.
Carl Potts: I think they did stuff in cracked magazine two together. Um, but I figured if a. You know, seven to me is kind of in a similar school to Bollywood and while he would always look great over get coats,
Andrew Sumner: I could, you know what, Carla couldn’t agree more. Yeah. I, I’m a massive fan of, uh, Ditko on Hollywood has a combination.
I, now that I’m saying this to you, I know that I’ve never seen a severance inked. It goes, so I’ll have to go and find that and see it. But,
Carl Potts: but I think it’s the first issue of what the, then I think it’s the.
Andrew Sumner: I I’ve, I’ve got to go check that out because what I love about deco wood together is, is on one level, you wouldn’t expect them to work together, but in fact, it’s a beautiful combination and, um, I loved what they did with, uh, with Oliver, what they did with stalker.
In fact, one of the things I’ve got here in Sumner, HQ is, uh, is a letter that co wrote to me about those [00:31:00] stalker-ish shoes, right. He responded to my letter in his usual fashion. And, um, I also really loved. And this brings in, you know, your, your old pal, Archie Goodwin as well. I really loved the, uh, the first two issues of Atlas is the destructor.
Uh, uh, and, and that’s, uh, that’s, uh, that’s, you know, Goodwin on the script and, uh, Dick Homewood on the, on the art. And that looks fantastic to
Carl Potts: deco. Um, you know, a lot of people have trouble inking him first. When he was turning in his pencils. Um, and then when he came back to Marvel, we’re not very tight.
Um, but all of the, the construction was there. And, um, so if you got the wrong anchor on them, it could be easily messed up because they could misinterpret things or, or add stuff that wasn’t really necessary. But one of the best people, I think that that really kept the Ditko [00:32:00] flavor while modernizing. It was Craig Russell on rom, um, uh, you know, it had this really decorative line, like that brought out the coast stuff.
And then, uh, when I was overseeing the Phantom 20, 40 comic, um, I asked
Andrew Sumner: by the way,
Carl Potts: I asked it to pencil that, and I wanted to do a different. Uh, but still retain good codes. So, uh, I asked bill Reinhold. Good. I think another fabulous job of retaining Ditko while adding a whole. New offensive dimensionality and texture term.
Andrew Sumner: that’s a really, I love that show actually Phantom 2040. I think it’s got two. It’s got great scripts, but it’s got, um, I think how long side, the, the work that, uh, Andrew Romano did on, uh, on the Batman series. I think it was one of the first shows to really elevate the, I think the thing, I [00:33:00] think the casting director on that show was a guy called Steve Rosenberg, who I think passed away relatively recently.
But I think Phantom 2040 is one of those shows that really elevated the vocal performances. And even when you listen to it now, even though the animation is sometimes limited, the quality of the soundtrack, it’s like watching, listening to many radio plays and then it has that amazing Peter jungle direction as well, the Aon flux guy.
So it looks really. I got, yeah. Do you remember what’s in the chef?
Carl Potts: Uh, I remember seeing bits and pieces of it, but I don’t know that I sat down and watched a whole episode. So after you got me interested in checking the map yeah.
Andrew Sumner: What w what have you, if you look it up, what you should be able to find relatively easily is in Australia, which is, you know, the Phantoms are really big deal over in Australia.
They released, um, season one of Phantom, 2040 on DVD. And I think that DVD still quite easy to come by. [00:34:00] So, so I, you know, from Amazon and whatnot, but I would definitely recommend checking out because I think it’s a, it’s a, it’s a brilliant show while the underrated,
Carl Potts: uh, I’ll I’ll do that. Uh, there was something else.
Oh, Ditko. You were talking about now. Um, one of the times he visited me in the office. Um, it was while I was editing Dr. Strange. And I’m one of the world’s biggest Ditka fans and Ditko tells me that when he quit Marvel in the mid sixties, he had already plotted and pencil. The next two episodes of Dr.
Strange restraints tales that he never turned down. And, um, he’s telling us to me, the editor Dr. Strange, and it used a fan. So unlike, you know, my eyes get wide, I’m drooling, I’m going, oh, you guys do a special, bring that in. We’ll do you know the guy’s done? And I don’t like people, you know, seeing my old stuff and comparing it to my new stuff.
Um, and I go, well, can you at least bring it in so I can see it. [00:35:00] I’d love to see it. And he said, I don’t have their chance of, you know, Xerox is being made in those circulating. I go, Steve, they’re not going to leave your hands. I’ll look over your shoulder while you slowly page. He chuckled. He goes no there.
And my sister said, uh, in Pennsylvania and that’s really staying. Took a bit of delight in torturing me. Um, so, uh, later on, um, you know, after he passed away, I started communicating, uh, with, uh, one of his nephews, uh, mark
and he’s sort of the, I guess, the, the lead front facing, uh, relative, uh, of the group of heirs that to forget password. And, um, I asked him about those pages and he was kind of coy. He didn’t really commit one way or the other. [00:36:00] And so I’m hoping that those show up in the state code show, that’s going to be opening in Jonestown, Pennsylvania soon.
Uh, I hope so, but the other DeCosta I have is, um, when I first moved to New York, I went to a New York comic convention and there was a table. Uh, actually, I had a whole bunch of tables together that just for stacks of original art by all these different artists, and it was being run by a major comics, pro a well-respected comics pro, and I’m looking through them and there was a page from creeper number one in there, uh, that was $75.
And, uh, at the time in 1975, that was my monthly food budget. Uh, so I oatmeal and hotdogs for a month to, to, to buy that thing. Um, and, uh, it wasn’t like, it didn’t have any huge shots like people and a couple of small shots, uh, but it was the first original art I bought and [00:37:00] appropriately enough it was Ditko.
So when he came by the Marvel offices, one day, I mentioned to him, I know you don’t normally autograph things, but I bought this page. Uh, years ago, if I’m bringing in, is there any chance I can get you to sign it? And you guys know I don’t autographs things and I never got any of those creeper pages back.
They were all stolen out of DC. So I felt horrible. And yeah, I brought the page and I kept it in my flat files in the Marvel offices. And the next time that came by, he was standing in my doorway pontificating about the evils of the UN or something like that. And while he was talking, I went over the flat files, took out the creeper original, walked over to it, handed to them without skipping a beat and whatever he was talking about, he took it put in his portfolio.
So did that, and didn’t, didn’t acknowledge the exchange in any way. And that didn’t bother me because I knew from his point of view, um, if someone is informed that they’re in possession of stolen property, it’s [00:38:00] their obligation to give it back to the rightful owner. And you don’t think people for doing what’s expected of them.
Uh, so I felt really bad about, uh, losing that page, but yeah, it gave me a great day to story, but use later, I wrote to him and asked him if he still had that page. And if you might be willing to sell it to me now, and you know, as you know, from your experience, he usually wrote fairly truncated responses.
He said something like, no, no original, sorry, or something like that. And, uh, so that’s something else I asked mark did come about. If they find that somewhere, uh, if it still exists, I love an opportunity to buy that page back. It means a lot to me. So I don’t know that they come across it, but I’ll ask them when I, when I go to the show,
Andrew Sumner: well, I wish I could get to that show, obviously in the near future, that’s not going to be possible.
Given the fact that, uh, international travel is somewhat [00:39:00] important and definitely flights between the UK and the U S just aren’t happening at the moment. Do you know how long that show is going to run car?
Carl Potts: I believe it’s supposed to run through the beginning of September and towards the end of September.
They’re also going to have like a mini convention. There are, they they’ve asked me to give my visual storytelling, um, seminar then. Uh, so I’ll be going out there again. I’m going to try and go to the opening, which is next week. Uh, and then I’m going to go back for the many,
Andrew Sumner: I would absolutely love to hear about how, how you get on there and what you say.
I mean, it would be, I imagine they must have those two Dr. Strange issues and stories for that to surface at some point that’s just like, that’s a bit of a Ditko. Super-fan the holy grail, isn’t it?
Carl Potts: Oh yeah. And then it makes you wonder what stuff that is along those lines that exists, that he didn’t bother telling anybody [00:40:00] about or anybody outside of the family or maybe the family didn’t even know what’s in those, those trunks in the attic, you know, until three passed away.
Yeah. So interesting.
Andrew Sumner: Um, I’m fascinated really as to what the conversations between debt cone, his family were in terms of the stuff that he last left them, because you get the sense that it’s, whatever he, whatever he had in terms of his artwork, they’ve probably got it now. And if that’s the case, whether it’s stuff they ultimately intend to work on, get a pump, some of it published like will those will those strange stories see the light of day officially published by Marvel.
And that would be amazing if they did.
Carl Potts: Yeah. And, uh, you know, they, they should be able to, these days be able to scan from, you know, even if it’s pencils, aren’t super tight, but you gotta remember this is mid 60. So this pencils were probably even if they were for him [00:41:00] to income, self, they’re probably tighter than the pencils he was doing in the mid, late eighties.
Yeah. But he, uh, he definitely made a major pression on my life. I can’t say I, I ascribed to an Randian, uh, objectivism. Uh, I, there were things I, I wanted to try and ask him in conversations, but after my first attempts of raking through the dogmatic didn’t work, it’s like, you know, uh, characters like Mr. A, which I think he feels embodied, set that philosophy.
Um, you know, if, if you’re supposed to be a law and order person, how can you constantly be breaking laws, even if it’s just a trespassing, breaking and entering assault battery without, you know, being a member of the law enforcement. Um, uh, uh, [00:42:00] these are kind of philosophical things. I wanted to get into a town, but I, I, I, after a while I just decided.
Yeah, it would probably get me nowhere.
Andrew Sumner: Would he entertain, uh, conversations about the Genesis of his characters, any of that kind of stuff for us? That was that just not a conversation he was interested in having?
Carl Potts: Uh, I can’t honestly say I asked him about that. I know I’d known at then that there was still some controversy about who did what on Spiderman.
And I knew he was sensitive about Stan taking more credit than Steve thought he should. And I felt that, that, you know, that was a scam that had been scratched way too many times. He didn’t need me scratching again. Um, but, um, as far as other things go like that, um, you know, I think it’s one of those things too.
I just thought that, you know, every few weeks Steve did go, comes in, [00:43:00] drops by. You know, I w I’m always going to have time to ask him this or that or anything. I’m kind of busy today. You know, I don’t want. Uh, so I think I’m guilty of that. Um, but there’s all kinds of great conversation. That’s, I’ve done ironically enough, you know, he says he never autograph stuff, but, um, as you know, from newsletters, he usually both prints and signs his name.
So I have a slider graph. It’s just not on that creeper. It’s wrong. Yeah.
Andrew Sumner: I, um, I had a funny experience with him actually, when he, when, um, when I, I, there are fans who you’ve made a career out of like swapping letters, Steve, I didn’t, cause I was conscious of the fact that he wants w particularly towards the last two or three years of his life, a lot of people, persons of a certain age who are massive deco fans.
And, you know, I like yourself as you know, I’m a huge deco fan. Um, art music, hands down, my favorite artist. And, [00:44:00] uh, but I also became aware of the fact that a lot of people in our kind of age bracket were hits in with, with Lexus left right. And center. So I didn’t want to. You know, get into, and you have a lot of people proclaiming that they had carried on a correspondence with Ditko for years.
And sometimes I don’t really feel that’s the case. I think it’s more a case that he was politely responding to their letters because that’s what he did. Uh, correspondence is a different thing where there’s more of a meeting of that. My dad, I never really found myself thinking I was responding with C, but I sent one letter, which is, uh, you know, about my, my experience with American comic books that came by my grandfather and what that meant to me and how much I liked his part should with Hollywood and how much, you know, valued the destructor and the stalker.
And he wrote me back a very nice, detailed, a long one page answer about my grandfather’s experiences in the war and about. And it is par with word and how much he enjoyed working with Hollywood and loved to work in middle England. And it was great. [00:45:00] And I was so blown away by, I could add an unexpected, a decade, two lines, maybe ever got anything, but he wrote me a whole page.
And I love that so much that it’s framed on the wall elsewhere in, in Sumner HQ. And so I then thought, oh man, it was lovely having to do that. So I wrote back to him and, uh, I sent him this book then just being published at the time, which was a, was a photographic study of water towns of New York.
Because as an English man, before I ever saw a single New York water tower, that to me just meant two things Spiderman and Steve Ditko. Cause the first time I saw it, a water tower was, I didn’t even know what they were for ages when I was a kid Spiderman comics. Yeah.
Carl Potts: Dr. Strange episode where he hides his physical body inside a wire tower and executive plasmic form.
Andrew Sumner: Absolutely. Right. 100% and then 100%. So I, uh, so I sent this book to him and said, Hey, Steve, I really appreciated, [00:46:00] um, the time you spent on that, um, on that last response. And, uh, I always, I always associate your art with, uh, with the wards towels of New York, the poetry of the waters in New York. So I thought you might like this book in a sentence.
And about two months later, I got a response back and the response was absolutely brilliant. It was completely opposite to my first letter on that’s framed. It was like Andrew. I have absolutely no idea why you’ve sent me this water towers have not featured in my work since I worked for DC Marvel. And that was 30 years ago.
Question mark, exclamation mark question mark. Exclamation mark question. My estimation. That was it. And I was absolutely yet, you know, I almost shot no Stevens just to present. Cause I thought since I associate you with that, I thought you might enjoy reading a book at some point. And I thought, you know what?
I think I’m going to do. I think this is a good place to park this because he’ll probably feel honored, banned to respond in [00:47:00] some way, but it will be the same thing again. And actually I agree to think that response is pretty funny, to be honest,
Carl Potts: I think sometimes it might be a matter of. What mood he was in the day he was doing his correspondence, responding correspondence, type things to, um, one of the last things I exchanged with them in correspondence was, um, for years now, it should have been published already, but we’re running way behind.
I I’ve been working on, uh, a huge over two graphic novel with, uh, bill Reinhold and, uh, based in part of my family since three. And, um, Bill’s been doing it in ink wash, and then we shoot the ink wash and turned it into sepia tone. So it has that kind of forties newsreel look to it. So, um, I sent that code some pages from that and he sent a response, something like time, uh, you know, you know, bill Ryan Hall, really good artist.
And I sent that on to bill that made his day. Um, [00:48:00] uh, as I think that might’ve been the last time we correspond.
Andrew Sumner: And by the way, what’s up, let’s talk about that book of yours in a second. Cause that’s close up the, uh, the, the, uh, decade part of this conversation. Thank you for getting into this club. Cause it’s, it was a big part of what I wanted to talk to you about.
I know that you hold them in equal regard to myself. And also I know that you have a lot of dealings with them, which I only wished that I had, and you’re probably the first person in my acquaintance. That’s met him more than once or twice very briefly. I mean, I, I know they’re kind of mutual acquaintance of ours.
Who’s a good mate of mine, Bob Wayne. He only ever met Dick co once when he was in the DC offices and had like, oh, I’m, you know, Bob has met everybody, but he only met Dick Cody wants, but to have the kind of length of, of acquaintance that you had with him, given how much you hold that cone high regard, that must’ve felt pretty amazing.
Carl Potts: Yeah. And, um, someone else you should talk to, I think if he would be Starling, [00:49:00] uh, not only because of his gargantuan place in the industry and how much the Marvel cinematic universe has been milking his work. Uh, but now he’s the one that introduced me to Ditko and he knew Ditko from years before then when he was still a fan, uh, when he actually got to visit them in person.
So, um, he, he told me once I did co had done this book for himself about the basics of, you know, folds and drapery on, on different body parts, from different positions. You just done them all from every angle. So he knew the patterns to Jew to draw. You’ve done that cause little catalog of it for himself.
I wish I hope that that’s something that is, uh, air is fine and we’ll we’ll have at the show. Um, I got my fingers crossed. We’ll find that some, yeah, mate,
Andrew Sumner: I literally, I can’t, I cannot wait to, uh, I cannot wait to find out what’s in that show and I’m looking forward to talking to you about your experience there and [00:50:00] see what actually what actually happened.
Um, before we close out this two things I’d like to talk about one of which is your, your war book, just talking about let’s leave that for the, for the close of this episode. Uh, the, the other thing I’d just like to get into is the process, uh, the, the sequence of events that led to your involvement with the Punisher and that transformative moment when the Punisher went from being just that kind of supporting player to, to what he became, how did that all come about
Carl Potts: car?
Uh, I didn’t really have much of an interest in the character. The. Then Joe does he, who, uh, was working on the ethics side with Archie Goodwin. She was an editor writer at Marvel and she was an epic editor. Uh, and Steven Grant and Mike Zack, they both approached me around the same time. I’m not sure who came first with Punisher projects.
Yeah. [00:51:00] Um, Joe, uh, had, um, I think when I, when I go back and think about it, I think Archie Goodwin is the one who sort of traded the. Version of the Punisher that ended up becoming popular because his original incarnation as a foil for Spider-Man and sawn was a very different look and feel. And, um, Archie had written to punish her stories for two different Marvel, black and white magazines.
Andrew Sumner: We’ll see production mobile preview, right.
Carl Potts: Better, better memory than me.
Andrew Sumner: I have those and still have them in pretty good condition to this day. You know, from when I originally bought them as a kid, I just loved those two issues. And re-read them constantly for a long time.
Carl Potts: When I think about it, I think that those may have been what inspired, uh, Frank Miller’s take on the character for the guest stars and Daredevil.
And then, um, those [00:52:00] also were probably what inspired Joe Duffy, who was very close with Archie and, um, Steven Grant. Uh, so. I think, uh, Archie’s infants is probably something that gets lost in the shuffle with that. But then, um, you know, Joe, I really liked, uh, you know, her story and then a few check fiction.
I discovered Jorge Sevino, who was just an amazing artist. Um, he started turning on pages in small batches and he’s sort of an artist artist. Um, a lot of the fans didn’t really get his stuff, but I guess in a way sort of like toast that the pros love it. The fans are kind of like, eh, um, yeah, but, um, uh, so whenever news that a new batch of her who’s Sevino Punisher pages that come into my office for the next week, I’d get a string of professionals coming up to the office to go through my flat files to check them [00:53:00] out.
Uh, Dennis Callan was usually the first one to get news. Uh, but then, um, Zach and grant had proposed their series to me. And I, I don’t know for sure, but someone told me once that they’d hit up, most of the other editors with the idea and no one thought the Punisher would be worth doing as a many series, he had no super powers.
He was an antihero, he was real-world weaponry. It wasn’t any fantastic thing. And I felt he was just like a OneNote villain. Um, but I’d always loved Zach’s work. And, uh, I liked Grant’s take on the character. So I agreed to do that. And, um, when it got done, it turned out to be this humongous hit. And, uh, uh, reason I thought I might have a shot is at the time and other popular culture, there were things like the, uh, Eastwood, dirty Harry movies or the Bronson.
Uh, he does wish movies that [00:54:00] were out there at that were sort of a similar. And, uh, that, so there might be something out there in the audience waiting to be fulfilled.
Andrew Sumner: And of course it was at the absolute peak of the men’s adventure fiction. So, so at that point you had, it was at the height of the pop-up popularity of all the pinnacle characters, like the destroyer and the executioner and the butcher and the penetrator and the depth merchant.
There’s a, I mean, those are, do you remember? There’s a whole ton of them. I mean, the destroys quite different in time, but the rest of them are all identical.
Carl Potts: The story I had heard of the others I had paid no attention to. Um, so, um, anyhow, so we decided to do a new ongoing series. And I started trying to figure out exactly what was going on with this character, the way I wanted to make sure that he was portrayed or not portrayed because when it got [00:55:00] popular, I was getting bombarded with a guest star, uh, requests from all the other editors to guest star them in their books.
And you have to approve the plot of the characters. You’re the caretaker at four. Uh, so, and I’m seeing these ridiculous things come in where, you know, they, the easiest thing is the laziest thing that a writer can do is say, oh, you know, he says, like chase said, uh, you know, just goes out there and shoots criminals.
So we’ll have him go even more bonkers and shoot litterbugs and jaywalkers, and that’s like the laziest trigger thing you could think of. Uh, so I decided to try and figure out exactly what made this guy tick. And I decided that. Uninsured project that I worked on, either as an editor or crater, I wanted to basically have it be where he is punishing himself.
He is, um, [00:56:00] he has tremendous guilt and survivor’s guilt over surviving the mob rubbed out of his family. And, um, by attacking violent criminals beyond just those who were responsible for killing his family, he’s, he’s rationalizing that he will hopefully prevent others from experiencing what his family experienced.
Um, but probably subconsciously more than consciously. Uh, he knows at some point he’s going to be killed or maimed and pay the price. He should have paid for failing to protect this family and nothing he does ever should bring him joy. He never gets satisfaction from an accomplished mission. It’s just started to the next 2016.
Um, of throwing himself into these dangerous situations and anybody he, you know, gets close to, usually isn’t long for this world because of his lifestyle. Um, and, um, he usually either perpetuates or, um, [00:57:00] starts ongoing cycles of violence that never really ends. He hardly ever actually really solves anything.
So I wanted to make it clear that this was not a hero in the typical sense of the term, and this was not somebody who would ever want to emulate. Uh, but occasionally I’d get letters from people that, you know, oh yeah. Yeah. I’d like to be just like this guy and it would drive me nuts because I think you’re missing the whole point.
But, uh, when I was, um, promoted to executive editor, you, you’re not allowed to, uh, Oversee books you work on. So when I was, I started writing and doing the layouts for Punisher or journal, um, the book was assigned to the only editor that had room in their schedule for it. And it wasn’t somebody that I thought was a good editor, much less someone who knew anything about the character and cared about it.
And they started doing some stuff that [00:58:00] I really did not, um, think fulfilled division that I just laid out. And, um, you know, they started establishing some strange stuff that my keep built a torture chamber in his warehouse, um, which makes no sense on any level. Um, and that in his downtime, which he does not have, because he’s obsessed with his mission, his downtime, he hunts bear as a member of the NRA.
Oh, this kind of stuff that just turned my hair gray. Um, so, um, uh, but when I was promoted, uh, I could no longer even oversee the regular Punisher book that I wasn’t writing because, um, executive veterans then were banned from doing hands on editing. They were overseeing groups of editors. And, um, so total control of the punishment over to this editor that had been on word journal that I did not [00:59:00] think had a handle on it.
And they, by sheer luck, he had some good people that worked on it and turned out some really good stories, but there was a lot of stuff in there I didn’t think made sense. And I think took the character in directions that, um, I didn’t think made sense and kind of glorified aspects of the character. I didn’t think should be glorified.
And, um, these days, you know, you see things now, like there’s some police departments that have adopted the skull of them. That drives me batty because it’s the last thing I want my cops to associate with as a vigilant. Um, this
Andrew Sumner: is exactly what I was going to ask you about, because I’d heard about some of what you’re talking about from a, in a conversation I once had with, uh, with, with Mike Baron talking about other things, but he was still cause I thought he was great on the Punisher.
Yeah. Wherever his head’s at now. But again, he thought he was amazing on the Punisher rights, but he talked about some of those very strange, um, plot decisions that were taken [01:00:00] once you were off the book. And he was at pains to say, by the way, when X, Y, Z happened, Carl Potts is off the book, then that’s why, that’s why.
And that’s why these things went down. You know, I think, I mean, if I remember correctly at those that those are storyline where like literally the pigmentation of the, of the, of the punishers like skin is changed or whatever, there’s all this weird stuff going on for a period of time, you know? And, uh, yeah.
Byron was very, very negative about all of that.
Carl Potts: Uh, no, that’s, that’s good to know. I like I’m good. I’m glad to hear, um, the. But I think, you know, the fact that the character kind of starting to spin out of control there as, you know, one of the reasons why it ended up just basically fading away and dying on the vine.
Um, and you know, just the fact that the military I thought was bad enough. I went some military units adopting that the skull, but to have the police do that was really, [01:01:00] um, I don’t want anything that identifies with the
Andrew Sumner: Punisher. It’s tremendously a nerving guy. Now I’ve worked. I was very interested in your take on that.
Your take on that is like my take I’m not, of course we don’t have armed police over. It’s like, you know, but the idea of, you know, you get serving police officers, let alone soldiers, you know, dorming themselves with the, uh, the Punisher logo. I mean, that’s, that’s scary stuff, isn’t it? I mean, you know, um,
Carl Potts: I, I, I would hope that, uh, whatever officers are in charge of those units who had, um, Uh, do some helpful or reeducation.
Andrew Sumner: Yeah, absolutely. Right. It’s stamp, stamping out. Um, but I think, I think w an era of the, of the, I, I love the, uh, the early Baron, some of the Dixon books, particularly like Mike Barron’s run as a writer. I liked the stuff that I particularly loved it when he used bird with wills, potassium. I thought that was great.[01:02:00]
And, um, I thought they’ve worked very well together on the
Carl Potts: character. Yeah. When Mike, um, and most of his stuff, he, it’s very external. Like, you don’t really go deep into. The punishers thoughts and ideas. So one of the big differences I wanted to do with war journal was to use the word journal entries, to go a bit more into the internal workings of the characters so that there was no difference between the two books, even though the same character.
But, uh, one of the reasons I started doing where journalists, Mike, um, I kept coming up with these ideas for Punisher stories, but I didn’t meet, need me feeding him ideas. He was like a fountain of ideas. So, um, and the character had gotten so popular that I decided to, to see if mark will be interested in doing a second book where I would write it and do the layouts.
And since I was editing full time, uh, the only way I could do layouts is if it started out on a six week schedule instead of a four week monthly schedule. [01:03:00] So they agreed to that. Uh, but that book got so popular quickly that they decided that it really needed to go monthly and. Generally, he’d been working for me already a year on alpha flight and had been growing in leaps and bounds.
Um, he didn’t need me or anybody else doing layouts for him. So I said, okay, screw it. Uh, so when, when I turned them on staff in 83, that was around the time I thought I was getting ready to maybe get on a regular book and try and, and, um, you know, make a mark that way as an artist and a creator in general.
Uh, but when I started editing and I was just no time to do that, I would still do occasional covers or, uh, posters and so on. Uh, I did layouts for a lot of things that, um, strictly covers it from out of my office, but, uh, not, not allowed finished work. Um, so I kind of think, um, [01:04:00] I was so itching to do something on a regular basis on a regular book, art artwork.
That I really wanted to try and pull off doing the writing and the layouts on Punisher where a job, but I could only get five out of the first seven issues. Yeah, it was just, it wasn’t going to work when they wanted to bump it up to monthly. I just got married too, so. Oh yeah. Okay.
Andrew Sumner: Yeah, that, that, that makes a lot of sense.
I think it’s interesting though, that after you guys had that incredible explosion and then it was of popularity for the Punisher and he did that great work, defining the character and then the other editor and other people came in, who I felt as a fan understood it far less than produced far less compelling stories.
And then ultimately the whole thing kind of fizzled out. And then there’s all these weird, bizarre takes on, on, on, on [01:05:00] what, you know, it’s like the angel of death, punishment, all that kind of stuff. Custom gold stuff. Just really, really fucking strange. Uh, I th I mean, I think he’s a great creator, but I think that that versus punish is truly odd.
But th but then really I’ve had, as, you know, if I quite a lot of conversations with, with Garth and he said he absolutely credits your version of the Punisher and Mike’s verse and the Punisher Chuck’s version of the Punisher with being really the DNA that fed into what he then very successfully did with the character about 20 years ago, which has really set the tone for the character of, since the, the, the, uh, the, at the end, his stuff is really, I guess, peak Punisher in a way, but he credits you guys who’ve been absolutely the building blocks for what he then did with it.
Carl Potts: Oh, that’s nice to hear. Um, a few years ago there was a big Punisher fan over here who kept asking if I had, because I’d stopped pretty much reading most of the Punisher stuff after I [01:06:00] lost control of it when I got promoted. Um, cause it was just, it was just too tough to deal with the wonky stuff. Um, But, uh, this fan semi you’ve got to read Dennis’ stuff.
So he actually sent me some collections of it and I quite enjoyed it. I thought it was pretty good. So I’m glad that, uh, he felt that, uh, you know, some nice inspiration there from our
Andrew Sumner: Punisher really falls into two different camps. That is his original Marvel universe version and where he has him interacting with the various superheroes in the Marvel universe.
And what works about that is. God, not a fan of superheroes. He’s got, hence the boys and whatnot. Right. He’s got no interest in that for, and so the way Frank interacts with all of these characters is by treating them with massive this day. Yeah. And he always out thinks of, and I kind of make the centers a great at there’s a great issue where he interacts with the Punisher and with the Wolverine [01:07:00] and essentially keeps on seriously maiming, Wolverine to keep him at bay, knowing that his healing factor means he’s ultimately going to be a case.
So he does. So Wolverine spent half the issue with his face, completely blown off. And it, and his tongue blown out his adamantium skull reveal while coming up with all these like Wolverine isms. I mean, and it’s, it’s, you know, it’s played for laughs and there’s an issue where he essentially uses Spider-Man as a human shit.
And unconscious Spider-Man as a human shield throughout the entire episode. And then there’s that stuff, which is very funny and it’s quite similar to the boys inside. And then he has the Mac stuff, which is really the next logical step of what you guys were doing. I think, you know, and, and is, is that real world kind of Punisher?
Um, but I think he also, he, his philosophy of who the character is, is identical to yours, which is easily obsessed guy and mission. And he doesn’t do anything other than live through this kind of joyless task that he’s assigned to [01:08:00] himself. Yeah. So I think, I think so therefore stuff like the successful Netflix show, that’s really all the DNA of what you guys are doing is in all of that, I
Carl Potts: think.
Yeah. Although they did some things in there in the show or in the early episodes where he showed up in Daredevil that, um, some of the stuff. You know, if I was involved with a show like him going through a hospital with a shotgun blasting away, there’s no way in hell we’d be doing that for our, when he’s got Daredevil, he’s interrogating Daredevil, chained up on a rooftop.
And the, the superintendent of the building is trying to come up to the roof and, uh, the Punisher is ready to kill this guy. If he insists on coming up to the roof, it’s just like the frigging super, you know, you would never do. And the only reason he doesn’t is because he finds out the guy’s a former Marine [01:09:00] and just like, uh, give me a break.
That’s what it takes for him not to pop somebody. That’s not the character I want, you know,
Andrew Sumner: I I’d take your points. I think
Carl Potts: that, so, but I did end up, I was supposed to be an extra on, um, I forget if it was for the first or second season. Uh, but there’s a scene that recreates the carousel, going to a carousel with the family and all that.
So I was an extra around that carousel, which is supposed to be the central park carousel that was actually on queen somewhere. Um, and, uh, When they ended up on the cutting room floor, as they say, oh yeah, for showed up on screen there.
Andrew Sumner: Oh man. Well, at least you got to be on set. And when they, when they were interact with everybody, so it, did he get to, did he get to meet?
Did he get to chat with John bundle?
Carl Potts: No, I, I, I was really close to mine, a few cases, but I figured, you know, [01:10:00] don’t be that guy.
Andrew Sumner: I mean, if anybody is got the right to be that guy with that character, it’s you mate. So yes,
Carl Potts: but they, for all, I know those people have never paid attention to the comics or the, or the people who worked on them and, you know, wouldn’t care and. It might come out very awkwardly. So,
Andrew Sumner: Hey, Carla, let’s let’s um, let’s close out and your world war two project.
I mean, so that’s nicely circular. It seems to me that the way you got into comics is five, the DC war books. Also, by the way, one of the ways I got into comic books, because my grandfather pops, he loved the DC world. Books really loved them much more than he liked the Marvel war books, which he didn’t consider to be war books.
He thought Sergeant fury was essentially just like the Marvel Westerners. It’s the same template as the superhero books, actually just leaving Kirby doing during, during world war two. But he absolutely loved all the, all the categor, um, DC [01:11:00] books. And he loved cubits and he loved her seats. But the fact that you started there and now one of your current projects is the war book that you’re working on.
What’s the premise of that means,
Carl Potts: um, my, both of my parents were involved in the Pacific theater. My father. 20-year Navy man, chief of damage control on a seaplane tender ship. So, you know, out in the middle of the Pacific, uh, whether it was a stormy or not, or whatever, uh, the big Catalina PBYs planes that were running out of fuel or battle damage and needed repair, they’d have to go out there and work on them.
Um, but my mother’s side of the family had an even more interesting. My, uh, my maternal grandfather was, um, a virus just sent from Alabama coal mining country and he did not want to be a coal miner. So he joined the Navy and was stationed in the Philippines in the early 19 hundreds. And the U S took over [01:12:00] control from Spain.
And, um, he loved that. There’s so much that, uh, he was like, not your stereotypical. Uh, Alabama country, boy, he had no prejudices whatsoever. Um, you had trends of all types. The Philippines was like the crossroads of the world back then, everybody from everywhere there strictly in Manila. And, uh, he fell in love with it and decided we, when he mustered out of the service, that he was stayed there and worked for the Navy as a civilian.
And uh, in the early 19 hundreds, at some point he went to dinner with, um, to a friend’s house and the friend had married a Japanese woman. And as he walks up to the house, he sees this other Japanese young Japanese woman brushing her hair through the window. And he was just smitten. And it was my maternal grandmother who was visiting her aunt from Japan.
She was Japanese born and raised, and [01:13:00] they couldn’t even speak the same language, but they fell in love. And, um, eventually got married despite her family’s reluctance for an American side of the. Um, and, uh, she decided from that point on, she was an American, she learned English. She dressed in Western dress.
Time, she spoke Japanese this, when she was spoke, speaking to someone who couldn’t speak anything else and she didn’t teach her kids, Japanese, just English. And the one thing she couldn’t give up though, culturally was the food. She was a great Japanese cook, but they grew up a big family in the Philippines during the depression.
But over there, they were living very well. Uh, the depression was not effected them, but then when the Japanese invaded the startup world war two, uh, they very brutally took over the Philippines and, uh, they took all the Americans civilians and allied civilians, uh, and put them into present [01:14:00] camps and tournament camps.
And the biggest one was in the heart of Manila. They turned the university of St. Thomas, uh, campus, which took up a city block and was surrounded by these high masonry walls man, a natural prison. So. Cora thousands and thousands of allied civilians in there. And, um, the Japanese hated my grandmother for marrying the enemy, but they weren’t about to put her in all our trip, him, her into the prison camp with her husband and all of her children.
Uh, so she worked her way up the chain of command to the general in charge of the area and convinced him that she was an American by choice. And she was a mother who needed to be with her children. And she was being abused all the time. She was working with the rank saver, you know, even before they put her children where they’re like, they were like roughing her up in front of her children because.
She, uh, refused to tow [01:15:00] the country line. Um, so, uh, finally the general relented and wrote her a pass passenger sat to my us. Uh, as far as I know, she’s the only Japanese civilian who was voluntarily imprisoned by the Japanese, during the war, at least in the Philippines. And they were in there for over three years being progressively starved.
And, um, uh, occasionally the Kemp Tai who were basically the, the Japanese Gestapo. Um, they would come in and haul out people that would never be seen again. Um, and there was no medicine and so on. So, um, when my card there finally returned with the U S forces, uh, they learned. It’s through a third gorilla spice that the Japanese are planning to kill all their prisoners before they could be liberated.
And it had already happened on the island of Palawan where all the us troops that went there were, but sure, there’s only a few that escape, the, tell the tale. [01:16:00] So MacArthur felt extremely guilty for leaving all these civilians behind in the military, people behind. And he actually knew a lot of the civilians.
He had had his home on the top floor of the Manila hotel and had been there for decades. All those possessions are left behind there. And apparently my grandfather had been MacArthur’s coach for his Shriner’s entrance exam. So they knew. But when MacArthur heard, you know, that the Japanese are planning to kill civilians, um, you put together this force called the flying calm, which was the first, first Calvary division.
And the 44, a tank battalion told them to drive a hundred miles through enemy lines to Manila. And the break that camp in a few other areas, and they weren’t the stop for anything unless they had no choice. So they were often in firefights while on the run there. And over the years, uh, you know, when I was growing up, my, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother and I was young.
She was [01:17:00] just, grandma had no idea what a tough grad she was or what she went through. The family didn’t talk about this stuff much, but they were eventually liberated or I wouldn’t be here because my mother was a girl in that camp. Um, but, um, so they just, this force had to drive a hundred miles to the Japanese helplines to get to Manila.
And when they get there, the Japanese forces are methodically. Blowing up and burning all of Manila and, um, they’re killing all the civilians they can find. And, uh, so the, the, this force is as you, as far as it’s just going into sheer chaos and they’re having trouble even finding where they’re supposed to be going, and some gorillas help them figure out the best streets to get there.
And they deliberate the camp. And then the commandant takes his cards, take a bunch of prisoners hostage, and, uh, after negotiations for a couple of days, uh, the Japanese are allowed to leave with [01:18:00] just their personal arms, but they have to be the, the terms that were agreed upon a head to escort that us had to escort the Japanese forest to the Japanese lines in Manila.
But no one knew where the lines were. So the Japanese that are being marched out surrounded by the first coverage division. Um, kept saying you have to escort is further and further than the us has gotten. I think we’ve gotten far enough. So, um, you can actually see photographs of, of, uh, Carl maidens, who was a life photographer who had been a prisoner and Senator Tomas actually took photographs.
So this March out into the Manila streets, um, with the skirt. Um, so after, uh, the warmer, well, the war is still going on. I was liberated to my grandfather. His whole life has been destroyed in the Philippines. So he takes this Japanese wife and [01:19:00] all of his half Japanese children to his family in Alabama, while the wars still going on.
And, uh, my poor uncle Walter, who was the youngest head to enroll in high school while the war’s still going. And he’s this little skinny kid who is trying to regain his weight and he’s getting jumped for a month every day after school, by the bullies. Uh, fortunately my grandfather had given him boxing lessons when he was a kid.
So, uh, eventually after enough blending those as they stopped jumping them. But, um, they, uh, the respect that my grandfather was a very tall guy. Um, had an Alabama prevented my grandmother from being harassed there, but eventually they moved out to the bay area and San Francisco, which is where I was born.
So after, when there was only four of, um, my aunts and uncles left in 1995, um, I got them together in California and [01:20:00] build the mercilessly with a tape recorder on about their life before, during and after the war and did a lot of research. And I started attending the reunions of the survivors of the prisoner camp and they’re liberating.
And I interviewed a lot of those people. And there were just these fascinating stories that you never read in the history books. For instance, the, uh, the gunner of the first tank, the battling basic, the first Sherman tank that broke through the gates. I interviewed him and he said, um, that few days later during the battle of Manila, they were trying to take back the Manila hotel, him and Carter, and want to use apartments taken back in tech, even though Japanese were torching and blowing up all the buildings.
So this Gunnar is on top of the church of his Sherman, but the 50 caliber is shooting at these snipers running around the roof of the hotel. And there was one sniper in particular was hidden behind this corner on the corner and you [01:21:00] kept shooting and shooting, shooting at this guy. Couldn’t get him. And like, I think it’s every fourth round is a phosphorus trace around.
It was very hot. And eventually that coroner’s caught fire from all that. Um, MacArthur’s apartments burned down and everybody just assumed because the Japanese are blowing up and charging city-based started. He never put that. He thinks he’s the one that torched Nellie torch. MacArthur’s uh, that’s fantastic.
And there was a net Navy, demolitions UDT guy who was a precursor service seal, um, pat Sutton, who, um, I interviewed and, uh, he had gone in as their demolition expert. He knew all the Japanese munitions and the Japanese were repurposing aerial bombs and sea mines, uh, to mine, the streets and bridges. And so he had to go out there under fire off and to diffuse these things, uh, so that the flying comp you get past, he ended up eventually being a, a us Congressman from Tennessee.
I think [01:22:00] of. Um, I got the on, but I just, I, I collected all these stories and information that just started in books. And I ended up writing a first one screenplay based on my family’s experiences as, uh, in Santa Thomas Christian camp. And then I had another one that was about the flying column that went to rescue them.
And because I hadn’t done enough work on spec, I combine them and added some material and did sort of a, a short mini series type screenplay, uh, because my name isn’t Hanks or Spielberg, and I’ll never, you know, uh, but, um, I’ve decided to turn them into a graphic novel. And I sh there was a relatively new graphic, novel and print of the Naval Institute press here.
That’s the publishing arm of the U S Navy right out of Annapolis. And they started doing graphic novels and, um, They really liked this project and, uh, get to do that. And originally I was going to do [01:23:00] the layouts and bill was going to do the finished start, but, uh, I was going too slow with all my teaching commitments.
I do a lot of teaching at school of visual arts and elsewhere. And, um, uh, so we decided bill would take over again, the layouts and, uh, bill is just a judge and turning out gorgeous work, but at a snail’s pace, it’s just taking forever. So, um, I’m not sure when it’ll come out. I keep telling bill, I hope this comes out in my lifetime, but the work is.
Andrew Sumner: Sorry. Sorry. Carry
Carl Potts: on. Carry on, please. Can I say that? But the work is doing, is this gorgeous?
Andrew Sumner: How far into his bell, in terms of what percentage of the book,
Carl Potts: the volume it’s being split in two, like I originally wrote the screenplay was one on the flying column and went on a Santa Tomas, which is called a guests of the emperor because that was the euphemistic term that the Japanese use for their prisoners when you’re a guest.[01:24:00]
Um, and, um, w what’s the
Andrew Sumner: flying cold
Carl Potts: book called it’s just called the flying column. Oh, fantastic. Okay. So, um, so you know, the whole thing was laid out sometime ago and he’s, I’m guessing he’s got maybe 20 out of 130 pages, uh, fully, uh, fully drawn. And if you want later, remind me, I’ll send you a. A few scans of some of the
Andrew Sumner: absolutely right at my street, I would love to see it.
And, uh, and when, when the, uh, when the books finally published, I would love to talk to you about them again in detail, because the whole subject is, is very close to my heart because of course what connects me to, uh, not, not actually the war in the Pacific, but the, the European theater and to the American experiences is my grandfather pops my two who fought with an American unit.
So, so, uh, he [01:25:00] spent all of his time in Europe, uh, after D-Day with the Americans, because I think I’ve told you this before, but he was an anti-aircraft gunner and. And when, when, when a lot of the American units, uh, landed on the, there are lots of beaches of D-Day D-Day, as you know, the American beaches, Omaha and Utah took some of the heaviest losses from a very difficult to take.
And a lot of the support crew for Satan, the big red one got wiped out. And so within two days of being enormity pops in his gung crew got attached to an American regiment and he spent the entire war with Americans and eating American rations, which were delicious compared to British rations because our supply lines had been decimated so long.
So he was living off what he thought was the fat of the land. But with his rations every day, you got two cigarettes, a bar of bar of chocolate, a candy bar, and a comic book. So that’s where he was first exposed to. [01:26:00] Timely. Yeah. Sadly not, no, sadly not only have I been there, I think he was having,
Carl Potts: I got addicted to that stuff.
And during those convention trips,
Andrew Sumner: have you ever had Walmart, have you have a totally
Carl Potts: painter? And I was visiting in Scotland. There was a restaurant went to, and they said, you know, hot, right bean. I’m going, what the hell? So I give it a shot. Sure. Oh, it’s
Andrew Sumner: totally addictive. Uh, it’s, it’s great for when you’ve got cold or flu.
The problem is when the cold or flu, when you recover, it’s very difficult to stop drinking it and the stuff is pure fucking sugar. So you don’t want to get too, but this whole subject. And thank you for closing eyes out, talking about these two projects. Cause I would love to hear more about them and I would love to have some detailed conversations about them when they actually published.
You know, we’ll, we’ll talk about them for forbidden planet and all that as well, but I’m so pleased that, uh, that’s one of the things that you’re working with. And I think Carl, I think that’s probably a [01:27:00] perfect point for us to, uh, to wind up this particular set of conversations and we didn’t even get into alien Legion and we didn’t even get into your teaching career.
Both of which we’ll have to talk about on a future episode. Sounds bad. Yeah. Thank you for joining me today, mate. I mean, you touched upon three massive areas of interest for me. I, in addition to your career, which has always fascinated me, but I, I thank you for sharing those Dick carnet dotes. They were fantastic.
And, um, and it’s very interesting hearing about those, those early and very formative days of the Punisher. And I can’t wait.
Carl Potts: It seems like there’s a number of people that you talk to that, uh, including Garth, that, uh, world war two, uh, and, uh, the actual history and then the pop culture around it, like the TV shows and the movies where we grew up with that.
You know, a major influence it’s it’s interesting. I, you know, I feel bad almost knowing for the [01:28:00] succeeding generations. Like the woman I had married was like seven years younger than me and her father was a world war, two vet who flew a submarine hunters out of a dunk swell or something. Um, and, uh, She didn’t know a damn thing about what we’re to industry when I met her.
And so I watched a bunch of, uh, documentaries right there and filled her in on. I felt that it was sacrilegious that she didn’t. Well,
Andrew Sumner: I think it’s fascinating because if you’re, if you’re an Englishman of my generation, the world war two was still a rich seam of entertainment throughout my entire childhood.
And only really sort of abated our guests when I was in my mid to late twenties. So for example, all British comics with the exception of 2000 a day, which was an outlier most British comics, mainly featured adventure stories about world war II. And they are certainly what Garth. You know, so [01:29:00] there was, was, there was the DC Thompson comment warlord.
There was the, uh, IPC comic where I used to work battle and, and all the guys he created for 2008 day, they, they, uh, a year or two before, they’re all creating war books and it’s such a big thing. And we had loads of our TV shows still wrapped around the war and there was a very famous inter Anglo American coproduction, uh, called Colditz, which ran during the seventies all about the great prisoner of war camp.
Carl Potts: 10, 10, yeah.
Andrew Sumner: 10 code 10 code was huge. Of course. Yeah.
Carl Potts: And a foil is where I love
Andrew Sumner: that. Oh, it’s war. Yeah. Well, for us, war is relatively recent as well. So it’s still does continue. I mean, I, I, um, of course the sixties were awash with, uh, I was, I was a kid in the sixties, but all those shows like combat and the rat patrol and all of that stuff, they’re all over the airwaves and there’s still tons of war movies.
What [01:30:00] I quite like now is in the last couple of years, there’s been two degree. I kind of selective war, movie Renaissance. So, you know, there, there have been films like Dunkirk, for example, and 1917, both of which I thought were extremely well-made. So, so while there might not be the amount, I think the war movies that do world war two movies get made now.
Well, one movies, there are very high standards.
Carl Potts: Yeah. I always thought that so much would make a film out of Charlie’s where I discovered that when I started coming out, that was brilliant series. Such
Andrew Sumner: a great series. Yeah. Um, pat mills and, uh, Joe cologne, just, just great stuff. Really good.
Carl Potts: Yeah. And we didn’t even talk about, uh, music either.
That’s another thing we have with we have in common. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Andrew Sumner: For sure. For sure. Next time, brother. Thanks so much for joining me. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I’ve had a great time chatting with it [01:31:00]
Carl Potts: is my pleasure, indeed. I I’ll be happy to hear your call for some more.
Andrew Sumner: Excellent. You take care of yourself, mate, and I’ll see you sooner rather
Carl Potts: than later.
One thought on “The Epic Life of Carl Potts”
I went through high school with Carl and have kept in touch with him since 1967 till today. WOrked with his father and knew the family.
I have some of Carl’s unknown work…some faded but beautiful.
He is one amazing and talented man. Thanks for sharing this.