An interview with Dave

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An interview with Dave

Postby Slarti » Mon Nov 27, 2006 5:46 am

From the Dispatch-Tribune (Kansas City, MO), Oct. 18, 2002

'Mutant Empire: X-Men creator Dave Cockrum brings wealth of comics history to Northland ComiCon'

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Comic book legend Dave Cockrum will appear at the Kansas City ComicCon this weekend at the KCI Expo Center.

Cockrum, perhaps best known as the co-creator of Marvel Comics new "X-Men" superhero team in 1975, has had a long and varied career in comic books, including runs with DC and Marvel Comics on hit books such as "The Legion of Super Heroes" and "Avengers."

Tell me a little about yourself and how and when you got into the comic industry.

"I discovered comic books very early. Captain Marvel -- the one who says "shazam" -- was still allowed to use his name as the title of his book back then. I think I wanted to draw them as soon as I realized that someone was actually doing that. I studied as much art as I could in high school and majored in art in college, though my teachers were horrified that I wanted to draw comics. They practically waved crosses and evil eye signs in my direction.

"I spent six years in the Navy, during which time I practiced my art and besieged comic editors with letters and amateur art. When I was discharged in 1970 I came to New York and hung around the comic book publishers until I landed work."

Why comics in particular?

"I always loved the medium, ever since I was a kid. Comics are a way to tell the wildest flights of fancy, complete with great special effects, on a shoestring budget. I suppose if I'd had any sense, I'd have gone to Hollywood and become a film director."

What are some of the comics you've worked on/created? And in what capacity, i.e. writer, artist, both?

"My first year as a pro I worked for Warren Publishing. The Warren books were black and white mags dealing mainly in horror. I did six stories for Warren over the course of a year, but they didn't offer enough work to keep me busy, so I hired out as a background inker for other artists until I landed my first series.

"That was the 'Legion of Superheroes,' at DC comics. I spent 18 months working on 'Legion,' a combination of sci-fi and superheroes, set in the 30th century. The 'Legion" had been dying for several years. I was able to help turn it around by designing new costumes, drawing flashy and attractive future worlds and societies and throwing a bit of youthful enthusiasm into the strip.

"After a disagreement with DC editorial, I shifted over to Marvel, where I started working on the new 'Avengers,' then got the opportunity of a lifetime when I was invited to help create and draw a revised and updated version of the then-comatose series, 'X-Men.' I designed several new characters for the book, including Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Thunderbird and later on, Phoenix, the Starjammers and the Shi'ar Empire.

"After a somewhat slow start, marked by resistance from fans of the original X-Men, the new series took off and has never stopped growing since. I spent a couple years working on the book, then left to take a staff position at Marvel, designing covers.

"Later on I went back to freelancing and worked on Marvel's adaption of 'Star Trek: the Motion Picture,' then drew nine issues of a Star Trek series. I worked on a couple of issues of 'Ms. Marvel,' designing a new costume for the lead character, then went back for a second run on 'X-Men,' which lasted another couple of years.

"I left X-Men to create my own team of superheroes, the 'Futurians.' I produced an 80-page graphic novel, which Marvel published. I was then lured away from Marvel to an independent publisher named Deluxe Comics, to continue my 'Futurians' there. The book sold well, but Deluxe folded and brought an end to my series.

"After that, I worked at several other companies and on several features, including 'Batman' at DC, 'Solar' and 'Harbinger' at Valient, 'Warriors of Plasm' at Defiant, 'Fatale' at Broadway and then a three-year stint on 'Soulsearchers and Company' from Claypool."

Tell me a little about the process of creating comic books, as you see it.

"Unless I'm writing it myself -- which I sometimes do -- it starts for me when I get a plot or script from the editor. When I worked on 'X-Men,' I actually sat in on plotting sessions, but that luxury usually isn't available.

"If it's a script, it tells me what to draw and what the dialog is. If it's a plot -- which I prefer -- it's nothing more than an outline. Working from a plot allows me to put more of myself into the story. I break the plot down into estimated page lengths, then break the whole story out in thumbnail sketches, then draw it out full sized, usind my thumbnails as guides."

Which of the comics you worked on were your favorites and why?

"The 'Legion' and the 'Futurians.' Both because they were practically tailored for me. My interests have always leaned more toward sci fi and superheroes, and that's exactly what the 'Legion' was. As for 'Futurians,' well, I created it myself, basically to amuse myself. I've had a pretty good track record pleasing the readers if I do work that pleases me."

What is your favorite character you created/worked on? Favorite overall? Why?

"In the 'Legion,' Phantom Girl. In the 'X-Men," it was Nightcrawler -- my alter ego -- and Storm. In my 'Futurians,' it was Blackmane -- again, my alter ego -- and Silkie. In 'Soulsearchers and Company,' it was Kelly, the apprentice witch.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

"I'd love to have giant wings to strap on my back, like Hawkman, and spend hours soaring through the skies."

When you and Chris Claremont revamped the X-Men in 1975, did you have any idea they would become so popular?

"No idea whatsoever. If we had, we'd have tried to get better pay from Marvel. And a piece of the action."

What do you think of the popularity and the changes in the X-Men over the years?

"I'm amazed and overwhelmed by the mutant empire Marvel has built on the groundwork laid by Len Wein, Chris Claremont and myself. In a way I regret some of the changes. The book is hardly recognizable anymore as the group I created."

The comic book companies generally retain the rights to the character created. What are your thoughts on this in general and pertaining to yourself?

"Frankly, I resent having had to give up ownership of new characters in order to work in the business. Marvel has made millions of dollars on characters I created, and I live from paycheck to paycheck.

"It doesn't necessarily have to be like that any more though -- nowadays there are options for creator ownership. I own the Futurians outright -- which would be a lot more useful to me if they were currently being published."

I would think if an artist or writer knows they would lose the rights to their own creations it would limit his/her creativity. Do you think that's so?

"Absolutely. I have a huge stable of original characters which I have never used because I refuse to give any more characters over to ownership by the publishers. That limits what I can do, storywise, if I'm working for Marvel, say, or DC, or any of the other publishers."

Have you done other art work outside of the comic industry?

"I've worked mostly in the comics industry, but I have done other things on occasion. I designed model kits for the legendary Aurora Plastics -- monsters and superheroes. Fun stuff. Since then I've done a lot of design work for 'garage kit' models companies who produce kits in resin rather than injection-molded plastic.

"I've also done odd work in mainstream publishing. I illustrated 'Space Hawks,' a six book set of interactive sci fi novels for young teens published by Bantam. I've done ad storyboards, I did a one-page superhero strip for 'Money' magazine, I've done art for kiosk animation and computer banner ads."

What are you doing professionally nowadays?

"Looking for work, largely. The industry is flooded with new talent who are crowding out the oldtimers. I'm also developing a couple of new series ideas and I have an agent out looking for a publisher who'd like to print 'Futurians.'"

I've heard some critics say your style is 'outdated' and not 'hip' enough for the current comics. What do you think of that criticism?

"I don't think anybody can say that as a valid criticism until I've had a chance to do work under modern conditions, with flashy inking and computer coloring. I think you'd discover my work has as much relevance to a modern audience as anybody."

I know you've got some health problems. Does that affect your ability to work?

"Does it ever. I've had six hospital stays in the last five years. My life has become one long series of doctors' appointments. On top of that I have a severe problem with my left foot and leg and have to keep it elevated as much as possible. It's not easy to work with my leg in the air at shoulder level."

What do you think of the current comic book industry?

"Frankly I resent the 'flavor of the month,' attitude of the editors. Of you don't draw like the current hottie, you don't get work. Other than that, I'm very much impressed by the variety of subject matter and the quality of art and coloring and production values in today's industry."

Any advice for people wanting to get into the industry?

"Find something else to do." (grin)

[Edited on 27-11-0606 by Slarti]

[Edited on 28-11-0606 by Slarti]
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An interview with Dave

Postby Slarti » Mon Nov 27, 2006 6:13 am

The writing of the above article is how I met Dave back in 2002, I thought I'd share it today. While I'd known him a bit previously from this forum, this was the first time I'd met Dave -- who I considered a personal hero -- in person.

It was a great, fun experience, and he made a very nervous reporter feel very at ease. I'll cherish that memory of him.
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An interview with Dave

Postby williamcreed » Wed Nov 29, 2006 6:55 am

"Ancient Egyptians believed that upon death they would be asked two questions and their answers would determine whether they could continue their journey in the afterlife. The first question was, 'Did you bring joy?' The second was, 'Did you find joy?'" Leo Buscaglia

i thought this quote would be good for this moment i would like to say thanks dave for what you brought us, i can't think of anything right now ecept yes you brought joy and i hope you found joy
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An interview with Dave

Postby STEPHANEGARRELIE » Thu Nov 30, 2006 8:56 pm

Very cool thanks for posting.
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