Thanks a lot to Dave for sending me one copy of this magazine.
Paul Gulacy was one of the hot talents that made the early to mid- '70s Marvel one of the most exciting periods of that company's history, A former assistant to Dan Adkins (an elite group that also includes P. Craig Russell and Val Mayerik), Gulacy made his first Marvel appearances inking a Bob Brown Daredevil and the first Morbius story in Adventure into Fear.
But Gulacy made his name (and darn quickly, too) working on Marvel's legendary Master of Kung Fu series in the wake of creators Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin 's departure. Taking a cue from the then-popular Enter the Dragon, Gulacy and writer Doug Moench welded the kung-fu antics to thrilling spy adventures, resulting in a series of moody, violent classics; Gulacy's obsession with Steranko's work (in particular Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.) proved perfectly appropriate in this context, and his liberal use of photos wipes called up all sorts of strange cultural crosscurrents (a comic co-starring Bruce Lee and Marlon Brando?).
Eventually, like most of the stars of the '70s. Gulacy tired of the month-in, month-out drag of MoKF. He next appeared as the artist on Don Mc-Gregor's Sabre, the Eclipse graphic novel that some say marked the beginning of the direct-sales revolution. It was a stormy collaboration, but most feel the results more than justified the genesis.
Since then, Gulacy has popped up here, there, and everywhere. He did some work for the black-and-white Marvel and Warren horror and adventure magazines; he illustrated the Six From Sirius mini-series for Epic and the Slash Maraud mini-series for DC; and, like every artist under the sun, he even drew a Batman story.
Of his latest two endeavors, one is a radical departure, one isn't. Who would have imagined a rabid technofreak like Paul Gulacy (who reportedly once requested that Ralph Macchio write a story with a train in it because he was keen on drawing one?) to demand and execute a Conan story, of all things? On the other hand, Coldblood-7, his and Moench 's reworking of Deathlok, brings him back to the world of post-holocaust blood 'n guts. The series is scheduled to begin appearing in Marvel Presents later this spring.
Gulacy, who is 35, resides in Portland. Oregon with his wife Valerie and their five-month-old daughter, Paige. This interview was conducted and transcribed by Steve Mattsson, and copy-edited by Chris McCubbin. It .s guh-LAY-see, by the way. (That piece of information alone should be worth the price of the issue.) -J. COLLIER
Interview by Steve Mattsson
AH : When did comics first catch your eye?
GULACY : Comics rolled into my life because my mother worked at a drug store. She was an assistant to a pharmacist and she would bring me home MAD magazine. That was the first exposure I had to the comics medium. My dad and I had to pick her up after work and I would be glued to the magazine section and revolving comics rack. The one that really grasped me was Joe Kubert's Sgt. Rock. I wasn't really thrilled with Marvel. I saw these gigantic foreshortened hands and it bothered me. I thought it was silly. But Kubert's stuff had a magic to it. It really caught my attention.
AH : Do you remember any other titles on the rack at that time?
GULACY : No, I stayed with Sgt. Rock. I couldn't get every issue at the drug store so I subscribed to it. That's how I got a lot of my comics. Rock led into Enemy Ace which I was crazy about. because I used to love World War I aviation. This was around the time when the Bond movies were coming out, in the mid-'60s. I went nuts over Bond and that's when I ran into Nick Fury. Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. [in a pretty good imitation of Johnny Carson's Art Fern character) rendered by my man Steranko. But this was in the middle of the series, so I had to get all these books through an ad in Marvel Comics by Robert Bell. He advertised that he had all the back issues that I needed. So. I went back and got all the Nick Furys I'd missed and then anything else that Steranko did, including the X-Men. That's when Steranko really did it for me. I was hooked. I said this is what comics should be. This is what I could sit back and really get into.
AH : So, Kirby's foreshortening bothered you. but Steranko's refinement of it did the trick?
GULACY : Yeah it did. probably because it was a little more tightly rendered. It had a more realistic quality. I was coming off Kubert, so Steranko was an easier transition. Plus there was the film angle that gave S.H.I.E.L.D. a certain edge. And the stories were good.
AH : Reminiscent of Bond?
GULACY : Not necessarily reminiscent of Bond. just the whole escapism/ super-spy motif. That was cool stuff at that period for a 12 or 13 year old. I also swapped comics with kids in school. This one guy had a rolled up Nick Fury in his back pocket and I traded him for a couple of comics I had. It got me on a roll seeking out Jim Steranko where ever I could find him. Then I started getting into Kirby and the whole Marvel scene after that, the whole bullpen thing that Stan created.
AH : You realized early on that comics were drawn by different individuals? GULACY : I used to think that comics were created by machines. When I looked at a Jack Kirby issue I thought this was done by some machine and they were mass produced. I didn't know how. That's the impression I had. I didn't think that somebody sat down and drew all this stuff. I'm talking about early when I first saw Kirby in the first place, and the majority of the early Marvel comics I ran into. I knew that Steranko was different. This guy is drawing this stuff from the heart, from somewhere in the back of his psyche. I knew it was so new and refreshing that it was worth collecting or pursuing.
AH : Once you started collecting back issues, you got into the Stan Lee hype and that lead you into the rest of the Marvel books?
GULACY : Yeah, it lead me into Thor and The Fantastic Four and all the rest. That brought me full circle back to Jack. King Kirby. I knew it was important to collect his stuff as well. I became aware that Steranko's thing was derived from somewhere else and it was very clear that it was this man, Jack Kirby. But like I said, Steranko has something else which was his own...(pause) give me a good word here...
AH : Idiom, sir!
GULACY : Right, idiom. Thank you Monty Python.
AH : Were you more interested in creators or characters at that point ? GULACY : I was buying it primarily because it was Nick Fury drawn by Steranko. When Steranko got off the book that's when I quit Nick Fury.
AH : So you were more interested in the creator than the character.
GULACY : Yeah, like everyone else.
AH : That 's unusual when you're 14 years old.
GULACY : Good observation.
AH : Thanks. After Steranko left Nick Fury did you lose interest in comics?
GULACY : No, because there was still a lot of Joe Kubert going on. I think Enemy Ace was around the time of Nick Fury. That must have been '66, '67, '68. I think they were doing them simultaneous, So I was back and forth to DC and Marvel. Anything that caught my eye I'd buy. I kept up buying MAD magazine as well.
AH : You must have been chasing girls by the time you got to high school.
GULACY : I was chasing girls in the first grade, pal! But, yeah, by late high school the only comics I was looking at were the little things I was drawing. It was a gas. I started to get that deep seated feeling that this might be something that I might want to do.
AH : Yeah, then what?
GULACY : I graduated and had to think of my future. The only art school close by was The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. They had a program where new students could submit work for potential scholarships. I submitted a color story that I wrote and drew with ballpoint pen on notebook paper. I ended up getting a full paid scholarship! What the judges didn't know was that I had stolen it, almost panel for panel, from three issues of Nick Fury. All I did was alter a couple of the bad guys and change the main character's name.
AH : What did you call him?
GULACY : Burt Crane, master spy! What else? (laughter)
AH : Burt Crane? (laughter).
GULACY : Yeah, so? (laughter)
AH : Did you feel that you'd put one over on your art professors?
GULACY : No, I didn't think about it. I just ran with it. I was too dumb to try to figure that out. I felt happy as a lark and just rolled with the program.
AH : So, you packed your bags and went to seek your fortune.
GULACY : Yeah, I left Ma, Pa, Sis, and Rover and hit the road. It was a very good school, actually it was part of this network called The Design Schools which have affiliations all over the country. I suggest any aspiring young artists out there to look into these schools because it's worth your while. You'll get a very sound commercial art education.
AH : I thought most art schools had a prejudice against comics.
GULACY : I was fortunate, the president of the school happened to be a freelance cartoonist on the side and had worked for MAD magazine. So he was digging it. He was very encouraging.
AH : You basically stole your way into art school...
GULACY : Yeah, but, I didn't consider it stealing I just, uh...
AH : Did the ends justify the means?
GULACY : Yeah, it was great, but the more I learned about everything else, topography, photography and the whole visual communication scene, the more I realized this is not exactly what I want to pursue. I still liked comics more than anything else.
AH : You continued to build a background in the different disciplines of commercial art, but...
GULACY : Right, but you got to remember I turned professional when I was 16.
AH : Still in high school?
GULACY : Yeah, I was a junior in high school and I was doing some freelance work for some people my art teachers hooked me up with that worked in the ad department of our local newspaper. I was doing ads for the local paper as a result. That was when I first turned pro.
AH : What kind of ads ?
GULACY : Well, all kind. Spiro Agnew T-shirts, tennis racquets, trash mashers, women's clothing, budget clothing, shoes, men's suits, neckties, you name it.
AH : All this before art school?
GULACY : This was when I was still in high school, yeah.
AH : It seems to me that something like that would make a pretty good portfolio for admission to an art school, so why did...
GULACY : Well, comics was my main focus.
AH : Were you able to work on comic related projects while at art school?
GULACY : Yeah, I came up with this crazy character one night in the middle of some kind of a drunken stupor.I was hopping in and out of bed all night jotting down ideas. It started to flow. I felt real comfortable with it. I came up with six pages and just held on to it.
AH : You're still in art school and have a six page story all pencilled. What did it take to get you from this point to working at Marvel?
GULACY : In a nut shell, I was riding the bus in Pittsburgh. I sat down next to this young girl. We started talking. She asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told her I'd like to get into the comics thing, perhaps work for Marvel comics some day. She says, "Wow! Isn't that ironic? My boyfriend does that!" I said, "Who's your boyfriend?" She said, "Val Mayerik."' That didn't ring any bells, I didn't know the guy. I said, "Where does he live?" I thought all comic book artists lived in New York. She says, "'He lives in Youngstown," she says. The following week, she set up a meeting with him. I met him at a dojo. He was a karate instructor and it was the beginning of a terrific friendship. The week after I met Val, he introduced me to Dan Adkins. Adkins lived about 40 miles south of Youngstown, so we drove down and showed Dan the story [ did in art school. He didn't think it was too strong. He suggested that I work up another short story, six to 10 pages with no dialog. Marvel just wants to see your storytelling and your rendering skills. I did that and handed It to Adkins. A little time went by and before you know it. . . Roy Thomas is the editor at the time so I got to credit Roy Thomas as the man who hired me.
AH : Adkins was responsible for getting you into the industry?
GULACY : Yes, and I've been beating him severely ever since. Actually, Dan's a great guy and a good friend. Craig Russell also started with Dan. Craig, Val and my functions were basically simple ones; just pick Dan up some soda pop, potato chips, and Twinkies-then drive him to old Elvis Presley movies and we were in like flint! (laughter)
AH : Then to break into comics is it what you know or who you know?
GULACY : It's both. It's a combination of the two.
AH : A lot of the current big names in comics broke in about the same time you did; Chaykin, Klaus Janson, Simonson, Starlin. What was it about the climate in the business at that time that attracted these people?
GULACY : I don't know. I think it was a phenomenal thing. It might only happen in 20, 30 years that you would get this much talent entering any particular business and making major creative changes and boosting the industry, coming up with a new look, refreshing point of view. I don't know. It was very coincidental.
AH : You don't know if it was a climate in comics at that time welcoming change or if it was based on what was happening prior to that and these people were excited by the same things you were?
GULACY : I feel that what Lee and Kirby had started left all kind of doors open for people to explore their groundwork.
AH : It just took that much time for the talent influenced by these stories to develop?
GULACY : Yeah, because now comics were hitting the college campuses. A lot of the readers were older. It had become a hip medium. It wasn't a silly ads thing anymore. There was real potential for an explosion. And Steranko, getting back to him, I don't think anybody you mentioned wasn't aware of Steranko and how he popped the cork.
AH : You think this explosion of talent was a payoff to the groundwork that Lee and Kirby had laid.
GULACY : Definitely. It was just time for Marvel to shift into third gear. This talent was there at the right time and right place and guys like Roy Thomas were fortunately around. He was a young guy too. He saw the promise and had the authority and confidence to say yes.
AH : I think the first thing of yours to actually see print was the Morbius, The Living Vampire story in color…
GULACY : Yeah, but that came much later. They weren't printing the stories in the order I drew them. In fact, I think I did a black and white Master of Kung Fu story before I did the color Morbius story.
AH : I read in your bio in Six From Sirius that you were given a choice; to keep on doing Morbius or switch to the color Kung Fu book.
GULACY : No, that's wrong. According to what I heard, Roy thought I was more suited to Kung Fu. He yanked me from Morbius. Then he took Starlin off Master of Kung Fu and gave it to me. I think I came in on the third or the fourth issue. I would have continued with Morbius. I didn't care as long as I was working.
AH : So, it goes back to before when you weren't really as interested in the characters as in what was done with them.
GULACY : Yeah, they could've thrown me anything: Daredevil's Son-In-Law, The Fantastic Five, anything. I would've taken anything at that point. A color book especially was a real thrill.
AH : The Kung Fu movies had been around quite a while before the Kung Fu comic books. Were you a fan of these movies?
GULACY : No, I do remember seeing one movie, some silly thing called The Five Fingers of Death or something. That's the only exposure I had to them. I was aware that they were very popular, but I wasn't a fan of them.
AH : So, there wasn't anything special about Kung Fu in the beginning? You were just happy to have a regular assignment…
GULACY : Yeah, oh yeah. I had to learn all about it. I had to look at Starlin's stuff. The only Kung Fu stuff I'd see was the one movie and the David Carridine Kung Fu thing on T.V. It wasn't about until I'd read about Bruce Lee dying that I became aware of this guy and his whole Kung Fu craze. That's when I really started digging into who and what it was about, who he was. I wanted to learn what the deal was.
AH : You decided to do your homework.
GULACY : Yeah, what happened is I ended up seeing that movie 18 god damned times.
AH : Enter The Dragon.
GULACY : Enter The Dragon. I became a heavy duty Bruce Lee fan. They didn't have video tape back then so a friend of mine and I rented the movie from a distributor and photographed it frame by frame. We ended up with over 400 pictures. It was ridiculous.
AH : How long had you been drawing Kung Fu before you'd seen the Bruce Lee movies?
GULACY : I don't remember.
AH : Obviously, your first Shang Chi looked like Starlin 's, then later he looked more like Bruce Lee.
GULACY : Yeah, well there was a little Carridine in there too. That's the way Englehart was writing it and that was the approach Doug picked up on. I wasn't particularly crazy about it. After I saw the Bruce Lee movies and a couple of other martial arts flicks and saw how they were handling these things, the whole Carridine approach was a bit corny for me. At that point I was fired up and ready to go with something fresh.
AH : Doug started out following Englehart's lead, a direction you weren't happy with. When did things start clicking between you two?
GULACY : What happened was we became friends and it was an exciting time. He was brand new to Marvel, although he had been in the industry a while longer than I had. We started throwing ideas around, like everybody else. Like you said, all those other guys were around too. There were a lot of good titles coming out at that time and we were caught up in the excitement of creating refreshing new characters. There was a lot of opportunity to run. We saw the potential to have a lot of fun with this thing, but we didn't know what to expect. What happened then was the sales figures started climbing and we knew we had something. Something clicked and that's when we got down to the nitty gritty. Doug was just as enthusiastic as I and it was no time to step on each other's toes. When we reached our peak, we were Marvel's third best seller behind Spider-Man and Conan.
AH : Did Doug follow the Kung-Fu movies?
GULACY : I don't know if he ever saw the movies when they were in their heyday. I told him to go check them out. Doug never did capture the Bruce Lee angle or what was happening in these motion pictures. He was definitely into his own trip. He grabbed on where Englehart left off with the whole philosophical angle, which became the Shang Chi persona. What Doug got into, as a writer, was the whole prolix introspective bit. He was doing his own little exercise and I was doing mine.
AH : So, your combination created a whole greater than it's parts.
GULACY : Meaning what?
AH : You were doing the movie-based action Kung Fu and he was doing the T.V. based philosophical Kung Fu…
GULACY : Yeah, it might have clashed, but it never did. Although toward the end, I wasn't really thrilled with what was happening, especially with the later issues of the series, the big seven part extravaganza. With the last issue, I was fed up. I wanted to leave and get the hell out of comics and it showed in my work. I wasn't too pleased with that last script and sometimes I wish we could do it all over again.
AH : It seems like issue #50 and the end of the seven part series was a good place for you to quit. Is that where you'd planned to stop all along ?
GULACY : No, I had planned to stop about 36 (laughter). It was just getting to me. I knew we had plans for this big finale, but it never occurred to me to quit at that time. During the course of it is when everything finally started getting to me. I found out at that young age what burnout meant. When it comes to the point where you get up in the morning, sit at the drawing table and want to vomit, it's time to get out. I felt that it had run its course or at least I had. Definitely something new had to come into my life. I had experimented with painting and always wanted to illustrate. I felt this was the time to start moving into that direction.
AH : You stuck Kung Fu out to the logical stopping point, the end of the magnum opus and said, "adios."
GULACY : And G'day, mates! It was fun while it lasted.
AH : Any reaction from Marvel?
GULACY : Yeah, I got a call one day. I answered the phone. This woman says, "I'm calling from the office of Stan Lee. Is Paul GULACY available to speak to him?" I said, "Yeah." And low and behold here he is, Stan the Man, himself!
AH : What the hell did he want?
[laughter] GULACY : Stan asked me why I was quitting. The word had got to Marvel. I had called Roy or told Doug that I was leaving the series. Apparently, Stan loved the series and…
AH : Had you heard anything from him prior to this point?
GULACY : No. I just knew Stan was the man and that's it. Mr. Lee. So, Stan says, "Why are you leaving? Stick around kid - you're doing a hell of a job!" I said, "Stan, I want to get into something new. I think I've had enough." He said, "What do you want to do?" I said, "I want to pursue painting, illustration and some different avenues." He wished me good luck with my endeavors and then offered me, and this is the truth, a three dollar raise.
AH : Gosh!
GULACY : For a minute I hesitated! I thought, "Wow, I could graduate from cold pizza to some warm T.V. dinners!" (laughter) But then a little voice inside my head said, "Stick with your game plan, Paul! Tell the man, no!" (laughter) But I want to say, at least the man had the graciousness to take the time from his busy schedule to give a call to this 24-year-old kid back in Ohio and express his feelings. You don't see that happening today. Today's editors are more likely to say something like, "Geez, that's too bad. You know where the door is." But frankly it was an insult. As far as payments and the whole idea of fixed page rates is baloney. The companies will never keep or lure in the heavy talent if they don't make adjustments and compromises, especially when these folks are making big profits for the company. You're not honestly going to sit there and tell me that the company can't afford it. They should make an effort to pay their employees their worth, every other business in the world does. If Marvel would have made it worth my while back then, I might have hung around.
AH : Obviously, you worked out your Master of Kung Fu differences with Doug, you've continued collaborating with him over the last 15 years.
GULACY : Right, Doug became like a brother that I never get to see. I know his family. He knows mine. We've hung out on many, many occasions. I've stayed at his place several times. We just became very tight friends. To this day we still approach every project with the same vigor and enthusiasm as we did from day one. The chemistry still clicks. As a collaborator he is the only one I've worked with for a long period of time.
AH : What about Dan Adkins ?
GULACY : What about him?
AH : Early on Master of Kung Fu, they mixed up the inkers pretty good on you, then your old mentor, Adkins came in and inked a big chunk. Did you ask for him or is that just the way the scheduling worked out?
GULACY : I felt everybody did a fine job. You got to remember the stuff I was handing Marvel was very tight. It was so tight that John Romita told me to draw it in blue pencil so it wouldn't smudge so much, so the inker had something to see when he went to do his work. I liked everybody who worked on the jobs. Some weren't that great, some were a little better than others. To this day I still admire Pablo Marcos's inks. Jack Able, what can you say about him? He's been around for ages and knows his craft. But I'd have to say Dan came closest to what I'd laid down on the page. It was a thrill to have Adkins inking it.
AH : The guy who'd inked Steranko and the guy who'd got you into the business. The circle turns around.
GULACY : Yeah. By that time Dan had lost enthusiasm for drawing and applied his talents toward inking. I just felt fortunate that we managed to hook up with Dan on some of those Kung Fus.
AH : Didn't Steranko ink a couple of pages of Kung Fu?
GULACY : That's right, Steranko was visiting Dan one day, looked at this GULACY stuff and started noodling around. Actually, he only inked one full page.
AH : Well, which one?
GULACY : Okay, I'll leave right now, drive home and look it up. (laughter) It was one of the pages in the Cat story. He also painted my name and address on our mail box.
AH : Really?
GULACY : No.
AH : This might be a good time to talk some more about Steranko and the influence he had on your style. How did you feel about the comparisons ?
GULACY : Steranko influenced the hell out of me, but one artist can't do another artist's thinking for him. When I first started people said, "Yeah, this looks very cinematic, like Steranko." I would say, "Cinematic? Jeez, thanks! I appreciate that!" What I didn't know is what cinematic meant. I had to look the word up! I said, "Oh yeah, cinematic! I like that!" Eventually every artist finds his own course, you can't duplicate another's style emotionally. The parallel is there because to some extent we did think alike, if that's at all possible. I don't think my work would look much different if I'd never laid eye's on Jim's comics. If my work is an extention of his, I hope it is in terms of entertain-ment value. The irony is that Steranko himself said that I was doing what he would've done had he stayed in the business.
AH : After you quit comics, you wanted to paint-what?
GULACY : Houses. No, I wanted to illustrate paperback novels. So, I took a year off and moved back in with my family to save money. I worked up about a dozen paintings and realized I'd finally have to make the move to New York where all the publishing houses were located.
AH : You had a lot of popularity while doing Kung Fu and were a big deal in the biz. Then you quit. Did you miss the fan adulation once it stopped?
GULACY : Well, actually it didn't stop. This is when the weirdest fan ventured into my life. There was a knock at the door and my mother an-swered. There's this lanky kid stan-ding there. He asks, "Is this Paul GULACY's house?" She says, "Yes." He says [in an imitation of the kid], "Oh man! This is too much, man! I came all this way-I can't believe it! The big 'G' lives here, man? Is he home?! So, she comes into my studio and says, "There's someone here that wants to see you." I go to the door and there's the tall kid and behind him is this guy rolling around in our lawn. I asked the kid, "What is that guy doing, rolling around in our yard?" He said, "Oh, he's been on the road so long that he misses the smell and texture of grass." I said, "Tell your friend to get off!" He said [in the imitation], "Oh no, I-I-I just hitched a ride with him!" I asked him what he wanted. He said he hitchhiked from Wisconsin to see me and was a big Master of Kung Fu fan. I invited him in and we had a very pleasant visit. Later when I was in New York, he would come and visit with his art samples. We'd hit the night clubs and I'd set him with Archie Goodwin and Jim Shooter. They both rejected him, but he had tremendous determination, so I encouraged him to hang in there. Today he's drawing some book for one of the independents.
AH : Which one?
GULACY : Nexus.
AH : Steve Rude?! [laughter]
GULACY : Yeah, the Dude is doing all right for himself.
AH : You weren't doing any comics at this time?
GULACY : Well , I got to take that back, this is when Dean Mullaney got in touch with me and around this time when the Sabre project was developed. I had met [Don] McGregor several times at the Marvel offices. We were mutual admirers. I had always liked Killraven and he mentioned way back then that he'd like to work with me. And I said, "Yeah, lets do it some time." Then Jan and Dean, these brothers from Staten Island, who were friends of McGregor's, approached us to do this graphic novel thing.
AH : Had you even heard of a graphic novel at that time?
GULACY : Outside of a few foreign publications, I wasn't aware of anything in that vein in this country. Well, I think Corben might have been doing it.
AH : McGregor had built himself a name in comics back then, but who'd ever heard of Dean Mullaney? Did you have any second thoughts about getting involved with this project?
GULACY : I had cautious optimism. It was a sound idea. When Don sent me the script I knew it had the potential to be something good. And by then I had an urge to do more comics. I thought it would be a nice change of pace and help me get away from the MOKF shadow. I thought if anything has the potential to do that, this is it.
AH : Sabre was the first graphic novel done specifically for the direct market. It was also a breakthrough in the category of creator-owned properties and the beginning of Eclipse Comics. Many people feel it is as good a spot as any to mark the beginning of the industry's current renaissance or at least reformation. Did you realize how important a project it might be at the time?
GULACY : No. Not at all. Because first off, we had so many disagreements during the course of the thing that we never knew if the son of a bitch would get finished. The main thing was trying to get it done. We went around and around. We had a lot of ups and downs in just the creative process. The high point and the real meat of our exposure was a seven page preview in Heavy Metal. I figured that if they felt it was nice enough to throw in their magazine, I figured this thing had the potential to go anywhere. Direct sales market? It didn't dawn on me at the time, none of us at all. It could have been a one-shot deal for Eclipse Comics. If this thing hadn't moved it could have been a disaster for Dean and Jan. They could have just drifted off into comic book obscurity and took McGregor and I with them.
AH : You said you had a lot of problems during the creative process. Was this due to the fact that for the first time you were working with total creative freedom?
GULACY : When you say "creative freedom" to McGregor it means 12-year-old Chinese girls dating little green men from Mars.
AH : Anything goes?
GULACY : Yeah, anything goes at this point. So, down the line we hit a few stone walls. The collaboration wasn't working out as smooth as we expected.
AH : It didn't go as smooth as your collaboration with Moench?
GULACY : Right. And I don't mean this as a detriment to Don's approach as opposed to Doug's. They both have a unique way and they're both very stylized. Some of Don's concepts were delicate, perhaps even controversial. I didn't know if my reading audience was ready for the issues that we were dealing with. I didn't know if they could make the leap from Kung Fu to interracial relationships and graphic scenes of birth amongst graphic scenes of violence. Right away the thought comes to mind, "So this is what GULACY always wanted to do."
AH : You weren't comfortable with these themes ?
GULACY : Everything was fine. The interracial thing didn't bother me until we got to the end. He was submitting the script in segments, so I never knew what was coming. Then, when I got the last few pages and Melissa was giving birth to this kid, it threw me for a loop. I didn't feel very comfortable with it. At one point, I was so steamed that I called Dean and said, "You've got to change the ending or I'm not finishing this thing."
AH : How did Dean handle it?
GULACY : Dean went to McGregor and McGregor stood firm, "It has to be that way." I said, "Then find another artist to finish it! Dean says, "That's impossible. Let me talk to my brother Jan." Jan talked to me. I talked to McGregor. McGregor talked to Jan. Dean talked to McGregor. It went back and forth. Everybody was pulling their hair out at this point. To tell you the truth, at one point I was going to change Sabre into a white guy. Finally we worked things out. I listened to McGregor's side of the story and decided to more or less go along with him, because his heart was so much into the thing that I figured, this is almost pathetic. I've got to let him run with it. I'll do it. What the hell? I'll take the risk.
AH : Wasn't it around this time that McGregor informed you that an Australian film company was interested in this project?
GULACY : Yes, that's true. I don't know who it was, but to this day - and I know this sounds a little pretentious - I think it was George Miller who eventually brought out Mad Max. I always felt strongly that Sabre was the predecessor of the whole Mad Max, uh… go ahead, you got a word?
AH : Money?
GULACY : Yeah, well, genre anyway.
AH : Do you think it's ironic that Sabre was the start of the current trend toward creator-owned comics, yet you don't even own a piece of it?
GULACY : Yeah, that's true. That was a very early dumb mistake. The only creative right I had was how the character looked, whatever the hell that means.
AH : So, even if George Miller had made a Sabre movie you would have been out of luck.
GULACY : You got that right. But we're talking about a real shot in the dark here. In the long run we didn't get the movie. But, it turned into a beautiful relationship with Dean, his brother. Along with McGregor, I feel pleased, almost exhilarated that this first book turned into-I don't know if I want to say a major…
AH : Important?
GULACY : …an important publish-ing company in this industry. It turned into a big happy family. We're all friends. Whenever cat and Dean are in town they stay at my house and even though they're both obnoxious [laughter] and I can't wait until they leave, I still consider them very good friends. In the long run, in that respect, it was worthwhile.
AH : You've maintained a personal relationship with Dean to this day…
GULACY : Of course, yeah. But now he can't afford me! That's how I got back at Mullaney. Actually, I do get a piece of the action every time the original Sabre story shows up, in fact…
AH : They're releasing a special 10th anniversary edition of it now, aren't they?
GULACY : Complete with a brand-new cover painting and logo.
AH : New logo?
GULACY : [As Art Fern] Oh, I'm proud as punch to have a new logo designed by ol' Jimmy Steranko!
[Laughter] AH : The circle!
GULACY : The circle comes back to haunt us! When they got him I was very surprised. I got to call him up.
AH : How well do you know Steranko? I understand he once got you a job, with Hustler magazine.
GULACY : First off, nobody knows Steranko well. He's certainly one of the most enigmatic persons I've ever met. I would run into him at conventions and we became friends through the years. I haven't spoken to him for quite a while, but we used to call each other up and shoot the breeze. He's helped me and given me a lot of advice. As for Hustler magazine, there were a couple of jobs that they asked him to do. He turned them down and offered them to me. I did them. They offered me more and a lot of money, but I turned them down.
AH : Were you embarrassed to work for Hustler?
GULACY : Yeah, I consider it a skeleton in my closet.
AH : You managed to sell some painted covers to Warren and Marvel.
GULACY : They were both good training grounds. The covers that I did for Warren layed around for a long time before they were used. He basically wanted me for the interiors. Today you don't have the number of titles that require painted covers you had back then. The ones that are available are all cornered by that schmuck Sienkiewicz (laughter). Actually I wouldn't mind having one of Bill's pieces on my wall. He's a class act.
AH : The stories you did for Warren were a dramatic departure from your old style. Was this a conscious decision on your part or was this just the way the art came out once you started to draw again?
GULACY : I decided I wanted to stretch myself, mostly because of the artists Warren had: Rich Corben, Al Williamson, Toth and the Spanish guys, were all great. But, I'll never use that laborsome technique again. I painted every panel with lamp black washes, very similar to the newspaper ads I used to do. It did turn out well though, putting all humility aside, I thought those two stories were among the best that Warren ever published. I was trying to capture the look of the old Hammer films which I always liked. I think it worked.
AH : Your work has taken on a photo-realistic quality as of fate and you've even gone so far as to pattern the characters in your stories after actual actors. How much photo reference do you use?
GULACY: About 30% of each story is from photos. Most of the time it's so altered you would never catch it. I come from the school of thought that says "An artist is only as good as his reference." Here's a good one Adkins told me recently. Frazetta, who's been friends with Dan since the '50s, was passing through town and dropped in on Dan for a visit. Before he left, he went through all of Dan's files and didn't walk out the door until he had a box-load of swipes tucked under his arm. Frazetta's a swipe guy from way back. Everybody steals.
AH : After your Warren jobs you said you'd never paint a comic book story again. Isn't that what you did in Six From Sirius?
GULACY : Not quite. Sirius was a multi-media product, but the majority of it was done with markers, a technique I picked up during my advertising days. It makes things go a lot quicker. You will never see me painting a comic panel after panel, like they are doing today. Just the thought of it is absurd.
AH : During your 15-year career in comics you've only drawn a handful of super-hero stories. How have you managed this and why?
GULACY : I think what it boils down to is that Doug and I like the challenge of taking offbeat, unknown characters and trying to make them fly. We like to play with the human condition, experience, and spirit. And throw in a little social commentary for good measure, not that these elements couldn't be applied to the super-hero format, it's just easier to build on your own foundation. Batman was fun, I'd like to take a shot at Superman and Spider-Man, but the fact is when Doug and I are half way through working on a story, we're developing ideas for the next one, which usually end up being our own story and characters. Our gratification comes when they are a success. Six from Sirius was a hit. Its collected version outsold the Elektra collection. Slash Maraud sold well enough for Dick Giordano to give us the go-ahead for a sequel. Under the circumstances, it's all been working out pretty well.
AH : What circumstances?
GULACY : The circumstances of minimal promotional exposure and reviews. Slash Maraud, for example, was a 160-page story by GULACY and Moench and was totally ignored! It's nonsense. Somebody's missing the boat here. Probably us.
AH : You said in a previous interview that you did not consider comics art and that it is the medium itself that cannot convey art. Do you still feel this way?
GULACY : Within the realm of what it is, I would consider comics an art form. It has inclinations of being art, but I don't think it's yet art on a grand scale. The comics are clever drafts-men, but I don't know if I'd consider them an artistic commodity. The artwork sells the product, which is the book. On the other hand, comics are probably the closest thing to art that you can buy at a 7-11! (laughter) It's a tough one. I think comics could stand on their own merit as an artform. The early strip cartoonists were heading that way, but then the influence of film came in and side tracked comics' natural development.
AH : For some time now, we've seen your name as a co-creator in the credits. What exactly does that mean?
GULACY : Here's where I get into hot water. In the long run, it's always been a 50-50 collaboration with Doug. However, for the sake of posterity, the storyline and most of the character conceptions in our recent stories have all been mine, including the unreleased Conan graphic novel. As for Cold-blood-7…
AH : Then why don 't you just write your own stuff?
GULACY : It's tough when you have a vocabulary of a hundred words! (laughter) My attention span won't allow me. I'd get bored stiff. It's a solitary job, it gets lonely. With Doug, it's always good, stimulating ping pong. I hit him with the concept, the plotline and the cast and he runs with it. Sometimes we stumble and butt heads. That's when the artistic tension builds. It's a give and take birthing process and the child is the book.
AH : One common thread in your work over the past 15 years is your graphic depiction of violence. Violence is a dominant ingredient in most of todays comics. Any comment?
GULACY : Yeah, there's too much violence. I don't make any bones about it. I won't make an attempt to justify it or rationalize it. I could get into a long involved discussion on violence and drama and how it's part of our nature and all that, but what for? We all know what contribution this medium makes. I'm not going to sit here and say that my amount or brand of violence is any better than the next person's. I guess I pander as much as the next guy…
AH : Then, you continue to use violence as a theme for your reader 's gratification?
GULACY : Yes, but even if it wasn't commercial, drawing that stuff helps me work out my own frustrations, I would probably continue to use it in more limited amounts. What's your next question?
AH : Your Conan the Barbarian graphic novel due out this summer…
GULACY : Speaking of violence! (laughter) I've always wanted to do a sword and sorcery story and Conan in particular. I think everybody under the sun has drawn that character but me. It was a nice change of pace, you know, getting away from the hardware : buildings, cars, and guns. Of course, the story has a lot of the elements we've seen before: Sorcerers, demons, exotic women and lots of swordplay. I think it's a good one. Gary Martin did a terrific job on the inks. I still have the cover to paint, and now that I think about it, I'd better hurry up and do it before they give it to Sienkiewicz. (laughter)
AH : Your current project for Marvel is called Coldblood-7. Tell us about it.
GULACY : Coldblood-7 started out as a revival of Deathlok, which was Doug and Rich Buckler's old character. Marvel, for some time, has wanted to bring that character back. We decided to take a crack. at it. I redesigned and updated him, but in the long run it didn't quite jibe with what they had in mind. Marvel's still going to do their version and ours became a totally new character. It's an 80 page story divided into chapters that will appear in Marvel Comics Presents. I don't want to give away too much so I'll just say it's about a renegade cyborg on the rampage.
AH : Sounds like The Terminator and Robocop.
GULACY : Yeah, but Deathlok was a precursor if not direct inspiration for those guys. Now that the character is no longer Deathlok, it will look like we were .'inspired" by those movies. What will save us is that it is better than them. Coldblood-7 drives this wild, futuristic car loaded down with all kinds of crazy weapons and computers. In fact, the car might become the star. It may come off as trendy, but what the heck? I've always considered the comic market place as a pop culture barometer anyway. If you like high-pitched action, drama, and excitement, then this is the book for you.
AH : Yeah, yeah, yeah. Any other projects in the works?
GULACY : Right now I'm working on a seven page Story for Cyclone Comics that will appear only in Australia. After that, it's another big story for Marvel Comics Presents with Gerard Jones featuring Shanna the She-Devil. I wonder if she will still be Shanna once we get through with her. (laughter)
AH : Any other writers you 'd like to work with?
GULACY : I'd like to do something with Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Roy Thomas, and Mike Baron to name a few. Harlan Ellison would be a kick. Tim Truman and I have discussed doing a big civil war saga. I'd like to see that come about.
AH : All that should keep you busy.Any closing comments, Paul?
GULACY : The work is cut out and this 0l' boy ain't ready for the pasture yet.