Interview With Tony Salmons
(October 2012)

Artist Tony Salmons has worked in the comics industry for many decades, including many titles for Marvel. In 1986, Salmons worked on a story featuring Daredevil called "Cars" in MARVEL FANFARE #27. I got in touch with him and asked him a few questions about this story, as it is one of my favorites. Look for it in your store's back issue bin.

Kuljit Mithra: First off, just wanted to say thank you for this chance to interview you. You're probably wondering why I'm going to ask you questions about a story you did back in 1986 for MARVEL FANFARE #27 ("Cars"), but it was one of the first Daredevil stories I read when I first started collecting comics. I remember the cover with DD and the cars and the buildings. I also remember something in the front cover in the "Editori-Al" feature that was focusing on your "unorthodox" style of artwork, but looking at it now, it doesn't seem so out of place... was your style really so different than what Marvel was used to?

Tony Salmons: My pleasure, Kuljit. My stuff wasn't all that unusual in those days at Marvel. But certain people had "the wand passed over them" and were able to get away with a lot more than others. It's one of those things that happens in companys. Bill Sienkiewicz, Kent Williams and others were way beyond my experiments. Their stuff was terribly exciting because of the challenges they confronted.

Mithra: For these kinds of short stories for anthology books, are you brought in at the last minute, or had you always been assigned this job to draw Bill Mantlo's story? How was it working with him? Or did you even have contact with him, and were you working in the "Marvel Method"?

Salmons: I had no contact with Bill Mantlo beyond the casual encounters in the offices. He was a very nice guy with a dynamic work ethic and gentle as he was he stood up to Marvel in one of the unsung contract/creator suits in comics history. He was a night law student in addition to working as a writer/creator at Marvel. He was struck down in traffic in NY. He was comatose for a lengthy period.

The DD story was "off the shelf" in the Fanfare office. It was one of the few what were called, "inventory jobs," w/o deadlines. I liked working w/o deadlines because I wasn't that fast and was still experimenting and learning. Other inventory jobs I worked on were called in as soon as they were anywhere near the middle when the editor's schedule closed in.

But it was a fun job. I felt I was headed at least in a better direction with some ideas I didn't get to fully explore at Marvel. Too bad for me, too bad for them.

Mithra: What was it about this DD story that was fun for you? Trying new layouts, styles?

Salmons: You pretty much describe it in the qualifications of your question. There was no script but a 6 or so page plot, Marvel style (read: Kirby, whenever he worked with writer). Additionally, it was a mainstream character, which I was positivly panting for at the time. Milgrom was great to work with, in that respect. He let me go and it was troubling and thrilling at once. My level of craft and technique hadn't caught up with my ideas. Too bad it didn't go much further at Marvel.

When I went (ill-fatedly) to First Comics on the John Sable job after that, I couldn't believe it when after over 50 pages of work I'd not been asked to redraw a single image or figure. It was revolutionary for me. I can remember right now sitting here at this Qwerty board what that was like and why, as a result, I kept trying. No credit to First. They were an unmitigated disaster for me, professionally. That is, over pay delays.

Mithra: For "Cars", you did all the artwork... pencils, inks, colors... I wanted to ask you about the colouring process back then before Photoshop. Were you writing out CMYK (is that the right term?) codes, or were you using markers?

Salmons: I didn't do the color for "Cars." I haven't looked at it in a while but I may be credited that way. I would've colored any of my work, however. In those days especially, pigeon-holing was nearly universal. With some editors it was unspeakable to even bring it up. Neither did I co-create Nightmask. I'm credited with that but it was full-blown and scripted when I was handed the job.

For the DD story Bill had written an excellent 6-7 page synopsis that left plenty of room to spread out the images and the pacing. A great pleasure for me and still the way I prefer to work. I do my best stuff and everyone responds to the work as my best when I'm allowed to work in this fashion. The jobs that I care for least were worked from full scripts. The jobs that editors complained about the most were full script. Still are.

Mithra: You're right, I just checked again and saw you were credited as "Art" but I completely missed Glynis Wein on Colors. You mentioned that you liked working with an outline/synopsis rather than full script... what do you find so restrictive about the full script? It doesn't feel like your own ideas on the page?

Salmons: I'll ask you in turn, what I used to ask my kids when they asked a question: Do you want the long answer or the short answer?

They learned to ask for the 'short answer' but got the long one inevitably.

I'm not jealous or avaricious for intellectual properties, when it comes to company ideas/properties. When my own ideas/properties are at stake it's another animal. For established properties at the companies, I'm only interested in punching that story, scene by scene, right through the veiwer's eye and pulling everything out of a scene/shot that I can. After that, I'm jealous of having the room to accomplish this. This work ethic is commonly interpreted by company types as ego, difficult to work with, etc. If I didn't care on this level, I'd just drive a truck for the editor/writer relationship. The editor/writer relationship is primary at Marvel/DC, and smaller publishers imitate it.

A senior editor teased me with a job (didn't come through again, of course) like Lucy with the football, again. He demanded my, "A game." This was insulting to me. A whole story here with this guy for another time, but it illustrates exactly the problem I've always struggled against in corporate-comics. All of my "B game" jobs are a result of following shot-by-shot with editor/writers who've never done a comic, never drawn a comic book page and have virtually no understanding of the anatomy of a comic book page. So if I have a "B game," a "C or a D or an F game" it's because I followed shot-by-shot calls from guys who don't do comics. They have usually, a movie in mind, most commonly, recently, from H'Wood slummers who're trying to sell their movie ideas in H'Wood. Something that isn't appropriate to the format of a comic book. So, my ego, my jealousy, is for the intent and integrity of the story/scene/shot in a comic book. The simple charm of a comic book is lost on most creatives and all editors. Comic books first. And I defend this and will suffer to work no other way.

Mithra: On the FANFARE #27 cover, one thing I always remember is the bulkiness in the way you drew Daredevil, and I know I've seen a version of that cover where there's a slight bend in his body. Considering Marvel made a point of saying you were "unorthodox", did they give you are hard time with this cover?

Salmons: Body-types, yeah. Also lived-in faces and casting against type. I prefer an older leading man to the younger swimmer's body that is popular in this culture. I always have. By the time I considered drawing comics most of my favorite film stars were middle-aged: Charlton Heston, John Wayne, Kirk Douglas were all mature males. More Zeus-like than Mercury. No pun but the greater mass of the figures adds gravity to the roles. I still feel this way.

Viewers now actually want to "be" the characters in images as never before. I had no meaningful illusion that I was going to "be" my heroes. I identified with them strongly to play the roles out in the narratives but the goal for me was to play all of the roles in the story and I had no determining fetish for the popular types. I draw a lot of other body types including the poplular forms. I actually do a fair good-girl but don't chase it.

Fanfare was created to be out of the main line of characters so there was zero interference, as far as my stuff, even when using main-stream characters. That cover figure of DD is an odd one. But it's one of the things I was trying to bring into my drawing to add something else than usual and catch the eye. I think that one did more of the latter, perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Mithra: Had you been a fan of the character before this? If so, any favourite artists that influenced any particular panels in the story... I'm reminded of Bill Sienkiewicz in some places.

Salmons: I loved the Gene Colan DDs as well as everything else he ever did. That's about it. Can't say enough about this most-naturally gifted draftsman. I still rely on Colan in my work. I really dug seeing Kirby draw Daredevil in the FF.

As I said earlier, Sienkiewicz, Kent Williams and a lot of other alternative and foreign artists were touchstones for my own learning curve.

Mithra: Gene Colan's artwork was something I came to appreciate as I started reading back issues of DD... just the originality in his work... there was no one else quite like him. What did you like most about his work? I enjoyed that his panels felt like a movie playing out in front of me on the page.

Salmons: Gene Colan will in later times, be regarded as a visionary, generations before his time and mine and ours. His characters/casting was superior to almost anything, even today. He was filmic, explosive evocative of film in a way that anyone else was and in some ways, still aren't. The stuff was/is unparalelled. He's a constant source and inspiration whenever I'm working. I met him once or twice but I never intruded with Kirby or many of these guys because it seemed superfluous to talk about my own stuff. It was enough to meet them.

Mithra: Thanks again for answering my questions, I appreciate it.

Salmons: Thanks, Kuljit.

(c) 2012 Kuljit Mithra & Tony Salmons
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear

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