Comic Book Historians

Tim Sale: The Gentleman's Artist part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson

April 30, 2019 Comic Book Historians Season 1 Episode 40
Comic Book Historians
Tim Sale: The Gentleman's Artist part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
Comic Book Historians
Tim Sale: The Gentleman's Artist part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
Apr 30, 2019 Season 1 Episode 40
Comic Book Historians

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview Tim Sale, discussing his life and career in a second of a 2 parter which covers his work from his Marvel Color series and his involvement in the Heroes TV show in 2005, Superman Confidential with Darwyn Cooke, the Captain America White series which changed the way he and Jeph Loeb worked together, his run ins with various pop cultures figure like Joss Whedon, his artistic influences like Steve Ditko, Alex Toth, Neal Adams, Normal Rockwell, Mark Chiarello and more! Music - Standard License. Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders, CBH Podcast ©Comic Book Historians. Artwork ©Comic Book Historians. Support us at

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Show Notes Transcript

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview Tim Sale, discussing his life and career in a second of a 2 parter which covers his work from his Marvel Color series and his involvement in the Heroes TV show in 2005, Superman Confidential with Darwyn Cooke, the Captain America White series which changed the way he and Jeph Loeb worked together, his run ins with various pop cultures figure like Joss Whedon, his artistic influences like Steve Ditko, Alex Toth, Neal Adams, Normal Rockwell, Mark Chiarello and more! Music - Standard License. Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders, CBH Podcast ©Comic Book Historians. Artwork ©Comic Book Historians. Support us at

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Alex: In 2005, your artwork was in Heroes season one. You guys had talked about that a little bit earlier. How did that gig come about exactly to do that?

Tim: I get a call from Jeph, who says, “There’s a guy named Tim Kring. He’s had a successful show on NBC for 10 years. It’s coming to an end.” The next thing he wants to do is this story. He’s written a script for it. I guided him through the script a little bit. It’s kind of a superhero story, but he wants to make sure that when he sends the script to NBC executives, that he can do all he can for it, so he wants some illustrations to go with the script.” He puts me in touch with Kring. I talk to Kring. We talked through some stuff. That’s where the atom bomb vision comes from.

Alex: Yeah. Right.

Tim: I did that. Then next thing I know, I get a phone call from Greg’s office saying, “He’d like to see me in his office at Universal.”

Alex: Oh cool.

Tim: I show up, and there’s a producer and a director, and a couple other writers, and Kring there. They had already sold the pilot, or they were about to make the pilot.

Alex: Right.

Tim: They were at a point where they had decided that art work should be a part of telling the story.

Alex: Sure. It makes sense.

Tim: So they wanted to know my painting ability. I said, “Well I’m colorblind. I can’t paint. But you have a computer on your desk. Let me show you what we do in comics.” When I do ink wash, it’s colored on a computer. It looks like painting. So I did, and I was hired.

Tim: I show up at a location shoot somewhere outside of San Bernardino. I get there just in time for lunch. We meet in this trailer. I met the prop master who was going to be my liaison, and it turns out she lives like a mile from where I was living. She was my go between for all the stuff, all the things people remember. But in that meeting, there were like 20 people at the table. The director’s there. He’s trying to bounce some stuff off of me. He’s thinking visually of … It sounds kind of Hollywood to me. It was Hollywood.

Tim: The person I was going to be working with was the prop master. Her name was Gay Perello. She had worked for a long time on the previous show that Kring had done, Crossing Jordan, something like that. They were reluctant to film something and then just give me a screen capture, which I repeatedly said is going to save you a lot of time if you just do that. If you’re going to ask me to draw something, and then when you go to film it, it’s not what you want, I’m going to have to redraw it. It’s not like moving a camera 10 inches to the right, and you can just make it happen. I have to redraw this.

Alex: Yeah. That’s right.

Tim: That was something Jeph had to learned. Can you just shift it to the… you mean redraw it? Well I suppose I could.

Alex: Redraw the entire thing, yeah.

Tim: Jeph actually used that line in the writers’ room to directors when were talking about things. So we repeated me to them.

Jim: That’s funny.

Tim: So it took a little bit of time, but it happened during the pilot, where the show figured it out, filmed it first. Give me a screen capture. That was the most obvious one. The first scene with the art is in the artist studio, and he’s destroying all these pictures. They made multiple copies of all the pictures, just to make sure they had enough for all the takes they had to do. A lot of people ended up with props that they could take home. The first one was an exploding bus that was on the Gaza Strip, that they spent money to buy from a photo house, which he didn’t want to have to do.

Tim: The second one was the train wreck. She had an in house guy that was a part of the prop department color the bus. I didn’t like it, but it was okay. She showed me … She actually came. I was at a convention in LA. She showed up and showed me what he had done with the train wreck. I said, “Well that is just not going to work at all.” She said, “Yeah, I wanted to show it to you. I was hoping you would say that.” I said, “Well I got a guy.” That was Dave Stewart.

Alex: Oh okay.

Tim: Then he was the only other guy that they used ever. I have a copy of the train wreck in my house.

Alex: Oh cool.

Tim: It’s one of those things that’s like what the fuck am I going to do with this? It’s very impressive, but it’s six feet by three feet, and it’s a train wreck for crying out loud, and fire. You know?

Alex: Yeah, it takes a lot of space.

Tim: Plus who wants to look at that?

Alex: Right.

Tim: Except me.

Jim: I’ll take it.

Tim: Yeah. That was my first experience with Heroes. The first season was nothing but fun. It surprised everybody working in the show, how it took off. There would be group emails from the studio, or from people dealing with the studio, about how the ratings were through the roof, and going up and up and up.

Jim: It was a good first season.

Tim: It was. Then a disastrous finale.

Alex: Yup. Like anti-climactic.

Tim: Then written by Kring, writer’s strike. They hadn’t figured out what they’d done wrong at the end of the first season, but I had an art in every season. It was just rock paintings or graffiti.

Alex: Right. right.

Tim: And I didn’t make very much money on it. I was paid a salary. They say they didn’t know. They didn’t know, but that’s why you had an agent. I had an agent. That the art work would drive the show, because it had never happened before. The idea was that I was going to be getting a salary whether or not they wanted any of the art that week or not.

Tim: But not only did they want art every week. They wanted multiple things. There was no scale that, well, okay, if we have to do more than one piece, you get X amount of money. Then my agent at the time sold every piece from the pilot right away.

Jim: That’s crazy.

Tim: I said, “What are you doing?” He said, and he had already done it. He said, “Tim, I’ve been involved with these things for a long time. It never really adds up to anything.”

Jim: It took off like crazy.

Tim: This is Mitch Jitkowitz. He probably cost me $100,000, $150,000.

Alex: Okay, that’s frustrating.

Jim: Because in that first season, those pieces-

Tim: It was the only season where there was any money to be made.

Jim: Yeah, but that was it. You were going to make money off of that without question.

Tim: Right. So I didn’t.

Jim Thompson: Alright, Superman Confidential. Where you’re working with Darwyn, how weird was it or good was it to work with another artist as a writer? I know you were an admirer of his, was that a fun project to do together?

Tim Sale: Well, first of all, Jeph had left for Marvel. I was still under contract with DC-

Jim Thompson: Right.

Tim Sale: So I was bereft. Dan DiDio had the idea of a series of Confidential books, first of which would be Superman. Pairing me with Darwyn was a dream come true-

Jim Thompson: Right.

Tim Sale: But I still had never worked with Darwyn, well I did Date Night with him-

Alex Grand: Right.

Tim Sale: But he wrote like page one, this is what happens, three lines. So I fleshed out that a lot. Because that’s all he had, he was gonna do it himself. It was just on his shelf, so he’d never written much more than that. I took it from that and it was a joy, obviously. Problems were, Darwyn didn’t really have a story. I think he thought, this is for the Confidential, I think he thought he was gonna figure out as he was going, and he really never did.

Tim Sale: He also wasn’t communicating with Chiarello, who was the editor, and me, about where we were going. I had to do the covers before a lot of the stuff was printed. Sort of first, right? All at once. There is a Kryptonite rock, a rock of Kryptonite which a being is inside of it. We don’t know if that being is innocent, evil, whatever, and couldn’t get Darwyn to say so. So-

Alex Grand: Right.

Tim Sale: I drew covers where they were fighting and it turns out he’s supposed to be beneficial to mankind. So it was totally out of whack, I was drawing half of it without knowing any idea where we were going. But in between those things, there were moments of just Darwynian, Loebian vignettes that were just so perfect.

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Tim Sale: We begin with a date night on the Eiffel Tower. Anyway, there’s a scene with a polar bear at the Fortress of Solitude that Darwyn, in print, said, “I wrote my first Tim Sale scene.”

Tim Sale: So he knew what that was-

Alex Grand: Right.

Tim Sale: He just didn’t do very many of them and that was frustrating.

Alex Grand: But everybody had to, I mean, Jeph Loeb had to learn how to do that, right?

Tim Sale: Yeah, but Darwyn knew how to do it. He knew exactly what it was. Jeph showed him what it was and Darwyn knew what to do, he also wanted to tell this other story that he hadn’t figured out, yet. If he’d figured it out, I’m sure it would’ve been a much more satisfying experience. But I slowed way down because I was just, what the hell are you doing? I wanna be inspired.

Tim Sale: He wouldn’t talk with me, I couldn’t get him on the phone. There’s no back and forth, I was used to that with Jeph. There were things like the polar bear, the date on the Eiffel Tower, all the stuff when we went back to Kansas.. Superman swallowing lava? He didn’t know if he would be okay-

Alex Grand: Hahaha.

Tim Sale: On the inside.

Alex Grand: Right.

Tim Sale: He’s terrified and he shows up at his parents house going “gaaahhh..”

Alex Grand: Like what’s gonna happen?

Tim Sale: No, he just went through this horrible experience. One of my favorite panels I’ve ever drawn, one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever drawn is he vomits lava on his hands and knees on the beach of this- Atoll that he’s saved and there’s the dog singed and smoking, barking at him, while he’s doing this.

Alex Grand: Hmm.

Tim Sale: No explanation, no anything about it.

Jim Thompson: Final question on Confidential was, it seems like you could do Batman for ever and just do new things about it.. was part of the Confidential thing that you just nailed it with Man for All Seasons. Do you think you have as many Superman representations as you do Batman?

Tim Sale: Not Superman, but Superman’s world, especially as it pertains to Kansas. I think there’s a lot of stories that can be told there, sort of him going home but also early stories.. Lana and Pete, Ma and Pa. I tried to imply some of that with my faux photographed Polaroids that I did in the beginning of the collection. There’s a swimming hole, there’s baby Clark with Rusty, the dog that never really lived – you know that story?

Jim Thompson: Yeah.

Tim Sale: Yeah?

Jim Thompson: Yeah.

Tim Sale: And stuff like that, but he doesn’t have a real gallery that interests me. He doesn’t have that kind of thing, it’s really the Kansas stuff that interests me.

Alex Grand: Oh, interesting.

Jim Thompson: When you saw Superman the film-

Tim Sale: The films really interest me.

Jim Thompson: I am so on board with that. When you saw Superman the movie-


Tim Sale: Which one?

Jim Thompson: 78.

Alex Grand: 78 with Christopher Reeve.

Jim Thompson: Yeah, for me that’s Glenn Ford and that particular aspect is the one that catches me emotionally. When Pa Kent dies, everything about it, the angst of being able to do everything but not show off about it-

Tim Sale: Right.

Jim Thompson: I love that stuff. That’s probably the part that catches me the most and you got that so well in a Man for All Seasons-

Tim Sale: That’s Rockwell. A lot of that is Rockwell-

Jim Thompson: Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. So that is your Superman, isn’t it?

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Jim Thompson: To some degree?

Tim Sale: I didn’t draw it to that, I drew it to Rockwell.

Jim Thompson: Right. Then you do-

Tim Sale: Jeph was more of a fan of that movie than I was. First thing I think of is, “I like pink very much, Lois.” So it’s not-

Alex Grand: Haha.

Tim Sale: There’s a lot that’s really dated and a lot that works in Kansas but I think we did Kansas better than the movie did. I think Darwyn did Kansas better than the movie did.

Jim Thompson: Darwyn does everything better. I know you don’t care for Wonder Woman, Darwyn nails Wonder Woman in New Frontier. He makes it more interesting than anybody ever did, I ever saw.

Tim Sale: I agree. I own that page.

Jim Thompson: Huh. Seriously?

Tim Sale: Yeah. He hand-lettered it for me.

Alex Grand: There’s the Door, Spaceman you own that page? That’s great.

Jim Thompson: Wow.

Tim Sale: Clark, come in. Join us.

Jim Thompson: No one ever got Wonder Woman as good as Darwyn.

Tim Sale: Kal-El, come in. From that to the niggers over here, just the range of that scope of that story. I rarely go to the Comic Book store, but I had gone to the Comic Book store and I saw The New Frontier and I looked at it and I was flipping through and saw full page spreads and three panels of the page, it just looked great. I loved the drawing. I took it home, read it. I remember reading it at the gym, of all places.

Tim Sale: We were reading, the two pages were Martian Manhunter is changing shape-

Jim Thompson: Yeah.

Tim Sale: As they’re watching tv. Showing it to my girlfriend at the time who was in the gym with me. “Hey, look at this, this is great!” She’s like, “What are you talking about?”

Tim Sale: We talked about it earlier, I wrote a fan letter and that was just saying to Darwyn, to Dave and to Chiarello, what a perfect story and how much I admired it. I didn’t know any of the DCU, so I was learning all of these people. Darwyn is a huge Military guy-

Jim Thompson: Challengers, though. You knew Challengers.

Tim Sale: No, I didn’t know Challengers. We made up Challengers. Jeph and I had no history with Challengers. We-

Jim Thompson: So when you saw Ace Morgan as that character, you must’ve said, “Holy shit!”

Tim Sale: Jeph said to me, “As far as I know, these are four guys who look exactly alike except with different hair. We’re going to make them as different as we can. So I didn’t know The Challengers, but I didn’t know the Losers, either.

Jim Thompson: Ah.

Tim Sale: The first Issue begins and 15 pages in, they all die. I’m like, “What the hell is going on here?”

Jim Thompson: ‘Cause they’re losers!

Tim Sale: I guess, but jumping into the fucking dinosaurs mouth.. how great is that? Anyway, I had no idea where I was but I loved it and that’s a very rare thing for me, in Comics. The only other time I felt like I’ve discovered something that the world already really knew was Black Sad.

Jim Thompson: I was gonna ask you about that- Because that knocks me out, too.

Tim Sale: I saw the first Issue, first Volume in Paris, in a store. I looked through it and, “Oh my god, this is great.” I went and saw my friends and said, “Do you guys know this?” They said, “Yeah, it’s the number one book in Paris.” I said, “Oh, okay.. well..”

Jim Thompson: Is that the first Issue or the polar bear Issue?

Tim Sale: No, the first Issue was the cigarette.

Jim Thompson: Yeah, okay.

Tim Sale: Polar bear issue’s.. I was gonna say better, it’s not better it’s more ambitious. The first one is strictly Private Eye.

Jim Thompson: That polar bear is artistically designed, it’s like evil in a way that.. God, it’s amazing.

Tim Sale: I owned two color sketches that  did just working out color stuff, but she does a lot before it gets to the page. One is the hanging of the bird that we see in page two-

Jim Thompson: Yep.

Tim Sale: The other is the three horses that call out Black Sad for being half black, half white because of the “What happened to your snout?” He says to him.

Jim Thompson: Black Sad is brilliant.

Tim Sale: It’s all anthropomorphic. He’s a house cat private eye. Jim was talking about the polar bear, the second volume is all about racism. First one is just straight ahead private eye, San Frisbay stuff.

Alex Grand: Right.

Tim Sale: The first two haven’t been topped. There are three more.

Jim Thompson: At some point, you just say, “You’re not gonna do better.”

Tim Sale: Right.

Jim Thompson: That’s common with so many Comics. That’s where you had it.

Tim Sale: But the level of artistry is always superb.

Jim Thompson: When you got an Eisner, which you did get one, it also has to do with the notion of Eisner because when you list all of your favorite artists, that are most influential, you didn’t mention Eisner-

Tim Sale: Right.

Jim Thompson: What was it like to get an Eisner and what is your relationship with Will Eisner in terms of, as an artist?

Tim Sale: Getting the Eisner was two-fold. One was, I was very nervous and did not thank Jeph and he said to me, “If you ever win another award and you don’t thank me, I will never forgive you.”

Alex Grand: Hahaha.

Jim Thompson: Did he mean it?

Tim Sale: I think he did. I admire Eisner more than I like his work. As a ground breaker, as an interested artist trying to tell different stories different ways, and the variety of stories that he wanted to tell is vast.. and did tell, is vast.

Tim Sale: But I never was really drawn.. some of the splashes, sure. I never was really drawn to the stories or maybe there’s a kind of archness or datedness to the dialogue and the situations and things like that. He never made an impression on me the way that I guess his minions did.

Alex Grand: Hahaha.

Jim Thompson: Does that include Darwyn? Did you ever talk to Cooke about that?

Tim Sale: No.

Jim Thompson: He obviously had investment.

Tim Sale: No, because I don’t think that’s Darwyn’s best work, also.. Darwyn was too in love with Eisner to make it his own.

Jim Thompson: What is Darwyn’s best work?

Tim Sale: New Frontier and Solo.

Jim Thompson: Ah. How do you feel about Parker?

Tim Sale: Unreadable.

Jim Thompson: Well that is really interesting to me. Why?

Tim Sale: It’s too nihilistic.

Jim Thompson: Because of the source material?

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Jim Thompson: Yeah.

Tim Sale: Darwyn’s part was spectacular but he was so in love with Westlake.

Jim Thompson: Right.

Tim Sale: His relation with Westlake, his personal relationship, he revered and leaves me cold.

Jim Thompson: You think he-

Tim Sale: But I have it all because I love the graphics of it, but-

Jim Thompson: But he successfully captures it and that’s what the problem is, right? I mean, he-

Tim Sale: Yeah, and I have no interest in reading Westlake.

Alex Grand: Right, I see.

Jim Thompson: Boy, I think the visuals, it’s some of his-

Tim Sale: They’re great.

Jim Thompson: It’s some of his best work, but I understand what you’re saying in.. it’s his best work in a way that is not what you wanna see him do.

Tim Sale: It’s cold blooded. The art reflects that. There are some really interesting story telling techniques that he’ll do. I can think of a number of pages where he’ll encapsulate, I’m sure are twenty pages, into this sort of montage.. and then he’ll go into panels. He’ll know just when to do that.

Tim Sale: On the other hand, he’ll have a page like Parker’s drinking a bottle of whiskey, we see a window, we see a bottle of whiskey fly out of the window and smash against the wall across the alley and then we’ll go back to just the window. That’s it.

Jim Thompson: Yeah.

Tim Sale: Just great story telling.

Tim Sale: You can only do that when you’re writing it yourself or adapting it yourself, or you’re working with a writer who says, “this is what we need here.” And that’s rare, that’s really rare.

Jim Thompson: Is there something that you would have liked to have adapted? ‘Cause I know you’re interested in film, you have a good knowledge of film.. I think of Simonson doing Alien and it’s like, “Man, he nailed that so well.”

Tim Sale: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Thompson: Is there anything you would have liked to have done as an adaptation either film or in literary that you are just dying to do that you haven’t gotten to do?

Tim Sale: Nothing comes to mind.

Alex Grand: What about Caged Heat on Cinemax? No, I’m kidding. That’d be interesting, though. I’d read your take on that.

Jim Thompson: There are such sensibilities with you. Things that are obviously you – like with Man for All Seasons, you got it with that notion. Is there anything.. just a movie or a piece of literature that you’d like.. “I can do that.”?

Alex Grand: Well, you mentioned Conan before.


Tim Sale: I don’t know what I could bring that Frazetta and Kubrick didn’t-

Alex Grand: I see what you’re saying.

Tim Sale: Following Potter’s model for black and white vignette drawings, twenty or thirty of them throughout a small book and there’d be four color full page things. There’s no money in any of that. There’s too much work to try and get it off the ground. The Sports Writer? For like Saturday evening post and things like that, who wrote a book called the Snow Goose which has been adapted by the BBC in the 70’s. Harris and Jenny Aguttar, a heart throb in the 70’s-

Alex Grand: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tim Sale: It’s about a young girl growing up in the South Marsh Coast of England and coming of age through a number of years and she meets the kind of, legendary, ogreish person who lives.. not in the marsh, but in the marshlands in a house and stuff. He’s not hunchback, he’s crippled in one arm or something like that. He’s an artist and he paints the geese and he teachers her, she comes to him with an injured goose and says, “I’m told that you know how to heal.” They try and he says, “The way that we’ll know if she’s okay is if she comes back next year.”

Tim Sale: So it takes place over a long period of time so as they grow older, she becomes 15, 16, 17, they begin a kind of relationship and then Normandy happens because that’s where it is. That’s where it’s set. She comes to see him and he’s getting in a boat and says, “I have to go, I have to go save some people.” She begs him not to go, it’s just a heartbreaking story. He doesn’t come back, but the goose does, right? It’s like a 90 page noveletta and I’ve always wanted to illustrate it. I did some sketching of it when I was in New York, in 1976. Very influenced by Potter but outside of that, I haven’t ventured beyond Comics. If somebody paid me to do it, I would do that tomorrow.

Jim Thompson: Let’s talk about Tim Sale black and white.

Tim Sale: Richard Starkings believed there was a way to make money by championing various artists. He had done this with Jeff Scott Campbell which was much more just an interview book. But for me, background and backbone was a interview where he would drive up from LAX and drive to Pasadena and spend six hours talking and taping in an interview with me. Birth the Earth, as they say in West Side Story – and just went out and gathered a gazillion images of mine and populated this big, beautiful book.

Jim Thompson: What was the last version that was published?

Tim Sale: Heroes in the Backyard. There were only two. One was the new, sort of smaller 9 by 12 version and then there was a bigger-

Jim Thompson: Hardcover.

Tim Sale: Hardcover, the colored cover, and had 300 more pages in it and had a colored section. It’s subtitle was, Drawing Heroes in the Backyard, which meant that I was working on Heroes and I worked in my studio, which was my backyard. But there was no more interview than in the previous one, but a lot more art.

Jim Thompson: Would you like to do a revised version?

Tim Sale: I don’t think it needs it, yet. I would like to hope that there’s a point where it might make sense. There isn’t that, just now.

Jim Thompson: That’s a good answer.

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Tim Sale: That was a real joy to put together. I love Richard. He’s smart, he asks great questions, interested. He was easy to edit with when we go through all that, so it was great.

Jim Thompson: It’s a super smart interview with you-

Tim Sale: I agree.

Jim Thompson: Yes, it’s something for us to aspire to. All the questions asked are very smart, I respect that book a lot.

Tim Sale: There was a lot of editing because we were chatting a good deal of the time, right? Just in my living room, talking and drinking beer.

Jim Thompson: That’s the difference. We’re drinking Gin and that was beer. So maybe it’s-

Tim Sale: No, I don’t think that’s the difference.

Jim Thompson: Hahaha, just tried it.

Tim Sale: Yes, casual. The dogs were laying around.

Alex Grand: We’ve got our version of that.

Jim Thompson: Joss Whedon-

Tim Sale: What?

Jim Thompson: Did you ever have a conversation with him?

Tim Sale: Yeah. One of the one.

Jim Thompson: I just want to say because Tim did a Tales of the Slayer and it was a very good one. As a Buffy fan, I want to ask him about this. I want to know about your experience with Whedon.

Tim Sale: I was a Buffy fan.

Alex Grand: You’re a Buffy, the tv show, fan?

Jim Thompson: Yeah, there is no other.

Tim Sale: Joss is an odd duck. It’s hard to have a conversation with him without thinking that he’s working on a lot of different levels.

Alex Grand: Oh, okay.

Jim Thompson: This is super interesting. I don’t know if you’re a big fan, but Joss is an odd duck – let’s talk about this.

Tim Sale: I wanted, right away, to connect with him because I was a fan. Jeph knew nothing about Buffy, he faked it, he asked Richard for the entire box set for Buffy DVD’s the day before he had to go to audition for a job on Buffy. So he bulleted through all those episodes, I said, “You could’ve just asked Richard or me.” Anyway, I met Joss first on.. maybe on set. I remember showing up on set and showing Jeph a two page spread from the Subway scene and the train is rocketing past him but not on the track because he’s killed, one of the fixers died.

Jim Thompson: Right.

Tim Sale: Anyway, I showed up to show Jeph and I showed that to Willow, actually. She was very sweet and said, “Oh, that’s so great.” But whatever, every conversation I ever had with Joss was uncomfortable in some way-

Alex Grand: Hahaha.

Tim Sale: It was weird. Including working on Tales of the Slayer.

Tim Sale: “What do you want to do?”

Tim Sale: “No, I don’t want to do this.. let’s do something medieval.”

Tim Sale: “Okay.”

Tim Sale: He just wrote something and-

Jim Thompson: Was he smart about it? What was weird?

Tim Sale: Smart how?

Jim Thompson: Well, that’s what I’m asking. You said it was weird, but he seems-

Alex Grand: Is it because his mind was in other places so you didn’t feel like he was listening to the conversation at the moment?

Tim Sale: I don’t know if I know that.

Alex Grand: I see. So maybe what was going on in his mind, it didn’t feel like he was quite with you in the conversation, from your perception.

Tim Sale: There was always a sense of disconnect.

Alex Grand: Disconnect from the moment.

Tim Sale: I also remember a time when I had a drink with him at the Marriott in San Diego, very quiet. Somehow, Kirk Douglas movie The Bad and the Beautiful-

Jim Thompson: Oh, yeah.

Tim Sale: Came up. I talked about how I loved it.

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Tim Sale: It was a real moment of connecting that could’ve happened because he said, “I love that movie.”

Alex Grand: Huh.

Tim Sale: Then it went nowhere.

Alex Grand: Hahahaha. Right, ’cause he wasn’t connected to the conversation, it sounds like.

Tim Sale: Something. I don’t know what-

Jim Thompson: But he gets movies! He is a natural in terms of musicals, whatever he does whether it’s a Glee episode, obviously Once More with Feeling, he really knows how to do a musical in a way that so many people don’t. What you’re saying is he can’t relate it in a conversation?

Tim Sale: He couldn’t with me. I don’t know if he could with someone else.

Alex Grand: Right, right. That’s interesting.

Tim Sale: He’s just awkward socially.

Alex Grand: There you go, that’s the bottom line there, it sounds like. But talented in what he does.

Tim Sale: Yeah,

Alex Grand: Right.

Jim Thompson: You know, that’s weird to lack sensibility and be in that field that we’re all interested in. Half the people who deal with it are socially-

Tim Sale: Right, it makes perfect sense. But-

Jim Thompson: Yeah.

Tim Sale: Nonetheless.

Jim Thompson: Did animation influence you at all? Did Manga? Because it almost looks like it would, except I don’t think it does necessarily.

Tim Sale: No.

Jim Thompson: But Manga especially, you have those things in a bit but I don’t think it is actually there.

Tim Sale: No.

Jim Thompson: I think it would be a misunderstanding.

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Jim Thompson: Okay.

Alex Grand: Hahaha.

Jim Thompson: But you understand why I’m saying it, right?

Tim Sale: Not really sure.

Jim Thompson: Okay, alright. Fair enough.

Jim Thompson: You have mentioned, multiple times, Mark Chiarello.

Tim Sale: Chiarello.

Jim Thompson: Chiarello. I think he’s beyond awesome.

Tim Sale: Me, too.

Jim Thompson: How do you feel about DC firing him? How do you feel about his work in general and his impact on your career?

Tim Sale: I think it’s an idiot move-

Jim Thompson: Beyond it, yeah.

Tim Sale: On DC’s part.

Jim Thompson: Furious.

Tim Sale: Especially as I understand it, it’s a money move. It just shows the ignorance of the people who are making these decisions.. which are, if they’re based on money, short sided, because there’s nobody that has a greater standing in the artistic community to get talented people to come to your company than Chiarello. To be self landing for talent, including me, absolutely.

Tim Sale: So I selfishly mourn it. I also think it’s fucking stupid as a Corporate point of view. Now I understand that, from speaking to Mark, he’s doing fine.. but still pisses me off.

Jim Thompson: Between him and Karen Berger, it seems like some of the firings are the dumbest things I can even imagine being-

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Jim Thompson: In terms of DC, those would be the two that.. it’s like, “What in the world are you doing?”

Tim Sale: My history with Karen is not great, so it comes down to the side of Chiarello, if we’re going to pair the two.

Jim Thompson: But you would understand why-

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Jim Thompson: General person

Tim Sale: Sure.

Jim Thompson: Might say that.

Jim Thompson: What’s your relationship?

Tim Sale: Karen would look at me and then walk right past until I made money for the company, then she was my best friend.

Alex Grand: Yeah, I see.

Jim Thompson: Ah. I haven’t heard a lot of negative criticism about her.

Tim Sale: She was.. anything English, automatically better.

Alex Grand: English, you mean as in British?

Jim Thompson: Yes. Almost fetish, I would say.

Alex Grand: Anglophiles.

Jim Thompson: But, boy they were hitting it hard, too.

Tim Sale: She wasn’t trying to find anything else. She was enthralled with anything that came from the Isles.

Alex Grand: Right, that makes sense.

Tim Sale: I think that because of how she treated me.

Jim Thompson: You could’ve been, you’re perfect for that-

Tim Sale: I didn’t aspire to that, there’s no money in that, really. Until you get on Entertainment Weekly, I guess. You don’t make any money and I was interested in making money with Jeph and doing all this stuff that I really enjoyed doing.

Tim Sale: Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have enjoyed doing some stuff for Vertigo if Karen had thought of putting me together with somebody or asked somebody who they might wanna work with and they came up with me, there are all kinds of ways that it could’ve worked.. but it didn’t.

Tim Sale: But her walking right past me until she was interested that I was making money for the company is a deal breaker.

Jim Thompson: She did have a better sense in terms of writing. The thing on Vertigo, during a certain period of time was, the writing was better than the art.

Tim Sale: Yeah. I’ll never forget her praising Alan Moore’s hysterically over written prose at the beginning.

Jim Thompson: Haha.

Tim Sale: Real literature somehow.

Alex Grand: Right.

Tim Sale: Raindrops splashing on the.. it was just hysterically written.

Alex Grand: Hahaha.

Tim Sale: I have to think intentionally and she took it literally.

Alex Grand: Right, it’s perfect.

Tim Sale: That’s literature. She lost my interest and my respect.

Alex Grand: Yeah, that’s interesting.

Jim Thompson: He was-

Tim Sale: You know what I’m talking about.

Jim Thompson: He was-

Alex Grand: I know, I’ve met people like that.

Tim Sale: From the very beginning.

Alex Grand: But I know that issue, too. That’s how he started it off, right?

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Alex Grand: Very complicated shot and all that,

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Alex Grand: I like that sequence but you’re right, that first issue is just paragraphs of words.

Tim Sale: It’s pulp. Prose.

Alex Grand: Right.

Tim Sale: Everything is overwritten. That’s not writing.

Alex Grand: It’s not like Shakespeare literature and stuff- Right, right, I see what you’re saying. I’ve also met people like that in environments where that person would be dismissive unless you prove something and then they were suddenly so nice. I understand that, too, because I have run into that.

Jim Thompson: But Berger knew basically.. it’s hard to say this and not sound literal. She knew who to blow at the right time. This was right, he was catching fire, she knew to praise him at the moment whether it was overblown, whether it was whatever. He was of the moment-

Tim Sale: Alan Moore was her real guy that she blew

Jim Thompson: Right.

Alex Grand: Right. Blown to the point of overblown, you’re saying.

Jim Thompson: I’m not saying overblown because it worked.

Alex Grand: Right, I see what you’re saying.

Alex Grand: She’s also running a line of comics, too. So she’s kind of working that, I get what you’re saying.

Jim Thompson: She killed it. In terms of editor whether it was right or not, whether she made mistakes.

Alex Grand: Right.

Jim Thompson: But she did move that line

Alex Grand: Right.

Jim Thompson: At that time,

Alex Grand: No, I know and to prove that from the management angle, I see totally what you’re saying. I think from what Monsignor Sale is saying,

Tim Sale: Hahaha.

Alex Grand: Just from his own personal interaction-

Jim Thompson: From a writing perspective.

Alex Grand: I like that, I like knowing the good and also the negative.

Tim Sale: Also, I agree with your point but she didn’t also then encourage and seek out other voices.

Jim Thompson: In a way that a good Editor does

Alex Grand: Right.

Tim Sale: She stuck to the English kids

Alex Grand: She probably knew that was the niche that was hitting at the time. Wasn’t that like the 90’s, there were some elements of hit that one niche and get extreme with it.. wasn’t that kind of a theme of the 90’s, anyway? It sounds like she kind of went extremely British.

Tim Sale: I don’t know what pressure she was under, I’m sure it was a lot. When she found something that worked, I could imagine that she just wanted to relax and say, “I found something.”

Alex Grand: Right.

Tim Sale: But that doesn’t gain my respect.

Jim Thompson: We talked about Blue, we talked about Red and Yellow. Let’s talk about White.

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Jim Thompson: Captain America was hard for you.

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Jim Thompson: Let’s talk about that.

Alex Grand: Why was that?

Jim Thompson: Yes.

Tim Sale: Some of it was personal, I had some health issues. I thought Jeph and I had kind of run up against a wall of telling sad stories. It was more a straight ahead sad story without much of a story element.

Tim Sale: Yeah, they were behind enemy lines before the U.S. was involved in the conflict, invading Germany.

Tim Sale: Let me put it this way.. everything I hated about Steranko’s, Rick and Cap, Jeph did to the nth degree.

Jim Thompson: Haha.

Alex Grand: ‘Cause Jeph liked that.

Tim Sale: Jeph had just lost a son,

Alex Grand: I see

Tim Sale: To Cancer.

Jim Thompson: Oh.

Tim Sale: Cap did lose Buffy.

Alex Grand: Bucky.

Tim Sale: Great.

Alex Grand: That’s a great episode, let’s write that one.

Tim Sale: Let’s do that. Yeah.

Jim Thompson: Spike, what are you doing here?

Alex Grand: I’m sending the script tomorrow. I’m sending you the script.

Tim Sale: From my perspective, Jeph overwrote the series. He hit the nail on every head that I didn’t want to have hit. Which was the Cap raped, tortured. The Bucky’s died, I am responsible for it.

Jim Thompson: Which is a Stan Lee version, that’s how you-

Tim Sale: According to Steranko, he wrote all that stuff but yeah, that’s the version that were the 110 through 113. I think he, at different times, he would find a different way to tell it a little bit differently that wouldn’t hit that nail on the head quite so hard. Initially through it, look, I was going through my own stuff in various different ways. I was moving, falling out of love and then into love.

Alex Grand: Oh, you were?

Tim Sale: Yeah. I had some health issues around that time. Really the delays, I was unprofessional.

Alex Grand: I see.

Tim Sale: I’m just talking about the reasons that it was hard to be professional.

Alex Grand: Right, right, right. Was that kind of a mid life crisis, kind of thing?

Tim Sale: For me?

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Tim Sale: No, I went through that.

Alex Grand: Before?

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Alex Grand: Hahaha.

Jim Thompson: Yeah, we do that earlier.

Alex Grand: I see, I see.

Tim Sale: I kind of lost a little bit of perspective on this. ‘Cause we’d done ridiculous shit before and I was okay with it, but there was a time in Issue Six where Cap has to ride a motorcycle up the Eiffel Tower, all the way to the top to defeat the Red Skull.

Alex Grand: You can’t actually do that.

Tim Sale: No, you can’t actually do that. I said, “you’re such a lazy butt fucker. What are you doing?”

Alex Grand: To Jeph?

Tim Sale: Yeah. But it really works, turns out.

Alex Grand: Right, as far as on the page.

Tim Sale: Nobody cares.

Alex Grand: No one’s questioning that stuff.

Tim Sale: So the delay in Cap White ultimately is on me, it’s not on Jeph. There are reasons why.

Jim Thompson: Did it hurt y’alls relationship?

Tim Sale: It did.

Alex Grand: I see, so that did hurt your and Jeph’s relationship?

Tim Sale: A lot.

Jim Thompson: Has it fixed?

Tim Sale: It’s fixing.

Alex Grand: Okay, so that was the last project of those four colors.

Tim Sale: The good news is that within the last year, Jeph and I have reconnected-

Alex Grand: Okay, I see.

Tim Sale: And talked and gotten along. He’s here at the show and I was trying to get together with him. I didn’t know he was here until today so I don’t think that’s gonna happen, but.. he and I got together at his place for lunch last year and everything else.

Alex Grand: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tim Sale: Great house.

Alex Grand: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Alex Grand: Yeah, he works in TV, sure.

Tim Sale: But that’s the point, he doesn’t do comics. He’s a write for TV, his contract says he can’t. He’s working towards retirement. He wants to make enough to just live the life that he wants to live and say-

Alex Grand: And not work.

Tim Sale: And say, “See ya.”

Alex Grand: That sounds pretty cool.

Tim Sale: And then, they write some stuff.

Jim Thompson: Some of us need that.

Tim Sale: He wants to write, I think he misses writing. When we had lunch last year, we talked about some stuff and maybe this, maybe that.. but it was all nebulous and don’t really know. That was a lot more than we’d had for a long time before that.

Alex Grand: Right.

Jim Thompson: Was that because you guys talked about it or because you didn’t talk about it? With Captain America, did you publicly say, “I wasn’t comfortable with this.” And that made him sad?

Tim Sale: Um.

Jim Thompson: Or because you didn’t talk about it enough?

Tim Sale: As far as I know, when Jeph reached out to me and said he saw something online on Sci-Fi,

Jim Thompson: Yep

Tim Sale: Probably in New York, a year ago.. in which I made a [inaudible 00:42:27] on Cap White and he commented out of the blue and then when we had lunch at his house, it was the first time I had heard him say, “When I can make my nut and this is over, I got some ideas about what I might wanna do.” And then we talked about realistically, do you think we’d do this anymore? Do you think you can do a book a month or something? Do you think you’d write a book?

Alex Grand: You were saying that?

Jim Thompson: He was.

Tim Sale: No, he was.

Alex Grand: He would say that, okay.

Tim Sale: Fair question, I would say, “I think so.” Maybe I can’t do the schedule part of it, but I know I can do that art. I think I’m drawing as well as I.. maybe not quite as well as I once was, but that’s a part of- in Dark [inaudible 00:43:28], I was very clear that because I’d come off of the schedule of Superman for All Seasons and went write into pencil and inking Batman again, with the history of Long Halloween.. that drawing every day made me better.

Tim Sale: So there’s that part of it. But I had to want to draw, right? And I wanted to draw. It’s a fair question. I said, “I think so. Let’s see what we got.” And that’s where we left it.

Alex Grand: So it’s in the process?

Tim Sale: Yeah, first of all, he has to end with his-

Alex Grand: His own stuff. The TV stuff.

Jim Thompson: I hope it does, there’s something about you guys working. It’s a great team. I want to go see the people that you like and I want to know why. You like Alex Toth, a lot. Toth. Why? What is it that you like? I love him. He may be my favorite.

Tim Sale: Well-

Jim Thompson: Why do you like him?

Tim Sale: It’s not going to be a surprising answer.

Alex Grand: ‘Cause you love his temperament.

Tim Sale: He’s a sweet guy. You wouldn’t believe.

Jim Thompson: Just makes you feel good.

Tim Sale: He distills things down to it’s minimum.

Alex Grand: Right, a lot of people say that about him.

Jim Thompson: Is it a panel or a story? Panel to panel? That’s the thing I’m interested in.

Tim Sale: It’s more a panel, for me. For instance, here’s something. Breaking news, haha. White Devil Yellow Devil,

Jim Thompson: Yes.

Tim Sale: Is that what it is?

Jim Thompson: Yeah, so good.

Tim Sale: She really thinks that’s the perfect story but I challenge you to look at the last page and not get the flaw of the story telling. The last panel is our hero, black guy, bent over backwards. His knees under, his legs under him.

Jim Thompson: Right.

Tim Sale: Like he’s been shot in the front, but he’s been shot in the back. He’d be on his face. That’s not good story telling.

Jim Thompson: Kurtzman would’ve caught that, wouldn’t he?

Tim Sale: He would have drawn it first and said, “top that mother fuckers”

Jim Thompson: He wouldn’t have,

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Jim Thompson: He would never have let that happen.

Tim Sale: Anyway.

Jim Thompson: That’s interesting.

Tim Sale: Alice could make those kind of flaws and you’d still forgive it because the rest of it was so brilliant. I’m not a big fan of his stories that he wrote.

Alex Grand: Right, right.

Tim Sale: But his story telling, when Archie wrote stuff for him, for instance, is absolutely.. I have a page from Skyhawk which is two up,

Alex Grand: Oh, cool.

Tim Sale: Duo shade paper. Airplanes over the fields in Germany, just terrific stuff. I’m scared to show it because I don’t want to bring duoshade out into the light.. but I probably will anyways.

Alex Grand: Hmm.

Tim Sale: So, as far as Toth goes, he has so many different genres where he’s so interesting to look at what he’s interested in. Romance stuff, hot wheels, who the fuck would-

Jim Thompson: Man, just killer

Tim Sale: Yeah, hot wheels?

Alex Grand: Right.

Tim Sale: You can’t do that. The romance stuff and the worst stuff would be my top stuff that I would want from him and horror stuff, too.

Jim Thompson: It’s the geometry of it, which is always what it is for me.

Tim Sale: I tell you one thing, I think he’s a terrible superhero artist.

Jim Thompson: That Black Canary story that he did-

Tim Sale: Yes, some Black Canary stuff. But Batman, terrible. Superman, terrible.

Jim Thompson: Oh, yeah. That’s awful.

Alex Grand: That Batman Haunted Sky story, you didn’t like that too much? With the fighter plane in it?

Tim Sale: No.

Alex Grand: His cape with the title, on the title page? Not too much?

Tim Sale: He was trying.

Alex Grand: Yeah, especially with that title page, he was trying for sure. I think he liked drawing planes, too.

Jim Thompson: He’s the best. Best planes guy. You think that, too, right?

Tim Sale: Why do you think I have a Skyhawk page?

Jim Thompson: I know, I know.

Tim Sale: Haha.

Jim Thompson: Why do you like Neal Adams?

Tim Sale: At some point, he knew he was better than anybody else around him.

Alex Grand: Right.

Tim Sale: Any genre, any where.

Alex Grand: And in multiple mediums, not just comics. Advertising and other things.

Tim Sale: Right. He stood out. Kinda layout was often distracting, needlessly.

Jim Thompson: Yes.

Tim Sale: That hurt his story telling. His story telling was much better when he worked with Danny O’Neal although I don’t like those stories very much.

Alex Grand: Oh, interesting.

Jim Thompson: Are you talking the Green Lantern or the Batman stuff?

Tim Sale: Batman. But especially the main title, there were some odd one offs on Detective or something that he would do. What’s the one with the-

Jim Thompson: Ten eyes?

Tim Sale: No, the beckoning hand through the open doorway-

Jim Thompson: Oh, yeah.

Alex Grand: Uh-huh

Tim Sale: Right. There’s variations of that, that he did.

Alex Grand: Like his dead man?

Tim Sale: I did.

Alex Grand: Those are cool.

Tim Sale: They were like a stepping stone along the way to him getting better experimentally.

Alex Grand: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tim Sale: As a kid, I was really enthralled with Bork, you can hurt-

Jim Thompson: Oh, yeah!

Tim Sale: No one can hurt you.

Alex Grand: That’s a good one, I like that story. You know they showed Bork in the recent TV shows? He was in it for like five minutes-

Jim Thompson: On Flash?

Alex Grand: It was just cool that they mentioned him for the few minutes.

Jim Thompson: Those brave and bold ones are really fun. [inaudible 00:50:16]

Tim Sale: Again, as a Marvel guy, I didn’t really.. the fact that it was Bork is amazing to me.

Alex Grand: It’s almost random that you knew that. But I do like that story, too. He felt more unstoppable than Juggernaut did in that Alex Toth issue-

Tim Sale: Right. Right.

Alex Grand: I almost feel like Bork, I was more overwhelmed as a reader, I was like, “Whoa, this guy is strong.”

Tim Sale: Even punching his way out of prison.

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Tim Sale: I don’t care what it feels like, it doesn’t feel like anything.

Alex Grand: Haha.

Jim Thompson: Again, going back to the comment that Toth can’t do superheroes-

Alex Grand: Right.  at the same time, it’s not fair, because he had to draw over Kirby’s layouts-

Jim Thompson: And then Kirby drew, yeah.

Alex Grand: Even then, that Bork issue, I read it, I’m like, “Okay this is just some douchebag little guy that Batman’s gonna fight-”

Tim Sale: Right.

Alex Grand: The more I read the panels, I’m getting a sense of dread as I was reading those pages.

Tim Sale: Right.

Alex Grand: It’s weird, usually stories don’t affect me like that.

Tim Sale: It affected me,

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Tim Sale: I was probably 12 or so,

Alex Grand: Yeah, you read it fresh.

Jim Thompson: You weren’t born.

Alex Grand: I wasn’t born, I read it as an adult much later, yeah.

Tim Sale: By the time we got to the Jokers fight for revenge, that made a difference. There were also-

Jim Thompson: Here’s a good segway to a question a bit off topic, in terms of cover artists. As I mentioned, you and Dave Johnson and a few others are some of my favorite cover artists and I think you escaped the thing I saw happen with other ones – specifically Gil Kane, Neal Adams where they were really on top of their game in terms of interior stuff and when they became the primary cover artists for DC or Marvel, in the Case of Kane, they really seemed to lose something and became almost hackish. I didn’t see that ever happen with you when you were doing a lot of covers, but what do you feel about that in terms of covers versus interior artists and those people where they just seem to become something else as they keep doing covers?

Tim Sale: First of all, I think they were doing a lot more covers than I’ve ever-

Jim Thompson: Ever did, yes.

Tim Sale: That just grinds you down. Dave has one of those imaginations that is untiring and he’ll just come up with something out of the blue, out of his ass-

Jim Thompson: He’s a design guy-

Tim Sale: Yes, but it’ll be, I’ll turn around and he’s doing Nick Fury singing a song to a 50’s diner that he’s described as a $500 commission, with giant logos and he’s lettering it all and he can’t stop. I’m not that guy.

Jim Thompson: Your Batman and his Batman, that sequence between the two of you when you guys were doing the covers, were the best Batman covers I’ve ever seen. You know what I’m talking-

Tim Sale: When Dave emphasizes design, there’s nobody better.

Jim Thompson: No.

Tim Sale: He doesn’t draw terrifically. He draws okay. But when he designs it.. those Punisher covers?

Jim Thompson: Oh, yeah.

Tim Sale: Unbelievable.

Alex Grand: So Stranko isn’t much of an influence to you?

Tim Sale: No, we’re so different in that way but I learned a lot from him.

Alex Grand: Right, right.

Tim Sale: In my opinion, he’s a much better designer than he is a drawer. It’s not every enemy and poses can be walking and stiff, every once in awhile they’ll be great. But his design is always interesting.

Alex Grand: It is. It’s always-

Tim Sale: Very distinctively him, too. So he doesn’t reach outside of his comfort zone that way. The importance to him in the 1960’s in comic books is astounding. That’s what I’m responding to.

Alex Grand: That makes sense.

Jim Thompson: What about John Buscema? Why do you list him as one of your favorites and what is it about him?

Tim Sale: Anatomy.

Jim Thompson: Oh, yeah. Isn’t it?

Tim Sale: The hair or the body, yeah, that’s his main thing. He was always better when he reached outside of that, he mostly did that with the Surfer. He played with design a little bit more, pan a layout a little bit more.

Jim Thompson: You think he was a good story teller?

Tim Sale: Oh, sure. In the old school sense. You should be able to follow it without words. Stranko would be hopeless that way, for instance. Lot of people would sometimes be good that way. Even as most experimental, Buscema was a solid story teller.

Jim Thompson: Was Sal Buscema a solid storyteller?

Tim Sale: Sure.

Jim Thompson: Yeah.

Tim Sale: Boring as hell.

Jim Thompson: Boring but he knew how to tell a story.

Tim Sale: Sure.

Jim Thompson: John knew how to do it.

Tim Sale: He made a living on that, the same way he would or a lot of other workman people who can turn out the pages.

Jim Thompson: If you were given the right anchor, it was actually really-

Tim Sale: It would certainly help.

Jim Thompson: That John Severin stuff is really good.

Tim Sale: Severin,  John and Marie.

Jim Thompson: Yeah.

Tim Sale: He would help them. They were transforming something pedestrian to something enhanced pedestrian, they weren’t really breaking any ground. I guess you could say the same about Romita, but he just drew so beautifully. Just pretty. Everything was pretty.

Jim Thompson: Yeah.

Tim Sale: When I try to imitate him on Spiderman Blue, Pete is dreamy. Who wouldn’t want to fuck Petey?

Alex Grand: Right, everyone does. Jim does.

Jim Thompson: No.

Alex Grand: No? Six pack, I’m sure, I imagine.

Jim Thompson: I would fuck the Ditko Petey first. I would fuck the Ditko Gwen in a second.

Tim Sale: That bitch?

Alex Grand: Hahahaha

Jim Thompson: That’s my early-

Tim Sale: With the little barrettes and shit?

Jim Thompson: That’s just a me thing.

Tim Sale: Oh, man..

Jim Thompson: Yeah.

Tim Sale: Okay.

Alex Grand: The Ditko Gwen-

Jim Thompson: It’s a Veronica leg-

Tim Sale: Ditko Gwen was a fucking bitch.

Alex Grand: You’re right, she was mean. Her?

Tim Sale: She was awful.

Jim Thompson: She had a Veronica leg thing that-

Alex Grand: Oh, I see.

Jim Thompson: Just kills it for me.

Alex Grand: But when you say Ditko Pete, you like that nerdy anxiety, social anxiety type?

Jim Thompson: I like everything about Ditko Pete.

Alex Grand: Square head.

Jim Thompson: Yeah.

Alex Grand: Square head, yeah.

Tim Sale: High school tied to-

Alex Grand: Somewhat conservative, hates protestors, you like that. That turned you on?

Jim Thompson: No, it’s not that part.

Tim Sale: He was in highschool, slacks creased, double creased.

Alex Grand: Right. Wait a minute, he’s in highschool. You wanna bang a high school boy?

Jim Thompson: No.

Tim Sale: High school.

Alex Grand: I’m taking notes, buddy.

Jim Thompson: Let me make clear that what I’m saying is that the Peter Parker of the Romeda era could get girls, he was cool. I don’t like that. My Peter Parker is me and we get beat the shit out of by Flash Thompson-

Alex Grand: No, I see.

Jim Thompson: We get tied by a pole, we are the undercover cool guys-

Alex Grand: Right.

Jim Thompson: No one recognizes,

Alex Grand: I know what you’re saying.

Jim Thompson: Romita Pete is, he’s got a bike, he’s got girls, he’s getting laid.

Alex Grand: I know what you’re saying. I grew up on Romita Spiderman and reprints Spiderman. I did love Romita Spiderman. Ditko’s came later and I didn’t like it in the beginning because I imprinted on Romita’s Spiderman as a kid. That being said, later on, I appreciate it. It’s certainly more creative but I love Romita’s romance comic approach.

Jim Thompson: You didn’t grow up on Romita’s Spiderman.

Alex Grand: Me? I did because I read reprints.

Jim Thompson: Yes, reprints but you grew up on, and no one says this-

Alex Grand: I grew up on Spiderman and his Amazing Friends and that aesthetic was based on the Romita Spiderman.

Jim Thompson: Right, but who ever says I grew up on Ross Andru Spiderman?

Tim Sale: Nobody.

Jim Thompson: Nobody.

Tim Sale: Because nobody did.

Jim Thompson: Hahaha.

Alex Grand: But it’s very common-

Jim Thompson: That is awesome. Yes.

Alex Grand: Because nobody did.

Jim Thompson: So let’s leave it at that.

Alex Grand: If there’s anyone that I bang in the comics, they’re over the age of 18, that’s all I’m saying. Not you too, though.

Jim Thompson: Nick Hard Wonder girl?

Alex Grand: That’s a repeated pattern, but hey we’re all friends.

Jim Thompson: Let’s move on. Let’s talk about Ross Andru. Why don’t you like Wonder Woman? Not just Ross Andrew Wonder Woman-

Tim Sale: Especially Ross Andru

Jim Thompson: Yeah, ’cause that’s awful.

Tim Sale: She doesn’t have an interesting backstory.

Jim Thompson: She rides kangaroos.

Tim Sale: Not interesting.

Alex Grand: Yeah, I don’t find the kangaroo aspect interesting, I like the Greek myth stuff.

Tim Sale: I don’t.

Alex Grand: Yeah, you’re not into Greek Mythology, then?

Tim Sale: Not in comics.

Alex Grand: Not in comics? Yeah, I see what you’re saying. I think you have to like the Greek Myth stuff to like Wonder Woman, I think. According to John Byrne, she has a Greek accent.

Jim Thompson: I don’t care what John Byrne says.

Alex Grand: As a comic book artist and on tour, what is your feeling about John Byrne? He’s asked about Neal Adams and a few others.. John Byrne?

Jim Thompson: I was asking about ones he admires.

Alex Grand: Right, right. Byrne did a lot of comics in the 80s and late 70s, right? What’s your impression of those comics?

Tim Sale: I can live without.

Alex Grand: Right, okay.

Tim Sale: Easily.

Alex Grand: Easily, okay. Not pioneering, you would say?

Tim Sale: I guess pioneering but pioneering towards something I’m still not interested.

Alex Grand: I see, that’s fair.

Tim Sale: Dave Cockrum-

Alex Grand: Dave Cockrum, yeah.

Tim Sale: But I could care less about what he created-

Alex Grand: Oh, I see, okay.

Tim Sale: And it’s a billion dollar industry.

Alex Grand: That’s right. Sure, sure.

Tim Sale: Clairmont, same thing.

Jim Thompson: Is there any Marvel icon? I know out of your three, it’s Batman, Superman and then Spiderman. I was surprised that Captain America, you put him in second tier.

Jim Thompson: What about Doctor Strange? Would you like to do Doctor Strange?

Tim Sale: I just don’t have an emotional hook on him.

Jim Thompson: But Doom, you do?

Jim Thompson: What about Fantastic Four?

Tim Sale: Group books, I’m not –

Jim Thompson: You haven’t done any, have you?

Alex Grand: The Challengers is a-

Jim Thompson: Well, yeah.

Tim Sale: The FF were the only group that I read, I never cared about the Avengers or Defenders

Alex Grand: Ha!

Tim Sale: Anything like that.

Alex Grand: Even as a consumer, you didn’t like the group books that much?

Tim Sale: Yeah. They all seemed like we can interchange any of these people any time we want. Oh, Cap’s not here anymore let’s get Wasp.

Alex Grand: Not unique, they can actually interchange the same lines to different people and it wouldn’t make a difference.

Jim Thompson: Is there any writer currently where you would just say, Tom King is awesome. We all agree about that. If he said, “I want you to do Avengers with me, I want you to do Vision part two-”

Tim Sale: Book?

Jim Thompson: Yeah.

Tim Sale: I’d say, “Why?”

Jim Thompson: Why you?

Tim Sale: Sell it to me.

Jim Thompson: Ah.

Tim Sale: What makes you come to me about this?

Jim Thompson: That’s great. You want to know why you’re doing it.

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Alex Grand: He’s worked at it long enough, people know your style so if they’re coming at you, clearly they saw something they want.

Tim Sale: Unless some editor said, “You know, go to Tim.”

Jim Thompson: So if it’s a smart editor that figures out that it’s a good match,

Tim Sale: That’s a terrible match so he’s not a good editor.

Jim Thompson: Okay, next question.

Jim Thompson: You did one Spectre cover. It was the Joker cover. Ryan Shook was doing this killer run of Spectre covers and there was a special event where the Joker took over the whole Universe or something – so you did a Spectre cover where the Spectre looked like the Joker.

Tim Sale: That was the Joker month.

Jim Thompson: Yeah, it was Joker month.

Tim Sale: Those are a terrible curse, I hated them.

Alex Grand: Hahaha.

Jim Thompson: I was wondering, Shook is very good and he did this run-

Tim Sale: He is. His Commandy was-

Jim Thompson: Oh, that Commandy thing that he – would you have liked to do one of those?

Tim Sale: Mark approached me.

Jim Thompson: I was curious about that.

Tim Sale: If you look at the collection, Mark took some of my work, cut it up as an example of what a page should be.

Jim Thompson: We’re talking about the Wensty comics

Tim Sale: In the introduction to the book. This is what he put in front of DC saying, “this is what it should be.” And it was my work that I’d already done and he just cut it up and arranged it different.

Tim Sale: But I was under contract [inaudible 01:05:21]

Jim Thompson: In your real house, you would’ve been great-

Tim Sale: That’s why I will never be under contract again.

Alex Grand: Right, it’s limiting.

Jim Thompson: Because of that specific thing?

Tim Sale: That and other things.

Alex Grand: There was a time when he couldn’t do something with Jeph because of a contract with DC.

Tim Sale: Confidential, I couldn’t go to work with Jeph because I had to end my contract with DC, with the Superman Confidential.

Jim Thompson: That was one of the best things that Giharella did was that-

Tim Sale: Yeah. Terrific.

Jim Thompson: Totally brilliant.

Jim Thompson: Half of those were beyond good, just fantastic.

Tim Sale: He has these great ideas that fail.

Jim Thompson: Yep, they fail, not artistically but maybe not commercially.

Tim Sale: Gloriously. But they still fail.

Jim Thompson: Yep. You and I talked about Dave Johnson and you, what other cover artist and what’s the difference between an interior artist and a cover artist in terms of when you’re approaching something. What makes a great cover artist?

Tim Sale: Let’s take Dave for example. He can draw, but he’s not a great figure artist. He’s a great designer and he can make the figures work within his great design but when it’s panel after panel, it just shows up the flaws in his ideas or his compositions. You have to find your way to make the mundane interesting. That’s where his strength is, or his interest is.. but give me a design to do, a character to exemplify in one image, or a storytelling point in one image, he’s so good.

Jim Thompson: Frank Avilla?

Tim Sale: Right.

Jim Thompson: God, that guy-

Tim Sale: He’s come in but when he hits-

Jim Thompson: When he hits-

Tim Sale: He’s great.

Jim Thompson: I think of him as a cover artist.

Tim Sale: Oh yeah, he’s not a very good panel to panel guy.

Jim Thompson: But his covers, when they’re right-

Tim Sale: Absolutely.

Jim Thompson: Just great. There’s a few out there that they’re so good at that,

Tim Sale: Grissemi.

Jim Thompson: Yeah. We can talk about some of the Vertigo titles where they were always better at the covers-

Tim Sale: Well, yeah. The Gealy’s of the world. What do you think about Alex Ross?

Jim Thompson: I think Alex Ross has hurt comics more than he’s helped comics in a lot of ways, as much as I like some of the things he’s done. I like Kingdom Come but I think there’s a stiffness to what he did that, in general, I think his people have emulated. I love Tarantino but the emulators that can’t do it as well, really made sucky movies..

Jim Thompson: Alex Ross is good at what he does, but the people that do Alex Ross aren’t very good. Even Alex Ross after a certain point, he’s just copying.. I don’t love him.

Tim Sale: No, he’s lifeless.

Jim Thompson: I think he’s important to Astro City, and I love Astro City covers or collaborations with everybody else. I think those are good. Overall, I don’t like Alex Ross to some degree.

Alex Grand: Isn’t that how the art of illustration is in general? It’s somewhat lifeless and anatomical, the difference from cartooning in general?

Tim Sale: No.

Alex Grand: Okay, so what would be an example of illustration that doesn’t do that?

Tim Sale: Rockwell.

Alex Grand: Okay, true. Alright.

Tim Sale: Colby Whitmore.

Alex Grand: Okay, I guess I’m imagining some Rockwell pictures and they just seem like a lifelike, they’re actually living in those pictures.

Alex Grand: Then in the Alex Ross ones, maybe it’s the eyes.

Tim Sale: They all use photos

Alex Grand: Yes, they do. As reference, yeah.

Tim Sale: Ross is a slave to it in a different way that is meant to be impressive and is impressed, has impressed thousands of people and I can’t get into it

Alex Grand: Interesting. That’s like that sound alone guy with his Coca-Cola commercials. There is a life in those pictures that, I guess, with Alex Ross you just maybe don’t see that.

Jim Thompson: I will give you.. Okay.

Alex Grand: It’s the eyes, isn’t it the eyes?

Jim Thompson: No,

Tim Sale: No.

Jim Thompson: Mort Meskin is an example. You’re looking at a vigilante issue where you look at a Johnny Quick, that’s not lifeless, that’s full of joy.

Alex Grand: I would consider that kind of an illustration approach to the picture.

Jim Thompson: But we’re talking about comics,

Alex Grand: Right, right. I think that’s in the cartooning world.

Tim Sale: I think your point, isn’t cartooning inherently lifeless-

Alex Grand: No, illustration.

Tim Sale: No, I don’t agree with that at all.

Alex Grand: For example, how Foster prints Valiant.. in the later 40s, it felt like mannequins but they looked really nice.

Tim Sale: No, that’s pretty lifeless, yes.

Jim Thompson: Hal Fosters never my guy.

Alex Grand: I’m just saying that as an example of illustration versus cartooning like Kirby which is all this foreshortening and everything is bouncy and punchy, it’s different.

Tim Sale: Yeah, it’s different but that doesn’t mean that all illustration is lifeless.

Alex Grand: That, I get that.

Tim Sale: Frank McCarthy. Check him out. Look him up.

Alex Grand: So this doesn’t show eyes, but it does feel alive while he’s riding that horse.

Tim Sale: There’s so much more to McCarthy-

Alex Grand: It’s not just eyes, there’s a body language –

Jim Thompson: It’s movement.

Tim Sale: And energy

Jim Thompson: Where you know it’s real or where you know it’s LARK.

Alex Grand: Alright, point taken.

Tim Sale: Look up Robert McGinnis,

Alex Grand: That feels like a person.

Tim Sale: Yeah, but that’s photographed.

Alex Grand: They feel like people.

Tim Sale: Fuck yeah that does, look at that painting. How great is that?

Alex Grand: That you don’t see in an Alex Ross type-

Jim Thompson: You never get.. I don’t get any personality.

Jim Thompson: Okay. At your current age, in what ways are you a better artist and what ways is it harder for you now?

Tim Sale: Harder for me to get up in the day and imagine drawing and needing two pages in two days?

Alex Grand: The energy that it takes to put that in, you feel like there’s less energy?

Tim Sale: Yeah.

Jim Thompson: Is your hand control as good as it was?

Tim Sale: Not quite. I think that, I hope, that is due to not getting up every day and drawing a page and a half. I think that was a real turning point and I mentioned this earlier. I think that was a big deal, doing that day after day. The invaluable part that Mark Chiarello played in our friendship and his knowledge of illustration and illustrators and just calling and sharing stuff, I think now is just ridiculous. You can call and talk for me for three hours in the middle of the day.

Tim Sale: I said, “Mark, you know you’re my boss and you’re just wasting my fucking time.” Or I’m not drawing, however you say he wasted my time. What I do is invaluable, but the grind is harder. I think I’m comparable to my hand coordination with the brush. The design will get better if I was doing more work constantly, but I think it’s still there. I can feel it in my compositions when I’m drawing for people at Cons and at home.

Jim Thompson: That’s encouraging. We’ve been talking about the influence of Mark Chiarello and how, on the Marvel side, let’s talk about John Rochalle. It seems like he, that and Chip Kid, these are design geniuses. Talk about this for a minute.

Tim Sale: John is not with Marvel, neither is Chip Kid. John works with Richard on Comic Raft and Richard has always called him the secret weapon of Comic Raft just because he’s kind of an idiot savant with fonts and with design. The only reason not to employ them is that they don’t come cheap and if you have your in-house designers, that are okay, let’s go with them.

Tim Sale: You got John.

Jim Thompson: What has he done with you?

Tim Sale: Certainly everything since the Marvel coloring books. He and Richard have put together the package when it’s gonna be collected. One of the end papers, what’s the title page gonna look like, what are the extras gonna look like, that kind of thing.

Tim Sale: That may seem like a trivial thing but it all matters to the end result. You’d notice it if it looked like shit and it doesn’t look like shit.

Tim Sale: It’s a matter of placing things on the page and choosing what to have there and what we don’t need, what we do need, these are all the extras that we have and they’d let me play with it – they’re not all gonna get in there.

Jim Thompson: He’s an example of an unsung hero that people don’t understand.

Tim Sale: Yes, absolutely, he is.

Jim Thompson: But you understand how important-

Tim Sale: Yeah, and Richard is very protective of him because of that but the sad thing is that the other professionals don’t appreciate it. I don’t quite get that, but it’s true. They’ll say anything is okay, just knock it out, as long as I get paid.

Tim Sale: There’s kind of no legacy to it. Richard and John are all about- giving them, on their own whims, they will change things at the last second because they know printing, it’s not too late. Publishers will go, “Nope, sorry. That went up last week.” Last week? Then we got a week to go.

Tim Sale: That kind of thing, it’s invaluable and that’s what Jeph used to get into so many fights about at Marvel and DC, saying, “No, that’s bullshit, there is time. As long as you can get that thing to stand up straight.”

Jim Thompson: From day one of your career to the present, design is a key aspect.

Tim Sale: Yeah, sure.

Jim Thompson: I think that’s why I respect your work so much. You’re always aware of the design of it, not just everything else or whatever story telling, you’re aware of the panel but the design of it, and those are the people you are drawn to, as well.

Tim Sale: Right down to book management, we haven’t talked about Solo but I designed Solo with Mark. I designed my issue and he was open to other people working different ways, that entire layout, I worked out meticulously with Mark.

Jim Thompson: For everyones?

Tim Sale: No, for me.

Jim Thompson: For yours.

Tim Sale: For mine.

Jim Thompson: Yours was the first? Issue one?

Tim Sale: Yeah. Turn the page and there’s this, that kind of thing.

Jim Thompson: Did each artist do that?

Tim Sale: I don’t know.

Jim Thompson: You don’t know?

Tim Sale: I would doubt it. I think Richard Corbin wasn’t interested probably in getting into that [inaudible 01:18:28] but I don’t know.

Jim Thompson: Cooke’s is brilliant.

Tim Sale: Yes. The other book was [inaudible 01:18:37], the Collection. I designed that and again, cut out page by page, we were gonna end on this page, the title page is here. I insisted on the title pages. Rosterman was the book editor, designer at the time and I remember calling to congratulating her on the book and she said, “I did nothing, you fucking did it.”

Alex Grand: Hmm.

Tim Sale: With a little bit of resentment. Like you took away my job or-

Alex Grand: Oh, okay.

Jim Thompson: Yeah.

Tim Sale: But I’m better than you, Robin, so..

Jim Thompson: Hahaha. There you go.

Tim Sale: Or you never would’ve got it if I tried to describe it to you, so I just did it.

Jim Thompson: I have a print of yours of the CatWoman with her head cut off and the mirror image where you can see her head.

Tim Sale: Kitty.

Jim Thompson: Hanging in my living room. I have taken that to class, I have taught with it, I have used that from a film theory standpoint, it means a lot, it’s very useful.

Jim Thompson: When you did that, what were you thinking when you cut off her head at the top and did the mirror image where you actually get to see her?

Tim Sale: That’s inspired by Renee Gruau, who inspired all my CatWoman covers. He signed every piece he did with an asterisk and a G underneath, so I put an asterisk on every cover I did, and on your print, and then my name, as in a tip of the hat.

Tim Sale: He was a fascinating illustration from the 30s through the 80s, probably. He would do shit like that. His most famous stuff was a woman with a hat and the hat would swoop down over part of-

Jim Thompson: Oh, sure, yeah.

Tim Sale: So that was kind of a trope, that he would do. So doing the reverse image, I’d done so much stuff working on CatWoman and I do that print, that art for the print, right at the end of my CatWoman run. I was just still in it. I just thought, reverse it. Girello colored that, by the way.

Jim Thompson: It’s beautifully colored. It’s one of my favorite things you ever did. I have it in my living room, I love that piece. I hope you like it-

Tim Sale: Oh, I love it. I have it up, too. I think it works as an illustration. It’s more an illustration than a comic book. I didn’t draw the cat all that well, but we’ll let that go.

Jim Thompson: I can’t say how much fun this has been for me.

Alex Grand: We enjoyed it very much.

Alex Grand: This has been a riveting interview with Tim Sale here at the comic book historian podcast, I am Alex Grand with my co-host Jim Thompson.

Alex Grand: Tim, thank you so much for doing this with us here at WonderCon, this has been a really fun and exciting interview for us.

Tim Sale: Thank you, guys. My pleasure.

Jim Thompson: I’ve listened to a bunch of yours, I’m very happy for this one.

Tim Sale: Hahaha. Good.

Alex Grand: Cheers, everybody.

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