Jul 2011

Barry Windsor-Smith

(This was something I had posted on my old site)

Looking back on my experience in comics, it was a bit haphazzard for the first several years. Partially because companies would come and go like web companies when the internet bubble burst. No sooner than I would make a deal to draw a title, said company would go bye-bye. But I also take a large portion of the blame. I wasn't a mature enough professional to consistently do new samples and shop myself. I typically showed my wares at Chicago Comic Con, when I could get in front of people from all the major publishers. I simply didn't work hard enough during the rest of the year.

I also attribute some of this to my attention span.

When I was younger, I physically had the need to draw or I didn't feel well. I felt incomplete somehow. As I grew older, I found that programming (more specifically, LEARNING to program computers) replaced that need. Not a good thing for a freelance comic book artist. I didn't draw and didn't make a few deadlines. My work at Marvel came because of Doug Moench putting in a good word for me. David Campiti and Roger McKenzie liked me and my work and helped me publish Jack Frost.

I eventually joined forces with David to help start Innovation Corporation. I was involved with them for a year or so. Then Gary Reed's Caliber Press-- closer to two years (I was getting better!)

But in 1992, I joined Jim Shooter and Bob Layton at Valiant Comics in NYC. It was there that I came into my own. I've been quoted in dozens of places talking about the company and my relationship. How I liked the people and was thankful to learn my craft. Bob Layton's Iron Man had been a staple of my High School Years.

But I've rarely mentioned one of the other players in the play. Barry Windsor-Smith was there as well. He worked many days from his home upstate, but I would often see him come in during my first weeks and grew more brave in being able to chat with this guy who was such an important figure in my growth and love of comics.

Eventually, we grew friendly and he was someone I enjoyed chatting with and learning from.

You see, when I was growing up, I wanted to draw like John Byrne or George Perez. They were my idols. Then as I grew older, I was drawn to the power of Frank Miller's storytelling-- maybe the art was cruder (to my eyes), but there was a power and grace in the way he led your eye across the page. Paul Gulacy and Gene Day influenced me with their realism. Then I discovered Al Williamson, who influenced my drawing more than any other person. I became infatuated with his line. With the origin of where he came from-- Alex Raymond and John Prentice.

But in 1984, my young wife and I had a tragedy. We lost our first child. A little girl named Carrie Jo Anne. She only lived a day. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. But I'm not going to spend more words here on that, I simply mention it to give you a frame of reference. I was nearly 19 years old. My world had gone from fantasy to reality in a heartbeat.

In visiting a comic shop while seeing some friends who had been supportive during our loss, I discovered a print called, Icarus Fallen by BWS.

In one image, It showed me everything I wanted to be as an artist. Grace and power, detail and control, a beautiful palette. Perhaps I could still have fantasy in my life. I had to learn who this BWS was.
I was informed that he was Barry Windsor-Smith, the guy that used to draw Conan and didn't I know anything?
Apparently, I didn't.

Not long after, I found a copy of The Studio, a delightful book showcasing Barry's work alongside Bernie Wrightson, Michael Kaluta and Jeffrey Jones. All brilliant artists, I was particularly drawn to Barry's and Bernie's work. Jeffrey's holds an ephemeral beauty that I couldn't see in myself, but there was a little Wrightson and Smith in how I thought.

Barry didn't seem to do much work in comics in the 80's. There was an incredible, moment-defining X-Men story with Wolverine. And an Epic Illustrated painted piece that I studied for days.
I studied influences I thought Barry had learned from. That's where my love of Pre-Raphaelites came from. A visit to my house shows prints of Rosetti, Waterhouse and Alma-Tadema.
Flash forward eight years later and I had my chance to work with him. Ironically, he saw me more as a fledgling writer and editor than a visual artist. That's what my role was.

But one day, I had some of my samples out showing them to somebody or another and he came behind and looked down on the art table, picking up a blue-pencilled sample I had done for Secret Agent Corrigan.

Pasted Graphic

He asked whose work it was and when I told him mine, he picked up the piece again and smiled. "Kevin! This is very good! Why aren't you drawing one of these bloody books?!" It made my day. Possibly my year. At least my month.

Not long after, I got permission to draw Bloodshot #0 as well as write it. I had a year and could fit the work in between my regular duties without risking dropping any of my editorial or writing balls.
Barry's influence on my work at the time is obvious. The way I drew the Warrior exudes my love for his linework.

I didn't get a chance to work with Barry much. Our paths really only crossed for six or eight months. We briefly shared an office and I got to watch him draw part of Unity #1. I'm forever associated with him because of the best-selling comic book Bloodshot #1. He illustrated that famous cover and I wrote the book. I've signed probably 20,000 copies of that book, always admiring the simplistic, but not simple rendering of our hero, accompanied by that trademark BWS.

I had the opportunity to reflect recently on why I hadn't mentioned Barry much over the years. I suppose that part of that was not wanting Barry to think I was name-dropping. Old self-confidence issues, probably. He certainly had an impact on me.

Jim, Barry and Bob created the two storylines that ultimately defined the Valiant Universe-- Solar #0 and Unity. Without any of their contributions, the stars would not have been in alignment and I would be talking about my most successful comic book being the adaptation of Rocky Horror Picture Show I did.

But they were there at the right time and right place to create something special that I feel privileged to be a part of.

I've said thanks to Bob before and to Jim, who lent me money from his own pocket to move to NYC and work with him.

Now I take the opportunity to thank my friend Barry.


Things I've Learned

Some are beliefs. Some are facts. I believe they're all good guidelines.
like most things we believe that we should do, I don't always do them.

Be honest. Lying is too much trouble to keep straight.

Like yourself. Give yourself reasons to do so. Become someone you would want to

Love with all your soul.

If you love and eventually lose that person, you can't wish it all had never
happened. You wouldn't want to have missed all the good times. Life is an opera
with love and laughter...without the tragedy and sadness, the notes ring hollow.

Enjoy the distractions in life-- those things you do that aren't working or
surviving, but keep your time in the zone of distraction in moderation. It's too
easy to talk about what you want to do and not actually do it. Don't get caught
up commiserating with others about how hard the work/industry is.

Explore. The chances are that the world is smaller than you think. Don't let
some arbitrary belief that you can't travel until some (fill in the blank)
happens. Why wait to see Rome until you can't walk the Spanish Steps?

Love life and take everything it has to offer

3 things you can do today.
Pick a goal-- now decide three things you can do tomorrow that will be positive
steps toward the completion of that goal. Do them.

Never leave the site of setting a goal without taking action towards that goal.

Share what you know. Give away knowledge and kindness. You will have more of an
abundance of both than you could ever imagine.


The past does not equal the future.

Goals, spiritual material health success financial intellectual

An idea is infectious. Be passionate.

The best way to achieve what you want is to help others get what they want.

Listen to your muse.

Focus and finish

Live up to your promises.

Live within your means.

Live on 70% of what you earn. Save 10%. Invest 10%. Give away 10%

Realize that you can make more money than what you do right now.

If your sales percentage is 5% of all calls you make, then increase the number
of calls.

You don't get paid by the number of YESs...it's the NOs you receive that get you
closer to your goals.

It's a numbers game. 80/20 or so. Management of productive people and buyers/

Sleep enough. Rest and recharge. Take a day and read, relax.

Review where you are. Weekly, even daily. Who did you meet with today. What
came out of that? Course corrections.

Refuse to be surrounded by negativity and cynics.

Be thankful. Daily.

Encourage others to be thankful.

Ask good questions.

What's not perfect about the situation yet?

Don't get through the day-- get from the day.

Chapters closed

Trespass is done. It’s in God’s hands now, as they say-- they’ll make whatever color corrections need to be made and film out the project. Proud of the work and the team.

Found out that a fellow I knew years ago had died yesterday. Ed Mather-- someone I met through artist/writer Dave Conover. When I was around those guys back in the mid-80’s in Louisville, KY, Ed was eccentric, but a nice guy who seemed to get an enormous kick out of crossing any boundaries that might be lying around. For years I’ve told stories of, “Evil Ed,” and his escapades. Yesterday, I just happened to check Facebook and saw Dave’s post that Ed had died. Had I looked last night, the post might have rolled off and I wouldn’t have noticed. But I did notice and I have to say that it’s weighed on me a bit. It’s always sad when a person dies and moreso if it’s someone you know. This was a man I hadn’t seen in the last two decades, but I think it was his relative youth (around 50, I suppose), and the fact that it seems he battled with various personal demons for a long, long time. I think it’s also the wasted/lost potential that is gone forever that makes it all the more sad. My thoughts are with him and his family & friends.