I wrote an article for Comics Alliance where I talk about the effect that color has on the work of Barry Windsor-Smith.
It got me thinking about issue #22 of Godland, which was my “Barry Windsor-Smith” issue. At that point in the comic, it hadn’t been profitable since issue #16. With issue 16, in order to boost declining sales, we made a special 60 cent issue as a jumping on point for new readers. Our circulation went up, but not nearly enough to justify the financial hit we would take from selling a comic below cost. I’d hoped the stunt would double our readership, but it didn’t and dug a hole that the book still hasn’t climbed out of and with only one more issue to go, probably never will.
I was desperately looking for ways to improve sales of the comic. I thought, perhaps the thing holding it back is what I’d heard multiple times: “don’t draw like Kirby.” People within the Image organization suggested shaking up the art on the book. That fit with my own thoughts on the series’ difficulty finding an audience at that point. I decided to try other drawing approaches to create a different visual identity for the book. In issue #19 I tried a new style. I wanted it to look Pop Art, so that it would still be consistent with the other issues, but not specifically like Kirby’s brand of Pop Art. I decided to make the interior lines as thin as possible and create a thick holding line around the figures. It was different. It wasn’t as much fun as drawing like Kirby.
I began drawing issue #20 the same way, but by then I’d become tired of the new approach. It didn’t feel natural, the thin/thick approach was too much of a gimmick. The powers that be at Image didn’t like it either. I scrapped the pages I’d drawn for #20 and came up with a new plan. I really had two puzzles to solve. The first puzzle was to give the book a visual identity that wasn’t so dependent on the reader’s feelings about Jack Kirby. The second puzzle was how to keep myself interested enough to keep drawing. At this point Godland had lost its luster for me. Bill Crabtree, the original colorist left the book. Richard Starkings moved on. Image increasingly expressed dissatisfaction with the book. It felt like Camelot was breaking up. It wasn’t the fun experience it had been for the first year or so.
To keep myself interested I decided I’d try getting into the spirit of some of my other favorite artists, one issue at a time. I’d try a different artist each issue, and by the end of that run of issues, I’d synthesize all of those influences into the new style of the book. Issue #20 was going to be my Wally Wood issue. As I drew it, I realized that my idea of the Wally Wood style is to draw everything as completely and invitingly as possible. So issue #20 looked nothing like Wally Wood, but was maybe the issue with the best draftsmanship.
Godland #22 was my Barry Windsor-Smith issue. When I sat down to draw it, I meditated upon the, perhaps apocryphal, story of the 20-something Barry Windsor-Smith, homeless in New York, drawing maybe the greatest comic book series of all time for almost no money. How could I complain in my comfortable apartment making no money drawing Godland. I would place that same quixotic level of care and energy into my personal masterpiece, which after all is said and done, I have an ownership stake in, something young Barry couldn’t claim for his work. I drew the comic in 3 weeks and it was the most meticulously-drawn issue in the series. I’m extremely proud of it.
Godland issues 13-24 are reprinted in the Godland Celestial Edition: Volume 2 Hardcover which can be purchased by clicking on the button below: