The Corner Box

The Corner Box S1E19 - The Scott Dunbier Interview: Artist Editions

January 11, 2024 David & John
The Corner Box
The Corner Box S1E19 - The Scott Dunbier Interview: Artist Editions
Show Notes Transcript

Episode Summary

On this episode of The Corner Box, Scott Dunbier joins hosts John Barber and David Hedgecock in part 2 of this conversation about Scott’s prolific collection of Artist Editions, the list of creators who should be in the Hall of Fame, how he goes about curating Artist Editions, and his Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds project.

 

Timestamp Segments

·       [01:31] Rip Kirby vs Flash Gordon.

·       [02:48] Artist Editions.

·       [10:20] How many Artist Editions has Scott done?

·       [12:42] Creators missing from the Hall of Fame.

·       [14:12] Curating Artist Editions.

·       [18:19] Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds.

·       [23:15] Operation USA.

 

Notable Quotes

·       “Eisner judges, listen to me. Put these guys in.”

·       “There are so many horror stories in the world right now.”

 

Relevant Links

www.thecornerbox.club

AEIndex.org.

opusa.org.

Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds.

[00:00] Intro: Welcome to The Corner Box, where we talk about comics as an industry and an art form. You never know where the discussion will go or who will show up to join host David Hedgecock and John Barber. Between them, they've spent decades writing, drawing, lettering, coloring, editing, editor-in-chiefing, and publishing comics. If you want to know the behind-the-scenes secrets, the highs and lows, the ins and outs of the best artistic medium in the world, then listen in and join us on The Corner Box.

 

[00:31] John Barber: Welcome back to The Corner Box. This is me, John Barber. David Hedgecock is here, perhaps pretending he's not.

 

[00:37] David Hedgecock: Hi, everybody.

 

[00:41] John: We're here for part two of our interview with Scott Dunbier. I don't know, maybe you remember where we left off, but we're right in the middle of some exciting anecdotes about comic books, and I know how the interview ends, and it goes pretty well. So, stick around. Thanks for coming back, and without further ado, let's cut in part two of The Corner Box interview with the editor, Scott Dunbier. My favorite thing is Monsters. I'm literally reading that right now, actually.

 

[01:15] David: Of course, you are, John.

 

[01:16] John: Yeah, this keeps happening.

 

[01:20] David: It's great. It happens all the time. I think, John, it’s because you consume comic books.

 

[01:24] John: I don't know, but it's been specific things, like that Flash Gordon thing. What are the odds of me reading Flash Gordon right when you bring up Flash Gordon?

 

[01:31] Scott: Did Flash Gordon have any good art?

 

[01:35] John: It got okay.

 

[01:37] Scott: I'm going to tell you one thing. Flash Gordon, of course, is gorgeous. Beautiful. It's the companion, it's the other side of the coin, Prince Valiant, but a friend of mine by the name of John Nyberg pointed something out to me years ago, because this is when I was in my 20s, and John Nyberg used to be an anchor. He used to make a lot of different stuff. He's also an art collector, and genuinely one of the nicest guys I know. John pointed out something to me. He was a big Alex Raymond fan, but not a fan of Flash Gordon, and I had never really taken the time to explore Rip Kirby. I'll tell you, Rip Kirby, by Alex Raymond, is his best work, especially the last four or five years of his life. Ridiculously good.

 

[02:29] David: IDW did a bunch of those collections at some point. 

 

[02:32] Scott: Yeah. Dean Mulaney.

 

[02:35] David: Yeah, I've got those on my shelf. I haven't given them look, but that's on my list.

 

[02:40] Scott: Yeah, the reproduction could be better in some cases, but the ones that are good are just, wow.

 

[02:46] David: Talking about that, I want to talk about Artist Editions a little bit, which is what you do. That's the main thing you're doing these days.

 

[03:00] Scott: I do other things. That's the main thing.

 

[03:01] David: Can you tell us a little bit about how it came about that you started making the Artists Editions? What was that about? I don't know how you could have a really good appreciation for what it takes to put one of these things together. I'd love to hear a little bit about how you put one together. How do you find the art? And then scanning it and what choices you're making when you're cleaning that stuff up, because the printed material, you make it look as close to the original as possible, but that in and of itself is a skill. I'd love to hear a little bit about that, how you got into that, and then maybe also a little bit about your collaborators, your designers, the guys that you go to regularly, and a little bit about how you chose them, and how you work with your design team? 

 

[03:50] Scott: It's a long question.

 

[03:52] David: Yeah, I'm not very good at this interview thing.

 

[03:55] Scott: It’s like when a writer says to a comic artist, “I want to have this panel where the Incredible Hulk jumps into the middle of a bunch of tanks, throws them all over the place, and then jumps away.” Sorry. I'm kidding. The initial idea for Artists Editions came about in the early 1990s. I was a member of something called an APA, which stands for Amateur Press Association, and it is a very limited, self-published thing. The one that I was a member of, for a short time, was the Comic Art and Fantasy APA, the CFA APA.

 

[04:46] David: I was a member of the UFO, the United Fanzine Organization.

 

[04:52] Scott: I'm sorry. Anyway, I mean, it's for super geeks of comic art, and a lot of guys have been in it for long time. It was started by a guy named Roger Hill. I don't remember when I joined exactly, but I wasn't a member that long. I’ve got to tell people what an APA actually is. So, this APA, I think, has 40 members, 35 members, something like that, and each member is responsible for doing a contribution, minimum of two pages, maybe four, something like that, and then making photocopies and sending it to a central collater. The collater will then bind it all up and ship them out to all the members, and then they usually overprint by 15. So, people can buy them after the fact, if you're not a member, and it comes out quarterly. There was an issue coming up that was devoted to the work of Neal Adams. So, I used to have a lot of Neal Adams already. My own collection, and I didn't interview, it was a two cassette tapes full of the damn thing, of me and Neal talking about comics and the history of comics, and Neal and his influences, and stuff that really not too many people would be interested in, but when I was also doing my contribution, besides the interview, I wanted to include pieces of art, and some of the pieces I had were in pencil, including the cover to Batman 232, The first Ra's al Ghul I used to own, which has an amazing drawing of Ra's al Ghul in pencil. I was making copies of it, and actually that image wound up being the cover of the publication. I was making photocopies, and they look terrible. They looked horrible.

So, at that point, it probably might have been as late as 1995. I think, I lived in California when I did this. I started playing around with color copies, and they looked much better, and at that point, color copies were fairly expensive. So, I wound up paying, I don't know, two bucks a photocopy for maybe a couple 100 pencil drawings that were in color. So, to me, that's my first Artist Edition in my head, and then after that, there was a book that came out, probably in the late 90s. It was a Chip Kidd book called Collecting Batman, something like that. There's a Neal Adams paid from Batman 251, which is the issue where Batman is fighting the Shark, and he had that page photographed and included in the book, and I remember looking at it, like, “holy crap. That looks great. Look at that. You can see everything.” There was lots of blue pencil. It was all this different stuff. So, that's my second inspiration, and then I had brought it up to John Nee to maybe do a DC, and of course, it was rejected. I had a lot of ideas that I tried to get DC to do, and they rejected a lot of them. When I came over to IDW, Ted liked most of my ideas, and we wound up doing a lot of that, included the first Artist Edition. That was the Rocketeer one. The original agreement I had with Ted was that I could do projects outside of IDW, if IDW wasn't interested. So, I just assumed that he would pass on this because it was a crazy idea and cost a lot of money, and Ted loved it, so we did the Rocketeer, and it was a surprisingly big deal. People really liked it.

 

[08:57] John: Batman Collected, and it was Geoff Spear that was a photographer on it, if I remember that correctly, because that book blew me away, too. As I was just talking about it with somebody else, I think that's not in print right now, which is nuts because it's such a cool book. I'm pretty sure I don't have it here. I think it's at my dad's house somewhere. I didn't know that was the influence on it. That's cool.

 

[09:17] David: Why the Rocketeer first? got it. Was it because you guys already had a license? Or did you have a particular affinity for that material or easy access to it?

 

[09:26] Scott: It's a combination. I mean, it was easy, because at that point IDW was working with the Dave Stevens estate. First, with Dave's mom and later and now with Dave’s sister, and they both are just incredible people who really care deeply about the legacy of Dave Stevens. Yeah, that was just sort of the one that was just the most obvious one. It's hard to go to a place like Marvel and say, “hey, I want to do this brand-new thing you've never seen,” but when they see a book like the Rocketeer, they go “holy crap.”

 

[10:08] David: I think the whole industry went “holy crap,” as you alluded to. That was real different when that thing showed up.

 

[10:15] Scott: It was a nice surprise for me. Any guesses, guys, on how many I've done so far?

 

[10:23] David: I feel like I should know this.

 

[10:24] John: I was actually literally thinking, what’d be amazing is if right now, while we're talking about this, if my closet behind me takes the opportunity to collapse because of all of the Artist Editions I have on a shelf in there. That'd be cool. So, I was mentally calculating how many there are.

 

[10:43] David: Yeah, there's enough to cover a very big section of my garage. The platform in my garage where I keep my stuff, there's got to be at least, oh, gosh, I don't even know, 100/125.

 

[11:01] Scott: There are probably 125 from all publishers. Right now, in 2025, I'll hit 100 of mine.

 

[11:10] David: That's amazing.

 

[11:11] Scott: It's nuts. Next year is going to be a really big year for Artist Editions to me. We start off with Chris Samnee’s Black Widow in March or April, and then in July is Batman Year One by David Mazzucchelli. In September, we have Neal Adams’ DC. Is that your first Neal Adams? I did a portfolio. We used to do Artist Edition portfolios, and we did a really great story called Thrill Kill, that Neal did in 1976 or 77. That was the only one before that. Now that we have a new deal in place with DC, I approached Neal's family and we're doing the book.

 

[12:00] David: That's awesome. Is that still your favorite artists of all time?

 

[12:05] Scott: No, I have so many different favorite artists. It's like asking me what my favorite movie is. He was my first favorite artist, and he's still, there's a window in there from 1969 to 1976/7, where I look at his stuff, especially the stuff that he inked himself and I think, “holy cow, this guy was just amazing,” but how do you compare that to the greatest work by Joe Kubert or Bernie Wrightson, or Frank Frazetta, or Walter Simonson, any truly great comic artist? There's so many, and not just regular comics too, because I'm a big fan of Robert Crumb. I’m a big fan of Moscoso. I'm a big fan of Frank Hampson and Frank Bellamy, who are two guys who are sorely missing from the Will Eisner comic book Hall of Fame, and of all the guys that are in there, how the hell can Frank Hampson, who created Dan Dare, and Frank Bellamy, who is truly one of the best artists in comics history? I don't know how those guys are not in the Hall of Fame. So, Eisner judges, listen to me, put these guys in.

 

[13:27] David: Scott, we wield a lot of power with this podcast now. So, be careful what you say and what you're asking for, because we're very influential now.

 

[13:36] Scott: Every year, me and my pal, Geof Darrow, put together our own list of who is lacking from the comic book Hall of Fame. I'm not kidding. That’s how sad my life is.

 

[13:54] David: That sounds like fun, especially doing it with Geof Darrow.

 

[13:56] Scott: Geof and I have a disagreement over some of it, because I tell him he needs to be in the Hall of Fame, too, and he's like, “Oh, no, not me.”

 

[14:04] David: That's ridiculous. Absolutely should be in there. When you're putting these things together, do you have a set list of what you want to try to get in there? For example, you were talking about the Batman Year One. Is the goal to always try to get every single page of an issue in there or is the goal different from project to project? How do you go about curating it?

 

[14:30] Scott: It's different from project to project. With David Mazzucchelli’s other Artist Edition, which will be reprinted in 2025, Daredevil Born Again, also in collaboration with Frank Miller, that book, Batman Year One, Walter Simonson’s Thor, stuff like that, those guys generally keep their original art, so that makes it easier. Other things, like EC comics, have been sold off over the years, but because all the stories range from six to eight pages, the best stories have generally been kept together. So, that makes it easy, too. Other things like the Neal Adams book, I've actually been lucky. I've found six or seven complete stories, and I've found a real wealth of other material. It sounds silly to say it, but it's almost a job I was born for, because of my history as an art dealer, art collector, and many of my best friends are art dealers, and I've known these guys, one guy I'll shout out is Albert Moy. I've known him for 40 years, since I was in my early 20s, and he was a year or two younger than me. He's now one of the biggest art dealers out there, and he has an amazing collection, so he's very helpful in getting material. I mean, basically, either I know who has it, or if I don't know who has it, I know somebody who knows who has it.

 

[16:12] David: You're one in a million in that regards, I think, and I think that's why you don't see anybody else able to do what you do, as well as you do it, because you’re a unique flower within the comic community. You've got this amazing eye and respect for the material, and then you know where all the bodies are buried. So, I just don't think anybody else could do that the way you're doing it. I am so appreciative that you have found your way to doing it, because it's so valuable. Being able to open up just any of the Artist Editions and look and see how these guys were working, and it's so easy to see their minds in action in a way you just don't get to see in the final printed comic book version of it, and it's fascinating to me. I love it. I'm so glad you're doing well.

 

[17:07] Scott: I appreciate that, and I like to think that the books that I do are okay. There are definitely other people who do some really good Editions, too. Some of the Fantagraphics books are great. The Clouds book. Graffiti has done some really nice ones. I mean, the Ronin book is one of my favorites. Apex has done some nice ones, too. The Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon books are both really good.

 

[17:32] David: The Apex Brian Bolland just got on my radar in the last couple of weeks, and I'd never heard about that before. I'm going to have to find that thing.

 

[17:40] Scott: Remarkably, actually, the Bolland and the McMahon book are the only ones I've ever actually bought, because usually people just send me copies of them, which is very nice of them. I was in England two times over the last couple of years. First time, I went to a shop called Gosh, and they had it there. So, I bought the goddamn thing and put it into my suitcase, and then when I went back earlier this year, they had the McMahon book there too, which I also bought and put in my suitcase.

 

[18:19] David: I wanted to just talk a little bit about your initiative in Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds book.

 

[18:23] John: Should I go ahead and hit record, then?

 

[18:29] Scott: John Barber, comedy genius.

 

[18:34] John: Pretty quickly, you acted to try to bring together a bunch of creators to do a benefit book. I think it arrived in my hands a couple of months ago. I mean, that was the centerpiece of your Eisner Award. I can't remember if you won a second Eisner Award later in that ceremony, but it was going to say your most recent Eisner Award, the Humanitarian Award.

 

[18:53] Scott: I think it's called the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, and then later, the Parker Martini Edition won a couple of Eisner awards that night, too.

 

[19:01] John: Okay, couldn't remember the order.

 

[19:05] David: It's hard to keep up with all your Eisner’s. It's exhausting. Wow. Oh my gosh, that's awesome.

 

[19:16] John: I have all mine on display on these, too.

 

[19:21] Scott: They used to have them as plaques, and those are stacked up somewhere in the back.

 

[19:27] David: So, for our listeners, Scott moved his camera and showed us the wall. He's got this amazing trophy case on his wall that's, literally the entire wall’s covered with Eisner Awards. Wow. That's incredible.

 

[19:342] Scott: There are some Harvey's up there, too.

 

[19:43] John: Was that the skull from Alien also? That was good easter egg for the fans.

 

[19:51] David: Sorry, I distracted us. Tell us about that project.

 

[19:55] Scott: It's funny saying quickly about that project, because it came together initially fairly quickly, but it took a while to put it together. It took more than a year to actually have it come to completion. So, I had done this book through Zoop, which is a crowdfunding place that I like. I did a book on John Paul Leon. That was for his daughter's college education, so that book came out, and then when Ukraine was happening, back in February of 2022, like everybody, I was horrified by what was going on, and I got more and more pissed off, and I reached out to the people at Zoop to see, if I put something together, if they would be up for doing something similar to what they did with the John Paul Leon book, they took no money. Everything went directly to John Paul's family. They did hard costs, like credit card charges, things like that. I mean, they shouldn't lose money. So, they did all that and then just took out hard costs that they were responsible for, and I asked them if they would do something like that with a book that at the time didn't have a real title. I just kept on calling it Comics for Ukraine, and then eventually, that became the title, and I asked them if they would be interested in doing that, and I remember one of them said, “can’t we make any money on this one?” And I said, “Nope, you can't. Sorry.”

It was supposed to come out at the end of 2022. It didn't actually go to the printer until May of this year, because there were 15, I can't remember how many stories are in it, but there are a lot of stories and a lot of people who work full-time who can't necessarily afford to take that hit of not working. Some people were very quick. The first story came in from Howard Chaykin, and that was an American Flag story, and then basically, I just started calling up people and asking them if they would be interested in doing this, and everybody either said yes, or other people contacted me who, it was originally supposed to be a shorter book, and then it grew because people kept contacted me and asked me to be a part of it. So, it wound up raising close to $180,000, as John said, finally went to all the backers. One thing I did was, I made sure that we overprinted, and there's been some hiccups along the way with Zoop, but starting in the next couple of days, it'll be available for sale, so people can buy it now, after the campaign. If you didn't support the campaign, you can buy copies at Zoop.gg, which I don't understand why it's called zoop.gg, but if you go to their website, you'll be able to find it and purchase it by the time this podcast goes up.

 

[23:15] David: What was the charity that the money went to, Scott?

 

[23:19] Scott: Actually, you can also donate to them directly. It's Scott Dunbier @- No, just kidding. I have to thank my pal, Mark Evanier. When I was doing this, one of the things that was really important to me was to find a charity that was not a three Martini charity, as I call them. Places where they give 20 or 25% of the money raised to where it’s needed. Instead, Mark suggested Operation USA. I think their website is Opusa.org. If you do a Google search on Operation USA charity, it'll come up. It's a very small charity founded by this guy named Richard Walden, who is a hero. He has dedicated his life to this charity. They basically funnel money into places where it's needed. When I talked to Richard, I told him I specifically wanted money to go to Ukrainian refugees, to people who need it, whatever it is. If it's buying blankets, if it's getting food, whatever it is. They've been tremendously supportive, and we're talking about an outfit with less than 10 employees. They do not have a huge amount of overhead, and they do tremendous work, and I urge anyone listening to this to look at their website, and if you want to buy a book, that's great, or if you want to make a donation to them.

I mean, there are so many different horror stories in the world right now, between what's going on in Ukraine and in Gaza, and in Israel, everywhere. I mean, there are so many horror stories. I wish I could do more. This book was a really, really tough book for me. Putting it together took much longer than I thought. It's something that the term “wrangling cats” comes to mind, and that's in no way to say that anybody who was involved was difficult. There were some challenges because of deadlines, but everybody who donated their time and talents truly deserve all the thanks. Matt Wagner doing a brand-new Grendel story, and Stan Sakai, it's all brand-new, doing a great Usagi story, Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier doing Groo. I don't want to mention any more because I feel bad if I miss any, but there are so many wonderful creators in this book. Every single one of them made time to do this, and they will have my eternal thanks, and that's not just for the writers and artists either. That also includes, most people inked their own work, but not all of them. There were anchors, colorists, letterers, my designer Serban Cristescu, who also does some Artist Editions occasionally. All these guys did this because they felt it was important. I say guys, and that's not accurate either, because there were a lot of women involved in this book, too, from Emil Ferris, Colleen Duran, Jill Thompson, so many wonderful people, wonderful creators who really went all out on this. I hope it continues to sell well. There are actually going to be three international editions coming out next year. Anyway, blah, blah, blah,

 

[27:04] David: No, no, there's no blah, blah. You’re doing great work, man. Kudos to all those people for contributing their time and energy, and to you for doing as well. Certainly, worthwhile and needed at a time like this, as you say.

 

[27:26] Scott: I'm just the best, aren’t I? I’m world famous in Cleveland, and I'm a legend in my own mind.

 

[27:32] David: With a face for radio and a voice for TV. Well, Scott, thank you so much. Appreciate you coming on and hanging out with us for a little bit. If you don't know what an Artist Edition is, you should definitely give one of those a peek. Personally, pretty excited about the Samnee Black Widow. The last Samnee that you did was, I think one of my all-time favorites. That Batman Year One is going to be a killer, and I'm anxious for that Neal Adams DC now, too. So, thank you, Scott, for all of your hard work and for being the man that you are. Appreciate you, and thanks again for coming.

 

[28:09] Scott: I appreciate that. Thank you, David. Can I put in a plug for somebody?

 

[28:13] David: Absolutely.

 

[28:14] Scott: There is a guy. I won't try to mangle his last name, but his name is Scott, and he runs a website about Artist Editions, and it's not just IDW Artist Editions, but it's all Artist Editions, everything, and this guy knows more about my work than I do.

 

[28:29] David: It's the AEindex.org.

 

[28:33] Scott: That's it. You got it.

 

[28:34] David: Fantastic site. I agree. It's really cool. We'll make sure we put it in the show notes, but yeah, if you want to check out a lot of Scott's work, the AEindex.org is a great site for that, to really just see what's going on there, and also, he does an annual Scott Dunbier Award, that I noticed you won last year. I thought that was pretty great.

 

[28:55] Scott: I don't always win it, but I have won a couple. I’ve keep on telling him he needs to do a little statue of me or something.

 

[29:06] David: Yes, please. All right. Thanks, Scott.

 

[29:12] Scott: Thank you, guys. It was a pleasure, and if you ever want me to come back, I'd be more than happy to.

 

[29:16] John: Alright. Thanks a lot, everybody, for joining us. Please come back next week for another exciting episode. Thanks a lot. Take care.

 

[29:24] David: Thanks, everybody. 

 

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