Ahhh, Mike Kaluta. One of my favorite artists, and one of the kings of 70's (and 80's) fantasy comic book art. During the peak of my comic book obsession, in the early 90's, when I was just starting high school, I was hell bent on becoming a comic book artist. I had gone from drawing and painting abstract, surrealist art most of my childhood to drawing comics. I bought every single book on anatomy and perspective that existed and I was drawing muscular figure studies and perspective scenes day and night. I eventually created my own characters and started making large storyboards which I would photocopy down to normal 8" x 11" paper for my portfolio, which I brought to every comic convention to show the featured artists. I wanted to get their opinions, become familiar with the industry, make myself known and yes, I wanted help breaking into the industry (even at 14-15 years old, I was ready to start working, lol). Well, at one particular Comic Convention in Pittsburgh in 90 or 91, Mike Kaluta was one of the featured guests. He was unlike any other industry figure I had met before. I see him sitting there, looking like a pissed off, aging hippy with a very obvious scowl on his face, looking like this comic book convention was the last place he wanted to be. Mentally, he was somewhere far, far away from this whitewashed, fluorescent lit room beneath the Sheraton Hotel on the dingy South Side of Pittsburgh. So I approached him and started the usually line of questions about breaking into the industry, whose work inspired him to get into drawing comics, what new artists he liked, what tools, mediums, and brands he preferred (I was heavily into using Rapidograph pens at that time... but god were those tips a pain in the ass to clean. I found a lot of those guys used brushes to ink, rather than fancy $100 a pop technical pens I was getting into). So, anyways, after looking half interested through my portfolio, he came to my surrealist drawings and paintings, and I noticed his interest was piqued and his eyes finally showed a spark. He then went on a tirade against the comic book industry and the people who ran the publishing companies, calling them slavedrivers more or less and expressing his complete disdain for the entire industry. He looked at me in the eyes and told me sincerely, while pointing to one of my abstract paintings, to stick with fine art and to stay away from the comic book industry. He told me it would ruin my inspiration and kill my creative spirit, by making me hate the art I am forced to produce for these companies month after month. He conjured in my mind the old image of the slave ship galley, with a bunch of starved, bearded men dressed in rags rowing non stop at the command of the slave master who paces up and down the aisles cracking his whip. This image shimmered in my mind and melded with images of the Marvel bullpen, with Stan Lee pacing back and forth, chomping his cigar and looking over the artists' shoulders, yelling about deadlines and badly proportioned female anatomy...Kaluta's advice and jaded demeanor hit me like a ton of bricks. Up until then, everyone in the industry I had met had been very friendly and seemed completely thrilled to be making comic books. This completely screwed up my entire game plan and world view. I can say that it ate away at me until I eventually gave up on wanting to draw comic books and shifted back to creating fine art again.
Wow. Much of this really resonates with me. I first knew about Kaluta from Carson of Venus, and everyone could tell he was weird and wonderful. Thanks for shar'n