Here on Darby Pops Off, one theme holds true across all of our blog posts, all of our guest writers. There’s something magical about comics. Some power that hooks people early on and never lets them go. Comics certainly never let animation professional Phil Crain go, as he shares with us below.
Until next time,
I’ve been around comics all my life. Batman, Spider-Man, and The Flash defined my early childhood. Even before I could read, I was begging my mom to buy me comics at the supermarket. I liked the covers, the costumes, and – of course – the action. At that early age, I didn’t even think about the words; the pictures pretty much told the story.
My love of comic art even had me toying with the idea of becoming an artist. I drew pretty well as an adolescent. But, I soon realized illustration wasn’t for me when my skills never progressed any further. Regardless, I somehow landed an entry-level job at Malibu Comics in my early twenties. I made copies, coordinated artwork, and talked to creators on a daily basis. My position wasn’t creative at all, but I was allowed to dabble in scripting. I even created a long-forgotten anti-hero named “Hellblade”; I pitched him as “Wolverine meets The Crow.” Back then, every character I wrote could best be described as “brooding.” Write what you know.
Sadly, my career in comics fizzled out four-plus years after it started, as Malibu’s doors were permanently shuttered after the comic book marketplace crash of the mid-90s. After the bust, I did what most comic book professionals were doing and jumped into animation. It seemed like a natural transition from the still image of a comic book panel to the moving frames of a cartoon. As it ended up, it WAS pretty seamless. Making copies of comic pages was quite similar to making copies of storyboard pages, and talking to creators was simply replaced with babysitting in-house artists. The biggest difference between animation and comics was that creative opportunities weren’t as easy to come by as a “production” person. It was apparent that I could not rely on my heretofore Forrest Gump-like dumb luck to provide me with an opportunity to create something without putting forth much effort. So, over the ensuing years, I became wholly complacent, and settled into the life of a production coordinator/manager/supervisor — putting aside childish things.
Flash-forward almost twenty years, and I’m still here plugging away in animation. What’s changed besides a job title here and there? Honestly, not much. Which leads my thoughts back to the passion that started my career… COMICS. The comic book marketplace has definitely evolved since my Malibu days, and isn’t dominated by just the BIG TWO (Marvel and DC) anymore. Now there are additional mega-players (Dark Horse, Image, IDW), plenty of mid-size publishers (like Boom and Dynamite), and countless upstarts (like Darby Pop) all looking for the next big “thing.” Or, maybe they’re all just scratching the same creative itch that led me to Malibu those many years ago. Regardless, all these potential “opportunities” have definitely got me thinking about maybe… just maybe… trying to make my own comics comeback.
To that end, I’ve been creating and writing comics with my artist pal, John Statema. And we’ll be launching a series of horror comic strips online later in the summer. In addition, I’ve been developing a couple of comic books with various artists. Will I ever get anything published by anyone other than myself? Probably not. But, it has been nice fleshing-out ideas, stories, and characters again. And taking just a bit more control of my own destiny.
Of course, my creations are still very brooding.
No surprise. Age didn’t make me a better artist; why should it change my worldview? Immutability seemed to work for Forrest Gump…
About the Author
Phil Crain is an animation professional from Los Angeles who loves Star Wars, Halloween, and ghosts.