Monday, August 17, 2009

Mike Mignola's Clayface pencils

Back in the mid-80's, when Mark Waid was editing Secret Origins, a friend told me that he'd caught a glimpse of my next inking project. Mike Mignola had pencilled a Steve Purcell script for the origin of Clayface and I was going to ink and color it. Okay, sounds good to me. I was confused because I hadn't heard anything about it but the friend assured me that he'd seen my name lettered in the credits.

It got weirder.

Months later, when I asked Mark about it, he said the story had been killed. The script was hilarious, as you'd expect from the creator of Sam and Max, but DC felt that it was undignified for Batman and Robin to be referred to as "a couple of costumed pansies" and other humorous bits that were less than reverential.

So the pencilled, lettered pages were put on a shelf. They eventually made their way out the door when an editor sent them to an inker in Canada so that he could "practice" on them. Yowza.

Flash forward several years. Mike's talking with a new editor at DC and suggests tracking down those boards so the story can finally be published. A few calls are made and the art is returned to DC, un-inked but slightly water damaged in places.

Mike considers inking it himself but changes his mind when he looks over the pencils and says, "I don't even know the guy who pencilled this!"

So he asks me if I want to take a crack at it and of course I agree.

Years earlier, Mike had been disappointed with my inks on an Alien book we did because he was hoping I'd really go to town with the rendering and shadows. He thought I'd inked it straight, which really wasn't what he was looking for. I assured him that I'd try to "fix" things if I could find anything that really needed it.

Fast forward again, a few months later. The pages are once again at DC, but this time they're inked and the objecting editor has moved on, so it's finally going to get published, right? No, not yet... they don't know where to put it since Secret Origins has been cancelled and it's too short for a book by itself. How about putting it together with the Ron Marz, Berni Wrightson Batman vs Solomon Grundy story I inked? The editor's eyes lit up... "Yeah! Let's do it!"

Well no, that would make too much sense for a project as cursed as this one.

It finally saw print years later. Some of you may have seen it, buried in a Batman villains issue of Secret Files, but it was easy to miss. If you can find a copy, check out the dialog. It's laugh-out-loud funny and whole chunks of it were taken from the original Clayface story published back in the '40's.


  1. Now this is a great story. I agree that it was buried horribly in the depths of a S.F. issue, which was lame. If they would have packaged that with the Wrightson story, holy cow, it would have been incredible. 40k in sales without a doubt. Get Mike or Bernie to drop a new cover on the book (with your inks) and it would have been a great package.

    But for those who didn't pick it up the first time, it is in the BATMAN VILLAINS SECRET FILES 2005 #1 issue. Funny story, great to see Kevin adding more "him" to Mike's pencils.

    Thanks for sharing both the images and the great story.

    Wonder who the sample inker was?

  2. now these are the behind-the-scenes stories that are horrible to live through, but great to hear.

  3. Thats a story that (I think), has been never published in Spain, but I will check.

  4. I am glad to have found your blog! I have an old Power-Man/Iron Fist page that you drew and I am wondering about it's origin. If you check my blog I hope you recognize it. I see a lot of your old art on your blog and I hope you remember this one.

  5. Hi Don,

    That page is from an inventory story that I drew in 1981 or '82. It would have been my second job at Marvel.

    It's disturbing to read on your blog that you acquired the page when you hung around the Art Returns Department at Marvel. The art should have been returned to me.

  6. Great dialogue, great art, and great story, need to find me a copy of this!