Exclusive Interview with Comic Book Artist Joe Staton[Date: December 2, 2019]
By Michael Moreno
Superman Homepage reporter Michael Moreno caught up with artist Joe Staton recently and asked him all about his career in comic books, working for DC Comics, and specifically his time working on Superman related characters.
Joe Staton, started working for DC Comics in the mid-1970s, having already worked for Charlton, Marvel Comics and Warren Publishing. The Inkpot Award winning artist worked on many Superman projects, including "Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes," "Justice Society of America," "Batman and Superman Adventures: World's Finest," and "Superman & Bugs Bunny".
The Superman Homepage would like to thank Joe for agreeing to do this interview, and for fitting it into his busy schedule.
Q: How long were you a cartoonist before you started working with DC Comics and on Superman? When were you first commissioned to work on Superman?
A: I think I've always been a cartoonist but I started actually working in comics in 1971 for Charlton Comics. I was working on All Star/JSA for DC in 1977 and 1978. That would been my first chance to draw Superman. That was the Superman of Earth II, who was the original Superman from the 1940s. Our take on the Siegel and Shuster character. I think I came to working on the "contemporary" version of Superman in the late 70s and early 80s when I did several issue of DC Comics Presents, the Superman team-up book. I think was Marty Pasko who wrote the team-up with Sgt Rock and Easy Company, really nice inking by Jack Abel. It's hard to figure how you can make that team-up work but the story was actually very nice, with nice characterization of Superman. Another issue I liked was a cross-over with Dr Fate that Denny O'Neil wrote. It's always fun to have Superman cope with magical characters like Fate and this one had pirates as well. One footnote here is that E. Nelson Bridwell was actually editing the book at the time. I had swiped a nice pirate's coat from somewhere that I liked a lot. Nelson was a stickler for accuracy and objected that the coat was off by a century or so, so I had to change the coat.
Q: You had worked on the four issue mini series comic "Superman and Bugs Bunny" in the early 2000s. What was it like working with both DC Comic's number one superhero, Superman. and Warner Brothers favorite rabbit Bugs Bunny? Is it a team up that you would like to work on again in the future?
A: Ah, a trick question. I really liked the idea of the crossed realities. Unfortunately, working with constant interference from Warners wasn't much fun. It was really hard on our editor Joey Cavalieri who was running interference.
Q: You worked on "Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes". What was it like working on not just one, but multiple different superheroes?
A: Of course, I had that run on the JSA, so I had experience organizing sets of several characters at a time. One problem is that I like to bring in a lot of body language and postures to get the feeling across and it would get complicated. And I'm afraid I would lose track of details on that many costumes. I think I remember correctly that we got letters complaining that I would sometime put the wrong boots on characters.
Q: Your time working on Adventure Comics was during a different era. How have things changed in the comic book world since your time working on the series?
A: Things have changed a lot in all sorts of ways. The technology has changed tremendously, newsprint and hand-done 4-color seps have been replaced by slick paper and Photoshop. Cons were just getting going good in the 70s when feedback was basically a matter of letters to the editor. The era of the giant superhero movies was off in the future. Artists and writers usually had to live near the NY offices of the publishers. Now they live all over the world.
Q: What was it like working on the DC Special #29?
A: I really loved this project. How can you not love a job where you have the chance to draw the original Superman catching a Nazi A-Bomb before it hits the White House? Paul Levitz really got a chance to show off with this one. He was very deep into history and was able to work in real world history with FDR and practically every superhero around in the 40s. FDR was a great comics character. The Spectre got to be really terrifying showing Nazis the face of horror. Paul pulled it all together. I got to draw sorts of period things and think I did a really good job. Bob Layton was doing the Wally Wood-influenced inking that suited the period nicely. Anthony Tollin kept it clear with his colors. Yeah, I like that one. (Okay, we did have a few mistakes. Alan Scott did break a wooden door. Hawkman had the wrong headpiece. Anyway, it was fun.)
Q: Are there any super hero team-ups with Superman that you would like to work on in the future?
A: It would have been fun to do an adventure in space with Superman and the GL Corps.
Q: Over the years, Superman has incorporated various members into his Super family. One of which is Power Girl. What has your experience been like working with this superhero?
A: Yes, I came in very early in Power Girl's life. My understanding is that she was made particularly sexy and busty to please Wally Wood, the original inker. However, she also has to be treated as a serious hero as well to work. So there's a balance to the character. I particularly like the backups in Wonder Woman, where she teamed up with the Huntress. I'm pleased to see that she is still around.
Q: Do you have a favorite Superman comic or Superman-related comic that you've worked on? If so, what is it and why?
A: I've always been at home with animated-style characters and I did a couple with Superman that I thought worked well. There was the World's Finest, adapting the animated version of Superman and Batman's first meeting. I especially liked the version of Lois Lane in that story. I also liked the Superman Adventures Annual from 1997 which featured lots of magic, with Zatara and tons of Monsters, all animated style.
Q: Do you have any advice for those who would be interested in becoming a cartoonist and would want to work for the comic book industry? Do you have any advice for those who will one day work on Superman?
A: I guess the standing advice is to be flexible. The skills necessary for a comic book artist transfer well to storyboards and character design for tv and movies and game designs. Try to keep your identity but be able to do it all. If you're working on Superman, I'd say respect him.
This interview is Copyright © 2019 by Steven Younis. It is not to be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the author.
IntroductionThe Superman Homepage has had the pleasure of interviewing various Superman Comic Book creative people about their work.
Question and Answer Interviews:
- Interview with writer Marv Wolfman about Man and Superman: The Deluxe Edition (November 2019)
- Interview with artist Claudio Castellini about Man and Superman: The Deluxe Edition (November 2019)
- Interview with artist Joe Staton about working on Superman properties over the years (November 2019)
- Interview with Christopher Priest about the Superman vs. Deathstroke story in Deathstroke #8 (November 2016)
- Interview with Sterling Gates about the 'Adventures of Supergirl' digital-first comic book series (January 2016)
- Interview with J. Michael Straczynski about Superman: Earth One - Vol. 3 - Writer J. Michael Straczynski talks to us about the third volume in the Superman: Earth One graphic novel series (February 2015)
- Interview with Jim Krueger - Writer Jim Krueger talks to us about his The Dark Lantern story in the Adventures of Superman comic book title (November 2013)
- Smallville: Season 11 Interview with Bryan Q. Miller - Writer Bryan Q. Miller talks to us about his work on the Smallville: Season 11 comic book title (October 2012)
- Supergirl Interview with Mahmud Asrar - Artist Mahmud Asrar talks to us about his work on the monthly Supergirl comic book title (July 2012)
- Superman/Batman Interview with Joshua Hale Fialkov - Joshua Hale Fialkov answers our questions about The Secret 3-part story in Superman/Batman #85-87 (July 2011)
- Supergirl Interview with Sterling Gates - Sterling Gates answers our questions about where Supergirl is headed post War of the Supermen (June 2010)
- Supergirl Interview with Sterling Gates & Jamal Igle - Adam Dechanel chats with the Supergirl comic book team about the Maid of Might (March 2010)
- Behind the Scenes of the Super Friends - Four part indepth look at the Super Friends comic book title with artists J. Bone and Stewart McKenny (February 2010)
- Interview with Landry Q Walker and Eric Jones - The writer and artist discuss Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade (May 2009)
- Interview with Elliot S! Maggin - Legendary Superman writer and novelist discusses his career (January 2009)
- Interview with J. Bone - Artist discusses Super Friends comic book (November 2008)
- Interview with Mark Bagley (September 2008)
- Interview with J. Torres - Writer discusses Legion of Super Heroes in the 31st Century #18 (September 2008)
- Interview with Jake Black (May 2008)
- Interview with Cary Bates (June 2008)
- Interview with Jack Briglio - Writer discusses Legion of Super Heroes in the 31st Century #14 (May 2008)
- Interview with Ken Pontac - Writer discusses Justice League Unlimited #44 (May 2008)
- Interview with Karl Kerschl (April 2008)
- Interview with J. Torres - Writer discusses Legion of Super Heroes in the 31st Century #13 (April 2008)
- Interview with J. Torres - Writer discusses Legion of Super Heroes in the 31st Century #11 (February 2008)
- Interview with Fabian Nicieza - Writer on Superman comic books (June 2007)
- Interview with Danny Fingeroth - Writer of the book Superman on the Couch (May 2007)
- Interview with Jesse McCann - Writer on the Krypto The Superdog comic books (December 2006)
- Interview with Matt Haley - Artist on the Superman Returns comic book movie adaptation (November 2006)
- Interview with Ethan Van Sciver - Artist on Superman/Batman (September 2006)
- Interview with Mark Verheiden on taking over the writing duties on Superman/Batman (April 2006)
- Interview with Matt Idelson on taking over as Superman group editor (March 2006)
- Interview with Jeph Loeb on Sam and Superman/Batman #26 (February 2006)
- Interview with Roger Stern (December 2005)
- Interview with Marv Wolfman (November 2005)
- Interview with Gail Simone (May 2005)
- Interview with Greg Rucka (April 2005)
- Interview with Brad Meltzer [Identity Crisis] (January 2005)
- Interview with Glenn Whitmore (November 2004)
- Interview with Jeph Loeb (September 2004)
- Interview with Karl Kerschl (September 2004)
- Interview with Ron Garney (September 2004)
- Interview with Greg Rucka and Matthew Clark (May 2004)
- Interview with Ed McGuinness (March 2004)
- Interview with Brad Meltzer [Identity Crisis] (March 2004)
- Interview with Mark Millar [Superman: Red Son] (March 2003)
- Interview with Min S. Ku (September 2001)
- Interview with Jeph Loeb (May 2001)
- Interview with Joe Casey (April 2001)
- Interview with Mike S. Miller (September 2000)
- Interview with Denis Rodier (August 2000)
- Interview with Grant Morrison (December 1999)
- Interview with Mark Millar [Part 2] (November 1999)
- Interview with Mark Millar [Part 1] (April 1999)
- Superman vs. Terminator - A Chat with Fight Promoter Alan Grant. (January 2000)
- Superman: The Dailies (1939-1940) Graphic Novel Review.
- The Rebirth of Superman (Part 1) - Superman is reborn... again.
- The Rebirth of Superman (Part 2) - Eddie Barganza on taking the character in a new direction.
- The Rebirth of Superman (Part 3) - Jeph Loeb discusses writing the Man of Steel.
- Lex Luthor For President - Forget Superman. An updated Luthor's new enemies are Gore and Bush.
- Superman: Last Son of Earth - Steve Gerbern Interview - The writer discusses flip-flopping the Man of Steel's origin. (August 2000)
Krypton Club Interviews:
When Lois & Clark started production in 1993, there was an obvious relationship between the comic book people and the Hollywood people.
A trade paperback Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, was published, with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher on the cover. It included reprints of comic book stories that were the inspiration for Lois & Clark, helping to define the characters. Comic's included are: The Story of the Century (Man of Steel miniseries #2), Tears for Titano (Superman Annual #1), Metropolis - 900 mi (in SUP #9), The Name Game (SUP #11), Lois Lane (in ACT #600), Headhunter (AOS #445), Homeless for the Holidays (AOS #462), The Limits of Power (AOS #466), and Survival (ACT #665).
A number of comic book writers and artists had roles as extras in the episode I'm Looking Through You (Season one, episode 4). Their presence was immortilized in the Sky Trading Card #34.
Craig Byrne, president of the online Lois & Clark fanclub The Krypton Club, carried out a series of interviews with comic book writers. The interviews are reprinted with permission of the Krypton Club.
- Interview with Roger Stern (June 1995)
- Interview with John Byrne (June 1995)
- Interview with Mike Carlin (July 1995)