Monday, August 29, 2011


How I roll.

I think I always knew, in the back of my creative mind that I wanted to do Original Material. Hindsight is 20/20, so maybe not. All I know is that I have always had my own stuff rattling around in my head from day one. Shit, that is how I got into the business. I did a creator Owned book called B.L.A.D.E. with my best friend Seaborn Mercer, back in 1989.Google it. It's interesting. Or if you have a copy of my Art Book: TONY HARRIS~ Art and Skulduggery( and , YES, i DID spell that correctly), look in the front of the book and the entire first issue is printed there for your pleasure. So I think that I always Intended to do Original material as the opportunities presented themselves to me. I just didn't know that when I was trying to build my empire one failure at a time. So I did what I had to. I took ANY job that came my way, no matter what the character, or size of the gig. Because that's what you do. Then, I guess as you do more work, and you build relationships with publishers, and Editors( that you hope will be lasting), you begin to throw yer weiner in the middle of the road. Hoping it won't get squashed in the process. That can be crushing. To your Ego, and to the Notion that you have Ideas that are Valid. Every time you hear a "No" it crushes you. You re-think what you thought was cool, or good. You start to take the story apart in your head and ask a whole buncha questions that really are not valid. Then you have to muster whatever confidence you have and tell yourself that your Ideas have worth. Just because "That" guy, or "Those dudes" didn't dig it, it doesn't mean it isn't good. Things change. People move on from a position of power, to elsewhere. So opportunities arise. Sometimes ones that you thought were gone. Sometimes, otherwise. There is NO game plan. No formula for getting something looked at, or even picked up. So you chip away at the Mountain. You pay attention to the cracks, and you wait. Sometimes you take a nugget from a "Rejected" pitch, and you pocket it. Then maybe you do that a number of times( which is likely) and you bankroll those Ideas until another opportunity presents itself to you.

Of all the books I have pitched, that were rejected, I have eventually re-worked them and folded them into something else. Every time. Because If they are good Ideas, they will find their place in time. They never flounder long.

I have always done enough mainstream work for the BIG 2 over the years to stay relevant. And whatever success I have had on ANY of those books, I have parlayed into attention for whatever Creator-Owned work I wanted to pursue. And I have been fortunate enough to have done a good bit of that over the years.
Part of that success is understanding what it means to be relevant. You can't become complacent. As cheesy as it sounds, you have to keep up with contemporary Music, Fashion, Current events and ALL things NOW. If you do that, then your Art will never look Dated or Old. there is a definite difference between "Old-School", and "Old." Don't let yourself fall into the latter. You are Dead, if you do. About every Decade or so, the Big-2 will pull out their Brooms and start trying to sweep out the "Old". Go back 30 years and you will see that I am right. The only guys/gals who stick around during these transitional times are the ones who stay RELEVANT. Case in point: STARMAN was the ONLY book to NOT be cancelled from the "0-Hour" EVENT. Not because James Robinson and myself were necessarily better writers or Artists than our contemporaries during that time. But, because we were MORE RELEVANT. To that period. We just hit with the RIGHT thing at the RIGHT time. Again, we could have washed out with everyone else. But we were LUCKY enough to hit some resonant frequency with people at that exact time. And THAT is what makes up a huge part of what success is regards to creative endeavors . LUCK. You could craft what you think is the strongest work of your career, then put it out there for people, and it FLOPS. Then, conversely do something you din't think was your best effort, drop it, and people go CRAZY for it. There is NO rhyme, nor reason. You just have to keep trying. keep telling stories, and hope they ring peoples bells. If not, Then you are yesterdays toilet paper, covered in your own worthless shit. And then you get flushed.


Friday, August 26, 2011


Hola! Bitches.

So , now for my FUCK-UPS. Or at least one or 2. Wow, now that I sit down to think about it, I have to discern between standing my ground on principle( i.e. being bull-headed) and just PLAIN being wrong.

OK, so what is the biggest Fuck-Up of my career? And second. what is the ONE thing I regret, right or wrong. That's 2 categories. We shall start with the FUCK-UP.

I had to pause, and REALLY think about this. I have regrets, to be sure. I think everyone does. But that's not the same as a FUCK-UP. You know what I mean.

I think the biggest FUCK-UP of my career, to date anyway, is that I left STARMAN as the regular Penciler and Co-Creator with issue 45.

Now, it has to be said that were many things that led to my departure. Many, indeed. James Robinson and I were on the "outs". No worries there because time does indeed heal ALL wounds, because were are right as rain now. AND, I am looking forward to working with him again! But at the time, Archie Goodwin( our beloved Editor, father figure, and Friend) had lost his battle with Cancer. It crushed me. He IS the reason I am in the Biz. Period. SO his death took the wind outta me. Then James and I had a difference of opinion regarding the direction of STARMAN. He wanted to go into Space, I did not. So I decided that it would be the perfect time for me to leave STARMAN. Now, 15+ years later, I am, just now, for the first time, admitting that I was mistaken. I shouldn't have left. I wish I hadn't. Looking at the STARMAN OMNIBUS I feel this wholly. Heres why: I did another series, many years later , called EX MACHINA. I leveraged my name, and Rep when I was hired to make sure that there would NOT be fill-ins or the like. That I would be able to draw ALL 50 issues of the series. YES! It was selfish, and calculating. But I wanted a Legacy of sorts. I wanted to correct what I had FUCKED-UP with STARMAN. And I did. I drew all 50 issues of EX MACHINA. It was collected in Trade Paper back, then in Hardcover, not to mention all 50 issues of the Singles. The Specials, that I did the covers for, the New Covers for the Trades, and the Hardcovers, the Posters. All of it. I could NOT be more proud of that achievement.

BUT. I could have had that twice. That achievement. 2 times. But, I fucked up. I let my feelings rule my decision making. Which is a common failing among young Creators and Artists. I see that now. It's OK though, because I will forever be known as Tony, "STARMAN" Harris. I made him, and HE made me. And that's OK. That is the book that put me on the map, and regardless of fill-ins etc.... I still drew the Bulk of the series, and stayed on as Cover Artist until I passed to Reigns to the Capable, and Brilliant Andrew Robinson. I just wish I had drawn it all. Every Bit.

I FUCKED-UP. God how I wish I could take that back.

The Regret? Losing 2 friends. One, a fellow Artist, and the other, Administration at a publisher.

The Artist? Now, and Ex-Friend( sadly) that I met early in my career. We hit it off immediately and were close for many, many years. So I decided, along with him, that we should work together. We did. And it was everything I hoped it would be. Rewarding in so many ways. During this period we were literally on the phone daily. Chatting and drawing and loving life. Then after our collaboration it was decided that I was to keep the Original Art.
Flash forward a few years later. I fell into a situation requiring liquid capital, which is NOT uncommon in this field. So, I had to come up with $$ to keep my family afloat. So I had this Original Art, which I had created HALF of, and it was given to me as a gift by my friend and Collaborator. So I sold it. My family was taken care of, and all is good. Except it isn't. A bit of time goes by, not too much, maybe a month or 3. Which in Comic Book Time, is NOTHING. I try calling him to chat. No answer.this goes on and on and on and on and on. I finally realize that he isn't going to speak to me anymore. My dear friend. It was only a considerable time later that i was told by a mutual friend that he found out that I had sold the painting, and was furious, and expected that he should receive half the money, and cut me off, and found me to be dead to him. I reached out sooooo many times, with phone calls and the like. To NO avail. That is a dead chapter in my life. And i could not be more sad about it. I miss him.

The second? A friend and Artist who was catapulted into Editorial Administration. We remained friends,( or so I thought) for many years as he rose through the ranks. Then VERY recently he placed me on a project that he said he thought I was perfect for. Things went VERY badly, and after my PROPER resignation, I was told by him to , " DO ME A FAVOR, AND LOSE MY #." I was Heart-Sick. Still am. I wish I could hit a restart button on these situations. But I feel they are lost.


More soon.


Monday, August 22, 2011


I have had my share of Success over the years. I have also had plenty of failure, not to mention, fuck ups. Now there is a BIG difference between those 2 things. Failure is the end result of effort. Actually trying something and not succeeding( for whatever reason) is called FAILURE. Fucking Up is totally different. That's when you forget to do shit, or lie about your "Actual" effort regarding a certain Job, or assignment, or just plain blowing something off, and in ALL cases....getting COLD busted for it. So I thought it might be good for this series of Essays to give you a VERY clear example of both, and a buncha other tid-bits along the way.

First. A Tid-Bit~


In Business, it does NOT matter what perception is, or might be. Events, and experience are ALL that matter. Take all of them and bank them. I'm not saying hold a grudge, or live in the past. I am just saying don't forget how you got where you are, and what you did( good or bad) to get there. Most importantly, treat Folk as good as you'd like to be treated. Shit WILL come back at you. Good, AND bad. You might think about a lotta things over the years regarding work, a gig, or relationships you have with an Editor, or a Company. Don't be stupid. Be careful. Cross your "t's" and dot your "i's". That way, when someone tries to take a dump on you, it won't come as a surprise. Then you can deal with it rationally, and not emotionally. In other words, be a business man. Handle your business. The only place for a Fan on the professional end of Comics, is when your knowledge of the History of Comics comes into play within the context of a Gig.

So anyway, I got a job from a publisher through a key player in Administration a while back, and it didn't quite turn out the way I had hoped.

I had been sending covers to several guys in key positions at several companies ( as I finished assignments) in an effort to garner an ongoing Cover Gig. I figured if I sent actual Covers that I was contracted to do, that it would work on several levels with the Editors I was calling on.

1. The images were my MOST current work, and a perfect example of my particular skill-set.

2. It would show that I was gainfully employed, and still had a Creative Voice in the Industry.

3. It would keep me connected with a small group of Editors at several different publishers that I had either worked with, or wanted to work with.
So, that is what I did. So after a few covers were sent, I hooked up with ONE particular guy. He was grooving on the stuff, understood that I wanted to land a regular cover Gig and wanted to talk. We had been pals for years, like minded creatively and he said he thought I would be perfect for a job that had come across his desk. I looked it over, and after learning that I was the actual Editor on the Books FIRST choice, I said yes. This Gig was a big deal. At least that's what I was told. So I was offered a LOT of money for this job. WAY more than I get for a regular cover. But that was because it was an Event. So I got to work after I signed Pay Vouchers filled out by the Editor, with the promised amounts filled in, with his signature down below. I produced 3 covers, before I heard that I was NOT to be paid what I was promised, but that they could get me CLOSE to it. That happened no less than 3 times, all the while I am still producing work. I was told "this" guy, or "that" guy, who were important to the approval process for $$, would be back soon from vacation and all would be good. I kept working. By the way, after all these covers, and weeks passed by, I STILL had not been paid a single dime. I couldn't be paid, because my rate had not been approved by the publisher.

So, I had enough. I was more than patient and I sat down to do what my Attorney told me to do. Write a proper resignation letter, citing all the reasons why I decided to step aside. I did that, sent it off to my Editor, colorist, and The Editorial Admin rep who I originally connected with to get the gig in the first place. This did NOT turn out good.

I did not hear from my Editor, nor my colorist, but from - let's give him a name. I heard from CHIKLETT. He sent me a letter saying how shocked he was that I would pull such an unprofessional move. But really, he wasn't shocked, cuz whenever he get's together with his peeps to discuss the most unprofessional people in the Industry , evidently , according to his letter, my name ALWAYS comes up first. TOP OF THE HEAP. Then he tells me that I have been part of no less than 4 maybe 5 projects that got fucked up/screwed that he was directly involved in. So I asked CHIKLETT, " Exactly what are those projects you are referring too?" But not before I yelled back at him for calling ME unprofessional, whilst calling me names( and also copying these statements to other Editors at the company, which I am pretty sure is Illegal, oh yeh, AND slander). So, then CHIKLETT apologizes, and says that I am REALLY talented, but not worth the trouble, without telling what those Mysterious Books that I fucked up were.

So. Wow. This sucked. And I will tell you why. NOT just because of the shit he said. NOT, just because I was promised all this $$ and never got it. Not just because I was strung along with no information, whilst waiting to be paid after multiple covers had been produced and turned in.
It sucked because I "THOUGHT" that I had been friends with CHIKLETT for like, I dunno 15 years. Really, no Bull-shit. And he spun on me like a Black-plague-ridden-stranger. Then he tells me to do him a favor: "LOSE MY NUMBER."

Then I go to a convention, see some folks that I am friends with ( which happen to be mutual friends with CHIKLETT) So, I walk over, and give big hugs, and say hi. Knowing that he is standing just-Off-Sides, looking on. I turn to walk away, and I hear, " Hey, Tony." I know who it is, and I dreaded this happening, because I am NOT one to shrink from confrontation usually, so I was afraid of what I might do, or say. And also, because I figured THIS guy, speaking to me, was TOTALLY out of the question. So what could I do? He knew i wouldn't make a scene in public, so that's why he did it. I turned around on a dime, extended my hand and said, "Hi CHIKLETT." Then abruptly walked away. I felt like I betrayed myself by letting him control me. Like a fucking PUSSY. But that's for me to deal with.

So that's it. Story over. I still have to travel the same Circuit CHIKLETT does. I see him, and I am SURE he sees me. But that is OK. I remember that I am unaffected , and that I am a professional, the VERY thing he said I wasn't.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I had pretty shitty grades in High School. That is until I woke up one morning of the latter part of my 10th Grade year, walked into the Bathroom and literally looked at myself in the mirror and asked, " Holy Shit! What are you gonna do after you Graduate High School?!" I had no answer. So it was time to quit screwing around, and focus on my School work so that I could Graduate. I did, but one thing was different than I had hoped. I didn't have the grades or the money to pursue Art in Secondary School. No Art School for Tony Harris. This was a MAJOR blow. I , along with my family had always assumed that I would attend some kind of Art School after High School. If for no other reason that I won a LOT of Art Awards over the years, pursued my ability vigorously with ALL of my parents support. But then I became a teenager got mad about everything, and fucked off on School, Art, Family and anything else that mattered. It was really hard for me as a kid. I can't speak for my Brother and Sister, but it was for me. It was also REALLY good. We grew up in a Military Family, moving about every 18 months or so. Sometimes longer periods in one place, but that was about the average. After a while of always being the new kid, and dealing with ALL that comes with that Horse-shit, you learn. you adapt, or you wither and die. So for me, my Art was my refuge. That was the bad part. The good part were my folks, and my home life. It was great. My Dad was Military and worked a lot, but was and is a GREAT FATHER. Mom was the same, AWESOME MOM, stayed home for most of our young lives to raise us, until we became Latch-Key kids during my Pre-Teenage years. But all the while, they supported me, and my Art. Just felt like that all needed saying. Support for a young Artist is so key to their development. Without that coming directly from where you dwell, you have major obstacles in your way.

So looking back now I can see things foggy. NOT clearly. I did NOT read comics and collect them as a child. Unlike most of my contemporaries. I did buy the Occasional Comic from a Gas Station, or Book Store( when they had them, *Thanks Book Nook of Charleston SC!! for having what a 12 year old needed!) Notably The Pocket sized Paperback of Empire Strikes Back from Marvel ( written by Archie Goodwin, who would almost 15 years later become my Editor on STARMAN for DC Comics) and CONAN from Marvel, Illustrated by the AMAZING John Buscema, and Ernie Chan! But i didn't know ANY of that then. I just thought they were cool. No, Indeed I would not really "Discover" Comics until I was 19 years old, and outta School. but , at least I did. I fell into it after moving to Athens GA, post High School( which is where my then Girlfriend, and High School best friend moved to attend UGA). WOW! I think we veered into a History lesson here. But I think you might understand me better as an Individual, among many, i.e. my contemporaries in the field of Comics, if you know a bit about how I arrived here, in Comics. And as I type these words, I realize it is both unlikely, and meant to be, in equal portions that I would make my Artistic home in this Medium. I think maybe that is the benefit of writing about these things , that it makes you recall things. To remember.

I am gonna back up a tiny bit. I did have a small amount ( and by NO means Insignificant) of post-High-School, Art Education. It came to me, in Macon GA in the form of a Local Portrait Artist, and Teacher , named Houser Smith. Amazing man. I met him through the local Artistic, Social circles and was keen to take his figure drawing classes. Didn't have any cash though. So my friends made the Introductions, I showed him my portfolio, and he made me a proposal. He offered me Figure Drawing Classes, bought and paid for in exchange for weeding his Beloved Rose Garden just outside his Studio window. OH! how Houser LOVED his Roses. I, of course, accepted! Best decision of my Artistic life. The most important piece of advice I carry with me( among a million others) and pass onto others from Houser is this:

" The human Body is the most complicated Machine ever created. If you can master Drawing it, you will draw a better tree, a better car, a better dog, and a more precise world view, through educated eyes." It doesn't get any better, or right, than that. But I digress.

So After discovering Comics, and by proxy, Commercial/Advertising Art, I discovered something else. I guess I became wide awake in a way.

I was aware that ART is everything, and everywhere. Sad part is, most people don't know that, or care. From the design of your bedside Fan, to your car, to the Store Signs you pass as you drive down the road, to Product labels, to Company logos, to Medical Instruments, to Machines that make food safe, to paintings, to sculptures, to Movies, to Poems, to Music, to shoes to Cereal, to the internet, to your web page, to your cell Phone, to your car, to your toothbrush, to your Fine China, to your Television, to your Calculator, to you Toilet Bowl, to your House, to your Suit, to your Dress, to your kids Big-wheel, to your landscaping, to your sexual aids, to the Rug the President walks over as he sits down at his desk in the Oval Office, to your paint, to your paint brushes, to your drafting table, to your dogs haircut, to your haircut, to street signs, to storefronts, to diapers and to Dragon Tattoos. It takes an Artist, a designer, ART to make all those things come to life. A vision, an initial thought translated into pictures so that someone else can build it, paint it, print it, drive it, or fly it.

It's hard being a Comic Book Artist. Harder than you think. Yeh, OK, theres the obvious work load. 22 pages a month if you draw a monthly, and if you are doing a mini-series. The Industry Standard is a page a day of pencils, an Inkers are expected, along with Colorists to work far faster than than. Shit travels downhill and those guys have to take giant bites of wandering shit sandwiches on a daily basis.

You know what else is hard about being a Comic Book Artist? What takes you 15 minutes to read takes me 30 days to create. The Artist ( in a perfect world) has to be able to draw EVERYTHING. Did u catch that? Not just be good at drawing cars, or Zombies, or Dildos, but EVERYTHINGA! All of it. The whole damned, God-Forsaken-existence-on-this-good-green-Earth. Cars, Dildos, Coffee makers, pencils, tacks, pop-tarts, TV's, animals, Balls, China, kids, old people, women, men, tables, chairs, toasters, water, hair, babies, cats, spoons, lamps, carpet, hardwood floors, bricks, cups, chicken( the meat, not the bird), Chickens( the birds), Tigers, Lions, AND Bears. Etc............ So you have to be a Renaissance Man. You gotta do it all. And quite frankly( or Frank Quitely, if that's your thing) if you can, you'll be more successful and get more work. A one stop shop, if you will. I think maybe I am a Masochist, cause I love it all. All of it. As fucked up as it is, comics are me, comics are mine, I know it inside out, I feel like I am a part. I OWN this. Ya know?

Next time maybe I'll talk about all my fuckups over the years. Maybe....

More soon~

Macon GA, Aug, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


What does it mean to be a Comic Book Artist? What does it REALLY mean?

I think It means you have to be able to tell a really good story. You have to be able to Draw, for sure. But Storytelling is the Pure Essence of what it's about. You have to be able to lead the viewers eye around the page from panel to panel without them noticing, while they have a good time doing it.

Books are Books. Prose. Words strung together in a poetic fashion to weave what you hope to be an entertaining yarn. Comics are Comics. Words strung together with Drawings to weave what you also hope to an entertaining yarn. Heres the difference though: Drawings. Theres the real rub. People read comics, because they want pictures with their words. If not, then they would read a Book, right?

So let's focus on the collaboration of Writer and Artist. I don't think that one is more important than the other, because in a perfect world a Comic should be a true collaboration of word and picture. That the Writer should not feel like he should, or should want to tell the Artist how he should interpret his script, and that the Artist should also not presume to tell the Writer how to do his job. It should melt together. Writers should leave enough leverage in their script for interpretation by the Artist to create a great story that pays respect to the source material. Working together. And by that, I mean if you, as the Artist, have an idea that diverges from the script you were given, then talk to your Writer about it before you just run with it. Now that's not to say that you won't be over eager from time to time. You will. It's the nature of who you are. Just as Writers sometimes want you to draw Exactly what they wrote. That's where the collaboration comes in. Give and take. Knowing when to fight for your ideas, and when to let go and trust your partner. Again, I am talking about a perfect world here. Which is rare. That's why there are so few REALLY great Comics. It's rare to hook up with "That" guy, or Girl who "Get's" you, and you "Get" them. So when it happens, attach yourself to that person for as long as you can. I promise It will be rewarding. Communication is key. If you find yourself connected with a creator that isn't interested in talking, whether it be on the phone or e-mail, RUN. That's a clear sign that they are NOT into collaboration.

Now there is also another theory:

It goes like this...
The writer is like a Script Writer for film. They write the Script, then it goes into production. That means a Storyboard Artist, A Director, a Cameraman, a Lighting technician, Costumers, designers, Special Effects, Set dressers, make-up, pyrotechnics, research and development and post production. And I know I missed a ton. So really the Heavy Lifting of a Comic is all on the Artist. The Writer has one Job, and the Artist is saddled with every-one-of-those-other-positions. ALL of them. So, theres that. And let's just say that there are few guys who can pull all that weight without being crushed under it. And It's not for me to say who can and cannot bare the weight. Just to point it out.

It also bares pointing out that a LOT of these things come with time. You can't do some or all of these things as a Freshman. You have to spend time learning your craft. Making mistakes and learning from them. Being paired with the wrong guys, and the right guys, and knowing the difference after. And hopefully moving towards creating your own material and steering your own ship. But again, that's in a perfect world and shit gets fucked up on a regular basis in Comics. You just do your best to Navigate the waters without your ship sinking, and hopefully create something beautiful along the way. The balance between your Job and your Art will always rip you to pieces. To be continued.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Precon commissions for Baltimore!

It's time again. So I am opening up my Pre-Con commission list for the Baltimore Comicon. There is no limit this time. My schedule is pretty lite right now, and I have the time, so Jump in, and email me @ and we can work out the details. This has really worked out great for a lotta folks who haven't gotten a sketch from me over the years, so good luck!

This time around I am doing 10x14 PENCIL, INK, and GREYWASH for $400. Check out some examples above.....( No worries, Van. I got you!)