September 6th, 2007

The Zombie

"A team of guys did it"

September 5 -  How did I hear about Crusty Bunker?  It all started years ago, when I was perusing the booth of an art dealer at the Chicago Comicon (probably about 1985 or 1986).  He was selling stacks and stacks of original comics art pages, most at blow-out prices.  If memory serves, it was $15.00 per page, two for $25.00, and $10.00 each for three or more.  I came loaded for bear, my pockets bulging with bachelor cash ("bachelor cash," by the way, is my term for guesstimated wads of bills shoved haphazardly into pockets...not to be confused with my term "bachelor comb," which is actually just a hat).  Eyes bulging with fanboy hypertension, I rummaged through the artwork, fully intending to purchase several.  For shoppers' convenience, the names of the pencilers and inkers of the art were written in pencil on the back of each piece.  Most names I recognized, but one inker, whose work certainly looked like that of a good Neal Adams clone, was so unfamiliar that I thought it was a joke.  "Excuse me, but is this really the inker's name?"  Distracted and exasperated, the dealer only blurted back "There was no inker.  A team of guys did it."  So...what?  Did the dealer make up that weird name to cover his own behind, or had the "team" actually been credited as...what was that crazy name again?  Whatever it was, I turned my nose up at it, snob that I was.  Sure, it looked good, but it was inked by a "nobody."  Little did I know that the "team of guys," which I now know were The Crusty Bunkers, were many of the same ones whose accredited art I did purchase that day!  Amongst the dozen or so pages that I bought from that dealer was artwork by Dan Green, Al Milgrom, Bob McLeod, Bob Wiacek, and Joe Rubinstein.  Yep.  Bunkers, all.  Sigh.  Deals like those don't happen at comics conventions anymore (and probably nowhere else outside of memory and fantasy anymore), but I still wish that I had spent more of my money where I would eventually appreciate it: on what I liked, rather than what I thought might increase in resale value.  Oh, well.  I've learned my lesson.  Jumping forward to last month, then, the story continues with my recent eBay purchase of DC's Weird Worlds #6 from 1973 (part of a lot of other such strange old titles I picked up from seller thecatspajamas99).  When reading it, I found, in part, this in the "Weird Words" letters column -

Dear Mr. [Denny] O'Neil,

Weird Worlds #4 was very enjoyable.  Although Mr. Sal Amendola's fine art was a little hard to adjust to in John Carter, Mr. Mike Kaluta's Pellucidar was not too unlike Mr. Alan Weiss'.  I hope to see more of Mr. Sal Amendola in other DC books.  Perhaps this sounds odd, but I found your letter column as enjoyable as the rest of the book.  According to Gary Brown in COMICSCENE, Crusty Bunker is anyone who happens to show up at the offices at the right time (Neal Adams, Al Weiss, Mike Kaluta, Berni Wrightson, etc.).  Also, according to the above source, C. Bunker will ink the new Sword of Sorcery book....
John Leasure, Portsmouth, Ohio

To which, Mr. O'Neil responded (in part) -

...As to the identity of C. Bunker - Mr. Brown was more or less right.  In addition to Neal, Al, Mike, and Berni, Bunker includes Sal Amendola, Dick Giordano, Steve Mitchell, Howie Chaykin, Allen Kupperberg and if I've forgotten anyone, I'm sorry guys...er, Bunkers.  I think the collaboration is one of the most extraordinary in comics history.

When I read that, I nearly fainted!  "Crusty Bunker!"  I shouted out loud, "That was the name of that 'team of guys' inker whose stuff I didn't buy twenty years ago because he was a 'nobody!'  UGH!"  I could have had, at TEN BUCKS PER PAGE, original comic book art by guys like Giordano, Kaluta, Chaykin, and Wrightson!  No wonder Crusty Bunker's inks looked like the work of a good Neal Adams clone....he was Neal Adams!  Ironically, in this same issue of Weird Worlds (in fact, on the back side of the letters page) is a feature called Behind The Scenes at the DC Comic World, wherein the following is printed -

About eight months ago, DC Production Manager Sol Harrison noticed that there weren't too many young people coming into the comics industry any more.

Below this is listed what DC planned to do about the situation (everything from starting twelve intern positions, to offering portfolio advice, to promoting "the annual Comic Art Convention here in New York City"), all while the "problem" was sorting itself out via Crusty Bunker!  More tomorrow, but here's your "Crusty Bunker" of The Day - Howard Chaykin!