September 28 - Why do people drift apart? Various external, or internal, forces often cause friends to become....well, not necessarily enemies, but certainly not as close as they once were, either. In my experience, it's not any one thing, it's everything. Unfortunately, this natural, if not inevitable, process of "drifting" also has a tendency to leave hurt feelings in its wake. As the 1970's were wrapping up, the original hands behind The Crusty Bunkers were experiencing all of this. Some left the unique little New York comics community for greener pastures, some quit the business entirely for whatever reason, some "sold out," some went on "ego trips," and others tried to cobble the remaining pieces together into whatever they could salvage. Changed forever, but stronger for it, the comics business kept moving forward, and even Crusty Bunker continued, albeit with ever-changing personalities, inking new work as late as the 1990's, and being celebrated in various Essential... reprint collections even today. Moreover, though, the former Bunkers, "these young legends to be" (as Fred Hembeck called them), became so much more than just occasional collaborators masquerading as a fictional inker during the mid-70s. They have gone on to take us to new creative and artistic heights, producing some of the greatest examples of the comic book medium. A quick review of my own comics collection shows their influence literally from "A" (Action Comics) to "Z" (Zatanna: Come Together). Without a doubt, many of my favorite comic book creators were also once a Crusty Bunker. Yes, as artists, The Crusty Bunkers have left us an amazing artistic legacy...but what of their legacy as part of that once close-knit community? Surprisingly, that may have been their greatest contribution. I'll get into that tomorrow. Here's your "Crusty Bunker" of The Day - Al Milgrom!
September 29 - So much time has passed. Crusty Bunker (originally credited simply as "C. Bunker" in Weird Worlds #2, 1972) made "his" debut thirty-five years ago, and "he" more-or-less "died" thirty years ago. Born from necessity and comradery, Crusty Bunker represented a moment in time that has never been equaled. As the former Crusty Bunkers moved on, they mostly grew apart...but only temporarily. Yes, some may not have spoken to others for a few years, and some, sadly, have passed away, but some have found their way back into each others' lives. Old friendships, forged in the crucible of brazen youth and a crazy workload, have resurfaced. These older, presumably wiser, artists have reached out to each other. Forgiveness for youthful transgressions, after three decades of life, was unnecessary. As we age, regrets are as inevitable as wrinkles, but neither should keep us from taking a chance on reconnecting. Like old soldiers, The Crusty Bunkers have found that their history of shared experiences has bound them all together in ways that supercede vanity, pettiness, or even time itself. That's been a wonderful development, but it could still go further. As I was researching what these artists are now doing, I must admit that I had a dream. In the dream, they all got together once more. Meeting on a "first Friday" in someone's New York apartment, just as they had so long ago, all of the remaining Crusty Bunkers finally reunited, in spite of their sometimes tumultuous relationships. There were tributes to those who had passed, a Powerpoint presentation featuring humorously embarrassing photos from back in the day, and one more inking collaboration to commemorate the event. When I woke, the very concept of such a reunion made me smile...but the idea of another Crusty Bunker collaboration made me shout out loud "Why not?!!" It would be a small token of my respect and admiration, but I also hope that it may serve as some sort of catalyst that facilitates a greater reunion, just like in my dream. So, I'm going to do it. It may take years. It may take decades, in fact...and I really don't expect to succeed, but I'm going to attempt it anyway. I'm going to pencil a page, featuring characters once inked by the original Crusty Bunkers, then I'm going to ask each of them to ink just a little bit until it's done. Yes, yes...I know that I suck as an artist (I haven't forgotten), but I really believe that the talents of The Crusty Bunkers will more than make up for my own shortcomings. That is, after all, one of the signs of a great inker, and, for whatever else they all might have done since the 1970's, these artists were, collectively, once one of the greatest comics inkers of all time. Tomorrow, I'll conclude this month of Crusty Bunker commentary with a list of as many of them as my research has revealed. Until then, here's your "Crusty Bunker" of The Day - Marshall Rogers!
September 30 - The names of those who once contributed to inking as Crusty Bunker reads like a Who's Who of comic book history. In their ranks are master illustrators, classic embellishers, inventive creators, brilliant writers, innovative editors, amazing publishers, and many, many artists who are so famous that they are often known simply by just their last name. Still, as you read this list (which is just below), try to look past all of that. Try to see these people as a community of friends. Imagine them thirty-five years younger, working side by side into the wee hours of the morning as they struggle to meet a deadline. Think about how one may have helped another, who then influenced another, who inspired another, who challenged yet another. These legends are, ultimately, just people...and that makes their collaboration as Crusty Bunker, and their subsequent groundbreaking work, all the more remarkable. Here, then, to the best of my research, are as many of the names behind the name as I could find -
The Crusty Bunkers
Jack Abel, Neal Adams, Vicente Alcazar, Sal Amendola, Steven Austin, Terry Austin, Joe Barney, Rick Basile, Pat Bastienne, Pat Broderick, Joe Brozowski, Frank Brunner, Rick Bryant, Rich Buckler, Frank Cirocco, Howard Chaykin, Dave Cockrum, Mike Collins, Denys Cowan, Ed Davis, Joe D'Esposito, Karin Dougherty, Steve Engelhart, John Fuller, Dick Giordano, Dan Green, Larry Hama, Steve Harper, Russ Heath, Klaus Janson, Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Paul Kirchner, Alan Kupperberg, Carl Lundgren, Estaban Maroto, Gary Martin, Bob McLeod, Al Milgrom, Steve Mitchell, Yong Montano, Tim Moriarity, Gray Morrow, Mike Nasser/Michael Netzer, Bruce Patterson, Carl Potts, Ralph Reese, Mark Rice, Marshall Rogers, Josef Rubinstein, Walter Simonson, Jim Sherman, Mary Skrenes, Bob Smith, Jim Starlin, Greg Theakston, Trevor von Eeden, Alan Weiss, Bob Wiacek, Gary Winnick, and Berni Wrightson.
To that list, I'd also add these "maybes" - Frank Miller, Barry Windsor Smith, and Wally Wood. I'm sure that there are more...and may continue to be more, as long as Crusty Bunker continues to get work. In an odd way, this ensures the immortality of these great artists, like being famous alumni of a venerated old college. As long as their "university" is still operating, their names will never be forgotten. Likewise, as long as these artists continue to advance the comic book medium with their unmatched creativity and unparalleled talents, which were honed elbow-to-elbow all those years ago, then no-one will ever forget the name of Crusty Bunker. Of course, how could you forget a name like that? Here, then, is your final "Crusty Bunker" of The Day - Russ Heath!