Dick Ayers worked on some of the most famous American comic books ever, and now his autobiography from Mecca Comics takes comic book form.
Dick Ayers Unveils New Graphic Novel Autobiography
The Main Event, Scoop, Friday, March 11, 2005

How does one go about writing an introduction for a man who should need no introduction? The phrase "living legend" is a well-worn cliché, but how else would you describe Dick Ayers? This Golden Age and Silver Age comic book creator has survived more ups and downs in the comic book industry than most other creators, with his work encompassing five decades of experience in the business. His prodigious body of artistry, from pencils to inks to lettering, amounts to more pages than anyone can count.

Staying in vogue isn't easy, especially in the comic book industry, where hot new artists are as countless as the bristles on an inker's brush. Yet Ayers possesses remarkable skills that keep him as active today as when he started back in the 1940s; Dick can draw anything for any genre of comics. And a lesson for many artists - Ayers can draw it all without ever missing a deadline. In fact, Stan Lee had this to say about Dick Ayers: "Superheroes! Westerns! War! Whatever! Darlin' Dick managed to draw them all, splendidly, with never a missed deadline!" High praise indeed!

Whether you're a comic newbie, have been around for a few decades, or fondly recall the Golden Age of comics, we all have one thing in common, and that would be a deep admiration and fondness for the work created by Dick Ayers. This February, Mecca Comics (www.meccacomics.com) will present the first of three autobiographical graphic novels outlining Ayers' career, completely written, lettered, and illustrated by Dick Ayers himself.

Scoop asked Mecca's Charlie Novinskie, an experienced Silver Age collector, to talk with Ayers about this new project, the first chapter of which is due in stores next week.

Scoop: When did you first decide to do an illustrated autobiography of your career?
Dick Ayers: About four years ago. I was frustrated typing an article about my career for a magazine when my wife, Lindy, suggested doing an autobiographical graphic novel. I gave it a shot and I really enjoyed doing it.

SCOOP: How long has it taken you to complete The Dick Ayers Story?
DA: Volume one just finished in October of 2004. That volume covers my career from l924-l95l. Volumes two and three will cover the remainder of my career from my Marvel days through 2004. I'm hard at work on volume two right now!

SCOOP: Your career has run over 50 years and is still continuing today. What are the biggest changes you've seen in the comics industry over the years, and how have the changes affected your career?
DA: The big change in comics currently is that the stories aren't illustrated in panel sequence anymore; my observation is that one needs a roadmap to read the captioning and ballooning sequence.

SCOOP: You've worked with a lot of comic greats. If I throw out a few names, could you give me a favorite experience of working with them? How about Burne Hogarth?
DA: Burne Hogarth was my teacher, my mentor, my friend, and wife Lindy's and our best house guest. I worked on the preparation of a daily comic strip idea he had, Charlie Blarney. He was a fantastic artist and teacher.

SCOOP: Stan Lee?
DA: I enjoy as a writer and editor. He is a joy to work with. I credit him with saving the comic book industry in the 1960s.

SCOOP: Jack Kirby?
DA: I admired his dependability. He always got his pencils to me on schedule and he was easy to "embellish" as Stan Lee instructed me to do. Kirby also instructed me to illustrate his Sky Masters newspaper strip in "The Wally Wood Style" providing me with some original strips for reference.

SCOOP: Joe Shuster?
DA: It was Joe who sent me to Vin Sullivan of Magazine Enterprises. Joe had me pencil some of his Funnyman stories after seeing my drawings at Hogarth's evening class.

SCOOP: I'm sure the list is varied and memorable. Any other creators you worked with you'd like to mention?
DA: Ernie Bache worked with me from l952-l955 on Magazine Enterprises, Timely and Charlton stories. The slump in the comic book industry in l955 separated us.

SCOOP: You've also drawn every conceivable story in a variety of genres and handled them all without any problems. Was there a particular genre or particular character that you didn't enjoy working on?
DA: The Human Torch was difficult to adapt to until I thought of interpreting him with a bit of humor. Giant Man was hard to conceive villains for who could give him physical competition because of his size.

SCOOP: You worked with Joe Shuster on Funnyman. What were working conditions like back then?
DA: Working conditions in Joe Shuster's studio were relaxing and fun. His two-room studio was in Manhattan above Columbus Circle, not far from Hogarth's school on West 89th Street, which I attended while penciling Funnyman.

SCOOP: Ghost Rider is probably one of the more memorable books that you worked on at Magazine Enterprises. How many issues did you do?
DA: I did fourteen issues of Ghost Rider. He also was a feature in Tim Holt, Red Mask, Bobby Benson and Best of the West, and is currently reprinted in AC Comics' Best of the West, as a feature. I did over l60 Ghost Rider stories for Magazine Enterprises.

SCOOP: Are westerns a genre that you enjoy?
DA: Westerns are the genre. Mecca Comics is about to publish my Western, Chips Wilde, created, written and illustrated by me.

SCOOP: When did you create him?
DA: Chips was created in l947 as a class assignment for Hogarth's class in comic strip writing.

SCOOP: You continued your run of western characters when you went to work for Timely Comics in the mid-fifties. You worked on Rawhide Kid. What other characters did you work on for Timely in the fifties?
DA: Wyatt Earp, Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt, Outlaw Kid, plus many western short stories.

SCOOP: Did you spend any time working on art at the Timely offices, or did you pick up the scripts and work on everything at home?
DA: Worked at home. I only went to the Marvel office when asked to help with a deadline emergency, and none of the emergencies were ever mine! I always meet the requested deadlines.

SCOOP: Any memorable stories from your Timely days?
DA: Sure, I have a few. But they will have to wait until volumes two and three of my autobiography (laughs)!

SCOOP: You also inked a lot of Timely monster stories over Jack Kirby's pencils. What was it like working with Kirby? Did you have a lot of contact with him?
DA: I saw Kirby very infrequently. We spoke mostly by phone. I visited him only once in the mid '80s when on a vacation in California. We had lunch together and chatted.

SCOOP: You spent a lot of years, beginning in the early sixties, working for Marvel Comics as penciler, inker or both, on books like Sgt. Fury, Rawhide Kid, Fantastic Four, and Incredible Hulk - probably every title they produced back then. Can you tell us some of your favorite titles/experiences?
DA: Sgt. Fury is my favorite. I knew each Howler so well I could even plot a whole issue about one and give Fury a rest - and did a few.

SCOOP: During the seventies you went from Marvel mainstay to pretty much working at DC. DC had you pencil a variety of titles including Kamandi, Jonah Hex, Freedom Fighters, and Unknown Soldier. Was there a difference in philosophy in working at DC when compared to Marvel? And if so, what was the difference?

DA: The big difference was /is that DC is more "business" than Marvel. An editor would give me a script and when I took out my date book and told him what morning I'd deliver the story, he would have a script waiting for me when I got there. One of my editors that did that was Paul Levitz.

SCOOP: The eighties saw you working at Archie Comics. What was that experience like?
DA: Working at Archie was joy. Their office isn't that far from where I live. Archie kept me very busy for a number of years.

SCOOP: When you look back on your long and illustrious career, are there any things that you wish you would have done differently?
DA: I wish circumstances in the industry would have let me continue lettering, penciling, and inking my own work. I would have enjoyed writing too. These days I am doing that at Mecca Comics. You might observe that if you live long enough, you will get to do what you dreamed of!

SCOOP: What does the future hold for Dick Ayers?
DA: The future? Maybe somebody will produce an off-Broadway musical play based on one of my characters! That would be great!

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