By Craig Battmer, 1970
Fantastic Fanzine #12.
F.F: What work in the art field do you work at presently besides comic books?
SYD: I also periodically do magazine illustrations - primarily for the Men’s Adventure type publications.
F.F: Do you prefer working on other art besides comics, or would you like to work on just comics?
SYD: I prefer to alternate between comics and magazine illustrations because of the variety it offers. My main preference, however, is for comic book artwork, because I feel more comfortable in that field. I find it much more satisfying and it allows for more expression.
F.F: Would you like to pencil a feature, or do you prefer inking?
SYD: I consider myself primarily as a penciller, although I’ve been inking more in the last two years. I do hope to pencil again in the future as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
F.F: Does the quality of your finished inks on a feature depend on how well the artist has penciled the work?
SYD: Definitely yes! Some pencillers pencil with the inkers task in mind. Other do not. The latter’s pencils make’s the inkers work that much more involved, and more time consuming.
F.F: Do you use a brush or a pen for inking? Or both? And do you dilute you India ink?
SYD: I use a number 4 brush almost exclusively. A pen is used sparingly, usually for ruled straight lines. India ink is never diluted.
F.F: In the Golden Age, when you were one of the major Captain America artists, about how many pages did you turn out per day?
SYD: The number of pages turned out each day would depend on the subject matter involved in the pages. On the average, however, about two pages of pencils per day would be a normal output.
F.F: As an inker, about how many pages must be finished per day?
SYD: About 2 per day is average.
F.F: Do you feel it was easier for an artist in the Golden Age than now, with the pressures much greater these days?
SYD: No! The pressure is much less these days. While the quality of work is much more demanding, the format today allows the individual artist a much greater leeway in his art work. He is not confined to the narrow, strict outline of the script writer’s typewritten guidelines.
F.F: Do you think the comic fans are more demanding of an artist now, expecting more detail in the artwork than in the Golden Age.
SYD: I do feel that the fans are more demanding now! Judging from the mail that arrives at the office, they are most critical. I think this is a good thing. It makes for a better product in the long run.
F.F: Do you feel a good script is essential for a well done strip?
SYD: Most definitely yes! A good script which includes a good plot seems to rub off on the talent of the artist doing the story. I find it most satisfying working on a well written story.
F.F: Do you have any favorite artists?
SYD: I would rate Jack Kirby as first rate. John Buscema is right up there too.
F.F: Favorite inkers?
SYD: I like Joe Sinnott’s inking very much.
F.F: Do you feel any artists have ever influenced your work at all?
SYD: My comic book career started as an inker to Jack Kirby’s pencils. I think working with Jack influenced my work more than anyone else.
F.F: Were editors in the Golden Age more passive about an artist’s work than now?
SYD: Not necessarily. I believe they were more critical because they were less informed as to the problems of the artist having to conform to a set, written script. Present day editors are more aware and give the artist greater leeway in their presentation.
F.F: Do you think comic books have improved in various ways since the Golden Age?
SYD: Yes I do. Because of the greater leeway of the artist, as I’ve previously mentioned, the end result had been greatly enhanced. Also, the stories are more thought out and make for better reading. One great feature that has been innovated (at least by Marvel) has been the introduction of the humanness qualities to the superheroes. Their human traits and weaknesses have added a touch of realism and credibility which the Golden Age books lacked.
F.F: About what length of time did you have to finish a Captain America feature when you were the artist, and how does that compare with today?
SYD: It was about the same length of time.
F.F: Did you have a favorite inker then, and did you ever ink your own work?
SYD For the time that I worked on staff for Marvel from 1940 to 1948, I worked in close association with Vince Alscia, who did practically all the inking on my pencils. He was used to my style and worked very well with it. I did practically all my own pencils and inks from 1949 to 1957 while I was free lancing.
F.F: Did you do any of the Captain America covers?
SYD: While I worked on the Captain America feature, I did practically all of the covers.
F.F: Do you feel that comic art is a true art form?
SYD: Yes I do. It is highly specialized, and not every artist can do it. I know personally of several fine artists who have tried it and were unsuccessful.
F.F: What size paper did you use when you drew Captain America in the Golden Age?
SYD: Borders were 12" x 16 ½", present borders are 10" x 15".
F.F: Did you draw anything besides Cap?
SYD: The Black Rider, The Blonde Phanton, Two-Gun Kid, Combat Kelly, Wild Bill Pecos, various war stories, Crime Does Not Pay, Romance and many more too numerous to mention. After all, this covers a period of many years.
F.F: Would you please tell us in general what it was like to be an artist in the Golden Age? I’m sure this would interest many fans.
SYD: As far back as can remember, I’ve always drawn. Always fascinated by well-drawn artwork. I was an early fan of Alex Raymond who drew Flash Gordon, and Hal Foster who drew Prince Valiant. I saved and studied their work avidly. They made a great impression on me. After graduation from the Art School of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, I felt that comic book art offered the kind of work that I was most interested in. After all, I was still a fan of Raymond and Foster. In those early days, the comic publishers relied on the middleman to provide the bulk of the artwork for their comic books. It was a package deal whereby the middleman would maintain an art studio and supervise all the artwork for the publisher. It was to this place that I scurried to with all my pencils sharpened to a fine point. As a novice, I did all sorts of odd jobs, even getting the coffee for the coffee breaks. While getting only lunch money for my efforts, I did get a world of valuable experience. At home I spent many hours making suitable samples for future presentations. After some time later, when I thought my work was suitable, I applied for work at Timely Comics (Marvel’s former name). I was most fortunate in being hired on a staff basis. I was almost immediately assigned to ink Jack Kirby’s pencils on Captain America. My career in comics had started.
Sometime later after Jack Kirby left Timely for other ventures, Al Avision took over C.A. pencils and I continued the inking chores. Subsequently, after Al left, I started pencilling Cap from then on until the Army decided it could use my services to help win World War II. It seemed they needed a lot of men for the infantry at the time. I was called up, and so my artistic eye was used to qualify me as an expert marksman in an infantry regiment. Curiously it was the same regiment that Jack Kirby was in. We never saw each other in combat, and only recently did we find that we were in the same outfit!
After being wounded in France, and flown to England for hospitalization I was transferred to a convalescent hospital in Warwick, England. I was given a pass one week-end and hobbled to town to see the sights. And wouldn’t you know it! There, staring me in the face from a newsstand was a Captain America comic book. It sure was a touch of home and brought back pleasant memories.
After the war, I came back to comics in a free lance capacity, although I did most of my work for Timely. In 1957, there was a recession in the comic book industry and I was forced to look elsewhere for work. I entered the magazine illustration field. I did illustrations for the Men’s Adventure type magazines until 1967.
After things picked up again in the comic field I hastened back again to my first love, comics! I hope to be in it for a long time to come.