I’m a pretty lucky guy. I have a wonderful family, live in a great place and have my share of nice friends. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to make a living drawing and painting characters I’ve followed and enjoyed since my childhood.
My Mom bought me my first comics at an early age. While I know she was happy to have me reading, I’m also sure she was thrilled with anything that would keep me out of her hair for a while. I was thoroughly enthralled by my colorful, action-packed,12-cent adventures. When I wasn’t reading comics, I was drawing my own, or outside playing ball. My Dad was a sportswriter. Our close connection was forged through our mutual interests in athletics and history. Dad wasn’t as thrilled with the “trash” I was poring over. His low opinion of comics was shaded by the bad press of the 1950’s. Thankfully, Mom won the argument. Actually, we all won. Comics and art helped to keep me out of Mom’s doghouse, and athletics probably saved me from military school!
I’ve been joined at the hip with comics for most of my life. My professional connection began when Mike Baron first knocked on my door asking if I wanted to draw comics. Uh. ya’ think? We created Badger together for Capital Comics in our hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Those first few issues were a lot of fun, but I soon realized I still needed some seasoning as an artist. A teacher friend alerted me to a job opportunity in Lake Geneva, a 90 minute drive from my home. TSR, Inc., the makers of Dungeons&Dragons, was looking to add an artist to their staff.
I attended the interview on crutches, just a week after knee surgery.
I got the job and spent the next 5 years in the TSR Art Department, drawing and painting alongside fantasy art luminaries Jeff Easley, Clyde Caldwell, Larry Elmore, David (Diesel) LaForce, and the late, Keith Parkinson. Later, the art department was joined by the likes of Brom, Fred Fields and Robh Ruppel. Talk about inspiring! As fate would have it, TSR had the Marvel Superheroes Role Playing Game license. Boy was I in the right place at the right time! Lucky again! I became the primary artist for that particular game, while also working on DragonLance books, D&D modules, graphic novel adaptations and numerous other projects. But in 1989, comics came calling again.
I left TSR to join my friend Ron Fortier in his effort to bring The Green Hornet back to comics. The Hornet and Kato were favorites of mine, and I was thrilled to be a part of the NOW Comics revival. Ron and I worked together on the first 10 issues, creating a family tree of Reids and Katos. Later, we reunited to produce a four-issue mini-series, The Sting of The Green Hornet, which was a salute to the Golden Age of comics, pulps and movie serials. It was easily the most fun I ever had doing comics!
Throughout the ’90s, I continued to work in and out of comics. Where comics were concerned, I was represented by agents Mike Friedrich and Sharon Cho and they kept me busy with projects like:
- Hercules: the Legendary Journeys (which also featured Xena: Warrior Princess)
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park
- Jason vs. Leatherface
- A strange little novelty, Godzilla vs. Charles Barkley which reunited me with my original collaborator, Mike Baron
- I also drew the monthly Ghostwriter strip for the Children’s Television Workshop magazine, Kid City
In 1997 I moved back to my hometown and began a crash course in digital art. Over the next 13 years, I created video game character and concept art for Raven Software. My luck continued as did my connection with comics. I created art for games like X-Men Legends I & II, the very successful Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In all, I worked on at least 11 AAA video game titles while at Raven.
In 2000, I went through a divorce. But the following year my luck continued when I met the beautiful and brilliant Jennifer McLeod. In 2002, we were married and blended our 5 kids together as one family. In 2010, the economic downturn forced a series of layoffs at Raven. I was one of many long-time employees who lost their jobs. It was time to re-invent myself, once again.
With our kids in school and owning a house we loved, Jennifer and I knew we didn’t want to relocate. So, I began to think about teaching. Madison College offered me a great opportunity to create and teach several classes in cartooning, comic art and character design for their Continuing Education Program. During this time, I also taught video game art classes at Madison Media Institute. In 2016, I joined the Graphic Design and Illustration program at Madison College, where I continue to teach drawing classes.
During the Christmas holiday break in 2017-18, my spring teaching schedule was looking lighter than expected. Jennifer and her wonderful dad Paul convinced me this would be a perfect time to finish the college degree I had “paused” to begin my comic art career so many years ago. Upon my return to the UW-Madison, I enrolled in Making Comics, taught by the incredible cartoonist, author and MacArthur Genius Award winner, Professor Lynda Barry. Lynda’s class was a revelation and reminded me why I love the medium of comics so much! I loved being back in school and enjoyed all the classes I took.
I continued to study with Lynda and finished my degree in the fall of 2018. Following this amazing experience, Lynda asked me to teach her classes while she was away on sabbatical in 2019. Thanks to Lynda’s enthusiastic support, and the nice people in the Art Department, I’m still teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
My Dad used to say that I could fall into a bucket of dung and come out smelling like a rose. Just lucky, I guess!