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By Alan Moore and Rick Veitch
By Alan Moore, David J, Tim Perkins
By Alan Moore, David J, Tim Perkins
By Alan Moore and Gary Lloyd
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Interview with Rick Veitch
1963 Interview by Tom Field
He eats Mystery Inc., breathes Horus, sleeps USA and has been known, in his spare time, to fill in for Sturdy Steve on N-Man.
He's the 24-hour-a-day deadline man who needs no introduction; just give him his space (a three-by-three area in the rear of the Sweatshop) and pass him an occasional hot dog.
He's Roarin' Rick Veitch!
Tom Field: Gee, this Sweatshop is quite a place...
Roarin' Rick Veitch: It's homey. I mean there's steam pipes, toilet pipes hanging all over everywhere; people are yelling down the halls; you can hear trucks loading in the back, running in and out, but like I say, home is where you hang your pork-pie hat.
TF: You better watch those guys on the fire escape, I don't think they're doing windows.
RV: Don't worry, all of the windows are nailed shut. It's about 95 degrees in here. There are fans that are moving dead air around. The radiators are going in the middle of July. Affable Al is nowhere in sight. He promised me a script three days ago. He's down at the Bookies with Kandi Devine and some of the boys I bet.
TF: And he's not winning.
RV: He never wins, no. He'll come rolling in this afternoon desperate for money and try to whip out a script, which actually I'll have to do for him and he'll say, "Yeah, that sounds about right Rick."
TF: Rick how did you get started at the Sweatshop?
RV: It's over 20 years now, I had just gotten out of the army.
TF: You started there in the '50s?
RV: No, no. I've been in this game since probably 1946. I got a discharge in '45. I had gotten...I guess they call it 'shell shock.' I had gotten mixed up in firefight and some of those grenades had gone off, and the next thing I know I wake up and the pretty nurses are taking care me and all this kind of stuff. I couldn't really talk too much and my eyes wouldn't focus correctly, but they had a lot of comic books there and I spent months readin' nothin' but comics. Before the war I'd painted posters for the Carny, so I had them prop a pencil up into my cast and I would draw. I did a bunch of samples and when I got out I took them around looking for work and brought them up the '63 Sweatshop, which was run by Al's Uncle Moorie at that point. They were just coming off doing the Pulp magazines and that was going down the toilet, and then comic books were big and Morrie paid somebody off to get some paper. This was after the war you understand and paper was kind of hard to get. Anyway, to make a long story short I went up and showed Uncle Moorie the samples and he thought I'd do alright. He said, "Tell you what? I got a 64 page book that's got to be done by tomorrow, if you can do it, you got the job." So I went home and fired up the old coffee pot and went to work. By God, if I didn't have it ready for him about three o'clock the next day!
TF: Pencilled and inked?
RV: Yeah. You don't pencil very much when you're inking them yourself. It's all kind of imaginary don't you know. So basically I just work straight with the brush.
TF: How did you stay up all night?
RV: I got coffee, and I got my radio, and I'm up there in my sixth floor walkup, what more could a man ask for?
TF: That's incredible. Did that first story see print?
RV: At least 10 times now. Not that I get any reprint rates for it.
TF: Is that the first time as well that you worked for Affable Al?
RV: Well see Affable Al was just a little fat squirt during this time. He was about 12 or 14 years old and his Uncle Moorie gives him the run of the place and he acts like a fat little dictator, and he's running around causing a lot of problems at this point. It was a little later he became Affable Al, as he called himself. We got some other names for him which I probably shouldn't go into.
TF: So that first story, Moorie was happy with it?
RV: Well he was very happy to get it. I guess it sold pretty well. It was the first appearance of the Silver Scarecrow, which of course was the number one book there from the Sweatshop for a couple of years. I guess they did pretty well by it, but I didn't get paid a hell of a lot. I think rates were three bucks a page in the '40s, and the '50s. And the '60s...
TF: You got paid though. Sturdy Steve didn't get paid for his first few stories.
RV: Oh well...I mean I was supposed to get three bucks a page, but there was always a cash flow problem. Morrie said he'd make it up to me. He's usually only six or eight months behind on vouchers.
TF: Hey, in those days steady work was steady work. It didn't matter if you got paid.
RV: Or slept. I mean anything seemed better than the beaches at Normandy.
TF: Were you married at the time? Did you have a family?
RV: Well you see that was before my first marriage. I was still...
TF: Before your first marriage? You've had a second one then?
RV: Well there's been, let's see...one, two, three... If you count Rosita, I've been married five times.
TF: Which have you had more of? Marriages or regular series?
RV: [laughs] That's hard to say. Well definitely more regular series.
TF: That first story lead into you doing your first regular series?
RV: Well I turned it in and he liked it so much he gave me the next issue to do except the script wasn't written so he said, "Roarin' Rick," they were already calling me 'Roarin,' he said, "don't worry about the script. You just make up whatever comes into your head and I'll have my boys write around it." It was another 64-pager.
TF: In another night?
RV: No, they gave me two nights on this one so I was able to go home and have a bite to eat before I plowed into it. Got it done on time so I got the next one too. By the fourth issue, this is about three weeks later, the book was doing so well they decided they could afford a real inker. At that point that's when I became penciller. Then hey, 64 pages in a night if you're just pencilling, no sweat.
TF: That's why they call it the Sweatshop.
RV: [laughs] I never thought of it like that.
TF: What have you worked on over the years?
RV: You name it. I've probably drawn every damn feature that there ever was that came through Moorie's shop. Of course, you got to make a little money on the side so you're ghosting for other people, and I'm working next to Sturdy Steve in the Sweatshop, and half the time he doesn't show up. He's off somewhere doing God knows what. I just can't see a deadline blown. If that stuff's due and there's nobody there to do it, I just sit down and do it. I don't know why.
TF: Do you have favorite characters that you've worked on?
RV: Yeah except they weren't for Uncle Moorie. I did a few jobs for a little publisher out of 42nd Street. It was more like the adult kind of stuff, you know, the kind men like? We probably shouldn't discuss it in a magazine like this I wouldn't think. But those are the kind of strips really get a rise out of!
TF: That isn't where you got the name Roarin' Rick, is it?
RV: No. That's a long story, but it's also one we probably shouldn't tell to the little kids out there. It's fine if we're all hanging around, a bunch of guys at the bar, but hey, comics are for children, let's face it.
TF: Of course. The strips you're working on now, you're doing The Fury.
RV: No that goes to Sturdy Steve about half the time. The ones I got now are "Mystery Incorporated..."
TF: Which you've been on since the beginning.
RV: Yeah. I sort of came up with the characters. It was my concept I guess.
TF: Tell me how these characters are created.
RV: You see Affable Al was into Uncle Morrie for a bundle from losin' at the ponies...this is years later, I mean, this must be 1959, 1960 and Affable Al has taken over for Moorie. Moorie's gone on. He's got a paper mill, and he's got a funeral parlor. He's got this going, and he's got that going. So he gives the Sweatshop over to Affable Al. Affable Al's like 18 or 19 years old. He doesn't know his asshole from his affable elbow. He's about 150 lbs. over weight, so the doctor puts him on these goddamn little pink pills, diet pills. The pounds are just melting off of him and comes time for deadlines, he gives you a couple of these things and boy you can do two 80-page giants overnight. You're ready and roaring for more the next day. Anyway, to make a long story short...Affable Al had tried to do all these crazy monster comics, they weren't going anywhere...
TF: That you did in the '50s?
RV: Yeah. They were just filling up shelf space, face it. DC was beating the pants off them. They were just about ready to close up shop and I went in and Uncle Moorie was there and he had some of his boys twisting Affable Al's arm to get him to pay off his outstanding loans and all this kind of stuff. It was kind of ugly. I went in, the furniture's being moved out, and I said, "Listen, Moorie you know me, and you know I always come through. I'll be in here tomorrow morning with three brand new features, and you put these things out and these are going to make money. I guarantee it." He looked at me and he puffed on his cigar. I don't know if you know Moorie, but he's always got a cigar in his mouth.
TF: I don't think I've seen him behind the cloud.
RV: And he said, "What the hell, I got nothing to lose, go ahead." So I did. I went home, came up with Mystery Incorporated, Horus, and the Tomorrow Syndicate.
TF: Again in one night?
TF: How many of those little pills did you have?
RV: Well that was one of the reasons why the Sweatshop had sort of collapsed at that point. Y'see Affable Al had lost his prescription for the pills. He was sort of strange there for a couple of weeks. [laughs] He was putting the pounds back on and he created a lot of personal problems. He's a young guy at this point and he was always pulling some kind of bullshit on somebody. But anyway, I brought them in and Moorie decided to take the chance. He liked what he saw. He got Sturdy Steve to come up with The Fury, and N-Man, and we reworked some of Ed the Emperor's stuff like USA and Hypernaut. Morrie worked some magic with the printer's bill and by God if they didn't hit the stands and start making money and the whole damn thing picked up, and here we are today.
TF: So Mystery Incorporated was the first one you came out with?
TF: There's a story behind Mystery Incorporated #4.
RV: Oh yeah, well, that's my first marriage. My honeymoon. The wife and I, it was all kind of new to us, and we're off on a train to Niagara Falls and the train stops at a station and someone jumps on with a telegram and it's from Affable Al and he's got to have a 29-page book by the next day. So...it was a good issue. [laughs]
TF: Piece of cake. You'd done 64 the night before.
RV: Yeah. It was a good issue but it didn't do much for my married life, I can say that.
TF: Which lasted longer--the book on the stands or your marriage?
RV: The book on the stands, no question about it.
TF: Do you have a favorite inker you work with?
RV: Dashin' Dave Gibbons has got a nice flair, but he's always hanging out with that Hefner guy over at the Playboy mansion so it isn't like you can actually work with him. I guess in terms of human beings, it's got to be Jaunty John Totleben, the inker without fear. There's a guy who's fun to work with, even if his seeing eye dog does shit all over the Sweatshop. And he can just about keep up with me too which is saying something.
TF: That's amazing and you don't have to physically stand over him.
RV: Well not after Affable Al's got the handcuffs on the drawingboard.
TF: Just to guide him.
RV: Usually what he does is he puts them around the bottom of the drawingboard and then puts it on the guy's leg or in Jaunty John's case he just takes away the cane and the seeing eye dog so John can't do anything else but sit there and ink.
TF: He seems to have these incentives. Sturdy Steve was telling me that if he's late on a deadline that Affable Al will threaten to take one of the characters and give them to you.
RV: Well, might as well, I'm ghosting the stuff already! I don't mind helping the guy out. Sturdy Steve and I go way back.
TF: You've known each other for a long time?
RV: Well hey, I'm the guy who gave him the name Sturdy.
TF: What's the story behind that?
RV: Well this is a family book. I could probably tell you on background, but this is for kids and we can't talk about that kind of thing in a family publication.
TF: Of course you were in the war together.
RV: Hey, I got to tell you, I saved his ass so many times.
TF: What's it like working with Sturdy Steve?
RV: Well, it's kind of frustrating, since he's not around a lot.
TF: His definition of deadline is not the same as yours.
RV: Well, he exists in another time continuum, that's what Affable Al says, and he's always making some sort of joke about Sturdy Steve living in another time continuum, and I probably subscribe to that theory myself.
TF: But when it's really time to get it done, he gets it done.
RV: Or I do it for him.
TF: You're pretty adept at ghosting his style.
RV: Well yeah, I can do anybody. I've been ghosting Nancy for years.
TF: Tell me how the stories are created. Does Al give you a full script?
RV: Well, that's how it was supposed to be. That's how we planned it. Then the thing took off we had a big meeting with Moorie and he had some of his boys there and they leaned on Affable Al. They said, "Hey this is for real, you got to write these scripts. No more horsing around with the Bookies" and all this kind of thing. Affable Al promised. He said, "Okay, this is it Moorie. I'll write the Goddamn scripts. I'm going to this, I'm going to do that." But you know comics; everything is deadline, deadline, deadline, there's never enough time. Usually what happens is either I grab Affable Al when he's heading for the can, or I go down to the bar on the first floor of the '63 Sweatshop building, and I'll say something like, "Hey, what are we going to do in the latest issue?" And he'll say something like, "I don't know--let's bring back Dr. Apocalypse." I'll go and I'll plot the story from that. On the margins around the panels, I'll pencil in what I think they're saying, the characters. Then usually he'll go through it and jazz it a little bit, change a word here and there and then the letterer does the final rewrite.
TF: You almost think you'd get a story credit for something like that.
RV: Well hey, this is comics.
TF: That's true.
RV: I'm lucky to get work.
TF: Do you ever consider writing your own?
RV: Naah, I'm a penciller.
TF: What's a day like for you? How much time do you spend on this?
RV: All of it.
TF: Entire day?
TF: And you get up early?
RV: I usually wake up with my my head against the drawingboard. I've probably fallen asleep right there, pencil still in my hand. I got the coffee. I got the cigarettes. You know I just sort of wake up and if I have to take a whiz, I got the little can there, and I'll start guzzling the coffee and having cigarettes and before you know it I'm cooking...chuga, chuga, chuga. Couple of pages an hour...chuga, chuga, chuga, chuga. By evening I might be ready to have somebody bring me in a sandwich or something. Maybe one, two, three o'clock in the morning I might doze off, lean my head against the board a little bit, whatever. It's a good life.
TF: I was going to ask you about your personal life. I'm not so sure you have one.
RV: Well, I tried but you know me, "Mr. Comics."
TF: So what's it like working with Affable Al?
RV: He's grown a lot in the job I'll say that for him.
TF: Because he ran out of diet pills?
RV: That could be it. I don't know. He used to play some crazy games. When he was a kid he was a real wise-ass. Folks would come in in the morning to start work and he'd sit on top of the file cabinet and make everyone bow to him.
TF: Not really bow?
RV: Yeah and he'd say some crazy king stuff about being the king, or the emperor, or the Pharaoh. He's always had something for this Egyptian crap. It's funny the first time, but after years of it people tend to resent that kind of behavior.
TF: Is Affable Al in charge of day-to-day decision making?
RV: Well he doesn't spend as much time in the Sweatshop as he used to. There's a lot of business that gets done over lunch.
TF: He was saying he oversaw everything.
RV: Yeah, he's got the checkbook. I guess that's the last word on everything.
TF: What about Kooky Kandi Devine. What does she do?
RV: Well that was my third wife.
TF: You were married to Kooky Kandi Devine?
RV: Yeah. Things were slow so I started goin' out. I met Kandi at the 42nd St. publisher. I brought her around the Sweatshop and before you know it I had more work than I'd ever seen before.
TF: And you saw less of Affable Al.
RV: Affable Al just had me going. It was like an 80-page giant every night. It's pretty hard to keep a relationship together when you're trying to carry that kind of load and it was probably a mistake. But anyway, she and Affable Al ended up hanging around together and then he linked her up with Moorie's men's magazines, and she gets regular modeling work over there. Al uses her in the office, too. You know how these things go. It's water over the dam. No hard feelings.
TF: Is it hard to work around your ex-wife?
RV: Well, if I had really known her I guess it might have been hard. We never really got to know each other what with only being married a couple of days that way.
TF: Well, marry the work--the women come and go.
RV: Yeah well I'm married to the muse I guess.
TF: What's it like at the Sweatshop?
RV: It's kind of dingy.
TF: That's not a professional office building.
RV: Well not really. It used to be this meat packing plant, which probably would have been okay if they had cleaned it up a bit and gotten rid of some of the meathooks and stuff left lying around.
TF: Well you can use those things in the production office, can't you?
RV: Well, Affable Al threatens to but there's a certain smell to the place that people remark on as soon as they come in which got noticeably stranger after Affable Al had the windows nailed shut.
TF: Sturdy Steve blames this on you and the hot dogs.
RV: [laughs] Well it was a meat packing plant. It was pretty good there for the first six months. We wouldn't have to go for lunch, we'd just find things layin' in the corner...
TF: Not that you could afford to go out to lunch anyway.
RV: Probably the thing most people come away talking about, besides the smell, is the double-life size portrait, of Affable Al that hangs in the cramped little entry way. You come through and there he is in all his glory with the big grin, smoking a cigar.
TF: That must be an inspiration.
RV: It is. I kind of wish that he hadn't had himself painted looking at his watch, because all you think of as soon as you walk in the door, you think deadline, deadline, deadline, deadline, but maybe that was his idea.
TF: But do you think of anything else?
RV: [laugh] Well there's really not much time to think of anything else.
TF: Who else works in the Sweatshop full-time?
RV: Well we got Musty Marvin Kilroy. I'll tell you, that guy, he's a few bricks short of a load!!
TF: I hope to meet him some time soon.
RV: Yeah well don't bother interviewing him. I mean the guy's got these whacked out ideas. I hear he used to hang around with Alister Crowley, that guy in England who was into Kabal, Magic, that stuff? Anyway, you probably ought to cut that from the tape since this is for kids. Jaunty John Totleben's always around. Chirpin' Chester Brown is a lot of fun to be around.
TF: Sturdy Steve was telling me that there's a feature that Chester developed that Affable Al just wouldn't touch.
RV: Was that Yummy Fur?
TF: Yes. He wouldn't go into detail except he said something about the President of the United States.
RV: Oh yeah and the man who would not stop.
TF: I never heard Affable Al put down his foot, but apparently he did.
RV: Well you've got to remember Affable Al was one of the instigators of the Comics Code, and this Yummy Fur thing was probably better off over at 42nd Street with my buddy who does the Tijuana Bible stuff. Hey this is for kids. We never see Dashin' Dave. He's over in Chicago. He likes to hang around with Hef. Too good for the likes of us...
TF: What's this about a Cary Grant imitation he does?
RV: Yeah. He thinks he's something. He's a pretty suave character, Dashin' Dave is. There's Dandy Don and his brother Darlin' Dwayne who letters the books. Dandy Don actually inks USA for me. He's from Pittsburgh but every once in awhile he'll take the train up, come on up and we'll have a few laughs. He'll come over to the place. I'll chain him up to the board and we'll do a couple of 64-page giants, just like old times.
TF: Just for old times sake.
TF: And Sturdy Steve is in and out of there.
RV: Yeah well he's got his own schedule. I guess that's everybody. Oh yeah, there's also Rollickin' Roxanne who letters some of the books, and Jazzy John Workman. He's been hanging around a lot too. We're like one big happy family. I guess when he gets old Hiram Glick coming around with the vouchers and Klaus Shreck on the drums...see Klaus has this big drum that he kind of beats real slow... TF: Well it gets you in a pretty good rhythm I would think. RV: It does, and then with the rattle of the chains and everything it's very conducive to getting work done. I just wish they could shut the furnace off so that the radiators...it does get kind of warm in there. You have to strip down to your skivvy's sometimes.
TF: Well, it is a Sweatshop.
RV: Well, I tend to think that that's part of its charm.
TF: What about your artwork? Do you save much of your artwork?
TF: For your future. For your family. Something to look back on.
RV: Why would they want it?
TF: You haven't saved anything? You get the material back. You get the art back.
RV: No. Should we?
TF: Some people think so.
RV: Nah. We've always just...he's got some shredder or something and they use it for packing I think.
TF: What if someone came up there to visit the Sweatshop. Could they get some of the original artwork?
RV: If someone came into the Sweatshop and asked for original artwork they'd probably put them in a straight jacket or something and take them off to the rubber room.
TF: Do you get visitors at the Sweatshop?
RV: Never more than once. They never come back.
TF: What if someone wants to go to work there. I mean there are people out there that, like yourself, want to work in comics and have ideas.
RV: Well there's only enough work to go around right now. I wouldn't...
TF: And you're doing all of it. [laughs]
RV: I hate to see it passed around to too many people. There's guys like us who've worked 25 years doing this thing. I don't want to be thrown out on the street like Ed the Emperor or anything. Do you know what I'm saying?
TF: What do you think the future is? I mean you're not going to do comic books forever.
RV: Why not?
TF: Well if you do, forever's going to come to an end some day.
RV: Yeah well, hey you're only going to live as long as you live I guess. When your pencil's gone, your pencil's gone.
TF: What do you see as the future in comics? RV: Nothing. They're probably going to die off in a couple of years. TF: Any plans for yourself if they do? RV: Probably blow my brains out I guess. TF: Well there's always 42nd Street. RV: Yeah I wouldn't mind that. TF: Do you ever think of what you might have done if you hadn't, well if not for the shells. You could have thanked the war and the Nazis for your career. RV: Yeah. TF: What would have happened if that grenade hadn't gone off? RV: I guess I just lead a charmed existence. TF: If not for the Nazis and Affable Al, where would you be today? RV: Oh boy, I hate to even think about it. I guess I'm just the luckiest guy in the world.
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