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Dan Adkins

 Dan Adkins

here is not an inker more closely associated with Don Newton than Dan Adkins. Dan inked 49 Don Newton stories, in Dan's own words, "one for each year of his life." Dan ranks as one of my favorite Newton inkers. Dan is an interesting guy, a fellow who just sort of accidentally fell into a career in comics.

Adkins recalled in Alter Ego how his work on his fanzine turned into a career in comics:

"I met him (Wally Wood) through Bill Pearson. I saw a letter of Pearson's in Amazing Stories [sf magazine]. His address was Phoenix, Arizona, and I was stationed at Luke Field outside Phoenix, so I thought he might know some girls there! I was nineteen at the time. He didn't really want to meet anybody; he was sort of a shy guy. But I went out and talked to him that night, and showed him my collection of fanzines.

Later, up in New York, I was doing art for the science-fiction magazines, but I couldn't make enough money at it, so I worked in advertising while I was also drawing for
Amazing and Fantastic and Infinity and Science-Fiction Adventures. Half of these were put out by Larry Shaw, who also published one of the first monster magazines, Monster Parade, 'way before Famous Monsters of Filmland. Part of Monster Parade was stories, for which we did illustrations. While I was doing all this, Pearson had moved to New York, too, and I guess he wanted to get into writing. He had this big apartment in the '70s over near the river, and he got to meet Wally through (Roy) Krenkel or somebody.

I went up to Wally's with Pearson to get a full-page drawing from Wally for my fanzine Outlet. But Wally was too busy to do a drawing for me, unless-[laughs] Well, he offered me work to help him out! I had drawn nine pages of a war story, but I didn't show him my science-fiction illustrations. Later on, I showed him my sf drawings, and he said that if I'd shown him those, he wouldn't have hired me, because they weren't as good as the war story, which was my latest work! [laughs] So anyway, I started working as Wally's assistant, helping him on the first "Iron Maiden" story in the first issue of
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. That was around June or July of 1965."

Dan would work as Wally Wood's assistant for a few years before branching off on his own solo career at Warren, Marvel, DC and Charlton among others. When you read this website though, the name of Dan Adkins just keeps popping up. Dan was a huge supporter of Don's and in 2001 I wrote Dan and asked him a number of questions regarding Don and he was kind enough to respond.

Q: You were in Ohio, Don was in Arizona, yet you begin doing work together in 1972. How did this come about?

Dan Adkins: I met Don through the mail. He wrote me. I inked a drawing of his for Bill Wilson, who published The Collector, and Don wrote me after that. I moved to Arizona in 1974. My wife's family is there. Her three brothers and two sisters and her mother. Mine are in Ohio. I was stationed at Luke Field, outside of Phoenix, in 1955. 

Q: In letters I have received from Howard Siegel, your name starts to be mentioned around 1974, but mainly in connection with work that Don was assisting you on, including his first credited work at Marvel on Giant-Size Defenders #3.Don was really happy with his work on this book and thought his stuff looked better than most of the rest of the book. He mentioned being surprised that he did not get more work from Marvel at that time.

DA: Don penciled over (Jim) Starlin's layout on nine pages of Giant-Size Defenders #3. I thought his pages better than my own finishes as well. Marvel did not, which I never understood. John Romita Sr. never liked Don Newton's stuff, said he was a Classics Illustrated artist, not a Marvel one.

Q: So his not getting work at Marvel had nothing to do with him not living on the east coast? That was always Don's thought, yet, you lived in Arizona and had no problem getting work.

DA: I lived in New York City, Brooklyn and Queens from 1959 to 1968. I knew a lot of editors, artists and writers. Don Newton did not. And a lot of editors did not like Don's work. I know because I showed it around. They wanted more action.

Q: You inked three of Newton's horror stories at Charlton. In the Comics Journal #93 you mentioned that you guys got $25 a page and split the money 50-50. What bothered you most at Charlton, the crappy pay or the crappy printing?

DA: Crappy pay, $12.50 is correct. That was my share.

Q: How did these collaborations come about? Did Don ask you to ink his work or did the request come from Charlton?

DA: I probably asked Don if I could ink him. He may have asked me, can't be sure.

Q: Were you doing any other work for Charlton at this time?

DA: I penciled and inked a war cover for Charlton, while in Ohio, so I had already worked for them before Newton. They were trying to get me to pencil and ink for them. They had something called "Liberty Belle."

Q: It was not much later that you moved back to the east coast. Was that when you stopped working together at Charlton?

DA: I moved to New York in December 1974. If the three stories were published in 1975 -- that was it for Charlton. I became Art director of Marvel's black and whites...and I had a contract with Marvel for free lance. I couldn't work for other companies till it was up.

Q: How long did you live in Phoenix?

DA: Eight months, give or take a month.

Q: You moved on before Don began work on The Phantom, but I wondered what you thought of his work on that book.

DA: I like the Phantom paintings. I'm not too fond of Newton's inks. Too sketchy. I think he learned to draw more ideal figures, instead of realistic, but he never learned to ink for reproduction. Too thin of a line, too sketchy. He never quite got over drawing awkward figures either.

Q: It would be two years before Don "broke in" at DC, right after Charlton cancelled The Phantom and there you are again, inking his first DC work in DC Special #28. Do you recall how you got that assignment?

DA: I thought the first story Don and I did for DC was The New Gods stuff. I think (Joe) Orlando wanted me to ink Newton.

Q: In between the Charlton work and the first DC work Don did a cover painting for Unknown World's of Science Fiction for Marvel; did you have anything to do with him getting that assignment?

DA: I was the Art Editor of Unknown World's of Science Fiction. I asked Roy Thomas if I could give Newton a cover to do. I did a layout to show Roy and sent it to Don. He improved upon my rough -- made it a much better cover.

Q: Don mentions in a  number of letters to Howard that you were always encouraging him to move east and, it appears, at one point, that you almost talked him into it. Was this to assist him in getting more DC and Marvel work?

DA: I wanted Don to move east so that I would have an artist friend to go to New York with -- I usually delivered my jobs in person -- three hours from here to New York by bus. Three more back, of course.  (Jim) Steranko is here, but he seldom went to New York, and he drives. I don't like riding in cars. And, of course, it would help Newton to get work. He liked to pencil, I liked to ink. Made a good team.

But Newton hated it back here -- too many trees, curved roads, hills, no pools -- winter weather. He liked Phoenix. He bought a house in Reading, came to Reading, stayed two days. Sold the house, went back to Phoenix. Then he married that last wife.

Q: According to my records, you inked 694 pages of Newton artwork, 260 more than Alfredo Alcala, your nearest competitor, and your involvement with Don goes from the beginning of his career to the very end. I've only seen one strip of Don's in pencil and I though it was breath-taking, the amount of detail in the pencils astounded me. It seems like most inkers simplified Don's work, but you didn't seem to do so. Did you ink Don differently than you inked other pencilers? Was his work harder to ink or easier?

DA: I think I inked 49 stories of Don's. One for each year of his life. There is only one way to ink, "What is going to work here?" It's that simple. There's many answers -- I've inked over 70 artists. No one was hard. Some were boring. Some took a long time. Some didn't do their job, and you had to finish their pencils. Gene Colan comes to mind -- but his work was exciting. John Buscema (tight pencils) and Newton were my favorites. Don was enjoyable.

Q: Would you rather the penciler provide all of the details as Don did, or do you prefer looser pencils that give you more freedom in inking choices?

DA: The penciler gets more money than the inker. I want him to put every damn line in there -- otherwise, give the inker more money. If it's a bad penciler, you sometimes wish he hadn't put all that stuff in there -- you're going to have to change it -- at least some. But as long as he's paid more, let him earn his money.

Q: Any last words on Don Newton?

Dan Adkins: Don was a child. A big baby. I really liked the guy. When Wally Wood died, I was sad, but I didn't cry. We all knew how he drank and it was expected. When Newton died, I cried for two days -- such a shame.

Copyright 1998-2015 The Art of Don Newton
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