Last Updated April 2, 2001
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he following interview was published in the Charlton Bullseye, a fanzine dedicated to
Charlton Comics, published in the 1970's. The editor of the Bullseye, Bob Layton, would
later turn "pro" and in fact inked Don Newton's pencils on the Star
Hunters strip at DC. The interview was done by Don Newton fan and friend, Howard
Siegel, who has done so much to help me get this site in fairly good shape. For more on
Howard and his contributions to The Art of Don Newton, take a look a the Mother Lode page. For his interview with Don, look no further than
to Tell Stories With Pictures"
by Howard Siegel
e," asked me
to do an interview with Don Newton, my first reaction was, "Why?" "Because
nobody knows Newton's history better than you," was the phone reply. I have to admire
Bob's correctness. Immediately my thoughts were of the letters between Cap'n Newton and
myself that have been saved and savored over the years as well as the pieces of art he's
given me. Also there were the many fanzines that contained his proliferation of work, and
the notes I never used in doing his fan profile for my RBCC column five years ago.
"How many pages do I get?" "As many as you want." The pot was
sweetened. "I hate straight interviews, Bob. The reader will get weary scanning the left column of rote
identification between questioner and replyer. Why not let me make it a combination of
profile and interview?" "You're on!" And so I am...
My first contact with Cap'n Newton (I always call
him that, because of his deep affection for a famous red garbed super hero sometimes known
as "The Big Red Cheese") was the result of a query about one of his very first
contributions to comics fandom via an unidentifiable hero and sidekick that graced a
publication titled "Golden Age #3" In discovering that they were two fictitious
characters he named "Red Wraith" and "Crimson Kid." I also found out that these were but two of
the costumed adventurers Don created when he was in his pre-teens He had quite a roster of
these super heroes as a boy, and recalled others including "Cosmic Man,"
"Titan," "The Headsman," "Capt. Galaxy" and
"Electron." What is more important is that the artistic talent and desire were
latent within him, and he never allowed them to wane as he grew up. Weren't we all caught
drawing caped and masked men instead of doing our written assignment in class? In Don's
own words, '"I liked to do pictures that tell a dramatic story, it's as simple as
that. I always had the desire to do a comic strip. It was only a matter of finding the
time" Little did he know...
The statistics read: Occupation: Art teacher at
Mountain View High in Phoenix,
Arizona (Don's son Tony has written to us recently letting us know that
Mountain View was an Elementary school, not a High School.--BK) for the past six years.
Most severe critic: 7 year old son, Tony, himself a gifted
artist as magic marker and crayon sketches I have, reveal. Don's degree is from Arizona
State, where he started out minoring in art and developed his ability to work with oils.
He did some sculpturing also, accounting for his beautiful paper-mache' statuettes and
wood and cardboard medieval weapons which are displayed throughout his home. Before
college however, the good Cap'n could make a claim to fame in that he set a high school record for the shot put; and
that abetted his plans to become an athletic coach. At one time he was also middleweight
weight lifting champion of Arizona. A back injury forced him to ease up on the athletics
and go into art full time. So today, he is still developing healthy bodies, but they are
in the persons of the characters he pencils and inks for Charlton. If Don has any hang-ups
he won't admit to, I'll say that one of them is that he never dates his mail.
Even before Charlton enlisted Cap'n. Newton, Don had
professional credits. He did the "Sport Star of the Week" panel for The Mesa,
Arizona Tribune while a sophomore in high school. He also satisfied a commission of 6
religious paintings for the Hattie Kleinbrook Memorial Collection. Each was 3 X 5 feet and
were turned into Christmas cards. He was on the staff of the nationwide "Master
Artists Painting Course,"
correcting student submissions and writing them letters of criticism. He has made guest
appearances on local TV shows, such as "Captain Super," Of this, he once wrote. "Believe it or not, the
character I was dressed as got a boatload of fan mail. And these kids have never seen one
of his comics!"
Siegel: Hey Cap'n. Newton! Most of the new
professionals are just out of high school and got into the business as the ultimate
display of their devotion to comics. They got heavily involved in fandom and trained
themselves by tracing the work of their favorite artist, learning through hard and
probably unsuccessful efforts at first what it takes to meet the minimum standards
acceptable to the industry. You didn't have to go that route. Explain.
Newton: Well, by
the time I did my first piece for Charlton, I had been teaching art classes for some years
and did work for more fanzines than I can recall. Halftones, India ink, fine line brushes
and the like were not new to me. In fact, I did several things that you might say were my
proving grounds before submitting samples to the pros. "The
Savage Earth," which ran in five or six issues of RBCC was the first dry run. You
recall it was a combination of "Brave New World" and Flash Gordon in concept.
Then there was the ten-page "Blood Island" piece I did for "Grave
Tales," the coloring book I
collaborated on. It was historical in nature, dealing with the hardships of settlers in a
new Land. These exercises proved to me that I could work within panels.
Siegel: It's a pretty well known fact in the industry
that Frank Robbins is a speed demon when it comes to doing stories. I recall you once told
me that you broad pencilled two pages of "The Savage Earth" during your lunch
hour in the school cafeteria. Would you say that your ability to work fast has been an
yes. Remember that my professional work for Charlton is still a part-time endeavor with me. I can only devote myself to these
assignments after school and on weekends. Since Charlton began using painted covers for
many of their titles, I've done 20 already. These take a giant chunk out of the work time.
|"Charlton was the
only publisher interested in giving me a try."
Siegel: Are you still angry over the roadblock once
put before you because you live in Arizona and New York was considered the only area an
artist could live in if he was to get pro work?
Newton: You bet.
Charlton was the only publisher interested in giving me a try. With them it's ability, not
geography. I probably could have been a professional comic book artist two years earlier,
had not the stigma of long distance been a quirk of certain editors.
Siegel: Go into detail about how you and Charlton got
together. It can be important to the readers in that it again proves that a smaller
publishing house can be more dynamic and willing to try out talent, whereas DC and Marvel
are fixed in their methods and formulas.
the story wouldn’t win an Academy Award. I was reading an issue of RBCC and came to
the story and picture of Charlton's forthcoming super hero, E-Man. The concept was eye
boggling, and prompted me to send Charlton some samples of my work, including "Blood
Island," along with a letter
of introduction. Nick Cuti called me and asked that I do a sample piece, which was, in my
opinion, too hastily done and left much to be desired. But both Nick and George Wildman
liked it and I've been turning out work for them ever since. They're very easy to work for
and have kindly put up with the rough edges in my art, offering me many words of
encouragement. To be truthful, I was like all the other newcomers to the industry. I felt
that if you didn't work for Marvel or DC, you just weren't a pro. My brief association
with the Charlton people has taught me that this is just a fable. I have no desire to
leave Charlton now.
Siegel: What do your students think of having a
teacher who tells them to draw a vase of flowers or the Mayflower landing at Plymouth, and
then he goes home and does comic strips?
Newton: Very funny
Siegel. It just so happens that Mountain View is located in the low rent district and most
of the kids don't even know what a comic book is. Only a few of
my fellow teachers and one or two students know about my extra-curricular activities. I
don't publicize it too much. Of course, I can't account for my son, Tony. For all I know
he may be trading issues of "Ghostly Tales" for a six pack of bubble gum.
Siegel: Reviewing the collection of letters I have
from you, I note a plethora of ink colors and the use of everything from a 15 cent ball
point pen to lavish nylon tipped instruments. What about the tools of your trade? Do you
favor a brush or a pen?
Newton: Well, first
I think you should know that my drawing board is used only when I'm painting. I do all my
pencilling and inking in an easy chair with the board in my lap. Unconventional, but for
me it's comfortable. A flat tray would be just as handy. I seldom ink with the same type
of brush or pen for any length of time. I used a pen in doing "Beezley's
Ghosts," a #2 brush for "Orion," and an "O" brush on some of the Baron Weirwulf pages.
Siegel: Give the
Bullseye readers a typical "work day."
Newton: Okay. I'd
"blue pencil" a page during a free period at school, tighten it up in regular
pencil that night. The following night I'll ink it. I'm slow at inking, probably because
this has been my weak point; but with the help of people like Dan Adkins, I've noticed an
improvement. I'm sure readers can too if they compare some of my first Charlton pieces
with say, "Orion."
Siegel: What future plans does Charlton have for you?
Newton: In March I began my first Phantom story, When
one realizes that he was the very first costumed adventure hero to appear in the comics,
the rare privilege of doing the art is tantamount to being allowed to bat for Hank Aaron.
Aside from an occasional ghost story, the only plans Charlton has for me is The Phantom,
and believe me, I couldn't ask for a more prestigious assignment!
Now that I have about five Phantom stories behind
me, I've been able to really put myself into all aspects of doing the strip, including
some writing. I'd like to take a moment to tell you how the idea to put the Phantom in
Casablanca developed. Bill Pearson, a real talented guy whose work for Charlton will
really be appreciated by readers, wrote some Phantom summaries for me. At the end of one, Bill decided to be funny and penned in, "and
in the end the Phantom stops in Casablanca where he meets Bogart, Lorre, Greenstreet,
etc., etc." When I read this I thought he was nuts, but then I began to see a
possible story. I called him and he then thought that I was nuts! Nevertheless, the story
developed and after redoing it several times, the both of us submitted it to Charlton.
They called it "a classic." I hope so. It could start a trend. It could also
spoil me because it was so enjoyable to collaborate on.
Siegel: Everyone I've spoken to in New York circles
feels that you've arrived with your acrylic painting covers. I hesitate to tell them that
of the first five you did, your favorite was the one for "Teen Confessions" #89.
Newton: Siegel, I'm beginning to think I did right in
drawing you as a 60 year old Air Force colonel in that Baron Weirwulf's Library story,
"A Report On UFO's," in Ghost Manor #20.
Siegel: You win, Newton. The pen is mightier than the
his piece wouldn't be complete if I didn't reminisce about
some human-interest aspects of my friendship with Cap'n. Newton. For instance, there was
the time he was flooded out of his apartment on East Osborn Street. Most of his pictorial
research material was water damaged. In case you might wonder of what importance or
relevance this is to an artist, be it known that they all must refer at some time to still
life models and technical photographs to capture authenticity in their work. Getting back
to the point, I scoured for several weeks gathering such trade journals as Modern
Packaging, Soap & Sanitary Chemicals, Heating, Ventilating & Air Conditioning
News, etc. to help him refurnish his library. It shows up in the backgrounds of many of
Another pleasant memory, actually a fulfillment, was
the opportunity to collaborate with the good Cap’n. on a piece of art. I did the
pencils and he the inks for the Nature Boy illo that I authored in Bullseye #2. I proudly
display the mounted original in my office, along with several other Newton paintings. His
house is a virtual art museum, with every available piece of wall space occupied by a
framed oil. I'll always maintain that Newton cannot be truly appreciated until you've seen
his paintings in their real form.
If I've had a disappointment, it would be the fact
that the lack of plaques prevented me from accepting for Don his award as the best fan
artist of 1973 at the New York Comic Art Convention. I had a well-rehearsed speech all
ready to put fourth on the dais. It would have ended something like this: "Cap'n,
it's been fun."
And so was doing this article
The Art of Don Newton
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