Last Updated July 9, 2013
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on did very little
work for Marvel Comics, spending his first two and half years as a pro at
Charlton and the majority of the rest
of his career at DC. But like many aspiring comic artists, Don wanted to work at Marvel for
many years. Don's friend Howard Siegel was also an acquaintance of Roy Thomas, at that time an
editor and writer at Marvel, and Don was always asking Howard to help him get
connected at Marvel through Roy. Some of Don's earliest comic book pages were samples he made for Howard
to show to Roy, and they were of a Marvel character, Captain America. Since Don
was promoting himself as a penciler, he did not ink these sample pages. As such, the two
pages we have are some of the only remaining Don Newton pencils in the world.
Of the four pages Don
did, we only have two of them to share with you. We do not know what happened
to the other two pages, but we do know that Don submitted Captain America
pages to Nicola Cuti when attempting to get work at Charlton in 1974 (although
I have a feeling those may have been only copies of the originals). Don
drew these pages very large on 14x20 inch
bristol board, which complicates getting a good scan of them. I tried many different
processes to get good copies, but the one that worked best was just scanning
in parts of the page and reassembling them in my paint program. The result
is not perfect and I may make one more attempt a little later on, but I don't
own this artwork and I have to at some point just "go with what I have."
Further hindering scanning is a sheet of plastic that has been placed
over the first page in an effort to protect it from aging. I cannot remove
the plastic and it does cause distortions in the scan. Even given the above,
what we end up with is a fine example of Don Newton's pencils a few years before
he turned pro and a real Art of Don Newton exclusive. I guarantee you have
never seen these pages anywhere before (except maybe in the home of Howard
of detail Don put into his pencils is unusual in the business, but
not unusual for Don. His pencils were very detailed throughout his entire
career. This was the only way he was assured his artistic vision would come though.
In the final page
of Don's sample, the Red Skull reveals that he has Bucky Barnes'
sister in his clutches.
When Don began working for Charlton, he saw Charlton
as a stepping stone to Marvel. Shortly after his first two horror strips appeared at
Charlton, Don asked Howard to show them to Roy. Don made his request in his own style,
with much humor and grace as the accompanying letter from Don to Howard will attest. Don
never pressured Howard to do anything. Howard genuinely wanted to help his friend. Don was
very worried, and Howard shared his concern, that as long as he lived in Arizona he would
have a hard time breaking into comics, at least at the big boys (Marvel and DC).
However, while still working for Charlton,
Don did do work on the Giant-Size Defenders
#3, January 1975. This work
came not through Howard Siegel and Roy Thomas, but rather through another friend, Dan
Adkins. Dan Adkins had been given the 32-page story to pencil and ink over Jim Starlin's
layouts and was way behind schedule. With about 10 days left to complete the strip, Dan
had only completed 4 pages and asked for Don's help. Don, who had tried unsuccessfully for
years to get work at Marvel, said he would do the work, but only if he got a credit line.
Marvel agreed and Don went to work. In all he penciled 12 pages (14-19, 31-36, and 38)
[note that Marvel numbered all pages in those days, not just the ones with story so that
the 32 page story actually ended on page 44] and also penciled or inked panels on page 39
and 44. Although he was supposed to follow Jim Starlin's layouts, Don once said he
"wound up erasing 90% of his [Starlin's] stuff." Anyone who has seen the book
can see that the pages Don did show little or no Starlin influence.
When looking at Don's
pages and looking at the rest of the book, it is hard to understand why Marvel did not
jump all over a talent like Don's. Dan Adkins was surprised by Marvel's reaction
as well, "I thought his [Don's] pages better than my own finishes as well.
Marvel did not, which I never did understand. John Romita Sr. never liked Don
Newton's stuff. He said he was a "Classic Illustrated" artists, not a
|Page 16 from Giant-Size Defenders #3 clearly shows
the hand of Don Newton, particularly in the four-armed demon in panels 1 and 3.
||On page 18 of the same book Don's version of
Nighthawk and the bat-like demon he fights is really wonderful. This is clearly the work
Around this time Don did some other inking
for Marvel that they did not even know about. Don inked three pages of backgrounds in the Deadly
Hands of Kung Fu #1 black and white book. Don identifies them as pages
"65, 67 and some of 68." If folks from Marvel read this it might well be the
first they have heard that Don Newton did work for them in 1974. As Don said then,
"Wouldn't Marvel be surprised if they found out I was working for them?" The
story in question is a Master of Kung Fu, written by Doug Moench (one of my favorite
writers), penciled by Mike Vosburg and inked by Dan Adkins. The backgrounds are so minimal
it is impossible to tell that Don had anything to do with them.
Around this same time Don also mentions
working on "several pages of backgrounds in "Giant-Size Master of Kung
Fu...Pages 16 and 17 to be exact. The rats are the only give away to my style
though." This book has been identified by Newton fan Carsten Larsen
as Giant-Size Master of Kung Fu #1, September
1974. "Game of Death", written by Doug Moench,
penciled by Paul Gulacy and inked by Dan
Adkins. Don said that he "also redrew the face of "Kung Fu" in panel 2 on
page 22." Don's work is uncredited and done
really to help Dan Adkins out with a deadline. Carsten has been kind
enough to send us copies of the Danish version of this story:
think Carsten found our pages! We are
presenting an entire six-page sequence here, with Don's background inks
being either pages one and two or two and three of the sequence. We believe
the last page contains the Newton penciled face in panel 2.This is
certainly not great Newton work, but we are nothing here at The Art of Don
Newton if not completist.
The last of the unknown Marvel inking
assignments by Don may be quite interesting. "I also did considerable work (or
rework) on a Mike Vosburg job recently...it's also a Kung Fu." All of these appear to
have been in 1974, while Don was working for Charlton and while Dan Adkins was living in
Phoenix. Once Dan moved back to New Jersey, the inking assignments for Don seemed to have
By 1975 Don was hard at work on the Phantom
at Charlton and when the call from Marvel, the call he had been waiting for for years
finally came, Don found he no longer desired to work for Marvel. In March of 1975 Roy
Thomas approached Don about penciling The Liberty Legion. Don turned him
down. "Rascally Roy wanted me to draw the Liberty Legion...characters like: Red
Raven, Thin Man, Blue Diamond. Funny; when they want me, I don't want them. Remember when
it was the other way?"
Don also did a frontispiece for the
Savage Sword of Conan #6, June 1975. This is a black and white printing of a
painting by Don.
In early 1976 Don did a single
painting for Roy Thomas which became the cover of Unknown Worlds of Science
Fiction Annual #1. Roy was very impressed by Don's work on this cover and
mentioned that he was saddened by the fact that he would most likely not be
allowed to use such a great talent again due to Don living in Arizona. With all
of the magazines Marvel was publishing at the time, Don could have kept them
supplied with amazing covers for years. How this fact reconciles with Roy
offering Don the Liberty Legion the previous year, I don't know.
|Don's only painting for Marvel became
the cover of Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction Annual #1, 1976.
Then a few
months later, Don got what he had hoped for: more painting work from Marvel. Don
did the cover for Marvel's The Rampaging Hulk #3. This is a beautiful
example of Don's painting style.
wonderful cover for The Rampaging Hulk #3 and the original painting for the
same. OK, you got me. This is a mock-up of a book I created using a painting
of Don's that I am very proud to own. Marvel really missed the boat on this
one. It would have made a wonderful cover.
OK, I lied. The
above cover is a mock-up that I made based on a painting by Don that I bought a
few years ago. Don's friend Jay Willson remembers the painting fondly, "It
was Donís attempt, through Dan Adkins, to get cover work for The Rampaging Hulk magazine, and to impress the Marvel brass. Unfortunately, it did neither. John Romita never seemed to like Donís stuff back when Don was starting out."
In June of 1976, the roof caved in on Don;
Charlton cancelled the Phantom. Don wanted desperately to get work at DC, but the doors
there were shut tight. After working so hard to make the Phantom a book about the
interaction a characters rather than "17 page fights," Don did not look happily
on the prospects of working at Marvel. In a letter to friend Howard Siegel, you can see
Don's frustration, but you can also see how he used humor to diffuse the pain and what
must have been the fear of an artist out of work.
|Two pages of a letter from
Don to Howard Siegel shortly after learning that the Phantom had been cancelled. Don
bemoaned that fact that he may have to "adapt" his style to fit in at Marvel.
Of this time Howard Siegel recently wrote,
"Marvel was reluctant to give Don any work because Stan Lee had a policy of wanting
the hired help to live locally, where and when he could control their output. I'd visit
Marvel about once a week when my office was located two blocks away from them on Fifth
Avenue in Manhattan. "Bullpen" was the correct description of the
penciler-inker-colorist enclave. High school graduates and college hold-offs buzzed around
seemingly doing nothing. At that time Roy Thomas was the de-facto editor and was quite
impressed with Don's work, particularly the four page Capt. America pencils. He convinced
Stan that Don should be given some work, but it was uninspiring assignments that were few
and far between...The Marvel experience did have a plus side though. It gave Don resume
credits that led to his DC work. I remember showing Roy Thomas the Conan painting Don did,
and Roy said something like, "He'd be perfect for the magazines we're going to
publish. Too bad I can't use him."
Don did do some credited early inking at
Marvel, but this was at a time when both DC and Marvel were changing formats rapidly. That
is, paper and printing costs were rising and both companies where raising their prices on
a regular basis, trying to find a happy medium between pricing and page count. The end
result is both were looking for new artist and both were trying to fill books that had
suddenly grown in the number of pages since the story/artwork had been commissioned. As a
result, filler strips of 5 to 10 pages were popping up everywhere. Marvel took this as an
opportunity to tryout new artists. They used Don as an inker.
Don inked the April 1977 issue of Ghost
Rider, #23. The book had a plot by Gerry Conway, script by Jim Shooter, and
pencils by the late Don Heck. Heck had been around for years, but was never a fan
favorite. More than one fan referred to him as "Hack" rather than Heck, but Don
Heck was a very competent penciler, he just wasn't very exciting. However, if you want to
get an idea of what Heck was capable of, look at issue #64 of the X-Men
that he did in the middle of Neal Adams' run on the strip. Heck stepped in and did his
darnedest to retain the feel of Adams for that one issue and he did a wonderful job. This
Ghost Rider issue is not of that caliber, but it is surely a cut above what Heck was
normally doing and that is because of Newton's inks. Unlike the Starlin pencils on the
Defenders, Newton left Heck's pencils alone, so that the result is more Heck than Newton.
Still, the combination is interesting and the book is a milestone in the career of Don
Newton in that it represents the first full book of work by him for Marvel.
|The splash page for Ghost Rider #23
shows the hand of Don Newton in all but the background characters.
||By page 11, Don was really reworking
some of the faces. Still, Heck's pencils are very evident.
||The stark lighting on page 16 is most
certainly Newton's doing, although the poor coloring lessens the impact.
||Page 17 is obviously a Don Heck page,
but bits on Newton poke through here and there.
||There are nice bits of Newton on page
22, in the background characters and the Johnny blaze figures in panels 3 and 6.
In 1977, in between his Phantom work at Charlton and
his career at DC, Iron Man Annual #4. Don inked a filler story of the
character Midnight (from Shang-Chi). The story is obviously an artist try out as the
penciler is Jeff Aclin, who I am told had only a short career at Marvel. The 5-page story, "Death
Lair!" is written by Roger Stern. The art is pretty pedestrian, containing a lot of
John Buscema swipes and not much energy. It doesn't help that visually, Midnight is such a
bland character. If the book did not say it was inked by Don, I never would have guessed
it. There is not much anyone could have done to help this artistic effort. However, to be
fair to penciler Aclin, having only five pages to show your stuff must have been a real
strain. I am still looking for copies of other books Don inked during this period. When I
get my hands on the books, you'll see the results here.
About this same time, Don was beginning to
become disillusioned with Marvel. Not only did he like the DC characters better, but he
found the "style" of the two companies to be almost direct opposites. While DC
relied on characterization to drive their plots, Marvel seemed to focus on fight scenes.
Don's talent was better suited to the character-driven plots at DC than the action-driven
plots of Marvel. In 1979 however, Don returned to Marvel to produce his best work there.
The Avengers Annual
#9, 1979, features 34 pages of Don's pencils and sports a Newton/Rubinstein cover to boot
(Don's only comic cover for Marvel). "--Today the Avengers Die!" was written by
Bill Mantlo, penciled by Don and inked by Jack Abel and Joe Rubinstein. It also features
some nice coloring by Carl Gafford. The book is divided into two parts, each 17 pages in
length, with Abel inking Part I and Rubinstein inking Part II. They are like night and
day. Jack Abel's stiff, minimal, yet overpowering style, was totally unsuited to Don's
detailed, flowing pencils. Yet, had Rubinstein not inked the second half, you might have
been satisfied with Abel's work, because Don's pencils are very nice. Joe Rubinstein
became Don's favorite inker with his work on the second half of this book. Joe's clean,
powerful style, let the details in Don's work shine through, while adding a
"glossiness" to the pencils that other inkers could not. This is mighty powerful stuff and much better than the
Rubinstein inks that would grace Don's final
Infinity Inc issue at DC,
six years later. This is really great Newton art.
|Part II opens
with a beautiful splash. I think Don really enjoyed drawing Thor after all these years.
Don had done a couple of Thor renditions as a fan.
nice work with the Vision here. Notice how the art is improved by the inks and the great
color job by Carl Gafford.
Vision, Thor and Iron Man, the issue featured Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, Wonder
Man, the Beast, Hawkeye, and Yellowjacket.
||Iron Man and
Captain America teamed up to take on Arsenal. It took a long time for us to see Don's Cap,
but it was worth the wait.
||Iron Man was
central to the story. Here Don shows that not only could he draw an impressive Iron Man,
he was also no slouch on Tony Stark.
||Here is a page shot from the original artwork
which happens to be part of my personal collection. Love those Rubinstein inks!
Don Newton fan Carsten Larsen has
a unique hypothesis regarding this book. He writes, "Neil Hanson mentions
'a storyline that
began in Iron Man, the issues of which I cannot recall.' Contrary to your allegations about Marvel being just mindless
action 'while DC relied on characterization to drive their plots,' Iron Man
had great continuity in those years and it would be hard to limit the storyline
further than to # 113-119, but Arsenalís active role is limited to # 114. The funny thing
about that issue (apart from it being one of the places where Keith Giffen was
misspelled) is that it ends with the promise that 'Arsenal will return in an upcoming issues of
Avengers!' -not, mind you,
Avengers Annual, but just Avengers. This makes it very likely that Newtonís annual
was originally intended for two issues of the regular Avengers book, especially
since itís divided into two 17-page chapters (the normal length for regular
books at the time) and finished by two different inkers. Only the fact that Avengers
# 204 came out two years later at the now-normal 22-page length keeps me from
theorizing: though you may be able to you do not substantiate that Newton
actually drew this story in 1981...inventory is a very common practice in the
business, and the length of time itís been lying on the shelf is not
necessarily proportionate to the care lavished upon it in the inking stage."
Don Newton fan and friend Jay
Willson sheds more light on the Avengers Annual:
"Don actually quit DC in
1979 to join Marvel. Marvel was guaranteeing Don a higher page rate for his
pencils, as at that time, Marvel often paid "premium" artists a higher
rate to get them to work there, and considered Don in that class.
Don was given the assignment as the regular penciler on the
Avengers. He was really thrilled that Marvel had promised him that Joe Rubinstein would be his permanent inker on the Avengers. Joe was Don's favorite inker at that time. Don wanted to draw Captain America at Marvel, and the Avengers was the best they could do to fill that request (I think John Byrne or someone was doing the book at the time). Don wasn't too thrilled about doing a team book, but went after the assignment anyway, figuring he would have a run of comics inked by Rubinstein, which excited him quite a bit.
Don finished two issues but did not
have the script for a third issue in hand. Don was in many ways insecure
in his career, always worrying about where the next work would come from and he
liked it when he had his next assignment in hand as he worked on his current
He was promised more Avengers scripts from Marvel, but Marvel did not schedule work in the same fashion that DC did (they were much less organized, for one), and it resulted in a delay of incoming work for Don, something that he had never faced before at DC. DC would always fill Don's time with a backup story or something else in the case of a script delay, so Don never would stop drawing, and the editors at DC were very good about keeping up regular communication with him. Don always figured he could pencil about 1 and 1/2 comics pages per day, and wanted scripts there to allow him to keep to that schedule. When this did not happen at Marvel, Don panicked. Don contacted Paul Levitz at DC and re-upped his contract with them, writing off the Marvel experience as something that just didn't work out. A few days later Jim Shooter called, said there had been a mishap in the office and that his messages had not reached him until that day, but that all was fine and the next script would be to Don shortly. Don informed Jim that it was too late, that he had signed a contract with DC in the mean time and was going back to Batman and such." Don's two issues of the Avenges did become Avengers Annual #9, half of which was inked by
this all ties in with the other bit of work Don did for Marvel I don't know, but
in 1981 he did one more issue of The Avengers. Issue 204 featured a
plot by Jim Shooter and Budiansky and a script by Dave Michelinie. Don did the pencils and
Dan Green did the inks on the 22-page story. The results were, for the most part,
dreadful. Don's wonderful style is almost non-existent in this book as Green attempts to
turn Don into another in a long line of boring Marvel artists. There are occasional
moments of Newtonistic style in the book and it does get better as the book progresses, as
if Green got tired of suppressing the pencils. Look at page five of the story to your
right, in particular the first two panels. The anatomy and the faces show no signs of
Don's work. Sal Buscema could have drawn this page. This is a total corruption of Don's
pencils and when you look at the work Rubinstein did two years earlier, so very
However, by the time we get near
the end of the book, you can start to see that Don Newton did do the pencils. I think page
20, to your right, is the best in the book. The Yellow Claw is clearly a work of Newton as
is the anatomy of Iron Man in panel three. The clothes of Shu Han in panel two show signs
of being penciled in great detail and even though a lot of this detail is wiped out by the
inks, you can still see that it was there to begin with. Why Marvel used and abused Don in
this manner I don't know, but I certainly don't blame him for not sticking around for more
abuse from "the house of ideas." While Don had his share of bad inkers at DC,
none of them, not even Alfredo Alcala, so totally removed Don's style the way Green did.
Don't get me wrong, I do not have a problem with Dan Green as an inker, only as an inker
of Don Newton.
Once again, Don's friend Jay
Willson illuminates the past for us:
Don's second time of leaving DC was partially due again to the money being
offered by Marvel. An additional factor was Don feeling as though DC
did not respect him as much any more, or were taking him for granted more,
as he started to notice a number of things that concerned him: 1), he
was given poorer inkers more often, which really bothered him; 2), DC had
"written off" his Captain Marvel by this point, and he had started
to feel as though he might be more expendable to DC than before; and 3), Don
was angry that some promises from Levitz to get high-paying advertising and
film artwork had never come to fruition (the Batman
film had been announced at this point, and DC was involved in some
preliminary artwork, none of which was used in the Burton film. Don
was given none of this work by DC).
Shooter had continued to
contact Don to attempt to get him to do work for Marvel, and had also
gone as far as to ask other Marvel artists to call Don to entice
him over to working at Marvel again. I can remember sitting at Don's townhouse
with him when Val Mayerick called him up, someone that Don had never
spoken to before. Val had called to tell Don that he liked his work a
lot, and also noted that they both had an interest in weight lifting and
boxing. Mayerick also shared with Don that he was almost a black belt
in karate, if my memory served me correctly. During this phone call, Mayerick
suggested that Don give Jim Shooter a call and try working for
Marvel again. Don turned out to be receptive and did just that.
You are very correct in your
disdain for Dan Green's inks over Don's work on this issue of the Avengers.
I think that Green may have had to rush on the job due to Marvel's
notoriously poor scheduling habits at the time, but I don't know that for a
fact; I just know that what was penciled was not inked in the final product.
Having seen the original artwork for the pencils (which were great, even
though Don didn't like the story much), much of what Don drew was redrawn or
heavy-handedly inked by Green in the final product. Don absolutely
hated the job. He had wanted Joe Rubinstein (which was, truth be told,
almost as much incentive for Don to work at Marvel as the additional income
offered), and got someone worse than he had experienced at DC.
The ink line that Green used was
incredibly broad, and the brush work that he chose to use on the figures was
usually done in a way that simplified Don's work, eliminating a lot of the
fine cross-hatching detail that Don always used to shade his figures.
The change in both of these situations made many of the figures no longer even
resemble Don's work. On top of that, either Green or someone at Marvel
(Don always suspected John Romita, due to Romita's earlier comments that had
made their way back to Don through Adkins) had literally redrawn figures in
the book, making them no longer Don's work. I have no idea why this was
done, and Don never found out why either.
During the time that Don
was drawing this second attempt at the Avengers book, Paul
Levitz contacted Don and told him
that he would promise him some additional advertising artwork, should Don
return to DC. After the disastrous Avengers job by Green, and the lack
of scheduled work for Don again from Marvel, Don agreed to accept a new
contract with DC. Once this was done, DC included Don on the work for
the POST cereal comic books, which were little comic books that were included inside
each cereal box. Don loved the work as they were easy to
do and paid very well. He was happy again with DC."
really a Marvel piece, more of a fan illustration, is the cover to The Comic
Reader #189. Penciled by Don and inked by Joe Rubinstein it is another
example of this fine artistic team and it is a Marvel character, Captain
America. So we begin and end this page with Captain America illustrations by Don
that never appeared in Marvel publications.
Jay Willson tells us that all
of the Comic Reader images that Don drew were done so that he could receive the
magazine free from Street Enterprises, the publisher of CR at the time.
Don usually did one cover a year for them in pencil (although the earlier covers
that he did were inked as well), and after doing the covers for a few
years, Don started to do them after working out a deal with an inker that he
wanted to work with, who would ink the cover for the same reason. He would
run into inkers at a convention or something and say, "why don't we do a Comic
Reader cover together?" Both the Captain America cover inked by Joe Rubinstein
and the Green Lantern cover inked by Terry Austin were done in this manner, as
both inkers were primarily Marvel inkers at the time, and therefore would not
likely have much of a chance to ink Don's work. Don was very pleased with
both covers once he saw the finished drawings.
It has been reported in some places that Don
penciled Avengers 205, but this is not the case. Besides the afore
mentioned Master of Kung Fu books, this is all the information I have on Don at Marvel. If I
am missing something and you know about it, please let me know (that is what the Corrections
link to your left is for). I know there are a lot of Marvel fans out there and I would
like to get more examples of Don's work at Marvel on this page.
The Art of Don Newton
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