MICHAEL WM. KALUTA
I first met Michael Kaluta at a New York City comics convention in the mid 1970s, where he was very gracious and friendly to me as a fan. I had loved his work on The Shadow for DC, as well as Carson of Venus and various other stories, and I bought a Conan poster from him, which he signed for me.
After I started working in DC Comics' production department, I would see him in the halls occasionally, coming in to drop off work. Around 1979 or so, after the DC Implosion when things were a bit slow, I was given the task of cleaning out the file cabinets in the production room, including the flat files where art being worked on was kept. In one of those, the drawers weren't closing all the way, so I pulled them out and discovered a story drawn by Kaluta for House of Mystery #200 that had slipped behind the drawers and been lost for a few years. I contacted Michael, and he was very happy to hear about my find, and came right up to the DC offices to pick it up. We had a conversation about the story, which I liked a lot, and I offered to buy one of the pages, for which he gave me a very good price. Michael and I hit it off well, and when he needed a letterer after that, he often asked for me.
Thus began a working friendship that continues to this day. I've done a number of lettering projects for Michael over the years, but the major one was lettering the various incarnations of Starstruck, which began as a space opera play by Elaine Lee and others, then became a graphic novel written by Lee, with terrific art by Kaluta.
Beginning in 1980 I worked directly with Elaine and Michael on the first incarnation of Starstruck, which was prepared for a European publisher, but was later serialized in Heavy Metal magazine in the early 1980s. I would go up to Michael's apartment on New York's west side and the three of us would go over the pages. Elaine and Michael had ambitious ideas for the lettering, calling for a lot of different styles and formats, and I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with them, presaging my later work on Sandman.
In 1984 Starstruck was published as a graphic novel by Marvel Comics, and some additional pages were produced for that printing. Since I had lettered the original run, I was allowed to do this by DC, even though it meant working for the competition. I'm glad, for it gave me a first chance to work for the world's best editor, Archie Goodwin. We later worked together more after he moved back to DC.
Starstruck then became a series at Epic Comics, a division of Marvel. I couldn't get away with lettering that new material, but later still it was again published in an expanded version by Dark Horse Comics, after I had become a full-time freelancer, so I was able to work on it then. The story kept expanding, and much of the new material was lettered by me, though not all of it.
For a while, before the Dark Horse version, Michael and Elaine had a deal with Tundra Publishing to produce new Starstruck material, including a spinoff featuring The Galactic Girl Guides. Several issues were produced with charming art by Linda Medley, but they were never published. Copyright disputes arose with England's Girl Guides organization over the name, and before that could be worked out, Tundra folded. It's a shame, and I hope the material sees publication someday.
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