John Workman Visits

WorkmanKleinYesterday we enjoyed a visit from John Workman, long-time letterer, artist and writer, and a friend since we first worked together in the DC Comics Production Department in 1977, where John helped me get started with lettering comics myself. John was brought down from his home in central New Jersey by another old friend, Ron Jordan, who took the picture above. We spent several hours reminiscing, talking about our careers, the people we worked with, and our lives inside and outside comics. A great time was had by all, including a pizza dinner on our screened porch with Ron, Ellen and the cats. Thanks to Ron for arranging this visit!

WorkmanArtHere’s John with a page of comics art he wrote, pencilled and inked for the story “Key Club” that appeared in STAR*REACH #2 dated 1975. I had already seen and enjoyed the story before I was hired by DC Comics, and I bought this page from John soon after we began working together in 1977. One of the many memories John shared yesterday, and one I’d never heard, is how the story came to be in that issue. John met a talented young artist at a convention in 1974, while he was still living in the state of Washington, and they were looking at each other’s work and comparing notes on ways to get into comics. The other artist mentioned he was working on a story for Mike Friedrich’s new independent comic STAR*REACH, the first issue of which had just come out, and suggested John submit a story to Friedrich too. John went home and produced “Key Club,” sent it off, and it was accepted, but John was quite surprised when it was published in the second issue of the book, alongside work by artists John admired like Neal Adams, Dick Giordano and Jim Starlin. Later, John learned the reason it was used so quickly: the story slated for that spot by the talented artist John met wasn’t finished in time. That artist was Dave Stevens, who never did finish the story intended for STAR*REACH.

John also recounted how his being hired by DC Comics in 1975 was due to his mumbling, a funny tale. John and his friend and fellow artist Bob Smith came to New York in 1975 looking to get work in comics. Larry Hama got them in the door at Marvel, and they managed to get an appointment with Gerry Conway, then an editor at DC. They had already met a few folks who worked at DC, and while they were in the reception area waiting, Bob Rozakis, one of those people, came by and asked who they were there to see. John mumbled “Conway,” and Bob replied, “Oh, he’s not busy, I’ll take you in.” As Workman and Smith followed Rozakis down the hall, John realized they were going PAST Conway’s office and a few minutes later, they were being introduced to Carmine Infantino, then the DC publisher, and an artistic hero of both visitors. John’s mumble had been heard as “Carmine,” and John said his knees were knocking, and he expected them to be quickly dismissed, but Carmine looked over their work, talked to them graciously, and told them John and Bob reminded him of himself and Frank Giacoia when those two friends were trying to get work in comics at the beginning of their careers in the late 1940s. Soon, Carmine was calling in other staffers, and before the visit ended, Bob Smith had inking work, and John had accepted a staff position as a Production Artist. “If it wasn’t for my mumbling,” John laughed, “who knows where I’d be today.”

It’s always great to see old friends like John, hope we can get together again soon.


3 thoughts on “John Workman Visits

  1. Clem Robins

    great story. i can’t believe that after almost forty years in this racket, i’ve still never met John. thanks for posting this, Todd.

  2. Jason Stamwitz

    This is great to read this. My grandfather was also a cartoonist, and knew John personally. John enjoyed learning from him. I never was able to meet my grandfather, but because of the relationship, my dad had me contact John many years later after a graduated High School. I ended staying with him for a while, and learned a ton. Ended up going to the Joe Kubert school too. John was and is a big influence. Though I don’t work in the comics world, I still continue to do commercial illustrations.

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