Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Some Thoughts on DON HECK

John Coates, who is writing a book on Don Heck's life for TwoMorrow's Publishing, recently interviewed me regarding my brief relationship with Don. From that interview:

What was your overall relationship with Don? More than an agent? Friend? Confidant?

I was very close with Gray Morrow, Dave Cockrum, and Gene Colan but I was never close with Don. We were friends, but not what I'd call close. Towards the end of his life—after he called me and told me he was dying—I guess you could say we were closer. He asked me to help find someone who could take care of his dog. He was terribly concerned that he’d die and there would be no one there for the dog.

Did Don share any recollections about his time at Marvel? Not getting art returned?

Don had nothing negative to say about anything or anyone. He’d been trashed by Gary Groth and that miserable rag he publishes. Groth had manipulated Harlan Ellison into saying something disparaging about Don's abilities during an interview, but Don didn’t indicate that he held it against Harlan. He knew Harlan and I were friends—at least I presume that he knew that—but these types of things seemed beneath him. It wasn’t as if he was taking the high road; I think it was all just petty to him... He certainly had great affection for John Buscema, as John did for him. John told me he wanted to punch Groth in the mouth for what he did to Don.

Were you in communications with Don prior to his death?

One day Don phoned me. “I’m calling to say goodbye,” he said. “Goodbye?” I asked. “I have cancer,” said Don. “I’m not gonna make it.” I can still hear him saying it. And how do you respond to that? With some bullshit that everything’s going to be okay? I was stunned. He was only 66.

Were you involved in the estate post-death?

Not at all. I was just sad. I liked Don very much. He was humble and easy to get along with. He did what he said he was going to do and his commission work at the end of his life was as good as anything he’d done during his career. He was very much the craftsman. I didn’t see a lot of emotion in Don's artwork, like you’d see in, say, Gene Colan’s, but I s'pose comparing artists is as foolish as comparing schools of thought. As Stan Lee once told me, Don was reliable; you’d give him a job and know he’d get it done right and on time. There’s plenty to be said for reliability.


Daniel Best said...

I liked Don's art - it did the job and, frankly, he drew some of my favourite stories. I'd happily belt anyone in the teeth who says Don was no good.

Mike P said...

Very nice bit about a very underrated artist. I liked Heck's work much more as I got older. (Wasn't even introduced to his amazing romance art until a decade ago.) His horror art was well done as well. My favorte superhero work was STEEL by far; Don seemed re-invigorated on that run.

Thanks for the recollections and for proving that Don was a class act! Wish I had met him and bouht a commission.

Mike Pascale

Mike Collins said...

Recently reread the Marvel Masterworks collection featuring Captain America, some shockingly variable artwork in there but one of the stand-outs was a Kirby layout job finished by Heck. Simply gorgeous.
When I think of Iron Man, Heck did the definitive Tony Stark. A much underappreciated artist, who suffered due to his dependability: he was Marvel's fireman when a deadline was burning.
One of the small joys of my comics work was seeing Don draw an issue of Spelljammers for DC, using characters I'd designed.

Kid said...

I have great affection for Don's Iron Man and Avengers work - these strips still stand up well today. Do you know if Don's dog was found a good home?

vollsticks said...

Tut. Bloody Gary Groth! I like The Journal a lot, love almost everything Fanta put out but I didn't know he dissed Mr. Heck. That's out of order. I'm in two minds about Mr. Groth; part of me respects him for everything he's published and for his fearless editorial policy and writing, the other part of me thinks he acts like a grubby little arrogant shit-stirrer far too often...but I can't really stand behind that, I've never met the guy (and I'm not sure if I wanna, respect for him has gone down a good few notches). I don't know how anyone could disparage Mr. Heck's drawing ability--maybe he "hacked it out" now and again but his chops were rock-fucking solid, kind of like a European bande-desinee master who has a scrappy, sketchy style but knows the fundamentals of drawing, EVERYTHING, inside and out. A very under-rated and under-discussed artist. Sounds like a wonderful human being, also. That's all I wanna say great blog thank you!

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While I'm sure some good things can be said about Groth (and Stalin and Manson) his sheer meanness outweighs anything decent he may have actually done by accident. Groth is a walking hunk of shit.

Joe Orsak said...

Don inked parts of my pencils on BROOKS ROBINSON #2 for MAGNUM COMICS, sharing the inking with my friend JOE SINNOTT. I'm not 100% sure, but I think it was his last work. The issue has never been published.

David Miller said...

As always in comics, it's about the collaborations. Ever see Heck inked by Wally Wood? John Romita?