Looking Back With Style – The Real Golden Age
Growing up as a kid, I collected comics. I didn't just have comics, I collected them. I listed out each one I had including the writer and artist on notebook paper and kept it in a three-ring binder. Certain artists stood out to me and I knew their names. I was probably the only nine-year old kid that could spell David Mazzucchelli and Bill Sienkiewicz. It was at a time when you could look at an issue of Avengers and without their masks, Steve Rogers, Clint Barton, Henry Pym and Donald Blake all looked exactly the same. And Tony Stark was only different because of black hair and a mustache. So the artist that had their own distinctive style were the ones that I gravitated to.
I remember getting Avengers Annual #10 and being blown away by the art. I didn't care that it was the first appearance of Rogue or it was an X-men/Avengers crossover… the art was gorgeous. It was the first time I had come across the work of Michael Golden. It definitely wasn't the last. His work on Micronauts was gorgeous (I went back and found it) and I even bought The Nam because of him.
His lists of credits is extensive, he's worked on Superman, Batman, X-Men, Doctor Strange, Nightwing, Daredevil, Justice League, Deathstroke, Punisher, GI Joe and on and on and on. He also created Bucky O'Hare with Larry Hama in the early 90s.
Golden avoided conventions for most of his early career and well into the 1990s. In an interview in Wizard Magazine (1997), he explained that he didn't like the cult of personality treatment of comic creators. He finally started doing conventions in the last ten years and I'm glad as I've gotten to be friends with him.
One of my favorite stories was told to me by my friend Tone Rodriguez. He was working on the comic Violent Messiahs with writer Joshua Dysart and they asked Rodriguez what artist he wanted a cover from for the series. Now like a lot of the artist working today, Golden was a huge influence on Rodriguez's work and that is who he wanted. Well, Golden didn't have an email address or I believe an answering machine or cell phone (if I remember the whole story correctly). You had to pretty much cold call him and hope he'd pick up. Rodriguez was nervous calling up one of his heroes but finally did… and when Golden picked up, the inner fanboy made it hard for Rodriguez to get a word out. He stuttered and fumbled his way through asking and the very patient Golden listened carefully and agreed to do the work.
This lead to a friendship between the two men and that's what eventually allowed me to meet Golden. I've shared a handful of meals with him and his agent Renée Witterstaetter. We rarely talk about art or the industry. At one meal he spent most of the time trying to explain to me why chocolate on chicken tasted good (chicken molé?) while I tried not to get sick while watching him eat it. Another time we talked music as footage of Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock played on the big screen at a tai restaurant near Meltdown Comics. He then went into the restroom where they have markers and let the customers draw on the walls. Golden stood on a toilet seat to reach a spot high up where he could quietly add his art to the rest. That kind of seems like a metaphor to me.
At one of the dinners art was discussed as a young artist looking to break in joined us and his portfolio was passed to Golden to review. Ask most working artist about Michael Golden and they will tell you that his design work and art were a major influence on their work. You'll find his name in there right next to Jack Kirby and Will Eisner. Yet I watched this young artist listen to the critique by a professional and argue and defend everything that was pointed out. Instead of listening to the criticism, his ego made him ignore it. I have not seen that artists name on any published comics…
Golden will be out at a handful of conventions this year, one of which is the Phoenix Comic Con where I hope to grab dinner with him again. If you are going to Phoenix or any other con he will be attending, go by and say hi, get a sketch done, buy one of his art books or take something for him to sign. Spend a few minutes chatting with the man that influence most of the comic industry today.