Tom Lyle is well known for his stints on all the Robin mini-series, Spider-Man and Punisher. Here he talks about his work and his take on Daredevil.
Kuljit Mithra: You started out in advertising design and eventually made your way into the comics field. Was it always a dream of yours to be involved with comics?
Tom Lyle: Yes. YES!! I was interested in being in the comics field from about 10th grade and was a late-comer in the field. I didn't break in until I was 32.
Mithra: Who are some of your artistic influences?
Lyle: Gil Kane, Werner Roth, Windsor-Smith (can't see it much anymore, but he was a HUGE influence - was still just Smith then), Kirby, Ditko and Milton Caniff. All had a tremendous influence on my art and desire to be an artist.
Mithra: In 1984, I believe, you broke in with some titles called "Women's Outer Space" and "Power Factor", and then at Eclipse you did "Sky Wolf" and "Airboy". Was working on these titles everything you thought the comics industry would be?
Lyle: Actually, it was W.O.S.P. (Women's Outer Space Patrol) in 1984. Power Factor and G.I.Rambot came out in 1986. WOSP was done on spec (no pay) to submit as samples and maybe to get printed. I was so uptight when I did it that it was nothing like I envisioned it (a tongue-in-cheek poke at Charlie's Angels.) Bill Black was nice enough to publish it. Paul Ryan did the other feature in that book. Now, as to your question. They were sort of everything I'd ever hoped for and dreamed of. The problem was, the pay was so low, I had to work ungodly hours to make ends meet compared to doing advertising art. I was also very insecure about my art in those days. Overall, though, it was fun.
Mithra: What were some of your favourite comic characters when you were growing up?
Lyle: When I discovered Marvel in junior high (1967), I fell in love with the X- Men, Daredevil, Spider-Man and others, but those were the faves. I still like those books, but look back with nostalgia on that period in them all (especially, the X-Men.) I collected the entire Marvel line back then. It was easier, as they only had about 10 books out back then.
Mithra: What was your first comic for one of the major companies and how do you feel about your work on that?
Lyle: My first Major company work was a pin-up for the second Handbook of the Marvel Universe. My first whole book was STARMAN for DC. Not the current series, but the previous one. I did the first 25 issues of that book. If you look at those 25 issues, you can see the maturing of my style. I'm proud of that work, but it's somewhat painful to look at as I am still learning SO much back then. Don't get me wrong. I am STILL learning today, just not as much or as quickly. But I try to be better all the time.
Mithra: The first time I noticed your work was in an issue of Marvel Age where your pencils for an Avengers story (I think) was shown. Has Marvel always done these kinds of 'test' runs for newer artists?
Lyle: Actually, it was 5 pages of a CAPTAIN AMERICA story. I had done those pages from a plot that Mike Carlin gave me to do samples from. It was not unusual back then to show that kind of stuff in Marvel Age as they used that forum to show strengths and weaknesses of artists who were trying to break in. They hoped it would give a clue to others who were sending in stuff as to where they stood. It was tough to read, but I had heard all those comments in person when I visited the offices and showed my samples around in person.
Mithra: Before working at Marvel you had worked on the all the Robin mini-series and The Comet for DC. How did you feel about all the gimmick covers for your Robin issues?
Lyle: I'm very torn about the gimmick covers on Robin II and III. As a collector, I told people just to get the newstand version as it was the cheapest and the interiors were the same. As the artist, I was happy to see the royalty check that I got from it. However, I think it was , in retrospect, mostly a big rip- off.
Mithra: At Marvel you had a lengthy run on Spider-Man and followed that with the Punisher series with John Ostrander. You even had a chance to draw an issue with Daredevil in his yellow costume. How did it feel at the time to be drawing a title that basically no one was buying?
Lyle: My work on the PUNISHER was frustrating on many levels. I left Spider-Man only because I was forced off (Not fired, but as close as you can get). I took the Punisher assignment with the specific deal that if Daredevil became available to write and draw, that I would get a shot at it. When DD did become available, the agreement was ignored. That was frustrating. I didn't really like John Ostrander's take on the Punisher, but just as I was beginning to like the direction we were going in, the plug was pulled. Overall, the experience was not pleasant. I was in a funk over having to leave Spider-Man and I think you can see it in my art. I got my act together by issue 7 of the Punisher and was trying like heel to make that a book that people might buy for the art at least. It didn't work.
Mithra: What do you think would make the Punisher a popular character again?
Lyle: I'm not sure I want to go there about the Punisher. I really think that he's a bad guy who happens to do some good, but with the wrong methods. I wish Event good luck with him.
Mithra: What do you think would make Daredevil a popular character again?
Lyle: I think Daredevil suffers from being yanked in so many different directions by so many different writers. His basic concept is great. I would go back to the film noir DD of Miller and expand on that, but keep humor in the book, too. Frank did that balancing act well.
Mithra: This month, DD#375 features yourself and many other artists contributing pages. Do you think the different artists are going to affect the 'flow' of the comic?
Lyle: The different artists can't help but affect the flow of the comic as I was drawing scenes without reference from the other guys. I drew a judge in the courtroom not knowing if he matched anyone else's version. I drew the best I could and I poured my heart into it. DD is one of my favorite characters. I hope it holds up all together as it was a pretty good story.
Mithra: Can you mention any details of the story without giving too much away?
Lyle: Can't really tell much more about the story than Marvel has already released without giving away too much.
Mithra: How do you feel about the Event Comics deal with Marvel?
Lyle: I'd like a deal like Joe Quesada got.
Mithra: What's next for you? Does writing comics interest you?
Lyle: I've been trying for years to become a writer/artist and just when I'd almost given up on it ever happening, I get a chance to do the WARLOCK mini- series. I hope it turns into a regular gig as I would love to try my hand at a run on a regular series with him or DD or whatever.
(c) Kuljit Mithra 1998
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
Jose Guns Alves
Black and White
Roberto De La Torre
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