TIM SALE: I was raised on the West Coast in Seattle. I was born, and spent the first six years of my life in upstate New York. My father, who is retired now, was a professor. When I was six he got a job at the University of Washington so we went down there, with my younger sister, who is three years younger than me. I was born in 1956 and my parents were very much into the civil rights movement here. It really started gathering steam in about í52, and we moved into a predominantly black area in Seattle. I went to black schools all my life and it was a conscious attempt to live my life with those ideals.
I was exposed to comics pretty much for the first time on the trip from the East Coast to the West Coast. We drove and mom and dad bought me comics to keep me amused. I learned how to read from comics.
DANIEL BEST: What were the first comics that you remember?
TS: I actually remember one comic specifically. It was the second annual of the Amazing Spider-Man by Steve Ditko. Ditko was also drawing Dr Strange at the time. It was a double sized book and the first half of it was an original story, and a great story, with Dr Strange guest starring. I remember it because I rediscovered it as a teenager in a reprinted form and it suddenly brought back all these memories that I had no idea I remembered. It was a great experience for me.
DB: What were your influences from the comics? When I look at your artwork I see quite a number of different influences.
TS: Iíd be curious what youíd think. There were a lot of people that Iíve been influenced by in some form or another. I reconnected with comics and got very deeply into them when I was about thirteen. At that point Marvel Comics were what really got me back in. Steranko was working. John Buscema was really starting to come in. In the late Ď60s there was a lot of great stuff.
Ditko, Buscema, John Romita, Steranko, Neal Adams, Kirby were all seminal influences. I donít know if any of them are particular obvious in my work, but they really shaped my love of comics and how I tell a story in a lot of ways. Sometime in the early Ď70s I was exposed to Warren magazines, Creepy, Eerie and Vamperella, and their black and white work. Ditko, in my eyes, did his best work for Warren. Gene Colan, Neal Adams did amazing work. But itís where I first got to know artists like Angelo Torres and Alex Toth. Toth, I think, is an obvious influence on a lot of my work.
DB: I see a lot of Toth in your work, along with Mazzuchelli, especially on the Madness book.
TS: Sure. There are a number of European influences on Mazzuchelliís work that are also influences on me. Weíre both influenced by the same people. The same way that Frank Miller is also an influence on me, Miller and I are also influenced by a lot of the same people. But itís very true with Mazzuchelli, Iím an enormous fan of his work even though itís a relatively small body of work, itís very influential on many people. I did a series called Billi 99 in the late Ď80s for Dark Horse and heís very clearly a major influence on that.
DB: How did you break into comics?
TS: I broke into comics in 1983, when I was almost 30, so that makes me older than a good deal of people. Richard and Wendi Pini of Elfquest fame were coming through Seattle in the early Ď80s and were looking to expand their publishing and were looking for artists. They were on a book tour and I was friends with the people who ran the biggest comic book store in Seattle. They called me and said that the Pinis were coming through and that I should come on down. Thereís really a mechanism now to look at portfolios that all the major companies have. They all have standard ways of looking for new talent that were not really around in those days. There was an awful of mailing stuff in and not hearing back.
I began as an inker on Phil Foglio on a book called Myth Adventures. I did about a dozen of that and that led to me being penciler, inker and letterer on Thieves World which were basic sized books of fantasy adventure. When that ended in the late Ď80s I got together with Mike Friedrich, who, at that point, was an agent. He said, ďIíll represent you. Why donít you come down to the state of New York Convention?Ē I did that for the first time in the late Ď80s.
The first time I went down I met Matt Wagner, Bob Schreck and Diana Schultz. Barbara Randall was an editor at DC and the year previous I had met Jeph Loeb and the two of them were looking for artists for a project called The Challengers Of The Unknown. That one convention led to everything else. I worked a lot with Matt and Diana a lot after that.
DB: You attended the John Buscema Art School.
TS: I did, in 1976. He only did it for a few years, three, maybe four years. It was once a week in a convention room in a hotel in Manhattan for about three months and each month was given over to a different aspect of comic book study. Buscema taught anatomy. John Romita taught inking and storytelling. Marie Severin also did some storytelling and taught about covers. Very interesting and a kind of depressing experience.
DB: I have to ask Ė why depressing?
TS: Well I turned 21 when I was there and I was homesick and New York was very, very different to Seattle. It wasnít encouraging. It felt like there were a lot rules that I had to follow or figure out. I realized later that a lot of it sunk in, it just took a while.
DB: After growing up reading Marvel what was it like to finally meet some of these people?
TS: Exciting. Intimidating. InterestingÖ but youíre investing an awful lot emotionally into whatís going to happen and I would be doing that even if it were not a school being taught by people Iíd admired for a long time. So youíre investing even more into it, at least for me, the less it really turned into something amazing. It was more disappointing than amazing. I wouldnít give it up for anything, but thatís more in retrospect. But it was never less than interesting and exciting.
John Buscema was everything that Iíve heard about him subsequently. He was a big man, gruff, chain smoking. He would stand up in front of the room with an easel and a two foot by three foot pad and just draw. Heíd be talking about anatomy as he did so and heíd be creating a figure or parts of a figure. It was usually impressive to watch him work and inspirational. He wasnít warm or anything. <laughs> Talented and gruff.
DB: Do you think that breaking into comics at the age of 30 with the life experience you had behind you helped you at all?
TS: Yes, I do. I wouldnít describe it just that way but both as a professional it helped and as an artist. Your life experiences, your influences are more integrated into your own work. Thereís a greater variety than there might have been when you were younger. I know that with my influences, well weíve talked about my comic book influences but my influences are also of a wider scope than just comic artists. Thereís other illustrators, other fine artists are all in the mix. A lot of that came about in my 20s, outside of my working career.
There are a lot of American advertising illustrators, Norman Rockwell to Saul Tepper to Albert Dorne, people like that. A great variety. Predominantly from the Ď30s and Ď40s. To my great enjoyment theyíre more easily accessible in the last ten years because thereís been a lot of reproduction of their work. I was very into fantasy and adventure, things like Lord Of The Rings, Treasure Island and all of that. Their work was clearly an influence on Frazetta and Frazetta was an influence on everybody my age, so itís all in the mix. Norman Rockwell was a big deal to me in my approach for Superman For All Seasons.
DB: Those books certainly have a Rockwell type feel to them.
TS: Yeah. In its focus on the quiet moments, itís romanticisation of the American family, the farm, the meal set out on the dinner table. At the same time one of the things that Rockwell did to manifest that was to pay attention to detail and figure out exactly what was beyond that dinner table and be careful how you depict it, and be loving about how you depict it. The kind of detail, and Iím not really a detail orientated artist, but I did much more in Superman to focus on that kind of thing to tell the story.
DB: Youíve done most of your work at DC and not a whole lot at Marvel.
TS: Itís funny that way, given that I used to read them. Jeph and I did whatís come to be known as the ĎColor Booksí, Daredevil: Yellow, Spider-Man: Blue and Hulk: Grey. We did a Wolverine/Gambit mini-series and Iíve done some short stories but the bulk of my work is very much at DC.
DB: Has Marvel ever gone after you for an exclusive contract?
TS: Well they came after us and thatís why we did the color books. Iím fortunate enough in that I seem to be desired by both Marvel and DC. I can choose what projects that I want to choose. As an adult I donít have the same brand loyalty as I had as a kid. Itís really more about the stories than who I get to work for. I fully expect to work at Marvel again but Iím having a really good time doing what Iím doing.
DB: You started drawing Batman back in the early Ď90s, initially over Norm Breyfogle.
TS: Itís early on, but not my first Batman. The first time I drew him was a Batman/Predator pin-up for Dark Horse. The first book that I did was the James Robinson Legends Of The Dark Knight called Blades. The Breyfogle collaboration came about because he was another client of Mike Friedrich. Mike had hooked me up with him at a convention and I donít think that either of us was all that happy with the collaboration. Weíre two different artists and we didnít mesh well.
DB: You went on and did the Halloween specials and the Batman mini-series. How you see them now?
TS: They look very crude but I look back on them with an enormous fondness. I think that, in many ways, its work that still holds up. They were also the beginning of my friendship with Jeph and we were really starting to figure stuff out. Weíre very good friends and very different people. The things that brought us together are very important to us, the pop culture references. He had no professional background in comics. He was a professional writer, but of movies and television but not comics but heís also been a lifelong collector and fan. Itís really very remarkable the sensibilities that he brought to the stories. Itís really more my friendship with Jeph that I look back on with fondness.
DB: Youíve worked on two of the big three at DC, but youíve never worked on Wonder Woman.
TS: We were approached at one point to think about Wonder Woman. We never were really able to get a handle on figuring her out. The way we come at on the projects that weíve worked on, and I do separately away from Jeph, and even more so with the stuff I do away from Jeph, is that we need something emotional. I need an emotional link with the character in order to make it work for me. Jeph went a different way to me and he enjoyed working with different artists. He flexed different muscles by working with guys with different artistic talents and it was interesting seeing him figure them out.
DB: You also worked on some of the major characters at Marvel. Is there any character out there that you really want to do?
TS: Thereís no particular character. There are a number of characters that I think are fun. Its needs to make a certain kind of sense. I need to have a writer who also feels that way. Jeph and I talked about doing a Captain America a while ago along with Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos books, Dr Strange and a number of peripheral characters that arenít big stars like the Black Panther.
At DC I donít have as much of a background with the DC universe. Itís harder over there but I was an enormous fan of Darwyn Cookeís New Frontier. It was the first thing that really got me excited in quite some time and it was interesting because itís so enmeshed in the history of DC comics and the characters backgrounds, Iím not really familiar with most of it. It was an introductionary experience too. He actually made Wonder Woman interesting to me in a way that nobody else ever has. Martian Manhunter, and things like that, I never would have given a second thought to, but no, thereís not one particular character that I want to work on.
DB: Talking of other artists, how did you see the Jim Lee Batman that he did with Jeph?
TS: I thought it was very successful, very exciting but not really my kind of story. Obviously Iím in the minority. I admire Jims work and I admire Jephs work with other people but, as I was saying, Jeph flexes different muscles when he works with other people. They arenít necessarily muscles that create stories that grab me. I read them because theyíre Jephs.
DB: After a while the story became spot the guest star/villain.
TS: When you think about it we did the same thing with Dark Victory and Long Halloween. Thereís a different villain every issue. First of all those villains tend to be old time villains because weíre appealing to those readers. In Long Halloween and Dark Victory thereís an underlying murder mystery. But, none the less, thereís a different villain in each issue and they donít carry over, but thereís still that spotlight. If you felt it more with Hush then itís more to do with Jim or the specific story, but itís not very different to Dark Victory.
DB: Youíve just finished the Catwoman mini-series. How did you see that?
TS: It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of work as evidenced by the fact that it took me a long time to get it done. The last thing I really wanted to do was an ink wash except for covers because it takes a lot out of me. As a result, for me personally, it kind of diffused my focus in a way that wasnít very satisfying. I enjoy myself a lot better and I think the work is a lot better when Iím more focused. Jeph's story was just great and I thought that Dave Stewartís colors were spectacular. It was a lot of fun to work on and I hope to work with Dave again.