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Newsflash! Drawing famous comic book heroes is hard work!
Books, Comics &Things hosts DC artist Don Kramer
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Don Kramer has had a succession of jobs that struggling comic book artists dream about.
A well-respected up-and-coming artist in the comic book world, Kramer’s current gig is with comic powerhouse DC, where he’s been the artist on one of their most iconic characters — Batman. He’s worked on DC’s JSA and the mini-series Dr. Fate, and right now he’s working on Detective Comics with writer Paul Dini, whose credits include the animated series Batman Beyond and an episode of Lost. Before DC, Kramer was at Marvel where he did a story on the Thing.
Comic fans will have a chance to meet Kramer when the artist stops by the Georgetown branch of Books, Comics, and Things on October 7.
Obviously, Kramer has spent a lot of time drawing superheros, but his work has a more realistic bent. That’s not to say he’s channeling Norman Rockwell — bullets fly, punches are thrown, action abounds. But you generally won’t find oddly proportioned babes and brawns in Kramer’s artwork. Bert Ehrmann, our Dangerous Universe columnist and resident comic book expert, compares Kramer’s style with “the power of Dave Dorman mixed with the kinetic energy of John Cassady.”
John Cassady was one of the artists who initially befriended Kramer and introduced him to editors in the comic book industry. Before landing gigs in the industry’s two biggest publishing houses, Kramer paid his dues, hitting the big comic book conventions with his portfolio under his arm. Artists Chris Golden and Tom Sniegoski took a liking to his work, and Sniegoski and Kramer eventually started collaborating on a book called The Janitor. Work lead to more work, which lead to more introductions… “When you have someone vouching for you, editors have a little more faith in giving you a chance, and that’s what happened,” says Kramer by phone from his home in Illinois. “Once I got my chance, I delivered on deadlines. That’s the big thing. Once you’re there, you have only so long to prove yourself, and once you’ve proved yourself, they’ll give you more work.”
Of course, all this took years. Kramer was married with two young children when he started getting work on some independent comic books; money was scarce (sometimes, the independents simply didn’t pay), so Kramer worked a day job and drew at night.
“You’ve got to have a passion for it,” Kramer says. “If you’re in it for any other reason other than the fact that you love to draw and tell stories, you’re not going to want to be in it for very long.”
Even now, when he can afford to concentrate solely on his work for DC, Kramer puts in 10 – 12 hour days; he says he’s recently managed to tone down his workaholic tendencies to a 60-hour week. And to hear Kramer tell it, sometimes his job sounds a little bit like your job: sometimes, he has to work on projects he’s not invested in, or draw scenes he finds tedious, or the manager won’t listen to his ideas… “Those are time you grow as an artist,” he says, adding that being “in charge” of a story is the dream of many artists in the industry. “I would love to eventually get to that, but for me, there’s still a little ways to go. Batman, as far as the main companies, is pretty much a dream assignment, but there are other characters I’d like to work on. I’d love to work on Nightwing. But where I’m working at right now, I’m comfortable with.”
“I’ve been able to work with some of the top writers in the industry,” he adds. “I’ve lucked into a position where I’ve been coupled with some great talent. Other artists aren’t as fortunate.”
Indeed, the collaborative nature of creating a comic book, how the inker and the colorist contribute significantly to the tone of a story, is something Kramer says he didn’t really “get” until he started working in the industry. He finds that to be a common misconception with many fans and younger artists he talks to. “(A lot of people think that) I am the one that is solely responsible for the art of the book, and that’s not true,” he explains. “The overall look is affected by the inker and the colorist. And sometimes it looks far different than what I sent off — sometimes for the better, in my opinion, and sometimes for the worse. But it’s not all me.”
Don Kramer will appear at Books, Comics and Things’ Georgetown store, 2212 Maplecrest, on Saturday, October 6, 2007. (260) 446-0025.
Don Kramer: www.donkramerart.com
Books, Comics and Things: www.bctcomics.com.