Artist Jackson “Butch” Guice has long been a fixture in comics. From his days penciling the independent super-hero comic “Southern Knights” in the early ’80s to his recently completed run on Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis for DC, Guice has worked all over the industry. Now, he’s settling down with an exclusive contract at Marvel Comics. Guice spoke with CBR news to answer such questions as “Why Marvel?” and “Why now?” as well as to look forward at projects he’ll be working on for the House of Ideas as well as projects he would like to work on.
“I grew up reading Marvel,” said Guice. I started my career at Marvel in the 1980’s. Returning to Marvel after all these years was something I would find occasionally dancing around in my thoughts while I’d be working on material for other publishers. However there always seemed to be some prior obligation or other contract that prohibited doing so. Marvel seemed interested. I knew I was very interested — so once everything actually aligned and the opportunity presented itself for real, I was very happy to sign on.
“On a personal level, as sappy as it may sound, working at Marvel still represents a fulfillment of many of those daydreams I had as a kid — all the countless hours spent reading and drawing and imagining a career for my future self. It was always Marvel in those daydreams, since that was what I mostly read growing up.
“The contract itself is for multiple years,” Guice added. “Hopefully many multiple years to come. The specific details I’d prefer to keep private.”
The decision to go exclusive was not exactly treading into new territory for the veteran artist.
“Actually, I’ve been exclusive to some degree or the other for pretty much the last six years, ever since I went to work at [the now-defunct] CrossGen,” Guice explained. “I was exclusive during my employment with that company, and after I left, I entered into an exclusivity contract with Les Humanoides Associes not long after — so being exclusive is something I’m readily familiar with.”
As with many exclusive contracts that top creators sign, a provision has been made for pre-existing opportunities in Guice’s agreement.
“Actually, there is something which predated the exclusivity offer, and which Marvel has very graciously allowed me to continue as an exclusion in my contract. I’m sure it will surface in due time.”
While the contract provides security for the artists, it removes a certain level of freedom that freelancers have to maneuver in the industry. Guice mentioned one such casualty of going exclusive with Marvel.
“I missed the chance to briefly reunite on ‘Resurrection Man’ recently with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. That would have been lots of fun — those guys are great to work with.”
That loss of freedom, in the right situation, is a non-starter though.
“I’ve had a terrific time working for a variety of publishers over much of my career,” continued Guice. “It’s hard to say I’ll miss any one thing or the other, in particular, because there are new exciting things going on right in front of me which are drawing my attention.”
Looking forward in his career at Marvel, Guice has no new projects to announce along with the signing.
“Just the Ultimate Origin project right now. I’ll be busy with it until the end of the year,” said Guice, referring to the Brian Bendis-written mini-series laying out the origins of the Ultimate Marvel Universe. “[That] project is going very well, thank you — in fact, I’m getting to illustrate a number of scenes involving some of my favorite historical genre material. I’m having a terrific time working with everyone involved — Brian Bendis, Ralph Macchio, Bill Rosemann.”
Guice, of course, has his eye on certain Marvel properties he would like to work on.
“There are lots of them I still haven’t had a chance to play with which I continue to hold out hope for some day, mostly favorites I had as a kid: ‘Killraven,’ ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Werewolf By Night,’ ‘Tomb of Dracula,’ ‘Sgt. Fury,’ ‘The Invaders’ … oh man, I’d have some serious fun drawing that book!”
However, Guice’s heart belongs to another genre of comics.
“I’m a fan of the old adventure comic strips – ‘Terry and the Pirates,’ ‘Johnny Hazzard,’ ‘Scorchy Smith’ — that sort of thing. I really enjoy drawing characters in exotic, dangerous locations — muddy boots and leather bomber jackets, beat up airplanes held together by prayer and bailing wire, brassy heroines and rough around the edges heroes.
“Not much of that genre on the market these days but I’m always looking for it,” he added.
As Guice mentioned earlier, exclusivity isn’t something he’s unfamiliar with. At CrossGen, Guice was part of a unique set up in which creators worked at the company much like a nine-to-five job with all the salary and benefits of a regular day job. Exclusivity provides a similar situation for Guice, but with a different creative environment.
“You know — there are trade offs in everything,” Guice explained. “It all depends on personal temperament. For example — CrossGen’s full employment package provided me with health and dental care benefits (which are a nice thing to have, particularly if you have a family). But in order to receive them, I was required to go into an office five days a week and ignore the myriad interruptions and office politics being played out, instead of quietly working in my studio as I do now. I only say this half-jesting: I’m barely house-broken, let alone what someone would described as pleasantly sociable, so asking me to work around 100 other people on a day-to-day basis wasn’t a very good fit for me in retrospect.
“Others flourished under that system. … They enjoyed the camaraderie they found in the office. Being alone and productive was more difficult for them.”
Guice, however, has found his ideal situation.
“Exclusive contracts can provide you with a steady dependable flow of work. This is important to some creators. Others prefer to always keep their future project options open. For myself, I’ve always disliked the business of ‘doing business’ — of finding that next assignment. I’d much prefer to stay focused on my art — so an exclusive contract is an excellent way for me to operate under.”