Artist Spotlight: Darrell Goza

Tell us about yourself, Darrell, and what you do.
As a kid I was always drawing, trying to do the stuff I saw in the newspapers. My mother got me an art pad when I was three or four to keep me from drawing on the walls and I kept that pad until I was nearly fifteen.
I write, pencil, ink, color and letter comics for friends, pro outfits and those under a deadline needing a helping hand. The first story I did outside of stuff for myself as a fan was done for an outfit called InterFan. It was called ‘Shifter and the Crazyland Express’ and was lettered by Dave Sim of Cerebus the Aardvark fame before he became as famous as he is now.
I like doing fine art, graphic art, digital art, etc., using as many media and material mediums as possible. I’d read once that Frank Frazetta ran out of canvas and ripped up floor boards to do his ‘Neanderthal’ cover. That was an eye opener for me as it was such a beautiful and powerful piece.
Up until Amazing Spider-Man 14, newspaper strips and Hot Stuff the little devil (my personal favorite) was what I read. Once I saw that Amazing Spider-Man book, I wanted to draw superhero comics. I read it about a hundred times the night it was given to me. I know I didn’t sleep. After school the next day I wanted to see more and found out where the guy that gave me the book got it from, I went there and was introduced to Jack ‘THE KING’ KIRBY on the Fantastic Four and that sealed the deal for me becoming a Marvel addict.
Then in the fifth grade a kid moved next door who also read comics. Keith Royster, who was to become a lifelong friend, was reading a Legion of Superheroes comic which is how we met and that got me to the DC Universe. I’d seen DC comics on the stands but they didn’t seem as ‘active’ as the Marvel ones so I gave them a pass. Keith was a big fan of Neal Adams, and used to laud his praises and that got me to check them out. That led to me studying Neal’s work and eventually other DC titles too.
I should note that this was also the time of Xeroxography and dry transfer printing. Prior to it was mimeographing which was pretty messy. I loved the new tech and doing work on two sides of typewriter paper, xeroxing it and then stapling it down the side was a breeze and its how Keith and I produced our first two books which we also took to our first comics convention as participants and not just attendees. We sold one to the legendary Phil Seuling and since it was one of his shows we were elated.

It wasn’t long after then that Keith and I started seeking out comic groups in the Newark, New Jersey area. Keith did this via a newspaper devoted to comics called The Buyers Guide for Comics Fandom. He found one such group operating out of the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art which was where we met Don Brown and a cast of great artists who were far better than we were. Up until then we were the best in our neighborhood but seeing these guys changed the trajectory of my artistic endeavor. One of the guys in attendance was Bill Sienkiewicz (yep, THAT Bill Sienkiewicz!). Don and his crew were working on a magazine they were publishing called ‘Watch Out Magazine” and that was where I got my first foundation on how to actually produce a real comic book.
Over time I got to do work (primarily behind the scenes) for a lot of companies out there but my home was mostly at Neal Adam’s Continuity Associates where I got to be one of the Crusty Bunkers. When I was at Continuity, Neal had an advertising arm and since most of my early work outside of comics was mostly corporate I gravitated there. He also had a comics line, Continuity Comics, and my love of comics got me to do a lot of uncredited work there too. (I used to sneak my logo or name in the backgrounds as graffiti on walls or license plates or belt buckles ala Hershfield when I remembered to.) { See Image E, Continuity Comics page with my name in the bkg }
Additionally I’ve added teaching to my feathered cap and taught it in college, high school and grade school. First it was mostly design, typography, art appreciation and rapid visualization concepts. Now I’m mostly doing comic storytelling to younger students as movies based on comic book characters seem to be creating huge opportunities and generating demand there. Having produced a line books positioned me well for teaching others how to do it for themselves.


I checked out your old comic strip, Thunderhawk, on SmackJeeves.com (shortlink http://is.gd/TY0Q51) which ended May 28th, 2013 as well as a fine portfolio of art on Photobucket. Is it my imagination, or do I see a lot of various artistic influences? Neal Adams, Jack Kirby, Mike Grell. Walt Simonson. So how long have you been creating comics, actually, and what was it that got you started?
Old strip? Ouch, LOL! ThunderHawk, and Lady Spiritfist, will be continuing in 2019 after far too long a hiatus. When I took on The ADAPT™ Project it was to provide a platform for digital exploration using comic art as a pathway. Keep in mind this was early on and the digital marketplace wasn’t as accepted as it is now. I reached out to 47 creators I thought it would be a great showcase for but only 12 responded as having the time for it. From those humble beginnings we grew it to having over 357 thousand viewers in under two an a half years. I couldn’t believe it (thinking we’d get maybe 30 thousand overall) so I sent screen shots to those doing the work in the Project so they could all tally it themselves and I’d know I wasn’t delusional. The unfortunate side of doing comics this way is if you’re thinking about making it a business you have to set all that up. You have to promote it and get what you do out to the public and that’s taken me away from doing the actual work of creating. ThunderHawk and Lady Spiritfist paid the price because I didn’t have that infrastructure in place first.

Dave McClains’ “The Artifyce Connection” is easily the front runner with just over a hundred and twenty thousand readers. I’m closing with “Lady SpiritFist” at eighty nine thousand. Kelly Williams’ online digital “Mission” is partially animated and was an experiment we wanted to do to see if a blended prose and art strip would work. So far so good but unfortunately she fell ill and is having medical problems and may not be able to complete it. I’ve tried to be as diverse in subject matter and talent as I could but getting creators to join anything is an uphill battle. Everyone thinks they’re going to be the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle creator. Most don’t know just how long ago they started or noticed that no one has duplicated that fame since them. Not that you can’t do well but that kind of success comes rarely. We follow the ‘hard work over time’ motto. But you’ve got to do it. I’m thinking we can reach over a million viewers by the end of 2019 with just the online stuff alone.
Am I influenced by a lot of creators? Absolutely! In a nutshell I’m an artist in the tradition of Picasso. I’d say he was my first influence. Not so much for his style of art (which is phenomenal, even by todays standards) but because of the wideness of his vision for art. Everything was art and I adopted that credo and studied as much as I could. Steve Ditko was the second big influencer on my work. As I stated previously his work made me actually want to draw comics. Jack ‘THE KING’ KIRBY was the third influencer on my wanting to do comic art. I gravitated to John Buscema, Barry Smith, Jim Steranko (his storytelling on Nick Fury Agent of Shield made me want to write as well as draw) and those guys made me a big fan of Marvel comic books. Fortunately Keith, who I also mentioned earlier, was a DC guy and his passion for that comic company got me to look in that direction.
Denys Cowan also had a great influence on me. He was the first Black creator I’d ever met. Up until then I just assumed all the comic creators were white. Denys invited me up to his studio and mapped out what I’d have to do if I wanted to do comics. He was that generous with his time and information and that impacted me greatly. I’ve followed that example with those that have asked me about comic creating. When I made my first foray to Marvel to get work I wasn’t really ready but Marie Severin was patient and understanding and gave me a mound of xeroxed pages to study and work from. That helped me be ready for Neal Adams who was probably one of my greatest practical influences. He saw me at a show and based on the work I’d done because of Denys and Marie’s guidance liked enough of what he saw to invite me to Continuity where I began to really learn about being a freelance artist.
Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter also affected me greatly. They were doing in eight pages what most people weren’t doing with a whole book. I’m working on a proposal submission in my spare time to bring back that original character in a story befitting of what they’d done. I’m hoping Walter Simonson will be willing to take on the reins as artist again and I’m hoping the story I’m telling will inspire him to want to do it. Time will tell it.
Keith and I began ScriptGraphics in 1976 with a bunch of fan style products. We’d seen what others were doing and figured we could compete. Our first two books were done the eight and a half by eleven inch style, double sided and stapled down the left side. Then we moved to a half size, offset style of product. These later became known in the industry as Ashcan’s. I even hand colored a couple of the covers. (Anybody having these: hold on to them. The line of books we’re coming out with in 2019 will validate them and make them true collectors items! If you still have any of them, bag and board them. You’ll be glad you did.) { See Image G, Pro fanzine covers and the full size comic version }

After years of working on various projects, you say you “drew a line in the sand” and created Goza Creative/ ScriptGraphics in 2016. How many titles do you have in circulation at this time, and where can people buy your comics?

We started putting out books when we started creating the business structure for ScriptGraphics but didn’t substantially ’go pro’ with it until 2016. That’s when we did our first true to life comic book and sold it through art galleries as it was a done in conjunction with an art gallery I was teaching at through their mentoring program. It’s my trying to pass on the knowledge to the next generation of comic creators. I was able to get any left over books into our local comic shops because we always want to support them as they’ve supported us over the years. (This is a shout out to Jose Robles of Fortress of Solitude in Newark, NJ. If any books of ours are still to be found, that would be the place to go! There was also a store in Bethlehem but it’s no longer in business.


We’ve done 13 titles overall and one graphic novel if you count those we’ve done with other independent outfits (Beatnik Productions, Dreadlockedninja Productions, Blackthorne Publishing, etc) but if you’re just counting GC/SG products: Star Angels (Art Gallery Editiion and The Sight flip book; The Goza Creative-ScriptGraphics Preview 1 and Enigma flip book; The Goza Creative-ScriptGraphics Preview 2 and Guts flip book; Lady Spiritfist and The Artifyce Connection flip book; ThunderHawk and The Mission (Digital Edition) flip book and The Goza Creative-ScriptGraphics Preview 3 book. Six books in two years. Technically one every four months even if they didn’t come out in exactly that order.

Currently in progress is The Artifyce Connection continuing series, The Star Angels limited series and The Professionals, based on the fan products I mentioned earlier in this interview. (Keep those fan books safe people, LOL!) That makes six done and two coming toot sweet.{ See Image H, SG books current } √

Most of our titles were selling out within two shows. At one AwesomeCon we sold out the second day of a three day stint. This is why I decided we needed to do a dedicated line. If we’re impacting people with just trying to do a wee bit of business, curiosity has me wondering what an actual, consistently produced line will do. In 2019 we’ll find out.

You’ve been spotted on the comics convention circuit, specifically the Newark (NJ) ComicCon, lecturing on Diversity in comics, as well as giving a brief history of Black creators and characters who have not been mentioned or acknowledged for their rich contribution to the comics industry. Do you see a rise in awareness, an increase in new storytellers and characters of color in comics today?

I spent a couple of years doing conventions along the eastern seaboard to promote independent books and publishers via the lectures. Did New York ComicCon, AwesomeCon (one of my favorites!), ECBACC: The East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, a handful of colleges and smaller conventions and a couple of shows to help raise money for children with cancer. One highlight was being invited by The Daniel A.P. Murray African American Cultural Association and The LCPA What If… Science Fiction and Fantasy Forum to give “The Unacknowledged History of Black Creators and Black Characters in Comics” at the Library of Congress in our nations capital. I got to bring my local team: Katrina Oxner and David McClain (The Artifyce Connection) to help forward the cause of independent publishers and promote comic products across the board.

As for the awareness; It was to be expected. Technology today makes it easy for almost anyone to do a comic even if they shouldn’t because they haven’t taken the time to learn the skills to do one well. I’d never tell anyone NOT to take a stab at it and I’ve even supported the first books of those who’s work wasn’t really that good but I’ve always pushed them to DO IT anyway! What they learn in the process is invaluable and the proof is the second book being better than the first. If it isn’t, then it becomes a problem. I do give pointers and my team and I have written extensive ‘White Papers’ for those serious about doing comics who want to up their game faster, making less mistakes in the process. That’s not a free service though and we’re very comprehensive. { See Image J, Bountyhunter 7 vs the other books in the KMC line }

Can you give us an idea of some of the many other topics you’ve lectured on? What does your 2018 Schedule look like?

My first formal lecture was “The Unacknowledged History of Black Creators and Black Characters in Comics” which was a hit from the first lecture I did a Stevens University for their AnimeCon. While there I was also a part of “Using Comics to Teach S.T.E.M. Concepts” panel and the “Full Spectrum: ” Why Color in Comics Matters.” panel discussion All of these were well received and forwarded the conversation about diversity in comics and its necessity.

The latest interactive lecture/workshop I did was “Why There Isn’t True Diversity in Comics When It Comes to Blacks and Women” which was done at AwesomeCon which was very well received in one of their bigger rooms and it was packed. I deviated from doing it ‘lecture style’ in favor of a more conversational style format. Any discussion about diversity will have to have the audience participate as they’re the ones that will drive comic companies to be more diverse inclusive. A handful of people sitting on a stage isn’t going to get it done. Comic book readers can force the comic book companies to write less stereotypical nonsense by purchasing products that are better written and leaving those not representative of real women and people of color on the stands. It would also help if those companies took some chances with writers not in their current talent pool. They did this for Black Panther when they hired Ta-Nehisi Coates and with the Muslim Ms. Marvel, written by an actual Muslim woman. Both were success stories and should have been a wake up call to all companies producing comics.

2018 is my rest and revitalization year. After being on the road or the better part of two and a half years I wanted a break. I did one small local convention: Tosho Con in East Orange, NJ because our first manga inspired book sold out there and they’re local people and I try to support the local comic community when I can. I also did two guest lectures: one at the local movie theater featuring ‘The Black Panther movie and at UCONN, both as part of the “Why the Black Panther movie was such an important film.” { See Image L, Screen shot of positive Ltr to me about movie lecture }

There has been a bit of a rise of awareness in comics but not as much in the professional arena as in the independent comics market. Comic companies seem afraid to have books featuring Women or Characters of Color in lead roles. Almost as if they’ll be breaking a secret code or something. Those two demographics will be trotted out when there’s an outcry or demand for it, then just as swiftly gone when the numbers don’t do the company justice. Most books will have ebbs and flows and be allowed that. Women books and People of Color books must always be at high tide to be kept on the schedule. They also need to have Women and People of Color writing them. That would go a long way in helping to keep the book in a truer perspective of real life than the stereotypical one we’ve see since the beginnings of the comics industry.

How important is face to face communication to you in this digital age?

Not as important as I thought it should be. I like meeting people but I don’t like everything you have to do to get there, the stuff you have to bring and the traveling it takes to get there and back. Where are the transporters that were the promise of Star Trek? Ah well… Todays fans are more disconnected than I’ve ever seen. If you’re already a cult of personality via social media or the internet in general you’re fine. Then being at a show ups your cred. It used to be being at a show did that. Now you have to do it prior to getting to the show.

I tell my people not to try to sell anything when we’re at shows. Just let them know why we’re there, who we are and let them see the products. Be there for the fans. Answer their questions and if any are creators check out their work. We make our work as dramatic and powerful as possible to let the work do our talking, so to speak. So far we’ve been fine but we weren’t as known a quantity as we’re becoming. I credit our online strips for that.

What are the biggest challenges you see creators of color facing today?

Lack of unity. Image is number three most of the time because they held together as a unit even if they had bumps along the way. The one company that had that kind of cache was Milestone but if you look at their publishing history it was under four years. If Creators of Color DON’T band together, nothing will change. Ten years from now we’ll still be having this discussion, as we’ve been having for the ten years prior.

What do you think true diversity in comics would look like? In a perfect world, I mean. 😉

This is easy and covered in my “Lack of True Diversity” conversation/lecture: People of Color make up thirteen to fifteen percent of the American population. Thirteen to fifteen percent of the books being published by comic companies should feature People of Color in leadership or command positions. Women make up over forty percent of the American population. Forty percent of the books published should feature a Woman in the lead role or be a book about a Woman character. Keep in mind you asked about a perfect world, this would be the perfect solution to a company being diverse.

We spoke before about your work with ScriptGraphics. When is your next release due to come out, and what can you tell us about it?

Our latest release has been our ‘year in review and preview of what’s coming’ book that’s out now. Anyone can get it by letting me know they want one via – http://ScriptGraphics.weebly.com and leaving their contact info in the box that’s down the page. I’ll handle it personally until our pay through site is completed. We haven’t finished the design or coding for it but It’s in the works. Star Angels™ which was released as a Black and white product via the art gallery circuit sold out but is being done in color for the retail market as a limited series. David McClain’s outstanding Artifyce Connection is also being completed as a continuing series. If you want a taste of it see the URL posted in question 2. { See Image M and Image N (gallery/retail edition duals) }

We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?
File this under advice I’ve given: “Do your own comic featuring your own characters. Make it as competitive as the Marvel or DC books you read. This way if they don’t give you work you can sell it yourself. Make it as good as you can. This doesn’t stop you from doing submission work using their characters too if you so choose. It’s not an either or scenario. You CAN do both.”

Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?

“Do it. Do it right. Do it right now.” If not you, then who? If it’s not right, why waste the time? If not now, then when?

Darrell ‘The Nightray’ Goza
Nightray2002@yahoo.com
http:ScriptGraphics.weebly.com
https://creativeshake.com/Goza

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