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Mike Grell: Life Is Drawing Without An Eraser (Trade Paperback, and Limited Edition Hardcover)
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It’s 1954 and I’m 6 ¾ years old when my older brothers come to me with the big news: We’re going to a movie out of town! This is a very big deal, because we lived in Florence, Wisconsin, a little town located about one hundred miles north of Green Bay and the nearest theater other than the local Towne Theater was fifteen miles away in either direction… in another state! Florence is located on a section of Highway US 2 that briefly crosses from Michigan and back into Michigan again just long enough to slow traffic down a bit. Sort of like a speed bump.

In those days, movie theaters had to wait—sometimes months—to show a new movie, because there were only a few prints available and they had to be shipped from one town to the next. Everyone waited their turn according to the size of the market, which meant that we were going to see a new movie several weeks before it would show locally. That was a very big deal.

Even bigger, my brothers told me we kids were going to get to pick which movie we’d see. That never happened, so it was important we were all on the same page when we voted. I should point out that my brothers were 11 and 12 years old at the time and, in the days before we ever saw a television, their favorite pastimes seemed to be digging pit traps for their little brother in the backyard or using me for a knife throwing target or some other variation of “Let’s kill Michael”, so I should have had some inkling of what was coming. But, hey, I was 6 ¾. By the time I reached 7, I was a lot smarter.

They said, “We either get to see ABBOT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (I wish I could locate a suitably horrific font with bloodcurdling letters to give you an idea of their delivery of that last word) or THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (again, there is no font to express the gentle sweetness in tone).

“What’s a Franken-whatever?” I said.

“He’s a MONSTER (again the horror lettering) made out of dead bodies! And he kills little kids and rips their heads off and drowns ‘em!”

“Well, what’s a creature?”

“Oh, it’s like a little animal. You know, like in Walt Disney.”

Yeah. Right.

So there I am, being nudged forward to cast my vote. “Mom, I wanna go see the Creature from the ‘Goon.”

Mom looks at me and raises a suspicious eyebrow in the direction of my brothers. “Oh, really?”

A couple of hours later, I’m sitting in the dark watching Julie Adams swimming in the tranquil, clear waters of the Black Lagoon. I should point out that in those days I thought movies were all real—Roy Rogers lived “out west”, which meant about 50 miles west of my hometown; Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers met for the first time and they could dance and sing the same song and—)


HOLY CRAP!!! I don’t know what the hell that thing is, but I’m not sticking around to see if it eats little kids. I’m out of the theater like a shot, hiding behind the counter at the concession stand.

About five minutes later my dad comes to check on me and coax me back into the auditorium. Reluctantly, I went. All was well for about five min—


By the time the movie was over I had gotten to know the girl at the concession stand on a first name basis and devoured a free box of popcorn, a coke and a fistful of candy.

Dad finally came to get me, thinking it would be cathartic for me to witness the demise of the creature. When they gunned him down, I was still a little doubtful.

“Dad, what kind of gun did they use to kill the creature?”

“A .30-30.”

“Dad… what kind of gun do you have?”

“A .35 Remington.”

“Is that bigger than a .30-30?”

“Oh, yeah. Way bigger.”

“Could it kill a creature?”

“Oh, yeah.”

Somehow, I managed to survive the trauma–and my brothers—and The Creature From the Black Lagoon remains my favorite old monster movie. To me it’s the scariest and best of all the Universal monster films.

Nowadays, though, I have a different perspective on the lovelorn creature thanks to my friend Doug Jones’ performance in Guillermo del Toro’s beautifully rendered film THE SHAPE OF WATER. If they don’t have movies or television under the rock where you’ve been living, it’s the story of a mute cleaning lady who falls in love with an amphibian creature being held captive in a secret government research facility. And there’s a little bit of Fred and Ginger for good measure. Without speaking, Doug and Sally Hawkins give a new meaning to communication in an age when people sit across from each other at dinner and text back and forth. It’s a sweet, stirring performance that makes you wonder what might have happened if only Julie Adams had kept her mouth shut instead of screaming her lungs out.

But I must confess, to this day, I still sleep better knowing there’s a .35 Remington under my bed.




© Mike Grell 2018


35th Anniversary of JON SABLE, FREELANCE

2018 marks the 35th Anniversary of JON SABLE, FREELANCE. To mark the occasion, I have a number things planned, beginning with a special print of what I feel is my very best cover from issue #2. This print will only be available during 2018.

— Mike









One of my heroes has passed away. Harry Selby was a legend in Africa, perhaps the last of the Great White Hunters. He guided royalty, celebrities, politicians and writers like Ernest Hemingway and Robert Ruark on their African adventures, which provided inspiration for many of their award-winning tales.

Although I never had the honor of meeting him, reading stories of Selby’s adventures gave me the desire to see Africa for myself and provided inspiration in my creation of Jon Sable.

Below you’ll find a link to an article from the Washington Post that tells his story better than I can.


LINK HERE: Harry Selby, one of the last and greatest of Africa’s ‘great white hunters,’ dies at 92 – The Washington Post


I can’t speak for exactly why GREEN ARROW: THE LONGBOW HUNTERS was as popular as it was other than to say that I always felt that Green Arrow was a great character. He was not only a charismatic individual but there was a difference between Oliver Queen/ Green Arrow and the rest of the DC Comics universe, by and large, in that he didn’t have any super powers. He had a supreme skill but it’s a skill that anyone who is willing to devote an hour a day of practice can learn.

Archery, it’s a stick and string. If you bought a bow today and a batch of arrows and went out and shot one hundred arrows a day, in a month you’d be splitting arrows. Gina Davis, the actress, took up archery just for recreational purposes and inside of a year she was world-ranked and only missed qualifying for the Olympic team by one point.

But the other thing that made Oliver Queen interesting to me -and I love the old GREEN LANTERN / GREEN ARROW series that Denny O’Neil wrote — there was a contrast between Green Lantern and Green Arrow. Green Lantern was letter-of-the-law, he was the hard hand of justice and if it was printed in black and white that’s how he saw it. Green Arrow was the spirit of justice. Ollie saw all the shades of grey; he was down in the streets and in the dirt with everybody else on the human level. And that’s what I really tried to do with the Longbow Hunters.

I have to give credit where credit is due. The entire concept spun out of a conversation I had with Mike Gold, when he asked me if there were any characters at DC that I really like well enough to come back to the company and do work for DC. I said, “Well you know, I always felt that I had done such a crappy job on Batman”, that I’d love to try my hand at it again. But I knew that, at the time, Frank Miller had DARK KNIGHT in the works. And Frank and I had talked about this at some length and I said, “When Frank is done with it you can put a period at the end of the Batman sentence for the next 20 years.” And I was right, but so far I’m off by nearly a decade. (NOTE: I did finally get to redeem myself with BATMAN: MASQUE.)

Gold said, “Well, what about Green Arrow?” and I said, “Well I always loved the character”, he was my favorite comic book character. He said, “Think of this: Green Arrow as an Urban Hunter.” And I’ll tell you, he might as well have just taken me out and bought me some crack because I was hooked!
That was it, Green Arrow as an Urban Hunter.

The actual story-line spun from an old story that I had pitched to Julie Schwartz, back in the day, when I was doing Green Arrow back-up stories. I had come up with a concept, Elliot Maggin was writing the scripts, but I knew Elliot well enough and he was willing to let me plot a story. Elliot would then do the finished script, do the dialog, and I would draw.I came up with the concept of a female counterpart to Green Arrow, and she was going to be a holocaust survivor who, in the process of tracking down and slaughtering Nazi war criminals involved Ollie, not only for the hunt for her, but in another plot that involved terrorist acts.

But when I pitched it to Julie Schwartz, Julie said, “I like it but you got it all wrong. See, it’s not a girl, it’s a young boy, and instead of being a holocaust survivor he’s the reincarnation of King David and instead of a bow and arrow, he uses a sling.”

I just threw up my hands and said if you want Elliot to write this, let him go ahead and do it, but I don’t have the heart for it. So Elliot wrote that story and I drew it, but years later I pried that plot out of my files and revamped it and created the character of SHADO for THE LONGBOW HUNTERS; and of course the Nazi scenario was replaced with the Yakuza angle and had the character became the daughter of a Yakuza member who was victimized in turn by members of the army intelligence community. And then instead of the terrorist plot, I managed to work in the Iran-Contra thing.

I found out later on–a couple years, in fact–that I actually beat that story into print by six months. I got a phone call from a New York radio station wanting to know how I knew, in advance, that this had happened. And I said it was really simple: all I did was take the various players that were doing things in the world, and said to myself, “What would be the stupidest thing the CIA could possibly do if they thought they could get away with it.” And that’s what I wrote.

I’m always a little amazed at how much people read into my stories and how they manage to put their own imprint on things they read. Particularly the “WAS DINAH RAPED?” Question.

Dinah Lance wasn’t raped. Nope. NO WAY.

It I’m always amazed at how people read that into the scene. I tried to address the question in an issue of GREEN ARROW where Dinah is talking to a therapist. The line says, “People say things like ‘At least you weren’t raped’ … as if that’s the worst thing that could happen.”

One guy even said he resented the fact that I had “shown Dinah being raped”. When I pointed out that it never happened, he countered that I had shown her “being punched in the face.” Again, although she is bruised and bloodied when we first see her in the scene, the only person who touches her lifts her head up by the hair … an instant before Ollie kills him.

The scene wasn’t gratuitous, it has a definite purpose. I was set on bringing Ollie into the real world and giving him a gritty, hard edge. In Ollie’s past, after accidentally killing a man, he had sworn never to take another human life, but that didn’t fit with what I wanted to do with the character. I wanted to show that, under the right circumstances, anyone could kill. A mother to protect her child, a husband to protect his wife, a soldier to protect his country. I know damned well that an ordinary person will kill in self defense, it happens all the time. So I set out to create a situation that would change Ollie from the avowed pacifist to a man capable of killing if it’s justified. There’s a transition in one panel from the easy-going Errol Flynn Robin Hood to a man capable of killing coldly and violently. (Note that he totally ignores the guy with the arrow through his heart, except to take the knife out of his hand to cut Dinah free.)

If Ollie hadn’t arrived, things could have been different, but that’s exactly the point. I needed that moment in order to push Ollie over the edge and force him into the choice of whether to shoot the knife out of the villain’s hand (he had already demonstrated the ability to do so) or put an arrow through his heart.

Ollie chose to kill the son of a bitch, because he really, really had it coming. And because it was a dramatic turning point in his own life — once the arrow was loosed, he could never go back. His life became different from that moment.

A paragraph back I used the phrase “could have been different”. Let me say, for the record, I never would have allowed such a thing. Dinah is one of my all-time favorite characters and she deserves better, but, frankly, she wasn’t the star of the show. Her motivations were never in question. So there was no need for a transforming incident in her life except as it related to her relationship with Ollie. I did what any decent soap opera writer would do — I started with a perfectly happy couple and then royally screwed up their lives.

The whole subject of Dinah losing her power came much later from another writer, because my mandate in the entire Green Arrow series was to place Ollie and Dinah firmly in the real world, where super powers do not exist. Someone felt it necessary to explain what I simply chose to ignore and things sort of went to hell in a handbasket from there.

Editor Mike Gold and I made a specific choice to deal with stories taken from the headlines and deal with the subjects head-on, rather than speaking metaphorically and hoping the audience would get the message. We did everything possible to spark debate, not because we had all the answers, but because we believed (and still do) that it was important to raise the questions. That’s one of the reasons why the GA lettercol became essentially the forerunner to the blog, an ongoing dialogue between readers that went on for months on end. You think what happened to Dinah was terrible? Certainly it was, but what have you done about it? Just a comic book? Sure, but what about the victims you read about in your local newspaper or heard about on the news? Sooner or later, someone out there is going to have the right answer to the right problem at the right time.

I’ve been accused of actually promoting violence against woman, when all I’ve ever done is reflect the fact that woman and children are, indeed, most often the victims of violence. The story I did where a girl is crucified was taken directly from a newspaper account, not conjured from my imagination. Once, when taking an injured crow to an animal rescue shelter, I was appalled at the injuries I witnessed that had been inflicted on small animals. The lady who ran the shelter looked at me with wise eyes and said, “Honey, you ain’t seen nothing, compared to what they do to their own children.”

I’m often asked if I consider LONGBOW to be my best art. Up until that point, there were few stories that were equal — art-wise — to LONGBOW HUNTERS. I tried, at every opportunity, to stretch the boundaries of story and art, using everything in my repertoire to make it distinctive. Certainly, that was greatly enhanced by JULIA LACQUEMENT’s brilliant coloring.

I knew going in that this book was going to be given the best quality printing and reproduction, so I was free to experiment with mixed media which, in regular comics, would have been impossible to reproduce.

A great character has a way of sticking with you, even if you think you’re done with him. Sooner or later, you find yourself thinking, “DANG! I SHOULD HAVE…”

I’d love to return to GREEN ARROW again. I’d do it in a heartbeat.





Video message from Mike Grell

Click to Download Video









Albuquerque cancelled due to health issues

Apologies to all my fans in Albuquerque, but I’m forced to cancel my appearance this weekend due to health issues. I managed to catch the Great Cold of 2018 wouldn’t want to pass it on. I’ll be returning to the area for a future show. Stay tuned for updates.


Grell and Green Arrow at Derby City Con

I took this of you and a Green Arrow cosplay (John Marks) at Derby City Con.
— Rachel Frye

Mike will be at Derby City Con, Louisville, KY; Oct 28-29, 2017

GREEN ARROW #34 featuring SHADO

I just finished the new variant cover for GREEN ARROW #34 featuring SHADO! This is the first time I’ve drawn Shado in more than two decades. I’m very pleased with the way it came out.

My normal working method is to draw the layout actual print size, then enlarge and lightbox it for inks, but I was on tour in Europe when I did the layout and I didn’t have access to a scanner/printer/lightbox, so I drew the layout full size and sent a photo to the editor for approval. I intended to ink over the pencils, but was lucky enough to be given an extended deadline which allowed me to lightbox the inks, so the original pencil is now available from www.catskillcomics.com. The finished inks are going on my wall.

Best regards,


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