You remember that movie Men in Black? The funny one with Will Smith and
Tommy Lee Jones? Did you know the movie came from a little seen black
and white comic book published in 1990? This month we interview the
artist from that comic, Sandy Carruthers. In the interview, we reveal
some shocking details about how Sandy was compensated (or how he wasn't)
and we look at some other work of his including Captain Canuck.
When did you break into the comics industry and what was your first work?
1988? 89? Around there. It was the California based Malibu Graphics
Sci-Fi wing (Eternity Comics). They published a B&W anthology series
called 'The Shattered Earth Chronicles'. I submitted a proposal
'Twilights Last', and they took it. From there, they started to send me
How did you end up drawing Men in Black?
The editor, Tom Mason, called me and asked if I could read the script. I
liked Sci-Fi and UFO stuff, so I grabbed it up. The writer Lowell
Cunningham was situated in Knoxville, Tennessee.
I understand you got no compensation from the movies? Was there a
contract between you and Malibu Comics?
Nope! Not a cent of the $857,000,000 profit made from it. Go figure. I
was hired with a contract that only gave me rights to my ORIGINAL art
(meaning, if they reproduce it...then they pay me)...I wasn't the
creator, Lowell was. What did I know? They only published 8000 copies
How did Lowell make out on the Men in Black?
He did very well. Lowell is a clever man....he was the creator,
after all, and established it right away. I say, good on 'em!
On the issue of creating, how much of Men in Black was visually
established prior to your coming on? Did you have to contribute anything
There were no visuals . . . just a script. Everything you see is mine, mine,
When you say the contract was only for the original art, did you not
get a page rate?
Malibu worked on royalties, not page rates. They paid an up front amount
($250.00 per issue) and if the title met a certain ratio, I'd get a
percentage. MIB did okay. Again. Small publishing house. I was glad to
be printed, to be honest. Money? Fahhh!
Was the contract the same for the 2nd mini series you and Lowell did
That was the standard Malibu contract.
Would you contribute to a TPB reprinting your original two series?
After going through that experience, what would you recommend young
freelancers/creators do in a similar situation?
Evaluate the contract. Talk to a lawyer about 'what's in it for
you'...weigh the value of your work. Think, 'What if.... movie,
merchandise, tv series' and apply it to the terms. Cover your ass!
Honestly? It wasn't a fact that I was 'screwed over' by Malibu. I just
didn't think it would go as far as it did. Malibu was very good to me
during those years...live and learn, and carry on. Life is too short,
and so am I.
I had a talk with Neal Adams last summer in which he talked about a
publisher's moral responsibility to spread the wealth on such success,
rather than sticking to the letter of the law or contract. What is your
view on moral vs. legal responsibility?
Most large comicbook publishers work on assembly lines. They are
corporations that have one solid objective: to make money. I like the
current trend that's happening now. Traditional Book Publishers breaking
into the Graphic Novel industry. These publishers treat their creators
with great respect.
Again, read the fine print. Dare to call the shots. Most comic book
creators are just so happy to be published by the 'big two' that they
get clouded in their judgements, business wise. The big guys know this.
Hey! It ain't personal, it's business! Really, creators call their own
shots. The bottom line is you can always say "no."
What did you think of the two movies?
I liked the first one...the second was redundant same-o, same-o.
Seriously, I wish the humour would've been in the vein of the Coen
Brothers...more dark. Alas! They went for the bucks, though! Loved the
ending, though . . . we are marbles!!
After the movie came out, Marvel did new Men in Black comics and there
were cartoons, toys, video games, etc.. Were you involved in any of it?
I understand Richard Comely turned Captain Canuck into a comic strip
and you drew some of it during the 90s. Can you tell us about that?
Comely came out with Captain Canuck:Reborn during the 90's. I contacted
him and he wanted me to draw Catman (splatter)..the series went kaput
and Richard had me illustrate the daily comic script that was to be in the
newspaper. That was hell! Dailies are no fun, folks.... way too much
deadline pressure. That really didn't go anywhere either, but it was fun
working on the good Captain!
Did the comic strip actually see print somewhere?
Very little. Maybe two papers picked it up.
You and Mark Shainblum are supposed to be reviving Captain Canuck.
What is the latest on that?
We started a limited series and produced an ashcan. We even lined up
Canadiana penciller Jeff Alward to work on issue 2, but alas... the
latest on it (from my perspective, anyway) is it's fairly dead in the water.
Dave Sim mentioned when he first published Cerebus, only one Canadian
store would stock it - the one he used to work at. Considering all the
starts and stops Captain Canuck has had over the years, do you think
Canadians don't support home grown work enough or is our market just too
A little of both, really. It all depends. In this day of Global
Neighborhood, what does it matter? With Canadiana, I have readers all
over the world (even Iraq!) ...what does this say? It says Canadians
have an excellent potential for export here, so...have at 'er, I say!
As of late you've been working on Canadiana, a new female patriotic
Superhero. You've been putting it all your webpage for free. What are
your long term plans for the character?
She hasn't been updated because I 've been too busy. At this point, it's
free comics for everybody! We want her to be set in peoples
minds...where she goes is anyone's guess...possibly animated cartoons or
live action. Perhaps print. Time will tell!
Canadiana is different in that she doesn't have the stereotypical
Canadian personality. Why did you make her cranky?
Haha! Perhaps because she's sick of the stereotypical Canadian
personality. We Canadians are a lot crabbier than we let on! I blame the
One of the supporting characters in Canadiana is a psychic Naomi. Are
you a believer in psychics?
Actually, I do. I think there's enough uncanny stuff out there to
warrant a second glance. Plus it's fun. Granted, there's a lot of
snake-oil salesmen out there, but there's some genuine stuff. Also, it
sparks my imagination, and that 's what it's all about!
You have another online comic called The Ronin and the Lily. I
noticed it starts off very much like Lone Wolf and Cub. Was that an
Honestly? No. I wrote and drew that because I had just gone through a
nasty spell in life known to many as divorce. Here I was a single dad
with my daughter surviving. That's really what The Ronin & the Lily is
about. This man and child wandering/growing together. And then, I
stumbled on Lone Wolf and Cub, and exclaimed 'd'oh!'
Do you have plans on continuing Ronin and the Lily?
Probably not. It was created for its time, for me.
Though I shouldn't say never.