Michael Wm. Kaluta
Michael Kaluta Interview
by Michael Simone & Peter Maronich

Horizons 1
Brooklyn, NY 1975
The following is an in-depth interview with Michael W. Kaluta, he is a famed illustrator in the world
of comics and fantasy. His work has graced many a page in comicdom and his fans are ever growing.
We got the interview over a series of visits to Kaluta's home in New York. Mike also supplied us
with a beautiful front cover and fantastic interior drawings. Hopefully, you will find the interview
interesting and informative because we certainly enjoyed getting it. Read on and enjoy.
HORIZONS: Who was you major influence?

MICHAEL Wm. KALUTA: Krenkel and Frazetta. I think I picked up a whole lot from both those guys.
I drew little pictures for Chessman Of Mars. Beautiful girls with slanted eyes and what-not.

H: Like the stuff in "Carson Of Venus"?

MwK: Oh sure, all that stuff. On "Carson Of Venus" I went back to all that first stuff and I really enjoyed
myself. Then as I got a little further along and met some people that were doing the same kind of stuff, I
met Steve Harper and he showed me that Flash Gordon put out by Gold Key. OH BOY!!! Spots on
people, great boots and things like that. And after that I just liked a whole lot of Williamson.
That's what I was equipped with, those 3 guys.

H: Where was your first work printed?

MwK: In Charlton Comics. You mean professionally?

H: Yes.

MwK: I don't know which one came out first. A romance, which was a bomb, and a western, which was a
bomb. And a kind of historical sword thing that was alright for the time. It wasn't real impressive, but I had
alot of fun on it. I think the first thing that came out in
Flash Gordon, the 6th issue* or something.  
* Flash Gordon #18

H: Who gave you your break into the professional field?

MwK: Al Williamson did.

H: Al Williamson?

MwK: By asking me to work on a comic strip he was doing. My teeth were all over the floor. He didn't
realize that anybody really thought of him like he were to think of Alex Raymond or Hal Foster, like "gee
Mr. Foster" or "gee Mr. Raymond". It was "Gee Mr. Williamson". He was just so offhand about it. "Gee,
you know I like the stuff your doing on this fanzine, and it really reminds me of the old stuff I used to do.
I'd sure like to have you help me with this thing". I said, "Sure, sure".
Through him I met Dick Giordano, and he got me my job with Charlton. He said, "Take your stuff over
to Petit". And that got me there and then Dick gave me my first job at National, which was one of those
two page stories, and I went on from there. Wrightson helped, too.

H: Have you had any formal art training?

MwK: I took two years of fine art in school down in Richmond, Va. and that taught me composition,
they weren't big on technique.

H: How were you picked as the artist on The Shadow?

MwK: Kind of by I was the only one around and I asked. There is a whole story if you want to hear it.

H: Yeah.

MwK: I've got it worked out and polished up over the past couple of years. I was sitting around the
National copy room when their offices were above the F.D.R. Post Office. We all used to sit in there
and shoot the shit waiting for Neal Adams to come in, and we'd all sit around and talk art. Those were the
good old days, it was really fun to be up there. Sitting around just drinking coffee and watching the
secretaries. Dnny and Skeates sat around moaning because they had no one to do The Shadow.
I asked him who he would like to have do The Shadow, and he said Jim Aparo, but he was drawing just
about everything at the time. I didn't think it would work because Neal hadn't done anything in the 30's
and what would Jim get inspiration from?
So they left and I left and Steve Harper said, "God, you know you should have asked him to do it
because I think they wanted you to do it. Yeah, they dd not have anybody and what would they be
moaning like that for if they didn't want someone to ask him." I said "OK", so we went in the next day.
We went in everyday in those days just waiting for something to happen. They were doing the same act
between each other, "Oh, we haven't got anybody to do The Shadow." I said, "What happened to
Steranko?" And they said that he wanted his originals back and he wanted complete (control) and he
wanted to write his own things, and Denny's eyes flashed!! I said that I'd like to do it. Denny walked
away and went to see Carmine. He came back and said, "OK, you got it. Here's the script." And that's
how I got it. You're going to ask me how I lost it.

H: Tht's right.

MwK:  Jesus, that's an even longer story. I lost it by being real slow. I take full blame for it. There, I said
that, now it wasn't all my fault! The second issue I wasn't being very professional. If I was being
professional I just got the second issue and started drawing on it. The first issue there was no deadline so
I took 3 months on it. Then we went on schedule so it was 2 months to do the next one and I looked at it
and I couldn't get started on it so I let a month go by and I had a month to do it. So I started it and I didn't
think it was coming out any good, which doesn't help at all.
Now I look back on it and I like it alot better that some of the other ones because it's got a pulpy feeling,
but there are alot of things I'd go back and heighten, add a little more detail here or there. It was too
broad, too empty. So when I got that done it was 2 or 3 weeks over the deadline and Denny had missed
his vacation so I was up shit's creek with him and his wife and their relatives. It was all my fault. So I said,
"There, it's finished." And he says, "Well, here's your new script." He gave me 3 pages of it, well half a
script. I went, "Oh, when will I get the rest?" He says, "Oh, I'll send it to you from wherever." He hadn't
done the rest of the script yet for the next one. I did the ten pages and then I waited around for the script
and a couple weeks went by then the script arrived. There were a couple of more weeks I could have
worked on it. So I was still behind.
That was the third issue, so Wrightson comes in and says, "Alright, I'll help ya." So we just sat there and
I pencilled pages and handed them over to him and he would tighten them up, then he'd hand them to me
and I'd start inking. It went back and forth so we really can't say who did what, there was a really crazy
mixture in the thing. But we got it in and cut it down to like one and a half weeks over deadline, which is
alright; most books are at least that. So I waited around for the next script about two weeks cause Denny
hadn't got it finished. So we're still like getting 3 weeks into the deadline and that was the fourth issue and
I said, "OK, this is a great story." This was the Homer Bliss thing, the fat guy stuff. So I just sat back and
I started to draw on it, and it went past the deadline, and it got 2 and 3 weeks into the deadline.
Howie (Chaykin) came over to help with a couple of pages one night, Wrightson di a couple of pages
one day because he was just sitting around one day. We weren't rushing this one and the tag end of it was
the worst because we'd leave Denny sitting in the office waiting for me to call. It was 6 weeks late when
I brought it in. Looking back on it, it was the best issue. Number 3 has a whole to to say for it because
of that nice, clean inking but I really like the fourth issue a whole lot. And then they got Frank Robbins to
do a fill-in issue and I thought, "Great." I liked his work on The Batman.
So the sixth script, "Night of The Ninja", Denny said, "I don't wanna give this to him because it is a better
script than the one I gave to Frank Robbins." I did it, but very slowly. I had time so I went down to
Virginia and visited a few friends, and when I got back in January they told me that this was the last one I
was going to do, that Carmine wanted Frank Robbins. I went to see Carmin and I said, "I hear you have a
Christmas present for me." He said, "What? You didn't get your bonus?" I said, "No, I mean The Shadow."
He goes, "Denny doesn't want you to do The Shadow, he wants Frank Robbins." I said, "Wait aminute,
who's bullshitting?" He said, "Do you want the book?" I said, "Yes, I really like it, I really enjoy it." And he
said that I could have it. So I finished that issue and I was ready to go. I said, "No more screwing up."
And I waited around for the script and it didn't arrive. So I called Denny and he said, "oh you're in
trouble." Now this is like two months after I got the book back from having almost lost it. I said, "What
am I in trouble for?" He says, "Oh Carmine this and that, blah, blah." I said, "Oh God, here we go again,
man. We already talked that all out." He says, "No, he's pissed at you. What do you mean Kaluta, you're
late on all the books." I said, "Denny, I wasn't late on this book. I'm ready to go." He says, "No, he told me
to send it to ...."
So I went in and talked to Carmine. He said, "Well, you're falling down on that stuff Mikey." So I said,
"Which one did you see?" He said, "Oh, the second issue. Remember the big hassle on that issue. You're
falling down." I said, "Well you haven't seen the third and fourth issues?" He hadn't seen that stuff or the
stuff on Carson of Venus. He didn't know I was doing that at the same time. I said, "Alright, I'll do covers
and other stories."

H: Do you have any plans to work for Warren?

MwK: There's a hassle about working for Warren, that is that you've got to meet him and go through a
bunch of monkey tricks so that he'll feel that he has dabbled with you, so that when someone says that
you're greater than anything else he could say it was because he did it. I've tried twice to work for him and
I can't because I'm thinking of what he wanted and not what I wanted. If I do some science fiction it will be
for the Marvel sci fi book. No matter what I do I try to do my best.

Editor's Note: And he does. Mike's future plans include a portfolio of 8 oil paintings inspired by "Dante's
Inferno", a Shadow portfolio of 6 line drawings, and he is also illustrating an Robert E. Howard book.
All art copyright Michael Wm. Kaluta and the respective owners.