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Word Balloons: Comic-book artist Mike Grell discusses career

Comic-book writer and artist Mike Grell has worked on titles including “Legion of Super-Heroes” and “Green Arrow.”
by Matthew Price Published: December 3, 2010

— Former “Green Arrow” writer and “Legion of Super-Heroes” artist Mike Grell discussed how he broke into the comic-book industry more than 35 years ago at the recent Austin Comic-Con.

Grell also recounted the birth of his sword-and-sorcery title “Warlord,” which ran for 133 issues from 1975 to 1989. He returned for 16 issues of “Warlord” in 2009-2010.

“I was going to be the next Frank Lloyd Wright and would have been if it wasn't for the math,” he said about his original career plans, speaking to fans at Comic-Con. After four years in the Air Force as an illustrator, Grell became an assistant to Dale Messick of “Brenda Starr.”

Grell attended the New York Comic-Con in 1973 with the intention of selling an adventure comic strip called “The Savage Empire.” But adventure strips were no longer selling. On the advice of some cartoonists attending the conference, he pitched his artwork to DC Comics. On the strength of his samples, he received an assignment, and after that he was recommended as the new artist of “Legion of Super-Heroes.”

Grell said he was blessed with good timing. “I was walking in the door at DC when (former ‘Legion' artist) Dave Cockrum was walking out,” he said.

“Savage Empire” had another shot at life a couple of years later, when Grell pitched the idea to new publisher Atlas/Seaboard. But Julie Schwartz at DC Comics got wind of Grell's pitch and asked Grell to pitch DC instead. Since DC at that time didn't have creator ownership of concepts, Grell tweaked his “Savage Empire” idea so that he could keep the rights to the original.

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by Matthew Price
Features Editor
Features Editor Matthew Price has worked for The Oklahoman since 2000. He’s a University of Oklahoma graduate who has also worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern for the Dallas Morning News. He’s...
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