Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Meet a Richmond Comics Writer - A Chat with Gary Cohn

Mark Lindblom (l) and Gary Cohn
by Mike Rhode
Gary Cohn co-wrote two of my favorite 1980s DC Comics, Blue Devil and Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. I recently got to meet him at Heroic Aleworks Brewery's minicon, and he answered my usual questions.
What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
A: I’m a writer. I work with artists.
How do you do it? Thumbnails? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?
A: I work in either of the standard comics writing styles. I can write full scripts when I don’t know or don’t trust the artist; I write plot/dialogue when I trust the artist and when we’re full collaborators. I’m happiest when I can give an artist an outline, and then the artist throws me some visual surprises that I need to integrate into my original conception of the story. In the early part of my career when I was writing stories and often didn’t know who would draw them, I did thumbnail sketches of pages to accompany my scripts. They were the crudest of cartooning, and I was disappointed when some artists chose to follow my thumbnail layouts completely instead of taking them for the suggestions they were meant to be. I assumed that an artist would have a better visual imagination than I have, and would be able to take my suggestions and run with them, not just follow them slavishly.
When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
A: I was born in NYC in 1952—I’m a child of the 50s and 60s, and all the pop culture of that era.
Why are you in Richmond now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?
A: It took me twenty years to realize that I wasn’t going to make a living writing. So I became a NYC high school English/social studies teacher and did that for 14 years. When I retired I realized that a “short” pension was not going to keep me going in NYC, and after 30 years there I wanted a change of venue. I had an artist friend living in RVA (ie Richmond, VA), I’d visited her a number of times over the years, and when I was considering new places I narrowed it down to RVA and St. Petersburg, FL. I wanted someplace a lot cheaper than NYC, warmer, with some history and culture and a creative community. Since my 90-year-old mom still lives in NY, I decided on the place where I could get to NY more quickly and easily. Roads not taken… I still wonder about St. Pete. I live in the oldest neighborhood in RVA, Church Hill. It’s been a very good move.
What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
A: Choose-your-own-major BA degree from Michigan State (defunct residential Justin Morrill College allowed us to design our own major: mine was creative writing/science fiction and fantasy lit); MA from the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State in Ohio; course work completed towards a doctorate in US History (US naval history, esp 1880-1900). Basic teaching certification courses from NYS.
Who are your influences?
courtesy of the Grand Comics Database
A: Nothing. Everything I come up with is sui generis and without compare. Joking, of course. My influences are six decades of reading, watching, consuming American popular culture, “serious” literature, academic history and the range of liberal arts subjects. I was a guy who thought he disliked school… so of course I’ve spent my entire life as a student and a teacher.
If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change? 

A: Amethyst would have been developed as a toy line by Kenner when they were planning to do it, BEFORE She-Ra came out, and I’d have made a fuck-ton (that’s a technical term) of money; and spent most of it on motorcycles, adventuring, and wild women. There’s been a fair amount of all three in my life, but I’ve never really been able to afford to fully indulge myself.
What work are you best-known for?
A: Amethyst and Blue Devil from DC in the early ‘80s. My standard line is that for a short while I was a little bit famous and successful in a relatively obscure pop sub-culture.
What work are you most proud of?
A: Demon Gun, published by Crusade about 20 years ago, which is the only piece of my published work that I actually own--well, co-own with artist Barry Orkin. I understand that there are comics writers who claim sole ownership over properties. I’ve always believed that anything I create in comics is co-created by the artist, because I can’t make comics without one. If I wanted sole ownership, I’d write prose exclusively.
What would you like to do or work on in the future?
courtesy of the Grand Comics Database
A: Blue Devil artist Paris Cullins and I have been slowly developing our own property, New Devil. It’s unrelated to DC’s BD, except that it’s a “devil,” but it has that spirit and bounce. With NY artist Ray Felix I’m getting ready to self-publish the first issue of “NYX, Daughter of Night.” I’ve got a zillion ideas, as always, and I hope to be able to get some of them out there before…well, you know.
What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?
A: I’ll tell you when I’ve solved that problem. While I was a teacher I wrote very little. Since I’ve been on my own I’ve been struggling to find the old mojo. A deadline and a paycheck were always good incentive. Right now I have neither from writing.
What do you think will be the future of your field?
A: No idea.
What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

A: Until I have something to peddle, some new wares to spread out on a table, I’m staying close to home. Any Con in Richmond that will let me in for free, I’m there. Beyond that, I went to the Baltimore Con last fall and liked it, I stopped in at Tidewater this year to see Paris and a few other folks and because it made a nice motorcycle run, I’ll probably head down to some other Cons in VA and NC in the next year, and if one of Mike Carbonaro’s NYC cons is going on when I’m visiting, or Eternal Con on Long Island, I try to stop in to schmooze with old industry buddies.

What's your favorite thing about Richmond?

A: Hard to say. It’s a very nice small city. I’ve met a lot of great people, I’ve connected with the thriving comics community here, found the perfect motorcycle shop and car repair place, discovered terrific restaurants… I’m thinking the answer is, my apartment and neighborhood. It’s a great space in a great location.

Least favorite?

A: The wannabe Confederates. I’m a carpetbagger Yankee.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

A: The VMFA (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts) is a very good small-city art museum; then there’s Monument Ave (or as we carpetbaggers like to call it, “Losers’ Lane”) with all the ridiculous Confederate statues and one very badly designed but well-intentioned Arthur Ashe statue.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

A: This town is full of very good restaurants; but Lemaire in the Jefferson Hotel is an amazing experience and a world-class dinner. I let a visiting stockbroker friend pay for it.

Do you have a website or blog?

A: Nope.

No comments: