I was first introduced to George Evans' artistry while working on staff at King Features Syndicate. Ignorant of the huge body of work he had done, I was immediately drawn to the action-packed and beautifully illustrated job he was doing on "Secret Agent Corrigan." Striking up a correspondance, he was more than willing to try to assist a newcomer trying to break into the field. He would even from time to time send a package of xeroxes from his files of an artist he admired (and thought I should be made aware of).

George Evans loved the art of comics. Even after a career spanning over 50 years, George kept the same passion and love of the field as when he first began.

-Jim Keefe

Interview conducted in the Fall of 1999

Jim Keefe: Which comic strips did you get the most kick out of growing up?

George Evans: Foster's "Tarzan" and "Prince Valiant," "Flash Gordon," "Captain Easy," Caniff's "Terry" and Noel Sickles' "Scorchy Smith." For Humor out our way, "Blondie."

JK: Is there a strip you would have most liked to work on?

George Evans: "Buz Sawyer," and it almost might have been. When Buz Sawyer was relinquished by Schlensker I called Bill Yates (head of King's Comic Art Department at the time) and asked if he'd let me take that over. His answer was, "Jeez, then I'm still left with the problem of who to get to do Corrigan." There was a temptation to tell him, "Well you still have that problem because it's Sawyer or I'm out," but then he told me old pal and respected artist John Celardo was taking it on (who told me he HATED it) so I stuck to Corrigan. I would have loved Sawyer for I think Roy Crane was THE innovator. Even Caniff really derived from Crane as a storyteller, and of course kid-Terry and tough soldier of fortune Pat Ryan were close variants of runty Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy. Even the oriental settings were derived from several swashbucklers Crane set in the orient, replete with gorgeous women and crazy oddball characters who were prototypes of the Dragon Lady, Klang and etc.

JK: What would be your list of the top five comic strip or comic book artists?

George Evans: Foster, Raymond, Noel Sickles, Len Starr and Al Williamson.

JK: I undertand you first ran into Al Williamson while at Fiction House when he was a young artist just learning the ropes. What was your first impression of him?

George Evans: I saw myself at that age.

JK: Who have you especially enjoyed working with in the field?

George Evans: Williamson, Frazetta, Frank Springer, Creig Flessel and John Prentice.

JK: During the early sixties, Frank Frazetta credits you with bailing him out when he had trouble finding work. What is your recollection of Frazetta from that time?

George Evans: I'd known Frank a bit. "Bailing him out" is a kind recollection on his part. I was doing whole books, somewhere around fifty pages, and he always helped me immensely with great stuff.

JK: I heard that at EC you were always at odds with Harvey Kurtzman because of the tight layouts that accompanied scripts. Was it a difficult partnership?

George Evans: Not at all. I liked him, he liked me. We LIKED to disagree and argue about ANYTHING! But on his overdone layouts, I wouldn't be just Harvey's "hands".

JK: After EC Comics was forced to fold, you went on to ghost "Terry and the Pirates" for the next thirteen years. Were you eventually hoping to do your own strip?

George Evans: EC wasn't forced though it's what they would have everyone believe. In truth, EC and Bill Gaines could have kept on with business as usual (good sales, faithful support) but Bill called us all together at the offices, and this is a direct quote of that good man's words, "They say I'm (we're) hurting kids. I don't believe it...but I don't want to hurt kids, so I'm folding the whole lineup." I heard that personally.

JK: EC seemed well suited for you, especially with their comics that featured vintage aircraft like "Aces High." Did you ever have an opportunity or desire to do any of the superhero characters while working at Marvel or DC?

George Evans: All the superhero stuff eludes me. At D.C., editors urged me to take on pencilling or inking on Batman and/or Superman because they paid a better rate page but I always felt there HAD to be some interest besides just money in what you did or it was a millstone around your neck.

JK: You've ghosted a number of strips including "Terry" and "Rip Kirby" what ways did it prepare you for taking the helm of "Secret Agent X-9"?

George Evans: I learned unrelenting commitment.

JK: What are the particulars of pacing for a comic strip as opposed to a comic book?

George Evans: Comic book stories ran their committed pages with the story and dialogue building to the tale's end. In strips, you try to end each day's with a come-on to keep readers looking toward the next day's strip.

JK: What were your solutions to the space limitations of how small strips are reproduced today?

George Evans: Just try to make each picture strong enough to tell its bit without resorting to just talking heads. Now size almost precludes it.

Evans' creative use of panel layout - Secret Agrent Corrigan 4/20/1994

JK: Having a studio at home, what was your work routine like?

George Evans: Schedules for the Evans were a joke when I lived near the ocean (with kids who loved that ocean), so I turned to night work and sleeping till noon. I wrote Secret Agent while walking the dog - quietly strolling the nearby park and empty streets of this ten o'clock bedtime community. With the specifics of a story fixed in my mind I'd speak the copy, pruning it, finding the right words. Couple of times I'd pass people who'd come out to have a smoke in the open air, so there are probably people around here who think of me as "that crazy old coot who walks around talking to himself." A nut, and nuttier in that many a time I find I miss doing it, for I sure enjoyed the business.

JK: What do you miss most?

George Evans: With the nitwit debacles going on in Washington and the rising terroism worldwide, story material for a Secret Agent begs to be used.

JK: What job have you done that you're particularly proud of?

George Evans: I did several two-color interior illos for the aviation slick "Air Trails."
WWI air-combat scenes. A labor of love, but the aviation mags were dying fast.

JK: Which Illustrators do you most admire?

George Evans: If general commercial, Andrew Loomis, von Schmidt and Edwin Georgi.
"Figure drawing For All It's Worth" by Andrew Loomis is, in my opinion, the best anatomy book I know. Bridgeman, like Michaelangelo, gives even the muscles in the eyelids ("that you can crack walnuts with" - Bob Hope's line) and that's too damn much.

JK: If you weren't a cartoonist and illustrator, what would you like to be doing?

George Evans: Well...STILL a cartoonist/illustrator, if only for myself, but then a professional flyer. It was negated by poor eyesight and a chronic heart murmur found at age ten or eleven.

I've been told that Dik Browne, when ill, was asked what he thought heaven would be like and he said, "If St. Peter ushers me through the Pearly Gates and simply says, "Your drawing board and all your tools are right over here, Dik!", then I'd known I'd gotten into heaven." I tell you honestly, I picked what I wanted to do in life and feel I have been on an unending vacation. Maybe that's jarred loved ones who yearned for different kinds, but I'm like the Pop in Calvin & Hobbes. Rain or snow, fire or flood, good times and lean, as long as I could make things live on once empty boards, I couldn't ask for much more. I wish I might have fared better in money or in circulation but in the end I was really doing what I did for ME. And so although I urge my grandson Roger to explore the whole range of commercial art, when he says "but I like comics, George!" no way can I argue. Only wish him the best, the best, the Best!

"The Probability Chamber" - Artwork ©Roger Petersen

JK: I noticed that the story featured in "Death Rattle" #1 (scripted by Mark Schultz) featured your likeness as one of the main characters. What words of advice do you have for someone like Roger just breaking into the field?

George Evans: Roger's talents and education should have him doing every kind of painting, but he loves the comics medium and is willing to work at it even for short bucks and heartbreaking schedules. Recognize the type? So you stick to it, do your best and keep hoping things pick up. Most of all, you hope that a lot of people really get to see your product so that it can be judged fairly in this strange nation where all the "experts" have opposing tried-and-FAILED ideas but refuse to use one of the most powerful teaching/entertainment mediums in the world.

In my early teens I had preschool twin siblings for whom I read (the then) wonderful Sunday comics pages. Their friends began to come and the comics got read multiple times. In later schooling, every one of those wound up in the top part of their classes in every subject. Several won top honors, including my brother and sister. My own daughters did the same for their kids and they also did great at school at all levels. There's a moral there but Educators aren't having any of it. Figure why...

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