This continues our interview with Nick Cardy.
Nick Cardy: You were asking about the material. I hope I answered it.
Bryan Stroud for Comics Bulletin: Yes, that part. Can you tell me a little more about the brushes? The material, for instance?
CARDY: Oh, it had to be sable. Especially for those, because with the bristle brushes, they’re better for painting or if you’re preparing…say for example if you’re going to have a board, illustration board, and you want to have a one tone background, then you could use a bristle brush. You can do it very quickly and very lightly, but bristles leave a lot of…it’s like combing your hair where every other tooth is missing. You can see the streaks in the paint when you put it on. Unless of course you want it with that effect.
I use the sables and the sables are very expensive. They were very good. When you had a sable brush and you pressed down to make a line, after you picked it up, the sable would go back into position. With the cheaper brushes if you’re putting pressure on it to create a line…say you’re doing a fine line. Then as you’re getting into the line you want a little more pressure on it and then to lighten up, a sable brush will help you on that. But if you have a cheap brush, as soon as you push a heavier line, that brush stays in that position. It doesn’t go back to the point. That’s why there are certain sables that are more expensive than others.
Now the Japanese, when they had their brushes, they had them on bamboo sticks. They had the hairs, and I don’t know how they were conditioned, but they would tie a string in the middle of the hairs and they would twine the knot and it would go through the bamboo and when the hairs got to the other end they would pull those hairs that you’re going to paint with to the brush and that makes the ferrule. Sometimes they would push it through a little stub and then that stub fits into a smaller piece of bamboo that fits into a little larger piece of bamboo. And if the hairs are getting a little short you can pull them out a little.
CARDY: But they never work. When you pull them out, at least for me, they would lose their sharpness. But with me, every now and then, if I lose my sharp brush I always use it again because I had to work with texture. I would use a fine line generally for a woman’s or a man’s skin or a little heavier depending on the material of a shirt as compared to a coat or as compared to a fur coat. When I made the lines of a fur coat I just more or less put ink in the brush and then pat it down on a dry pad so the hairs would come out. No point at all, just hairs and I’d do the lines with that. Then I’d make it come out a little hairy, you see. Then the other lines would come out less heavy.
In all my art that I’ve done, every month, my work would look different. Because I had what I would call a mix-master. Now bear with me. This is a silly old man talking. I had a mental mix-master that, if I liked the drawing of two or three different artists that drew faces well, or do women’s hair well, I would try to copy them in a sense. Then I would go from one to the other and then I would put that in my mixture. In the pot. Then I would go somewhere with somebody else who doesn’t do the faces that well, but does the figures beautifully. I would take what I learned from him and put it in the pot. Those would be my building blocks. I’ll take from Degas, I’ll take from Michelangelo, the body, I would take all these where you’d need anatomy, anything that I needed, I’d put it in the blender.
After about a year…not even a year, you change that and get a different blender. Because if you stay with the blender, you’d get like where so many guys would just copy the style of Terry and the Pirates or Flash Gordon or Prince Valiant by Hal Foster. They’d copy these different guys and they’d never get out of the groove, so they don’t become original. They become imprints of their master. If you change it, then you build your own.
I never knew what my style was until one of the artists came in and I asked him, “How the hell do you know I drew it?” He said, “Oh, I can tell your style.” What was his name? His name was Katz, but he changed it when…
CB: Gil Kane.
CARDY: Gil Kane, yeah. We went to school together. Gil Kane said, “I can see your work.” A lot of other fellas, you could see their work, but I tell you when you go into the comic business, you’re going into a place where there are a lot of artists, a lot of writers, and it’s like walking into a physical maze where you walk in and out and nobody praises anybody else. You know what I mean? It’s a battle of egos.
CB: Because of competitiveness?
CARDY: Well, yeah, and also , with me, there were people who liked my work, but they never told me.
Julie Schwartz one time wrote in one of my books, you know when people write things they know about the artist, “Oh, I know him,” that sort of thing.
CB: Oh, the foreword?
CARDY: Yes. His article was “Well, the thing I remember about Nick Cardy is that he came in one day with a cover and he showed it to Carmine and Carmine said, “That wasn’t the layout I gave you,” and Nick said, “No, it’s better,” so Carmine said, “You’re fired.” Then supposedly I turned around and walked out and then Julie told Carmine, “You know, it’s a beautiful cover.” Carmine said, “All right, you’re hired.” So when I met Carmine at a convention I told the story and he said, “Nick, that’s so stupid.” We always got along. He respected my talent and I respected his opinion, because it’s a matter of when you have two heads, sometimes you get better stuff done. So I said, “Look, Julie’s right down there trying to sell his book. Let’s go see him.” So we went down and I told him the story and Carmine said, “You know how I feel about Nick. We never said that.” So Julie looked up and he said, “Well, it was a nice story anyway.” (Mutual laughter.) He had a way of brushing things off.
One time there was an artist friend of mine whose work I like very much and he was a gentleman. I met him and his wife at this motel in San Diego and we went down to have dinner at the hotel. Julie was sitting at the table and I sat at the table and we were talking and then these two people came. They hadn’t been to San Diego in years and he came up there and they were older friends that he’d known for a longer time and this other guy’s wife said, “Oh, Julie, you know I’m going to be a grandmother.” He said, “I’ve got 4 great-grandchildren.” She said, “Yeah, but you’re old.” And that was the first time I ever saw Julie Schwartz quiet. He didn’t have a comeback!
But nobody said your work was nice in the comic business. They were afraid you’d ask for a raise.
CB: Okay, that kind of makes sense. It seems like that was a big part of the business, trying to keep costs down.
CARDY: Well, when I did the Teen Titans…you’ve seen the Teen Titans, haven’t you?
CB: I sure have.
CARDY: On one of the Teen Titans covers I did a Christmas tree and the story was about Scrooge. I was reading that and so my editor says, “Hey, Nick. When was the last time you got a raise?” I said I didn’t remember. It had been quite a while. So he said, “Let’s talk to the guy and see if we can get a raise.” So we went to see the boss and he said, “Nick’s been here for 20 years and he hasn’t had a raise.” So the guy said, “Well, you know, we’re trying to cut back and get rid of the deadwood,” and there was no raise, so we walked out of there and I figured, “I’m going to do a bang-up job,” and it was that Christmas issue cover that had every little pen line, every detail. I put a lot of crap in it.
CB: I remember it. Beautiful job.
CARDY: I liked it. Only on some parts, the color was off, but it was done by a colorist that I liked and he had more experimental looseness. So I told Carmine I was going to do this cover and then I’m going to quit. He said, “Hang in there, Nick. We’re going to have some changes.” And the changes were that they made him president.
Carmine was always fair. A lot of guys liked him, but the editors were mainly the big wheels and the intelligentsia of the comics. The artists were always one step above a floor walker. (Chuckle.)
Unless you were very good, then you would be something they’d point out for other artists. “Can you emulate this guy?” And there wasn’t that much. One editor, for example…and this is a repeat. I’ve said it so often. I was doing Congo Bill, and Congo Bill and his sidekick, I forget what his name was, in those days they put sidekicks with the superheroes so this way the younger kids would get an interest and read them, too. So Batman had Robin and of course there were others, too.
Anyway this Congo Bill came to a plain where they were supposed to cross and at the end of the road in the dialogue, Congo Bill tells the kid, “We can’t cross the plain right now because the rhinoceros is charging to get the zebra for his meat.” So I tried to tell them, “You know, you can’t do that because a rhinoceros is herbivorous. It doesn’t eat meat.”
CB: That’s right.
CARDY: “What are you trying to do, break my chops or something?” Then I just decided I’d let it go. They were the boss.
Then in the same issue they were going into another plain and they wanted to get out of there. They were trapped. Something was coming up behind and he said “Look, Keaneau,” I think that was the name of the kid, “you jump on the back of that hyena and run and get help because the hyena is the fastest animal in the jungle.”
CARDY: There again I went to this guy and said, “You know, I hate to say this, but the Cheetah is the fastest animal.” And it was, “You again? What the hell?” And then when the thing was published I got the mail saying that I didn’t know anything about animals. This guy wouldn’t change for anything. His mind was made up. “You low life. You peasant. You can’t talk to the boss like that. You can’t tell him what to do.”
It was then that I understood why they call these people peons. Because everybody pees on you. (Laughter.)
CB: That’s right. You’re always wet. (Mutual laughter.)
CARDY: When you’re dealing with people in business, quite a few of them are good. The majority are nice guys. But every now and then the people with business in mind carry the green flag with the dollar sign on it. They’re thinking about keeping that company going. Whatever profits they have, which they’re entitled to get, but one time I had several artist friends I worked with and I had an agent at that time. One guy was a photographer and he would take say an Oldsmobile or a Cadillac and he would see the photograph, but he would airbrush the car in the way that he did it and it would look spectacular. Then they gave it to a different artist to do part of a little Italian villa building. So they had a guy do that. Then after he was through they had a guy who did figures that were in the doorway of that piazza, sort of leaning on a rail, looking in awe at the car. It was a beautiful illustration. So when they showed it to the guy at GM, he said, “That’s fantastic! One of the best things I’ve ever seen. It’s beautiful!” And it was. It was a beautiful job. Then came the “but.” “But I was wondering, could you possibly turn that car about a foot to the right?” (Mutual laughter.)
Now these are intelligent men. But somehow they figured the artist could do anything. (Chuckle.) How are you going to turn the thing? This is before computers. With the computers they could do it, but then… That’s the sort of thing you had to deal with. Sometimes they would give you a layout, like I went to an agency and the main art director gave you stick figures because this was a soap opera. They were selling soap or whatever it was. In the Sunday pages they had about two or three rows of these commercials that the artists did. So he’d do something with stick figures and so you modeled the stick figures and you did imaginary drawings and you made those stick figures come to life. Then when they took it to the photographers to have them photograph the models, they used what I did as a guide. If it was art, that was different, but if they wanted to do a television commercial they would use that as a guide. They would then photograph their models according to that. When you get through the man who’s going to but that thing goes up to see the art director, and he said, “Oh, this is nice. Did you do this?” He said, “Yeah, I did that.” And all he’d done were the stick figures. So if you try to step up the ladder too fast they were quick to slap you down.
But I was in luck. The age Cardyies I worked with were fantastic.
CB: It looked a little like some of your work might have been done with a grease pencil. Is that true?
CARDY: You mean the paint lines didn’t look clear? It looked like a pencil line?
CB: It just looked like it had the texture of a grease pencil.
CARDY: Did you follow a pencil line that felt that way or was it a brush that faded?
CB: I wasn’t really sure. Probably the brush.
CARDY: Well, what happens is sometimes when I do a figure or a line and I want the line to fade a little I would have full ink in it and then I would know when a brush was getting dry and I would go that way and it looked like it faded. I didn’t use grease pencils because if you went over that with watercolor the watercolor would never react to it. It’s like working on wax with watercolor. It beads.
CB: It couldn’t adhere.
CARDY: You could go over some of them, but it disturbed me, because it was something I couldn’t correct if I wanted to correct it. It was like a permanent thing.
CB: You seemed to be the perfect artist to work with Bob Haney’s scripts because he had a lot of action built into them. How was he to work with?
CARDY: Bob was a nice guy. I liked him. We were friends. The last time I met him was in San Diego . He went to live in Mexico and he used to have a beard. But Bob Haney, a lot of his strength was in the 60’s. They had the sayings, the lingo. It’s like you’re reading a comic book and the kid comes up and says, “Oh, whoop-de-doo.” Well you know the whoop-de-doo doesn’t fit today. But he had a lot of sayings from the 60’s that he kept on using into the 80’s.
CB: That doesn’t work very well.
CARDY: His stories were very good because he did a lot of writing and they kept him busy. But unlike some of the other fellas he had the dialogue of the 60’s.
CB: He just couldn’t break out, I guess.
CARDY: Well, let me put it this way: He had a lot of success with that, so he stayed with it. And there are some guys, like Mike Sekowsky, where he had his drawing down so pat he could have made a patterns for clothes. And he didn’t write.
There’s a story with Mike Sekowsky. I always get a kick out of this because I love repeating, because it’s funny to me. But maybe the people are tired of it. Roy Thomas says, “Nick Cardy’s a fine artist, but Nick, try to change to some new material.” (Chuckle.)
CB: Well, I haven’t heard the Sekowsky story, so please.
CARDY: Okay. Mike Sekowsky and I came in and delivered our jobs at the same time. 24 pages. Murray Boltinoff, the editor, looked at Mike Sekowsky’s drawings and said, “Mike, I love your work, but this is one of the lousiest jobs you’ve ever done.” Mike said, “Well, I thought you were in a hurry.” “Yeah, but this awful.” So Mike said, “Well, I pushed it a little.” So Murray gave him another script and he gave me another script at the same time and sent us on our way.
Mike was just recently married and he asked me over for dinner, and as I left, there was a little bookcase right by the door and on it were the 24 pages of art. It was for the script we’d got just a while ago. He was fast. He had it all finished. I said, “Is this an old strip?” He said, “No, that’s the one I got last week.” 24 pages. And so he’s waiting a little while until he gets a chance to go downtown and give it to Murray. So it was longer before he took it to Murray Boltinoff and this time he says, “Mike, you’re fantastic! This is great! You see what happens when you put more time into it?” And he’d put the same amount of time into it as the other job. The only difference was that he held off on the time he turned it in. (Mutual laughter.)
I did feel sorry for a lot of these editors. They had a pecking order. Every company had a pecking order.
Mike Sekowsky made me his buddy. And I’d have wanted to be his buddy, because he was a big guy. He had white hair and he had pale blue eyes and features that were a little pinkish and sometimes when he’d get a little excited, more red. It looked like he was getting angry and puffing up and getting ready to blow.
One time I was in a bar across the street where the people would go after work from DC and there was a customer giving one of the bartenders, who always knew what we wanted to drink, a hard time. I said, “Mike, you going to catch the train?” “I’m going to wait around.” He’s looking at this guy and he was holding the rounded edge of the top of the bar. And his fingers were getting white. So I started backing up. I didn’t want to be around for the explosion. (Chuckle.)
And there was another guy who used to work there. He used to have a habit, and I won’t mention his name, but he used to have these girls sitting at the table and he’d have an arrangement. When he wanted to make a good impression on this girl, he’d be talking or drinking with her; this was after work, and the guy says…he’d have some artist call him and say, “Hitchcock’s on the phone for you,” and he’d say, “Tell him I’ll call him back later.” (Mutual laughter.) When he’d do that I could see the girls’ expression and it was like, “Oh, wow!”
One time this same guy invited me and a few others to his new house in New Jersey. He had a big pool there and said, “Bring your suit.” So there were a lot of guys there and we were swimming around the pool and some other artists that came without a suit, they came with their wives and sat on the benches and were talking and then when the party was over I was invited to someone’s wedding and I was going along the buffet table and behind me were two Greek women dressed in black and they had black veils or babushkas over them and this one woman popped up and said, “Hi, Nick.” I turned around and it was one of the wives of the guys who had been sitting and talking by the pool at the other party. And she said, “Oh. I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.” And these two women in black made the sign of the cross and took off. (Laughter.)
It was like the old vaudeville they had in the burlesque houses and you’d have two rooms and in one room was a guy trying to fix a trunk or packing a trunk up, he and his wife, and another couple would be coming down the hall and are about to knock on the door, but before they knock they hear, “Did you get it in?” “I’m trying. I’m trying.” The guy is sitting on the trunk trying to close the lid and you can see that on the one side, but on the other side of the door…you know. It’s a double entendre.
You can’t really worry about what people thing. I tell you. After I got shot in the war…I got wounded twice, and I figured once I get home, I’m not going to worry about a damned thing unless somebody is shooting at me.
CB: There you go.
CARDY: Because life is too short. This is another thing I’ve said. This, again, is a repeat. They’re going to say, “You know, we’ve heard that story before.” But people want to hear it. Did you ever have situations in your life where you got really a lump in your throat? Where it was such a shock or so surprising or something that it really took you back?
CB: Oh, yes.
CARDY: Okay. So mine was when we were coming back on the freighter after the war and we went through storms for a whole week, bouncing around on that boat and when we finally stopped, one of the guys said, “Hey, Nick, can you take a couple of the guys and police the deck of cigarettes?” It was very early in the morning. I went on the deck and there was a fog and we were angry. There was nothing there. I couldn’t see where the hell we were. We could have been in San Diego, we could have been on the tip of Long Island. As we were policing, the fog started going down and I looked up and there, right above my head, was the Statue of Liberty and she was holding the book. Talk about a lump in your throat. After three years, you know? It was all worth it, and that kind of thing stays with you.
CB: I can appreciate that. I know that when I was overseas, my best friend there was an Army Captain in the Transportation Corps and he had a favorite phrase that sound like a similar philosophy. Any problem that came along, he said, “Did anybody die? No? Then we can fix it.” I thought that was the right perspective.
CARDY: Oh, yes, because did you ever find yourself in someone’s home where they’re having this big fight and you’re a bystander? You don’t know what the hell to do. I always figured it was so much a waste of energy. I know that when people live together, sometimes they crawl up each other’s back. Especially if you’re an artist or a writer, because you’re always home. When I would get a script, I’d sit down in a chair and I could read the script and write on the side what my direction would be. I’d be relaxing, but in the same room my wife would start up a vacuum cleaner and start cleaning up and I’d have to pick up one leg and the other leg and here I am sitting and she’s doing all the work. I felt guilty, so I had to go in the other room. (Chuckle.)
It wasn’t fair, because when a person goes to work, they’re about 8 hours away from home. But when you’re home all the time, you add those days up and instead of living 5 years you’ve lived almost 10 years together. You see what I mean? But anyway, when you get my age, all these little piddling things, you find they don’t mean anything.
CB: (Chuckle.) I’m very slowly beginning to gain a little bit of that wisdom myself. Did you have a favorite editor that you worked with?
CARDY: Well, I’ll tell you. The one I had, he died. He was a nice guy. He was very good. He gave me leeway because he trusted my judgment on the art and if I wanted to change something and make it 3 panels or 4 panels and I’d tell him and he’d say, “Sure.” His name was George Kashdan. Now did you mean writers or editors?
CB: Both, actually, so please.
CARDY: Well, Kashdan was the editor and sometimes he wrote stories. But Murray Boltinoff had a good brain, but guys who had been there a long time always passed the buck to him. He was a very quiet fellow. He was very serious. He didn’t have anything funny to say. When something funny happened, he’d have this smile on his face, but he wouldn’t go hog wild slapping his leg or anything. But he was a nice guy as I got to know him.
The only trouble that was a mystery with him was whenever I was in his room one time he says, “Nick, come with me.” I said “Where?” He said, “Come on. Come with me.” We go to the bathroom and he’s standing at the urinal and I said to myself, “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t have to go.” But when you’re there you get the urge to go. (Mutual laughter.)
So one time Ramona Fradon and I were on a panel and they were talking about the editors and I had just spoken about Murray and told this incident about the urinal and she said, “Well, I liked Boltinoff. He was a nice guy.” I said, “Did he ever ask you to go to the bathroom with him?” She looked at me and said, “No, he didn’t.” (Mutual laughter.) I feel like if you can’t get a laugh in life, what the hell good is it?
CB: Now you did manage something that a lot of your peers wanted to do when you got onto some syndicated strips.
CARDY: Oh, yes. When I came out of the service I had decided not to go into comics. I was working on my portfolio to go to be an illustrator. But in those days I used to go to the Illustrator’s Society. I wasn’t a member, but I’d go there and they would have the originals hanging on the wall. I looked up how many artists that they had at the Illustrator’s Society. At that time they had about 400 artists that were very good. Half of them were at the very top. The rest were very adequate and I figured, “How am I going to compete with these guys?”
So I finally broke it all down carefully and I came to the ones that had humor and there were few of those. And some of them, when they were humorous, a lot of these fellas didn’t do the originals from their head. They did them with models that they’d photographed. In my case, I couldn’t afford to photograph a model, so I did everything. I did caricatures, for examples, of celebrities, but I didn’t go overboard. Like the guy who used to do the caricatures for the New York Times. I forget his name. He was fantastic. He used to hit it right on the head. He’d do Katharine Hepburn and you could tell it was her. But my God, when he had a point to exaggerate, he’d exaggerate it. There were these three models that were beauts, and this lady that was on in years, she came along with them and my wife had a habit that got me annoyed in a sense. I wasn’t really angry, but I’d show off a drawing. So she said, “Hey, Nick, why don’t you draw caricatures of them?” So I made caricatures and of course when you make a caricature, you exaggerate.
CARDY: If the mouth is bigger in proportion to the nose, then you make it bigger, and so forth. And when they showed it to the girl, it was, “Oh, yeah, that’s nice.” These were the kind of girls who could never go by a mirror without stopping. Or even a store window. So when I did this, they saw these distortions and it was, “Oh, that’s nice,” but with the old lady I left the wrinkles out and she thought I was St. Peter. (Laughter.) And you could see the light in her eyes. “Oh, my! That’s beautiful!” I’d tucked her chin in and I’ll tell you, I’m a fantastic plastic surgeon. (Mutual laughter.)
CB: You made an instant fan there.
CARDY: Oh, yeah. I could make them really ugly and this guy from the Times I was mentioning, he could do it, but he had the likeness and he hit it on every one he ever did. He’d do that every Sunday on the Times page.
But with my wife, the last time we did it, her younger brother, who was married and they’d just had a baby and she said, “Oh, Nick. It’s adorable! Why don’t you do a drawing of it?” I said, “It’s too small. They all look like Winston Churchill.” They do! Have you ever seen a picture of Winston Churchill? They all look exactly like that. If you take out the cigar and put a pacifier in there, you’ve got it.
So I did the pencil sketch, but she had 14 cousins or so and it was, “Oh, how nice. Could you do this on my son?” It just kept going on and I had to do it for people I didn’t really like. They didn’t like me, but they took it anyway. And I did some of the parents, and after it was all over I did about 40 drawings without getting a cent. (Chuckle.)
CB: Oh, geez. You started a new career there.
CARDY: Well, at least I like drawing faces, but then there’s sometimes I used to take my work to a vacation. I worked in every room in the house from the basement, usually, because it was the coolest. They didn’t have air conditioning. Sometimes I’d work up in the attic and you’d hear all the laughter in the yard or sometimes I’d be in the cellar surrounded by all the preserves in the jars. (Chuckle.) After a while I began to feel like a preserve.
CB: Hard to get a good light source, I imagine.
CARDY: You had to bring your own. But, that’s part of life, you know?
CB: When you worked on the Batman strip, how did that assignment come about?
CARDY: What happened was when I came out of the service, as I mentioned before, I wasn’t going to do any comics, so I was doing covers for some magazines. They weren’t the big magazines, but they were paying a fantastic price. $100.00 or so. Just about the same as a model. You’d pay the model $100.00. With a model it’s different. You’re informing the people that they like your work. But then you could get the original back and you could sell it. In the old days they used to put them in the trash can.
I met a guy who was a production manager that had a little garbage pail and he had all these stacks of pages and he’d tear them up and throw them in a bucket. He’d tear them in half and throw them into the bucket. Then I saw this big lineup. He had all these stacks of drawings going up about 5 feet high. When he left I’d pull out the Teen Titans and Bat Lash and took them home with me.
CB: Good for you.
CARDY: They never gave them back. Then when you get them back, you can save them, but at that time they were just going to be torn up and thrown away. At that time they felt they had the right because they paid me for it. What they’re really paying for is production rights.
The thing is that if you know how to talk legalese, where a period or a comma make a big difference…well, let’s just say it’s a good idea to have a good agent.
So when I came back I started doing my samples and then I did some of these covers and that was to pay for the expenses. Then someone called up and said, “Nick, could you do the daily strip for Tarzan?” Burne Hogarth was the writer at the time and through him I would get a script and I did Tarzan. After that, I did the Casey Ruggles strip.
I had a book out and I was going to make a cover. It was all daily strips that I had done and some that weren’t sold and any art that had to do with dailies. I was going to have my cover with me in the nude and I had my arms wide and daily strip went right across my crotch and I was holding it at both ends. The title was, “Nick Cardy Strips.”
CB: (Laughter.) Very clever.
CARDY: I never used it because I figured people would think, “Boy, this guy’s really a dirty old man.” I wanted to be safe and innocent, but I wish I had done that cover. Someday I’ll make a sketch of it and show it.
The book was done in paperback and printed in Canada and I think it’s out of print. It’s very hard to get one of those books now. Have you seen my book? The last one that came out?
CB: I haven’t managed to get a copy yet. It’s on my list and I’m aware of it.
CARDY: Sometimes my books have the same covers in them. They try to get me to change things, but the last one was where I have some stuff from the portfolio and I have some war scenes and some of the advertising work I did and the western paintings. It has a bunch of stuff. So this one here…the one that’s coming out, is stuff that’s never been seen before. It’s all from combat. Then they want to make one that features the humorous things I’ve done.
CB: That would be a treat.
CARDY: Then another one that Renee wants to do…I have about three western paintings and they’re 24” x 36”. Real oil paintings. Using that along with Bat Lash, we could make a western series.
Now I got a check for one of these covers and my God, now I’m getting money where I could have used it 40 years ago. (Chuckle.)
CB: I’m reminded of an interview with Paul McCartney where he was being honored with a customized guitar and he said something to the effect, “I remember when I couldn’t afford one of these and now they’re giving them to me.”
CARDY: It’s just like in the Army. I was in the Army and I got to drawing a little and this Red Cross nurse came along and she saw my combat sketches and some of my drawings in my office, the duffel bag, you remember, and she said, “Can I borrow this to show at an exhibit in Paris?” I said, “Sure,” but I don’t know where the hell it was exhibited. But then I got an offer from the Army in the information and education department that said, “You’re an artist. We can use you.” I said, “Were the hell were you three years ago?” When you’re in one of those positions you’re dealing with people who are just Army people. You don’t have to do any shooting. I was an expert with a rifle, but as far as cleaning it, forget it. (Mutual laughter.)
CB: It seems like you would have been a natural to work on Eisner’s P.S. Magazine.
CARDY: Well, I called him and he said he wasn’t involved in the hiring and couldn’t do anything about it. He didn’t want to rock the boat.
CB: Are you still going to conventions?
CARDY: San Diego invited me this year, but I had fallen down. I was carrying some groceries up my stairs in the carport. The concrete driveway. As I was on the second stair the wind blew the door into me and I had both arms full of groceries and I fell backwards on the concrete. It took me awhile to get up. I didn’t want to get up too quickly because I’d bumped my head. I wanted to get up slowly in case anything was broken. I didn’t want to aggravate it. I got up fine, got into a chair and called my doctor and he said to come over and he’d take a look. But then when I went to lie down on the bed…when you go to bed, you sit at the edge of the bed first, then you wiggle back and sling yourself into the position in the middle where you’ll get comfortable. So I sat on the bed and tried to get my feet up, but I couldn’t because pain ran from the top of my head all the way down to my toes.
CB: Oh, no.
CARDY: So I stayed in that one position. They took X-rays and everything else and then it got to where I lost weight and my hand wasn’t accurate any more. It was shaky. It took about a month or so and I had to stop going to conventions. Because if I got up too fast and turned, it could be a problem. I didn’t want to go to the airport myself. The only thing I was thinking was that if I go to the airport I’m going to fall down and I might as well bring a hat with me. This way, if I fall down, the hat will be in my hand and when I’m on the floor people can drop whatever they want into the hat. (Mutual laughter.) Make it pay, you know?
CB: Are you still doing commissions?
CARDY: I do some. Most of them are recreations of covers that I had done before.
CB: I’m sure those are very popular.
CARDY: A lot of them are from Bat Lash, but the sad thing is that every now and then you do a cover or a drawing and you charge a certain amount…a lot of the artists get pissed off because say you did a drawing and charged $50.00 for a quick sketch and then they will send it to eBay and get maybe three times the amount for it.
CB: Flipping them. Yeah.
CARDY: A lot of artists got angry about that, so they boosted up their prices. Meanwhile the poor guy that just wanted the picture to hang on the wall in his house had to suffer.
CB: Everybody pays for the few bad apples, it seems.
CARDY: So that’s the freelance work that I do now. Sometimes for an article in the paper they’ll want me to do a drawing. I’m always home. Right now I’m getting a Bat Lash done for Alter Ego for an issue coming out in the fall. They’re doing an article and it talks about how they like my work and respect my work and then there’s that comment again: “Nick, try to get some new material.” (Chuckle.) Then when I called up the writer had interviewed me and he has it all set and then he said he spoke to Roy Thomas and Roy Thomas says, “Has Nick got any originals?” I thought he meant if I had any original art around. Then I knew what he meant. Originals for the book. So I decided to do some.
CB: That will be great.
CARDY: Because if you open the book, otherwise it would be, “I’ve seen that before.”
When you have different people that are in this business, they mention, I’m looking up a writer and they’ll say, “Stroud…Stroud…Dan Stroud, the movie actor.” And then they know what you do. With me they’ll look me up and they probably have the old prints that have been there for years and when they do the write-up all they can show are the prints they have on file. And my files have been shown many times.
CB: I guess you could call them classics.
CARDY: I would like to redo some of the coloring on my covers that I have done or any piece of art. I spoke to my agent and I said, “I want to redo the colors.” “Don’t touch the colors. That may be what they want.” I wish I could give them something that I could color myself. But they probably wouldn’t like it as much as the old one. When you get something nostalgic, they’re attached to that and then when you do something different, try to improve it, it doesn’t look like the original and they don’t like it as much. It’s like seeing a movie you’d seen before with some actors you like and then a new version comes along and they go in a slightly different direction but you don’t care for it. You still like the impression the original left on you.
CB: Yeah, when the nostalgia factor kicks in, nothing else will do. I know when I talk to your old buddy Al Plastino, he says…
CARDY: Somebody called me for some anecdotes about Al. We were in school together. We did a mural together and I have part of that picture where it shows me mixing colors and he’s on a ladder or something right alongside me, but you don’t see his face, but you can see the painting of his face. I did the heads and he did the figures. I never knew what happened to it. We never finished it.
I’ll tell you a story. Did you know that I sang on the Metropolitan stage?
CARDY: Yeah, I did.
CB: Wow! How did you pull that off, Nick?
CARDY: Oh, it was my voice. Let me put it this way: They had picked out a chorus from all the different high schools and I was one of about 200 that sang on the Metropolitan stage as a group. (Chuckle.) But when people hear that they think you’re an opera singer or something. I wanted to sound big. (Laughter.) But I actually did. I think we sang something from an opera. I used to know the name of every composer and every bit of music and who performed it. Today I don’t even know what the hell I had for breakfast. (Chuckle.) I apologize at first if I can’t remember something from 60 years ago and I bounce around like I did today.