At NYCC ’19 I had the opportunity to take a few minutes and interview one of my favorite modern cartoonists, Ben Caldwell. His career has spanned the likes of how-to-draw books to mainstream DC and Marvel comics, so we discussed his origin story, an upcoming project with Frank Miller, and more.
AiPT!: How did you get into the comics industry? I looked online and there’s not a whole ton of information about you.
Ben Caldwell: Sure. I always wanted to, do comics but I got sidetracked out of college with working at a children’s book company and doing children’s books.
AiPT!: Which children’s book company was that?
BC: It was Philomel, it’s a division of Penguin. And then I switched over to work at Marvel’s toy division. I worked there for several years before I decided to try and get back into comics. And I showed some of my stuff to someone at Marvel who liked it, but he left afterwards and no on else was interested. So I decided to take the direct approach and take a portfolio to San Diego Comic Con. That was 2002. Most people hated my stuff, they thought it was too cartoony. Fortunately for me a couple of people liked it and those people were editors and they gave me a couple of jobs which led to a couple of more. So that kept me busy. It was a slow start but it was my start.
AiPT!: That’s great. So I know your stuff mostly from your how-to-draw books and also what was that line of adapting classic literature?
BC: All Action Classics, yes.
AiPT!: When did that fit into your career?
BC: When I was working at Marvel’s toy division, Marvel was very careful with their cash. So they rented out part of their offices to another publisher. A children’s book publisher. And one day a lady from that office saw me in the hall and said, hey, you work at that toy place—do you know anyone who would be interested in doing a book on how to draw cartoons? I said sure and that was that.
They liked the work I did on that book and so every time I met them I always had various books like Pride and Prejudice or The Odyssey in my hand. And so they asked if I would be interested in doing classic comics and it’s hard to say no to that, so that kind-of worked itself out.
AiPT!: Are those all the ones that are going to be made of the literary adaptions [Dracula, Tom Sawyer, The Odyssey, The Wizard of Oz]? Or are there any more planned?
BC: As far as I know it’s just those four.
AiPT!: That’s too bad.
BC: Right. I mean, they are re-releasing those four again now. Two of them were just re-released this year, Dracula and The Wizard of Oz. And the other two are being released I believe next year. At that point they might choose to expand on that. But I’m not sure to be honest with you, I’ve been busy with other projects so it’s not something we’ve really talked about.
AiPT!: So on that note, what other projects are you busy with at the moment?
BC: Well right now my main consuming project is I’m doing a graphic novel with Frank Miller. It’s a Carrie Kelley comic. It’s a spin off of, of course, The Dark Knight Returns. That’s been a lot of fun. That’ll probably be coming out next fall. Right now, that’s pretty much it. It’s 200 pages or so of comic book, so that’s been a pretty full-time occupation.
AiPT!: That’s all going to be released as just one graphic novel?
BC: As far as I know it’s going to be a single graphic novel.
AiPT!: OK! Thank you very much.
BC: Sure thing.