Gerry Acerno
(Inker - DC Comics; Shadow Lady)
Gerry AcernoI guess I could always draw. Or at least my peers thought so. The earliest thing I ever remember drawing was a “differential” at age five. WHAT, You say? You know, that big round thing located in the middle of the rear axle of a truck. It houses all the gearing that makes the wheels spin and is supplied power via the driveshaft. Yeah, I knew this stuff when I was five. Don’t ask me how. I would spend the next seven or eight years drawing cars, trucks and airplanes—stuff that moved. When I was twelve, my brother introduced me to MAD magazine and I was hooked! The work done by Mort Drucker and Angelo Torres was a revelation. It was funny and realistic at the same time. So impressed was I, an attempt was made at doing my first TV satire “Kung Phooey” (which pre-dated a certain lame cartoon series with a similar name by two years). Never finished, I moved on to “The Six Million Dollar Ham” and so forth. By the time I was in 8th grade, my penchant for creating satire was pretty evident and I found myself being goaded into drawing things such as having a teacher popping out of a toilet or President Nixon in a boxing match with Breshznev. That year, I created “Flip-Book Funnies”, a rudimentary form of animation that depicted things like Doodles Weaver getting hit by pies or a teacher eating a bowel movement instead of a kielbasi. Never the less, I won the art medal upon graduation. My class prediction; Artist for Mad magazine. And this was in parochial school, mind you. What a great country!

In High School, I was introduced to the world of comic book collecting,. Immediately, I wanted to find all the back issues of MAD. I found out that they were published by a company called EC. So I started collecting the Science Fiction, Shock and Horror titles as well. I pored over this stuff and slowly realized that if I wanted to draw as funny as Mort Drucker, I would have to draw as well as him. What a challenge. I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the comics being currently published, except for DC’s Famous First Editions and Alan Lights’ reprints. There was something about golden Age comics that just grabbed me . Within time, I discovered the work of Will Eisner, Al Williamson and Wally Wood. By my junior year, I started collecting “Good –Girl” art comics of the forties and fifties. Bill Ward, Al Feldstein, Chuck Cuidera became among my favorites. I then came across the art of John Willie and his “Sweet Gwendoline” strip that had been published in “Bizarre.” It started me on learning how to draw women and clothing. All throughout High School, everything I drew was strictly instinctive. Armed with a #2 pencil and a couple of rapidographs, I continued to skewer any “sacred” cow I encountered, whether it be the establishment, disco or authority. Technique and academic grounding had no place in my repertoire. I would eventually learn otherwise. By the Senior year, I figured that I would be more suited to work for National Lampoon considering I was out-growing Mad. Enrolled in commercial art classes and Television workshop, I decided on a career as a commercial artist. Cartooning, I was told, involved mailing out packages of art samples every week to magazine editors in hopes of getting published. I wanted a regular paying job, not a possible-maybe. That year, I was introduced to Jack Adler (production VP at DC comics) by a guidance counselor. He gave me a lot of encouragement based on the fact that I was not a typical “clone” of superhero wannabe’s. He suggested that I learn printing/production management. I enrolled in New York City Technical College and got my Associates degree.

Over the next couple of years, I finally started to look into the “academic” approach of creating art. During this time I also found out that comic book art was inked mostly with BRUSH and India ink. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Suddenly, shadows and other atmospheric effects could be created. I took to feathering like a fish to water. These techniques added even more dimension to the art. Lighting effects and “black spotting” naturally followed. “So this is how it's done,” I thought. Keeping in touch with Jack over the years paid off, ‘cause he hired me to work in the “Dynamic” DC darkroom when I was 20. Here, I learned the ENTIRE process of how comics were made. Watching Gaspar Saladino and Todd Klein do lettering helped me a lot in that discipline. Shooting stats of 100’s of pages of art exposed me to the different styles that passed through DC; Kaluta, Infantino, Kubert, Andru , Giordano and my favorite, Garcia Lopez! My senses were exploding, being exposed to this stuff.

Working in the darkroom made it possible for me to make copies of penciled pages, which I thought were incredible. I started inking them on vellum as I decided to take a shot at becoming an inker. Dick Giordano encouraged me greatly and gave me weekly critiques. The darkroom gig didn’t last, but I was determined to make it as an inker. In 1982, I met Dave Simons at the EC convention in New York and he hired me to ink backgrounds on the original Ghost Rider series for Marvel. After barraging DC and Marvel with samples over the next two years, Marvel Age editor, Jim Salicrup decided to run my samples in the new talent department of that magazine. (issue #17) During this time, I hooked up with Andy Mushynsky who was inking Power Man/Iron Fist. He hired me on to ink backgrounds and secondary figures. When he left to ink GI Joe, I saw this as my big chance to make my move. I had inked some of Greg LaRocque’s pencils on vellum (he was drawing the book at the time). I also showed editor Denny O’Neil a couple of pages that I inked over Steve Lightel’s first job for DC (EKKO). I was tried out on PM/IF #110 and stayed with the series almost to its bitter end. By then, I was kind of burned out on inking and I think it showed. I got back into drawing, drawing and more drawing. Fascinated by Dave Stevens’ Rocketeer series, I realized that a “period” style comic could work if done right. I did manage to ink some “Golden Age” type stuff for Roy Thomas at DC — Secret Origins and All Star Squadron.

In need of a steady income, I took Joe Orlando’s offer to work in house at DC and for the next three years, I established myself as “Mr. Art Correction guy. Re-drawing many covers for the “Archives” series, changing Dr. Fate’s sex, doing massive art extensions for promotions as well as lettering and design work.

By 1992, I thought it was time for a change — and an opportunity to start making some real money, so I moved to LA and got involved in the animation business. Along with meeting my future wife, getting married and starting a family, I picked up a tremendous amount of experience doing storyboards, background layout, production design and movie poster comps. During this broad range of experience I worked on the X-Men animated series as well as Pocahontas 2, poster comp work for “Gladiator,” “u-571,” Runaway Bride” and “Charlie’s Angels.” During this time, I created, wrote, penciled and inked “Shadow Lady” which was published in Images’ “Big Bang Comics.” Having moved back to good old New York, I am now creating top notch cover re-creations as well as commissions in the “Good Girl” art genre.
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