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Bob McLeod, Artist: Living Life Well

Despite a successful career in a sharply competitive field, Emmaus’s Bob McLeod remains down-to-earth and authentic.

Best known for co-creating four of the original five New Mutants with writer Chris Claremont, McLeod has worked for Marvel and DC Comics on projects featuring such iconic figures as the Incredible Hulk, Conan the Barbarian, Superman, Spiderman and Wonder Woman.

McLeod and his wife Lucy settled in Emmaus in 1989 after McLeod’s sister and a friend who ran a print shop recommended the town to them in separate conversations. McLeod had come a long way from his Florida roots.

By the age of 5, McLeod decided he wanted to become a comic book artist, a goal supported by his parents. Consequently, after high school, he briefly attended Auburn University and the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. His enrollment in the Art Institute ended after an instructor recognized his talent and suggested he forgo class work and begin his career in New York City, then the hub of comic book publishing.

McLeod took his advice.

However, once in the Big Apple, he recognized that although drawing had always come easily, he lacked background in theory. He was to gain the exposure he required through rigorous independent study and on-the-job training.

In his search for work, McLeod fortuitously bumped into a high school acquaintance, Pat Broderick. Broderick was working in an apprenticeship program at DC Comics and had met Neal Adams, the top comic book artist of the day. At Broderick’s urging, McLeod arranged to met with Adams. By this time, he was down to his last $10 and considering returning home.

The discussion proved to be a turning point. Adams asked him, “What [kind of work] do you want?” McLeod replied, “Anything that pays.”

Adams contacted Marvel Comics and McLeod began work in their production department. Here he was exposed to the work of the best artists; he studied their techniques and made connections in the comic art world.

While honing his skills McLeod inadvertently became a member of the Crusty Bunkers. So named by Adams’s young daughter, the Crusty Bunkers was a group of artists working at Adams’ Continuity Studios.

Because of his heavy work schedule, Adams would periodically permit these artists to ink work which he oversaw. He generously reimbursed them at the rate he was paid for whatever work they completed.

Major contributors to any comic book art are the inker and the penciller. Talent plus aptitude plus hard work plus study gave McLeod the skill set to work in both areas.

In layman’s terms, the penciller creates the sketches that carry the story. In some cases, these drawings are extremely rough. The inker has the job of bringing the sketches to life. A good inker is adept at brush and pencil work and develops characters that engage the reader. As stated by McLeod, “[The] inker needs to make an arm look like an arm.”

Accomplishing this task means envisioning the characters in 3D and building them from the inside out.

According to McLeod, for the comic artist, copying from life is less significant than mastering one’s own stylized version of reality.

McLeod spent five years as an inker and then branched out into penciling.

Although he enjoys penciling and inking his own creations, he said “It’s fun to ink other artists’ work [as well].” In fact, he credits working with other artists for deepening his understanding of creative processes and styles, knowledge that has enhanced his own productions.

Although he loves his work, McLeod is clear about the challenges and obstacles faced by those entering this field of endeavor.

Since he first arrived in New York City, comic book publishing has expanded into an extremely demanding worldwide industry. Today, hundreds of publishers exist; however, an artist seeking employment with a major company must rank among the best of the best and possess a strong work ethic.

For much of his career, McLeod developed comics for monthly publication. This meant completing at least a page a day in order to meet the required deadline.

The job also demands adaptability and willingness to work as part of a team. The editor often hires script writers and artists who coordinate their efforts. Team members must be flexible.

McLeod has been in the comic industry a long time and through a combination of talent, persistence and sweat, has achieved success and recognition.

He gave the keynote speech at the 2012 Inkwell Awards Ceremony at HeroesCon and was presented with the Inkwell Awards Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award in 2018.

When asked about future plans, he smiled and said, “I’m trying to retire, [but] everybody wants me to do comic art.”

As a self-taught artist who spent most of his career working in black and white, he would like to take some time out to experiment with color. There is a mill in Virginia and several landscapes that are calling for McLeod to paint them. He will undoubtedly bring them into focus with his own unique touch.

PRESS PHOTO BY BEVERLY SPRINGER Emmaus's Bob McLeod, successful comic book artist, stands before the Emmaus Library mural.