Leading Up To Comics
When Mick was growing up in Cupertino, California, he loved to draw. His dad built him his first drawing board at the age of 12. He never thought about being a comic book artist. He was too much of a realist to think that he could do such a thing. Instead he focused himself on being a draftsman, taking every course on the subject he could throughout junior high and high school.
Hitting The Board
At 16, Mick got his first job as a draftsman at a Silicon Valley tech company. This company made it possible for him to gain on-the-job experience and attend college at the same time. By the time Mick had received his A.S. degree in technical illustration, the company was losing steam and then when bankrupt. This gave Mick the shove he needed to start his own illustration business, Draftecnix.
The Big Break
Mick had been working as a freelance illustrator for a few years when, in 1988, his long time friend, Ron Magee, suggested to Dan Vado of Slave Labor Graphics that Mick might be able to help him on some of his books. This was Mick’s big break into comics. Dan hired Mick to do background inks on his books THE GRIFFIN and HERO SANDWICH. At that time Mick met artist Alex Sheikman and co-inked his book BLOODLUST for Slave Labor. Through his connections at Slave Labor, Mick met Chuck Austen. Chuck took Mick under his wing, hiring him to do all background inks on his books STRIPS and HARDBALL!. Around this same time Mick assisted Austen, inking a BUCK ROGERS three issue mini series for TSR. This book was pencilled by Frank Cirocco, known for co-creating and pencilling ALIEN LEGION for Epic comics in 1984.
The Snowball Starts Rolling
While all this was happening Dan Vado sold publishing rights for THE GRIFFIN to DC comics. This is where the snowball really started to roll! DC decided to redo all the art for the new Version of THE GRIFFIN. Norman Felchle would still do all the pencils as in the original version, but a new inker would be brought into the fold–Mark McKenna. Mark saw Mick’s name on the original editions of the book and was looking to hire an assistant. He called Mick one day in 1990, from his home in Boundbrook, New Jersey, asking if he would like to help out. Mick jumped at the chance to work on a DC comic book! This was just the start of what would become a 6 year trans-continental partnership with McKenna, that included the chance to ink over somewhere around 30 different pencillers on DC and Marvel books like THE PUNISHER, X-MEN UNLIMITED, DARKHOLD, SPIDERMAN, SPARTAN, HAWKMAN and NOMAD. Another opportunity to ink friend Frank Cirocco came up at this time when Mark was hired to ink DEFENDERS OF DYNATRON CITY for Marvel. Working with Mark was one of the most fullfilling experences in Mick’s career and to this day they are like long-lost brothers!
Starting To Get Known
Around this time Marvel editor, Don Daley, hired Mick to do one page of inks on PUNISHER #100. In the meantime, Mick took the opportunity at local comic conventions to meet other comic inkers. Randy Emberlin and Ian Akin were two that hired Mick to assist them on books such as AMAZING SPIDERMAN and DARKHAWK. Also, as if Mick was not busy enough, he met Michael Thibodeaux and Richard French of Genesis West Publishing. They hired Mick to do inks on PHANTOM FORCE, a book that was co-created by Michael Thibodeaux and Jack Kirby. This was the first book of “full inks” Mick had been hired for and he would be thrown in full force. Before he knew it he was inking a splash page pencilled by Jack Kirby, himself! This was a little scary for a “newbie” but after a few months of getting up enough nerve and studying old Kirby stuff, he did it! And Jack himself was pleased! This led to Mick doing two more Kirby pieces. Unfortunately, Jack passed away shortly after. Mick to this day talks of what an honor it was it have inked over “The King”.
J.H. Williams and Mick Gray
Mick met J.H. Williams III while sitting next to him on artist alley at WonderCon in 1994. They struck up a friendship and promised to stay in touch. 1995 was the year that the first published art by Williams and Gray saw the light of day. It was a JUDGE DREAD pin-up in the WonderCon convention program. WOLVERINE ’95 was the first book they worked on together, but it also included Mick’s old partner, Mark Mckenna. From there a string of DC projects emerged: UNDERWORLD UNLEASHED: HELL’S SENTINALS, BATMAN #526, GREEN LANTERN #80, BATMAN ANNUAL #21, FLASH ANNUAL #9,X-MEN #46 and 47,LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #86,87 and 88, STARMAN #26, STARMAN ANNUAL VOL. 2 #1, TANGENT: GREEN LANTERN #1, CHRONOS #1,000,000, CREEPER #9 and also the wonderful, JUSTICE RIDERS graphic novel.
Mick’s First Ongoing Series
J.H. Williams III and, his old pal, D. Curtis Johnson were asked to develop a female hero for DC sometime around 1997. What they came up with was a character named CHASE. This book was publish by DC for 11 issues but was cancelled due to poor sales. Fans of this book still to this day ask Mick if it will ever come back. We all hope one day it will return!
When Frank Cirocco started to getting deep into doing art for the video game industry, Mick was hired by Frank to be his inker on two very large projects, one was a READER RABBIT educational game for The Learning Company and the other was the video game adaption of CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS for Rocket Science. After more one-shots and while gaining a highly respected reputation in comics, Williams and Gray were asked to work on a new book by acclaimed writer Alan Moore.
Wildstorm Comics had just offered Alan Moore his own line of comics, when artist Alex Ross suggested that Williams and Gray would be the perfect fit on one of the books in the line called PROMETHEA. And was he right! Williams exploded with creative genius from the first issue. The channeling of energy between Moore and Williams was obvious as this series took flight. Mick’s inking took on a life of its own and was pushed to new limits as J.H. channeled that same energy on down to him. The whole team on this book became one entity. And it showed in the finished product. Award nominations piled up as the series went on. Including an Eisner award win for “Best Single Issue – PROMETHEA #10, 2001″.
As this series comes to a close on issue #32, Mick looks at this project as one of the greatest comics ever done! Well, maybe he is a little biased, but he just thinks that this book is definitely one of the most innovative comics of all time. Working with J.H. Williams III was the most exciting and rewarding time of his career…so far! They will most definitely work together again in the future and the friendship they built will go on forever.
When things started to slow down on PROMETHEA Mick took on other inking jobs to fill in. One of those was DETECTIVE COMICS #767 and #768 over Steve Lieber, HAWKMAN #13 over Ethan Van Sciver and a nice chunk of Lee Bermejo’s BATMAN/DEATHBLOW. There was also a string of SECRET FILES stories, a GREEN LANTERN inventory story and pinups over many different artists.
After inking Ryan Sook on the cover of the last issue of DARK HORSE PRESENTS, Ryan and Mick wanted to work together again in the future. That opportunity came up a couple years later with the chance to take over as the regular team on DETECTIVE COMICS for DC. Unfortunately, it all fell through after completing one amazing single issue that may never see the light of day. But that would not be the last you heard of the Sook and Gray team. In 2004 Mick worked with Ryan on an arc of HAWKMAN, starting with issue #28, for DC comics. Ryan is another artist Mick is very proud to have worked with. His talent is of the same high standard as J.H. Williams III and the artist who gave Ryan his start in comics, Mike Mignolia. At this time Mick signed an exclusive contract with DC Comics. Also at this time Mick is inking his first animated style book for DC, JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURES pencilled by Tim Levins. With another nomination for a “Best Inker” award at the Harvey’s this year, things look pretty good for a guy who never thought he would even have a chance in the crazy industry.
And Mick is still working steadily for DC Comics today!