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June 19, 2016

Mick Gray: A Super Dad on Superman


Father’s Day is a great time to talk about the new DC comic Superman --- Chapter One: “The Son of Superman” featuring the original super family especially when you get to talk to its inker, Mick Gray. Gray also worked on another epic father-son team, Batman and Robin. Mick Gray (Superman, Batman and Robin, Promethea) is a staple at San Francisco Bay Area conventions --- and so is his daughter, 15-year-old Genevieve, a talented musician and artist. If you’ve been to a Bay Area show any time in the last five years, you’ve seen the younger Gray grow up. Even as Gen hits her teen years, the father-daughter team is inseparable (now that is a feat), and they even have written a children’s book together: AL B. MOUSE'S ABECEDARIUM. 

To celebrate Father's Day, Mick and Gen Gray were at Flying Colors Comics in Concord, California, where Mick was signing Superman No. 1 “The Son of Superman” along with many of his other works, including Flash, Joker and Batman and Robin. What better way to spend Father’s Day weekend than signing comics in the company of your daughter, especially when the featured comic is a book about a super dad. Superman No. 1 begins with Superman shedding his dark persona for one where “the colors fly.” The young Jon Kent also has superpowers, and Clark Kent is going to have his hands full trying to help his son not only control but come to terms with those powers. 

Gray has been an inker for 26 years and has been working with Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason for the past five years on the Batman and Robin series. They’ve now added the superhero family Superman to their repertoire, which includes Clark and Lois Kent and their son, Jon. But can Clark live up to the standards set by the original earthly patriarch, Jonathan Kent? So far it seems like that’s the plan --- the Kents live on a farm, and to their neighbors they are just another normal family. This book looks to restore hope and optimism to the Superman story line.

At Flying Colors Comics, the signature line was steady throughout the day for this nostalgic look at the first superhero. But does Superman resonate with today’s readers? As one young man put it, “I always disliked Superman, but I really enjoyed this book.” Maybe he saw himself in the work, or his family, or realized that today’s Superman is a great character with something to present readers across the pages. As Gray notes, “Some people are buying our work for the art and if it can hold them, that’s even better.” The inker’s art is prominent in Superman, especially throughout the dark opening that features blacks done by brush that Gray favors. Gray is enthusiastic about art and looks over one portfolio carefully offering positive feedback. He has a knack for knowing what to say, which is probably what makes him a great instructor. Gray teaches undergraduate and graduate inking courses at the Academy of Art in San Francisco.

The question remains: What makes Superman appealing in this day and age? “He’s the persona of America. Someone we all grew up with and all across the world everyone knows who he is. Everyone can connect to him. It was a real honor to work on,” Gray says. When working on Batman and Robin, Gray got emails from dads saying, “Me and my son read Batman and Robin together and cried when Damian died. That’s a powerful message.” We have to wait for reader responses on this brand new title, but this reader looks forward to seeing how the young Jon Kent handles his super powers and how the super dad, Clark Kent, deals with a super tween.