“The Ballad of Brett Breeding”
By Ron Frenz, as told to Ben Herman
Nobody deserved this Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award more than Brett Breeding!
A bold declaration, to be sure. Well, allow me to make my case in both mundane and hyperbolic terms forthwith:
Brett Breeding is exactly the same age as the Modern Marvel Universe!
It is quite possible that the resulting wave of creative energy caused by Mr. Breeding’s very birth on June 13th of 1961 cascaded across the tri-state area to light the creative torch which, in the hands of Mr. Kirby and Mr. Lee, became the foundation of the Marvel Universe!
Right out of a high-school life spent reading and studying Marvel and DC comics, the artist met and began working for Bob Layton as his background assistant on his and David Michelinie’s popular run on Iron Man. Breeding also inked backgrounds for Layton on the 1981 Marvel/DC intercompany crossover “Superman vs. Spider-Man” (published as Marvel Treasury Edition #28). He received his first in-print credit as the inking assistant to Al Milgrom on Amazing Spider-Man #208 in 1980.
After paying his dues on short stories for DC Comics’ supernatural anthology titles and on the “Green Arrow” back-up feature in World’s Finest Comics pencilled by Trevor Von Eeden, Breeding’s early full issue inking credits were over no lesser luminaries than Don Heck and George Pérez on DC’s Justice League of America before moving back to Marvel for an extended run.
Brett continued to develop and thrive as one of the industry’s leading “finishers.” This became a bit of a standard in the early 1980s with the penciller doing less than full pencil illustrations and moving on to the next assignment, leaving the ink artist to complete the fine details, line quality, textures and black placements to finish the artwork.
At this point, yours truly entered this saga as the happy recipient of Mr. Breeding’s brilliant brushwork. At the time Brett was transitioning from his original pen-centered technique ‘a la mentors Bob Layton & Dick Giordano to a more confident brush approach modelled by the work of inking stalwarts such as Klaus Janson and Tom Palmer. Our first collaboration was on Amazing Spider-Man #252 in 1984–both as fill-in guys, along with Tom DeFalco scripting over Roger Stern’s plot. But from such humble beginnings sprang a fruitful collaboration, and over the next two decades Brett and I worked together on Marvel Saga, Kickers Inc, Thor, Superman, A-Next and Untold Tales Of Spider-Man.
Amongst the numerous other peerless pencillers graced by Brett Breeding’s fine ink lines during the ’80s were such talented individuals as Steve Ditko, Jim Mooney, John Buscema, Keith Pollard, Bob Hall, Rich Buckler, David Mazzucchelli and Luke McDonnell. Brett acquitted himself admirably when embellishing such a diverse selection of pencilling styles.
As Brett’s control over his inking techniques became greater and greater, it surprised no one that he became a linchpin in the pantheon of creators gathered by editor Mike Carlin back at DC Comics from the late 1980s onwards to produce the family of Superman titles. Brett’s finishing work over Dan Jurgens’ pencils leading up to, and beyond, the “Death of Superman” saga has become deservedly legendary.
Mr. Breeding’s lengthy tenure on the Superman comics also provided him with the opportunity to embellish Kerry Gammill, Bob McLeod, Tom Grummett and Paul Ryan. Brett’s mastery of texture and black placement, paired with his increasingly bold brush strokes, quickly became an inking standard not only for the Superman line but for the industry itself.
For the last decade-and-a-half, Brett has become the standard bearer as finisher of artwork for DC Licensing, which has enabled him to fulfill a lifetime dream of collaborating with acclaimed illustrator Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.
To return to and reiterate my premise: Nobody deserves this Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award more than Brett Breeding. Allow me to shift from the historical to the personal in closing.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be one of Brett’s collaborators for decades now, and my observations have been many but boil down to this singular truth: I have never worked with an inker/finisher who cares more about the finished product presented to the public than Brett Breeding.
Brett’s approach to the penciller’s physical work, his attention to the penciller’s intent, is unparalleled, as is his application and control over every line and shadow.
Any penciller could not ask for more or better in an illustrating partner than the work of Brett Breeding.
And I am just one of the legions of pencillers to benefit from not only his talent but his incredible dedication to his craft and professionalism.
Congratulation, Brett, and thank you.
Text written by Ron Frenz, an acclaimed artist who has been working professionally in the comic book industry since 1982, penciling such diverse titles as Ka-Zar the Savage, Star Wars, Amazing Spider-Man, Thor, Superman, Spider-Girl, and Blue Baron, and by Ben Herman, who has contributed articles to TwoMorrows’ Alter Ego and Back Issue magazines.