HARLINGEN — When Sam De La Rosa was seeking a career, he found a way to keep the child in him alive, while earning a living at the same time.
The 57-year-old artist worked for DC, Marvel and other comic book giants for 30 years. De La Rosa was in Harlingen on Sunday, when he made a special appearance at Comics Unlimited, 623 N. 77 Sunshine Strip. He was meeting and greeting fans and selling samples of his work.
De La Rosa, who retired in 2007, has an 8-year-old son, a 6-year-old daughter, and an 11-month-old daughter.
The San Antonio resident says he started thinking about the comic book industry when he was in the second grade.
“I picked up some comics and I said, ‘Hey, I’d like to do this,’ because I was already drawing and doodling. But I was drawing pre-Historic monsters and dinosaurs and things like that,” he said. “When I saw the comic books I thought, ‘Hey, this is a little more exciting.’”
He kept honing his craft over the next few years, and started submitting samples of his work at age 14. He didn’t know it at the time, but none of the comic book companies was accepting assignments by mail.
“Every year or so, I would have a stack of samples to send,” he said. “I’d make copies and send them to Marvel and DC, and I got some critiques back. They gave me some encouragement to keep trying, and every year I would send some stuff in.”
Catching A Break
He was able to attend comic conventions in Texas in the early 1970s and met guest artists and other professionals. He showed them his work, and they encouraged him in his endeavors.
By the early 1980s, however, FedEx had been created, and Marvel, DC and other comic book companies began accepting freelancing assignments through the mail. By this time, he had become acquainted with Richard Buckler, who had been drawing comics for several years.
“He really liked what I was doing, and so he talked me up with the people at DC comics, especially their editor-in-chief, and they decided to try me out,” he said. “They sent me an assignment.”
The first assignment was to do some drawings of the ‘World’s Finest,’ the teaming up of Superman and Batman, a comic book title for DC.
“Batman had his own comic, and Superman had his own comic, and then there was the ‘World’s Finest,’ which combined the two characters in adventures,” he said. “After I got that assignment, they just kept offering me one assignment after the other. This was DC comics.”
The Creative Process
Creating a comic book involves several steps.
De La Rosa’s role had several different names, including “embellisher.”
The story was laid out, but they would need more detail. He would finish the pencil drawings, and then ink them in. After that, someone else filled in the color, the writer would put in the dialogue, and the process would go through several more steps until it was concluded.
De La Rosa chose to keep freelancing instead of seeking a salaried position with one company, which would prohibit him from drawing other comic book characters.
“I think the very same year, I started getting Marvel assignments,” he said. “I stuck with Marvel because they had characters like Spiderman and Captain America that I just liked better, and had more of an emotional attachment to than I did Superman and Batman. Though I still liked them all, I just thought Marvel was better.”
Although he has retired from the profession, he just can’t stay away from his craft.
“I draw just about every day,” he said. “I think people remember me most for the work I did on Spider-Man and Venom. He’s a popular villain.”