Born on February 16, 1958 in Erie, Pennsylvania, John Totleben attended Technical Memorial High school, a unique vocational school where he received three years of intensive art instruction under Roy Ahlgren. He graduated in 1976 and one year later, in Sept. of 1977, attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Arts, then in its second year of existence. It was here that he met Rick Veitch, Steve Bissette, Tom Yeates, Tim Truman, and many other fellow students who have since become veterans of the comic book industry. After completing one year at the Kubert School, Totleben began a three year stint working on a project illustrating the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam for Harry “A” Chesler, a legend of the Golden Age era of the comics industry. Over 100 illustrations were produced, most of them in full color. About a year or so after the project was completed, Chesler died and the artwork for the Rubaiyat went into his estate, was eventually auctioned off in 1987, and the current whereabouts of it are still unknown.
Totleben staked out his claim to fame as artist/inker on the now classic mid-1980’s horror comic book series by DC Comics, Saga of The Swamp Thing. Along with writer Alan Moore and co-artist/penciler Stephen R. Bissette, Totleben helped to establish a new, high-water mark for horror comics, and the horror genre in general with his moody, highly textured and obsessively detailed approach to inking. While working on SOTST, he instigated the creation of John Constantine, who continues to be a popular character to this day, and recently appeared in his own NBC TV series, CONSTANTINE. After a three year tour-of-duty on SOTST, Totleben went on to illustrate Miracleman: Bk. III/OLYMPUS, again with writer Alan Moore, helping to create a modern superhero classic that boasted some of the most elaborate artwork ever produced on a superhero comic. With reprints of the original issues being published by Marvel Comics, Miracleman continues to be a popular comic book series and its influence is still felt throughout many areas of modern pop culture. In 1985, he co-created the horror anthology TABOO with Stephen Bissette and co-edited the book for the first two issues. Over the years, Totleben has worked on numerous other comic titles including 1963 (with Swamp Thing cohorts Moore, Bissette and Rick Veitch), Vermillion, The Dreaming, The Legend of the Green Flame, Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, and X-Men Unlimited. Totleben has also produced numerous painted and line art covers for Swamp Thing, Miracleman, and many other comic books, including The Return of Tarzan (Dark Horse Comics), Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and several others.