Mon, 1 April 2013
With a career spanning over three decades, John Romita, Jr. has come to be known as "Mr. Marvel" or simply "JRJR". Like his father, John Romita, Sr., his name is practically synomynous with Marvel Comics as he has depicted nearly every character in the company's universe.
With a style typified by solid storytelling and powerful visuals, JRJR puts the 'super' in super-heroes. He is as adept at illustrating tales of street-level crimes as he is with capturing the majesty of galaxy-spanning demigods.
Romita, Jr. has been a personal favorite of mine since my first issue of his Iron Man run (#258, to be exact). I got it as part of a 3-for-$2 grab bag when I was a young teen. Shortly thereafter, I started collecting anything I could find of his: Uncanny X-Men, Daredevil, Punisher War Zone, Daredevil: Man Without Fear, and of course, Amazing Spider-Man.
But JRJR's success and longevity have not come without joys and pains as we discover in our conversation. He details his early career wrought with accusations of nepotism, and his mission to establish his own artistic identity apart from that of his legendary dad.
John also regales us with hilarious stories of the 1980s-era Marvel bullpen and him being the first (and only) Marvel "Hunk of the Month". And he speaks warmly of his collaborations with writers Frank Miller, Ann Nocenti and Mark Millar, as well as inkers Al Williamson and Klaus Janson.
* Special thanks to our friend Warren Drummond for helping make this interview possible.
Tue, 19 March 2013
In this latest edition of our 'Shine On' series, we focus on artist Tony Salmons. In the circles of comic book art, Salmons has been lauded for his energetic, avant-garde approach on titles such as Dakota North, Vigilante, The Mark and Doctor Strange.
A thinking man and an "artist's artist", Salmons is hailed by his peers as one of the brightest of their generation. However, many of those same peers will also relate that Tony seems plagued by misfortune, chronic lateness and the ruination of relationships in his professional and personal life.
Swain and I discuss these aspects of Salmons' career as well as his influences and his influence on other cartoonists.
**Special thanks to friend of the show Michel Fiffe for his excellent three-part interview with Salmons at The Factual Opinion. Many of the points from our conversation were culled from Fiffe's interview.
Mon, 3 December 2012
Steve Rude aka the Dude is by far one of my favorite comic book artists and illustrators. By far. So it was a real honor to finally interview him for this podcast. Oh, sorry — Steve Rude is generally known as the Dude to his friends. (Come on, try to keep up.)
I’m a fan of the Dude’s going back to my late teens. With his brilliant, sci-fi adventure series Nexus (with writer Mike Baron), The Incredible Hulk vs. Superman, World's Finest, X-men: Children of the Atom, and his work on so many other titles; the guy is just the best.
I have my pal Don Hillsman to thank again for turning me on to Nexus, and essentially, on to Steve Rude. Don was reading Nexus in the ‘80s, and as he had done many times before, shared the love. I said he was a pal, right?
After that, I became a rabid fan of Rude's stuff. I bought all of his comics, and eventually his art books, too. And discovered he was not only an outstanding comic book artist, but an outstanding all-around artist. The Dude can do it all — illustration, portraits, landscapes, commercial art — all of it! But as we found out in our talk with him, at the end of the day, comics are home. They are his calling.
Originally from the Midwest (like Dwight and I), Steve now makes his home in Peoria, AZ. He’s a family man (which comes up in the interview), fiercely loyal to his friends, and dedicated in the truest sense to his craft. You won’t meet a guy more committed to growing as an artist.
Our conversation covers it all, although not step-by-step. We thought it best to try and ask the Dude good questions and just let him talk. I mean, he’s been at this thing for over 30 years, right? We figured he had some stories to tell and opinions to share. And he damn sure did!
Our thanks to Steve for coming on with us and being so epic. (We knew he would be!) Our thanks to you all for listening in and supporting the show. And check out Steve’s new DC project, a Dollar Bill One-Shot, when it hits stores everywhere in January. It looks amazing.
Okay, enough typing. It's time for hyperspeed! It's time for the Dude!
**Scoop a copy of his 2007 art book — Steve Rude: Artist in Motion.
Mon, 19 November 2012
I wanna talk about Adrian Johnson for a minute. Yes, I know today’s interview is with 'The Quiet Superstar' Leinil Yu — but indulge me, please.
The three of us are all fans of Leinil’s, but it was Adrian who pulled the trigger and invited him on the show. Yu and Adrian are roughly the same age, both are Image Comics babies, and Adrian became a fan of Leinil’s right from the jump: his professional comics debut on Marvel’s Wolverine (1997).
Adrian was majorly excited when the Manila-based artist said yes to the podcast invitation. He dove headfirst into his prep and research for the talk. And it was a real treat to sit and watch my boy cheezin’ like the Cheshire Cat as he interviewed someone for whom he's been a longtime fan. Matter of fact, it always is. When Dwight does it, I love watching it; and I’m sure when I do it, those two guys get a kick out of it. Okay, back to Leinil!
Wolverine, Superman: Birthright, Batman/Danger Girl, New Avengers, Supercrooks, Superior, and now Indestructible Hulk — Leinil Francis Yu is rocking it. And not just because of the kinds of books he works on. The dynamism and raw energy in his work put him head and shoulders above many of his peers — but then so does his prolificity. In a fanboy world where we throw the term ‘superstar’ around willy-nilly because someone “draws good” and quickly gains popularity, Yu actually cranks out the pages.
He does the work. He makes comics.
It’s a shame that one has to parse that distinction from other so-called comics superstars, but it’s true. (They know who they are.)
Enjoy hearing about Leinil’s early days and the influence of guys like Travis Charest and Yu’s mentor, Whilce Portacio. Enjoy hearing about his excursions into concept art (Serenity) and his experimentation with different media. Enjoy hearing Leinil very pragmatically reconcile himself with the lofty term ‘superstar’. And definitely enjoy listening in on the good time we had chatting with this humble, interesting, yet multi-faceted guy. Because it was like that!
Fri, 31 August 2012
Hero moments are pretty easy to come by doing this show. One minute, you're conducting an interview and trying to be professional. The next, a "fanboy unease" comes over you when you realize you're talking to someone whose art you've admired for most of your life.
That happened to me in waves while chatting with Michael William Kaluta.
Since I was a teen, Kaluta has been an artistic hero of mine. I was a fiend for his run on The Shadow with writer Denny O'Neil, all of his short stories at DC Comics, and the stacks and stacks of comic book covers he drew throughout the '70s and '80s.
It was somewhere in those '80s that I rediscovered Mike as a painter and illustrator. He had joined up with a unique quartet of artists that you may have heard of. Yes, that's right — The Studio. Together with Jeff Jones, Bernie Wrightson, and Barry Windsor-Smith, Mike Kaluta made fantasy art history in the New York City loft they all shared on West 26th street. Oh, to have been a fly on their wall.
Much of the above and more is covered in the interview, so settle in. We also get the scoop on what he's working on these days (hint: it involves a certain princess on a certain planet in our solar system). Here's the one and only — Mike Kaluta!
**Here's a link to the Alan Parsons Project's video for "Don't Answer Me". Mike did design and concept work on it.
Thu, 7 June 2012
The chat of all chats is up and available in our free feed: Arthur Adams. Longshot, Uncanny X-men, New Mutants, Fantastic Four, Monkeyman and O'Brien, Ultimate X — you know his hits! Arthur joined us on the mics and we had an absolute blast with him.
In the interview, we cover some background, breaking into comics, working on Longshot and the much-talked about Speculator Boom of the late '80s.
Also, Arthur gives us his take on drawing fast vs. drawing good, his love of Godzilla and monsters, and the "rarefied air he breathes" as a sought-after illustrator who still wants to make comics.
Adams gave it all up and cracked us up while he was doing it, too (something we didn't expect). Our thanks to him for taking the time out to come on the show.
**There's a little Easter Egg at the end of this one. Don't miss it!
Tue, 15 May 2012
Nic Klein has the goods, baby. He draws his ass off, paints traditionally and digitally, and he friggin’ rocked it on Viking, his 2009 Image Comics mini-series with writer Ivan Brandon (Secret Invasion, NYC Mech). Oh. And he’s about to do it again with his next book, Dancer.
We've never met Nic face-to-face, but we know people who know him. He hails from Germany (Kassel, to be exact), and is pals with former Marvel Comics exclusive artist Marko Djurdjevic. As a matter of fact, Nic was part of the staff for Marko’s MADE symposium back in 2010. In the interview, he tells us all about the experience and doesn’t spare any of the funny bits. HIGH-larious!
Nic is also boys with Wizard of Oz artist Skottie Young. Skottie told me in an email that Nic was the first guy he knew of (other than Jon Foster) who could paint digitally and make it look just like his traditional stuff. And Nic all but confirms this in our talk with him.
After a slew of covers for New Warriors and other Marvel titles, and after getting much fan love for the conquering Viking (see what I did there?) — here comes Dancer. Due out tomorrow, it’s an espionage tale (of sorts) with full art by Klein and script by Nathan Edmondson (Who is Jake Ellis, Olympus). We’ve seen the previews and it's really killer. Very different, too, from Nic’s other work.
See, told you he had the goods. You gotta change it up or get stale. Go, Nic.
Tue, 17 January 2012
Pronounced like "Omni".
It’s 2012, so I’ll let you all in on a little SiDEBAR secret. Most of the blog posts we write as companion pieces to the podcasts are written ahead of time. Not all, but most. I can’t speak for Dwight and Adrian, but for me, I sometimes get an angle on a guest or topic that I think will be interesting, and I try to run with it. Doesn’t always work out, but hey, where there’s a spark, there could be flame, right? So, here’s what I have to say about today’s guest, Chris Samnee, and how I think things will go with him.
I first heard Chris' name a few years ago on the Around Comics podcast. He was probably drawing Capote in Kansas at the time. Then, in early 2009, I attended the very first C2E2 in Chicago, ran into Sal and the AC gang on the floor of the con, and Sal showed me a commission he’d just gotten from Samnee — who was in artist alley. It was an awesome little piece with this serious chiaroscuro thing going on. Very noir, very well composed. I hightailed it over to Chris’ table, never said hello (asshole), and after rifling through his originals, just fell in love with what I saw. His stuff was reasonable, too.
Since C2E2, Samnee has gone from working on smaller projects to working very much in the mainstream. He did a great job on Marvel’s limited series, Thor the Mighty Avenger (2010), with Roger Langridge and Matt Wilson. And he just finished up on the monthly series, Captain America and Bucky, with Ed Brubaker, Marc Andreyko, and Bettie Breitweiser (both the Thor and Cap projects were just in time for the films).
All of this means Chris' star is most certainly on the rise with fans and art nerds alike. Which is a good thing.
So, how do I think the interview with him is gonna go, you ask? Quite well. Chris Samnee is a young guy, seems pretty laid back, and his work oozes a love for his job. I suspect we’ll hear that much of what he’s learned about drawing and mark-making, he learned by observing and self-educating. I think we’ll hear some classic comics names as well as a few names from his youth as influences. And I think we’ll get an inkling from the conversation that even bigger things are on the horizon for this remarkable talent. And that, too, is a good thing.
Listen in and find out if my powers of prognostication are on or off. As I said earlier, I’ve been wrong before.
Fri, 9 December 2011
Howard V. Chaykin.
Comic book writer/artist. Illustrator. TV writer/producer. And eternal digressionist. OK, I made that last one up, but it aptly applies. He’s quite the talker.
I’ve been a fan of Chaykin’s ever since I was a teenager. I met him in person briefly at a comic book convention here in Atlanta back in the 1980s. He was there with his then-wife, and it was during the apex of American Flagg! fever. I didn’t really talk to him. I just sort of stood back and watched him interact with fans. He was gregarious, very professional, and very direct. The exact impression of him I had gotten from his print interviews.
Before that con, I had just started following his work after having read several of his graphic novels: The Stars My Destination, Empire, The Swords of Heaven, The Flowers of Hell. All of them were full color, mixed media, and very sophisticated stuff. Some of the first works of their kind here in America.
I proceeded to pick up loads of his comics later on (though I wasn’t a Star Wars guy, per se). I did, however, become a complete fiend for Flagg!, The Shadow, Blackhawk, and so on.
Going back to Howard’s interviews for a minute — as a kid — I'm pretty sure I read them all. At that particular time in my youth, I found him to be a fascinating figure in comics. And not just because of the material he was working on. As a person, he seemed to be well read, had an acerbic wit, and was opinionated as all get out (I related strongly to that last one).
Plus, from where I sat, Chaykin came off like an adult. Once he stepped up as writer and artist on his stuff, it became glaringly apparent that he wasn't guided by a 14 year-old's idea of heroism and benevolence. His work was layered with themes like politics, sex, betrayal, and guilt. And usually at the center of it all, was a protagonist with questionable motives and feet of clay (just like in real life). This was completely diametric to my pals and I who, back then, well — we were still very much into punching and saving the day!
The other thing about his interviews that intrigued me were these little tidbits he would drop. Things about himself, his background and his profession that he never really expounded upon much until recently. Chaykin has always been a good soldier when it comes to promoting projects (an aspect of his professionalism that I’m sure his publishers adore). Yet I’m quite certain his comments in print have gotten him as much buzz as the work he creates.
And that’s why we chose to call this interview Revealed. The goal wasn’t to be sensational or provocative — in fact, not at all. We genuinely love Howard’s stuff, but were curious if the perception that many fans may have of him is at all accurate or justified. And frankly, he surprised us.
After nearly four decades in the business, you won't find a smarter writer or more graphic designer of the comic page than Howard Chaykin. However, the meat of our discussion with him today reveals more about his background, the person he is, and more importantly, the professional that he is. I, myself, find those things almost as interesting as the stories he tells. And I hope you do too.
Mon, 12 September 2011
American Flagg, The Rocketeer, Jon Sable Freelance. Those were just a few of the titles I cut my teeth on as a young comics reader. Amongst many others, they were indicative of the new wave of American comic books in the early 1980s. There was a palpable excitement in the air as scores of great books hit the shelves.
New things were also going down behind the scenes. Royalties and incentives were finally being paid for the first time ever. Independent publishers began wooing seasoned creators away from the Big Two with opportunities to tell the types of stories they'd always wanted to tell. And one of those creators was Mike Grell.
I actually found Mike (or maybe he found me) in the mid '70s on The Warlord at DC Comics. Warlord was a Verne-esque tale about a modern-day Air Force pilot "lost in a lost world". I was also quite fond of Mike's work on Legion of Super-Heroes from a few years earlier. Super-powered teens in the 30th century? What was not to like?!
Later, I was floored to find out those Legion stories had been written by a then-teenage Jim Shooter (he started writing them when he was twelve). To paraphrase Mike from today's panel audio, Legion of Super-Heroes was a book aimed at young readers that was being written by (at the time) a very young reader.
After Warlord and Legion, I pretty much checked out everything the guy did — the aforementioned Jon Sable, Starslayer, Green Arrow - The Longbow Hunters and even some of his rare Marvel work.
Moving forward, our hometown convention, Dragon*Con, brought Mike to Atlanta this year as a special guest. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel with him. Grell was funny and in great spirits, and the crowd was full of enthusiastic fans.
All of the above was covered in the sit-down, but we also got an ear full on the writer-artist's background, how he broke into the business, and the scoop on his latest project, The Pilgrim (with writer, Mark Ryan). Good times.
Thanks to Mike for his candor and humor, thanks to the crowd for being all kinds of awesome, and thanks to the promoters of Dragon*Con for having me as a moderator.