Awesome-Con is coming up next month and n3rdabl3.com will be covering the event when it’s time but leading up to the convention we will be running a series of interviews with the guests of the show. First up is comic book illustrator Greg Capullo. You might recognize some of Greg’s work from Death of the Family, Court of Owls and even back to the Spawn series in the 90’s.
So Greg and I spoke for a bit about how he got started in comics, his favorite work and what is on the horizon for him.
Gage: How Did you get started in comics?
Greg: “It’s something I knew I wanted to do since I was 8 years old, I saw superhero comics, Mad Magazine. Those two kinds of magazines grabbed my attention. I remember looking at Al Jaffee and Mort Drucker in particular and being mesmerized by that stuff and superheroes as well, I mean, I think my first comics were hand-me-downs from older cousins and that was it. I was drawn to it. And by the time I was eight years old, I just go ‘that’s what I want to grow up and do’ So, I just pursued it and wouldn’t relent until I finally broke down those doors.”
Gage: Yeah, absolutely. I grew up drawing a lot as well but I got involved in video editing which brings up my next question, for someone who wants to get to your position, how could they go about getting there? Or how do they better their craft while their growing up and getting into drawing?
Greg: “You know, obviously when you have an interest in drawing, I mean, no one has to sit you down and tell you to do it. You just want to do it. And my friends, I don’t really remember, would say “you couldn’t stop drawing. Anywhere we were, you’d draw on a napkin or on a styrofoam cup.” And when I was a bellhop at a hotel I kept getting yelled at because I’d be drawing instead of working. Matter of fact, they took the stand away from me because I would stand there drawing and the other bellhops got pissed at me because the stand was taken away. I just couldn’t stop drawing. But when I decided to really pursue it, the first step was meeting with people at Marvel comics because that’s where I wanted to go.
“It was a different age back then, the process now is different now than when I was growing up and trying to get. I would show up at Manhatten unannounced and make my way up the elevator and tell the secretary I came all this way on a train or a car, can someone look at my stuff? You know, you can’t get past the lobby now with security. And I would meet with those guys, someone would always meet with me. And they would give me some pointers one what I was doing good and what was needing improvement and I finally met this one editor, he was so brutal with his truth. I thought I was a lot better than I was and the other editors would candy coat things so it kind of protects you from reality but this guy just shoved reality up your throat and down your end. After I got really aggravated and disappointed or whatever I buckled down and decided I would learn as much about illustration as possible.
“They recommend books to me, Andrew Loomis Figure Drawing for All it’s Worth, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards and told me to get a book on anatomy and learn anatomy. I dug into all those books and what I would do is, I had a group of sketch pads because there’s so much that goes into drawing, if you try to swallow it all in one gulp, you’ll choke. You have to break into small sized bits. Each sketchbook would be geared towards a particular thing. One for female faces, one for female hands, one for full body, one for clothing, one for every element that goes with it and to get the hang of good body language, I used to bring a sketchbook downtown and sit across from a bus stop and draw people. As people moved about and shopping or whatever and that’s pretty much it and that’s how I pursued it.
“There’s a lot of great talented guys and gals out there. It’s like, how do you get the job if you have all these people who want the same thing you do and there are not many jobs to be had. The only way to do it is to be better than the people competing with you. My advice is, if you want it you have to really dig in and seriously commit yourself. You don’t get there by being lukewarm and half swipe at things. You have to grab it by the throat.”
Gage: You’re right, I absolutely agree. And I sympathize with you about the constantly drawing thing. When I was in school I would draw on all of my test papers until I was told to knock it off.
Greg: “Me too, I got a lot of F’s because of it.”
Gage: Yup, yup. Got a lot of returned papers, with teachers saying, “please stop.” But back to drawing, I was first exposed to your work, I mean, I’ve read through Death of the Family and Court of Owls but I’m a big heavy music fan and I remember having Korn’s Follow the Leader album which you did the cover art for. So my question is, where do you get your inspiration from, where does your style of drawing come from?
Greg: “Jesus, you know, I have no idea really. Haha.”
Gage: Sorry for asking the hard questions. Haha
Greg: “You know, I’ve had my favorite artists that I’ve looked at and admired and I think it would be kind of natural that all those individuals at some level are a part of you. But I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what my style is or how I developed it. The only way it developed is through constantly drawing. The great opportunity was working on Spawn. Because when I went to work on Spawn, Todd’s [Mcfarlane] style is just so wonky so it doesn’t follow any rules or norms or anything like that. I kind of got the idea that I could experiment. So I played around constantly and I was on the book for so long and now I look back at some of it and can’t believe I went that whacked out but it was fun and I was just trying to have fun. I wasn’t conscious of anything in particular that I was doing, I wasn’t going, “oh I’m going to try and really get crazy here” or something like that. It was just like a kid plays around with anything and overtime, I guess it’s to do with how you view the world and connecting that to your personality and all these parts of you.
“It just naturally develops. I don’t give any thought to my style, it just comes to you. And that’s a great question you ask because a lot of young artists ask me, “Greg, how do you develop your own unique style?” It just develops naturally by its self the more you do it. It takes years, I can look back at my early work and see myself still in there but my work looks much different than it did from the start. Your personality is yours and it’s unique and the way you feel about the world is unique. As you continue to grow and hone your craft and draw more and more, those elements of you, personally, will show through and that becomes your style.”
Gage: So artists should stick to what they know instead of trying to hit a ‘point’ to look like something or they should just draw what they feel?
Greg: “I think it’s natural for young artists to try and emulate their heroes. It’s just human nature, right? Whether it’s music or anything, you like that, so, you want to do it yourself. And that’s fine. But what I’m saying, overtime, that should naturally change. I mean, you can see some guys who set out to imitate some guys they really like and they still kind of look a lot like that. I think that’s one of the flaws of only looking at comics to learn how to draw comics. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. I think a lot of life drawing and a lot of drawing from photographs is the way to really develop who you are.
“As I said earlier the way you feel about the world you’re observing goes through your filter and comes out through your personality. If you look at another artist who you admire, you’re really just taking their vision and interpretation and really you should want to strive to find what your own voice and interpretation of that is. And the only way to do that is through really looking at the world around you and drawing through that. If you draw from comics, fine, if you really want to develop who you are then it has to become your interpretation of what you see around you.”
Gage: I think that’s pretty sound advice and some that anyone should follow. Now I assume you read comics yourself?
Greg: “Well, I haven’t in a very long time (haha) and Ryan Ottley accused me of not liking comics anymore because I tell him I don’t really have the time and I guess he’s still an avid reader. But I really, I draw so much, and when I have free time, what limited it is, that’s not where I choose to spend it on. I’ve got other interests. I’ve got a family. I mean, I’m aware of the illustrators both male and female that are just “wow” to me. But another reason I don’t look through them, I see their pieces online and I don’t want to get too into looking at those people.
“Because it’s only natural to want to lift from them, you know, things you like from them you say, ‘oh I’m gonna steal that.’ And I don’t want to do that, I really strive to have my own voice and my own way of doing things. And the worst thing that can happen is you look at them and become intimidated, ‘oh my god look they did that! I could never do that…’ Or anything like that. I try to stay to myself a little bit.
“I was out with Jim Lee and JRJR and we’re all about to do this big summer event for DC and they were talking about each other’s work, Andy Kubert was there too. And how these guys have this competitive nature and I was going, “I don’t look at your guy’s work, I don’t want to see what you’re doing.” You know, I just compete with myself. But it’s an individual thing, obviously, so for me, I try to stay to myself and just do my own work.”
Gage: Right, I get that because when I got into Video Games, I stopped reading other people’s opinions because I was afraid I would pick up their thoughts and I would just have their opinion’s instead of my own. So I tend to stay away from that stuff so I completely understand.
Greg: “Yea, see, yea. I’m glad you could identify.”
Gage: It’s really killed my YouTube watching and reading now though, so I need to figure something out to watch now. Talking about this summer event and even you in general, what are you working on next? I see a lot of tweets going out about this DC Metal thing and I’m unfamiliar. So maybe you could elaborate is possible?
Greg: “Well, I mean, there’s going to be some books that are going to lead into Scott’s [Snyder] and I’s artwork on DC Metal. And I don’t want to give away too many spoilers but it involves the Nth metal which in an element that was introduced in Hawkman and nothing was ever really done with it and Scott wove this big tapestry using that. And that’s what Scott does he can pick something obscure and paint it across the whole DC universe. And so, he’s taken that, and it deals with multiverse concepts. It’s going to be the most off the wall, crazy, fun, exciting, bombastic story that Scott and I have done together. You’re going to see some of your favorite heroes in ways in you’d never imagined and doing some things you’d never pictured them doing. I think what we’re doing isn’t only going to be fun for the present but it’s going to inspire future story lines and where you can go with these characters after this.”
Gage: Now for some of the easier questions I have for you. Some provided by the rest of the n3rdabl3 crew. But we’ll start with a softball, what was your favourite comic you ever got to illustrate? If you had to choose.
Greg: Well the way I typically answer, because I wanted to do this since I was a little boy, I like everything. Because my dream came true. I loved it all! My first gig, “What if Daredevil killed the Kingpin?” Well, that was the day the dream came true, so I obviously love that. And then Marvel handed my first full-time book called Quasar, a full-time book! So I loved that. Then they drafted me and put me on X-Force, one of the top X-Men books! I loved that! So everything I’ve done has been great. Then I worked to work for Todd and working with Todd on Spawn was some of the most joyous times I’ve ever had one comics, period. Then I got to work with Robert Kirkman, then Batman! C’mon, then Scott and I got together and the fans lifted us to a lofty place with that. It’s all great, it’s like picking a favorite kid. I’m blessed, I’m lucky that I’m living my dream and every single thing has been a high mark. Everything, I love it. I’m happy.
Gage: That’s really inspiring, that’s really awesome to hear. That every walk of life has been your favorite because it’s lead you to what your dream is.
Greg: “Each has their own charm.”
Gage: Are there any properties you’d like to have a shot at illustrating?
Greg: “If I live long enough, all of them! It’s just not realistic. That’s the downside of being an illustrator and not a writer. Writers have less labour intensive jobs. They can write three different titles at once and have greater opportunities. But certainly, I grew up on Marvel comics, there’s a lot of great characters over there I’d like to get a crack at that I’ve never done. And you know, you ask a kid who gets to live his dream what he would like to do, well I’d like to do it all!”
Gage: Ambitious, I like it. And the last question I had for you is who your favourite Marvel or DC character might be? Maybe someone from your childhood that you use to read a lot of?
Greg: I know that I liked some of the bigger characters. I loved Fantastic Four because of Ben Grimm, The Thing, I loved that character so much. You know, grabbing a car off the ground and saying “we’re going to play a game of catch.” I just loved that character and I loved the Hulk and it shows because I wrote and drew The Creech, I like big characters. So those are two of my favorites. But again, I love so many, I love Captain America, I love Thor, Daredevil. I love most of them. If you can tell I grew up a Marvel guy but I still had my DC collection but it’s much smaller than my Marvel collection.
Gage: I grew up a DC fan, so…
Greg: “Well you know, it’s like the kid down the block that collects Hot Wheels and the other kid who collects Match Box. They’re both cool, but you had your separate camps.”
Greg just finished up with Reborn, a series he and Mark Millar worked on. The last issue is launching on June 7 and is highly recommended to be picked up. Greg considers it some of his very best work because he didn’t have that monthly grind deadline to worry about, so he was “able to open up a little more.” Next up for Greg is the mentioned DC metal project that he says we should keep a close eye on and check out when it’s available.
Greg will be appearing at Awesome-Con this year in Washington DC on June 16 through June 18. n3rdabl3 will be in attendance to cover the event. For all things Awesome-Con and for more interviews with the guests who will be appearing at the event, make sure to check back to n3rdabl3.com often.