One-on-One with the Legendary Comic Artist
Friday, August 04, 2006

In case you missed it on our own, check out this exclusive interview with one of the masters.

What has Greg Capullo been working on? We sat down with the fan-favorite artist to chat about his upcoming Art of Greg Capullo collection, working with Todd on Spawn/Batman and everything in between.

We here at the McFarlane Companies have been a fan of Greg Capullo for quite some time -- from his early work on the Spawn comic, his skill has been moving in an upward direction since day one, and we have been privileged enough to see some of his work coming down the pipeline for various projects that in some cases never see the light of day.

So, when we decided to produce the Art of Greg Capullo collection, we knew that this would be the opportunity we needed to finally get some answers that we (and other fans as well) have had since first seeing some of his wonderful work in comics.

Q: Todd always talks about being a comic fan since he was kid. Others in the industry can tell you in detail, page-by-page, what the first comic was that they bought off of the "spinner rack" at their local drug store when they were young. What is your earliest comic book memory/influence?

A. It was a giant-sized Captain Marvel drawn by Gil Kane. I still recall the splash page vividly enough to draw the page.

Q. Any specific comics you read today, or that you have read and particularly enjoyed? Are there any that you feel are a strong example of what a comic book should be?

A. I love Frank Miller. The Sin City stuff is great fun. As for what a comic should be... that answer will differ from person to person. By what criteria are we judging the book? If it comes down to personal enjoyment, The Dark Knight Returns is fantastic.

Q. You are widely known for your tremendous work on the Spawn comic book. But, for those of us that don't know, how did you start out in the comic business, and what were some of first titles you worked on?

A. I worked at Marvel just prior to taking over on Spawn. I did some one-shots before getting full-time work. The first monthly gig was Quasar -- a title I saved from cancellation. After that it was X-Force before going over to Image. Pre-Marvel, the only noteworthy comic work was a Fantaco publication titled Gore Shriek.

Q. Artistically, who are your influences?

A. The comic artist that I worshipped above all was John Buscema -- master of the human figure. No artist, past or present, possesses such complete understanding. Rest his soul. Apart from Big John, I loved Gene Colon, John Romita, Gil Kane, Rudy Nebris, Barry Windsor Smith, Bernie Wrightson, etc. There were others also, but these guys topped my list.

Q. There has always been a rumor that everything you have done artistically is self-taught. Can you support or deny this? Teaching yourself anything takes a huge amount of self discipline and determination. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists who are just starting out or considering pursuing the same path?

A. It's true that I'm self-taught. There aren't any shortcuts. You've got to dig in -- study and draw the world around you. This is the only way to hone your skill and develop a style that is your own. A lot of kids learn to draw by copying their favorite comic artist. We've all done that, but as a means to an end, it's a huge mistake. I can spot those guys (who learned that way) a mile away. Their art is filled with gaffes. From anatomy to perspective and everything in between -- problems abound. Don't do it! I don't care which artists "made it" following that path, don't do it. Strive for craftsmanship. It'll carry you further; especially outside the comic biz.

Q. Looking at the enormous catalog of your work -- from early on in your career to what you are doing presently -- one can follow the evolution of your work. One of the more obvious transitions was going from pencil to digital. What initiated that next step?

A. Looked like it might be fun.

Q. Were there any unexpected challenges you faced when starting out in that new medium?

A. Hell yeah! I simply couldn't bring myself to read the phonebook-sized manual that came with Photoshop (or Painter), so I jumped in blind -- learn as you go. I'm always finding out new things about the program -- accidentally, mostly. I've a long way to go before I can really utilize the power contained in the software.

Q. Without giving too much of a look into your bag of digital magic tricks, what programs/techniques/steps do you use when doing digital work?

A. I use Corel Painter IX. Mostly, I use a single layer and treat it as I would an actual painting on canvas. I rarely use effects. I'm not saying never, but I try to avoid using them. I want my work to appear as though it's an actual oil. Effects detract from that illusion.

It's only recently that I've begun experimenting with multiple layers. I'm beginning to realize the many ways you can use them to your advantage. The brushes I use the most are: Flat Oils 10, Detail Oils Brush 5-15, Fine Camel 10, Opaque Flat, Variable Flat, and Medium Bristles 15.

Q. Let's change course a bit, and talk about art and artists in general.

You have an excellent track record -- both on your run with the Spawn comic and with numerous other projects you have contributed to. Both your reputation and the quality of your work really speak volumes about your professionalism as an artist, to say that your actions speak louder than your words is an understatement.

That being said, the Internet has become a huge opportunity for artists around the world to obtain exposure, talk (good or bad) about one another or give feedback on each other's work. Some companies now actually recruit artists simply based off of a sample or samples posted on a message board. What are your thoughts on how the Internet has affected the "standard" in which artists are compared to one another?

A. Well, I'm not sure the Internet has changed the way one artist is measured against another. An artist is still judged by his skill, his style, and his suitability. The Internet simplifies the task of finding the talent (or individual) you're searching for.

Q. Do you feel the Internet is helping or hurting the industry?

A. I'm no prognosticator. At first blush, I'd say it helps. If paper comics become antiquated as a result of the Internet ... Ouch!

Q. What are some things you see artists doing with the digital medium that you find amazing? What are some things you find not so amazing?

A. Everything! The only time I dislike it is when the work looks digital when it's attempting to not look digital.

Q. Now let's talk about some of the new projects you are working on that are coming out this year.

A small group of us at Spawn HQ are lucky enough to see some of your work in its early (and still incredible) stages, or drool over your final penciled pages. But the majority of the general population has only been able to see your work after it has been inked, colored and printed in its final form. Will Art of Greg Capullo give readers a good look at some of the behind-the-scenes work you have done both presently and in the past?

A. I think so. I've actually allowed a lot of stuff in that was never meant to see print -- past and present.

Q. Anything in particular planned to be included in this book that you are specifically excited about?

A. Any work that is unencumbered by copy. Now people can see the composition as it was meant to be seen -- the way I saw it.

Q. Is there a specific piece or pieces from a project that you personally wanted to be included in this book? Why?

A. I've sent Todd a bunch of concept sketches in the past -- goofy stuff that I'd doodled. I'm hoping my fans will find them entertaining.

Q. A lot of comic companies have included items such as variant covers or extra content only available in a specific printing of a book. Will there be any "exclusive" content in this book?

A. Yeah, I guess. I think there's some stuff that I'd rejected -- deeming the work not good enough for print. Yes. I'm human. Every drawing I do isn't always good.

How excited are you about Spawn/Batman?

A. Duh. (Very!)

Q. It has been awhile since you have done sequential art. Your past work was always strong in storytelling and overall appearance. But the majority of your recent work has been covers, pinups, or character designs. Does getting back to doing sequential art in Spawn/Batman take a bit of getting used to, or were you able to hit the ground running?

A. Well, I must admit that I was filled with self-doubt at first. However, it comes back to you rather quickly. If anything, I'd imagine my speed will be diminished somewhat. Rest assured, I plan on kicking some major ass.

Q. How do you feel about working with Todd on a comic book again?

A. Let me put it this way. I refused to sign up for this project unless Todd was my partner.

Q. Is there anything you would like to add about Spawn/Batman?

A. Buy it.

Q. Are there any plans for either a continuation or a new story based on your creation, The Creech?

A. If I can ever get my shit together. Life kicked my ass so hard that I lost myself ... totally. I still think about finishing the Creech saga. Just gotta get my bald head straight first.

Q. Any thoughts or plans on releasing a digitally painted comic?

A. I've actually considered finishing The Creech up digitally. The problem with that is, if I were to put out a collected version (trade paperback) it wouldn't have a seamless look to it. Maybe I could do select scenes digitally. That might work.

Q. How do you feel about your contributions to Spawn?

A. Proud.

Q. When you draw backgrounds in your sequential work, how do you go about finding reference material?

A. Those days are long gone. It was very rare for me to use refs. This is why I say draw the world around you. The brain is your personal hard drive. It saves the file every time you draw something. However, for those who aren't there yet, the Internet is a fantastic resource. Just Goo-Goo-Google it, baby...

Q. Do you have a favorite piece you have worked on? Is there a certain piece of work you've done that has a more significant meaning to you than other works?

A. I've done too many works to narrow it down to a single piece. As for significant meanings... I suppose the "self portrait" would qualify.