I know you think I am so crazy for this, but this is the interview I have been most excited for in The Portrait Project series.  You are, like, so cool to me!  You have worked for 2 of my favorite comic book publishers - Image (R.I.P.) and Marvel Comics.  Can you tell me a little bit about how you first got penciling and inking for such epic big wigs in the comic book world?

In the early ’90s while working at one of Mile High Comic’s retail stores, I made a lot of similarly minded comic book art friends.  One of them was Chuck Gibson who aspired to be an inker.  He was eventually hired on one of Wildstorm’s talent searches and moved to San Diego where he fine-tuned his skill.  Eventually, he moved back and asked me to assist him.  As for other comic companies, I did the submission thing at San Diego Comic Con and by mail beginning in 1986.  I finally started having some success as a penciler around 1991 with companies such as Heroic and Brainstorm.

Can you remember your first paying gig as a comic book artist?

I can!  My first paying gig was for Heroic Publishing in 1991.  As was the case with a lot of smaller publishers, the payment wouldn’t be until 30 days after the work saw print.  I did several jobs over various titles, but the first one didn’t see print until 1994.  The company then folded less than 30 days after that. So, no payment!

But wait, sometime around 2004 they started up again and I noticed them publishing some of my old work.  I contacted them, and I finally saw my first job pay me nearly 10 years later!  I was excited, but also knew I couldn’t work for payment after the fact again.

Did you always love comic books and superheroes as a kid?

Yes and no.  I loved comic books, but not superheroes.  I was more into Archie and Harvey comics.  I thought the super-hero stuff was too wordy and got in the way of the art.  At some point I started to notice some superhero art by Byrne and Golden.  I bit the bullet and decided to read the story, and there was no turning back.

What were some of your favorite comic books growing up versus your favorite ones today?

Growing up, I was drawn to the artist more than the story.  It didn’t matter what Byrne was doing, I was going to buy it.  Nowadays, I’m still buying based on art first, but not everything by a favorite.  If the story or character doesn’t interest me, I’ll drop it no matter who’s drawing it.


My superhero alter ego that you created is insane.  It looks just like me!!!!!  Have you come up with a codename for him yet?

I’m not much of a wordsmith, and I certainly don’t want to offend. But…. I don’t know you well, so I have to go on just the appearance of the character and knowledge that you like Robin/Nightwing.  So, with all that in mind…drumroll… I’ve come up with Nightmaven!

"Night" from Nightwing.  And "maven" matches your ambition, I think.  And it sounds like Raven, another bird and a tie-in to the Teen Titans.  See, told you, I’m not much of a wordsmith.


So it’s the ’90s… grunge is king… you walk into Image Comics…  What is it like?  Is there alternative rock blaring from boom boxes and cigarette smoke billowing from cubicles?  I’m so enamored with this period in time for that particular market.  It seems like the “Mad Man” era of the comic book publishing industry.  Paint me a picture if you will…

My experience of working with the inker at his house would sometimes entail working until 3am while he chain smoked, hunched over his drawing table in his underwear.  Not a pretty picture.  I imagine that Wildstorm wasn’t like that.  I heard mention of being able to just walk up to Jim Lee or Scott Williams and watch them work and gladly answer any questions one had.

I know it wasn’t all sunshine and laser beams though.  Image was plagued by issue delays… eventually culminating in the legendary Deathmate fiasco.  Did you find the comic book industry to be a difficult one to work in?  If so, what kind of things go on behind the scenes that take a little of the magic out of the industry?

Deadlines are a killer.  At some point you realize that you can probably make more money and be happier if you work an average business day doing something else.  Depending on your speed, you could end up spending at least 12 hours a day and maybe a weekend day off.  It’s really an ideal situation for the younger artists that may be at their parents with no real bills yet.  But as an adult with family responsibilities, you like to spend time doing other things.

Couple that with publisher’s who don’t pay you and it soon burned me out.  I was working my regular job and took on some Brainstorm comic book work, as well, for extra cash.  At that time, I really needed the extra cash.  Long story short, the books I worked on came out, I received no payment.  I didn’t even get a copy of the books mailed to me.  I had to buy them at the store, just like everyone else!  They wouldn’t answer my calls and I soon became so frustrated that I took several years off.  My story, unfortunately, is not unique.  There’s lots of Brainstorms out there that will capitalize on young talent looking for a break.  Now that I’m older without as much responsibility, I’m finding my love to draw again.  So, it’s not all doom and gloom.  I just have different expectations.


You downplay your stuff a little, but you have really worked on some amazing books and heroes!  What comic or character were you most honored to work on?

Inking an issue of Captain America was a personal milestone I’ll throw out there all the time.  That’s my favorite character.  I even got to keep one of the pages I worked on.

Ok, so here is where I fan out a little…  Have you ever met Stan Lee?  Jim Lee?  Chris Claremont?  Or maybe you are totally buddy buddy with my favorite - J. Scott Campbell?

I have met most of these guys, mostly at conventions and store signings.  I’ve got lots of memories of getting to hang with many creators outside of those places after hours, at restaurants, bars, etc.  It seemed for a while there that Claremont was always at the Mile High Comics warehouse.  And I’ll treasure sitting in a bar for two hours with Curt Swan shortly before he died.

As for Campbell, he actually comes from Colorado - same as me.  I saw him at one of our conventions early on showing off some samples to Art Thibert.  Me and a friend privately ripped his work, because it looked like he had copied Jim Lee panels line for line.  He got hired by Wildstorm shortly after that and really developed into a great artist.  Turns out that I was just jealous.  Lesson learned.

I can, literally, think of 10 more questions I’d like to ask you, but I should probably wrap it up, so maybe at a later date…  Any dream characters or books you would secretly or not-so secretly love to work on in the future?

I’d still love to do more Captain America.  Spider-man is a favorite too.  I think more realistically, DC would be a better place for me.  I’d prefer Green Lantern there.



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