Humberto Ramos, the artist of Marvel Comics’ recently relaunched “Amazing Spider-Man,” visited the CBR Yacht at Comic-Con International in San Diego to rap with Jonah Weiland about how he got to the party, the obstacles he faced along the way and why he’s the world’s luckiest fan. Ramos explains his longtime love of Spider-Man, what it’s like to work with series writer Dan Slott and why he doesn’t feel any pressure when creating major new characters and adding to the Spider-Man mythos.
On the first book he remembers collecting as a kid: The first book that I collected, that I remember going to the newsstand to buy the next episode was “Spider-Man.” That was the one book that hooked me on being a collector and being a comic book fan. My older brother, he used to read the books as I did, but he never got into being a fan, it was like something else to do after school. But I kept being a comic book fan because of Spider-Man.
On whether his parents supported his pursuit of a career in comics: My dad always thought I was going to grow up to be an architect or something like that because I liked drawing, but when I told [my parents] — not even comic books at the time — but this career that was called graphic design, he was like, “What the hell is that?” He had never heard of things like that [don’t] have to do with numbers or equations or science or something like that. When I explained what the career was all about he was like, “And it’s gonna give you money to live off of? How are you gonna support your family when you grow up to have one? Because I don’t see a real job there. After a lot of struggling, sometimes arguing, fighting sometimes, he let me go to school and study graphic design.
So I finally got him to the idea of being a graphic designer, but I have a secret agenda. So when I told him, “Dad, there’s this thing called San Diego and I need some money. If you can lend me or give me some money to buy a plane ticket, a hotel, blah blah blah to go to San Diego and try out for a work interview.” He was like, “Really? Do people actually live off comic books?” “Yeah, and it’s a good job. That’s what I would like to do because I love comic books.” Again, there was some struggling because he was getting used to the idea there were different career options besides the ones he grew up with. He was good enough to lend me some money and I came here to the show back in ’92 and I had my first job interview at that time.
On having a backup plan for your career: It’s always good to have a backup plan. You have to realize that I come from a different country where my first trip out of Mexico was to the San Diego Comic-Con, and beside that it was my first trip alone. Meaning, I was going on trips with my family, like vacations and that, but it was my very first time that I was alone. I didn’t know what to expect here. I had this idea like everybody’s gonna be like a genius — like every other guy is a Jack Kirby, a Stan Lee. I had to be sure that if I didn’t make it and do comics, I needed to have a backup plan. That’s why I have my career. Luckily, I never had to use [that backup plan].
On working with Dan Slott and the unique energy he brings to any project: It’s pretty cool because first, I’m like the luckiest fan ever. I was actually talking with some friends about it earlier today, you have to picture me — one day I’m a fan of… you name every other guy in the industry, and the next day I’m sitting with them having dinner. And they, surprisingly, like my work, so I’m the luckiest fan ever. In those terms, talking with Dan is knowing what’s gonna happen with Spider-Man ahead of time. Any time we Skype like, “Dan, I have a little question about the plot” or some panel that I would like to do this way but I want to ask you your ideas, get your input on this — it’s always like a three-hour chat. Something like that, that I think is gonna take like, I don’t know, five minutes tops, ten tops, and no. He ends up going all the way down to what’s going to happen in the Spider-Man Universe like three years from now.
It’s so cool because he knows all these corners of the character that fans like, regular fans like me, I don’t realize that they existed in the first place. And he knows stories and characters and he’s like, “Yeah, then it’s gonna happen like this and this guy — but you need to know this is gonna happen because we’ve building this from years ago,” and blah blah blah. And it’s so exciting like now, with the upcoming “Spider-Verse,” I knew about it like about a year ago. And I was like, “I wanna do that” because having all these Spider-Men from all these different universes, it’s like… I don’t know, like the golden toy you want to have, being the Spider-Man artist, and a Spider-Man fan. And he’s like, “You can’t have it… but I’m gonna tell you still!” So it’s like kind of a sweet and sour thing because I kind of knew what was happening and it’s gonna be like a big, like a huge story, and I’ve been able to read as well as everybody else, but also it’s like, “Aw, gee, I really would have like to draw it.” But Olivier [Coipel’s] doing an amazing job.
On the pressure of creating a major new character like Silk: It is a big character. She’s gonna be a main character in the Spider-Man Universe from now on. Strangely, I never feel pressure when I get to do stuff with Spider-Man. I remember people asking me about how did I feel when we “killed” Peter Parker in [“Amazing Spider-Man”] #700, I was like, “I don’t know…” It was a great book, I knew it was going to make people talk about it, but I never felt any pressure doing it or “killing” him. I feel joy. I feel really, let’s say pride, when my editor asked me to redesign or create a character for a book because that makes me feel like they trust me. To me, it’s all about my job. I care a lot about my job so if the guys behind the desk trust me I feel okay, and I feel no pressure. Of course, I gotta go back and forth with sketches and ideas, what I would like [Silk] to be. Actually, in this sketchbook that you guys might see already, “My Marvels 2,” there’s a bunch of sketches I did to design the character. At the end, we came up with this idea that fulfilled all our expectations — and I mean it’s Dan’s and Nick [Lowe]’s and Ellie [Pyle]’s and my visions of what the character should look like. And I think she’s — this is the first step on how she’s gonna look, so expect more.