During this year’s Comic-Con International at San Diego, Marvel Comics announced that artist David Marquez is now exclusive to Marvel. Recently announced as the “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” artist alongside Sara Pichelli, Marquez began his career in comics shortly after graduating with a degree in History and Government from the University of Texas by working as an animator on the “A Scanner Darkly” feature film.
Marquez spoke with CBR News about going Marvel exclusive, his process for doing digital art, his Photoshop comics tutorials and his upcoming creator-owned book “The Joyners in 3D” from Archaia.
CBR News: David, congrats on going Marvel exclusive. What drove you to make the decision to lend your talent exclusively to Marvel?
David Marquez: Thanks! Marvel approached me with the offer to go exclusive shortly after I began my run on “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” and I really didn’t need too much convincing. I’d been a Marvel fan long before I ever began working for them and it was a huge honor just to be asked. Naturally, we spent a little while hashing over the details and fine print, but in the end the opportunity to continue working on these characters, and teaming up with some of the best talent in the industry was something I had to pursue. And, on a practical note, exclusivity offers a kind of stability not often afforded to freelancers. At this point in my career, that stability is incredibly valuable.
You came on as ongoing artist for “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” pretty recently. How have you found your work on that book helps you continue to grow as an artist?
Working on “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” has been an amazing in so many ways. The book offers so many opportunities (or challengers, depending on your perspective) to an artist: the diversity of the cast (all sizes and shapes, ethnicities, genders and ages), the fast-paced and chaotic action scenes balanced out by incredibly touching and subtle character moments, and the cameos and villains, from classic and reimagined to entirely new. You hear the joke that in order to be a comic artist, you have to be able to draw anything — this book is proof.
But more than all that, I’ve also been given the chance to work with Brian Bendis and [colorist] Justin Ponsor, guys who are in the highest echelon of comics talent. That’s incredibly exciting, but also scary since I have to up my game to keep pace. Every issue, every page is a challenge to do the best work I possibly can.
What can you tell us about your artistic plans for the book? Are there any cool new designs that you’re currently working on?
Oh, there definitely are. The last couple issues I’ve drawn have featured some really huge developments for Miles, including the appearance of some classic Spidey villains. The Ultimate office editors and Brian have given me nearly free rein to draw these guys however I like, and I’ve been trying to really get into making these guys look as cool as possible. Can’t wait to see what the readers think!
One of your first jobs in the art world was as an animator on “A Scanner Darkly.” What was it like working on that film after graduating University of Texas with a degree in History and Government?
[Laughs] Definitely not what I had planned when I started school. I really almost lucked into the animation job after hearing about the auditions from some artist friends of mine. I had started applying for high school teaching positions, but a couple weeks before I was to graduate I went in and tried out for Scanner. When I was offered a position on the animation team, I immediately accepted and started working on the film one day after graduation. It was an amazing opportunity, but also really scary abandoning the “safe route” I had been planning to go down. 8 years later, it seems like things have panned out.
One of the unique aspects to your art is that you work almost completely digitally for production — could you describe your process and what it’s like to produce your art that way?
Without going into too much detail, my process really isn’t much different from when I worked traditionally. I still do my thumbnail sketches right on the print out of the script, then move on to layouts (rough pencils) and inks (finishes). I also work on a Cintiq, which emulates (to some degree) the experience of working traditionally.
But of course, working digitally is very different in a number of ways. Most importantly, for me, is that it is considerably faster than my traditional workflow. With traditional tools I can produce quickly, or I can produce quality, but not both. Digitally, I can do both. Working on a monthly book, and inking myself to boot, wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Additionally, my digital workflow allows for lots of experimentation and integration of a wide variety of tools. I integrate 3D imagery extensively in my work, and am constantly playing around with new techniques — patterns, textures, custom brush settings. While I absolutely understand that not every artist would want to work digitally (and I very strongly believe that artists should use whatever tools they prefer) I couldn’t imagine going back to a completely traditional process.
What inspired you to create some of the Photoshop comic tutorials for your blog?
As awesome of a resource as the Internet is, I really had to search all over the place to learn how to create comics the way I wanted to digitally. While there are some digital tutorials and how-to books available, I’ve found that I had to mix and match many of the techniques and tools presented in order to produce the kind of work that I’m happy with. My tutorials were intended to present a basic starters guide so that hopefully artists new to working digitally wouldn’t have to spend nearly as much time as I did just learning the ropes.
There’s also the point that Photoshop isn’t designed for drawing comics. In fact, I’d say that most of the digital artists I know use Manga Studio instead and have great things to say about it. For my own purposes, I really like the versatility that Photoshop provides, and I wanted to document the processes I’ve found and developed utilizing Photoshop’s amazing capabilities.
During the years I was trying to break into comics after Scanner wrapped I supported myself by tutoring test-taking strategies for the LSAT, MCAT, GRE, SAT and other entrance exams; it was something I really enjoyed and I took pride in doing it well. Now that I’m working full-time in comics, I’ve started to miss teaching and these art tutorials are a small way to scratch that itch. Long-term, teaching is something I’d really like to do again and I hope that eventually I’ll have that opportunity.
You’ve cited one of your influences as the art of Travis Charest — what about Charest’s art has helped influenced your own work?
I was a huge “WildC.A.T.s” fan growing up, and when Travis came onto that book it totally blew my mind. He started off with a very Jim Lee-influenced style, but I watched as he blossomed over the late ’90s into something very different, expressing a truly unique artistic sensibility. Beyond the obvious — the amazing detail, the designs and the hair — Travis’ constant exploration and re-invention is very inspiring, and something I could only hope to pattern my own artistic growth after.
Coming up, Archaia has announced that you’re working on a 3D graphic novel and you’ve posted a sample of that on your blog. From a design perspective, what’s it like working in traditional, red-and-blue 3D?
“The Joyners in 3D” is a book I’ve been developing with my writing partner R.J. Ryan ever since my first published work, “Syndrome,” came out. It was very important to me that I have the freedom to continue working on this book while I drew for Marvel, and they very generously agreed.
Apropos of the earlier discussion on artistic growth and exploration, working on “The Joyners in 3D” is something that I am very intentionally and explicitly using as a chance to flex some artistic muscles that may be inappropriate or unnecessary in my more mainstream work. I made the conscious decision to work in a much more simplified and (for lack of a better term) cartoony style for “JI3D.” Not only is this a chance to play around stylistically, but also is meant to cater to the 3D I’m trying to implement in the book. With nearly 2 years of development time on this project, I’ve found that clean and simple lifework really augments the 3D treatment, and I’ve catered the art as much as possible to that.
“JI3D” is my first creator-owned project and a chance to really control the artistic vision of a book. Early on, I took it on myself to do all the 3D treatments myself. More than the style I’m working in, learning how to create 3D imagery and explore that as a storytelling and artistic tool has been an incredibly difficult, but rewarding, experience.
Now that you’re a Marvel exclusive artist, what projects are coming down the line for you at the House of Ideas?
I’m happy to say I’ll be sticking to “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” for the foreseeable future. I love drawing Miles and look forward to collaborating more with Brian, Justin and the rest of the Ultimate crew. Just wait ’til you see what we’ve got cooking!
For more on Marvel Comics and “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man,” watch for CBR’s continued coverage of Comic-Con International this week!