Since Marvel Comics became part of the Disney entertainment empire, fans have wondered whether or not the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe would migrate to the CG filmmaking powerhouse that is Pixar Studios. While there are currently no plans for the creators of “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles” to bring Captain America and company to life, the two Disney brands have been finding other, quieter ways to work together.
This November, the House of Ideas welcomes Pixar storyboard artist and former mainstream comics creator Bobby Rubio to its sandbox for a second time as the artist draws a variant cover for “Avengers Assemble” #9 — the debut issue of the new creative team of writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Stefano Caselli. CBR News has an exclusive first look at the piece as well as an interview with the artist discussing the way in which he brought the movie team assembled in Joss Whedon’s “Avengers” film to a more comic book-inspired level.
Of course, Rubio is no stranger to comic books. The artist started his career as an intern at an early iteration of WildStorm and before starting animation work, penciled for comics including “WildC.A.T.s Adventures” and Dark Horse’s “Godzilla.” Since kicking into animation full time — including his most recent work storyboarding for films like “Up” and “Brave” — his comics work has mostly appeared in web comics form, though he joined Marvel for an “I Am Captain America” variant last year for “Incredible Hulks” #362. Below, Rubio talks about all these experiences as well as his love of Jack Kirby, comics culture at Pixar and the toughest part of drawing Avengers.
CBR News: Bobby, you’ve worked in comics in the past, recently returning to the fold with some “I Am Captain America” cover work for Marvel. How did you roll that experience into this latest gig? Are you hoping to do more comics work moving forward?
Bobby Rubio: It has been a long time since I worked on a mainstream comic. The last one was probably with Jim Lee’s WildStorm Studios, but I’d like to point out that I have been working on my creator-owned independent comic series, “Alcatraz High” and “4 Gun Conclusion” since 2003. My cover work for Marvel is really more of a return to mainstream comics, and I couldn’t have been more delighted. I am a huge Marvel fan and have comic boxes full of X-Men, Avengers and Spider-Man! It was my pleasure to participate in the “I Am Captain America” variant cover event last year. My editor for that cover was George Beliard. We had a great working relationship and we both were looking forward to working together on another project soon. We parted ways, and I continued to work on the Pixar movies “Brave” and “Monsters University.” After work hours, I continued creating “Alcatraz High,” and every now and then, when I was inspired to draw something else, I would draw comic book/pop culture references that I found to be funny and post them on my on my Deviant Art page gallery. One of these drawings was “Avengers vs. X-Men.” It was my take on the AvX event. The drawing depicted the Avengers and X-Men as dance crews battling it out on the dance floor. It was very popular and made its rounds on the internet.
One day, I get an email from George and he tells me that he saw the “Avengers vs. X-Men” drawing and he thought it was awesome. I was hoping he was contacting me for an Avengers movie variant cover event, but his intentions was just to say hi. I told him that I was so inspired by watching the “Avengers” movie trailer that I drew up a rough sketch of the team I was planning on using as a tribute drawing and post it on my gallery, just for fun. But if Marvel could use it as an actual cover, then that could be a win-win situation for us all. George asked me to send him the rough sketch to shop around to the Avengers editors at Marvel. A couple days later, I get an e-mail saying the editor for “Avengers Assembled” is interested in the artwork for the variant cover. I was excited, to say the least. This whole experience has been amazing and I would love to do more comic covers in the near future.
Your Cap cover was more of a metaphorical piece of work, with a teacher standing in for Steve Rogers and kiddies standing in for the Avengers. This time out, you’re drawing the real deal. Did the last job leave you itching to do some full-on superhero work
It was such an honor to draw the “Teacher” variant cover. As a father of three young boys, I have the utmost respect and admiration for the teaching profession. I had a blast drawing the kids dressed up as Avengers. It was cute and designed to be that way, but yeah, I was definitely eager to do the “real deal” Avengers! I have been collecting comics since I was a kid, and in my collection, I have the George Perez “Avengers” run and the Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch “Ultimates” run, which I love. So I was chomping at the bit to finally get an opportunity to draw an official “Avengers” comic book cover!
Obviously, the cast of the team on your cover is the cast of the team seen in the “Avengers Assemble” series, but it’s also the movie team. What kind of specific inspiration did you take from Joss Whedon’s film for this piece? How many times did you see “Avengers” in the theater?
My original intention for the Avengers drawing was to be a tribute piece to the movie. In fact, the original sketch had Black Widow holding guns like she does in the movie. But then George (Beliard) asked me to change the team from the “movie version” to the “Marvel Universe version” and so I had to switch out Black Widow’s guns and have her pointing out her stinger bracelets.
I am proud to say I saw “The Avengers” twice! I love that movie! I think that Joss Whedon and his crew did an amazing job of creating a very entertaining blockbuster movie! It had great comedic moments, nice interaction between characters, all the Avengers had decent amount of screen time, and fantastic battle sequences. It was awesome! Congrats to Joss Whedon and the whole “Avengers” crew!
There’s a lot of great small details here, from the laser sight effect on Hawkeye’s arrow to the Hulk’s big, angry jaw. What was your personal favorite element to draw? Any characters prove tricky for you to nail?
My personal favorite element was Captain America because he is one of my favorite Marvel Universe characters. I drew him in his classic Jack Kirby designed uniform, with the scaled top and red pirate boots! The character that proved to be the most tricky was Hawkeye, mainly because of his bow. I had to do a couple drawing passes before I felt Hawkeye looked convincing holding on to his bow and aiming at an off screen target. I think I also drew the bow too big on my first pass.
I’m sure most comic readers are equally excited to have someone from Pixar working on Marvel books with even semi-frequency. Can you tell me a little bit about the comics culture, if any, at the studio? Are you one of a number of folks who have counted yourself in the Wednesday shopping crowd?
Comic culture has gone mainstream with the help of movies, video games, toys and comics. I would say that there is a huge comic culture at Pixar. I mean, this is the studio that made one of the greatest comic movies of all times, “The Incredibles,” so of course we love comics here. And you will definitely find some Pixar artists at the local comic shop on Wednesdays. I’m not always there on Wednesdays. Sometimes I get busy with other things, but I try to get to my comic shop as soon as I can to get my new books.
“Avengers Assemble” #9 is on sale in November from Marvel Comics.