Marco Rudy has been a DC Comics mainstay since stepping in to draw portions of the Grant Morrison-written 2008 event “Final Crisis”. Following that gig, he illustrated “The Shield,” “Superboy” and teamed with Scott Snyder on multiple issues of the New 52 “Swamp Thing.”
Rudy has moved to Marvel Comics for his latest project, “Marvel Knights: Spider-Man,” with issue #2 released this week. Joined by increasingly ubiquitous “Mind MGMT” writer Matt Kindt, the series — part of the publisher’s latest revival of the Marvel Knights imprint — sees the original, non-Superior Spider-Man, Peter Parker taking on 99 different villains in a separate-from-continuity superheroic marathon.
Though it’s a classic version of Spider-Man, the overall look aims to be new: While Spidey remains constant, the other characters — like all those villains — get refreshed visuals in the series, with Rudy dubbing many of the redesigns “steampunkish.” CBR News spoke with the artist for more insight into his approach to “Marvel Knights: Spider-Man.”
CBR News: Marco, before we dive into “Marvel Knights: Spider-Man,” are you currently working on anything for DC Comics?
Marco Rudy: Nope, just the Spidey mini. When my “Swamp Thing” stint was coming to an end, [Marvel Editor] Stephen Wacker offered me something. I thought it would be a fill-in — lo and behold, it was this!
Matt Kindt has been busy on “Mind MGMT,” as well as with his various DC, Marvel and Valiant projects. What has it been like working with him to conceive and develop the full scope of this story?
Amazing. Prior to the beginning, we chatted quite a bit and I just hoped he liked the pages when they came. [Laughs] I love each and every panel of script I get, and I try my best to turn it to the most suited imagery I can come up with. A lot of people seem to be liking them, thankfully.
The series features a staggering number of villains — 99, to be exact. How has that been to draw?
[Laughs] I’d say that once people see the books, the 99 villains question will be the least-asked question, as the visuals are different from usual. Let’s just say, keep the figure of 100 to 105 in your mind. There’s been no real pressure on me doing these villains — the only pressure is for me to deliver quality work that’s up to standard and higher. I can safely say that the creative freedom I have on this book, for me, is unlike any other. I have freedom I never experienced before.
Matt [Kindt]’s scripts are totally mind-blowing. At first, there was a lot of back and forth, just reading the script, but once my eyes and mind caught up and I could visualize it — it’s been a blast. It comes off trippy when you look at the pages, and issue #1 with the gas explains why. I’m allowed to do so many different things. As an editor, [Wacker] has helped control the flow of things. Matt’s scripts leave room for my imagination to roam, and I’m pleased to say that there aren’t many corrections sent back. We’re on the same page and it rocks.
That said, it has been tremendously fun to tackle each and every character and give them their 15 minutes of screen time. Everybody gets some — heck, some even have their own soundtrack. It’s dynamic when you see more and more of the pages. Lots of homages, tributes and original stuff packed in.
So is it an action-packed kind of book, or are we getting enough time to emotionally flesh out character development for the hero and the villains? In just five issues, that’s a lot of material to pack in.
Well, issue #1 had a lot of action. A lot of shock and tension-building. But overall, it’s very well-paced, a good roller coaster ride of a story. It’s a delicate balance, but I try to mimic Matt’s scripts. There are high-octane moments, but some very seriously emotional ones, too. The villains serve a higher purpose as they are different flavors to a bigger meal. Some get some fleshing out, as they are what we would call “level bosses” from old Genesis and SNES/NES sidescrollers, like “Contra” and “Streets of Rage.” I love “Contra!”
There were a lot of video game references and layouts in the panel designs I saw in issue #1, even some panels which called to mind “Tetris.” I take it they’re more of an homage?
Well, I love video games. They bring a visual strength out like no other. “Streets of Rage 2” is the best beat “em up sidescroller, ever. I play it today, still, and still have a blast.
There were some monsters, namely Frankenstein’s Monster, popping up in the first issue. Your “Swamp Thing” run garnered great reviews, so you must have felt at home and comfortable given the unconventional nature of this project.
Yes! I got to fiddle around more with monsters! At DC, while I was on “The Shield,” the book sales weren’t up, so I was allowed creative freedom on it, and then in “Swamp Thing,” it was pretty great. All in all, I kept having artistic freedom, but this book let me have more, and yeah, I felt at home. The villains in issue #1 are just the tip of the iceberg, but I was glad to start off so comfortably. Matt’s always ahead on his scripts by miles, so I was always eagerly waiting to get more from him.
How does your art here stand apart from the other work you’ve done?
There are several titles [I’ve worked on] that have artistic choices in their storytelling. I always try to comprehend said choices, to study them and apply them to my work. Back to my gaming influence a bit, each game has a vibe and different storytelling approach, even in its soundtrack, to each situation, each level, each revelation and/or boss battle. This kind of thinking has led me through my choices in storytelling, among many other influences like David Mack and Bill Sienkiewicz and J.H. Williams lll. I’d say they have their part in each page layout I do and each panel I render. I’ll say something every creator says about their new work: This is my best work ever — so far.
Sounds like you really cut loose here as an artist.
Every new sequence and every new page is a new challenge to convey everything, from the whole page layout to the rendering of one panel differently than the other — and every choice taken to that effect has been just a blast. If you ever thought I was being experimental or daring in “The Shield” or “Swamp Thing,” let me tell you that you’re in for a thrill. This is a turning point in my approach to comics, for sure. I hope people do enjoy it, as much as I am enjoying working in it. I’m on issue #5 right now.
You and Matt aren’t bogged down by continuity much as this isn’t really based in the mainstream universe. Due to that, are you, as an artist, allowed to toy around and throw in some reinterpretations of your own on these classic villains?
Exactly. The only unchanged character/design here is Pete. Everything else gets some new duds, and some are actually explained. There’s a steampunkish vibe to lots of the redesigns as Matt wanted to see many in that light. I can’t give away much, but it’s been a blast toying with them. It’s more liberal and free to draw, as we’re out of continuity.
How did you and Matt come up with Peter’s look?
Matt sent notes and we wanted to keep a classic look and vibe for Pete. The “Spider-Man” series on MTV remains my favorite animated show featuring Pete, and I’ve modeled our Peter a bit after him. A lot of people have been asking who was the influence, with some even referencing a certain Doctor Who, but it’s more that MTV Parker. At the end of the day, no matter what, it’s a Peter Parker book, so I wanted to nail this aspect of the title down.
For me, Peter has been a childhood hero. Even today, I am shocked I draw comics for a living, and more shocked I’m drawing Peter Parker. I remember seeing him smile in the mirror and mask his hurt. That was really a good story.
Fans really take to Marvel Knights projects as they allow for the expanding or subverting of characters we know and love. What are your thoughts on the imprint?
Needed. Necessary. Fantastic. It’s through Marvel Knights that many creators and fantastic stories came about. It was through Knights that I came across what would be one of my top three favorite creators and good friends, David Mack, whose storytelling ability has influenced my take on comics ever since I laid my eyes on that first “Daredevil” issue he worked with [Brian Michael] Bendis. That’s just one creator and story among many that have influenced the industry that we’re in.
I love the imprint and I wish it to remain in the spotlight for a long time. We need the different approach that this imprint provides creators to extrapolate, stretch their creative muscles and come out with awesomeness. As much as we need Vertigo.
With X-Men and Hulk getting the Knights treatment, how much do you think this will benefit the industry?
[The imprint’s] variety with known characters, so far, has shown the fantastic indie side of the industry. Why not have some event-less and earth-shattering-less sets of stories, shining a different light on these characters so used to being famous for being “the best at what they do?” This is why I think these stories should come up every now and then and bring a breath of fresh air. If “Bastion” and “Journey” can be fantastic stories rivaling powerhouses like “Mass Effect,” why not use that creative spa — I’ll stop using gaming as examples, here. [Laughs]
So how would you sell the next issue, or sell the title in general? Maybe after this, you’d work on the monthly Spider-Man title, if given the chance.
This is the wise-cracking Peter you know. In fact, let me correct that. This is Peter Parker from Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco and David Michelinie. This is that classic Peter Parker voice. That’s him. And he’s not alone in this ride; familiar faces are there, too This is also Peter Parker, visually, in a light that’s different in style. This is the Peter Parker that did face-smiling exercises way back in the day, before facing Jonah Jameson, to appear happy all the time. No need to say more.
Let me talk in Morpheus’ voice. “Open your mind, Neo,” because this is a different visual experience for the longtime fans of Spidey as every issue has a theme. Visually, the book follows that theme, too. Look forward to listening to the “Pulp Fiction” soundtrack while reading it as you may find some references in the book!. [Laughs]
As for a monthly, well my process takes time, and I don’t know if I’m up for that monthly gig, but you never know. Can’t say for sure. If the story fits –!