Chris Giarrusso, an intern until he was hired into the Marvel Comics Bullpen, has always considered himself a cartoonist with influences from Erik Larsen, Charles Schultz, and his brother Dave. Drawing from Peanuts and Mad magazine, he created in 1999 the Mini Marvels --child-sized versions of Marvel characters-- and inserted comic strips featuring the Minis into the Bullpen Bulletins seen in nearly every Marvel book, and contributed additional strips to a number of the publisher’s all-ages titles.
Having earned for themselves quite a following, the Mini Marvel’s first digest, Mini Marvels: Rock, Paper Scissors, will be released in July. CBR News sat down with Giarrusso to discuss the strip and its origins.
How did you get into comics?
I grew up in Liverpool, NY, a suburb of Syracuse, New York, which is famous for being the home of Syracuse University and a big mall. I got into comics from being into anything my brother was into. At first it was reading all of the newspaper comic strips and reading collections of newspaper strips like Peanuts and Garfield. Then my brother started searching for Mad magazines, and his search brought us to a local comic book store. Pretty soon I was buying a bunch of superhero comics every week.
You got your start at Marvel as an intern before moving on to the Bullpen. How’d you get that gig, and what was it like?
I was really excited at the time. I never thought I’d actually get a job in comics, and here I was. I learned pretty much everything I now know about how to make comics, and I really liked all of the people I was working with. It was the first and possibly only time I ever felt like I was where I was supposed to be.
How did the Mini Marvels concept develop?
I had done a few comic strips which saw print in the What If ongoing series. When “What If” was cancelled, they offered me an opportunity to put the strip in Marvel’s Bullpen Bulletins page. After I burned through my unused What If strips, I thought, “What if the Marvel heroes were kids?” and I just settled on doing that each week.
When I first started on the strip, it was pretty much under the radar. Then it was noticed and promptly cancelled. When Joe Quesada came on board as Editor-in-Chief, he brought the strip back. This encouraged me to pitch a full Mini Marvels story, which was eventually published as Giant-Size Mini Marvels. We later did another one-shot called Spidey and the Mini Marvels. Both books sold poorly, and Marvel didn’t want to keep publishing something that nobody was going to buy. A few years later, Assistant Editor Nate Cosby called me and offered me the opportunity to work on new Mini Marvels strips. I’ve been working with Nate for a couple of years now, and he somehow convinced Marvel to put out a digest.
For any fans that want to see more Mini Marvels, this is your chance. Not everybody at Marvel thinks this thing ought to be published in the first place, so if it doesn’t sell well, the party is over.
You contributed animation to a film called Armageddon for Andy.
For those who don’t know, the independent film Armageddon for Andy is available for free download at bohemiafilms.com. My brother and I animated a small sequence in the movie, and it was a lot of fun to be a part of it. I also drew a prequel comic about Andy, which is available for purchase at bohemiafilms.com.
What other things do you have coming up?
Right now I’m working on a Mini Marvels Skrulls story that will be a back-up feature in the Power Pack vs. The Skrulls miniseries.