If only there were fifty Simone Bianchi's in the comic industry.
His first major splash in the industry was part of Grant Morrison's "Seven Soldiers." Soon Bianchi decided to make his Marvel and is currently producing some absolutely breathtaking work with writer Jeph Loeb on "Wolverine."
Bianchi is one of those rare artists who is as concerned with deadlines as retailers and comic fans. He is also, as you are about to read, one of the most enthusiastic creators I have ever spoken with. His work is pretty to look at, comes out on time, and he's nice? Like I said, we need fifty more of him!
Simone Bianchi: Robert, let me ask the first question.
Robert Taylor: Seriously? Wow, this has never happened before...okay!
SB: How is your writing coming along?
RT: Amazingly well. I just found out my first novel got picked up for publication.
SB: That's excellent!
RT: So how's life with you?
SB: Right now I'm swamped with my deadlines. The only thing I am doing right now between working is getting six hours of sleep. The rest of the day is all about work.
Let me keep my fingers crossed that I continue to meet deadlines since I have not missed one single deadline so far.
RT: It's refreshing to hear an artist talk about meeting his deadlines.
SB: I see what you mean. But let me tell you a story about why I'm so obsessed with deadlines.
The first person I met really encouraged me to work for a big publishing houses like DC or Marvel. One of the first things he told me was that no matter how good I was, I would not reach the top unless I met deadlines. I would need to be able to do both. And I kept those words in my mind as much as possible.
It's a matter of respect. Not only for my editors and for the publishing house that is paying for me to do this job, but it's a matter of respect for retailers and readers. Guys who are spending money for comics deserve to have their comics come in on time, and that's what I am trying to do.
RT: And 100,000 readers are turning out for "Wolverine" every month now. Welcome to superstardom, sir.
SB: Let's start with the end of the story. I just found out that the amount of copies sold was crazy and "Wolverine" was 9 in the top 10 and I was floored. With the energy and passion I am putting into this story--it makes me feel great. It's not just about money, it's about realizing that people are following and understanding what we are trying to do on this book. I couldn't ask for more than that.
I think the first issue went definitely over 100,000. I want to say around 130,000, and it was not a "Civil War" tie-in either! That was pretty amazing and I can't thank Marvel and Jeph enough for promoting the whole run so well. I can't thank enough fans.
RT: Between the promotional push for the series and the black-and-white variants that were done for all your issues, it seems like Marvel really has your back right now.
SB: Marvel was thinking about doing the black-and-white version for the first issue because it was the anniversary issue and Jeph was starting to write the book and they wanted to hype it a lot. When Jeph saw the first eleven pages of the first issue, he was so impressed that he pushed Marvel to do a variant black-and-white issue for every single book. I couldn't be any happier.
I'm not sure whether you've seen both of the versions, but I'm pretty sure you did...
RT: Of course I buy both copies every month and must confess I prefer the black-and-white ones.
SB: People at home can have a real sense of what we are doing in the studio with both versions. I also think it helps me and my inker, Andrea Silvestri, to have a closer relationship with our readers.
I have to say we have been through a lot of printing process problems and I have to thank Marvel for their passion in finding out the best way to print these things. Robert, printing black-and-white with painted pages is harder than printing color pages. They did an amazing job. I am honored that Marvel gave me this chance to show my work in black-and-white.
RT: When you were doing #50 and thought most of the arc would just be published in color, did you alter your style at all for the comic?
SB: No, no no. I didn't change anything at all. Even on my next project, I'm going to do the whole inkwash process even if there is no black-and-white version. We need the tones to give depth to our own pages. I wouldn't change anything and will work with the same process on the upcoming project. Don't ask me what it is, because I can't talk about that! [laughs]
RT: Can you at least say if it's going to be with Jeph?
SB: I'm definitely going to work with Jeph again. I promise, and I'm Italian so you can trust my word. But the next project might not be with Jeph. I enjoy working with him so much that I'm looking forward to working with him again.
What I can tell you is I'm pretty confident that we are going to make a big splash in San Diego in July.
RT: The last time we talked you were just starting with Jeph. Tell us about working with him.
SB: Jeph is the ultimate writer. Every single artist would like to work with. When Jeph is getting ready to write a script, he always thinks about the artist he is working with, and is the artist's best friend. It's not a big secret that when we started on the story, Jeph called me and asked me what I would and wouldn't like to draw. We talked about it and the story started to shape up and come along. Besides that, the thing that I appreciated was the breakdowns for the pages are never more than two-or-three panels a page with plenty of double-page splashes. It's a very challenging and exciting writing for every artist. He's the ideal writer to work with.
RT: Was it you or Jeph who originated the idea of using the Black Panther and Storm in the arc, because your Black Panther rocks.
SB: Thank you so much. I think part of the reason why I enjoyed it this much and it turned out pretty good is because [Black Panther] is the closest character to Batman in [the Marvel Universe]. I've been working on the "Detective Comics" covers for so long that it came along really easily to me. I was comfortable with him even though I never read a single Black Panther story in my life. I had to google Black Panther to find out about his costume. But he's just one of those characters who is really close to the way I do art.
RT: Okay, I know I'm about to get an avalanche, but what other Marvel characters do you want to draw?
SB: Every. Single. One.
I know it sounds crazy, but I love these characters to death. We had a very strange publishing history in Italy in the '70s and early '80s, so we didn't have many comics at all, but had the Marvel characters. When I was a little kid, I spent my days tracing Daredevil or the Fantastic Four and all these characters. I'm not kidding you, I love to draw. I would like to draw one single piece for every Marvel character.
I'd love to do Spider-Man or Captain America. I love Thor. People on the Internet were asking why Marvel is not putting me on "Thor," and I would love to do it. I love Daredevil. I love the Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer, and not just for the movie. I've been a fan since John Buscema used to draw the character.
I love to draw and I would love to draw The Inhumans. They are misplaced right now, but I'd love to do something with them.
I love all the villains, that is for sure.
I love the Hulk. I love the X-Men. I'd love to do something with Dr. Strange.
Like I said, every single character. I'd love to do Ultimate anything as well. You name it, I'd love to draw it.
What I can say is that after I'm done with "Wolverine," I'm going to have a whole bunch of covers waiting for me to do them. I can't tell you which characters are going to be involved, but they will be different and fun.
RT: Are you still doing "Detective Comics" covers for the foreseeable future, as well?
SB: Yes. As you probably know already, my closest friend in the business, my brother in comics, Peter Tomasi, left the office of editor to become an exclusive full-time writer at DC. When he first mentioned he was going to leave, I thought about focusing 100% on Marvel, but I loved Batman too much. So I talked to the new editor, Michael Marts. Right now I have no idea how long I'm going to be doing the covers for, but right now I am on my twenty-first cover in a row. That is a long run, and I was talking to Peter, and I was saying something between a joke and being serious. I told him I wanted to do the longest "Detective Comics" cover run ever. Then I found out a few years ago that it would take me five or six years. I don't know whether I can keep it up that long, but my want is to stay on these covers as long as possible.
RT: Do you like Dini's run on the book so far?
SB: I have not been reading comics for five months now! I know it is a shame, but I haven't had the chance. The last thing I read was "Civil War," which I loved. Mark Millar is an amazing genius and Steve McNiven and Morry Hollowell did an amazing job. Steve stopped by my table at Artist's Alley in New York, and he is the sweetest guys I've ever met in the business, and I can't wait to see his new project.
I also went out with my girlfriend for our anniversary and read "Hush." I love it. I had a great time reading it. Jim Lee is one of those guys whose art is better when you read the story than when you just look at the page. He has an amazing storytelling skill, and it's been a lot of fun.
I started reading the first ten pages of "The Long Halloween," but I fell asleep and didn't start again.
So I haven't read the books yet, but I've heard a lot of good things about the books. The whole internet community is really talking good speak about those stories. As soon as I have some time to rest in July, when I take a couple weeks of rest after an amazing year of full-time work, I'm planning to read a whole bunch of comics.
RT: But the covers for "Detective" aren't just splash covers that have nothing to do with the story: They have something to do with the plot. Did Tomasi and does Marts just tell you what is going to be in the issue?
SB: Yeah. That is the way I used to work with Peter. We would start talking about the cover. One thing that I have to say about Peter is that he was an amazing editor for cover content. He always had the perfect idea for every single cover. I think we are going to use the same creative process with Michael as well.
RT: Since you are over at Marvel, I might as well ask what characters you would want to work with at DC.
SB: I would like to get back to Hal Jordan sooner or later. I love Hawkman, and think he is a great character to draw, but I don't know much about his background or story. I'd love to draw Wonder Woman. Of course I'd want to do something with Superman and Batman that redefines the relationship between them. I want to do "Justice League of America," that's for sure, with Paul Dini or Brad Meltzer. I love Brad's writing.
The truth is that I want to do too many things. I've been talking to the guys at DC Direct. I got to have one of my covers be turned into one of those magnificent statues. I'm a big toy/action figure/statue fan.
By the way, let me throw a message out in a bottle. I'd love to work with Sideshow Collectibles. These guys are doing an amazing job, and they did an amazing job with Wolverine and Sabretooth and Colossus. Everything they are doing there is extraordinary, and I'd love to do something with those guys too.
So many things to do, so little time.
RT: Since you sort of touched upon it, I'll just go whole hog. What other writers do you want to work with?
SB: I was going to say Robert Taylor, as a matter of fact. [laughs] I'd love to work again with Grant Morrison, his genius is unattainable. One of my dreams in the drawer for us to do together is to do a second part of Arkham Asylum that is a continuation of that graphic novel with painted pages.
I love Mark Millar. I love Warren Ellis. I love Paul Dini, for sure. I love Brian Azzarello. There are too many writers to name more!
RT: Ready for the lightning round?
RT: What do you think your biggest strength as an artist is?
SB: I never rationally thought about this!
Let me put it this way; I want to think that my stuff looks very unique. My pages and covers are very recognizable. You can have a huge fan base but at the same time, having such a style can make classic fans stay away from your work.
I am good at double page splashes and stuff like that. I think I need a little step forward in my storytelling.
RT: My next question is what you think your biggest weakness is and you are segueing into it, so go ahead.
SB: I have to say two things. The first is storytelling. I have to think how a director would think about a screenplay, and I need to improve on that aspect of my art.
Another something that I am missing is painting my own stuff. I love to do my own stuff. If you've had a chance to look through my Web site there is some very visionary things that I want to do more of. Right now I'm working in the business and don't have any time left to work on my own stuff.
I also have to work on my writing skills. I did my pitch for a six-issue Batman series last year and need to improve on it. My dream is to do writing and drawing, but I have a long way to go before I get there. I'm not [a native English speaker], so it will take a lot for me to write readable dialogue in English.
I'm always overcritical about my stuff. I can not take a look back. When a book is done, I close the portfolio, send it to my art dealer and don't look again.
RT: The last question is what advice you would have for aspiring artists.
SB: Yesterday I got a call from a close friend of mine who used to be a student of mine. This guy has been hired and is going to do a big project for Vertigo. Every young artist should work work work as hard and as many hours as possible on a daily basis to put together the best portfolio you can. Start showing your portfolios to artists first, especially ones who inspire you. Then start showing your own art to editors and people who eventually might hire you.
Draw, draw, draw! That's the only way to improve your skills. Work on anatomy, because the ability to draw a person is important, and then try to find your own way to draw the human body and make it your own. There are no short cuts for that.