REFLECTIONS: Talking with "Wolverine" artist Simone Bianchi

Reflections, Volume 3, Number 3

"But what he said is just too big to say and such a big responsibility for me!" - Simone Bianchi

Three installments in and I haven't been late yet! Take that, "Civil War!" Welcome back, dear reader, to the third (yes, third) installment of the third (yes, third) volume of my interview column, "Reflections." To help me launch this momentous event, CBR's head honcho Jonah Weiland is letting me relaunch in style, with five (yes, five) columns in one week to get readers acquainted with me and my style of interviewing.

You've already missed two, one with Jeph Loeb and one with Bryan Fuller. Look for more tomorrow!

Since I first noticed Italian artist Simone Bianchi's work on "Seven Soldiers," I knew he was going to become one of the best, most-popular artists in the business. And now, after garnering an enormous group of fans with his cover work and interiors for an issue of "Green Lantern," Bianchi is on the cusp of rocketing to fame and fortune.

He has since signed an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics and will shortly be debuting on "Wolverine" with writer Jeph Loeb on issue #50. Bianchi sat down to talk about how he doesn't want to be "the next big thing" and his art in general.

Robert Taylor: Simone, why did you want to become an artist?

Simone Bianchi: I'm afraid I'm going to have to give you a common answer. I read Marvel comics when I was a little kid and fell in love with characters like Spider-Man, Thor and more, and fell in love with the artists that drew them. People like John Buscema and Jack Kirby.

Way before I learned to read and write, I traced pictures from books every day, and then when I was 15 I began to do my own stuff, which was quite different than the style it's evolved into. And then I started working in the United States a few years ago, but my style was still totally different than what it is today.

At a comic convention I had the chance to have dinner with John Romita and his son, and it was so great to sit there and listen to them talk about the old days and what it was like to work at Marvel in the 1970s, because that was when I felt really inspired by the art.

I also think that's why, in the end, I picked Marvel and not DC. I'm more familiar with these characters.

RT: You mentioned your style evolving quite a bit over time. Tell me how much and in what ways.

SB: A lot! Robert, are you familiar with Claudio Castellini?

RT: Yes, I quite enjoyed his "Wolverine: The End" miniseries and his work at CrossGen.

SB: He's been one of my mentors for some time now. When I started drawing, he was my icon, and was one of the main guys who inspired me. If you have a chance to look at the work I did in the '90s, you'd really recognize his influence in my drawings.

Then I started to look at the European masters, and then finally I began to see some of the art that was going on in America. A big influence on my work is Travis Charest, whose work is amazing, inspiring and full of energy. It really helped me evolve my style with inkwash, halftones and other types of subtler things with the style.

When I moved to New York, I changed my style a bit, but not on purpose. It was more of a fluid evolution of the style I was already working with. If you look at some of the work on my Web site, you can see a lot of difference in the style of what I am doing now and the stuff I did then, like CD covers, commissions, paintings and conceptual art.

I don't like to say that my art style has been an evolution, but what you are seeing now is definitely a result.

RT: And are you happy with the results you are drawing now?

SB: No! I'm never happy! It's really infrequent that I can say I'm happy, because I'm always struggling to evolve and get better. I'm never satisfied.

I get the feeling that I could have done it better. When I close my portfolio and send it to my art dealer in Chicago, I never like to look at the art again.

Of course, it's different with covers. Sometimes I'm happy with the covers. I love the cover of the "Detective Comics" issue where Batman is walking out of the cathedral - that's the one I'm really proud of. I'm pretty happy with the Two Face cover from the first few Batman books I did, and I'm happy with "Green Lantern" #12.

Some of my work that hasn't been published yet I like a lot, too. I like the upcoming "Detective Comics" cover with The Joker on it and an upcoming one with Batman holding a woman.

Oh, and the cover to "Wolverine" #50. And the cover that was published with a 50/50 split for "Wolverine: Origins" #3.

RT: Let's talk about that hidden message on the cover to "Wolverine: Origins" #3. Was it your idea to put it in there?

SB: Oh no, it wasn't my idea, even though a lot people think it was. I got an email from Joe Quesada about doing it, but I don't think it was his idea either - maybe someone in the marketing department.

But I think it was a great idea and decided that if I was going to do it, I would do it right. I tried to hide the message as deep as possible so that people would feel really happy if they found our little side joke.

RT: How does you approach differ drawing a cover as opposed to doing interior work?

SB: There are no particular differences between the two processes. Only that when I am working on interiors I tend to focus much more on storytelling and the connection of the different panels.

RT: Let's talk about how you came to start working with DC Comics.

SB: I got familiar with them from working with my art dealer, who also deals with Alex Ross' work, because I think it is obvious that Ross prefers to work with DC characters more than Marvel.

Then, when I lived in New York I used to read a lot more DC Comics than Marvel, and I became even more close with the characters and their stories.

And, of course, my favorite character is Batman. I love him!

I actually wrote a script for a six-issue miniseries, actually scripted it, for the Batman character and I want to do the art for it, but I have to wait to get back to DC before that story gets published.

RT: So it sounds like you had, and still have, a great relationship with DC.

SB: Marvel had much better coverage in Italy, though, so I had more of an opportunity to grow up with those characters and fall in love with them. It was purely by chance. I appreciate a lot of DC characters, and one day I'd love to work on a book like their "JLA."

I guess you could put it this way: Marvel is like my childhood and DC is me when I got older.

RT: Tell me about working at Marvel.

SB: It's great!

I found at Marvel a great passion and professionalism. I've got to take the chance to say thank you my editor Axel Alonso for his support and energy, as well as Michael O'Connor and mighty Joe Q, whose trust in me is almost unbelievable - every time he talks about me and my work he makes me blush.

RT: I recently interviewed Jeph Loeb…

SB: Oh, Jeph is great!

RT: He is at that. And here's what he said about you: "As a comic book fan, I've been dying for the next new voice. When he came on the scene he was so dynamic and so interesting. I have seen Simone's pages (for "Wolverine"), and no one is ready for this stuff. It's just the next rocket to the moon. To be part of the beginning of his superstardom - that is great for me." Any comment?

SB: I'm blushing again! Jeph, he is just an incredible person. I got to meet him at San Diego for the first time and he was just such an interesting person to talk to. He has a lot of energy and I can't understand how he does all of the things he does, like the TV and writing a million books a month, at once.

But what he said is just too big to say and such a big responsibility for me! I am doing my job the best I can and I focus myself for my artwork the best I can, but it's a little uncomfortable to be called "the next big thing."

But, in 10 years, I would absolutely love to have children and young artists come up to me and tell me that they started drawing comic books because of me. Can you imagine that?

RT: What's it like working with him on "Wolverine?" How has working with Jeph differed from working with other writers?

SB: Well, the biggest difference is that as soon as we knew that we were going to work together, he sent me an email asking me what I like to draw and what I don't like to draw.

Well, there is nothing I don't like to draw so that got that out of the way. I love to draw horses and cars and anything that is high tech or has mecha-designs, and I told him that. I also told him the characters that I wanted to draw for the arc.

And Jeph followed all the indications that I sent him! He really wrote the story for me to draw.

With Grant Morrison, we just talked through email and things like that before. I never spoke to Grant until this summer at the San Diego Con - what a great guy, by the way. A genius and a real gentleman at the same time! And it was the same thing with Geoff Johns, too, on "Green Lantern" until we met in San Diego. With Jeph it is different. We talk about the stories and the art.

RT: So you'd like to work with Jeph again then?

SB: Oh definitely. I like the way he writes, with just a few panels per page and a lot of double-page splashes. He's the kind of writer who writes for artists.

RT: Why should readers be picking up "Wolverine" when your first issue hits stands?

SB: Because it's going to have a very unique look and an amazing, great story filled up with action and surprising revelations about Wolvie and Sabretooth.

RT: And what are you most excited about drawing in the book?

SB: Wolvie himself and the chance to tackle different backgrounds and genres. I get to work with everything from prehistorical stuff to high-tech environments and machinery, trough fantasy and historical-referenced stuff.

RT: Now on to the lightning round! What comics can you never miss?

SB: "Dylan Dog," "Civil War," "Justice," "Detective Comics" and "Batman," "Wolverine," "Wolverine: Origins" and a million more.

RT: Has there ever been a comic book that touched/changed your life? What was it?

SB: "Nathan Never" # 1 by my friend and mentor Claudio Castellini, "Kingdom Come," "The Maser Keeper" volume six by Massimiliano Frezzato, "Watchmen," "Daredevil: The Man Without Fear" by Miller and JR JR, "Sin City," "Mort Cinder" by Alberto Breccia, "Wildcats/X-Men" crossover by Travis Charest, "Sharazade" by Sergio Toppi, "les ieux du chat" and the "Edena" volumes by Moebius.

RT: If you could only draw one book for the rest of your career, what would it be?

SB: "Batman: the Knight on the Chessboard" and "X-men/The Inhumans: The Green Hooded Menace."

RT: Who would be your writing partner?

SB: Grant Morrison or Frank Miller.

RT: What is your weirdest convention experience?

SB: That would be a censored answer, but I was close to the swimming pool of the Omni hotel at San Diego. Though I wouldn't call it a weird experience.

RT: If you were remembered for only one thing in your career, what would you want it to be?

SB: You mean apart from this interview?

RT: Yes.

SB: For a Marvel/ DC crossover project I am gonna paint and write sooner or later.

Tomorrow: Mike Carey!

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