Veteran artist Greg Capullo shared some anecdotes about his past and present working relationships during the Spotlight on Greg Capullo panel Friday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego 2019.
Moderated by DC co-publisher Dan DiDio, Capullo spoke about how his working partnership with Batman, Dark Nights: Metal and Batman: Last Knight on Earth writer Scott Snyder has evolved over the past several years. Capullo also shared how his relationship with Spawn creator Todd McFarlane began and changed during his years on Image Comics’ flagship title. The artist spoke highly of both writers, but didn’t hesitate to also share some of the obstacles he has faced while collaborating with comics’ biggest names.
Capullo first discussed what he considers his first big break in comics, which he cited as 1989’s What If? #2 from Marvel Comics – "What If Daredevil Killed the Kingpin?” – a story written by Danny Fingeroth, which Capullo penciled. “Marvel gave me a series of one-shots after that,” Capullo said, “And John Romita Sr. had taken me under his wing. He showed my work around the Marvel offices, and I later ended up penciling Quasar.” Capullo drew over 20 issues of that title in the early ‘90s, before taking over drawing X-Force in 1992 when series artist Rob Liefeld left Marvel to co-found Image Comics.
DiDio referred to that era of Marvel as “volatile,” as many of the publisher’s most popular artists had also left to form Image. “Going from Quasar to X-Force was big deal,” Capullo said, and recognizing the opportunity that the departures had given him, jokingly added, “Thanks for leaving!”
“I was told to draw like Liefeld,” added Capullo, to the audience's amusement. “Add extra guns, and lots of pouches (on the character’s costumes).”
Capullo was hoping for more Marvel work, and drew X-Force for one year before himself ironically going to work for Image – but he wasn’t originally ready to make the switch and leave such a high-profile assignment. “I wasn’t even a year in (drawing X-Force), and Todd called and asked me to come work for him. ‘Why would I come to work for your absurd little company when I have X-Force?’” McFarlane responded by calling him an expletive and hanging up on him, according to Capullo.
The wished-for opportunities at Marvel never came to pass, said Capullo, because the publisher wasn’t promoting him as an artist, prompting Capullo to give McFarlane another chance. Capullo went to work for Image soon after, when McFarlane gave him the art chores on Violator #3, the final issue of a mini-series featuring Spawn’s most notorious foe and written by Alan Moore.
Capullo took over the penciling duties on McFarlane’s Spawn in 1993, but wasn’t all that big a fan of the title. “I don’t think Todd’s skill is his drawing ability,” said Capullo. “I wasn’t a fan of Spawn and knew nothing about it. I was put on the title with issue #16, and defined the character more than Todd did.” Capullo drew most of the series’ issues until he left in 2000.
DiDio picked up on Capullo’s claim that he did more to define Spawn as a character than McFarlane did, asking Capullo what he thought he brought to the comic. “I go in with initial idea, but the characters themselves start to dictate how they want to be drawn. There’s this connection that happens that grows. I listen to vibes that come from characters. Todd put no constraints at all on me.”
After leaving Spawn, McFarlane put Capullo on retainer, but the artist wanted to expand his footprint, and reached out to both Marvel and DC. “I always liked Marvel,” said Capullo, “But DC offered Batman.” Capullo found The Dark Knight a hard opportunity to turn down.
“Batman won,” Capullo added. “Batman always wins.”
Batman was part of DC’s “New 52” relaunch in 2011, and kicked off Capullo’s creative partnership with writer Scott Snyder. Capullo initially found, though, that this new partnership was something much different than what he was used to with McFarlane.
Capullo contrasted McFarlane’s writing style with that of Snyder’s. “I worked with Todd the way Jack Kirby worked with Stan Lee,” Capullo said. “Todd’s scripts were very loose. But then Scott comes along, with 48 pages of script.”
“I don’t need all this,” Capullo told Snyder. “Just send the important words. Scott told me they’re all important, and sends this long email about all the accolades he’s received.”
“I’m sure your mother is very proud,” Capullo sarcastically told Snyder. “Look, I’m not gonna drown your baby. I’m gonna powder it and burp it and do whatever it is you do to babies. When we later met, he apologized. He’s since learned to trust me and give me room.”
Capullo doesn’t look at their early issues with pride, though, citing the scripts’ dense verbosity. “The lettering in the first chapter of ‘Court of Owls’ covered up a lot of the art, and it’s embarrassing to look at now.” Capullo added that his former collaborator McFarlane once said, “You want Greg to be great, get out of his way.”
“You don’t get paid by the word,” Capullo had told Snyder. “Let me do my job. Now, he gives me looser scripts. He’s learned how to get to that place. He’s learned to pull back on the dialog. He’s really listened to me and come a long way.”
Despite his recommendations to Snyder, Capullo clarified that he hasn’t tried to shape the content of his stories. “It’s not fair for me to tell him how to write, any more than he could tell me how to draw.”
When asked by DiDio how he maintains such quality on a regular basis, Capullo joked, “I don’t have a life,” but continued, “I don’t sacrifice – I take as much time as it takes to complete it right.”
While Capullo and Snyder left the ongoing Batman title years ago, their Dark Knight partnership continued in Dark Nights: Metal, and now into the current Batman: Last Knight on Earth. The mini-series has been acknowledged by both as their final Batman collaboration. “I’m not tired of Batman – there’s just other stuff I want to do," Capullo said. “I have other ideas – both at DC and creator owned.”
A return to the Dark Knight can never be ruled out, though, as Capullo has also returned to pencil Spawn – if only for the long-running comic’s 300th issue, which is scheduled for an August release. When asked by DiDio how it felt returning to the title, Capullo said, “Now that so many years have gone by, it’s fun.”
In reference to enjoying working with McFarlane again, Capullo jokingly concluded, “Scott who?”