Not to mince words: In the plethora of talented artists that are working at Marvel currently, Gabriel Hardman is the best. His eye for layout alone injects a vitality to his work rarely seen in comics. In addition to discussing his collaborative efforts with writer Jeff Parker, most recently on Hulk (Issue 30.1 hits stands this Wednesday, March 16, 2011), Hardman was kind enough to give Robot 6 a sneak peek of a sci-fi OGN he's working on, with his wife, Corinna Bechko, called STATION TO STATION. My thanks to Hardman for his time and to friend of the blog, Jeff Parker, for helping arrange this interview. Finally, please be sure to contribute to the comments section this week, as Hardman is seeking suggestions for future Daily Sketches.
Tim O'Shea: In terms of current artists in the industry, you have a strikingly distinctive layout approach. Not every artist is as ambitious as you are. Do you ever back off from challenging scenes to layout, or is that what part of what makes the work interesting for you.
Gabriel Hardman: Storytelling in general is what keeps me interested in comics and the layouts are a huge part of that. My only goal is to serve the story being told. When I read the script, I can visualize the angles and layouts pretty easily. Figuring out a given angle is fairly simple: focus on the most important thing happening in the panel. Then place those important elements on the page in a way that leads your eye from top left to bottom right. It all works best when she script gives me freedom with the layouts.
O'Shea: In terms of the recently finished Scorched Earth arc, which did you enjoy more: drawing Monster Island or redesigning MODOK?
Hardman: I enjoyed both but drawing Monster Island wins. That was some of the most fun I've had drawing freelance comics.
O'Shea: What is it about Jeff Parker's approach to comics narrative that made you want to work with him?
Hardman: Jeff and I don't have identical tastes but the Venn diagram of where our sensibilities overlap lines up pretty well.
O'Shea: In recent months, Hulk has been the land of many Marvel character cameos. Does Jeff seek suggestions from you of characters you might want to draw?
Hardman: The cameos in the Scorched Earth Arc were pretty much set when I started on the book. It was good to have the opportunity to show I could handle drawing those guys. Thor worked out particularly well in my opinion. I had drawn Namor in Agents of Atlas but he's a fun character to draw. He has such a solid personality. Not to mention the Watcher. I love drawing characters that have roots stretching back to the Stan and Jack days.
O'Shea: In what ways does your work benefit from being colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser?
Hardman: Bettie has quickly established herself as one of the best colorists in comics. She can bring a sense of light to the colors that is essential in providing depth to the images as well as the technical ability to model forms without overwhelming them. But she also has the most important quality needed in a colorist: taste. A colorist can have all the technical skills in the world but if they don't have taste in choosing colors that work with the storytelling it could sink the book.
O'Shea: You worked in comics for a period prior to your work in the film industry. Once you returned to comics, did you find some of your film business dealings came in handy?
Hardman: I was 18 years old when I started drawing comics professionally the first time around and I lacked a certain amount of professionalism. The tenacity that got me into the comic business didn't necessarily serve me well when dealing with editors. Working in feature films is an extremely high pressure career. I've worked directly for some of the biggest directors in the business and it's given me a level of discipline I lacked when I was younger. Drawing thousands of storyboards over the years made me a much faster artist than I was the first time around in comics.
Another thing working in movies has given me is a lack of preciousness. I work very hard to maintain a high level of quality but I'm not married to things. If an idea or a drawing isn't working, I have no qualms about throwing it away and moving on. In features you could put months of work into a sequence only to have it tossed aside for budgetary reasons or just at the whim of the director. And you can't pout about it, you have to start work on the next thing. I think there's value in not being precious.
O'Shea: I saw you recently tweet about attending a Decemberists concert. Do you listen to music while you work or do you find that too distracting?
Hardman: I listen to a lot of music. I also listen to radio and several podcasts. Sometimes I have movies running in the background. Anything to keep me going.
O'Shea: Any chance you might collaborate again with your wife (Corinna Bechko) on a comics project down the road?
Hardman: We've been working on a couple of projects. We've been hesitant to announce anything before one of them is finished but I've attached a couple of pages from the sci-fi OGN we're working on called STATION TO STATION. My plan is to finish drawing it over the summer then we'll look for a publisher. You guys are the first to get a glimpse of these pages.
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O'Shea: Any questions you'd like to ask your Robot6 fans?
Hardman: I do a lot of sketches that I post online. You can see them all at http://heathencomics.deviantart.com/gallery/
I'd love to hear from fans what characters they'd like to see me draw in future Daily Sketches. They can follow me on twitter @gabrielhardman to let me know.
I just want to thank everyone who's been supportive over the last two years. There's nothing better than hearing that people are enjoying my work.
If you're eager to learn more about his approach to storytelling and how his work in the movie industry helps shape that approach, be sure to read Comic Book Resources' interview with Hardman from earlier this month.