This is obviously going to be Piskor-style in general, but as you're making each issue about a different era of X-Men historically, are you altering your visual approach in order to say "This is what the '70s were all about" or the '80s or what have you?
Here's the thing. It's Piskor-style in as much as I'm doing it, but my style as an artist keeps evolving. If you look at page 1 of this X-Men series, it looks markedly different than the last page of Hip Hop Family Tree. I really want to step up my game. I don't want to be wackest X-Men artist ever! And if you go through that lineage, it's very clear that they used the best people in the field on those books. So that's my competition. I have to improve. The work keeps getting more rigorous, and I think you'll see that I'm growing by leaps and bounds.
Did you have any images or panels where you said, "This is burned on my brain, and I have to draw my version of it at some point in the series"?
I come from hip hop, and in hip hop, the core of everything is sampling. I have an ego into the stratosphere, no doubt. But I also recognize that if Neal Adams draws the Sentinels flying into the sun, that is such a beautiful, mind-bending composition...how can I compete with that? Most of the comic is my doing my interpretation of things. Whenever there's an iconic moment, it's an iconic moment. I might pay very close homage to that. Sampling is hip hop, and I'm hip hop to my core. Just because I'm working on a different comic doesn't mean I stop having that kind of mind.
Even if you think about the work I did in issue #1 with Magneto on the cover where he's levitating and power is gravitating from his hand, I just scanned in a piece of wood so I could get the wood grain to look like a warped magnetic field. It's the same thing.
How long in terms of man hours do you think it's going to take you to get through this whole project?
It's going to take a long time. Thankfully, as a cartoonist you have to manipulate your brain into getting the work done. You can't set up barriers for yourself. And I think for myself, my own neurology, it would be a mistake for me to think about that too much. It's a couple of pages a week. I found a rhythm. It's a rhythm that Marvel likes and makes sense. So let's leave well enough alone and let me hit my marks. I really spend every waking moment on this thing, and that's no exaggeration. It's seven days a week. This is the first time [during this past October's New York Comic Con] since probably late February that I'm not drawing the comic. And the only reason I wasn't drawing back then was because I was in France.
I've heard from other guys who have worked at Marvel before say, "You think you know what comics is like, and you think you know what interacting with fans is like, and then you meet X-Men fans." Are you prepared for the varied and wild response you're going to get for this?
No doubt. I've battened down my social media hatches in a lot of ways so those little egg accounts on Twitter can't get to me. I've protected myself in any way I can just in case. But thankfully a lot of people really seem to dig it. I've met hundreds of people over the past couple of days at this con who are enthusiastic about it. I think that's going to show and improve when it's in the comic shops. I think people are going to stand by it. I'd be surprised if they don't.
X-Men: Grand Design #1 is available now.