Thursday, March 4, 2010

Profile Antics: A Chat with GØDLAND's Tom Scioli!

Thomas Scioli is a Pittsburgh-based cartoonist and illustrator. He's the co-creator of Image Comics' Eisner-nominated series, Godland, and the creator of the Xeric-winning The Myth of 8-Opus. Tom has created, written, and drawn stories for several anthologies including The Next Issue Project for Image and the upcoming fourth volume of PopGun. He's currently the cover artist for Boom! Studios, The Incredibles, and he's done artwork for such series as Elephantmen, Freedom Force, and The Fantastic Four. Tom kindly agreed to "sit" for my impromptu web interview and then very quickly sent back his answers.



Q) Tom, tell me about the impact that winning the Xeric Grant in 1999 had on “The Myth of 8-Opus” and launching your career?

Well, one thing a young artist needs is encouragement, and winning the Xeric Grant was a pat on the back that I really needed at that time. It was a big morale booster. I don't think I would've attempted self-publishing with national distribution without that. I certainly didn't have the money. Applying for the grant got me to think about the business end of things. The Xeric application is pretty demanding, but what it does is it gets you to think about the ins and outs of self-publishing, so I came out of completing the application with a valuable body of knowledge. I continue to self-publish 8-Opus, so that's definitely something that was set in motion by the Xeric Grant. 8-Opus got me the attention of Erik Larsen, so that led to Godland. The Xeric Grant was an important turning point for my comics career.

Q) You are known for working in a similar style to Jack Kirby. What was it about the King’s work that grabbed you?

It's hard to nail it down, because when something makes that big of an impression on you, it becomes the central reference point for what you like, so everything else has to measure up to that. Thundarr the Barbarian made a big early impression on me. Then Darkseid showing up on the Superfriends cartoon. Then the giant-size Thor Treasury edition. That was the 1-2-3 that formed what I like. When I was in college I found some old New Gods reprints at a comic store and opened a door for me. When you go back and rediscover things you enjoyed from childhood, they're almost always a big disappointment. When I discovered New Gods, it was like, that Darkseid stuff I remembered from Superfriends was actually so much bigger and so much better than I could've ever imagined.

Q) In the last decade or so, Kirby’s late 1970’s stuff at Marvel has emerged as some of my favorite back issue purchases. Did you follow any of that stuff (The Eternals, Devil Dinosaur, Machine Man, 2001:A Space Odyssey, The Black Panther)?

Kirby's whole body of comics work is before my time, so for me it's all of a piece. I was discovering the 60's Marvel work, the 70's DC work, the 70's Marvel work, the 80's work all at the same time. People who followed Kirby's comics as they were coming out have a different perspective on it than I do. I think his best stuff is his DC work. I love his 60's Marvel work, but I think his 70's Marvel work has aged better. The Eternals is one of his best series. I love Devil Dinosaur. It's this great little world. Machine Man is awesome. The multi-parter with Ten-For is just great. The 2001 Treasury edition is a sight to behold. The comicsville 2-parter, then the New Seed story after that are some of Kirby's best, most personal work. The 70's Black Panther is one of my favorites. In a lot of ways it was Raiders of the Lost Ark, but 4 years early. It's hard for me to talk about this stuff in an intelligent way, because I'm just such a fan of it all.

Q) What type of tools do you use most to produce your artwork? Any particular pen nibs, pencils, etc.?

I like retractable pencils, because I don't have to worry about sharpening them. I like using Micron pens to ink with. The Micron 08 and sometimes an 03 for fine lines. I'm able to get a lot of variation in line by pressing down hard on an 08. I haven't been able to get my favorite brush for many years, the Windsor Newton series 7 sable #3. No stores around here carry it, and I don't want to order by mail because you have to look at the brush tip before you buy it. I use junky brushes now, and don't get the control I used to. So I tend to go in with the brush as much as I can, then clean up the ends of the lines with pen work.

Q) You’ve turned out some superhero stuff with Freedom Force, done the super-sci-fi-opera epic, Godland and dabbled with animal/human hybrids in Elephantmen. What other comics genre fare would you like to tackle?

Well, Godland #33 [pictured; above left] will be our "funny animals" issue. I'd like to do some non-fiction comics at some point. For the past couple years I've been working on a barbarian epic. I'd like to try doing a movie adaptation some time. I'm really in awe of Kirby's 2001 adaptation and Steranko's Outland adaptation. It's an odd genre, the movie adaptation comic, but it seems like something you could do a lot with, particularly if you took a movie that isn't so great, but that you feel a strong affinity for. I'd like to do an adaptation of Lou Ferrigno's Hercules movie from the eighties, or Zardoz. Something like that.

Q) As Godland quickly slides towards the end of its run, do you have any pangs about leaving Adam Archer and friends behind?

When we started it we didn't know if it would last 5 issues or 500. I had this fantasy of working on it forever, at least a lot longer than we have. 37 issues is a lot of comics. I wish Kirby could've done 30 issues of New Gods. I definitely think about what might have been, if things really took off in a huge way, but I'm proud of what we've accomplished. 37 issues is nothing to sneeze at. That's a lot of imagination, hard work and sacrifice that we've poured into it. I'm not too sad about leaving the Archers behind, because Joe Casey and I own it, so if I ever get the itch to do another Godland story, I can.

Q) What personal goals are you working towards in comics next?

I want to write, draw, and color a long-running series with a beginning, middle, and end. That's the barbarian epic I mentioned. I want to get 8-Opus to a point where I finish the 700+ page story arc that began in issue 1. That should take me 2 more graphic novels to do. I will breathe a massive sigh of relief when that happens, then get started on the next 700+ pages. I also have a short graphic novel, along the lines of a Wizard of Oz-type fantasy story, that I'd like to complete within the next couple of years. My niece asked me to make a comic "for girls" and mail it to her. All my comics so far have been "boy's club" stuff, so it's definitely something I'd like to have published before she's too old to enjoy it.

Q) What has been your biggest or most fun “fan-boy” moment on the convention circuit?

Meeting Lisa Kirby at Comicon. I'm such a fan of her father's work, it was nice to say "thank you" to somebody in the family.

Q) I'm a fan of walking dead flicks, so what’s the status on that “Zombie Kamikaze” book?

I'm about the furthest thing from a horror movie fan. But I really liked Scott Mills' script for "Zombie Kamikaze" and had collaborated with him on a short story prior to that. When I started ZK, it was at a time when I had the boundless energy and enthusiasm of someone just entering comics. I thought I could be like Kirby and work on 8 monthly series simultaneously. About 12 pages into ZK I realized I had to prioritize. I couldn't do everything. So I stopped work on that and another series I was working on with John Fultz called "Ray Gunne." I kept intending to get back to ZK, but I just started to look more and more like it wasn't going to happen. Like I said, I'm not really a horror fan, and one of the things I've learned about doing comics is that unless you're totally 100% head-over-heels in love with the project you're doing, it's just not going to work. ZK is a great script, and I looked at it as a way of doing a genre Kirby never worked on (how rare is that) but ultimately that just wasn't incentive enough to keep me at the drawing board. The final nail in the coffin, is when I discovered Walking Dead. Walking Dead is just such a great comic, well-done on every level, endlessly entertaining. I don't know how you can compete with that. It's the only zombie comic anybody needs. It's a shame, if we had gotten down to business, finished ZK before the Walking Dead phenomenon hit, we might've gotten somewhere with it, but I think it's time has passed. Maybe when zombies go out of style again we can try it, but the market is just too flooded.

Q) When you’re ready to just chill out and relax what do you typically do?

Read comics. No TV, just silence and a good comic. Going for a walk is fun, too, but this has been a pretty unpleasant winter for that.


Tom, it's been a blast, thanks so much for visiting the Catacombs and let me wish you the best of luck for continued success in the future!


Runs.with.Ferals said...

Great interview Chuck~! I am a huge Kirby freak, and have been a Scioli fan since day 1. I still have the ashcan edition of 8-Opus #1 on my comic rack~ and have purchased, but not yet read, the first two Godland collections (14 issues worth ?).

I actually emailed Tom back in 2002 or 2003 to encourage him with his art. A fan wrote to his letters page something about the heavy inking on 8-Opus. The guy wasn't too crazy about it. I told Tom to forget about that guy's comment~ because THICK SQUIGGLES and blocky blacks was where it was at ! (ala Mike Royer) I think he took it to heart, cuz his work continues to improve, sharpen, and reflect a growing confidence with command over this wonderful medium.

Mykal Banta said...

Chuck: Great Interview. I loved that you asked him what sort of tools he inks with. I love that kind of detail! Thanks for this great post. Score! -- Mykal

=link said...

Wow, you are ultra-hip! Tom Scioli is THE go-to guy for cultural mindbenders. I got such a kick out of yr interview! =WHAP!= oof!