So the folks at Pune witnessed the best weekend of the year for the first time and they were happy crazy on those two days. There were tons of comic books/materials among other pop-culture merchandise, but the special treat for the fans this year were international artists Ivan Brandon (Author – Marvel Comics’ Secret Invasion, Deadpool Team- Up & Wolverine: Rot) and Peter Nguyen (Artist – Batman Arkham Unhinged). We got a chance to talk to them, and here’s an excerpt of our conversation.
IN: Tell us all something about your origin story.
Peter – I was born in Hawaii, but I moved to California for university and studied traditional animation, and I worked for animation in Berwick. I did Saturday morning cartoons… I actually worked on the Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon. As an intern and production assistant I went on to be a background artist. I absolutely love comics, but I never really drew comic books as a kid, and in 2006 Jim Lee, who is now a publisher with DC Comics, had held a talent search competition back then and I decided to enter it, doing my first sample ever, and I saw the editor go through them. He didn’t think I made it, so I asked him for critique and he said “Yeah your backgrounds are rough, your faces are okay…” and stuff like that, and then I got a call randomly saying “Hey come up to the panel and talk about your piece, and I walk up to the panel thinking “why would they want to talk to someone who didn’t make it?”, and it turns out that Jim had taken my piece out of the pile and had made me one of the finalists. This was a clear sign for me. This! I never knew that it was possible to do comic books because I thought it was so much.. To be a penciller is a lot of hard work because you have to draw the background through with the director with the cinematography and all, and believe me I thought animation was a safer route. See where you do just one thing and you do it well and you’re part of a big team. So I always thought I’d go down that route, but this event changed my thinking about comic books, and here I am today.
Ivan – I was born in New York. I grew up reading comic books. I’m a writer now but as a kid I focussed a little more on drawing, mostly Marvel comic characters. I would look at the Marvel universe guides and trace some of my favorite characters. My own characters were incredibly terrible characters (laughs). When I was very young I started studying cartooning, but I don’t use anything of what I learnt now as I’m a writer. I quit reading comics for many years, you know teenage years, paying more attention to girls instead. I got back into comics in late-90s and was very soon encouraged to work with comics, and I was enjoying more of modern comics and genre books which were more unique and original compared to stuff that was coming out at that time, and this inspired me to write and I was lucky enough to find some people who were receptive to my work. The first big project I got was writing for Cross Bronx which I did with Michael Oeming, and this got me both my first jobs at Marvel and DC.
IN – As a kid, tell us about your favourite cartoons/comics that you loved to draw over and over.
Peter – Ha! I’d draw Amazing Spiderman and Iceman Firestar (the old 70’s one) a lot, and I’d often switch a Firestar for a human torch, ‘cos I loved the idea of water and ice. I don’t like drawing Spiderman now for some reason, but back then he was really fun, I think because his anatomy can be pushed a lot and it didn’t have to be exact maybe. I still love drawing Iceman, because he has so much energy and all, and I love doing high-energy characters. I also love doing X-Men Blue and Gold. I’m a 100 percent 90s kids so I loved and drew a lot of mutant-stuff.
Ivan – Umm, cartoons? Well I’m a little older than Peter and an 80’s kid, so I drew lots of Wolverine and lots of Batman, which is weird because I hadn’t read a complete Batman comic until much later. When the movie came out, it was the first time I had read the comics. I wasn’t a particularly good artist so I just drew some particular simple shapes and I’d focus on that. Plus for the young kids who were trying to pretend that they’re tough or whatever it is, Wolverine and Batman make you feel.. or say lets you pretend to be tough (laughs).
IN – Now I don’t want to engage you in a Marvel vs DC debate, but I’d like to know what kind of characters/stories do you prefer drawing/telling.
Peter – What do I prefer? Well, both actually. There are characters I didn’t think I’d like before, but I grew to like them. I love to draw a set of characters who have some things in common. Like I said before, Magneto and Iceman, they are all these high-energy characters that I just love to draw. So much composition in them. And they’re like safety to me. These characters are maker, they make things and structures with their powers and it makes my job a lot easier. Also guys with capes. Cape is cool. I love drawing for either sides, they both have some extraordinary characters and stories to share. I really can’t choose between them.
Ivan – For writing I prefer to write my own characters (laughs), but beyond that I really don’t have a preference. The project is work, and whatever the project is if I have the freedom to tell the kind of story I want to tell then why not. It’s less about being fans of the characters and more about the freedom to tell my kind of stories.
IN – How different is drawing for the print and digital medium? What’s your preference?
Ivan – The first book that I did, Men of War, released in print and digitally at the same time in 2012. At that time because I wanted the reader’s experience to be the same in both mediums, I started to avoid doing things that wouldn’t translate well between the two. So for example, you find that my work lately dual page spreads, because you won’t have that much reading space on an iPad. In Drifter we did try to lay them out so they can be read in halves, but seriously it’s just a different experience than anything else. I read a lot digitally, because I live in New York and there’s not a lot of room for anything, so it’s a simple format to access. Also anything that makes me want to be more creative and makes me think more about my process is a positive thing.
Peter – As far as illustration goes, I did the art for Batman: Arkham Unhinged for DC, and they would send me a giant 11 x 7 board with a large blue line in the middle, because they wanted everything to be widescreen, and the way the page would flow would be broken up by this giant divider in the middle. So it was like one story at the top and one story at the bottom, and when you swipe on the iPad, it’s like one iPad screen. Two pages for one, I’d say it’s a bang for the buck. It’s restricted, but it’s really good for creativity. I’d love to use the whole page freely, and the line may limit your thinking a bit, but other than that I’ve got no problem with the digital format. I also want the page to look good when it’s printed, and not like two iPad screen glued together.
IN – What social mediums do you use to showcase your new work and connect with fans?
Ivan – I’m on every kind of social media, and have been using them for a long time. I don’t use it as a promotional tool because it gets really boring when you’re just selling information across the media. I’m there and people find my work and comment about it, but only marketing and selling is not my intention. For me, if I’m on Twitter, I’d like to share things that I find funny or informative, same as any other reader on Twitter. I try to have fun, and at the very least it’d amuse me and give me a little bit of release on a work day, and if not that then hopefully it’ll entertain someone else and give them a more natural experience with the writer.
Peter – I divide my social media, like Facebook is for personal stuff only, just family and friends there. Instagram is where I show some of my work in progress, then Tumblr would be where I display my finished work. Twitter I never use because I never know what to say in what, 100 characters? (Ivan – “140 characters”) Oh! 140 characters? No, that’s definitely not for me. Instagram is most useful for me because when I post a work in progress, it motivates me to see public reaction to the WIP, and it motivates me more to finish it. If you’re working secluded then it helps you to make connection with your readers, to gauge their interest and be interested myself, because sometimes I get distracted too.
IN – What new work are you promoting here?
Ivan – There’s a giant bag of comic books I have (points to a giant bag of books). It’s my current sci-fi series Drifter that I’m showing here.
Peter – As for me there are a few prints I’m commissioning here. Mostly looking forward to the session though.
Thank you Ivan and Peter for talking with us. This was a great session and hopefully you enjoyed Pune Comic Con Express as much as we did.