Transformers artist Andrew Griffith admits he's 'not a big fan' of Michael Bay's film adaptations

Prahlad Srihari

Nov,12 2017 17:37 49 IST

On his very first trip to Mumbai, Andrew Griffith learnt an important lesson about the city. It can be irresistible one moment and infuriating the next. After seeing the Gateway of India and grabbing a nice, cold beer at old Leopold's, he had to suffer through two and a half hours of traffic to get back to his "fancy" hotel.

Griffith is an American comic book artist best known for his work on Transformers. He's also a guest of Mumbai Comic Con 2017, an annual pop culture convention that attracts thousands of comic book fans, many of whom want to become successful illustrators like him.

Andrew Griffith at Mumbai Comic Con 2017

Andrew Griffith at Mumbai Comic Con 2017

Griffith started reading comics when he was eight years old. Like most kids, he grew up reading Spider-Man, Batman and the usual Marvel and DC essentials. One day, his older brother came home from school with fresh news of what was one of the hottest toys at the time — Transformers. Of course, it is hard to deny the unquestionably large-scale appeal of robots that transformed into cars and vice versa. His brother convinced his parents to buy him one and Griffith too helped himself to a Bumblebee. Soon, he got into the comics and then came the cartoons.

For as far as he can remember, Griffith always wanted to draw. Having studied fine art in school, he was fascinated by the Renaissance painters. "They really influenced the way I draw people and figures. Especially Leonardo (da Vinci)," he says. Da Vinci had a remarkable ability to create a sense of depth and three-dimensionality in a two-dimensional frame. And the painter's influence in Griffith's artwork for Transformers is visibly evident.

Growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, two of the most important influences on Griffith's comic stylings were Art Adams and Whilce Portacio. Adams worked on major Marvel titles like X-Men, Fantastic Four and Hulk among others. Portacio inked a lot of Adams' early work and worked on The Punisher and Iron Man but he is perhaps best known for starting the revolutionary Image Comics. Griffith also professes his love for the six other artists behind its creation. After studying art and design, Griffith got into graphic design for a while but his interest remained in drawing. So, he started posting his drawings online. "Eventually IDW (Publishing) saw it and they asked me if I wanted to work on Transformers," he says. How could he say "No" to his dream job?

Griffith illustrated the second official prequel to the Transfomers: Revenge of the Fallen movie. IDW

Griffith illustrated the second official prequel to the Transfomers: Revenge of the Fallen movie. IDW

Soon, IDW brought him in as an inker (responsible for filling in the outline drawn by the penciller) on Transformers: Defiance, the prequel to Revenge of the Fallen film. "But the penciller got behind so they brought me in to do some pages myself. And that led into another book of my own where I did four issues. And then I started getting more and more work," says Griffith. "I got pretty lucky." Although he admits drawing Transformers is a lot more challenging than drawing people, who "pretty much have the same anatomy."

However, Griffith is not a big fan of explosion auteur Michael Bay's Transformers universe. "I feel his movies are a little too over the top with the explosions. I don't feel like there's enough character to the story. It is very special effects-driven," he says. "I would prefer the movies to be more like the original Transformers series. A little more fun and light-hearted. A bit like the Marvel movies now." A big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Griffith reveals his biases: "Batman is perhaps my favourite character but overall, I like Marvel more: It's got Spider-Man, X-Men and The Avengers."

Considering superheroes have become the chief representative of comic books in modern pop culture, Griffith says he would love to develop his own superhero arc one day. He's still ambitious as ever and wants to keep challenging and improving himself as an artist. "I'd love to illustrate Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Daredevil or Spider-Man with all the interesting cityscapes," he says.

Though the popularity of movies will always surpass that of comic books, the medium has bounced back from the grave several times in its history. With Netflix announcing its foray into comic book publishing, Griffith is optimistic as ever. "That's a whole new avenue to explore in this medium. Going forward, we are going to have to find new ways to appeal to people because a lot of people just get things digitally. The idea has a lot of potential. It sounds like an exciting opportunity."