Marvel and DC films have made reading comic books cool again, says artist Will Conrad

Comic Con India 2018 is hosting the 8th edition in Mumbai this year starting from 22 December to 23 December. The two-day festival which many comic nerds in the city consider nothing short of a yearly ritual has a staggering lineup of events, guest sessions, workshop and, of course, the cosplay contests. Some of the international artists include Japan's Sana Takeda who is best known in the US for working with Marjorie Liu, most recently on their hit fantasy series Monstress; the popular international pro-cosplayer Yaya Han, and comic artist Will Conrad who has worked for large American publishers such as Dynamite, Marvel, Dark Horse, Top Cow and DC.

Actor-comic artist Luke Kenny and renowned Indian comedian Sahil Shah of the East India Company have been roped in as Entertainment guests for this year's Comic Con Mumbai. The list of  Indian comic book guests include the likes of Vivek Goel (of The Aghori series fame), Shamik Dasgupta, Rajeev Tamhankar (CEO, TBS Planet Comics), Alicia Souza to name a few.

Firstpost got in touch with international fame comic artist Will Conrad who talked about his journey from an illustrator in Brazil to working for comic giants Marvel and DC; the evolution of the comicverse and the effect Marvel/DC films has had on the comic industry. Below are some excerpts from the interview:

 Marvel and DC films have made reading comic books cool again, says artist Will Conrad

Will Conrad. Facebook

When and how did you start working in the comics industry?
I started working professionally as an illustrator for local publications in Brazil, but my big break in the American market was with publisher Dark Horse Comics in 2002 as the inker for the comic adaptation of a popular TV series named Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. I had been sending samples to various publication houses and had been garnering small illustrator roles here and there but I started getting noticed after Buffy. I was then approached by Marvel where I worked as an artist for six years, and I am currently working with DC on Superman right now.

Did you always know that comic-book art is your true calling? Were there any major influences?
I have been drawn to the world of comic books since when I was little, and I had started scrawling bits and pieces of comic illustrations at the age of ten. I had entered into this world through a popular Brazilian comic strip and book series for children named Monica’s Gang, and there has been no looking back since. While I cannot point out a single franchise or a publication as a major influence, comic books have played a foundational role in the development of my interest in reading as well as making art. And I knew within that I had to pursue this as a career.

How has the design style changed over the years in the comics industry, ever since you started till date?
The comic industry has always been constantly evolving to cater to the readers’ interest. From the scripts to the designing style, from techniques to the approach, everything has faced major changes in the past and will continue to do so. The way people draw comics has gotten somewhat more life-like recently than what it used to be. Every artist has a unique style and approach, so changing artists will further keep leading to changing design styles for years to come.

Has the readership changed ever since movies based on Marvel/DC comic-verse came into existence?
I think the change has been very radical. While comic-verse has always enjoyed good retention, it has increased multi-fold in recent times, especially with the growing passion for famous franchises and publications like Marvel and DC. Till some time ago, reading comic books was looked at as a distraction, but it has gained immense traction now to become the new ‘cool’. And a lot of credit for the same goes to movies by Marvel and DC, since people are increasingly drawn to comics after watching these movies now.

Stages of a comic book panel. Facebook/ Will Conrad

Stages of a comic book panel. Facebook/ Will Conrad

How is the storytelling process for an artist like you? Could you explain how does a panel get made — the entire process?
Usually, a descriptive script is provided, wherein what happens on the page, the number of panels needed, the dialogues, and everything is all defined in detail. From there, I begin researching and studying the character projection, the settings, etc. Then I prepare a layout, make rough quick sketches and send it across for approval. Once the initial designs get approved, I prepare it all with all the detailing. When I am done, I scan those pages and send them across to the colourist. That, precisely, is how the process usually goes.

As someone who has worked both in DC as well as Marvel, what you think is the biggest difference between the two?
In my opinion, the biggest difference between both the comic universes is the way they see and treat their characters. DC believes that its characters are going to bring about a radical change in the world. Whereas Marvel treats its characters more like real-life people struggling with real-world problems and emotions. While both the perceptions are pretty different in nature, I feel that this helps them bring about amazing results in their own unique ways.

How does your approach differ between working on Dark Horse comic like Buffy and Marvel/DC?
When I was working for Dark Horse Comics with Buffy, I was essentially illustrating an adaptation of a TV series on print. From the facial and body expressions to the minor-most details, I had to be very careful and precise with my approach towards those illustrations. This was because everything had to appear life-like as the characters were based on real people and all of this had to be approved by the directors and the core team behind the TV series. Whereas, when I am illustrating for comic-verses like Marvel or DC, I have the freedom to use my style and approach while sketching the characters till the time the comic is independent and is not based on a movie adaptation.

Will Conrad sketching Guardians of the Galaxy characters - Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Facebook/ Will Conrad

Will Conrad sketching Guardians of the Galaxy characters - Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Facebook/ Will Conrad

A lot of your work is based in the Whedonverse, from Buffy to the Angel and Faith series to Serenity. What about the Whedonverse makes you keep going back to it?
Whenever I get to work for Whedonverse, be it the Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Angel and Faith, or Serenity — I really enjoy illustrating for all those series. The artwork for them is highly challenging as they are based on real-life people. As an artist and a professional, I love to meet those tough challenges and shine through.

What is that one character that you have enjoyed the most working on and why?
Every piece that I have worked upon has been a thoroughly joyful experience in itself. However, if I were to pick a few out of those, I would say I loved working with X-Men, Batman and Superman. The reason probably is the fact that I have always admired these superheroes since before I even began working with these franchises.

Will Conrad will be part of the Comic Con Mumbai 2018 where he will deliver a guest session talking about his work and personal life. His session starts at 4 pm on Day 1 (22 December). To buy tickets, click here.

Updated Date: Dec 21, 2018 20:14:43 IST