MR: Where was the first place you started showing your art?
RB: I started posting on PencilJack.com when I was still a student at VCU. And yep, it was the first place on the Internet that I started posting my artwork! I really enjoyed the sense of community there, and found all the comments and critiques very helpful—both receiving critiques on my own work, and giving critiques to other people.
In fact, I originally met Khary Randolph there, who's now a member of my art studio, Hypothetical Island, in Brooklyn!
Your style of artwork is different than most in the industry. What inspired it?
Thanks man—it's important for an artist to stand out. When I'm drawing a story, the main things I try to keep in mind are the character’s personalities. What makes them unique? What makes them stand out from other characters? For instance, I recently drew an AvX story where Cyclops has the Phoenix power, and the script originally had Cyclops blasting someone with energy out of his hand, but I thought to myself, “No, I don't care if the Phoenix Force lets him shoot laser beams out of his BUTT! It's Cyclops—shooting things out of his eyes is his thing!”
Similarly, people always love it when I draw Deadpool with Deadpool-themed gear, like he's merchandising or something. But that's just such a Deadpool thing to do—to shamelessly self promote to comical levels.
In my mind, that's just the right way to do a character. You want the audience to learn as much about the them as they can from a single image.
I notice your background is in Fine Arts, what pushed you into the Comic Industry? You also have a degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. Would you recommend the college experience to young artists?
I graduated with a BFA with an emphasis in illustration, and comics were always a thing that I was interested in—any time I got a chance to make my own assignment in school I would somehow figure out a way to make it relevant to comic book creation. At the same time, however, I wanted a more well-rounded education, so even if VCU had offered sequential arts or cartooning as a major, I probably wouldn't have taken it, though I certainly would have taken more classes that focused on things like that. But I wanted to learn about and be prepared to work in all areas of illustration, rather than pigeon-holing myself into one very specific discipline. With that said, my time out of class was entirely dedicated to making comics.
Prior to working for Marvel you had already started a company called Oddgodd Press and worked at Ten Ton Studios. How were those jobs different from working at Marvel?
Yeah, Oddgod was a local comics company that my friend Pat Godfrey (who runs the very excellent Velocity Comics Store, right off the VCU campus) started. That was my first real experience getting published, and it was a lot of fun learning how to get a comic together for print for the first time! That was a great experience, and I think it was really important for me to learn how to handle every step of the process rather than just the drawing out the part that I was already comfortable with.
Also, it was a great opportunity to do some creator owned stuff, such as Orath the Intergalactic Caveman.
Ten Ton Studios came right after I graduated; me and a bunch of friends who I'd met on comics art message boards, like PencilJack, got together to go to comic conventions and things like that. Eventually we started our own message board and web community, and that’s been a great networking and support system over the years.
My current physical art studio is Hypothetical Island in Brooklyn, off the scenic Gowanus Canal.
Are you currently doing any indie graphic novels?
I'm currently working on a digital comic, Power Play, which isn't a graphic novel per se, but it is creator-owned with my writer and friend, Kurt Christenson. We're really pioneering what kind of stories can be told with the new digital devices.
Most people only focus their comics on how they'll read in print, and then just kind of shoe-horn them into the digital platform, where they don't always deliver the optimum reading experience. I feel like with all the iPods, Kindles, and tablets out there it’s a missed opportunity at reaching a new audience. So I'm working very closely with Comixology to focus on making Power Play the best reading experience that can be delivered digitally, and by doing that I've stumbled onto a whole bunch of new storytelling techniques that aren't even possible in the traditional print medium. It's really exciting!
What was the first book you ever published?
My first published story was in Oddgod Anthology #1, and it was a short crime story written by my college friend RS Paulette. After college, my first Marvel story was the 2005 Holiday Special, written by Jeff Parker. That was a fun one because it involved so many of the Marvel heroes.
What type of equipment do you use now? Is all your work done through digital, or do you still do some traditional?
I still draw with good old pencil and paper, and ink with Micron pens. I like to color things digitally with Photoshop. Of course, I do publish digitally as well now, with Comixology!
Have you ever considered doing concept art for an animation series?
I'd love to do some designs for animation some day, and I’d love it even more if it was some of my own characters!
Who was you biggest inspiration that pushed you forward into this industry?
I'm constantly inspired by so many things—pretty much any time that I see a new piece of artwork that I like! I always think "That's looks cool! I want to do that too!"
Who is your favorite artist?
I have so many favorite artists, I couldn't even begin to list them. I especially love artists who do a good job of focusing on the personalities of their characters, and who don't draw every character to look the same. I also love artists with an attention to fine detail.
Who is your favorite character to draw?
My favorites are always my own characters because I feel like I know them the best. Right now, that means that all of the Power Play characters are my favorite. Of the Marvel stuff I've worked on, Deadpool and Hercules were the two characters I most enjoyed drawing, because they had the widest range of emotions, and the widest range of adventures—I really felt like there was a lot that I could bring to those characters.
And where do you see yourself in five years?
Five years? Who knows?! Right now I don't even know where I'll be in one year! Hopefully five years from now I'll have a couple of creator-owned projects floating around, and hopefully still have a foot in the Marvel/DC pool, contributing memorable details to those classic characters.
I guess we'll all find out when we get there!
Thanks for taking the time for this.
inteview by d. goines. Sept 12. 2012
© 2016 Artwork Provided by Riley Brown. All rights reserved.
© 2016 Artwork Provided by Riley Brown. All rights reserved.