1. When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics as a career?
First off, thank you so much for having me! I love chatting up comics so these Q&A’s are always fun. I apologize in advance if I get a bit wordy, I like to talk.
I had been drawing and making my own little loose-leaf-folded comics since I was 8, so I’m sure there were times back then where I said “hey I want to draw comics when I’m big!” I just can’t recall them. The moment I can definitively say that I remember being adamant about becoming a cartoonist was when I was 11 or 12 and Image Comics had just launched. Prior to that I had only been exposed to the 'Big Two'. I loved Spidey and the X-Men and little else. I didn’t even know you could make your own characters and tell your own original stories. The minute I discovered that, I was all in.
2. Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?
Wow, excellent question. Outside of the industry I would have to say my family. They never gave me crap about wanting to pursue art. This may not seem like a big deal but I come from a very hard working, blue collar family. Every one is a laborer and the world of art is as far left field as you can get in my family. That being said, my parents always supported my need to pursue what I loved to do. They helped pay for my art education when they really didn’t have the means to do so. My father is a tremendous movie buff. That is something I inherited from him and growing up with the classics gave me an important sense of storytelling that resonates in my work today. Even though he didn’t realize it then, that time spent together was invaluable to my future. My wife, who typically has little interest in geek culture, puts up with my rambling on about all my story ideas, odd hours and weird artist's quirks. She’s my lifeline and makes me a better man every day. My children constantly, unwittingly, push me to never give up. I went from wanting to succeed for me to wanting to succeed for them. The thought of creating something that they can one day read and say “my dad did that” with pride, is a driving force for me.
3. Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?
This is a tough one. Just about everyone I come into contact with in this industry influences me in so many ways. From talent to social skills they have all taught me lessons and driven me to better myself. Billy Tucci gave me my start in comics, when no one else was paying attention. I’m forever grateful to him for that. His interactions with his fans was an early lesson for me. If you ever want to see how a creator should treat their fanbase just stop by his table at a convention. Michael Avon Oeming helped fulfill a childhood dream of mine when my first monthly series with him was published by Image. His art was an influence on me before I even met him and I am very grateful to now call him friend. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from Mike is one of humility. The man is down to Earth and very warm to everyone he meets. Will Eisner, Darwyn Cooke and Mike Hawthorne are all major artistic influences on me. I consider Mr. Eisner the greatest comics legend of all time and I was lucky to have met him briefly before he passed. It was only for a moment but, just like his art, it left a lasting impression.
4. What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
Wine. Hey! I’m Italian! Seriously though, I read a lot of comics and novels, watch movies and tv shows. Listen to music. Play with my kids. I try to step away from the table and reboot when things aren’t going my way. Then it’s right back at it.
5. Describe your typical work routine.
My work routine is anything but typical. I have two small children at home and both my wife and I work full time jobs ( comics is a second job for me). My hours are wonky so I try and get in as much drawing where ever I can. This usually leads to late nights, after the household is asleep. I’ll mostly draw until 3 or 4am, sleep, then I’m back up at 7am with the kids and my wife is off to work. I like to say I draw 'guerrilla style’, sometimes in my studio at home, sometimes on the couch in the living room or even at the dining room table.
6. What tools do you use to create comics and what makes them the “right tools” for you?
I am very traditional. I have yet to make the leap into digital but I am getting closer and closer (and less cowardly). I draw mostly on the standard 11x17 bristol boards but recently I’ve started using the old industry standard size called ‘twice-up’ which is 14.5x22. Eisner, Kirby and a lot of artists from that era used this size. It works wonders for me because I’m at my most comfortable drawing big. It is a bit more time consuming and a total pain to scan in the art but I’m getting quicker at that as well. My weapons of choice when I pencil are a non photo blue Prisma Color pencil for my roughs and mechanical lead pencil to clean them up. I also use the mechanical pencil because it helps the ink cover the line. The blue pencil is harder to ink straight onto. I ink my own work mainly because my pencils are very loose so the art is no where near finished until I finally apply the ink. Inking is also my zen moment when I’m drawing. I hit a new level of calm when that brush touches the paper. For this step I use a Raphael Kolinsky sable brush sizes 0-2, Speedball Black India Ink, and an assortment of Japanese technical pens and brush markers (I’m trying new ones every day so there are too many to list). My advice is try everything. You never know what will or won’t work for you until you’ve tried it. That goes for everything in life.
7. What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?
The fact that I am making comics for a living! Forget being a cowboy or an astronaut, I’m creating comics. I get to be 10 years old again, every single day. I love the entire process of creating. From the initial concept and all the research and early development of the idea to watching the colorist and letterer turn in their contribution to the art to seeing a finished, physical copy of something I helped bring to life. It’s truly amazing and I hope it never gets old.
8. What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of comics – and why?
I always crack a joke when I’m asked this. I say “my next one”. Everything I’ve worked on I’m very proud of, and it has all been a huge learning experience. Stepping stones on the road to making that next project even better. For the first time, however, I can honestly say that line in all honesty. My next project, a creator owned book with co-writer Vito Delsante will be the first time I’ve worked on one of my own creations, not just something a writer has brought to me. This one is near and dear to me and Vito is bringing his tremendous storytelling talent to the table and making a concept of mine into a story of ours. I’m excited to work with such a like-minded individual.
9. We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?
Be humble. I can not stress enough how important this is, especially to a newcomer. Coming into a portfolio review or a pitch with an entitled, cocky attitude is the fastest way to never get a call back from a publishing company. It’s a much smaller industry than it appears to be. People will hear whether or not you are someone worth dealing with.
Another fun tip, which I discovered on my own; mingle at the bar after the conventions. Don’t pitch your idea or yourself. Don’t show your art. Just be yourself and have a good time. Get to know some of the other creators and let them get to know you and your interests. Treat it like any other social gathering outside of comics and don’t go all fan boy when that artist you love walks in the room. They’ve been grinding and talking shop all day. All they want to do is unwind and have a drink so keep that in mind. That will resonate with the people you are with and down the road not only may opportunities arise but more importantly, lasting friendships.
10. Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?
"Be better than you were yesterday”. Yes, I totally just quoted myself. That is my life mantra. Be a better husband, father, friend, artist, worker, heck, human being than you were the day before. Always strive to find ways to improve.
John Broglia: Inking & Beyond
I have yet to make the leap into digital. I want to but I still love the feel of ink and brush on Bristol paper. I can’t knock digital and even if I discovered it wasn’t for me I still wouldn’t knock it. Any tool that allows a person to make art is wonderful.
Your latest work has been with Image Comics, such as God Complex written Michael Avon Oeming who was a artist on Powers. He Wrote God Complex, how did you get the gig with Image how where you able to meet Michael Oeming?
As I said earlier, Oeming was a huge influence on me. When I switched over to animation back in college I couldn’t completely leave comics behind. A weekly, often daily, trip to the local comic shops between classes became my comics fix. At the time, ‘Powers’ was on the shelves. That series, and Mike’s work on it, kept the fire to one day make comics burning inside me. That was the type of book I wanted to be a part of. So at the first NYCC in 2006, where I was signing for Zombie Sama, I discovered that Mike was tabling down the aisle from me. I snatched up my portfolio and shot over to his table. We chatted and found out that where I had just recently moved to in New Jersey was only a few minutes from where Mike was living at the time. I awkwardly asked him if I could apprentice under him. He laughed and being the humble guy that he is he said “why don’t you just come get a beer with a bunch of us and hang out”. A ton of drink and draws followed and I made a slew of great friends in that crew, including Mike, whom I’ve learned a lot from. Eventually we decided to work on a book and did God Complex with co-writer Daniel Berman, for Image Comics. For multiple reasons, it was a career highlight for me.
What do you look for when accepting a job offer from a studio, do you find also that you have more freedom with indie publishers then you would find with the Majors?
With you background in animation, Unmasked feels like it could be an action pack adult cartoon, like Samurai Jack. Is that what you guys were going for with the designs?
I know Mike Sarrao would kill to have Unmasked extend to other media platforms, especially TV, whether in animated or live action format. You are absolutely right too, it would make an incredible animated series. I concur.
John, if you could work with any animation studio with your own property, would you? Or would you work with a major studio?
As long as the studio approaches me with serious intent to make the best possible version of my property come to life and all the T’s are crossed and I’s dotted, I don’t mind who it is. I will welcome them with open arms. Until that day though, I just focus on trying to get the best possible book out to all of you that I can.
Last question if you could give advice to aspiring animators or artist what would it be and why?
Be humble. Always be willing to take harsh criticism and advice and listen to what the professionals in the field are telling you. Being the best artist in your class or at a portfolio review doesn’t mean you’re the best artist to work with. If you are respectful, humble, and make your deadlines, editors will remember you. If you are a stuck up, entitled, jerk, editors will remember that too.
First and foremost I look at the story. I decide right then and there if this is something I’m going to be interested in working on for the next several months. The worst thing that can happen is losing interest in a project halfway through, because now you are stuck. You’re obligated to finish it and it’s now become a chore. Making comics should never be a chore. I’m a creator owned guy all the way. I love the freedom. The appeal, however, to working for a major studio would be the opportunity to tackle some licensed characters that you’ve enjoyed your whole life.
Back in 2011 or 2012 you were working another Kickstarter Fundme title called Unmasked vol 1: The New Age Heroes with writer Michael Sarrao. This was a title I was really into, I like the concept and how different take superhero genre from another point of view. How did this come about?
Unmasked is completely Michael Sarrao’s baby. When Mike approached me to do the art I jumped on board immediately. His vision for it really appealed to my interests. It has a great female lead, which I love in any story and the look Mike wanted was a great mix of some of those influences I mentioned earlier. The book had a great response from readers, and even made it into strip format on USA Today’s website. Mike has a great story to tell here so it was an easy decision to work on a second volume. The kickstarter for Unmasked Volume 2 will be going live this April so definitely look for it.