Today brings the end of one of our favorite titles from Marvel, “Journey into Mystery.” It seems no matter who they put on the book, we dig it, and most recently, writer Kathryn Immonen and artist Valerio Schiti (with colors by Jordie Bellaire!) have completely blown us away with a Sif-centric story. For those who say women aren’t represented well in comics, this book is a pitch perfect example of how it can be true if you look for it.
To celebrate the greatness of this run, today’s featured Artist August creator is Schiti himself, an Italian artist whose work has found him become one of the most buzzed about artists at Multiversity and one of the big reasons we love the book so much. We talk to Schiti about breaking in, the power of Sif, working with Immonen and Bellaire, what’s next, and more.
Can you look back on your life and recall the single moment or work that made you want to work in comics? Or was it more of a natural progression that led you here?
Schiti: I draw since my childhood, I can’t remember a moment without a pencil or some paper but actually, there’s a single moment that’s the kick-off of my passion for comics: the day that my mother bought me a random book of “Fantastic 4” by John Byrne when I was sick. I’m talking about 1988 or something, there was a little delay in the italian edition. Anyhow, it changed everything: from that moment on I can’t literally live without comics.
Who or what has influenced the development of your art the most?
Schiti: I started trying to imitate the style of all the Japanese anime I used to watch on television when I was a child and I guess that something it’s still there.
After that period, there’s a bunch of comic artists that “shaped” my style, I really can’t make a list. I loved Alan Davis, Arthur Adams, Rick Leonardi and Joe Madureira but the artists that influenced me the most are Ryan Ottley, Olivier Coipel, Yanick Paquette and Stuart Immonen.
I’m often curious as to how artists create their art. Are they traditional or digital, or some hybrid of both? How do you create your work, typically? Which of those groups do you fall into?
Schiti: I use Photoshop CS4 with a Wacom Cintiq 12WX so at the moment my work is 99% digital. I said 99% because there’s a preliminary phase, the thumbnails, that I do sketching directly over the printed script.
After those silly and unintelligible scribbles the direction is done, at least in my mind, so I start looking for references, mostly pictures, for the locations, the poses and the details. This is a very delicate phase because, even with hundreds of pictures, the starting point of a page should always be the artist’s fantasy. The trick is to learn from reality and from pictures, always avoiding to simply trace them. I also do some 3d models using SketchUp, it’s very helpful if there’s some recurring, complex element to draw like a spaceship.
Then there’s the hardest part: the pencil phase… that’s not a proper “pencil” phase, since that’s already digital. After the approval I just have to ink, clean and add some details. On my Tumblr page there’s a post about it, with all the steps including the wonderful colors by Jordie Bellaire. There’re a couple of videos on Youtube too, but are just illustrations or quick sketches, not proper pages.
Coming from Italy, I’m curious: how did you get into American comics? How did you make your break?
Schiti: In Italy there’re a couple of big conventions hosting editors from USA. In Lucca and in Mantova I had the chance to show my portfolio to C.B. Cebulski (Marvel) and Scott Tipton (IDW) then I started to send them sample pages. A lot of sample pages!
Meanwhile I worked as assistant for some Italian artists that already works for USA, like David Messina, Elena Casagrande and Sara Pichelli. I learned a lot from them, especially how to be professional.Continued below
Besides your work, two other Italian artists I enjoy quite a bit are Sara Pichelli and Emanuela Lupacchino. How do you feel the comic art world is in Italy, and what do you think has caused the influx of Italian artists in American comics over the past few years?
Schiti: I’m a friend of Sara and I was in the same class with Emanuela at the “International School of Comics”, they are two great artists and I really love their work!
Lately there’s a large use of cinematographic storytelling in comics, more realistic bodies and faces, natural poses, detailed backgrounds and I guess that’s a consequence of the superheroes movies. Basically the artists are trying to add the movie experience over the comics language and the readers seems to appreciate that. It’s not a translation of the movie language, it’s more like an upgrade of comics. Many American artists like Bryan Hitch already did this but almost all of the italian ones are working this way. Sara and Emanuela are a good example but there are also David Messina, Elena Casagrande, Marco Cecchetto, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Stefano Caselli, Giuseppe Camuncoli…
Here in Italy we have a long tradition of realistic comics even decades before the cinematographic adaptations, there’s even the italian biggest editor, Bonelli, that supports this kind of storytelling in comics since ever and maybe the italian artists have this mentality hidden inside their DNA.
Maybe it’s the Italian style. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence, I don’t know!
We’ve been absolutely loving your work on Journey into Mystery with Kathryn Immonen. Even though we now know this is coming to an end soon, how has that experience been for you? What has that experience meant for your burgeoning career?
Schiti: Thank you very much, I really appreciate your compliments. It was an amazing experience indeed, the opportunity of an almost fresh start, to try a new visual and psychological version of such a classic character like Sif. It was great!
Anyhow the most important thing is the lesson that I learned from the notes of our editor, Lauren Sankovitch, from the amazing scripts of Kathryn Immonen and from the whole team. I really hope that they made me a better comic artist.
Sif is a strong female lead in an industry with a stunning lack of those types of characters. When you’re representing her in the book, what are the characteristics you look to emphasize for this warrior goddess?
Schiti: I tried to bring out hers athletic features. We didn’t want an absurd, stereotyped sexy doll, we needed a strong girl. So I designed her with large shoulders, a smaller breast, long legs and strong arms, like a real warrior goddess should be. Of course, she’s still beautiful, but I guess that’s mostly because of what she do, and how she talks: I think that the readers should love the character, not the drawing.
Kathryn is an extremely gifted writer and a favorite of ours at Multiversity. How has it been working with her, and when it comes to telling the story, how close do the two of you work in bringing Sif’s story to life?
Schiti: Kathryn Immonen gave me a real gift with Sif. Her script was so good and the characters so strong and ironical that I can’t fail. She’s got a great talent to make characters real, even the secondary ones, highlighting them like Heimdall or Gudrun or simply inventing them like Aerndis or the people of Broxton. I guess that my work on facial expressions and on poses is a direct, natural consequence of Kathrin’s writing. How could I do something different?
Moreover she’s a very kind person, always helpful and open-minded. She listened to my opinion, she asked for my suggestion and she also helped me when I needed. I couldn’t ask for more!
Jordie Bellaire, colorist extraordinaire, is your colorist on this book. How do you feel the two of you compliment each other’s work, and do the two of you communicate about how you want your work to be colored?Continued below
Schiti: Jordie Bellaire was the perfect match for my pages: if someone thinks that my pages are good I absolutely have to share the merit with her. I love the mood of her colors, hers great ability to make the emotions explode from the pages choosing the right tone.
I had the chance to use an hidden layer in the pages using Photoshop, another secret of the digital technique: if I had some request or some notes I leave it there for her. But believe me when I say that I totally trusted her and she really didn’t need notes from me!
Let me spend a few words to thank Jeff “Dekal” Becker for his wonderful covers and Clayton Cowles for the lettering: that guy did an amazing work and if it all seems so fluent we owe it to him.
With Journey into Mystery ending right around the corner, we’re curious: what’s next from you, and how soon can we buy it?
Schiti: I’m going to start working on “Avengers A.I.” with Sam Humprhies and I can’t wait to read the script. It will be “Avengers A.I.” #5 so I guess it should be out in October.