This week on Multiversity Comics Presents, we have one of our favorite artists in the industry – Guy Davis. Davis was the 2009 winner at the Eisner Awards for Best Penciler/Inker, and is best known for his work in the Mignolaverse (particularly BPRD titles) and for Sandman Mystery Theater. You can catch his art right now on BPRD: King of Fear from Dark Horse Comics, which wraps up Mignola’s recent trilogy of mini-series for the title.
Check out the interview after the jump.
GD: I didn’t read a lot of comics growing up, but I was always drawing and I enjoyed telling stories through the art. So I think that idea of storytelling is what hooked me on it.
To follow that up, how did you actually get into comics?
GD: I pretty much fell into it after graduating from high school~ I started doing short fanzine stories and the fanzine became a small press comic company, and one job kept leading to another until here I am still doing it 25 years later
When you start working on an issue, what is your process? Are you very methodical and simply go through pages in a standard order, or do you jump around? How do you plot layouts? I know that is three questions in one, but I’m very curious about your artistic process.
GD: I layout the book in order while reading the script~ first just making small thumbnails on the side of the actual script page and then roughing it out larger on notebook paper to send to writers/editors for approval. Once that’s approved I pretty much rule out the pages and then jump around pencilling in figures and then backgrounds. Same with inks, I don’t do the finished pages in order~ just jump around to what I want to work on. And I found that helps the pages not looked rushed if I’m running up against a deadline near the end.
You’ve created some of the most bizarre and fantastic visuals around. How do you do that? Sometimes it is almost absurd to me how you can even come up with some of the things you do, but when you look down to the details, everything makes sense. But you know…in a weird way.
GD: Thanks! But you know, it’s pretty much just using my imagination~ which is a boring answer (laughs). I try to think through the designs I do, so they make sense even in a non-sense way. If I’m designing a monster I try to make it have an anatomy that’s unique to itself and not just dress up a human form and also try to think out how it would move/eat/interact. So it’s not just thinking up a cool image, but fleshing out a bit of it’s character more in the details.
Who are your artistic influences? When you are stuck in a rut, anyone you look to or talk to in particular to help you get through it?
GD: I guess I’d point to artists like Tarid, Schuiten, Wolverton, Sfar, Moebius, Beksinski, Goya and of course Mignola~ I’m not sure how exactly each influenced my style but they are all artist I can look at to feel inspired. And Mike’s always great to talk to when I’m in a rut~ cause he’ll tell me what’s coming up in BPRD or Hellboy and he gets really excited talking about it and that’s contagious. I’ll also look up art or odd photography online or pull a book off the shelf to flip through~ but to be honest the deadlines are the best thing to have breathing down your neck to keep you out of a rut.
How did you first get involved with Mike Mignola and his grand universe?
GD: I’ve known Mike for awhile, I was lucky that I had called him to bitch about not getting to draw the type of stories I wanted in work-for-hire jobs at the same time he was wanting to spin-off BPRD from Hellboy.Continued below
While most Mignola fans started with Hellboy, I strangely enough started with BPRD. So for me when I think of art in the Mignolaverse, I think of your art (I was almost hit by someone for this once — Mignola fans are quite passionate). How does it feel to be the dominant artistic voice of half of one of the most well loved comic universes of the last decade?
GD: Thanks, I might hit you myself! (laughs) That’s really flattering and I’m having a great time getting to draw some of Mike’s characters but it’s his universe and to me only he can really draw it right. I’m just lucky that he doesn’t have time to do it all so I get to play in it!
When your writer is such a dynamic artist in his own right, how does that affect your art? Do you find that you change your style at all while working with Mignola? Are his scripts more detailed or different than other writers because of his history as an artist?
GD: I’m sure I’m using more solid blacks in my art now, but Mike’s always been encouraging that I should draw in my style and not ape his. So my arts changed some over the time I started working on BPRD but that wasn’t so much a conscious effort on my part as just how it evolved through the series. His scripts are pretty concise, not overly filled out with details or anything~ just what you need to get to layouts. He would sometimes put in a rough layout he had in mind for certain things too~ which was always great to see, but overall he left the layouts to me.
GD: John’s scripts are more full scripts than outlines or plots, he has the dialogue in place for the story along with ref to any real world locals or items needed. Which is great and saves me time digging through books or google to find what he had in mind.
The last part of the BPRD trilogy — titled King of Fear – is starting in January. Can you give us a rundown of what we can expect from it? What do you and Mike have in store for us in this momentous series?
GD: Mike and John would have my thumbs if I gave anything away~ so all I can say is that there’s lots of great surprises ahead and it will definitely be pretty momentous in the BPRD universe.
What other works do you have coming down the path?
GD: I’m working away on the next Marquis graphic novel, The Marquis and the Midwife along with the upcoming Lobster Johnson mini-series. I also did designs for the new Solomon Kane: Death’s Black Riders and some cover work for Dark Horse. I just finished a Judge Dredd short story for 2000AD and have a few other smaller things on the side but Dark Horse is definitely keeping me busy.
How did it feel to win the Eisner for Best Penciller/Inker last year?
GD: That was a really great and unexpected surprise~ in fact I hadn’t been following it, so when my editor called me up from the awards to tell me I won, I thought he was calling to check up on deadlines.
We recently took a look back at the past decade in comics at Multiversity. What has really impressed you over the past ten years in comics? Side note: Mouse Guard creator David Petersen specifically stated that your art was some of his favorite work of the past decade — no pressure to name him.
GD: David’s doing some really great work, so no pressure needed. Jeremy Bastain’s Cursed Pirate Girl is another amazing book and his art is mind boggling. There’s been a huge upswing in really amazing artists starting out in the last decade, people like Chris Houghton who did his first book Reed Gunther~ I keep seeing different new artists work on line that just blows me away, it’s hard to keep up with all the talent out there. I’m glad I don’t have to start over with the competion that’s out there now, it would be too intimidating. But along with all the new work there’s still artists like Mike and Duncan Fegredo, Stan Sakai, Becky Cloonan and tons of others that are still producing some of the best work you’ll find.Continued below
If you could collaborate with any creator on a project, who would it be?
GD: I don’t know, I’ve been really lucky to work with a lot of great people over the year~ I don’t want to jinx it by naming someone. (laughs)
One of the friends of our site is a big fan who is just getting into comics himself. What advice do you have for an artist who is looking to break into the industry and to become a working artist?
GD: The best advice I can give is to just draw all the time, learn from your mistakes, push yourself to do more and keep drawing. And if you want to draw comics~ then draw lots of sequential pages. Don’t focus on pinups or character drawings, but work on the storytelling.
When you just can’t stand holding a pencil or looking at a comic anymore, what do you do to get your mind off the job?
GD: I’ll go for walks in the woods or pick up a book, watch an old horror movie or something.
Comic fans are an odd group of people quite often, especially when they know they’re with similar people. What is the oddest thing anyone has asked you to sketch at a convention?
GD: You know the quirky sketch requests (like Ewoks or stuffed animals) are usually the most fun~ I’m not a superhero guy, nothing wrong with the genre it’s just not something I ever got into. So while I’m always happy to try my hand at drawing anything when people ask, the Green Lantern’s are just not that much fun.