Interview with Brad Walker, Penciler Guardians of the Galaxy
After Marvel's intergalactic storyline, Annihilation, changed the cosmic landscape of their universe, Marvel Comics is following it up with War of Kings. And in that storyline, the "Guardians of the Galaxy" will play an integral roll as the alien races of Marvel are set to go to battle once more.
And what will it take to help bring that storyline to life? How about an artist from Batman and Superman comics - Brad Walker.
Walker is one of the hottest up and coming artists in the industry and Walker spoke with CosmicBookNews about how he got into the business and working with DC and Marvel Comics.
CosmicBookNews: First, thank you for taking time out to be interviewed!
Brad Walker: Anything to help me procrastinate!
CosmicBookNews: Can you give us a little bit on your background? Where did you grow up and how early of an age did you start to draw?
Brad Walker: My dad was in the Air Force, so I grew up all over the country. But I drew as far back as I can remember. Probably 3 or 4 years old. I lived in Chicago when I was little, and they used to show the old 60's Spider-Man cartoon there, and I watched it religiously. So, that was one of the first things I learned to draw. I would draw him ALL the time.
CosmicBookNews: When did you decide you wanted to pursue comic books as a career? Did you take your portfolio to conventions to get noticed or go another route?
Brad Walker: I decided to pursue it probably sometime in middle school, when I started reading comics on a regular basis. After that, I never planned to do anything else. I'm "All-the-Eggs-in-One-Basket Brad."
I see you went to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Do they have a specific program or course for comic book artists?
Brad Walker: Yeah, they have a program for Sequential Art, which I was in. I don't know about now, because I don't keep up with such things, but at the time, it was the only college in the country with such a specific major. "School of Visual Arts" in New York has a cartooning major (as do a few others), but the Sequential Art major is specific to comic books and story boarding. They had a bunch of really great professors who I learned a lot from and with whom I'm still friends.
CosmicBookNews: Can you share with us a little of your experience studying there?
Brad Walker: It was a great time! I met the majority of the friends I have to this day, and I got to draw for four years straight. And they even gave me a Bachelor's Degree! Suckers!
CosmicBookNews: A few years after graduating you did some work at DC. Can you explain how that came about?
Brad Walker: That actually came about as a result of going to SCAD (see kids! It works! Give them your money!). I was living in New York at the time, and one of my old professors got in touch and said he was going to be in town with the kids from his Summer Semester. They were going to be visiting DC, and he asked if I wanted to come along. We met up with the (then) Batman Group, and they liked my stuff. I kept talking to them (read: bugging them), and they eventually gave me work.
CosmicBookNews: What was your first published work for DC and how did it feel seeing it out on the stands?
Brad Walker: Two back-ups stories in Detective Comics #795 and 796. Greatest feeling in the world. Followed closely by my first cover on Action Comics #848.
CosmicBookNews: Regarding Action Comics, is this something you pursued or were you asked to do these? Must have felt pretty good being part of the Superman mythos. How was it working with Kurt Busiek?
Brad Walker: My editors on the Batman stuff, Matt Idelson and Nachie Castro moved to the Superman books, and were drunk enough to ask me. I freaked out when they mentioned it was with Kurt. He's easily in my top five favorite comic writers ever, and a blast to work with! He's probably the most creative guy I've ever talked to. His head just seems to have a constant flow of ideas! And I learned a lot from talking to him about the pages, because he's got such a natural grasp of storytelling. I loved every minute of it!
CosmicBookNews: Also, with DC, you penciled some issues of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight. What would you say was the difference between drawing the Superman titles compared to these Batman titles and which did you prefer? Was one more difficult than the other?
Brad Walker: That was the stuff I did immediately after the Detective back-ups. My first full length work. So, it was tainted by having very little idea what I was doing, but boosted by unbridled enthusiasm. I love Batman probably right behind Superman (from the DC side of things). It's different tonally, but to be honest, I was working so hard back then not to screw up, and get it done fast, and trying to impress my editors that it probably wasn't as thought out as much as it should've been. Maybe I'll get to go back to Batman someday, when I'm a little more confident with my work...
CosmicBookNews: Overall, how would you rate your experience working with DC?
Brad Walker: I'd give it an 11! But I won't tell you out of what... No, I've loved working for DC, and technically still do (I'm still half way through an unsolicited project). I've got lots of friends there, and I would always draw anything that Matt Idelson asked me to, because I owe him my career. But, to be honest, Marvel characters have always been slightly closer to my heart, so I'm looking forward to getting a little more comfortable over there!
CosmicBookNews: So how did you come to work for Marvel?
Brad Walker: I met Bill Rosemann in my accountant's office, last year.
CosmicBookNews: How is it working under Editor Bill Rosemann?
Brad Walker: I love working for Bill!
He's a great guy, and smart editor and every note he's ever given me has been spot on. He's really supportive, and he and I share the worst tastes in television in the entire comic industry.
And his assistant, Michael Horwitz has been fantastic, too. He just started on the book in the middle of issue 8, and from my perspective, he didn't miss a beat.
CosmicBookNews: Currently, you are penciling Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. You just recently did your first two complete issues with them, issues eight and ten. The art was really great. Do you enjoy drawing these space type stories?
Brad Walker: I did all of issue 8, and [I penciled] 13 pages of issue 9. And I love drawing all the Marvel space stuff! It's probably as exciting to me as Batman and Superman.
And thanks. I'm glad you liked it
CosmicBookNews: You said you only penciled part of issue 9, was there any particular reason why?
Brad Walker: I couldn't do it in 12 days. Hey, 13 pages in that amount of time ain't too bad!
CosmicBookNews: How many issues are you going to do?
Brad Walker: I did 8 through 10, and I'm working on 13 through 15, right now. I'm hoping to do up to (at least) issue 18, but we'll have to see how the deadline looks at 15.
I'd draw it as long as they'd let me though, cause it's so much fun.
CosmicBookNews: Does it bother you when the cover is done by someone else, do you prefer to do them or doesn't it really matter?
Brad Walker: I don't mind at all having somebody else do the covers. I like doing them, but they can be frustrating because so many other people need to sign off on them (understandably) than a regular page. And they can be much more time consuming.
CosmicBookNews: What about coloring? Obviously, penciling a 22 or more page book is quite time consuming, but if you had the time and option would you prefer to color your own work?
Brad Walker: No, I don't really "see" in color. That's the one step of the process I would probably never aspire to. And Wil Quintana - the artist that's doing the colors on Guardians is a genius.
I couldn't even imagine pages looking as nicely as he makes them actually look.
CosmicBookNews: Can you quickly take us through your process of penciling an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy? How much time, on average do you spend, on a page. Can you share with us what computer programs you like to use?
Brad Walker: I read through a script and sketch my first impression of each panel right there in the margins. Then, I draw out each page really loosely about 3 x 4 inches. Once I have everything placed where I want it, I enlarge that to 400 percent and trace it onto the boards. Then, I go through and draw it all with a real, live pencil.
I only use a computer when I need to scan stuff to show to [editors] Bill, Mike, Dan, and Andy.
I hate computers.
I spend about a day on each page. Some a little more, some a little less. It - kinda - evens out...
CosmicBookNews: They say an artist is never satisfied. Would you say that is true in regards to how you feel about your work?
And, regarding that topic, how many revisions do you make before you send it in?
Brad Walker: Yeah, I like my work for about a day after I finish it, then I hate it. I try not to get hung up in revisions.
You can really fall into a vortex, that way. If I notice something I did that I'm unsatisfied with, I just try to apply that lesson to the next page.
Sometimes, Bill will ask for something to be a little different for the sake of continuity, or to make something more clear, but it's always been small, and it makes the page better.
CosmicBookNews: What about Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning? Are they real particular?
Brad Walker: Well, they're amazing. So, there's that.
And I couldn't say they are particular, because I haven't seen the need to stray from anything as written.
I can see everything they ask for, pretty much dead on, the first time I read through a new script.
They're very vivid and they haven't complained, so I can't be that far off.
I think all this cosmic stuff they are doing is going to be remembered for a long time and I think it's really stellar (yes, I said that) work.
CosmicBookNews: Were you a fan of the original Guardians of the Galaxy from 1990s? If so, any particular character a favorite?
Brad Walker: I didn't read it, no. I think the characters are still cool looking, though. I know a lot of people probably think they're corny looking, but I'd love to get a flashback sequence, or something with them. I think a good artist can make just about any character look cool without some fancy redesign. I thought Paul Pelletier made them look great in issue 7!
CosmicBookNews: I have to ask this question, are you a fan of Wendell Vaughn?
Brad Walker: Yeah, I love him. I liked that old series that Greg Capullo drew with him.
I just read the Nova issue of the "Annihilation series" today, where he died. I'm catching up on a lot of "Annihilation" stuff.
It's too bad he would be impossible to bring back from the dead.
Seeing how we are on the topic of characters, which ones are your favorite?
Brad Walker: Okay, number one will always be Spider-Man. Always.
After that, here are the other contenders: The Thing, Superman, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Batman, Green Lantern, Silver Surfer, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Green Arrow, Hercules (Marvel's), and (Monica Rambeau) Captain Marvel.
There are tons I'm leaving out, but that's a short list that comes to mind, right now.
CosmicBookNews: So Spider-Man is your favorite, which Spider-Man stories are your favorite and which artist?
Brad Walker: Yeah, far and away my favorite. I would go so far as to say that I don't think there was a single, bad issue of Amazing until about 1994. Even when it was silly, it was still a good Spider-Man comic, and it was fun to see where Peter Parker was going. And I think the current stories are the best it's been since 1994.
And yes, I'm aware that answer will have legions of Mary Jane lovers hating me.
Sorry - it's fun, these days.
But, my favorite runs are the Lee/Ditko/Romita ones, the (enormous) Conway/Andru run, the Stern/Romita Jr. one, the DeFalco/Frenz stuff, and the Michelinie/McFarlane/Larsen/Bagley runs. Yeah, I know that's almost the first 30 years.
For artists, I'm partial to the guys from those runs, plus I think Marcos Martin and Mike McKone are doing really great work, right now.
CosmicBookNews: So, I take it you wouldn't mind be called upon to do Spider-Man?
Brad Walker: Yep. I'd be fine, about that.
CosmicBookNews: What artist influences you most?
Brad Walker: Uh. The Silver Age guys, I guess. I'm a big Kirby guy. As well as Ditko, Romita, Buscema, and Neal Adams. I love Walt Simonson, Alan Davis, Frank Quitely, Carlos Pacheco, Ivan Reis, Marcos Martin, and Ron Garney, for newer guys that spring to mind.
CosmicBookNews: What advice would you give to aspiring artists? Do you intentionally try to create your own "style?"
Brad Walker: Uh.... do something else??
Actually, I'd say don't develop a "style".
Draw everything, and draw it from life. Try to make it look real. Your comic book influences will come through regardless, so you might as well learn fundamentals. And as far as looking at comics. Look for the storytelling. Look at the old guys, cause anybody you like from the past 20 years is aping somebody from before that. You might as well learn from the source.
Oh, and be prepared to do it till your fingers hurt. Literally. If you don't like it enough that that sounds appealing, then this isn't the career for you. My hand is cramped up, as I type this.
[But as for style] I think of new ways to render sometimes, but that's not to form a "style" as much as it's a different attempt to get a point across. Like I said, before, your style will come through, whether you like it, or not. I really have no idea what my work looks like. In my head, it's a photograph and any amount that it doesn't turn out that way on the page is just due to the restrictions of my implements, my time, and my talent.
CosmicBookNews: How do you feel when you read those internet message boards in regards to someone remarking, good or bad, about your work?
Brad Walker: Well, I love hearing that people like our stuff. There's no better feeling than knowing that you've pleased somebody who really loves a book, or a character.
And I'm pretty good about criticisms because artwork is completely subjective, and not everybody is going to be into your stuff.
I mean, name any artist, and I can go online and find somebody who hates them. So, you've gotta take that stuff in stride. But I really appreciate when people say specific things they'd like me to change.
After [Guardians of the Galaxy] issue 8 came out, somebody on a board somewhere wrote that Paul Pelletier drew a better Gamora. So, I went on and asked him what he liked better about Paul's version, and he said that she's supposed to have heels on her boots. So, in issue 10, I was able to fix that.
In that respect, the internet is a really great tool for comic artists! But, then there are the whiny babies on there who are venting about other things they're missing in life. Like I do on my "Two and a Half Men" message boards.
What comics do you currently read?
Brad Walker: I love Spider-Man, right now. Green Lantern [from DC Comics]. Dan and Andy's stuff and I'm not just saying that cause I'm involved.
I've just gotten into the Punisher Max trades, and I'm loving them. I'm enjoying Trinity, and everything that Ed Brubaker does. I'm really excited about the Dan Slott Mighty Avengers, and I loved the Superman books, up through New Krypton. We'll have to see if it holds my interest without Supes in it, though.
CosmicBookNews: Is there anything you wish to plug?
Brad Walker: Just Guardians, and the War of Kings storyline in general. I'm going to be drawing my little heart out to try and make my chapters look great. So, hopefully that comes across.
And, on that note, I should get back to my page...
CosmicBookNews: Thanks for your time, Brad.
Brad Walker: No problem! Glad to do it!
Be sure to pick up Guardians of the Galaxy issues 8 through 10 on sale now, issue 13 hits stores April 15th and look for issues 14 and 15 soon, penciled by Brad Walker.