Monster Mash Ups And Pop Culture Crossover King: Artist Mike Vasquez Talks Shop

By Michele Brittany, West Coast Correspondent

If you live in SoCal and attending one of the many cons throughout the year, it is likely you have seen Mike Vasquez’s booth filled with impressive images of crossover monsters that he likes to “mash up” into brand new characters. However, he has and does work with several popular IPs, so his repertoire of art ranges from trading card to full size posters. His art is amazing; it’s vibrant and evokes fluid motion, especially his recent work for Popzilla, a Kickstarter art book which has a couple of days to go to reach some of those extra stretch goals.

I caught up with Mike between cons for a quick interview.

MVasquez_1Michele Brittany: How long have you been freelancing as an artist?

Mike Vasquez: I’ve been a work-for-hire artist for over 4 years now. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work on many licenses including Star Wars, Marvel, DC, The Walking Dead, Adventure Time, and much more for companies like Topps, LFL, Cryptozoic, Boom, Upperdeck, and much more.

MVasquez_2MB: How did you get started as an artist and when?

MV: I’ve been drawing ever since I was a kid. My mom said I would sit in front of the TV for hours at my little school desk and draw and color. As I grew up I’ve always been drawn to artist jobs. I started as a teacher’s assistant for the art department at my alumni high school, taught art classes for the City of Riverside, Fontana and Irvine, designed and painted signs and theater sets for Knott’s Berry Farm, designed and printed shirts for Revelation Records and managed my own clothing line before I began to freelance.

MB: Did a family member encouraging your talent? Did you study art at school?

MV: My dad’s side of the family is filled with artistic talent. Between animation, architecture, painting and teaching, my grandpa and his siblings had a foot in the artistic pool at some point. So aware of this, my family has always pushed me to work hard in developing my skills and advancing my art career.

MVasquez_7MB: Who were artists and artistic styles that you admired when you started? Who inspires you now?

MV: When I first started freelancing, I was (and still am) a big fan of artists like Katie Cook, Joe Hogan, and many other Star Wars artists. My first official project was a Star Wars card set licensed by Topps and these artists had been in the fray long before me so I was always taking what I could and learning from them. Since then, I have been developing a style of my own with my monster art with heavy influences from Arthur Adams, Ryan Ottley, William Stout, and Matt Frank.

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MB: Having looked at your merchandise you offer at the cons – it seems to run the gambit of popular culture – can you provide me an overview of what you do?

MV: I love pop culture! Everything about it! I’ve recently been called a Pop Culture Crossover King lol. And honestly..I love it! I’m bored of pin up pieces of art of a single character of a single IP. Nothing makes me more happier than seeing an awesome crossover or mash up piece of art. And I’m very happy to hear how happy my art makes people feel when they see my mash ups.

MB: I’ve noticed a particularly larger than life character figuring prominently on your show banners. Talk to me about the Pokemon Kaiju because it looks fantastic!

MV: Well, the Pokemon Kaiju (or as I like to call it, ‘KaijuMon’) are a large part of my current project called Popzilla. Popzilla is the title to my crossover art book featuring iconic characters from film, video games, comics and more, re-imagined as terrifying Kaiju. Needless to say, I found a way to include my love of Godzilla and giant monsters into my well-known pop culture crossovers!

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MB: Do you have a favorite? If so, will you tell?

MV: Well, all of them are my favorite. I think that’s the beauty of my crossovers and why they have such an impact. Every mash up I do is a subject of something that I love or am into at the time. So I spend a lot of time brainstorming and designing each crossover character until I’m confident that anyone who looks at one of my pieces for the first time will walk away smiling.

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MB: What would you like to accomplish with your Pokemon Kaiju?

MV: Well, I have a Kickstarter up live right now that ends on August 2nd. The project is to get funding for printing for the art book. I realize that not everyone can afford every print that I sell of my Kaiju Crossovers, nor do they have the wall space. So I thought it would be great to have a really nice art book printed that collects all my Kaiju art so that it can be affordable and convenient. Beyond that, I look forward to working with IDW on future Godzilla releases in some capacity! That would be a blast!

MB: What upcoming shows will you be attending so people can stop by, say hi and check out your work?

MV: After a tour of cons ending at San Diego Comic Con, I finally get to take a short break and wont be back again until around September where I will be kicking my tour back up again with Amazing Houston, Amazing Hawaii, Long Beach Comic Con, NYCC, and Comikaze! Be sure to swing by and say hi if you plan on attending any of those!

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MB: And, where can my readers find you in the usual social media outlets?

MV: My most used social media is Instagram. You can find me there and on Twitter. I also use Tumblr and Facebook.

MB: Thanks Mike and good luck with Popzilla!

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All art images are courtesy of Mike Vasquez.

Michele Brittany is an independent popular culture scholar and semi-professional photographer and editor of James Bond and Popular Culture: Essays on the Influence of the Fictional Superspy (McFarland & Company) as well as the forthcoming book Essays on Space Horror in Films, 1950s – 2000s. Read her reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage and space horror genres via her blogs at Spyfi & Superspies and Space Horror Films. Follow Michele on Twitter: @mcbrittany2014.