Kody Schmitt writes,
This past weekend I had the privilege of sitting down with former staff artist and Managing Art Director for the Marvel Entertainment Group, Steve Geiger at Wizard World St. Louis. We covered many topics during our chat including the early days of his career working under the tutelage of John Romita Sr., his thoughts on artists moving the needle and his current creator-owned projects and developmental endeavours.
Our conversation began with Geiger talking about his entry into the industry in the summer of 1984. “When I first broke into the business I broke in as a Romita Raider, so John was my first real mentor, luckily for me.” Geiger explained that Romita Raiders were art apprentices to John Romita Sr. who would do touch ups, edits and finishes on projects nearing deadlines. He recalled spending an entire weekend working in the Marvel Bullpen finishing the last couple issues of Secret Wars on what he called an “All hands on deck job.” In these situations, credit would be attributed to pseudonyms like “Many Hands or Justin Time” denoting that multiple individuals worked to get the project completed before the deadline. Other touch ups included making sure the likeness of celebrities was properly represented in film to comic adaptions. “For instance Dudley Moore, who passed and bless his soul. He had Santa Claus the movie out back in the day and we were doing the comic book adaptation. He was very tough on us with his likeness so that came back a lot of times for changes.”
When Geiger was promoted to Managing Art Director he took over the executive role of the Raiders hiring new talent and on occasion letting go of people who were not working out. “I would go to shows like this and my only function would be to look at portfolios for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon” Geiger stated that he is still happy to review portfolios for aspiring artists. He believes in “paying it forward” because early in his career he had a lot of help from the likes of Romita, Neal Adams and Al Milgrom.
While discussing the differences between breaking into comics today versus the mid-1980s Geiger cites the advantage the internet has brought allowing people to carve their own path without having to go the route of the mainstream publishing machine. At the same time, he says there is more opportunity for younger artists. “People have told me they (Marvel) have cut rates down which keeps a lot of the older guys out of Marvel because they don’t want to work for less than they did when they first broke in.” Geiger wanted to stress the fact that this is only what he has heard so it shouldn’t be taken as gospel. If it is in fact true, Geiger believes it does award the opportunity for younger artists to get higher profile work on their resumes.
We then discussed Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso‘s recent statements regarding artists inability to move the needle due to a lack of apparatus. “I think there are plenty of apparatuses out there now, more than ever. When I look at older comic work versus the stuff that is out today there is a lot of great artwork, great coloring. It is very pretty to look at. What I think a lot of it lacks is that visceral element. The punch you in the gut, grab you by the throat thing that pulled you into comics when you were a kid. There are a lot of well-drawn things but are they hitting you on an emotional level? Probably not most of the time. When is the last time you saw a Spider-Man cover that moved you like the costume sitting in the trash can or Spider-Man screaming at the goblin after Gwen Stacey? These are images that hit us when we were younger and we will never forget them. I don’t know if anything is coming out now with that kind of impact.”
Geiger also thinks the constant relaunches and re-numbering of books along with the use of forced diversity on already established brands and characters is not helping anyone. He thinks new creators need to be willing to create new characters and take a chance rather than rehashing the same old stories, noting that Romita was happy to create characters even though Marvel held the character’s ownership because he was cementing his legacy.
Geiger is currently working on four new series for 412 comics including Kleave about the rise of a supervillain and Assassin Cat which takes place during the second world war in an alternative reality where the Nazis have successfully created a new super race of half human half animal super soldiers. In the world of Assassin Cat, dog-human hybrids have overthrown the Nazi regime establishing themselves as a new master race, while cat-human hybrids have taken to leading the French resistance. Many of the displaced Nazis have become refugees giving Geiger the opportunity to draw parallels to the modern age in the context of a historical fantasy.
Geiger is also busy with the launch of his developmental company Evil Geiger Empire. Partnering with the Boys and Girl’s Club of America, Copic Markers, Remarkable Paint and Smart Markers, Geiger and company are teaching the art of creating graphic novels to kids across America. Geiger is taking his graphic novel course originally created for the Buffalo, NY public school system on the road in between convention stops. Students, or “minions”, will be taught the ins and outs of creating their own graphic novel and have the opportunity to have their work published in an anthology. Remarkable Paint allows for most surfaces to be turned into dry erase boards and Smart Markers digitally capture the motions of the artist using the marker. This allows students to see the work created in real time from any streaming device. In addition to this unique learning experience students are given free Copic markers to take home. You too can save on Copic markers using the code Geiger ML 2017 for 20% off your order.
Be sure to check out Geiger’s upcoming series at 412comics.com