Bleeding Cool contributor Ian Melton writes:
Rose City Comic Con played host to many creators this past weekend, and one of the recent transplants to this fair city, David Marquez, took the stage to talk about his artistic career.
While the plan had been to have Brian Michael Bendis, Marquez’s frequent contributor, host the panel, Bendis was unable. John Campbell of the podcast Panel on Panels hosted instead. Campbell began the questions with Bendis and how Marquez came to first work with him. Marquez began with an issue of Secret Warriors with Jonathan Hickman before working on the graphic novel Fantastic Four Season One. Marquez elaborated:
“I was a huge fan of Brain’s long before we met. I did a book called FF Season One, and I would later find out that FF Season One and all the Season One books were try-out books for talent that they hoped to develop and have work on other titles. And as each book was completed, they were shown to a bunch of different creators and writers and editors throughout Marvel to see which artists caught attention.”
After that Marquez was gearing up to work on a different book, but was contacted about doing a fill-in on Ultimate Spider-Man. Happening shortly after the relaunch with Miles Morales, Ultimate Spider-Man had been a book when it originally launched Marquez had “devoured” and remained a huge fan of. Marquez leapt at the chance, and the longer the two worked together, they found they had many of the same sensibilities when it comes to comics. They both really wanted to focus on character, characterization, acting, and the emotional resonance of character interaction.
Marquez’s origin as a comic fan came about in the ’80s, and growing up overseas he became fascinated with a Norwegian translation of an “Alan Davis Batman comic with Joker and Catwoman riding in a Jokermobile,” (Detective Comics Volume 1 #569) and he wanted to draw the images. From there, he kept drawing, and fell in love in with Jim Lee’s Uncanny X-Men. Copying panels from X-Men comics got him attention from friends. “And I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since,” Marquez admitted.
Marquez’s evolution of his own personal art style went from his love of Jim Lee on X-Men, and then WildC.A.T.S., to then being influenced by Travis Charest, Frank Quietly, J.G. Jones, Bryan Hitch, Mike Mignola, Akira Kurosawa, and Katsuhiro Otomo. Marquez in particular has come to include a lot of influence from films.
Marquez feels his art reflects character emotion best and gets readers to relate to those emotions. “I watch a lot of movies, television, probably more then I should, and I draw heavily on those influences to create believable characters.”
In choosing comic book art as a career, Marquez had planned to pursue a “practical career” like education or law but while at UT in Austin, Texas a bunch of his friends convinced him to apply to be an animator on the movie A Scanner Darkly, which was trying out animators in Austin. At 23, he got the job, and from there he continually worked on different indie titles, with kind of the eventual goal of working on the X-Men:
“X-Men was the first book I feel in love with, was the one I enjoyed the most, and was the book I kept most up to date with. I did chat with DC while coming up but they never chatted back with me, Marvel did so that was where I went.”
After being with Marvel, and working with Bendis for a while, one of Marquez’s goals for working in comics was realized as he got to do an “event book”, Civil War II. As Marques related:
“Brian takes very good care of the artists he works with, and Marvel kind of leaves us alone. I’ve had so much fun working with Brian that I moved to Portland to work more closely with him.
When projects Brian was thinking about working on came up, my name came us as well. Iron Man happened that way. We talked about it a year and a half before I started drawing it. Though when we first talked about it I had no interest, but he kept nudging me in that direction. It was a big launch, and it proved to Marvel I could handle a bigger book that when Civil War II came along, my name was in the mix, and Brain really advocated for me. So my planned long run on Iron Man changed when I got the first script for Civil War II.
In the middle of drawing Civil War II, I had a baby — I mean my wife had a baby, I had a small part in that — but having a baby and drawing a giant Marvel crossover with hundreds of characters … I don’t recommend it. I’m glad I did it, but I won’t do it that way again.”
When it came to drawing a book with so many characters as Civil War II, Marquez approaches it very pragmatically. He begins with a list of characters that are in each scene and who are the most important characters to start with. However, much of his approach he believes is strengthen by a strong script. In addition, now that Marquez and Bendis live close to each other, see each other, and their families have dinners together, this lets them have discussions that Marquez realizes later on created idea and story elements for their collaborations:
“We’ll be shooting the breeze, talking just general ideas, and I’ll see these ideas in scripts six months later… from conversations we were just having. Like, at one point I brought up in New York City we have Tony Stark and Doctor Strange, mustached womanizers … why aren’t they best buddies? Next thing I know, we have mustache bros! I mean, it was a joking conversation that led to one of the best moments in the Iron Man series.”
After Civil War II, Marquez was looking for a “quieter” book to work on. With The Defenders, he’s getting to flex a lot of different muscles. As Marquez and Bendis talked more about Defenders, the book appealed to Marquez more and more to do a more intimate, character-driven book. “This is a book [Bendis] has been wanting to do for a long time,”Marquez says. “He always kind of referred to it as being the ‘godfather’ of his street level stories.” Plus, the Netflix shows created a perfect nexus to launch the book.
Of the Defenders, Marquez hasn’t spent much time before this drawing much of Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, or Jessica Jones. One thing he very much wants to cultivate is a fan base for Iron Fist similar to the fan base that Nightwing has over at DC:
“So DC has a really cool thing going with Nightwing, and he has a certain part of his anatomy that is very admired among a lot of fans. And I think Marvel really needs an answer to that, and so I want to make ‘Ironbuns’ a thing. To that end, I’ve been paying special attention to drawing Iron Fist in detail … so #Ironbuns everyone!”
In addition, Marquez does try to pay attention to their fighting styles, with Iron Fist’s Kung Fu, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage being brawlers, and Daredevil “doing his ninja thing.” Marquez takes personal experience with martial arts into fight choreography on the page. In particular for Daredevil, Marquez also added one thing to Daredevil’s costume that calls back to his father’s boxing career: boxing boots. Plans for Bendis and Marquez to continue through at least issue 12, though both creators want to have a nice long run on the book, something that would fit in “a nice thick hardcover.”
Turning the panel over to audience questions, the first question up asked: what were the artistic challenges for bringing Deadpool into The Defenders, since unlike the other Defenders, he is completely masked? Marquez admits to first not having read a lot of Deadpool, and to loving the Deadpool movie when he didn’t expect to like it at all:
“The short answer is Deadpool is a character I had to figure out how to tackle. Breaking the fourth wall, wink, wink, nudge, nudge … this book doesn’t have a tone that would be expected to fit with that, so I’m figuring out that challenge. I’m planning to fill the pages with so much artwork, though, that Brian will have to pare down Deadpool’s dialogue.”
What has the experience been like meeting the idols he admired in the comic industry?
“They say don’t meet your heroes, but I’ve been very lucky that everyone I’ve met was so nice, especially Brian. I had a bit of a problem early in my career switching from fan to pro because I’d get so nervous around other creators who were now my peers. Especially once I moved to Portland I met a lot of them, especially because of Brian, that I had to realize they are just big nerds like me. I had to figure out how to interact, and it just boils down to ‘I like comics, you like comics.’”
Does he find Bendis is different about characters, like Jessica Jones, that he created?
“I was familiar with Brian’s work with Jessica and on my first cover of The Defenders I had Jessica in more of an action pose, and he had the point: ‘That’s not who Jessica is, she’s more the slouching in the jacket, snarky comment, cool detective thing, not the action hero.’ So he had a very strong idea of who his characters are, but he lets his artists explore the characters the way they want. He realized I liked drawing Jessica punching people, and he leaned into that.”
What does he listen to while he’s drawing?
“Audiobooks and podcasts. I can’t really watch anything while I’m drawing. I have two different modes, the layout mode, and the make the book pretty mode. With the layout mode, that is like writing, so I can’t listen to anything with words, anything with a narrative, because I need to focus and think. With the look pretty mode, which is more time consuming, I need stuff to entertain me.”
Is he reading any comics right now? What’s in his pull list?
“I do have a habit of going into comics I read a long time ago. Whenever I start on a new series I really delve into older issues — so with Iron Man, I read everything from Warren Ellis’ run (Extremis) up to current. Similar with The Defenders, I read Alias, a bunch of Brian’s Daredevil stuff, Fraction’s and Aja’s run on Iron Fist. I read less comics then I used to, because after a 14-hour day I’m burned out. I do keep up with some Image books like the Black Monday Murders, Sex Criminals… I keep up to date with the big two, but when it comes to what I really enjoy it is the passion projects from the people I know.”
Any interest in doing his own creator-owned book?
“There is one idea, we are very the early days of it, and when it is more concrete I’ll talk about it. There are two or three stories I would like to write and draw eventually … I know I’m a pretty good artist, but I don’t presume that’s makes me a good writer, so when the opportunity comes we’ll see.”
Any writers he really wants to work with?
“A few. I’d love to work with Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, Hickman again … Tom King … there are a bunch of writers.”
Is there a DC character he’d love to draw?
“I’m a sucker for Grifter. I was a huge Jim Lee WildC.A.T.S. fan, and he was a childhood favorite. It might be like a one-shot.”
Favorite character to draw?
With no better way to end a panel then mentioning Darkhawk, Marquez thanked everyone for coming and said to come see him at his table at Rose City Comic Con.
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