From Romita’s Raiders To The Forever People – Talking With Deadpool’s Scott Koblish

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DeadPoolWeddingCoverScott Koblish has been in the comic industry for some time now, working on just about every mainstream character and title. After graduating college he joined up with Romita’s Raiders, and hasn’t looked back since.

His work has graced the pages of Marvel and DC’s finest, as a penciller and inker, but he is so much more than that. An artistic chameleon, Koblish has an ineffable ability to morph his style to suit the needs of whichever book he’s working on, from westerns to superheroes, and even a little Disney.

Right now he is at the top of his game, working on the always insanely fun Deadpool with authors Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan, just in time for the Merc With The Mouth to get hitched. But that isn’t all he has soon to be gracing store shelves, as it was just announced that he would be teaming up with Dan Didio and Kieth Giffen to bring the Infinity Man and the Forever People screaming into the Nu52.

I felt this was a great time to chat with him about his past, present, and future in the comic industry, about the friendships and life lessons learned along the way, and how he approaches his work. You can also see more of his work here, and be sure to follow him on Twitter @Koblish.

2033414-scott_koblishMost of us have been reading comics since we were kids, yourself included I assume. At what age did you know you wanted to make them, and what was the comic that did it for you?

Yeah, I love comics.  I’ve been drawing pretty much every day since I was 4, but I figured out comics was what I wanted to draw around 7. Initially, I drew things off the TV, and when I found the old Bakshi Spider-Man cartoon and the old Grantray-Lawrence Marvel Super-Heroes animations, Herculoids, Space-Ghost, they were insanely invigorating to me.  It was a small jump from the televised Spider-Man to the newspaper, when it started printing the John Romita Sr’s Spider-Man strip, and then to the Spider-Man comics.

A Marvel Tales reprint of Amazing Spider-Man 124 with the Man-Wolf sealed the deal for me. I loved the ramped-up drama of Marvel Comics, the allusions to a larger story that I wasn’t privy to (and had to obsessively try and fill in), and the cliffhanger endings.  Definitely a recipe for addiction.

Who or what were your biggest influences/inspirations in the early days, and have they changed as you’ve grown as an artist?

I was a giant George Pérez and John Byrne fan, and I still am, but my most direct influence as a kid was Joe Kubert. It was just obvious to my parents that I wasn’t going to do anything else with my time but draw, so my mom put me into the Saturday classes at the Kubert school. Joe showed me all of his influences – primary among them Alex Raymond and Windsor McCay – and it really turned my head around, showing me stuff I’d never seen before, showing me what was possible in the medium. I studied every Saturday under Joe, and eventually Mike Chen, for around 6 years.

My next, biggest direct influence would be Will Eisner, whom I studied under at SVA, and then John Romita Sr., when I worked for him at Marvel. I think the thing I learned most from all three of those men was that it was possible to have a career in comics that lasted longer than a few years. It’s imperative to just keep plugging away and taking chances, and to not be afraid of the
occasional detours.

Av_KoblishYour career really got going in the Romita’s Raiders program at Marvel Comics. Can you explain what exactly that was, and how you came into the program?

After I graduated from SVA I was lucky enough to be able to get my portfolio in front of John Romita Sr. at a small signing he was doing in Morristown, N.J.  I still don’t know why he was there, the mall itself wasn’t even fully completed back then, and there wasn’t a comic shop in it or anything.  He’d just set up a folding table and I got in line to show my portfolio to him.  He told me to fix a few things in my portfolio, I did my best at correcting what I could, I sent in the changes, and then about 6 months later they called and asked me if I wanted a job at Marvel as a Romita Raider.

The Raiders were an apprentice program that Jim Shooter had started and John oversaw; we did all the art corrections that needed to pass through the office and any extra art editorial demanded.  I was so jazzed going into the offices every day, the Raiders were situated in with the rest of the Bullpen at the time, and I enjoyed the camaraderie. Working on the actual pages, as they came through our office, was an invaluable opportunity.

How was the experience, and how different is it working for Marvel now, no pun intended?

I loved being at Marvel –  I worked on staff for about 7 months and then I was in the offices two or three times a week for the next 6 years. I just fell in love with the place, and that affection has only deepened as I’ve gotten older.  I’ve got friendships from that time-period that have lasted to this day – Marvel attracts the greatest and most bizarre bunch of characters ever to grace this planet.

I left for California to join Stan Lee Media at the turn of the Century, and have since stayed in Los Angeles, so I’ve been in the offices only a handful of times in the last few years, but my editor at Marvel right now is just great.  I can’t say enough good things about Jordan, he’s a fantastic editor and a great human being.  It’s a real joy to be working with Team Deadpool – it’s an exciting and rewarding time, and I’m very conscious of how lucky I am.

ScottKoblish17In your career, you’ve worked on some of the big guns for both Marvel and DC, such as The Punisher, Elektra, Legion Of Super-Heroes, and now Deadpool. What was your first major published work?

Well, I first worked on some Marvel Comic Presents stories, a great place to try-out new talent, but I think a deadline rescue-mission on Sleepwalker was probably my first published work.  I think the first major thing I worked on, where I felt like everything clicked, was over Mark Waid and Ron Garney’s Captain America.  I loved reading Mark’s scripts, his Captain America was a barreling force of nature and Ron was just blowing the doors off of what he’d accomplished before then – with Ron and Mark it was just a smooth machine.  I don’t know how to describe it any better than that – as an artist those moments were everything is working flawlessly can sneak up on you and before you know they’re special, they’re gone.  I’m really lucky that Deadpool has been one of those special occasions, every issue seems to be better than the sum of it’s parts.

Every comic fan has that dream project, that one book they’d drop everything to tackle. Is there a character or comic you’ve never had the chance to work on that you’d love to do?

I’d love to pencil and ink the Legion of Super-Heroes. Working with George Pérez on Legion of Three Worlds (and then Keith Giffen for one issue of the proper book) really drove home how much I loved those characters. I’d love to get a crack at drawing them – I’m a huge Legion fan. Being a real glutton for punishment doesn’t hurt. lol.

I’ve heard you mention that you really had a blast working on the Marvel Adventures titles. Those were really fun titles, for all ages. What has been the most rewarding work of your career so far?

MAIronManYeah, the Marvel Adventures books really were so much fun!  I really enjoyed Fred Van Lente’s Marvel Adventures Iron Man, and the one Wolverine: First Class book I got to do with him.  Great scripts. I wish I’d gotten to do more Wolverine: FC’s with him, I came on the book with his last issue. I guess my creator-owned projects are something I’m especially proud of – the Legends of the 8 Immortals, certainly SK8, those are dear to my heart.  The Weapon, again with Fred Van Lente, but over at Platinum Studios, was the first thing I could point to and say – there, I’ve planted my flag by pencilling and inking the whole book and getting a better handle on what I want to do.

The stuff I’m working on right now is the stuff I’m concentrating deepest on, so Deadpool feels the most rewarding to me right now. I drew issues 26 and 28 and sections of 27 (for reasons that will be apparent when the book comes out).  Issue 26 is one of the “flashback-issues”, and this one involves Hitler, in the 50’s, by way of a really great twist that I don’t want to give away. Deadpool #26 also ties in directly to Deadpool #20, but you’ll have to pick up 26 to see how.

Issue 28 is Deadpool’s Honeymoon, and it’s a “current day” tale, so I’ll be curious to see how everyone takes that one – it’s a real freight-train of a story, you get in on page one and it just races all the way to the end – I had a great time coming up with the designs for the villains.  Deadpool #27, the wedding issue, is a really special book and Jordan and Gerry and Brian came up with a nice framework that will keep people off-balance and entertained for the whole thing.  If you pick up only one Deadpool comic this year, that would be the one I’d recommend – it’s 100 page of art and story, by not only the main Deadpool team, but a whole slew of Deadpool creators, past and present. Just as an important mention, you’ve probably been hearing about Deadpool Infinite – I’d suggest you read it before issue 27.  Deadpool infinite starts right from the last page of issue 25 and it’s an important introduction to Deadpool’s new bride.

lowrez.Deadpool.20.01You’re a bit of a chameleon stylistically, and I mean that as a compliment. From the hyper-detailed The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp, to the Kirby crackle of your recent Deadpool work, it seems that you master whatever art style is required of you. Do you find it challenging tackling such diverse titles?

Well, as a Raider, I was called upon to mimic the styles of the artists whom I was correcting, that was the job, and I found I enjoyed it. I recognize that I’ve always been a bit of a chameleon. I can’t tell if it’s been a hinderance in some ways, but it’s an adaptive skill that I seem to possess that other people don’t. As an inker I needed to be adept at different styles, I felt I owed it to the penciller to do my best to enable his vision to come through, and it seemed to be useful in that context.  I guess I’ve dragged that adaptation over into my pencilling work.

When I worked on the Jet Pack Pets over at Disney Adventures Magazine that style was definitely very different than my super-hero work.  It’s been fun to apply different approaches to the Deadpool assignments.  For Deadpool #26, which is set in the 50’s, I looked really closely at some old EC comics to get a better feel for what they did, and I spent a lot of time with the IDW Wally Wood Artist’s Editions, so I hope some of the Wally Wood-isms came through.  He was a true genius with lighting and the human form.  I wanted the 1950’s color palette to look different than the palette we used for the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s and Val Staples knocked it out of the park.

How do you approach each book, and is it different depending on the writer/character?

It is different. I’ve tried to make everything I’ve worked on have it’s own feel. Right now I’m working on the next batch of Deadpool’s and trying to figure out how to best approach them.  On Deadpool, Brian, Gerry and I have gone back and forth on how much reign to give one another:  Sometimes they write a full script, and I follow it to a “t”,  sometimes it’s a few paragraphs, written in the old “marvel plot-style”, but the result is just as great either way, which is kind of gratifying to me.  I’ve been amazed at how great it is to work with Gerry and Brian, they aren’t afraid of my throwing in a few ideas and it’s been a great experience for me.

photo-mainThe Further Travels of Wyatt Earp is a really cool book, from concept to execution. How did that one come about?

Thanks – yeah, I’m working on the second issue now!  My sincerest apologies to everyone for how long it’s taken for me to get it done.  I guess it came about because Joe Caramagna and I worked together on some Spider-Man stuff (work that will be coming out in Giant Size Spider-Man #1, in May). I really like working with Joe – he’s a very talented writer and I feel like whatever he wrote I could just sort of automatically see in my head what he wanted, which is rare, the visuals and we just clicked pretty quickly.  Joe’s a great guy too, so it’s been super-fun.  I wanted to try my hand at a 1800’s Western, I was a huge fan of Deadwood when it came out, I thought it was probably the best television I’d ever seen up to that point, and when Joe suggested Wyatt Earp I jumped at the chance!

Period stories can be a logistical nightmare, but you nailed the era, from costuming to architecture. Did you have to do a lot of research to achieve this?

Yeah, a lot of research, probably too much, lol.  Wyatt Earp’s time-period is somewhat visually documented, so I’ve tried to make sure I’m keeping an eye on the reference whenever I draw Wyatt and his surroundings.  Sometimes too much research can freeze me up too, so I’m trying not to let that happen.

5266cfbdeb85bGerry Duggan and Brian Posehn have been writing some of the craziest Deadpool stories ever. It seems like the type of book where an artist would get to really cut loose. How much fun are you having with the character?

I feel like I’m the luckiest guy on Deadpool – I get to come in and sort of throw in my 2c in between these really amazingly written arcs.  I love what the other artists are doing on the book too – Mike Hawthorne has been doing stellar work and did you get to see Declan Shalvey’s Moon Knight?  I thought he did a great job on “The Good the Bad and the Ugly” story arc – that was some heavy stuff, and he’s just been killing it on Moon Knight.

I’ve been following the book really closely and I knew Deadpool #20 was going to be a huge shock for everyone, just like issue 17-19 were a shock in the other direction, but I liked the push-me/pull me aspect of it.  Throwing in the wacky-ness of issue 20 right after “The Good the Bad and the Ugly” felt like the right thing to do – some Cosmic 60’s silliness to reflect, in the opposite, how the previous issues had snuck up on everyone with some serious mojo.   For Deadpool #20 I just poured over a lot of Marvel’s late 60’s work.  I kinda cheated, even though it was supposed to be a 1968 comic, I kinda dragged a little bit of 70’s Marvel in there.

You’ve spent time in just about every corner of the Marvel and DC universes during your career. Where are you going next?

Well, I’m going to concentrate on Deadpool for awhile, that’s my focus for this year.  The Hitler issue comes out on March 26th, the Wedding is two weeks after that and the Honeymoon ships in the early part of May.  I know what the next few issues of Deadpool are going to be – one of them is a REALLY amazing idea, and it ties in with the big summer Marvel event, so I’m going to focus on making it work as well as I possibly can.  The Deadpool comics coming out this summer are going to be really intense, with some jaw-dropping ups and downs on the way.  The wedding is just the beginning of genuinely impressive thinking on Gerry, Brian and Jordan’s part.  I feel like we’re just getting into stride here and I’m hoping to help build upon what’s been accomplished so far.

infinity-man-and-the-forever-peopleDC Comics has leaked word about a new Infinity Man and the Forever People series, from Dan Didio, Kieth Giffen, and yourself. So you’re getting the chance to Kirby crackle it up once again. This title comes slightly out of left field, as these characters are not that well known these days. How did this project come about? What was it that drew you to these particular characters? Were you pretty familiar with them before this?

Dan, Keith and I share a real love of Kirby’s pantheon of characters great and small.  I think we’re trying to figure out how to pay tribute to his creations as well as expand the ideas into the 21st Century, keep them alive and moving forward, chipping off the amber.  Dan came up with a good spin on the characters and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out with the fans.  It should be a fun ride – neither Dan nor Keith do things in small, careful steps, so I think people are going to be entertained.  I definitely didn’t expect what was set up for… I think it’s the third issue?  Not sure if it’s still the third issue for the stuff I’m thinking about, but there are some really nice surprises ahead.

I’m excited to see what you’re going to do with this series, but these characters are definitely “of their time”, with their flower-power styling. How are you making them relevant to the Nu52, and the year 2014?

Well, that’s the trick, isn’t it?  You’ll just have to see.

JLA50_Koblish-ScottKieth Giffen is probably one of the biggest Jack Kirby fans out there, with massive respect for, and an insane knowledge of Jack’s characters and titles. I’m sure he’s very excited to bring these characters back onto the shelf. How is it working with him on a Kirby inspired book such as this? How does your collaboration with him and Didio work? And how much fun are you having with this title?

Keith and I talk quite a bit.  The man is a real shot in the arm  – if I’m having a drab day, all it takes is for one call from Keith and *bang*, automatically my day is better.  While we’ve talked over what Keith is looking for vis-a-vis the style and the story, on IMATFP, just as with OMAC, Keith and Dan are in the driver’s seats.  I don’t get to talk to Dan as much as I’d like – he’s a really busy guy, but every time I do, I really enjoy it.  Working with Dan and Keith, I feel like I get driven around to exciting and surprising places at 500 miles an hour, trees and boulders flying past as we go, both of them wrestling with the steering wheel.  It’s exhilarating to watch from the backseat – they’re both real firecrackers.

Do you have any last words for our readers?

Yes.  Follow your dreams – I’ve had a really rough time of it sometimes and I know what it’s like to be discouraged, or feel like you’re just marking time, but the peaks will come just as assuredly as the valleys, so you might as well strike off on your own path.  It’s good to have people you look to for advice, but don’t bother trying to live someone else’s life – it’s yours, make the bets of it.  Also, don’t worry about starting something later in life, the only “too late” is when you’re dead, everything else is just another chance.  Take all the chances you can, it’s a wonderful world, embrace your part in it.

 

Thank you Scott for the interview. We look forward to Deadpool, the Infinity Man and the Forever People, and whatever else you do in the future.

//

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