Everyone knows comics is art, but after the interior pages to Marvel’s new Elektra series were released earlier this month, the comics world was remind just how artistic comics can be.
On April 23, 2014, writer Haden Blackman and artist Mike Del Mundo are slicing into a new era for the red-clothed assassin Elektra Natchios, and Del Mundo’s art is a big part of it. Best known as a cover artist creating smart and thought-provoking pin-ups for the likes of X-Men: Legacy and other Marvel books, up until now Del Mundo has only done a limited number of interior comics work. But with Elektra, the Filipino artist is branching out and bracketing up to deliver his evocative work for 20+ pages on a monthly basis.
In December Newsarama spoke with Blackman about his take on Elektra, and today we turn our focus over to Del Mundo to get behind the page and inside the mind of the artist creating this vibrant and genre-defining work on Marvel’s enigmatic killer.
Newsarama: Let’s start out slow, Mike: what are you working on today? What’s on your drawing board?
Mike Del Mundo: Right now, in front of me I'm drawing a double page spread involving a giant koala/sloth/iguana hybrid and a so-called mercenary in a brawl set in a so-called island.
Nrama:Nice. We’re here today to talk about Elektra, which debuts in April. We spoke when the book was announced, but since then there was an unfortunate circumstance that pulled Zeb Wells off the book, and Haden Blackman was brought in. What was it like for you on the inside as the artist?
Del Mundo: It was cool. You have to prepare for things like that. For me as an artist, I think I'm lucky enough to work with two amazing writers. For the short period of time I worked with Zeb, we were able to really get the initial feel of visuals and from there Haden made it a very smooth process as he was able to take a lot of my visual ideas and add that extra bit of awesome and transition it into his story. It was all gravy.
Nrama: With those bumps on the road passed, how would you describe the vision you and Haden have together for the series that readers will begin to see come April?
Del Mundo: I think we want to tell a great story and at the same time, find new ways to tell that story. We're definitely on the same page in terms of figuring out cool ways to visualize the story. Like in Elektra #1 the intro scene, we have Elektra on a double page spread doing a ribbon dance which transitions into ribbons of blood. There's more happening in the scene but just an example of the angles we're going for.
Nrama: You’re best known for your cover work and doing storytelling with just one big image – what’s it like doing long-form sequential storytelling like this?
Del Mundo: It's challenging but hella fun. It's something new for me, so I'm excited to really start experimenting. Definitely a lot more work but it's a whole new way of telling a story. My main goal is to take my process with cover work and translate it into sequential form, meaning lots of cool double page spreads and stylish panel work. Haden's a huge fan of that especially with his past book runs (Batwoman) so it works so well. What's cool about sequentials too, is that you can fit different styles into the book based on the mood or the shift of the story (flashbacks, fights scenes etc) so you'll see some style shifts like cell shading to painterly etc. I'm going to attack it like a blank canvas with an artillery of various art supplies I neglected during college.
Nrama: Elektra is a very visual character, given Frank Miller’s designs and also how others have drawn her with the black and the red. What have you learned in drawing her, not just for covers, but on a repetitive basis in the panels and the pages so far?
Del Mundo: What I love about Elektra is all the different elements about her, from her red bandages to her various weaponry, to her long black hair. There’s so much room for artistic exploitation. You can breakdown panels with her ribbons or juxtapose her ribbons with blood etc. I've learned that all those elements makes for endless ideas on how tell the story creatively.
Nrama: What are your personal goals with Elektra, and specifically this first issue?
Del Mundo: To tell a great story visually and that gives justice to Haden's script. I want to push my myself as much as possible in figuring out ways to tell the story, whether it's how the panels are broken down or how to tell the story through colors and different drawing styles.
Nrama: Are you doing all of this digitally, or on paper, or how?
Del Mundo: I do my roughs on paper. I print out the full script and start thumbnailing right on the script. I tend to get visuals in my head when I read so I like to jot them down quickly so I don't forget. From there, I scan them in and start fleshing them out like speed painting. So the magic happens in Photoshop. But along this journey, I'm intending to go traditional on specific pages. Mainly on big reveal pages of Elektra.
Nrama: Will you be coloring your own work here?
Del Mundo: Absolutely, I have a co-colorist working with me as well Marco D'Alfonso who did amazing work on Superior Spiderman Team-up with me.
Nrama: This is your first major interior comics work – what made it that this series and this character were the one you wanted to jump into this new kind of art with?
Del Mundo: Elektra's been one of those books that has been experimented on with new ways of storytelling and stylish visuals. So I feel like all the artists that have worked on Elektra have already carved that path of artistic freedom and exploration for me. It's what people expect in Elektra so in a way it's an open playground that I can go artistically nuts on.