Giarusso's G-ManEven if you don’t know his name at first glance, you know his work. For a while now, Chris Giarrusso has kept readers in stitches with his hilarious “Mini-Marvel” comics, which depict the cast of the Marvel Universe as rambunctious youngsters. Additionally, Giarrusso has the reins of G-Man, a character that will be getting a lot more play at Image Comics in the very near future. We caught up with Chris as NYCC was getting underway to talk about producing new G-Man at Image, more Mini-Marvels, and a particularly interesting collaboration with Art Balthazar.
Newsarama: You're launching a G-Man series of digests at Image. For those who aren’t familiar with them, can you tell readers who might not know about G-Man what the basics are, please.
Chris Giarrusso: G-Man is a little kid super-hero, and the G-Man stories center around him and his friends who are little kid super-heroes with different powers, and his big brother who is also a little kid super-hero. It's very much like the Mini Marvels in the look and tone of the book, as I am telling stories in the exact same style of writing and art, just with new characters.
NRAMA: What about the digest form appeals to you?
CG: In general, I like collections of any kind, whether they be trade paperbacks, deluxe hardcovers, digests, or any other option that allows you to read a sizeable and satisfying story. The digest seems to be the best way to go for me because it is relatively more affordable than other collection formats. We thought that being affordable would give a new series the best chance to gain a readership. Also, my most successful work so far has been the Mini Marvels digest collections, so it seemed appropriate to continue on with that successful formula.
NRAMA: What kind of schedule will the digests be on?
CG: Ideally I'd like to put out one or two a year, but as expected, that schedule will likely be adjusted based on how successful the first digest performs and how fast I'm able to turn out new material.NRAMA: You're well-known for the Mini-Marvels strips as well. Why kind of influences inform your styles of art and humor?
CG: I learned to draw by copying anything my older brother Dave was drawing. A lot of the time he was copying characters from newspaper comic strips, specifically Peanuts. We grew up on Peanuts collections, and my art and humor is influenced predominantly by Charles Schultz. Eventually I graduated from reading newspaper comic strips to reading super-hero comic books. It wasn't long before I came across the work of Fred Hembeck, who had bridged the gap of humor comic strips and super-hero comic books with a perfect hybridization of the two. I thought it was brilliant, and I wanted to do that.NRAMA: What's your creative process like? You've done stories where you're working toward a gag at the end of one page (like Red/Blue/Green Hulk); how do you balance the humor for the short, sharp piece versus the long form?
CG: I think it's only fair that I give credit to Audrey Loeb for the way the Hulk Red/Green/Blue strips turn out, since she is the writer. While I did write all of the stories in the Mini Marvels: Rock Paper Scissors digest, I only wrote about half of the material in Mini Marvels: Secret Invasion. Besides Audrey, I also drew stories written by Sean McKeever, Paul Tobin, and Marc Sumerak. In those cases, I basically just have to figure out how to clearly illustrate all of the things they ask me to show and hope they are happy with the way I handled it.
When I'm writing my own strips, the creative process varies. Sometimes I'm given specific direction to do my take on a Marvel event, such as World War Hulk. Other times, I'll be directed to use a specific character, and I'll brainstorm until something clicks for me, which doesn't always happen very easily.
As for pacing, that is predominantly determined by the format. For many stories, like the Iron Avengers story or the Skrull invasion story, I'm doing 16-page stories. However, those 16-page stories are never run all together or in order until they are collected in the digest. They are initially published in 4-page installments, and often single pages will appear randomly in various Marvel comics as bonus back-up material. So while those stories are 16 pages long, they are broken down into 16 complete single page gags that need to work alone, similar in nature to an ongoing storyline of a daily newspaper comic strip.
Other stories are designed and written to be read all at once, such as the recent 7-page MIni Marvels Thor story found in Thor #600, or the 9-page Hawkeye story that is going to appear in the upcoming Marvel Assistant Editor's special. In cases like this, there is more freedom to reference moments or dialogue that happened pages earlier, so the set-ups and pay-offs for jokes can be a bit more elaborate and creative.
NRAMA: I have to say that the Haiku-counting gag in the World War Hulk sequence might be one of the funniest things that I've ever seen in a comic. Where did the inspiration for that particular gag come from?
CG: Hulk was speaking like dumb Hulk in part one of my World War Hulk story, but I needed him to be smart Hulk in part two in order to match his personality to the original World War Hulk story. I felt like I had to address the abrupt change in his intelligence, so I had Hulk change his speech pattern while simultaneously acknowledging that change in speech pattern in the exact same sentence. Then I wondered if I could make it any more absurd, which led me to the haiku. Suddenly the tough-guy bravado was centered around eloquence.NRAMA: Will there be more Mini-Marvels collections?
CG: Right now I'm working on "Hawkeye and the Curse of the Crimson Crown," a 9-page story for the upcoming Marvel Assistant Editor Project. Beyond that, I don't know what Marvel's plans are for Mini Marvels.The X-Men and the Tiny Titans! NRAMA: Turning back to G-Man, what long term plans do you have? Will you be creating other series at Image as well, or trying to focus primarily on it?
CG: Right now I'm working on a G-Man mini-series that will pick up after the events of the lead story in the G-Man: Learning to Fly digest. I'm also working on a web-comic which I'm planning to launch in a few months because Robert Kirkman told me to.
And just for fun (and fund-raising), I just finished a jam-piece collaboration with Tiny Titans creator Art Baltazar. It's an homage to the cover of the classic Marvel/DC crossover special The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans. We've got the Mini Marvel X-Men and the Tiny Titans together for the first time! We're donating the original art to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for a fundraiser auction.
NRAMA: Chris, at the end of the day, what's the best part of this job?
CG: Hearing from people who enjoy my work.More New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage: NYCC '09 Video Page